Masai Ujiri

Raptors Notes: Ujiri, Nurse, Second-Round Picks

There are positive signs that Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri plans to sign an extension, Michael Grange of reports. He’s conducting business as usual, focusing on the draft and free agency. A player agent told Grange “he’s coming back” and another source at the recent combine said Ujiri was acting as if he’s “on a mission to win another title.”

Ujiri is technically a free agent this summer and there are still some concerns another franchise, such as the Clippers, could swoop in at the last minute and try to woo him away. But for now a return to the Raptors is expected.

We have more on the Raptors:

  • Coach Nick Nurse’s former agent has filed a civil lawsuit against him, claiming breach of contract, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. Warren LeGarie is seeking financial relief, claiming he had a contract with Nurse through the 2023/24 season. Nurse, who is now represented by Andy Miller, agreed to a contract extension in September. According to the suit, Nurse’s salary for this season was readjusted to the $6-8MM range and the four-year extension was worth $32MM. LeGarie is seeking a commission for the portion of the contract he claims he negotiated.
  • The team owns the No. 46 and 47 overall picks in this month’s draft and Blake Murphy of The Athletic examines six wing players it could take with those second-round selections. The group includes Michigan State’s Aaron Henry and Florida’s Scottie Lewis.
  • In case you missed it, Murphy examined the logistics this week of a potential trade with the Warriors involving Pascal Siakam.

Atlantic Notes: Dinwiddie, Fizdale, Raptors’ Lottery Pick

Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie is not only looking for a more lucrative contract but also may prioritize a return to Los Angeles, where he grew up, according to Kristian Winfield of the New York Daily News.

Dinwiddie is declining his $12.3MM player option in order to test the free agent market despite missing most of this season due to a partial ACL tear. Dinwiddie seems unlikely to return to the Nets and would prefer to join one of the L.A. teams, with Winfield noting he rehabbed his injury in California. However, due to his likely contract demands, Dinwiddie could only join the Lakers or Clippers in a sign-and-trade scenario.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • David Fizdale dealt with mental health issues during and after his final season with the Knicks, he said in an interview with Jesse Washington of The Undefeated. Fizdale said he was filled with self-doubt after getting fired during the 2019/20 season. “I thought the lowest point was during the losses,” Fizdale said. “But it was after, when you go through the whole part of, ‘What could I have done different? Did I even deserve this job?’ You think like you were an imposter. You felt like you got over on these people. You’re a fraud.”
  • The Raptors emerged from the lottery with the No. 4 pick. Blake Murphy of The Athletic takes a closer look at what the Raptors might have to give up to move into the top three while also speculating on what assets they could acquire if they’re willing to move down to the 5-7 range.
  • Agreeing to an extension with president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, selecting top big man Evan Mobley with the No. 4 pick, and re-signing Kyle Lowry to a two-year deal. Those would be some of the components for an ideal offseason for the Raptors, Eric Koreen of The Athletic writes.

Mavs Notes: Finley, Front Office Search, Carlisle

Former Mavericks champion Michael Finley has emerged as a strong candidate to be named the team’s new head of basketball operations, writes Marc Stein of the New York Times. Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News also believes Finley is likely to become Dallas’ new president of basketball ops.

Finley spent eight seasons in Dallas as a player and was a two-time All Star for the Mavs. He’s currently the team’s VP of basketball operations, and Stein and Townsend both suggest that team owner Mark Cuban is more likely to stay in-house to replace longtime executive Donnie Nelson than to bring in someone new with the draft and free agency around the corner.

Stein also reports that the Mavs aren’t pursuing veteran executives such as Danny Ainge and Masai Ujiri for their front office opening. There’s an expectation that – even if Finley is promoted – the team would make at least one outside addition to its front office, but execs like Ainge and Ujiri would likely expect more autonomy than Cuban is willing to cede, Stein writes.

We have more on the Mavs:

  • Tim Cato of the Athletic provides a post-mortem on the Rick Carlisle era with the Mavericks, highlighting the coach’s adaptability as a tactician and thinker of the game, as well as his abrasive personality, including his rocky relationship with star Luka Doncic. Both star and coach seemed at times to bristle at each other, as Carlisle felt Doncic publicly showed him up and Carlisle was known for lashing out at players verbally, including several Doncic was close with. The piece also discusses more about his contentious give-and-take towards the end with Mavericks executive Haralabos Voulgaris. Cato concludes that the era was a successful one, culminating in a championship with longtime Mav Dirk Nowitzki, but in the end, it was time for both sides to move on.
  • The Mavericks will not seek any compensation from the team that hires Carlisle, tweets ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. Carlisle still had two years on his deal when he stepped down, but MacMahon writes that owner Cuban has no interest in complicating Carlisle’s job search and drawing out what has already been an ugly process. Carlisle and Cuban have a long-standing relationship and Cuban has expressed nothing but gratitude to Carlisle for his time as Mavericks head coach.
  • In case you missed it, a report earlier this week indicated that the Mavericks kicked the tires on Kelly Oubre at the trade deadline and could have interest in the forward again in free agency.

And-Ones: Team USA, Eaton, Small Markets, Africa League, Mathiang

Players on teams that go deep into the postseason will still be under consideration for Team USA even though the Finals could end a day before the Olympics began, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reports. Team USA will conduct a mini-camp as early as July 1 and a Game 7 of the Finals would be held on July 22. The Olympics begin the next day. National team director Jerry Colangelo said the roster will be reevaluated after each playoff round.

“It’s conceivable, there will be a few players who are competing in the Finals and want to participate and we want them to participate,” Colangelo said. “But we don’t know who that’s going to be. We have to wait and see. That’s why we’ll take inventory after each round. It’s possible that we don’t end up with 12 in Las Vegas and we bring a couple of guys at the last minute.”

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Mark Eaton, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year, has died at the age of 64, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. The 7’4” Eaton played 12 seasons with the Jazz from 1982-93.
  • While it’s possible for small market franchises to reach the NBA Finals, there are obvious disadvantages for those clubs, especially in an era where superstars often choose where they want to play, Zillgitt writes in a separate story. Zillgitt outlines the difficulties facing those franchises.
  • Raptors executive Masai Ujiri writes about the impact of the Basketball Africa League in a guest viewpoint article for The Athletic. He hopes the dreams of African players won’t just center around the opportunity to play in the NBA. “Maybe one of those young men will make the NBA. But let’s dream bigger: Maybe, a few years from now, that young man won’t have to leave Africa to play basketball at an elite level,” Ujiri writes.
  • Former Hornets big man Mangok Mathiang has agreed to extend his contract with Cedevita Olimpija (Slovenia) until at least the end of the 2021/22 season, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. Mathiang underwent surgery back in November to repair a fracture of his leg and tibia. Mathiang appeared in four Hornets games during the 2017/18 season.

Raptors’ Ujiri Talks Contract Situation, Lowry, Return To Toronto

Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri held his end-of-season press conference on Wednesday, addressing a wide range of topics in the wake of what has been an eventful season for a displaced franchise.

As Tim Bontemps of ESPN details, Ujiri spent some time discussing the challenges the team faced spending the season in Tampa instead of Toronto, and also addressed two major upcoming free agencies: point guard Kyle Lowry‘s and his own. Both Lowry and Ujiri are on expiring contracts.

[RELATED: Growing Confidence Masai Ujiri Will Remain With Raptors?]

In discussing Lowry’s situation, Ujiri stressed that “it’s hard to find a better player than Kyle” and suggested that the 35-year-old is even more valuable to the Raptors than to another team. However, he also spoke about building around younger players and giving them more opportunities, perhaps providing a hint of what next season could look like for the team if Lowry doesn’t return.

As for his own contract situation, Ujiri said he appreciates the freedom he has to go into the luxury tax when the Raptors are in position to win, but that he wants to discuss some other issues with team ownership, such as the infrastructure of the organization (Twitter link via Blake Murphy of The Athletic).

