Speaking a day after the star guard said he felt betrayed over the trade that sent his best friend to the San Antonio Spurs, Ujiri told ESPN’s The Jump that he has never done anything malicious toward Lowry but that if it was wrong to deal DeMar DeRozan, “Yes, that’s what I did wrong.”
“I understand what happened with DeMar,” Ujiri said. “There are two things in this business that are tough. … When a player leaves — and Kawhi [Leonard] left. And then, when a player gets traded. Those two things are tough. And in our position, we have to do them, and we have to deal with them.
“And in a trade, it’s tough to communicate with players in that manner. We have to communicate with agents and can’t go and say, ‘Oh, you’re going to get traded.'”
Lowry has adjusted to the trade well. His average of 10.3 assists is more than four per game better than his career average and nearly three better than his career-best season.
But his loyalty to DeRozan remains steadfast, and his remarks in an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on how he views his relationship with Ujiri left a wide berth for interpretation.
“Ah, he’s the president of basketball operations. And that’s it,” Lowry said. “I mean, I come here and I do my job. … He does his job, I do my job. Right? That’s what you do.”
Five months after the trade that brought Leonard to the Raptors, it would appear to be a smart move, with the Raptors atop the NBA with a 21-5 record.
“We thought, ‘We have to change. We have to be better,'” Ujiri said, referring to the Raptors’ perennial ouster from the playoffs. “We have to be better; we have to win. The game is all about winning and treating people the right way. And honestly … god bless DeMar. What I did wrong was trade him. Yes, that’s what I did wrong if it’s wrong. You know, like, we traded players, but nothing else I did; there’s nothing else.”
Ujiri was also effusive in his praise for Lowry’s contributions and personality.
“It’s been like that with Kyle since I came here,” Ujiri said of their neutral but professional relationship. “We’ve never — we don’t have a confrontation. We don’t — I’ve never done anything wrong to him. It’s just this kind of decision-making that we have to go through. And I know how Kyle is, so honestly, I love him to death.
“He plays basketball the right way. He gives it his all, you know. And I’m so used to it. And you know he has a good heart. And I know that I haven’t done anything wrong to him. I didn’t trade him.”
Lowry told ESPN he learned of the trade in the middle of the night by a call from DeRozan as Lowry was sleeping. The point guard said he was at a loss for words and didn’t know what to say.
“I felt betrayed because he felt betrayed, because that is my guy,” Lowry said. “That’s my best friend. So yeah, I felt some kind of way on the personal side. But the business side, you understand that you got to go out here and do your job. You get a trade, your job is still to go out there and play.
“Personally, it is what it is, and you are gonna feel how you feel, but businesswise, you have to understand it is strictly a business. It’s a harsh business. It is a great business, but sometimes moves are made that you are like, ‘Wow, that sucks.'”