In a recent interview with ESPN, Masai Ujiri admitted his relationship with San Antonio Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan is still not what it was
When people look back at the Toronto Raptors 2019 NBA Finals run it’ll be with curious fascination. Between Toronto’s effective one year rental of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, injuries to key Warriors players, and what may have been the end of the Golden State dynasty, there were multiple compelling storylines swirling about. One member of the San Antonio Spurs is still feeling the ripple effects.
After spending his entire career with the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan was dealt to the Spurs along with Jakob Poeltl and a draft pick for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. The move came as a surprise as both franchises had planned much of their futures around their respective centerpieces.
As Toronto’s president Masai Ujiri recently told ESPN, his relationship with DeRozan still isn’t back to what it was before the deal. It’s not entirely surprising. DeRozan had made himself into the face of the franchise, the face of basketball in Canada, before being traded in a deal that effectively said: “we don’t think we can win at the highest level with you.”
For all the repeated mantras of “it’s a business” and “don’t take these things too personally”, making deals in the NBA comes down to person to person interaction. The nature of the business just doesn’t mix well with our traditional values of building strong, consistent relationships.
Ujiri told Ernie Johnson that deals like the one he had to make involving DeRozan and Kawhi weigh heavy on him.
“If you have that human part of you, you feel it in your heart. DeMar, I was in the hotel in Kenya, and I walked around that hotel at 4 a.m., 5 a.m., for a couple hours, trying to gather up enough strength and courage to make this phone call. I will never forget it.”
While DeRozan’s relationship with Ujiri may need some work, his feelings towards his former teammates and the fans who embraced him appear to be just as they were while he was a Raptor.
During a conversation with Pascal Siakam just weeks ago, DeRozan opened up about how happy he was to see his former teammates win a title. Calling it “the best sh*t ever”, DeRozan seemed thrilled for their success. He’s also been loudly applauded by Raptors fans in both of his trips back to Scotiabank Arena.
You hate to see a relationship shattered over something that is such an integral part of life in the NBA but it sounds like DeRozan and Ujiri are working their way back to where they once were. It took them years to build the Raptors into a title-contending organization, this will take time as well.
Nearing the end of his deal with the Spurs, DeRozan can choose where he wants to continue his career this summer. Could a return to Toronto be in play? Crazier things have happened in the NBA.