Larry Tanenbaum

Eastern Notes: Atkinson, Cavs, Wizards, Wagner, Hawks, More

Discussing the Cavaliers‘ head coaching search this week on an episode of the No Cap Room podcast (YouTube link), Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports described Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson as the candidate who “seems to be the leader in the clubhouse right now.” Atkinson has also been linked to another coaching search this spring, according to Fischer.

“Kenny Atkinson was definitely a name involved in the Wizards‘ search,” Fischer said. “… There was definitely expectation around the league that Kenny’s next job would be one of those more developmental teams on the up-and-up, which in theory Cleveland still kind of is, but there are obvious expectations there now. So that would be a much different circumstance – probably a better circumstance, I would say – for Kenny Atkinson, to shed that ‘I’m a rebuild guy’ label.”

Fischer confirms that James Borrego of the Pelicans and Johnnie Bryant of the Knicks are a couple more assistant coaches who are candidates for the Cavaliers’ job, citing Bryant’s connection to Donovan Mitchell dating back to their time in Utah together.

According to Fischer, former Sacramento head coach Dave Joerger is another candidate who will receive consideration from Cleveland. Joerger was hired by the Bucks as an assistant coach after Doc Rivers joined the team earlier this year.

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Magic forward Franz Wagner won’t soon forget his performance in Orlando’s Game 7 first-round loss to Cleveland (six points on 1-of-15 shooting), but his goal is to turn it into a learning experience rather than beating himself up about it, writes Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. “That’s going to stick with me all summer,” Wagner said. “Hopefully, I can use it as motivation and fuel that the right way.” As Beede observes, Wagner will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason, and while the Magic will likely look to lock him up, it remains to be seen whether the team is prepared to go up to the max to get something done before the 22-year-old’s fourth NBA season.
  • In a 2024 draft class considered to lack star power, whichever player is selected with the No. 1 overall pick will benefit from not being asked to single-handedly turn a franchise around. As Marc J. Spears of ESPN pointed out on the Hawks Report podcast (link via Lauren L. Williams of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), the No. 1 pick will be joining a Hawks roster that features more talent than a typical club drafting in that spot. Even if Atlanta trades one of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray this offseason, the team would still have one former All-Star in its backcourt, along with promising 22-year-old Jalen Johnson at forward.
  • The WNBA’s Board of Governors unanimously voted this week to approve an expansion franchise for Toronto, while the NBA’s Board of Governors voted 29-1 in favor of the move, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Unsurprisingly, as Wojnarowski details, the only opposing vote belonged to the Knicks, who sued the Raptors last season and remain engaged in a legal battle with their Atlantic rivals. Raptors chairman Larry Tanenbaum is spearheading Toronto’s new WNBA franchise.

Knicks Respond To Raptors’ Motion, Don’t Want Silver To Rule On Dispute

The Knicks have responded to a motion filed by the Raptors that sought to dismiss New York’s lawsuit against them, Stefan Bondy of the New York Post reports. The Knicks are seeking more than $10MM in their lawsuit and have also dragged commissioner Adam Silver’s name into the dispute between the Atlantic Division clubs.

The Knicks argued that the court system should handle the matter, rather than the NBA, because of Silver’s allegedly tight relationship with Toronto minority owner Larry Tanenbaum.

Tanenbaum is currently the NBA’s Chairman of the Board of Governors.

The Knicks wrote in their 24-page response on Monday, “Silver himself described Tanenbaum as ‘not just my boss as the chairman of the Board of Governors, but he’s very much a role model in my life. If Silver were to preside over the instant dispute, he would be arbitrating a case for his boss and ally,” ESPN’s Baxter Holmes tweets.

The Knicks also inferred that Tanenbaum was handpicked by Silver as Chairman, Bondy adds.

The lawsuit stems from their allegations that Ikechukwu Azotam, a former Knicks video coordinator, stole scouting and analytics secrets – including files containing “over 3,000 videos” – and gave them to the Raptors after he was hired by their organization. Azotam and Raptors coach Darko Rajakovic were also named in the suit.

In the motion to dismiss, Toronto called the lawsuit “baseless” and “a public relations stunt” by the Knicks. The Raptors also wrote that the dispute should be handled by Silver instead of a federal judge, pursuant to a bylaw in the NBA’s constitution that reads, “The Commissioner shall have exclusive, full, complete, and final jurisdiction of any dispute involving two (2) or more Members of the Association.”

The Knicks also claim that since their damages exceed $10MM, which is more than NBA can penalize a team, the courts should handle the case rather than the league office, Mike Vornukov of The Athetic tweets.

Atlantic Notes: Tanenbaum, Raptors, Sixers, Celtics

Raptors governor Larry Tanenbaum is selling a portion of his stake in the NBA team’s parent company, according to Scott Soshnick and Kurt Badenhausen of Sportico (subscription required). Tanenbaum is the chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the company that controls not only the Raptors but also the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto FC of MLS, the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, and their respective venues.

Soshnick and Badenhausen report that Tanenbaum is selling to OMERS, which is a pension plan for approximately 540,000 municipal employees in Ontario. The valuation in the sale is $8 billion, though it’s unclear exactly how that figure breaks down among the various sports franchises controlled by MLSE. Forbes’ most recent projections estimated that the Raptors, on their own, were worth $3.1 billion.

Based on Sportico’s reporting, there’s no indication that Tanenbaum’s role with the Raptors will change, but we’ll wait for confirmation once the deal is officially approved by the NBA.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic with the 2023 NBA draft around the corner:

  • Even though they have a frontcourt logjam and could use a shooter and/or more depth in the backcourt, the Raptors will take a “best player available” approach into draft night, where they’re armed with the No. 13 overall pick, VP of player personnel Dan Tolzman said this week. “You can’t deny talent when it’s all said and done with the draft picks,” Tolzman said, per Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “Because you never know what the team could look like two weeks later, a month later, six months later.”
  • While the Raptors may not be targeting a guard on Thursday night, the team “badly” needs some clarity at that spot, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, who argues that figuring out its long-term plan in the backcourt should be a top offseason priority for Toronto.
  • Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com examines the latest trade rumors involving Sixers forward Tobias Harris, attempting to determine whether there might be a workable deal with a team rumored to have interest, like Detroit, Cleveland, or Indiana.
  • It’s hard for Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston to wrap his head around the idea that Marcus Smart won’t be a member of the Celtics next season. Forsberg attempts to break down Boston’s reported trade for Kristaps Porzingis, referring to Smart’s inclusion in the deal as “a shock.”

And-Ones: Wembanyama, High School Prospects, EuroBasket, More

Victor Wembanyama is projected to be the top pick in the 2023 draft, but he’s more concerned about landing with the right team than being taken No. 1 overall, writes Antonis Stroggylakis of Eurohoops. Wembanyama, who plays for Metropolitans 92 in France, discussed his prospects during Media Day for his team’s new season, which starts this weekend.

“Sports-wise, the most interesting thing is always to find an organization that will take care of the project and the player,” Wembanyama said, as reported by the French outlet BasketSession. “So it’s better to be second, third, or 20th in the Draft if you have a better career afterward. But I don’t know if it’s pride, I have a part in me that says that there must be no one (drafted) in front of me.”

The 18-year-old center stands 7’4″, but he only weighs a little over 200 pounds, so durability is one of the few questions surrounding him as he prepares for his NBA career. Scouts are nearly unanimous in raving about his talent, and he has been a star in international competitions for the past three years.

“What matters to me this season is above all to consolidate a place as a possible No. 1 pick in the draft,” Wembanyama added. “That’s my goal, rather than trying to put on 15 kilos and take risks. I want to strengthen myself, but above all to move towards a favorable situation for the NBA.”

