Masai Ujiri

Wizards Won’t Hire New Team President Before Free Agency

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said the team will not fill its vacant team president opening before free agency, as he detailed in a statement to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post.

“I am very happy with the work and preparation Tommy Sheppard, Coach [Scott] Brooks and our staff have done and I’m confident we’ll execute both the draft and free agency in an expert manner,” Leonsis said in the statement. “Having that confidence has given me the freedom to continue the conversations I’ve been having on how to build a great organization and, as a result, I don’t expect to make any decisions before the start of free agency.”

Leonsis also addressed the reports that the Wizards would try to pry Masai Ujiri from the Raptors, denying that the organization has or will plan to speak with the executive.

“We have not commented on the many rumors surrounding potential candidates during this process, but I wanted to make an exception in this case out of respect to the Raptors organization as they celebrate their well-deserved championship,” Leonsis’s statement said. “Any reports that we have interest in Masai Ujiri as a candidate are simply not true, and we have never planned in any way to ask for permission to speak to him during our process.”

The franchise has been without a team president since April 2. Since then, the team has interviewed a handful of executives, including Sheppard and Gersson Rosas, who took the gig with the Wolves. Washington made an offer to Tim Connelly, though the executive chose to remain with the Nuggets as their team president.

The draft and free agency are the most critical events in an NBA offseason. Leonsis, who’s Capitals are a year removed from winning an NHL championship, is comfortable going through them with the infrastructure in place.

I intend to create a leadership team when it feels exactly right and is in alignment with our findings and our final developed specifications,” Leonsis said.

“As I have said, we will likely use ‘many hands make light work’ as a mantra as we seek to establish a new organizational construct that is in line with what future of the NBA will look like: creating a shared platform on health sciences, data analytics, venue management, skills training, etc., for all of our basketball franchises.”

Ujiri Under Investigation For Incident With Police Officer

Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri is under investigation for suspicion of misdemeanor battery on a police officer during the NBA Finals, according to an ESPN report.

The alleged incident occurred on the Oracle Arena floor at Oracle Arena after the Raptors captured Game 6 to clinch the championship. Ujiri was stopped by a deputy, according to Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, as he tried to join the celebration on the floor.

“Mr. Ujiri was unknown to the deputy at that time. He [the deputy] asked him for a credential,” said Sgt. Ray Kelly, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “He shoved the deputy out of the way and walked toward the court. The deputy pushed back. The president came forward more with a more significant push and ended up striking the deputy in the face.”

Ujiri watched the end of the game on television outside the Raptors’ locker room, then came through the tunnel to the floor to join the celebration.

The NBA requires extra credentials to gain access to the floor when the series is clinched, the report notes. Kelly claimed Masai either didn’t have the credentials or didn’t show them.

A season ticket holder who was standing next to the officer told The Associated Press’ Rob Gillies that officer didn’t ask for Ujiri’s credential. The same fan also said Ujiri did not strike the officer in the face (Twitter link).

The investigation should be completed by next week.

Wizards Denying Masai Ujiri Rumor

The Wizards have “no imminent plans” to make an offer to Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, tweets Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. A source close to the organization is downplaying reports that Washington will offer Ujiri up to $10MM a season to run the front office.

The Wizards have not named a new permanent head of basketball operations since Ernie Grunfeld was dismissed in April. There was a failed attempt last month to lure Nuggets president Tim Connelly, but otherwise the search for a new executive has been quiet, leading to speculation that the Wizards were waiting for the NBA Finals to end so they could make a play for Ujiri.

Ujiri was considered among the league’s top executives even before adding an NBA title to his resume last night. He built successful teams in Denver prior to coming to Toronto and transforming that team into a championship contender through a series of bold moves.

Ujiri is also under contract for the next two seasons, meaning the Raptors could demand compensation from any team that tries to poach him. Fred Katz of The Athletic recently noted that Toronto set the price at two first-round picks when Ujiri had discussions with the Knicks a few seasons ago.

Larry Tanenbaum, owner of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the Raptors, told Michael Grange of Rogers Sportsnet last night that he’s not worried about losing Ujiri (Twitter link).

