LOS ANGELES -- Masai Ujiri strikes again.
This time, there was no months-long buildup to trading his star player, as there was with Carmelo Anthony in Denver. There was no public bidding war, no trade demand with a specific destination to satisfy. There was just the NBA's new fiscal reality staring him in the face, with a $19.3 million obligation next season for a player that he didn't acquire.
So Rudy Gay goes to the Kings, and Ujiri begins the rebuilding of the Raptors in his vision with a massive cap-clearing move.
In sending Gay, Aaron Gray and Quincy Acy to the Kings for Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes, Ujiri took back only $7 million in guaranteed money for next season. With Gay's $19.3 million salary gone (Gay has a player option for next season), the Raptors cleared $12.3 million in cap room and flexibility. (Only $1 million of Salmons' $7 million salary for next season is guaranteed.)
That's called good business.
Ujiri got the deal done with his former assistant from Denver, Kings GM Pete D'Alessandro, who gets an asset capable of taking some of the scoring burden off DeMarcus Cousins. If Gay decides to walk as a free agent, the Kings are no worse off.
The trade left Raptors coach Dwane Casey three players short Sunday night for Toronto's game against the Lakers in Kobe Bryant's return. When the trade is completed, the Raptors will have to waive a player.
"I think it's great for the league," Casey said of Bryant coming back. "I'm sure it's great for the Lakers organization. It sucks for us tonight, but it's great for the NBA."
Nobody knows what Ujiri will do with the cap room he's cleared, but it's better to have room and flexibility than have your money tied up in a player who wasn't involved in your plan in the first place. For now, all we know is that whether there's an ultimatum or buildup to a trade or not, Ujiri knows how to get a deal done. Even if this one will get overshadowed by the circumstances surrounding it.