Bobby Webster

Raptors Notes: Tampa, Tanking, Ibaka, Ujiri

Some Raptors players and staff members are eager to see their one-season experiment in Tampa come to an end, sources tell Josh Lewenberg of TSN.

The Florida city served as a temporary home as restrictions on traveling to Canada due to COVID-19 made it impossible for the team to play at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. Crowd sizes in Tampa have been limited, and the Raptors have suffered through a forgettable season that featured a virus outbreak, a 1-13 stretch in March and virtually no chance to qualify for a play-in game heading into the season’s final week.

Toronto’s front office and coaching staff have shown for some time that they intended to prioritize player development and evaluation over a chance to sneak into postseason, Lewenberg states. That’s why it wasn’t surprising to see Kyle Lowry and OG Anunoby held out of a crucial match-up with the Wizards on Thursday.

Lewenberg traces the disappointing year back to an offseason decision to prioritize financial flexibility over keeping big men Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol. The remaining frontcourt players weren’t able to match their production, which reduced the team’s chances to compete.

There’s more on the Raptors:

  • Even after the slide began, the team had too much talent on hand to make tanking a realistic option, Lewenberg contends in the same piece. There’s no reason to shut down productive young players like Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet or Anunoby, while sitting out Lowry after failing to trade him at the deadline wouldn’t have put the Raptors in position to get a top pick.
  • The unwillingness to give Ibaka a two-year contract played a significant role in sinking Toronto’s season, argues Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star. The front office had an eye on the salary cap when it made a one-year offer to Ibaka, a move that Feschuk says shocked many Raptors players. Ibaka wound up going to the Clippers for $19MM over two years, while Toronto replaced him with Aron Baynes on a two-year, $14MM deal (with a non-guaranteed second year).
  • Michael Grange of Sportsnet calls on team president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster to address the fanbase about the organization’s medium- and long-term goals. Grange notes that the Raptors have been making conflicting moves this season, with some designed to win now and others focused on the future. Coach Nick Nurse has been left to explain how the team fell from an NBA title to out of the playoffs in two seasons.

Protocols Force Raptors Coaches To Work Remotely

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse and five other members of the team’s coaching staff will not be on the bench indefinitely due to the league’s health and safety protocols, according to a team press release.

Toronto plays its next three games at its temporary home in Tampa, beginning with a matchup against Houston on Friday. The Raptors also have home games with Chicago (Sunday) and Detroit (Tuesday) and a road trip to Boston (Thursday) prior to the All-Star break.

It’s unclear who will be running the team from the sidelines before those staff members clear protocols. The Raptors have six assistant coaches, along with other staff members in a variety of roles. Chris Finch was hired as the Timberwolves’ head coach on Monday.

The coaches under quarantine will continue to work remotely, and details on their return will be communicated when appropriate, according to the release. GM Bobby Webster will address the media later this afternoon.

Raptors Sign GM Bobby Webster To Multiyear Extension

The Raptors have signed general manager Bobby Webster to a multiyear contract extension, the team announced in a press release today. The exact terms of the agreement weren’t made available.

Webster, who was named general manager in June of 2017, is currently in his eighth season with the organization. He initially joined the team in 2013 as vice president of basketball management and strategy, working his way through the franchise and later becoming assistant GM in 2016.

“I think everyone knows what Bobby brings to our organization: intelligence, poise, and creativity,” president Masai Ujiri said in a statement. “I’m very pleased that our team will continue to benefit from his many skills for seasons to come.”

Webster was one of the main architects behind the 2019 champion Raptors team, bringing an array of experience and expertise to the table. He spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career in the league office.

“It’s great to be able to continue the work of building the next Raptor championship team – a goal which is part of our organizational DNA,” Webster said. “I’m grateful to Larry Tanenbaum, MLSE ownership and leadership, our great players and staff, and the people of Toronto for making this my home for the past years, and for the future.”

