Mid-week mail (and there's lots of it)
You’ve done it again. Filled the mailbag to over-flowing. Here’s what we’ve got so far. And it’s only until Tuesday morning so check back during the week in the mailbags and the blog for other answers.
Q: Here's a different kind of question for you. I got into a debate with my brother about the Raps and was hoping that you could be the decision maker.
My statement: “The Argentinian national team could easily beat the Raptors.”
Note that by "easily" I don't mean a 30-point blowout. I mean that it wouldn't be a shocker if they won and in fact, I would put them as favorites to win.
With a starting line up of Manu Ginobli, Luis Scola, Fabricio Oberto, Carlos Delfino and Walter Herrmann and a bench that has been playing together since they were 3 years old how can they not win? Come on Doug, be the tiebreaker!
Ed C, Toronto
A: It’d be a shocker to me if the Raptors won.
Q: Don't know if you caught the Houston/San Antonio game on Sunday but if you did you would have heard some interesting comments made by Jeff Van Gundy. He stated "No self-respecting team would put up a division banner". That poses the question, are the Raptors not a self-respecting team? What are your thoughts about putting up such an inconsequential banner?
Michael K, Toronto
A: I have no problem with it at all. I guess Jeff just didn’t want to diminish all the championship banners he’s been a part of.
Q: Hey Doug, in the Sunday mail you said 'But he(Rasho) wouldn’t be the first guy I’d offer up on the trade market once the season ends'. Who would be the first guy?
I think Jamario is the first person. He has a very tradeable contract and good trade value NOW. We can't get anyone good in a straight-up trade since his contract is so small but wouldn't he look great in a package deal? Plus, his potential to be a lot better does not seem that great.
One more question for you: Do you think Bill Simmons(ESPN) has a shot of being the Bucks next GM???
Nick M, Oakville
A: Jamario actually doesn’t have a very tradeable contract from this end at all. He’s going to make – if the Raptors pick up his option – about $710,000 next season and that’s not going to get you anything in return.
I’d start with T.J., actually, with Kapono, Joey and Hump next in line.
And I can’t imagine Bill Simmons doing a worse job as a GM than some of them in the league so why not give him an interview and see what happens.
Q: First the thought process, then the question. I was thinking about backup PGs when I read the Travis Outlaw question in the Sunday mailbag. Made me think of Sergio Rodriguez, who is Spanish - which got me thinking about an all-Spanish PG tandem (totally in theory, not suggesting it particularly).
Which led me to the question: How would non-US national teams stack up as NBA teams? If the national team of, say, Spain, was an NBA team (and included players not currently in the NBA), where would they stand?
I wonder this about a whole range of countries - obviously the US is like an all-star team. But what about countries like Argentina, Slovakia, Turkey, Spain (again), Brazil, Serbia, or Italy to name a handful of examples from top-20 national teams?
Forget about the rules issue - I'm talking from a talent standpoint. Where would these nations rank in the NBA standings?
Danny A, Toronto
A: I think the good national teams with NBA experience – and I’d limit that, right now, to Spain and Argentina – would be quite competitive in the NBA. There’s something to be said for the familiarity they have with each other.
I don’t know if they’d win the championship, but they’d compete for it.
Q: Is it just me or has Sam been getting it pretty easy of late? I know he had a great season last year and was awarded a new contract, but come on he definitely needs to be criticized at least to a degree. The players that we need to progress (Bargnani, Ford & Kapono) have all regressed. Our floor intelligence has not gotten any better (Having the opposition roll the ball to half court every other game for the entire season). As I sat there last night in my soon to be vacated season seat I wondered why he's been let off? Any ideas?
Peter A-M, Toronto
A: Let off? I dunno about that but, fact is, he’s coaching a team that’ll win more than it loses with a suspect gang of swingmen, and having lost key components for long stretches of the season.
Sure, he’s made mistakes, more than his fair share and he gets called out on some of them (and I don’t mean by citizens of Blogistan or residents of chat rooms), but on balance, I don’t think he’s done a bad job.
There are zillions who disagree and that’s cool.
Q: Doug, I hate to bring this up, but I will anyway because I think it's a question that warrants being asked.
If Chris Paul was the exact same basketball player but fell somewhere else on the color scale, if you get my drift, I can't help but think there would be no media debate as to who this year's MVP should be.
His contribution to his team's success, his statistics and overall leadership are all similar to a certain recent winner of the award, whom the basketball punditry was nearly unanimous in anointing.
