TORONTO — Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri let loose a profanity about the Brooklyn Nets during a pregame address meant to pump up a group of fans outside Air Canada Centre before Saturday’s opening game of the NBA playoffs.
Several hundred fans gathered outside the downtown arena for a party and to watch the game on a huge screen above the west entrance.
Ujiri, the NBA’s reigning executive of the year, apologized in a brief news conference at halftime, saying he’d made the “wrong choice of words” and was “just trying to get our fans going.”
Asked if the profanity represented his feelings about the Nets, who have been accused of tanking in order to face Toronto in the first round, Ujiri said: “You know how I feel. I don’t like them, but I apologize.”
Raptors coach Dwane Casey said he had no problem with Ujiri’s colorful language.
“It doesn’t offend me whatsoever,” Casey said after the Nets won 94-87 in Game 1. “That’s Masai. That’s why our team plays like that. He’s a fiery guy. That should represent how we feel.”
Toronto guard Kyle Lowry echoed his coach’s sentiments.
“(Ujiri) is a very passionate guy,” Lowry said. “He believes in what we have and what we’re doing.”
Nets coach Jason Kidd, meanwhile, claimed not to have heard about either the controversial comments or Ujiri.
“I don’t even know who the GM is,” Kidd said.
Ujiri’s remarks weren’t the only dig aimed Brooklyn’s way. The front page of Saturday’s Toronto Sun billed the first-round series as “Raptors vs. Dinosaurs,” in reference to the ages of Brooklyn stars Paul Pierce, 36, and Kevin Garnett, 37.
“It’s all good,” Garnett said. “It’s motivation.”