Tim Leiweke

And-Ones: Buyout Market, Epps, Stephenson, Ujiri, Ham

When the NBA and NBA Players’ Association hold CBA renewal talks, the league plans to consider bringing up buyout reform as part of a broader discussion, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Some team executives have complained about the plethora of veteran players getting buyouts and joining playoff contenders.

Commissioner Adam Silver‘s office doesn’t see it as an issue of fairness between big and small markets, but rather a process that is contradictory to the financial system’s goals. In the league’s view, teams with big payrolls are adding an impact player without a dramatic impact on their luxury tax penalties, since those salaries after clearing waivers are usually prorated minimums.

The NBA would also like to find a way to make players who have been bought out available to more teams than just the contenders.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • Aaron Epps has signed in Israel with Elitzur Eito Ashkelon, sources told Hoops Rumors’ JD Shaw (Twitter link). Epps holds G League experience with the Northern Arizona Suns and Canton Charge, most recently playing with Canton in the bubble.
  • Veteran NBA swingman Lance Stephenson is hopeful of playing in the league again, David Aldridge of The Athletic tweets. He has been working out in New York for the last few weeks, in case a suitor comes calling. The 30-year-old last played in the NBA with the Lakers in 2019.
  • There’s some speculation around the league that Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri may eventually wind up in Seattle if the league approves a new franchise, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. The group heading expansion efforts in Seattle includes longtime sports executive Tim Leiweke, who hired Ujiri as Toronto’s executive vice president and GM in 2013.
  • Texas Tech has received permission to interview Bucks assistant Darvin Ham for its head coaching vacancy, Wojnarowski tweets. Ham led the school to the Sweet 16 in 1996 and played in the NBA from ’96 to 2005.

And-Ones: Top International Leagues, Seattle, Ball Brothers

While the NBA as a league is as popular as ever, the gap between the best league in the world and the plethora of international options is shrinking. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla recently broke down the world’s top leagues in a must-read feature for any hoops fans curious about the basketball scene outside of the NBA.

Fraschilla ranks EuroLeague as the best non-NBA league. It’s the continent-wide league of top clubs from domestic leagues in countries like Spain and Turkey. The league is very financially stable, Fraschilla writes, noting that approximately 100 EuroLeague players are making as much or more money than the bottom 100 players in the NBA.

Fraschilla highlights Spain’s Liga ACB, the Turkish Basketball Super League and Russia’s VTB United League as the top pro leagues based in a single country.

Other leagues mentioned in the feature include Australia’s National Basketball League and the Chinese Basketball Association, both of which are growing in popularity of late.

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • It’s official, Tim Leiweke‘s Oak View Group is investing to refurnish KeyArena in Seattle. Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports breaks down the latest in the pacific northwest city’s pursuit to reclaim an NBA franchise.
  • Professional basketball hasn’t always succeeded in Mexico. Most recently, Nathaniel Janowitz of ESPN writes, the Capitanes de Ciudad Mexico of the Liga Nacional de Baloncesto Profesional have tried to win over hoops fans in the country’s capital.
  • Both LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball have an agent, Jeff Goodman of ESPN writes, so neither will be eligible to play college basketball. As Bleacher Report’s David Pick writes, their chances of playing in a competitive league overseas aren’t exactly great either.

And-Ones: Youth Movement, Asian Influence, Seattle

The current crop of NBA rookies is one of the best that hoops fans have seen in years, Spencer Davies of Basketball Insiders writes. The scribe cites Ben Simmons and Jayson Tatum as two first-year players who’ve looked poised and dominant in significant roles out of the gates.

It’s not just a top-heavy class either, however, all of Kyle Kuzma, Lauri Markkanen and Donovan Mitchell have impressed over the course of their first months in the NBA.

The youth movement may not be limited to the 2017/18 season though. Marc Spears of The Undefeated recently profiled the 12 best collegiate players who could make an impact at the NBA level as early as next season, going so far as to declare that Michael Porter Jr. should have greater star power than anybody in the 2017 class.

