Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 10/30/13
The question is hanging there, and Masai Ujiri is waiting. He has just been asked why he won’t reveal his basketball philosophy, and in his silence the sound of jackhammers and earth-moving rumbles through the windowpanes of his corner office. He is on the top floor, downtown, and outside you can see North America’s fifth-biggest city — fourth if you discount Mexico City — continuing to take shape. When he finally answers, he says “I always feel like … that’s for within.” Will it become obvious? “Yes.” Why not just say it? “For me to come out and say this is how I want to do this, no, I have to evaluate what we have here first,” Ujiri says. To keep your options open? “To keep my options open. I think it gives everyone a fair shot, which is what everyone deserves.” He speaks with great calm. The NBA isn’t always fair, but it is a meritocracy. The Raptors will open their 2013-14 season as a bubble playoff team at best, far from the league’s real heat. Ujiri was hired to run the Toronto Raptors in May by incoming Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke, and Tim Leiweke says he wants championships, and to even entertain the idea … well, whatever Ujiri’s basketball philosophy, whatever his plan, it better be good. We do know Ujiri will not build the way the Miami Heat have — “I wish I could,” he says with a smile — and he has expressed a distaste for extended tanking. But to win titles you almost always need superstars. What are the odds you can win a title without superstars? “The chances are, for me, they’re slim,” Ujiri says. “I totally agree that, yes, you have to have one or a couple of those guys, but how do you create it where — I can’t come into Toronto or come into Denver and give the excuse that, ‘Hey, I can’t get any of those guys.’ “So I have to create the environment here. I have to create that environment. It starts with the young players, it starts with the culture you create there, it starts with drafting well. You bring those players, and you attract those players.”
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