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With the bevy of rumours, reports and general speculation over Bryan Colangelo’s job status running rampant over the last few weeks, we’ve already had plenty of time to assess Colangelo’s actions and words recently. On that note, I’m not going to spend any time on Colangelo’s conference call with the media from earlier today after it was announced that he was being relieved of his General Manager duties.

Having said that, new Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke held a much more candid media call on Tuesday morning that is worth talking about, so here are some talking points from that call..

- In seeking out opinions and feedback from his connections around the league, Leiweke says he spent a full day at the NBA office, where he “got a lot of input there.”

Later, when discussing how he got an assessment of the Raptors organization (from a basketball, business and image standpoint) from the NBA office, Leiweke mentioned that he has thought about a potential re-branding of the team, which could include a change in the colour and makeup of the uniforms as well as an image change. “We are Toronto’s team, but I think we have to learn how to be Canada’s team,” Leiweke stated before adding that the organization’s image “should be all about the Canadian flag and Canada.” He also said that being “Canada’s team is an ambition and goal we have not lived up to.”

In continuing with his strong opinions on a possible re-branding of the team and a focus on Canada, Leiweke called the 2016 All-Star game a “must-have” for the Raptors and said that’s a place where the re-branding can be completed. “Toronto’s not bidding on the 2016 All-Star game, Canada is. And that’s where we begin the change,” Leiweke boldy asserted.

My thoughts: The fact that an expansion NBA team in Toronto wasn’t named the Huskies, when the Toronto Huskies took part in the game recognized as the first in league history, is a travesty. Like everyone else, I’ve learned to identify and take pride in the Raptors name, but if Leiweke and MLSE are seriously considering a full re-branding in the future, then Huskies should be the only option.

In terms of the emphasis on Canada and being “Canada’s Team,” I love it. My only issue with a potential uniform change would be that I really don’t know what they can do to make them more Canadian other than getting rid of the black uniforms, and I like the alternate black uniforms. Right now, the primary colours are red and white and the jerseys have a small maple leaf on the back. Again, how much more Canadian can you make them? Plus, the Huskies are traditionally blue and white.

Lastly on this portion of the call, if David Stern or anybody else at the league office is hoping that the Raptors do a better job of representing Canada, I’d suggest an Arnold Rothstein like approach to the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery, if you know what I mean…cough…Wiggins…cough.

- Leiweke says he likes Colangelo’s passion as well as his loyalty to the Raptors, to Toronto and to basketball in Canada, saying he would give Bryan “high marks there.” Unfortunately for B.C., Leiweke also had this to say: “On basketball, I think we all know that there is great debate about decisions made in the last eight years, and in particular the last five years not making the playoffs.”

My Thoughts: Ouch.

- While Leiweke said that Colangelo will be able to listen to offers should a more basketball centric job become available around the NBA, he sounds intent on utilizing Colangelo’s experience within the organization in the mean time, saying that Colangelo will be involved in “a lot of things that will become a priority for the Raptors moving forward.”Among those priorities, the 2016 All-Star game and looking into either building a new team training facility or updating the current one.

My Thoughts: Colangelo will probably get a more hands-on basketball job somewhere in the NBA sooner than a lot of people realize, and this seemingly awkward arrangement won’t last that long. There aren’t any reports out there that suggest this to be the case, but that’s my honest prediction.

- Leiweke reaffirmed on numerous occasions that the new General Manager in charge, whoever that may be, will have the final say on all basketball decisions and that the new GM will report directly to him (Translation: Not to Colangelo). He also said the new guy in charge will make upcoming decisions when it comes to coaches, players, front office members, trades, the draft, etc, saying that a decision on coach Casey is a “decision for the new GM.”

And for those of you who believe that Colangelo’s presence alone means that he will stick his nose into personnel decisions or that Colangelo’s presence will bode well for Casey given that Bryan has publicly supported Casey, Leiweke mentioned that Colangelo will have to accept that someone else is making the basketball decisions, sternly stating that “If he can’t, I’m fairly certain we’re not going to fire the Toronto Raptors.”

