Our last pre-playoff mailbag
Hope all of you who needed to went and checked out Flat Stanley yesterday. We’re still trying to nail down exactly what we’re going to do over here for the playoffs but, rest assured, the mail will get answered. Maybe a few a day rather two or three times a week? The tallest of foreheads (well, me and the guy who actually runs this) have got our thinking caps on.
But first, some of this week’s submissions, and there are some left for a weekend mailbag:
Q: I don't expect this to be published but I happen to be Orlando next week and just got a ticket to Game 2.
Is there any particular bar or restaurant where Raptor fans/reporters/family go pregame (or postgame)
I'd rather go somewhere I won't be the only fan in Raptor red.
Philip S, Toronto
A: Here’s the thing: There’s nowhere really around the arena except the sports bar in the downtown Marriott across the parking lot from the gym. I can recommend Wolfgang Puck’s place out at Disney but it’s a ways away, you might see a beat grunt or two there on an off-night but not post- or pre-game.
Let’s throw it out there: Surely some of you have some recommendations. Toss ‘em in the comments section and help a fella out. This is a community of sorts and someone should be able to give you a few ideas. Lord knows I got some of the best restaurant/bar recommendations I’ve ever had by asking about Rome (and I still owe the couple that gave M. Grange ™ and I the fish place a huge debt) and Madrid.
Q: I finally managed to get time off work and playoff tickets to the Raps on Thursday night next week.
This is a prime example of the manic state of passionate Raps fans. One week you hate them, the next week you pay a small fortune to come home and see them in the playoffs.
Dean E, Whistler
A: Ding! Ding! Ding!
Q: What will Jamario Moon need to work on during the off-season, in order to improve the natural ability he has? I love his ability to come out of "nowhere" and get the "putback". However, there are times when he goes totally AWOL!
Also, I'm with you re Bargnani. I really enjoy seeing him attack the basket- amazing agility for such a big person. I believe he's playing injured or suffering from second year jitters.
Cath D, Kitchener
A: The first thing Jamario has to work on is his dribbling ability. I’m more convinced every day that the reason he doesn’t drive the ball is that he can’t handle it well enough to get past anyone.
Q: Ever since Bosh called out the fans to make some noise, I was wondering if you knew which arenas in the NBA are known for creating artificial noise (on a consistent basis) in their house to pump up their players and to create a good atmosphere?
Bria T, Toronto
A: I’m not sure all of them don’t. But the one place that stands out for me is New Jersey, where you hear this cacophony of noise and look around and no one is clapping or standing or yelling. Quite comical. Atlanta also comes to mind.
Q: Hi Doug, Could there be a co-MVP in the NBA? Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant are both MVPs in the NBA. Has there ever been co-MVPs in the NBA?
Nash N, Pickering
A: Sure, the vote could end in a tie. It’s never happened, but it could. Last tie there was for a major award was in 2000 when Elton Brand and Steve Francis tied for rookie of the year.
Q: Hiya Doug - I've only been addicted to the Raps for 5 years (and) I know of three playoff appearances. I remember Philly several years ago (who wouldn't with the Wince/graduation controversy!), last year against NJ, and this year. Did I miss any before my addiction kicked in?
Sherry E, Toronto
A: I’m guessing you might not be quite as old as some of us, well, me. They were in the playoffs in 2000 when they were swept by the Knicks, the infamous 2001 Philly year, 2002 when they lost in five first-round games to Detroit, last year and this year.
Now, cure that addiction. Addictions are bad. Or so I’m told.
Q: How far in the playoffs do you think this team would go if we could trade Graham for Granger and Hump for Iguodala. Which was the bigger draft blunder
Dan W, Charlottetown
A: I have no idea how far they’d go, it’s a silly debate to have. And I presume you mean Hoffa for Iguodala and the answer that’s the winner by a resounding margin.
Q: Every question I ask you don't respond and I understand you're busy but not once have you. I doubt you will answer this one either for reasons we both know but have you ever played the game? Coached the game? And how long have you been around the game because for a guy who spends all day around the team your articles have no depth really and your opinions on basketball matters are dumb founding to me. I wish we had guys north of the border who could write about this sport with passion and experience for die hard fans like myself.
James G, Toronto
A: Now that I’ve printed one, do you promise not to write any more? Thanks
Q: Hi Doug, I am a regular reader of your blogs and an ardent Raptor fan. I can't agree with you though when you said "Do not read anything into last night’s game. Nothing." Three reasons:
1) Going into the playoffs is also about building up a momentum. You don't want to go in on a losing note. Winning as well as loosing is contagious.
2) Detroit whipped us with their bench in a game that meant nothing to them. It shows the Raptor's lack of depth when they couldn't beat the Bulls with their second unit.
3) Lastly, the same bad habits that caused us to lose so many games in the regular season, were very much there last night. That does not give me too much confidence to think that the playoffs are going to be any better.
Allan A, Toronto
A: I’m not going to win this one but I’ll try.
