While he’s on good terms now with former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey after firing him in 2018, Toronto’s president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri admitted to TNT’s Ernie Johnson this week that he hasn’t been able to mend fences in the same way with DeMar DeRozan. Ujiri shipped the longtime Raptors shooting guard to San Antonio in a 2018 blockbuster that sent Kawhi Leonard to Toronto.
“With Casey, it has gotten so much better now with his family and him. With DeMar there is still plenty of work to be done,” Ujiri said, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “But, by the grace of God, it will all get better. We have to continue to make these decisions that are tough. But that’s the business of basketball, and the position that we are in.”
While recognizing that the NBA is a business, Ujiri said that making significant changes to a coaching staff or roster isn’t easy, especially when it means parting ways with someone he has gotten close to. “You feel it in your heart,” Ujiri said, per Bontemps.
“I always say that the two hardest things in our world, in our business, is trading a player and then when a player leaves, if a player leaves in free agency,” Ujiri said. “And it’s hard on both sides. When a player is traded, it is hard on the player side, and when a player leaves, like us (with Leonard last summer), it is hard on that side. I’ve experienced all of it, from wonderful people.”
Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:
- In a conversation with Michael Lee of The Athletic, former Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich revisited some of the highlights – and lowlights – of his career and expressed gratitude at being elected into the Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this month. “I had been through the phone calls several times and got the, ‘Sorry, not this year.’ And it was so good to hear them say, ‘Rudy, you’re in,'” Tomjanovich said. “Still getting use to it. Still bouncing on a cloud. I feel really good about it.”
- After Emoni Bates became the first high-school sophomore to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year, Jared Weiss of The Athletic explores the 16-year-old phenom’s game and explains why NBA scouts are excited for his growth trajectory.
- In the second installment of his breakdown of 2020’s free agent class for wings, Danny Leroux of The Athletic singles out Heat swingman Derrick Jones Jr. as one of the more intriguing options who will be available, since it’s rare for an established rotation player to reach unrestricted free agency at such a young age — Jones turned 23 in February.