We break down the conference call by Toronto Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri, who spoke for the first time since the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season due to COVID-19.
If you’re a Toronto Raptors fan, there hasn’t been much significant content to digest of late. This changed on Wednesday, courtesy of Masai Ujiri.
The Raptors president held a conference call with the media. It represented the first time he had spoken since the 2019-20 NBA season was suspended due to the growing spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As you’d expect, there was a lot of interest in what Ujiri had to say. Here are our four takeaways from the conference call:
1) Initial reaction to the NBA suspending the 2019-20 season
Times were good for the Toronto Raptors, who were actually on course to finish with a better record than last year despite a barely believable amount of injuries throughout the season. They’d secured a playoff spot and were looking forward to defending their championship.
Then Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the North American sports landscape changed dramatically.
The NBA made the decision to suspend the 2019-20 season. Ujiri was on a scouting trip at the time, but immediately returned to Toronto as the organisation arranged for the players and staff to have tests. (Thankfully no one tested positive.)
One of the main takeaways from Wednesday’s conference call was how admirable Ujiri’s reaction was to what happened; his instinct was one of concern for others and wanting to do the right thing. As reported by The Canadian Press via CBC, he said:
"“While all this is going on, we start thinking of mental health and how people are relating to this and how people are reacting to this immediately… As you know, we had a few players that were in direct contact with the Utah game and situation, we abided by the rules and we’re proud that we did that and we have to stick to that and continue to plug away.”"
While Ujiri can be ruthless when necessary – just ask DeMar DeRozan – most people connected with the Raptors already know what a stand-up guy the president is. His initial response to the NBA suspending the 2019-20 campaign only reinforced this.