The Toronto Raptors were relatively quiet as the clock struck 3 P.M. on the East Coast on February 20th, signalling the end of the NBA trade deadline. Aside from one minor transaction by Raptors GM Masai Ujiri—acquiring Spurs point guard Nando De Colo for big man Austin Daye.
As an obligation, Ujiri, like all the other GM’s held a press conference to address the post-trade deadline situation. But with the trade unofficially announced, there was little for Masai to comment on in regards to the acquisition.
“Well you guys go ahead, I can’t announce nothing because nothing is official.”—”I wish we could do this tomorrow, when the trade call is done, but we all know the rules. I can’t really comment, we did something that I can’t comment on.” Masai chuckled.
The reigning NBA Executive of the year explained his thought process as it pertains to the NBA trade deadline:
“It’s weird with the trade deadline where you can–we all get caught up on while working the phones and doing all kinds of stuff you know. Nothing like really significant got done. It’s always like a tedious time because you are really trying to see what makes sense for your team. And what makes sense in terms of, on our side was what’s good for our team now and the future. So that played a part into kind of a new thing that we did. I think a lot of the stuff that we saw I think that maybe we can do in the summer.” Ujiri explained.
The GM is also a big proponent of giving the young guys a chance to show what they can do before making a decision on their future.
“I think one of the purpose of leaving it up til now was seeing how we do and give the young guys a platform maybe, like not take that platform away because we want to know who they are and what they can do. We figured that in the summer, we can, if we need to do those deals maybe we can pull them off until the summer.” said Masai.
Part of the reason of being relatively quiet at the trade deadline, Masai realized that acquiring a player at this point in the season would disrupt the current success/flow of the team.
“We are focused on our team and internally what we see as these young guys growing and getting better. And that’s what we really wanted to concentrate on, on how well they do. Whether it’s Kyle Lowry, whether it’s Terrence Ross, JV [Jonas Valanciunas], Demar Derozan. So you can see that you add a couple pieces or you add something then it’s going to take away playing time from somebody or it’s going to take away something from somebody. And then that kind of sets you, it doesn’t set you back much, but these guys are going to go in there to compete now and we’ll see how well they do.”
As for Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, who becomes a free agent at the end of this season, Masai decided not to trade the 27 year old and says he’s making progress with Lowry and his agent.
“We didn’t do anything with Kyle because we view him highly in this organization. I think Kyle is playing his part, we’re going to stay on Kyle. I met with his agent yesterday, I think there is good progress in Kyle’s growth here. Yeah people are going to say it’s a contract year, but in my opinion the kid has played all out and he’s given it his all.”
“Kyle has adjusted, we set some good roles and had good talks with him. He was upfront with us and we were upfront with him at the beginning of the season, he’s living up his part, and I think we’ve lived up our part too. And that’s how you build partnerships and we’ll see how he grows.” Masai explained.
“Has Kyle proved that he’s a starting point guard in the NBA? I would say yes. Has he proved that he’s a top 15 starting point guard in the NBA? I would say yes.” Masai praised Lowry. “Our challenge now to Kyle is, can you continue to be that and play at that level, now and for the future. I think he’s up for the challenge and he’s been fun to work with so far.”
The full media scrum with Raptors’ GM Masai Uriji can be seen below: