Masai Ujiri shouted “F— Brooklyn!” at a fan rally outside Air Canada Centre prior to Game 1 of his team’s first-round Eastern Conference playoff series against the Brooklyn Nets. A shoutout that nearly got him in trouble.
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’s use of the expletive was captured by a fan and posted to Instagram. Ujiri apologized later Saturday during a brief session with reporters at halftime.
“Wrong choice of words out there,” he said. “It is really not about me. It is about the players and the playoffs.
“Just trying to get the crowd out there rattled — wrong choice of words. I apologize to kids out there and to the Brooklyn guys. Nothing against them. Just trying to get our fans going. That’s it.”
Ujiri, who did not answer any questions during the session, reiterated that he does not like the Nets.
“You know how I feel,” he said with a chuckle. “Thanks guys. I apologize for not taking any questions, but you know how I feel. I don’t like ’em. I apologize.”
Going into the series, there was rampant speculation that the Nets tanked — losing four of their final five regular-season games — in order to face the Raptors instead of the fourth-seeded Chicago Bulls.
The Nets, who are seeded sixth in the playoffs, have denied any sort of tanking.
Ujiri was asked by Toronto reporters prior to the series about the possibility that the Nets wanted to play his team.
“Good for them,” Ujiri said. “You know what? We haven’t lost one — I know I haven’t and I can sense from the players — second of sleep worrying about the Brooklyn Nets.
“At the end of the day if we want to be a good team, we have to play good teams. We’re not hoping for anybody. We’re in the playoffs. You have to play. They can do whatever they want. We’ll be right here.”