The Raptors ended up being an early signal of the coming shift as Masai Ujiri negotiated extensions with both Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam. Ujiri willingly conceding spending power, albeit to retain two pivotal members of their championship team, helped clarify how little many front offices cared about maximizing 2020 cap space. It was unsurprising to see less flexible front offices like the 76ers (Ben Simmons) and Nets (Caris LeVert and Taurean Prince) lock up young players ahead of restricted free agency, but a group of teams that includes the Raptors, Grizzlies (Dillon Brooks) and Kings (Buddy Hield) deliberately gave up cap space, and that meaningfully reduced the league-wide spending power this summer.
“He’s great for the sport, he’s knowledgeable, he knows it, he follows it and just his intelligence and the person inside that he is,” Ujiri told The Athletic last weekend about what it meant to have Obama around. “To have him there in Toronto at the time was so precious. I’m proud that he’s a friend and what he brings, he might be the most popular person in the world. If that person comes and speaks basketball, it does so many youths so much good. Just the sheer person that he is, is remarkable.”
Whether or not the 54-year-old Smith ever ends up leaving Inside The NBA for a managerial role, he clearly has the desire for it. And though he didn’t take up the offer to be mentored, at least this time, that’s what made last season’s unprompted phone call from Ujiri so shocking to him. “I always had the aspiration,” Smith said, “but to have a guy like that call you out of the blue, not even knowing what my aspirations were? That was intriguing.”