Bobby Webster

Latest On Bulls’ Front Office Search

The Bulls have received permission to interview Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas, sources tell K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

Karnisovas was one of four men said to be on Chicago’s initial wish list for a top front office executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions. It’s not clear if the Bulls will get a chance to talk to any of those four potential candidates besides Karnisovas.

Pacers GM Chad Buchanan reportedly rebuffed the Bulls’ interest, opting to remain in Indiana. And there’s plenty of speculation around the NBA that the Heat will make an effort to retain assistant GM Adam Simon, according to Johnson (Twitter link).

As for the fourth candidate, Toronto’s Bobby Webster, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca writes that the Raptors may not grant the Bulls permission to speak to their general manager, who is under contract through 2021. With president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and head coach Nick Nurse also set to have their contracts expire after next season, and many of their players coming off the books in the coming months, the Raptors face some long-term uncertainty and might not want to risk losing a rising young executive. There’s a sense they’ll tell Chicago that “this is not a good time,” according to Grange.

Even if they’re only able to speak to one of their initial four targets, the Bulls have a longer list of candidates, per Johnson (Twitter link), who names Clippers GM Michael Winger, Clippers assistant GM Trent Redden, Magic assistant GM Matt Lloyd, and Jazz GM Justin Zanik as possibilities.

Chicago has received permission to talk to Zanik, Johnson reports, so the Utah GM will join Karnisovas in taking part in the first round of Bulls interviews.

The Bulls will conduct those meetings electronically due to the coronavirus pandemic and reportedly want to make a hire prior to the draft and free agency.

Chad Buchanan To Stay With Pacers, Turns Down Interview With Bulls

Pacers general manager Chad Buchanan is declining an opportunity to interview for the Bulls‘ top front office position, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. Buchanan decided to remain in his current job, saying he and his family have been treated well by the organization.

Toronto’s Bobby Webster, Miami’s Adam Simon and Denver’s Arturas Karnisovas are the most prominent remaining candidates for the position, Charania adds, but Chicago will continue to research other possibilities (Twitter link).

Buchanan, who is in his third year as Indiana’s GM, also worked with president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard in Portland before they both came to Indiana. His comfort level with that partnership played a strong role in the decision to stay, a source tells K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

The Bulls are seeking permission to interview Webster, Simon and Karnisovas, according to Johnson, who adds that team president Michael Reinsdorf hopes to fill the position before the NBA hiatus is over. Whoever is ultimately hired to run the organization may make more hires and will launch an overhaul of the scouting department.

Executive vice president John Paxson is expected to be retained in an advisory role, but the fate of former GM Gar Forman, who is now working mainly in scouting, may be determined by the new regime. Reinsdorf is still a strong supporter of coach Jim Boylen, Johnson notes, but the fate of all the coaches will be decided by the new team president.

Assistant GM Steve Weinman is believed to be safe, Johnson writes. He has built a strong reputation for his expertise with salary cap issues and the collective bargaining agreement.

Bulls To Seek Interviews With Karnisovas, Webster, Others

1:24pm: Pacers GM Chad Buchanan will  join Karnisovas and Webster on the Bulls’ list of first-wave interview targets, per K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). Sources tell Darnell Mayberry and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) that Heat assistant GM Adam Simon will be part of that group as well.

According to Mayberry (Twitter link), the Bulls won’t pursue Ujiri or Thunder head of basketball operations Sam Presti and won’t go the player-agent route like New York and other teams have.

12:41pm: The Bulls have formally launched their search for a new top front office executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. We had previously heard in a series of February reports that the team was laying the groundwork for front office changes.

Those February reports suggested that executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson would retain a “valuable seat at the table” amidst the front office upheaval and that general manager Gar Forman would have his responsibilities cut back.

Wojnarowski confirms that Paxson is expected to continue in an advisory role and says that the club will have more conversations with Forman about his future. Previous reports indicated Forman would likely be re-assigned to a scouting position.

