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NBA

Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri says only way to salvage the NBA season is by 'abiding by the rules'

As basketball takes a backseat amid the global coronavirus pandemic, Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri says ensuring the health and safety of their players and families remains their no.1 priority.

MORE: Latest news on suspended NBA season

"This is a really unprecedented time, challenging times, extraordinary times, I don't even know how to describe it," Ujiri said, speaking on a conference call.

"Usually when stuff happens in the world it's either a section, a state, a region. This is global and it's the whole world. We all miss what we do and miss what we love, but I think this is now a time for us to stay together, pay attention to the rules and regulations, listen to leaders and listen to experts with this pandemic.

"It's been tough, guys, I'll be honest. Just being away from everything that you do and you do so well, it's been tough on everybody. But this is a time for us to rally together, be innovative and figure out a way, a way forward."

At a time when his team would be usually preparing their playoffs and himself analysing the next wave of collegiate prospects in time for the NBA Draft, his scouting report has shifted slightly.

"I'm basically stalking Dr. Fauci [head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases] like he's the next NBA draft pick," he jokingly said.

The NBA continues to explore alternatives to resume the regular season into the playoffs and Finals, with ongoing discussions centred around using a single quarantine site like Las Vegas to resume games.

Ironing out the logistics and safety measures for such a move depends on a variety of factors, but Ujiri is hopeful games can resume sooner rather than later.

"I'm hoping [the season can be salvaged]. That's all of our hope. We love our game and we love what we do," Ujiri said. "Honestly, for now, I think [the way] we salvage the NBA season is by abiding by the rules and doing everything that we have to do as people, as a community, everything we possibly can.

"This is not about the NBA, NBA players, NBA fans. It's about the whole world. This is something that hit globally. This is not an earthquake that hit in only one part of the world or a disease that is only in another part of the world or a tsunami - pardon me for mentioning all of these things. But this is affecting the whole world. We can want to plan the NBA all we want, and [want] it to come back all we want.

"Because it affects the whole world, something is going to stall that one way or the other, if we have not played by the rules."

While NBA fans, players, coaches and executives face an uncertain time, with no clear timeline when the season may resume, the Raptors' front office operations have also been put on hold.

Ujiri has one year left on his contract at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season, while much of the basketball operations staff including head coach Nick Nurse is in the same boat, but right now, those decisions will have to wait.

"Honestly, to be fair, it's not where our minds are at right now," Ujiri said. "This is a crucial time for the world. Those things will come. I'm fine. We're fine. It's honestly the last thing on my mind. I miss the game, man. I miss basketball. You have concerns - I'm concerned for my team, I'm concerned for my family, I'm concerned for the world and I'm concerned about this pandemic and how we beat it, how we fight it. We have to win this one.

"I love the game, I love what I do but right now, honestly, it's not about that. We keep working, we keep trying to do our best, but we have to abide by the rules now. This is the time for us to really isolate and hopefully in the near future we can get back to all doing what we love to do."​

The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.

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