Closing Statements

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Masai Ujiri Discusses Team’s Future as Raptors Season Comes to an End

As has become tradition each year, Toronto Raptors President of Basketball Operations held his end-of-the-season closing press conference.

This one had far more questions than answered compared to last season.

Just a year ago, the Raptors were coming off the franchise’s first championship. This time around, Masai was probed to address a wide range of topics, included the future of his pending free agents, Nick Nurse’s recent contract extension, the Black Lives Matter movement, and of course, his future with the organization.

“No, I haven’t had discussions, and honestly, coming out of this, things are a little raw,” Ujiri said on a conference call. “I’m going to reflect a little bit, and we will address it when it’s time to address it… The future is bright, but in terms of me, I haven’t had those conversations, and I’ll wait until those happen in the future.”

On the free agent front, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka are all set to enter free agency. Rumours have been circulating that Gasol may be leaning to going back home to Spain to finish out his basketball career, while VanVleet and Ibaka are due for serious pay days.

“We do respect who our players are. Yes, they are a priority. Fred is a priority for us. Our bigs are a priority. Serge is a priority,” Ujiri said. “We have to really attack this head-on and we know where their game is. We know how much they can improve. We try to project that as much as we can. We know where they have come from too, because we have gone through all these struggles with all these guys and we mutually appreciate that.”

Ujiri also touched on Pascal Siakam’s playoff struggles.

“We tried to understand what he went through,” Ujiri said. “We talked extensively. Honestly it wasn’t even just me. I think Kyle and Fred, those guys did an incredible job, coach Nick Nurse, Bobby, everybody stood by Pascal. There is something about that bubble that brought all of us together. That was truly unique for me.

“I know Pascal. We all know Pascal. Sometimes we need this, almost like a kick in the butt, some kind of adversity. And he is going to bounce back 100 percent from this. He acknowledged it. You guys saw it. He felt he let the team down. We feel that we will just stick by him, stay with him, as always.”

This may not be how Ujiri envisioned the Raptors season concluding, but it’s back to square one as the road back to an NBA championship continues.

 

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