Masai Ujiri spoke with media after the Toronto Raptors’ pre-draft workout at BioSteel Centre on Tuesday. The topic, naturally, was that Ujiri has lost his lead lieutenant, general manager Jeff Weltman, who became president of the Orlando Magic on Monday.
“I think he has paid his dues. An unbelievable person, a great basketball mind, and the time has come,” Ujiri said. “We all have to live with it. It’s sad sometimes but I think eventually it was going to happen somewhere, somehow. I tried to fake it with the G.M. title last year and give him a raise and everything but it didn’t fake anyone out I guess. But a phenomenal opportunity for an unbelievable person.”
Ujiri and Weltman have worked together for years now, with Weltman helping Ujiri land his first NBA job and Ujiri making the hiring of Weltman a condition of his employment with the Raptors. It’s an interesting dynamic now, one Ujiri thinks will help with potential dealings between the teams in the future, rather than making for an awkward situation. For now, though, Ujiri has lost his right hand and a close friend and colleague, which makes it tough to look, immediately, at the positive of growing your organization’s talent and seeing them get promotions elsewhere.
“You hope that you can continue to build and help people get opportunity. That’s my hope. That’s one thing,” Ujiri said. “But I don’t look at it like that. I look at it like a great loss to the organization.”
As far as a succession plan, it sounds as if Ujiri will look to fill the role internally, with Bobby Webster and Dan Tolzman, along with Teresa Resch and maybe some others, taking on different roles and more responsibility in a shake-up. He didn’t close the door on the possibility of bringing someone else in, though.
“I hate to say it on camera and in print, we’ve got great guys here,” Ujiri said. “They are phenomenal. Guys will raise their level. We’ll be creative in what we do, whether it’s bringing in somebody or raising a couple of these guys. These guys are good.”
Ujiri only spoke about Weltman and not the draft or free agency. Here’s the video: