Raptors CEO On Carter, Nash, Title Aspirations

Tim Leiweke, CEO of the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment group that owns the Raptors, believes the franchise is poised for a “growth spurt” with the unique advantage of having an entire country behind it, as he tells USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt. Leiweke points to the team’s willingness to spend, the acumen of GM Masai Ujiri, and the organization’s commitment to competing for championships as selling points for free agents. He also speaks about the effect that former Raptors star Vince Carter had on Canadian basketball, remarks made all the more interesting by Carter’s status as a free agent and reports indicating that the team is in the mix to sign him. Zillgitt’s entire piece is a must read for Raptors fans, but we’ll share a few particularly relevant snippets here:

On Vince Carter and his influence on back-to-back No. 1 overall picks Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, both of whom are Canadians:

“That is Vince Carter. I give him an enormous amount of credit. That [Raptors] team and that era is the era that is beginning to produce the Wigginses, the Bennetts. He inspired those kids to play basketball at the highest level. Now we get a chance to do that with our era, but we won’t see the results of that for another 10 years.”

On Steve Nash:

“There are probably few people who admire and like Steve Nash like I do. I had the privilege of getting to know him when he came to the Lakers. I love Steve Nash. I hope whenever his career ends, and I hope it’s not today, I hope a great player like that gets to go out on a high. That said, I definitely would hope there’s day in time where Steve Nash is playing a role here somehow.”

On the team’s Atlantic Division title this season, which it celebrated with the hanging of a banner:

“Personally, I wouldn’t have done the banner. They didn’t ask me, but if they did I would’ve told them that doesn’t mean anything. I don’t go in the locker room and congratulate the guys because we haven’t done anything yet. Our guys know that. It’s not that I don’t love our guys and I won’t fight for them. But we haven’t done anything yet. I don’t understand why everyone’s happy. We have work to do here. For me, are we on the right path? Yes. Do we have a chance to do something great? Yes. Talk to me when we do it. I’m not happy. Masai’s not happy.”

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