Wizards should pause pursuit of Masai Ujiri after alleged incident with officer

Rick Snider
June 14, 2019 - 1:14 pm
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Finally, the Wizards looked ready to hire a new general manager just in time for the NBA Draft on June 20. And then an altercation broke out amidst the Toronto Raptors’ championship celebration.

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Let’s hit the pause button.

Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri allegedly struck an Alameda County Sheriff Deputy in the face after being denied entrance to the court during the team’s NBA title celebration on Thursday. Supposedly, Ujiri didn’t have the proper access credentials displayed.

Basically, the cop was doing his job. It can seem petty, but the cop was just doing what he was supposed to do and Ujiri is very lucky not to be in jail for hitting a policeman. Go ahead - try it yourself. Find a cop and smack him and see if you walk away.

Now this will be washed over, but Wiz owner Ted Leonsis should see a major red light over what just happened. A team president lost his temper and allegedly assaulted someone instead of resolving the issue easily by finding team personnel to assist. Is this really the person you want running your operation?

Leonsis has a blind spot when it comes to the Wiz. For all the billionaire’s success and even the Capitals’ championship last year, Leonsis can’t seem to figure out who should run the basketball team. First, he kept Ernie Grunfeld years too long as the franchise sputtered to a dead stop this winter. Now he’s should take his time to ensure the next GM is the franchise's solution.

Now all this is assuming Ujiri would want to leave a championship team he built and that Toronto would let him go to an Eastern Conference rival with two years remaining on his contract. Those are big ifs.

Then there are reports the Wiz are offering $10 million per year and a piece of ownership. The money is whatever, but part ownership? Suppose this guy stinks here. He’ll still walk away with a piece of the team? Better have an incentive clause that provides ownership, like the Wiz win a title, for that clause to kick in.

But the altercation should give real pause. Besides, Ujiri showing up days before the draft won’t change the team’s direction. Let interim GM Tommy Sheppard make this pick while vetting out Ujiri’s actions against the policeman.

There’s no need to rush, especially if this is as much money as reported. Leonsis can’t be saddled with another problem. For as much as Ujiri looks like a franchise savior after lifting the Raptors to a title, it’s not worth the trouble if the police altercation showed his true demeanor.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks

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