Title: Raptors playoff run a window into value of culture and identity
Date: April 14, 2017
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about the value the Raptors have placed on culture and identity, and how they’ll need those thing to deliver tangibly to get where they want to go.
Allow us one more reflection on the fateful 2013-14 season, as the statute of limitations on such exercises is about to expire: The Toronto Raptors did not expect to find success when they did, or to the degree that they did. Then the team’s general manager, current president Masai Ujiri embarked on a tear-down that began with the jettisons of Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay and was supposed to be followed by the departure of Kyle Lowry. Bags literally packed and his mentality firmly in stop-over mode, Lowry didn’t end up getting traded thanks to the frigid feet of James Dolan.
You know the story: That bought the Raptors time to see what a post-Gay core looked like, the team stumbled into some ethereal chemistry that made the sum greater than the parts, and at the end of the season, Ujiri had to swallow his fine for Brooklyn-directed profanity, look deeply at this core, and decide whether his initial path needed re-routing.
He decided on the affirmative, and the Raptors have been building based on three tenets in the years that have followed.
Amass talent. This one is obvious, but the Raptors team that went seven games with a game but aging Nets squad was a little light on support, with all due respect to John Salmons. With every move Ujiri has made, he’s sought value, declining to make splashes for the sake of it and instead approaching roster-building from an aggressive but methodical mindset. He has “won” every trade he has made, and aside from DeMarre Carroll’s injury-slowed tenure, every contract he’s given out has graded from fair to shrewd.