The Raptors will have to address another front-office matter in the near future, as Ujiri, the team’s longtime president, is currently in the final year of his contract.

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Robinson, Ibaka, Toppin

Nets coach Steve Nash contends that the schedule for All-Star forward Kevin Durant‘s return from his COVID-19 protocol-necessitated quarantining is a “moving target,” according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. On Tuesday, Durant commenced his quarantine, per NBA health and safety protocols, after being exposed to someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The belief was that the quarantine would last seven days.

“My understanding is that it is a quarantine, so I don’t think there will be any on-court activity,” Nash said. “There’s negative tests, days from the contact tracing and all sorts of factors that go into it. So, I don’t really have an answer yet on how long.” The Nets crushed the Jazz 130-96 in their first test without Durant.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks center Mitchell Robinson has been improving his efforts to avoid foul calls, Greg Joyce of the New York Post reports. “It’s actually, like, nobody wants to get yelled at by the coaches, so I’ve been just trying to maintain that the best way that I can,” Robinson said. “I’ve been working on it.” The young big man is averaging 3.0 fouls per game in 29.6 MPG, a marked improvement over his 3.2 fouls in 23.1 MPG during the 2019/20 season.
  • Raptors president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster apparently frustrated free agent center/power forward Serge Ibaka when the club offered him a number below what he was hoping for in an attempt to leave some cap space to re-sign starting center Marc Gasol, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Toronto bumped its one-year offer from $12MM to $14MM, but Ibaka apparently also did not want to continue being a backup to Gasol. Both players wound up departing for cheaper deals with Los Angeles title contenders, and the 1-5 (as of this writing) Raptors appear to be missing the two-way skill set of their championship frontcourt tandem.
  • Following an evaluation yesterday, Knicks power forward Obi Toppin will begin running and jumping as he continues to rehabilitate from a right calf strain, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (Twitter link). After this, Toppin will subsequently move on to on-court workouts. The rookie hurt the calf in the club’s December 23 opening night bout against the Pacers. “He’s making good progress and we just have to be patient,” new head coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Raptors Notes: Anunoby, Webster, Ujiri, Lowry

Speaking today to reporters, including Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press (Twitter link), Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said that veteran centers Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol were “incredible for us.” However, Toronto’s long-term plans meant that the team was “limited in terms and years” when it came to making Ibaka and Gasol contract offers.

The Raptors’ limitations stem from the club’s desire to maintain as much cap flexibility as possible for the 2021 offseason. As such, it remains to be seen whether or not forward OG Anunoby will receive a contract extension before the December 21 deadline. A new contract for Anunoby, which would begin in 2021/22, would cut into Toronto’s cap room if the starting salary on that new deal exceeds his cap hold as a restricted free agent ($11.6MM).

I think there are talks to be had,” Ujiri said today, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link). “They know of the abilities that we want, so we’ll keep having those conversations. The most important thing is we’re excited about OG.”

Anunoby, who spoke to reporters on Friday, confirmed that his agent was engaged in discussions with the Raptors about a possible extension, suggesting he’d have a better idea closer to the December 21 deadline whether a new deal is a realistic possibility (Twitter link via Lewenberg).

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Ujiri suggested today that the club has either completed or is close to finalizing extensions for most of his front office staffers, including general manager Bobby Webster (Twitter links via Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun and Blake Murphy of The Athletic). Ujiri said there’s been too much going on to focus on his own extension yet, but that he’ll go into those talks with a “very positive mind and attitude” and hopes to get something done (Twitter link via Lewenberg).
  • Ujiri isn’t ready to say one way or the other whether the Raptors will be able to host fans at their Tampa arena this season, noting that he has a meeting this afternoon to discuss the possibility (Twitter link via Wolstat).
  • Asked about the possibility of Kyle Lowry retiring as a Raptor, Ujiri referred to the veteran point guard as a future Hall-of-Famer, suggesting the team would be happy to continue its union with Lowry beyond 2021. He’s been incredibly respectful to the organization and we will have that same respect to Kyle anytime, everyday,” Ujiri said (Twitter link via Lewenberg).
  • The Raptors announced a series of coaching hires and promotions in a Friday press release, including Chris Finch and Jama Mahlalela as assistants on Nick Nurse‘s staff and Patrick Mutombo as the head coach of the Raptors 905, Toronto’s G League affiliate.

