DeMar DeRozan needed a minute to work through his shock, disappointment, sadness and anger. But now he is settling in to the second half of his NBA career, nurtured by Gregg Popovich. DeRozan has had time to sort through things and the conclusion hasn’t changed. He loves Toronto, the city. The Raptors organization lied. The halfway I’m sorry apology from GM Masai Ujiri who DeMar considered a brother was more front office double speak when an organization is trying to backtrack and save their reputation for future free agents they want to sign.
DeRozan told Chris Haynes (ESPN) that all the talks leading up to the trade with his agent and with Ujiri were about the upcoming year in Toronto. While Ujiri was negotiating with San Antonio, DeRozan was told he would be on the 2018-19 Raptors roster. DeRozan has every right to be salty when someone who you considered family and had your back didn’t. Ujiri couldn’t even say something like, “The Spurs really want you. I’m trying to keep you in Toronto but getting Kawhi will be a big deal for us. I’m doing my best to work out a situation that you remain here.” That’s not hard. But it is integrity. So draw your own conclusions.
Compton native DeMar DeRozan has an iso NBA game he patterned after his hero Kobe Bryant but unlike Bryant DeRozan doesn’t have flashy handles and he isn’t an arrogant player, just the opposite. Known for his humility and hard work in the summer, everything that has happened since the trade- all the players voicing support for him- is indicative of how respected he is around the league. He has built a career. He made Toronto relevant. We The North exists because of DeRozan’s dedication. I mean, he actually wanted to be in Toronto and 99% of NBA All-Stars don’t. He was willing to take that Toronto mantel and own it, be proud, rep the jersey. The Raptors drafted him and raised him and taught him and now he is 28 and in his prime and that same team he was loyal to traded him which of course makes sense since it was for Kawhi. But it was how they did it that still raises eyebrows and has massive shade thrown their way.
Dan Gilbert is the cautionary tale on how not to do business in the NBA. Athletes are not robots, they are men so treat them like men. DeMar’s upset has more to do with a relationship he thought was about being real with one another and then instead he found out it was a relationship of convenience. He’s better off in San Antonio in this stretch of his career, being the new face of the Spurs and it will be a seamless fit character wise. DeMar is low maintenance and committed. He was never supposed to be this good but worked his ass off to get there.
The murder of his uncle who he is named for always attached DeMar to the Compton city he was raised in. He was a camper in the Kobe Bryant Skills Academy at the age of 16 and Kobe has been important in his careers as a supportive mentor. He went to USC and declared for the NBA to help his family; his mother suffers from lupus. He was a lottery pick with questions: can he get off a shot in the NBA? Can he develop his offensive game?
It’s laughable now after the last few DeRozan years.
“I try to always figure out places and movements and understand rotations from every position on the court. It’s really like studying. I think I kind of got that from Kob so to speak. He just told me what he did young in his career. He watched so much film to understand every rotation.”
DeRozan had the first 50 point game in Raptors history. He helped the Raptors to the best season in their history. He loved everything about being a Toronto Raptor and it was the only organization he played for. He came to Toronto at the age of 19. The Raptors, however, didn’t reciprocate, lacking the decency to say you are our only asset to get a top-5 player so organizationally we have to do this. The relationship was never what DeRozan thought it was and that has thrown him into shock mode. He assumed he had a great NBA situation, that he was honored in Toronto. But, no. He was a chess piece.
NBA business notched another victim. But in recent memory, say last year and the Kyrie trade, there hasn’t been a situation where an All-Star, face of the franchise, was blindsided. Sure, Isaiah Thomas was shocked to leave Boston but the Celtics were IT’s third team. The Celtics didn’t draft him. IT never referred to Danny Ainge as his “brother.” After the trade to Cleveland, the Celtics didn’t imply their playoff woes was because of Thomas. Everyone took the high road.
DeRozan doesn’t have the game where he can be the best player on a team that is in the Finals. He is good at what he does, perhaps the best in the league but he falls apart in pressure moments and his three ball atrocity makes him an easy target to scheme up on. But he is an All-Star who put this iteration of the Raptors We Are The North on the map. He deserved more than what he got.
“I understand how the game works, how the business works. My mindset was that I was always going to be in Toronto my whole career but I was never naive. Just let me know. I feel like I wasn’t treated with what I sacrificed for nine years, with the respect that I thought I deserved.” (Chris Haynes ESPN interview)