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Wizards GM Search Latest: Raptors GM Masai Ujiri a wild card?

Wizards GM Search Latest: Raptors GM Masai Ujiri a wild card?

The group of candidates for the Washington Wizards’ open general manager position is starting to take shape -- even with a new wild card contender.

 

Sources confirmed with NBC Sports Washington that the Wizards have shown interest in Danny Ferry and Houston’s Gersson Rosas, and remain patient for Denver’s Tim Connelly. Tommy Sheppard, Washington’s interim GM, is another viable candidate.

There’s a new name generating whispers among league sources: Toronto’s Masai Ujiri.

The Raptors president, considered one of the NBA's top front office minds, is intrigued by the idea of moving to Washington, multiple sources tell NBC Sports Washington.

Consider Ujiri a significant long shot despite his attraction to the market, which comes in part to viewing Washington as a larger platform for the “Basketball Without Borders” program. Ujiri serves as director of the program that sponsors various basketball camps and coaching clinics in his native Africa. His wife also grew up in the D.C. area.

Ujiri, 48, joined Toronto in 2013 and signed an extension in 2016. The Raptors are unlikely to let Ujiri interview for any current opening, including the Lakers’, according to a league source. The Los Angeles position opened when Magic Johnson abruptly resigned during the final week of the regular season, but the Lakers are not expected to fill the vacancy.

Toronto finished the regular season with a 58-24 record. The Raptors, led by Ujiri acquisition Kawhi Leonard, are tied 1-1 in their best-of-7 Eastern Conference second-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Leonard’s upcoming free agency remains a major subplot with constant rumors about the Los Angeles native joining the Clippers or Lakers this summer. His exit could send Toronto toward a rebuild.

Chris Miller and Drew Gooden discussed Ujiri’s situation and more about the general manager search on the latest Wizards Talk podcast.

The Wizards met with Ferry and Rosas Tuesday, according to reports from The Athletic and Washington Post. Washington also met with Thunder VP of Basketball Operations and D.C. native Troy Weaver, ESPN reported late Tuesday.

Connelly, a Baltimore native, began his NBA career as an intern with the Wizards in 1996. After a stint in New Orleans, he joined Denver in 2013. The Nuggets became of the league’s most impressive stories this season. The two-seed in the challenging Western Conference took a 1-0 lead Monday over Portland in the best-of-7 second-round series.

Sources tell NBC Sports Washington that personal considerations make the idea of returning to the area attractive for Connelly. One source described Connelly’s interest with the Wizards’ opening as his “dream job,” but also cautioned a possible change of heart considering the Nuggets’ contender status and positioning in the Western Conference going forward.

Ferry, the former DeMatha star and 13-year NBA veteran previously served as general manager for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks. Ferry’s father, Bob, served as general manager for the Washington Bullets’ 1978 NBA championship team.

This season Danny Ferry took over as the interim GM for the New Orleans Pelicans following the firing of Dell Demps. The Pelicans hired David Griffin for their front office opening earlier this month.

Among the often-mentioned names, multiple sources told NBCSW they believe Ferry would be the best option considering the Wizards’ upcoming roster and injury challenges, and Ferry’s basketball insights. Both sources made the assertion while recognizing the controversy stemming from comments uttered by Ferry regarding Luol Deng’s heritage in 2014.

Danny Ferry ran Atlanta’s front office from 2012-2015. The Hawks won 60 games during the 2014-15 season and reached the Eastern Conference where they were swept in four games by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

During a conference call with members of the organization, Ferry was heard saying of Deng, a potential free agent option who hails from South Sudan, has “a little African in him.” An independent investigation later backed Ferry’s claim that he read from an outside report and that Ferry intentions were not racially motivated. Regardless, he resigned in June 2015.

Rosas, the Rockets’ VP of Basketball Operations, previously interviewed for the Pelicans and Timberwolves openings. Washington and New Orleans both hired outside consultant Mike Forde for their respective searches, according to reports.

Brooklyn assistant GM Trajan Langdon, another rumored candidate for the Washington opening also met with New Orleans and Minnesota.

Sheppard, a member of the Wizards organization for the last 16 seasons, served as VP of Basketball Operations under former team president Ernie Grunfeld. Despite that association and the call for a new direction from the fan base, several league sources do not consider a potential Sheppard hire as an extension of the Grunfeld era.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis immediately called Sheppard a candidate following Grunfeld’s firing.    

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NBA reportedly working on televising a H-O-R-S-E competition while players are in isolation

NBA reportedly working on televising a H-O-R-S-E competition while players are in isolation

While we wait for the 2019-20 NBA season to return from suspension, the league may have found another way to entertain us. 

