Alameda County Sherriff has black friends so he definitely isn’t a racist | Jeremy Lin is a hero for us all | Max Kellerman has our backs | Rejected Wizards apparently didn’t flirt with Ujiri
“Hey Sarah can you sync up Kawhi’s laugh with the bounces from the Game 7 game winner?” pic.twitter.com/VPzFLVtojZ
— Sarah Jenkins (@sarahjenkinsxo) June 17, 2019
Essentially, the Raptors have done everything they could. They won’t beg, but they’ve done about as pitch-perfect a job as you can making a retention case without doing so. If Leonard ultimately walks, the Raptors will get to move forward comfortable in two realities: There’s nothing more they could have done, and Leonard took them where he was brought in to take them, the franchise’s first championship. The downside to the deal has been erased entirely, and if he walks, they’ll shift gears toward 2020 and 2021 with a still moderately competitive roster and a bright future.
What Leonard decides will lay out the path in some relevant ways. Trades may shift from a 2019-20 focus to a longer-term one, although with some substantial expiring contracts, the Raptors may opt to run this group out again and clear the books for 2020 and 2021 rather than flipping pieces for bad money and assets. A Leonard departure makes retaining Green tougher, from the perspective that the Raptors probably won’t want to be a deep luxury tax team without Leonard. If he stays, the focus is on improving a somewhat aging roster meaningfully, and that’s going to take some work in the taxpayer mid-level and minimum contract markets, plus potentially on the trade front. Gasol also has a player option he’d seem very likely to pick up, and the team has some smaller decisions to make on Malcolm Miller, Chris Boucher, restricted free agents Patrick McCaw and Nando De Colo (seriously) and more.
These decisions begin to stack up, which is why there isn’t much time to breathe, ring out the plush corduroy blazer and take it all in. The Raptors are heading down one of two fairly distinct paths once Leonard makes his decision, and there’s a lot of leg work to be done to prepare for either course. In the meantime, there are more peripheral events and roster moves that are necessary regardless of direction, ones the team might not be able to find the next VanVleet with but sure as hell has to try.
The Raptors built to this championship with every move and every decision over the last seven years. Whether their next window for a championship comes in 2019-20 or a little beyond, they won’t be content to wait another seven years, let alone another 24. The morning after is the new Day One.
To be clear: Kawhi has not made a definitive public statement on his future. Any decision can be dynamic. But as time goes on, it seems clear that the decision is coming down to the Raptors or the Los Angeles Clippers. Kawhi is expected to take meetings in his hometown of L.A.
“When it’s that time and it’s time to sit down, me and my group is going to sit down with each other and lay it all out,” Leonard told reporters before stepping on stage Monday. “It was a good experience, experiencing Mother Nature, all four seasons. Man, it was a great experience. Everybody off the court was great. The fans. Just meeting people in Canada. It’s been fun.”
But there’s a lot of smoke now, blowing in different directions. There are signs of comfort in Toronto; there are signs he may intend to go home. The Raptors case seems well-established: winning, and a promise to continue winning. So a decision to stay would be a bet on team president Masai Ujiri, presuming the Washington Wizards cannot entice him to try to break his contract with an offer that includes a big raise and an ownership stake.
A championship is a powerful thing, and Ujiri is a master of persuasion. His pitch would be attractive by every standard: a championship organization with cap space in 2020 or 2021, more guaranteed money and years, and presumably a willingness to trade Kawhi if he decided he ever wanted to leave. Beyond that, there is a franchise that employs the universally respected Dr. Alex McKechnie, that treated Kawhi like a superstar, that was cheered by a city and a country in a way that was staggering and seismic. If Kawhi stayed, the sky would be the limit. Ujiri would have a chance to chase another star alongside a 2021 core of Kawhi, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. It would be a perfect fit.
6. Can Toronto keep its glue guy?
“I know I’ve been a pain in the ass all year, trying to be a player-coach and teach you guys some habits and things and how to be a champion,” Danny Green told his Raptors teammates at their championship parade. That comment shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed the team closely this season, as the wing earned all sorts of praise for his leadership. He also probably should have been named to an All-Defensive team, and he finished second in 3-point percentage and fourth in raw plus-minus in the regular season. He will be an unrestricted free agent in July.
