Just two days after the Toronto Raptors were "punched in the face" by the Washington Wizards, GM Masai Ujiri said he'll take some time determining the direction of the squad — including the fate of coach Dwane Casey — rather than make changes when emotions are high.
"Everybody is going to be held accountable, everybody is going to be evaluated," Ujiri said Tuesday. "There's no doomsday here, honestly. This is not as dramatic as we are making it.
"It's just that we want to win here, we want to keep building. I think the process is you sometimes get kicked in the face and we got kicked in the face and now we have to go back to the drawing board."
Toronto was humiliated in a four-game opening-round sweep by Washington, culminating in Sunday night's 125-94 rout. It was a "disappointing" ending to a season that had several positives, said Ujiri, who proceeded to list them off: A second straight Atlantic Division title, a franchise-record 49 wins, an NBA Sixth Man of the Year in Lou Williams, an all-star in Kyle Lowry and a great fan base.
"Coach Casey has created or helped create a good culture here. . .," Ujiri said. "The base is very good for us and he's a big part of our base."
Of one thing Ujiri is certain, he won't be cursing in public anytime soon. The GM was fined by the NBA for the second straight playoffs after he swore in reference to Paul Pierce when addressing fans in Maple Leaf Square. Ujiri was fined US$35,000 and the Raptors an additional US$25,000.
"I'm a competitor and I'm not going to back down. . . it was my way of supporting our team, supporting our organization, our fan base, which is something I'll always do," Ujiri said. "Was it stupid that I went out there and said that? I apologize for cursing. I got scolded by the (NBA) commissioner, I got scolded by my wife, I got scolded by (Hall of Famer) Wayne Embry, and I tell you what, I'm not going to do it again.
"I think I've learned my lesson, and our focus is not me honestly. That's the part I regret."
Ujiri was prompted by Pierce's pre-playoff comment that the Raptors don't have "it." The GM praised Pierce for his passion.
"I knew who Paul Pierce is, he's a killer, he's one of those that you want on your team," Ujiri said. "He's old-school, I believe in those old-school guys, those guys, they are phenomenal. They want to cut your head off."
Ujiri has to wish he had more of that mentality on his team down the stretch. Lowry went from being the team's heart and soul to a shell of himself down the stretch. Ujiri believes having to carry the squad through DeMar DeRozan's groin injury was costly.
"I think when DeMar got hurt, Kyle used so much energy in carrying this team in those three months," he said. "You run out of gas."
Ujiri remains in full support of his point guard.
"I have no doubt in my mind 100 per cent he's going to come back to being Kyle Lowry being the fierce competitive player playing at the level he played not only at the first half of this season, but he did it all last year," he said. "(I am) even more confident because we know the give and take, what we have and what we don't have, what we need to work on. We know who Kyle is.
"We know what the goods and the bads are."
Ujiri said he's excited about what both this off-season and next off-season hold.
"I couldn't tell you what's going to come our way this year. July is going to be very telling," he said. "We have continued to study the free agent class in 2016, studying the money in 2016, our flexibility. It's a good time for us — that's the best way to put it. I think we're putting ourselves in a good position.
"It's very important that our franchise and our team becomes relevant. We want to build a good culture that will attract players to come play here."
Landry Fields, Amir Johnson, Greg Stiemsma, Tyler Hansbrough, Chuck Hayes and Lou Williams are Toronto's unrestricted free agents.Suggest a correction