If they got rid of the Raptors name and rebranded NBA basketball in Toronto tomorrow, about the only thing I'd miss would be the mascot. Truth be told, the acrobatic, droll dinosaur is pretty much the sole part of this sorry team that’s ever enjoyed any kind of sustained success.

They'll remain the Raptors next season and, unfortunately, an also-ran in the race for an NBA title. But make no mistake: change is coming. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon enough. And just as well, really. It's time for the losing legacy of Toronto's downtrodden dinos to face extinction.

Tim Leiweke, MLSE's incoming boss of All Things Important, made that clear this week in a media conference call. Of course, given that the purpose of said call was to explain his awkward emasculation, and retention, of failed-GM-but-still-president Bryan Colangelo, there was a definite element of magician's misdirection about Leiweke's admission that he's already had "a very honest assessment" of the Raptors with league bigwigs, and is ready to address "the colour and makeup of our brand, our uniforms and our image."

Unfortunately, there was also a disappointing air of ham-handedness in Leiweke's stated desire to cosy up to a supposed coast-to-coast fan base by wrapping the whole thing in a big Maple Leaf and saying "To me, we should be all about the Canadian flag and Canada."

raptors-dunk.jpgForget about appealing to a nationwide audience, please. We don't want to be soaked in stereotypes. Just make it cool, and make it good. Then concentrate on making it a winner. Do that, and you'll have fans everywhere you want.

Leiweke offered up some other shiny baubles to distract from his main message, which was that accountability demanded "a new set of eyes" in charge of player personnel decisions after Colangelo had engineered a franchise-worst five straight seasons without reaching the playoffs. He called the 2016 All-Star game, timed to coincide with Toronto's 20th anniversary as an NBA city, a "must-have," and pledged to pursue both a new training facility and stronger ties with the Canadian national program.

Leiweke comes to Toronto from the Anschutz Entertainment Group, a LaLa Land titan that owns the NBA's Lakers, the NHL's Kings, Major League Soccer's Galaxy and the L.A. Live entertainment complex, among other things. He's a savvy marketer who understands you've got to sell some sizzle with your sports, especially when you're not selling championship potential.

And the more time he spends investigating his new outfit, he also understands the regrettable truth that a rot has set in with the Raptors. It's so deep, in fact, that they've stopped believing in themselves as a team with any kind of attraction or allure. The atmosphere, such as it is, has been poisoned.

"That's what shocked me the most," Leiweke said in sizing up Toronto's NBA ethos. "We don't believe it's the best place to go to. We're going to change that attitude.

"We are going to change the way people think about our organization. And the first place to do that is we've got to change the way we think about our organization."

Basketball fans in Toronto have heard that kind of talk before, and should know better than to hold their breath. Changing the name and colours alone won't get the job done. But it would be a bold, sweeping choice that offers the chance to make a clean break, and move forward.

There's precious little to hold onto from the Raptors' past besides defeat, bitterness, and a dunking dinosaur. It's time for something new, something better. It's time for something worth believing in.

1 Comments | Add a Comment
Let's bring back the 'Huskies' moniker. I'm not a desinger so I can't speak to what the motif should be but I think that the main colours could be a greyish blue and white with red trim. Blue and white appear throughout history in Toronto sports and the red symbolizes Canada.
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