In the words of the great thespian Frank Barone, ‘Holy crap!’
I asked you boys and girls for some mailbag stuff yesterday and man, did you deliver (Get it? Mailbag? Deliver? I slay me sometimes). Seriously, it was overwhelming, three straight hours answering questions while watching a great Bulls-Sonics finish and the Iowa caucuses.
So what I’ve got to do is break it up, ‘cause no one would read a 5,500-word mailbag. Here’s about half, I’ll put the other half up tomorrow. If you don’t see your question here, check back, I'll get to it.
And the theme’s: Too numerous to mention.
Q: Doug, I'm really into unsolvable mysteries. Is there life on Mars? Are the buttons for pedestrians to change the lights at intersections really connected? Finally, how does Isiah ever keep his job this long?
Terry S, Pickering
A: When I find out how they get the Caramilk in a Caramilk bar or who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong, I’ll let you know.
Seriously, though, maybe it’s a case of the Knicks not wanting to throw good money after bad in a season that’s already lost and he keeps his job until the end of the year. Either that or Jim Dolan’s too preoccupied with his band to notice.
Q: What do you think the chances are of Jose Calderon being a coaches decision to play in the All-Star game? He is third in eastern assist average behind Kidd and Tinsley, He is doubling former MVP's in assist-turnover ratio. Will he be overlooked by the league, as I feel he has been being a bench role player the past couple of seasons?
Craig J., Belleville
A: It’s not the league who’s going to determine Calderon’s all-star fate, it’s the coaches, who vote for the backups. And if they’re taking two point guards, it’s probably going to be Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups; if they take three, or if one of those other two don’t want to go, I’d bet Calderon’s next in line. Who else?
Q: Hello Doug, I'm wandering what's the contract situation of Samuel Dalembert in Philly? Is there any chance the Raptors could get him via trade this year or free agency next year? I really believe he'd be an incredible addition for the Raptors by making them legit contenders and Colangelo should really go after him. Your thoughts?
Doug N, Toronto
A: Dalembert has about $34 million left on his contract after this season. He’d be the most over-paid backup in the history of basketball if he came to Toronto and played behind Bosh and Bargnani. Forget it.
And he’s not that good, anyway. That contract is outrageous.
Q: Hey Doug, will the Raptors make any significant trades before the trade deadline? I believe we need a big guy in the middle, to strengthen our inside game, plus give Chris, some help defensively. A guy we might be able to get Bogut, who else do you think we can get? We also need another point-guard, Jose has been playing well, but how long can he go like that. Please provide some trade suggestion that might happen or should happen. Thanks.
A: This makes two questions I’ve seen dealing with the Raptors getting Andrew Bogut. Ain’t gonna happen. The Bucks aren’t going to trade him, they see Bogut and Yi as their frontcourt of the future and why not
Sorry, to you and the other writer who wondered about Bogut.
As for others, I really don’t know. The trade deadline isn’t for six or seven weeks, let’s think about it more seriously sometime in February.
Q: It seems to me that Bosh has a much higher success rate when he is decisive when going to the basket. Sometimes when he hesitates for about 3-4 seconds he ends up taking a tough shot because the defence is set, or he gets stripped. My question is, what do you think factors in to him hesitating vs. driving to the basket as soon as he gets the ball. Maybe knowing he has a favourable matchup helps him move quicker? And what do you think is going through his head when he does hesitate?
Amanda F, Barrie
A: I think there are two reasons Bosh hesitates, and he does do it far too often.
The first is because he’s not sure he can beat his man off the dribble if he’s closely guarded; the second is he’s looking for a cutter or some weak-side movement that he can use to either pass the ball quickly or movement that will delay the inevitable double-team. It’s something he’s working on, and something the coaches are hammering home to him daily.
Q: First off, I am in the 'anti' "Trade/start/beatify Jose" group. Since PG is the key to a successful offence, why would anyone want to break up the best situation in the NBA? I truly believe that no other team in the NBA can match Toronto in that regard - although, I imagine many, if not all, would die for such a situation.
Having said that, right now the Raps have Jose as the starting PG, with Dixon as his 'relief.' In your opinion (which I respect IMMENSELY - that should help to get this published, right?), how does that compare to other NBA teams around the league? I mean, the Raps are using 'Plan B' - and I think they look like a 'typical' team at the PG spot. What do you think?
Tim H, Windsor
A: People want to break it up because they can’t get it through their thick heads that having two quality point guards each willing to play their roles is a good thing.
Now, however, the Raptors have a good, far from great, point guard rotation, just like about 15 other teams in the league. You’re going to see Jose play 34, 35 minutes a night, Dixon play 13 or 14, just like you see on so many other teams. It’s not going to yield the numbers that Jose-TJ do, but it’s certainly not as bad as some teams out there. It is, in my opinion, a playoff-calibre situation.
Q: Us Canadians living over here in Israel (especially this former coach) watched AP come through big-time in the Euroleague championships time after time. I still have a vivid image of his clutch shot from the elbow in crunch time. Do you think Sam and the staff has done enough to get his confidence cooking? Can they run a couple of things for him when CB4 or Calderon are on the pine? I think he could spend some time backing up the point along with Dixon, running pick ‘n rolls and isolating smaller PG's.
Tuvia A, Israel
A: I don’t think confidence is a problem. The staff has it in him, and he’s got it in himself. I think it took longer than anyone expected for him to get used to playing significant minutes alongside Bargnani, who occupies a lot of the same space Parker does. I think what you’ll see in the next little while is him getting more used to running corner to corner on the baseline for jumpers and back-door cuts rather than running the curls where he runs into a big man.
Q: What is the average life span of an NBA? Reason I ask is that I'm pretty sure you and I could defend "horns up" at this point.
A: Well, they’ve been running high screen and roll for time immemorial so I guess ‘horns up’ can last a couple of seasons. It does need some tweaking, though, which is what the staff is trying to do now. It’s a tried and true play that many teams use (with different terminology) and it’s how they make alterations later in the year, and reads off it play-to-play that makes it effective.
And I don’t know about you, my man, but my days as a defensive stopper ended with my career at the University of Welland back in the day.
Q: Hi Doug, love reading your column but so far I have no luck getting my mail into the blog but here goes, would it be wise for a coach to change the starting five every game based on matching up an opponent's weaknesses and strengths. It keeps the other team guessing and messes up scouting. Since no Raptor have any ego issues and team chemistry is not a problem, this scheme would work for them. Like start a small quick starters against a slow half court team or I've seen this scheme watching soccer-Arsenal Gunners of EPL, they consistently change their starting lineup but still comes up with wins.
Bert S, Mississauga
A:I don’t think it would be wise, no. NBA players are creatures of habit mostly and starters like to start, backups get used to coming off the bench. There’s a different mindset, really, and once you get used to one, it takes some time to change. And if you’re worried about matching up with other teams, why not let them worry about matching up with you?
Now, I’m not a big EPL fan so I’ll take your word on the Arsenal thing.
Q: I'm an avid reader of your blog and I'm wondering what record you think the Boston Celtics will end up with this season? Also, what are some of the all-time best records in the NBA?
Ret J, Toronto
A: If you’re really an avid reader, I thank you for not making a snarky remark about my original contention that the Celtics would be life-and-death to make the playoffs. I believe they are close to clinching a spot now.
How many will they win? How about 60-63? That’d be a good guess now, wouldn’t it?
Most wins in a season was 72 by the ’95-96 Bulls; the ’71-72 Lakers and ’96-97 Bulls each won 69 and the ’66-67 Sixers won 68.
The best Boston team: The ’72-73 Celtics won 68 and that’s the record this version is chasing.
Q: Assuming TJ gets back, something I have long contended is Sam must find a way to have both TJ and Jose on the floor at the same time, presumably with TJ handling the point and Jose, whose shot has improved greatly, playing the 2.
Could you or someone push or ask the prickly Mitchell this, or assuming you know the answer please let me and the other readers know?
Mike D, Cambridge
A: We’ve asked him about it often. And the answer has always been consistent.
He doesn’t want to use them together because he needs them to share PG duties and doesn’t want to get them both tired at the same time. He also doesn’t think either of them is a two-guard who can come off screens and get off shots, they are more creators than anything.
Only time you’ll see them is in the dying seconds of close games when he needs ball-handlers and good free throw shooters on the court.
Q: What's the scoop on Bryan Colangelo? Is he here long term or is this just a stepping stone? I see the Knicks as a possible destination and that worries me. Can you imagine Bryan with the Dolan's cash and luxury tax payments?
Brian M, Barrie
A: Yes, he’s long-term. His name is linked in media reports to the still-not-vacant Knicks job because that’s what some reporters do. They look around, find a name and write it. But I asked him point blank about it months ago and he assured me his job is here.
Q: Hi Doug, I was thinking the other night and came up with Graham + our 1st to a lower tier team for their 1st. That should allow us to draft a top 3 SG or SF who can slash, drive the basket and who gets mean ... something we sorely lack. The lower tier team can likely afford to give Joey the minutes he needs to develop plus they will probably get a top 20 pick.
Could this be the sort of deal BC is looking at or does he feel he can bring in the type of player in the form of a veteran? (option c: I'm dreaming)
Bill L, Toronto
A: Wouldn’t a lower tier team rather have a higher draft pick so they could take someone better, and younger, than Joey. And, with all due respect to Graham, who is a good guy who has played well at times in the past, he has little or no trade value at the moment.
Q: I know it's often been called the best trade in franchise history, but what do you think know, who would you rather have, Vince Carter or Antawn Jamison? Also, how did Antawn end up in Washington?
Poly D, Peterborough
A: Today? Probably Jamison. The first nine years or so of their careers, probably Carter. No one knows better than I how badly it ended here, but even the harshest Carter critic has to admit he was a pretty damn special player for a lot of years in Toronto. And Jamison got to Washington in the Jerry Stackhouse trade with Dallas after spending a season with the Mavs.
Q: Happy New Year, Doug. Over the holidays, I was watching a game with my son-in-law, who used to be a good rebounder and inside defender in a respectable city league. He's now a young, hard working father of two toddlers who doesn't have much time to watch games on TV. He was quite interested to see Bargnani's game, having heard Andrea's pre-season vow to become a better rebounder and defensive presence inside to complement his perimeter game and ability to put the ball on the floor. My son-in-law was surprised that Bargnani doesn't seem to know how to get position for a rebound, or how to crash the boards effectively. He wondered who on the coaching staff was responsible for correcting this and what that coach is doing to make Andrea a better rebounder and defensive presence inside. Me, too.
John-Peter B, Ottawa
A: It’s not one guy, it’s a collective effort. They tell him and show him and make him watch hours of tape. You can’t point to one assistant or one head coach and say he’s the guy responsible, that’s not how it works. Alex English, who knows a thing or six about scoring points in the NBA, works with Bargnani on his post game and his offence but when it comes to defence and rebounding, if anyone sees a way to help, or teach, they do it.
Q: I have always been highly critical of our advance scouting. It seemed that regular watchers of out of town games knew what plays were going to be run by visiting teams more than the Raptors themselves. This seems to have improved this year and I'm wondering if you feel the same. I know they instituted a new system and have greatly improved their video department over the past 2 years. I think all they need now is to add one or two new coaches to the staff. I still think we are woefully shorthanded there.
Like you, I detest the whole pyro/big production stuff during games. Just come out and play. One thing I would love, though, is to see a university type band like they have in college ball and the Argos use. I think the players would get into it as well. You can easily put them where the DJs (gag) are or up where they put the drum guys. Either location would allow the team to do so and not affect any dollars they get from ticket sales. Have you seen anything on the road you would love to see here?
Scott P, Toronto
A: You’ve got to trust me on this one: They get as good, or better, advance scouting as any team in the league. The guy they’ve got doing it, Micah Nori, has done it for years and he knows other team’s stuff as well as anyone. The scouting reports that land in the players’ lockers are as detailed as any.
A university band? Cool. But not nearly hip or edgy or young enough for the NBA, I’m afraid. After all, you can’t have someone scratching vinyl or screaming incomprehensibly into a microphone with a band. I’d be all for it, though. But I’m old and suburban.
Anything on the road that I like? Nope. Nada. It’s all pretty much the same. The one thing I’m glad they don’t have here are fat old men dancing in sometime out. That’s not remotely funny. Gross is more like it.
Q: With Friday's game being televised nationally south of the border on ESPN, I thought this was a good time to ask 2 specific questions.
First, when was the last time the Raptors had a regular season game on ESPN or TNT? I think I remember a Suns game back in 2001 or something.
Also, what is the perception of this team from the Mike Breens and Mark Jacksons of the world? Do U.S. analysts give this team its due respect?
Chris B, Toronto
A: You know, we’re trying to remember the last time these guys were on national TV in the States. It wasn’t in the Sam Mitchell era, I don’t recall a national game under Kevin O’Neill so you’re talking 2002-03. Maybe even earlier. The Suns game you recall as the first time they were ever on NBC, Vince went for 51 on Feb. 27, 2001.
Perception: Among the people I talk to out there, and whose opinion I respect, is that this is a good team that can be very good, a dangerous team because of the number of good shooters surrounding Chris Bosh and not a team anyone wants to meet in the playoffs.
Q: Yet another submission, I wonder if this one will make the cut. Going back to the Feschuk piece a couple of weeks ago about the obliviousness of athletes to pressing issues like environmental degradation, I was wondering if there are any NBA'ers out there who are actually conscious of such things, and if any of these issues ever give you a moment of pause in regards to your work in the context of this larger reality?
Nicholas L, Guelph
A: There are some, probably about the same percentage in any workplace. Steve Nash is the one that comes immediately to mind, another one is Adonal Foyle of the Magic, who has political aspirations, I believe. I’m sure there are others dotted around the league, just like there are dotted around various industries.
Me? I sometimes wonder about the context of sports in the big, wide world but I do think it’s a great diversion from the general crap that’s going on around us and I do believe it has the ability to galvanize communities at times. All of which is a good thing.
Does it get a disproportionate amount of importance? Probably. But if you can watch a game and not war coverage, I think that’s a good break every now and then.