Masai Ujiri Rumors
Larry Tanenbaum’s long-standing premise — that Masai Ujiri isn’t going anywhere — won’t be dealt with in any way until after this Raptors irregular season ends on Sunday. Tanenbaum, the chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., admitted Monday in a rare e-mail exchange that “Masai and I agreed months ago that we would sit down after the season has concluded to address his contract.”
In the meantime, Tanenbaum, who also serves without much notice as chairman of the board of the NBA, has been impressed with how the Raptors have handled this season under troubling circumstances. “I’m not sure the league will ever see a more challenging and defining year like the one we’ve just experienced,” he wrote in his e-mail. “The pandemic was incredibly difficult for all teams, with constantly changing circumstances and protocols, but the challenges the Raptors faced were unprecedented.”
Larry Tanenbaum: “We couldn’t be more proud of the way every member of the organization met those challenges. They all made massive sacrifices personally to move to Tampa, to do everything asked of them to make this season possible.”
Like Lowry, Ujiri has been regarded by fans and the organization as Raptors royalty since the team’s championship run in 2018-19. It is widely presumed in league circles that only an overwhelming offer in a highly desirable market could lure him away from the influence and affection he has amassed in Toronto. Yet these many months without a deal and Webster’s rising profile as a natural successor have raised the question: How much longer will Ujiri be running the Raptors?
Some around the league, though, have wondered about a potential down-the-road option that does not yet exist. The group heading expansion efforts in Seattle features the longtime sports executive Tim Leiweke, who brought Ujiri to Toronto for the 2013-14 season.
One league source told me the sleeper team to watch in a Beal bidding war is the Raptors. This source said Toronto president Masai Ujiri was reluctant to deal Lowry because he believes the team can contend again as soon as next season. At that point, the Raptors will likely be back in a normal rhythm and playing in Canada after spending all of this season in Tampa.