“I know Masai. He’s like my son. There’s no chance he’s leaving Toronto,” Tanenbaum said. “… I think if you ask Masai, he’s got everything he wants.”

Wizards Preparing Massive Offer For Masai Ujiri

The Wizards will attempt to poach Masai Ujiri from the Raptors to become their head of basketball operations and may be willing to pay upwards of $10MM annually to pry him from Toronto, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reports. The Athletic’s Fred Katz and David Aldridge (Twitter link) hear from sources that the offer could be in the six-year, $60MM range.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis is expected to reach out to Toronto’s ownership group to request formal permission to speak with Ujiri, Woj writes.

In addition to the massive financial package, Washington may offer Ujiri a lead role in Monumental Sports and Entertainment, the company that oversees the Wizards and the NHL’s Capitals.

The Wizards’ search for a top basketball executive has been on hold since the franchise was unable to come to terms with Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly. The team also interviewed Danny Ferry and Troy Weaver for the position, but interim GM Tommy Sheppard has been running the show since Ernie Grunfeld was let go.

After overseeing a perennial 50-win team in Denver, Ujiri moved on to Toronto in 2013, where he played a significant role in building this season’s championship roster. Ujiri made major moves for Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Marc Gasol, while also acquiring under-the-radar contributors like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet.

Wizards Notes: Brown, Workouts, GM Search

Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington sat down with Wizards rookie Troy Brown Jr. to discuss his first year in the NBA, which began with an overwhelming welcome at the combine and finished with Brown becoming a calmer, wiser, 19-year-old man.

“I wouldn’t say I was lost (in regard to the 2018 NBA Combine), but I didn’t know what to expect,” Brown said. “I was just kind of going about things, trying to do everything the best I could. …I knew I was going to get drafted, but it was more about the work that I put in. Is it going to happen? I want to go this number (in the draft). There’s a lot of stuff running through your brain.”

Immediate expectations for Brown’s rookie season were not very high, as Washington came into the season with playoff aspirations and more. But after a disappointing 2018/19 campaign, Brown may be the most important player on the roster long term after All-Star shooting guard Bradley Beal.

“It’s definitely weird not knowing who is going to be back and knowing our whole roster (might) be different… (but) (a)t the same time, you know it’s a business… I’m kind of use to it now. I had 24 teammates in one year.”

There’s more out of D.C. tonight:

Wizards Targeting Raptors’ President?

The Wizards may be delaying their search for a new executive so they can make a run at Raptors president Masai Ujiri, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic.

No permanent head of basketball operations has been hired in Washington since former president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld was dismissed in early April. The Wizards offered the job to Nuggets president Tim Connelly last month, but he elected to stay in Denver. There has been little reported movement since then, leading to speculation that Ujiri is the next target.

Katz notes that owner Ted Leonsis and consultant Mike Forde, who is leading the search team, haven’t reached out to the Raptors to request permission to interview Ujiri, and that likely won’t happen until the NBA Finals have wrapped up. Ujiri is a candidate for Executive of the Year after pulling off bold trades for Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol that helped Toronto reach the championship round for the first time.

Katz doesn’t believe Washington can win a bidding war for Ujiri because the Raptors are owned by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which is one of the wealthiest companies in the sports industry and has a pattern of giving Ujiri whatever he has asked for, including a G League team and a new practice facility. The Wizards also can’t compete in terms of basketball success, as they missed the playoffs this season and seem a long way from reaching the Finals.

However, they may be able to appeal to Ujiri with the prospect of living in Washington, D.C., giving him a chance to increase his involvement with Giants of Africa or the NBA’s new pro league in Africa, along with being in the same city as his close friend, former President Barack Obama.

With Ujiri still under contract for the next two seasons, the Raptors could demand a heavy price in exchange for letting him leave. Sources tell Katz that they asked for two first-round picks when Ujiri talked to the Knicks a few years ago and they received a second-rounder from the Magic when former GM Jeff Weltman went to Orlando in 2017.

