Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors President and Vice Chairman, took to the podium today to answer the media’s questions after making two blockbuster trades in the past month.
After the Raptors traded Anunoby, Flynn, and Achiuwa to the New York Knicks and then Pascal Siakam to the Pacers, it was obviously time for him to answer a few questions regarding the future of the team.
If you’re new here, a Masai Ujiri press conference definitely has a few staple statements (him saying the word “win” a lot for example). He can also say some random, wonderful things, usually unexpected.
All of this could make for a fun game of BINGO...
He has a pretty good rapport with the media and is extremely respected by Toronto fans and media alike.
It was a rollercoaster of emotion, with many twists and turns, so lets recap some of the highlights:
Masai started by giving an emotional statement on how much Pascal, OG and everyone else who was traded meant to the Raptors franchise.— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) January 18, 2024
Masai kicked things off with giving a touching tribute to the players who left the team in the past month: Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby, Malachi Flynn and Precious Achiuwa. He mentioned how much they all meant to the team, franchise, city, and their communities.
He got especially emotional about the African players, showing his true pride in how much they have grown.
Obviously the media then immediately jumping into Pascal questions.
"Pascal's Success is my success. None of you knew Pascal like I do"— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) January 18, 2024
Masai says team went through every scenario to keep Pascal and in the end it was about fit and financials.
The biggest thing here was that Masai was clearly devastated to have to trade away Siakam. He kept saying that phrase “his success is my success” no matter where Siakam is.
Another key point was that he mentioned apologizing to Pascal multiple times for the lack of communication that seemed to be going on. He said Pascal deserved better than that.
"He deserved to be communicated with. I apologized to him (Pascal) in the summer and apologized again recently. That's something I am not proud of."— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) January 18, 2024
He ended up getting extremely emotional up there, an at times unable to speak. When he was asked to recap a few memories with Siakam, Masai talked about when he met Pascal at a camp in South Africa.
Masai Ujiri gets emotional talking about Pascal Siakam pic.twitter.com/6on4UZ2AXW— NBACentral (@TheDunkCentral) January 18, 2024
Apparently Masai only came to the camp so that he could visit his sister in South Africa. He had been enrolled in Pastoral school (like... to become a Church Pastor), when he met Masai. Obviously that never happened, rest is history.
Masai talked about Siakam’s commitment to his craft, to his family, and to his community as things he admires about him.
Masai is visibly upset and in tears when asked about his favourite memories with Pascal. Tells about how he was enrolled in Pastoral school and came to South Africa for a basketball camp to see his sister. Rest is history.— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) January 18, 2024
As the conference progressed into the “future of this team” talk, Masai’s buzzword of the day was “patience.”
Patience in their moves, patience in the new players, patience in the process.
"It's going to take patience. We are going to try and build this team the right way"— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) January 18, 2024
He also mentioned the definite possibility that the front office is not done making moves ahead of the Trade Deadline, especially because they don’t intend on making three picks in the 2024 draft.
Ujiri also mentioned the “flexibility” they have given themselves to make more moves.
"Are we going to take three picks in that draft? I highly doubt it" - Masai on their abundance of 2024 draft picks— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) January 18, 2024
At one point, he was asked about Dejan Milojevic, the Warriors Assistant Coach that unfortunately passed away this week.
Masai talked highly of him, saying they had met before — but said Darko and Asst. Coach Jama were “beside themselves” yesterday at the news.
He also mentioned that Milojevic’s name was brought up by eleven of the head coaching candidates the Raptors interviewed with last summer as an idea for a potential hire.
Masai says Dejan Milojevic was mentioned by 11 of the head coaching candidates he interviewed as a potential hire, a testament to who he was as a person and coach.— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) January 18, 2024
Says both Jama and Darko were "beside themselves" yesterday.
Masai talked a ton about how the franchise is going young, how they are building around Scottie, and how much promising talent they now have. Patience, remember.
Now, here are some of the funny highlights:
First, Masai admitted he takes an Afro Beats dance class twice a week:
Masai says he attends an Afro-Beats dance class twice a week.— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) January 18, 2024
He also threw some serious shade to the media for not agreeing with the Scottie Barnes pick:
"I know how you guys felt about us drafting Scottie, I'll leave that for another day" LOL— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) January 18, 2024
Friend of the site Eric Koreen asked him if he should be colder and it gave way to this incredible response:
Eric: Would it benefit you to be colder?— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) January 18, 2024
Masai: COLDER?! Than I am now?
He also nearly (pretty much did) dropped an f-bomb on stage:
"I'm a motherf-- Excuse my language"— Raptors HQ (@RaptorsHQ) January 18, 2024
Obviously, as always, he assured fans and media that Toronto WILL win again. Whether he is here or not — which was NOT any sort of sign he is leaving and just an expression that this franchise doesn’t need him to win.
Another GOATed Masai Presser in the Books.
For the record, Chelsea did get BINGO on her “Masai Press Conference Bingo Card.”