Bontemps’ roundup of the presser is worth checking out in full, but here are a few of the notable quotes from Ujiri on his contract negotiations and the Raptors’ situation going forward:

On factors Ujiri will consider as he approaches contract negotiations with the Raptors:

“Everybody says, ‘blank check, blank check,’ but I’m not as much focused on a blank check. A lot of the things that we’ve done here, we have to move forward as a franchise to compete with the best in the NBA. This is all about winning a championship again.

“… I want to know, ‘So, what’s the next lift? What’s the next five years? What’s the next 10 years? What are we doing to put ourselves in conversation with all the great teams and all the winners?’ That’s what we want to do, and that’s the conversation that I’m going to have with (ownership). And, yes, I’m going to have asks, and I’m going to have a lot of things that I think we need to put forward here to address these things, and I think ownership is open to hear this.”

On his feeling that the Raptors face some disadvantages as the only non-U.S. NBA franchise:

“I think it’s difficult sometimes for the league to always include us in everything because we are the one team that is based outside the U.S. I’m sure sometimes it’s a pain in the ass sometimes for them. But guess what? That is the business you have put yourself in. You have put yourself on a global platform that you have one team in the NBA that is outside the United States and we have to be considered in every single way. There are difficult decisions that have to be made based on this.

“… (NBA commissioner) Adam Silver has been very considerate. … I don’t want to call out anybody here. But there is a lot of work we need to address.”

On his strong desire for the Raptors to return to Toronto for the 2021/22 season:

“So, the situation we are in in Toronto now, I’m hoping that we’re seeing it and we’re hoping that it gets resolved, hopefully soon. And all over Canada, people continue to get vaccinated, and then we go from there. … I don’t want to be selfish on the sports part, and as an NBA worker or executive, I don’t want to be selfish and push our agenda before other people, but yes, timing matters and we would like to be considered, because we do not want — I repeat — we do not want to play anywhere else but Toronto.”

Atlantic Notes: Lowry, M. James, Embiid, Knicks, Nets

Asked today about his upcoming free agency, Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry mentioned a number of factors that he’ll consider as he makes his decision, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Lowry cited family considerations as one important factor, along with “money” and “years,” as well as his desire to win more championships (Twitter link via Josh Lewenberg of

Perhaps most interestingly, Lowry suggested his future may be tied in part to that of president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, who is the Raptors’ other key free agent this summer: “I told him this, the only reason I’m still here is because of him. Part of the reason I re-signed here twice is because of him. That is a large part of why I am able to be who I am and gotten to this point.”

Based on Lowry’s comments about prioritizing family and competing for titles, Eric Koreen of The Athletic believes the six-time All-Star is probably more likely to join a new team than to return to the Raptors. However, Lowry also hinted that he may have unfinished business with his current club after a disappointing 2020/21 season spent away from Toronto.

“It does play a factor in it because I enjoy the challenge of people counting me out, counting the team out,” Lowry said. “I enjoy that competitive nature, and I wanna challenge myself and see what I can continue to help do and build. But a lot of things will be factored into this summer and this free agency. The unfinished business thing is part of it, a little bit.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • There has been an expectation that Mike James‘ stint with the Nets will be temporary, since he remains under contract with EuroLeague powerhouse CSKA Moscow through 2022/23. However, international reporter Chema de Lucas tweets that James may try to stay in the NBA beyond this season, and Aris Barkas of suggests CSKA Moscow would be open to that idea if they can save some money and keep James away from their European rivals.
  • When Joel Embiid suffered a knee injury on March 12 that was later diagnosed as a bone bruise, he initially feared that it would be a season-ender, he tells ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, who published an in-depth feature on the Sixers center. “As soon as I fell, the first thing that I’m thinking is: ‘My season is over,'” Embiid said. Having avoided a major injury such as an ACL tear, the big man returned to action just three weeks later, on April 3.
  • Loosened restrictions on gathering in New York mean that the Knicks and Nets are in position to significantly increase their arena capacities for the postseason, as Steve Popper of Newsday details.

