Leiweke Seeks To Make Raptors Canada's NBA Team; Will Bid For '16 All-Star Game
The “next task” for Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Tim Leiweke, following the redefining of Bryan Colangelo's role, is “the rebranding of the Raptors in an effort to increase the team’s popularity, not only in Toronto but across Canada,” according to Robert MacLeod of the GLOBE & MAIL. Leiweke yesterday said that he has “already determined that the Raptors have missed a great opportunity to better market itself in this country.” He added, “The one thing that is clear to me is, when I look at the Blue Jays I have great respect for the fact that all of Canada follows the Blue Jays. It’s not the same with the Raptors, and I get that. We are Toronto’s team, but I think we have to learn to be Canada’s team.” Leiweke said that MLSE already has “made one big decision -- to make a bid to host the 2016 NBA all-star game, which would coincide with the Raptors’ 20th anniversary.” Leiweke: “The change is going to be this: Toronto’s not bidding on the 2016 all-star game. Canada is. And that’s where we’ll begin the change.” Leiweke also said that the club “will look into building a new practice facility for the team in an effort to make the Raptors a more desirable destination for NBA players” (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/22).
LESS THAN IDEAL: Colangelo yesterday said that he is “not angry at being let go as general manager, despite his new boss's characterization as such.” The CBC’s Chris Iorfida noted Colangelo made his comments just after being announced as Raptors President, a “role that will see him slide over to more business-related decisions with the team.” Colangelo: "It's a unique situation for me to be in, not an ideal situation, but I'm going to embrace it and make the most of it.” Colangelo was “asked why he would stay with the team in such a role when he's had more than a decade of experience with respect to basketball matters.” Colangelo responded, "I do care very much about the Toronto Raptors, the success of this organization” (CBC.ca, 5/21). Leiweke said, “I admire and respect Bryan and his passion and loyalty for the Raptors and for Toronto. I think he’s actually done a good job with that. He’s gotten involved with the community. He’s gotten involved in the game of basketball in Canada. In that area I give him high marks.” Colangelo said, “I’ll give opinion where and when I’m asked about it. This is being portrayed as a non-basketball job. We’re in the basketball business and I’ve got a lot of experience. I think the new guy is going to understand that and appreciate that and I’ll give my opinion. I’m certainly not going to try to run him over because at the end of the day that’s not going to get me very far” (SPORTSNET.ca, 5/21).
BEWARE OF BACKFIRE: SPORTSNET.ca’s Michael Grange wrote if the decision by Leiweke "to fire" Colangelo “by keeping him around works out it will look inspired.” But “all of that will have to take place.” The Raptors “will have to make the playoffs” and “become a legitimate force in the Eastern Conference.” If “none of that happens,” then the “events of the past 24 hours will be as good a place to start as any for someone trying to explain why a rich club in a massive market is on pace for 20 years of various versions of basketball failure” (SPORTSNET.ca, 5/21). In Toronto, Doug Smith wrote when Leiweke “gets around to hiring a new general manager for the Raptors, the basketball authority will rest with that man,” and Colangelo “is going to have to live with it.” Leiweke said, “Bryan is probably ticked off at me.” He added, “There’s no probably, he’s ticked off at me. This isn’t his perfect world, but he accepts it.” Smith notes if there is “one thing the two men agree on, it’s that the situation is not ideal.” Colangelo said, “Ticked off is not the right terminology. It’s a mis-characterization. I’m disappointed that I’m not going to be able to see this through” (TORONTO STAR, 5/22).
CALLING THE SHOTS: In Toronto, Ryan Wolstat noted Leiweke will start with MLSE on June 3, rather than July 1, "at the suggestion of the MLSE board.” Leiweke “made it clear he is in charge of the search for the new GM.” A search firm “has been hired merely for background due diligence” (TORONTOSUN.com, 5/21). Also in Toronto, Mike Ganter writes Leiweke, if he “accomplished nothing else yesterday, confirmed he is in complete control of the entire Raptors operation.” It was “his decision -- and his decision alone -- to keep Colangelo.” Leiweke “knows the decision to keep Colangelo around opens him up to all kinds of second guessing and, quite frankly, he doesn’t really care.” He is “that confident that he can manage the process” (TORONTO SUN, 5/22).
ONE FOOT OUT THE DOOR? The GLOBE & MAIL’s Jeff Blair writes Colangelo “will likely end up with another NBA job.” He has “an ‘NBA out’ in his contract, and with the family name pretty much hoops royalty it would not be out of the question to see him get a job in the NBA front office” when Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver replaces Commissioner David Stern next February (GLOBE & MAIL, 5/22). In Toronto, Steve Simmons writes the “only way” the Raptors situation “won’t be awkward is if Colangelo leaves for another NBA job and rather quickly” (TORONTO SUN, 5/22).