A bonus on a rainy day
It’s raining, it’s pouring and the old man would love to be snoring but a few other matters are pressing. Like a full mail bag.
So, because I like you, here’s a few in advance of Friday and before tonight’s game fills the old mailbag up again.
Remember, click here to send along your greetings.
Q: I mean this in the most non-sarcastic way possible. At what point in the season does the 'it's too early to draw conclusions' mindset stop being valid? When can statistics be used practically to infer larger trends? I ask not to justify my own belief, but because I'd like to better understand the decision making of Sam and Bryan.
Dave Benner, Toronto
A: I’d say pretty soon. Sure, there are 71 left before tonight and the East is a cesspool of mediocrity at the moment but bad habits developed early – like losing and inconsistency – are harder to break the longer the season goes on.
I’d say 20 games, a quarter of the season, is a pretty good benchmark to find out exactly what’s what. That gives ‘em nine more to find that missing consistency, passion and effort.
I know Bryan Colangelo isn’t going to sit back and let them get too buried before trying his hardest to shake things up and hopefully improve things.
Q: For a change of pace: Q's about assistant coaches.
a) What salary range do they earn generally (and why do they coach after making millions as a player...must be love of the game)
b) What specific responsibilities/assignments do the Raps coaches have
c) What real authority (if any) do any have relative to their responsibility during a game (or does Sam make all game decisions including during time-outs, halftime)
d) What do YOU think of the Raps assistants (vs. the team's needs)
e) How much of the assistants' focus is on players (implementing coach's plans, mentoring individuals, etc) vs. Sam (be his listening board/supporter/kicker-in-the-pants when needed).
Doug, if you want a change-of-pace, come to North Bay on a Wednesday night and play hoops with the boys (40-60's) and then go for a beer to talk about how good we were...
Barry Pond, North Bay
A: Wow, a fine series of questions that don’t have to do with T.J., Jose, what’s wrong or what’s right.
Salaries range anywhere from about $150,000 to $750,000, depending on experience, the largesse of the organization and sometimes the whim of the head coach, who can go to bat with his bosses for more money for his assistants. I don’t know for sure where the Raptor assistants fall but it’s neither at the lowest nor highest ends. And they do it ‘cause it can be fun, it’s a pretty good lifestyle and the game gets in your blood.
Each Raptor assistant has a specific number of “teams” they are responsible for in advance planning. That means helping Sam devise the game plan, scouting, making sure all the players know what the opponents want to do. At practice, they worked interchangeably with all the players, but it’s mainly Mike Evans with the point guards, Jay Triano with the wing players and Alex English with the bigs.
Real authority? Well, Sam’s got the final say but he does listen and welcome input. That’s why you’ll see the assistant coach responsible for a specific team talk during timeouts, then there might be a quick general discussion of what they need to do and what they might change and then Mitchell makes the final call.
I think this team is very well served by its assistants. They are all calm to Sam’s excitable, each has a great knowledge of the game and the ability to get their points across calmly and coolly to the players. They get along well, which is hugely important, and there is no ego or currying of favour from any of them. I can imagine Sam wouldn’t be the easiest guy to work for some days and that’s why their rather calm personalities are important.
The split? That’s impossible to say. It’s a balance they struck but from what I’ve seen at every practice I’ve been to and every game I’ve seen, they are able to devote as much time as necessary to teaching and as much time as necessary making sure Sam doesn’t kill someone. Like me or Stumpy.
North Bay? I’d go to North Bay, for sure. Play? Not so much. Even if I fit about the middle of your demographic. I hung ‘em up after an ACL playing pickup ball in Woodstock about a zillion years ago. Funny thing, though, I can sit and have an adult beverage and talk about how good we were any time you like.
Q: This is my first email to you. Love the Raptors and your column. Big problem as I see it with Toronto is that we have tremendous depth on the team. Doesn't really sound like a problem but it certainly is! In the NBA a good team uses maybe an eight- or nine-man rotation. When our depth puts us in a spot where we use only eight guys in a game and five pretty good players can't get in where does that leave us? Watching this team and still seeing the lack of leadership makes me wonder why Colangelo has not packaged off even a three for one deal for a great small forward or maybe the star centre we need?
Until we bring in a veteran star player I just don't see this team continuing the upswing most predicted.
Some combination of Garbajosa, Parker, Graham, Nesterovic and Dixon plus a first round pick or two have got to be able to bring us what we need.
I don't like to say it but even Ron Artest might bring this team to life! Brad Miller and Artest would do the trick!! The right piece or two and we are top contenders for THIS year. Mr. Colangelo can do it!
A: This is your first, so I’ll cut you some slack.
But, really, do you think they can just snap fingers and do three-for-one or even two-for-one, or even one-for-one deals for a veteran star player? If teams have “veteran star players” they tend to hang on to them.
And if you’re thinking of packaging three-for-one, the other guy is either going to have to have two empty roster spots or be willing to pay people not to play. Doesn’t happen too often.
