It’s been a week since the Toronto Raptors sent shockwaves through the basketball world, sending DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard in a four-player deal.
DeRozan was caught off-guard, and felt betrayed by the organization. Raptors President Masai Ujiri, meanwhile, characterized the issue as a miscommunication.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the trade, in an interview with ESPN’s Chris Haynes, DeRozan disagreed with Ujiri’s assessment.
“Because all summer through the talks we had – through the talks, he had with my agent – you know, it seemed like I was in that discussion of moving forward with the team,” DeRozan said. “My whole approach every summer was preparing, going out there and supporting the young guys at summer league, figuring out ways I can be better, make my team better, and that was the gist of the conversations we had with moving forward. Having the opportunity to do something special all over again, you know? So that was my mindset and everybody around me’s mindset as well.”
DeRozan said he asked point-blank if he was going to be traded, and was told on multiple occasions that the answer was “no.” While no one outside of DeRozan and Ujiri truly know what was or wasn’t promised, it’s clear that the Raptors legend is still steaming about how the trade went down.
“I felt like I wasn’t treated with what I sacrificed for nine years, with the respect that I thought I deserved,” DeRozan added. “By just giving me the say so of letting me know something’s going on or it’s a chance. That’s all I wanted. That’s all I wanted. I’m not saying, ‘You don’t have to trade me’ or … just let me know something is going on because I sacrificed everything.
“Just let me know. That’s all I asked.
“Everybody knows I’m the most low-maintenance person in the world. Just let me know, so I can prepare myself for whatever my next chapter is, and I didn’t get that.”
DeRozan found out at around midnight Pacific Time that he had been traded, and immediately started calling Kyle Lowry. Lowry, who was fast asleep at 3 am in Philadelphia, was able to comfort his longtime teammate and friend.
“He gave me some words that helped me through the whole day, what to prepare for,” said DeRozan. The next day, DeRozan went to Drake’s house.
“Me and [Drake] sat and talked for a couple of hours. Not even on some hoops stuff. Just to hear the words that come from him being the person that he is in this world, especially in Toronto. What I meant to this city. It was what I needed.”
Arguably the greatest player in franchise history, DeRozan was able to put his time with the Raptors in perspective. He has a lot of great memories.
“What I’ll most remember? It’s so hard to say one particular moment because I can name a million things,” said DeRozan. “From the fans, to the All-Star [Game] being there, to making the playoffs, to seeing Jurassic Park for the first time. It’s something I’ll never forget, and without a doubt, it’s no replacing Toronto in my heart and my mindset.
“I put it all and laid it all out there. And, you know, just to see people talk about, even just mentioning me as the greatest player in Raptors history? Come on, man, that’s an honour. I’m 28 years old, and you’re putting me in that category? It’s amazing.”
It has been a whirlwind week for DeRozan but the Compton native is finally starting to prepare for life as a member of the San Antonio Spurs. He says he’ll be doing it with the “the biggest chip on his shoulder ever.”