Masai Ujiri, president of Raptors basketball operations, said he wasn’t sure what would happen to Kyle Lowry if he woke up Thursday morning, but he and the rest of the Toronto front office would be comfortable anyway.
“To be honest, we didn’t know which way it was going,” Ujiri said after trading Norman Powell for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood, but ultimately had not traded with Lowry before Thursday’s 3:00 pm trading deadline. “Because we’ve really talked about looking at this team in every direction it could go.
“We got to a point where we felt comfortable with whatever direction it was going.”
Ujiri joked that Lowry’s press conference following Wednesday night’s win over the Denver Nuggets – one that felt like a 25-minute farewell to Toronto and its fans – was a “ circus, ” and that it “ may not have felt like it was the right way … it seemed a bit surreal. “
But as Thursday progressed, Ujiri ultimately decided it was the right move to hold on to the best player in the history of the Raptors franchise, and the decision about what will happen to his future with the team going off-season to push.
When asked what will happen next, Ujiri said it is something he will talk to Lowry about at that point.
“Then we’ll talk about it,” he said. “I think we’ll talk about it when the time comes at the end of the season. But I think we all know the respect and sentiment about Kyle and this ball club, and what he’s done, not just for the city, the team., the country, the league.
Frankly, our team can go in many different directions. I keep saying it. We’re comfortable with whatever direction we’re going. We may have lost an opportunity here, but we also think we got a chance in some other things. in the future. This team, especially with what we’ve been through this year, could turn in many different directions. This is where we are now. ”
Lowry called Thursday in an Instagram post on Thursday “a crazy day, but the love I got from everyone was amazing.” He added, “Thank you all for making it known that I am loved and for all the birthday wishes.”
As for the player who traded Ujiri, Powell, he said the chance to get a talented player who is also several years younger in Trent – who will be a limited free agent this summer – was too good to pass up.
“I think Gary Trent is a 23-year-old player with a lot of advantages, shooter and defender, fits our core team,” said Ujiri. “We are excited about that.”
Ujiri was also asked several times if he would turn to his own free agency as his contract expires this summer. As he has said repeatedly in the past, Ujiri only said this would be addressed at a later date, adding that the Raptors organization will be “fine” anyway.
When asked later to quantify what that meant, Ujiri gave an elaborate response praising fans in Toronto, where the Raptors – who play in Tampa, Florida this season – haven’t played for over a year.
“That place is incredible,” Ujiri said of Toronto. “The property, the city, the land, everything that it stands for. I wish everyone in this world who can experience it. It’s incredible. And anyone who can experience my position, God bless you. It’s a great, great Blessings. There’s nothing else I can say about the Toronto Raptors. It’s amazing. “
It’s been a difficult season for the Raptors, who broke through a nine-game loss streak with their victory over the Nuggets and are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. But with a talented core signed for the long haul in Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby and with Lowry still on the team, Ujiri said the Raptors won’t refuel to try to maximize their design choice.
“Yes, they fight,” said Ujiri. “They fight together, you see they love to play together and yes, there have been ups and downs, you have seen it, there have been challenges, but at the end of the day, when you come into our dressing room with these guys, I see Kyle and Fred and OG and Pascal and they all really come together.
“What they want to build, the experience they have had together to win, we are lucky, we are blessed to have been a winning organization and hopefully somehow we can continue that and have a great vision for this one. ballclub to continue that. “There may be stops and setbacks along the way, but I think the overall culture we need to keep going and these players are a big part of it.”