Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri has a message to fans who might still be broken up over the departure of 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard: “We’re gonna be alright.”
Speaking to the media for the first time since it was reported that Leonard was heading to the Los Angeles Clippers, Ujiri expressed gratitude to Leonard for helping the Raptors win their first-ever championship but didn’t seem too nonplussed about his parting in free agency.
“I do want to say that he definitely has our blessings,” said Ujiri to reporters in Las Vegas. “He gave it everything while he was with us and we really appreciate that. I communicated to him afterwards and it was very good and I think we got a great deal out of it. We won a championship. And now it’s onto the next.
“This is the NBA and this is how it works. I always say, ‘You can’t hide underneath the table and cry.’ Honestly, I’ve lost no sleep, I’m not disappointed. It’s onto the next. I’m telling Raptors fans and everybody: Don’t lose one second of sleep. We’re gonna be just fine.”
“this was not my first rodeo”
With that said, Ujiri did say that during the negotiating process that he and his staff were feeling pretty good about their chances to convince Leonard to stay.
“I think with these things you’re always confident with what you’re doing,” said Ujiri. “In the whole process I was confident but I understand how free agency is, too. You base things on some of the things that we’ve done and we’re biased a little bit – we won a championship, it went well, blah, blah, blah.”
In the end, though, it didn’t prove enough. One thing for sure though, Ujiri did appear to value Leonard – and maybe only Leonard – during this process.
“I think he was,” said Ujiri when asked if Leonard was upfront with the Raptors before suspiciously pausing and adding, “Kawhi was.”
“I know what we’re dealing with here,” he added. “I appreciate what the process was and I know free agency, this was not my first rodeo, so things are going to go up and down and this was a different kind of free agency. It was high stakes and we understood that.”