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Toronto Raptors

Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri talks Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and the team's future at media day

masai-ujiri-media-day-sportsnet
Masai Ujiri speaks at 2019 media day (YouTube/Sportsnet)

With Saturday's media day, the Toronto Raptors title defence has officially begun. After chatting with various members of the media, the team will head to Quebec City, QC for training camp before travelling to Japan to open preseason play.

The first person to take the podium was team president Masai Ujiri, the man behind the moves that led to the franchise's first NBA title.

For over 15 minutes, Ujiri answered a number of questions regarding pressing topics including expectations for the upcoming season, the immediate future of the Raptors with expiring contracts, the legacy of Kyle Lowry and contract extension talks with 2019 Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam.

Here's more on what Ujiri had to say…

On his excitement for the 2019-20 season

"We're excited about our season and, obviously Kawhi decided to go to play with the Clippers, and our team moves on. We're excited about our young players and we're excited about our veteran players, and you continue to build in this league, and I know this question is coming, I'll say it off the bat: I can't sit here and trade DeMar and then Kawhi leaves us and be upset because that's just the nature of the business and we understand it and we move on as an organization.

I think there are many bright spots with our team. Whether it's our veteran players, whether it's our players coming up and the younger group that we are developing. We are always going to be a developing team. I think we can see that with Pascal, Fred, Norm, and these young guys that we've developed.

We go in confident about who we are as a team and we're excited about the flexibility that we are going to have in the future - picks, young players and we'll go from there."

On expectations for the team going forward

"First of all, you know I think the expectations always in sports is to win. We play sports to win, there's nothing else. We can do all the dance we want, say whatever we want 'rebuld, blah blah, blah…' anything you do, you play sports to win. It's that simple and we are playing to win.

You build from there. You see how your team reacts - I think guys are going to step up, I think guys are up for the challenge and for me, the focus always on our team is always going to be winning. We said this from the beginning when we got here and we believe in that, that this team will win and I think it rests on my shoulders to adjust whenever we need to adjust this team to prepare us for what's coming in the future."

On who he hopes to make a leap in improvement this season

"I think Pascal will make another jump, I think Freddy's (VanVleet) really coming - he showed some really good leadership in the summer with development. Then, OG (Anunoby), had a very unlucky year last year and he's had a very good summer and preseason in terms of just training before today.

We're excited about that, we're excited about Chris Boucher. All the young players, I think Nick Nurse and the coaching staff do a great job of taking advantage of the summer and how these guys develop. Whether it's physically or skill-wise and an emphasis on shooting, which I think Nick is very big on so all of the young guys we are very excited about.

Pat McCaw, he had a little bit of an unlucky year, too, last year. Both of those guys had unfortunate deaths in their families and then very untimely injuries, right when they were on the cusp of getting into contributing to this team so there's a refresh on their minds and I think they'll be in a good place."

On expectations for veterans to be mentors to younger players

"I think Kyle (Lowry), Serge (Ibaka) and (Marc) Gasol really really showed maturity in the playoffs last year. The roller coaster that this game can bring is incredible and I thought those guys showed unbelievable composure as veteran players and I think it's going to transfer into this year.

You saw the contributions from all of them and you saw the camaraderie between all the players on our team, all the young players look up to these guys and it's been a journey. It's come from experience, it's come from spending time together, it's come from trust and I think Kyle, Marc and Serge have built that and I think that's one of the things that makes this team unique that you speak to them in the summer and there were times when we were low, those veteran players were always calm, they were always confident and reassuring for the young players which we really appreciate as an organization and as a team.

On Kyle Lowry's ongoing legacy as a Raptor

"Kyle has an incredible legacy here that I think we have all underrated. We've had our ups and downs and bumps and grinds, but the inner core of who he is as a player and what he's done with this franchise, he definitely deserves that.

There's legacy status for him in my opinion. Someone who has given it his all: five-time All-Star while we've been here - could have been a six-time All-Star, that first one was a close shave. We were all disappointed. I remember exactly where I was when we heard.

Everything he's given. We can say whatever we want about Kyle: He comes and he gives it his all on the court. He'll give me a headache once a month, but that's fine. That's our relationship. I really respect him for that. We'll always pay Kyle that respect.

What he's done for this city, for this ball club, is remarkable. You all know: We're sitting here, there's many of you here, you all know when we sat down here six years ago, and we would never write this script, this way, in any form of dreams. And this is where it is. I'm proud of him for that."

On confidence in Pascal Siakam becoming the team's No. 1 option

"He's just become a diverse player that I think - a very dynamic player that continues to grow. He's gonna have more on his shoulders this year and I think he accepts that, he knows that, and there's a responsibility and he's up for the challenge.

I think every day, we've seen his game continue to grow and grow and he will have ups and downs and this season, I think is a good season for him to actually grow as a player and potentially get to where we all feel he can be as a player which I think can be one of the best players in the league.

On contract extension talks with Pascal Siakam

"We've had conversations with Pascal's representation and we're excited - whether it's going to be this fall or whether it's going to be in the summer. He's somebody we are definitely going to keep for a long time here.

We see what the potential of that could be, so we've had conversations with them and we'll see where that takes us."

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