Steven B, Toronto
A: If you think it warrants being asked, here’s an answer.
It’s absolutely ludicrous and couldn’t be further from the truth and because I know a majority of the voters, I can’t believe I’m dignifying it with an answer.
But I am for one reason: This “near unanimous” statement can’t be ignored:
Near unanimous? You gotta bring better stuff that than, or have your memory check. Steve Nash, and I can only imagine that’s who you’re talking about, beat Shaquille O’Neal by 34 points in 2005, the fourth-closest voting in history.
Q: A quick question about pizza. Do you know if most of the homeless located near the ACC are aware of the free pizza for 100 points? Should I be explaining the "value" of the ticket stub more clearly when I give it away?
A side note about the Hornets game too. Loved the energy Linton Johnson brought to the game, especially his intensity on D (saw him and Wells mixing it up a bit). Any chance he breaks into the regular line-up if he proves he can drive to the basket instead of taking ill-advised jumpers?
Jeff D, St. Catharines
A: You’ll see later on that I think explaining the value is a good idea.
And I think we’ve seen in two games the flaws with Linton Johnson. Sure, he was good in New Orleans game but the two minutes in Charlotte were, um, less than good.
I think he’s the 11th man on the active roster, just ahead of Gangster.
Q: This isn't a question for you per se but I was hoping you might be able to ask it of the Raptors training staff. Please excuse the prefacing. One of the things that has always struck me both playing and watching basketball is that almost everyone not named Rip Hamilton or Kevin Garnett - regardless of their aerobic capacity - can play hard all the time. It actually becomes necessary to take a play off, to not get back on defence in order to restore one's VO2. One of the things that last night's game against the Hornets made obvious is that having a unit that can play full out - even if for a short term - can make up (if but temporarily) for a lack of talent.
Here's my question, then. Other sports that have start/stop action tend to run their athletes in shorter shifts. Obviously, you want your best players on for the bulk of the game (and particularly in basketball where you always need someone with a specific talent, i.e. scoring on the floor), but why do the players' runs tend to be 11-14 min.? Continuity, I'm guessing, is one argument in the favor of longer shifts. But what are the cost/benefits of continuity vs. concentration? Why are shifts not 5-6 min. with 1 min breaks (presuming a "natural" stop in action).
Jason P, Nova Scotia
A: Good question. But the game’s so much a game of “flow” that disrupting it with shorter “shifts” and more breaks would be counter-productive. And if you watch the veterans around the league, they know when to take possessions off, at both ends of the court, that allows them to catch a little breath during the run of the play.
Q: Quick question (maybe with a long answer)... after seeing most of the season, can you compare the defensive abilities with this Raptor team to last years' team? Are these guys better defenders? Or pretty much the same?
Jon K, Hamilton
A: I think they’re worse on the perimeter because of the absence of Garbo, better on the post because of the presence of Rasho and the point guards are pretty much the same although I’m seeing a lot more blow-bys than anyone would like.
They are not the best defensive team in the league or the worst, I’d put ‘em right around the middle of the pack. That’s a lot better than the past but there’s still room for improvement.
Q: Doug - right before the opening tip-off, we see the players greet each other very warmly ("hugs and kisses" was how you pit it, rightly). This has always struck me as odd - whatever happened to hating your opponent, and only shaking hands at the end of the game? It really makes basketball seem like an 'exhibition' rather than a 'competition'.
Anyway, I know it will never change, but do you know of any players that don't participate in the pre-game lovefest? Either playing or not. I can't see Bill Laimbeer and Larry Bird engaging in a warm hug before the opening tip, for example. Also, when did the hugging start - has it always been in the game?
Alex L, Barrie
A: It’s a brotherhood, baby.
I don’t know of any who don’t participate, but I’m sure there are a few – and I don’t see a lot of tips involving a lot of teams – who just give cursory fist bumps to the guys on the other teams. I don’t imagine Kevin Garnett gives too many hugs on the court.
When did it start? It’s been around in some form forever but the one time many point to is when Isiah and Magic kissed on the court before games in the 1989 Finals.
Q: The likelihood that TJ may be packaged up to find greener pastures seems to be growing here and in other media outlets daily. This leads to my question.
What teams realistically would take a long hard look at TJ considering his health, game and their team’s needs. Recently I've heard Knicks, Clippers, and Miami to name a few. I'm not asking you to suggest players off of those teams; I'm more curious who you think BC will have programmed into his speed dial come the summer time? And, which teams, Memphis comes to mind, will be looking to flood the market with young, decent and most importantly, available, PG that would drive down TJ’s return.
