SBD/June 3, 2013/Franchises

Ujiri Leaves Nuggets, Takes Over As Raptors GM After Difficult Decision

Ujiri mulled over the Raptors' $15M offer for a week before accepting it Friday
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).
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