Raptors president says Kawhi Leonard 'didn't express a lack of interest' in playing in Toronto

Masai Ujiri apologizes to DeMar DeRozan during trade press conference

(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
(AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

TORONTO – Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri spoke for the first time Friday since trading franchise player DeMar DeRozan, rookie Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round draft pick to San Antonio in exchange for Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard.

Ujiri began the press conference by apologizing to DeRozan for a "gap of miscommunication," addressing DeRozan's Instagram posts that he'd been traded for “a little bit of nothing," and that there was no loyalty in the NBA.

"There's no measure to what this kid has done," Ujiri said of DeRozan. 

Ujiri, however, said that his job is to do everything in his power to get the Raptors to a championship level and traded for Leonard with that in mind.

"When you get a chance to get a top five player, which it doesn't come very often, I think you have to jump on it," Ujiri said. "We've given a chance to this team. We've tried to build it as much as we can, but at this point, we got to this level where this opportunity came in front of us and we had to jump on it."

In addition to DeRozan's Instagram postings, it was reported that DeRozan was told by front office employees that he would not be traded. 

When asked whether DeRozan was ever told he wouldn't be traded, Ujiri mentioned a conversation he had with DeRozan during summer league in which he spoke with him about the future.

"I think my mistake was talking about what we expected from him going forward," Ujiri said. 

Ujiri said that he struggles with the human side of the business, but ultimately feels good about the trade.

"We're excited to welcome Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to our fold," Ujiri said, adding that on paper, his team is a strong contender in the East.

Ujiri said he's talked to Leonard and his uncle and Leonard has not expressed a lack of interest in playing in Toronto. Ujiri said that he feels he'll be able sell Leonard on Toronto when he becomes a free agent in 2019.

"Our team. Our culture. Our city. Our ownership," Ujiri said. "We have everything here except a championship."

It's long been reported that Leonard plans to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers when he becomes a free agent.

DeRozan posted a face palm emoji on Instagram following Ujiri's press conference.