Pretty heavy mailbag today
More mail here than you can probably handle and some left out, too. But that’s okay, I’m actually off to cover basketball this weekend – what a concept – so we’ll get back to seven days a week for now and I’ll need some leftover queries to get me through the weekend.
Q: I just finished reading Pistol by Mark Kriegel, a great, great book about a great, great hoops player. It's replaced Miracle of St. Anthony as my favorite basket ball book. Do you have any suggestions of other great books about the game?
Marc S, Toronto
A: We’ve done books a few times and I love how readers chip in with their favourites.
Me? I’d have to put Bill Bradley’s Life On The Run in there, Wayne Embry’s book The Inside Game has to be on that list, as does Hoop Dreams.
The Breaks of the Game by one of the all-time greats, David Halberstam is another and Terry Pluto’s Loose Balls is a hugely entertaining look at the ABA.
You might want to check out The Last Shot, a book about Stephon Marbury and no basketball library would be complete without They Call Me Coach by John Wooden.
There, that should get you through the cottage season, right?
Q: (Last) Friday's column mentioned both Lamond Murray and knuckleheads. Coincidence? I didn't think so. But it did get me wondering about a new list for you: All time Raptor knuckleheads/difficult players to talk to or interview. Your list can include phonies (eg. guys who smile for the camera but sneer otherwise) but no wives (sorry Jackie & Kendra).
Phil S, Thornhill
A: Not sure if “phonies” is the right word but I always found it a challenge to try to interview Keon Clark, because he somehow figured I’d done him wrong and refused to talk to me for a few months; Oliver Miller would be in that group; and Voshon Lenard was curt and would cut us off after about two questions. But other than that, this franchise really hasn’t ever had that many bad apples, so to speak.
Q: This is an out of the blue question, really unrelated to what's going in the playoffs, but I'll ask it anyways:
With Rodman in the news recently (charged with domestic violence, skipping the Pistons' anniversary celebrations), I was thinking about the role he played on the Bulls teams. Yes, he was crazy, but apparently also a bit of a fitness freak. I remember he used to stay in the dressing room or aisle during the first quarter keeping warm on the stationary bike, before he was called on to provide energy, defense and crazy rebounding. My question is, why don't more off the bench energy guys do this to keep warm, especially those who aren't a focal point of the offense and therefore don't need to know what defenses the other team is putting on? I'm thinking Hump in particular here (course he might be stuck on that stationary bike all game).
Tim F, Monterrey, Mexico
A: Some players do, especially ones just coming back from injury but, really, they don’t sit all that long and are generally ready to go when called.
Q: A couple of draft-related questions:
1) When can the Raptors start working out potential draft picks?
2) What's the monetary value of a draft pick when it's used to balance out player salaries in a trade?
Sean D, Toronto
A: They can start holding individual workouts right after the Orlando pre-draft camp ends next week. And the monetary value of a first-round pick in a trade is his rookie-scale contract value.
Q: Hi Doug, totally unrelated to the Raptors question here. Since those of us left still watching the playoffs are all in awe over the play of Chris Paul I have a question about where he is in terms of the games greatest 6' and under players?
It's been argued that at least to some point you could say Allen Iverson is the greatest 6' and under player ever in the NBA. Is Chris Paul (or can he be) better then the young Allen Iverson?
To help you decide i have here their stats from the best years
AI: 31.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.5 apg, 2.8 spg, and took his team to the finals and won MVP. Team record for the year was 56-26
CP: 21.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 11.6 apg, 2.7 spg, came 2nd in MVP voting and took his team to the "TBD". Team record for the year was 56-26
I would say at least on some level they're pretty close but which one is bet
Steven T, Winnipeg
A: Well, you’ve got the two there but it’s generally conceded that Isiah Thomas was the best small player ever.
I don’t know if Paul will surpass him but it’ll be fun to watch him try.
Q: I've come to the conclusion that you are a very polite Canadian. Why? Because every time I read the blog, and that is daily, I have noticed that somebody uses the word then instead of the word than. If you are a true wordSmith holding your tongue on this obvious error must have caused you to have bitten of a big chunk of your tongue by now.
But I have a legitimate question for you. Towards the end of the season there was some hint that Andrea Bargnani was suffering with an undisclosed issue which may have affected his progress this past season. Do you know if this surgery Andrea has undergone was to correct that?
TC W, Toronto
A: I think the surgery helped a bit, but I also know he was bothered by a sore Achilles, too, which just needed some rest.
Q: Two questions. Wouldn't it be cool now that we're 10 years in the organizations life to have a former player be the play by play guy replacing Chuck - jokingly I'd say Charles Oakley or JYD would be the leading candidates. If not them who else?
