Raptors president Masai Ujiri gets emotional talking about Siakam, DeMar DeRozan deals: ‘This is a tough business’

The Raptors made shockwaves around the NBA on Wednesday when they traded All-Star forward Pascal Siakam to the Pacers.

The three-team deal also included the Pelicans, and saw Siakam pair with All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton in Indiana, while Toronto returned Bruce Brown Jr., Jordan Nwora, Kira Lewis Jr. and three future first-round picks from the Pacers.

The trade marked the end of an era for the Raptors, as Siakam was one of the final key contributors remaining from the 2019 championship team that took home the franchise’s first-ever NBA title. Chris Boucher is the only player from that team that remains on the roster.

MORE: Pascal Siakam trade grades: Pacers add star, Raptors focus on future

Siakam was one of Toronto’s signature developmental diamonds. A favorite of team president Masai Ujiri’s, Siakam went from an unknown prospect from Africa to an All-NBA, All-Star caliber player in a Raptors uniform.

On Thursday, Ujiri was emotional when he addressed the media for the first time after trading Siakam.

“Two African guys that won a championship. I share that with him,” Ujiri said in tears. “I think of his dad. Pascal at Basketball Without Borders. A lot of people don’t know that when Pascal came to Basketball Without Borders in South Africa, he had been admitted into Pastoral school. And he only came to Basketball Without Borders to see his sister, who lived in South Africa. He was going to go back to Pastoral school.

“Now he’s All-NBA, All-Star, all everything. Championship. … That guy’s success is my success, no matter where he is,” Ujiri concluded proudly.

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Masai Ujiri gets emotional while discussing Pascal Siakam, DeMar DeRozan trades

As the press conference went on, the Raptors’ president was asked if it would benefit him to be “colder” in terms of management. That question led to Ujiri opening up about all the emotions that go behind each trade and decision, and how it’s the hardest part of the business.

“Colder than I am now? I mean, goddamn,” he began. “I don’t know if it gets any colder, man.

“This is a tough business. I walked around a hotel for two hours — two hours — in Kenya, to sum up the courage to call DeMar [DeRozan]. And I’m a tough motherf—. The human part of this business is tough … My son texted me and said, ‘You traded OG?’ It’s tough,” he continued.

“I remember me and Bobby [Webster] sitting in my office to sum up the courage to walk from my office to coach Casey’s office. Or to walk from my office to Nick Nurse’s office. Do you know how hard that is? When you share a championship or a Coach of the Year … With time, it heals a little bit but it’s not easy, man.

“… Trading a player and when a player leaves is the most difficult thing. Fred [VanVleet] said it. When he was asked, ‘What was the most difficult thing?’ He said it was the call he made to me. I remember that call. It’s the most difficult thing in this business,” Ujiri concluded.

With the long-anticipated Anunoby and Siakam trades behind them, the Raptors have completely overhauled their roster to build around new franchise player Scottie Barnes. But according to Ujiri, they aren’t done yet.

When asked if there were more moves to be made before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, Ujiri stated, “Definitely, yeah. You look at this and that’s why we’ve created flexibility,” also mentioning the picks Toronto has gotten in return, according to TSN’s Josh Lewenberg.

Even if it’s the toughest part of the business, Ujiri knows Toronto has more to be done before it competes at a championship level again and he’s willing to do what it takes to get back there.

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