But even before then, Voigt became friends with Masai Ujiri, the Nigerian-born general manager of the Toronto Raptors. When Ujiri began setting up basketball camps in his native country, Voigt was one of the first volunteers. He worked camps in Xaria, Abuja and Lagos and impressed Ujiri by venturing to smaller cities hours away on his off days. “A lot of people ask a hundred questions,” Ujiri said, “which you’re supposed to do.” Voigt didn’t. “Will was just, like, ‘Let’s go,’” he said. “He’s one of those explorer types.”
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“I just felt like it was the right [choice for him],” Lowry said. “He was going to make his decision based on him and his family and like I said all year, all the time, I’m always going to support my friend. He’s my friend first and foremost. He’s a guy I respect and I truly love. Whatever decision he made, I’d be happy for him, but I’m happy he made that right decision. “He knew what he wanted. I think our organization did a good job of making sure they gave him what he needed and rewarding him for all the work he’s put in.”
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DeRozan isn’t one to spend a lot of time reflecting, choosing to focus on what needs to be done instead. Still, it was impossible to avoid looking back on all that has happened over his seven years in Toronto on the morning he headed over to the arena to sign his new contract and meet with the media. “It’s just [about] how much I’ve grown here, how much I’ve seen the city grow, how much recognition I’ve seen the city gain,” DeRozan said. “The whole nines. It’s amazing for me to be a part of that and I feel like I had something to do with it and feel like I’m a staple in the country now.”
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DeRozan may have grown up idolizing his hometown’s most glamorous franchise. He may have grown up admiring Kobe Bryant, imitating his moves and later dubbing him “the top five greatest player of all time.” Yet, DeRozan refused to compromise the same affection he has for the Raptors after they selected him ninth overall in the 2009 NBA draft. “When you have an opportunity to go home, that’s something that certainly would cross your mind. But it wasn’t anything,” DeRozan told Southern California News Group. “After I finish playing, I’m pretty sure I’ll live in L.A. But I just wanted to do something special and leave a legacy of my own in Toronto.”
“My guys were telling me that Bleacher Report says we’ll win 59 games,” Crowder said. “That’s a lot of wins, but I want to get past the first round of the playoffs. Two seasons in a row getting swept” (Note: The Celtics lost in six games this past year) “that’s my goal to be honest with you. I think our ceiling is the Eastern Conference Finals. Toronto is not a team we’re worried about. I think Cleveland is the top team. That’s what it comes down to.”