Bobby Webster

Atlantic Notes: Leonard, Webster, Theis, Celtics

It might seem like Kawhi Leonard was intent on playing in Los Angeles long-term but he insists he gave serious thought to the idea of re-signing with the Raptors, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Gave it big consideration,” the Clippers superstar said. “I took my time like I did; I didn’t hurry up and make a quick decision. I talked to the (Raptors’) front office in deep detail. It was a hard choice to make.”

Leonard added that he had no issues with the Raptors organization. “I had a great time last year with the coaching staff, front office and the players. It was a great experience,” he said.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors president Masai Ujiri gets plenty of credit for building a championship team but GM Bobby Webster’s influence should not be underestimated, as Dan Robson of The Athletic details in a profile of the young executive. One player agent told Robson that Webster is heavily involved in all aspects of personnel decisions. “Bobby is making a lot of the decisions in terms of everything they do,” the unnamed agent said. “Masai is the lead role and the face of the program, and obviously very involved … but Bobby is the driving force, at least for me, for a lot of the decisions they make.”
  • Celtics big man Daniel Theis is aware of the perception that the frontcourt is the team’s weakness but he tries to drown out the noise, as he told Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston“We have so many bigs and it’s whoever plays good that night,” said Theis. “You don’t guard the best bigs with one person. It’s a team effort. We’re [the third best team] in the East and we’re playing really good basketball as a team. So, no, I don’t listen to that.”
  • Despite what Theis believes, the Celtics will probably need another quality big man to get past Philadelphia and Milwaukee in the postseason, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated argues. Joel Embiid‘s monster game against Boston on Thursday put the Celtics’ frontcourt issues on full display, Mannix adds.

Atlantic Notes: Leonard, Nets, Horford, Barrett, Raptors

The Raptors’ pitch to Kawhi Leonard to remain with the organization is still being discussed but is near completion, GM Bobby Webster told the Toronto Star’s Doug Smith and other media members. “There’s definitely more (things to be done),” Webster said. “As you can imagine, there are a ton of thoughts and ideas.” Aside from the financial implications — the Raptors can offer their superstar a five-year deal worth nearly $190MM while other suitors can give him a four-year, $140.6MM contract — the organization is expected to emphasize its championship pedigree, the medical staff that earned Leonard’s trust, and a chance to keep winning in familiar surroundings, Smith adds.

We have more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • The Nets have continued to clear cap room to sign two high-level free agents and there’s an expectation that this summer will be transformational for the Nets, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Draft-night trades cleared $2MM more in cap room, moving the team within $2MM of landing some combination of Leonard, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. GM Sean Marks indicated that going after big fish in free agency is the next logical leap for the franchise.
  • Al Horford would be a “no-brainer” free agent target for the Sixers if they don’t re-sign both Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Horford would be a natural fit at power forward alongside Joel Embiid and could play center in games that the oft-injured Embiid sits out, Pompey notes. Horford will decline his $30.1MM player option with the Celtics and pursue a multi-year contract in free agency.
  • There were mixed views on R.J. Barrett within the Knicks organization but GM Scott Perry was determined to draft the Duke freshman with the No. 3 pick, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Barrett made a strong impression during a June 10 visit with the Knicks. “When we bring guys in, we allowed them to spend time with the front-office staff, coaching and medical staff. It became apparent he was going to be an excellent fit from a culture standpoint,” Perry said. “He did nice things on the court when he worked with coaches. He reaffirmed what we had seen during the college season. … We were comfortable remaining in the draft position at 3.”
  • The Raptors had some discussions about moving into the late first round or early second round of the draft but weren’t willing to give up future assets, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets.

Atlantic Notes: Irving, Porzingis, Embiid

It hasn’t taken long for Kyrie Irving to gel with his new Celtics teammates, Marc D’Amico of the Celtics’ official website writes. The newly acquired point guard has made an effort to approach his new teammates on the bus and at practice in order to make the transition more comfortable.

