Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri said Friday he was sorry for any miscommunication with former star DeMar DeRozan ahead of this week’s trade to the San Antonio Spurs.
DeRozan posted an Instagram message after the trade leaked, inferring that Ujiri had misled him during a conversation at a Vegas Summer League game.
DeRozan wrote, “Be told one thing & the outcome another. Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing... Soon you’ll understand... Don’t disturb...”
Ujiri confirmed their conversation, but insists it was done in good faith.
“I had a conversation with DeMar at summer league, and I really want to leave it at that,” Ujiri said, per ESPN. “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.
“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.”
Ujiri also said that the opportunity to land a player of Kawhi Leonard’s caliber made the move too good to pass up.
“When you have a chance to get a top-five player, which doesn’t come very often, I think you have to jump on it,” he said.
ESPN and The Sporting News reported Wednesday morning that Leonard has “no desire” to play in Toronto and could sit out, hoping to force another trade, but Ujiri insisted he hadn’t been informed of any hostility and is looking forward to an in-person meeting with Leonard.
Regardless, the Raptors are rolling the dice Leonard is healthy and willing to re-sign to stay in Toronto beyond this season. Leonard is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in July 2019. With Leonard playing this season with Toronto, the Raptors would have the advantage of being able to pay $49 million more in a max deal than other suitors, such as the Lakers.
Los Angeles and other teams with cap space could offer four years at $141 million; Toronto can reach five years, $190 million.
DeRozan has three years, $83 million remaining on his contract.
Leonard spent his first seven seasons in the NBA with the Spurs, appearing in a total of 407 games and averaging 16.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists. He played in just nine games last season due to a quadriceps injury.
Danny Green, a 3-point specialist, also went to Toronto. He joined San Antonio in 2010 and averaged 9.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 520 contests.
San Antonio also received big man Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick in the deal. Poeltl averaged 5.4 points and 4.1 rebounds in 136 games over his first two seasons.
—Field Level Media