It is possible that Green’s inconsistent postseason will drag down his market value, but I doubt it. He ties lineups together with his shooting and defense, and there are plenty of teams in need of someone like him. In 2015, Green gave the Spurs a massive discount by signing a four-year, $40 million deal. The Raptors must hope that he once again values the comfort and familiarity that comes with staying put.
Seeing Lin in that particular shirt meant something to me. To see him show pride in who he is on a national stage helps me (and many others) know that it’s O.K. to think of yourself as equal. To be proud of who you are. That feeling doesn’t always come easily when you’re part of a minority group. You often have a sense that glass ceilings exist, whether those created by others or the ones we set for ourselves because of our experiences of being treated differently from others.
Throughout my career, I’ve always felt that accomplishing the same things as my peers resulted in my getting only half the credit and recognition, partially because of who I am. When Lin arrived in Toronto, I was flooded with interview requests from radio hosts and fellow writers. It was an honor to speak about Lin’s career path, but later I became disappointed that those same publications and radio shows saw me only as someone who could bring value when it came to discussing this topic that was unfamiliar to them, when in fact I am more than capable of having a conversation solely about basketball.
It felt a lot like experiences Lin has described, of people wanting to talk to him only about being of Asian descent. As Lin, 30, has grown comfortable with his outsize influence and responsibility, we have watched him speak out about racial stereotypes and call out the comedian Chris Rock for making Asian jokes as the host of the Oscars in 2016.
There are Asians around the world who have been moved to pursue their own basketball careers, and to start basketball leagues, because of Lin, even with his Linsanity days likely forever behind him. Lin is more than basketball.
After the Raptors won Game 6 of the N.B.A. finals in Oakland, Calif., for the franchise’s first championship, the team flew to Las Vegas to keep the celebration going. As his teammates partied into the wee hours, Lin joined his friend Ryan Higa on a podcast and reflected on his journey this season.
“There were times in all honesty where I felt I had to tell myself I deserve a championship,” Lin told Higa. “As a competitor who plays and has played my whole life, I’m not used to not playing, so I was like: ‘This is tough. Do I really deserve it?’”
Lin said he was able to reconcile those feelings because he knew that no matter how many minutes he played, he was part of the day-to-day process of a team that came together and won a title, outlasting all 29 other teams in the league.
Going into the draft, none of Gasol, Leonard, Green or McCaw can be traded. Same goes for the end of roster guys like Jeremy Lin, Jodie Meeks and Eric Moreland, none of whom are even listed above.
This means the Raptors have eight trade chips going into this draft. The Raptors also have their own second round pick this year at number 59 (as well as 2023, 2025, and later), and can trade their 2021 or later first round draft picks. Their 2020 pick they can trade as soon as their pick goes by on draft night. (They can also agree to a deal earlier and then just execute it after the draft is over.)
We’ll be looking at what sort of trades the Raptors might want to make in the next sections when we look at the next couple of summers, but in terms of short term (2018-19) impacts, there are few. The tax bill for this year was calculated as of the end of the regular season, with the exception of any bonuses players earn in the playoffs, and no trades now can change it, for better or worse. So there is no danger in adding salary at the draft. They just have to obey the rules for above-tax teams — that is, taking back no more than 125% (+$100k) of the salary they send out.
Worth noting, the Raptors do have four different traded player exceptions (TPEs) from previous trades that they can use to add a salary without sending back matching salary. These cannot be combined with each other or other player contracts to take back a contract larger than the TPEs themselves.
Traded Player | TPE Value
Jakob Poeltl: $2.9M
Malachi Richardson: $1.6M
Delon Wright: $2.5M
Greg Monroe: $1.5M
As for that tax bill, by my calculations the Raptors sit at $137.4M in committed salary (for the tax calculation), which is $13.7M above the tax. Which yields a $25.5M tax bill. That’s a sizable bill, but not unreasonable for a contender, let alone a champion. Keep that number in mind as we go into the next sections — and on to our free agency discussion this week.
MICHAEL PINA: For a variety of reasons, I don’t.
