It’s been a busy week in the NBA, with Carmelo Anthony, Dennis Schroder and others changing teams amid a flurry of transactions. However, the headline move was the trade involving Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan, with the Raptors sending a long-time franchise staple to San Antonio in order to facilitate a chance at an elite player in Leonard.
Amid the drama was the notion that Raptors president Masai Ujiri seemingly promised DeRozan that he wouldn’t be traded during a meeting in Las Vegas, at least from the side of the player in question. Ujiri addressed the media on Friday to discuss the transaction and he issued something of an apology to the now-former Raptors star for any miscommunication in that meeting over the team’s motives going forward.
“I had a conversation with DeMar at summer league and I really want to leave it at that,” Ujiri said at Friday’s press availability (via 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.”
There was outrage across the NBA at the thought of any player, much less one of DeRozan’s stature with the organization, being promised something and then shipped out the door (very) shortly after that discussion. With that said, Ujiri’s public comments seem to convey what he describes as a “miscommunication,” rather than a direct intention to mislead DeRozan.
This seems like an event in which the two sides have very different recollections but, in Ujiri’s eyes, the rationale for the trade (and the dismissal of previous head coach Dwane Casey) seems to be a shake-up with an eye on upside rather than simply running back the status quo.
On the more favorable side, Ujiri did express significant appreciation for DeRozan, including a reference to him as the greatest player in Raptors history.
From a basketball perspective, many have praised the Raptors for what appears to be a favorable deal. The personal dynamics do matter, though, and there appears to be some varying accounts of what was actually said, communicated and/or implied during a now-fateful meeting in early July.