  • With the possibility looming that high school players will be allowed to go straight to the NBA in a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Jacob Polacheck of ZagsBlog talks to some of the top prospects in the Class of 2024 about how that might affect their decisions. “I think it’s an amazing opportunity for players who have the ability to go out of high school and follow their dream of playing in the NBA,” said Ian Jackson of Cardinal Hayes in New York, who is considered one of the top prospects in the class. “I think it’s great and the best part is that it gives high school athletes more choices.” It’s possible that the one-and-done rule could remain in place beyond 2024 even if the NBA and NBPA aim to eventually get rid of it, as Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday.
  • Willy Hernangomez and Juancho Hernangomez stood out while leading Spain to the EuroBasket championship, Michael Scotto said in a HoopsHype podcast. Scotto also believes Finland’s Lauri Markkanen showed that he’s ready for a breakout season with the Jazz and that Italy’s Simone Fontecchio could be productive in Utah as well.
  • Raptors representative Larry Tanenbaum was unanimously re-elected as chairman of the NBA Board of Governors, the league announced this morning (Twitter link).

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.

And-Ones: Adebayo, Olympics, NBA Foundation, Tsai

Although he didn’t make the final 12-man squad that took part in the 2019 World Cup, Heat center Bam Adebayo participated in Team USA’s training camp leading up to that event and received consideration to represent the U.S. in the international competition.

With the Tokyo Olympics on tap for the summer of 2021, however, another national program is hoping to recruit Adebayo away from USA Basketball, according to Colin Udoh of ESPN, who says Nigeria wants to add the big man to its Olympic roster. Adebayo’s father is Nigerian, Udoh notes.

“Having Bam in our national team is a possibility that we are considering as a federation ahead of the 2020 Olympics and beyond,” Nigeria Basketball Federation president Musa Kida said in a statement to ESPN. “We are excited about how far he has gone and what he can achieve in his career with D’Tigers if he chooses to play for Nigeria.”

Nigeria has already earned an Olympic berth and – assuming next season’s schedule allows for it – is expected to feature NBA players such as Josh Okogie, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chimezie Metu, and potentially Spencer Dinwiddie. It remains to be seen if the team will be able to land Adebayo, but he has said in the past that he’d consider Nigeria if asked. He also may be more open to the idea after being cut from last year’s Team USA roster.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The NBA and NBPA issued a joint press release today announcing the board of directors for the NBA Foundation, a new organization dedicated to driving “economic empowerment for Black communities through employment and career advancement.” In addition to Harrison Barnes and Tobias Harris, whose involvement was previously reported, the NBA Foundation’s board of directors will be made up of Adam Silver, Michele Roberts, and four team owners (Gayle Benson, Tony Ressler, Larry Tanenbaum, and Michael Jordan).
  • As we relayed earlier today, China’s CCTV has lifted its year-long ban on NBA broadcasts, citing the league’s role in fighting COVID-19 in China as a primary reason for that decision. NetsDaily suggests Nets owner Joe Tsai may have played a key part in that effort, having sent a $3.7MM donation to China in February to help fight the pandemic.
  • In an Insider-only article for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks lists the trade assets held by all 30 teams, including moveable players, surplus draft picks, and trade exceptions.

Tanenbaum Promises To Extend Ujiri’s Contract

Raptors president Masai Ujiri would get plenty of offers around the league if he became available. The chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, Larry Tanenbaum, vows to not let that happen, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star reports.

Tanenbaum said he’ll eventually reach an extension with Ujiri, who has a year remaining on his contract.

The Raptors extended coach Nick Nurse’s contract after Toronto was eliminated from the postseason. They’re also close to an extension agreement with GM Bobby Webster, who is also under contract through next season.

“We have time and we’re going to work through the process in the right time and the right way, I know that for sure,” Tanenbaum said.

Once a deal is reached with Webster, Tanenbaum will turn his attention toward locking up Ujiri to a multi-year extension.

“Masai is getting (extensions) done (with Nurse and Webster) and we, too, will get it done,” Tanenbaum said.

Ujiri and Webster have important roster decisions to make this offseason with Fred VanVleet, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka headed to unrestricted free agency and OG Anunoby eligible for a rookie scale extension.