Fresh off an unavoidable reminder of what they lost in the off-season — a Staples Center reunion with ex-teammate Kawhi Leonard on Monday night — the Raptors find themselves mired in talks of another potential marquee departure.
Team president Masai Ujiri is the latest name circling the rumour mill, with The Athletic’s Frank Isola reporting recently that James Dolan and the New York Knicks are gearing up to “take another run” at bringing Ujiri to Madison Square Garden.
Isola joined Tim & Sid on Tuesday to break down the Knicks’ latest courting of Ujiri, and what their pitch to the Raptors president might look like.
“I think it would be very hard to pull off, but the one way the Knicks do pull off things is by spending a lot of money. And they’d be able to throw a king’s ransom at Masai,” Isola told Sportsnet’s Tim Micallef and Sid Seixeiro on Tuesday. “Remember, a few years ago, Jim Dolan was able to sign Phil Jackson, (and) gave him $50 million.”
Of course, whether the widely respected executive actually picks up and leaves Toronto depends entirely on one thing:
“He’s going to have to come (to New York), No. 1,” Isola said. “Does that challenge of rebuilding the Knicks (appeal to him?) It’s a challenge a lot of guys have taken on, a lot of Hall of Famers have taken on — Isiah Thomas, Larry Brown, Lenny Wilkens, Phil Jackson.
“All of them ultimately failed. It seems like, always, the dysfunction at Madison Square Garden overwhelms a lot of people. So, I think it’s going to be up to Masai.”
This isn’t the first time the Raptors have heard talk of other organizations coveting Ujiri’s services, of course. In June, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Washington Wizards were prepared to offer Ujiri $10 million annually to move to D.C. — a report later denied by Wizards owner Ted Leonsis.
Ujiri said at the time he had no intention of leaving his current post. “For me, it’s always been about Toronto,” the Raptors president said. “I love it here, my family loves it here, my wife loves it here, which is very important. My kids are Canadians.” As well, MLSE owner Larry Tanenbaum made it clear he wasn’t worried about losing his star executive.
That said, Isola suggested Dolan would likely have no issue going far above the $10-million mark in an effort to sway Ujiri’s loyalties.
“Money is no object — they’ll throw anything at Masai,” he said.
“Remember too, and all due respect to the Washington Wizards — and I know Masai has the connection to D.C. — it’s still a bit different winning with the Wizards than it would be winning with New York with the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
“I think that’s part of the allure that brings some of these big names out there.”
Watch Isola’s full interview on Tim & Sid above as the Knicks beat writer discusses why Dolan is intent on luring Ujiri to Madison Square Garden, how the pair’s dealings have gone in the past, and the impact the Knicks’ culture may have on young Canadian star RJ Barrett.