It was a momentous occasion on Wednesday afternoon in Toronto. Not only was the Raptors’ current team president Masai Ujiri holding his first major press conference since re-upping with the franchise — and gaining a new “vice-chairman” title in the process — it also marked his return to public speaking in Toronto. I honestly can’t remember the date of Masai’s last in-person press conference, but it has been... some time.
For a sense of that glee — and to confirm straight from the man himself that Kyle Lowry is the greatest Raptor of all time — you can watch the entire press conference here:
For now, the two major issues to discuss here are: (1) the details of Ujiri’s contract with the Raptors, and (2) the location of where the Raptors will be playing for the 2021-22 season.
First, as is his wont, Ujiri was not going to just come out and discuss the financial terms of his deal with MLSE. Unlike with player salary info, which gets rolled into all that discussion about a team’s salary cap, executives tend to keep that info close to the vest. Sportsnet’s Michael Grange got into some speculation here, and of course, we have to remark on the money quote from Ujiri regarding the term of his contract:
“Forever. Put pressure on Larry [Tanenbaum], here,” Ujiri said. “Forever, man. Forever. No, honestly, I’m not going to put out things there. I’m home, man. This is it. We’re going to try to win the best way that we can. It’s a commitment. I’ve always said that when you make that commitment, you make that commitment. That’s what I said eight years ago. I think we honoured it as a family. And that’s what we intend to do always.”
The Raptors signing Ujiri for “forever” would be quite a feat — but it also, at least on paper, is unlikely (if not impossible). Maybe that goes without saying, but sure, I’ll say it anyway.
In any case, Grange’s best guess is a contract for Masai worth maybe around $15 million per year and a term of about five years. As he hypothesizes, there’s no way it’s shorter than three — and it’s unlikely Masai would lock himself into a contract longer than five years, given various other variables (like, say, the increase in his value over the next few seasons). In any case, it sounds like Ujiri is to be well taken care of by MLSE and is exceedingly happy to call Toronto home. Which, after the anxiety of the “will he or won’t he” re-signing drama, should be music to our ears.
The second item, re: the Raptors return to Toronto, still somehow sounds up-in-the-air. I think the presumption at the end of the 2020-21 season was that there was no way the Raptors would be stuck in Tampa for another year. With vaccination rates up, with fans back in arenas, with increased levels of travel being done in the US, Canada, and internationally, it felt like this would just be a matter of course. (I mean, the Jays are back in the Rogers Centre, for example.)
Nevertheless, despite Ujiri saying that another season in Tampa would be tantamount to a five-year setback for the Raptors, it also sounds like no formal arrangement to have the team back in Toronto has been made as of yet. And with the threats of a so-called “fourth wave” of COVID-19 cases — thanks to moron anti-vaxxers and the wheels of capitalism making it difficult for some to get access to proper healthcare — this may be the reality we’re marching towards.
If I was to bet, I would say the Raptors will indeed be in Toronto come the start of the 2021-22 season. But it was disconcerting (and sad) to hear that there was still a question about this. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next with [waves hands] all of this.