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Basketball, professional sports, in general, are often referred to as “a business,” something Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors knows all too well.
In fact, even though Lowry and his Raptors teammates — among them, Kawhi Leonard, acquired in a deal that also featured Lowry’s best friend, DeMar DeRozan, being shipped to San Antonio — are off to a great start (20-5 entering play Tuesday night), Lowry remains loyal to his former teammate, five months after the trade went down.
Lowry, averaging a career-high 10.3 assists per game this season — more than four a game better than his career norm and almost three better than his career-high — says he learned of DeRozan being dealt from a call from him in the middle of the night, said he was at a loss for words.
“I felt betrayed because he felt betrayed, because that is my guy,” Lowry told ESPN. “That’s my best friend. So yeah, I felt some kind of way on the personal side. But the business side, you understand that you got to go out here and do your job. You get a trade, your job is still to go out there and play.
“Personally, it is what it is, and you are gonna feel how you feel, but businesswise, you have to understand it is strictly a business. It’s a harsh business. It is a great business, but sometimes moves are made that you are like, ‘Wow, that sucks.'”
Which puts the focus on Lowry’s relationship with Raptors president Masai Ujiri.
“Ah, he’s the president of basketball operations. And that’s it,” Lowry told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols. “I mean, I come here and I do my job. … He does his job, I do my job. Right? That’s what you do.”
For his part, Ujiri told ESPN he’s cognizant of Lowry’s feelings about his best friend being traded.
“I understand what happened with DeMar,” Ujiri said. “There are two things in this business that are tough. … When a player leaves — and Kawhi [Leonard] left. And then, when a player gets traded. Those two things are tough. And in our position, we have to do them, and we have to deal with them.
“And in a trade, it’s tough to communicate with players in that manner. We have to communicate with agents and can’t go and say, ‘Oh, you’re going to get traded.'”
Ujiri said it came down to the Raptors simply having to facilitate change.
“We thought, ‘We have to change. We have to be better,'” Ujiri said, having watched his squad be bounced from the playoffs annually by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. “We have to be better; we have to win. The game is all about winning and treating people the right way. And honestly … God bless DeMar.
“What I did wrong was trade him. Yes, that’s what I did wrong if it’s wrong. You know, like, we traded players, but nothing else I did; there’s nothing else.”