Leonard, Raptors begin new chapter
NBA.com Global on Jul 22, 2018 08:10 AM
Photo c/o @Raptors
NBA.com staff report
Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri knows he took a risk in trading franchise icon DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard. Ujiri is hoping, though, that his gamble will pay off in a championship for the Raptors.
Ujiri addressed the media in Toronto this afternoon and discussed Wednesday's (Thursday, PHL time) blockbuster trade that saw DeRozan, center Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick in 2019 head to San Antonio for Leonard and veteran guard Danny Green.
"On paper we feel we have a team that can compete in the East and hopefully to compete for a championship in this league. That's why we play sports, is to compete for championships," Ujiri said. “We have been doing this for how many years? You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over.
"At this point, we got to the level where this opportunity came to us, and we had to jump on it.”
Leonard was not at Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) news conference, but said the team has seen some of medical reports on Leonard. The Spurs' star was limited to nine games in 2017-18 because of a lingering right quadriceps injury and made it known early in the offseason he sought a trade.
“Without the medical drama, you have no chance to talk to a player like this. He would still be in San Antonio,” Ujiri said.
Since being dealt to Toronto -- a move that seemed to please neither player -- concerns have been raised about whether or not Leonard will stay with the Raptors long term. That talk is something Ujiri is aware of, yet is also something he has yet to encounter himself with Leonard or his representation.
"He [Kawhi] has not expressed that he doesn’t want to play in Canada to me," Ujiri said. “I think there’s a lot to sell here: our team, our culture, our city, our ownership. We have everything here except a championship, in my humble opinion.
“That’s my job. That’s why I am in this seat. To try to figure that part out. I’ve had conversations with Kawhi, his agent and his uncle and everything has gone well. I’m looking forward to meeting them.”
The initially positive vibes between player and team were tweeted out on the Raptors' social media account Friday evening (Saturday, PHL time) after Leonard arrived in Toronto. The post included a photo of Leonard with Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster.
Welcome to the North pic.twitter.com/FWy6huVI9l— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) July 20, 2018
Before the trade happened, ESPN had reported the Raptors' brass had met with DeRozan during NBA Summer League and told him he would not be traded.