Kawhi Leonard carried the Toronto Raptors to the NBA Finals, but DeMar DeRozan claims the team wouldn't be there without his years of sacrifice building the groundwork for a title.
DeRozan, an All-Star with the Raptors who was traded in the offseason to the San Antonio Spurs for Leonard in a multi-player swap, told Bleacher Report in a video interview that he should get a bit of credit for Toronto's climb.
"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," DeRozan said.
"Yes, I fought, I sacrificed, I pushed the limits to where I had to be the sacrificial lamb. You just have to sit back and understand, like, you know, you are the reason so many things was even possible."
DeRozan averaged 21.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.2 assists in his debut season with the Spurs.
The Raptors made a hefty commitment to DeRozan in 2016, signing him to a five-year deal worth $139 million. He expected to finish his career alongside point guard Kyle Lowry.
"... Being invested from 19 to -- I was what, 28? Everything you learned was from there. Everything you gained was from there," DeRozan said. "So for that to be gone like that, when you least expect it, it just throws you off guard. You know, we human at the end of the day, and it definitely hits you."
He said his initial reaction to the trade -- "more hurt" -- has worn off and he's rooting hard for his best friend, 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," DeRozan said. "All the guys on that team, they know I'm rooting for them."
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