Also, would BC consider moving up in the draft if a Maggette, Marion or Redd weren't available to him in return for Ford?
Thank you for your time and immense brainpower on all matters related to the hard court.
Matthew H, Toronto
A: The general rule of thumb – and GMs talk to every other GM in the league exploring possibilities – is that you look for a team that might be facing future financial problems regarding the luxury tax (knowing you might have to take back an extra bad contract to make a deal work), you look at teams that have under-achieved and might want to shake things up, and you look at teams that have a glut of players at one spot who might be available in return.
Financial: Memphis, Phoenix and New York.
Under-achieve: Dallas, maybe Denver, New Jersey, Sacramento.
Glut: Portland’s got about a billion guards, it seems.
And, yes, I think Bryan will do all he can to move up in the draft with a player and a pick as the offer.
Q: Basketball 101 question for you: Why does the "first team foul in the last two minutes" need to be announced by the PA guy every time it happens?
Is Herbie just drawing attention to the fact that Brezec isn't on the floor (I keed, I keed)?
David H, Toronto
A: Because if a team has committed two or fewer team fouls in the first 10 minutes, the opposition shoots bonus free throws on the second foul in the last two minutes.
Q: With changes imminent in the management of the Knicks what is the word, if any, on the fate of Glen Grunwald?
Tom C, London
A: No word and I would think Glen’s the kind of guy any new GM or president would certainly want to think about keeping. In any regime change in pro sports, there has to be some sort of continuity.
Q: I quote you;
”I think they should send him to a big man’s camp where all he does is work six hours a day on a low=post game.
But the dude is 7-feet tall and a solid 250, I don’t think there’s much more bulk he needs. He needs work on his game, not his body.”
Now I know 250 is heavy. But I played ball a lot of years, Bargnani is a soft man. I concur, he needs 6 hours or training in the paint. However, he needs another 3 hours Jacking up about 3000 shots, with proper range and rotation ala Agent Zero, and another three hours busting his body and creating some actual muscle tone. This kid is outta shape, period. People wanna talk about rest, part of being rested is having the drive to be in shape. Bargnani needs more than work on his game, he needs a new body. Do you argue this point??
Craig G, Toronto
A: Outta shape? Your opinion. Not shared by anyone around the team. No, I don’t think he needs a new body, I think he needs to refine his shooting fundamentals (which seem to have disappeared of late) and work on his post-game.
And, you know, I gotta say this: I’m sure you played a lot of ball over the years. Your experience has absolutely nothing in common with the NBA.
Q: Doug, I do have a question, but wanted to share this with you first (feel free to edit for length and/or grammar if you do post this): During law school, myself and 3 friends were avid Raptors watchers (and Doug Smith column readers). However, they all went to TO to work after they graduated. So this past weekend I went to TO to catch the Knicks game with them (and re-live the good times) and wouldn't you know it, the "home" team scores 103. Having read your column, I saved my ticket and that of one of my friends to give to someone who needed free slices more than I while I explored downtown TO. While exploring Bloor St. I saw a man huddled beside a Pizza Pizza and figured he was an obvious choice to give the tickets. I discretely went up to him and pulled out the two tickets saying, "Here, take these inside for 2 free slices of pizza". The man looks up and says "I don't want those" and pushes my hand away. Stunned I put the tickets back in my pocket and ended up giving them to a guy beside a Tim Horton's.
Now the question: What are your thoughts on Josh Smith (Hawks) as a 3? I think he would answer the defence, athleticism, and rebounding problems for the Raps (essentially Moon 2.0). My friends seem to think that I am grossly over-estimating his value. What do you think?
B F, Halifax
A: I like Josh Smith a lot. Got lots of game, needs some refinement, of course, and needs to calm down a little bit and play smarter but most kids do. I don’t know if the Hawks are going to part with him, though, since they seem to have a good nucleus there.
Interesting story on the tickets. But I'm glad you gave them to someone.
Q: Dougie, I read that you thought the Raps would have about five new faces come next training camp, curious of some names you think are possibilities. I've read names being brought up like Nocioni and Redd and names possibly leaving like Ford and Rasho, but what about Kapono who I've seen you stick up for cause he's the best in one category in the NBA but then had no problem calling him out after his start against the hornets. Also any thoughts on maybe a J Rich from Charlotte or Josh Smith? Athletic, good defenders, and could run up and down the court with the Raps style?
