Michael Grange: Lowry on DeMar as FA: ' ... I'm his fri…

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Romeo would be the guy to ask ... he and DeRozan have been best friends for years, growing up together and playing college ball at USC. Check out the clip ... it's been reported DeMar wants to bolt the north for L.A. and Romeo adds to that fire ... hinting STRONGLY that he knows the Lakers are the right spot for his best pal.
The timing couldn't have been worse for DeRozan or the Raptors. With an Eastern Conference finals trip within their grasp, the team's All-Star shooting guard now has difficulty simply tying his shoe. "I’ve never been one of those guys to be like, ‘Why? Why did this happen, or why'd it happen now?’ It’s part of the game. You’ve got to take the good with the bad sometimes," DeRozan told The Vertical after Miami defeated Toronto 94-87 in overtime to even the series at two games each. "I’m going to fight through it, deal with it and go from there with it. I’ve got a whole summer to let it heal and figure itself out."
DeRozan (Raptors), Durant (Thunder) and LeBron (Cavaliers) are still under contract with other NBA teams, and they will be until July 1. Johnson is a Lakers Vice President. That’s clearly tampering. Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, an employee of an NBA team can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” Johnson often doesn’t sound like a Lakers executive, and the role is probably ceremonial. But Drake got the Raptors fined for recruiting Durant. Drake obviously isn’t integral to Toronto’s basketball operations. But he holds a title – Global Brand Ambassador – with the team. Why wouldn’t the same rule apply to Johnson?
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors: FA age: 26 | Salary: $9.5 million. Insider info: Will opt out of his current contract. He’s in the prime of his career. Has full Bird rights and Toronto can sign him to the projected max of $25 million per year. Strong chance he will be in a Raptors uniform next season.
Eastern Conference All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan says it will be "pretty tough" for interested teams to steal him away from the Raptors in free agency this summer. "My whole mindset has always been this is home for me," DeRozan said in an interview that will air in full on Saturday's Meet the All-Stars show on ESPN Radio at 5:30 p.m. "I never think otherwise unless it's brought up to me, or you see things, or people ask you about certain things. This has always been home to me. I took pride in putting on this Toronto Raptors jersey since I've been drafted here. And my whole goal was to get this team to the point where it is now. And I feel I've been a major key to that."
"He will be a free agent," Lowry told ESPN Radio. "That's the best thing for him to do. And for me as a friend, as a friend, and what he did for me during my free agency, I'll do the same thing. I will just listen and sit back. I won't give him no advice, and I won't push him anywhere. Because, as a friend, friendship comes before basketball, and that's my guy. Wherever he makes a decision to go -- and I'm hoping it's back here, which I think it's gonna be -- I won't push him or persuade him or anything. I'll just say: 'Hey, listen, bro. I'm here to listen to you.'"
He's read the tweets, as you might expect, and knows there are people out there that are making the 'contract year' implication. Does it surprise him? Nothing does, not anymore. His message to those folks: "Obviously you haven't been paying attention to me and how I've worked every single year of my career," he said. "And that's just me as a person. That just shows me at the end of the day nobody really knows who you are inside. As long as I know who I am inside. It's not about the money, it's not about this, it's about me wanting to be better every single year. I don't care if it's contract year or if I sign a deal for 20 years. It don't matter to me. Every single year, as long as I can run up and down the floor, I'm going to continue to get better."
Toronto is the NBA's fourth-largest market but playing in Canada has always meant dealing with a certain amount of obscurity that suits DeRozan just fine. The Raptors have been his only team in seven seasons, and DeRozan would like that to remain the case after he opts out of the final year of his four-year, $40 million contract and becomes a free agent this summer. Based on his All-Star caliber play through the first few months of this season, DeRozan will have no shortage of suitors, but Toronto can pay more than any other team – and DeRozan has taken to the place. “Toronto is all I’ve known, honestly. I came in, 19, everything was completely new for me. I appreciated the support, the love,” DeRozan, 26, told Yahoo. “I treated it like home since then.”
“One thing I never did was look at anybody else, what they did or what they followed, honestly,” DeRozan told Yahoo. “I always stuck to what I believe in and what I’m comfortable with. If I see a hundred people walking left, that don’t necessarily mean I’m going to walk left. I may see this clear path and want to stay right.” DeRozan has an advantage over his ship-jumping predecessors because the Raptors have never appeared more stable. They have one of the league's most well-regarded general managers in Masai Ujiri and a coach in Dwane Casey who has led the team to a franchise-record number of wins in each of the past two seasons. And DeRozan also has an all-star backcourt mate in Kyle Lowry, a good friend with whom he has formed an uncanny connection on the floor.
“My whole goal was to get us out of that light and become a winning team, a winning organization. From going to winning 20-someting games, to winning our division, franchise-record wins, that’s something you can definitely be happy for,” DeRozan told Yahoo. “It’s amazing to see how far it came. I remember [Toronto] being just a hockey town.” Having already outperformed the extension he received after his rookie deal expired, DeRozan cracked a smile when reminded of the criticism he received at the time. DeRozan made the All-Star team in the first year that his deal kicked in, quickly going from risky signing to underpaid bargain. “I just remember all the negativity and whatever came with it, then all a sudden, it’s like, ‘Aw, you should’ve waited,’ ” DeRozan told Yahoo. “Honestly, I could’ve signed for $500 million at that point, I still would’ve have had that hunger to want to get better and try to improve, and I feel I have to prove so much.”
