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Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri spoke to reporters Friday addressing the Kawhi Leonard trade and apologized to DeMar DeRozan.
Per multiple reports, 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.
In a story DeRozan posted on his Instagram page Wednesday morning, the All-Star wrote, “Be told one thing & the outcome another. Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing… Soon you’ll understand… Don’t disturb…”
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.
“I want to not only apologize to DeMar DeRozan for maybe a gap of miscommunication, but also to acknowledge him and what he’s done here with the Raptors, for this city, for this country,” Ujiri said. “There’s no measure to what this kid has done. The human part doesn’t make it easy at all. Maybe I should have handled the conversation with DeMar better.”
Ujiri says the Raptors had to jump on the opportunity to get a talent like Leonard, who when healthy, is a top-five player in the league. Ujiri has spoken with Leonard and his uncle and talks have been positive.
The Raptors now have roughly 12 months to convince Leonard to re-sign with them. The Raptors can offer Leonard almost $50 million more than any other team in 2019, including a fifth year. Leonard, however, will have to pay more money in taxes now that he’s living in Canada.
Leonard reportedly wants to play in Los Angeles and many around the league are giving the Raptors no chance to retain him. If Leonard does turn out to be a one-year rental, the Raptors will be able to embark on a rebuild, as Kyle Lowry will have one-year left on his contract after this season and DeRozan’s money is already off their books.