Some of why I feel the way I have isn’t based on rational thought. I recognized Kawhi’s injury history but, him being someone I long thought would unseat LeBron James as the proverbial Best Player Alive, even 90 percent of that talent was far better than DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a late first-round pick. So I never expected him to be anything less than great this season — a contract year in which he’s trying to get paid. By the time meaningful games roll around, he’d be in good enough shape to rediscover his apex.
Now, even if the real “risk” here centers more around Leonard’s free agency than his health, to me, as an organization that’s long operated with an NBA championship in mind, another season of Kyle Lowry and DeRozan would be a far worse gamble.
During his introductory press conference back in 2013, Ujiri told media members assembled before him “the overall goal in the NBA is to win a championship. That has to be the overall goal. It’s not playoffs, it’s not … it’s to win a championship at the end.”
Fast forward to last summer. The Raptors had won 48, 49, 56, 51, and 59 games with Ujiri at the helm, and had zero appearances in the Finals to show for it. Two roads are then presented:
1. Trade for Leonard (and Danny Green) without surrendering your top two assets, then, even if only for one year, dramatically raise your organization’s ceiling, or …
2. Run it back and, in all likelihood, lose in the first, second, or third round. Again. With DeRozan about to turn 30 on the final year of his contract. Lowry is 33.
Which option is a greater risk?
The Raptors held prospect workouts at their practice facility throughout the Finals as they look to gather as much intel as possible on the countless options they’ll have drafting so late.
There are potentially intriguing players expected to be available. Central Florida’s Tacko Fall, a seven-foot-seven centre, UCLA point guard Jaylen Hands, Michigan guard Jordan Poole, and West Virginia shot-blocking big man Sagaba Konate are among the names projected to be drafted near the end of the 2019 draft. NBAdraft.net projects Wake Forest swingman Jaylen Hoard to go 59th to the Raptors, but whomever the team selects will almost surely need to have a monster performance in training camp or flash enough potential to warrant a spot with the Raptors 905 in the G-League to have any sort of future with the franchise.
With all of the questions that now face the Raptors this off-season — whether or not Leonard will be in the fold next year being chief among them — who the team selects with the second-round pick may not be the highest on the food chain.
As the Raptors have shown, when it comes to roster-building there’s nowhere brimming with more opportunity than the draft.
So can the Raptors pull off a miracle and spurn a decade – and counting — of draft history Thursday night?
Doubtful. Then again, you wouldn’t exactly be filling your bank account betting against GM Bobby Webster, president Masai Ujiri & Co. these days, would you?
There will always be a championship, and all of the historic moments to savour. Toronto would obviously take a major step back losing such an ultra-elite performer, but would probably still be considered a strong candidate to nab a home-court slot in the first round of the 2019-20 playoffs.
Pascal Siakam would become the primary scoring option, but would need a lot of help by committee. Kyle Lowry would have to morph back into a bigger option on offence (assuming he would want to stay to play out the final year of his contract in the event Leonard goes elsewhere) and Marc Gasol would also carry a bigger load, similar to what he was asked to do for years in Memphis, if not quite that much anymore (Gasol could opt out, but is owed $25.5 million, so it seems unlikely he would do so given his age and how much he enjoyed his four months with the team).
Head coach Nick Nurse is a big believer in OG Anunoby, as is team management. Anunoby had a brutally tough year both on and off the court and ended up missing the entire playoffs, but his upside remains a top-notch defender with a solid outside shot and more room to grow on offence. He’d likely return to the starting small forward role he fulfilled as a rookie.
It wouldn’t be ideal, and who knows what the plan would be once Lowry, Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet became unrestricted free agents a year from now, but the Raptors would still be a decent squad capable of making some noise.
Will Kawhi take a short deal and run it back?
The location is most important, clearly. But the length of contract Kawhi Leonard might sign is something that’s being discussed throughout the league.
We’ll go over the numbers in a moment, but it isn’t lost on anyone that Leonard could split the difference of his priorities by taking a one-year contract with a player option with the Toronto Raptors and try to run it back while not committing the rest of his prime. There’s some financial incentive to this scenario as well.
Broad strokes are this: If Leonard stays with the Raptors, he could sign for up to five years and $190 million. If he goes elsewhere — say, to the LA Clippers — he could get $140 million over four years. But cap rules would mean he could make potentially tens of millions more if he signs a long-term deal in 2021, when he’d have 10 years’ experience, than in 2019.
