SPORTSNET.ca's Kevin Nielsen reported Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Tim Leiweke in a meeting with the Toronto Star’s editorial board on Friday "apologized to" former Raptors President Bryan Colangelo. Leiweke said, "I mean no ill will to Bryan, he did a good job here and I’ve been unduly harsh on him. ... Bryan was a good man and he did the best he could and he did many good things here and it was time to make a change. That’s all. ... He’s going to go on and do great things in the NBA again. It got too personal and it shouldn’t" (SPORTSNET.ca, 7/29).
LAP OF LUXURY: In Oklahoma City, Anthony Slater reported Thunder management "isn't opposed to dipping into" the NBA luxury tax, but they are "just concerned about avoiding it this year." Starting next season and "for the foreseeable future, with the escalating contracts of its star players," the team is "all but guaranteed to violate that threshold." If the Thunder "can find a way to escape it" in '13-14, and "despite being about $500,000 away it seems like they are desperately determined to do so, the franchise's 'repeat offender' clock will be pushed back a year." That means "a tax bill three years from now" that could have cost them $10M will only cost $6M (NEWSOK.com, 7/28).
THE LOONIE STOPS HERE: In Vancouver, Ed Willes wrote the "key figure" in the Canucks’ "various dramas" has been co-Owner & Chair Francesco Aquilini. He "played an instrumental role in the decision to hire" coach John Tortorella, the decision to keep G Roberto Luongo and, "by extension, the decision to deal" G Cory Schneider. It is "interesting, in fact, to note the change at the top of the organization." President & GM Mike Gillis for his first four years was "basically given a blank cheque to run things as he saw fit." It now is "fair to say the honeymoon is over." Ownership "will always have the final say, but it’s not often ownership makes their involvement this public." Willes: "Don’t know if that’s the best thing for the franchise. But, no matter how things turn out, we do know who’s responsible" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 7/29).
TAKING POTLUCK: In Pittsburgh, Chris Harlan reported the Pirates are "holding charity raffles at each game this season at PNC Park, and five-figure jackpots have become common." The winning ticket-holder "takes half of the money, and Pirates Charities keeps the other half." As crowds have "grown this summer, so have the jackpots." The pot "totaled less than $3,000 on some early-April nights, but it reached a season-high $23,146 on July 13, the Saturday before the All-Star break." More than $51,000 was "spent on raffle tickets during that three-game series with the Mets" (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 7/29).