Nothing that happened Wednesday night will matter a lick on Sunday. If they’d played well and won by 20 I’d say the same exact thing.
And don’t mistake depth for end-of-the-bench-warm-bodies. Yes, the Detroit backups beat Toronto for a quarter, just as Toronto’s starters beat Detroit’s starters for the quarter immediately preceding that one.
And the bad habits, which I agree are there, were not going to get broken if Bosh et al had played 18 more minutes in Chicago. They can get broken by greater concentration and attention to detail in the intensity of a playoff game.
Q: Sometimes you just have to laugh, eh Doug? I see that the Phoenix Suns, they of the 55 wins in the west, have re-signed Linton Johnson for the remainder of the season, making him eligible for their playoff roster. With two 10-days with the Suns earlier in the season, and then his electrifying 10-day stint with the hometown club behind him, it says on the Suns' website in a photo caption that "Johnson could provide a nice perimeter defender for the Suns off the bench." And that's where the laughing comes in! Our good ol' Raptors (all FOURTEEN of them) certainly don't have any use for one of those, now do they?
Howard P, Toronto
A: Linton Johnson is Joey Graham or Maceo Baston. Insurance, pure and simple. The chances of him playing any role, let alone as a “nice perimeter defender for the Suns off the bench” are slim and none.
Q: Two questions:
1) Could you have coached Boston to the season they had or did Doc Rivers do anything special to really pull out 66 wins? I figure Darrell Walker could've done just as decent a job there... (yes, I'm still sour at how he treated T-Mac)
2) Which NBA city has the best accommodations? Food? Beverages*? Experience?
Naoto Y, Calgary
A: Doc’s going to get some consideration for coach of the year, and rightfully so. It may look easy – roll the balls out and let KG, Pierce and Allen go at it – but managing personalities and egos, soothing over rough spots in the season and handling all the other demands on your time and patience takes a special person. No, I couldn’t have done it; and I don’t imagine Darrell could have.
Best all-around experience: Seattle. Great city, great restaurant, great bar and while Key Arena’s not the nicest in the league and has terrible working conditions, it can still get rocking at times.
Q: Thank you for the blog it is always good to hear your perspective on the team. I've noticed that recently you've been getting a lot of questions concerning Joey G. Who do you think will last longer in the NBA Joey Graham or twin brother Stephen Graham currently with the Pacers? Stephen while not integral to the Pacers seems to be popular with the Pacers coaches and management. I don't get the same impression with Joey here in Raptorland and I doubt he'll get much of a shot after he leaves Toronto around the rest of the league
Jon H, Toronto
A: Joey’s got a guaranteed year left on his contract, Stephen doesn’t. That could very well be the determining factor. But I think there’s a chance – for the right price – some GM takes a shot on Joey and, hopefully, he realizes his potential somewhere else. It’s not going to happen here.
Q: So I just finished watching the Raps/Bulls game and I was shocked to see that when the game was over and all the Raptors left the court, Jamario went over to hug a couple players and a coach on the Bulls team. I know he idolized Pippen and his jersey number is 33 because of him but did he just foreshadow that he would prefer to be in Chicago than in Toronto?
Rick K, Toronto
A: Wow, that’s reading an awful lot into a guy saying hi to friends. I saw him hug Aaron Gray, who he would have met at rookie orientation earlier this year, and he had some words with Pete Myers, who he’s known for a while. It didn’t mean he wants to play for the Bulls.
Q: Doug, have you been to Vancouver? Not cosmopolitan enough? Have you been to half the cities in the United States that have NBA teams? I don't know if an NBA team could survive here only 'cause we're all out shreddin' the rad in the winter and watching hoops on PVR after a hot tub and a few beers. But, dude, don't base a city’s goodness on whether it's cosmopolitan. Have you seen the mountains? Have you been here in the winter? Have you seen our real estate prices! Now that's cosmopolitan!
Thomas E, Vancouver
A: I’ve been to Vancouver often, covered a slew of basketball games there, have seen the mountains and love the city. It’s not me who didn’t think it was “big city” enough, it was some NBA players and that’s simply an indisputable fact.
Q: At points last year did Bargs not play a small forward position when he was on the floor with hump or garbo playing 4/5 and bosh? I believe that this is the mismatch that Toronto should ponder. They need to go BIG, make Lewis or Turks play D instead of holding delfino/JK's hands on the three point line. POST 'em up Bargs.
I have yet to see SMITCH be proactive in creating mismatches, he is always reactive....for example when the other team goes small, he plays Ford and Calderon, why doesn't he use his size in these circumstances? - 3 quality 7"ish" footers
BARGS/BOSH/RASHO = three headed MoNsTa!
Derek S, Belleville
A: I’ll go over this one last time (well, actually, I’m sure I’ll have to go over it another six or seven times before we’re all done): They might -- MIGHT – be able to steal three or four possessions of three bigs but Andrea’s defensive liabilities guarding quicker small forwards is always going to catch up with him. It’d be one thing to suggest that might work if you knew Andrea was going to be able to score easily on a smaller defender, I think we can all agree that’s not a certainty at any level. In the playoffs, your first responsibility is making sure the other guy doesn’t score.
And I bet if you go back and find those instances with Bargnani played alongside Hump or Garbo and Bosh, he would have been guarding the four.
Q: Doug, it's playoff time, and this is when you simply can't rely on rookies to get the blog response job done for you. You have to go to your veterans, the ones who have been there for you since the beginning. The battle-tested, seasoned warriors. In that spirit, I am stepping forward in crunch time and laying it all on the line for you, Doug. Here then is my prediction: Howard is the LEAST important part about this series. He'll get his points and rebounds, but I have every confidence that Rasho can turn him into Adam West instead of Christopher Reeve, and this without the need for a double team. If, heaven help us, he gets into foul trouble, they need to let Primo, Bargs and Hump take turns fouling him every time down the court, or as I like to call it, Smite-A-Dwight (you can use that if you want, Doug). Here are the three keys to the Raptors somehow being able to pull this off:
1) They have to get 48 MINUTES of OUTSTANDING play from their point guards. TJ has to play the way he has the past few games offensively, and play like he cares on defence (which he has in the past; just not recently), and José has to rediscover his midrange jumper and penetrate more to the hoop).
2) Bosh has to command the double team, make QUICK decisions and his teammates need to make the open jumpers that the double team will create for them. But if Lewis is assigned to cover him instead of Howard, this series could be over in a hurry. He's just the kind of quick, undersized 4 who gives Bosh fits.
3) Toronto has to find religion, AKA a semblance of a perimeter defence. And Orlando has to shoot poorly.
If those three things happen, and ONLY if those three things happen, the Raps will win in 7. More likely, it's Orlando in five.
Lee Z, Ottawa
A: Yes, you are a veteran of these parts and as such you get the platform. For now. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Well, maybe I could have but you’ve done a fine job.
Q: I can feel the excitement of playoff basketball in the air. Who would you say were Toronto's "most overpaid" and "most underpaid" players this year. I think you'd be hard-pressed to leave Kapono out of the discussion of most overpaid guys--he just hasn't found his niche yet with this team.
Mark I, Oakville
A: As the great Jalen Rose once said, and I could be paraphrasing here, “it’s not what you earn, it’s what you negotiate.” And with that in mind, nobody’s really “overpaid.” At the same time, they are all “overpaid” in comparison with, say, teachers or police officers or firemen. Or beat grunts.
I think the biggest bargain, by far, was Jamario Moon, with Jose Calderon a close second. I would also suggest that Kapono makes an average NBA wage and had an average NBA season. Let’s say perhaps the $2 million they paid Maceo Baston this year and the $2 million or so they’ll pay him next year could have been money better spent.
Q: On paper Orlando and Toronto match up quite well and if you asked me in February I'd probably say that Toronto takes the series. My concern is that Orlando seems to be going into the playoffs playing very sharp basketball while the Raps are not. Does this mean anything going into the playoffs or does all momentum/struggles of the last few months go out the window come game time Sunday?
Aaron J, Markham
A: No, you can’t discount recent history but you can’t base everything on it. There is a different level of intensity in the playoffs, more adrenaline flowing, if you will, that makes allows some players to put the immediate past well behind them. I have no idea if the Raptors have that kind of player.
Q: I read the ESPN prediction and nine out of their 10 "experts" picked Orlando in this series. Although I disagree with them, I can't see how the Toronto media can say that “Toronto has more experience in the playoffs.” We both lost last year (and they had the Pistons).
Also, is there a higher chance that we see a TJ-Jose backcourt as they face a smaller Magic counterpart.
Chris M, Detroit
A: I think if the Magic plays Nelson and Dooling, you might see Calderon and Ford on the court at the same time. But that’d be about the only way.
I don’t think anyone’s suggesting the Raptors have more experience. In fact, if you add up the raw numbers, the Magic roster has appeared in more playoff games than the Toronto roster has.
Q: Did you notice Jose's assist-to-turnover ratio for April? It is pretty nuts -- about 83-to-1. For the last 10 games of the season it was 95:2. Maybe not a record, but still pretty impressive.
Apologies if you have answered this before, but how did you become The Star's hoops guy? Did you work on a bunch of different desks or were you always a sports guy? Always a basketball guy, or did you grow into it when Toronto got a team?
Mark R, Seoul
A: Yes, I have noticed. Quite impressive.
I’ve been in sports in various capacities – everything from Oxford County high school to five Olympics – since I got in the business in 1979 with the exception of an 18-month stint in news in St. John’s, NL, back in the ‘80s.
Played basketball as a kid, liked it, watched it, got a gig writing about it back in 1992 at the very first Tournament of the Americas in Portland and have been doing the Raptors and NBA since 1994.