If it's Friday, it must be mailbag day
This just in: Too much mail.
And I had to cut out a whole lot of TJ-Jose questions because, in a shocking development, they were more rants and comments than questions.
But, like always, it seems, there’ll be this today and more on the weekend. Have fun.
Q: If you do go to the wonderful restaurant HOUSE OF TRICKS in Tempe, Arizona, make sure YOU do not fall afoul of the law lest you be Shackled.
I like Coach Mitchell's "show no panic to players" approach as we enter this crucial time. We've been running on fumes lately, needing, but not getting, bigger contributions from the likes of Bargnani, Delfino, Kapono. It's a step at a time/focus on the moment message to players. We are all disappointed that our opponents appear to be a step faster than we a lot of the time: this is a talent question. Coach Jack McKinney (Portland, NBA champs 1977) has said you cannot ask a player to play beyond his talent but you can ask for:
- winning attitude.
How would you evaluate our team on these three counts as we head down the stretch?
Charles N, Toronto
A: Jack McKinney was outstanding.
Rebounding: They remain 28th in the league as I type but Moon’s had some okay games of late and I think they’ll be much better with Rasho playing an expanded role. They are still not very good, though.
Effort: they do play hard almost every night, I can’t think of but two nights when they simply ‘didn’t have it.’ Those being Milwaukee early and Denver a week or so ago. I believe their effort will be consistent and good, the rest of the way.
Winning attitude: That’s got to improve. I think Sam said it best this week when he mention (and I paraphrase here) they sometimes “hope” an opponent misses or makes a bad play instead of “forcing” them into errors. Sometimes down the stretch they look like they’re playing not to lose rather than to win and that’s got to change.
Q: So the Supersonics and Oklahoma City, is a done deal right? If so, are they going to still be in the western conference? (I have no idea were Oklahoma City is) because if not, KD man, especially in the east, gunna blow-up in the next years.
Tim L, London
A: Gunna? I should not answer on that word alone.
But, yes, the Oklahoma City Sonics will be in the west. Go check an atlas.
Q: Lately I've had this little voice in the back of my head that keeps saying the words "Nik Antropov" every time I read about Bargs in your column or blog.
Somehow my subconscious sees a parallel: raw talent, failure to progress, inability to learn the basics.
I don't want to feel this way about our #1 pick. Can you help me with that? Just tell me I'm crazy OK...
Jay D, London
A: Who is this Antropov of whom you speak? Can't find him the NBA Register (I joke).
I’m told by People Who Know Pucks that Antropov has morphed into the Second Best Player On A Non-Playoff Team. They better hope Bargnani’s better than he is. And I think he will be.
Q: A quick question wouldn't Matt Barnes fit the Raptors well? What are the changes of BC chasing him this summer?
Harm E, Amsterdam
A: Everyone thought Matt Barnes was going to be great off last year’s playoffs, he’s been very, very average this season. They need someone better than he is.
Q: My question is regarding Bargs, whenever the TV camera cuts to the bench, I have never seen him smile or interacting or talking to any of his teammates, do you know if he is close with any of the guys? I think that it is easy for us (the fans) to forget how hard it has to be for a young guy to leave his country, family, friends and move somewhere where you barely can speak the language. Any insights into how he is doing?
Tim B, Cambridge
A: Sure, he’s close to guys. Quite tight with Carlos, you see him chatting with Garbo a lot. I think he’s doing just fine, actually. It’s not like he’s some friendless dude cast off into a corner.
Q: How interested do you think BC is in Shawn Marion? Yes, he is a head-case but even so he has a unique and very flexible set of skills, including defensive ones. He won't opt out of his deal for next year but I'm guessing the Heat don't extend him either. Any chance of seeing him in 2009-10?
Sam S, Toronto
A: I doubt it. I think Marion’s going to be too expensive that summer because I think Colangelo’s going to try to make his big splash this year.
And regular readers will know I’m not a huge fan of Marion’s game, especially at the pricetag he carries.
Q: Garbo was huge when he played, he was a version of a Charles Oakley, a player that played hard knew his strengths, had a decent shot and did all the things that did not show up on that stat sheet.
What are his chances of playing with us next year?
Chris B, Toronto
A: I think the chances of him being back are good, very good. He’s got a year left on his contract, the fact he hasn’t played for an entire season makes him virtually untradeable so there’s no reason to think he wouldn’t be in camp.
Q: How much of a role does Bryan Colangelo have in formulating the starting lineup and rotation? Does Bryan ever tell Sam to put a player into or take a player out of the starting lineup and rotation?
Sam L, Elliot Lake
A: None. That’s all Sam’s doing. Oh, and Jose, too. And, no, Bryan lets Sam coach.
Q: My question is in regards to Mr. Sam Mitchell. With the Raps free falling over the last month or so, I have yet to hear some passion, emotion, or anger in his post-game comments. I'm sure behind closed doors, he's a different man, but everyone reads the papers, including players, and once in a while, if he choose to speak how he felt instead of giving this "we are in the playoffs, this is our goal, blah blah blah..." maybe the team would play with some heart... why is he like that?
Yogesh L, Woodbridge
A: The players don’t care what he says to the media, or how he acts in front of the media. When he’s got them alone in the practice gym or the locker room, he’s angry, passionate and emotional. And that’s all that matters.
Q: The thing that annoys me most about the Raptors is the brainlessness. Didn't these guys go to college? Haven't they played since they were 8 years old?
Who on the team would you rate as smart basketballers?
Mike B, North York
A: I’d say Rasho’s the smartest player on the roster, Martin would have been second and I’d put Bosh third. The rest of them are young and still learning.
Q: Hey Doug, love the blog and lookin' to see my name up there with the rest of the fine Raptor faithful.
Love reading about some Arvydas Sabonis love - dude could have been one of the all time greats in the NBA had he come over sooner.
How about getting Sabonis in TO to teach Il Mago the finer points of being a big man? They both like to play the finesse game, but Sabonis could also play tough inside when needed.
If not Sabonis, then which NBA big man of the past would you bring in to exclusively work with Bargnani?
Mauro F, Hamilton
A: Sabonis is a part owner of Zalgiris in Lithuania, he’s not coming back to be any assistant coach in the NBA, that’s for sure. Others? The only name I can think of out there would be Kareem but I’m not sure he’d want to leave the Lakers.
Q: Hey Doug, Nocioni just received his 3rd tech in six games, do you still think he looks like the same desirable player you saw a couple of weeks ago? (sarcasm) I didn’t think so. So how about you move RJ up in the list because I think he deserves top spot.
You are probably going to say that the Nets would not trade him now that Kidd is gone, but it would still make me feel a little better inside if you did move him up anyways.
Eric S, Mississauga
A: Sure, he can be No. 1 on the list if it’ll make you feel better. It’s not like anyone really cares about my list. But I care how you feel.
Q: Doug, if you were any current NBA player, who would you be?
(I'm saying Kevin Willis, just because of the age factor).
Kevin D, Toronto
A: Well, since The Big Fella’s no longer in the league, I’m thinking what you’re saying is wrong. Think wise, crafty veteran who’s a good guy but cynical with tinges of momentary bitterness. I can’t come up with anyone off the top of my head. I’ll leave it to you guys and gals.
Q: Doug, a two-part question for you.
Is there any NBA equivalent to the NHL's Lady Byng Trophy?
If there is (or in hypotheticals, if there isn't) has Jose just sealed up the victory? Who would be your top five contenders for the award?
Thane B, St. Catharines
A: If my pucks knowledge is right, Lady Byng goes the most sportsmanlike dude, right? There isn’t one in the NBA but I’d guess Jose would be in the discussion if there was one. I’d put Antonio McDyess on the list, Antawn Jamison, Elton Brand, Chris Paul and Joe Smith.
Q: Doug, very simple question for you: is Tayshaun Prince the most underrated player in the game? I look at his statistics, his wingspan, his all-around game, seems to me he's the quiet glue of these great Pistons teams.
Simon S-G, Toronto
A: Most under-rated? He’d sure be on a short list, wouldn’t he? He’d have company in the likes of Shane Battier and others but he’d certainly be among the most.
Q: I understand Jose spoke with Sam and Brian about moving TJ back into the starting lineup, I'm curious whether Jose and TJ talked about it before that or whether TJ spoke to Jose about the difficulties he was having? Any insight on the relationship between the two guards that you could add would, as always, be much appreciated.
Marc B, Kitchener
A: No, I don’t think they talked about it all. Or the difficulties Ford was having handling being No. 2. But the relationship? It’s fine, no friction, mutual respect.
Q: Hey this is my first time writing and I have 3 very good questions I think all raptors fans would love answers for.
1. How good can bosh be, he’s only 24 years old and is already in my opinion a top 5 pf in the NBA. I think he can be better then KG, what do you think, when he retires will he be a Hall of Famer.
2. Why are the Raps scared to play Cleveland. I believe when the Raptors play well they can beat anyone. In a 7 game series though there not at Boston or Detroit level yet but certainly Cleveland and Orlando.
3. Do you think the Raps made a mistake by drafting Andrea Bargnani 1st overall in the 2006 draft. A core of TJ, Jose, Bosh and Rudy Gay sure looks promising to me. Please answer all 3 questions.
James M, Calgary
A: Since you asked nicely.
No, Bosh is not a Hall of Famer now and he won’t be better than KG.
The Raptors aren’t the least bit scared to play Cleveland, some of their fans are.
No, they didn’t make a mistake and Rudy Gay was never a consideration anyway.
Q: You have stated MVP but the rest, except Chuck's Jose for most improved, I not sure what the people voting on these things are thinking. Your insight would be great.
Bruce M, Winnipeg
A: Well, I’ve got three weeks or so before I have to vote and there’s still lots of thinking to do.
But, for now, here they are if I had to fill out ballots today:
MVP: Kobe, Paul, LeBron, KG, Tracy.
Coach: Adelman, Byron Scott, Mo Cheeks, Stan Van Gundy, Eddie Jordan.
Rookie: Kevin Durant, Scola, Horford, Thornton, Moon.
Most improved: Jose, Turkoglu, David West, Biedrins, Dalember.
As I said, all categories are open to reconsideration.
Q: All right, time for another question from the stupid files, a fun little question.
I'm thinking of a band, The Jackson Five: Jackie Jackson, Tito Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Marlon Jackson, and Michael Jackson.
You've got to pick five Toronto Raptors to make the the Jackson (er Raptor) five. Who's the Michael Jackson of the team? The Tito Jackson? More importantly, who's the Jermaine Jackson of the team?
Sadiq M, Toronto
A: I have no idea which way you want me to go with this one so all I’m going to say is Jermaine Jackson would be the Jermaine Jackson of the team. Remember him?
Q: Simple two questions here, do you know what varieties of Salami and Cheese are Chuck’s favorites? I’m a Genoa and sharp cheddar kinda guy myself. Also do you have a go to post game snack? (I know it ain't pizza cause you give that away to the domicile-challenged peoples of the city.)
Graham H, Toronto
A: I have never discussed Chuck’s culinary tastes with him and don’t imagine I ever will. Personally? I can handle Genoa or Sopressata or maybe a nice Hungarian with a old cheddar myself. Post-game? I’ve had a chicken wing or two that satiates.
Q: (If I may borrow Lee Z's phrase...) Bruutes, Dougie, peace! Alas, the Raps made some modifications to the starting lineup and got a breather.
1) Thanks to Calderon's team-first mentality who sees the bigger picture.
If his highly commendable and noble act beget great reward (this summer) which is greater than what TJ inked, do you think the latter will whine "No way, Jose?"
2) Then, you were firm in your resolve that TJ is one of the core of Raptor's future. Now, you're not ruling out the possibility of TJ's inclusion in a package for a bigger deal. Why the sudden change of view, Doug?
3) Flashback 2004: Hoffa - 8th... Biedrins - 11th, ergo, your air of frustration. How about Hoffa - 8th... Iguodala - 9th (and Raps desperate need for the wing player would not have existed), didn't this yield frustration to the exponential power?
4) Let's look at your sidekick Dave F's assessment: "...let's face it, if the Raptors draw anybody but Orlando, if it's Cleveland or, worse, Detroit, they have no shot at winning a best-of-seven." Do you agree? This makes the homestretch games involving the Wizards, Sixers, and Raptors even more pretty exciting to watch, isn't it, Doug? What's your seeding projection in case of a 3-way tie? Salute!
Rikki C, Burlington
A: Yeah, bruuuuutes to you and Lee, too, whatever it means (and if it means something bad, I apologize).
I don’t think T.J. will care one lick how much Jose eventually gets paid; he’s getting his money and if he’s like every other NBA player I know, he’ll want the guy to get as much as he can.
I think I explained myself in the blog Thursday morning, I hope you saw it.
Oh, Iguodala was quite frustration-creating that night, except in Philly where Billy King leapt out of his chair when Toronto took Hoffa.
It’s impossible to see what a three-way tie brings because, right now, in games between the three teams, Toronto’s 4-4, Washington’s 4-3 and Philly’s 3-4 and they play each other once.
If Philly wins and they all end up 4-4, it goes to conference record, which we can’t predict; if Washington wins, they’ll be fifth, Toronto sixth and Philly seventh.
Q: Since you didn't print my last mail regarding Chris Paul, perhaps you could answer me the following question:
Who is the new league leader in assists per game?
Again I ask
Nash (05-06) 18.8PPG, 10.5APG, 4.2RPG, 0.8SPG, 3.5TO + 70% Games Won = MVP
Paul (07-08) 21.7PPG, 11.2APG, 3.9RPG, 2.7SPG, 2.5TO + 70% Games Won = ?
Alex F, Ottawa
A: Yes, I see your point. Chris Paul’s playing great and so is his team. He may win the MVP award indeed but every voter I’ve talked to has him either behind Kobe or LeBron. And I’m voting for Kobe.
Q: Well, how many e-mails did you get suggesting the parade should take this route or that?
Tim H, Windsor
A: No parades routes but I think I might have had a couple from jewelry manufactures wanting to know about selling them rings.
Q: Doug, how about Kapono, Moon, and expiring contract for Miller and Navarro? Griz gets what they want, to save money (and further kill the fanbase)!
Michael L, Niagara Falls
P.S. I think the charitable boxes after pizza games is a brilliant idea. More realistic than the hand-to-homeless-guy idea because 1) chances some stub holders won't come across a homeless person before they grab the slice (leave arena, get into car/subway, late night or early morning pizza); 2) most people are programmed to ignore the homeless, let alone give them anything; 3) more people will drop off the stub to feel good about themselves or out of guilt than personally hand a stub.
A: I’d make that offer tomorrow. But the numbers don’t work ‘cause Navarro’s an unrestricted free agent.
Q: Okay, so my last question about two weeks ago was about putting TJ back in the starting line up... not because he deserved it (or that Jose deserved the pine), but because they had to do something. I just read your article on the exactly this topic. Don't worry, it's not a university project, and you won't be accused of plagiarizing!
I'll give you one more chance to redeem yourself with the following question: BC has obviously voiced that the Raps will match any offer on Jose. Does this help, or hurt the Raps? What's to stop a Philly or Cleveland from offering him more, just to make the Raps pay more so they don't have as much bling to sign that slasher/rebounder they desparately need? On the flipside, do Philly and Cleveland stay away just because the Raps said they'd match? I would love your insight into this one.
Darrel A, Oakville
A: Two entirely different money issues. Whatever they do with Jose, Toronto will only have the mid-level salary cap exception available for free agents. The two don’t factor into each other.
Q: I understand the offense runs through Bosh via the pick and roll or in the post (or high post) with Parker running off screens or setting up in the corner.
What I don't understand is the reluctance of Mitchell to ever run a play for Moon in the post. He is frequently taller than the guys who are guarding him, and while his jumper looks great (i spoke with a scout the other day that has suggested Moon's shot was his biggest asset in previous years), it is still inconsistant. He needs to get to the line, and allowing him to post up 2-3 times per game would help that (and give the opposing defense a different look now and then).
His skill level is off the charts.
My other question was why Sam Mitchell refuses to play Calderon and TJ together, even for short periods -- but sure enough, Mitchell played them together last night...vs. Billups of all teams.
Jeff G, Barrie
A: Moon has no post skills, which is pretty much why they don’t put him on the block.
Q: Hey Doug, would like to get your thoughts on a potential off-season move to bring us the wingman we MUST obtain to better this team and take them to the next level.
(I know it's long, but I am passionate and just really care about making this team better – plus I think this up coming off-season is a critical one, in terms of the Raptors fixing some long established weaknesses)
I love T.J. and Jose, always have, and there is proof (see last year and the beginning of this year) that the combination has not only worked, but has been a force to be reckoned with and nightmare for opposing teams. However, priority is priority – simple as that! And we NEED a strong slashing wingman more than we need two great point guards. (There is only so many minutes in a game, and with one of them getting 20min – we are never maximizing both – and for the money that’s going to cost us with a new Jose contract…its time to turn one of them into a tradable asset).
So, I’ve been looking…who is not just a wingman we need (we can all name those) – but more importantly…who is a wingman we need but could actually get? – a realistic option…
I have been targeting 3’s more than 2’s, just because of our need for rebounding (offensive and defensive) and for the versatility factor of playing multiple positions (for going big or small). Also, someone who is not too young, but not too old that it’s a short term fix – needless to say, they are few and far between.
I like your Andres Nocioni call…how about Al Harrington?? He is big, strong, athletic, and around the same salary as T.J. (8 million). He is that ‘second level’ star we need. Plus, I recall Don Nelson making some very flattering comments about T.J after the Toronto game this year, so that may work in our favor. T.J. would probably thrive in the Golden States system.
What do you think? A) can we put a good and fair package together? B) do you think this could work? - your thoughts my man.
Jacob W, Toronto
A: Yes, it is long. Very.
I’m not sure Harrington’s as athletic as they’d like but he’d sure be on my list. The question in Golden State is going to be financial and maybe that’s how the Raptors get him. The Warriors have to pay Biedrins and Monta Ellis (both restricted but they can’t let them go) so maybe putting together a package of expiring contracts and a draft pick would make the Warriors sit up and take notice, especially since Harrington’s got about $9 million left next year and $10 million the year after.
I’d keep an eye on that one.