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Ujiri says DeRozan trade wasn't easy: 'I still think about that'

Ron Turenne / National Basketball Association / Getty

Last offseason, Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri shocked the fan base with his decision to deal away beloved franchise star DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs.

While the trade netted Kawhi Leonard and ultimately the Raptors' first-ever NBA title, executing it went beyond basketball for Ujiri.

"I had to walk around this hotel in Kenya for two hours at 4 a.m. just to sum up enough courage to call DeMar DeRozan," Ujiri told reporters Tuesday at his season-ending press conference, as relayed by TSN. "It's not an easy thing. I still think about that."

Ujiri is hopeful that time will eventually heal all wounds. The former NBA Executive of the Year said he's been in touch through text with ex-head coach Dwane Casey - who was fired last offseason - and added that he shared a special moment with DeRozan when the Spurs made their lone trip up north.

"DeMar came into our locker room, and to show you the classy human being he is, he came up to me and he hugged me," Ujiri said. "And he asked me how my family was doing ... it meant a lot for him to come and give me a hug."

Prior to this season, Toronto enjoyed its greatest period of success with DeRozan and Casey at the core. From 2013-18, the Raptors made a franchise-record five straight playoff appearances - including the club's first Eastern Conference finals - and Ujiri believes their championship is largely thanks to the foundation those cornerstones laid down.

"I want to use this opportunity to thank them," Ujiri said. "The growth of the team was started by them."

Ujiri says DeRozan trade wasn't easy: 'I still think about that'
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