At another point, when discussing the full autonomy that the incoming GM will have and how said GM will have his full commitment and support, Leiweke said that “If anyone ultimately disrupts that process, then I’ll clean it up.”

My Thoughts: When is the last time a member of the Raptors organization ever spoke this frankly or this boldly? I understand that there are no guarantees of success for the Raptors under Leiweke and that his tenure is already off to an odd start, but his honesty and bold ambitions are a very pleasant breath of fresh air for fans of this much maligned franchise. Right now, I’m picturing Leiweke going into full Donald Trump/Vince McMahon mode if someone steps out of line and demonstrates that they don’t know their role.

- Leiweke says that there is no budget in terms of how much he can go and spend in hiring the new GM, adding that ownership is committed to winning.

My Thoughts: Might MLSE be prepared to get into a bidding war over a potential candidate of their choice? Remember that Masai Ujiri’s contract in Denver will expire this summer and that Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke is reputed to be one of the 100 richest people in America.

Translation: THIS.

- Leiweke says that a search firm was hired to get some background knowledge on GM candidates, but that he himself is executing the search. In terms of that search, Leiweke says that they’re “in the middle of it” and that there are about a half-dozen names on the list, which includes Ed Stefanski’s name. In addition, the Raptors have already talked to some candidates personally but are seeking permission to talk to some others.

My Thoughts: Leiweke clearly wants it known that he isn’t leaving this search and decision up to anyone else at MLSE and especially not to a third party search firm. Also, I’d imagine the candidate the Raptors are still waiting for permission to talk to is Ujiri. In terms of the half-dozen names on the list, we should probably be able to figure out four of those names just from recent reports, and those four are Ujiri, Stefanski, Kevin Pritchard, Troy Weaver and Rick Sund.

- On the notion that Toronto and the Raptors can’t attract star talent, Leiweke talked about how players love Toronto, but that the next step is to get them to love the idea of playing for Toronto. He also added that “some of the best branded players in the NBA” told him flat out that Toronto is their favourite city.

My Thoughts: As I’ve always said, the Raptors’ inability to attract top notch free agents has little to do with the fact that the team resides in Canada and everything to do with the fact the organization has been poorly run for the majority of 18 seasons. If a team on the rise is put together here, then one of the NBA’s biggest and most cultured markets won’t have an issue attracting stars.

- One of the more popular Leiweke quotes from this morning was his statement that “Bryan’s probably ticked off at me. There’s no probably. He’s ticked off at me.” Leiweke also mentioned that Colangelo “fought like heck” to keep his job running the team and that he wouldn’t have kept him around if not for that determination.

- In terms of what Leiweke is looking for in the next General Manager, it’s someone who can make trades, is good at drafting and development and can effectively communicate a philosophy and style to the coaching staff.

My Thoughts: In short, Tim Leiweke is simply looking for a basketball executive who is competent in the key areas you would hope that any basketball exec is competent in. The fact that he didn’t trust Colangelo to continue making basketball decisions tells us something about how he judged Bryan’s competenecy in those key areas.

- I don’t remember where exactly this gem of a quote came up during the media call, but to me, the most telling passage of them all was Leiweke’s assertion that ”We have work to do in this organization. We’re not good enough.”

My Thoughts: That just about sums it up right now, doesn’t it? Not good enough. Now get to work…

Comments (47)

  1. If nothing else, it is, perhaps, a sign that positive change is coming.

    However, I would hope that if a rebranding is in the offing, that we don’t go overboard on the Canadiana, and that regardless of the team name (which I support changing) that we keep our current mascot.

    • I agree. Leiweke said some good things, sounds like a very bold, hands-on CEO which may or may not end well, but some of the things he said in reference to the Raptors were downright boneheaded:

      “Making the Raptors all about Canada and the Canadian flag”

      Umm, no thanks. Like Joseph said, the jerseys are already red and white, and already have an awkward looking Maple Leaf patch on the back. We’re already pushing it in the Canadiana department. If they trot the team out in some overblown Mountie-inspired outfit next year, that will be the last straw for me and this team. It makes the city look pathetically self-conscious. We need wins! We need to start winning and that’s it, Tim! Enough of all this marketing crap, start winning!

  2. says a lot of positive things, and i like the possible idea of the re-branding and where he could take this franchise

  3. I like Leiweke’s style thus far when it comes to the Raptors. Basically, he’s saying “This should work great, what the hell is the problem here?” It’s about time someone called out BC for his poor performance. I look forward to having someone else making the most important decisions – talent evaluation, Colangelo’s downfall!

    BC can suck it up. He has no reason to be pissed, other than at himself. He was given every opportunity. To paraphrase John Tortorella, HE STINKS.

  4. ** “We are Toronto’s team, but I think we have to learn how to be Canada’s team,” Leiweke stated before adding that the organization’s image “should be all about the Canadian flag and Canada.” He also said that being “Canada’s team is an ambition and goal we have not lived up to.” **

    This actually made me nauseous. I don’t understand why our image has to be “all about the Canadian flag.” Imagine what kind of atrocious jerseys they’d come up with to get that point across. The Jays did the same thing. I love the new-old look, but they just stuck a big maple leaf on a nice, clean logo and almost ruined it.

    I’d be 100% supportive of a name-change back to the Huskies, with blue n white jerseys similar to the alternates we had a few years back. Those were actually awesome: simple and classic, something every sports team should have. Toronto teams have always had blue and white prominent in their jerseys and it’d be cool if they went back to the Huskies. There’s history there and it just makes sense. Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like MLSE will be going in that direction…such a shame.

    • ** “We are Toronto’s team, but I think we have to learn how to be Canada’s team,” Leiweke stated before adding that the organization’s image “should be all about the Canadian flag and Canada.**

      I agree. This quote made me want to barf. I have no desire for the Canadian flag to be on our uniform.

      • “Huskies” would be so awesome. They could switch to white-and-blue, too, to match the Leafs (which would be more Toronto and less Canada, I guess … but still pretty cool).

    • A red flag themed team, do you even know how much ridicule this would bring? You’re an awful fan. Huskies all the way.

      • @ Dave –

        I think you mis-read my post. I was commenting on TL’s quote about possibly re-branding the team and included the actual quote in my post. I am in no way supportive of that awful idea. I am, however, completely behind the idea of re-branding to the Huskies.

  5. Thanks for summarizing Leiweke’s comments. I heard him for a bit on the Fan, and I agree with you, I appreciate his frankness and his candid assessment of Colangelo’s failures – drafting and trades. I still think that Colangelo’s downfall ultimately stems not from drafting Bargnani, but rather from not getting rid of him before he exposed himself as the most paradoxical big man in the league.

    Its at least refreshing to hear Leiweke cast the Raptors in terms that aren’t just empty media-regurgitated jargon like Colangelo’s ‘organic growth’. Why Colangelo was treated with kid gloves by the Smiths and Jones’ of the media world is beyond me.

    I was never a fan of the Raptors name as it seemed dated once they finished playing their first season. I guess a name change would be the easiest way to divorce a franchise from their rather woeful past, but still, you need the results once the name change takes place to at least show it served a purpose.

    And I agree with Pippenology, Colangelo stinks. Like a 28 week Napoli garbage strike, occuring no less in spring and summer during a god forsaken heat wave while there is a baby boom and there are mountains of soiled diapers to perfume the air, all the while being in the grips of some rather nasty Camorra fighting that is lining the streets with rotting cadavers. That kind of stink.

