Masai Ujiri

Raptors Rumors: Siakam, Anunoby, VanVleet, Ujiri

Although he reportedly doesn’t want to play anywhere but Toronto, Pascal Siakam and the Raptors have yet to formally meet to discuss a possible contract extension, according to Michael Grange of, who says that trade speculation about the two-time All-NBA forward continues to percolate.

As Grange previously reported, the Hawks, who have been repeatedly linked to Siakam throughout the offseason, attempted to re-engage the Raptors in trade talks this past weekend, while other teams are also believed to have checked in. One possible trade scenario that Grange has heard about would involve both the Hawks and Rockets, though he’s not sure about the specifics.

Despite the rumors and speculation, it remains unclear whether the Raptors are seriously thinking about moving the 29-year-old. According to Grange, sources around the league who had questions about Toronto’s direction entering this offseason still haven’t been able to get a clear read on the front office’s plans.

“They’re not the easiest team to deal with, I’ll just say that,” one source said to Grange.

Siakam isn’t the only Raptors forward who should still be considered a possible trade candidate. OG Anunoby is entering a contract year and isn’t necessarily assured of a long-term future in Toronto. Grange says Anunoby “remains on the watch list for several teams” and singles out the Knicks as one club with considerable interest.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • According to Grange, the Raptors’ veterans – particularly Siakam and Fred VanVleet – were frustrated last season by some of the team’s younger players. VanVleet “let them know about it, something the younger set didn’t appreciate at all,” Grange writes.
  • In the same story, Grange says that Raptors president Masai Ujiri spoke to players multiple times last season to express his displeasure with “selfish play and poor body language.” According to Grange, former head coach Nick Nurse may have been planning his exit from the franchise during the season, recognizing that he would likely be let go at season’s end.
  • The best offer the Raptors were prepared to make to VanVleet in free agency was a four-year deal that included a partially guaranteed final year, with $100MM in total guaranteed money, Grange reports. VanVleet opted for the Rockets’ three-year, $128MM+ deal, even though it will reportedly only include two guaranteed seasons.
  • Blake Murphy of checks in on a number of Raptors-related topics, including where the team’s 2023/24 cap stands and why the club decided to guarantee Thaddeus Young‘s $8MM salary for the coming season.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Maxey, Ujiri, Mazzulla

With general manager Scott Perry set to leave the Knicks later this summer, his replacement will likely come from within the organization if the position is filled at all, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. Popper states that the team already has the structure in place to handle Perry’s job duties, and his role has been diminishing for more than a year.

Senior basketball consultant Gersson Rosas could be named the new GM if ownership wants to appoint someone, Popper adds. Rosas spent 16 years in the Rockets’ front office, followed by shorter stays as general manager of the Mavericks and president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves. He served as the primary contact as the Knicks negotiated a Donovan Mitchell trade with the Jazz last summer, according to Popper.

Perry’s contract is believed to run through August, but sources tell Popper that he’s already being left out of pre-draft workouts. Perry’s duties are being handled by assistant GMs Frank Zanin, who’s in charge of pro scouting, and Walt Perrin, who handles college scouting. Rosas is performing most of the GM work, so Popper believes giving him the title would just be “a formality.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Knicks are in position to benefit from not paying a premium price to acquire Mitchell, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst states on his Hoop Collective podcast (video link). Windhorst notes that New York has the trade assets to pursue any star who becomes available this offseason, with a parcel of future draft picks and Evan Fournier‘s contract for salary-matching purposes.
  • Reaching an extension with Tyrese Maxey should be a priority for the Sixers this summer, contends Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. He notes that Maxey has been a bargain after being selected with the 21st pick and states that the Sixers shouldn’t gamble by letting him reach restricted free agency in 2024. Maxey is eligible for a five-year deal worth up to a projected $213MM.
  • Grizzlies assistant Darko Rajakovic is still in the mix to be the Raptors‘ next head coach, tweets Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Rajakovic has been an assistant since 2014 and spent time with the Thunder and Suns as well.
  • Raptors executive Masai Ujiri remains passionate about winning 10 years after joining the organization, per Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Smith also looks at Ujiri’s five best and worst moves over the past decade.
  • Joe Mazzulla appears likely to return for another season as the Celtics‘ head coach, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

Nuggets Notes: Jokic, Front Office, Brown

Nikola Jokic enjoyed sweeping the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, but he didn’t view it as a reason to celebrate, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Jokic was typically low-key on Saturday during a session with reporters as he prepares for the first NBA Finals appearance for both himself and his team.

