Raptors president Masai Ujiri told Stanley Johnson he was bad at basketball

Stanley Johnson, pictured as a member of the Toronto Raptors. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
Stanley Johnson, pictured as a member of the Toronto Raptors. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

Sometimes the truth hurts, but it can also be exactly what you need to hear.

Former Toronto Raptors forward Stanley Johnson learned exactly that after he and team president Masai Ujiri had a frank discussion about how he wasn't performing well enough on the court.

It was a talk that clearly resonated with Johnson.

“That was a real honest conversation. That’s what I needed to hear,” Johnson said in an interview with Marc Spears of The Undefeated. “In the NBA, honesty is not always the first and foremost thing that people want to give you because it’s not the easiest thing to say to people that are professionals. I’ve been playing basketball all my life. I’m pretty damn good at basketball, so to tell me I’m bad at basketball, it’s a hard conversation to have with a professional athlete.

“It takes a different type of man to tell you that to your face and not in a pessimistic way, in a constructive way. What are you going to do? Are you going to take [it poorly] or are you going to do something about it? I felt like I want to do something about it. I’m 25 years old. I know I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been in the league for a long time because I got in early, but I’m not even anywhere close to my prime, anywhere close to the player that I can be in my life.”

Johnson signed with the Raptors ahead of the 2019-20 campaign and spent two seasons struggling to find consistent playing time with the franchise. The eighth-overall pick of the 2015 draft averaged just 3.8 points per game with the Raptors, logging 13 minutes a night.

He had the tools to succeed at the highest level, especially on defence, but Ujiri evidently wanted to see more.

The 25-year-old landed with the Chicago Bulls last offseason, but was waived after four preseason games. Now he's playing alongside LeBron James on the Los Angeles Lakers, earning a second 10-day contract thanks to a strong impression on his new club. It's unclear if he'll stick with the Lakers for the remainder of the season, but he's caught the eye of head coach Frank Vogel and is coming off a 15-point performance on Monday.

If Los Angeles decides to keep him around, Johnson might just have Ujiri to thank.

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