SBD/24/Franchises

ISIAH LEAVES TORONTO WITH SOME ADVICE FOR THE RAPTORS

          Isiah Thomas left Toronto Friday with "a sharp warning"
     for Raptors management, saying the team should "make peace
     with the Maple Leafs or risk extinction," according to Jim
     Byers of the TORONTO STAR.  Thomas said that the decision to
     build Air Canada Centre without the Leafs as partners "was a
     mistake that hobbled the team financially and will have an
     impact on the club's future."  Thomas: "We should have paid
     the $20 million or $25 million to the NBA (for not starting
     the building on time), played in the SkyDome and put the
     money (saved by building a joint arena) into players." 
     Raptors Majority Owner Allan Slaight, who "took a parting
     shot" when he called Thomas "an interesting piece of work,"
     discussed the arena: "The Air Canada Centre is well-
     financed. ... There will certainly be money available to go
     out and get players" (TORONTO STAR, 11/22).  CNN/SI's Jackie
     MacMullan, on Thomas' resignation: "By keeping that 9%
     [ownership stake], what happened was with the construction
     of this new arena it was costing him almost a million
     dollars a month, and Isiah just doesn't have that kind of
     money" ("This Week in the NBA," CNN, 11/23).
          MORE FROM ISIAH: Thomas: "I definitely should have
     investigated my partners more carefully before I came to
     another country to do business. ... I didn't have enough
     information of ... Allan Slaight or (former president) John
     Bitove.  The picture that was painted to me was very rosy.
     ... But I didn't do the proper due diligence" (Bill Harris,
     TORONTO SUN, 11/22).  Thomas' agent Frank Vuono said that it
     "appeared to us, (the Raptors) were going to fire (Thomas)." 
     Slaight "emphatically" denied that (TORONTO SUN, 11/22).  
          REAX: In Toronto, Chris Young: "Right up till the end,
     the smoothie Thomas pretty much kept his cool. ... Now it's
     Slaight's turn to prove that his way is going to work. 
     We're all waiting" (TORONTO STAR, 11/22).  Also in Toronto,
     Ken Fidlin: "The only nugget of hard truth to cling to in
     all of this is that the Raptors, in their third year of
     operation, have been dealt a serious setback on the court,
     in the minds of the ticket-buying public and in the minds of
     NBA players who might one day have decided to come play
     here" (TORONTO SUN, 11/22).  Also in Toronto, Steve Simmons:
     "The real question of the Thomas-Allan Slaight trouble is
     this: Which of the two could you trust?" (SUN, 11/23).  

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