  6. I already like this guy. Sounds like the kind of guy I’d like to grab a beer with.

    The idea of the usually smooth-talking Colangelo begging to keep his job is a funny image.

  7. Not knowing much of Tim Leiweke and keeping an open mind about him prior to today’s conference I was left dissapointed. He seems like another suit that doesn’t grasp the Toronto and Canadian market. The whole “Canada’s team” thing did it in for me. It works for the Blue jays, mainly cuz there literally is NO other sport for anyone to watch during the summer. In the winter, the majority of the major Canadian cities have an NHL team they support. Even in Toronto, the Raptors take a back seat to the Leafs. When a team like the Lakers comes to town, there’s at least 50% in attendance cheering and wearing Laker colors. Raptors already are shown nationally on TSN and Sportsnet and ratings are low. Focus on the product and not the image. Continue to be competitive and keep going to the playoffs so we can play meaningful basketball. Do not try and throw this “Canada’s team” down our throat….ugh. Raptors need to win over the city first.

    The all-star game is something I kenw about and glad that he was actively pursuing.

    Everyone can keep dreaming about Wiggins and all that nonsense. Orlando, Charlotte, Phoenix, New Orleans, even Detroit are already in prime position to tank this season. There’s probably gonna be a few more teams that are closer to the bottom that will tank as well. The rest of the league loves our core and feels we’re a few peices from being a threat in the East. Add a now humbled Terrence Williams(did a nice job for Boston in the playoffs) or some other inexpensive back up point that’s competent and another big and we’re set. Only teams in the East we coudn’t win a series would be against Miami, Indiana, Chicago.

    “As I’ve always said, the Raptors’ inability to attract top notch free agents has little to do with the fact that the team resides in Canada and everything to do with the fact the organization has been poorly run for the majority of 18 seasons.” – Ummmm…..yea…..the team is still run poorly and nothing today has shown that has changed. Players like to visit Toronto, but history has shown that they keep leaving. Free agency starts July 1st (we have no GM currently but he did say we will in 30 days). None of the players/coaches have any idea what’s going with the franchise and are limbo. Other teams are already addressing their needs.

    Instead of spending a ton of money on a new GM, Amensty Bargnani and have MLSE eat that contract. That would probably make fans happier……

    I did like the Vince McMahon reference…..however i think of Tim as more of the Vince that was head of “The Corporation” stable. All talk and bluster…..

    The highlight today was listening to Sam Mitchell on his thoughts of today and the organziation lol.

  8. I don’t know if you guys heard his interviews on TSN 1050 and the Fan 590 here in Toronto within 30 minutes of each other but he said something really interesting when talking about his requirements for the next candidate.

    I don’t have the exact quote but he mentioned he wanted a guy who isn’t ashamed or hesitant about moving a player he brought into the organization which seemed like a direct dig at the Colangelo/Bargnani dynamic.

    I think this set up will fail as long as Colangelo is around but at least Leiweke said the right things today, for the most part.

    • Yep, as Ive mentioned in other threads. Will ujiri or whomever else have the balls to trade Bargs, DD, or even Ross while BC is still with the organization? Even if its for the best interests of the team (it is)? The only one I could see is bargs obviously. Theyre BCs golden boys. I just think BC had way too much invested in dd, bargs, and ross. quite frankly thery’re not good enough.

      • You’re right….DD finished 11th in the league in points scored….that’s terrible. Clearly he’s not good enough

      • Gay and DD finished 20 and 21st per game in scoring. Do half of you even watch the product on the court or look at the stats. Seems like most like to complain

        • …and a PER of 15.6 and 14.8. There are no 98-0 basketball games, somebody has to score. Looter’s in a riot (copyright Kenny Smith).

  9. Huskies!

    History is everything to a sports franchise. I have hated the “Raptors” since day 1, and am still embarrassed that my team is named after a flippin’ 1990′s dinosaur movie based on a Michael Crichton book. Embarrassing just doesn’t begin to describe how idiotic the “Raptors” look when standing in the same gym as storied NBA franchises like the Knicks, Celtics, and Lakers.

