The New York Knicks are rumored to have interest in Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri. Should fans and management be concerned?
Everyone wants a piece of you when you’re at the top. As the defending NBA Champions and one of the most well-run organizations in the NBA, members within the Toronto Raptors are receiving a lot of outside interest. And no one is receiving more interest than team president Masai Ujiri.
After being courted by the Washington Wizards just seconds after winning the NBA title, Ujiri now has another admirer — the Wizards later tried to say they never had any really interest…. OK, sure. According to Frank Isola of the Athletic (subscription required), the Knicks are gearing up to make a run at the Raptors team president, hoping to entice him with an overflowing barrel of cash. — This wouldn’t be the first time the Knicks have made a run at Ujiri.
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At the moment, Ujiri is still under contract until 2021, and Raptors ownership will do everything in their power to keep him in Toronto. For the Knicks, the plan might be to wait until the summer of 2021 in an attempt to pair Ujiri and Giannis Antetokounmpo in a mega-deal. The Knicks have displayed an outward interest in Giannis, as have the Toronto Raptors.
The problem for New York is that it takes two to tango. The Knicks might have interest in Masai Ujiri, but why would he have interest in them? They’re perhaps the most incompetent organization in the sport, have a buffoon as an owner, and despite their constant wishes, have shown an ability to recruit free agents that barely rises above Toronto’s.
Perhaps Ujiri believes he could turn the Knicks into a winner, but why leave a situation where he has already done that? If the plan is to recruit Giannis, why wouldn’t he do that in Toronto? New York can offer a boatload of cash, but you can bet your season tickets, the Raptors are going to make Ujiri a similar offer. The “winning in New York is different than anywhere else,” pitch has failed to many times to be taken seriously at this point.
Of course, it’s never wise to assume to know another person’s motivation, particularly someone you don’t know well. We can’t be truly sure what makes Masai Ujiri tick. But if he cares about winning, general piece of mind, or anything other than helping a fanbase he has no history with, the Knicks aren’t a legitimate threat.
A place to worry
While Ujiri’s departure seems unlikely, he’s not the only person who’s responsible for the rise of the Toronto Raptors. Yes, Ujiri deserves a large portion of the credit, but behind every lead decision maker, are numerous scouts and administrative pieces that also are vital to an organization’s success. The most prominent name within the Raptors organization is general manager Bobby Webster.
Webster was named the Toronto Raptors general manager in the summer of 2017. At 35-years-old, he’s the youngest GM in the NBA. If the Knicks swing-and-miss while attempting to poach Ujiri, perhaps they’ll target his right hand man.
The appeal to Webster can be significantly more appealing than the pitch to Ujiri. We can’t say for sure, but it’s reasonable to assume that Webster eventually wants to become a the guy within an organization. Learning as an apprentice is great, but no one wants to be an apprentice forever. In the high-pressured environment of professional sports, eventually, everyone wants to be the top dog.
The Raptors know that eventually Webster will want to spread his wings and fly away. However, at just 35-years-old, he has freedom to be judicious about any job he takes. He doesn’t need to rush into a job for a dysfunctional organization with an insane owner if he doesn’t feel the timing is right.
But if Webster is offered a long-term deal with a bag of cash, you could understand why he might make the move to the big apple. There are only 30 jobs like that in the world, and sometimes the allure of being the main guy is too much to pass up.
So while the Toronto Raptors shouldn’t be too concerned about the possibility of Masai Ujiri leaving, they may want to keep a lookout for their other key employees.