Brock W, Calgary
A: Kapono’s been a disappointment, yes. Part of his own doing and part of the coaching, too. And if I’m Bryan Colangelo, I’d put his name out there in the summer, see what it fetches.
Q: I had the privilege to see the Davidson/Kansas final last Sunday. Stephen Curry - all I can say is wow! Two questions regarding the aforementioned: (1) Does he have an even quicker release than Kapono? (2) With a performance like that - how high can a relative unknown go in the NBA draft after averaging 30 in the tournament: vis a vis Wally Szczerbiak? (Wally went 6th ahead of Rip, Marion, Andre Miller, The Jet, Magette, Artest and AK47)
Doug S, Peterborough
A: Scouts and GMs can be fooled by four or five good games, no question about it. But that’s why they spend months on the road from December until March, watching these kids in all kinds of different games to really develop a feel for them.
But I think a year from now Stephen Curry will be just as sought after as some think he is today.
Q: Here we go for the 9th or maybe 10th time hopefully this time I finally get lucky. Since it seems you are starting to possibly admit that trading T.J. Ford might me one of our only choices to improve what about this. Josh Howard of the Dallas Mavericks he can score and rebound and importantly create his own shot too. I think if we trade TJ (Since the Mavs traded away Harris I think they will need a new point guard to replace J Kidd) and Rasho (to replace Diop and provide some salary cap relief with both Kidd's and Rasho's contracts expiring) we might have something here. Your thoughts? I think he will be better than any other SF we have a chance at.
Chris C, Toronto
A: I don’t think you’re going to feel so lucky.
You don’t seriously expect the Dallas Mavericks to trade Josh Howard for T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic, do you?
You gotta bring better stuff than that in the next nine or 10, I’m afraid.
Q: A few for you:
1) I think we all expected the Raptors to be... um ... lesser without CB4, but I for one was surprised at how bad it got. What teams do you think would suffer the most without their best player - top 5 if you like.
2) Interesting defensive play by Okafor - bounce the ball off your elbow back through the hoop. Obviously the refs missed that call and would have benefited from the replay we saw. Is there any circumstance where the NBA allows for the use of video replays during a game? Can someone dispute a score after the game's end and have the final result overturned?
3) Lots of shots off glass tonight. From the little I've played, I've always had more luck using the backboard - what's the difference for the pros? Is it that much easier for a straight hoop? Why do players sometimes elect to go off glass?
4) It seems that Bosh is playing so many minutes lately that this won't make much of a difference, but in your opinion, which PG has better chemistry with CB4?
5) Does any one of you beat grunts get refreshments for the others during the half a la Calderon? If not, who would be the most likely to do so?
Paulino N, Toronto
A: And a few for you
1) Cleveland (LeBron), Boston (Garnett), Orlando (Howard), Lakers (Kobe), and we’ve seen what happens to Miami without Wade.
2) They use video replay to see if shots beat the buzzer at end of games and quarters and to determine if those shots were twos or threes. There is talk of expanding it next season but to what lengths is still being discussed.
3) Not much difference, some players (Tim Duncan) just feel more comfortable shooting bank shots from the side.
4) I think it’s pretty much equal, although he does run the high screen and roll more effectively with Calderon.
5) I’m usually out at halftime getting fresh air rather than wasting time with refreshments. But if we do sit around, it’s usually the first to the water who offers to get stuff for the rest of us. We’re a good bunch that way.
Q: I just wanted to thank you for your work on this blog. Growing up, I was a die-hard hockey and baseball fan. Before all the player strikes and lockouts in hockey and baseball, I lived and breathed all the pools and fantasy leagues. I was a real sports geek with stats and analyzing the games.
I just wanted to say thank you, because last year I started to get into basketball. After reading about the rules/strategy and getting a few of my basketball-obsessed friends to explain the game to me, I became a Raptors fan. I was attracted to the team because I'm from Toronto and I somehow really liked reading about Chris Bosh's story in the papers.
This year, I discovered your blog (I have the National Post and Globe delivered to my house every day, unfortunately not that Star) online, and I feel I learn something new about the Raptors and the sport of basketball every time I read an entry.
Thank you so much for bringing your insight and knowledge to both new and old fans a like.
