Our last, last pre-playoff mailbag
Greetings from Orlando and the luxuriously appointed Springhill Suites, where the fun never ends. Figure I gotta get a whole bunch of mail out of the way today and tomorrow ‘cause once the fun starts for real, I can only imagine the questions will fly.
So here’s some, I’ve got more in the pipeline that maybe I can knock off between practices today.
Q: What are your five favorite basketball related books? I thoroughly enjoyed Heaven is a Playground, The Last Shot, and The City Game. But I need some new non-PhD related reading material!
Paul M, Toronto
A: Sorry it’s taken me so long to get to this one; it got buried under a bunch of other saved questions.
You’ve got the top three right there.
I’d include Pistol: The Life Of Pete Maravich on the list and probably Bill Bradley’s Life On The Run.
I’m sure I’m missing all kinds of great ones.
Oh, and if you can find an old copy of Airborne …
Q: Okay Doug, great blog as always, fourth time writing, hope it gets in so I'll keep it short. The luxury tax is often mentioned. I am watching the 4th quarter of the Detroit game and once again hear that Detroit has big bucks in salary to pay next year? Which teams are over the cap and have to pay tax? Are teams loaded with talent like LA, San Antonio, Detroit etc. all paying tax? Are there any under cap teams that are actually competitive that are not darkhorses? Ultimately, is it possible to be a championship team without paying tax because MLSE made it clear they won't pay tax, and if that's the case, are we SOL for a championship? Flukes not withstanding.
David R, Little Britain
A: Another one I saved and lost, sorry.
According to the salary information I have, there are eight teams – New York, Dallas, Denver, Cleveland, Portland, the Lakers, Boston and Phoenix – that will likely have to pay a luxury tax after the 2008-09 season.
But teams like San Antonio, Utah and Detroit – all legitimate championship contenders right now – aren’t tax-paying teams so there is a way to be fiscally responsible and still contend.
Q: Hey Doug, I've sent a couple of questions but they've never gotten answered. Maybe they were too long. Here's to hoping this one will get answered because this is really intriguing IMO. :)
If you take a look at Kenny Smith's analysis of the playoff matchup for Toronto-Orlando over at Yahoo!, you'll see that he says Orlando's backcourt is better than Toronto's; reason being that Orlando's backcourt is underrated.
Do you agree with that? I was under the impression that our Jose-TJ combo was still potent even with the lovers' quarrel. Also, I think I'd take AP (Performance, not considering age) over any of Orlando's backcourt.
Jay C, Toronto
A: I don’t agree with that assessment, at all. I think T.J. and Jose have a clear advantage over the Magic point guards and, as a whole, Toronto’s backcourt should be considered superior. The only thing to worry about, and I know the Raptors are, is if the use Maurice Evans as kind of a three and Rashard Lewis as the biggest two you know. Then? That’s a pretty potent backcourt.
Q: Howdy, Doug! Two things:
1) What's happening to Raptors broadcast media? Then, it was Norma Wick, and now it's Jack Armstrong's turn. Do you have inside info pertinent to non-renewal of "The Coach" contract? Does his promo "Hello" shirt have something to do with the organization's decision to bid goodbye to his services? And 2) Are you aware as to who will be officiating for each NBA playoff series? Are the refs the same for every matchup or on rotational basis? Can we request for Mr. Eric Lewis?
Rikki C, Burlington
A: Hello. I’m sure you read by man Zelkovich in our paper on Friday, looks like Jack’s gonna be back and that’s great news. Now, if they could repatriot Norma, the world would be a better place.
As for the officials, they’ll rotate from game-to-game, you won’t see the same crew twice in any series, and likely not in the post-season. I ran into a whole bunch of them in Chicago on Wednesday night (they were having a union meeting Thursday in the same hotel I was in) and they were all waiting for Thursday to get their first-round assignments.
Q: Other than Micah Nori who are the scouts for the Raptors? I know Mike Evans used to be one and I believe Darrel Hedric is no longer with the organization. Is Bob Z. still on the staff?
A: I have no idea why you’d use such a bogus fake name (Negele Knight?) on this as you did, it’s not necessary. But I’ll answer anyway.
Darrel Hedric was, but he’s gone, Micah does the advance scouting at the NBA level. Other than that, Bryan uses the people he trusts and has around. Wayne Embry does some work, so does Maurizio and Masai Ujiri and, of course, Jim Kelly. Bob Z is still around, but he’s quasi-retired and spend a lot of the winter enjoying a life of leisure.
Q: Two questions for you Doug - one playoff related, the other just a general basketball announcing 101.
Why was everybody concerned about matchups, and avoiding Detroit/Boston? I understand that those teams are more likely to beat the Raps, but basketball post-season is an elimination system; if the Raptors want to win the championship (and that's the point, right?) they'll have to beat Boston and/or Detroit eventually (unless something goes incredibly (wrong) for both teams, which won't happen).
This isn't like the regular season, where you get advantages for finishing in a better position (home court, etc.). You either win the championship (or the conference at least, and get to put up a banner) or you don't. Is there an advantage to getting eliminated in the second or third round that I'm missing?