So why not consider a one-year deal for $33 million plus a player option for $36 million? Especially with Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam under contract for next season. That group would include Marc Gasol as well if he picks up his player option, as expected.
The answer to why not? Kawhi just saw two free agents-to-be, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, go down with major injuries and Leonard already has had a major injury that cost him a season. But it is something that’s on the board.
What impact will the Leonard lawsuit have on Nike? Will it drive away some of its coveted athletes, whom the company admits in its latest annual “10-K” report all public companies must file with the Securities and Exchange Commission are key to its business model? Or will the company mount a vigorous defense of its IP rights, with facts on its side, which the company also claims in the 10-K filing is vital to its business, sending a signal to the company’s investors that it won’t back down from a fight?
The company has taken a hard line on IP rights before, defending and ultimately winning a lawsuit by photographer Jacobus Rentmeester who claimed that the company violated his copyright in a photo of the “flying Michael Jordan,” which Nike later adapted and made into one of its iconic images. When a lot is at stake – and with Leonard’s prominence post-championship it could be with his logo – Nike could fight this lawsuit just as hard.
As for the impact of the suit on its endorsers, that will depend in part on the facts, but my guess is that the lawsuit’s biggest impact will be on how its current and would-be endorsers approach future negotiations with Nike or any other company wanting athletes’ endorsements. Athletes who are top draft picks, or already famous stars, with personality and thus the potential to bring in a lot of revenue to any company they sign up with have enough bargaining power to keep rights to any logos or phrases they already have developed or will develop. They may need to license those rights during the term of the endorsement agreements, but once those agreements expire, the rights belong to the athletes.
Most athletes, however, don’t have that kind of clout – the Fred VanVleets of the world, at least at the outset of their careers. That is why we are already seeing high school and college athletes with pro potential forming their own marketing companies, and presumably filing for any IP protection of their logos or brands before they are drafted, or before they sign any deals with teams.
“I’m going to take the right time,” he said. “You don’t need too many days to figure it out. We’ll see what happens. Once that time comes, then we’ll all lay the pros and cons out.”
Visibly bothered by soreness during stretches of the Eastern Conference Finals against Milwaukee, Leonard declined to say how much pain he endured en route to winning his second career title.
“We’re always battling through things,” he said. “You know, knee pains, ankles, fingers. Everybody was just grinding it out.”
Injured for all but nine games in his final season with San Antonio, Leonard played 60 regular-season games for Toronto and 24 more in the postseason, upping his minutes once April arrived.
While winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy was an obvious success, Leonard said he has enjoyed all aspects of his season north of the border, even the varied Canadian weather.
“It was a good experience, experiencing Mother Nature, all four seasons,” he said. “Man, it was a great experience. Everybody off the court was great. The fans, just meeting people in Canada. It’s been fun.”
Fans chanted “Stay! Stay! Stay!” when Toronto Mayor John Tory presented Leonard with the key.
“The reality is Kawhi Leonard’s focused on Los Angeles, but it’s the Clippers, not the Lakers. No. 1, they don’t have the money to sign him. And two, the idea of him being a third wheel on a team trying to create a superteam, that has not been Kawhi’s M.O. The Clippers are poised to be able to lure him from Toronto. This will be a Raptors-Clippers fight down to the end. He may take meetings with more teams; it’s not even certain he’d even take a meeting with the Lakers right now.”
Brian Windhorst, Andrew Han, Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz chat about the Wizards push to hire Masai Ujiri (1:30), the top of the 2019 NBA draft (6:50), how deep the draft is (23:30), what a warroom is like on draft day (31:45) and one thing to look out for on draft night (54:30).
VanVleet has fought for this. He’s had nothing handed to him. Hard work and belief that he would one day be this type of player is what he’s relied on. There is no substitute for hard work and VanVleet is the prime example. Especially being 5-foot-10, the odds are already against you to be in the NBA, never mind being a game-changing player who is one of the sole reasons the Raptors won game six against the Warriors.
He played remarkable defense all series against Golden State when he was on Steph Curry, making it very tough for the NBA’s best shooter to get any open looks. VanVleet is an absolute grinder and deserves this moment just as much as anyone on this Raptors team.