Raptors Notes: Training Camp, Tampa, Roster Battles, Webster

Several Raptors role players will have something to prove starting in starting camp this month. Doug Smith of the Toronto Star takes a look at how rotation contributors like OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw, Norman Powell, Chris Boucher and Matt Thomas can take leaps in their careers this season.

Though Anunoby is eligible for an extension now, Smith expects the Raptors to let him enter restricted free agency in 2021 to keep their books as clean as possible next offseason in the hopes of making an addition from a star-studded 2021 free agent class.

There’s more out of Toronto-by-way-of-Tampa:

  • The Raptors traveled to their 2020/21 season home court in Tampa on Monday, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. Lewenberg notes that Raptors players must test negative 3-4 times for COVID-19 ahead of their individual workouts. Toronto’s first team practice is set for Sunday, December 6, at Saint Leo University.
  • David Aldridge and Blake Murphy of The Athletic take a deep dive into the Raptors’ temporary relocation down south. “Obviously, we miss the city, but I think we’ve gotta be excited about what’s ahead of us,” guard Fred VanVleet said.
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic assesses the competition for opening-night Raptors roster spots heading into the the team’s training camp this season.
  • Raptors general manager Bobby Webster, in the final season of his current contract, continues to discuss an extension with team ownership, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). Webster noted that conversations about an extension have been ongoing.

Atlantic Notes: Ibaka, Raptors, VanVleet, Celtics

Rockets superstar James Harden is not the only former Thunder teammate of Kevin Durant that the Nets have interest in adding, according to Mike Mazzeo of Forbes. Durant has also apparently tried to recruit power forward/center Serge Ibaka.

Though Ibaka earned $23.3MM in his final year with the Raptors, he may be interested in joining a contender for the $9.2M non-taxpayer mid-level exception, per Ian Begley of SNY. Begley notes that Ibaka may be anticipating offers in the territory of $12-15MM from teams with available cap space. Both figures may be out of the Nets’ range, as Brooklyn is expected to be limited to the $5.7MM taxpayer MLE in free agency.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Speaking of the Raptors, there is still no resolution as to where Toronto will play during the 2020/21 season, but Michael Grange of Sportsnet tweets that the club will be holding a Los Angeles-based team mini-camp from November 20-25.
  • Raptors general manager Bobby Webster has stressed the team’s continued interest in re-signing unrestricted free agent guard Fred VanVleet, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. “He’s our top priority,” Webster said. “Our biggest priority for the offseason is bringing him back.” Toronto is also expected to have interest in bringing back Ibaka.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer mentioned on today’s installment of The Ringer NBA Show podcast that there was “chatter” about the Celtics offering the expiring contract of oft-injured forward Gordon Hayward and the team’s three first-round picks in the 2020 draft to the Pelicans in exchange for guard Jrue Holiday (hat tip to RealGM). Holiday was ultimately traded to the Bucks.

Tanenbaum Promises To Extend Ujiri’s Contract

Raptors president Masai Ujiri would get plenty of offers around the league if he became available. The chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Larry Tanenbaum, vows to not let that happen, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star reports.

Tanenbaum said he’ll eventually reach an extension with Ujiri, who has a year remaining on his contract.

The Raptors extended coach Nick Nurse’s contract after Toronto was eliminated from the postseason. They’re also close to an extension agreement with GM Bobby Webster, who is also under contract through next season.

“We have time and we’re going to work through the process in the right time and the right way, I know that for sure,” Tanenbaum said.

