Former Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan says he doesn’t feel like he was treated with the respect he deserved by president Masai Ujiri when he was dealt to the San Antonio Spurs last week in the trade that brought Kawhi Leonard to Toronto.
In an interview Tuesday night with ESPN’s Chris Haynes, DeRozan said the trade caught him completely off guard, and that Ujiri had told him in conversations over the summer that the plan was to move forward with the all-star in the lineup.
Ujiri apologized to DeRozan at a post-trade news conference last week for what he called a “gap in communication.” But DeRozan said he had asked Ujiri for clarification of his status two days before the trade as rumours of the Raptors getting closer to obtaining Leonard persisted.
“My mindset was that I was always going to be in Toronto my whole career, but I was never naive of that not happening,” DeRozan said. “Just let me know. Don’t have me thinking otherwise.
“And that’s where my issue came from, that’s where my frustration came from. And I think it showed. From the fans to even myself – it just caught me completely off guard.”
DeRozan also took issue with Ujiri saying he gave his core a chance to win.
“Every single day and night, whatever was asked from me to make us better,” DeRozan said. “And it showed, it showed in the progress we made as a team, as me as an individual. So when you put that out there saying ‘gave them chances’ … it’s B.S. to me.”
The Raptors won a career-high 59 games last season, but were swept in the Eastern Conference semifinals by Cleveland for a second straight year.
Changes were expected going into the 2018-19 season, and head coach Dwane Casey was fired in May, just before winning the NBA’s coach of the year award.
DeRozan, a four-time all-star, was a fan favourite in Toronto and repeatedly expressed his desire to finish his career in a city that had a history of seeing star players bolt from their NBA team when another opportunity came along.
DeRozan, meanwhile, said Toronto rapper Drake, the Raptors’ global ambassador, reached out to him the day of the trade.
“I went to Drake’s house,” DeRozan said. “Me and him 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.”