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.
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