Once a deal is reached with Webster, Tanenbaum will turn his attention toward locking up Ujiri to a multi-year extension.

“Masai is getting (extensions) done (with Nurse and Webster) and we, too, will get it done,” Tanenbaum said.

Ujiri and Webster have important roster decisions to make this offseason with Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka headed to unrestricted free agency and OG Anunoby eligible for a rookie scale extension.

Raptors Notes: Ujiri, Webster, VanVleet, Ibaka, Gasol

The “strong rumble” in the Walt Disney World bubble was that the Raptors were nearing new long-term extensions for president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, general manager Bobby Webster, and head coach Nick Nurse, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter link).

Toronto announced a multiyear extension for Nurse earlier this week, but Ujiri told reporters today that he hasn’t engaged in contract discussions with Raptors ownership yet. As Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays (via Twitter), Ujiri said he wanted to prioritize new deals for his leadership team, including Nurse and Webster. He said an extension for Webster is “close,” per Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter link).

As for his own contract, Ujiri offered the following assessment, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link): I think it will come. When it comes we’ll deal with it face on. But as for now I’m focused on other things. When that time comes I will deal with it.”

Ujiri and Webster have one year remaining on their current contracts.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Re-signing unrestricted free agent Fred VanVleet will be a “big-time priority” for the Raptors this offseason, Ujiri said today (Twitter link via Murphy). He added that the club has a good sense of where its free agents still have room to grow or develop.
  • Ujiri also called free agent big men Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol priorities for the Raptors, though he acknowledged the challenges inherent in balancing the club’s short-term interests and long-term flexibility (Twitter link via Lewenberg). Toronto is expected to try to maximize its cap flexibility for the summer of 2021 as best it can.
  • Eric Koreen of The Athletic ranks the players on the Raptors’ roster by trade value, starting with Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby.
  • In case you missed it, we explained on Wednesday how Siakam’s All-NBA Second Team berth will affect the forward’s earnings going forward. Because Siakam’s extension will begin at 28% of the 2020/21 cap instead of 25%, the Raptors now project to have about $3.5MM less cap space during the summer of 2021, assuming the cap for ’20/21 stays the same as in ’19/20.

Eastern Notes: Bertans, Vaughn, Nurse, Antetokounmpo

Wizards forward Davis Bertans‘ decision to pass on the restart was driven by free agency, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington relays. Bertans made his comments on the ‘Basketball Network’ show on YouTube.

“I think there were multiple reasons,” the Wizards’ sharpshooter said. “Of course, one of the main ones I guess is that I was an upcoming free agent and we were put in a position as very unlikely to make the playoffs. To risk an injury after not playing basketball and not really working out for almost two months [was not smart]. That was the main reason.”

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • The Nets are hopeful that Jacques Vaughn will remain on Steve Nash’s staff even though they passed on making him the permanent head coach, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. Vaughn has been identified is a candidate for the Pacers coaching job. The Rockets are also reportedly interested, though the Nets would have to grant those teams permission to interview him.
  • Handing coach Nick Nurse an extension was an important first step during a tricky offseason for the Raptors, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Canada opines. The Raptors need to position themselves for the summer of 2021, when they could chase top free agents. The next step this offseason would be to reach extension agreements with team president Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster, Lewenberg adds. Details of Nurse’s multiyear extension can be found here.
  • The safest bet regarding Giannis Antetokounmpo is that he stays put with the Bucks, either through a Designated Veteran Extension this offseason or re-signing on a shorter deal next year, according to Danny Leroux of The Athletic. Leroux looks at all the options and possibilities regarding Antetokounmpo’s future in the wake of the Bucks’ surprisingly early playoff exit.
  • The Raptors will have approximately $45MM to spend on their own free agents or using the mid-level exception before going into the luxury tax, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic. Murphy takes a closer look at the Raptors’ balance sheet and impending decisions, including Fred VanVleet‘s free agency.