Roger Montgomery

Latest On Masai Ujiri, Knicks’ Front Office Search

Following Steve Mills‘ ouster from the Knicks‘ basketball operations department, rumors linking New York to Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri have resurfaced. Ujiri has long been viewed as the Knicks’ dream candidate, and while that interest hasn’t gone anywhere in the past, Marc Stein of The New York Times suggests there’s a chance this time could be different.

According to Stein, two “long-time Ujiri watchers” whom he trusts have been saying since December that they think the Raptors’ president intends to maneuver his way to New York. Both of those sources even said Ujiri may try to bring along Toronto general manager Bobby Webster, per Stein. One source told Stein that Ujiri’s relationship with Raptors chairman Larry Tannenbaum is strong enough that the defending champions would likely approve the move if Ujiri wants it badly enough.

Still, Stein cautions that there are caveats. Even if Ujiri wants to make the move to New York, his contract runs through 2020/21, so the Knicks and Raptors would have to agree on draft compensation. Toronto’s asking price would be even more significant if Ujiri wants to bring Webster along, since the young GM looks like Ujiri’s obvious replacement in the Raptors’ front office.

Stein also points out that there’s a belief around the NBA that commissioner Adam Silver and the league office want Ujiri running the Knicks. If team owner James Dolan is sensitive to the idea that the franchise needs Ujiri – who fleeced the Knicks in a pair of trades with Denver and Toronto – as its savior, he may be turned off by the league pushing the idea. For what it’s worth, NBA spokesman Mike Bass told Stein (Twitter link) that the notion of the league pushing Ujiri to “rescue” the Knicks is “100% false.”

In his own look at the Ujiri situation, Michael Grange of writes that even though the Raptors’ president is under contract through 2021, his future will likely be determined in the coming months.

“If something is going to happen with Masai and the Knicks it will happen quick, probably a few days after (this) season is over,” a source told Grange.

Interestingly, Grange suggests that Ujiri’s contract may include an out for the coming summer, though he cautions that it’s not clear whether that’s a formal out or “more of a gentleman’s agreement.” Even if Ujiri can’t formally become a “free agent,” the Raptors are unlikely to force him to stay if he wants to run the Knicks, Grange notes.

While Stein and Grange both lay out the case for a Knicks/Ujiri marriage being plausible, they also both believe it’s possible Dolan has already gotten over his apparent infatuation with the Raptors’ president. We heard on Tuesday that New York may be targeting an NBA agent to run its front office, like the Warriors (Bob Myers) and Lakers (Rob Pelinka) have done. Grange’s source seemed to think Dolan might be more intrigued by that path.

Veteran agent Austin Brown and Kevin Durant‘s manager Rich Kleiman were among the possible candidates mentioned on Tuesday. Sources tell Ian Begley of (Twitter link) that Roger Montgomery is another agent receiving internal consideration from the Knicks for their front office position.

And-Ones: Kuzma, NCAA, Vujacic, Agents

Kyle Kuzma will make his debut for the Lakers on Friday and LeBron James is happy to have him back with the club, as Sacha Pisani of Sporting News relays.

“He hasn’t played since USA basketball when he had the stress reaction,” James said “Obviously he’s been training and working out, but like I always tell you guys, there’s no substitution for game fatigue and game stamina.

“That will come, though. It’s great to have him back on the floor. We definitely missed him.”

Here’s more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Sasha Vujacic wants to return to the NBA, as tells Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times. “I love the game so much, and I don’t want to walk away yet,” Vujacic said. “I’m in the best shape of my life right now. I work out every summer with DeAndre Jordan, and he said the same thing. I’m 35, but I feel like I’m 25. As long as I have that desire and fire inside of me, I’m going to keep pushing.”
  • The NCAA has begun the process of allowing student-athletes to benefit from their name and likeness, as their website announces.
  • Longtime NBA agents Roger Montgomery and Derrick Powell are teaming up to form the Elite Athlete Group, Adrian Wojnarowski of relays (Twitter link). Powell previously worked with Ja Morant.

And-Ones: Lineups, Fournier, Roc Nation, Gasol

The league has made a proposal requiring teams to reveal their starting lineups at least 30 minutes prior to tip-off, Zach Lowe of ESPN tweets. Currently, teams only have to issue their lineups 10 minutes before the start of the game. The move would most likely facilitate wagering, particularly with daily fantasy leagues, who would have more advance knowledge of any lineup changes.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Magic swingman Evan Fournier, who played for bronze-medalist France in the FIBA World Cup, was disappointed that many NBA stars chose to skip the event, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports. “To be honest, like, when you look at (LeBron) James, KD (Kevin Durant), all these guys, they came here already, they won,” Fournier said. “Whatever, it’s fine. Friends of mine like Tobias (Harris), I thought it was a great opportunity for him to see something different and compete. I don’t think they realize how beneficial this is for their career.”
  • Veteran agent Roger Montgomery has resigned from Roc Nation Sports to focus on other management projects, Jabari Young of The Athletic tweets. Montgomery negotiated Rudy Gay‘s two-year, $32MM contract with the Spurs and also represented Hornets lottery pick PJ Washington.
  • Marc Gasol showed he’s still an effective player during the World Cup, Tom Ziller of SB Nation writes. Gasol was the defensive and offensive anchor of Spain’s gold-medal winning team and that provides hope for the Raptors that they can still make some noise in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, maligned point guard Frank Ntilikina showed he could be an elite defender for the Knicks with the way he handled Kemba Walker while playing for France.