Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said he wasn’t sure what would happen to Kyle Lowry when he woke up Thursday morning, but that he and the rest of the Toronto front office would feel comfortable with anyway.
“We honestly didn’t know which way he would go,” Ujiri said after trading Norman Powell for Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood, but ultimately failing to trade Lowry before Thursday’s trade deadline at 3 pm ET. “Because we’ve really talked about looking at this team in every possible direction.
“We got to a point where we were comfortable with whatever direction it took.”
Ujiri joked that Lowry’s press conference after Wednesday night’s win over the Denver Nuggets, one that felt like a 25-minute goodbye to Toronto and its fans, was a “circus” and that “I don’t know. He felt like, maybe, that was the right way to go … it seemed surreal, a bit. “
But as Thursday progressed, Ujiri finally decided the right move was to hold on to the best player in Raptors franchise history, pushing the decision on what will happen to his future with the team in the offseason.
When asked what will happen then, Ujiri said that is something he will talk about with Lowry at that time.
“We’ll talk about it then,” he said. “I think we’ll talk about them when the time comes at the end of the season. But I think we all know the respect and the feeling about Kyle and this baseball club, and what he’s done not just for the city, the team, the country. , the league.
“Honestly, our team can go in a lot of different directions. I keep saying that. We feel comfortable with whichever direction we go. Maybe we missed an opportunity here, but we also think we gained an opportunity at other things in the future. This team Especially with what we’ve been through this year, it could turn in a lot of different directions. This is where we are now. “
Lowry, in an Instagram post Thursday night, called Thursday a “crazy day, but the love I got from everyone has been incredible.” He added, “Thank you all for letting it be known that I am loved and for all the birthday wishes.”
As for the player Ujiri traded, Powell said the opportunity to land a talented player who is also several years younger in Trent, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, was too good to pass up.
“I think Gary Trent is a 23-year-old with a lot of potential, shooter and defender, who fits in with our core team,” Ujiri said. “That’s what we are excited about.”
Ujiri was also asked, on multiple occasions, if he would be heading to his own free agency, as his contract will expire this summer. As he has repeatedly done in the past, Ujiri only said that would be addressed at a later date, adding that the Raptors organization will be “fine” no matter what.
When asked later to quantify what that meant, Ujiri gave a lengthy reply praising fans in Toronto, where the Raptors, who play this season in Tampa, Florida, have not played for more than a year.
“That place is amazing,” Ujiri said of Toronto. “The property, the city, the country, everything it represents. I wish it to anyone in this world who can experience it. It’s amazing. And anyone who can experience my position, God bless you. It’s a great, great blessing. More I can say about the Toronto Raptors. It’s amazing. “
It’s been a tough season for the Raptors, who snapped a nine-game losing streak with their win over the Nuggets and rank 11th in the Eastern Conference. But with a talented core signed long-term in Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby and with Lowry still on the team, Ujiri said the Raptors will not sink to try to maximize their draft pick.
“Yes, they fight,” Ujiri said. “They fight together, you see they like to play together and, yeah, there have been ups and downs, you have seen it, there have been challenges, but at the end of the day, when you walk into our locker room with these guys, and I see Kyle and Fred and OG and Pascal and they all really bond.
“What they want to build, the experience they have had together of winning, we are lucky, we are lucky to have been a winning organization and hopefully we can continue that in one way or another and have a good vision for this club. get on with that. “There may be stops along the way and adversities along the way, but I think the general culture that we need to keep going and these players are a big part of it.”