Masai Ujiri hasn’t even been formally (re)introduced to the Toronto media yet, but that doesn’t mean that the Raptors new General Manager isn’t already getting his hands dirty.
Ujiri’s first player personnel task will likely be to try to find a landing spot for Andrea Bargnani, but there’s plenty of work to do off the court as well, as members of the front office were let go this weekend.
Ujiri’s first move was to let go of Ed Stefanski, who Bryan Colangelo had brought in to be the team’s Executive Vice-President of Basketball Operations. Cuts that followed included veteran scout Jim Kelly, one of the original members of the Raptors organization, as well as vice-president of pro scouting Dave Pendergraft and two regional scouts, according to Doug Smith (needed to include a Smith report to ensure a page view from “youngjames”).
The on-court moves are what will ultimately excite and hopefully invigorate fans, and people losing their jobs is never something to celebrate, but if you were worried that Bryan Colangelo was going to have too much influence in the current setup and you were looking for an indication that Ujiri is going to do things his way, cleaning house of Colangelo’s staff seems to be a pretty glaring one. Smith adds that Marc Eversley’s future “is at best clouded and bleak,” while reports have Maurizio Gherardini potentially returning to Europe.
The purge makes sense when you consider how stern and pointed Tim Leiweke’s comments were the day that Bryan Colangelo was relieved of his GM duties – “We have work to do in this organization. We’re not good enough.” That’s really what this all boils down to in the end.
In other news, reports emerged this weekend that the NBA’s salary cap for the 2013-14 season will be $58.5 million, up slightly from $58.044 million this season, while the luxury tax threshold will reportedly rise to $71.6 million from $70.3 million.
The Raptors will surely be capped out, and with Linas Kleiza and Aaron Gray picking up their 2013-14 player options, the team already has $71,383,759 committed for next season plus a decision to make on the $1,567,500 team option in John Lucas’ contract, but ridding themselves of Bargnani’s and Kleiza’s contracts via amnesty and trade could be the difference between being a tax team or not. In addition, getting Bargnani’s contract off the books without having to take back a corresponding bad contract could be the difference between Toronto being capped out again next summer and having legitimate cap space.
Either way, Ujiri is going to have to do some major roster shuffling to match his front office shuffling if he wants to be able to work with some financial flexibility anytime soon.
(Raptors salary info courtesy of ShamSports.com)