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Wizards could repeat Jordan playbook to bring Raptors’ Ujiri

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Wizards could repeat Jordan playbook to bring Raptors’ Ujiri

Before examining the pursuit of Masai Ujiri or scoffing at the idea of the Raptors executive leaving an NBA Finals team for the Wizards, remember this blast from the past.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis once lured Michael Jordan to Washington.

Not to play, even though the six-time NBA champion eventually came out of retirement for two seasons. Jordan arrived in Jan 2000 to run the Wizards as President of Basketball Operations and part owner.

"[Leonsis] was instrumental in making this happen," Wizards owner Abe Pollin said in January of 2000 at the press conference to introduce Jordan. 

Ignore what followed – zero playoff appearances before Pollin fired Jordan in 2003. Leonsis, then the Capitals owner and minority stakeholder in the Wizards, helped convince the sport's biggest star to become part of his group.

Landing Jordan provided the organization and the local business community with a massive PR and economic jolt.

"Without Ted, it would not have happened,” Pollin said. “Ted was the guy that started all this. Ted was the guy who contacted Michael in the beginning."

Leonsis is the guy who hopes to contact Ujiri at some point after the ongoing NBA Finals conclude about coming to Washington.

To replace the fired Ernie Grunfeld as the organization's President of Basketball Operations? Think bigger.

How about overseeing all of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which includes Capital One Arena, the Washington Capitals and several other team properties, with personal compensation potentially reaching eight figures annually? Maybe an ownership stake in Monumental?

These are among the options in play for Leonsis multiple sources have told NBC Sports Washington, as the search for Grunfeld's replacement closes in on 10 weeks.

NBC Sports Washington was the first to report the potential for a Wizards-Ujiri connection in April. The specific emphasis centered on interest coming from the 2013 NBA Executive of the Year.

While the odds of Ujiri heading to Washington remain long for a variety of issues, the primary assumption league-wide involving the Wizards' long general manager search now involves them waiting out the Raptors' President of Basketball Operations.

The question has been whether the organization makes an aggressive offer to the architect of a Toronto team that won 54 games during the regular season and is one win away from the organization's first NBA championship.

This week, The Athletic reported on the possibility of bold action from Washington and that any decision from Ujiri would not come down to money. Effectively, even if the Wizards meet Ujiri's salary demands the wealthy Raptors ownership group, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, could easily match.

How could the Wizards go beyond money? Perhaps the power and status that comes from being in charge of an organization that, according to figures Leonsis provided Washington Business Journal in December, has a valuation of $3 billion.

Ujiri's views the District as a larger platform for the "Basketball Without Borders" program along with other outside interests, according to sources. Ujiri serves as director of the program that sponsors various basketball camps and coaching clinics in his native Africa.

Washington loves power brokers. This setup could turn Ujiri into one.

It’s worth noting Ujiri's wife grew up in the D.C. area, which is also where his friend, Barack Obama, resides. The former President of the United States attended Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Toronto.

From the Wizards end, they effectively must wait until the NBA Finals conclude before any official dialogue with Ujiri. The wait might end by Monday. Toronto holds a 3-1 lead over Golden State in the best-of-7 NBA Finals.

While the Wizards attempted to land Denver’s Tim Connelly last month and interviewed at least three other candidates twice, they remain without a permanent front office leader since Leonsis fired Grunfeld on April 2.

The Raptors are not obligated to grant another team permission to interview Ujiri. Should Toronto relent and Ujiri looks to bolt, there's still the matter of possible compensation to the Raptors likely in the form of draft picks.

Ujiri could also stay in Toronto especially if the Raptors win the title and star forward Kawhi Leonard agrees to re-sign rather than bolt in free agency this summer. Already one of the league's highest-paid executives, Ujiri’s contract of around $7 million annually runs through the 2020-21 season, according to multiple sources.

Even if all sides agree on compensation, Toronto may not let Ujiri leave until after the June 20 NBA Draft.

Tommy Sheppard, interim head of Washington's front office, is running the team's draft preparation and would likely make any draft day decisions. The Wizards own the ninth overall selection.

Sheppard, former Hawks GM Danny Ferry and Thunder assistant GM Troy Weaver have each met with Leonsis at least twice since Grunfeld's ouster. It's possible that one of them moves to the front of the line should the pursuit of Ujiri crumble.

