Mail's in, the usual Friday fare
We’re going to get back to the usual one-a-week mailbag, I think, because things are bound to slow down. I’ll try to get the more timely ones sprinkled into the blog, though. And there are a couple of doozies already waiting for the first of next week. Not sure if there’s enough stuff to keep doing the blog seven days a week, so if nothing huge happens, I’ll be back Monday with the normal fare.
Q: Just wanted to ask, what's your opinion of Nunyo-gate (i.e. the golfing story making rounds in Toronto)?
Chris B, Toronto
A: That’s the one where Sam went golfing or something on the afternoon of the off-day on Sunday in Orlando?
I don’t have a problem with it at all, actually. They flew, they practiced for the usual length of time, Sam fulfilled his media obligations (I know, I was the only print guy who was able to get there) and if he went and killed four hours on the golf course, I have no problem with that at all.
I wouldn’t have had a problem if it was a player who went and played, I wouldn’t have had a problem if it had been a general manager who went and played.
While it’s nice to think those are 24-7 jobs, sometimes you need down time and if it’s spent napping or hitting long fades into tucked pins, who cares?
Q: Can they get Josh Howard?
A: I’m putting this right near the top and making it generic because there are thousands of similar queries out there.
Easy answer: I don’t, for a second, think Josh Howard will be dealt, although I guess stranger things have happened.
And go sit in the Maverick front office. What on the Raptor roster, outside of Chris Bosh, would you want for Josh Howard? T.J. Ford? To back up Jason Kidd? Yeah, right. Rasho? To back up Erick Dampier? Yeah, right.
Come on, look at this both ways, there is no fit there. At all.
Q: Love the blog! I know we're all upset about the Raptors being eliminated so early, but come on, as a Raptors beat writer aren't you KINDA happy the season is over? I mean, your summer starts now...
Sally S, London
Oh, I wish it were so.
Between the rest of the playoffs, the draft, free agency, summer league and Beijing (not to mention Super Son’s Little League season), summer starts about Sept. 1.
Q: Yup, Orlando was better. Yes, we lost.
AND we enjoyed lots during the season including this blog.
It's a good time not only to identify weaknesses and offer criticisms - it's also a good time to say what was good and appreciated. Here's my very short list:
Coach Mitchell was a hoot and, when not stressed, provided insights into what he is teaching - I liked that
Jamario dunked like a dainty person pouring tea - I liked that
Chris Bosh spoke well, very well at times and let us in on how he views his and the team's development - I liked that
You let us in on what it is like to travel and seek food and drink and colleagues to talk with as you do your job - I liked that.
What did you like? Readers, how about you? It would be a shame to let the season go as a whimper and recrimination - there were many pleasures and they are worth recollecting.
Charles N, Toronto
A: Well, let’s hear it. I’ll try to put some together and get ‘em up next week.
Mine? The day in Treviso when Super Son hung with dad and the grunts all day, watched practice at the Benetton facility and got up some shots on the outdoor court. We rode the bus to another open practice, hung out there, talked to some people, saw some players in a relaxed atmosphere and then an 11-year-old and his dad enjoyed a great plate of fresh pasta e vongole in a lovely restaurant while sipping a glass of wine (me, not him) that was made from grapes grown just outside the front door of the hotel. And then off to bed for him and the old man spent a few hours telling basketball stories with Bryan and Wayne Embry. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Q: After reading your blog the whole year as well as watching the news over the past few months, I have one burning question.
Which is more convoluted: the U.S. Democratic Party nomination process or the NBA collective bargaining agreement?
Dan P, Sarnia
A: Ding! Ding! Ding!
I understand a lot of the cap so I’m taking the politics. And, after all, there’s been an election rigged recently (See Dubya-Gore, Florida) and they don’t fix NBA games.
Q: Hi Doug, I have a question based on the Raptors substitution pattern in the playoffs. Since you didn't get me once all season, here goes for year-end.
