When the Raptors and Spurs completed what may end up being the biggest NBA deal of the offseason, sending Kawhi Leonard to Toronto and DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio, there was obviously a lot of focus on what it means on the court.
But a subplot emerged involving the reported promise made by Raptors GM Masai Ujiri to DeRozan from earlier in the summer, wherein Ujiri apparently told DeRozan he wouldn’t be traded. That was obviously a bad look for Ujiri, he’s now attempted to clarify the situation, and according to him it wasn’t really a promise at all.
“I had a conversation with DeMar at summer league and I really want to leave it at that,” Ujiri said Friday. “We spoke … I think maybe my mistake was talking about what we expected going forward from him. So, not necessarily talking about a trade but what I expect from him going forward, and I think that’s where the gap was.”
Sources close to DeRozan had told ESPN’s Chris Haynes that DeRozan met with Toronto officials in Las Vegas during summer league and believed that he would not be traded.
Ujiri added Friday: “In my job, I always have to assume we’re going forward with the team that I have. If there was a miscommunication there, I do apologize to DeMar and his family and his representation. It’s not what I meant.”
This actually does make more sense than Ujiri being willing to trade DeRozan yet telling him without reservation that he wouldn’t be traded. Team executives are typically more tactful than that; it takes a certain amount of dexterity to be able to rise to that level of management. And had he actually declared to DeMar that he wouldn’t be moved in any scenario, only to have an unforeseen scenario pop up that made it possible, Ujiri probably would have gone back to him first.
Having said that, communication is a two-way street; this feels more like a miscommunication that Ujiri should have handled better in the first place. DeRozan really did sacrifice to stay in Toronto, and when you have a conversation with your GM about your future role with the team to which you’ve given so much only to be dealt a few weeks later, that sucks. And as ESPN notes, the deal essentially created two disgruntled players:
League sources told ESPN on Wednesday that neither Leonard nor DeRozan were enthusiastic about the deal. Leonard has been clear that he plans to sign with the Lakers in free agency next summer.
So this should be fun!