Late Sunday mail
And, for our final edition this week, we offer up the following:
Q: I know every rabid Raptors fan has been calling for changes, and I'm all for them, but I have one bone to pick.
I'm well aware of how his expiring contract makes him a valuable trade asset, but let's face it, Rasho has been playing great as of late. As a matter of fact, whenever given the chance over the past two years, he has played quite well.
I think that the rationale behind Rasho's original signing (a smart, experienced, unspectacular but steady big man, who doesn't command shots but is a good locker room presence) has only been reinforced, and I don't see why everyone is so quick to ship him off.
Yes, I know that he's not worth 8 million, but players like him are not a dime a dozen. I know that he's not "young", but he's only 31, he's not moving to Florida quite yet. And yes, I know that the Raps don't have too many desirable assets, but that doesn't mean you should get rid of key elements of the team.
Sorry for the rant, Doug, but my question is whether you are on the trade Rasho or keep Rasho bandwagon? I know it all depends on the other players involved, but realistically for what the Raptors could get, would you like to see him in Dino uniform next year?
Dan P, Sarnia
A: I’ve been firmly in the Play Rasho group since the season started, I could never imagine why Hump got time over him to start with.
That being said, however, if there’s a deal this summer that forces them to move Rasho for a great wing player, they have to look at it seriously. After all, isn’t the best time to deal a player when he’s playing his best?
But he wouldn’t be the first guy I’d offer up on the trade market once the season ends.
Q: What's the story on who has possession of the ball at the start of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters? Of course, whoever wins the tip has possession at the start of the game. Where does it go from there?
Bill H, Ailsa Craig
A: This is where we need an FAQ.
The team that controls the opening tip gets the ball again to start the fourth quarter. The team that doesn’t control the opening tip gets the ball to start the second and third.
Q: With the NBA regular season winding down and the awards to be handed out soon, what are the top picks for 6th man of the year awards? Does Calderon qualify for the award?
Wilson C, Waterloo
A: Jose does not qualify, you have to come off the bench in more games than he starts.
I’d say Manu Ginobili and Leandro Barbosa are in a two-man race to win this year.
Q: On the lighter side: Could the visiting TV Media people be given a lesson in pronouncing Andrea's last name before their broadcast. I am one of those downtrodden people who have to spend winter in Florida, tough work but someone has to do it, and subscribe to the NBA network in order to get to see my beloved Raptors. The announcers are always from the visiting team. Most of these media people are pronouncing it
BARNY -YANNI or BARNY- AWNY. A little respect please.
Brian S, Tampa, Fla.
A: Every game, Media Relations Guru Jim LaBumbard walks down to the visiting broadcasters and gives them the correct pronunciations. He does the same thing on the road with the visiting public address announcers. Some people just don’t get it, I guess.
Q: I'm curious about the Raptors offence, especially with Bosh and how they clear the side for him to attack the basket. I think we've all seen how the opponents double team him and it causes turnovers since Bosh has no one close to pass to (Knicks most recently). Why do the Raptors clear out the side for Bosh? With all good big men like KG, Howard, Duncan, Rasheed, Amare, Boozer, etc. they hardly ever have the sides cleared out for them to work on offence and most of the time, you see a good shooter on the same side (example: House/Ray Allen with KG in Bos; Lewis with Howard; Ginobili/Bowen with Duncan; Hamilton with Rasheed, etc.) so when the double team comes, the passoff comes for an open 3 point shot. Kapono would just nail those open shots and teams will rethink that double team on Bosh plus less turnovers.
J T, Richmond Hill
A: They don’t clear out the entire side, they leave a guard lifted to take the first pass out of the double-team and swing the ball. They dive a man through the paint to get the defence moving and perhaps leave someone alone at the top of the circle. They don’t plant anyone on the block, however, ‘cause that just creates traffic.
Q: Not a Raptors question but what do you think is going to happen with Milwaukee this summer? They've underachieved the last few seasons but I've always enjoyed watching that team.
Joseph C, Toronto
A: Well, they have to hire a general manager and their first choice was Donnie Walsh, who’s going to New York they tell me. I believe they’ll make a coaching change and look to tweak their roster a bit. I can see them trading Charlie V and, if I’m the Raptors, I make a call about Michael Redd.
Q: What about Chris Kaman for improvement, eh?
I think he's been a beast for as long as he's healthy, 3rd or something like that in rebounding.
I know he's on a bad Clippers team, but I'd like to know what you think about him.
Melissa S, Markham
A: I like Chris Kaman a lot and Raptor fans should, too, because he’s a big man who took a long time to develop. He was seen as a flop early in his career and now he’s pretty darn good. Hmm. Big man. Slow to develop. See any parallels?
Q: Hey Doug, just wondering what your thoughts are on the following scenario. If the Lakers flop in the playoffs they may look to make some changes in the off-season. Lamar Odom seems like he'd be a great fit in Toronto - long and athletic and he can score, rebound and defend. Any chance of BC swinging a deal to make this happen? Derek Fisher is getting into his mid-30s and they may be looking for a young PG with some speed to dish to Kobe, Pau and Bynum.
Geoff A, Toronto
A: Lamar Odom would be a good fit on a lot of teams. Like the Lakers so I can’t see it. The Lakers have a pretty good core and they like Jordan Farmar.
Q: You probably the most dedicated sports writer for the Raptors, constantly updating us on the Raptors and interacting with us fans.
I was thinking, you have noted how us fans can be very reactionary and I wondered if you ever imagine a day could come where up bipolar fans turn on you? God forbid this happens but I could not imagine a reincarnation of a TJ vs. Jose debate, in the form of some Spanish sport writer vs. Doug.
Have fun gauging the bipolarness of us fans.
Hugo L, Toronto
A: “When” they turn on me? Man, you gotta see some of my e-mail. There’s more than a few that have already turned; just like there more than a few who were never really, um, looking in my direction anyway.
It’s all part of life in the bigs, you put your stuff out there, people take shots.
Q: All this talk from Stern about Europe has me thinking about the Raps' training camp this fall. (Is it that bad that it's next season, and not this year's playoffs, that I'm looking forward to?)
You've mentioned before how this year's team is not as close as last year's. Wasn't one of the benefits of a Euro-trip training camp supposed to be that these guys would have an opportunity to bond? Why didn't this happen? (Hope you can remember that far back, old fella). And do you think that staying home for training camp will be more beneficial for the Raps for this particular upcoming year. Thanks
Kevin D, Toronto
A: I vaguely remember. Vaguely. Training camp was fun, they bonded and everyone gets along. It wasn’t like they were going to come back and all go live in some zany 15-bedroom apartment and be roomies or anything but the exercise was worth it. But it’s not something anyone wants to do every year so being home next fall (or at least somewhere in Canada rather than Europe) will be just fine with everyone involved.
Q: With a top tier point guard, the best shooter in the NBA, a number one draft pick, and a guy who was maybe the best non-American at the Olympic qualifier this summer... is this the best 2nd unit in the NBA?
My expectation is that they should more or less destroy the bench competition during the next 11 games, and we have a goodish shot of winning any game if the starters can tread water.
For the first time since the preseason game against Boston, I actually think the Raptors have a shot at winning the east. Is this insanity? Do I need sleep or something?
H I, Toronto
A: I’d say “something.”
No, it’s not the best second unit because it’s way too inconsistent. You have no idea what you’ll get each night from Bargnani, Delfino and Kapono, which is three-quarters of the backups who’ll play big minutes.
Until they show some consistency, they’ll be frustrating and never reach their potential.
Q: I had trouble wording this question. What is the standing between the NBA and the Euro Basketball teams with player movement? Toronto would like to bring Ukic Roko Leni over, but could they send a player like Joey Graham to that team as part of the compensation, like a trade?
Darwin N, Swift Current
A: You seem to have worded it quite well. No, there can be no trades between European and NBA club teams. The only way Toronto can get Ukic over here, or anyone else for that matter, is to have them free of their European contracts and sign them to a deal.
Q: I know you always hear that players do not read the papers, or I guess now we can add blogs to that 'do not do' list. Of course, I do not believe that at all. My question: how are the players and coaches perceiving how the fans are reacting to the TJ/Calderon debate? For the record, I like the duo unless it leads to friction in the lockeroom.
Roberto C, Burlington
A: I’ve had a few players ask me what the public reaction is to some things, but not specifically the shenanigans of the last week. And, generally speaking, they tend to not really care a whole lot about what’s going on out there in the big, wide world of fandom.
Q: Hi Doug, I was looking at the standings for the NBA and saw that Miami has only won 13 games? I don't remember any team having that bad a record in previous years. What is the all-time worst record for an NBA team?
Louis F, Woodstock
A: Oh, they blew the record out of the water weeks ago. The 1972-73 Sixers won nine games, the 1992-93 Dallas Mavericks won 11, as did the 1997-98 Denver Nuggets. Fewest wins in a season? The Providence Steamrollers went 6-42 in 1947-48.
Q: Second time writing, so hopefully this one works!
My question is: Colangelo picked up Delfino last year for, basically, nothing. He showed great skill internationally, but wasn't able to crack the NBA level until this year, when he got his chance. He was unknown to NBA watchers but international scouts would tell you he had the skill.
Are there any other international stars (or starters) stuck as 9th or 10th men on benches in the NBA who the Raptors should seriously consider? Or, are there any international players the Raps should be looking at signing, since they've done so well with Jose, Anthony and Garbo?
Andrew C, Toronto
A: Outside of My Man Walter Herrmann in Detroit, there aren’t a lot who are buried on benches who might be worth a look. Two might be a couple of guards – Marco Belinelli out in Golden State and Sergio Rodriguez in Portland – but their teams might want to hang on to them.
Europe, as Bryan told me for a story a week ago, has been picked pretty clean of veteran free agents who could have an impact.
Q: It seems I keep sending in these questions to get you scouring the record books! The debate about who should win league MVP this year is heating up, with most people seeming to think it is between Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant, giving an outside shot to LeBron James and Kevin Garnett. Although I'm slowly coming around to the idea that it should go to Paul, I have generally thought it should be Kobe's award this year. Interestingly enough, he leads the league in Technical Fouls. Has the NBA MVP ever led the league in Technical Fouls before? Just curious if this might affect the voting. Thanks as always!
Joe T, Toronto
A: I can’t remember it ever happening and, my records are sketchy but looking at the list of MVPs, I don’t see one who would have led the league in techs.
And, as a voter, I assure you the number of technical fouls a player gets has no bearing on what I think of him as an MVP candidate.
Q: Do you think Chauncey Billups takes too many shots for a point guard? Time and time again I see him bring the ball up and shoot the 3 immediately disregarding all other teammates on the floor. Now he does make this here and there, but it seems like he does it a lot. The worst is when he's on a team like Team USA or the all-star game when you know he has all-star teammates that can do something better with the ball than rather than having an ill-advised forced shot. You think Billups is just an overconfident and selfish player?
Bri C, Richmond Hill
A: No, I don’t. I think Chauncey knows when he’s got to take a game over offensively and knows when to make sure a hot hand gets the ball. And I’d think five straight trips to the conference finals, two appearances in an NBA final and one Finals MVP trophy the year Detroit won it proves he’s great, not over-confident and selfish by any means.
Q: You mentioned that you have three weeks left to vote - can you explain the process of a writer getting the honour for voting for the awards? How long have you been voting for and do you forever get to vote as long as you are an employed writer?
Shawn L, Bowmanville
A: The votes are distributed by the league to teams and then down to writers and broadcasters, usually depending on how many games a writer/tv/radio guy/gal has seen and their experience. For instance, this year I’m voting for MVP, coach of the year, rookie of the year and the three all-NBA teams. The categories can change year to year and it took me about four years to be considered worthy of having a ballot. I presume I’d get at least some votes for each of the future years I cover the team and the league.
Q: Is it possible for the Raptors and BC to sign Calderon now, instead of trying the RFA market? Why can't he sign an extension or something?
Bryce F, Markham
A: They can’t negotiate an extension with him until July 1 under rules of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.
Q: Doug, I know you won't print this but I think it is disgusting the way you and the media have turned on TJ. The guy comes back [twice] from career threatening injuries and you guys have suddenly decided that he is 'sulking' and 'not good for the team'? TJ is young, has massive upside and is our most dangerous player with the ball not named Chris Bosh. I hope you lot are all happy when TJ is traded and burns the Raps on another team. Do you really think Jose has the potential to bring a title by turning into a Chris Paul, Deron Williams or even a Devis Harris? You guys are a joke.
Jonathan L, London, UK
Did so print it.
Q: Hey Doug, do you think that the whole notion of conferences, in almost every sport, is an outdated concept? It seems to me, if you look back at the original pro leagues of MLB and NFL, where they had two separate leagues join to make one, and kept the conferences. Then the other leagues decided on an East and West concept. I think, beyond the seasonal logisitics of it, it has no place in the playoffs. The best teams should get in.
Do you think Stern will ever address this issue, either for or against it? And yes, this would mean that currently the Raptors would currently be out of a playoff spot, but that's what happens when you lose 7 of 9.
Ryan M, Pickering
A: It does seem a bit out-dated with the ease of charter travel these days but don’t you think they need something to keep interest in the regular season until the final days?
As for the playoffs, unless you can create a more balanced east-west schedule, I think it’d be unfair to lump everyone together. As I’ve mentioned before, re-seeding once the four conference finalists are determined would be something I’d be in favour of discussing seriously.
Not sure if it’ll ever change, but am sure it’ll forever been a topic of discussion among fans.
Q: At the beginning of Sam’s tenure under BC the aim was the run-and-gun-100 shots per game style. Do you think this could become the aim again? Would a small ball style a la Nellie better utilize our two-headed monster - TJ and Jose - point guard situation? Could Nellie ball possibly allow the two PGs to play more minutes at the same time by accentuating the speed and efficiency of our transition game?
Luka M, Toronto
A: That was an abysmal failure here and unless they find a Steve Nash or a Baron Davis to run that kind of offence, it should remain only in the dark recesses of their minds.
Q: By my count I've been watching the NBA for 18 years now. Before we had a team, my enthusiasm was for the Jazz, and Stockton and Malone in particular. These two were prototype 'character' guys. I do remember Karl Malone's brutal take down of Isaiah Thomas, but hindsight being 20-20, who would complain today?
I appreciate much of your insight into the 07-08 Raptors and the current state of the NBA, but throughout the last year (if I haven't misread it) you've been on a bit of a warpath, pushing 'character' guys and I'm starting to feel at odds with this sentiment. Everyone has some kind of character, some just don't sell as well - Stephen Jackson comes to mind. This town seems possessed of a disingenuous sports culture that reads an athletes confidence as a serious liability. This year’s Celtics are a fairly unlikable bunch of guys but you have to like their chances. How long do you think sports fans in Toronto will tolerate 'character' if it means that we don't field a contender?
Kristian G, Toronto
A: I think every good team needs some toughness, which is not be confused with knucklheadededness (if that’s even a word). Malone was tough, borderline dirty some thought; Oakley was tough when he was here, the history books are littered with names of teams that won with players who pushed things to the limit.
I’m not advocating goonery at any level but some grit on that roster wouldn’t hurt a bit. And the fans, as they did with Oak, will eat it up.
I also think you can be a “character guy” and still provide the kind of toughness good teams need.
Q: Why are the NBA teams competing in Europe next pre-season not playing any of the local teams? Is it because the likes of Miami would have no chance against them?
Doug S, Peterborough
A: Mostly it has to do with somewhat tenuous relationships between EuroLeague teams and the NBA. Suffice it say, without going into all the gory details, it has to do a bit with money, a bit with competitive balance and a bit with the number of older European players coming this way.
Q: Not sure if you've answered this question in the past. If you did, I apologize and would like you to re-answer this question. With the Sonics moving to Oklahoma City, would they still play in the Northwest Division. I don't think Oklahoma is in the NW part of North America. I would like to think that they should be bracketed in the Southwest Division. If that is the case, which team will replace the Sonics in the NW Div. or will it be left with only 4 teams? If they would be bracketed in the SW Div., there would then be 6 teams in there. Will the league allow this sort of ensuing team-quantity imbalance? Your thoughts.
V. C, Markham
A: The league hasn’t decided what it will do when the Sonics move and until it becomes officially official (there is still some breath in Seattle, however faint it may be) we’re not going to hear anything. I can see them leaving them in the Northwest for the first year or so until they figure out exactly how to re-align.
Q: Doug, You've mentioned that signing Jose and getting a free agent don't have any effect on each other because the Raptors are restricted by the mid-level salary cap (exception). Is there any way they can trade away salaries to get below that restriction allowing them to sign any player? Does it matter if they sign Jose or a free agent first? Any chance MLSE is willing to go beyond the tax levels for next season, if the right players available, knowing that they have a lot of salaries dropping off the books the following year. Maybe they can put some of their Garbo lawsuit winnings back into the team.
CJ L, London
A: No, salaries in any trades have to match (within 25 per cent plus or minus $125,000) so it’s impossible to clear room in a deal. What you can do is clear room in a deal in future years by, say, trading away a guy with two years left on his contract for someone with one but that’s it.