There’s more around the league:

  • As the world economy shifts, more and more prominent Asian businesses and billionaires are looking to buy into the NBA. Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune breaks down the trend that formally started when Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor sold a 5% stake in the franchise to Lizhang Jiang.
  • While Tim Leiweke remains confident that he and his Oak View Group represent Seattle’s best chance of regaining an NBA franchise, it’s not necessarily going to happen as soon as some fans would hope. He spoke on the topic at length with Q13’s Bill Wixey.
  • The BIG3 will add retired point guard T.J. Ford to its ranks, an ESPN report says. The guard averaged 11.2 points and 5.8 assists per game over the course of 306 NBA starts in eight seasons.

Reaction To Phil Jackson’s Firing

Phil Jackson is gone, but owner James Dolan’s next move will determine how soon the Knicks can rebuild, writes Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. It’s not clear yet whom New York is targeting to take Jackson’s place, but the author points out that Dolan has a history of poor decisions when it comes to choosing someone to run his basketball team. An obvious choice, Bontemps notes, is former Cavaliers GM David Griffin, who couldn’t reach a new agreement in Cleveland.

GM Steve Mills will run the Knicks until a new president is hired, and Bontemps says he should start building the team around Kristaps Porzingis. He adds that Jackson’s feud with Porzingis, not the long-running one with Carmelo Anthony, is what led to today’s decision. Jackson shopped Porzingis around the league last week, and although there was plenty of interest, no offers were deemed acceptable.

Knicks See Ujiri As Potential Jackson Successor?

Knicks owner James Dolan is exploring potential successors for team president Phil Jackson, with Raptors GM Masai Ujiri believed to be among them, as Frank Isola of the New York Daily News indicates and as fellow Daily News scribe Stefan Bondy confirms via Twitter. Jackson can opt out of his contract after next season. The Zen Master is currently pushing for a new multiyear deal for Kurt Rambis that would remove the interim tag from his head coaching title, sources tell Marc Stein and Ian Begley of ESPN.com.

Dolan confidant Irving Azoff supports Jackson and is close with Rambis, according to Isola, who points out that Azoff also has ties to Ujiri. Former Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke, who brought Ujiri to the Raptors, is a business partner of Azoff, Isola notes.

It would be no shock for Ujiri to become heavily sought after given his success with Toronto, which has already set a franchise record with 52 wins this season and is poised to enter the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, and in Denver, where Ujiri’s final team also set a franchise record with 57 wins. Still, it remains to be seen whether he would have interest in leaving the Raptors for New York, particularly given the strong pull he felt toward the Toronto organization when he left the Nuggets. Plus, his Raptors contract runs for two more years, Isola points out.

Jackson, 70, has been vague about whether he intends to finish the five-year contract he signed to run the Knicks in 2014, though comments he made last month seemed to indicate he doesn’t intend to go anywhere soon. People close to him even reportedly raised the idea he would coach on a part-time basis next season, though Jackson shot that idea down.

Instead, Jackson appears ready to formally give the coaching job to Rambis, an outcome Jackson has reportedly hoped for ever since naming Rambis interim coach in February. New York is just 8-16 since firing former coach Derek Fisher, and sources indicated to Marc Berman of the New York Post that Fisher drew more respect from Knicks players than Rambis doesCarmelo Anthony has said he’d like Jackson to at least listen to other candidates for the head coaching job.

Michael Friisdahl To Run Raptors Parent Company

9:30am: The hiring is official, the organization announced.

9:11am: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, the company that owns the Raptors, is hiring Air Canada executive Michael Friisdahl as the new president and CEO, a source told Rick Westhead of TSN. He’ll take over for current MLSE chief Tim Leiweke in December, tweets Michael Grange of SportsNet. Leiweke announced more than a year ago that he was stepping down in June, but he’s stayed on as MLSE struggled to find a replacement.

