A day after an Eastern Conference team (the Cavs) won the 2013 draft lottery, the Eastern Finals will finally get underway tonight in Miami, as the Pacers look to upset the defending-champion Heat. While we look forward to that game, let's check in on a few updates from around the East....
ESPN.com's Marc Stein passes along a few notable tidbits in his latest piece for TrueHoop, including word of a potential Clippers target, a Phil Jackson update, and some items on the coaching front. Let's dive in and check out the highlights....
TUESDAY, 9:52am: Colangelo will remain with the Raptors as the team's president, the club announced today in a press release. Colangelo will remain somewhat involved in basketball operations and will report directly to MLSE president/CEO Tim Leiweke, but the team is seeking a general manager that will have final authority on basketball decisions. The Raptors expect to hire a new GM within the next 30 days.
"After thorough evaluation and considering all the options, we have concluded that these changes will be in the best interest of the organization," Leiweke said in the release. "By splitting the roles and having both men report directly to me, we are adding depth to the basketball operations group and giving the Toronto Raptors the best chance of competing for championships in the future. The new GM will inherit a great situation in Toronto, as all of my due diligence around the League indicates that we have a fine, young core and a few key moves will make us a playoff contender next season."
Leiweke will also officially take over as MLSE president/CEO on June 3rd, rather than July 1st, according to the release.
MONDAY, 10:45am: Raptors ownership is preparing to make a major financial offer to Ujiri, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
10:04am: Bryan Colangelo will remain with the Raptors' parent organization in a "corporate" non-basketball role as the search continues for a new head of the Raptors organization, sources tell Doug Smith of the Toronto Star (via Twitter). MLSE has been negotiating with Colangelo this weekend to stay on in a signficant capacity while also talking with Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri about assuming full control of the team's basketball operations (Twitter links).
Toronto held an option on Colangelo's contract for the 2013/14 season and today was their deadline to make a determination. The decision to move Colangelo out of the President/GM role could be a sign that they are on the brink of reaching an agreement with Ujiri.
The Raptors hired an outside firm to help them identify the best candidate for the GM role and that process led them to identify Ujiri as their top candidate. While it would appear that Toronto respects Colangelo's experience and business acumen, they are less-than-thrilled with the club's on-court performance in recent years.
Colangelo was expected to deliver a winner by year seven of his tenure but things haven't improved as expected since the Raptors won the Atlantic Division in 2007. Since then, the club has undergone a number of face lifts with the most notable coming in the form of Chris Bosh's departure in the summer of 2010.
Colangelo's decision to take Andrea Bargnani with the No. 1 overall pick in the '06 draft also didn't pan out as hoped. Hindsight is 20/20, but the Raptors passed up the chance to take future All-Stars LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, and Rajon Rondo to take the Italian forward. In fairness to the Raptors, however, the 2006 draft was littered with relative busts at the top of the board including Adam Morrison (No. 3), Tyrus Thomas (No. 4), and Shelden Williams (No. 5).
The Raptors have scheduled a pair of conference calls this morning, one with MLSE president/CEO Tim Leiweke and one with Bryan Colangelo, who appears to be taking on a new non-basketball role with the franchise. While we await word on Colangelo's official title, let's check in on a few other notes related to the Raptors' front office changes and related to one of Toronto's division rivals....
The Knicks season ended last night when the Pacers defeated them in Indiana to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Knicks were the oldest team in NBA history for the 2012/13 season, and they have a lot of offseason decisions to reach in lieu of their loss to the Pacers.
The first such decision concerns the 2013 Sixth Man of the Year, J.R. Smith. Smith recently reiterated his desire to remain in a Knicks uniform next year despite the popular consensus he'll opt out of the contract that will pay him $2.9MM next season. He tweeted about wanting to return (Twitter link) today as SheridonHoops.com's Ben Baroff pointed out. But Smith isn't the only question mark as the Knicks head into the offseason after their best playoff performance in more than a decade.
As deadline day for Bryan Colangelo's 2013/14 option approaches, the Raptors are pursuing current Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri to take over their basketball operations, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The head-hunting firm hired by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to whittle down the list of potential replacements for Colangelo identified Ujiri as the top choice, sources told Wojnarowski.
Doug Smith of the Toronto Star reported yesterday that the Raptors had until Monday to make a decision one way or the other on Colangelo, and that MLSE had hired a search firm to look into potential candidates -- Wojnarowski identifies the firm as Korn/Ferry International.
Perhaps it's no surprise that the man who was named 2013's NBA Executive of the Year earlier this month would emerge as the top candidate for MLSE. But in addition to being more than qualified for the job, Ujiri is on an expiring deal. Although he has a strong relationship with Nuggets CEO Josh Kroenke, Ujiri is only under contract until June 30th. It had been assumed that he and the Nuggets would work out a new agreement, but perhaps MLSE president/CEO Tim Leiweke could make a pitch and offer that would be enough to present Ujiri with a difficult decision.
Prior to becoming the Nuggets' GM in 2010, Ujiri worked under Colangelo in Toronto for three years, including two as assistant GM, so he does have a history with the Raptors, which could work in Toronto's favor. The 76ers made a run at Ujiri a year ago in hopes of hiring him as their GM, but he turned down the team's interest.
Not long after being officially introduced as the Suns' new general manager, Ryan McDonough addressed the topic of his head coaching search, saying that several people on his list of ideal candidates for the job have matched up with the list that had been in place before he was hired, adding that Lindsey Hunter still remains as "one of the top guys" (Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic via USA Today). McDonough also underscored the draft as a franchise's "lifeblood" for "sustainable success" and was complimentary of some of the current players on the roster. Here's more out of the Western Conference tonight:
Fresh off from receiving his Executive of the Year award, Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri says that he's very optimistic that Andre Iguodala re-signs with Denver and that the team wants him back, tweets Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post. A few days ago, we also relayed that team president Josh Kroenke expressed his desire to keep the 6'6 forward as part of Denver's future moving forward.Despite a disappointing first round exit for the Nuggets, Iguodala was very productive in six games against Golden State, averaging 18.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 5.3 RPG, and 2.0 SPG while shooting 50% from the field overall and an excellent 48.3% from long range on nearly five three-point attempts per game. It will be interesting to see how those numbers factor into determining Iguodala's worth in the free agent market this summer.
THURSDAY, 12:08pm: The Nuggets have officially announced that Ujiri has won the Executive of the Year award. Gary Sacks (Clippers) finished second in the voting, followed by Glen Grunwald (Knicks) and Daryl Morey (Rockets), who were tied for third.
WEDNESDAY, 8:45pm: Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri will be named Executive of the Year, according to the Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman.
Ujiri built the best team in franchise history this season, as Denver won 57 games in the regular season before losing 4-2 in the first round against the Warriors.
Last summer he nosed his way into the Dwight Howard trade, acquiring Andre Iguodala and giving up Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, and a 2014 first round pick. He also extended Ty Lawson to a contract that's widely viewed as a slight bargain for the Nuggets.
Having gone 16-3 at the Pepsi Center so far this season, the Nuggets are in good position to gain some ground in the Western Conference standings, as their next six games will all be at home. Still, head coach George Karl doesn't want his club to take anything for granted, as he tells Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post.
"We're a young team trying to become a good team -- a really good team," Karl said. "I think we all think we can get there, but sometimes I think we need a lot more work than (the players) think we do."
Here's the latest out of Denver: