Masai Ujiri's new practice facility - will it keep him in town?

Apr 14, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey signals in a play at the Air Canada Centre against the Milwaukee Bucks. Toronto defeated Milwaukee 110-100. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 14, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey signals in a play at the Air Canada Centre against the Milwaukee Bucks. Toronto defeated Milwaukee 110-100. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors are within days of finalizing the approvals for a new practice facility. Most of the time, I couldn’t see myself devoting a entire post to press-release stuff like this. However, the circumstances have changed dramatically at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment [MLSE], and the announcement is post-worthy. Let me explain. Raps GM Masai Ujiri insisted on a commitment by MLSE’s outgoing President, Tim Leiweke, to the building of the new facility before he would resign his position as Denver Nuggets GM and return to Toronto. The current practice venue, tucked away in an upper floor at Air Canada Centre [ACC], is most kindly described as “bare bones”. I’ve been there several times; it might pass muster at a mid-level university. The proposed facility, a leisurely 10-minute drive from the ACC on the Exhibition grounds (and a Tiger Woods tee shot away from BMO Field, the home of Toronto FC), should provide a full check-box for free agents. Put another way, this building is for basketball, unlike the multi-purpose ACC. The goal would be to have the doors open in time for the February 2016 NBA All-Star Game. That’s all well and good, but why should we fans care all that much? Because we want Masai at the helm of our organization, that’s why. The ground has already shifted under his feet with Leiweke’s imminent departure. If Masai doesn’t get this facility built, he couldn’t be blamed for deciding to look around for a more amenable place to work. Like Tim, Masai is a man who won’t need to spend a lot of time looking for a new job if he decides to walk. Tim’s spat with his bosses has undermined what has been so far a nearly perfect Raps off-season. All our free agents have re-signed, as has our coach. DeMar DeRozan made the US Olympic team, to the surprise of almost everyone except We The North, who know how strong he really is. Our GM has a firm hand on the tiller – then we all get blindsided. One wonders if the MLSE Board of Directors isn’t having second thoughts about its precipitous action of forcing Leiweke’s ouster. Couldn’t sanity prevail here? Divorcing couples have been known to reconcile on the courthouse steps. We need a mediator, someone respected by both sides and with no ax to grind, who can broker a compromise to keep Tim in town. I’m not naive. He’s not here forever, which is too bad, but surely there should be enough common ground to keep him in Toronto until after the ’15-’16 season. Tim deserves to host the All-Star Game, and – who knows? – to witness a deep playoff run for the Raps. Larry Tanenbaum (whom I’ve met briefly, and who didn’t strike me as a man who’s interested in showing what a tough guy he is), I call upon you to mend this broken fence. We need Tim, and we need Masai – and we DON’T need distractions. This upcoming season could be the one we’ve all been waiting too long for.

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Tags: Dwane Casey Masai Ujiri Tim Leiweke Toronto Raptors

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