First the head coach was shown the door. Now a franchise cornerstone is being shipped out.
The Toronto Raptors continue to make big changes after yet another post-season disappointment, with the latest move a whopper of a deal that will send DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio in exchange for Kawhi Leonard.
The Raptors confirmed the deal Wednesday afternoon in a news release. Toronto also acquired Danny Green in the trade while the Spurs also got Jakob Poeltl and a 2019 protected first-round draft pick.
The blockbuster came just a couple months after Toronto fired head coach Dwane Casey and replaced him with former assistant Nick Nurse. The Raptors finished first in the Eastern Conference with a 59-23 record last season but were swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs for the second straight year.
DeRozan, a four-time all-star swingman, has led the Raptors in scoring in each of the last five seasons. He was popular with fans and teammates during his nine-year run with the team, once famously declaring “I am Toronto.”
The 28-year-old from Compton, Calif., posted some messages on his Instagram account earlier in the day that suggested he wasn’t expecting to be dealt.
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“Be told one thing & the outcome another. Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing… Soon you’ll understand … Don’t disturb,” he said.
Leonard, meanwhile, spent seven years in San Antonio but appeared in only nine games last season due to a leg injury, described as right quadriceps tendinopathy. The Spurs listed the 27-year-old forward as out on their injury reports for much of the season, citing “injury management.”
Leonard helped the Spurs win a championship in 2014 and was named NBA Finals MVP. But his relationship with the team deteriorated last season and the two-time NBA defensive player of the year asked for a trade.
If healthy, Leonard would give Toronto a bonafide superstar in a lineup that includes veterans like Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka along with young talents like O.G. Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright.
During the 2016-17 season, Leonard averaged a career-best 25.5 points a game and was third in the MVP voting. He can become a free agent next summer while DeRozan has three years left on his contract.
DeRozan was selected by Toronto with the ninth overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. He was a regular starter almost right away and soon became an anchor on the Raptors, who have made five straight playoff appearances but have never made it to the NBA Finals.
“No matter what…When I think of Toronto Raptors Basketball… I think of DeMar DeRozan…He deserves a statue,” former teammate DeMarre Carroll posted on Twitter.
DeRozan is the Raptors’ all-time leader in points (13,296), field goals made (4,716), free throws made (3,539) and games played (675).
Green, a 31-year-old shooting guard, started 60 games for the Spurs last year and is a three-point threat. He averaged 8.6 points per game last season and has spent most of his nine-year NBA career in San Antonio.
Poeltl, a 22-year-old centre, averaged 6.9 points and 4.8 rebounds as a key bench player for Toronto last season. The Austrian is entering his third NBA campaign.
With files from The Associated Press
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press