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Masai Ujiri cautious with his words but thinks Raptors headed in right direction

Sep 27, 2013, 4:07 PM EST

Masai Ujiri AP

There are a lot of fans in Toronto that think they have a playoff team this season.

A lot thought that last season, something encouraged by the bold words of Bryan Colangelo. Didn’t exactly work out that way…actually it was nothing close to that way.

Now there is a new sheriff in town, GM Masai Ujiri, a guy who already found a way to unload Andrea Bargnani and his massive salary. So more bold predictions?

Nope. That’s not how Ujiri roles. He spoke with Eric Koreen of the national post and was cautious.

“I really can’t say this team is going to be fourth or seventh or 12th,” Ujiri said in a one-on-one interview in his corner office days before his first training camp as general manager of the Raptors. “I can’t do that. I want us to have growth, big-time growth, and improvement so that we can actually know what we have on this team. And then we can move from there.”

Should the Raptors have made a bigger, splashier move this offseason?

“I wouldn’t understand what there is to do bigger. I understand [the feeling]. I wish I could come in and make it an Eastern Conference final team the next day. That’s not how sports work. I study history. I study the game. I study the NBA and the team I’m working for very, very closely. Everyday, you think about it … My job, from when I took the job and when we started here, is to try to move forward. That’s the way I see it.”

And the Raptors will move forward. While just how far Rudy Gay can lead a team is a divisive issue, he can lead them to the playoffs and they have a full season with him. Jonas Valanciunas has looked great over the summer (at both Summer League and FIBA’s EuroBasket) and we’ll see if Terrence Ross can take a step forward. Guys off the bench like Steve Novak and Tyler Hansbrough can be good role players.

There are big questions, mostly about if this team can defend well enough to make the playoffs. But they can be in the mix for one of the final couple spots in the East.

After a long playoff drought, start there. No reason for Ujiri to oversell it.

  1. adamsjohn714 - Sep 27, 2013 at 4:25 PM

    He’s done a good job so far. Picked up decent players on cheap contracts. He also got rid of Andrea Bargnani!!! That seemed like an impossible task. Now he just needs to avoid Rudy Gay getting any kind of extension, and dumping Demar Derozan for some picks or to a silly GM who actually thinks he’s good and worth real talent.

  2. furiouslytim - Sep 27, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    Thank you for not piling on the Rudy Gay hate train. He’s the best player the Raptors could ever land. That’s sad but true, and his efficiency shouldn’t erode what he can accomplish on a basketball court. The game isn’t played on spreadsheets. I hope he has a great season for them.

  3. nygdriveforfive - Sep 27, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    For me the question is whether or not Casey will get JV involved enough, espically early in the offense. JV put on some weight in the offseason and will be a force inside and on the boards. Not to mention the fact he has solid mid-range jumper. All JV needs is for the refs and Dwayne to realize this. Defensively I love his upside. He already has a nasty streak and his presence in the paint should(for a full season) make Demar/Rudy/Amir better defenders. So ya loving JV and Ujiri’s vision.

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