Chatting with Masai Ujiri and Dwane Casey

A friend of RR had a chance to chat up Ujiri and Casey, and filed this report from his sit-down. Makes for good reading.

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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