If you've spent any time at all paying attention to the Toronto Raptors
or Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment as a whole, the events of the past few days shouldn't come as much of a surprise.
As unorthodox as it seems to relieve
the president and general manager of your basketball team of only his GM duties and at the same time tell him that he will no longer have authority -- as president of the team -- over the new general manager, well, that's MLSE for you.
One of the best summaries of Tuesday's announcement from incoming MLSE CEO
Tim Leiweke regarding Bryan Colangelo's "firing up" -- for lack of a better term -- was that "the Raptors are gonna Raptor."
It would be easy to instantly criticize Leiweke over his handling of this, especially considering he's not officially on the job yet. Yet it's fairly clear at this point that this bizarre arrangement was not completely of choice.
In a conference call Tuesday, Leiweke explained how he spent the past two weeks doing his due diligence on the Raptors' general manager position. This was clearly shown last week when one of the best-connected reporters in NBA circles -- Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski -- broke the news that Leiweke wanted to bring back to Toronto former Colangelo assistant turned NBA executive of the year
Masai Ujiri of the Denver Nuggets.
Somewhere else in Leiweke's travels, however -- in which he said he spent time at NBA headquarters in New York, as well as in talks with the MLSE board -- came this particular result.
Perhaps you than theorize that Bryan's father, Jerry Colangelo -- still very much a respected figure at the NBA head office -- had a hand in the arrangement, or more plausibly that the junior Colangelo has been a model MLSE employee (with or without recent team success) with close allies on the board.
The optimist will tell you that this setup is merely temporary, and that Colangelo will be gone as soon as a more desirous job elsewhere opens up. That's probably true. Yet what about the interim? The new general manager, on paper, will report directly to Leiweke and not Colangelo. However, Ujiri, for example, is a former Colangelo assistant. So is current assistant Ed Stefanski, whom Leiweke has included in a list of possible candidates. (On an aside, I'm willing to bet money the new GM will not be Stefanski).No wiggle room
It is for myriad political issues like this that most companies encourage a clean break in these situations.
"Do I understand that's going to tax Bryan a little bit?" Leiweke asked rhetorically on his conference call.
"One hundred per cent ... Bryan's going to have to occasionally take a deep breath and understand now, that a GM is going to have a direct report [to me], and final say-so on all basketball decisions," Leiweke continued.
"He's going to have to live with that. And I hope he can. Because if he can't, I'm fairly certain we're not going to fire the Toronto Raptors."
Colangelo for his part said he was not "ticked" at Leiweke but disappointed
about not being able to complete his roster reconstruction.
And therein lies a good point. The current Raptors roster is all Colangelo. There is no financial wiggle room in the immediate future, although in the best-case scenario this is likely a bottom-three playoff team next season.
So what does a new GM do when he takes over? Operate the status quo?
Can Leiweke's bigger dreams (making the Raptors into Canada's team, landing the 2016 All-Star game) happen if the immediate goal is fielding a lesser version of a middling team like the Atlanta Hawks? And if the organization as a whole continues to do curious things?
There are some positives to spin from this, however.
Watching Colangelo sit at a podium Tuesday night as the Raptors gave up their lottery pick
to the Oklahoma City Thunder via the Kyle Lowry trade was a fitting way to end his tenure as GM. Whatever transpires next, the team will have a pick in next year's loaded (Andrew Wiggins
It's not an entirely clean slate for the new general manager, but you can always hope. For you advocates of tanking, think the 1996-97 San Antonio Spurs. After David Robinson went down, they stumbled to a 20-62 record, lucked out by landing the No. 1 pick and drafted the best power forward ever in Tim Duncan.
If you ask me at this point, the organization should do another thing Leiweke alluded to on Tuesday. Just change the name of the team and rebrand.
The Raptors were Vince Carter's and, to a lesser degree, Chris Bosh's team. Those squads were relevant and almost overcame the stupidity of naming the franchise based on the early-1990s dinosaur craze.
Now just rebrand them the Huskies already. Go black and silver with a red maple leaf.
At least then we can no longer say "Raptors gonna Raptor."
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