Denver had to overcome a large deficit in Game 4 against L.A., and the victory wasn’t secure until Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon combined to shut down LeBron James on the final play. It set up a career milestone for Jokic, but he didn’t get emotional about it.

“The win was nice,” he said. “Like half an hour after that, it was just OK. It’s a win. I thought it’s gonna be much bigger feeling, to be honest.”

There’s more from Denver:

  • Jokic’s desire to join the Nuggets a year after being drafted stemmed more from personal reasons than professional, per Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post (subscription required). Jokic played one season in the Adriatic League, but he wanted to come to the United States to be closer to his girlfriend, who’s now his wife, and his brothers. Jokic wasn’t certain that he was good enough to play in the NBA, but he asked the Nuggets if he could take part in training camp in 2015 so he could be near his loved ones. “I was more happy to be around them than to be in the NBA,” he admitted.
  • General manager Calvin Booth has been in his current job for less than a year, so he wants to make sure the architects of the team get recognized for assembling a championship roster, Singer adds in another Denver Post story (subscription required). Booth offered thanks to former team president Tim Connelly, who put together a version of the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope trade before he left to take over the Timberwolves last summer, and to others who played a role in building the team’s foundation. “(Tim) deserves a ton of credit,” Booth said. “I also think Josh (Kroenke) and (former GM) Masai (Ujiri) deserve credit. … They did the Carmelo (Anthony) trade, and the Carmelo trade ended up being a lot of different assets that helped this team get to this point, one of them being Jamal with the pick swap. I feel like each iteration of the front office has helped contribute to get to this point.”
  • The Nuggets were fortunate to land Bruce Brown on the second day of free agency last July, Harrison Wind and Adam Mares of DNVR Sports state on their podcast. Brown said he didn’t get any immediate offers when free agency began, so he was thrilled when Denver expressed interest.

Atlantic Notes: Mazzulla, Ujiri, M. Robinson, House

Following a Game 5 loss at home on Tuesday, the Celtics are now one game away from elimination, heading to Philadelphia down 3-2 in the second round series. With Joe Mazzulla taking much of the blame for the Celtics‘ up-and-down play in the series, Marcus Smart jumped to the defense of the first-year head coach, telling Steve Bulpett of that “it’s not just one person’s fault.”

“We still believe in our coach. We believe in Joe to the fullest,” Smart said. “We haven’t lost faith in him and we won’t. He has a game plan; it’s on us to go out and execute it. We’re the ones out there playing, so we’ve got to help him. He’s been doing great.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • A rival general manager believes Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri is “really, really frustrated,” pointing to Toronto’s disappointing season and Fred VanVleet‘s looming free agency as sources of Ujiri’s supposed discontent, according to Bulpett. “(VanVleet) hasn’t shown him any indication that he wants to stay. So I think he’s really down about that situation,” the GM told “Maybe it’s because everything’s still so fresh, but there’s a lot they have to get done there. It didn’t surprise anyone that (head coach) Nick (Nurse) moved on.” The GM added that the Wizards, who are in the market for a new head of basketball operations, may pursue Ujiri again this spring.
  • Responding to a tweet claiming that he has been getting “abused” by center Bam Adebayo in the second round series against the Heat, Knicks center Mitchell Robinson pushed back, suggesting that he has to provide help “every time” on defense. Zach Braziller of The New York Post has the story.
  • Viewed as one of the Sixers‘ key additions last offseason, Danuel House has been out of the rotation in the playoffs. However, as Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes, the veteran wing logged 15 minutes in the team’s Game 5 win and played well, scoring 10 points and grabbing five rebounds. “My job is to bring energy, showcase a little something for the team, to guard the yard and make sure I’m executing plays,” House said after Philadelphia’s victory. “… It was a joy to be out there, to be honest.”

Raptors Notes: Ujiri, Poeltl, Coaching Search, Nurse

The Raptors lost in the play-in tournament and parted ways with their head coach, but comments from president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri at last week’s press conference indicate that he believes the team is close enough to being a contender that he won’t try to rebuild, writes Michael Grange of

Ujiri emphasized the parity throughout the league this season, noting that 26 teams still had a path to the playoffs heading into the final two weeks. He also pointed out that Toronto was 15-10 after acquiring Jakob Poeltl from the Spurs at the trade deadline.

“I think Jakob has a lot of high basketball IQ and he’s a pass-first center,” Ujiri said. “I call players like that a championship piece because you can put him on any of the teams (still playing) except the one’s that already have great centers. But you can put a player like that on that team and he fits in right away.”

