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DeMar DeRozan: Delusions of Grandeur

There’s a lot to respect about DeMar DeRozan: his work ethic, his commitment to the city, his year-over-year improvement. If I had to compare him to a stock he’d be one which shows modest growth and steady dividends. His willingness to commit to the city after Chris Bosh left (i.e., the “I got us” tweet) was one of the more open-hearted and genuine moments of a Raptor publicly committed themselves to the franchise.

In an economic and regulatory sense the NBA is a socialist system which taxes consumption rather than income. From a player evaluation perspective it is about as capitalistic as anything we have in our fragile and beautiful world. There are certainly no such things as hometown discounts and loyalty. Those days were ending when Michael Jordan retired and the players who saw it through with their original teams were superstars like Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki. It is for those types of players that on-court performance can be overlooked in favor of nostalgia, and that too for only short periods of time.  Other than that, this is a cut-throat league existing in a cut-throat society.

It is not difficult to understand why DeMar DeRozan might suffer through an initial shock of being traded. We all felt it. For five seconds. Then we realized that we were getting a legitimate superstar in return and our “System 2” evaluated the trade, categorized it and we moved on. It is not that difficult of a trade to understand from either perspective and neither party could be “blamed” in the slightest for making it. It was too obvious of a decision for the Raptors and the Spurs had limited ones on the table. That really should be the end of that.

Let’s review DeRozan’s quote:

“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. You just have to sit back and understand, like, you know, you are the reason so many things was even possible.”

If DeRozan’s point is that he became good enough to be trade bait to lure Kawhi Leonard then he’s right. We wouldn’t be here without him. However, the same could be true for Jonas Valanciunas who netted us Marc Gasol. We wouldn’t be here without Gasol either. That is the extent of DeMar DeRozan’s contribution to the current run. I would argue that it is Dwane Casey who deserves a tremendous amount of credit of starting the culture shift given what he had inherited after Jay Triano. We make fun of the rock he installed or his game management at times, but it should never deter from the fact that he got the Raptors to play hard every night.

Yes, him and his players choked often in the playoffs and that ultimately led to his and DeRozan’s demise. They were not “sacrificial lambs”. There were just better opportunities available in the open market and as an economist might tell you, agents will look to maximize the utility of their assets. If I flip an oil stock which has hit its peak for a rising tech stock, I’m simply maximizing the utility of my investments. I’m not sacrificing anything. I’m just paying the opportunity cost of holding the oil stock which I deem to be not worthy of carrying. That’s what the Raptors did: they deemed DeMar DeRozan as the star to build around as hitting its peak. And they were comfortable with the opportunity cost.

DeRozan’s comments can also be seen as irreverent of his former teammates, notably Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo, Terrence Ross and many others, who fought in the playoffs to make the Raptors a more respectable team. They collectively laid a foundation for the Raptors to finely shred the expansion label, which was mentioned as recently as the Bargnani years. This idea that he was the one who had to burn on the altar for the Raptors to rise from the ashes is ludicrous and speaks to someone who has an inflated opinion of self.  It is also antithetic to a team mentality, and if this is what he’s publicly saying, I wonder what else he’s privately thinking.

This little tirade by DeRozan reminds me of when the Chicago Bulls traded Charles Oakley to the New York Knicks for Bill Cartwright in 1988. Oakley was upset to be traded, Jordan hated the trade, but Bulls GM Jerry Krause knew they needed a low-post scoring threat more than a bruiser, even if Oakley happened to be Jordan’s friend. Oakley was hurt because he felt he had paid his dues with the Bulls to reap the rewards on the horizon, much like how DeRozan feels that his time invested with the club was all for naught since there was no product at the end of it. The Bulls won three titles with Cartwright at center. The Knicks haven’t won anything since. What happens to the Raptors remains to be seen.

There are also no $30M/yr sacrificial lambs.  Sacrifice would’ve been to take less money so the Raptors could resign Biyombo. Again, nobody would expect DeRozan to do that and rightfully so. But let’s just be clear on what was and wasn’t sacrificed, and how the Raptors showed their appreciation for DeRozan in extremely lucrative terms.

DeMar DeRozan is a good human being. When he says that he’s rooting for the Raptors to win it all, I almost believe him until Varys’ line rings in my ears, “…who doesn’t like to see their friends fail now and then.” I know, it’s horrible, which is why I tend to believe DeRozan when he says:

“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.”

There is no need for me to regurgitate how well DeMar DeRozan has served the franchise. We’ve written about it in these pages long before he got traded and after. What irks me about these quotes coming out at this time is that it takes away from our current players, and instead puts the focus on whatever DeRozan thinks he did for the franchise. He helped. So did many others. None of them were sacrifices – nobody left money on the table, nobody settled, nobody had to sacrifice something big enough that it deserves an interview right after Game 2.

Quick reminder: we have a Game 4 Watch Party at Hot Tokyo Fried Chicken (King and Peter) – tickets are $10 and that includes a beer – get your tickets and see you there!

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