    Huskies or bust. Please not the “Toronto Canucks” or something idiotic with a huge maple leaf on it. Beavers, maybe. They’re kind of like huskies with short legs and flat tails.

    • Completely agree. If they were actually serious about re-branding, I’d make some kind of petition to prevent the change to ‘Toronto Maple Syrup’ to the Huskies (the only choice IMO). I’m sure a lot of fans would be onboard.

    • What history does the Huskies name offer other than that they were one of the league’s inaugural franchises (I’ll wait)? I do know that they played for one season and one season only, 22 wins, 38 losses in their lone season. Only five players that ever suited up for the team went on to play at least another 10 games in the league. None of the coaches coached another game in the league. I don’t see the hype behind tripping over oneself over the Huskies name at all, the fact that huskies are soft animals (I hated the Pelicans name for New Orleans, but got won over by an amazing design which helped me understand the reason behind the name change), and a commonly overused team name at that, in addition to the one-and-done season of the aforementioned team, all make me appreciate the current Raptors name. Hate it all you want, it’s filled with years of crap and years of great memories. You don’t take only the good parts of something you want and leave everything else you don’t want, you take the bad with the good and use that to build toward your future goals. If you want to be the same as everybody else, then fine, that’s your choice. I don’t think that changing your name so you can camouflage yourself among others is the right, or even good move for the Raptors can make. This team has been set apart from the other 29 teams during it’s whole existence, whether it’s unique colour combinations or being the lone team to represent an entire country. The best thing that the Raptors can do is build toward winning for real AS THE FRANCHISE IS. Winning alone will go a long way.

  10. The image factor of keeping Colangelo is outweighed by potential GM candidates being wary of their predecessor looking over their shoulder.

    Remember a few years ago, “Leno hands the keys to the Tonight Show over to Conan and is moving to Prime Time!” How’d that work out?

  11. This is all like some amazing dream. This franchise has been completely derailed for years and years, from the team name to the branding to the players and personal. It feels like a complete do over , which is absolutely necessary.

    • Why do you feel a do over is necessary!?!? Give reasons why you think our core needs to be rebuilt.

  12. Also, Leiweke is dying to fire Colangelo and rid him of the franchise. Even the smallest typo or grammatical error in an office memo will be enough of an excuse to fire the guy. So I wouldn’t get to flustered over BC stepping on toes or what not.

  13. The canadiana bullshit is too much. Just win games and thats where the focus should be.

  14. Anyone hating on the “Canada’s team” stuff, you guys don’t get it. He’s not saying stuff like that for people like you, the fans that are already fans, hes saying stuff like that because he knows that more, new fans are important. And you can be sure he knows the Raptors get killed in the ratings compared to hockey, but if he can swing it back towards the Raptors by growing the brand cross-country, then he’s done his job amazingly well. Of course, having a winning team would jump-start that process.

    • Most Americans don’t understand how much of a Hockey Mecca Toronto is. The most scrutinized GM in North American sports is probably the Toronto Maple Leafs GM. Hockey in Toronto and in Canada is pretty much a religion…..but barely a blip on the radar in America. When winter comes….ppl think it’s Hockey season….not Bball time. He needs to focus on growing the brand in Toronto. Toronto is also disliked by the majority of Canada. Getting a kid in Vancouver or Montreal to watch the Raptors when their hockey team is on is slim to unlkely.

      The blue jays are Canadas team only cuz there literally isn’t any other sport to watch during the summer.

    • I know what you’re saying, but do you really think plastering the Candadian flag all over our uniforms/brand is really gonna attract new fans? The only thing it’ll likely do, is piss off the current fans of the team.

      There are only 2 things that will attract new fans nation-wide: talent & winning.

      The re-branding is just to fix a name that shouldn’t have been given in the first place, shoulda been the Huskies from day 1.

