On Tuesday afternoon the Raptors played what was their first playoff game in six years. On the court, the inexperienced Raptors lost in somewhat predictable fashion. It was off the court, however where some unexpected intrigue emerged.
Needless to say, excitement inside the Air Canada Centre was palpable as fans anticipated the opening tip. This wasn't the only place where the excitement could be felt as fans packed Maple Leafs Square, just outside the ACC, to take in the action on the giant video screen.
General manager Masai Ujiri and MLSE boss Tim Leiweke joined the Raptors faithful to help pump them up before the big game. It was there where Ujiri, perhaps a little too fired up, uttered an phrase that caused shock and surprise among media members as word of the interaction spread around inside the ACC.
By saying "F** Brooklyn!" Ujiri instantly turned himself into an internet sensation. The usually calm, cool general managed showed a side of his personality that most fans haven't seen. Which, despite the profanity, is a welcomed, humanizing moment.
The Raptors quickly called a press conference of sorts for halftime in which Ujiri addressed the media. He didn't take any questions, but gave the following statement:
Wow, this many [members of the media] That’s funny. Guys, I apologize. I used wrong choice of words out there. This thing is really not about me. It’s about the players and the playoffs. Just trying to get the crowd up there rattled. Wrong choice of words. I apologize to kids out there and to the Brooklyn guys. Nothing against them, just trying to get our fans going. That’s it. That’s it.
You know how I feel. Thanks guys, thank you. I apologize I won’t answer any questions. But you know how I feel. I don’t like ‘em, but I apologize.
It was sort of a non apology. But that's not a bad thing. Compared to Bryan Colangelo's robotic demeanor, this show of emotion is a nice change of pace.
Ujiri was clearly bothered by the Nets "tanking" attempt which led to the matchup with the Raptors and that frustration has boiled over into this playoff series.
"Good for them," Ujiri said earlier in the week. "You know what? We haven't lost one -- I know I haven't and I can sense from the players -- second of sleep worrying about the Brooklyn Nets.
"At the end of the day if we want to be a good team, we have to play good teams. We're not hoping for anybody. We're in the playoffs. You have to play. They can do whatever they want. We'll be right here."
While the message itself may have inappropriate and a bit misguided, it's important for fans to see the passion the Ujiri has for the team. Underneath his cool exterior is a firey guy that is proud to be a part of this organization. A guy that cares about the team and is jacked up about the possibility of the Raptors winning a playoff series.
At the end of the day, Ujiri had his Mark Cuban moment and think we are all better off for it. End of story.