Raptors Notes: Nurse, Leonard, Anunoby

Fresh off his team’s Game 6 victory over the Bucks which sent Toronto to the Finals, Raptors coach Nick Nurse has apparently achieved another honor. He will coach Canada’s national team at the FIBA World Cup in China, Peter Yannopoulos of TSN tweets.

Canada Basketball, which hasn’t officially confirmed the coaching change, began courting Nurse prior to the postseason, Marc Stein of the New York Times tweets.

Nurse, who was an assistant for Team Great Britain at the 2012 Olympics, would replace Hornets assistant Jay Triano as Canada’s coach, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer tweets.

We have more on the newly crowned Eastern Conference champions:

  • Toronto president Masai Ujiri had a strong response for Kawhi Leonard during their first meeting after the blockbuster trade with San Antonio last season, as Michael Lee of The Athletic details. Leonard asked Ujiri why he made the trade despite Leonard’s intention to opt out of his contract after the season. “Because you’re the best player in the league,” Ujiri told Leonard. That bold gamble has paid off, Lee notes.
  • The Raptors are optimistic that OG Anunoby will play at some point in the Finals, Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun tweets. Anunoby has not played since an emergency appendectomy last month. The last appearance by the reserve small forward was April 9th. The gaps in-between games should also help Leonard, who is dealing with a leg injury, Wolstat adds.
  • Nurse’s G League success — he won championships with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and Iowa Energy — prepared him well for the Raptors gig, Adam Johnson of 2Ways10Days.com details in a story originally posted prior to the season.

Latest On Wizards’ GM Search

It has now been a week since Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly met with Wizards owner Ted Leonsis at Leonsis’ residence to discuss Washington’s top basketball operations position. As Candace Buckner of The Washington Post details, the Wizards didn’t make Connelly a job offer at that meeting, but did so two days later. Connelly passed, opting to remain in Denver and sending the Wizards’ search back to square one.

Since then, there have been no concrete updates on Washington’s search for Ernie Grunfeld‘s replacement, prompting Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post to write that the clock is ticking on the team’s “driftless” search.

David Aldridge of The Athletic makes a similar point, suggesting that the Wizards’ lack of action on Troy Weaver, Danny Ferry, and Tommy Sheppard – all of whom have interviewed twice for the job – signals that the club isn’t in love with any of those candidates. Still, with big offseason decisions looming, including one on Bradley Beal‘s future, it’s time for Leonsis to be decisive and either choose one of the Wizards’ existing candidates or go after a new one, Aldridge contends.

If the Wizards do add a new name or two to their list of potential targets, who might those new candidates to be? Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington observes that Warriors assistant GM Larry Harris and Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri, whose teams are still alive in the playoffs, could be on the Wizards’ radar.

Harris interviewed for the Pelicans’ top front office job before David Griffin landed it, and the outside consultant who worked with New Orleans, Mike Forde, has also assisted the Wizards in their search, so he could recommend Harris to Washington too, Standig notes. As for Ujiri, while the Wizards were rumored to have interest, a source tells Standig that expectations of high salary demands have thus far discouraged Washington from seriously pursuing that possibility.

Standig identifies one more potential target for the Wizards, writing that multiple sources have said the team has interest in Trail Blazers head of basketball operations Neil Olshey. Washington’s interest in Olshey dates back several weeks, but as of Wednesday the club had yet to ask Portland permission to talk to him, according to Standig.

While Olshey is under contract for two more years, sources believe he’d be open to considering other options, per Standig. Damian Lillard‘s super-max eligibility and Portland’s uncertain ownership situation could be factors working in the Wizards’ favor if they do make a run at Olshey.

[UPDATE: Olshey signs extension with Trail Blazers]

Latest On Wizards’ Front Office Search

After the Wizards fired Ernie Grunfeld with eight days left in the regular season, updates on their search for a new head of basketball operations were few and far between for the next several weeks. However, that changed this week.

