Keep the cards and letters coming
If this is Friday, it must be mail time.
But people, really, come on! Grammar and punctuation count and over the past week, I’ve seem some usage of the English language that makes me fear for our future as a literate society. Okay, end of sermon.
This week’s themes: Carlos’s dietary habits, AP’s missing piece and an answer we need from one of you.
Q: Quick question about contending teams and the salary cap. It seems like Phoenix will hit a wall soon, in part because (and correct me if I'm wrong) they are running into cap trouble from having so many good (and high-priced) players around. At the same time, it seems like San Antonio has been able to manage the cap well enough to stay consistently good for several years without having to pay the piper.
So my question is what has San Antonio done that Phoenix hasn't? And do the Raptors seem to have learned from San Antonio's example (on the surface, with $30M in cap space after next season, it would seem so)?
Appreciate the blog!
Asher Mercer, Toronto
A: There really are two issues at play here, the cap and the tax.
The Suns are under financial constraints – which is why they’ve traded away almost every draft pick for the last three years – because they don’t want to get over the tax threshold.
The Spurs, on the other hand, locked up guys like Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and even Fabricio Oberto to long-term, rather inexpensive deals at the start of their careers and reaped the benefits.
They also aren’t entirely afraid of the tax, I remember R.C. Buford telling a few of us at the final last year they would pay about $250,000 in tax.
I know the Raptors aren’t going to be a tax-paying team ever so you’d better hope Bryan Colangelo spends wisely. He sure has so far and has constructed the roster in such a way that he’ll have a lot of money to spend in a couple of years.
Q: I have an unusual question for you. In the game vs. the Celtics last week, I noticed Carlos Delfino was chewing gum. There is nothing wrong with that, but who plays high intensity sports with gum in his mouth? Are there lots of players who chew during the game?
Simon Couvrette, Ottawa
A: I must admit I never noticed him chewing but if you say he was, that’s enough for me. It is a bit unusual, I can’t remember another Raptor who chewed. And if I remember back in the day, my Mom always worrying that’d I swallow my gum when I ran, can’t imagine what Delfino’s family thinks.
Q: Early this week you said Anthony Parker is missing 'something'... Can you elaborate? Also, I read (your article I think) that Garbo is upset with his playing time. Do you think this will have an impact on the dressing room? Or do you think he'll just come more motivated each practice and wait for the opportunity to shine?
Frank Butara, Ottawa
A: I’m not exactly sure what that “something” is but there is something lacking. Maybe it’s confidence, his shot doesn’t look as free as it did at times last year, but I think he’ll get it back.
One thing that may have affected him adversely is/was the presence of Andrea Bargnani in the starting lineup. There’s only so much room on the court and Bargnani occupied some that Parker was used to using and it takes a while adapt. I imagine the insertion of Rasho Nesterovic in the starting five will help Parker get over the funk he seems to be in. That and seeing a few of his shots go in, of course.
And the Garbo story wasn’t mine but Garbo’s a pro, even if he’s ticked, he’s not going to let it fester and become an issue in the locker room.
Q: I wonder if when the Raptors play teams that have star wing players that they cannot match up to defensively, they can slow them down by running relentlessly on offence and coming off screens a la Rip Hamilton. I think Ray Allen and his surgically-repaired ankles wouldn't have had as much jump in overtime if he was on the run for all of his 49 minutes.
Marc L., Scarborough
A: To run like Rip Hamilton, you have to have skills like Rip Hamilton and no one on the Raptors does. That might be one reason they don’t scoot off screens and make defenders work extra hard that way.
I’m sure Toronto would love to have a guy like Rip, or Reggie Miller in his day, but they don’t; to ask players like Parker, Kapono or Delfino to step so out of character is unfair, and counter-productive.
Q: 'Raptors ready to ring a few bells?’ Thanks for the article, which I thought was very good, and more so, it's encouraging to hear Sam finally speak up a little about an aspect of the game he was familiar with.
Is this new for you to hear Sam talk about this aspect of the game? And do you think that without this part of the game the Raps could ever be anything other then a mid pack team?
Steph Regnier, Glencoe
A: Sam does talk about the need for toughness – stuff like setting good screens, fighting hard through screens, going after loose balls and rebounds aggressively – often; it’s one of his consistent themes.
And I do think they can be much more than a middle-of-the-pack team as presently constructed and I also think him hammering home that message about toughness will get through to some guys, who’ll start setting hard screens and doing all those other, little things that help so much.
Who? I think Delfino’s got it in him; I think Bargnani’s got it in him; I know Garbo does and I think Humphries does, too.
Q: Long time reader first time inquirer. Just a quick thing I noticed in the nba.com boxscores new this year. What's the stat column between blocked shots and total pts? My friends and I were toying with a couple (like broken ankles, oh wait Kaman had 3 last night, forget it...)
Brian Chan, Etobicoke
A: You know what? I have no idea and there’s no one around to call at the moment. I’m sure one of our alert readers will send a comment to the blog and let us both know. And I’m sure there are several of you saying right now, “See, I knew Smith didn’t know a dang thing. The dope."
Q: Hey, Doug. I'm a big fan of Anotine Walker so you can just imagine how happy I am that the entire Raptor team has decided to mold their game after him. Too many players in the league now dribble the ball up the floor and run a play or make a smart decision based on what the defense is doing. That's an all right way to play if you enjoy winning and don't mind working for your millions. Why should they waste all this energy on defence and trying to get to the basket. It's so much harder to shoot over a defender when your tired. Anyway here's my question, why does Sam always put TJ back in the end of the game when Jose was the one running the team when they made there run?
Dan West, Newmarket
A: You do sarcasm well. Very well.
T.J. Ford is averaging 14.8 points per game, 7.6 assists a game, has an assist-to-turnover ratio of almost four to one and has the single highest one-game scoring total for the team this year, a game that included a huge layup late in regulation and a gutsy game-tying three 4.4 seconds from the overtime buzzer.
You’re right. How DARE THEY PLAY HIM!
Q: Hi Doug. Love the blog. I've noticed a disturbing trend in two of the Raptor's recent games. (Wednesday) against Orlando, Dwight Howard was forced to sit with five fouls early in the fourth quarter. The same thing happened Sunday against Boston with Garnett getting into foul trouble early in the fourth. Both players came back into the game around the five-minute mark of the fourth but neither picked up their sixth foul. Can you tell me why the Raptors wouldn't attack these players and try to get them to foul out or at least get some easy baskets? They could have won both games if they had been more aggressive against big time players in foul trouble. Is this the players fault, Sam's fault or both?
Perry Keleher, Ottawa
A: It is a disturbing trend, indeed. Oh, they knew, and they tried, but they couldn’t get either of them out of the game. The one thing they don’t do well, as has been oft-discussed, is attack big men in the post. But to say they would have won? I’m not sure about that; Boston still had Paul Pierce and Ray Allen and Orlando had future Hall of Famers Hedo Turkoglu and Keith Bogans and that might have been enough.
Got a question or comment? Click here to access Doug's mail bag, and he'll answer a selection after every Raptors game, and more in his regular mail bag every Friday.