Raptors President Masai Ujiri stunned by big-trade criticism

TORONTO, CAN - FEBRUARY 26: Kyle Lowry /

Raptors head honcho Ujiri defended himself from sharp criticism he has been getting over the trade of DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard. He also apologized.

The reverberations cast by the mega-trade are far from over. The President of the Toronto Raptors, Masai Ujiri, responded angrily on Friday to criticism during his first major press conference since the deal was announced.

I thought Ujiri defended himself admirably from the storm which has raged over the alleged ill-treatment of DeMar DeRozan. Our former shooting guard was given to believe he would not be traded from the only team he’s ever known. Masai apologized for the “miscommunication” without being prompted to do so.

There was also fulsome and heartfelt praise for the contributions of DeRozan over the years. Hopefully that goes some way to redressing the hurt feelings which resulted from the lack of those words on Trade Day.

DeMar, we feel for you

DeRozan is enduring a nasty year without question. His marriage has failed, his father is ill, and now his professional world is in turmoil. He has admitted that he suffers from bouts of depression, which won’t be helped if he considers himself to have been lied to. DeMar, it’s not personal – it’s the harsh world of professional sports.

…when I came here I gave [Casey & DeRozan] a chance. But we kept giving them a chance and giving a chance, and at some point we had to do something different.

Any Raptors fan who is happy about DeMar’s departure should seek medical help immediately. Turfing the Raptors’, and Toronto’s, most loyal booster out of town isn’t a joyful occasion. For the sake of DeMar’s mental well-being, I hope he reads and takes to heart all the accolades he’s received, and will continue to receive, from all his fans in Canada and around the world.

DeMar isn’t being moved to some hoops wasteland. San Antonio has been arguably the best franchise in North American sport in this century. And he can ditch his winter coat.

Returning to Masai

Our President was clear that he viewed the opportunity to acquire Kawhi Leonard as too compelling to pass up. He admitted the decision to move DeMar, and before that, to fire coach Dwane Casey, caused him pain, but didn’t stop him. Masai is doing what he deems most likely to bring a championship to the Raptors, regardless of the anguish it brings.

Here’s the entire press conference.

This press conference was much needed. Masai needed to clear the air, and succeeded. Even the acerbic Cathal Kelly was positive.

We still don’t know the ending

We are hearing reassuring noises about Kawhi’s imminent arrival in his new home city. Presumably he will put to rest any concerns Yours Truly and others have voiced about him actually showing up to play.

After that mountain is climbed, Leonard needs to pass his physical. Is his quadriceps truly healed?

Next: Why the Leonard trade is positive for Raptors

Masai has done his best. He made the deal in spite of lingering doubts about Leonard’s health and interest in playing in our city (or anywhere that isn’t Los Angeles). Assuming Kawhi is good to go, and plays the way he’s proven he can for rookie coach Nick Nurse, Raptors fans everywhere will breath a giant sigh of relief.