I’m sure Bryan Colangelo, in the normal course of his business, makes cursory calls every day, I think he’ll get much more serious in trying to make a deal if this inconsistency continues but three-for-one? Don’t bet the house on that happening. It might. It probably won’t.
Q: Thanks for answering my question last season regarding the Phoenix Gorilla. I have another rather obscure question for you.
I was wondering what's up with the Raptors dinosaur logo, I remember hearing that they were trying to phase that out and go with the basketball/claw logo. However, I still see the dinosaur logo around quite a bit (on the NBA and team websites). I was wondering if they were attempting to phase out the dinosaur logo and others have not caught on, or if they are content with the presence of both?
Neil Acharya, Toronto
A: It’s on its way out, but not gone entirely. After all, you want The Chicken to dress up as a claw?
As long as the purple pinstripes don’t come back, they can phase it out as slowly as they like.
Q: I read an article by one of your co-workers (Dave Feschuk) that suggested Toronto needs to throw in more wrinkles to the offence because the high pick and roll is being defended really well. The question I had for you is, the Jazz are known as a team that will pick and roll you to death, especially when Stockton and Malone were on the team, do-did they have a lot of variation to the pick and roll offence? Is the Raptors’ real problem variation, or execution?
Anthony De Silva, Toronto
A: This is the easy way out but it’s a bit of both execution and variation.
There are enough ‘reads’ off the bread-and-butter, high-screen-and-roll that should make it more difficult to defend and those are the variables we aren’t seeing. They sort of go hand-in-hand.
The execution, at times, has been lacking. One of the ‘lifted’ guys, out above the three-point line, is supposed to dive through the paint if the ball goes to the big after the screen and sometimes that doesn’t happen.
It’d be nice, every now and then, to see the guy in the other corner cut along the baseline, maybe for a back-door pass, but that hardly occurs.
And the Jazz offence, which really hasn’t changed in about two decades under Jerry Sloan, is about the simplest in the NBA, and one of the most effective. Stockton and Malone knew the variables and the reads and ran ‘em to perfection time and time again. Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer are getting them down pat now and that’s why no team in the West is going to want to play Utah in the post-season.
Q: 'Bosh in one unfathomable funk' ... is it so unfathomable? If you were a scout or coach how would you defend Bosh? Now I am no Doug Smith, but my answer would be to put a slightly smaller, quicker defender on him. A quicker defender can get right up on him and put pressure on his outside shot, then stay in front of him if he drives.
Clog the middle once he shows he is going to drive and hit him as much as you can get away with. Whaddya think, Doug? Does that help you out?
Jim James, Kingston
A: No, you’re not Doug Smith ‘cause you don’t seem old, cynical and a tad bitter. But I digress.
How would I defend Chris Bosh? I’d double him quickly with a small when he catches the ball on the block and if I decided to not double at all, I’d tell my guy to get right up in his chest, make him put the ball on the floor. I’d push him as far away from the basket on the catch as I could and when, or if, he got by the guy in his chest, I’d make sure there was a second defender sliding over to try and draw a charge.
Now, I haven’t had a lot of NBA coaches, or scouts, call and ask for advice, but if they ever do, I’ve got some.
Q: I didn't realize the apparent impact Granger is having on the lowly Pacers.
I went back and looked at the '05 draft results as I recall hearing back then from the TV analysts that Granger was a highly touted athlete and that they were somewhat surprised to see him drop so far.
Given that the Raps took Graham one pick ahead of Granger, what are your thoughts in retrospect. Does the fact that the Pacers suck contribute to Granger's success or opportunity to succeed? In hindsight, would it have been a better choice by the Raps to pick Granger (I remember being disappointed that they didn't with that pick)? Is that choice going to end up being another on the list of Babcock's bonehead moves?
A.K., Richmond Hill
A: In retrospect, Granger probably was a better pick, but you’re right about him being an impact player on a bad team that’ll be lucky to win 35 games.
Here’s why they didn’t take him, though. There were concerns within the Raptor hierarchy about his knee, a fact that scared some other teams off, too. And if you recall, the Pacers shut Granger down for his first summer to deal with it.
I remember sitting with Rick Carlisle one night, when he was still coaching the Pacers and I asked him about Granger and the knee. He told me Indy’s doctors had said the kid needed a summer off from playing for treatment and conditioning and that, if Indiana did that, he would be fine. Seems they were right.
Q: For a reasonably informed beat writer, I'm surprised by your off-handed remarks about the Warriors (in the Biedrins section). The 0-6 is explained mostly by the suspension of the Warriors captain, Stephen Jackson. Unless all those six losses were to Eastern Conference teams, they will have plenty of time to make up the ground.
A: It was actually someone on Nellie’s staff who suggested it’d be January, maybe February before the Warriors dug themselves out of the 0-6 hole. I happen to agree with him.
And Jackson being out was a factor but a team with Al Harrington, Baron Davis and the Biedrins kid shouldn’t lose six in a row to start the season.
I really think the Warriors are life and death to make the playoffs out West, if they miss by a game or two, that 0-6 start will haunt them.