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猛龙队勇夺总冠军,最大功臣并非伦纳德

Terry Collins 2019年06月18日

他招来了伦纳德,这是猛龙队夺得冠军的关键。

2019年NBA总决赛第6场多伦多猛龙队对金州勇士队的比赛于6月13日在加州奥克兰的甲骨文体育场举行。图为多伦多猛龙队经理马赛·尤吉里赛后在庆祝胜利。图片来源: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images

在NBA总决赛第三场的关键时刻,一名衣冠楚楚的男子在甲骨文体育馆里激动地来回踱步,一边走一边看手机。

他太紧张了,如果在场边或包间里看比赛,那他根本坐不住。也正是他一系列高风险高回报的操作,才将多伦多猛龙队带到了总决赛的赛场上。11个月前,多伦多猛龙队的篮球运营总裁马赛·尤吉里出乎所有人的意料,交易走了队里最优秀的球员,然后悍然炒掉了球队的总教练——讽刺的是,这位总教练同年居然还被评为联盟年度最佳教练。

短短一年不到,多伦多猛龙队已经成了2019年的NBA总冠军。对于这一结果,就连端着庆功香槟的尤吉里自己都表示“简直不敢相信”。尤吉里一手促成的堪称当代体育史上最大胆的这两笔交易,也被一些人誉为“天才”手笔。

尤吉里戴着一顶写着“世界最好”的帽子(来自于猛龙队的超级粉丝、加拿大说唱歌手Drake的私人品牌OVO),对周围的记者说道:“老实跟你们说,我真的不是那样看问题的,你有很多事情想做,还有很多交易并不会起到效果。你可能会说:‘哇,幸亏我没有那样做!’”

“如果你认为它是风险或者赌博,那是你的事。而我们必须那样做。”

连续四个赛季,猛龙队在常规赛的获胜场次分别达到了56场、51场、59场和58场,战绩不可谓不佳,但总是与总冠军无缘。不能啃硬骨头的队伍永远只能是一支常规赛球队。无奈之下,尤吉里在去年将球队的全明星球员德罗赞交易到了圣东安尼奥马刺队,换来了刚从严重脚伤中恢复的全明星球员科怀·伦纳德。这次交易对德罗赞的好朋友、猛龙队的明星后卫凯尔·洛瑞打击极大,他甚至好几个月都没有跟尤吉里说过话。

长期担任猛龙队助理教练的吉姆·桑恩表示:“这一步非常勇敢,而且我们也得到了回报。我们必须用人才换人才。”

一向低调的总决赛最有价值球员伦纳德在上周四赛后的媒体发布会上透露,在那次交易之后不久,他给当时情绪低落的洛瑞发了条短信说:“我们去做一些特别的事吧,我知道你最好的朋友离开了,我知道你很生气,让我们把事情解决掉。今天我们已经走到这里了。”

在看到几十名猛龙队的球迷在甲骨文体育馆庆祝胜利时,站在场边的前猛龙队球星、现ESPN知名主播杰伦·罗斯叹道,尤吉里的这一步交易“真是天才”。

罗斯说道:“我刚刚又跟马赛说了一遍——他是个天才,他改变了比赛规则,他出牌的方式,是我们从站在那张牌桌上的任何人身上都未曾看到过的。记住,他还把德文赶走了!”

罗斯口中的德文,便是猛龙队的主教练德文·凯西,去年5月被尤吉里解聘。去年他带领猛龙队在常规赛中取得了59胜的优异战绩,可惜在东部半决赛中仍然被克里夫兰骑士队横扫。后来凯西被提名为2018年NBA年度最佳教练,并被底特律活塞队聘去。

尤吉里的举动大胆到了近似疯狂。当他将年度最佳教练凯西炒了鱿鱼,聘请来相对不知名的尼克·纳斯担任主教练时,很多人都以为他自己离被炒鱿鱼也不远了——即便尼克·纳斯在球员和教练圈子里颇受尊敬,还拿过几次NBA发展联盟的冠军。

在上周四猛龙队夺冠前,纳斯就曾经公开赞扬尤吉里给了他这个天大的机会。

纳斯表示:“尤吉里给我们球队的组织定下了很高的目标,他的目标与我们的员工和球员的目标是相近的,因此,他与我们的想法和努力方向是一致的。他将很多优秀球员凑到了我们的阵容里,而且他们也融合得非常好。”

尤吉里也赞扬了球队的表现。他表示:“对我来说,重要的不在于我或者我们采取了什么举措,而在于球员和教练,以及他们在如此巨大的压力下表现如何。可以说,我们的工作并没有他们的那么难。”

尤吉里是2013年来到猛龙队的。那一年,他还因为在丹佛掘金队担任总经理期间表现出色,而荣获了NBA的年度最佳经理奖。尤吉里在上周四还提到,作为一名球队经理,必须确保球员们互相融合。球队的哲学就是要有好的化学反应。

他表示:“我们当然可以拿潜力来说事,但归根结底,体育的目的就是要赢。你必须在年轻球员和老将、明星球员和全明星球员之间找到平衡点,这需要整个团队的努力。”

“另外,你还得有运气。”

不过这种运气可能也有用完的时候。赢得比赛是要付出代价的。伦纳德与猛龙队只有一年的租借合同,到今年7月,他就将成为自由球员。虽然猛龙队最高可以给出一份5年2亿美元的合同,但作为一个土生土长的南加州人,伦纳德有可能不想继续在加拿大打球,而是选择加盟洛杉矶快船队或者湖人队。

至于尤吉里本人,据说华盛顿奇才队可能会请他去当经理,年薪1000万美元,同时还有机会成为球队股东团体的一员,拥有华盛顿奇才队和北美职业冰球联赛(NHL)的华盛顿首都队的部分股份——后者一年前刚刚夺得了斯坦利杯。

不过,尤吉里首先还得处理一些法律问题。在上周四赛后,据说尤吉里推搡和击打了一名执勤警员的面部,因而有可能遭到轻罪指控。有关部门表示,此事的起因是尤吉里欲进入庆祝场地,但因未携带相关通行证件,而遭到了警方执勤人员的拒绝。

据报道,出面向警方保释了尤吉里的,正是之前有好几个月没有跟他说过话的球员洛瑞。(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

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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