Ujiri says the teams want Nurses to be able to keep dreaming

TORONTO – If other NBA teams are coveting Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse, his boss Masai Ujiri says they can keep dreaming.

Ujiri held his traditional end of season media on Tuesday, and the Raptors president laughed when asked if he’s been contacted by any team about potentially hiring Nurse, who was asked by any team. was said to be a top target for the job of the Los Angeles Lakers after the team fired Frank Vogel.

“No team has contacted me yet, and I see all the (rumors) you see. I dream as they dream. I want Messi. I want Ronaldo. I want (last) Kobe Bryant. So they can keep dreaming. I dream too,” Ujiri scoffed.

Nurse said Monday that his focus is on coaching Toronto, and days after the Raptors’ season ended with a loss to Philadelphia in Game 6 in the opening round of the playoffs, he and Ujiri are back. work next season.

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After last season’s “Tampa Tank” and this year’s build season exceeded many’s expectations, the focus was on winning.

Ujiri was asked how they fit in with characters ranging from the serious Fred VanVleet to the welcoming Scottie Barnes, who famously loves to hug, it always boils down to one thing.

“Nothing else, only victory,” said Ujiri. “We can hold hands, hug, wear masks, do whatever we want, OK, win. Empty stadium, full stadium, victory. That’s the type of player we want to bring.

“Yeah, the playoffs are good but win big, win the championship, that’s what we want. When we interviewed Scottie, he mentioned winning 100 times. I just met Freddy a few days ago, and he’s winning. Win, win, win, it comes out of their mouths all the time. ”

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Ujiri even saw a big win last season, when the team was forced to play against Tampa, Fla., due to travel restrictions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The team suffered a major COVID outbreak in March and ranked 12th in the East. Win? They landed Barnes with a 4 on the NBA draft.

After the challenges faced by Toronto, Ujiri said the team is grateful.

“It was a tough, difficult couple of years. I don’t want to spoil it,” he said, and tapped on the wooden table.

Among the team’s hardest hit players over the past few years has been Pascal Siakam. A question about the development of the all-star striker brought Ujiri to tears. Siakam didn’t play well in the Disney World “bubble” in 2020 and was attacked on social media for it.

“It’s an interesting thing, because of what that guy went through,” Ujiri said. “I’m so proud of him. Watched his press conference the other day: yes, I want that guy on my team. I want that kind of fighter on my team. You saw what he was. people call him, racist, all the things people say about that guy because of basketball, because of sports.

“Yeah, he gets paid, but he’s also a human being. And he endured it. When he came back, he was hit again, injured,” Ujiri added about the shoulder injury that required out-of-season surgery. “Those things crack people up, don’t they? To see him on that stage, fighting and fighting, that’s who we want to fight with. Extremely proud of Pascal. ”

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The six-foot-seven-tall Siakam averaged 22.8 points and career-highs of 8.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per night, while also fixing a small roster by league standards.

When asked if using a small squad of mostly six-foot-tall players would be sustainable, Ujiri pointed to the Golden State Warriors, which have won year after year with a 6-4 formation, 6-5.

“In my opinion, you have to choose how you want to play in the NBA,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t find big pieces that fit the way we play, and if we do find big pieces that fit the way we play, we’ll 100% try to hit it. get them,” Ujiri said. “There is no discrimination here, we are trying to win and we are trying to protect as much as we can.”

The Raptors have three Canadians on their roster this season in Chris Boucher, Khem Birch and rookie Dalano Banton, the first Canadian ever drafted by Toronto.

When asked if there was a continued interest in Canadian players, Ujiri compared the trickle-down growth in the country since the team’s 2019 NBA championship to Vince Carter’s influence on Canadian kids. when he was a Raptor.

“You can’t predict what kind of player will come out of this country from just our championship year. I look at my five-year-old son, who I put a lot of pressure on every day,” he joked. “He was watching all this and saying ‘Wow.’ Every day there is noise in the basement, breaking furniture. I know it’s happening in millions of households.

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“It’s coming. I hope you guys keep me here when it’s really ripe because even the Canadians in the league, everywhere – this game is going global.”

Shaedon Sharpe of London, Ont., was one of this year’s top five draft picks. However, the only pick for the Raptors is number 33.

Ujiri has added “vice president” to his title this season, which he says has helped pave the way for many projects such as his mission to build 100 courts in Africa. So far, he has built 13 units, with another 15 under construction that will open by the end of summer.

“Like I said, the game is growing globally and I’m really interested in (Africa Basketball Federation). WNBA. There are a lot of things that appeal to us here,” said Ujiri.

When asked to clarify his mention of a potential WNBA team in Toronto, he shrugged and laughed, saying, “Our dream. Just like the Lakers’ (dream of hiring a Nurse). ”

This Canadian Press report was first published on May 3, 2022.

© 2022 Canadian Press

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