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Old 01-28-2014, 09:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Ujiri's strategy

Raptors’ strategy for using Kyle Lowry?s impending free agency benefits both team and player | Vancouver Sun

The Raptors made it very clear before the season began that talk of contract extensions with any employee would not occur until the end of the season. Management wanted to first see what kind of team they possessed before making any decisions. Kyle Lowry was the one Raptor player who was in the last year of his contract and the organization’s strategy to use his impending free agency as both a negotiating chip with other teams and as a stimulus for the player has worked well in both areas.

When Masai Ujiri was hired as the General Manager of the Toronto Raptors this off-season, a position his predecessor and mentor Bryan Colangelo held for eight years, he created a structure built on long term planning. And why not—he has signed a five year $15 million contract—an agreement both the man and the team were thrilled to sign.

So Ujiri is secure in the knowledge that he has long term security and will likely be in the position for the full term—ownership may be willing to waste money in many areas but money being paid to terminated employees is not one of those areas.

Last year Colangelo worked the final year of his contract, as coach Dwane Casey is doing this year. The Raptors are not big believers that the supposed lame duck status affects management performance.

With the team having made a giant leap forward this year Ujiri has earned even more stability, more security with the organization. Right now, after two major transactions, he is the man with the golden touch. He rid the team of a $10 million anchor this summer and then, in November, moved out the $17 million ball stopper. CEO Tim Leiweke, a man with an ego as large as his wallet, is thrilled—his decision to remove Colangelo and install Ujiri is looking like a brilliant move. It’s doubtful that Ujiri pays whenever he is out to lunch with Leiweke—everything goes on the CEO’s expense account.

When Ujiri began in his position this past summer he arranged and then had meetings with all members of the basketball operations. When it came time to meet with Lowry and his representatives Ujiri would have made two salient points. One was regarding Lowry’s role on the team and the other was regarding the business side of their relationship.

Ujiri, believing that being honest and straight-forward is the best way to manage, would have told Lowry about his play—something Lowry likely already knew. Ujiri painted Lowry as a talented player who as yet had failed to live up to his potential, mostly because of the point guard’s divisive personality and his antagonistic behaviour.

This was a crucial year in Lowry’s career, a watershed moment that could determine his fate in the NBA. Would he continue to be a troubling personality who failed to show any consistency on the court and who then would be offered nothing more than a contract given to back-up point guards? Or was he going to show the league that he had matured, understood that being the point guard meant that he had to show leadership on the court and, being a veteran of eight NBA seasons, a calming influence and benefactor for the team’s many young players.

On the business side Lowry would have been informed that there would be no talk of a contract extension until the organization was certain that he had evolved into that role. In the meantime they would use his impending free agent status as a bargaining chip—there was a great possibility that, if the Raptors received a satisfactory package, he would be moved at any time.

For Lowry his determination this year was to prove his value to the club, prove that he is capable of leading a winning team, prove that he is not a divisive influence and prove that he can be an integral member of a team.

Lowry is a recent member of a club that eventually welcomes most men—fatherhood. As such his perspective on life has been altered. Now his priority is the safety and the well-being of his family, and less about his own individual desires. He had to learn how to channel his fiery competitive nature and use it as a positive on the court. No more wasted energy arguing with coaches, players the media—he had to accept that he was simply a spoke in the wheel. It’s about the team.

It is apparent from his play this season that Kyle Lowry got it. He is no longer an impatient youth; he has grown up.

And his value has gone up.
Ujiri never acknowledged or denied this report—there is no need to try and upstage the brash New York owner, not when the possibility exists for making more moves in the coming years.

But because the deal was never acknowledged as being a fait accompli by the Raptors it seems more than likely that Dolan denied the request for the trade from his basketball people, but that Ujiri, while bandying assets around, never actually agreed to the trade. So Dolan likely turned down the possibility of a trade, not an actual deal.

This week there were more reports published that Lowry was still being made available by the Raptors. This is not news. Every single player on the roster is available. Jonas Valanciunas is considered a building block for the team but if a team calls about him Ujiri will listen. It is extremely unlikely that a team could put a package together that would interest Ujiri but he will listen.

There is a considerable difference between a player being available and a player being shopped. Lowry is available—but because of his all-star play his value has increased. The offer that the Knicks presented him with nearly two months ago would be laughable today.

Is there a concern that if the Raptors keep Lowry for the season that they may lose him to free agency in the summer? Of course. But count how many teams in the league will be looking for a veteran point guard, will be willing to hand him a multi-year contract, and have a core of young and talented players with the same kind of potential the Raptors possess. There aren’t many—if any.

Toronto is a good place for Kyle Lowry, both on the court and off. He can sign in the off-season for a contract similar to the one signed by Jose Calderon this past off-season—four years $29 million, and he can know that he is the leader of a quality up and coming team that has its best years ahead of it.

Nice work Masai.
Thoughts that arise in me…

…A statistic brought forth by Sean Devaney of the Sporting News—Raptor record in games on the road when officiated by Tony Brothers, the lead official in the Raptor game in Brooklyn Monday, was 1-16. There is no way that is coincidental—not a record that bad. And again Brothers tried on Monday—giving Paul Pierce two free throws in the final minute on a play where no foul occurred and Brothers was thirty feet from the play. But Brothers wasn’t the biggest culprit in late game histrionics as Violet Palmer—who is quickly plumbing the depths among the leagues worst officials—called a charge on Lowry, on an easy block call, in the final seconds that could have determined the outcome of the game. It is seemingly impossible for the NBA officials to follow the agenda of the officials from the other three major sports leagues in North America—don’t be the difference in the game.

…My Eastern Conference all-star selections for the NBA are as follows. Voted by the public—Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving. I believe that since Miami and Indiana are head and shoulders above any of the other teams in the conference that they should have three representatives, so Chris Bosh, Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson should go. No other team should have more than one—so I have Paul Millsap, Demar DeRozan, Joachim Noah and John Wall. There’s the twelve.
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