Raptors eager to face Wizards
TORONTO (AP) Masai Ujiri is hanging onto his cash this time around.
The Toronto general manager, who famously swore in a pregame rally before last season's NBA playoffs, bit his tongue Thursday when asked what he thought about Paul Pierce's verbal shot at the Raptors.
But his silence spoke volumes.
''I've been trying to figure that out and I honestly don't have enough money to respond to him,'' said Ujiri, who was fined $25,000 for his slur against the Brooklyn Nets last season. ''I think if I did have enough money, everybody knows exactly how I would respond to it, and how the whole of Toronto would respond to it.''
The Raptors host the Washington Wizards on Saturday in Game 1 of a playoff series that - thanks to Pierce - already has drama and a villain before the first ball has been thrown up.
There was bad blood between Pierce and the Raptors after the then-Nets forward blocked Kyle Lowry's final shot in Game 7 last season, clinching the series for Brooklyn.
Pierce threw fuel on the fire when he recently told ESPN.com he wasn't worried about facing Toronto because they don't have ''it.''
''We don't need his comments as motivation,'' Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said. ''Just being in this position against a great team is all the motivation we need.''
The Raptors gathered to watch video Thursday a day after they finished the best regular season in franchise history. The mood around this team is noticeably different from the wide-eyed squad that took the court last season in its first playoff appearance in six years. Having felt the bright lights of the postseason, Ujiri said, means everything.
''It is such a different season, the intensity and what's at stake. ... It's a whole different ball game,'' said Ujiri, who addressed the media in a padded purple vest over a purple shirt. ''Last year, we were underdogs. But these guys, that really, really gave them great experience to go out and perform. It's a big stage and I think these guys are fearless and now they kind of know a little bit of what to expect.
''Now, we're not underdogs anymore.''
DeRozan, who averaged 23.9 points in his rookie playoffs last season, heads into the series playing the best of his career. And he said he feels ''a lot more comfortable'' than this time last year.
''I didn't know what to expect. Everything was new to me and I was learning everything on the go. This time, I understand playoff basketball,'' DeRozan said.