Growing Confidence Masai Ujiri Will Remain With Raptors?

Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri isn’t under contract with the franchise beyond the 2020/21 season, but there’s growing confidence that the two sides will be able to complete a new deal that extends Ujiri’s time in Toronto, says Michael Grange of

“Masai doesn’t share a lot; he’s very private and strategic in his own way,” a source close to Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the Raptors’ ownership group, told Grange. “But if you were asking, ‘Are they going to sign Masai?’ I would put it at 95 per cent yes.”

Grange cautions that the 95% estimate is just a prediction from one plugged-in insider, but says there have been other positive signals as of late. According to Grange, Ujiri – who has ceded some front office responsibilities to general manager Bobby Webster – has seemed more involved, engaged, and forward-looking in recent weeks. One source says Ujiri has been more active in communicating with players, both in person and via text.

“We talked about winning and winning another title with the Raptors,” one agent who recently met with Ujiri told Grange. “He seems like he’s in a really good place.”

Grange also notes that no front office jobs in marquee markets like Los Angeles and New York seem likely to open this offseason, given how well those teams have performed. The Wizards have reportedly had interest in Ujiri in the past, but it’s unclear whether they’ll be looking to make any front office changes this spring or if they’d be willing to outbid Toronto for the former Executive of the Year.

There has been some speculation around the league that Ujiri may eventually wind up in Seattle if the league approves a new franchise, as Marc Stein of the New York Times reported last month. Longtime sports executive Tim Leiweke, who hired Ujiri as Toronto’s executive vice president and GM in 2013, is involved in Seattle’s expansion efforts.

However, as Grange points out, while the NBA has seemed more open to expansion as of late, it still appears to be multiple years away, and it seems unlikely that Ujiri would take a hiatus while waiting for such an opportunity. Even if running an expansion franchise is something that appeals to him, he and the Raptors may end up working out a shorter-term contract that gives him some flexibility, Grange writes.

“They’re going to try to sign him for as long as they reasonably can, (but) if they have to sign him for less, they’ll sign him for less,” the source close to MLSE told Sportsnet. “They don’t have a lot of leverage. They want him. If he wants (a shorter deal) what are they going to say, no?”

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.

And-Ones: Buyout Market, Epps, Stephenson, Ujiri, Ham

When the NBA and NBA Players’ Association hold CBA renewal talks, the league plans to consider bringing up buyout reform as part of a broader discussion, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Some team executives have complained about the plethora of veteran players getting buyouts and joining playoff contenders.

Commissioner Adam Silver‘s office doesn’t see it as an issue of fairness between big and small markets, but rather a process that is contradictory to the financial system’s goals. In the league’s view, teams with big payrolls are adding an impact player without a dramatic impact on their luxury tax penalties, since those salaries after clearing waivers are usually prorated minimums.

The NBA would also like to find a way to make players who have been bought out available to more teams than just the contenders.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Aaron Epps has signed in Israel with Elitzur Eito Ashkelon, sources told Hoops Rumors’ JD Shaw (Twitter link). Epps holds G League experience with the Northern Arizona Suns and Canton Charge, most recently playing with Canton in the bubble.
  • Veteran NBA swingman Lance Stephenson is hopeful of playing in the league again, David Aldridge of The Athletic tweets. He has been working out in New York for the last few weeks, in case a suitor comes calling. The 30-year-old last played in the NBA with the Lakers in 2019.
  • There’s some speculation around the league that Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri may eventually wind up in Seattle if the league approves a new franchise, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. The group heading expansion efforts in Seattle includes longtime sports executive Tim Leiweke, who hired Ujiri as Toronto’s executive vice president and GM in 2013.
  • Texas Tech has received permission to interview Bucks assistant Darvin Ham for its head coaching vacancy, Wojnarowski tweets. Ham led the school to the Sweet 16 in 1996 and played in the NBA from ’96 to 2005.

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 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.”