It's impossible to project plans from the draft to free agency to possibly trading Bradley Beal without knowing who is making the final decisions. What we know is Leonsis once help convince Michael Jordan to join the Wizards. Let's see if he can also get Ujiri to jump, man.



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Wizards vs. 76ers Preseason: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Wizards vs. 76ers Preseason: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Wizards will take the court Friday night in Philadelphia as they wrap up their 2019 preseason slate. While there are still roster spots to be won and roles to be carved out, the biggest storyline surrounding the Wizards this week comes from their biggest star.

Bradley Beal, the face of the franchise and Wizards' only All-Star while John Wall rehabs from his Achilles injury, signed a two-year contract extension with the Wizards Thursday morning.

The focus of the season for the Wizards will clearly be on their younger players, but fans will be most excited to see the team's remaining star this season.

It's unclear which 76ers stars will be on the court for the preseason finale, but the game will serve as the final tune-up for two franchise going in opposite directions. 

The Wizards vs. 76ers preseason finale wil tip off Friday, October 18 at 7:00 p.m. and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington Plus.


What: Washington Wizards at Philadelphia 76ers, 2019 NBA Preseason Game 4

Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

When: Friday, October 18 at 7:00 p.m. ET

TV Channel: The Wizards at 76ers preseason game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington Plus (NBC Sports Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can live stream Wizards at 76ers on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and on the NBC Sports App.

Radio: Wizards Radio Network, 1500 AM


3:00 PM: The Daily Line (LIVE)

7:00 PM: Wizards vs. 76ers, NBA Preseason (LIVE)


Wizards: John Wall (OUT, Left Achilles rehab), Isaiah Thomas (OUT, Left thumb rehab), Isaac Bonga (OUT, Left knee soreness), Troy Brown Jr. (OUT, Left calf strain), Ian Mahinmi (OUT, Right Achilles strain), C.J. Miles (OUT, Left foot rehab)

76ers: James Ennis (DAY-TO-DAY, calf injury)


Bradley Beal, G, Wizards: Beal just signed a contract extension to keep him in Washington for a few more years. With John Wall out, the Wizards are solely his team, and this will be his first time on the court since agreeing to the new deal. 

Thomas Bryant, C, Wizards: The Wizards' best big man has enjoyed a strong preseason, and will look to solidify himself as Washington's number two option behind Beal with John Wall out. His outside game remains a work in progress, but Bryant has flashed a lot of potential inside for a Wizards team desperate for secondary scoring.

Matisse Thybulle, SG, 76ers: The rookie guard filled the stat sheet in Philadelphia's previous preseason game, and appears to have earned a significant role as a defensive specialist and the first wing off the 76ers' bench.  


Number of all-time Meetings: 303 games

All-time Record: 76ers lead 181-122

Last Meeting: Wizards won 123-106 on 1/9/19

Streaking: Wizards have won 9 straight home games against the 76ers, and  22 of last 29 at Capital One Arena


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How Bradley Beal's contract extension will work and how he could earn more money down the road

How Bradley Beal's contract extension will work and how he could earn more money down the road

By signing Bradley Beal to a two-year contract extension worth $72 million on Thursday, the Wizards made their future more secure. It was undoubtedly a win for the franchise and their newly constructed front office.

It is also a victory for Beal, of course, as he will go from rich to even richer. And even though he is technically passing on the chance to earn a supermax in the short-term, he is now in position to earn a lot of money down the road.

Beal's contract now runs through at least the 2021-22 season, as 2022-23 is a player option. That means he could opt out after his Age 28 season and enter free agency just weeks after his 29th birthday, in the summer of 2022.

His Age 28 season will also be his 10th in the NBA and players with 10 years of service time can sign contracts worth up to 35 percent of the salary cap. According to ESPN, Beal could sign a new contract with the Wizards in 2022 worth an approximate $266 million over five years.

Or, Beal could leave the Wizards that summer and still sign for a lot of money with a different team. He will be in line for a deal worth about $198 million over four years in free agency.

By the summer of 2022, Beal will have made roughly $172 million in NBA salary, so not including his endorsements. A $266 million deal would push him to somewhere in the range of $438 million in career earnings and that contract would end when he's 33 going on 34. 

Assuming Beal will still be good enough to earn another NBA contract at that age, he could push $450-500 million in total salary by the time his career is over.

That's a lot of cash and Beal gets to stay in Washington for the foreseeable future, which is what he wanted to do. Not bad.