From Comcast SportsNetTORONTO (AP) -- Brian Burke's brash and outspoken style wasn't a good fit for the new corporate owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs.The Maple Leafs fired their general manager Wednesday with the NHL season set to resume this month following a tentative settlement ending the lockout.Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President Tom Anselmi said at a news conference that longtime Burke assistant David Nonis will fill the job. Burke will stay as a senior adviser.Anselmi acknowledged that four years without a playoff berth factored into the decision. But ultimately, he added, ownership wanted a different look at the top.Canada's largest telecommunication companies, Rogers Communications and BCE Inc., took control of the Toronto Maple Leafs and NBA's Toronto Raptors after the 1.3 billion deal closed in August."Brian had a style and we knew what we were getting when he was hired a number of years ago," Anselmi said. "This is really about a change in leadership voice and leadership direction."Anselmi fired Burke on Wednesday morning, the announcement startling many. Nonis was among those who didn't see the firing coming."Brian, when we were talking this morning, said I get it, ownership is changing,'" Anselmi said.The new board of directors let Burke go before the Maple Leafs might have had a chance to make the playoffs in a lockout-shortened season. Toronto has not made the playoffs since Burke was hired in 2008. The club last played in the postseason in 2004 and hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1967.Anselmi stressed that the personnel Burke put in place will make for a seamless transition. Nonis, without Burke's outsized personality, said there won't be a great player turnover.Before joining Toronto, Burke spent more than three seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, leading them to a Stanley Cup title in 2007. Nonis worked with Burke in Anaheim and when Burke was general manager of the Vancouver Canucks. Nonis also replaced Burke in Vancouver, compiling a record 130-91-25 as general manager.Burke's most debated move was a deal with Boston in 2009 when he acquired forward Phil Kessel for two first-round draft picks and a second-round selection. The Bruins used the picks to select star forward Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight.Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul called the timing of the dismissal "weird.""We haven't made the playoffs in however many years so the blame is falling right now on the GM," he said. "He's the guy the brought a lot of us in and we didn't get the job done."
Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.
Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.
Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.
“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”
He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.
“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.
He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.
With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.
“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”
He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.
No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.
There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.
It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.
“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”
He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.
Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.
So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.
“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”
Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.
“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”
And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.
“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”