The Toronto Raptors were able to finally break through and win their first championship in franchise history in 2019, but DeMar DeRozan was not along for the ride, as Masai Ujiri made the most famous trade in franchise history by sending him to the San Antonio Spurs in order to acquire Kawhi Leonard.
The trade was as seismic a swap as we’ve seen in the last few years in the NBA, and that move directly correlated to a title for Toronto. Losing No. 10 still stung, as he was one of the few highly-touted draft picks who chose to sign an extension in Toronto in order to create a championship foundation.
DeRozan has been open about how he was frustrated with Ujiri in the days leading up to that deal for not keeping him in the loop about his intentions to trade him, and he went into greater detail about the incident in an interview with Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green.
As part of Green’s “Chips” interview series with Bleacher Report, DeRozan elaborated on how the move went down. Despite some assurances from Ujiri that he would not get traded as recently as two days before the move happened, DeRozan was still traded away.
Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan explained how Masai Ujiri traded him.
DeRozan claims that he was in a movie theater when he got a text from Ujiri. When he finally got on the phone, he claims that he told his driver to pull over. He stood in a Del Taco parking lot for hours contemplating the fact that he had to leave the only place he had called home in his pro career.
This led to a fractured relationship between Ujiri and DeRozan, and while fences have since been mended if we are to believe their interactions in the NBA bubble, the fact that DeRozan admitted he was texting his friends on the Raptors after every game shows he was still emotionally attached.
This team could’ve competed for a championship as it was constructed, especially with playoff nemesis LeBron James jumping over to the West Coast. One issue that likely still eats at DeRozan is the fact that we’ll never truly get closure by finding out if Toronto would’ve won a title with DeMar in the lineup instead of Kawhi.
It’s perfectly normal to look back on this move with mixed emotions. The trade did bring Kawhi to town and help Toronto get their first title in franchise history, and the Raptors needed to shake things up after 2019, but it came at the expense of a franchise icon and happened in such a shocking fashion.
DeRozan didn’t get his ring, and while his new Bulls team will likely be headed for the postseason, calling them title contenders now will be an overstatement. While he at least seems at peace with the move, there’s definitely a part of him that wonders what 2019 could’ve been like if he stayed.