Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri knows he took a risk by swapping franchise icon DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard. Ujiri hopes, however, that his game will pay off in a championship for the Raptors.
Ujiri spoke to the media in Toronto this afternoon and discussed blockbuster trading on Wednesday, with DeRozan, central Jakob Pöltl and a registered replacement in 2019 driving to San Antonio for Leonard and veteran Guard Danny Green.
"We believe that on paper we have a team that can compete in the East and hopefully fight for a league title in this league, which is why we play sports and fight for championships," said Ujiri. "We have been doing this for many years, you can not do the same thing over and over again.
"At this point, we have come to the level at which this opportunity came to us, and we had to jump on it."
Leonard was not at the press conference on Friday, but said the team had seen some medical reports about Leonard. The Spurs star was restricted to nine games in 2017/18 due to a sustained quadriceps injury and ninth games made it known early in the off-season, 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 Toronto – a move none of the players seemed to like that – concerns were raised as to whether Leonard would stay with the Raptors in the long term or not. This conversation is something that Ujiri is aware of, but also something he has not met with Leonard or his portrayal yet.
"He (Kawhi) did not say he does not want to play in Canada," Ujiri said. "I think there is a lot to sell here: our team, our culture, our city, our property, we have everything but a championship, in my humble opinion.
That's why I'm in this seat, trying to figure that out, having talks with Kawhi, his agent and uncle, and everything went well, and I'm looking forward to meeting them. "
The initial positive vibes between player and team were twittered on the Raptors social media account on Friday night 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