According to Wojnarowski, Chicago plans to seek permission to interview Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas and Raptors GM Bobby Webster, among others. The club’s goal is to complete its planned front office changes “well before” the NBA resumes play, per Woj, who hears that interviews will begin next week and will be conducted virtually rather than in person due to the coronavirus.

Neither Karnisovas nor Webster is the head of basketball operations for his respective team — Tim Connelly serves as Denver’s president of basketball operations, while Masai Ujiri holds that position in Toronto. However, the two GMs have risen through their respective organizations in recent years and have played important roles in building the Nuggets’ and Raptors’ talented rosters.

According to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, who identified Karnisovas and Webster as two possible targets for the Bulls in a March mailbag, Pacers GM Chad Buchanan, Heat assistant GM Adam Simon, Jazz GM Justin Zanik, and Clippers GM Michael Winger are among the other executives on Bulls president/COO Michael Reinsdorf‘s list of potential candidates (Twitter link).

Many of those executives are under contract beyond the 2019/20 season, but likely wouldn’t be held back by their respective teams if the Bulls’ job is viewed as a promotion from their current roles. Based on Woj’s description, it should be.

The timing of Chicago’s search is interesting. Ujiri spoke earlier this week about putting business like contract extensions for himself and Nick Nurse on hold during the NBA’s stoppage, and we heard on Thursday that the Knicks aren’t pursuing front office changes or a new head coach during the hiatus. Nets GM Sean Marks also said this week that his team isn’t moving forward with its head coach search at this time.

However, no official hiring or firing freeze has been instituted by the NBA, and the Bulls’ situation is a little different from that of those other teams — a new top front office executive would lead the team’s decisions in the draft and free agency, making that search a more pressing matter than a head coaching hire, lower-level front office changes, or extensions for current execs and coaches.

Knicks Notes: Rose, Front Office, Anthony, Robinson

Leon Rose will be faced with plenty of important decisions as he takes over as president of basketball operations for the Knicks, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. The first priority will be to sort out the front office. Many of the executives and scouts brought in by general manager Scott Perry and former team president Steve Mills are expected to be replaced, Popper states. Even though Rose has relationships with several of them through his time as an agent, a source tells Popper that a “house-cleaning” could be on the way.

Perry’s future is also in doubt, even though he has been running the team since Mills was fired four weeks ago. Popper notes that Nuggets GM Arturas Karnisovas has been mentioned as a possible target for the new front office, with the Raptors‘ Bobby Webster and the ClippersMike Winger also among the potential executives of interest. Members of Rose’s CAA agency might be brought in to help with scouting ahead of the draft.

In the coaching search, Popper expects Tom Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy to be among the biggest names under consideration. Interim coach Mike Miller may be offered a chance to remain with the team as an assistant. The Knicks could also be active on the trade market with six free agents who signed last summer holding small guarantees for 2020/21.

There’s more from New York:

  • A report on Wednesday indicated that today would officially be Rose’s first day on the job in New York, but Frank Isola of The Athletic says (via Twitter) that will actually happen on Monday. Isola contends (via Twitter) that Rose will have to get the front office under control, since the “jockeying, maneuvering and backstabbing is at an all-time high.”
  • The hiring of Rose provides a perfect opportunity to bring Carmelo Anthony back to the organization, contends George Willis of The New York Post. Anthony remains popular in New York and could provide a valuable veteran presence for the team’s young core, Willis states. Rose served as Carmelo’s agent at CAA.
  • Although Mitchell Robinson is putting up the best numbers of his career, the Knicks have no plans to move him into the starting lineup, relays Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Robinson is averaging 14.0 PPG and shooting 81% over his last seven games. Still, Miller wants to keep him in a reserve role behind Taj GibsonTaj has gotten us off to great starts,” Miller said. “Sometimes it’s a matchup… But for the most part it’s because Mitchell is so effective in the role that he’s playing. We just haven’t been put in a situation where we think it’s time to change it.”
  • Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic examines the Knicks’ unusual philosophy on player development and questions whether it’s wise to continue, considering the results.

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.