It’s been an emotionally taxing week for Toronto Raptors fans. A franchise-altering trade on Wednesday saw the Raptors ship out DeMar “I am Toronto” DeRozan — perhaps the most loyal player in the team’s history — to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for disgruntled superstar Kawhi Leonard, who reportedly doesn’t even want to play here. Feelings have been hurt; accusations of snakery have been hurled; fans have been disheartened. It’s a lot to take in.
So who can we turn to in order to make sense of all this turmoil? In “Where is Ja?” fashion, we asked funnyman Nick Kroll, who’s starring in this summer’s Kyrie Irving-fronted basketball comedy Uncle Drew, to help us sort through this Great Northern fustercluck of a deal. And he assures us everything is going to be (K)irie.
“I was shooting Uncle Drew last year and Kyrie had just been traded from Cleveland,” says Kroll. “And I think it’s actually a fun time in the NBA right now, when there are these big, really high-level trades going on. That’s what makes the league really interesting and exciting. It’s not just free agent signings.”
F-f-fun? I mean, sure, watching Kawhi — a Finals MVP winner, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, and two-time All-Star — is funner than a heedless weekend in the Red Light District, but what about our boy DeMar? It sure doesn’t look like he’s having fun.
“If I were in Toronto, I’d be bummed, obviously,” Kroll acknowledges. “It’s hard to lose a guy who was a tremendous player and seems to have been so well-regarded. But also, you’re getting Kawhi, who is definitely one of the best players in the league and seems to be, up until this year, a guy who was a pleasant person to play with. I don’t know enough about him, to be honest.”
Nobody does, Nick. Nobody does.
Given that Kawhi sat last season out — much to the ire of his teammates — and requested a trade from the Spurs (reportedly to L.A.), his commitment to the Raptors is a big question mark. Will he even play at all? Can he even play at all? Will he stay longer than just the year he’s under contract? Will he get along with Kyle Lowry? Will Kyle Lowry even show up to training camp given that his hetero life mate feels so done wrong? Will Kawhi and equally-introverted Raptor OG Anunoby become BFFs? Kroll’s guess is as good as ours.
But at least Kroll’s got some real-deal hoop experience to back up his words. He was the point guard for his Jewish day school basketball team, so yes, the guy’s opinions on the NBA do matter.
“My athletic heyday was in seventh grade,” says Kroll. “That was when I was at the top of my game.” After careering at such a young age, he felt it was time to retire. Or, as he puts it, “the game retired from me. Everyone got taller and bigger around me and I didn’t grow. I realized that my ultimate skill set may lay elsewhere.”
And by “elsewhere,” he surely means basketball analysis. Watch out, Zach Lowe.