EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce claimed Sunday that he did not know who Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri was -- but Pierce sure sounded like he was being facetious.
Asked about Ujiri’s now infamous “F--- Brooklyn!” comment at a fan rally prior to the Nets’ 94-87 victory over the Raptors in Game 1 of their first-round Eastern Conference playoff series, Pierce responded, “Really? I’m shocked that Bryan Colangelo would say that.”
Told that Colangelo was not the Raptors GM, Ujiri was, Pierce responded, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I guess I don’t keep up. I keep up with the players. I keep up with the players.”
Colangelo lost his job as Raptors GM in May after Toronto failed to qualify for the playoffs in five consecutive seasons. He stepped down as team president a month later.
Pierce had 15 points on Saturday, including nine straight late in the fourth quarter.
Nets coach Jason Kidd said after Saturday’s game that he isn't concerned with what Ujiri had to say.
“You gotta tell me who the GM is,” Kidd said. “I don’t even know who that is. I could care less what they think about Brooklyn. We have a job to do, and that’s to play the game of basketball.”
Asked if he feels Nets-Raptors is a rivalry on Sunday, Nets point guard Deron Williams laughed and said, “No.”
Game 2 is Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre.
Ujiri’s comment quickly went viral after it was broadcast live. Some fans captured it on Instagram videos. The Raptors even posted the video to their Instagram account.
The GM later apologized for his word choice, though he certainly didn’t hide his disdain for the Nets.
“You know how I feel,” he said with a chuckle. “... 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 third-seeded Raptors instead of the fourth-seeded Chicago Bulls. The Nets, who are seeded sixth, have denied that.
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."
The backpages of the New York tabloids both alluded to Ujiri’s comment: The New York Post went with “F#@k Yeah!” while the New York Daily News went with “Don’t F*** With B’klyn!”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams put out a statement in response to Ujiri’s comment:
“It’s unfortunate that the Raptors’ GM felt so desperate facing against our Nets that he would throw profanity around discussing our beloved borough, but I can’t say that I’m surprised. After all, Brooklyn is a classier place. Just compare Babs to Biebs or spend some time with their ... colorful mayor. Still we spread love; it is, after all, the Brooklyn way.
“Rather than mess with verbal barbs, I say it’s ‘put up or shut up’ time, Toronto! I’m willing to send up North some of Brooklyn’s best if the Raptors can prevail, perhaps a six-pack from Brooklyn Brewery or a CD from the First Family of hip-hop. The ball is in Mayor Ford’s court to meet the challenge. Let’s go Nets!”