What former Raps have had the best NBA career? The Dream, Chauncey?
Craig M, Aurora
A: I think you’re getting play-by-play and analyst mixed up, there is no one who’ve ever played here who’d be a good play-by-play guy, I don’t think.
And the best NBA career? A no-brainer.
Hakeem Olajuwon is a first-ballot Hall of Famer without question. Chauncey? Not close.
So … I’d say The Dream for sure.
As for the broadcaster? I'd bet Matt Bonner, when he's done playing, would be pretty good.
Q: Hey Doug, just a basic reporting question for you. If you're interviewing a player and he says something absolutely ridiculous (my mind wanders back to the Oakley days) do you call him on it, or pull your best poker face then scurry away to get it in print?
All the best.
Thomas A, Ottawa
A: Call him on it? Heck, no. Usually the first call is to the office to say, “hey, Oak just said this!”
And then we call our friends to tell them.
Seriously, if we hear something wildly entertaining and off the wall, we smile to ourselves and can’t wait to get back to the machine to type it.
Q: For four years us Wisconsin Badger fans were treated to a fantastic young swingman, Alando Tucker. The Suns took him with the 29th pick last year, then buried him at the end of the bench behind Grant and Diaw. He's a great slasher and shooter. He was Big Ten Player of the Year, and beat Michael Findlay's college scoring records. Being from UW he is of course well grounded in Bo Ryan's defense and rebounding. He would be an AP that is a more explosive to the hole. Isn't that what BC is looking for? Wouldn't a guy like that look good and come relatively cheap for the Raptors?
Mark M, Sun Prairie, Wisc.
A: But isn’t he a guy who’d look good and be relatively cheap for the Suns, too? Like when Hill’s no longer there and if they have to deal Diaw? The Suns are money-conscious and I bet they’d like to keep their young assets.
Q: Hey Doug, you mentioned in your blog the other day about New Orleans perhaps being interested in getting that Chris Paul fellow some help. I know trade scenarios are simply scenarios but how about Parker or Kapano for Julian Wright? On the surface it looks like New Orleans is getting the better end of the deal but we get a young stud dying for some playing time that is scary athletic, likes to defend, shoots the three well but also drives the ball to the paint (which is a forgotten skill on this team).
Just a thought but what do you think?
Kelsie M, Toronto
A: I’m virtually sure the Hornets are going to keep Wright as a solid piece of their future. Maybe he didn’t get much time in the conference semifinals but he’s a guy they like and want to hang on to.
Q: Kind of a left field question, but anyway, do you think Vancouver would be able to support an NBA team now, what with the popularity of Nash and the game in general in Canada? What are the odds the NBA expands again to Canada in the next 10 years? How soon do you think we'll see a Euro-NBA division / conference?
Jerome D, Mississauga
A: Unfortunately, I cannot envision a way the NBA goes back to Vancouver. Odds: I’d say 1,000,000 to 1. At best. Maybe higher.
As for Europe, as soon as there are six new arenas, I’d bet you’ll see a conference over there. Maybe five, seven years.
Q: Got a question regarding Redick's situation. How is it wrong to ask for a trade? He is young, but he gets no playing time whatsoever. With two point guards already in Orlando, why not trade him and give him a legit shot with another team? I see him coming off the bench and scoring at least 15 per game.
Dave R, Markham
A: It’s not bad at all to ask in the privacy of a meeting with your agent and the general manager. It diminishes the chance of getting anything in return by making that plea public.
And if J.J. Redick ever averages 15 points a game over an NBA season I will be absolutely stunned.
Q: I'm a daily reader of your blog and a comedian friend of your brother Paul.
Do you have any sense for the process a general manager goes through when shopping a player around, say, like TJ Ford? Does Bryan call specific clubs who he thinks may be interested, or is it more like a mass e-mail to GM's - "We're over stocked and TJ's gotta go!" Or, do GM's typically target specific players they are interested in on other teams and see if they can work out a deal? Or a combination of approaches?
Thanks. Keep up the great work.
Dan L, Winnipeg
A: Ah, another funny guy! Cool.
From what I’ve learned over the years, most conversations between GMs start out in generalities, like “how’s your team? Anything we’ve got interest you?”
And judging how those questions get answered, they’ll move on to more specifics, go away for a day or two to think about things and crunch numbers and then get back together to further explore the possibility of a deal.
Q: Hope your enjoying the off season. For the next 4 weeks we will be talking playoffs and draft. In my humble opinion BC has 3 possible routes to take.
1 - he picks at the 17th position
2 - he trades up
3 - he trades down
Given the players in this year's draft what route do you see BC taking. Or to be more politically correct what would be the pros/cons for each of the 3.
