Masai Ujiri Rumors
“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.”
“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.”
Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry hasn’t been president Masai Ujiri’s biggest fan since he traded his backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs over the summer. ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked the pressing question, one that Lowry’s icy response got the message across just fine. Nichols: How would you define your relationship with Masai Ujiri right now? Lowry: “He’s the president of basketball operations. That’s it. I come here and do my job.” Nichols: That answer leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Lowry: “He does his job, I do my job, right? That’s what you do.” Nichols: That’s where you stand? Lowry: “That’s where we stand.”
Nichols brought up how DeRozan was open about his feelings immediately after being traded and saying he felt betrayed by the organization. She asked if Lowry felt the same way. He said: “I felt betrayed because he felt betrayed because that’s my guy, that’s my best friend. So yeah, I felt some type of way on a personal side. It’s a harsh business. It’s a great business, but sometimes moves are made that you’re like, ‘Ugh, wow, that sucks.’”
David Stern and Raptors president Masai Ujiri are in agreement — there’s no doubt Toronto has become a destination for NBA players. And Stern, the league’s commissioner from 1984 to 2014, said any notion the city isn’t one died long ago. “It has not worn off, it has been exploded off,” Stern said in phone interview with The Canadian Press from his New York office this week. “Toronto has the most wonderful array of sports assets and a cosmopolitan community and a great building. It’s a pleasure to see that it is a destination city that players want to go to.”
Toronto’s sales pitch will extend off the court, as well. On opening night in Toronto, Leonard was introduced last to a massive ovation from the fans inside Scotiabank Arena — the kind that will be commonplace over the next several months, as the rabid Raptors fan base tries to will him into making the decision it hopes he will. And with the ability to offer him unfettered access to one of the big cities in North America from a marketing standpoint — not to mention an entire country — Toronto hopes to convince Leonard there’s plenty to be gained financially from sticking around. Raptors president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster lead what has proven to be an adept, flexible front office that not only pulled off the Leonard trade to begin with, but has also stocked Toronto’s roster with young talent that should allow the Raptors to remain a factor atop the East for years to come. When next summer rolls around, there’s little doubt they will present Leonard with a plan for how exactly they expect to do that.