And a fine good morning to you all
You know what I like about the mail? It’s like conversations with people you know. I don’t know any of you, but I sort of do, if you understand. It’s sorta cool to see the same names popping up. Comfortable or something.
Anyway, enough nice crap, let’s get to the questions (and there’s more, but with a game and a game story and a drive home to handle, it might be tonight or tomorrow morning or Tuesday ‘til we get another big old mailbag out).
Q: Hey, I asked the question yesterday about denying CP3 the MVP, and you responded by saying that Kobe would win, not only because he's due, but because he's the single most talented player in the league.
Then what about LeBron? He's single-handedly keeping Cleveland afloat in a mediocre Eastern Conference and he's having one of the best statistical seasons ever. I just don't understand MVP voting and it seems every year there is a different criteria used.
Just one more thing. The game in New Jersey I was part of the "vocal" fans Mr. Dave D. mentioned in his article. Tell me the truth...how annoying were we? Do the players hear it and get a little juiced that they have some travelling supporters (not like they played like it)? Just wanted to see if we were heard and got under some people's skin. I know the people around us weren't very happy because the GM of the Izod Center supervised us for the entire 4th quarter. Good guy actually, said he hadn't seen a game in years, thanked us for keeping it clean, and everyone went home happy.
Feel free to edit a bit, but give us a little love, because I was hoping we'd be mentioned in the blog or article the next day. Thanks.
Mike S, Georgetown
A: I can make the argument that Kobe is more skilled in many facets of the game than LeBron. And that’s why they have such things as MVP, so people can debate it.
Annoying? Not at all. Amusing? Indeed. And I’m sure the players notice that kind of support on the road.
Q: Hope Sam is feeling better. Nice to hear BC's comments. Would you consider the tone a bit ominous??
By the way will any of the players/coaches be mic’d on Sunday
John P, Fredericton
A: Sam’s still a bit sick. And I don’t think was any more ominous than what I presume they discuss in private. Everyone’s getting all worked up and trying to read things into a simple statement of opinion from the GM. Trust me, if Bryan said that to reporters, he’s said the same thing in private.
And, yes, Sam will have the microphone on for today’s game and, yes, he’ll be interviewed between the first and second quarters.
Q: I don't know if anyone else has noticed this too, or maybe I'm alone on this theory. Lately, quarters 1,2, and 4 have been good and bad, but the 3rd quarters have always been solid for them. They execute well offensively and play much more aggressive D. So my question is: What's happening in that locker room at halftime? Discussing defensive/offensive adjustments? Motivational speeches?
Amanda F, Barrie
A: Not sure if you’re alone and I agree they’ve had better third quarters of late. I think that’s got a plenty to do with little defensive adjustments the coaches make – the players implement – on the second half. Or maybe it’s the drinks that Jose passes out.
But here’s one for you that might change your theory a wee bit: In their last seven games, they’ve given up an average of 30 points in each first quarter, the opponents have shot better than 50 per cent from the field and in only two have the Raptors led after a quarter. They lost one of those.
Q: Mr. Smith - yours is an exceptionally well maintained blog one of the best I have read so far on the web – current, daily updates and interesting to read – your baseball writing brethren at the Star could learn plenty from it!). As a displaced Canadian it is my main source of Raps info. My questions:
1) Is space so valuable on the website that the Star cannot afford you a full head shot? I assume your head does not end shortly above the ears ;)
2) Unfortunately I do not get to watch many games. However, I recently saw a game and from what I can see as an older beer league player (who is much better at the consumption side of things) the team lacks heart, intensity and fundamentals. The game I watched was with the TJ one-man show as the backup point guard with the other 4 guys doing or getting no chance to do anything.
My twofold questions in this regard:
a) Has in your opinion the overall point guard play improved since the switch back? Calderon seems to have regressed (at least statistically)
b) Do you see the Raps in their current state winning a game or surprisingly a series against either Detroit or Orlando?
David W, Trier, Germany
A: If you’d asked me a week ago, I’d have said I thought the point guard play had regressed a bit but in the last two games, they’ve combined for 37 assists and no turnovers, Toronto’s won both games and, both times, they’ve finished the fourth quarter with Calderon on the court and I’m quite fine with that.
Oh, and the folks at picture central like to leave a little bit to the imagination, hence the cut-off head.
Q: I was reading Eric Smith's blog on raptors.com the other day and he was going on about bringing an NBA franchise back to Vancouver. He even went so far as to say that he, Jack Armstrong, and Paul Jones would each pony up 25k to get the ball rolling.
First Question: Is this a good idea?
Second Question: What were the main factors associated with the failure of the Vancouver franchise (poor attendance, crappy team, inexperienced ownership)?
Finally, E. Smith said that NBA players loved to go to Van-City and play, I think he said it was one of the top five NBA destinations. All I seem to remember from that time was that players like Steve Francis REFUSED to play there. Was this to do with the city (being located in the "great white north") or more to do with playing for a "lowly" expansion team.
Kyle S, Ottawa
A: I have to admit I haven’t read Eric’s piece yet but if he and Jonesy and Jack each have an extra 25K lying around, I know where it’d be better off spent. A nice donation to the Aging Beat Grunt Foundation would b nice.
I think there were a couple of contributing factors, none of which had to do with the fans, who as I recall were outstanding. There were ownership issues, lots of issues to do with corporate money (the hockey team did deals that sort of locked up the arena for a lot of sponsors without involving basketball, which was a terrible to the hoops bottom line) and it’s not like Stu Jackson build a juggernaut on the court.
Now, most of the players I know, or knew, liked to go there once or twice a year as a visiting player (who wouldn’t?) but I’m not sure it was quite cosmopolitan enough back in the mid-1990s for some people to live there for nine months.
Q: I’ve been a big supporter of the Ford – Calderon 1 – 2 punch and believe it is a huge advantage to have two elite point guards no matter who starts. I do favour Calderon but that may be partially because I see him as a guy with a great character. On the other side I have been very disappointed in the Ford who returned to the Raps playing selfishly and sulking. As a fickle Raptors fan I now dream of seeing Calderon as #1 possibly backed up by Roko Ukic with Ford traded towards a strong swing man.
My question – Looking into your crystal ball is there any way you see Ukic having enough of an impact that he could be a viable #2 guard by the trade deadline next year?
Carl M, Codroy Valley, NL
A: Ah, a Roko as saviour question. Haven’t had one of those in a while.
What you can expect from Ukic next year, if all goes well with the buyout and his game, is a third string guard figuring out the NBA and North America. If he’s anything more than that, lots of people will be greatly surprised. And, if they do move Ford in the off-season, they are going to be looking for someone else as the primary backup behind Calderon because of the uncertainty around Ukic.
Q: If player A and player B both go for a rebound, and player A gets the rebound, but in the process gets called for a foul on player B (i.e. over-the-back), who, if anyone, gets credit for the rebound?
Andy C, Mississauga
A: Any loose ball foul like that results in no rebound for anyone.
Q: Any predictions for the men's/women's Olympic basketball medallists in Beijing?
Andrew C, Toronto
A: All three in both tournaments? That’s a tough one and I’m sure you won’t hold me to these, right?
On the women’s side, I’ve got the USA winning the gold, Russia the silver and the bronze to Australia.
The men’s really, really hard ‘cause no one knows who’s going to play for the Americans yet.
But I will go way out on the limb and say Spain wins the gold, Russia takes the silver and the Americans win another bronze.
Q: Doug, I am loving these 2-3-times-a-week-mailbags. Here are a couple questions that I hope you will include in your next one.
Pretty simple question really, would you or would you not trade Bargnani straight up for Bogut?
Second question: if you were given the chance to start a team with any 5 players from the last 3 drafts, who would you take? It doesn't have to be one player for each position, just your top 5 players to start a franchise from the last 3 drafts.
Serge P, Ottawa
A: No, I would not trade Andrea Bargnani for Andrew Bogut straight up.
Any five players? Last three drafts? Not even by position. To start a franchise? Hmm, okay, Paul, Roy, Oden, Durant, Bargnani.
I know, I know. Bargnani’s on there even though he’s been brutal for most of this year.
But it’s my franchise, you can do what you want with yours.
Q: Hi Doug, Just wanted to say thanks for the blog it's great. There's very little Raptors coverage here in Cali.
Anyhow, is it time for you to eat your words on the Shaq trade? I think you said it made absolutely 'no sense', and after a little transition, they've been on a roll. Well over .500 since the trade, 2 wins against the Spurs, etc. I'm anticipating you're answer being something like 'let's wait until the playoffs' but what if they lose in the playoffs to one of the other West teams? Proves nothing cause they wouldn't have had a chance at winning a series like that pre-Shaq. C'mon Doug, admit you're wrong.
Jim T, San Francisco
A: I will say they got it together more quickly than I thought they would and have looked good with Shaq playing beside Amare Stoudemire.
I won’t, however, say they are the favourites to win the West. I still don’t know if they’re as good as the Spurs – last week’s game notwithstanding – or the Lakers.
And they will regret the Shaq trade next year when they have to cut a big tax cheque and he plays 60 games in the regular season.
Q: Just in case I never mentioned it before, I'm one of the legion of your fans. I wonder if I'm a bigger fan of the blog than the actual Raptors.
I just have a simple question: when it is all said and done, do you think the difference between this season and last will come down to the absence of Garbo?
TC W, Toronto
A: I think it’s an over-simplification to say Garbo is the sole reason they’re fighting with .500. He would have helped, no question, but he wouldn’t have been able to keep Bosh of the injured list for 15 games and they still would have had to deal with Ford missing more than a quarter of the season.
And this season, as I’ve suggested since November, will ultimately be judged on how they do in the post-season.
Q: Since BC did not protest the Atlanta game with all of the clock mishaps, I was wondering one thing - Would BC have protested the game had the Raptors not blown a huge lead?
It seems that game is essentially going to decide whether we finish 5/6/7.
Karthik S, Toronto
A: No, one had nothing to do with the other. But, yes, it’s certainly looking like that one game will make a huge difference in where they finish. But so, too, do about six other games I can come up with off the top of my head. Losses to Milwaukee early, the blown 24-point lead in Dallas, the Clippers at home, at the Knicks, in Seattle, at Washington without Butler or Arenas. And I’m sure you can all think of more.
Q: In response to your reply, Shaq was the leader of the Lakers, not Kobe. Same with the Heat. Jordan was 28. Magic had Kareem. You probably win with Bird, though Parish (29) was the de facto star veteran.
The point was, people here are expecting way too much of Bosh at such a "young" age (24) for a clubhouse leader. Bosh doesn't have a Shaq or a Kareem. (A Rasho? Not quite the same thing). Young guys don't win championships. So to the ultra-negative Raptors fans, quit saying that Bosh isn't a franchise player, it's not his time yet.
Robert B, Oshawa
A: Point made. Doubt everyone will agree, but point made.
Q: First of all, thank you for your blog that I've discovered only recently but that I am now following with much pleasure.
As so many people, I came to being interested in the NBA as a teenager in the nineties (around 93) and the Bulls saga and stopped for a while after the 99 lockout. Being now happily married to a Torontonian, I started again to follow the evolution of the NBA (and most particularly of the Raptors) a couple of years ago. Having being away from the game for a couple of years, I am now feeling much older (what, C-Webb is already retired?!) and have a couple of naive questions/remarks on the evolution of the game:
- I remember reading in a French magazine (called "5 Majeur", excellent monthly publication covering the NBA) published in the early Raptors years that Marcus Camby was an okay player, but very weak defender. What happened to him then, as he is now at almost 14 boards and 4 blocks per game?
- is LeBron better than Michael? I mean, the guy is huge, his perf against Detroit last year rated as probably the biggest play off show ever, but still, Michael was something... And what about LeBron's jersey number? Is it in reference to MJ?
- how come there are so many Europeans (and even one Swiss!) and non-Americans in the NBA? 15 years ago, it would have been almost unthinkable.
- Dual question: whatever happened to the broadcast "NBA Action"? whatever happened to D-fense??
- finally, a question regarding NBA in Canada: why did Vancouver lose its NBA franchise and Toronto kept it? I mean, Toronto seems to me as THE hockey team, not necessarily basketball, which might not be the case of Vancouver.
Thank you once again for your job and kind regards from Switzerland
Matthieu B, Biel/Bienne, Switzerland
A: Welcome back to the game, sort of.
Marcus got older, more experienced and stayed a little bit healthier longer each season. He always had sublime skills, they were just dormant ‘cause he was always hurt.
When LeBron wins at least one championship, we can maybe talk Jordan comparisons right now, not even close. I’d say, right now, Kobe’s closer ‘cause he’s got those three rings.
The influx of Euros is a natural progression of things, they’ve got to find talent somewhere and it was only a matter of time until the discovered the continent.
Those NBA broadcasts, I believe, are dead and gone.
I’ve just answered why Vancouver left, I think the biggest reason Toronto stayed was the marriage, way back in the day, of the hockey and the basketball and the arena. Say what you will about them, the owners are stable. And that’s important. Oh, and Toronto started to win, too.
Q: Hey Doug, I will not be able to continue studying for exams until you answer this question, so unless you can live with yourself knowing that I failed out of Law school because of a Raptors-related mental block which you could have easily cured, please humour me: I see the Clips might be in the market for a PG this off-season. Is there any way BC tries to package TJ and the Raps' 1st round pick for the Clippers' 1st round (top 6) pick?
Andrew M, Rothesay
A: Is that the Rothesay, home of former Canadian women’s team stalwart Cynthia Johnson, if so, do they have her statue up yet?
Anyway, I am only humouring you because I really don’t like these kinds of questions. But, yes, the Clippers will probably need a point guard because of the uncertainty surrounding Shawn Livingston and his knee and I’m am certain Bryan will call them this summer.
Good luck in school, the world needs another lawyer. (I keed, I keed).
Q: Of all the fans in the NBA, who gives visiting fans the hardest time?
My friends and I made the road trip to Jersey last weekend, and completely out-cheered the whole Izod Center (maybe you saw us?)
Not many fans gave us a hard time... but I know if Nets fans made it to the ACC, we wouldn't have been as kind.
Thanks for your dedication to us Raps fans... right now I'm batting 1-2 regarding getting face time on the blog, so let's try to make it 2-3.
Jonny F, Scarborough
A: I’d have to put Detroit at the top of the list, with Sacramento and Philly in the conversation as well.
Q: Could you please share your thoughts on the sources from which players receive feedback on their playing style, and factors that affect whether they take these comments to heart? In the past, you've discussed this topic for individual players (e.g. a certain Raptors point guard who tries to take offensive matters into his own hands too often, or a particular Raptors three point specialist who could afford to take more three point shots), but I'm wondering if there are some principles that commonly apply to players in the NBA. Could lack of insight be one of these?
Julian T, Burlington
A: Insight and feedback comes from coaches. The assistants work diligently with guys on improving all facets of their games every day.
The principles are pretty simple, actually: Try to get better in every part of the game, with extra instruction on areas of weakness. Like poor shooters get up more shots, maybe tweak mechanics; guys with so-so ball-handling skills work on dribbling; big men try to develop better and different post moves.
Q: Quick question here. I was having a few beers with my buddies while watching the Raps beat that "player" with number 15 in his Nets Jersey and we were wondering: Is there a way to tell who the best fouler in the NBA is? What we mean is, is there any way to calculate the percentage of free throws made by players who are fouled by one person? For example tonight Delfino had 5 fouls which derived in 8 free throws, of which only 6 were made. That's kind of a good percentage. We were just wondering...btw, what a game by Downtown Delfino (or "El lancha")
Tobias R, Thornhill
A: I can’t find anywhere to figure that out, no. I’m sure it’s deep on some number crunching site I can’t find.
Q: Andrea Bargnani, 10.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 39% shooting
LaMarcus Aldridge, 17.7 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.2 bpg 48.5% shooting
Are you still naive enough to believe that the Raps made the right decision in drafting Bargnani? How credible is the argument that Bargnani has a higher ceiling than Aldridge when Aldridge is already showing signs of becoming one of the best power forwards in the game at the age of 22.
How can you argue that "Aldridge and Bosh together would not work" when Bargnani and Bosh have yet to develop chemistry in almost 2 seasons together?
When will the Toronto media admit that drafting Bargnani was an ill-advised decision by Bryan Colangelo?
I think if the Raptors had Aldridge on their roster this season they would be at the very least a 45-win team with a lot more room for growth. They now find themselves on the brink of ending this season .500, without any contributions from the 2006 1st overall pick and with much uncertainty about Bargnani's future.
Kareem E, Toronto
A: Naïve? Moi? Come on.
The argument that Bargnani has a higher ceiling than Aldridge is not only credible, I’d suggest it’s obvious. While Bargnani has not nearly reached his potential yet (and he probably took a step back this year), he shoots the ball at range, has a better handle than Aldridge and is bigger and stronger.
Aldridge one of the best power forwards in the game? You’re kidding right. He’s okay for a 22-year, yes; one of the best in the game? Come on. How about: Duncan, Garnett, Stoudemire, Nowitzki, Boozer, Brand, Rasheed, Jamison, Bosh, Gasol. There’s 10 head and shoulders better than Aldridge right now.
Maybe when their careers are over, or maybe a year from now, we can revisit this debate. After two seasons, I’m not ready to give up on Bargnani, and to render this discussion even more moot, neither is Bryan Colangelo or Sam Mitchell and they’re the only two guys who really count.
Q: I don't know if your crack research team can find an answer to this, but I hope they can: How many times this season have the Raps, leading after three, lost? And, if possible, how does this compare to the rest of the league?
It seems to me that there have been too many for a team with this talent.
Tim H, Windsor
A: The Raptors are 35-8 when they’ve been leading after three quarters and without going through every team’s game notes at the moment, I’m not sure how that stacks up. I do have Detroit’s in front of me and the Pistons are 49-5 when leading after three.
Q: Enjoying a little sun down south, but still keeping up with the Raps. While reading the recent interview with Colangelo I became intrigued by this comment:
"We have arguably a more talented team than last year, we have arguably under-utilized some of that talent to some extent this year at various points throughout the year(.)"
Am I crazy or is that a bit of a shot at the coach of the year?
Nathan W, Homosassa
A: Sure, it’s a bit of a shot, that’s what GMs do. Every know and then they rattle the cage of the coach. It doesn’t mean a change is imminent, it means more than what it is: A statement of opinion from the man in charge.
Q: Hi, Doug! Do you think there is any chance that Garbajosa will be ready for playoffs - even at 70% and 10 minutes playing? (He's the smart warrior for Raptors) If yes, that means they have a chance to show that they are the deepest team in NBA.
Alexandru C, Toronto
A: No chance. None. He’ll be back in the fall.