Bobby Webster

Raptors Notes: Rajakovic, Lillard, Siakam, VanVleet

The arrival of new Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic looks like a reason for optimism in Toronto, according to Josh Lewenberg of, who says that Rajakovic is bringing a “people-first” approach to his new role and appears to be connecting quickly with his players.

Scottie Barnes said on Monday that he loves the “energy” and “joy” Rajakovic brings to the job, while Gary Trent Jr. told reporters that the coach’s communication has been “great,” noting that Rajakovic is interested in talking to his players about topics beyond basketball.

“I’ve been in the NBA six years and I’ve had more conversations with him (outside of basketball) than with any coach I’ve ever had,” Trent said, per Lewenberg. “It’s been refreshing.”

The start of Rajakovic’s first NBA head coaching job has been marred to some extent by a lawsuit filed by the Knicks which claims that a former Knick employee shared proprietary information with Rajokovic and the Raptors after being hired by the franchise. The Raptors, who issued a statement in August disputing the claims in the suit, downplayed the case again on Monday, as William Lou of writes.

“I know who I am. I know how my parents raised me. I know what I see in the mirror,” Rajakovic said in maintaining his innocence. “I cannot wait for this lawsuit to be over so everyone can see the truth.”

Here’s more out of Toronto:

  • Speaking to Danielle Michaud of Sportsnet, Raptors general manager Bobby Webster confirmed that the team’s interest in Damian Lillard was real. “You’d have to ask (the Trail Blazers),” Webster said when asked how close Toronto got to landing Lillard. “We were very aggressive. I’d say probably the biggest offer we’ve ever made for a player, but it’s up to them to accept it and so I think that’s, you know, you kind of never know what tilted a deal towards you or not. But maybe time will tell, we’ll find out.”
  • Pascal Siakam pushed back against any implication that he might have been one of the Raptors who played selfishly last season, as Michael Grange of relays. “I’ll speak for me, personally, I’ve never been a selfish player in my life,” Siakam said. “I’ve always played the game the right way and that’s from the first time I started playing basketball. I’ve always been a team player. All the things that I do on the basketball court is about the team and I’ve been like that my whole career.”
  • The free agency departure of veteran point guard Fred VanVleet was one of the topics Raptors president Masai Ujiri addressed on Monday, per Josh Lewenberg of “Could we have traded Fred at the trade deadline? If that was a failure, we take responsibility for it,” Ujiri said. “Sometimes it depends on opportunity and respect (for) the player. We respected Fred. Fred decided to go somewhere, to better opportunities. It was good for him. Maybe it was good for us, too.”
  • The Raptors are one of five teams that John Hollinger of The Athletic is confident will beat their consensus over/under (36.5 wins) this season. While Hollinger acknowledges that going to VanVleet to Dennis Schröder is a downgrade at point guard, he notes that Toronto won 41 games in a down year last season, played better after acquiring Jakob Poeltl, and will have incentive to be as good as possible, since San Antonio owns the Raptors’ top-six protected 2024 first-round pick.

Former Warriors Exec Bob Myers Likely To Get Job Offers

Bob Myers indicated that he wanted some time away from the game when he stepped down as president of basketball operations and general manager of the Warriors, but fans should expect to hear his name mentioned in connection to any openings that arise in the next few months, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.

The most obvious team for Myers, according to Fischer, is the Clippers because of his longtime association with team consultant Jerry West and the working relationship they developed during their time together with Golden State. Myers spent more than a decade with the Warriors and helped to win four championships, so Fischer believes he’ll be among the first names that any team will call if it decides to shake up its front office.

Fischer identifies a few other former general managers who may be in line for a second chance, including ex-Utah GM Dennis Lindsey, who is currently working in the Mavericks‘ front office, Kings assistant GM Wes Wilcox, who has rebuilt his reputation after his experience in Atlanta, and former Orlando GM Rob Hennigan, who is VP of basketball operations with the Thunder.

Fischer passes along more information about rising stars in NBA front offices:

  • Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon was among the candidates to become the Wizards’ president of basketball operations and he’ll likely be considered for similar jobs in the future, Fischer writes. Raptors GM Bobby Webster, Cavaliers GM Mike Gansey and new Clippers GM Trent Redden all appear headed for team president roles someday, Fischer adds.
  • Jeff Peterson, the Nets‘ assistant GM, is considered one of the league’s best young executives, according to Fischer. Peterson interviewed for the Pistons’ GM slot in 2020, and Fischer hears that he’s viewed as one of the favorites to take over the Hornets if they decide to replace Mitch Kupchak, who’s in the final year of his contract. Pelicans assistant GM Bryson Graham could be first in line to replace Langdon if he leaves, but league sources tell Fischer that he might get an opportunity with another team before that happens.
  • Tayshaun Prince is a valuable member of the Grizzlies‘ front office and has received overtures about running other teams, according to Fischer. Among other former NBA players, Jameer Nelson has built a strong reputation in the Sixers‘ front office for his work with their G League affiliate, and Acie Law appears headed for a promotion with the Thunder after Will Dawkins was hired by the Wizards.
  • Fischer identifies CAA’s Austin Brown as an agent who might move into a front office role, noting that he was a candidate to run the Bulls in 2020. Fischer also singles out agents Jason Glushon and Todd Ramasar, along with Kirk Berger, a legal counsel with the players’ union.

