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SBD/June 3, 2013/FranchisesPrint All
The Raptors on Friday named Nuggets Exec VP/Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri GM. He will replace Raptors President Bryan Colangelo in the role, and will report to Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Tim Leiweke (Raptors). YAHOO SPORTS' Adrian Wojnarowski reported Ujiri "accepted a five-year," $15M contract with the Raptors. The Nuggets "offered Ujiri a contract extension." His decision to leave the team "was especially difficult given his strong relationship" with team President Josh Kroenke, which "as much as anything ... led to the Ujiri's delay in deciding whether to take the job" with the Raptors. Ujiri "had been considering the Toronto offer for a week and finally informed the teams of his decision on Friday" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/31). In Denver, Benjamin Hochman noted Kroenke was "stung by the loss of a friend and someone he worked closely with the past three years." Kroenke said, "Obviously Masai is a big loss for the organization. However, his departure doesn't change anything about my intense desire for success." The Nuggets had "anticipated that Ujiri would stay with them" (DENVER POST, 6/1). Meanwhile, the CP reported Raptors Exec VP/Basketball Operations Ed Stefanski "was fired on Sunday." Stefanski confirmed that he had been "relieved of his duties." A Raptors official yesterday "confirmed that other members of the team’s front office had been fired" (CP, 6/2). In Toronto, Doug Smith writes, "Front office personnel are out, scouts are out, assistant coaches may be out and the week ahead could be a sea-changing period in the franchise’s history" (TORONTO STAR, 6/3).
BRYAN'S SONG: The GLOBE & MAIL's Jeff Blair wrote when the Raptors formally introduce Ujiri this week, it "will be fascinating to see whether it's a three-man dais." One "would have to think" Leiweke would be part of the announcement, as it is "his first hiring" at MLSE. But Blair asked, "Where the hell are they going to hide Bryan Colangelo, who has retained the title of president despite being fired as G.M. and who is considered to be something of a mentor to Ujiri?" Blair: "All we can do is trust Leiweke on this one. If hanging on to Colangelo really is what some observers see it as being -- a sop to Larry Tanenbaum or maybe the NBA office, looking after one of its favourite sons until some other team gets fooled into hiring him -- then it ought to be easy to have him standing off to the side, and Colangelo ought to be smart enough to avoid interviews" (GLOBE & MAIL, 6/2). The TORONTO STAR's Smith wrote Colangelo "remains an integral figure with the Raptors" in a situation "unprecedented in recent NBA history." Ujiri has "long held that Colangelo and Raptors senior adviser Wayne Embry were mentors and both are still involved in the organization to act as sounding boards if Ujiri wants" (TORONTO STAR, 6/1).
MILE-HIGH MISSION: The DENVER POST's Hochman wrote Nuggets VP/Basketball Operations Pete D'Alessandro is a candidate to replace Ujiri because he is "respected in NBA circles for his creative statistics analysis and for his grasp of the salary cap." D'Alessandro "is not a common name for basketball fans, but he was the right-hand man for Ujiri." The Nuggets were "stunned when Ujiri left his job last week" (DENVER POST, 6/2). In Denver, Mark Kiszla wrote Kroenke has "lost his best friend in basketball and is stuck with a team with thornier problems than its 57 regular-season victories would suggest." Kiszla: "I can't blame Ujiri for taking a huge raise to become the general manager in Toronto. When push came to shove, he wanted out of Colorado." There was "never a chance the Kroenke family was going to match the stupid money offered by the Raptors." It seems Kroenke "wants to act as the Nuggets' de facto general manager" (DENVER POST, 6/2).
NBA Commissioner David Stern on Friday revealed that the Kings' ownership group led by Managing Partner Vivek Ranadive "must meet 'a series of benchmarks' for a new arena -- or risk losing the Kings to another city," according Kasler, Bizjak & Lillis of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Stern, speaking hours after Ranadive's group officially completed its purchase of the team from former Owners the Maloofs, said that the NBA "has the option of pulling the Kings out of Sacramento and arranging for the team's sale to new owners." He added that league owners "insisted on the doomsday option 'in the unlikely event' Sacramento can't get the arena project rolling in a 'reasonable' amount of time." The NBA is "insisting that the building at Downtown Plaza open no later than 2017." The Ranadive group "expects to open" a $448M arena at Downtown Plaza "in time for the 2016-17 season." The Maloof Sports & Entertainment signs by midday Friday "had all but disappeared from Sleep Train Arena." Stern said of Ranadive: "I think he's going to be good; I think he's going to be very good." He added that the Kings "have already secured renewals from 70 percent of their season-ticket holders."