Sam didn't play Brezec (2.9M), Humphries (2.5M), Bastion (1.8M) or Graham (1.5M) one meaningful minute, so why have guys making that money glued to the bench? Isn't the alternative of having one more 9M 'star' and a group of D-leaguers more ideal? Toss Garbo's 4M in there and you're looking at a Josh Smith type player.
I love that we talked about having so much 'depth' early in the season, but there are no accolades for the team with the best 11-15 guys on the bench.
Forest K, Toronto
A: You’ve got to have 13 guys on a roster and they have to get paid something. And a lot of those – Brezec, Baston and Graham – aren’t ‘depth’ they’re guys to fill out the roster and to be used only in the case of emergencies.
Q: Hey Doug, I asked this to Grange and I'm going to ask you as well. Who'd look best in a Raptors uniform out of these guys?
Luol Deng, Boris Diaw, Andrei Kirilenko, Mickael Pietrus or Jamal Crawford
Tyler M. Toronto
A: Well, I hope I get it the same as M. Grange ™. You’re looking for overall talent, right? And how they’d specifically help this team?
I’d put ‘em in this order: Deng, Diaw, Pietrus, Crawford, Kirilenko.
And I could be convinced to switch Diaw and Pietrus pretty easily.
Can’t wait to see what Mike does.
Q: I was just wondering, if the Raptors were to trade TJ (I hope they don't, but for arguments sake), what are the chances that Colangelo decides to bring Roko Ukic over?
Ryan H, Toronto
A: The plan all along, regardless of what happens with Ford, is for Ukic to be here at training camp. As a third point guard. To sit and learn and get used to the NBA. Anything else is asking too much.
Q: What do you think of the hack-a-Shaq strategy I understand it, it's within the framework of the rules but to me it goes against all the elements of competition just like Dean Smith and his four-corners...sure it was legal was it right? In my opinion no...is this right, I say no and I feel the league has to legislate it out of the game...
Doug B, Toronto
A: I don’t like it. At all. I understand that it’s within the rules and a strategy to be employed but it pretty much ruins a game for me, actually. Basketball’s a game of motion and athleticism and speed, not watching some guy who can’t shoot free throws.
That said, it’s still league so some teams will employ the tactic. And I’ve not heard a peep from anyone around the league about changing the rules so I think we’re stuck with it.
Q: How come no one has addressed the fact that the Raptors are only second worse to the Hawks for draft choices. These were our 1st round picks can someone answer me where are they?
Joey Graham #16 instead of Granger #17
Rafael Araujo # 8 instead of Iguodala #9
Michael Bradley #17 instead of Zach Randolph # 19 Gerald Wallace #25 and Tony Parker # 28
And my personal favourite year 1999 (raps have picks 5 and 12)- Jonathan Bender # 5 instead of Andre Miller # 8 and Shawn Marion # 9 and with the 12th pick Raps select Alex Radojevic instead of Ron Artest #16 and Andre Kirilenko # 24
John V, Markham
A: We’ve done this a million times, but a million and one can’t hurt and I really have to address the 1999 question. And I imagine you know exactly where all them are.
Graham over Granger: There were concerns, legit, about Granger’s knee and, on draft night, they were pretty much the same guy. Young, athletic, with potential. It was an either-or and they took the wrong one here, happens sometimes.
Araujo-Iguodala is too old to even comment on.
Bradley and the rest: Bradley led the NCAA in field goal percentage, Randolph had a rap sheet about a mile long and character issues we’ve all seen manifest themselves; no one gave Wallace a second thought (and I mean around the league, not just in Toronto) and Parker didn’t even work out here, he injured his ankle the day before. Did they miss him? Sure, just like 28 other teams did.
Now 1999: Were you not around when they traded No. 5 for Antonio Davis, in what might have been the third-best deal in franchise history? (Oak for Camby is No. 1, Carter for Jamison is No. 2, but that was pre-arranged). Artest was a nut, still is, as a matter of fact and there was no way anyone thought Kirilenko would be what he was, he didn’t even get to the NBA until 2001 and if you think this franchise could have waited two seasons for a draft pick to come over, you’re sadly mistaken.
As for Radojevic? That was a bad pick, sometimes they happen.
