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S01E01: Raptors Life – Masai’s Big Day

The premier of Raptors Life has Masai Ujiri waking up to face his demons.

The sound of the alarm had been too loud. Again. It had gone from becoming a minor annoyance to something that he secretly dreaded every morning. He had taken great care in setting the volume the night before, but again the device betrayed him, suggesting that there was yet another volume control he hadn’t yet discovered. He never could figure out whether it was the alarm that bothered him more, or his wife’s subtle movement upon hearing it, suggesting he had gotten it wrong again. Slight gestures like those spoke far more loudly than words ever could. That however could wait. There were things to do today, including his major off-season acquisition, Kawhi Leonard, speaking with the media for the first time.

Little was spoken at breakfast, the weight of the rogue alarm looming in the morning air. “Anything going on today?”, his wife asked sipping her hot coffee, and looking up knowingly that this was a day he was looking forward to for months. “Just Media Day. Kawhi speaking for the first time. No big deal”, responded Masai. He knew he had replied too quickly, which gave away his anxiousness. He had spoken to Kawhi Leonard a few times since the trade, and on all occasions the conversation had been brief. He couldn’t quite figure out if the phone had cut off or whether Kawhi was still formulating a thought on his way to formulating a potential sentence. It had been awkward at best. He recalled that time he met Kawhi in Toronto and offered a tour of the city, and was met with deafening silence accompanied with those unblinking eyes. He had thought to send Kawhi for another medical just to cover his bases, but opted to categorize this interaction as just one of those things people had warned him about the former Spur.

The drive to the arena had been a pleasant one. There was little traffic on the way and he pulled up to the newly renamed Scotiabank Arena in an almost jovial mood. The alarm episode was a distant memory and the only sight that soured his eyes was the arena name. He had liked the ACC. It had a nice ring to it and the abbreviation had obfuscated the sponsor’s name, giving it a meaning of its own. Not so much with the new name, it stunk of old money and corporate greed. He didn’t like either but knew he now lived in a world where he depended on both. He quickly shuffled those thoughts to the back of his mind. Now was not the time for contemplating one’s life decisions. There was a press conference to hold.

The relief was palpable. He could not believe his ears when he heard Kawhi speak in full sentences, articulating often multiple thoughts into words seamlessly, albeit a bit slowly. He had fully anticipated a silent press conference where he would do all the talking, like a kindergartener during show-and-tell. This. This was different. Here was a man not only answering questions, but making humorous remarks, while laughing and playing off reporter questions. Even the other player in the trade, whose name he often forgot, seemed clear and coherent. “Is it Danny or Gerald?”, he had once asked Nick Nurse, much to the amusement of the new head coach.

The press interviews were easy as usual. After all, it was the first day which meant the generally softball questions looked like hanging breaking balls. “Are you excited about the season?”, asked someone from some paper nobody reads anymore. Ah, thought Masai. This is life.

The photo shoots were uneventful and something he did not look forward to. His distaste for them had stemmed from his head either looking too big or too small, no matter what angle or lens was being employed. He had already fired two photographers for this reason alone, and when he had suggested firing the third, his staff had implored him not to. He had reluctantly agreed as long as every photo of him was reviewed personally by him before being released. It had been a fruitless negotiation as he simply didn’t have time to review everything. “I should’ve just fired him”, he muttered as he walked out of his last shot.

The evening was nice enough. Watching the Bachelor in Paradise finale had been a good idea, through he did feel guilty sending Nick Nurse’s call straight to voicemail. “Should I let it ring and hit end for him to think I’m not near my phone?”, he had asked his wife hoping for a quick solution to this irritating problem. “Doesn’t matter”, she had responded, which bothered him. He knew it mattered but just wasn’t sure so opted to hit ‘end’. As soon as he had done it, he knew it was the wrong choice.

A warm glass of milk had put him in a good mood for bed. It had been a successful day. The trade seemed to have been validated, and even those who had doubts about Kawhi’s reluctance to come to Toronto were feeling better. The roast beef dinner had been immaculate, and his favorite couple on Paradise had gotten engaged. All that was left was to set that fucking alarm.

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