Masai Ujiri presser: Raptors need ‘culture reset,’ style change, everything on table

Notes on the futures of several key pieces.

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri conducted his end-of-season press conference with media on Tuesday.We’ll be trying to digest all of this in the coming days, by the way. There was simply way too much to analyze in one piece, so we’ll tackle some of the finer points in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, here’s a quick look at some of what he had to say.

On the need for a CULTURE RESET

“Let’s call a spade a spade. The end of the year was disappointing for us. That series was disappointing for us. We thought we could do better. I don’t know what it is. We’ve started to study it and I can’t tell what exactly it is…I hate making excuses in my life. That’s not what we’re all about. I take responsibility. I blame myself first. I question myself, should I have made those trades? What should we have done? What could I have done better to put these guys in a better situation.

And then as it goes down, we are going to hold everybody accountable because we need to. We need, after that performance, we need a culture reset here. We need to figure it out. Yes, there’s been some success, but at the end of the day we are trying to win a championship here. To me making the playoffs is nothing. That was back in the day. Now we have to figure out how we can win in the playoffs. That’s the goal…We need figure out how to beat these guys. That’s our job. And that’s our job. That’s what we are going to try and figure out. Whether it’s now or in the future, I have to figure that out.”

More on what that culture reset may entail

“I don’t like to follow what everybody is doing and I always feel there’s a way to do it different because this is going to run out and there’s some way, some how there’s going to be another way to play. All I know is what we have been doing has not worked. And I have to look at that, we have to take a serious look at that. Because we’ve tried it and tried it and tried it and tried it and you know what, it hasn’t taken us to the highest level. It’s gotten us to a good place as a team but it hasn’t worked for us. I don’t know that that’s the way to go but we have to evaluate how we are playing for sure and figure out a way to change that.”

“The way the way we look at everything. I think we have done things here for four years and we have had a level of success but how do you take it to another level is what I’m talking about. We have to dig deep into everything we do. And I’m talking scouting, I’m talking our medical department, I’m talking everything. I have to look at it overall. I think we are on a good scale in the NBA, but how do you get better? How do you get elite? That is what I’m saying. We can’t just pinpoint coaching. We can’t just pinpoint not making shots. Our attitude, our leadership, everything. The way we work together. I think those things we need to re-visit and then get on with it.”

A handful of quotes pertaining to the future of Dwane Casey & a style change

“I think it was a difficult situation for him. There are things that I question, you know, like I think our style of play is something we are going to really evaluate. Like, how we play. I think there are times that I think coach did a great job and I think there are times that we struggled…It’s something we are going to evaluate but in the overall I think there are things that we can do better with coaching. I think there are things that we can do better, I think there are things that our team can do better…We have some 3-point shooters on the team, but maybe it’s the style of play we need to evaluate and how we do things, and I’ve discussed this at length with Coach Casey and it’s going to be an ongoing discussion on what we need to do.”

“I don’t know if there’s anything in the fabric. What I’m saying, the next month or so, we’re going to dig deep into that and try to find out what it is. One of things I discussed with coach Casey is how we play. We’ve done it the same time over and over again, is it going to work the next time. We have to figure that out, the one-on-one basketball we play, we have to question that, we have to really look at it, look at the league and evaluate the way we play and say, is this working? We’ve begun those discussions now.”

“We’re talking about it. Like, I had a good meeting with Dwane this morning, and the style of play is something that we need to change, and I’ve made it clear. And coach has acknowledged it and he’s already thought about it. Just some of the things that we do, it’s not working anymore. And I’ve just made it clear that it’s going to be difficult to me for keep changing players, just because of the way the CBA is situation. My short answer to that, honestly, is: Yes there is commitment, but we are all going to question ourselves. We are all going to seriously question ourselves now, and figure out the best way to do it. Because Coach Casey has been a phenomenal part of our success here, you know, and in some ways we owe that to him. But I’ve told him that we all have to be accountable. I haven’t slept, and I know he hasn’t slept too, because we’re thinking of ways that we can continue to make these things better, and make the right decisions.”

“Because we’ve done what we’ve done so many times and it hasn’t worked. That’s the simple answer. We can only try that so much, and it just hasn’t worked. It’s easy to defend in my opinion when you play 1-on-1, it’s predictable, we talked about it with coach, we feel we have to go in another direction, like I don’t know what it is…Is this going to work in the playoffs? We’ve always had that concern and we’ve always said it. There’s something there. Does it make it easier for teams to prepare against us, to prepare against 1-on-1 type basketball, dribbling a lot type basketball? We’re good at it, I think we’ve maximized in some kind of way, and we do appreciate that. We’ve seen this continuous, it’s not something all of a sudden we’re saying. I think in your minds, you’re hoping, you identify, you are hoping and hoping, but it hasn’t worked for us and we’ve run into the same issues. Again, I’m not making excuses here, and maybe it’s the kind of players we’re getting or something, but we want to try a different way maybe, and I’ve talked to Casey about that.”

