TORONTO – Watching his former team win it all last season, it would be understandable if DeMar DeRozan was a little bitter about how things unfolded.
But that’s not the DeRozan Toronto fans fell in love with over the nine seasons he spent with the Raptors.
“I was happy for all them guys I played with,” said DeRozan before his San Antonio Spurs took on the Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday.
“I think every single guy on that team will tell you they had a text from me as soon as they got to their phones after, congratulating them, being happy for them. I think I talked to everybody that night they won.
“I was just happy for them, man. It’s an opportunity that players playing in this league don’t get, and to be connected to those guys and to this country, to see them do that, I was definitely happy for them.”
Back in Toronto for a game for just the second time since the famous trade that sent him to San Antonio two summers ago, and the first time since the Raptors won the championship last season, DeRozan expressed more comfort over being part of the Spurs organization, but admits it’s still bizarre to enter Scotiabank Arena and head toward the visitors’ locker room.
“It’ll always be strange,” said DeRozan. “The amount of time that I was here. Coming back will always bring back old memories.”
Some of those, obviously, stem from seeing Raptors guard Kyle Lowry and the unbreakable bond they share as close friends.
“One thing about it is when you’re friends, you’re real friends and that’s what matters,” said Lowry of DeRozan at practice Saturday. “I talked to him this morning, we’re always gonna talk. We’re not fake friends, we’re real friends.”
And real friends stick together no matter what, including some lighthearted ribbing of each other.
“He’s been terrible,” DeRozan joked with a knowing grin when asked about Lowry’s play of late. “Nah, Kyle’s been great. It seems like the older he gets the better he still gets, and that’s amazing to see.”
When speaking about Lowry, DeRozan’s face genuinely light up. He had the same reaction when talking about his former Raptors teammates who managed to take home the Larry O’Brien Trophy last season. He’s a man who’s genuinely happy for his guys.
“In the moment you’re like, ‘Damn,’” DeRozan said. “There’s never no ill feelings toward anything. … So that’s all it is, you just try to go out there and put yourself out there with those guys that you had a relationship, feeling that feeling. That’s all it was.”