Grange notes that Ujiri appears to have more belief in the Raptors’ future than Nick Nurse, who didn’t seem to mind being replaced as head coach with a year left on his contract, or Ime Udoka, who accepted an offer from the Rockets on Monday without giving Toronto an interview.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be changes this summer. Ujiri faces significant decisions on potential free agents Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. as well as possible trades involving Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, but he seems to believe the organization is capable of turning around quickly.

“We’ve got to build spirit back here, the culture, those things that bring us together to move like we’ve always done here. We need that back,” Ujiri said. “This is very crucial for us. With our culture here, I’ll continue to say that. It’s very vital for us to have incredible energy that lifts people and gets us to work together.”

There’s more from Toronto:

  • The Raptors don’t appear close to finding their next coach, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Udoka’s deal with the Rockets takes away the presumed leading candidate, so the team may wait to see if any prominent coaches unexpectedly become available as the postseason plays out. Lewenberg notes that Ujiri wants to have his next coach in place before the draft, so the process could take up to two months.
  • The front office sounds willing to shake things up, but the Raptors will be working with a few limitations, per Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Toronto doesn’t have an obvious path to clear cap room, leaving the team with just the $10MM mid-level exception to pursue free agents. The Raptors’ first-round pick is likely to be in the late lottery, and they don’t have a second-rounder this year and probably won’t have a first-round selection in 2024.
  • In another Toronto Star story (subscription only), Smith takes an inside look at what went wrong during Nurse’s final season as head coach.

Raptors Notes: P. Mutombo, Stackhouse, Nurse, Offseason

Reporting in the wake of Nick Nurse‘s dismissal on Friday indicated that Ime Udoka would be one of the candidates the Raptors seriously consider to become their next head coach. Shams Charania of The Athletic confirms Toronto’s interest in Udoka and adds a couple more names to the team’s possible list of targets, writing that Patrick Mutombo and Jerry Stackhouse may receive consideration.

Mutombo, currently an assistant on Monty Williams‘ staff in Phoenix, was on the Raptors’ coaching staff from 2016-20 and coached the team’s G League affiliate (Raptors 905) from 2020-22 before joining the Suns last offseason.

Stackhouse also has an existing relationship with the Raptors, having been an assistant with the team in 2015/16 and the Raptors 905 head coach from 2016-18. He spent a season as an assistant coach with the Grizzlies in 2018/19 and has been the head coach at Vanderbilt since 2019. Stackhouse has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Pistons’ head coaching vacancy, though there has been no indication that he’ll interview for that position.

Here’s more on the Raptors and their newly opened head coaching job:

  • Some people in the Raptors organization were surprised by Friday’s news on Nurse, according to Josh Lewenberg of, who says Nurse and team president Masai Ujiri met four teams in the nine days after Toronto’s season ended. That level of communication is unusual for a team about to let go of a head coach, but Ujiri felt the Raptors needed a new voice and Nurse “welcomed the change,” says Lewenberg.
  • Raptors management had some questions about Nurse’s style of communication, Lewenberg writes, noting that the head coach had a habit of calling out players publicly without talking to them privately first. Following a bad loss in December, Nurse held closed-door meetings with some players and staffers that Lewenberg hears were “intense” and “confrontational.” Nurse also had a “tense” relationship with one assistant coach after telling him not to accompany the team on a road trip in January, Lewenberg adds.
  • Observing that several Raptors players improved individually, but not collectively, Ujiri said on Friday that he expects to make changes in Toronto this offseason beyond hiring a new coach, per Lewenberg. “I think changes are going to be made on all fronts,” Ujiri said. “We’re going to address that with the team. We saw how different players on our team would rise, would do well, but we never did it collectively. Maybe that could be fit. Maybe that could be system, sometimes role orientation, sometimes accountability – all the things we are going to really look at it how our roster is built. We believe in the players we have. Whether it’s tweaks or major changes, we’re definitely going to look at everything.”

Raptors’ Ujiri Talks Season, Decision To Fire Nurse, More

Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri spoke to the media on Friday following the dismissal of head coach Nick Nurse.

While Ujiri didn’t give a concrete reason as to why he felt it was time to go in a different direction, he said that “complacency” and “selfishness” were season-long problems for the team, writes Michael Grange of Ujiri also said he didn’t enjoy watching the Raptors play in 2022/23.

