Thursday marks the beginning of a new season for the Toronto Raptors — and with it, a new team culture.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri spoke of his desire to bring a “culture reset” to the team earlier this off-season after the club was swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Round 2 of the NBA playoffs.
He joined Prime Time Sports Wednesday to talk about the team’s progress during a shortened pre-season that saw them go 3-2 while giving fans a glimpse of exactly what this “culture reset” might look like.
“I think everybody is committed, that’s for sure, but when you try stuff like this, you wait for the real season,” Ujiri said.
“It’s a commitment we have to make. Because the other way we were playing … it worked to a certain extent but at some point it didn’t work and we had to look at other things,” he explained. The Raptors have reached contender status with four consecutive post-season berths, but haven’t been able to reach the Finals thanks to Lebron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers.
Ujiri explained that his idea of a change “doesn’t mean firing people or doing radical things,” but rather an internal change that will require patience.
“There’s going to be ups and downs honestly, but that’s the reality of stuff like this,” he said. “It will be questioned sometimes, but we’ve got to stick with it and go because it has to be something that we believe in and we do believe in it.”
The Raptors’ off-season was quiet compared to several big-market teams that landed even bigger names on the open market — another topic Ujiri addressed, which you can listen to at the top of this post. Toronto re-signed stars Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, picked up C.J. Miles in free agency and dealt DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph to Brooklyn and Indiana, respectively.
While he didn’t rule out further roster changes, Ujiri isn’t rushing anything.
“I think this group can do it. You’re always trying to make your team better … and maybe there comes a point when you say, ‘OK, this doesn’t work with this group.’ But these guys have shown that they’re trying to do this,” he said.
“It’s not going to be a one-year thing, we understand that,” Ujiri continued. “I have to look at the big picture and look at us next year or the year after or four years from now. We have to start looking and thinking that way, at how our players want to play.”