After years of postseason disappointment, the Toronto Raptors finally made the NBA Finals for an opportunity to bring the Larry O'Brien Trophy north of the border for the first time.
Their newfound success came at a cost, however, as the Raptors dealt their face of the franchise, DeMar DeRozan, to the San Antonio Spurs for arguably the NBA's best two-way talent in Kawhi Leonard. However, DeRozan doesn't believe Toronto's shot at a title would be possible without his contributions before the franchise was forced to make the star guard its scapegoat.
"If it wasn't for all the years and groundwork that I did before then, none of these things would've been possible," DeRozan told Bleacher Report's Taylor Rooks. "I fought. I sacrificed. I pushed the limits to where I had to be the sacrificial lamb. You just have to sit back and understand you are the reason so many things were even possible.
"To their credit, they probably felt like it was time to see what we could get to make that next jump."
Although DeRozan was upset by the trade, he remains supportive of his former team - most notably showing love to his closest companion, Kyle Lowry, as he looks to win his first championship.
"People gotta understand my best friend is Kyle. So, I'm rooting for my best friend to do well. To accomplish something that we tried to do all those years and he has the opportunity to do it. Some guys on the team, they know I'm rooting for them."
The Raptors are currently tied 1-1 with the Golden State Warriors as the series shifts to Oakland, Calif., for Game 3 on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, DeRozan remained effective with the Spurs, leading his new squad to the playoffs while averaging 21.2 points, six rebounds, and 6.2 assists in 77 appearances.