Rap­tors need re­set: Ujiri

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - LORI EWING

A 51-win sea­son and a sec­ond-round ap­pear­ance in the post-sea­son wasn’t good enough for Ma­sai Ujiri.

And now the ptors need a “cul­ture re­set,” the team pres­i­dent said, af­ter a post-sea­son that ended in a sec­ond-round sweep that saw them look­ing a “lit­tle wideeyed” against LeBron James and the Cleve­land Cava­liers.

Ujiri will spend the com­ing weeks eval­u­at­ing all facets of the fran­chise, but what he knows right now is that the Rap­tors’ style of play, which got them to play­offs in four con­sec­u­tive Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion sea­sons, isn’t work­ing any­more and needs to change. And he hopes that change comes with Kyle Lowry on board.

“It’s our job to try and get Kyle to come back and do it the best way that we pos­si­bly can,” Ujiri said. “We want him back, he has been a huge part of the suc­cess here.”

The three-time all-star point guard who will opt out of the fi­nal sea­son of his con­tract to be­come a free agent on July 1 gave no hints Mon­day as to his plans.

Ujiri called the Cleve­land se­ries dis­ap­point­ing.

“I some­times feel like that wasn’t our team that we saw out there. We are go­ing to hold ev­ery­body ac­count­able be­cause we need to. We need to fig­ure it out.”

Ujiri, who’d just come from a long morn­ing meet­ing with coach Dwane Casey, pin­pointed the team’s one-on-one play­ing style.

“Be­cause we’ve done what we’ve done so many times and it hasn’t worked. It’s easy to de­fend, in my opin­ion, when you play one-onone. It’s pre­dictable, we feel we have to go in an­other di­rec­tion. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it will be the new thing in the league that wins. We’re try­ing to be pro­gres­sive thinkers, and not just con­tinue to pound, pound, pound on some­thing that hasn’t worked.”

Ujiri said there “is com­mit­ment” to Casey, who is one sea­son into a three-year con­tract worth $18 mil­lion, and noted the coach had a tough job try­ing to meld all the pieces af­ter Fe­bru­ary’s ac­qui­si­tion of Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing Lowry missed 21 straight games af­ter hav­ing wrist surgery.

“I think there are times that I think coach did a great job and I think there are times that we strug­gled,” Ujiri said.

It’s dif­fi­cult to gauge, he added, how suc­cess­ful the team might have been had Lowry had more time to gel with the new­com­ers.

Ujiri scoffed when asked if he could keep Casey and Lowry, say­ing talk of the two butting heads had been blown out of pro­por­tion.

The Rap­tors have four free agents in Lowry, Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker and Pa­trick Pat­ter­son, and like a domino ef­fect many of the big de­ci­sions in the next few weeks de­pend on who stays and who goes.

Ujiri said he’ll lay out nu­mer­ous sce­nar­ios for the team’s own­er­ship. He said the own­ers are “100 per cent” OK with spend­ing the money re­quired.

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