According to various reports, three candidates to replace Grunfeld were in Washington to interview with the Wizards on Tuesday. According to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post (via Twitter), those candidates apparently met with the team one after another. They are as follows:

  • Danny Ferry: Formerly the GM of the Cavaliers and the Hawks, Ferry saw his time in Atlanta come to an end after he read an offensive comment from a scouting report on Luol Deng out loud during a conference call. Ferry is a Maryland native, and his father Bob Ferry was the Washington Bullets’ GM for much of the 1970s and ’80s. Most recently, Danny served as the Pelicans’ interim GM following Dell Demps‘ ouster.
  • Gersson Rosas: A longtime Rockets executive, Rosas currently serves as the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations. He has drawn interest from multiple teams with front office openings this spring, including the Pelicans and Timberwolves — he remains in the running for the Minnesota job.
  • Troy Weaver: The VP of basketball operations for the Thunder, Weaver was linked to the Pistons’ head of basketball operations position in 2018, and to Kings and Hawks jobs in 2017. Interestingly, Weaver was mentioned as a potential candidate to replace Grunfeld way back in 2016.

Current Wizards interim general manager Tommy Sheppard is also a contender to claim the permanent job, and according to both Buckner and Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington, Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly is still very much on the Wizards’ radar.

Named a top candidate to run the Wizards’ front office in the wake of Grunfeld’s departure, Connelly was raised in Baltimore, Maryland and previously worked for the club. Sources tell Standig that personal considerations make the idea of returning to D.C. attractive for Connelly, with one source describing the position as Connelly’s “dream job.” However, given Denver’s ongoing success, it’s not clear if he’d want to leave the Nuggets at this time.

[RELATED: 2019 NBA Front Office Shakeup Tracker]

Finally, Standig provides one more interesting tidbit, citing sources who say that Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri is “intrigued by the idea of moving to Washington.” Ujiri’s wife is from the D.C. area and the city would provide him with a larger platform for his “Basketball Without Borders” program, Standig notes.

Still, a league source tells NBC Sports Washington that Toronto is unlikely to grant rival teams permission to interview Ujiri.

Raptors Notes: Gasol, DeRozan, Ujiri

Leading into the trade deadline, the Raptors‘ biggest splash was the acquisition of veteran center Marc Gasol. The three-time All-Star has appeared in four games with Toronto since the trade, all off the bench.

After over a decade in Memphis, Gasol has had to not only adjust to a new team but also playing in a new country and learning a new playbook. Speaking to Sportsnet.ca’s Dave Zarum, Gasol explained how he has adjusted to his new surroundings.

“We’ve had three games with three different point guards [Fred VanVleet, Patrick McCaw, and Jeremy Lin]. That alone is an adjustment within the adjustment that you have to make on the fly,” Gasol said. “Thankfully, I know now 100% all of the plays. OK, 90% all of the plays. But I know them pretty well, so now it’s trying to understand what the team is looking for. How can I be effective within the flow of the game?”

Gasol admitted that it was tough to part with the Grizzlies but the opportunity to compete for a championship eases that burden. In his four appearances, the Spaniard has played just under 20 minutes per game, averaging 8.5 PPG and 6.5 RPG. As he becomes more acclimated to his new digs, Gasol expects his contributions to follow suit.

“I’m not a rah-rah guy, I’m not somebody who will get into anybody’s business,” Gasol said. “I’m pretty laid back and I stay in my lane a lot. But I want to win. At the end of the day it’s about winning and competing and making this team the best possible.”

Check out more Raptors notes below:
  • DeMar DeRozan played his first game at the Scotiabank Arena (formerly the Air Canada Centre) as a visitor on Friday with the Spurs. The former face of the franchise has detailed his roller-coaster emotions following last summer’s trade but his return to Toronto was about acceptance rather than vengeance, ESPN’s Michael C. Wright writes.
  • The Raptors have been a perennial postseason team that has been on the verge of a potentially championship-winning run. However, under Masai Ujiri this season, Toronto has shown the willingness to go for it with shrewd moves to put the franchise on the brink of a title, Lang Greene of Basketball Insiders opines.
  • Speaking of Ujiri — the first African top executive of any of North America’s top four major sports leagues — his initiative to help those on his home continent has become part of his basketball goals, ESPN’s Anthony Olivieri writes.