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猛龍隊勇奪總冠軍,最大功臣并非倫納德

Terry Collins 2019年06月18日

他招來了倫納德,這是猛龍隊奪得冠軍的關鍵。

2019年NBA總決賽第6場多倫多猛龍隊對金州勇士隊的比賽于6月13日在加州奧克蘭的甲骨文體育場舉行。圖為多倫多猛龍隊經理馬賽·尤吉里賽后在慶祝勝利。圖片來源: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

在NBA總決賽第三場的關鍵時刻,一名衣冠楚楚的男子在甲骨文體育館里激動地來回踱步,一邊走一邊看手機。

他太緊張了,如果在場邊或包間里看比賽,那他根本坐不住。也正是他一系列高風險高回報的操作,才將多倫多猛龍隊帶到了總決賽的賽場上。11個月前,多倫多猛龍隊的籃球運營總裁馬賽·尤吉里出乎所有人的意料,交易走了隊里最優秀的球員,然后悍然炒掉了球隊的總教練——諷刺的是,這位總教練同年居然還被評為聯盟年度最佳教練。

短短一年不到,多倫多猛龍隊已經成了2019年的NBA總冠軍。對于這一結果,就連端著慶功香檳的尤吉里自己都表示“簡直不敢相信”。尤吉里一手促成的堪稱當代體育史上最大膽的這兩筆交易,也被一些人譽為“天才”手筆。

尤吉里戴著一頂寫著“世界最好”的帽子(來自于猛龍隊的超級粉絲、加拿大說唱歌手Drake的私人品牌OVO),對周圍的記者說道:“老實跟你們說,我真的不是那樣看問題的,你有很多事情想做,還有很多交易并不會起到效果。你可能會說:‘哇,幸虧我沒有那樣做!’”

“如果你認為它是風險或者賭博,那是你的事。而我們必須那樣做。”

連續四個賽季,猛龍隊在常規賽的獲勝場次分別達到了56場、51場、59場和58場,戰績不可謂不佳,但總是與總冠軍無緣。不能啃硬骨頭的隊伍永遠只能是一支常規賽球隊。無奈之下,尤吉里在去年將球隊的全明星球員德羅贊交易到了圣東安尼奧馬刺隊,換來了剛從嚴重腳傷中恢復的全明星球員科懷·倫納德。這次交易對德羅贊的好朋友、猛龍隊的明星后衛凱爾·洛瑞打擊極大,他甚至好幾個月都沒有跟尤吉里說過話。

長期擔任猛龍隊助理教練的吉姆·桑恩表示:“這一步非常勇敢,而且我們也得到了回報。我們必須用人才換人才。”

一向低調的總決賽最有價值球員倫納德在上周四賽后的媒體發布會上透露,在那次交易之后不久,他給當時情緒低落的洛瑞發了條短信說:“我們去做一些特別的事吧,我知道你最好的朋友離開了,我知道你很生氣,讓我們把事情解決掉。今天我們已經走到這里了。”

在看到幾十名猛龍隊的球迷在甲骨文體育館慶祝勝利時,站在場邊的前猛龍隊球星、現ESPN知名主播杰倫·羅斯嘆道,尤吉里的這一步交易“真是天才”。

羅斯說道:“我剛剛又跟馬賽說了一遍——他是個天才,他改變了比賽規則,他出牌的方式,是我們從站在那張牌桌上的任何人身上都未曾看到過的。記住,他還把德文趕走了!”

羅斯口中的德文,便是猛龍隊的主教練德文·凱西,去年5月被尤吉里解聘。去年他帶領猛龍隊在常規賽中取得了59勝的優異戰績,可惜在東部半決賽中仍然被克里夫蘭騎士隊橫掃。后來凱西被提名為2018年NBA年度最佳教練,并被底特律活塞隊聘去。

尤吉里的舉動大膽到了近似瘋狂。當他將年度最佳教練凱西炒了魷魚,聘請來相對不知名的尼克·納斯擔任主教練時,很多人都以為他自己離被炒魷魚也不遠了——即便尼克·納斯在球員和教練圈子里頗受尊敬,還拿過幾次NBA發展聯盟的冠軍。

在上周四猛龍隊奪冠前,納斯就曾經公開贊揚尤吉里給了他這個天大的機會。

納斯表示:“尤吉里給我們球隊的組織定下了很高的目標,他的目標與我們的員工和球員的目標是相近的,因此,他與我們的想法和努力方向是一致的。他將很多優秀球員湊到了我們的陣容里,而且他們也融合得非常好。”

尤吉里也贊揚了球隊的表現。他表示:“對我來說,重要的不在于我或者我們采取了什么舉措,而在于球員和教練,以及他們在如此巨大的壓力下表現如何。可以說,我們的工作并沒有他們的那么難。”

尤吉里是2013年來到猛龍隊的。那一年,他還因為在丹佛掘金隊擔任總經理期間表現出色,而榮獲了NBA的年度最佳經理獎。尤吉里在上周四還提到,作為一名球隊經理,必須確保球員們互相融合。球隊的哲學就是要有好的化學反應。

他表示:“我們當然可以拿潛力來說事,但歸根結底,體育的目的就是要贏。你必須在年輕球員和老將、明星球員和全明星球員之間找到平衡點,這需要整個團隊的努力。”

“另外,你還得有運氣。”

不過這種運氣可能也有用完的時候。贏得比賽是要付出代價的。倫納德與猛龍隊只有一年的租借合同,到今年7月,他就將成為自由球員。雖然猛龍隊最高可以給出一份5年2億美元的合同,但作為一個土生土長的南加州人,倫納德有可能不想繼續在加拿大打球,而是選擇加盟洛杉磯快船隊或者湖人隊。