KINGDOM COME: Former Kings co-Owner George Maloof revealed that the family "entertained offers" for the team not just from the Seattle group led by Chris Hansen and Steve Ballmer, but also from a "group seeking to move the team to Las Vegas and a buyer who promised to keep the team in Sacramento." He added that his family was "taken aback by the effort mounted" by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and the Ranadive group. Maloof: "We were all surprised. I didn't think there was a buyer (to keep the team in Sacramento). They should be commended; the mayor should be commended." With the sale "now finalized, the Seattle group has surrendered its toehold on the Kings." Court documents indicated that Hansen is "canceling" the purchase of a 7% stake in the team, which is now "being purchased by Ranadive." Ranadive is "paying the same amount Hansen was -- $15.1 million" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 6/1).
TECH SAVVY: The SACRAMENTO BEE's Dale Kasler wrote the city of Sacramento's "long and often difficult quest to build a major high-tech industry could get a burst of energy from a most unlikely source" in the Kings' new owners, who "represent some of the stars of the state's tech sector." What the group's "tech orientation means for Sacramento is uncertain." Kings co-Owner and Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said that given the team's new owners, a tech company "likely would purchase the naming rights for the new arena." He said, "I have a bunch of friends I'm talking to about the naming rights." He added that Qualcomm is "an unlikely candidate for naming rights; it would create a possible conflict of interest for him" (SACRAMENTO BEE, 6/2). KSYP-AM's Darren Wolfson reported former T'Wolves President of Basketball Operations David Kahn is a "safe bet to be involved with the new Sacramento ownership group." He likely will "be a part of the planning process for the new arena." Kahn recently has been "spending time" with Johnson (1500ESPN.com, 5/30).
Indians President Mark Shapiro on Saturday said that the organization "feels 'terrible' about what fans endured Friday night" when a game versus the Rays did not end until 2:53am ET following three rain delays that totaled 4 hours, 49 minutes, according to Dennis Manoloff of the Cleveland PLAIN DEALER. Shapiro said that the organization is "working to 'make it right.'" He "hopes to have some sort of make-good ironed out" by this week. Indians officials said that fans "should hold onto their tickets." Shapiro added that as of Saturday afternoon, the team had "received a relatively small number of complaints about the entire evening." He said, "We played the game, so there's no legal obligation, but we are going to make some effort to address the fact that we feel terrible and want to make it right to them and provide them with an alternative" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 6/2). Meanwhile, in Cleveland, Michael McIntyre reports the Indians "want fans to come to games so much they’ll even provide the ride" as the team is offering "one new means of transportation: A bus ride from the suburbs on the Indians Express." The team is "offering the park and ride deal for games June 14, 16 and 22 and July 5 and July 13th from five suburban locations." Rotating among the suburban locations "will be the new Fox Sports Ohio Fan Express bus." Shapiro said, "In all our market research, one of the significant barriers to entry into Downtown Cleveland and Progressive Field has been access to transportation. There are many safe, reliable and cost-effective means to get to our ballpark" (CLEVELAND.com, 6/3).
Raiders Media Relations Dir Zak Gilbert, who had been "on the job for one year, was fired" on Saturday by team Owner Mark Davis, according to Vic Tafur of the S.F. CHRONICLE. Gilbert "had been brought in" by GM Reggie McKenzie, who had worked with Gilbert during his time with the Packers. Sources said that Davis was "unhappy with a Sports Illustrated story in April looking back on the team's 4-12 season in 2012." SI's Jim Trotter in the article "cast McKenzie in a good light but Davis didn't like how the story portrayed him or the job done by his father, late owner Al Davis, in the previous 10 years" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 6/3). ESPN's Adam Schefter wrote Gilbert "is tremendous at his job," and firing him "is ridiculously undeserved moved" (TWITTER.com, 6/2). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote Gilbert had "worked very hard to shed the aura of misguided secrecy that previously had emanated from Oakland." Gilbert had done "a very good job of transforming the P.R. department into something resembling a non-dysfunctional media-relations operation, with press releases and cooperation and all the things that we come to take for granted from most of the other 31 teams." Florio: "And here’s the part where I gripe about Mark Davis, who absent compelling evidence that Gilbert did something to encourage Sports Illustrated to write the story that painted Mark Davis and or his father’s final decade or ownership in a not-so-favorable light is being way too sensitive about widely-held opinions." The "widely-held opinions are that, since the team’s Super Bowl berth to cap the 2002 season, the Raiders have been trapped in a quagmire of dysfunction" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 6/2).
MORE WRITING ON THE WALL? SI.com's Peter King asks, "If McKenzie's own PR pick is fired primarily because of a story Mark Davis didn't like -- Davis had exiled Gilbert to working from home for the past six weeks, since the story appeared -- what happens if the Raiders stink again this year?" You "simply cannot judge McKenzie until he has the chance to oversee at least three Raider seasons, because of the morass the Raiders were in at the time of his hire." But if Davis gets this "skittish over a magazine story, you're crazy to think McKenzie is certainly safe with another four-win season, or worse, in 2013." Gilbert's firing is "a bad sign for the immediate future of the Raiders" (SI.com, 6/3).