While most of today’s address gave fans a “we’ll see” approach to the team’s future, Toronto Raptors‘ GM Masai Ujiri dropped some big news; the MLSE has approved of a purchase of an NBA Developmental League team to be affiliated with the Raptors. Ujiri gave no real indication when the team will begin play or whether or not the team will be in Canada.
Throughout the rest of the proceedings, Ujiri remained eternally optimistic as he faced the media this morning at the Air Canada Centre.While he expressed his disappointment at his 49 win squad being routed from the playoffs, saying he’s “pissed off”, Ujiri continued to say multiple times that the team is still a “process” and that patience is to be stressed. “There’s no doomsday here.”
The first question that was addressed logically was the hottest topic since the team’s game 4 defeat; the future of Dwane Casey. While it was reported almost as fact last night by ESPN’s Mark Stein that Casey was very likely to return to the Raptors’ bench next season, Ujiri made no definitive statement on his coach’s job security saying that the whole team from the front office to the court is accountable for their failures and that everyone will be evaluated.
He left the disappearing act of Kyle Lowry was largely a mystery to everyone.”I think even Kyle was trying to figure it out.” What he inferred was that after DeMar DeRozan went down with injury, Lowry was forced to exert so much more energy to keep his team afloat that he simply “ran out of gas”. Ujiri also hinted that Lowry’s lingering back injury issues could also have been a factor.
The question of whether Lowry has the ability at this stage of his career has the ability to put together a full season of dominance was also brought up to which Ujiri came quickly to his defence. “He did it all last year. I know people want to mention the B.S of a contract year but you know what Kyle is a competitor and Kyle wants to win.” Ujiri would say of the 29 year old that the Raptors must manage his usage and “find the right recipe for his body” in order to make another successful season possible for the guard.
Ujiri would then go on to emphasis the fact that his patience with the team now allows for a great deal of cap flexibility with plenty of contracts coming off the books. He mentioned that he is also looking into the possibility of holding his cards for the 2016 free agency crop. Obviously he didn’t mention anyone by name but most Raptors’ fans know by know who comes off the books that summer. Hint: his name rhymes with Kevin Durant. He said that he believes the team has gained “relevancy” and is quickly becoming a destination for top free agents.
Ujiri was also asked if he regrets his vulgar response to Paul Pierce. He said that while he never regrets standing by his team, his public cursing days are over. ” I got scolded by the commish, I got scolded by my wife and I got scolded by Wayne Embry. I’m not going to do it again.”
He also praised Pierce for his veteran presence and killer instinct in the series. “He’s a killer, he wants to cut your head off”
The off-season has officially begun for the Toronto Raptors, and while Ujiri’s presser today didn’t serve to reveal much by way of personnel changes, we expect this to be a very busy and exciting summer for the team.