It appears that Masai Ujiri and Kawhi Leonard have remained in touch after the 2019 NBA Finals MVP left the Toronto Raptors after just one season.
In the years Masai Ujiri has been leading the Toronto Raptors, he seems to have a strong understanding of building relationships.
While the Raptors were unable to convince Kawhi Leonard to stay, Ujiri hasn’t cut ties with the player who took the team to the next level in their pursuit of a championship. Sure most of it is probably for personal reasons but you can’t help but look at the big picture.
“With Kawhi, we just built a relationship where we trusted each other and that friendship has evolved even bigger as he left and I’m proud of that,” Ujiri told TNT’s Ernie Johnson. “I support him with everything he does as a human being and with his family and you move on. You’ve just got to move on and go on to the next.”
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For some executives, they probably have relationships with their current players or those who were with them for the long haul. It would be tough to see any continuing to have a relationship like Ujiri does with Leonard.
This came up when Ujiri mentioned that his son and Leonard’s daughter have FaceTime conversations and that his wife, along with Leonard’s girlfriend, are really close.
Considering how much time athletes, front office executives and the coaching staff spend together throughout the year, it’s no surprise that relationships like this develop. The Raptors alluded to that when he explained the benefits and the unfortunate disadvantage he has to deal with in his line of work.
“I’ve experienced all of it and it’s been with wonderful people. And it’s sometimes put a restraint on relationships as we saw with DeMar and – people don’t know – but even with Rudy Gay because I was close to Rudy,” Ujiri said about the impact trades have on relationships. “You’re trying to preach a culture of good, of trust, of being with people. And then you have to make these decisions.”
Sportsnet’s Steven Loung brought up the possibility that by maintaining this relationship with Leonard, Ujiri is keeping the door open for a potential return down the road. It’s a scenario that is certainly worth entertaining considering executives are always thinking ahead.
Of course, all eyes will be on whether or not Giannis Antetokounmpo becomes a free agent but if for some reason that does not happen, Leonard has a player option for the 2021-22 season. However, considering what the Raptors went through last season with the Leonard sweepstakes, it’s tough to get your hopes up.
At the same time, if there is ever a situation that Leonard would ever consider, you can bet Ujiri will try to sell him and having the established relationship will help.
Would you ever entertain the idea of pitching to get Leonard back down the road if he were to consider leaving? Let us know in the comments below.