Raptors’ Ownership Group Fought Over Masai Ujiri Extension

Various factions of the Raptors‘ ownership group held divergent opinions on how to handle the contract negotiations with team president Masai Ujiri earlier this year, according to a fascinating report from Christine Dobby and Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Ujiri finalized a new long-term extension with the franchise in August.

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Raptors, is controlled in part by Rogers Communications (37.5%), BCE (Bell) Inc. (37.5%), and team governor Larry Tanenbaum‘s Kilmer Group (25%).

Edward Rogers – the former chair of Rogers Communications who has recently been embroiled in a public battle for control of the company with his mother and siblings – opposed the terms of the deal that Tanenbaum and Bell wanted to offer Ujiri, expressing that the compensation was too high and that general manager Bobby Webster was capable of taking over control of the team’s front office if necessary, sources tell The Toronto Star.

According to Dobby and Smith, Rogers explicitly told Ujiri he didn’t think he was worth the salary the rest of the Raptors’ ownership group wanted to offer him, prompting MLSE executives to go into “damage-control mode” and to tell Ujiri to ignore those comments.

Rogers insisted he would only agree to the deal if a dozen terms were met, including 11 relating to Ujiri’s compensation and one that would see Rogers Communications take its 37.5% stake in MLSE and combine it with the Toronto Blue Jays to create a separate company. However, because Tanenbaum holds the title of Raptors governor, he had the authority to make the final call on personnel issues without Rogers’ sign-off, which is the path he chose to complete Ujiri’s deal, according to The Star.

Rogers, who was “furious,” reached out to commissioner Adam Silver, but was told by two league officials that Tanenbaum had the right to make that decision, per Dobby and Smith.

Asked on Sunday about the negotiations, Rogers said he has the “utmost respect” for Ujiri and is happy he remains in his current role.

“Masai understands better than anyone that negotiations test both sides,” Rogers said. “The best deals involve compromise and leave all parties feeling like winners.”

According to Dobby and Smith, Ujiri’s contract with the Raptors includes a $15MM annual salary, with the ability to earn more in incentive pay if the value of the franchise continues to increase. Ujiri also received the new title of vice chairman to go along with his president title.

A league source tells The Toronto Star that another NBA team offered Ujiri a 3% ownership stake, with a salary higher than the $15MM per year he received from the Raptors. Soccer teams in the English Premier League also expressed interest in Ujiri, per Dobby and Smith.

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.

Protocols Force Raptors Coaches To Work Remotely

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse and five other members of the team’s coaching staff will not be on the bench indefinitely due to the league’s health and safety protocols, according to a team press release.

Toronto plays its next three games at its temporary home in Tampa, beginning with a matchup against Houston on Friday. The Raptors also have home games with Chicago (Sunday) and Detroit (Tuesday) and a road trip to Boston (Thursday) prior to the All-Star break.

It’s unclear who will be running the team from the sidelines before those staff members clear protocols. The Raptors have six assistant coaches, along with other staff members in a variety of roles. Chris Finch was hired as the Timberwolves’ head coach on Monday.

The coaches under quarantine will continue to work remotely, and details on their return will be communicated when appropriate, according to the release. GM Bobby Webster will address the media later this afternoon.

Raptors Sign GM Bobby Webster To Multiyear Extension

The Raptors have signed general manager Bobby Webster to a multiyear contract extension, the team announced in a press release today. The exact terms of the agreement weren’t made available.

Webster, who was named general manager in June of 2017, is currently in his eighth season with the organization. He initially joined the team in 2013 as vice president of basketball management and strategy, working his way through the franchise and later becoming assistant GM in 2016.

“I think everyone knows what Bobby brings to our organization: intelligence, poise, and creativity,” president Masai Ujiri said in a statement. “I’m very pleased that our team will continue to benefit from his many skills for seasons to come.”

Webster was one of the main architects behind the 2019 champion Raptors team, bringing an array of experience and expertise to the table. He spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career in the league office.

“It’s great to be able to continue the work of building the next Raptor championship team – a goal which is part of our organizational DNA,” Webster said. “I’m grateful to Larry Tanenbaum, MLSE ownership and leadership, our great players and staff, and the people of Toronto for making this my home for the past years, and for the future.”

The Raptors will have to address another front-office matter in the near future, as Ujiri, the team’s longtime president, is currently in the final year of his contract.

