Tuesday afternoon, Toronto Raptors’ GM Masai Ujiri and head coach Dwane Casey, who just recently agreed to a 3-year contract extension with the franchise, both met with the media to discuss the past season and their future plans going forward with the franchise. The main points of discussion included the development of their young core of players, the key offseason which includes the importance of bringing back free agents Kyle Lowry, and restricted free agents Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez, and Nando de Colo.
Dwane Casey revealed that post-all-star break, he had all the players, trainers, coaches literally commit to a document agreeing that they were ‘all-in’ for the rest of the season and would all put their egos aside for the good of the team.
“I’ll never forget, it was the Washington game at Washington right after the all-star break. I had each player sign a document, that probably wouldn’t hold up in court, but a document committing to the team, committing to the process. Leaving their egos at the door and each player starting with Kyle [Lowry], Kyle was the first to jump up and sign it.”–“Everybody signed it and was apart of it. Committed to ‘I’m all in’ was the head of the document, and they were.”
“We want to grow and develop with Masai as our leader and the players that are coming back here,” Casey said.
Reaching the playoffs for the first time in 6 seasons under the guidance of coach Dwane Casey, the new standard going forward for the franchise is an expected playoff berth each and every season.
“We want to get into the playoffs, we expect to get into the playoffs, that’s the minimum. That’s our goal going into the season,” Casey said.
Masai Ujiri took care of one offseason issue, by resigning head coach Dwane Casey to a 3-year extension. He complimented the honesty of coach Casey and his love of basketball, and that while they’ve had disagreements, the willingness to work those disagreements out as well as his direct involvement with the team’s growth, have Casey returning for a 2nd tenure with the Raptors.
“I’ve never seen somebody so down to earth that just is a basketball junkie,” Ujiri said. “That’s how I grew up loving the game, just to go out there and work and be yourself. And coach Casey emphasizes that, he shows that.”
“The willingness to be honest, and to work with each other. We’ve had tough conversations, we’ve had disagreements. That’s part of the business, we have to handle ourselves well and we have to know what the direction and the goal is of the organization. And I think coach Casey shows that.”
“And then the growth, all season we had a plan and in business you stick to the plan. You have those bumps, balls thrown at you, you just need to keep going and figure it out. And what better leader for us to have.”
Addressing goals for next season from a front office perspective, Masai mentioned the resigning of key free agents and the preparing for the upcoming NBA draft–in which the Raptors will have their own 1st round pick, expected to be a mid-rounder, in addition to the Sacramento Kings and Oklahoma City Thunder’s 2nd round picks.
“As far as I’m concerned, keeping our core group going forward, with Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez, [Patrick] Patterson, Nando [de Colo]. Those guys are priorities for us. And if you want to build a team where we have young players, we have to build on continuity,” Ujiri said.
“The priority for us will be the draft first, we have that coming up and we have to attack that as hard as we can. And then when free agency comes, we have to attack our guys first.”
Masai will look to sign free agents that best fit the team going forward, and will not disrupt the development of their young core in doing so.
“That whole process of the draft, free agency we have to go through it. There are going to be tons of names that we’re going to look at. For me, there isn’t going to be any crazy decision here made, there’s no quick fix. We’re a growing team and we’re going to grow gradually,” Ujiri said. “The way to build in this situation we are in is to continue to give our young players the opportunity, to continue to draft well, and which ever players we sign we make sure we figure out which players to sign.”
On the importance of resigning starting point guard Kyle Lowry, who is one of the two key pieces along with the DeMar DeRozan for the Toronto Raptors success going forward, Masai explained the situation.
“It’s very important for us in terms of continuity. Kyle has had a phenomenal year. I thought Kyle was a huge, huge key to our season,” said Masai. “Kyle is a free agent, I think one of the things we looked at when we made that trade [with Sacramento] was how much we could grow if we went the other way. There was communication with Kyle and his agent, he knew what we were going through during that process. The team began to play well and take off.”
“We continued to have conversations with Kyle, and we all collectively decided that this is something we want to see through and figure out. For me, negotiating is easy, if we want Kyle to be here and he wants to be here. I think we’ll be fair with Kyle and we’ll figure it out.”