Having previously been a member of the Raptors’ front office under ex-GM Bryan Colangelo, Masai Ujiri returned to the franchise this spring to replace his old boss and assume control of the club’s basketball decisions. While Ujiri’s trades of Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay suggested that Toronto wasn’t necessarily expecting to contend this season, the team has gone on an impressive 10-4 run since moving Gay, a stretch that earned Dwane Casey coach of the month honors for December.
Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today caught up with Ujiri to talk about his vision for the Raptors, as well as how the team’s recent hot streak may affect the short- and long-term plans for the franchise. Here are a few of the noteworthy quotes from the Raptors’ president of basketball operations:
On the team’s direction:
“The team is playing well. Everybody’s encouraged. The NBA is a crazy league. One day, it’s great. The next day, it’s tough…. The players know, I have communicated to everybody where we stand. We want to be a good team, a winning team. If it’s not that way, we have to figure out a way to rebuild the team or figure it out. Everybody’s clear how this thing works.”
On the Raptors’ long-term goals:
“We want to have an effect on the league as a basketball team. I don’t believe in any of that B.S. that everybody says about Toronto. Players are going to want to play in Toronto, and we have to show that. I have to show that we can put a brand on the court to compete. We’ll continue to try and do that.”
On the process of making trades, and the notion that he has “won” multiple deals:
“Just get on the phone and call or listen to calls. All the general managers are unbelievable with this stuff. Until two people say, ‘We have a deal’ … one person cannot do it. Deals are tough to do, but it’s our job and we try our best to help our organizations going forward.”