One week after the Toronto Raptors’ season concluded with a play-in defeat against the Chicago Bulls, the team’s General Manager, Masai Ujiri, addressed the media for nearly 45 minutes. Unlike his post-trade deadline talk, where he stressed patience and rarely mentioned victory, Ujiri demonstrated a renewed determination this time. He repeatedly used “win” while acknowledging the team’s challenges throughout the season.
Ujiri reflected on the last game of the year, stating, “That game encapsulated the overall sentiment within the organization and the lack of unity prevalent throughout the season.” He acknowledged that the team’s performance this year did not reflect their potential.
Consequently, Ujiri stated that revisions would be implemented across the board, starting with appointing a new coach. He emphasized the need for a coach with a distinct playing style, capable of fostering a strong team culture and possessing commendable personal attributes.
Previous Raptors Head coach Nick Nurse was fired on April 21.
Ujiri suggested some form of impactful change or friction might be necessary to rebuild the team culture. His critique was comprehensive, expressing dissatisfaction with the development of younger players.
When questioned about untouchable players, Ujiri avoided a direct response, implying that no player is immune to trades. He neglected to mention personal connections with players such as Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa, or Christian Koloko. When asked about the team’s leaders, Siakam and Fred VanVleet, he spoke positively but was not overly enthusiastic.
Concerning players who had a satisfactory performance, Ujiri singled out O.G. Anunoby, Jakob Poeltl, and Scottie Barnes. However, he refrained from guaranteeing their continued presence on the team. Barnes and Anunoby will likely remain in Toronto despite potential restructuring, with Poeltl almost certain to stay.
Ujiri noted the team’s decline midway through the season, with a rapid loss of form and numerous losses. He specifically mentioned games against New Orleans and Brooklyn, which he felt marked a turning point in the season.
Despite the intended changes, Ujiri aims to restore the team’s culture rather than reinvent it. He continues to endorse the team’s foundational philosophy, Vision 6-9, stating, “Until you win, it’s always going to be some failure or unsuccessful. We believe in it.” He also expressed interest in enhancing the team’s shooting skills.
While he acknowledges the league’s evolution since 2020, Ujiri believes the current roster-building strategy can still succeed. He affirmed the fans’ critiques of the team and promised to consider them. However, he maintained that the team’s foundational philosophy would remain intact, demonstrating his belief in its potential success despite the challenges of the past season. As the offseason approaches, Ujiri is ready to face the consequences of the team’s performance, betting on his ability to steer the team in the right direction.