A friend of RR had a chance to chat up Ujiri and Casey and filed this report. Makes for good reading.

Player development

Masai joined us and thought he could answer it better. Casey didn’t say much on it except that big men take longer to develop; Masai expanded on that and said it depends on the position. With point guards you generally know within 1-2 years because it’s all about their feel for the game and you either have it or you don’t. Big men take longer to develop, 4-5 years until you really know, and it depends on if they’re the type to be patient or the type to give up, it can be a frustrating process and character plays a big role with big men. Masai then added that wings are the toughest to gauge and that’s where he thinks GMs basically earn their salary.

Team character

Casey suggested that they needed to start looking at “lost cases” as opportunities instead of sometimes dismissing them. He used Stephen Jackson and Zach Randolph as examples, and said he didn’t mind hot-headed players or those with a troubled past, as long as they weren’t showing a pattern of illegal activity like drugs or spousal abuse.

Team changes, players playing in Toronto

When Masai was asked what immediate changes he would like to see, he said he wanted to establish an identity for the team. He mentioned that teams would come into Toronto, specified Boston as an example, and would show a tremendous amount of team spirit and the Raptors would be much more conservative. He said he doesn’t see why we can’t be that team, and it starts with teaching the young guys like DeRozan and Valanciunas that we are that kind of team now. Masai also said if a free agent says he doesn’t want to play here, that’s the end of the conversation and the Raptors will move on. I am guessing that means no more begging/convincing or overpaying.

Other quick points

  1. No shortage of descriptions of Leiweke in the room: pitbull, tornado, closer, obsessed with winning. Has a daily relationship with each GM and talks in terms of championships and how they’re all getting there.
  2. Casey would like a “punch in the mouth” veteran to help establish an identity with the younger players; suggested that may be a better option than a draft pick
  3. Having said that, Raptors may get a late first round draft pick from a team who would prefer a non-guaranteed in the second round; think there could be a sharpshooter or lockdown defender available there
  4. Casey said fans have the right to boo Bargnani, but it sure doesn’t help
  5. Masai expressed displeasure with early Sunday starts, loss of intensity, quiet crowd
  6. Casey working with the rookies in Toronto currently, working on Valanciunas’ agility and strength
  7. Casey is picking Miami to win the Finals
  8. Casey would like to model team around the Pacers, but that would require Valanciunas to become someone teams are afraid to drive on
  9. A lot of stuff you’d hear in press conferences, reasons why we weren’t good and pointing out bright spots
  10. Overall, a positive atmosphere and I highly doubt anyone in MLSE is thinking of tanking

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  • Bendit

    Hmmm, so who was the “friend”? Or do you have spies @ the Brass Rail? 🙂

  • Statement

    There is a fuller description of the breakfast with Casey available under the latest web articles.

    It’s some really interesting reading. It appears from the writeups that there won’t be any tanking, which, if I’m being honest with myself, I’m okay with. I would love to get Wiggins / Parker, but I would also like to see some winning / playoffs from a Toronto team for once (I’m not an Argos or Leafs fan) and I think the talent is there to make the playoffs.

    • Nilanka15

      “I’ve been texting Kyle alot, and he’s already lost 15 lbs.”

      Certainly encouraging news.

      • SR

        That’s a hell of a lot of texting, if Lowry’s already lost 15 lbs….in his thumbs?

        Lowry’s a solid guy – some PG’s really take advantage of that by developing a post game and focusing on rebounding (which he already does pretty well). Is Lowry too short to develop a Chauncy-Billups-post-game?

        • Sig

          Good idea, poor execution.

        • Nilanka15

          Yeah I find in this day and age, post game in general (among all positions) is lacking. It’s a skill that isn’t emphasized as much as it should be. Too many people blown away by 7 footers shooting 3’s….

    • werdna

      You want Wiggins coming home once hes a superstar. Not right now. We need to establish that identity like Masai preaches. That starts with winning!

  • Jamie D

    If we want Wiggins – let’s not tank to get the pick. We could always trade for it…just sayin. NO MORE TANKING!

