DeMar DeRozan was the most beloved Raptor in Toronto, the face of the franchise, the star who stayed and committed to the city. After watching everyone from Vince Carter through Chris Bosh bolt when they got the chance, Toronto embraced DeRozan both because stayed and his last Raptors teams were the best ones in franchise history.
Then Raptors president Masai Ujiri traded him.
It was a calculated gamble that paid off — Toronto landed Kawhi Leonard and won a title. The next season Leonard became the latest star to leave the city, but the banner he helped win in Toronto will remain forever.
“DeMar, I was in the hotel in Kenya, and I walked around that hotel at 4 a.m., 5 a.m., for a couple hours, trying to gather up enough strength and courage to make this phone call. I will never forget it…
“With DeMar there is still plenty of work to be done. But, by the grace of God, it will all get better. We have to continue to make these decisions that are tough. But that’s the business of basketball, and the position that we are in.”
DeRozan is now a member of a struggling Spurs team, one that will miss the playoffs and break the franchise’s 22-season postseason streak (assuming there are playoffs).
Someday DeRozan should return to Toronto, feel the embrace of the fans again, and maybe see his number — along with Kyle Lowry — retired by the team. He is still a beloved icon in Toronto.
Whether DeRozan and Ujiri ever repair their relationship is another question, and one on DeRozan.