Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri held his end-of-season press conference on Wednesday, addressing a wide range of topics in the wake of what has been an eventful season for a displaced franchise.
As Tim Bontemps of ESPN details, Ujiri spent some time discussing the challenges the team faced spending the season in Tampa instead of Toronto, and also addressed two major upcoming free agencies: point guard Kyle Lowry‘s and his own. Both Lowry and Ujiri are on expiring contracts.
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In discussing Lowry’s situation, Ujiri stressed that “it’s hard to find a better player than Kyle” and suggested that the 35-year-old is even more valuable to the Raptors than to another team. However, he also spoke about building around younger players and giving them more opportunities, perhaps providing a hint of what next season could look like for the team if Lowry doesn’t return.
As for his own contract situation, Ujiri said he appreciates the freedom he has to go into the luxury tax when the Raptors are in position to win, but that he wants to discuss some other issues with team ownership, such as the infrastructure of the organization (Twitter link via Blake Murphy of The Athletic).
Bontemps’ roundup of the presser is worth checking out in full, but here are a few of the notable quotes from Ujiri on his contract negotiations and the Raptors’ situation going forward:
On factors Ujiri will consider as he approaches contract negotiations with the Raptors:
“Everybody says, ‘blank check, blank check,’ but I’m not as much focused on a blank check. A lot of the things that we’ve done here, we have to move forward as a franchise to compete with the best in the NBA. This is all about winning a championship again.
“… I want to know, ‘So, what’s the next lift? What’s the next five years? What’s the next 10 years? What are we doing to put ourselves in conversation with all the great teams and all the winners?’ That’s what we want to do, and that’s the conversation that I’m going to have with (ownership). And, yes, I’m going to have asks, and I’m going to have a lot of things that I think we need to put forward here to address these things, and I think ownership is open to hear this.”
On his feeling that the Raptors face some disadvantages as the only non-U.S. NBA franchise:
“I think it’s difficult sometimes for the league to always include us in everything because we are the one team that is based outside the U.S. I’m sure sometimes it’s a pain in the ass sometimes for them. But guess what? That is the business you have put yourself in. You have put yourself on a global platform that you have one team in the NBA that is outside the United States and we have to be considered in every single way. There are difficult decisions that have to be made based on this.
“… (NBA commissioner) Adam Silver has been very considerate. … I don’t want to call out anybody here. But there is a lot of work we need to address.”
On his strong desire for the Raptors to return to Toronto for the 2021/22 season:
“So, the situation we are in in Toronto now, I’m hoping that we’re seeing it and we’re hoping that it gets resolved, hopefully soon. And all over Canada, people continue to get vaccinated, and then we go from there. … I don’t want to be selfish on the sports part, and as an NBA worker or executive, I don’t want to be selfish and push our agenda before other people, but yes, timing matters and we would like to be considered, because we do not want — I repeat — we do not want to play anywhere else but Toronto.”