    • Vega

      I doubt you could land Wiggins without a #1 pick. And I doubt any team in the lottery next season would be willing to trade their picks in such a stacked draft.

      • Jamie D

        Never know…as much as I would love to see Wiggins in a Raps or Huskies uni, he’s already turned down playing for Team Canada…so what does that say? He wants the bright lights in a big city market and I don’t mean Toronto.

        • Wiggins has already played for Team Canada. He’s just not playing for them this summer in order to prepare for his upcoming season at Kansas. It’s interesting to note that Jabari Parker and none of the heralded Kentucky recruits are trying out for Team USA, either, in order to prepare for their first (and probably only) college season.

          I think speculating is pointless, quite frankly.

          • Jamie D

            Okay so forget Wiggins altogether then. Raps should focus
            on getting proven, legit, all-star calibre talent then! Knowing Lewekie, he’ll
            try for Howard and even Paul. And why shouldn’t he? We gotta land someone to
            bring us up in the Eastern standings!

            • The Raptors have a better chance of tanking and landing Wiggins than they do of going after an elite player in the free agent market. And they can do absolutely nothing this summer since they’re WAAAYY over the cap.

              • Jamie D

                Amnesty and then trades, future draft picks. Anything is possible.

                • Sure, anything is possible, but I don’t know if I’m very comfortable with an “anything is possible” strategy. That seemed to be Colangelo’s strategy.

                • Jamie D

                  Well then, it’s a good thing that it doesn’t matter what you are or aren’t comfortable with.
                  All speculation and opinions, that’s what’s great about forums like this. Time will tell….that is a fact 🙂

                • Not being comfortable with it is another way of saying it’s a horrible idea and a disaster waiting to happen. There are just do many things wrong with expecting the Raptors are going to be able to sign or trade for an elite player. You can read my expanded thoughts on this here…

                • Guy

                  If anything is possible, then how can say anything is a disaster waiting to happen? Just because you think something, doesn’t make it so.

                  As well, you say speculating is pointless but that didn’t stop you from trying to spread the panic speculation about Colangelo being retained & how it was going to hinder the new GM. Further, you base you’re entire argument of tanking, an argument of which you are more than convinced, on speculation. While Wiggins & the other young guys likely to be in the top 5 of next years draft look impressive, they haven’t played one second of NBA basketball. So, at this point, to say these will definitely be franchise altering players is speculation.

                  As Jamie D said, what you are comfortable with is irrelevant.

                • “Anything is possible” is not a strategy. It’s a pipe dream. If you’re going on the strategy that anything is possible, then you don’t need to get elite players because you could win without them.

                  And can you please stop the “panic” talk. You’re trying to stir up controversy (or something). I wrote an article talking about the dangers of keeping Colangelo, and anyone with even an ounce of objectivity would agree it was a valid argument, which is why I wasn’t even close to the only one who made it. But because you can’t seem to stand ANY criticism of management, you didn’t even want to hear about any possibly negative ramifications.

                  And my speculation comment was directed at a specific comment about why Wiggins turned down a Team Canada invite. That seemed pretty clear, to me.

                • Guy

                  Jamie D suggested using the amnesty, make a few trades & use draft picks. How does that equate to using ‘anything is possible’ as a strategy? Considering no team that’s won the NBA title the past 20+ years has achieved that goal by tanking, couldn’t the same argument be made that your stance of ‘tanking as the way to go’ is also a pipe dream?

                  You don’t like the reference to the panic you tried to spread, too bad. You wrote an entire article expounding on how dangerous it was going to be keeping Colangelo in the fold & poured more gas on the fire by saying repeatedly ‘Sam Mitchell shares my view’. It was criticism based, not on any evidence there was, or was going to be a problem, but on speculation. And, as it’s played out so far, the worry you were so adamant we should all adopt has never appeared. The boy who cried wolf.

                  Apparently, speculation is only valid if it comes from you.

                • I tried to spread panic? You seem to be intent on bashing others instead of having intelligent discussion. I don’t know why I bothered trying. I won’t anymore.

