Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri says there’s no need for fans to be concerned over the departure of NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. He’s already working on his next plan.
Ujiri spoke with media for the first time on Tuesday since it was reported that Leonard was leaving Toronto for the Los Angeles Clippers. Ujiri told reporters that he is optimistic to move forward without the three-time all-star forward that brought the city its first NBA championship, and that he’s already thinking about what follows.
“This is the NBA and this is how it works...You can’t hide underneath the table and cry. Honestly, I’ve lost no sleep, I’m not disappointed. It’s on to the next,” said Ujiri.
“I’m telling Raptors fans and everybody: Don’t lose one day of sleep, one second of sleep. We’re gonna be just fine.”
Ujiri says that there are no hard feelings with Leonard choosing to leave after one very memorable season and that the Raptors got everything they could out of him while in Toronto.
“He definitely has our blessings. He gave it everything while he was with us and we really appreciated that,” said Ujiri. “I communicated with him afterward and it was very good. We got a great deal out of this, we won a championship so we’re happy. Honestly it’s on to the next.”
Ujiri, who was speaking at a Raptors summer league game in Las Vegas, also touched on the free agency process, saying that he was confident right until the end that there was a chance Leonard would choose to re-sign.
The notoriously tight-lipped Leonard, who has virtually no social media presence, remained mum through the entire process publicly. His tenure in Toronto ended with a wild few days of free agency that included tracking trips to California by the plane owned by Raptors parent company Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.
Leonard reportedly agreed to a four-year US$142 million max contract.
While Raptors fans were gutted, the mood was overwhelmingly one of appreciation for the player who arrived last summer in the blockbuster deal that sent DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio.
“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,” said Ujiri.
“It was high stakes and we understood that.”
Leonard produced one of the best playoff performances in league history to bring the NBA championship to Canada for the first time.