Raptors reporter Michael Grange has some interesting thoughts:
Mills, the longtime lackey of Dolan, got the boot Tuesday morning after having traded Kristaps Porzingis for pennies on the dollar and cap room a year ago, and failing to use that cap room to sign – or even meet with – any significant free agents this past summer, then firing his head coach David Fizdale earlier this season when it became clear the dog’s breakfast of a roster couldn’t compete. Again.
It was noon on Tuesday when well-connected ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted that Dolan was targeting Ujiri to “ultimately oversee New York’s operations.”
This is – of itself – not news. Similar reports were circulating before the Raptors’ NBA title defence began in October, and more earnestly back in December after Fizdale was fired.
On Tuesday night, longtime NBA insider Marc Stein reported that Ujiri might even bring along Raptors general manager Bobby Webster, whose contract matches the term of Ujiri’s and whose wife – while we’re connecting dots – is from a prominent family in the New York area.
A couple of key nuggets bubbled to the surface back in December, too.
I reported that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment — the conglomerate that owns the Raptors along with the Toronto Maple Leafs, TFC and other holdings — had never offered Ujiri an extension (later confirmed by MLSE minority owner Larry Tanenbaum to Sun Media) and that he was all but certain not to accept one if it were offered before 2021 when his contract is up. The expectation was that Ujiri — who had started off as an unpaid international scout barely 20 years ago — was going test free agency.
Another key detail?
That Ujiri may have an out on the five-year deal he signed in the summer of 2016 — which back then was in part a preemptive strike against the Knicks nosing around — that could allow him to hit the market this coming summer. Whether it’s a formal out or more of a gentleman’s agreement isn’t exactly clear.
But it’s not good business for an NBA team to have an executive of Ujiri’s stature going into the final year of his deal without some assurance about the future beyond that. Forcing him to stay the length of the deal if he’s determined to leave seems pointless.
One way or another, the expectation is Ujiri’s status will be cleared up well before the 2020-21 season.
As one league source put it to me recently: “If something is going to happen with Masai and the Knicks it will happen quick, probably a few days after (this) season is over.”
Taken together, a picture seems clear.
The Raptors haven’t offered Ujiri an extension, he’s determined to become a free agent and he may have an out on his deal this coming summer.
Short answer? Ujiri is gone.
Amusingly, though, Grange notes that there are many in the NBA who think that Dolan is too impatient to wait for this deal to happen and that he’ll just barrel through and hire someone else.
It’s funny that the rest of the league is also aware of Dolan’s Razor.
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