Masai Ujiri

Stein’s Latest: Timberwolves, Ujiri, Simmons, Lacob, Dragic

Incoming Timberwolves owners Alex Rodriguez and Marc Lore won’t assume majority control of the the franchise from Glen Taylor until 2023, but they’re operating in some ways as if they’re already the team’s primary owners, says Marc Stein of Substack.

Shortly after Gersson Rosas was dismissed this week, Timberwolves reporter Dane Moore suggested (via Twitter) that rumors have circulated for months that Rodriguez and Lore want to bring in a “top-five” front office executive. Stein doesn’t specifically confirm that rumor, but he corroborates it, writing that word circulated at Summer League in August that A-Rod and Lore would have loved to make a run at veteran executive Masai Ujiri, who ultimately re-upped with the Raptors.

While those reports suggest that the Wolves’ new ownership group wants to make a splash, league sources tell Stein that Sachin Gupta is expected to get every chance to impress the team during his time running the basketball operations department. According to Moore (Twitter link), Gupta – whose title is executive VP of basketball operations – doesn’t technically have the “interim” tag attached to his position, an indication that he’ll receive serious consideration for the permanent job.

Here’s more from Stein’s latest NBA roundup:

  • According to Stein, teams around the NBA are skeptical that the Sixers genuinely want to bring back Ben Simmons, viewing Doc Riversmedia comments on Wednesday as an attempt to regain trade leverage rather than a legitimate effort to mend the team’s relationship with Simmons.
  • It may seem odd that Warriors owner Joe Lacob was fined for comments about Simmons that didn’t even mention him by name and made it clear that Golden State isn’t really interested in the Sixers star. However, Stein says the tampering penalty was “as automatic as these ever get,” since there was no doubt Lacob was referring to Simmons, and his comments could be viewed as an attempt to diminish the 25-year-old’s trade value.
  • It doesn’t appear that any deal involving Goran Dragic is imminent. Stein writes that the Raptors want to be as competitive as possible this season, and Dragic can help with those efforts. Toronto also believes that more appealing trade scenarios could arise once the season gets underway and more teams need a point guard due to injuries or underperformance.

Atlantic Notes: DeRozan, Dragic, Celtics, Simmons

Knicks general manager Scott Perry had contemplated pursuing swingman DeMar DeRozan in free agency this summer, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. DeRozan eventually joined the Bulls through a three-year, $81.9MM sign-and-trade with San Antonio. The Knicks ultimately decided to add sharpshooting wing Evan Fournier on a four-year contract that could be worth up to $78MM.

The 28-year-old Fournier, who connected on 41.3% of his 6.7 three-point attempts per game for the Magic and Celtics last year, is potentially a cleaner offensive fit with the Knicks than the 32-year-old DeRozan would have been. DeRozan, a four-time All-Star while with the Raptors, is an excellent ball handler and an elite mid-range jump shooter, but lacks a reliable outside shot.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The fate of new Raptors point guard Goran Dragic is one of the prime subjects of a detailed new mailbag with Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Koreen contends that, because Dragic is on an expiring $19MM deal, he may have value in a trade. Koreen adds that a buyout would only transpire if Toronto team president Masai Ujiri is unable to find a suitable trade partner for Dragic before the 2022 deadline. Koreen also addresses the team’s thinking in not extending offers to free agent centers Jarrett Allen and Richaun Holmes.
  • After undergoing some significant behind-the-scenes changes during the offseason, the Celtics also made some notable changes on the court. In a new article, Zach Harper of The Athletic recaps and grades the club’s summer. The club added point guard Dennis Schröder on a team-friendly one-year, $5.9MM deal. Boston also traded away oft-injured point guard Kemba Walker in exchange for former Celtics All-Star big man Al Horford. The team also moved on from swingman Evan Fournier, decided to take a flyer on 3-and-D wing Josh Richardson, and added former Boston reserve Enes Kanter to their forward and center rotations, respectively. Harper forecasts that Boston ultimately upgraded its roster and could become a threat in the East again.
  • With training camp fast approaching, it is quite possible that the Sixers will now be affected by an extended Ben Simmons holdout ahead of a blockbuster trade, Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice writes. If a deal can’t be reached before the preseason starts, Neubeck wonders if the rest of the club can deal with the drama. Neubeck opines that, should a teammate, coach, or executive besmirch Simmons to the media, it could adversely affect Philadelphia’s potential return package in a trade. Neubeck also speculates about how an on-court absence for Simmons could expand the roles of Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle.

