Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri held court with media Friday in the wake of the Kawhi Leonard-DeMar DeRozan blockbuster trade, and led off with a direct apology to DeRozan, who suggested via social media that he'd been hurt by the deal.
I want to not only apologize to DeMar DeRozan for maybe a gap of miscommunication, but also to acknowledge him and what he's done here with the Raptors, for this city, for this country. There's no measure to what this kid has done.
Ujiri explained that a conversation with DeRozan at Las Vegas Summer League may have led his former star to believe he was part of the Raptors' long-term plans:
I had a conversation with DeMar at summer league and I really want to leave it at that. I spoke to him, and I think maybe my mistake was talking about what we expected going forward from him. I think that's where the gap was ... If there was a miscommunication there, I apologize to DeMar and his family and his representation. Opportunities come and go, and we have to react in my position. And I had to react this time, with this deal on the table.
The Raptors president suggested that the team's playoff failures against the Cleveland Cavaliers were the impetus for the changes, which also included the firing of NBA Coach of the Year Dwane Casey.
I hate to be defensive here, but I can also say when I came here, I gave them (DeRozan, Casey, etc.) a chance … At some point, we have to do something different.
Ujiri also addressed the fact that he acquired a player in Leonard who's widely viewed as a flight risk if he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer:
When you get a chance to get a top-five player, which doesn't come very often ... I think you have to jump on it.
Ujiri said it is his job as team president to sell the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year on the long-term prospects of the Toronto franchise. He confirmed that he's spoken with Leonard and his representatives.
(Leonard) didn't express a lack of interest in playing in Canada to me ... I've had conversations with Kawhi, his agent, his uncle, and everything has gone well. I look forward to meeting with them face to face, and that's our responsibility. There's a lot to sell here: our team, our culture, our city, our ownership. We have everything here except a championship, in my humble opinion ... There is something about this place that reaches out to the whole world, and we're proud of that, and we're going to continue to sell that.
Ujiri contradicted an earlier report that Leonard would be in Toronto on Friday for his physical, saying he would be arriving in the "next few days."