Given the Toronto Raptors‘ obvious success this season, and the relative off-season transformation that saw the shrewd additions of Cory Joseph, Bismack Biyombo, and Luis Scola make a sizeable impact on the club it’s no surprise that, for all the right reasons, team president/GM Masai Ujiri is getting a lot of attention these days.
One of the people reportedly paying particularly close attention is New York Knicks owner James Dolan. According to Knicks insider Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, the Knicks are already eyeing Ujiri as their next team president in the event that current boss Phil Jackson steps down from his role or is outright fired, which may be more and more likely as the losses pile up in Gotham.
Sure, of course the Knicks would want someone who’s proven to be pretty good at his job to work for them, but there may (and we stress may) be slightly more to this, as the report alludes to a number of existing relationships between Dolan, the Knicks personnel, and Ujiri:
[Ujiri and Dolan] worked on the Anthony trade when Ujiri worked for the Denver Nuggets. Ujiri also traded Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks for this year’s first-round pick and was prepared to trade Kyle Lowry to New York a few seasons ago before Dolan vetoed the move.
So clearly, this falls under the category, “if you can’t beat him, hire him.”
It’s also worth noting that Ujiri was originally brought to Toronto by Tim Leiweke, former CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment (MLSE). Leiweke has since left Toronto and has started a business with Azoff.
Apart from the off-season additions, factor in the promising outlook of rookies Delon Wright and especially Norman Powell (a mid-second-round pick who has been starting of late and playing like a high-lottery selection), and Ujiri has done a tremendous job in building a contender in the East — and helping to make the Washington Wizards playoff sweep from a season ago more of a distant memory with each win.
While the allure of the Big Apple and the seemingly limitless budgets the Knicks and Dolan operate with, it’s hard to imagine there’ll be a shortage of suitors to run the franchise (and, yes, that’s despite years and years of recent dysfunction). And, sure, Ujiri will no doubt be high atop the list of every team in need of new management, but it would be a mild shocker if he left the Raptors before seeing his work through…Wouldn’t it?