The Toronto Raptors have one of the best front offices in the NBA and not just because of their basketball expertise, but also because of their wit and personalities. Here are some memorable moments from Nick Nurse and Masai Ujiri's availabilities with the media. Listen to the full 'Raptors Awards' episode on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed or watch on our Yahoo Sports Canada YouTube.
AMIT MANN: Your favorite Nick Nurse quote, phrase, or slogan, or moment, whatever?
AARON ROSE: So I have a couple that come to mind.
AMIT MANN: Yeah?
AARON ROSE: You know, Nick Nurse never knowing what his starting lineup is going to be just minutes before--
AMIT MANN: "Not knowing."
AARON ROSE: --tip-off or whatever--
AMIT MANN: "Not knowing," yeah.
AARON ROSE: --he's lying to us, and we keep asking. We should probably stop asking him what it is. But when he's, like, 90 minutes before tip-off in a play-in game, he's like-- or a playoff game, excuse me, and he's like, we're still going over a few things. OK, Nick Nurse.
I think the other one is his-- his ability, his reaction or his conversations with Takeshi Shibata, a Yuta Watanabe expert over in Japan.
AMIT MANN: Yes.
AARON ROSE: And-- and they would go at it. And Nick always was patient with him and that was a moment that stuck-- or those were moments throughout the season that stuck out to me. I think the one in particular was Takeshi asked Nick why Yuta was sent down to the G League. And people in Japan were outraged that he would be demoted. And Nick just explained it and said, we need him to get back, and we need him--
AMIT MANN: Yeah.
AARON ROSE: --to be healthy. And it was an opportunity for Yuta to get right down there. But those interactions throughout the season are sort of one of my favorites.
Every night, Takeshi is like, I just have a question about Yuta Watanabe. We know where it's going. And they had a-- they had a great relationship, the two of them. And hopefully, one day, if Canada ever makes it over to Japan-- we had hoped it would be for the Olympics. But hopefully, they can get their coffee together.
AMIT MANN: No question, man. Takeshi-- I love Takeshi. He's-- I messaged him a few days ago, actually, for a clip. And he was very humble, humble from the get-go.
And Nick kind of knows the deal. He's very well-trained. And so he was able to-- like, he was tying things into the game along with Yuta. The answers were always awesome.
And it was-- you're kind of waiting for the moment when you're on the call, you're like, when is Takeshi going to mention Yuta Watanabe? And he would always start, like, a little bit general. He's like, yo, the Raptors won. They had a good game. So Yuta Watanabe-- and it was always very fun.
Two things that come to mind for me is the time that he met Queen Elizabeth. This was during-- you reminded me, actually, it was the Chris Finch game. There was a reporter from the UK there.
And the reporter mentioned to him that, oh, you remember that time that you met Queen Elizabeth? And Nick was just like, oh, yeah. And he had this very detailed story.
I love story time with Nick Nurse. He's legendary for those moments where he's like, oh, yeah, back in, you know, 19-- [MUMBLING] in this D-League, and we were playing here, playing there, and all that kind of stuff. And Kawhi famously talked about, like, you know, why are you telling me these stories? Like, I don't care about your time in the UK playing these meaningless games. But Nick Nurse, he has a way with words. He's very funny.
AARON ROSE: Throughout the season, you're always going to get those British Basketball League games. And you know--
AMIT MANN: Yeah.
AARON ROSE: --like, they were down 0-3 in a series. And he was probably, like, you know, when I was in Belgium once, we were--
AMIT MANN: Yeah.
AARON ROSE: --down by 35 points starting the game or whatever. So he has those stories. He's been through everything now. So you know--
AMIT MANN: No question.
AARON ROSE: --story time with Nick is always good.
AMIT MANN: Last one, when he said that-- he was asked why certain players didn't play. And this was around the time where he kind of decided that I'm done playing all of these players. We're no longer going with the rotation of ten. It's going to be seven.
And his response was, yeah, these guys didn't play because they were playing soft and unenergetic. And that was a-- whoa. That was one of those moments where, you know, when he kind of shelled out on Stanley Johnson or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson a few seasons ago, saying that they just weren't cutting it.
And he picks and chooses, like you said, when he decides to call out players in the media. And that was a time where he decided to. And that was actually signifying the switch that he made, that we are no longer doing this. You either reach this level of play, or guess what, you are not going to play. And Dalano Banton was victim of it. Malachi Flynn was victim of it.
A couple of other-- Yuta Watanabe. I don't know how many times this season where I said, why isn't Yuta Watanabe playing? Great defender, he's going to do his job on that side of the court.
But the Raptors, they really needed catch-and-shoot 3-point shooting. And Yuta wasn't hitting his shots. And also, in some ways, he's a bit limited in his ability to dribble and get to the basket and finish there, and all that kind of stuff.
And so Nick's like, no, I'd rather play Scottie Barnes or Gary Trent, Jr. or OG Anunoby or whoever a few more minutes because I know they're going to do what I'm asking them to do. Maybe their shots will come and go. But at the very least, they're better offensive threats.
