Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri held his annual pre-draft media availability at BioSteel Centre on Tuesday, and it went about how most surely expected: Ujiri gave little away, but spoke with confidence as to his team’s preparedness for most any scenario that could arise in the coming weeks. What follows are some quick notes and quotes from the session.
- On the draft’s importance: “With the way the new CBA is going, constructed, I feel that player development is something we have to pay attention to, so whatever young players or draft picks we have we have to pay attention to it. You never know when you’re going to hit with that or something pans out that will help your team in any kind of way. I want to say 23 is an asset but we concentrate on finding that player, the best possible player that we can, where we are picking.”
- On a potential draft-and-stash: “We are comfortable either way.”
- On keeping and using the pick: “Yeah, you know, today I feel comfortable. We’re in battling it out.”
- On whether there’s room for another prospect: “Seventeen…We can have as many, to me it doesn’t bother me as long as we’re making progress and they’re getting better.”
Kyle Lowry & the league landscape
- Lowry had just left the facility. He and Ujiri have been in contact, and while they can’t talk specifics of a contract, Ujiri sounds confident that Lowry wants to stay.
- More specifically, on Lowry: “Form what he tweeted yesterday, yeah,, I think we are comfortable. Any direction we are going, I think we are prepared, that’s what I should say. We are very well prepared after studying it for a couple of months after the season has been over. I think we’re excited about our free agents and it goes the other way, we are excited, too. We have to prepare for all of that.”
- On Bruce Arthur’s report: “Well, he’s been a part of our organization and he says he wants to come back. Listen I know there is speculation … we all have ups and downs. There are times when he has been down and there are times when we are down. It happens to every team, every player. People go through it. This is rumour season and everyone is going to make a big deal out of everything. I know what Kyle has told me. Kyle has been here working out and he actually just left. I know what he has been telling me and I can only believe what he tells me, not the famous sources. We will see how that goes.”
- On the current NBA chaos: “With all of these things going around, you make calls, you listen to calls and you see what fits your team. Leading up to the draft and on draft day, that’s another deadline that we work with on our side. Things will shake up a little bit and we’ll see how it affects the Raptors.”
- The Raptors had eight players in for the week last week, working out and playing together. The team’s quite excited about some of the player development. Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam were in working out as Ujiri spoke.
- On David Griffin being out in Cleveland: “It’s BS, by the way, how a guy like – I don’t know what goes on inside Cleveland and their organization, but for them to go to three straight finals and a guy doesn’t get that job, I don’t know, man. I have to speak up for our fellow GMs. I know the coaches would., I think they did a great job the last three years.”
- On whether or not shooting can be developed: “I think Serge Ibaka is one of the best 3-pooint shooters as a big in the NBA. I would say he learned to shoot the three. When I knew him in Africa, he couldn’t shoot a two, and now he’s a 3-point shooter. So I think guys can become 3-point shooters. It’s a lot of work, but I think they can.”
- Ujiri said he’s made a decision on the vacant general manager position but is sitting on it right now (likely until after the draft). He’ll have an announcement in the coming days. The guess here remains Bobby Webster.
So again, not a lot of useful information, but continued assurances that the team has a plan that we’ll see unfold in the next couple of weeks.