All the critics were in full force when VanVleet had trouble finding his stroke from downtown in the first two series of the playoffs against the Magic and 76ers. But his confidence and belief in himself never faded, even when he was struggling to score. He kept taking those shots because eventually, they would start to sink. It all came together at the best possible time for VanVleet.
If it wasn’t for his clutch shots at the most crucial moments, The Raptors don’t win this title in six games. Hell, they might not even of won against the Bucks either if he didn’t show out in the last three games of the Eastern Conference Finals.
As the NBA draft quickly approaches this week, VanVleet should be a primary example for college players who don’t hear their names called on draft day that their journey isn’t over. It’s just the beginning. Anything is possible when you work hard and never give up.
Just look at Fred VanVleet. Undrafted. NBA champion.
“I am very happy with the work and preparation Tommy Sheppard, Coach [Scott] Brooks and our staff have done and I’m confident we’ll execute both the draft and free agency in an expert manner. Having that confidence has given me the freedom to continue the conversations I’ve been having on how to build a great organization and, as a result, I don’t expect to make any decisions before the start of free agency.”
Additionally, Leonsis denied the Wizards’ pursuit of Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri. ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski had reported that Washington was preparing to offer Ujiri, who constructed the roster that captured Toronto’s first championship last week, a contract “that could approach $10 million annually and deliver him the opportunity for ownership equity.”
Wojnarowski added that Leonsis was expected to ask for formal permission from Toronto to meet with Ujiri, but that is seemingly not going to happen.
“He has a serious concussion; a templar mandibular joint injury, which is a serious jaw injury,” the officer’s attorney David Mastagni told KPIX 5.
The incident went down Thursday in the moments after the Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena in Oakland … the cop says Ujiri got violent over a dispute over credentials.
Alameda County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Ray Kelly said the officer claims Ujiri struck him in the chest and head. Ujiri is being investigated for misdemeanor battery.
“It’s an unprovoked significant hit to the jaw of the law enforcement officer,” Mastagni said.
Officials have told TMZ Sports they are hunting for more video of the incident — so far, the only footage that’s surfaced publicly shows the direct aftermath … NOT the alleged blow to the face.
The cop who was shoved by Toronto Raptors President Masai Ujiri during a fight after Game 6 of the NBA Finals is blasting racism claims … with his attorney telling TMZ Sports, “The injured officer’s family is African American.”
After it was revealed Ujiri and a white cop got into a pushing altercation last Thursday after the Raptors beat the Warriors at Oracle Arena … some had suggested the incident was rooted in racism.
But, the cop’s attorney, David Mastagni, says that’s just not the case at all, telling us, “Insult to this injury is invoking race because the injured officer’s family is African American.”
“This case is credential vs. no credential. The issue is not race.”
Thirty seconds from the ﬁnal buzzer in the ﬁrst game of the NBA Finals, with 19,983 screaming fans on their feet at Scotiabank Arena, Kyle Lowry sunk the deepest three-point bucket of the night. His game-sealing 28-foot dagger sent Raptors play-by-play man Matt Devlin into a frenzy. “Lowry! From Edmonton! To put it away!”
Devlin, a courtside mainstay and the voice of Raptors broadcasts for 11 years, says name-checking Alberta’s capital city on the basket that cemented the Raptors’ 118-109 victory was no accident. Every time the team hit from long range, Devlin rhymed off a different provincial or territorial capital. Before Lowry nailed his third and ﬁnal shot of the night from beyond the arc, only Edmonton had gone unnamed. “I had no idea they’d hit 13 that night,” says Devlin, who called out Toronto, naturally, after wingman Danny Green opened the scoring for the home team.
Typically, Devlin doesn’t plan his callouts—even his novel approach to Game 1 was only hatched while on the way to the arena. (In the second game of the series, keen listeners would have recognized Kamloops, B.C., Pickering, Ont., and other hometowns of active Canadian NBA players. Devlin thought of that, too, on the way to the arena, and scribbled notes during commercial breaks.) But for several years Devlin has honoured long-range shots with an ode to a dot somewhere on the sprawling map of Canada. Three years ago, after another crunch-time three-pointer from Lowry put away the Miami Heat in a playoff game, Devlin looked way north to Pond Inlet, Nunavut.
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