Ujiri: I wasn’t waiting for Raptors players to tell me we need help

Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri talks about the difficulty in pulling off the Serge Ibaka deal and the way trades work in the NBA.

Much has been made about the recent ominous comments by DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry about the state of the Toronto Raptors and their current slide down the standings. Some have even gone as far as to suggest the club’s deal with the Orlando Magic for Serge Ibaka was an immediate reaction to the players’ concerns.

Raptors president Masai Ujiri says that’s not the case.

“Everybody thinks this is because (Raptors players) were saying this,” Ujiri told Bob McCown and Arash Madani on Prime Time Sports Wednesday evening. “Because DeMar said we need help, now, ‘OK now I got them help.’ I’m not waiting for DeMar to tell me that we need help or tell the media that we need help. That’s not even close.”

The Raptors are 10-14 since Jan. 1 and have tumbled from second to fifth in the Eastern Conference as a result. After a particularly disappointing 102-101 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, Lowry and DeRozan sounded off in their post-game comments.

“I’m starting to get worried, yeah,” Lowry said. “It’s not going the way we’re supposed to be going and things aren’t changing, so yeah, I’m starting to get worried … something’s gotta give, something’s gotta change.”

Added DeRozan: “[We have] 27 more games, that’s going to fly by. We ain’t got much time … If help is an option, why not?”

A mere two days later, the Raptors pulled the trigger on a deal to acquire Ibaka in exchange for Terrence Ross and a 2017 first-round draft pick. Ujiri says he’s coveted the veteran power forward for a long time.

“You guys know we tried to get Ibaka in the summer,” said Ujiri. “We’ve tried to get players. But the way the NBA works, the way trades work, it just doesn’t happen like that. It’s not that easy to do and it just happened that this is a time where we got a player like this.

“[The players] deserve it. The fans deserve it. The organization deserves it. The coaches. Here it is. We tried to get one of the better ones.”

The Raptors president also said he’s got no issues with Lowry and DeRozan’s comments, which he believes are a result of nothing more than frustration with the team’s struggles.

“When you are losing, that’s the reality of life and sports. It paints a different picture and sometimes we react a different way. It’s not like Kyle has reacted like this before. I know him. He’s a competitor. He’s always going to go out there and play his heart out. To me, I feel this is frustration at that difficult time.”

Ibaka was introduced to Toronto media earlier on Wednesday but did not suit up for the Raptors, who are looking to break a three-game skid in their contest against the Charlotte Hornets. It’s been a busy few days for the 27-year-old and the club opted to give him some more time to catch his bearings.