Ujiri on the pressure of rebuilding the Raptors
Old 09-27-2013, 12:03 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Feted as the NBA’s top executive after years spent scrabbling, Ujiri has arrived back at the league’s longest-running renovation. Every few years, the Raptors hire a new contractor. Every few years, he starts by tearing down all the work done by his predecessor.


Ujiri’s not going to do that. His watchword is patience. It’s an NBA sin he transubstantiated into a virtue by out-staring the New York Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony trade, extracting real value from a want-away star. His signature move has become his signature trait.


There’s little to liken him to one of his many mentors, Bryan Colangelo. Both are enormously sharp dressers. End of list.


Colangelo fairly pulsated with pent-up energy. There are legendary stories of how staffers had to wrestle the phone off him on trade deadline day to stop him from making a deal, just for the sake of making one.


There is a watchful stillness to Ujiri. Unlike Colangelo, he’s listening when people talk, rather than waiting his turn.


Little has changed about the team he inherited. He off-loaded Colangelo’s Rosebud in Andrea Bargnani (‘Did you consider keeping him?’ “No,” says Ujiri).


He added a few small parts — back-up point guard Dwight Buycks, three-point shooter Steve Novak, caveman Tyler Hansbrough.


The major shift comes on the bench, where most of coach Dwane Casey’s assistants — many widely perceived as Colangelo’s men rather than Casey’s — have been replaced.


“I told him when I arrived, ‘Coach, there’s no snitch here. There’s no one who’s going to come back and tell me anything. There’s only one snitch, and he’s standing here in front of you. If I have anything to say, I am going to come and say it to you myself.”


This is a fresh start for both men. In the summer, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban put out feelers, wondering if Casey could be released from his deal and allowed to return to Dallas. In brushing back that attempt, MLSE quietly committed itself to the Ujiri/Casey pairing.


Now, a week from the start of training camp, Ujiri’s done stirring. He’s going to watch the drink settle.


“Rather than make some crazy decisions, we want to see what we have,” Ujiri says. “We’re not signing players on long term deals now. We’re going to . . . see how we start off the season and go from there. I know it sounds very simple, but I think right now simple is best for us.”


There is no talk of a tank in order to take a long shot at Andrew Wiggins, or as Ujiri elliptically refers to him, “the kid from Kansas.” There are no playoff promises.


For now, the marching orders are march until we tell you to stop. Once again, it starts out uphill. The Raptors face 19 road games in their first 34. The stretch includes nine contests against teams that made last year’s conference finals. You hope for the best, but a realist is expecting something worse.

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In the wider view, every army on the move needs a destination. It’s put to Ujiri that the 2016 all-star game — a moment MLSE hopes to use in order to re-announce the franchise to the league — is an obvious target.


“I think it has to be around that time that you at least see what the picture is going to look like. Listen, we’re not trying to buy time here. We have to see what we have and advance from there. But yes, I like that timeframe, where you should at least know that your team is emerging.”


If the tank’s out, is it possible to build a winner without top-five picks?


“Tough,” Ujiri says. “Also possible, but it’s tough.”


This is the future. Hamstrung by existing deals pushing against the cap ceiling, Ujiri is wrestling with the right now. Make a plan, take a step, reassess, make a new plan.


Like just about everybody who has his job, people tell stories about his work rate. He doesn’t sleep much. He’s taken his father’s habit of getting up around 5 a.m. to begin the workday by reading.


But tinting all that is a wonderfully present sense of good fortune, of pausing to realize how far he’s come — from the beyond the outer edge to the very middle of it. He’s just bought a house in Lawrence Park. He is a Nigerian-Kenyan with a British passport. He’s married to a Guinean-Sierra Leonean with American citizenship. In December, they’ll have a child with pan-African roots, but a Canadian by birth. The idea of the global becoming the local in so personal a way delights him.

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In attempting to explain why he chose a losing program in Toronto rather than a winning one in Denver, Ujiri shifts in his seat, thinking hard about how he’s going to put this.


