Rick Zamperin: Toronto Raptors keep winning, but will they lose Masai Ujiri?

Toronto Raptors centre Serge Ibaka (9) reacts after scoring the game winning three point basket to defeat the Indiana Pacers during second half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Wednesday, February 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

The Toronto Raptors have spun together a franchise-record 12 consecutive victories, thanks to a dramatic 119-118 win over the Indiana Pacers at Scotiabank Arena Wednesday night.

The win also boosted Toronto’s record to 37-14, the franchise’s best mark after 51 games.

Despite all the hoopla, though, I don’t blame Raptors fans for being a little worried, because the club could potentially lose something bigger than a game — namely, team president Masai Ujiri.

The jitters among fans reached new heights this week when New York Knicks owner James Dolan fired president Steve Mills, and word is that he’s apparently setting his sights on Ujiri to run things in the Big Apple.

Click to play video 'Raptors’ Siakam named starter in his first NBA All-Star Game' Raptors’ Siakam named starter in his first NBA All-Star Game
Raptors’ Siakam named starter in his first NBA All-Star Game – Jan 24, 2020

Similar rumours connecting Ujiri to the Knicks have been floating around for the last number of years, but now that there is an actual vacancy at Madison Square Garden, the rumour mill is spinning out of control.

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However, before Ujiri begins looking for a palatial penthouse in Manhattan, let’s look at the likelihood of this all going down.

The 49-year-old Ujiri is under contract with the Raptors until 2021, although the Knicks could very well wrestle him away if the compensation package (money, drafts picks, etc.) is sweet enough.

The bigger question is does Ujiri want to leave the championship winning team that he created and has molded into an NBA Eastern Conference power for a perennial bottom feeder?

The draw of New York is that, well, it’s New York, it’s Madison Square Garden, and for Ujiri, the allure of being the person who turns the fortunes of a once-proud franchise around.

The great Phil Jackson couldn’t do it. Can you imagine the accolades that would be heaped upon Ujiri if he found the magic potion to make the Knicks a winning team again?

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But is that enough of a draw for Ujiri, knowing that he would be working for an owner who is known around the league for knee-jerk reactions and making snap decisions?

What is most concerning right now is that Ujiri has not publicly addressed the rumours.

That tells me he either has one foot out the door or he thinks the rumours are so ridiculous that he doesn’t feel they are worth wasting his time on.

One thing is certain: Raptors fans are holding out hope that the latter is true.