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In an interview with ESPN.com’s Michael C. Wright, DeRozan discussed how he felt after catching wind of the deal:
“I definitely was extremely hurt. I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t. I always made it clear that Toronto was where I wanted to retire. You never heard a player say that. No star player. Nobody. My whole objective being there was fighting against the stigma that guys didn’t want to play there. As it happened to me, when I gave everything I could on the court and off the court, it definitely hurt. It definitely hurt. To feel like, ‘Damn, I wasn’t nothing? I wasn’t this? All right, cool. Now, I’m going to show you.'”
DeRozan was sent to San Antonio along with big man Jakob Poeltl and a first-round pick for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
Both DeRozan and Leonard are thriving in their new surroundings.
DeRozan has the Spurs off to a 4-2 start, and he is averaging 28.3 points, eight assists and six rebounds per game, all of which would be career bests for the four-time All-Star.
Meanwhile, the Raptors are 7-1 with Leonard at the helm, and he is averaging 27.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per contest.
DeRozan said Wednesday that conversations with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford helped ease his concerns after getting dealt by the only NBA team he has ever known:
“But when I talked to [Popovich], talked to R.C., it was such a reassurance of understanding, like, ‘We didn’t trade you. We traded for you.’ Understanding, ‘We want you. We want you here. We want you to be you. Don’t worry about nothing. We’re going to make the transition as easy as possible.’ When you hear something from Pop like that, that’s all you need to hear. You don’t need to hear no whole story or nothing. That’s all you needed to hear.”
DeRozan has been the unquestioned go-to guy in San Antonio, and he has formed a strong one-two punch with LaMarcus Aldridge, much like he did with Kyle Lowry in Toronto.
The Spurs managed to deal a player who no longer wanted to be with the team for a perennial All-Star and additional assets. That move is paying big dividends, as San Antonio is performing better than most pundits anticipated entering the season.
Toronto may lose Leonard for nothing during the offseason, while DeRozan has at least one year remaining on his deal, plus a player option for 2020-21.
If DeRozan continues to produce at his current rate, then the Spurs may have pulled off one of the most impressive NBA trade heists in recent memory.