Masai Ujiri says he feels like he’s home.
The new Toronto Raptors general manager was introduced to the media on Tuesday at Air Canada Centre after being named to the post last week.
“I love this place,” said Ujiri, who was an assistant general manager with the Raptors for three seasons before leaving for the Denver Nuggets in 2010.
“I’m pumped. I’m excited. This is a stage that I’ve always wanted in my life.”
The NBA executive of the year with the Nuggets replaces Bryan Colangelo, who remains the Raptors’ team president in a non-basketball role.
Ujiri thanked the Nuggets for letting him return to the team that gave him his start in the NBA.
“It was a tough decision to leave Denver. It was an easy decision for me to come here,” said the Nigerian-born Ujiri. “I’m really, really honoured and humbled that this organization would give me this chance.”
One of Ujiri’s first decisions concerns the fate of coach Dwane Casey, who has a year left on his contract.
“I’ve talked to Dwane Casey a couple times and we’re going to sit down and I want to understand what his philosophies are and I’ll tell him what my philosophies are or what I think needs to be changed,” said Ujiri, who added he didn’t see “any reason” why Casey wouldn’t coach the team next season.
The new GM also says he owes a lot to Colangelo, who gave him an opportunity to be an NBA executive. Ujiri shrugged off suggestions from reporters that the relationship between the current and former GMs could be awkward.
“There’s no issue with Bryan Colangelo,” he said. “None whatsoever.”
Ujiri will have some tough decisions to make right off the bat with a Toronto team that has missed the playoffs for five straight seasons. The team is currently over the league’s luxury tax threshold and he will have to decide which of the Raptors’ burdensome salaries to eliminate using the amnesty clause.
Ujiri says he will evaluate the talent at his disposal in the coming weeks before making a decision on what direction to take.