                • Guy

                  I did provide an intelligent response. It just happened to be critical of you. As for bashing others, perhaps you should take your own advice because, as I read your previous comments, you label Jamie D’s thought as a horrible idea & a disaster waiting to happen. Hardly encouraging, supportive words.

                • onemanweave

                  Tim, I read several comments below. Obviously, you’re still trying — very trying at times. We are all aware of your five-point program — poison Colangelo; shoot Bargnani and tank, Tank, TANK.

                  These other posters have some alternative plans in mind. Sounds reasonable and at least different. You need to cut them some slack. Hope the moderator reins you in a bit. Oh wait, you are THE MODERATOR.

                • shee

                  wow.. people bashing Tim who politely said, initially, ”not comfortable” with the ”anything’s possible” idea aka getting rid of future draft picks (again!) and trading in order to try to get Paul or Howard to TO.. lol.. I would of said you’re completely retarded and delusional. Dont you get the ” no cap space” concept and the fact we already have been giving away draft picks and that we dont have the pieces to trade for an elite player? smh…. I dont necessarily agree with the tanking plan, but it’s clearly not as stupid as aiming for Paul or Howard

    • If you got the number one pick, would YOU trade him for anyone on the Raptor’s roster? There’s a reason that number 1 draft picks in year’s when guys like Wiggins come out never get traded. No team is going to trade a potential franchise player for anything other than another franchise player. And if the Raptors had one of those, they wouldn’t need Wiggins.

    • Bouncepass

      Once again, in response to Tim W. and others who favour tanking to get Wiggins, the odds of getting the #1 pick are very slim through a tanking strategy. First, there will be another 4-5 teams that are also tanking. So, let’s assume that the Raptors have the same odds as four other teams of having the worst record. Now, you have to calculate the odds of the #1 pick for any one those bottom 5. It turns out to be 16.7%. Banking on a 6:1 long shot sounds a bit like an “anything is possible” strategy. Sure it might happen, but you hardly need a high-paid GM to tank and hope for a lucky lottery win. In the long term, the best chance for the Raptors to get Wiggins is probably to hope that he gets drafted by a crappy franchise (like Charlotte), and that he wants to play in Canada. In that case, build a good complementary core of players, and have a ton of cap space available when Wiggins first becomes a free agent. If he doesn’t want to play for the Raptors then, he probably would have left after his rookie deal anyway.

      • There are several problems with your argument. The first of which is that I’ve stated numerous times that the 2014 draft isn’t a one man draft, so missing out on Wiggins isn’t a big deal. Why is this fact always brushed under the rug by anti-tanking proponents?

        Secondly what exactly are the odds of a) becoming a contender without an elite player or b) trading for or signing an elite player? No one seems to mention those odds, for some reason. In seven years on the job, the best player Colangelo could acquire outside of the draft was Rudy Gay (although I’d argue that would be Amir Johnson, quite frankly).

        You think the chance that Wiggins will go to a crappy team, turn down a max. extension with that team, bypass restricted free agency and take the qualifying offer (and foregoing millions of dollars), so he can become a restricted free agent and sign outright with the Raptors, who will apparently have the cap room in 6 years, is BETTER than trying to draft him? And you suggest that if he DOESN’T do that he would have left the Raptors anyway? You’re also ignoring that there’s a MASSIVE difference between not signing with a team and actually leaving it to sign with another.

        • Bouncepass

          I think it’s fair to say that most knowledgeable basketball folks think that Wiggins is a much better prospect than the others. I’m not sure whether that many think that any of the others are sure-fire “elite” players. It’s not “brushing aside” the argument, but it is based on the fact that any time anyone speaks about tanking, they focus on the potential for Wiggins, not Randle, Parker, etc. Perhaps it would be worthwhile recounting the history of the Raptors with “elite” talent… Carter, McGrady, Bosh… each of them all-star talents. How did that end up? While we are thinking about building a contending team, perhaps we should also consider the models offered by Memphis and Indiana. Neither had to tank for an “elite” talent. They built their teams around dominant interior play and stellar defence. My point is that you can’t have tunnel vision in terms of how to build a team. I think that the Raptors have some good pieces. If they can build a winning tradition in the next couple of years, and then springboard when Gay comes off the books, they could become a solid franchise. It begins with solid management, a great coach and stability. Tanking with the hope of hitting a home run is another strategy. I just don’t buy it as the only approach, or even as the most likely path to success. So, we disagree.