Do you know of a resource on the internet where I can learn about the basic plays? I can identify them in football and hockey, and I'd like to increase my knowledge on the game of basketball. I'd like to one day, explain to my kid (if I ever have one) how to run a proper pick and roll, or how to properly box out.
Alex C, Toronto
A: I’m not sure how well your local library or bookstore is stocked by I’d think any instruction book by a guy like John Wooden would be good, if you can find something by Red Auerbach I’d recommend it. Or just keep reading here, we’ll eventually get around to stuff.
The internet? I really have caught on to that fad quite yet; I just wish there was some kind of search thing where you could type in a word or two, hit a button and all the information would just magically appear.
Q: Hey Doug, question for you. There's all the talk now about packaging TJ for the swingman that we need to move up the ranks in the East. But assuming the rest of the NBA also values Calderon vs. Ford the way that most of Toronto does, do you make the same trade to get that star if it costs you a sign and trade with Jose in the package instead of TJ? Would you be willing to go with TJ the same way we were willing to go with him when BC signed him to the contract in the first place?
Normiyuki H, Toronto
A: It would depend on the player coming back for me. But probably not, I’d see what T.J. would get me and then compare what you’d be getting back for what you’d be giving up.
Q: Hey Doug, question about the MVP award for you. I completely understand why you'd vote Kobe. Just wondering, if the award was called the "Most Outstanding Player" award, or another title that suggested "best" instead of "most valuable", would that change your vote? I think it would be hard not to give it to LeBron, given that he's putting up more points, rebounds and assists than Kobe. And yes, he's doing it in the easier conference, but he also has much less help. Hoping to get your thoughts on this.
Geoff A, Toronto
A: On pure numbers, LeBron wins or maybe Chris Paul does; but it wouldn’t matter what they called the award, I’d still give it to Kobe this year.
Q: Is Calderon worn out from logging so many minutes during Ford's absence? He just doesn't seem to have the same spark that he had around the all-star game. And now, the 2nd unit seems to be sputtering as a result.
Think if Sam starts cutting back his minutes in preparation for the playoffs, will Calderon bounce back in time (and in the process get Ford back into rhythm)?
Drew M, Willowdale
A: I don’t think too many players have the same spark now that they did in early February. I don’t see Jose more worn out than most. And I think when the playoffs roll around, everyone’s so geeked up, it won’t have mattered how many minutes were played in the final couple of weeks.
Q: Just a fun sort of question for you, or I guess for the Swirsk himself: Has Chuck the Canuck ever gone wrong after he takes out the Salami and Cheese? Have you ever remembered him saying to take out the salami and cheese only for the Raptors to eventually lose?
P.S. This is for all the rants that you have to read, you deserve one that's a funner (yes I know that isn't a word) question.
Bryce F, Markham
A: I’ve never asked, you might wanna go to Raptors.com and give it a shot directly. I’m guessing not.
Q: Doug, from many recent reports (one from you), veteran talent in Europe that could potentially be signed here have gone dry. Is this due to the recent surge over the past few seasons that left it weaker and because of the weak USD/strong EUR? And if people think this allows the Chinese talent pool to be tapped, not so fast. I've watched some games in the domestic league and talents like Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian are once or twice in a decade. Maybe in the next decade, will the next generation that Yao brought out lead to regular draft prospects from China. Do you think there will ever be a time when Europeans and Chinese are sought after as much as Americans? I would think the timing of the two cannot be mutually exclusive.
Martin L, Hong Kong
A: Eventually, doesn’t it have to happen? Surely by sheer numbers the Asian, European and African markets – and maybe even South America but I still think soccer attracts the top athletes there – have to at least match North America for producing players, doesn’t it?
But until Asia starts getting better coaches for kids, I think that time is far off in the distance.
Q: Are refs evaluated after every game and do teams submit comments to the league after bad games? My point is last night felt like AP was the chosen bad guy. In about one minute he drives to the hoop, gets mugged - no call. Next sequence on defence he is whistled when G Wallace trips and falls out of bounds hitting AP on the way; and finally AP on a breakaway drive to the hoop gets hacked on the arm no call. Hard to believe the refs missed them all. Looks like the way they often treat rookies with calls. So second question - Does AP actually get as little respect from the refs as it appeared last night?
Jim B, Bedford, NS
A: There is an NBA-appointed observer at every NBA game and his report goes into the office. And the head office takes a look at every game.
Teams? They don’t generally submit things of a routine nature; stuff like flagrant fouls and the like, yes. Run of the mill calls? They let them slide.