On Kyle Lowry and uncertainty

“It’s our jobs to try and get Kyle to come back and do it the best way that we possibly can. We want him back, he’s been a huge part of the success here but what is to say Kyle doesn’t call me five days from now and says, you know what, I’m not coming. Then whatever I’ve said here doesn’t mean anything. So yes, there is a domino effect there and we have to make the right decision.”

On Lowry’s relationship with Casey

“We can come here and say all the right things to you guys and blah blah blah. When it’s time to work, they work. That’s the bottom line. And I think we make this argument, do they bump heads, do they do this. At the end of the day, last year 56, this year 51, so they should hold hands and sing hurrah and kiss and do whatever they want to do and we win 30 games, what the hell is that doing for anybody? Nothing. Zero.”

On retaining all four free agents

“It’s not realistic.”

On getting more from DeMarre Carroll

“I think DeMarre is going to have a big summer. Because this was, I think this was a healing year for his leg. The best thing about this year for us with DeMarre is he never really complained about the leg. He fought through it. And you can tell it’s getting better. But now DeMarre needs to physically go and work to get back to where he is. Because at the end of the day, that guy is going to be two things in the league: He’s going to be a shooter and he’s going to be a defender. Those are the two things, and we feel he’s 100 percent capable of doing that now that he’s getting over this. There were some down times, there were ups and downs with him, and I think that everyone has seen that. The commitment he is making, he’s disappointed. Everybody is at this time. Being that 3-and-D type player is what he’s going to go back to being. We’re confident with everything with his body, he’ll get back there.”

On the need for player development

“All I’m telling you guys now is with the new CBA, it’s not something that’s easy to just go find players here or trade for players there or sign players here. It’s not going to be that easy any more. Player development is going to be an emphasis and it’s going to be an emphasis with our team.”

“The big thing is, we’re going as a team in terms of development and players and how we want to grow our players and find players. At the same time, you’ve built this thing for a while and is there another level to it. We have to account for that and be accountable for that. And we have to decide is this the way we want to go in terms of money spent, too. Those are the things we have to evaluate and say we’re going.”

On spending into the tax if he decides to do so

“100 per cent. 100 per cent. And I can buy you a new phone, too, if you want.”

On ownership support if he wants to tank

“Yes. Yes. I’m going to build all the scenarios and put them in front of ownership. I think we owe it to everything, we owe it to ownership, to the organization, to the fans. I think it’s something that we have to do, because sometimes when you look at it, what chances do you have now? And do you plan for five years from now? Those are some of the things we’ve looked at. We have to find a way to motivate people, we have to find a way to motivate fans, we have to find a way to play hard on the court, and we have to find a way to find the right talent, to make sure that we’re creating a sense of hope in this organization. And no, we’re not afraid of that at all. Because it might be the right way to go, you never know. We’re really going to sit down and evaluate everything, and we’ll see where we go from there.”

Just a terrific quote that makes you want to work for Ujiri

“Hey, we tried, you never know, and if we fail, we try something else, or the organization tries something else. This business is all about risk-taking, too. You have to put yourself on the line there. To me, honestly I’m not afraid of that. I don’t want anybody who works with me to be afraid of that. We should not be afraid. We should be confident with ourselves. We should be confident with our thoughts. We should be confident with progressive thinking on how we can get better to win in this league and beat the opponents and beat those other 29 teams. I think it’s very, very important for us.”

On the futility of end-of-season media availability

“(If) I came in here and said we are going to decide we are going to do this and this and this, I think I would be a bad leader, right? One day after you lose. Is there any decision I can make right now that is the right decision today? To me I feel like talking now is BS basically. It’s absolute BS why we need to do this today. You might as well talk to me in like a month. Why do I need to do this today? Because I’m not going to say, I can’t tell you I’ve made a decision on anything. I wish I could. I’ll take the questions, you know, but, I know what the question are going to be. I hate to be like this, you know, but there’s no, I would be a bad leader if I come to you today and I tell you that, ‘Okay, we are not bringing back Kyle or okay we are bringing back Kyle or we are going young, or we are not bringing back Pat or we are bringing back Serge.’ I don’t know that I can make that decision, that we collectively can make that decision today.”

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