Author: Kurt Helin

Masai Uriji; Drake; Tim Leiweke

Tim Leiweke denies report he’s on way out of organization that owns Raptors


Tim Leiweke is the reason the All-Star Game is coming to Toronto in 2016. He is a big idea executive with great ties to the NBA league office (from his days getting Staples Center built in Los Angeles) and right now he is overseeing a revival of Raptors basketball (as the president of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment which owns the team as well as the NHL’s Maple Leafs).

Tuesday morning rumors surfaced that Leiweke is about to leave MLSE, as reported by the according to CBC’s Elliotte Friedman. The rumor is he wants to come back to Los Angeles and run the Clippers for new owner Steve Ballmer, or to jump to an NFL team.

Quickly the denials came, although the fantastic Bruce Arthur provides some perspective (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

Let me just say as someone in Los Angeles who loves the city of Toronto — I get the winter thing. Not sure I would last through one without bolting. You are all tougher than me.

And I wouldn’t be shocked if this happened. Eventually. If his family wants to return to L.A. and there’s a path, he may take it. But it sounds like he plans to ride out this season at least, and if he stuck around through the 2016 All-Star Game it wouldn’t be a shock.

It’s official, after 39 seasons NBA referee Dick Bavetta retires

Dick Bavetta

The NBA tried to push Dick Bavetta out the door starting a few years back, but he was going to leave on his own terms.

Age 74 seemed about the right time.

Bavetta is officially stepping away after 39 seasons as an official, the NBA announced Tuesday, something that had been reported a while ago.

“Dick’s dedication and commitment to his craft has been an inspiration to all NBA officials,” said NBA President, Basketball Operations Rod Thorn in a statement. “We are grateful for his contributions to our league, and we wish him the best as he enjoys his well-earned retirement.”

“On behalf of myself and the entire Bavetta family, I would like to thank the NBA family and the National Basketball Referee Association for allowing me the honor and the privilege of representing them for 39 wonderful years,” said Bavetta in his statement. “I am most proud of never having missed an assigned game, be it exhibition, regular season or playoffs, throughout my entire career. It really has been a great run.”

I can list Bavetta’s achievements: 2,635 consecutive regular season games officiated, 270 Playoff games including 27 Finals games, three NBA All-Star Games (1989, 1995 and 2006) and he was the first NBA referee selected to officiate the 1992 Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona.

But really, what you remember him for is racing Charles Barkley.

It was time for this, but Bavetta was part of the personality of the NBA. He will be missed.

DeMarcus Cousins practices with team USA Tuesday, says he’s 50-50 for Wednesday game

Team USA Showcase

When DeMarcus Cousins and Kenneth Faried banged knees in Chicago, all of USA Basketball held its breath. As did a couple GMs. The program didn’t need another serious injury to a rising young NBA star.

Fortunately it turned out not to be much. Cousins sat out the USA’s exhibition win over Brazil Saturday and a couple days of practice, but he was back at it full speed on Tuesday practicing with the team in New York, reports John Schuhmann of This was a short practice but included a scrimmage.

Cousins is expected to play Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden when Team USA takes on the Dominican Republic (without Al Horford) in a FIBA World Cup tune up, however Cousins downplayed his chances, reports Chris Sheridan.

If you want more proof Cousins was out practicing…

One other note: Derrick Rose did not go through a full practice on Tuesday and he may not start on Wednesday night. When he missed Tuesday’s practice it was deemed precautionary, and that may still be going on here, but this is something to watch.

Steve Ballmer says even at $2 billion Clippers “perfectly decent investment”

Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer has been consistent when asked about spending $2 billion on an NBA team — he thinks it’s a good investment. He admits he paid a Los Angeles beachfront price for the Clippers, but he’s quick to tell you that at least the team has a good income stream and turns a profit. Which is more than most tech companies he’s invested in.

He echoed that again Tuesday morning, saying it was a “perfectly decent investment.”

NBC’s own Mike Florio stepped in to host the Dan Patrick radio show on Tuesday and interviewed Ballmer, talking about his not-exactly-subtle rally and the price of owning an NBA team, as well as his future plans with the Clippers. Which if you’re a Clippers fan you have to like because he plans to stay out of the basketball operations side.

Team USA cutdown could come Thursday, likely a few days later

Brazil v United States

There are 16 players still on the Team USA roster and they can only carry 12 when they head to Spain for the World Cup starting Oct. 30. I made my best guess on the cut downs based on who played against Brazil and what I saw at practice in Las Vegas, but we’re all throwing darts here to a degree. We don’t know what Mike Krzyzewski is going to do exactly.

Or when.

USA Basketball officials have said they planned to carry 16 players through this week of practices with two exhibition games against the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Then the cuts come.

But that timeline could move up a little, Marc Stein reports at ESPN.

Final cuts to the Team USA roster could come as soon as Thursday, according to USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo.

Colangelo told that one scenario under consideration by USA Basketball officials is reducing the current 16-man roster to 12 or 13 players after Wednesday night’s exhibition game against the Dominican Republic at Madison Square Garden.

Most likely the full 16 go through the weekend, but things can change.

Team USA seems to have a core of eight guys Coach K will lean on: Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose, James Harden, Kenneth Faried, Steph Curry, Rudy Gay, Klay Thompson and Kyrie Irving. It also appears DeMarcus Cousins is a lock at backup center. That’s nine.

Which leaves three spots to be divided between Mason Plumlee, Andre Drummond, Chandler Parsons, Gordon Hayward and Kyle Korver. My guess is one of the two big men stays (Plumlee played and Drummond didn’t against Brazil) and one of the combo forwards (Parsons played, Gordon didn’t), then they keep Korver for the shooting. But things could shift after the USA faces a Dominican team Wednesday that’s not exactly intimidating with Al Horford out.