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The newest member of the San Antonio Spurs, DeMar DeRozan, made his first public comments Tuesday since he was traded by the Toronto Raptors for Kawhi Leonard.
Per multiple reports, Raptors president Masai Ujiri told DeRozan in Las Vegas during summer league that he wasn’t going to trade him. DeRozan was very upset by the trade and is not backing off his claim that he was lied to.
“I felt like I wasn’t treated with what I sacrificed for nine years, with the respect that I thought I deserved,” DeRozan told Chris Haynes of ESPN. “By just giving me the say so of letting me know something’s going on or it’s a chance. That’s all I wanted. That’s all I wanted. I’m not saying, ‘You don’t have to trade me’ or … just let me know something is going on because I sacrificed everything. Just let me know. That’s all I asked. Everybody know I’m the most low-maintenance person in the world. Just let me know, so I can prepare myself for whatever my next chapter is, and I didn’t get that.”
DeRozan was “devastated” over the trade. Ujiri says at the time of the conversation with DeRozan — where DeRozan believes he was misled — the Raptors were fourth in line to land Leonard. Ujiri told DeRozan and his agent nothing was imminent.
“Man, I was really stuck,” DeRozan said. “I couldn’t think for a second because it just didn’t feel real. I didn’t have no indication like it would be something else. If I knew that, 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 talked to my teammates every single day how we can get better. So to hit me with that at midnight out the blue, like, c’mon. Two days prior, it was asked, ‘Is anything going on?’ If it is, just let me know because the rumors keep coming up. Two days later, you’re going here.”
When DeRozan was a free agent in the summer of 2016, the swingman didn’t even take a meeting with another team and stated he wanted to remain loyal to the Raptors and the city of Toronto.
“Day 1 when I was drafted to the Toronto Raptors, they had this stigma on them: Every guy leaves, nobody wants to be here, superstars, nobody wants to play in Canada,” DeRozan said. “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 repped so hard to get that stigma off it. 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. I never thought about elsewhere, I never mentioned elsewhere. I love that place. It’s literally my second home.”
DeRozan says he called two of his good friends after he was traded, Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay. Gay and DeRozan played together with the Raptors and the two will now be reunited in San Antonio.
“I’m still in shock,” DeRozan said. “Second person I talked to that night, that I’m close friends with, was Rudy Gay. I was upset. And I called him, like, ‘Man, dude’s just traded me.’ Rudy was like, ‘What? To who?’ And I was like, ‘To y’all.’ He started laughing. He said, ‘Look, I don’t mean to lie, but I got my boy back. You gon’ be aight, man. Don’t worry about it.’ I was like, ‘Man, I shouldn’t have called you. I should have waited until it came out and you called me.’ It was cool to be able to call somebody that’s close in my life that’s on the Spurs too. So he made it easy.”
DeRozan will attend Team USA Basketball minicamp in Las Vegas this week, where he will have a chance to spend more time with his new coach, Gregg Popovich. Popovich recently said he’s heard nothing but good things about DeRozan and couldn’t be happier to have him on board.
“I’ve always been a fan of Pop,” DeRozan said. “There was just something about him from the way he ran his team, the way he coached, his credibility. Everything that stands out about Pop, you just have to love. So to have this opportunity to play with a legendary coach at this point in my career, I think it’s one of those blessings that’s in disguise because this is a cool moment to be with a guy like that. I’ve been with Case for the majority of my career. He gave me the ultimate freedom to be myself. First thing Case said to me when the move was made is I’m going to love Pop. To hear that from my coach, on the transition to my new coach, just makes it easy.”
DeRozan is a four-time All-Star and one of the best guards in the NBA. Last season, he averaged 23.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5.2 assists in 80 games, shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 31.2 percent on 3-pointers.