You could see it throughout the year. There was never that full excitement. There was never that full spirit,” said Ujiri. “There was never that (feeling) of togetherness. We all saw it. You all saw it. It’s not something we are making up here… It’s not one person or one finger to point. I’m not pointing the finger at Nick. I have to take responsibility for this, too. As the leader of this organization, I will do that. It wasn’t us. This year wasn’t us. I think everybody saw that.”

Another factor in the decision was Nurse’s reluctance to play young bench players, Grange notes. Ujiri still believes there’s talent among the group, but they weren’t given much of an opportunity to learn on the go.

…All the young players we have, I think one of the things we talked about was maybe utilizing some of these players a little bit more,” said Ujiri. “Like giving them room to actually show if they have or if they don’t have (it). I think we didn’t do so well with that this year. I think that hurt us some in developing our young players.”

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • There were other internal issues as well. A rival assistant coach tells Grange that Toronto’s coaching staff was known as being “less than cohesive.” Grange suggests “sweeping changes” to Nurse’s staff were likely even if he had kept his job. That aligns with reporting from Doug Smith of The Toronto Star (Twitter link), who hears from league sources that the Raptors have been interviewing potential assistant coaches this week in anticipation of a “mass exodus.”
  • Nurse was also reluctant to be the “bad guy” at times. A player tells Grange that Ujiri was often the one responsible for speaking to the team after listless performances this season, not Nurse.
  • Still, Nurse likely won’t have any issues finding a new head coaching job, and the poor results in 2022/23 don’t fall solely on him. “If he wants a job, he’ll get a job,” a rival general manager told Grange.
  • Ujiri believes more changes are necessary to get the team heading in the right direction, and that starts with himself, per John Chidley-Hill of The Canadian Press (link via The Toronto Star). “Look at the roster maybe in a different way. We have to figure out shooting on this roster in some kind of way. We have to figure out who fits and who doesn’t fit,” said Ujiri. “On the overall, maybe manage people better. Maybe see things a little bit deeper because when we hire people I let them do their jobs. That’s been a strength of ours the last 10 years here but I pay attention now a little bit more.”
  • Ujiri praised trade deadline acquisition Jakob Poeltl, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, tweets Blake Murphy of Ujiri referred to Poeltl as a top-10 center in the NBA and believes his high basketball IQ and playing style make him a “championship piece,” per Murphy.
  • The longtime president expects forward Otto Porter Jr. to return next season — he holds a $6.3MM player option for 2023/24, according to Grange (Twitter link). Ujiri also said the Raptors plan to hang on to two-way guard Jeff Dowtin despite not converting his contract to a standard deal at the end of ’22/23.
  • As for being linked to the Wizards‘ new front office vacancy following the dismissal of Tommy Sheppard, Ujiri says he’s not going anywhere. “I’m going to be right here, [Toronto],” he said (Twitter link via Grange). As Grange notes, Ujiri still has three years remaining on his contract.

Southeast Notes: Young, Wizards’ GM Search, Draft, F. Wagner

Trae Young was one of the stars of the 2021 playoffs, but he hasn’t been able to reach that level since then, writes Jeff Schultz of The Athletic. Young and the Hawks have looked overmatched in the first two games of their series with the Celtics, getting blown out early both times. Young is shooting 35% from the field and 23% from three-point range so far, and Atlanta has been outscored by 32 points when he’s on the court.

It’s a big difference from two years ago, when Young led the Hawks past the Knicks and Sixers, then helped take the eventual champion Bucks to six games. A report earlier this month indicated that Atlanta’s new front office is willing to consider trading Young this summer, and an early playoff exit could push the team in that direction.

“The ball hasn’t gone in for him the way that it can and will,” Hawks coach Quin Snyder said after the Game 2 loss. “He’s no different than anyone else on the team, as far as finding a rhythm. Trae will be the first one on the plane watching the tape and trying to figure out ways he can play better.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said the team will replace general manager and president Tommy Sheppard with “an executive from outside the organization,” per Josh Robbins of The Athletic. Robbins expects the team to check on the availability of Raptors vice chairman and president Masai Ujiri and Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly. Robbins points out that Connelly is originally from Baltimore and broke into the NBA as an intern with the Wizards in 1996.
  • Tyler Byrum and Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington have released a new mock draft that has the Wizards landing Arkansas guard Anthony Black if they keep the No. 8 pick after the lottery. Byrum and Hughes note that Washington needs a long-term answer at point guard and Black would provide an upgrade on defense.
  • Magic forward Franz Wagner talked to Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel about the progress he made during his second NBA season. Wagner took over more ball-handling responsibilities after early-season injuries in the team’s backcourt and now feels like a more complete player. “The way I play now, I wish I would’ve played a little earlier in the season,” he said. “Not necessarily meaning stats, but the way I play. Earlier on in the season, I might have forced a little bit more than was helpful for the team. But I think that’s part of it. I learned a lot.”

