With the July moratorium in the rearview, Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri and recently acquired forward Steve Novak met with the media on Wednesday afternoon at the Air Canada Centre. Though the world has known for a week and a half that Andrea Bargnani would be headed to the New York Knicks in exchange for Novak, Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson and three draft picks, Ujiri couldn't publicly talk about the trade until it became official.
Ujiri praised Novak's shooting ability and work ethic and unsurprisingly stated that he'd be looking into trades or buyouts for Camby and Richardson. He acknowledged that, with Bargnani, it was time to move on. When asked about what direction he'd be taking the team, Ujiri was rather coy, saying that he is beginning to have a clearer picture but he can't discuss it yet.
"We're going to take it as it comes and see what comes our way and we're going to be aggressive out there," said Ujiri, "but we also owe it [to ourselves] to see what we have on our team instead of doing something stupid quickly."
When pressed on whether the team needs to take a step back in order to move forward, Ujiri simply said that it's a tough call. While the next executive to publicly admit his team is going to tank a season will be the first, it sounds like Toronto's plan will largely be dictated by what sorts of offers are out there.
"What are we going to do, throw players away?" Ujiri said. "We're not going to do that. And I think winning is what you want to build around and I think when you [tank], I'm not so sure the karma is great when you do stuff like that. But I understand the whole big picture and we're putting all the options on the table."
If you were looking for some clarity on what come next for the Raptors, Wednesday's media session didn't help much. "Patience is the key," Ujiri said, and he's right. While trying to push for a seventh or eighth seed wouldn't make much sense, neither would recklessly dumping talent. Ujiri said it'd be "completely fine" if the season were to start without making any more major moves. That might not be what Andrew Wiggins-obsessed fans want to hear, but if he was planning to throw this year away it wouldn't be wise to tell everybody.
Notable quotes below:
On the amnesty provision, which can be invoked from July 10-17: "I think the smart way to do it would be to wait. We haven't made a decision yet. We don't know what kind of trades will come our way. In the next four, five days I think you'll be able to tell because a lot of free agents will be gone [then], and a lot of teams will be looking to make decisions."
On new assistant coach Nick Nurse: "He's a very good x's and o's guy. I think he has good experience with working with Houston and their offense and doing a lot of stuff in the D-League. When I played in England, I actually played against Nick Nurse. He coached Birmingham and I played for Derby. I kicked his butt."
On the timeline for filling out the rest of the coaching staff: "Next few days. We got a couple guys meeting with coach Casey and we feel good about it."
On new point guard Julyan Stone: "Big point guard. I had him in Denver and he's a defensive guard. I think we can get better at defending the ball. We thought adding that size could help us." [Note: Ujiri was reluctant to say anything about Stone and forward Tyler Hansbrough, as neither deal has been signed as of yet.]
On whether these acquisitions mean he wants the team to get tougher: "Yes, I'm tired of all this, people come here and everybody calls the team soft or calls the team pushovers or all these stupid names they mention. You come to Canada and you come to play. That's the identity we are trying to build here. This is our team, in Canada this is our team and we're going to be tough out there."
On Toronto: "I'm very excited to be in Toronto. It's the only team that has an entire country behind it. It's exciting. I've been in big places before, like New York, but this is a great opportunity for me and I think with the change in leadership and the other small changes that have been made it's a great place to be right now."
On being reunited with ex-Knick teammate Landry Fields: "He told me he was going to tell me all the good places to eat, where to live and everything. It's good to have familiar faces when you show up somewhere. I think I'll be seeing him tonight or tomorrow. He's a good friend so he'll be able to help guide me, get settled."
On how he'll fit: "I'm a floor spacer. I shoot the ball and give guys room to work that are more interior players, big men or slashers. And I think that's very much the makeup of the Raptors. I think Rudy [Gay] can shoot it but he definitely is a slashing guy that with space I think can operate better and the same I think with Kyle [Lowry] at point guard and the big men here. I think it's my job to space the floor and ... make sure they don't get double-teamed."
On Camby: "I spoke to him right when our names were both thrown [out] when it was still kind of unofficial. I called him to say, ‘What are you hearing?' You have to respect a guy who is 39 years old, who has played through it, he has played here so knows exactly what Toronto is. He's a guy that said look, it's either a championship team in his mind, or he's maybe going to hang it up. You can't question the elders in this league, and he's been my vet a few times, so I better just let him do what he wants to do."
On how Bargnani will fit in New York: "I don't know. He didn't have a very good year last year, sometimes that will kill a guy, other times it will serve as motivation. There's definitely a lot of motivation in New York, I think he'll have a lot of reason to play well. I know he's friends with Pablo Prigioni there so hopefully he can get him into the fabric of things there and hopefully he does well."