          • I’m pretty sure the reason most Raptor fans talk about tanking for Wiggins is because he’s Canadian. Yes, he’s the top prospect, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see Parker become the best from that class. I see it a lot like I see the 2003 draft. LeBron was head and shoulders above the rest, but Carmelo, Bosh and Wade weren’t exactly Keith Van Horn.

            Your comment about the previous “elite” Raptors is somewhat puzzling. Are you suggesting that those teams failed BECAUSE they had elite (or close to elite) players on them, and not because management couldn’t build properly around them?

            As for modelling the Raptors after Indiana and Memphis, I don’t see how that would work. Indiana grabbed Roy Hibbert, an All Star center, at 19 and Paul George, who looks like he’s going to be an elite player, at 10. Without George, Indiana isn’t close to the team they are.

            The Raptors have no one of George’s calibre, which is the whole problem. Without George, Indiana is just another scrappy team whose ceiling is the second round. And even with him, if the East weren’t as weak as it is, I don’t know if Indiana gets past the second round.

            As for Memphis, they have an All Star front line with the Defensive Player of the Year at center. And Gasol might be the best center in the league, right now. If Valanciunas becomes as good as Gasol, then great, but that’s still not enough for them to be Memphis.

            Besides, neither team actually got to Finals. I’m not sure I see the point in doing that if your goal is to win a Championship.

            As for building a”winning tradition in the next couple of years, and then springboard when Gay comes off the books”, I’m not even sure what that means. Are you suggesting that when Gay’s contract expires the Raptors will be better? Why? And how are you going to build this winning tradition when the team is fighting for a playoff spot year after year? That’s not a winning tradition.

            I understand why people don’t want to tank, but a) you can’t realistically compete for a title without an elite player and b) the Raptors have no elite player and the prospects of acquiring one outside of the draft is miniscule. No matter what strategy you want to do, it always gets back to those two facts.

            The three best players the Raptors have ever had (maybe even four) were drafted.

          • Statement

            Another set of good points man.

      • Statement

        “In the long term, the best chance for the Raptors to get Wiggins is probably to hope that he gets drafted by a crappy franchise (like Charlotte), and that he wants to play in Canada. In that case, build a good complementary core of players, and have a ton of cap space available when Wiggins first becomes a free agent. If he doesn’t want to play for the Raptors then, he probably would have left after his rookie deal anyway.”
        I agree with this, good point. Not to steal your thunder, but this idea was swirling around in my head for a little while, you articulated it quite nicely.

  • theswirsky

    “Big men take longer to develop, 4-5 years until you really know”

    History shows us this is rarely true. Every player takes their own unique amount of time to develop, but the majority of the league, big or small, white or black, high energy or finesse guy, you know in short order what you have and what you are likely to get.

    What happens is too many GMs want big guys, which makes sense because they are rare, but that causes them to over value height and then hold on to their mistake for too long when they aren’t working (see Brian Colangelo, see Michael Jordan, see Isaih Thomas). Most of the time the ones that ‘develop’ late were caught on the bench not getting the minutes they should have or are behind other quality big men.

    “Masai was asked what immediate changes he would like to see, he said he wanted to establish an identity for the team”

    Why would you build an identity before knowing what talent you have? If the Raps end up with a dominate low post who is big and slow, do you want a run and gun team? Do you pass that guy up because you’d rather run? Do you change everyone else around him to turn the team slow?

    This is again a Colangelo era mistake. Don’t count the chickens before they hatch. Get your talent first – then decide what your identity is. Without talent you identity will only be a shitty team.

