Championship executives often have to make decisions that could be described as ruthless. Arguably the two most important figures in Toronto’s 2019 championship were Kawhi Leonard and Dwane Casey, but both came at the expense of long-time Raptors. Dwane Casey was fired to make way for Nurse despite winning the NBA’s Coach of the Year award in 2018, while DeMar DeRozan was traded to bring in Leonard.
The two of them have apparently handled those ousters quite differently. While Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri has since patched things up with Casey, he revealed in an interview with Ernie Johnson for the NBA’s Twitter account that he and DeRozan still have a long way to go.
“I will never forget, I will never, ever forget having to do that with Coach Casey and walking to his office, waking up that morning. Many times I wanted to move it and change it or think that you’re not making the right decision. It was incredibly hard, because Casey is an incredible person, and so great to work with … DeMar, I was in the hotel in Kenya, and I walked around that hotel at 4 a.m., 5 a.m., for a couple hours, trying to gather up enough strength and courage to make this phone call. I will never forget it.
“With Casey, it has gotten so much better now with his family and him. With DeMar, there is still plenty of work to be done. But, by the grace of God, it will all get better. We have to continue to make these decisions that are tough. But that’s the business of basketball and the position that we are in.”
DeRozan, arguably the most accomplished player in Raptors history, has publicly been frosty towards Ujiri since being dealt. When asked about his relationship with Ujiri after the trade, DeRozan said “it’s done,” and. “there’s no reason to have a relationship.” DeRozan had previously expressed a desire to finish his career in Toronto, and re-signed on a max contract in 2016 rather than pursue a deal with a bigger-market team such as his hometown Los Angeles Lakers.
His San Antonio Spurs were on the outside of the postseason picture looking in when the season was suspended, and he is reportedly unhappy with his new team. The Raptors, meanwhile, were on track to earn the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. There is no telling how long it will take him to forgive Ujiri for the trade, if he ever does. But given the hardware that came with it, there is no question that the Raptors would make it again. Grudges fade, but banners fly forever.