In Kawhi Leonard's seven seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, he won an NBA title, two Defensive Player of the Year Awards and earned two All-Star selections. Although his time with the Spurs came to a complicated end last summer, the 2014 Finals MVP insisted that he will approach his second-ever meeting against San Antonio as he would any other game:
"Just want to play. [Like] any other game… Another regular season game after All-Star break. Obviously, want to come out and get a win."
On Jan. 3, Leonard made his first trip to San Antonio as a visitor and received a less-than-warm welcome from the AT&T Center crowd, something he said wasn't surprised by, but can help Toronto gear up for the postseason, "Going back you know what's expected. Just felt like a road game, but it's more boos when I do have the ball.
"Like I said before, environments like that can only get us better. Being able to have the fans up in their seats, excited and wanting the team to lose - it just prepares us for the playoffs."
MORE: Breaking down the Raptors schedule
Although there is an increased amount of emotion present in this specific matchup, Leonard indicated that his focus on the bigger goals that are on the horizon fuel his performance: "My juices start going once the playoffs and stuff come along, and just competing and just being on the journey with the team trying to complete our goal."
Reporters also asked Kawhi how the environment - positive or negative - can motivate him, but the three-time All-Star doubled-down in sharing that the bigger picture gets him going: "The journey that we're trying to accomplish.
KAWHI: 'We have a good chance of getting to the Finals'
"Going out every night, no matter who we're playing. Trying to give my 110 percent effort. Once the playoffs come, hopefully, we're the best team we can be and keep striving to our goal."
As the past three weeks have seen the Raptors add a few more pieces to their roster, Leonard remained cautiously optimistic about the development of the team's chemistry, sharing that "It ended off well before All-Star break. It's hard to say - it's been like one or two games, we have to get some more games under our belt and see where it goes from there,"
MORE: Lowry speaks on keys to Raptors success
Leonard continued, sharing that the next step would be "seeing how we need to adjust and what sacrifices we need to make as a whole to make this team jell and be as great as it could be."
With 23 games remaining in the regular season, the Raptors (43-16) trail the Bucks (44-14) by 1.5 games for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Toronto kicks off the post All-Star sprint to the finish on Friday night when it welcomes DeMar DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs at 7 p.m. on TSN 1/3/4.