That starts with DeRozan, a lock to decline his option and hit free agency this summer. A bunch of teams, including DeRozan's hometown Lakers, are prepared to offer him a max deal starting at $25 million per season, and the Raptors know they will have to spend big to keep him.
Ujiri also has to decide if Casey is the coach he wants, though both Lowry and DeRozan endorsed Casey's return in separate interviews with ESPN.com. "The grass ain't always greener," Lowry says. "I want him back, but it's not my decision."
“That’s one you thing you can never question: my loyalty to the city,” DeRozan told host Joey Vendetta on the Jeff Blair Show. “How much I really love and appreciate the team and the organization. I think all the fans understand that. A lot of times they don’t understand how contracts or things like that. But I’ve always stressed that this is where I want to be my whole career.”
“A new contract is what DeMar is going for and we feel we have a good shot,” Raptors GM Masai Ujiri said Thursday evening on Prime Time Sports. “This is his team, this is a team that he knows very well, loves the city, is well-loved here, and we can offer him a year extra. There are so many things, so we feel comfortable.”
While his hometown Lakers surely will be one of those suitors — they long have had interest in the swingman — DeRozan has always been fiercely loyal to the organization that drafted him, paid him what at the time was considered above market value on an extension (eventually it became one of the shrewdest bargains of then general manager Bryan Colangelo’s career) and made him the face of the franchise. He loves the city and the fanbase arguably much more than Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter or Chris Bosh ever did.
He loves the city and the fanbase arguably much more than Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter or Chris Bosh ever did. “I think I’m just excited for being in Toronto and people really getting a chance to see what Toronto is like,” DeRozan said Thursday after practice about his thoughts on the upcoming all-star weekend in T.O. “The city, the culture, really, to put us on the main stage and let this city get the credit that it deserves that I feel like it never got.”
The Nets will have about $40 million in cap space this summer, and they got an up-close look Wednesday at one of their primary expected targets: DeMar DeRozan. The Toronto shooting guard had 15 points, five assists, four boards and two steals in the Raptors’ 91-74 win at Barclays Center. He has a player option worth just more than $10 million for next season, but a source close to DeRozan told The Post that he will opt out, becoming a free agent. But that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be a Net, or anything other than a Raptor.
“I can tell you he’ll opt out. But how he feels about Brooklyn — or anybody else — I can’t say. Only he can answer that,’’ said the source, who added that DeRozan feels he’s been treated well by the Raptors and “has a trait that’s been lost by so many players. It’s called loyalty.”
It’s safe to say that if DeRozan had waited and signed a deal in restricted free agency the following summer (he averaged 18.1 points and 44.5 percent shooting that season), he would have been given a juicier contract. He made the Eastern Conference All-Star team the following year, and even if his efficiency has never returned, the shooting guard has more than made good on the Raptors' commitment. “I don’t regret anything,” DeRozan told Sporting News on Friday. “Everything happens for a reason, man. This is the place I wanted to be, so that’s where I wanted to be. I never second-guessed or thought twice about anything.”
Yet, DeRozan seemed taken aback by the line of questioning. He said he had not even thought about his likely free agency, which is hard to believe. Who could ignore the prospect of a giant raise? A few days removed from the queries, he got at the truth of the issue. “I hate that, honestly,” DeRozan said in a one-on-one interview. “I never speak about it. With me, I’ve always been that one player: I’ve been loyal. I’ve been every single thing you can think of here. I think people don’t understand how much pride I take in playing (in Toronto). A lot of times when I do get asked that, it kind of frustrates me. “Everyday I wake up, I take pride in being the longest Raptor here. People bring up third or whatever in franchise scoring — there is so much stuff like that.”
To be even eligible for an extension, DeRozan would have to decide to opt in to the final year of his current deal, a contract that woefully underpays him at about $10,050,000 next year, AFTER the new TV money kicks in and the cap goes up to north of $90 million. Unless he and his agent both suffer “episodes” that render them nincompoops, that ain’t happening. And if it did – and it won’t – under terms of the CBA, DeRozan would only be eligible for a two-year extension past 2016-17 with maximum annual raises of 7.5 per cent per year.
When asked about DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors all-star shooting guard who is expected to decline his player option at the end of the season , Ujiri said that the team will not renegotiate with DeRozan during the season. “There will be no extension talks with DeMar [before the end of the 2015-16 season],” Ujiri told Free Association. “He can only extend for a certain amount of money and I just foresee that DeMar sees himself- and we see him- as more than that type of a player. So I think DeMar is going to wait to see how it goes this year and do the best deal for himself, and we’ll do the best deal for ourselves, too.”
Storyline: DeMar DeRozan Free Agency
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December 6, 2021 | 2:57 am EST Update
According to NBA insider Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel, Dragic has a preference, which is to join fellow Slovanian star Luka Doncic, in Dallas. Writes Winderman: “The sense is Goran works his way toward his preferred (and most viable) option of the Mavericks, to close out the season alongside Slovenian compatriot Luka Doncic. … Goran already has proven amenable to a bench role, something he thrived in with the Heat.”