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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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Isaiah Thomas expected to miss several more games due to calf injury

Isaiah Thomas expected to miss several more games due to calf injury

WASHINGTON -- Isaiah Thomas has missed the Wizards' last two games with a left calf strain and it sounds like he will be out at least a little while longer.

The Wizards guard caught up with NBC Sports Washington at his holiday toy giveaway at the Boys and Girls Club in Northwest D.C. on Saturday and gave an update on how he's feeling.

"I'm good," he said. "I think I will be out a few more games and then be able to come back."

Thomas nearly played on Thursday in the Wizards' home win over the Sixers, according to head coach Scott Brooks. He pleaded with the coaching staff to play, but was advised not to as a precaution.

Thomas categorized the injury in a similar way, that the team is just playing it safe.

"I always feel like I can play, but the medical staff wants to be cautious about it, knowing it's a long season. There's a bigger picture and I'm just listening to whatever they've got to say," he said.

Thomas, 30, is enjoying a career renaissance of sorts with the Wizards. He is averaging 12.6 points and 5.1 assists while shooting 41 percent from three on 4.9 attempts per game.

With Thomas out, the Wizards have gone 1-1 with Ish Smith in his place in the starting lineup.

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Why Isaiah Thomas brings his kids to help him at charity events

Why Isaiah Thomas brings his kids to help him at charity events

WASHINGTON -- Isaiah Thomas likes to bring his sons with him just about wherever he goes. They walk with him into the Wizards' locker room, they shoot around on the court at Capital One Arena; he's even brought them to the podium for postgame interviews.

On Saturday, Thomas brought one of his sons to the Boys and Girls Club on 8th St. in Northwest Washington and for a specific reason. Thomas wanted him to help give back.

Just as Thomas was handing out toys to underprivileged youth, so was his son. The contrast was not lost on Thomas, who knows his son is well off as the kid of a millionaire NBA player. Not everyone is as fortunate.

"When I can do these types of things, I always want my kids to be around it," Thomas told NBC Sports Washington. 

"To be able to give back and see how blessed we are and how blessed he is and how we can put smiles on peoples' faces, especially around the holidays; it's definitely a point of emphasis to do that and bring my boys around to see it."

Thomas said his father instilled the same lessons in him when he was growing up in Washington state. Every Saturday morning at 6 a.m., his dad would take him to a shelter to serve breakfast to the homeless.

"That was something I was born into doing," Thomas said.

Thomas grew up going to the Boys and Girls Club himself and has partnered with them and World Vision throughout his NBA career to give back. Their efforts nationally have allowed him to continue the relationship no matter which team he has played for.

"Isaiah Thomas has been an amazing partner for World Vision," aid worker Brian Duss said. "Isaiah wasn't even in D.C. four days before he partnered with us at a school in [Southeast] to give away 400 backpacks filled with school supplies."

Before handing out toys and taking pictures with the children, Thomas addressed the crowd with a microphone. He spoke of his experience going to the Boys and Girls Club as a kid and explained the impact he hopes to make in the D.C. community.

"Whatever you need from me, I'm always here for you," he said. "I hope everyone has a happy holidays."

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