Jama Mahlalela

Atlantic Notes: Aldridge, Ujiri, Fournier, Powell

The Nets just added former seven-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge to their gallery of decorated vets, prompting Alex Schiffer of The Athletic to examine how the power forward/center can fit on such a deep roster — especially one with a suddenly-crowded frontcourt. Aldridge figures to serve as a floor-stretching small ball center and a competent defender around the basket.

Meanwhile, Kevin Pelton of ESPN details why Aldridge may not be such a smooth fit on a club that may struggle to parse out minutes effectively among veterans like Aldridge, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, plus ascendant young big man Nicolas Claxton and even switchable forwards Kevin Durant and Joe Harris.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors team president Masai Ujiri has made plenty of incredible moves during his tenure with the club, but his failure to improve the team’s center rotation this season has to be considered one of his biggest oversights, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. After losing big men Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol to star-studded Los Angeles teams in the 2020 offseason, Ujiri signed Aron Baynes and Alex Len as their primary replacements. The Raptors cut Len in January (he has since proved productive in a limited role with the Wizards), and have had trouble scoring with Baynes on the floor.
  • Ahead of his arrival in Boston, new Celtics shooting guard Evan Fournier had a false positive COVID-19 test, according to Tom Westerholm of Boston.com. An unrestricted free agent this summer, Fournier has remained relatively mum when it comes to addressing his future with the Celtics. “My focus right now is just to learn the plays, learn how to play with my teammate[s], and win games,” Fournier said. ” I like to stay in the present, stay in the moment.” Fournier is currently on an expiring $17.5MM contract.
  • Trail Blazers shooting guard Norman Powell, a longtime Raptors fixture, penned an emotional goodbye to Toronto in the Players’ Tribune. “I kept it together for a while,” Powell said of hearing about the deal. “And then I saw Jama Mahlalela. Jama is one of our assistant coaches, and he was also my very first coach when I got to Toronto. He’s known me literally since Summer League, and I’ve spent a lot of time working with him super closely. And he came in to give me a hug, and, man … I just heard it in his voice… and that was it. After that, it was a wrap. It was straight-up waterworks. I started breaking down crying … all the memories that I’d been holding back for those last couple of days, they came rushing back in.”

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.