Monday, 17 June 2013

The Toronto Raptors have fired Alvin Williams, a Mr. Raptor if there ever was one

In a lot of ways, Alvin Williams is Mr. Raptor. That could be construed as a diss sent Toronto’s way, but there just aren’t a whole lot of other candidates. Chris Bosh and Tracy McGrady both sped out of town via the free agent route. Vince Carter forced a trade in 2004, Antonio Davis jumped to Toronto too late to carve out some sort of Antonio Davis Era, Marcus Camby was traded before he could ever develop, and Andrea Bargnani really never panned out.

Williams was traded to the Raps in a deal that sent the initial face of the franchise – 1995-96 NBA Rookie of the Year Damon Stoudamire – to Portland in 1998. He worked through the Vince Carter era, developing into a starting-level point guard and sticking things out for years before being bought out in 2006 to make room for the oh-so famous Fred Jones free agent acquisition. Williams returned to the team in 2009 as an assistant coach, though, and since 2010 he’s worked as the team’s Director of Player Development.

And now, with new Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke running the show, Williams has been let go. Not exactly a league-shifting move for the Raptors, but one that seems a little needless, and wrought with poor PR potential. From the Toronto Star’s Doug Smith:

In what I think is a terribly short-sighted move that will rankle as many people as anything he does, Leiweke has told Alvin Williams that his services are no longer required.

Yep, the chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment – on the job for less than a month – has jettisoned one of the great guys ever associated with the franchise and a man who wanted nothing more than to spend his entire career with the organization in some way, shape or form.

Alvin had spent last season scouting for the team, based out of Philadelphia, but he was far, far more than just an employee picking up a cheque.

He loved the organization and the city, he was a link to some of the best times the team has ever had, he is a great guy who’d show up every now and then and sooth some antsy players, offer a unique perspective and be a valued confidant to many.

Fired. Not by the general manager who never spoke to him, but by a CEO who seems hellbent on getting his fingers in every decision at some level.

We’re hardly in a position to tell MLSE how to run their team, but the Raptors are not at a loss for funds to fill the front office. The biggest reason new general manager Masai Ujiri (a super-loyal executive who deliberated for two weeks over Toronto’s substantially larger contract offer before leaving Denver) is running the Raptors right now is because Leiweke and co. whipped out their chequebooks. And according to Smith Ujiri didn’t even get to make this call, or presumably figure out what Williams was bringing to the table.

It doesn’t appear to be a suitable ending for Williams and Toronto, even if Alvin Williams wasn’t really working out of Toronto. It’s understandable that Leiweke wants to clean house entirely in the wake of what has been a wasted half-decade of basketball in Toronto, but this is also the guy that decided to re-sign the architect of that wasted run – Bryan Colangelo – to a nebulous front office gig last month.

Clinging to past personnel for posterity’s sake is often the sure way to the lottery. But was all this necessary? Early indications out of Toronto, surrounding the much-loved Williams, appear to suggest otherwise.

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