Raptors’ Ujiri Talks Potential Return To Toronto, Player Development Plans

While Masai Ujiri‘s new deal and promotion to vice chairman doesn’t give him a stake in the Raptors‘ ownership, sources who spoke to Michael Grange of believe there may be “equity-like” elements in Ujiri’s deal, such as bonuses based on revenues or on an increased valuation of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns the Raptors.

The terms of Ujiri’s new contract with the team haven’t been announced or reported, so it’s unclear how much the Raptors’ president of basketball operations is being paid or how many years the deal covers. However, given that it has been called a “significant” multiyear deal, Grange says he’d be surprised if it’s not at least a four- or five-year agreement.

Ujiri spoke to reporters on Wednesday about his new deal with the Raptors and the team’s offseason. Here are a few of the highlights from that presser:

  • Ujiri is optimistic the Raptors will be able to play in Toronto in 2021/22 after spending a season in Tampa, suggesting that there’s no real backup plan at this point. “I told (MLSE chairman) Larry (Tanenbaum) and Adam (Silver) and even Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau that playing away set us back a couple of years,” Ujiri said, per Josh Lewenberg of “We know that and we are ready for that challenge, (but) playing another year somewhere else will set us back five years. We are not trying to do that. We have no interest (in playing anywhere else). We have not looked elsewhere, we are not going to look elsewhere, we’re playing at home; we’re trying to play at home. That’s the goal for us.”
  • The Raptors could have created a chunk of cap space this offseason and pursued a veteran free agent or two, but they’re instead focusing on the development of returning young players like OG Anunoby and Malachi Flynn and newcomers like Scottie Barnes and Precious Achiuwa. “I said it when I sat here eight years ago (and) I’m saying it again,” Ujiri said, according to Lewenberg. “We are going to continue to develop these players and we’re going to find a way to win a championship here based on our development of our players, and whatever comes from that, sometimes trades, sometimes you acquire (players) through free agency.”
  • Ujiri added that the Raptors are willing to be patient with their young players and will give them an “opportunity to grow,” rather than trying to take a short-cut to contention, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. “There’s going to be super-teams, there are going to be three superstars on one team and maybe they’ll get as many as 10 one day,” Ujiri said. “We’re not taking that route, at least not for now. Our route is to grow our young players and be excited. It might not be the big three and winning now and super-teams. But in our minds, it’s a little bit super. Super young, but super hopeful.”

Raptors Notes: Lowry, Achiuwa, Dragic, Birch, TPE, Ujiri

There was some speculation leading up to free agency that Toronto would make an effort to re-sign veteran point guard Kyle Lowry, but comments made on Friday by the six-time All-Star and by Raptors general manager Bobby Webster suggested both sides felt the time was right to move on, writes Josh Lewenberg of

“I think the direction Toronto is going in is they want to give the opportunities to (Fred VanVleet), Pascal (Siakam), OG (Anunoby), a couple young guys, the young draft picks they have,” Lowry told reporters. “They have some great core pieces. They’re in great hands and great shape. It was a situation for me where it was an opportunity to do something different… It’s time to turn the page in the book.”

Webster conveyed a similar sentiment: “You probably could see (during the 2020/21 second half) the direction the team was going in, and jumping up in the draft to get the fourth pick, philosophically, I think going young became kind of a more desirable path.”

Once they recognized Lowry would be moving on, the Raptors could’ve decided to let him walk in order to open up cap room to pursue a free agent. However, that path offered less certainty, especially if the team made an offer sheet to a restricted free agent (such as Jarrett Allen) not knowing whether it would be matched. The Raptors preferred to acquire Goran Dragic and Precious Achiuwa via a sign-and-trade with the Heat, Lewenberg writes.

“Precious is a huge part of this deal for us,” Webster said. “We really liked him last year in the draft so I think that was a huge get in the sense of a young player that we like and fits.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • Throughout the week, there were rumors that Toronto may try to flip Dragic to a third team after acquiring him via sign-and-trade. Webster said on Friday that’s not Plan A. “Obviously, if we got an offer that was too good to refuse we’d listen but ultimately we want Goran here,” the Raptors’ GM said, per Lewenberg. “He’s happy to be here, obviously he’s been able to carve out a very nice career for himself. Talking to (team president) Masai (Ujiri), talking to everyone here, we’ve watched him a ton and I know a lot of people have seen him kill us. As a basketball player, as a vet, he provides a lot of value to us.”
  • After his new three-year deal with the Raptors was formally announced on Friday, Canadian center Khem Birch told reporters he was focused throughout free agency on returning to the team, as Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes. “It feels like a dream come true,” Birch said. “It’s so surreal right now … just one of those free agencies where I knew where I wanted to go. I don’t even know what other teams were interested in me. I just wanted to come here regardless of the price or the years or anything. I just knew this was a great fit. I’m just happy I’m here.”
  • The Raptors will generate a traded player exception as a result of the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade to Miami. It’ll be worth somewhere between $4.8MM and $7.7MM, depending on the specific structure of Lowry’s new contract, writes Blake Murphy of The Athletic.
  • Speaking to Jared Weiss of The Athletic, Raptors chairman Larry Tanenbaum confirmed that Masai Ujiri‘s new vice chairman title won’t give him an ownership stake in the franchise, but said it reflects his standing in the organization. “I chair the Raptors, but it’s just a recognition that we’re really working together,” Tanenbaum said. “We’re partners.”
  • Tanenbaum added in the same interview that the team’s plan is to have Lowry retire as a Raptor down the road and to retire his number. “He will retire as a Raptor and his number will absolutely go up there,” Tanenbaum said. “The honor will be the first one (for the Raptors) and I love Kyle.”