Of course Irving’s performance has wowed a Celtics teammate or two as well. Through training camp, Irving has impressed Al Horford with his uncanny ability to finish shots and frustrated Terry Rozier with his slippery offensive game. “He’s a tough one to guard, probably one of the toughest guys I’ve ever had to guard in my life,” Rozier said.

After putting up 25.2 points and 5.8 assists per game in his final season with the Cavaliers, Irving will look to provide much-needed star power to a Celtics squad eager to take the next step toward contention. Irving may well be the player on the roster with the highest ceiling ahead of the 2017/18 campaign.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

Raptors Promote Bobby Webster To GM

JUNE 28: The Raptors have officially announced Webster’s promotion to general manager (Twitter link). Dan Tolzman has also received a promotion and will be the team’s new assistant GM and VP of player personnel.

Ujiri, rumored to be a Knicks target, continues to oversee the Raptors’ basketball operations department.

JUNE 26: Raptors assistant general manager Bobby Webster has been considered the favorite to receive a promotion since GM Jeff Weltman‘s departure earlier this offseason, and it sounds like the club will make it official soon. According to Josh Lewenberg of TSN 1050 (Twitter link), the Raps are expected to announce Webster as their new GM at some point this week.

After working at the NBA offices for several seasons, Webster joined the Raptors’ front office in 2013 as the team’s VP of basketball management and strategy. Webster, who is well-versed in salary cap matters, ascended the ranks quickly in Toronto, earning a promotion to assistant GM last summer. Now, according to TSN’s full story on the move, Webster is set to become the NBA’s youngest general manager, just four years after joining the Raptors.

Masai Ujiri, Toronto’s president of basketball operations, retains control over the club’s basketball decisions, but the general manager position is still a crucial one. Weltman’s performance in the Raptors’ front office earned him the president of basketball operations job in Orlando, vacating the GM position in Toronto.

Webster and Ujiri will have plenty of big decisions to make this summer, with key Raptors like Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Patrick Patterson, and P.J. Tucker all eligible for unrestricted free agency.

Raptors Sign Masai Ujiri To Extension

The Raptors have locked up their team president and their primary basketball decision-maker for a few more years, the team announced today in a press release. Masai Ujiri, who had two years remaining on his previous contract, has signed a multiyear extension with Toronto, according to the announcement.Masai Ujiri vertical

In addition to Ujiri’s extension, the Raptors also confirmed a couple other pieces of front-office news, announcing that Jeff Weltman has been promoted to general manager, while Bobby Webster will get a new title of assistant GM/VP basketball strategy.

“I am grateful to the Board and Mr. [Larry] Tanenbaum for the opportunity to continue our progress to build the Raptors into one of the top franchises in the NBA,” Ujiri said in a statement. “I’m also excited that Jeff and Bobby are being rewarded for their hard work and valuable contributions to our program. My family thanks the NBA, Raptors players and coaches, staff, Raptors fans, the city of Toronto and Canada for this opportunity. Toronto is home for us.”

Ujiri, who was named the Raptors’ president and general manager back on May 31, 2013, has helped lead the franchise to three consecutive playoff berths, and has overseen the best stretch in franchise history. After failing to top 47 wins in their first 18 years of existence, the Raptors have established a new high in wins in a season for three straight years — the team won 48 games in 2013/14, 49 in 2014/15, and 56 last season. Toronto also earned a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals this past season, after having never previously won a seven-game playoff series.

Under Ujiri’s watch, the Raptors have turned into a contender in the East while also continuing to develop young talent. Bruno Caboclo, Lucas Nogueira, Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, and Pascal Siakam are all currently on rookie contracts. Toronto has also retained draftees such as DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas, and Terrence Ross with long-term deals, while adding players like DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph in free agency.

An ESPN report last month first indicated that the Raptors and Ujiri were discussing an extension.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.