Q: My question for you is: Do you know if Jason Kapono's contract has some bonus for being the top 3 point percentage shooter in the NBA? It seemed to me that toward the end of the season when he wasn't shooting that well, there were many times when he was open for a 3 but instead stepped inside the line and then shot, only to miss. I am just curious if there was a financial incentive for him to do that because he led the league in 3 pt percentage at the time. This might have just been the result of Jason losing confidence in his shot, but I'm just wondering if it was anything more. Jason claims it was a lack of PT and Sam has always said it is the players who determine the amount of PT they get. Thanks!
Carl F, Beausejour
A: No, there was no bonus in the deal, as far as I’ve been able to learn.
Q: Doug, as a start to the "Best Off Season Ever" would you clarify what rules if any govern player signings and trades. Can deals start once a team is finished or do all teams have to be done? Or are there specific calendar dates?
Jim B, Bedford, N.S.
Teams can begin negotiating with free agents on July 1 and can start signing them, this year, on July 11. The time in between is when the league’s accountants look at the books of all the teams to determine next year’s salary cap and this year’s tax threshold.
Q: I can't understand the lack of playing time for Rasho during the playoff series. He was playing great basketball going in, and they needed "defense and rebounding" against Howard. So instead they go small with Bosh. Something about Bosh escaping the smothering defensive capabilities of Lewis? Say, what? And then I hear Mitchell moaning that Bosh is all beaten up from the pounding he took from Howard. Duh?
A: Say truth. Lewis guarded Bosh better than Howard did. And Bosh would have had to share time with Nesterovic guarding Howard just like he shared time with Bargnani.
The loss wasn’t because of that matchup. It was due to bad defence on Lewis, Turkoglu and Nelson.
Q: Just wondering about your thoughts on the possibility of a Bargnani and Yi trade. Would you make this trade if you were to just compare the skills of these 2 players?
Kevin N, Markham
A: There is no possibility of it at all. Not going to happen. I haven’t seen enough of Yi to really have an assessment of his game, either.
But it’s a moot point, there is practically no possibility of that happening.
Q: Antawn Jamison is unrestricted this off season. If you think about the Barneys needs, rebounding and secondary scoring show as very evident. Jamison provides both of these. Is there any way that the Purple Pack can get enough under the cap to make a run at this type of player? Would he still be a Max-level player at 31? And if all else fails, what about Corey Maggette as a possibility to wind up in Toronto
Ralph P, Guelph
A: They can’t get under the cap so that’s not an option at all. And I can’t see Jamison forcing a sign-and-trade to Toronto so I’d think there’s no chance whatsoever he’ll be here. Too bad, ‘cause he’s just the kind of guy they need.
Maggette? I’m a fan, I’m hearing whispers that maybe his, um, concentration levels aren’t all that consistent over the entire season and there are some defensive deficiencies to be concerned about but as a slashing wing player who gets to the free throw line, he might be the best one who’s legitimately available this summer.
Q: I was super-ecstatic when you posted my question last time. I had a huge grin on my face for the entire morning, and it made work a little less terrible that day.
Not sure if anyone has asked you this question yet, but which team do you think has the worst-matched mascot to what the team's name actually is? I mean, I think the Raptors did a good job using a Raptor as the mascot, no? Watching the Orlando series, their neon green... thingy, or whatever that is, kind of freaks me out, especially this one time when he/she/it had super long arms waving at a Raptor shooting free throws (the Raptor on stilts was way awesome-er).
Also, I really like the recent NBA ads. First the 'Where amazing happens' ads with the tinkly music, and now the split-screens with playoff rivals. I don't really recall this kind of advertising in the past - is there any particular reason the NBA has chosen to do this?
Michelle L, Toronto
A: Hello again, Michelle.
I’ve always got time for a question about the various Chickens.
That neon green thingy, as you so well put it, is actually Stuff The Magic Dragon.
As for the ones that don’t exactly fit? Well, I’d have to put the rabbit in Philadelphia right at the top of the list and the coyote in San Antonio is the most sickly looking stuffed animal I can think of. Those are the two that come quickly to mind.
