The wait appears to be over.
Numerous sources are now reporting that the Toronto Raptors have indeed hired Masai Ujiri away from the Denver Nuggets for what appears to be a five-year, $15M deal. Ujiri of course will replace Bryan Colangelo as the Raptors new General Manager, and will be in charge of basketball operations.
So now the fun begins.
As we've discussed at length over the past months, the team Ujiri inherits is one that doesn't exactly have a ton of financial flexibility, and is draft pick-less in the upcoming late-June prospect bonanza.
But hey, how about that Andrea Bargnani guy?
Bargs of course is just one of the many question-marks on this roster going forward as Ujiri will certainly have some house-cleaning to do.
However one member of the team that seems to be staying put is Head Coach Dwane Casey. According to Woj's report above, sources are indicating that Ujiri will keep Casey around which makes sense in some ways, but also might mean that going full on tank next season for Mr. Wiggins is out of the question. As we've learned, Tanking and Coach Casey don't exactly go hand-in-hand.
And what about the Raptors' new GM, the fifth in franchise history?
Just looking at the Nuggets' roster it's easy to see what Masai's strengths are - he values youth and he values his own assets. Since taking over the Nuggets in August of 2010 he has brought in 19 new faces that have seen time on the floor for the Nuggets. Ujiri has also re-signed the key free agents that he wanted back. The Nuggets "lost" J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin, but it was reported that the Nuggets didn't make offers to either player to retain them. He has re-signed Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Ty Lawson, JaVale McGee, Kosta Koufos, and two guys he signed and then traded away in Arron Afflalo and Nene. I like that he keeps his assets and doesn't seem to overpay for them (arguable with McGee's deal).
Getting to see Masai at practices, games, and press conferences - you can see how active he is and how close he is with his players and colleagues. There is also an aura around him where you get the sense that he is indeed the boss - sharp dresser and a confident presence (may seem silly, but he's sharp in all he does). Talking with Masai you can see the passion he has for winning and for the game of basketball. He's a true basketball junkie.
Toronto is a great city and I like the Raptors, but stop trying to take guys out of Denver! First Linas Kleiza, then Gary Forbes, a flirtation with rumors of wanting Wilson Chandler when he returned from China during the lockout season, and now Ujiri! Back off Raptors!
(In hopes of making our Nuggets bloggers feel better, I offered to give back Kleiza but no go, they weren't having it.)
That's just a small window obviously into the rationale behind bringing him back to Toronto (yes, back) but indeed, it's hard at face value to be upset with this development in any way. Ujiri represents a true light at the end of the tunnel for many of us fans, and hopefully he can put the skillset described above to good use right away.
Sure, there are still questions regarding his relationship with Colangelo, and how he decides to move this team forward (blow it up? adjust bits and pieces?) but for now, let's all just bask in the glory of this for a bit no?