Atlantic Notes: Durant, Robinson, Ibaka, Toppin

Nets coach Steve Nash contends that the schedule for All-Star forward Kevin Durant‘s return from his COVID-19 protocol-necessitated quarantining is a “moving target,” according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. On Tuesday, Durant commenced his quarantine, per NBA health and safety protocols, after being exposed to someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The belief was that the quarantine would last seven days.

“My understanding is that it is a quarantine, so I don’t think there will be any on-court activity,” Nash said. “There’s negative tests, days from the contact tracing and all sorts of factors that go into it. So, I don’t really have an answer yet on how long.” The Nets crushed the Jazz 130-96 in their first test without Durant.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks center Mitchell Robinson has been improving his efforts to avoid foul calls, Greg Joyce of the New York Post reports. “It’s actually, like, nobody wants to get yelled at by the coaches, so I’ve been just trying to maintain that the best way that I can,” Robinson said. “I’ve been working on it.” The young big man is averaging 3.0 fouls per game in 29.6 MPG, a marked improvement over his 3.2 fouls in 23.1 MPG during the 2019/20 season.
  • Raptors president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster apparently frustrated free agent center/power forward Serge Ibaka when the club offered him a number below what he was hoping for in an attempt to leave some cap space to re-sign starting center Marc Gasol, according to Michael Grange of Sportsnet. Toronto bumped its one-year offer from $12MM to $14MM, but Ibaka apparently also did not want to continue being a backup to Gasol. Both players wound up departing for cheaper deals with Los Angeles title contenders, and the 1-5 (as of this writing) Raptors appear to be missing the two-way skill set of their championship frontcourt tandem.
  • Following an evaluation yesterday, Knicks power forward Obi Toppin will begin running and jumping as he continues to rehabilitate from a right calf strain, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic (Twitter link). After this, Toppin will subsequently move on to on-court workouts. The rookie hurt the calf in the club’s December 23 opening night bout against the Pacers. “He’s making good progress and we just have to be patient,” new head coach Tom Thibodeau said.

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 (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.

Raptors Notes: Training Camp, Tampa, Roster Battles, Webster

Several Raptors role players will have something to prove starting in starting camp this month. Doug Smith of the Toronto Star takes a look at how rotation contributors like OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw, Norman Powell, Chris Boucher and Matt Thomas can take leaps in their careers this season.

Though Anunoby is eligible for an extension now, Smith expects the Raptors to let him enter restricted free agency in 2021 to keep their books as clean as possible next offseason in the hopes of making an addition from a star-studded 2021 free agent class.

There’s more out of Toronto-by-way-of-Tampa:

  • The Raptors traveled to their 2020/21 season home court in Tampa on Monday, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. Lewenberg notes that Raptors players must test negative 3-4 times for COVID-19 ahead of their individual workouts. Toronto’s first team practice is set for Sunday, December 6, at Saint Leo University.
  • David Aldridge and Blake Murphy of The Athletic take a deep dive into the Raptors’ temporary relocation down south. “Obviously, we miss the city, but I think we’ve gotta be excited about what’s ahead of us,” guard Fred VanVleet said.
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic assesses the competition for opening-night Raptors roster spots heading into the the team’s training camp this season.
  • Raptors general manager Bobby Webster, in the final season of his current contract, continues to discuss an extension with team ownership, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports (Twitter link). Webster noted that conversations about an extension have been ongoing.

Atlantic Notes: Ibaka, Raptors, VanVleet, Celtics

Rockets superstar James Harden is not the only former Thunder teammate of Kevin Durant that the Nets have interest in adding, according to Mike Mazzeo of Forbes. Durant has also apparently tried to recruit power forward/center Serge Ibaka.

Though Ibaka earned $23.3MM in his final year with the Raptors, he may be interested in joining a contender for the $9.2M non-taxpayer mid-level exception, per Ian Begley of SNY. Begley notes that Ibaka may be anticipating offers in the territory of $12-15MM from teams with available cap space. Both figures may be out of the Nets’ range, as Brooklyn is expected to be limited to the $5.7MM taxpayer MLE in free agency.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Speaking of the Raptors, there is still no resolution as to where Toronto will play during the 2020/21 season, but Michael Grange of Sportsnet tweets that the club will be holding a Los Angeles-based team mini-camp from November 20-25.
  • Raptors general manager Bobby Webster has stressed the team’s continued interest in re-signing unrestricted free agent guard Fred VanVleet, Blake Murphy of The Athletic tweets. “He’s our top priority,” Webster said. “Our biggest priority for the offseason is bringing him back.” Toronto is also expected to have interest in bringing back Ibaka.
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer mentioned on today’s installment of The Ringer NBA Show podcast that there was “chatter” about the Celtics offering the expiring contract of oft-injured forward Gordon Hayward and the team’s three first-round picks in the 2020 draft to the Pelicans in exchange for guard Jrue Holiday (hat tip to RealGM). Holiday was ultimately traded to the Bucks.