Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis Talks Masai Ujiri Rumors, Plans for New President

Megan ArmstrongCorrespondent IIJune 18, 2019

Ted Leonsis, owner of the NHL Capitols and NBA Wizards, addresses the American Gaming Association's Sports Betting Executive Summit, at the MGM Grand National Harbor Casino, in Oxon Hill, Md., Wednesday, March 27, 2019. The Supreme Court ruled last May 14 that any state can legalize sports betting if it chooses, and since then the action has been swift. Sports gambling is now legal in eight states, with more than 20 others at least considering legalization.  (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Cliff Owen/Associated Press

The Washington Wizards won't have a new president before NBA free agency begins, managing partner Ted Leonsis disclosed to the Washington Post's Candace Buckner

Buckner included an official statement from Leonsis:

"I am very happy with the work and preparation Tommy Sheppard, Coach [Scott] Brooks and our staff have done and I'm confident we'll execute both the draft and free agency in an expert manner. Having that confidence has given me the freedom to continue the conversations I've been having on how to build a great organization and, as a result, I don't expect to make any decisions before the start of free agency." 

Additionally, Leonsis denied the Wizards' pursuit of Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri. ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski had reported that Washington was preparing to offer Ujiri, who constructed the roster that captured Toronto's first championship last week, a contract "that could approach $10 million annually and deliver him the opportunity for ownership equity."

Wojnarowski added that Leonsis was expected to ask for formal permission from Toronto to meet with Ujiri, but that is seemingly not going to happen.

Washington did, however, extend an offer to Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, who opted to stay in Denver.

Instead, the Wizards are expected to move forward in the short term with Sheppard in his interim basketball operations role. 

NBC Sports Washington's Chase Hughes added that Sheppard will also "make the call" on Wizards restricted free agents Tomas Satoransky, Thomas Bryant and Bobby Portis. 

The position at the top of the organization opened up April 2 when the Wizards fired Ernie Grunfeld, who had served as team president since 2003. His tenure, as Chris Almeida wrote for The Ringer, was average at best:

"It shouldn't come as any surprise that Grunfeld was fired. In another, more conventional organization, this would have happened long ago. The Wizards under Grunfeld have missed the playoffs as often as they have made them; they've never made a conference finals; they've never won 50 games. At its very best, Washington has been an above-average team, but through two rebuilds and two overextended attempts at contention, Grunfeld endured; of active lead executives, only R.C. Buford, Danny Ainge, and Pat Riley have held their positions longer.”

Last season, Washington missed the playoffs with a 32-50 record. The team's disappointing campaign was headlined by All-Star point guard John Wall rupturing his Achilles in February, and Wojnarowski pointed out how important Wall's status will be to candidates:

Adrian Wojnarowski @wojespn

The biggest concern for potential candidates with Washington: How to engage on a rebuild with John Wall’s massive long-term contract and serious injury looming over franchise.

In a story published by Hughes on May 30, Leonsis addressed Wall's recovery: "John understands his commitment will show from this rehab. If it takes the whole season, we don't care."

It seems Leonsis' long-term approach to rehabilitating Wall and hiring a new president are streamlined. Regardless of how long each takes, the Wizards need both to work out in their favor. 

They have not made it beyond the conference semifinals since 1978-79.