Raptors need reset: Ujiri
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.