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Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri speaks to media ahead of Game 1 of the NBA Finals in Toronto on May 29, 2019.

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

On the eve of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri took time to credit two key members of the organization sent packing last off-season.

When asked about the job coach Nick Nurse has done at his pre-Finals news conference today, Ujiri shifted the focus to ex-coach Dwane Casey and former star DeMar DeRozan before praising his current bench boss.

“Give Dwane Casey credit,” Ujiri said. “He prepared us for this, too. It’s not something that started in one year. … I want to say Dwane Casey and DeMar DeRozan are part of this. They are part of our journey and how far this has come.”

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After the Raptors’ third consecutive playoff loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, Ujiri fired Casey and eventually replaced him with Nurse, a former assistant.

Ujiri then traded DeRozan, a fan favourite, to San Antonio in a multiplayer deal that shipped current star Kawhi Leonard to Toronto.

“When you put the team together, we all dream of a championship, we all think about that,” Ujiri said. “I think the change was hard at the time, but we knew the kind of player we were getting. If we overcame and dealt with all the issues, we felt that it could come together. We were all positive about this kind of moment and all dreamt about it.”

The best-of-seven series starts on Thursday at Scotiabank Arena.

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