“I left a good team. And yes, there was money. People say money is a good driver. From where I’ve come from, I was being offered something very good (in Denver) as well. It’s not like I was going to stay there and starve. I left that to come here because of this.”


Ujiri leans back and points for a lingering moment at his heart.


“I always imagined that if we figured it out in this place, it would be unbelievable. It would be remarkable.”


Can you say exactly why this franchise has failed so often?


“Sometimes it’s luck,” Ujiri says. “Everybody works hard, I know. Everybody makes mistakes. But here, with the opportunity that has been given to me, I feel like I can’t fail. I don’t fear, but in my mind that’s the way I go into it. Look at how far I’ve come. Now I have a responsibility to do well.”
Raptors GM Masai Ujiri shrugs off pressure of rebuilding Toronto’s NBA franchise: Kelly | Toronto Star

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Old 09-27-2013, 02:38 PM   #2 (permalink)
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And so we get some verification of the level of Colangelo's meddling ways.
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Old 09-27-2013, 03:32 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I like the tidbits of truth that are now starting to surface, verifying what I always believed to be true all these years.

It feels good knowing you were right.
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Old 09-27-2013, 03:50 PM   #4 (permalink)
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still though bc didn't have much to work with when he took over the team, only guy chris bosh, even Calderon was looked at as a surprised when he panned out in that second year

bc has left the team in decent shape, with two valuable young pieces in ross and Jonas, and with 3 players in their prime in gay, amir, and lowry, and derozan who is near his prime but not quite his prime
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Old 09-27-2013, 04:26 PM   #5 (permalink)
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And so we get some verification of the level of Colangelo's meddling ways.
how so, because the author says the coaching assistants were "widely perceived" to be BC's men? That's just his opinion, it was so widely believed that I never heard about it before. Not to mention that the new guys could just as well be called MU's men.

MU has a different style than BC, that's clear. While BC is very hands on and likes to get involved in every aspect, MU's own words were that he gives the coach full freedom.

Personally, I like MU's approach better, but I'm fairly comfortable with BC's method as well - provided that the coach gets the last word in coaching matters. There's nothing wrong in having a second (hopefully knowledgeable) opinion.
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Old 09-28-2013, 11:03 AM   #6 (permalink)
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how so, because the author says the coaching assistants were "widely perceived" to be BC's men? That's just his opinion, it was so widely believed that I never heard about it before. Not to mention that the new guys could just as well be called MU's men.

MU has a different style than BC, that's clear. While BC is very hands on and likes to get involved in every aspect, MU's own words were that he gives the coach full freedom.

Personally, I like MU's approach better, but I'm fairly comfortable with BC's method as well - provided that the coach gets the last word in coaching matters. There's nothing wrong in having a second (hopefully knowledgeable) opinion.
“I told him when I arrived, ‘Coach, there’s no snitch here. There’s no one who’s going to come back and tell me anything. There’s only one snitch, and he’s standing here in front of you. If I have anything to say, I am going to come and say it to you myself.”
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Old 09-28-2013, 12:29 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Yeah, thought that was pretty obvious. It was also obvious that BC always placed his own assistants in place. How do we think Triano got his job?
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Old 09-28-2013, 12:38 PM   #8 (permalink)
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It was quite evident last year, where the entire discussion centred around needing more offense and it's never been a secret that Colangelo values offensive basketball. He was trying to take something round and put it in a square peg but instead of firing the guy went about it in a round-about way.

Regardless, I expect Casey to be far more relaxed this year and far more focused on going to his philosophy (defense powering offense - which I'm fine with).
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Old 09-29-2013, 11:22 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I can't help but smile after reading that article.

No more BC.

No more Andrea.

A competent, savvy GM in place and a coach finally free to run the team as he sees fit.

I can't recall looking forward to a season this much.
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Old 09-29-2013, 11:24 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I can't help but smile after reading that article.

No more BC.

No more Andrea.

A competent, savvy GM in place and a coach finally free to run the team as he sees fit.

I can't recall looking forward to a season this much.

Kiss of death....
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Old 09-30-2013, 09:38 PM   #11 (permalink)
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First 10-20 games will be quite important to see what MU does/doesn't do.
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