Atlantic Notes: Petrusev, Knicks, Begarin, Celtics, Sullivan, Ujiri

Sixers second-round pick Filip Petrusev is eager to join his teammates in Philadelphia, but the team will likely keep the 21-year-old overseas as a draft-and-stash player, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

Petrusev, the No. 50 pick in the draft, is coming off an impressive season with KK Mega Basket in Serbia. He averaged 23.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, impressing Philadelphia enough to draft him — but not enough to bring him over just yet.

“My intentions would be obviously to come over as soon as possible,” Petrusev said. “But it’s not up to me.”

The 6’11” Petrusev can technically opt out of his contract with Mega before next season, but that remains unlikely given Philadelphia’s intentions.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division today:

  • By signing Julius Randle to a four-year contract extension, the Knicks improved their chances of becoming an intriguing free-agent destination down the road, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic writes. New York is also set to sign Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier while keeping most its returning playoff core from last season.
  • Celtics second-round pick Juhann Begarin asked president of basketball operations Brad Stevens if he could play summer league with the team this month, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. “Normally after the draft, I normally come back (to) France,” said Begarin, whose wish has been granted. “But I asked Brad Stevens to play the summer league and show them if I can play in the NBA, and after the summer league I will see what’s happened.”
  • Speaking of the Celtics, the team is hiring Bucks assistant Ben Sullivan to Ime Udoka‘s coaching staff, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Sullivan started his NBA career as a video intern for the Spurs, then became an assistant coach with the Hawks in 2014. He joined the Bucks in 2018.
  • Michael Grange of Sportsnet examines Masai Ujiri‘s new deal and title with the Raptors, noting that Ujiri’s new “vice chairman” position won’t give him a stake in team ownership.

Raptors Extend, Promote Masai Ujiri

5:09pm: The Raptors have officially announced Ujiri’s new deal and new title, announcing in a press release that he has signed a multiyear contract to become the team’s vice chairman and president.

“Great sportsmen impact their games. Great leaders impact their communities. Masai Ujiri does both, and we’re very pleased he is returning to the Raptors as vice-chairman and president,” Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum said in a statement. “Masai and MLSE share the goals of bringing another NBA Championship to Toronto, and off the court, working towards making our city, country and world a better place. These are exciting times, and we look forward to all that comes next for our team, for Masai and for his family. Masai, we’re glad you’re staying home.”

1:29pm: The Raptors are losing six-time All-Star Kyle Lowry to the Heat this week, but they’ve reached an agreement to lock up their other key free agent, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

According to Wojnarowski, Toronto’s president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri has agreed to a “significant” new deal with the franchise that will give him the title of vice chairman in addition to team president. The Raptors posted a video to their Twitter account alluding to the new deal with Ujiri, whose previous contract had been about to expire.

“I love being the leader of the Toronto Raptors and I’m here to stay,” Ujiri said in the video.

Ujiri, who won the NBA’s Executive of the Year award in 2013 with the Nuggets, was hired as the Raptors’ head of basketball operations that same year and spearheaded the turnaround of a club that had missed the playoffs in five straight seasons prior to his arrival.

Ujiri and his front office have displayed a knack over the years of finding hidden gems in the draft class, including Pascal Siakam (No. 27 pick), Norman Powell (No. 46 pick), and Fred VanVleet (undrafted free agent). He also memorably acquired Kawhi Leonard from the Spurs during the 2018 offseason, a move that pushed the Raptors over the top for the first championship in team history.

There was some uncertainty about what Ujiri’s future held when he didn’t agree to an extension with the Raptors a year or two before his contract expired, but he continued his usual work in the draft and free agency this summer, signaling that he had no plans to leave the organization. According to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), Ujiri is staying in Toronto despite being courted by multiple franchises “beyond (the) NBA’s boundaries.”

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.