Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri spoke to reporters on Monday after the team announced the completion of the deal that sent forward Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings along with Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray in exchange for Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes and John Salmons.
Speaking on the direction of the franchise, Ujiri said that the Raptors would avoid mediocrity, via Eric Koreen of the National Post:
Masai says injuries have changed landscape. "We know we will not be trapped in the middle."— Eric Koreen (@ekoreen) December 9, 2013
At the season's outset, a team source told the Toronto Star's Cathal Kelly that, if the roster had not proved itself worthy of preserving early on, it would be blown up in order to position the team for a high pick in the highly-regarded 2014 draft:
"7-Eleven," one source said. "That's where you get diabetes."
If the team does not appear viable by mid-December, they will begin to dismantle it ahead of the most promising draft class in a decade.
The Gay trade appears to be the start of that demolition project, though Ujiri did not explicitly say as much. Removing Gay's contract from the Raptors' books means that they will have flexibility this summer. Moving forward, Ujiri could make every player on the roster available in trade talks and would like to start by moving point guard Kyle Lowry, according to ESPN's Marc Stein. Even emerging center Jonas Valanciunas is not seen as untouchable, according to the Toronto Sun's Ryan Wolstat.
Obviously, Ujiri did not directly confirm all of this tanking talk at the press conference, but he did state that no one was completely off-limits, via TSN's Josh Lewenberg:
No untouchables on the roster, Masai says, indirectly. "If someone offers us Michael Jordan today am I going to say no?" (I would hope so)— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 9, 2013
In discussing the reasoning for the Gay deal, Ujiri referenced Gay and DeMar DeRozan's overlapping skillsets, an issue that both players and the previous front office had continually downplayed since Gay's arrival 11 months ago, via Koreen:
Masai references Demar and Rudy being similar. "It just wasn't working." "Everybody saw there was no sync there."— Eric Koreen (@ekoreen) December 9, 2013
As easy as it was to see that the two weren't complementing one another well this season, it was equally clear that Ujiri would make a major move at some point. Now the question is when the next domino will fall.