It’s been a wild week for Toronto Raptors fans as they said goodbye to the franchise’s all-time leading scorer in DeMar DeRozan and welcomed two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard to town, but it’s been even wilder for the players involved in the deal.
While Kawhi Leonard might be a top five talent in the entire league when he’s healthy, the trade rubbed a lot of Raptors fans and players the wrong way because they felt like DeRozan was disrespected by the franchise he gave it his all for on a daily basis for nine years.
On Tuesday night, DeRozan sat down with ESPN’s Chris Haynes and talked about the deal that sent him to San Antonio and his feelings towards Masai Ujiri for the very first time since the trade happened.
DeRozan is clearly still frustrated about the fact that he wasn’t given a heads up about the deal and was shipped out of town without any time to plan his next move, and you certainly can’t blame him for that.
The four-time NBA All-Star also shared the emotions he felt when he first heard the news and had this to say.
“Man I was really stuck. I was like…I couldn’t think for a second you know because it just didn’t feel real. Like I said, I didn’t have no indication like it would be something else. You know if I knew that, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t have reacted the way I did. I would have been prepared for it but it caught me completely off guard because I’m thinking this is another summer. Move forward. I just came from Vegas supporting all the young guys. I talked to my teammates every single day how we can get better. So to hit me with that at midnight out of the blue. Like c’mon. Two days prior, it was asked is anything going on. If it just let me know because the rumors keep coming up. Two days later, you’re going here.”
It is certainly a bittersweet move for Raptors fans and the organization, but it’s one that struck DeRozan deep considering he’s been working to change the way basketball fans outside Toronto view the city.
“Day 1 when I was drafted to the Toronto Raptors, they had the stigma on them. Every guy leaves, nobody wants to be here, superstars, nobody wants to play in Canada. From day 1 my whole mindset and approach to the game, being in Toronto, was I wanted to change that whole narrative to that whole organization. That’s why I work my butt off like I did. That’s why I push, that’s why I push, that’s why I rep so hard to get that stigma off if you know what I mean? And that was another example in my career where I could prove that by not having to meet with nobody else. Get this done within the first 30 minutes of free agency and keep moving. That was always my mindset and approach and you could tell by the connection I have with the fans. It was that. I never thought about elsewhere, I never mentioned elsewhere. I love that place. It’s literally my second home.”
While DeRozan’s playing days in Toronto are over, the love for him across the Raptors community will never die. One thing’s for sure, prepare for a very, very lengthy standing ovation when DeRozan and the Spurs make their lone trip to Toronto next season.