Raptors Notes: Poeltl, Offseason, Trade Deadline, Ujiri

Newly reacquired Raptors center Jakob Poeltl, an unrestricted free agent this summer, can envision himself signing a new contract with the team, per Josh Lewenberg of (Twitter link).

“It’s definitely something I can see for the long-term as well,” Poeltl said of the Raptors.

Poeltl was initially selected by Toronto with the ninth pick in the 2017 draft, but was dealt to the Spurs in 2018 as part of its package to acquire All-NBA small forward Kawhi Leonard.

He had since emerged as a terrific rim-protecting center for San Antonio and is expected to earn a significant salary upgrade this summer. In 47 games this season with the Spurs and Raptors, Poeltl is averaging 12.0 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.1 BPG and 0.8 SPG.

Having the 7’1″ big man on the roster broadens Toronto’s lineup options, contends Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Poeltl suited up for 17 minutes in his first game back with the Raptors, a 122-116 Friday loss to the Jazz. Smith writes that head coach Nick Nurse anticipates eventually shifting Poeltl into a starting role for the team.

“Hopefully he’s going to rim-protect, either with some shot-blocking or some vertical-type moves,” Nurse said. “Hopefully he’ll defensive rebound for us, too. We work pretty hard at defensive rebounding. There are guys that need to get involved in that. Hopefully he can take some of that load off our guys… He’s got a good IQ. That’s important, when a guy back there has some IQ and can direct traffic a bit.” 

There’s more out of Toronto:

  • Raptors guards Fred VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. are both expected to turn down their respective player options for 2023/24, and instead enter 2023 free agency, writes Blake Murphy of Murphy looks ahead to how Toronto’s approach to the trade deadline could impact its approach to the 2023 offseason. Instead of becoming sellers at the deadline, as widely expected for the 26-31 Raptors, the team added Poeltl. Murphy thinks the Raptors can still look to offload contracts this summer, though he is dubious the team will get as much for its players during the offseason as it may have been able to extract at the deadline.
  • Lewenberg opines in a separate piece that the Raptors were never likely to be sellers at the trade deadline, noting that Toronto was possibly open to accepting a trade for 25-year-old swingman OG Anunoby, but had been reticent to move off the contract of All-Star big man Pascal Siakam.
  • Raptors president Masai Ujiri may have erred in wanting to let his current core of Siakam, Anunoby, VanVleet and 2022 Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes play out the rest of the season, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. Koreen posits that the addition of Poeltl, while offering a defensive improvement around the rack, will not upgrade the club enough to return it to true contention this season.

Atlantic Notes: Hart, Thybulle, Raptors, Muscala

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau is excited for the new addition of veteran swingman Josh Hart, according to Zach Braziller of The New York Post.

“I have great respect for him,” Thibodeau said. “He’s been a top-flight competitor in the league for a long time, and he brings a lot of intangibles to the game… A lot of respect for him.”

Thibodeau would not offer insight into whether he would start Hart or make his rotation deeper now. In his 51 games for Portland this season, Hart is averaging 9.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 3.9 APG, and 1.1 SPG.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Sixers got close to sending defensive stopper Matisse Thybulle to the Mavericks this year, but Dallas was uninterested in including a first-round draft pick in the offing, reports Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The two-time All-Defensive Teamer was instead shipped out to the Trail Blazers as part of a four-team trade today.
  • Raptors team president Masai Ujiri explained why, beyond bolstering their frontcourt depth with their deal for center Jakob Poeltl, the team opted to not make any other major moves at the trade deadline, despite attracting significant interest around the league, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “The way I look at the deadline (is) it’s really not a great place to make long-term decisions,” Ujiri said. “To be fair (to) this team, I think I haven’t done my part for this team to maybe play a little bit better… I think we needed a big like Jak (to) protect the rim, who these guys have confidence in — a really good passer, a big body, one of our own, which I think really fits.”
  • The Celtics opted to augment their bench depth with sharpshooting forward Mike Muscala at the trade deadline. Jared Weiss of The Athletic unpacks how Muscala will help Boston in some major areas of need for the 2022/23 season’s home stretch.