UPDATE on June 14, 11:45 p.m. ET — Buckner’s article on The Washington Post was published on Friday in the late afternoon. In it, Buckner asserts that the Wizards are probably not reaching out to Ujiri right now. She also notes that though Ujiri is the Raptors’ President of Basketball Operations, he isn’t necessarily the one making phone calls and scouting directly. He also was away from Toronto at the time of some major moves, like when Kawhi Leonard was traded.
It is just that he has the final say over decisions.
So on that note, even if Ujiri came to Washington, you would expect that he would hire at least some of his own staff members who do day-to-day operations.
Early Friday morning, Wizards fans were SO EXCITED that majority owner Ted Leonsis was planning to reach out to the Toronto Raptors so he can talk to Masai Ujiri directly. The reason? Ujiri was the Wizards’ dream candidate to be their next President of Basketball Operations and he was likely going to receive a major compensation offer as well.
But as the saying goes, STOP THE PRESSES!
Unfortunately, Candace Buckner of The Washington Post reported that the Wizards have no “imminent plans” to contact the Raptors before speaking to Ujiri.
The #Wizards have no imminent plans to reach out to the NBA Champion Toronto Raptors to speak with Masai Ujiri, which means there is no massive offer being prepared... I've been told by a person close to the organization.— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) June 14, 2019
More details coming.
It’s unclear why the Wizards do not want to pursue Ujiri now. So here are three hypothetical reasons.
The first hypothetical reason is because Ujiri himself faces some bad publicity of his own. After Game 6 of the NBA Finals, he allegedly pushing and hitting an Alameda County Sheriff’s deputy according to KNTV in San Jose, Calif. The incident happened right after the final buzzer. Apparently, Ujiri didn’t have credentials to get on the court and the deputy was going by the book.
Oakland cop: Masai Ujiri didn't produce a credential and struck our officer— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) June 14, 2019
Masai Ujiri: Quite literally holding his credential during videotaped incident in question and seconds later on the court pic.twitter.com/xtJIb0GZaw
Dan Wolken, Jeff Zillgitt and AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA TODAY reported on Friday morning that the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office will pursue charges. But it is up to prosecutors as to whether they will actually escalate the situation.
For an organization that says it tries to avoid unnecessary drama, The Wizards have had their players in the news for the wrong reasons. Most recently, Devin Robinson was involved in a nightclub fight and Tommy Sheppard subsequently said that the team won’t re-sign him because of it.
Personally, I don’t think this should be a reason for the Wizards NOT to pursue Ujiri. The Raptors just won the NBA championship and emotions are running high. He should have been recognizable to the deputies, though I get that media policies have to be followed.
The second hypothetical reason why Ujiri may not be pursued for now is because of timing. The NBA Draft is next Thursday, June 20. Like the Wizards, the Raptors have their own game plan on what to do. And of course, Ujiri deserves to celebrate winning an NBA championship.
Finally, the third hypothetical reason is that Ujiri may not be truly interested in Washington. Again, he’s in Toronto, a world class city of its own.
I get many people are playing up the Barack Obama connection and the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders African programs as why Washington makes sense, but consider this. The former President’s youngest daughter graduated from high school this year.
And Toronto is the NBA’s truest international city. I think Basketball Without Borders for any continent works the best outside of the United States in many ways.
I’m not sure what to make of the news. But let’s just wait and see. Buckner didn’t say that the Wizards AREN’T speaking to him. They’re just not going to contact the Raptors today when they are celebrating.