  15. My theory is that yes, players love to visit Toronto for an easy win, and for the nightlife etc, without the wife around, but to live here, no way. The wife doesn’t want to live here, bundled up in the snow, and the kids don’t want to learn French in school.
    Maybe I’m wrong, but I doubt many current Rap players live in T.O. with their families? Don’t they fly home to wherever on their days off? Doesn’t make for solid team building imho.
    No offense, but Toronto might as well be Tokyo.

    • Yes and no. You do hear of some Raptors spending time in the city during the offseason. They don’t all just flee for the border after the last game and only come back in the fall. However that’s a great point about the difference between a player spending a night in T.O. with a visiting team and hitting some clubs, vs. living here through the winter.

  16. I love this guy!!! Tim Leiweke seems like the perfect man to fix this team! he has my full support

  17. I understand the history, but I dislike the name Huskies. I’d prefer something Torontocentric, personally.

  18. Nice breakdown Joseph.

    Crazy turn of events. I wonder if Scott Carefoot will be open to at least an occasional return to raptor blogging, now that Colangelo has been publicly castrated. It’s not the firing we were all seeking, but in a way, it could even be worse.

    Looking forward to the next Raptorblog podcast!

  19. Anyone notice that youngjames isnt around lol thank god ! More then likely some fat guy living in his moms basement with nothing better to do then logg on to a blog and cut everyone up , hope he had a heart attack

  20. If Mr. Leiwekes is serious at making the Raptors more towards being “Canada’s” team, he can start by changing the times when games are played. Having 1PM EST (10AM PST) games regularly on Sunday and 7PM EST (4PM PST) games on the weekdays pretty much limits the chances of casual fans from Western Canada to follow the team with the time difference. I think 3PM EST (12PM PST) on Sunday and 8PM (5PM PST) would go a long way towards at least getting more random TV viewers and build fans from there. I believe NBA probably has part to why game times are the way they are with the large TV contracts in the U.S. but maybe Mr. Leiwekes will be able to show his worth in those instances.

  21. Let’s go with “Toronto Crackpipes.” That sort of captures the zeitgeist as much as the Raptors did in the 90′s, no?

    Other suggestions:
    - Toronto World Class City, Dammit
    - Toronto Nearly Yankees
    - Toronto Frozen Wasteland
    - Toronto Metric System
    - Toronto Tax Hell
    - Toronto Biebers
    - Toronto Condos
    - Toronto Secretly Wishes We Were as Much Fun as Montreal
    - Toronto At Least We’re Not Hamiltons

  22. Huskies name change Please!

  23. I love the Huskies name as well. But the original problem with that was that they couldn’t figure out how to draw a logo and other branding that wouldn’t be confused, look alike or even infringe on copyrights owner by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

  24. I find the Canada branding they’ve already done cloying and grating.

    Raptors will never be Canada’s team, most people outside the GTA who can be bothered to to pull away from hockey will actively root against a Toronto team.

    BC is sooo Leno.

  25. As to the ‘Canada’s Team’ notion, who else is Canada’s team exactly? They’re the only team in the country, Raptors have fans nationwide. Rebranding them with this idea isn’t going to help that much.

    They’ll receive more attention from becoming a successful franchise, not marketing to people who don’t watch them to begin with.

    The fact that they have a pretty shitty record over the teams existence says how loyal the fan base is.

  26. I do not think of the Raptors as Canada’s team. It is Toronto’s team. I saw the first Raptors exhibition game against Vancouver in Winnipeg. Though both teams were Canadian the only merchandise available was raptors–no merchandise from the grizzlies. It seemed like the only team promoted was Toronto’s team. Back then was hard to get a grizzlies game on TV. A name change will not help things. If they should be the Huskies that should have happened in the beginning. All a name change will do is sell more merchandise. Most people don’t remember the huskies anyway.

  27. Keep me up great work.Thanks for sharing!

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