And I'm not sure where things are going to go for Yuta at this moment. We'll have to see how that goes. But yeah, Nick Nurse sticking to his guns and making that switch in the season was a moment for me, for sure.
AARON ROSE: Are we on to Masai's quote of the year?
AMIT MANN: Oh, yeah, we are. Go ahead.
AARON ROSE: So you know, every time we were playing the Masai Ujiri bingo game, where you know he's going to pound his fist on the table, you know he's going to say, we will win here-- you know, I will bring a championship to Toronto.
AMIT MANN: Yeah.
AARON ROSE: So those, of course, are my favorite slogans. You know every time he speaks, he's going to say something about winning, something about winning in Toronto, and building toward a championship. But he actually said something that I sort of found interesting and sort of funny the other day.
He said, if I can find more Preciouses and more Pascals and OGs, trust me, we'll have 15 of them on this team. We'll continue to pile them up. So we're talking about vision 6 foot 9, 6 foot 8.
AMIT MANN: Yeah.
AARON ROSE: And I believe him. You know, aside from Fred VanVleet and maybe one or two guys who are six feet or whatever, this team wants to have 15 guys on the court or whatever it is, 15 guys on the roster who are-- look like Precious Achiuwa, look like OG Anunoby, look like--
AMIT MANN: Uh-huh.
AARON ROSE: --Pascal Siakam. He said it right there. Bobby Webster said it on draft night. He said, we're happy if we have all those guys that look like that.
So anyone who wants to talk about are they going to get Rudy Gobert, are they going to get these players that don't necessarily fit the Raptors mold, Masai Ujiri said it yesterday. He said, we want guys who are versatile, two-way players who play like Precious Achiuwa, who play like Pascal Siakam.
So everything this summer is going to come back to that quote. That's what the Raptors are looking for. And they don't want to stray from that whatsoever.
AMIT MANN: The reason why Myles Turner was a bit of a fit-- and I think they actually were genuinely into that deal. But the Pacers, they made the deal for Sabonis. And so they decide that, you know what? This isn't really going to make sense anymore. They're going to roll with Myles Turner as their center.
But he kind of fits that mold, right? He's a mobile big. He can hit 3's. He can block shots. And so he's kind of like a taller version of what a refined Precious Achiuwa is going to be someday. So that was a case where I could see it, you know? I felt it. I could really see why the Raptors wanted Myles Turner and why he would be a great fit.
But other than that, man, there aren't too many players. And I feel like the Raptors eventually-- they're going to run out of all these guys that he's talking about because they have all of them, you know? So this offseason, I'm curious what they do.
I mentioned earlier on, you know, a Mason Plumlee type, or just some sort of taller, mobile big, person who has a bit of passing chops or whatever the case is, that is kind of the only real way that someone of that height, at least, is going to be entering this lineup. And other than that, they're going to do a lot of relying on internal growth to get better this season, and maybe probably add some 3-point shooting. That's the only thing that I think they're really going to do, is add some 3-point shooting.
I love his ability to deflect questions. And Nick Nurse is good at this, too. And Masai is great at this, too.
And the fact that he will even dish out things like, oh, I got to check with my bosses, Bobby and Nick-- like, you're the Vice Chairman and President. You are everyone's boss. So what is this about you deflecting questions, saying, oh, we've got to evaluate this, we got to evaluate that? Hey, check in with me in a couple of weeks.
Like, things like that-- like, I mean, he's a veteran with the media. And every time that he speaks to the media, it's always priceless. And he's a very charismatic personality. And his ability to deflect and not answer questions any time they're asked-- and it's like reporters now, because they know Masai, they know he's going to do that. Or they know he's not going to answer a question.
But it's like that give and take-- like, I know you're not going to answer it, and we know that you're not going to answer it. But let's just do the whole shtick, and we'll be on our way. And there were a lot of those the other day.
AARON ROSE: Or the one word answer, the "correct." Someone would ask about--
AMIT MANN: Ooh, that was perfect.
AARON ROSE: --is this your four moving forward?
AMIT MANN: Yes.
AARON ROSE: Correct.
- --group and building around them?
MASAI UJIRI: Correct.
MASAI UJIRI: [LAUGHS]
AMIT MANN: Yes.
AARON ROSE: Basically, next question.
AMIT MANN: Yeah, yes. Speaking of that kind of stuff, so he did the "correct" thing twice. I counted the amount of times on my podcast yesterday with Katie Heindl. We asked the question openly, like, how many times did Masai Ujiri say the word "win" at his end of season?
And I actually counted because on YouTube now, you can look at transcripts. And so I looked at it, and it was 17. He said 17 times the word win.
I thought it'd be higher. I had set the over-under at 20. Katie had it at 30. So there you guys go-- 17 times, he said the word win. Awesome.
AARON ROSE: Some sportsbook should come out with that line. That's a good line.
AMIT MANN: Exactly, right? People, sportsbooks, Bet365, all those places, get on it. Finally--