Raptors GM: 'Culture reset' needed after sweep (Anthony-NBA-ESPN)

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The Cleveland Cavaliers have sent the Toronto Raptors back to the drawing board.

Cleveland swept Toronto in the second round of the playoffs, ending a 2016-17 in which the Raptors had 51 regular-season wins. That was good for third in the Eastern Conference, and Toronto beat the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.

“After that performance [against the Cavaliers], we need a culture reset here,” Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri said at an end-of-season news conference Tuesday.

“We’ve tried what we’ve done so many times and it hasn’t worked,” he said. “We have to go a different direction, do something different. I don’t know now what it is.”

Ujiri said that changing all the players isn’t the answer, but they have to modify the system, move the ball more.

The Raptors will have player change whether they like it or not, though. Star point guard Kyle Lowry has said that he will opt out of the last year of his contract and become a free agent. He will join Toronto forwards Serge Ibaka, PJ Tucker — acquired at the trade deadline to beef up the front line — and Patrick Patterson on the market.

Ujiri said it’s “not realistic” that the Raptors will be able to bring back all of their free agents.

Lowry averaged career bests of 22.4 points, 7.0 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game this season but was limited to 60 games because of a right wrist injury that required surgery in February.

The decision is ultimately Lowry’s, but Toronto wants him back, Ujiri said.

“We know what we have with him, with him at his best,” the GM said. “The last couple months we saw without him, we didn’t jell.”

Whoever comes back, however, there will be changes. The Raptors were shocked by the Cavs’ sweep. Ujiri said everyone went into the playoffs thinking this was the year Cleveland could be beat. They haven’t been.

“That tells me something about playoff basketball,” Ujiri said. “Somehow they turned up their level. That tells me we have to find a way to turn up our level.”

Ujiri said he is ready to do whatever it takes to find the right formula.

“We’re trying to be progressive thinkers here,” he said. “This business is all about risk-taking, too. You have to put yourself on the line there. Honestly, I’m not afraid of that.”


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