Friisdahl’s background is chiefly in the travel industry, so his lack of sports industry experience is likely a sign that GM Masai Ujiri will be able to run the Raptors without much interference, posits Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun (Twitter link). Leiweke, by contrast, came to the organization having already served as president and CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the National Hockey League’s Kings and part of the Lakers.

John Cassaday, who is the top executive of Corus Entertainment in Toronto, was the front-runner for the MLSE job and the sides tentatively reached an agreement, but they got a late start on discussing financial terms and ultimately couldn’t close a deal, Westhead writes.

Atlantic Notes: Knicks, Thomas, Outlaw, Melo

Outgoing Raptors executive Tim Leiweke is in talks with Irving Azoff, a confidant of Knicks owner James Dolan, about a deal that would see them have a stake in assets that are currently part of the Madison Square Garden company, reports Scott Soshnick of Bloomberg.com. MSG, which owns the Knicks, is considering splitting into a pair of companies, as Soshnick details, though Soshnick doesn’t indicate whether there’s a role for Leiweke on the Knicks under consideration. Leiweke, who’s leaving his job with the company that owns the Raptors by the end of June or as soon as a replacement is found, said he doesn’t think the company is close to finding it’s next chief executive.  More from the Atlantic Division..

  • Malcolm Thomas got a fairly substantial contract guarantee of $474K for this season on his four-year, minimum-salary deal with the Sixers, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (on Twitter).  Thomas, we learned yesterday, was getting set to play in China before Philly reached out to him over the weekend. The rest of his contract with the Sixers is non-guaranteed, as Pincus shows on the team’s Basketball Insiders salary page.
  • The Knicks received a $1,863,840 trade exception when they traded Travis Outlaw to the Sixers, tweets Pincus. That’s equivalent to the difference between the salaries for Outlaw and Arnett Moultrie, whom the Knicks acquired and immediately waived.
  • Carmelo Anthony is preaching patience when it comes to the Knicks, who had a 37-win season, traded Tyson Chandler, and have a first-year head coach, writes Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com.  “It’s a work in progress now. It’s going to be a work in progress until the end of the season,” Anthony said. “We’re not looking for nothing easy, but we know it’s a work in progress. We have a chance to create something here, and we’re excited about it.”

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

And-Ones: Raptors, Sixers, Wolves, Marion

Based upon the initial reaction in the Toronto media, it seems like Raptors CEO Tim Leiweke will be missed after news broke this week that he will eventually leave the organization. Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun partially credits Leiweke with landing current GM Masai Ujiri, who last season built the first Raptors team to make the playoffs in six years. Wolstat also points to the 2016 All Star Game, which Toronto will host, and the team’s new practice facility as coups that have Leiweke’s fingerprints all over them. Meanwhile, Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post lauds the CEO for cultivating the organization’s relationship with hip hop star Drake and also writes that Leiweke played a role in retaining star guard Kyle Lowry.

Let’s see what else is going on around the NBA on Thursday evening:

  • As Tom Moore of Calkins Media points out (via Twitter), Luc Mbah a Moute is slated to make about $4.4MM for the Sixers in 2014/15 while Alexey Shved will make about $3.2MM. Meanwhile, Thaddeus Young will earn around $9.2MM this season for the Timberwolves and has a $9.7MM player option for 2015/16.
  • Assuming the trade is finalized as reported, Moore reminds us that Jason Richardson, still recovering from a knee injury, and Arnett Moultrie are now the longest tenured Sixers, appearing in 92 games combined. Hollis Thompson, who has played 77 games in Philly, will have the most time on the court (Twitter link).
  • Appearing on ESPN 103.3 in Dallas on Thursday, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban discussed Shawn Marion‘s decision to sign with the Cavaliers. “He wanted to go to somebody that he thought, and this was all prior to signing Chandler Parsons and everything, that he thought was closer to a ring particularly in the Eastern Conference. He decided to go that route and we wish him nothing but the best,” Cuban said. (quote via The Dallas Morning News)

