Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri apologized Saturday for insulting Brooklyn before an outdoor gathering of fans in advance of Toronto’s NBA playoff game against the Nets.
Emotions ran high as the Raptors returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and Ujiri helped stoke the pre-game fire.
Ujiri, a former NBA executive of the year in Denver, took the stage before the afternoon game to address pumped-up fans at Maple Leafs Square. The moment seemed to get to him as he paired an F-bomb and Brooklyn on his way off the stage.
The crowd loved it, roaring in response. He handed the microphone to his boss, MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke, who smiled and shook his head before leaving the stage.
Video of the trash talk quickly surfaced on Twitter.
The GM was quickly to apologize, with team officials summoning media for a halftime gathering in the hall outside the playoff media centre.
“I apologize. Wrong choice of words out there,” Ujiri told some three dozen media. “This thing is really not about me, it’s about the players and the playoffs. So just trying to get the crowd out there rattled. Wrong choice of words.
“I apologize to kids out there and to the Brooklyn guys. Nothing against them. Just trying to get our fans going. That’s it.”
He declined to take questions. But he offered an addendum, over his shoulder, as he headed down the corridor.
“You know how I feel,” he said. “I don’t like them (the Nets) but I apologize.”
Ujiri was feisty prior to the series, after talk the Nets may have slipped down the standings in order to face the Raptors.
The Toronto GM said and his team “haven’t lost one second of sleep worrying about the Brooklyn Nets.”
“They can do whatever they want,” Ujiri said Thursday. “We’ll be right here.”
Toronto (48-34) and Brooklyn (44-38) split four meetings during the regular season.