Ujiri, Raptors Hold Exit Interview Prior to Long Offseason
Changes are coming.
With four of the Raptors’ eight most heavily used players heading into free agency, Masai Ujiri and the Raptors held their season-ending exit interviews prior to departing into a crucial offseason. After looking “wide-eyed” in their 4-0 series loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker, and Patrick Patterson are all ready to look for new contracts this coming Summer, and Ujiri let it known that the chances of the team re-signing all four, will be very unlikely.
“To me I feel like talking now is BS basically,” the Raptors’ president said to start his nearly 40-minute long press-conference yesterday morning at the BioSteel Centre. “It’s absolute BS why we need to do this today. You might as well talk to me in like a month. Why do I need to do this today? Because I’m not going to say, I can’t tell you I’ve made a decision on anything.”
Fact is, the Raptors need a culture reset and this soon after a devastating sweep, Ujiri and the Raptors need time to sit down and figure out what they will do. What to do on the topic of their free agent players.
Kyle Lowry is 31-years of age, is it worth it to give him a five-year maximum offer, which would lead the point guard into his age-36 season? In a league dominated by speedy guards, is it right to be shelling out $25-plus million to a 36-year old? Is he willing to negotiate is the correct question.
“Honestly man, I wanna just get better, I wanna have fun, I wanna win a ring. I want to make sure my family is happy,” Lowry said. “And that’s all I’ve thought about right now. Honestly, I wouldn’t BS you guys. I would, but not this time. Not this time.”
The severely underpaid guard will be opting out of the last year of his contract and will try to look for the suitor who can provide him with a championship ring. According to Marc Stein of ESPN, Lowry will not rule out any Western Conference teams.
Whether Lowry chooses to stay or leave, for DeMar DeRozan, he is ready to support Kyle with whichever decision his All-Star backcourt mate is to make.
“I never looked at it or tried to put it into perspective, what it would be like without him,” DeRozan said. “It’s going to be a decision on him that he’s going to have to make, and I support him 100 per cent.
“We gained something that goes way beyond basketball. So that’s why when it comes to things like this, I don’t put the pressure on him, or I don’t say: do this, do that. He’s got to make the decision, as a friend I’ve got to be there to support him.”
While giving a slight commitment to Head Coach Dwane Casey, Ujiri focused heavily on the style that his Raptors team has played the past few seasons, putting an emphasis on it needing to change if his team hopes to find playoff success.
“We’ve done what we’ve done so many times and it hasn’t worked,” said Ujiri. “That’s the simple answer. We can only try that so much, and it just hasn’t worked. It’s easy to defend in my opinion when you play 1-on-1, it’s predictable …. I’m the one who said let’s do it [again] .. how does it work this year?
“But now it’s time to address and see if we can move the ball more and figure out a way to pass the ball more to get better options. And use the players that we have. I don’t think this is matter of changing players or anything like that. How do we change a little bit of how we play and how we approach the game?”
Whether Casey returns for another year with the team or not, Ujiri has let it be known that this team has not played well enough to this point, despite winning more regular season games than any other Eastern Conference team over the past four seasons.
“Yes there is commitment [to Casey],” Ujiri said. “But we are all going to question ourselves. We are all going to seriously question ourselves now, and figure out the best way to do it. Because coach Casey has been a phenomenal part of our success here, you know, and in some ways we owe that to him [the opportunity to continue].
“But I’ve told him that we all have to be accountable. I haven’t slept, and I know he hasn’t slept too, because we’re thinking of ways that we can continue to make these things better, and make the right decisions.”
As the offseason is set to begin, it will be interesting to see what Ujiri decides to do with this team moving forward. Is the core what will help this team win long-term? If this team does in fact need a culture change, does that mean the team core may be changed? Those are only some of the many questions that Ujiri and his staff will have to answer this summer.