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA is working on televising a H-O-R-S-E competition featuring several high-profile players, though they are unnamed as of now. 

In this case, players would shoot by themselves, presumably at their homes, and go shot-for-shot with other players remotely. The great thing about H-O-R-S-E is all you need to be able to do is shoot, leaving the door open for former players like Paul Pierce to get in on the fun. 

This wouldn't be the first time we've seen NBA players playing H-O-R-S-E on television. Back in 2010, Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo and Omri Casspi played each other in H-O-R-S-E as a part of All-Star weekend. As you'd expect, Durant won. 

This follows the NBA kickstarting the first-ever NBA 2K Players Tournament Friday, where 16 NBA stars play each other in an NBA 2K20 tournament for charity. Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell, Trae Young and Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura headline the event that is expected to run until April 11. 

According to Woj, the details on the H-O-R-S-E competition are still being finalized with the league and ESPN, who'd ultimately air the event. 

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Kobe Bryant posthumously highlights loaded 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class

Kobe Bryant posthumously highlights loaded 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class

Kobe Bryant’s resume has yet another entry to prove his greatness: He’s now, officially, a Hall of Famer.

And he’s got plenty of elite company in the 2020 class, one that may be as glitzy as any.

Bryant and fellow NBA greats Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett headlined a nine-person group announced Saturday as this year’s class of enshrinees into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

They all got into the Hall in their first year of eligibility, as did WNBA great Tamika Catchings. Two-time NBA champion coach Rudy Tomjanovich finally got his call, as did longtime Baylor women’s coach Kim Mulkey, 1,000-game winner Barbara Stevens of Bentley and three-time Final Four coach Eddie Sutton.

They were the eight finalists who were announced in February, and the panel of 24 voters who were tasked to decide who merited selection wound up choosing them all. Also headed to the Hall this year: former FIBA Secretary General Patrick Baumann, selected as a direct-elect by the international committee.

“He was the head of FIBA and this was a way to honor him,” Hall of Fame Chairman and enshrinee Jerry Colangelo said. “It was a special thing done through that committee.”

Bryant died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, about three weeks before the Hall of Fame said -- as if there was going to be any doubt -- that he was a finalist. Duncan and Garnett were also widely perceived to be locks to be part of this class; they were both 15-time NBA All-Stars, and Bryant was an 18-time selection.

Bryant's death has been part of a jarring start of the year for basketball: Commissioner Emeritus David Stern died on Jan. 1, Bryant and his daughter Gianna were among nine who died in the crash in late January, and the NBA shut down March 11 as the coronavirus pandemic began to grip the U.S.

“Obviously, we wish that he was here with us to celebrate," Vanessa Bryant, Kobe's wife, said on the ESPN broadcast of the class announcement. “But it’s definitely the peak of his NBA career and every accomplishment that he had as an athlete was a steppingstone to be here. So we’re incredibly proud of him."

Bryant was also a five-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, just as Duncan was with the San Antonio Spurs.

“This is an incredibly special class, for many reasons,” Colangelo said.

Garnett is the only player in NBA history with at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 blocks and 1,500 steals. He also was part of Boston's 2008 NBA title.

“This is the culmination," Garnett said. “All those hours ... this is what you do it for, right here. To be able to be called ‘Hall of Famer' is everything."

Catchings was a 10-time WNBA All-Star and four-time Olympic gold medalist. Tomjanovich, who had overwhelming support from NBA peers who couldn’t understand why it took so long for his selection, was a five-time All-Star as a player, guided Houston to back-to-back titles and took the 2000 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal.

Mulkey has three NCAA titles as a coach, won two others as a player and had Baylor in position to vie for another championship this season had the global coronavirus pandemic not forced the shutdown of virtually every sport around the globe. Stevens has coached for 43 years and is a five-time Division II coach of the year. Sutton won more than 800 games in nearly four decades, and Baumann was one of the most powerful voices in international basketball until his death in 2018.

The enshrinement ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts, is scheduled for Aug. 29. Should the pandemic force a delay, there is a tentative plan for an October ceremony as well.

For this year, largely because of the star power of this class, the Hall chose to enact a one-year suspension of direct elections from the Veteran’s, Women’s Veteran’s, Early African-American Pioneers and Contributors categories.

With Bryant, Duncan and Garnett as perhaps the top NBA trio to ever enter simultaneously, the Hall wanted to make sure that no enshrinee would be overlooked.

“We didn’t need to water it down,” Colangelo said. “Next year is another year for many.”

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