The biggest decision of the offseason will be the future of Kyle Lowry, and a close second will be the status of Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri.
Ujiri's contract runs to a close this offseason, and while he continued to evade questions about timelines or making any concrete commitments, the 50-year-old president did tip his hand in terms of his mentality. For Ujiri, the focus will be on winning, on all that it takes to win, and he wants to ensure that Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment is aligned with him in this singular pursuit when he sits down for negotiations.
"Everybody says blank cheque, blank cheque, but I'm not as much focused on blank cheque. A lot of the things that we have 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," Ujiri said of his eventual sit down with MLSE.
"Lemme tell you something — everybody has forgotten what has happened two years ago. Yes we won, but nobody cares anymore. We want to win another one, that's what you want to do. You want to prepare yourself to win another one. Not playing the play-in game, not playing the playoffs, you want to win a championship."
Ujiri returned to Toronto for his season-ending press conference, and will presumably hold meetings in the coming weeks before the NBA Draft at the end of July. He spoke honestly about the season, which saw the Raptors rocked by relocation and a breakout of COVID-19. Ujiri also reflected on his own part in the downfall of the team this season, particularly with his roster decisions at the center position. But the main focus kept circling back to his future status.
To that point, Ujiri was clear. What he wants in his meetings with ownership will be to see their ambitions reflect those of his own and his team. Ujiri is as highly-rated as any executive can be, and teams like Washington and New York have made hard bids for him in the past few years. The clear message from Ujiri is that if the Raptors want to continue the relationship, it will have to be through winning.
"Everybody's like 'why don't you get in the play-in' — play-in for what? We want to win a championship here, and we have to put ourselves in position. So a lot of things that we did, whether that's build a practice facility, whether it's to get everybody to see us hosting an All-Star game, or getting a G-League team, I have an incredible staff that they allowed me to hire here from front office, to coaches, to medical. We have Drake, our ambassador who has been incredible to us, has lifted us," Ujiri said.
"Yeah, so what's the next lift? What's the next five years? What's the next ten 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 I'm going to have (with ownership.) Yes, I'm going to have asks, 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."
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