Another day, more mail
As I promised, here’s some more mail that could have been delivered yesterday. You folks continue to amaze. I see there's more in there today so guess I'll have some work to do this afternoon.
Q: A few weeks ago, I think after the Portland game, it was mentioned that a few of the Raps were perhaps getting on each others cases a bit. With everyone admitting that the time away from each other over Christmas was needed, I was wondering if you knew if any of the players, and who exactly, was perhaps getting a little bit chippy with each other during that stretch of games?
Rob F, Toronto
A: I think that was pretty overblown, as a matter of fact. I didn’t see any obvious friction outside of the normal, which usually manifests itself in questions about blown defensive coverages or ill-advised shots. This remains a close team – not as close as last year, I don’t think – and there have been no serious, specific flare-ups.
You’re going to get friction every now and then, they had a little last year, I’m sure. But that’s just normal. It gets forgotten pretty quickly.
Q: Hope you had a great holiday. My wife and I both come from big Greek families so mine was all about gaining 20 lbs (my father-in-law's bbq'ed lamb chops are to die for) and visiting every uncle and aunt known to mankind. (Not so much to die for)
Now for my question: What kind of relationship do Bargs and Bosh have? I keep reading this locker room is great and everyone loves each other but does he push him, tell him his mistakes, is he happy that he's back in the starting line-up even though Rasho was playing great? Where do they stand as teammates and does it go beyond that?
Jimmy T, Toronto
A: On Bosh and Bargs: They have a good teammate relationship, they don’t hold hands and sing Kumbaya around the locker room or call each other every night to see what the other guy’s wearing to school the next day but they get along.
I have noticed more instances in the last four games of Bosh taking Bargnani aside during games to point out different things like defensive rotations and offensive ideas and that’s got something to do with them finally having to play extended minutes alongside each other.
Q: J. Magloire plays only 4-5 minutes last night against Orlando. What has happened to this guy? He seems to have lost it.
A: Yes, I believe he has. I think as a backup centre who is supposed to rebound and defend, he’d be okay but I think he thinks he’s entitled to a larger role than that. On that Nets, he isn’t and it’s reflected in his time. If the Nets are starting Josh Boone ahead of him, that’s a signal that he’s far, far out of favour.
Q: Do you think TJ would benefit by talking to Steve Nash about taking care of his back? I know they are different problems but Nash seems to have a very good routine for keeping his back in game shape and this might have some significance.
Lyndon L, Toronto
A: Apples and oranges, unfortunately. T.J.’s problems are not muscular or anything that the kind of extensive preventative methods Nash undertakes could help.
Q: I know you hate the whole trade speculation game, but I have to ask: what do you think about David Lee? Specifically, the chances of the Raps making a deal for him? He's got the skills this team needs (rebounding and low-post play), he's not getting any minutes in New York, he reportedly wants out and he makes very little. Since Isiah seems capable of anything, can you see this happening? Would Colangelo be interested?
Nolan T, Toronto
A: I’m going to answer your question with a question: Is David Lee appreciably better than Kris Humphries? I don’t know the answer to that, honestly.
And I don’t think Lee, even if he is better than Humphries, is going to help Toronto win a playoff series.
Q: I have a Basketball 101 question for you. In close games nearing the end of the 4th quarter, I never understood the point of the trailing team trying to foul the leading team immediately after they inbound the ball. The leading team then gets free throws, which are relatively easy to make, thus increasing their lead even more. Does this strategy actually work for the trailing team? What is the advantage of this strategy?
Clement M, Toronto
A: To extend the game, it’s a simple as that. And hope someone misses a free throw. I know it’s not exactly the same but think of the other night, a 90 per cent shooter in Chris Paul missed two crucial foul shots with 25 seconds left in a one-point game, so it happens.
Fouling immediately stops the clock more quickly, which is why teams do it right away. If you’re going to extend the game, extend it as much as possible.
Q: Hello Doug: Looking back don’t you think now that the trade Nesterovic-Bonner was a bad trade. Wouldn't it have been a lot cheaper to keep Bonner? It looks now that Nesterovic was a good idea to have only for last year, in Bargnani's rookie year. Now he is pretty much useless to the Raptors. What the Raptors need is a tough front-court guy who can rebound and play defence. Rasho and Bargnani are both soft, they don’t rebound well enough and they are both a defensive liability, the only difference is Bargnani is young and can score. By the way, Humps has been great, but they need another tough big man.
Thomas F, Edmonton
A: Hang on, you’re not suggesting Matt’s a “tough front-court guy who can rebound and play defence” are you? At the time, Toronto had no centres and Matt was very much a work in progress so it made sense then. And seeing how the Raptors have evolved, with more than enough outside shooting, it makes sense today.
Q: Rasho has gone from starter to getting his first DNP-CD of the season. Do you see Colangelo trying to move him (BIG contract with only next season left) in a big deal?
Brian S, Toronto
A: I’m sure Bryan will bring up Rasho’s name in trade talks over the next seven weeks but Nesterovic’s deal includes next year at around $8 million so teams might be leery of taking that on. A year from now, or in the summer, might be more likely.
Q: Doug – would hate for you to actually have to watch commercials during the games (Thursday). Anyway, my question: Are the Raps running plays now to get Jamario a jump-shot from just inside the 3-point line? It sounds bizarre with so many bona-fide shooters on the floor, and given we all know Jamario’s better getting to the rim, but they seemed to run a pick-and-roll for him about a half-dozen times last game, and Sam didn’t look particularly exacerbated when he launched a 17-foot brick.
Alex L, Barrie
A: Commercials? I didn't have control of the clicker so I’m wasn't even sure what’s on besides the Iowa caucuses and Gossip Girls.
Anyway, my answer: If they are running plays for Moon, it’s to get him the ball to drive it, not shoot it. Every time he catches it on the wing, coaches and teammates want him to drive. A shot every now and then is okay to keep teams honest but when they give him the ball, they want him to go to the rim.
Q: Over the years I have heard many references to Phil Jackson's 'triangle offence' with the Bulls and the Lakers. I must confess I don't exactly know what it is? Can you help?
Wayne M, Burlington
A: Probably not as much as some. I guess the short answer is that it’s a motion offence initiated more often by small forwards and shooting guards rather than point guards and doesn’t depend on a great low-post presence. It’s an offence of cuts and reads and really takes a team of familiar players to work at the optimum. It’s not something you can teach over night, or even in one training camp.
Of course, it’s easy to run a triangle offence when you’ve got guys like Jordan and Kobe to bail a team out when the shot clock’s running down and those reads and cuts aren’t working.
Q: Any particular reason, other than cap space, that the Raptors didn't take a run at Richard Jefferson last summer? I thought then he was the type of player we needed, and it seems even more so now. He runs, drives, rebounds and just generally works hard. Average jump shot, but we already have a team full of so-called shooters.
Next, any comment on CB4's defence? He seems to be a good team defender but I've been suspicious of his desire in covering his own guy at times this year. Few lazy turnovers recently as well. Don't get me wrong, I think he's brilliant, but sometimes wish the intensity we see in him for short spurts was present for a full 48.
David L, Oakville
A: Um, they didn’t go after Jefferson because he wasn’t available.
Bosh’s defence? It could be better, no question. He’s a good help defender, not a bad off-the-ball shotblocker but he’s got to be tougher at moving his man off the block than he is.
Q: Hey Doug, Doug here. Here's a B-Ball 101 question. In a tight game with the lead down the stretch and only a second and a bit left, on an inbound play like in the Hornets' game, why wouldn't the Raptors's toss the ball into their own court and collect it to kill the clock?
It seems to me like the easiest way to kill 1.5 seconds. You would catch the other team sleeping and those ticks would slide off the clock once the ball was collected rather than trying to force the ball into a crowd in the defence's end and risk a turnover and (albeit a highly improbable) chuck down the court.
I guess it would go against conventional wisdom of keeping the ball as far away from your own basket as possible, but I'm sure most NBA players can pick a ball off the bounce with a very marginal chance of error (except for maybe araujo of course - haha).
Doug E, Toronto
A: On those plays, when the clock won’t start until someone touches the ball, all they want to do is complete a pass, anywhere on the court. If I’m reading you right, you’re saying throw it up and go get it? Why create a race when you can run screens and get the ball inbounds to someone?
Q: Okay, here's my question: if you could turn the clock back to mid-2006 AND knowing what you know TODAY (please do not reply with "let's see where things develop in the coming months/years"; I'm strictly speaking about the knowledge we have available to us at the moment) would you do things differently so that the Raps line-up has Charlie V and LaMarcus Aldridge instead of TJ and Andrea?
Kevin R, Winnipeg
A: No. Because Charlie would be a backup three, Aldridge is the same player as Bosh and there’d be a weakness at point guard in Toronto.
Q: I know you preach patience and I agree with you, but after the recent road trip I couldn't help but speculate on the longer-term future of the Raps.
Watching the play of the young teams in Portland and Seattle, one can't help but see an extremely bright future for both teams. Young stars, plenty of cap room, and strong draft positions for at least one more year. You could possibly add Atlanta and maybe even Charlotte to this mix.
When you compare the not-quite as young Raptors to these up-and-comers I wonder how good the future Raps will be. It seems local fans and media assume an NBA title challenge is on the not-to-distant horizon. But do the Raps currently possess the young talent the aforementioned squads do? Might it be quite possible that for the next three to five years, the Raptors will fill that Milwaukee Bucks/Indiana Pacers role - always finishing the season somewhere between 6th and 12th place in the East?
Joe S, Kingston
A: I think that’s the absolute worry, that they become some middle of the pack team that makes the playoffs but makes no noise. I do believe, though, that with continued improvement from within – Bosh, Bargnani and Ford, specifically – they will become a legitimate conference contender. I guess it’s possible, but I think they’ve got the talent, with continued improvement, to be much better than that middle-of-the-road team you’re referring to.
I see a much, much brighter future in Portland and Seattle than I do in Atlanta and Charlotte, by the way.
Q: With no news yet of TJ even returning to practice it is pretty clear that the Raps need a serviceable back up to Jose. That appears to be Juan for now, but to me he still seems to look for his own shot too often. My question is why does Sam prefer Juan to Carlos at the point. Carlos did a great job doing it for Argentina this summer and too me just seems better suited to that position than Juan. Second question, do you think that this new role for Juan keeps him a part of the Raps after the trade deadline.
Paul M, Ottawa
A: He prefers Juan because Carlos already has a role and it’s less disruptive in the big picture to train Juan to fill that backup PG role than to give that job to Carlos and then have to find someone else to be a wing scorer/defender off the bench.
I saw Carlos in Vegas do an admirable job but I am quick to remind you that playing Paraguay and Uruguay and whatever other guays there were is not the same as running an NBA offence.
I do think Juan is off the table, tradewise, for the time being but there’ a long, long time ‘til the trade deadline.