至于尤吉里本人,據說華盛頓奇才隊可能會請他去當經理,年薪1000萬美元,同時還有機會成為球隊股東團體的一員,擁有華盛頓奇才隊和北美職業冰球聯賽(NHL)的華盛頓首都隊的部分股份——后者一年前剛剛奪得了斯坦利杯。

不過,尤吉里首先還得處理一些法律問題。在上周四賽后,據說尤吉里推搡和擊打了一名執勤警員的面部,因而有可能遭到輕罪指控。有關部門表示,此事的起因是尤吉里欲進入慶祝場地,但因未攜帶相關通行證件,而遭到了警方執勤人員的拒絕。

據報道,出面向警方保釋了尤吉里的,正是之前有好幾個月沒有跟他說過話的球員洛瑞。(財富中文網)

譯者:樸成奎

During a crucial moment in the pivotal Game 3 of the NBA Finals, an immaculately dressed man is furiously pacing in the bowels of Oracle Arena checking his smartphone.

He’s usually too nervous to watch the game courtside or up in a suite. After all, it was his calculated high-risk, high-reward moves that got the Raptors here in the first place. Eleven months ago Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations, stunningly traded away his best player, and then shockingly fired his head coach, who ironically was named the league’s coach of the year.

Fast forward nearly a year later, the Raptors are now the 2019 NBA champions. A champagne-soaked Ujiri’s reaction on Thursday? “Unbelievable.” Ujiri’s also being hailed as a “genius” for executing arguably two of the boldest deals in recent sports history.

“I really don’t see it like that, to be honest with you,” said Ujiri, wearing a cap that reads “The Best in the World,” (created by Raptors superfan Drake’s OVO brand) to reporters surrounding him. “There are so many moves you want to make, and there are so many deals that don’t work, and you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m glad I didn’t do that!’

“To call it risks and gambles, that’s our job. We have to do it.”

Feeling desperate, Ujiri, despite the Raptors winning 56, 51, 59 and 58 games in four consecutive seasons, but with no championships to show for it, last year dealt the team’s best player, All-Star DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs for fellow All-Star Kawhi Leonard who was coming off a severe foot injury. The move was so devastating to DeRozan’s best friend, longtime Raptors star guard Kyle Lowry that he famously didn’t talk to Ujiri for months.

“It was a gutsy move that paid off,” said longtime Raptors assistant coach Jim Sann holding a bottle of champagne after his team beat the Golden State Warriors 114-110 Thursday to clinch the NBA Finals 4-2. “We had to trade talent to get talent.”

The usually reclusive Leonard, the Finals MVP, revealed in a postgame press conference late last Thursday that he texted a then-despondent Lowry shortly after the trade. Leonard told Lowry, “Let’s go do something special. I know your best friend left. I know you’re mad, but let’s make this thing work out. And we’re here today.”

Ujiri is simply a “genius for such a boss move,” said Jalen Rose, a former Raptors star and current ESPN personality as he stood courtside watching scores of Raptors fans celebrating inside Oracle Arena Thursday night.

“I just told Masai that again—he’s a genius,” Rose said. “He changed the game and he rolled the dice like nobody we’ve ever seen in his position before. And, remember, he let Dwane go, too!”

That would be former Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, who Ujiri fired last May after leading Toronto to a franchise-record 59 wins before being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second straight year. Casey was later named the 2018 NBA Coach of the Year and hired by the Detroit Pistons.

But Ujiri’s bold move was seen almost maniacal. Some thought it might soon be his job on the line when he dismissed Casey and hired the relatively-unknown Nick Nurse, a respected coach among players and his peers who had won championships in the NBA’s developmental league.

Before last Thursday’s title-clinching victory, Nurse praised Ujiri for taking a huge chance on him.

“(Ujiri) set the goals very high for our organization, similar to what the goals that our staff and our players set, so that’s good to be in alignment with where we’re thinking, where we want to go,” Nurse said. “He’s put together a heck of a roster, and some great players and the blend is really good.”

Ujiri returned the praise to his team. “For me, it’s not all about the moves I made or we made, it’s about the players and the coaches and how they performed under such intense pressure,” he said. “I tell you our jobs isn’t as hard as their jobs.”

Ujiri, who came to the Raptors in 2013, the same year he won the NBA Executive of the Year award as the general manager of the Denver Nuggets, further said last Thursday that as an executive you have to make sure the players mesh with each other and the team’s philosophy to have great chemistry.

“We can say potential all we want, but at the end of the day, sports is about winning,” he said. “You have to figure out that balance between younger players and veteran players, star players, and All-Star players, really a team effort.

“And then you have to be lucky.”

But that luck may run out. There’s a price that comes with the cost of winning. Leonard was basically a one-year rental for the Raptors as he’s scheduled to become a free agent in July. Even though the Raptors could offer him as much as $200 million over five years, the Southern California native may not want to play in Canada and instead choose to join the Los Angeles Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers.

As for Ujiri, he reportedly may be offered an executive role to run the NBA’s Washington Wizards in a deal that could pay $10 million annually and an opportunity to be a part of the ownership group that owns the basketball team and the NHL’s Washington Capitals, a team that won the Stanley Cup a year ago.

However, Ujiri might have to handle some legal matters first. He may face misdemeanor criminal charges for allegedly pushing and hitting a sheriff’s deputy in the face last Thursday after the game. Authorities say the deputy denied the Raptors exec access to the court for the postgame championship ceremonies because Ujiri didn’t have proper credentials.

Reportedly, it was Lowry, the player who didn’t speak to Ujiri for months, who vouched for him to the authorities.

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