In 221 days Masai Ujiri went from being one of the most vilified Basketball Presidents in the NBA to the most loved after his decision to trade, Franchise darling, DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard eventually paid off with the Raptors picking up their first Conference title in 24 years.
DeRozan’s trade to Spurs after 9 years in Toronto was greeted with boos and Ujiri needing to justify letting a Round 1, 9th overall Draft pick leave at every public appearance made.
But on Saturday night, he joined the celebrations at the Scotiabank Arena as all generations of the Raptors witnessed a historic moment in the NBA.
The Kawhi trade was the right move at the time, and it was obvious for a bunch of reasons — even if some GMs and franchises would not have made it. The question was always what sort of case the Raptors could make to keep him. They have done all they can. Raptors-GSW, let’s go.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) May 26, 2019
On game night, Kawhi finished with a game high 27 points, stacking up a double double in the process as he got 17 on the board in the 100-94 win over Bucks.
Toronto only lost one quarter; the first 18-31, but for a team that fought from 2-0 in the series, they showed grit and came back with wins in the next three 25-19, 28-26 and 29-18 to reach the NBA Finals.
Their opening night of the finals comes up on May 30 against the Warriors on home court.