Raps’ Leonard ‘ramping it up,’ Ujiri says
TORONTO Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri intends to make things “comfortable” for prized off-season addition Kawhi Leonard and he’s still thrilled to have acquired the former San Antonio Spurs standout.
Ujiri had a simple message for Leonard when they met briefly earlier this summer in Toronto.
“We wanted to tell him we believed in him, that we did this (trade) for a good reason to think we’re getting a top-three player in the NBA,” Ujiri said this week on ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski’s podcast.
Leonard, a former NBA Finals MVP and two-time defensive player of the year, played only nine games in his final season in Texas, but by all accounts has looked superb in summer workouts.
Ujiri would not commit to Leonard being ready to go full steam ahead by the time training camp opens in just over a week, but he sounded encouraged.
“Everything you hear (about his workouts) is unbelievable. He’s very well, no verdict has been made, but he’s ramping it up,” Ujiri told Wojnarowski, adding Leonard’s status will depend on both what he and the medical staff say.
Ujiri was asked where the Leonard and Danny Green additions put the Raptors, in terms of contention.
“We’re excited to see. We’re really excited to see it come together ... there’s a new excitement and sometimes we need that,” Ujiri said.
Ujiri wasn’t taking a shot at DeMar DeRozan, dealt for Leonard, or former head coach Dwane Casey, who was fired after being named NBA coach of the year.
He again reiterated that the pair helped lead the Raptors to great heights.
Ujiri again discussed his public apology to DeRozan after the deal, saying talks with the Spurs were up and down, sometimes close, sometimes seemingly far away and explained that you simply can’t keep players fully informed of every conversation and every peak and valley of discussions or else it would lead to consequences.
“Some things maybe I could have done different, but what happens if the trade doesn’t happen?”
Ujiri said the Raptors will be “genuine” with Leonard and will try to sell him on the city, the diversity, the fans and the “unique” atmosphere here in attempts to convince him to stay long-term.
Leonard becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and has been connected to his hometown Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers.