The first delivery of the day
Good morning (well, at least it is here). This would be the first of a couple of batches that you’ll see today, give me a few hours to wade through the rest and get some answering done.
Have fun reading:
Q: Something occurred to me watching highlights of the Rockets' 20th win. T-Mac has been at both ends of the spectrum as far as streaks go. During the 2003-2004 season the he was the reluctant, angry and embarrassed face of the Orlando Magic when it endured a franchise record 19 straight losses. And now he's enjoying a 20-gamer. I wonder if he is on a short/long list of ALL-STARS who've experienced both? Can you think of any?
Richard A, Markham
A: Don’t forget Tracy was part of the 19-game losing streak with the Raptors in 1997-98, too.
Others? It’d be a very short list, I think. I’d bet Elton Brand is on it, he went through some tortuous times with the Clippers but at least got one playoff round victory under his belt.
More? None come quickly to mind but I’m sure the gentle readers out there will comb their minds and find some.
Q: I'm a T-dot resident doing the school thing here in Ottawa and I'm always craving Raps news. Can you believe they don't even cover basketball in the SPORTS sections here?
Anyway just one quick question, Charlie V or Andrea, who's the better player now? And who's a better fit for this team if you had a choice?
Chi L, Ottawa
A: Let’s put it this way: Villanueva’s got better stats on a worse team; Bargnani will have been a starter in the post-season both of his years in the league, Chuck’s never sniffed the playoffs and likely loses his starting job to Yi next year. So, by the only thing that really counts – winning – Andrea’s better. Different, but better.
A better fit for this particular time: I’d say Bargnani, he’s younger, has more diverse skills and will be a better player when their careers are over.
Q: Long time reader, first time writer, have a good appreciation for the qualitative and unbiased reporting you present. Love the Oak stories.
Question on Bargs. He has been staying out of foul trouble recently; I think something like 11 or 12 fouls in the last seven games (before Friday). So is this because he's getting smarter, is he getting more respect from the refs, or is it just a lucky streak.
Rahulan S, Winnipeg
A: He’s starting to realize you have to move your feet on defence every now and then, he’s avoiding – for the most part – the silly offensive fouls he’d get and the ones he’d commit 40 feet from the basket. It’s also got a bit to do with the kind of guys he’s covering, too.
But it’s also a bit a lucky streak because we all know he’s thisclose to committing two fouls in the first two minutes of any game he’s in.
Q: Yeah it's me again... as if the mailbag is not yet loaded enough, huh Doug! Allow me to squeeze in some more...
1) You know, even a kibitzer would notice that Jose is not his normal player self lately. Do you think his emotions towards TJ's recent discontent and shade of selfishness might have some bearing on his focus and effectiveness, rather than fatigue? How far could the 'Me, Myself and TJ' attitude disrupt the team's chemistry, and what is Bosh doing as a leader of this team to restore order?
2) What is your perspective on the anti-youth movement direction taken by the Suns, Cavaliers, Spurs and Mavericks and how you would compare it the opposite stance chosen by teams like Blazers? Do you know how BC and Smitch see it?
Rikki C, Burlington
A: I think this whole “leadership” issue tends to get over-blown. These are grown men, professionals, with lives and families and responsibilities. Bosh is there like any teammate would be, to offer suggestions when he’s asked, to encourage and help smooth over some tough times. So what he’s doing is what he’s always done. Be around, be professional, lead by example.
The anti-youth movement? I think it’s great, I think veterans with lots of experience winning are vital to championship-calibre squads. And I know Bryan and Sam feel exactly the same way. And I bet when Portland’s knocking on the door of legitimate contention, they’ll be looking for some ‘old heads’ as well.
Q: When it comes to PG play, we seem to be on the wrong end of Shakespeare's "times" assessment, i.e. it is the worst of times. TJ is playing like a spoiled brat and screwing with the team's unselfish personality, just so he can become king of the sandbox again. And José has done just the opposite: he's become very passive all of a sudden, unwilling or unable to put his stamp on the game. Solution: sit TJ's skinny butt on the bench for all but 12 minutes a game until he gets the message. As for José, since the opposition has taken away his typical passing lanes sans Bosh, and Rasho's no real threat on the pick and roll, make Bargs the picker. He'll command the respect that Rasho fails to, and then, just like when Bosh is on the court, it's pick your poison time. This way, you'll have José more open for the midrange jumper, or Bargs will get some nice rolls to the hoop. Problem is, right now Bargs very rarely sets that pick. Your thoughts, Monsieur? (I only add that question because otherwise it comes off as a questionless rant that you won't publish. Whoops! Did I say that out loud?)
Lee Z, Ottawa
A: Nice recovery from rant to question; you’re a veteran around here and have done a fine job.
They do run the high screen-and-roll with Bargnani often, as a matter of fact, except that he always pops instead of rolls. Believe me, they want him to mix it up and either slip the pick and head down the lane or just simply roll. I actually asked Sam about this the other night in Oakland and he said:
"Why don’t you write a story about that. Maybe if they read it in the paper everybody will roll more often.”
Q: Hi Doug, two off court questions for you. Hope you don't mind some curiosity.
Can you describe the relationship that "beat grunts" across the league have with each other -- do you follow each other professionally, as well as have your own away-from-the-court friendships?
Second question I haven't been able to find the answer for -- hoping you can help me: A few weeks ago Tony Meija was suddenly removed from Sportsline as their main NBA writer. He was hard on the Raptors, but I thought he was one of the more insightful writers out there (right up there with that guy who blogs for the Toronto Star). Have you heard anything of what happened, and whether he'll be back up and running again?
I hope these aren't too off-the-court for you... at least it's not about TJ!
Charlie D, Ottawa
A: I can’t help you with Tony, I saw him at the all-star game and everything seemed fine; he’s a good dude and fine writer.
Now, for us? I follow papers all across the league practically every day, I have my favourites, Dave D’Alessandro in Newark, Peter May in Boston, Phil Jasner in Philly in the East, I read the New York papers for all the zaniness that goes on with the Knicks. I’m also part of a notes group with 29 other writers from each of the other cities and we share notes, information, tidbits and stuff every week.
Personally, over the 13 years I’ve made a lot of great friends I’m going to have long after this gig is over. And we see each other at the finals, the all-star weekend, things like Olympics and world championships and it’s like a semi-annual family reunion.
Q: Doug, great blog! Thanks for keeping me entertained daily.
Great blogs are those that infuse the writer's personality into the daily proceedings. We've learned all about your illustrious amateur b-ball career. What did you do before covering the Raptors exclusively?
Carlos M, Toronto
A: That was so long ago, I forget. But I seem to recall covering the Blue Jays and baseball for a couple of years in the early-90s for The Canadian Press, the same company that had me do the CFL around the Candy-McNall-Gretzky era in Toronto. I’ve worked at the Sun here and in Ottawa, a handful of smaller papers you’ve never heard of and covered everything from high school track and field in Tillsonburg, Woodstock and Orangeville to five Olympic games.
And everywhere I’ve got it’s been fun and frivolity and a lot of work. That a good enough synopsis for you I hope?
Q: How many players in the league study shooting tendencies of other players to help them get an edge rebounding wise, for example the type of arc a shooter's shot might have and therefore knowledge of its probable landing?
Luka M, Toronto
A: It’s not like they’re baseball hitters studying videotape of pitchers or anything like that but every play in the league watches video of every upcoming opponent before every game. They know who likes to go left, who likes to spin right and who likes to get the ball where.
But you know the game, it’s not like every shot taken by a guy comes off the rim the same way.
Q: If I'm not mistaken Antawn Jamison is a UFA this upcoming summer. While I'm sure we don't have the room under the cap to sign him outright, wouldn't he fit in great in with the boys. Besides rebounding better than anyone on our roster (perhaps other than Bosh), he also has an inside and an outside game. Do you think a frontcourt with Bargnani at centre, and Bosh and Jamison as the forwards would work? Do you Colangelo has any interest in the creative workings that would be required to pursue such an opportunity?
Brian T, Victoria
A: I think a frontcourt of Jamison, Bosh and Bargnani is the best in the East. But I can’t see it happening because (a) the Wizards aren’t going to let Jamison go and (b) the Raptors don’t have either the money to pay him or the pieces to put together a good sign-and-trade package.
Q: Doug, are you accepting that you are moving into Chuck's area and becoming part Rap fans' lives (a daily read)? Who would have thought a mail bag would do that?
Bruce M, Winnipeg
A: It is indeed a strange and wacky world, isn’t it? And it just goes to show you that if you work hard and deal with the people respectfully and often, they’ll pay attention.
And for that I am grateful.
Q: The only real power coaches have is to choose who plays and who doesn't. I get that. I also get that some players deserve and warrant more time than others.
But why don't teams just throw in the second unit as a group? There's always this slow procession of players in and out of the game.
On a team like the Raptors this season, why not just throw 'em in as a group?
Also - the Raptors seem to have more success when they play zone defense. Any chance they'll just stick with zone in the playoffs?
H I, Toronto
A: Some teams have used a platoon system with first and second units and it’s never really worked. There’s a flow to every game that would be disrupted too much by putting five new guys in the game at one time.
On the zone: They do play it a lot, or a matchup variation of it, and I asked Sam about it the other day as a matter of fact. He says he likes to use it, especially with Bosh not playing, to slow a game down or to give the other team a different look. You’ll see a bunch of it against Sacramento and Utah, I bet.
Q: I think I might be one of the few Raptors' fans remaining who likes Andrea Bargnani and thinks that, in due time, he will be a very good player in this league. So please don't lump my question into the "Trade Bargnani/Bargnani Sucks" pile.
My question for you is this: If the NBA doesn't change the rules in 2006 preventing high schoolers from entering the draft, does Bryan Colangelo still take "Il Mago" first overall?
And, if he doesn't draft Bargnani and, instead, takes someone like Greg Oden (who many "experts" thought would make the jump to the NBA from high school to be the consensus number one), do you think the Raptors would still have the same kind of "international flavour" on this team? In other words, was it always BC's intent to bring in Gherardini and guys playing in Europe to build a team that would play a more "Euro-style/pre-Shaq Mike D'Antoni" game, with or without Bargnani?
Mike M, Ottawa
A: Tough question. Never asked him but with the way I know he wants his team to play, and the way he feels the game is evolving, he could very well have still taken Bargnani.
Q: Would you do something to move higher up into this year's draft? Michael Beasley, OJ Mayo and Derrick Rose would all be nice fits. Maybe trade one of TJ or Jose and move forward? For all you resent the possibility, the two of them have played terribly since TJ's return.
As for question 2: any sense of BC's patience with TJ's impatience. Are the possibilities of his being traded growing with every bad shot taken, or does his low value due to his injuries and high upside due to his speed eliminate that chance?
Mike Y, Atlanta
A: I’m sure Bryan’s as frustrated as anyone with the way Ford’s been playing of late but I’m also sure he knows the kid’s got potential to be very good, as he’s shown in the time he’s been in Toronto.
As for a top three pick? I’m not sure the Raptors can offer what teams would like to move up that far. Expiring contracts sure isn’t going to get it done and Ford, by himself, probably doesn’t get a mega-deal like that done.
Q: What did you think of Pietrus of the Warriors the other night? Would he be enough of an upgrade at small forward that he could hold a starting small forward spot on a championship calibre team (ie. the Raps in 2 to 3 yrs time)?
Carl M, Codroy Valley, NL
A: I liked Pietrus the other night in Oakland, although he disappeared for huge stretches of the game. I’m not sure if he gets a team to the championship but he’d sure start at small forward on this team. And he can guard fours, too.
Q: Is it that time yet? Has enough time passed now to evaluate the winner of the Milwaukee/Toronto trade involving TJ and Charlie V? If we evaluate both teams and how they are with the players they now have, my thoughts are both teams are losers. Right now, if we had Charlie V on our team, it will be more beneficial than having TJ. Charlie V would be a great addition off the bench instead of Delfino, and instead of trading for Delfino, we would've targeted a decent backup point guard for Calderon not going to name anyone, but I'm sure Colangelo would come up with someone. Your thoughts on the winner?
Bri C, Richmond Hill
A: I’m trying to figure out how 47 wins and a division title last year and a second straight playoff season this year as opposed to two non-playoff years in Milwaukee makes both teams losers? That’s just dead wrong.
And, I think Bargnani is a better player with a bigger upside than Charlie ever had and I’m not sure it’d be the case if Villanueva was here.
Maybe Colangelo could have come up with a backup to Calderon a year ago but ask yourself this question: When they made the trade, did you think Jose would be as good as he’s been. If you say yes, you’ve got to become an NBA GM ‘cause no one else in basketball did.
Q: Sad to see Yao injured, but isn't it great seeing Mutombo out there playing night in and night out. One of my favourite all time basketball players. Anyways do you know what Alvin Williams is up to nowadays?
Jim I, Toronto
A: Alvin’s still living in Philly, doing a little TV work on the Sixer network and cheering his brains out for Villanova.