Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri recalls reuniting with San Antonio Spurs DeMar DeRozan during NBA restart

In a year that has been anything but normal, the NBA returned to some sense of normalcy when it restarted the season for 22 teams at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL.

Taylor Rooks of Turner Sports, who was one of a few reporters on location in the bubble, gave an inside look at everyday life on the NBA's campus in a feature for GQ Magazine. Within the story, Rooks spoke with various NBA players, coaches, executives and personnel, who shared a range of stories - both good and bad - from their time in the bubble.

Among the executives that Rooks spoke with at length was Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, who shared a number of anecdotal stories, including one detailing a reunion with former Raptor DeMar DeRozan, with whom he had a strained relationship following the trade that sent DeRozan to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard in July of 2018.

The moment, as explained to Rooks, came on Aug. 1 as Ujiri watched the Raptors open their seeding game schedule against the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.

"I'm sitting down there, and I see this person walking straight to me with a blue tracksuit," Ujiri told Rooks. "And he walks up to me, and he gives me a big, big hug. This was really the first time that we've really had that kind of contact since the trade. I left the game and I felt that we had crossed a certain … we'd reached a new place."

It was a big moment for the two, as DeRozan was left "extremely hurt" by the trade that ended his nine-year tenure with the Raptors.

DeRozan, who embraced Toronto and Canada as no star had ever done before after being drafted by the franchise in 2009, had difficulty coming to terms with the decision of Ujiri, who joined the Raptors in an executive role in the offseason of 2013.

That the two have reached a new place speaks volumes, as they each represent two of the most important figures in the history of the franchise along with Kyle Lowry, who doubles as DeRozan's best friend.

The Raptors and Spurs meet for the first time in the 2020-21 NBA season on Dec. 26 in San Antonio.

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