Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri has no time for the notion that his team isn’t a genuine championship contender.
Although the Raptors lost Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in free agency last summer, the team has outperformed even the most optimistic projections, sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference with a 29-14 record, despite battling a myriad of injuries to their core.
Entering the season, some believed the Raptors would blow up their veteran roster in order to rebuild with ample cap space, but the Raptors continue to thrive while Ujiri’s unwavering goal of defending the title certainly hasn’t been altered.
“We’re going to die trying, that’s for sure. I know these guys and they’re going to die trying. You see them, you see the attitude,” Ujiri told reporters Tuesday.
“Not one person here in this place, would tell me, that they thought we would be competing to be second in the East...not one person that thought that with a championship player like Kawhi leaving. These guys have stepped up and we appreciate what they have done.”
Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka all have missed significant time throughout the season due to various injuries, but the Raptors’ trademark excellent defense and next man up mentality has been on full display this season, and the team hasn’t missed a beat. Outside of the juggernaut Milwaukee Bucks, who are running away with the East with a 39-6 record, no team in the conference has impressed more than the Raptors.
Does this portend a move at the trade deadline for the Raptors? Time will only tell of course, but Ujiri, general manager Bobby Webster and the rest of the tight-knit operation will aggressively explore all options to ensure the Raptors have a fighting chance of coming back with the gold ball once again.
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