Masai Ujiri

Details On Kawhi Leonard’s Decision, Free Agent Meetings

Kawhi Leonard‘s camp spoke to the Raptors about the possibility of acquiring Paul George or Bradley Beal, Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star reports. The franchise considered the request, though Masai Ujiri & Co. began to believe in the final days leading up to Leonard’s decision that Kawhi, who was in Toronto from Wednesday to Friday, was not serious about rejoining the defending champs.

Leonard was focused on the Clippers even as his championship run with the Raptors was ongoing, Arthur writes. His camp gauged Jimmy Butler‘s interest in teaming up with him in Los Angeles throughout the postseason and the Clippers had planned to go after the pairing. Butler ended up landing in Miami and it appeared that the title and the inability to get Butler had closed the gap between the Raptors and the Southern California franchise.

The Raptors engaged in trade talks with the Thunder, though Arthur cautions that Toronto never came close to acquiring George and writes that Russell Westbrook was not involved in those discussions. It was previously reported that Westbrook and George both could have been included in a potential package to the Raptors. Westbrook was open to the idea of playing with Leonard, Arthur hears.

Here’s more buzz surrounding the Final MVP’s decision to move to California:

  • The location for the Lakers’ meeting with Leonard was switched last minute to Westlake Village and only owner Jeanie Buss and GM Rob Pelinka were there, as per Leonard’s request, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com tweets. Shelburne adds that Leonard met with George near that location on the same day.
  • The Lakers knew their typical pitch, promising stardom and off-court fame, would not appeal to Leonard, Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times details. The team stuck to basketball in their hotel meeting with Leonard, attempting to sell him on winning a championship with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The meeting only lasted two hours.
  • Leonard and his uncle spoke to Magic Johnson prior to the Lakers‘ meeting, Ganguli adds. They had questions about Johnson’s recent comments on Pelinka where Johnson accused the former agent of betraying him. Johnson responded with praise for the organization and spoke highly of the Lakers’ front office. Johnson’s comments were not brought up in the Lakers’ short meeting, Ganguli hears.
  • The Lakers had no idea that Leonard wanted George as a teammate, per Ganguli. It was inconsequential, as Los Angeles had no real means of acquiring him from Oklahoma City since the club had already given up so many assets in the Anthony Davis deal.

Raptors Notes: Ujiri, Kawhi, Gasol, Green, Siakam

Despite rumors that the Wizards might try to make a run at him this offseason to become their head of basketball operations, Masai Ujiri told reporters today that he isn’t going anywhere. As Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter links) relays, the Raptors‘ president of basketball operations said he envisions a long-term future in Toronto.

Ujiri acknowledged that potential interest from other clubs is a “blessing,” but said that he’s happy and has grown as a person in Toronto, and wants to win more with the Raptors.

Here’s more from Ujiri’s end-of-season press conference today:

  • Asked about Kawhi Leonard‘s upcoming free agency, Ujiri said he always feels “confident” about the Raptors’ chances, but will respect the star forward’s decision no matter what he does. Ujiri thinks the Raps have “built a trust” with Kawhi, adding that there have been positive talks lately (Twitter links via Murphy).
  • According to Ujiri, he texted with Leonard last night and talked to “Uncle Dennis” today, and he believes there will be constant communication between the two sides. He’s leaving plans for a meeting up to Leonard’s camp, tweets Ryan Wolstat of The Toronto Sun.
  • The Raptors will be in a bit of a holding pattern this offseason until Leonard makes his decision, Ujiri admitted, but he’s fine with that. “We’ll wait,” he said, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (Twitter link). “He’s our player and he’s a superstar on our team and we’ll wait on that.”
  • Ujiri would like to bring everybody back for next season, including Marc Gasol, who has a player option for 2019/20, and Danny Green, who will be an unrestricted free agent (Twitter link via Lewenberg).
  • Pascal Siakam, the NBA’s Most Improved Player, is eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason and Ujiri expects to meet with Siakam’s agent during Summer League next month (Twitter link via Murphy).

Eastern Notes: Pistons, J. Brown, Ujiri, Hawks, Heat

Pistons head of basketball operations Ed Stefanski said this week that he isn’t going into the offseason looking to move any of the team’s three highest-paid players – Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, and Reggie Jackson – as Rod Beard of The Detroit News details. However, he did admit that he doesn’t have a clear vision yet for what the rest of the Pistons’ offseason will look like.

“The philosophy right now is we have those three and we’re going with them,” Stefanski said. “But I have no idea what (else is) going to happen.”

The Pistons won’t have any cap room available this summer, but they have the No. 15 pick in the draft, the full mid-level exception (worth approximately $9.2MM) and the bi-annual exception ($3.6MM).

While Detroit is expected to try to add a backup center and a wing or two, a source tells Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press that the team’s No. 1 priority will be the point guard spot, with Ish Smith and Jose Calderon headed for free agency. For his part, Stefanski acknowledged that both positions will be of interest to the Pistons this offseason.

“I think free agency is where you look more for (immediate help) than the draft,” Stefanski said, per Ellis. “I think everyone hits it right on the head. We don’t know if we’ll be able to sign Ish, so we need a point guard. We don’t have really a starting wing right now.”

Here’s more from around the East:

  • Some teams near the top of the draft are wondering about Jaylen Brown‘s availability, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. There has been no indication that the Celtics would make Brown available, but one report indicated that Boston is among the teams that has considered trading for the No. 4 pick. A player like Brown would likely be needed to make that happen.
  • The Raptors would need “significant compensation” to allow president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri to leave the franchise, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (podcast link). The Wizards were rumored to have interest in Toronto’s top executive, but owner Ted Leonsis shot down those reports on Tuesday.
  • Holding three first-round picks and three second-rounders heading into Thursday’s draft, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk recently said he’s more inclined to package and trade his second-round selections, per Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). It wouldn’t surprise me if Atlanta makes deals involving picks from both rounds.
  • The Heat officially hired a replacement for Juwan Howard on Erik Spoelstra‘s staff, announcing in a press release that Malik Allen is the club’s newest assistant coach.
  • With Anthony Davis – and Mike Conley – now off the trade market, it will be interesting to see whether the Wizards eventually reconsider their stance on keeping Bradley Beal, writes Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington. As Hughes points out, Beal might be the most sought-after prize on the trade block if Washington makes him available.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

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 spoken to – or plans to speak with – Toronto’s president of basketball operations.

“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, but the executive chose to remain with the Nuggets as their team president. Danny Ferry and Troy Weaver have also interviewed with the Wizards.

The draft and free agency are the most critical events in an NBA offseason. Leonsis, whose 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.