    “Casey would like a “punch in the mouth” veteran to help establish an identity with the younger players; suggested that may be a better option than a draft pick”

    Like thats a suprise….. seeing how a draft pick would be hard pressed to get minutes with Casey, whats the point?

    “Casey said fans have the right to boo Bargnani, but it sure doesn’t help”

    Doesn’t hurt either. But honestly what helps Bargnani at all, and why are we talking about a guy that should have no shot at coming into next with a Raps jersey on? If he can’t be traded, then amnesty him. MLSE said money isn’t an issue. Right? Right?……..

    “a positive atmosphere and I highly doubt anyone in MLSE is thinking of tanking”

    well people keep paying for a team somewhere between mediocre and laughable anyways. Why fix whats working?


  • RapierRaptor

    The nice thing is that great shooting and great rebounding can be found outside of the first round (Neal and Green come to mind). I don’t think Jonas will ever be as disruptive as Hibbert defensively but few people will. He’s a mountain of a man. Modeling the team after Indiana is great in theory but I don’t see a lot of “punch you in the mouth” type personalities on this team right now so it will be interesting to see how things develop in the off season.

    • I don’t know if modelling your team after a team that has never made it to the Finals is the best idea, quite frankly. And just like Colangelo trying to model the Raptors after Dallas, it will end up being a poor man’s version. I’m a huge fan of Valanciunas, but as you say, it’s doubtful he’ll be in Hibbert’s league defensively. And Gay is is a very poor man’s Paul George, so not only are you modelling yourself after a team that didn’t make it to the Finals, you’re doing it with inferior talent.

      I’ve never liked trying to model your roster after someone else’s. It simply can’t be done well, because it’s the players that make the roster, and you can’t get the same players. if he’s suggesting the Raptors become a big, defense first team, then great. That’s generally what wins in the playoffs, anyway.

      • RapierRaptor

        I agree with you about the notion of modeling your team after any specific team being a bad idea. Our defensive potential is solid despite being mediocre defensively this past season. Lowry & Gay both can and need to be better given their potential and Amir is already a B+ defender. Sadly we are FAR from big and I think at least 2 more guys with legitimate size and defensive ability are necessary if we hope to compete with good teams. (I wish Acy was 2 inches taller and 15 lbs heavier because I love his mentality.) Given our financial situation, the free agent market is pretty baren. We may want to target a tough-nosed vet like Matt Barnes or Dahntay Jones (Tony Allen & Chris Andersen seem like pipe dreams) or a shooter like Morrow or Korver, if we can afford him.

        3s are the great equalizer and I would like to see an infusion of shooters on the team. Regardless guys won’t get open looks if we don’t do a better job of penetrating and disrupting defensive sets. I am really not a fan of the isolation offense but if we must use it it’s imperative that we at least put guys like Gay in a position to succeed in isolation by bending the defense before we set up the iso-set a la Conley in the post-Gay era. I hope this team finds a workable ‘identity’ in the Ujiri era because he’s right that there is nothing right now that teams know to fear or prepare for coming into Toronto.

      • Statement

        Indiana is a team on the rise and has enough emerging quality to make the finals, IMHO. Paul George is a young player and has more time left in him than Lebron, but more to the point, Wade does.

  • Dr Scooby

    C’mon folks, the Raps are a below average team, 5 years removed from post-season play with a reasonably high probability of missing the post season (with the current roster) again this upcoming year -all while being in the Luxury tax. Gay & Lowry (one grossly overpaid, the other soon to be overpaid) are not the answer, Bargs, is not part of the solution going forward, DD is young and arguably improving, but would not necessarily start at SG on many competitive teams.

    You cannot trade away overpriced talent without taking something bad or questionable back. To realize this is not negativity, merely a matter of honesty.

    the Raps can:
    1) more or less keep the the current roster (minus Bargs if at all possible) and tinker with lesser moves indefinitely
    2) trade/give away (if possible) Gay, Lowry, Bargs, Kleiza, Fields (and yes, maybe Amir and DD) to clear cap space and acquire draft picks to re-load (is that nicer sounding than tanking?).