Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri on Friday did his best to publicly smooth things over with DeMar DeRozan.
The Raptors traded DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs earlier this week for a package headlined by superstar forward Kawhi Leonard. DeRozan was thrown off by the deal, reportedly feeling like the Raptors lied to him about the possibility of a trade, and Ujiri took time Friday at a news conference at Scotiabank Arena to clear the air and apologize.
“I want to apologize to DeMar DeRozan for a gap of miscommunication, but also to acknowledge him, and what he’s done here with the Raptors, for this city, for this country,” Ujiri said, according to the Toronto Star.
DeRozan questioned the Raptors’ loyalty on Instagram after Wednesday’s blockbuster trade. He and his representatives reportedly had met with Raptors officials during the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, at which time DeRozan reportedly was told he wouldn’t be traded. Obviously, things changed.
“I had a conversation with DeMar at Summer League, and I want to leave it at that,” Ujiri said Friday. “We spoke. I think maybe my mistake was talking about what we expected going forward from him, not necessarily about the trade.”
According to the Toronto Star, Ujiri later elaborated Friday that the Raptors weren’t the frontrunners to land Leonard at the time of the Summer League conversation and he therefore told DeRozan’s agent that nothing was imminent.
The Raptors landed one of the best players in the NBA in Leonard, but trading away DeRozan is a controversial move. DeRozan, a first-round pick in 2009, had spent his entire nine-year career with the Raptors and had become a fan favorite for both his excellent production and his desire to stay in Toronto long-term.
Leonard, meanwhile, is set to become a free agent after this season and reportedly wasn’t happy with the trade. The expectation is he’ll leave to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers next offseason, in which case the Raptors will have paid a high price for a one-year rental.
“The human part of this business is what I’m about,” Ujiri said Friday. “The other part is just tough for me. I’m not here to cry, I don’t want anyone’s pity because it’s not me. At the end of the day, sports, you want to win.”
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