Second question: Why do announcers often say that somebody went 'from downtown' when they shoot a three? Isn't downtown closer to the arena (and thus the basket)? It seems a bit anti-cognitive to use a place nearby for a long-distance shot. Is there an uptown?
Thane B, St. Catharines
A: The only advantage I can see to advancing to a second-round or conference championship is the experience gained by winning a series and playing in games with even more intensity and importance. Yes, the only thing that really matters is a championship but I do think teams that win a round or two have had successful years. It’s whether they learn enough to take the next step in the subsequent seasons that’s interesting to watch.
Downtown? I have no idea why most broadcasters say anything as clichéd as that. Maybe once upon a time when they were building arenas out in suburbs, someone thought it cute to reference the middle of the city.
Q: I don't really think I am going to make your site as I have tried to post before but what do you think the Raps will have to do to take a strong hold on Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, our lack of perimeter defence could just cost us the series.
Everyone knows that Dwight Howard can be contained by the Raptors and he still struggles to kick the ball out if he is given a strong double team.
So what to do to a team that has the exact game style as the Raptors?
Imran K, Toronto
A: You’re absolutely right, the porous perimeter defence they’ve played most of the season could undoubtedly be the difference. I think you’re going to see less double-teaming of Howard as you may think so they can stay home on those shooters. Once the Raptors start rotating and running around on defence, that’s when they start losing guys and it costs them. So, they do to the Magic what the Magic may do to them: Guard the shooters and let the post guy be defended one-on-one.
Q: It's the playoffs and you're busy, so I'll keep this short.
My candidates for playoff X-factor are Delfino, Bargs and Jose's jump shot, which has gone south a little recently. I don't believe that defence alone has much to do with our success. It will never be better than average. If our jump shooters score at a high percentage, we win this thing.
If you had to pick only one, what would you say is your X-factor?
David L, Oakville
A: Offensively? Bargnani, without a doubt. Defensively? It’s how they guard Rashard Lewis.
Q: If we end up with Pistons/Spurs or really anyone vs. the Spurs in the final do you think it will taint what many people think has been one of the best NBA seasons in recent years? I already had a friend in Florida say that he hopes the finals aren't Pistons/Spurs because he can't stand them, a general consensus among fans outside of Detroit or San Antonio, no?
Alessio G, St. Catharines
A: No. I could watch the Spurs play every night. Your friend needs to pay closer attention to a guy like Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker and you can make the case that Tim Duncan is the greatest power forward in the history of the game.
The Pistons? Yeah, they might be a bit boring. The Spurs? They are outstanding.
Q: I implore you to link to the following ESPN article (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=jackson/080417) detailing the plight of our two favorite little men. Although I am not a huge fan of Scoop Jackson's over the top approach, I believe he puts their on/off the court relationship into perspective in a lucid and rational way. They both come off as team first guys with great admiration for each other.
Do you see the Raps initiating a roving zone to defend Howard at any point in the series (similar to the Nets approach defending Bosh last year) or is it more important to deny him the basketball early in each possession?
Jordan B, Toronto
A: The Scoop Jackson piece has been floating around the comments section over here for a while. A nice story.
A roving zone? Not sure what you mean. It’s not going to be a box-and-one, if that’s what you’re getting at. I think they’ll send a second defender at Howard every now and then, but not on every possession because they don’t want to get killed by the likes of Lewis or Turkoglu. Howard, while not the best in the league by any stretch of the imagination, is much improved at passing out of double teams.
And it is vitally important to deny him the ball down low no matter when. That’s why Rasho, or whoever, has to get him off the block by meeting him early (like at the foul line) before he can establish position on the block.
Q: Since the Raps won't be in any of the awards (save Moon on the all rookie team), give us the winners of these Raptor only awards:
Most funny -
Most happy - (I think I know this one)
Hardest working -
Most cocky -
Best for last,
Most "would like to sit down at the end of the day (no basketball talk) and share a brew"
Bruce M, Winnipeg
A: Good question:
Funny: Hump, or maybe Rasho for dry humour.
Happy: Jose, and I presume that’s who you guessed.
Hardest working: Hmm, tough one. I’d probably suggest Carlos.
Most cocky (and I presume you mean confident): T.J.
And to chat with? No basketball? AP for life experience.
Q: Why isn't pts/FGA a more popular statistic? It really separates the guys who hit 3's/get to the line, and summarizes a lot of stats into one.
This link is old: http://www.82games.com/random10.htm
but it sort of summarizes what I'm talking about.
I also think charges taken is more important than blocks (which appear in the box score), as you stop the offence, but you're guaranteed to get the ball, and get a foul on one of the other teams players. Delfino has really made up for the loss of Peterson in that category. Yet that stat. is tough to find.
Know anywhere that has these stat's readily available? Any other websites you recommend? (sorry if you have had that lots before and I've missed it).
Johnny B, Brampton
A: You know what? I’m not really into stats all that much, as some know. I’m more for intuitive stuff. I’d recommend 82games.com as a good site, though; and you can find some interesting Lenovo stats on the NBA’s site, too.
As for the charges taken? I think that would be under-reported, but coaches know who on their teams does the best job at drawing them.