Q: Looking at the inability of the Wizards to guard LeBron James, I just wish Raja Bell could guard him and see what he can do against James. My question is who do you want to see guard James and giving him an extremely tough time? Any player on any team (doesn't matter which conference). I know it’s a team's job to defend LeBron, but still I want you to choose the player who you want to see guard LeBron.
Aditya J, Brampton
A: Kobe Bryant. Kevin Garnett. Or maybe Bruce Bowen, but I don’t think he’s strong enough.
Q: In your blog regarding the coaching carousel in the NBA, I wanted to know your opinion of Larry Brown as a coach, and do you think he can successfully co-exist with Michael Jordan in terms of player development and decision-making. I don't think that just because they have Tar-Heel blood in their veins, that they're automatically going to click. What do you think?
Richard A, Markham
A: I think Larry Brown is one of the great coaches of all time but I also think he’s had some, um, issues, dealing with young players, particularly young point guards so I’m glad I’m not Ray Felton.
As for Brown and Jordan? There will be fiction, because Larry will hate his team in about six hours, but I imagine the Tar Heel connection will let them get past it.
Q: Love the blog, it is so tough to get any good hoop info out here in the prairies, and yours is so entertaining and informative. My question is does Jose, now that he is restricted free agent have to get clearance from B.C. or insurance to play for Spain this summer?
Rick S, Erskine, AB
A: No, because by the time the Games begin, Jose will be back under contract. There may be run-of-the-mill insurance but nothing like Garbo.
Q: Your column has been a great distraction from work. I am not certain my boss would agree. My question is about what occurs in the summer. Do the players have control over what they choose to do or can management impose summer leagues, weight training programs, specific camps for centres, etc? Thanks
Terry D, Kingston
A: The players have some control, but so does the team. It’s usually a collaborative effort to decide things like summer league obligations, visits with assistant coaches (who’ll go check in with players over the course of the summer) and other scheduling issues. That’s part of what goes on at the final meetings the day after the season ends, the team says it would like this guy to do that and then they work it out together.
Oh, and bosses are generally oblivious, as long as you don't laugh out loud reading. Or yell, 'dang, that Smith fellow knows what he's talking about.
Q: Regarding your comment, "a bunch of average guys who had average years. Anyone really surprised they finished 41-41". Given your predictions early in the season that they would surprise all of those who had forgotten them in their predictions, can you admit that this average season was a surprise to you? Or did you expect these average players to have an above average season?
C H, Peterborough
A: Yes, it was a surprise to me, I thought they’d be better. And I also think that if Garbo played and Bosh hadn’t missed 15 games and Ford hadn’t missed 31, they would have matched last year’s win total.
That’s because if Bosh plays 80 and Ford plays 75, they could have had above average years.
Q: Why don't the Raptors go after free agent E. Brand - great rebounder - great defensive 5-player - it allows Bargnani time to develop into that spot and learn how to post up, block out, and generally adapt to the physicality required to play down low while watching and learning (and practising against) one of the best. I know Brand will come with a big price tag - but without a 5-guy like him we have no chance. As a point, Bosh is paying too heavy a price and won't last long without someone to help down low.
Paul H, Vanderhoof, B.C.
A: Time for cap-onomics, again. Toronto has no way to pay Elton Brand, which is quite aside from the fact he says he’s not leaving the Clippers.
Please put this one out of your mind.
Q: I guess close to half of the Raptors roster will be involved in Olympics tournaments of some sort this summer (Bosh, Delfino, Calderon, Garbajosa, Nesterovic, Brezec) and it could be physically draining for these players, how do you think it will affect the Raptors next season?
Gil C, Toronto
A: I don’t think it’ll have any impact next year. The Olympics are in August, three months after the season ends and two months before it starts. Playing eight or nine games over the course of three weeks or so isn’t too difficult.
And you need to revise your list. Garbo’s not playing, Rasho hasn’t qualified yet and Slovenia will be life and death to get one of the spots and Brezec’s career in Toronto is over.