Their run through the Eastern Conference to reach this point has been impressive and even especially memorable due to the heroics of their star man, Kawhi Leonard. Now healthy, he’s reminded everyone during the playoffs of just where he stands among the game’s elite players. His ability to lead the Raptors this far in his first season with the team is a remarkable story.
It was only made possible, though, by the Raptors’ decision to trade longtime star DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs last summer in a blockbuster deal. All along, everyone assumed that the Raptors immediately going to the Finals with Leonard in his place must have been an awkward feeling for DeRozan, and now he’s spoken about how he’s felt watching his former team.
During an interview with Bleacher Report, DeRozan said he laid the groundwork for the Raptors’ success, and feels like he was the “sacrificial lamb.” At the same time, he wanted to make clear that he’s still cheering for the Raptors and especially wants his good friend Kyle Lowry to have success.
DeRozan on being the “sacrificial lamb”:
“Honestly, I don’t think I even said this — I probably said it to my own inner circle — but if it wasn’t for all the years and groundwork that I did before then, none of them things would’ve been possible. “Yes, I fought, I sacrificed, I pushed the limits to where I had to be the sacrificial lamb.
DeRozan on cheering for Lowry:
“I’m rooting for my best friend to do well, to accomplish something that we tried to do all the years, and he has the opportunity to do it. All the guys on that team, they know I’m rooting for them.”
This entire scenario, starting with the trade away from the only team he’d ever played for, and leading now the Raptors’ Finals run without him is clearly a tough subject for DeRozan, but it was very interesting to finally hear his direct thoughts about what’s happened.
And really, DeRozan spoke all facts. That the Raptors were one big move away from title contention was in large part due to his efforts with the franchise. Along with Kyle Lowry, he helped drag them from a 20-win team to a contender. It’s always going to be a bit of an awkward conversation, but DeRozan deserves plenty of credit for where the Raptors are now, even if he ultimately wasn’t good enough to lead them this far.