Many NBA fans on Wednesday woke up to the news of the long-anticipated, yet shocking, transfer of the 27-year-old former two-time Kia Defensive Player of the Year and Finals MVP winner Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for the Canadian team’s star guard, DeMar DeRozan.
Accompanying Leonard to the Raptors will be Spurs old-timer Danny Green, while joining the San Antonio team, along with DeRozan, are center Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 protected first-round draft pick.
Apparently, DeRozan, 28, is not thrilled about getting traded out of Toronto, as his early Wednesday morning Instagram post, just prior to the announcement, suggests.
“Be told one thing & the outcome another,” DeRozan wrote. “Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quickly for a little bit of nothing … Soon you’ll understand. Don’t disturb.”
While DeRozan did not specifically mention the trade or anyone by name, it doesn’t, really, take a rocket scientist to understand where he’s coming from.
DeRozan, who had been with the Raptors for his entire career, spanning eight years (2010-18), proved himself as one of Raptors’ ace guards and was the key to the team’s triumph in 59 games, securing the No 1 seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs last season.
However, after a drubbing at the hands of Cleveland in the second round, the Raptors think-tank did not waste too much time in effecting sweeping changes, firing coach of the year Dwane Casey, to start with, and then going on to trade their star performer DeRozan.
The ex-Toronto player averaged 23.4 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists in the 2013-14 season and named to the All-NBA third and second team in the 71st and 72nd seasons, respectively.
DeRozan is pretty much justified, it would seem, in feeling hard done by, not only because of all his achievements and contributions to the team’s past successes but also because Raptors officials had assured him during the NBA Summer League that he would not be traded.
The Wednesday blockbuster trade announcement has drawn criticism from other NBA players, including Los Angeles Clippers player and DeRozan’s former teammate Lou Williams.
Williams wrote that he was “hurt” because DeRozan was “stabbed in the back” by an organization he dedicated his heart and soul to.
I’m hurt bro. I’m hurt. My dog gave that city and organization his heart and soul. He was loyal to the soil and got stabbed in the back.
— Lou Williams (@TeamLou23) July 18, 2018
New York Knicks center Enes Kanter was also among those who expressed their disgust at the treatment meted out to the star player, calling DeRozan a “classy player” who gave his heart to the franchise.
He said that DeRozan was being given away for nothing.
NBA senior writer for @YahooSportsNBA, Michael Lee, said that in spite of embracing “everything about being a Raptor,” his franchise is “about to drop-kick him to SAS.”
Tracy McGrady was on verge of something special, skipped to ORL. Vince Carter hurdled 7-fters, forced his way to NJN. Chris Bosh let his dreads bounce in the post, then chased rings in MIA. DeMar DeRozan embraced everything about being a Raptor; TOR about to drop-kick him to SAS
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) July 18, 2018
Speaking to the Associated Press, Miami Heat’s Dwayne Wade said that loyalty and sports don’t blend well and that the deal “sucks.”
“DeRozan gave everything to Toronto, everything they asked him to do from the standpoint of loyalty,” Wade said.
“That’s why I hate loyalty and sports, those two words, they shouldn’t go together. … From a player standpoint, it just sucks,” he added.
Canadian rapper, singer, songwriter, record producer, actor, and entrepreneur Aubrey Drake Graham, better known as Rapper Drake – a regular at Raptors games – paid a glowing Instagram tribute to DeRozan.
“To my brother @demar_derozan I want to say 10 million thank you’s (sic) on behalf of YOUR city,” Drake wrote.
“You are a fixture in Toronto forever and you gave everything you had. Through your leadership we had the most exciting years in franchise history,” he said.
“I am grateful to have witnessed your combination of skill, persistence, and loyalty from the same seats every night. Thank you for being an incredible captain and an even better friend,” he added.
He had a few welcome words for the incoming Leonard, as well.
To Kawhi … we look forward to this new chapter and we welcome you to the most intense and supportive city in NBA basketball!!! You have always been a poised clinical warrior and I can’t wait to see how Toronto inspires your fight. Let’s Go Raptors.”
To my brother @demar_derozan I want to say 10 million thank you’s on behalf of YOUR city. You are a fixture in Toronto forever and you gave everything you had. Through your leadership we had the most exciting years in franchise history. I am grateful to have witnessed your combination of skill, persistence, and loyalty from the same seats every night. Thank you for being an incredible captain and an even better friend. To Kawhi…we look forward to a this new chapter and we welcome you to the most intense and supportive city in NBA basketball!!! You have always been a poised clinical warrior and I can’t wait to see how Toronto inspires your fight. Let’s Go Raptors.
As far as Kawhi Leonard is concerned, his trade was somewhat of a foregone conclusion.
His year-long feud with SAS had reached a flashpoint when he declined a five-year, $295 million super-max extension from the franchise where he spent seven seasons of his career, averaging 16.3 points.
However, he was looking forward to playing for the Los Angeles Lakers rather than being traded to Toronto where he had “no desire to play,” according to ESPN.
While refusing to talk about his apparent feud with the player, SAS coach Gregg Povovich wished Leonard well for the future, calling him a “great teammate”
“Kawhi conducted himself wonderfully while he was here,” Popovich told reporters in San Antonio.
“We wish him well as he moves into Toronto. I think he’ll be great,” he said.
“I think this trade is going to work out great for both teams. We wish [Leonard] well, but at this point it’s time to move on. It’s time to move on,” he added.
“Kawhi is not going to stop being a great player. But we’re thrilled with DeMar. … To get back a proven NBA player and a proven All-Star, we have to be thrilled,” he said, expressing his satisfaction with Leonard’s replacement, DeMar DeRozan.
A leg injury, described as Tendinopathy of the right quadriceps, had kept Leonard out of all but nine games for the San Antonio Spurs last season, around the time when trouble started brewing between him and the franchise.
“Injury management” is what Spurs had cited as the reason for keeping him on the injury reports for much of the season.