DeMar DeRozan is clearly upset with the Raptors for trading him (for Kawhi Leonard).
Is DeRozan’s frustration justified?
To a certain extent, he’s entitled to feel however he wants. I would never tell him his reaction is “wrong.”
But that’s not the same as endorsing his outlook. Should we rally behind him and hold Toronto accountable for mistreating him? Answering that question relies on so much hearsay, I’m not sure it’s possible to answer fairly.
In what I find a telling illustration of the situation, ESPN has updated its story on the trade multiple times today. In an early version:
Sources close to DeRozan told ESPN’s Chris Haynes that DeRozan met with Toronto brass in Las Vegas during summer league and was told he would not be traded.
That got changed to:
Sources close to DeRozan 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.
That’s a subtle, but meaningful, distinction.
Did the Raptors tell DeRozan he wouldn’t be traded? Different people involved in the conversation would probably give different answers.
Did DeRozan take away that Toronto wouldn’t trade him? It seems so, and maybe it’s because team officials told him that directly. But it’s also possible he misinterpreted team officials. Not that he’s willing to grant that possibility.
David Aldridge of NBA.com:
Without being privy to the exact wording, I don’t know where to side.
Unsurprisingly, other players are backing DeRozan – some publicly and quite strongly, others anonymously.
Chris Haynes of ESPN:
DeRozan meant a lot to the Raptors, and he deserves a proper sendoff. But some of this strikes me as an overreaction.
The Spurs didn’t thank Leonard in their press release, either. Both teams posted cursory messages of gratitude on social media to their outgoing players. Gregg Popovich held a press conference today and said many kind things about Leonard, though. The main difference appears to be Masai Ujiri just hasn’t happened to hold his press conference yet. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t effusively praise DeRozan in it.
And to Kanter’s claim the Raptors gave away DeRozan for nothing? They got Kawhi freaking Leonard.
For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t rule the possibility of the spotlight-seeking Kanter just saying something outlandish to draw attention.
Even if that were Kanter’s intent, that just feeds into this spiraling into a bigger deal than it probably should be.
If the Raptors told DeRozan they wouldn’t trade him, they shouldn’t have done that. If they told DeRozan they didn’t plan to trade him while they were secretly putting the final touches on this deal, they shouldn’t have done that.
But if they told DeRozan they didn’t plan to trade him and truly didn’t at that moment, I wouldn’t blame them. Plans can change, and it would have done them no good to warn DeRozan of that possibility. If he expected more loyalty, that’s on him.
Ujiri will get a chance to explain himself. So will DeRozan – though his narrative is already gaining significant traction, especially among his peers. Maybe we’ll actually become positioned to make an outside judgment.
Most likely, this will remain a he-said, he-said situation that wanes in significance. DeRozan will probably play hard in San Antonio and grow to enjoy it there. Players – even, I bet, including DeRozan – will forgive the Raptors in time. As much furor as these things evoke in the moment, players rarely hold a grudge to the point of avoiding franchises.
But for now, Toronto is dealing with a perception hit right as it begins its courtship of one of the NBA’s top players, Leonard.