Rockets: Did Masai Ujiri throw unnecessary shade at Fred VanVleet?

Toronto Raptors Media Day
Toronto Raptors Media Day / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

The 2022-23 season was a rough one for newly-signed Houston Rockets point guard Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors, as both parties had a bit of a regression compared to the previous season. VanVleet had been an All-Star in 2021-22, as he averaged a career-best in scoring (20.3 points) and Player Efficiency Rating (17.3), and had one of his most inefficient seasons to date in 2022-23.

The Raptors went from looking like one of the up-and-coming Eastern Conference teams two seasons ago to looking like a mediocre, pedestrian bunch that couldn't make it out of the play-in tournament. Many cited VanVleet's drop-off in production as the reason for the Raps' downfall and were quick to use his own words on JJ Redick's The Old Man and the Three against him.

VanVleet gave a rather candid response when asked about his struggles last season on Redick's podcast.

“I think from a stylistic point, the way we were playing last year was just kind of free and easy and I think I was much more a focal point with just on-ball duties and having the ball the whole game and being able to kind of dictate where I want to go, and this year that's changed a little bit.

Some nights the ball finds you some and some nights it doesn't, and the nights where it doesn't, those are the nights that I'm struggling this year — where the out of rhythm games where I may get a couple catch and shoots, couple contested ones, couple ones off the dribble, not getting to the foul line and then I get three wide-open ones at the end of the night when we need them and if I make them we win, if I miss them we lose, I've had probably like four or five of those games."

Did Masai Ujiri take a shot at Houston Rockets point guard Fred VanVleet during the Raptors' Media Day?

Raptors President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri gave a rather honest and straightforward assessment when asked about the difference between the 2023-24 Raps and last season's Raps, and seemingly took a shot at VanVleet with six short words.

“There’ll be no selfishness this year."

What exactly has changed between the Raptors year-over-year from a roster standpoint? Well, I'm glad you asked.

There are two main things: VanVleet's departure and Nick Nurse's exit. Could Ujiri have been referring to Nurse? It's possible but that seems rather unlikely, as Nurse wasn't actually on the floor.

VanVleet, however, was. Granted, Ujiri could have been referring to Pascal Siakam, but Siakam is still on the roster, so that would be a bit of a surprise.

One thing is for sure: we'll find out if Ujiri is right about the Raps being more team-oriented very soon. But as for VanVleet, the Rockets have been quite pleased with his leadership skills and selflessness.