DeMar DeRozan was left humbled by the reception he received from Raptors fans on an ultimately bittersweet return to the Scotiabank Arena.
The 29-year-old guard left Toronto for the Spurs as part of the trade that saw Kawhi Leonard join the Raptors.
DeRozan was met with thunderous applause when his name was read out by the stadium announcer pre-game and was afforded another ovation when the home side played a video in tribute to their former star.
On a personal level, DeRozan’s stat sheet showed favorable numbers, with 23 points, eight assists and four rebounds, but it was his late turnover that ultimately cost the Spurs the game as the Raptors ran out to a 120-117 win.
“It came down to a couple of plays. It sucks that the critical play was me turning the ball over,” he said. “But for the most part, I think it was a hell of a game. I knew they were trying to be aggressive, and trying to make a play on the ball, and then foul.
“I’ve still got to be more aware. I thought I got hit, but I should’ve just known that they were going to be aggressive.”
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) February 23, 2019
Despite his disappoint at the crucial play, DeRozan was grateful for the love he received.
“It’s an honor, it’s been practically my whole career here,” DeRozan added. “To come back and get a reception like that is definitely humbling, beyond gratifying, and I appreciate it. Walking down the floor [after the game] hit me more than anything. It made it exciting, made it fun to go out there, play and compete.
“I think that this was just that last little piece of closure for me. Being able to come back here, see familiar faces, and get that burden kind of off my shoulders.”