And-Ones: Bledsoe, Monroe, Raptors, Gray

An NBA GM who spoke with Sean Deveney of The Sporting News said he’d be reluctant to sign-and-trade for either Eric Bledsoe or Greg Monroe in part because of the chance they’ll become available again next summer. The GM also suggested that the Suns and Pistons are overvaluing them, further diminishing the odds of a trade this offseason. While we continue to wait to see what happens to the two top restricted free agents, here’s more from around the league:

  • When Tim Leiweke spoke about two months ago to the board of the company that controls the Raptors, he declined to promise that he would stay on as CEO past next spring, as Elliotte Friedman writes for CBC.ca. That helped lead to today’s announcement of his planned departure, Friedman explains. The Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment board wanted to take control of the process and end speculation about Leiweke’s future, as Friedman details, adding that Leiweke’s contract carried an escape clause that gave him a way out.
  • Aaron Gray‘s contract with the Pistons is for two years, with a player option for the final season, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reveals (Twitter link).
  • Joel Embiid is tight with Luc Mbah a Moute, notes Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, and that helps explain why the Sixers appear poised to acquire Mbah a Moute as part of the Kevin Love trade (Twitter link). Mbah a Moute has served as a mentor for Embiid, a fellow native of Cameroon, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune points out (on Twitter).

Raptors CEO Tim Leiweke To Step Down

THURSDAY, 10:01am: Leiweke will leave the company on June 30, 2015 or when a replacement is found, whichever is sooner, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment announced today, as Mark Zwolinski of The Toronto Star chronicles. The news is surprising after Leiweke denied that he would resign in the immediate wake of Friedman’s report, and Leiweke repeated that denial Wednesday before today’s about-face, Zwolinski writes.

“Under Tim’s leadership, MLSE has made a number of key moves to strengthen our organization on the path to championship success,” Tanenbaum said in the statement announcing Leiweke’s impending departure. “We look forward to working closely with Tim to build on this foundation and further accelerate our momentum as we seek a new leader for MLSE.”

The statement also quoted Leiweke, who cited a desire to “transition from sports and entertainment executive to entrepreneur,” as Mike Zeisberger of the Toronto Sun notes.

TUESDAY, 12:55pm: Leiweke intends to leave the company at the end of his two-year non-compete agreement with AEG, his former employer, a source tells Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun (Twitter link). Leiweke left AEG last spring before taking the job that has him in charge of the Raptors.

12:39pm: Leiweke has quickly issued a denial, telling Cathal Kelly of The Globe and Mail that, It’s not true. 100% not true. I’m fully committed to the season at hand” (Twitter link).

12:10pm: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke, who oversees the Raptors, is set to leave the company soon, reports Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet (Twitter link). Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun suggests Leiweke has harbored dreams of running an National Football League team (Twitter link), but it remains unclear why he would depart his job in charge of the Raptors and the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs.

Leiweke joined the company a little more than a year ago, though the hopes of landing an NFL franchise have faded since then. MLSE was part of a bidding group that made a play for the Buffalo Bills, but it appears the group’s efforts to buy the team and move it to Toronto will come up short. MLSE chairman Larry Tanenbaum was more directly involved in that process, but it stands to reason that Leiweke might have been part of the effort if he indeed envisions running a football team in the near future.

The Raptors have undergone significant changes during Leiweke’s brief tenure so far, and while the change from Bryan Colangelo to Masai Ujiri as GM happened before Leiweke officially took office, it appeared as though he had influence on those decisions. Ujiri traded Rudy Gay less than two months into last season, sparking a turnaround that saw the team grab the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Toronto came close to trading Kyle Lowry not long after the Gay deal, but the point guard played a key role in the team’s surprising season and before the season was over, Leiweke publicly vowed to re-sign Lowry this summer. The Raptors did so, inking Lowry to a four-year, $48MM deal.