That changed late Tuesday, however, as DeRozan opened up in a candid interview with ESPN’s Chris Haynes.
DeRozan described his past week as “a blur” before adding “I’m still in shock.”
The trade saw DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 draft pick sent to San Antonio with Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green heading back to Toronto. Prior to the deal, it’s unlikely you’d hear DeRozan say anything negative about the franchise that drafted him in 2009 but his departure from the Raptors rubbed the four-time NBA all-star the wrong way.
“I felt like I wasn’t treated—with what I sacrificed for nine years—with the respect that I thought I deserved,” DeRozan explained. “By just giving me the say-so of letting me know something’s going on, or it’s a chance [that I’d be traded]. That’s all I wanted. I’m not saying you don’t have to trade me. Just let me know something’s going on because I sacrificed everything. Just let me know, you know what I mean? That’s all I ask.
“Everybody knows I’m the most low maintenance person in the world. Just let me know so that I can prepare myself for whatever my next chapter is and I didn’t get that.”
DeRozan felt misled by Raptors president Masai Ujiri, who apologized to DeRozan at a press conference last week for any gap in communication there might have been when the two spoke at Summer League prior to the trade.
“It seemed like I was in that discussion of moving forward with the team,” DeRozan said. “My whole approach was like every single summer. Preparing, going out there, supporting the young guys in Summer League, figuring out ways how I can be better, make my team better. That was the feeling and that was the gist of the conversations we had with moving forward, having an opportunity to do something special all over again. So that was my mindset and everybody around me’s mindset as well.”
DeRozan explained that the fact he had such a strong relationship with Ujiri made getting traded that much tougher.
“I mean when you use the word ‘family,’ ‘brother,’ or whatever, things other people use lightly…for me once you use that term, I stick by that term. I stand by that term,” DeRozan said. “So whether it’s something I like or don’t like, I’m going to accept it if you come to me and let me know beforehand. But don’t make one thing seem like another thing and catch me off guard and do something else.
“That was my whole problem. 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. That’s where my frustration came from. And I think it showed. From the fans to even myself. It just caught me completely off guard. … 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 rumours keep coming up. Two days later, you’re going here.”
DeRozan is the Raptors’ franchise leader in both games played and points scored and is among the most beloved athletes in recent Toronto sports history. The soon-to-be-29-year-old said the response he received from teammates, peers and fans was “overwhelming.”
He singled out Kyle Lowry in particular as someone that sent him a moving text message.
“He couldn’t believe it,” DeRozan said of Lowry’s reaction to the trade. “But he gave me some words that helped me through the whole day, what to prepare for. As him just being my brother, outside of my teammate, he was there for me in that moment. You could tell it affected him as well, so it was cool just to have that support from him.”
Even with the Raptors getting a talent like Leonard back in return, many of the team’s fans were just as upset as DeRozan was when he was informed of the move. The Raptors have often been dubbed a team that star players don’t want to stick with long-term but DeRozan said he wanted to change that stigma, which is why he chose to re-sign with the team in 2016. He was even open to taking less money if it would help the bigger cause.
“I didn’t want to put us in no jam where we wouldn’t be able to help the team by bringing in other guys,” DeRozan said. “I didn’t want to just ask for the max. I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure anything we needed to have down the line, we could have. It was always sacrificing for the betterment of the team. I made it clear I wanted to be there.”
DeRozan added that the day the trade was first reported he spent a few hours at Drake’s house getting some advice from his friend and speaking about the legacy he has left in Toronto.
Heading to the Spurs means DeRozan will be reunited with a former teammate that was traded by the Raptors in 2013.
“The second person I talked to that night that I’m close friends with is Rudy Gay,” DeRozan said. “I called him. I remember being…I was upset and I call him like, ‘Man, dude just traded me, like, what?’ Rudy’s like, ‘Man, to who?’ I said, ‘To y’all.’ He started laughing. He said ‘Look, I don’t mean to laugh, but I got my boy back, man. You gonna be alright, man. Don’t worry about it.’ I was like, ‘Man, I shouldn’t have even called you.’ But it was cool just to be able to call my man, somebody that’s close in my life that’s close on the Spurs too, so he made it easy.”
When asked what type of player the Spurs are getting, DeRozan described himself as “a guy that’s been proven to prove himself time and time again, and this time around, having the biggest chip on his shoulder ever that I done had in my career.”