The in-season blog makes a rare off-season appearance to cover what we couldn’t get in here and here .
Masai Ujiri covered a lot of ground earlier this week, so here’s what didn’t make the paper + some analysis:
On the timeline of moving Andrea Bargnani:
Ujiri: “I don’t know if I was looking to shop him. I think it was a situation where it was time we all moved on. There are a couple teams that want that kind of player. He’s a Novak-type guy, too. He was the no. 1 pick of the draft. He’s a stretch four. He sometimes does a little bit more. There was some interest. We just tried to sift through it to see what was best for the Toronto Raptors.”
Was that biggest prob with Bargnani — not doing more?: “I think he always had spurts where he showed brilliance and showed a complete game. Sometimes he struggled. I just felt like it became a point in time where both sides needed to move on, start all over again and figure it out.”
“We started talking probably around the draft, at draft time. You kind of sit and they think about it and we think about it. … We went through our process to see what helps our ball club. We thought if we can get a couple picks, get a shooter and a couple players out of it, then we’re good to go.”
My take: That’s the crux with Bargnani, you were always left wondering why he didn’t do more? The talent was there to be an impact player, but the will seemed to be absent. Raptors were fielding Bargnani offers for a while, just didn’t love most of them. Once Knicks got sold on him – witness head coach Mike Woodson’s comments raving about him – this became the package to take.
On Marcus Camby’s status:
“We’re still weighing our options. We don’t know what trades will come up in the next few days, buyouts, all of those options. We’re going to wait and see and make a decision and do what’s best for the raptors.”
My take: Don’t bring your pinstriped Camby jerseys out of mothballs. He’ll either be bought out, retire, or be traded. Quentin Richardson isn’t going to play here either, there are no minutes available given the logjam at small forward and shooting guard.
Ujiri on new offensive-minded assistant coach Nick Nurse:
“We studied Nick Nurse. He’s a very good x’s and o’s guy. I think he has good experience with working with Houston and their offence and doing a lot of stuff in the D-League. When I played in England, I actually played against Nick Nurse. He coached Birmingham and I played for Darby. I kicked his butt. He’s an x’s and o’s guy. I think he’s one of those up and coming coaches. We felt confident he could bring something good to the table. Good offensive coach.”
Timeline on naming the rest of staff?
“Next few days, next few days. We got a couple guys meeting with coach Casey and we feel good about it. Hopefully in the next couple days.” (In the link above, Mike Ganter pointed out it looks like Tom Sterner and John Townsend will be back).
ESPN reported Friday that Minnesota assistant Bill Bayno would possibly be joining the club as an assistant and a source confirmed to the Sun they were working on finalizing a deal. Bayno worked under Rick Adelman, who Kyle Lowry loved playing for and had great relationship with.
My take: Adding Nurse is an excellent move. I’ve been saying for months that the offensive execution has to improve and Bayno is also well-respected as a guy players really enjoy working under and as a defensive mind.
On a decision about whether to use the amnesty provision (on Linas Kleiza, right now, the Raptors are over the luxury tax, but could amnesty Kleiza and sign somebody else using about half of the money saved and still stay under the luxury tax. Or, they could keep him all season in order to deal his expiring contract and try to get under the tax another way).
“I think the smart way to do it would be to wait. We haven’t made a decision yet. We don’t know what kind of trades will come our way. In the next four, five days I think you’ll be able to tell because a lot of free agents will be gone [then], and a lot of teams will be looking to make decisions.”
My take: Masai’s not giving anything away on this. He has until July 16 to make a call and he’ll probably think about it right until the last minute.
How much does it complicate things with Rudy being able to opt out after this year and Kyle’s contract expiring at the end of this year?
“I think we’re in a good spot. It’s a good team and you know what, the pressure is on us. If they have great years, then I think they want to stay. For me it’s a win-win situation for us and it’s a win-win situation for them, too. Great years, they stay. And if it’s not, then they think about it, we think about it and we go from there. We have to do well on the court and grow as a team and I think that’s our goal here.”
On the hiring of Jeff Weltman to be assistant GM:
“He’s great. He gave me a shot when — I wasn’t roaming the streets but I was working Orlando for free but, [laughs] — so he’s great. Great talent evaluator, I think. Really good with people. Very creative mind, I think. Very easy to work with. So he’ll be good for our front office.”
My take: Another good hiring. Weltman is well-respected, was part of the Bucks team that made some excellent draft picks of late (Larry Sanders, John Henson, Tobias Harris)
On the plan:
“For me, patience is the key. I think we all have to be patient. We have a good window for a couple years here and I think you have to, sometimes, you just can’t react and try to do things just to do them. I have to see and have an understanding of the team a little bit, too. And I guess we’ll see from there.”
What would be your expectations of this group?
“No expectations. Just let it play. We are win-win, whatever happens it’s a win for us whichever way it goes. We’re happy with it as long as we grow as an organization. We have to show passion, we have to show growth in some ways. We gotta show direction, too, which eventually will show. I think it’s win-win for us.”
Do you see yourself needing to take a step back to move program ahead?
“I think it’s a tough call right now. We have to continue studying the team and then studying what’s out there. It’s not — what are we going to do, throw players away? We’re not going to do that. And I think winning is what you want to build around and I think when you do that, I’m not so sure the karma is great when you do stuff like that. But I understand the whole big picture and we’re putting all the options on the table.”
My take: Masai doesn’t believe in the karma of tanking, he’s strongly considering throwing this group out to see what they can do. If they succeed, great, if they don’t, that’s OK too, given the strength of this draft.
On the backup point guard battle:
Jordan Taylor, summer league, what do you want from a third guard?
“Yes. You can go either way. I think John Lucas was great, too. Sometimes you use that position to get, I can understand the thinking where you use that position to get a scoring type guy. And some teams to do that. Jason Terrys, those type guys. John Lucas. Nate Robinson. Those type players, scorers coming off the bench. But I don’t know, we’ll talk, we’ll visit with coach Casey and we’ll still try to evaluate what we need coming off the bench. Is it a playmaker, is it a scorer type guy, a defender? Again, we’ll figure that part out.
On Julyan Stone:
“Still, too, we’re pending a couple things. Big point guard. I had him in Denver and he’s a defensive guard. I think we can get better at defending the ball. We thought adding that size could help us. But still pending, too. We’ll see how that goes once he goes through all the physicals and all that.”
NOTE: Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman first reported the Raptors will sign PG Dwight Buycks with expectation he will be Kyle Lowry’s primary backup. Source confirmed to me that is indeed the case.
Buycks was league MVP in France, a D-League first-team all-rookie, the top AAU player in Wisconsin and by all reports, looked very solid in Summer League this year.
My take: Fits with the plan. If Buycks excels, the Raptors will be quite pleased. But seems like they’re also OK with season falling off of the rails if Lowry gets hurt (given lack of experience behind him).