Today was a frustrating day. I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll start with the facts, and a few deep breaths.
The Toronto Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected 2019 first round pick, to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.
Leonard wanted out of San Antonio, while DeRozan was nothing but loyal to Toronto.
I think this is the part where I state that I have been a fan of DeRozan since the Raptors drafted him in 2009 with the 9th overall selection. I currently own a Raptors jersey with his name on it.
I am a Raptors fan.
Yet, unlike most of the fan base, I am okay with this trade.
I like this trade.
Do I need to say it again? I like this trade.
DeRozan suggested via Instagram story that the Raptors told him they weren’t going to trade him, so now he feels betrayed.
I have no reason to believe he’s lying about that, but I also have a hard time believing the Raptors stated, “There’s no chance you’re going anywhere” when the management team has been nothing but open about the fact that no one on the roster is untouchable.
DeRozan has every right to feel upset. He wanted to be a Raptor for life. That got taken away from him.
The backlash from fans is, “How could you trade away our franchise player? A guy who actually wanted to be in Toronto?”
Listen, I can get more sentimental about sports than anyone, but you have to take the emotional aspect out of this. This isn’t your college team. This is professional sports.
Meanwhile, there was a tweet that went out saying Leonard has no desire to play in Toronto.
This is where my frustrating came in. Social media was awful today. I realized there are a lot of sports fans who don’t really understand sports.
So of course Raptors fans were in a panic because all of a sudden this entire trade became a giant metaphor for the entire history of the franchise.
Damon Stoudamire left.
Tracy McGrady left.
Vince Carter left. He was traded for Alonzo Mourning, who didn’t even bother entering the country. He didn’t want to be here.
Chris Bosh left.
Those Raptors were booed when they came back to Toronto.
The Raptors have always been the franchise that superstars don’t want to sign with in free agency. We’re too much of an unknown. We’re a different country. Players don’t like the cold, yet they sign in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.
I’m unwilling to believe that our winters are any colder than theirs.
There are so many misconceptions about Canada, it’s ridiculous.
As a result, we have to draft or trade for our star players.
So now all of our worst fears as a franchise are accounted for in this trade. We’re trading away the one guy who wanted to remain loyal to the Raptors, for a guy who may only be here for a year before going to LA.
And you know what, I’d make this trade every day of the week. I’m sorry.
Social media has a very short and hypocritical memory.
Remember when the Raptors were swept by LeBron in the playoffs again this season and everyone was calling for change? Well, we got change.
They fired the coach.
But oh, how could they fire the Coach of the Year? That ain’t right! He’s taking the fall for the players!
Okay, they just traded their franchise player.
Ohh noo, not him, I liked him! Trade someone else.
Well, what did you expect to happen? This team has tried to install a defensive culture for year. Their best player was, arguably, their worst defender.
I have no problem with what the Raptors have done this off-season. So many teams wait until it’s too late to make these moves, while the Raptors have gotten ahead of the curve.
It’s been abundantly clear to me over the last few years that a team where DeRozan is the best player, simply isn’t good enough to win a championship. And if you’re not trying to win championships, fold the team. Just go home.
Sports are a business.
I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Toronto Maple Leafs also made a big acquisition this summer, in John Tavares. The Leafs and Raptors are the only two teams under the Maple Leaf Sport & Entertainment umbrella that haven’t won a championship in the last year.
There is probably so much more to this trade than any of us will ever know.
Yes, it’s unfortunate that we had to trade a player who has been nothing short of exemplary, while helping us reach heights we’ve never seen.
But what were the Raptors supposed to do?
Were they supposed to play next season, get to the playoffs, and be eliminated, just for everyone to call for change once again?
We know what this team is. And if you look around, you’ll see that Boston and Philadelphia are hot on our tail, ready to overtake us.
Sure, there is a ton of risk with Leonard. What didn’t get a lot of coverage on Twitter was that the Raptors have spoken to Leonard’s representatives and have had positive talks with them.
That sure sounds a lot better than that “No desire to play in Toronto” tweet, huh?
Leonard will report. Leonard will play next season. Let’s not take a tweet about what his desire is and run with it, as if the next 12 months have already happened.
I know it’s 2018 and people give others the opportunity to evolve their opinion, but what if he changes his mind and actually likes Toronto? That’s a gamble I’m willing to take. We weren’t winning a championship with DeRozan, anyway.
If he’s only here for a year, then he’s only here for a year.
The possibility is still there for a sign-and-trade next summer. The Raptors could still recoup some assets if he leaves. Plus, we’d be left with a ton of cap space and flexibility.
I just didn’t see the point in keeping DeRozan if we were never going to be able to compliment him with a player who was better than him.
And I hate if it sounds like I’m saying disparaging things about DeRozan, but you need to be honest. You need to look at the calibre of players on the team’s winning championships and ask yourself if what you have sizes up.
Jakob Poeltl also went to the Spurs in this deal. Honestly, he was our fifth best young player.
I never thought that if we made this trade, that we would be able to keep Delon Wright, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam, but we did. None of them are finished products and that’s exciting to me.
Then there’s the forgotten guy – everyone’s hero from two years ago – Norman Powell. You have to think this opens up more minutes for him at the shooting guard position.
The Raptors also acquired Danny Green, who is exactly the type of player we’ve needed. A guy who can shoot threes and defend.
Oh yeah, Leonard is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, which means our best player will actually be capable of guarding the best player on the other team.
Listen, I love DeRozan, but the Raptors had to do this trade. It’s worth all the risk. We’ve been a safe, innocent franchise for so long. It was time to try something else.
As for the other NBA players who are tweeting out “Smh…” and talking about loyalty and how the Raptors are “Snakes”, go away.
Don’t talk to me about loyalty, when players can’t wait to hit the free agent market and go to a championship contender.
In a perfect world, being loyal to the guy who is loyal to you would be the right thing to do.
But this is sports. Teams are loyal to winning.
On paper, the Raptors are a better team today than they were yesterday. For the next 12 months, they have to convince Leonard that Toronto is where he needs to be long-term. Hopefully, the fans can help convince him.
I’m excited for these changes. I think there will be more and I’m ready for them.
And if you’re a Raptors fan, you should be ready for them, too.
Whew. This was a lot. I don’t even think I wrote it in a coherent manner.
All the best to DeMar DeRozan in San Antonio. He grew up right before our eyes and represented the Toronto Raptors like no one else ever has.
We’ll never forget everything he did for us. He’ll be a fan favourite forever.
Thank you, DeMar.