John P, Fredericton
A: I put it at 45-45-10. That is 45-45 he keeps the pick or moves up, and a slight, 10 per cent chance he trades down. And that may be high.
The pros? Moving up will cost him a player on the roster, which isn’t too bad; stay there gives him a choice of a handful of bigs and swingmen he’s got his eye on; trading down saves you some money on the rookie scale contract, but that’s it.
Q: Doug, do you think having a 12 man rotation is a liability or an asset? Wouldn't the Raptors be better to have an eight man rotation with at least 2 Superstars and then 4 guys named Joe, who are great team guys, good in the locker room and future Toronto Star basketball beat reporters?
Ron B, North Vancouver
A: I’m a big proponent of a nine-man rotation, maybe 10 in the regular season and eight, maybe nine in the playoffs.
Q: A non-Raptors related question. With the Bulls landing the first overall pick and the talk being that they will take Beasley, do you think the Bulls will be forced to move one or two of their glut of talented young forwards? They have Deng, Gooden, Noah, Nocioni, Tyrus Thomas, Aaron Gray, and potentially Beasley. All those players are either starters or will likely start in the near future. Do you see them moving any of these pieces, and, if not, will there not be locker-room issues here with so much talent and only a certain number of minutes/game?
J O, North Bay
A: They are absolutely going to be forced to move someone, I would think Thomas might be near the top of the list, then Nocioni. But, it will depend on who they hire as a coach, too, but someone’s got to go.
And don’t automatically think they’ll take Beasley; I can find dozens of NBA types who are dead certain they’re going to take Rose.
Q: Doug I read today that both Parker and Bargnani recently had surgery. What impact if any did the injuries have on their play?
Jim M, Newmarket
A: None, really.
Bargnani’s sinus woes may have hampered his breathing a bit but it didn’t cause the disappearance of his shooting stroke and Parker’s finger was a nagging thing that really had no impact whatsoever on his play.
Q: Hey Doug, just curious how you wrote an article quoting Raptor management as being happy with the lottery results, when you posted in your blog that it wasn't good news for the Raps?
A little confusing. The way I see it, four of the five most likely trading partners (Chi, Mia, Sea, Ind, NY) for TJ will all have point guards available to take at their draft position without reaching for them, who don't have spine injuries or hefty contracts. That sounds like a bad news story for the Raps.
S A, Toronto
A: I don’t share quite the same opinion about the results of the draft lottery as some people in the Raptors front office do. That’s not unusual.
Q: Hi Doug. Enjoy reading your Raptors blog. Now on to a big debate in the household which does not involve the wife. My two young boys have so far grown up watching LeBron and Kobe Bryant. Their dear old dad remembers the Larry Bird era and I can be heard telling my boys Bird was the bestest. Pardon my English. Doug, it is hard to compare but do you think the 21st century players like LeBron and Kobe are better than the likes of Magic, Jordan and Dr. J. I think Bird could take Kobe on a one-on-one. Your thoughts please. Thanks for settling the debate or at least agreeing with me.
Deepak J, Markham
A: As a guy who just hit the half century mark officially this week, I'm all for walks down memory lane.
I think they are better athletes but not better players, if you know what I mean.
I would Kobe in his prime might give Larry in his prime a run for his money in a one-on-one game but in a shooting game? Bird wins nine times out of 10.
Q: Hi Doug, was reading the blog today and saw what you wrote about Timmy D protesting fouls. If you had to nominate 3 (or more) NBA players for a "Who Me?" award, who would they be? Rasheed, Duncan and LeBron are coming to my mind.
Amanda F, Barrie
A: Oh, I think you’ve got to have Manu in there. And He Who Shall Not Be Named comes quickly to mind, too. Oh, and I’m pretty sure Sam Cassell, when he could play, would be in the discussion. But I like your list as a jumping off point.
Of course, Dikembe is the gold standard.
Q: Who's a bigger disaster as an organization, but more likely to turn it around and win a championship? The Knicks or the Leaves?
Mike S, Georgetown
A: Apples and oranges but what the heck.
The Knicks actually have a general manager who’ll be the general manager, they have a coach and a high draft pick. Oh and, it seems, a clue.
You can say none of that for the hockey team.
Q: Hey Doug, if the Lakers win it all this year, do we start thinking about mentioning Kobe in the same sentence as MJ. I know he hasn't accomplished nearly as much (yet), but he's still shy of 30 years old. He won't retire with as many MVPs and may not win 6 rings, but he takes over a game and wills his team to victory, therefore has the same resonant effect as MJ. Also, if you had to nominate one active player who maybe has a shot to go down as the best ever, who do you think that might be? Love your work, by the way.
Geoff A, Toronto
A: It will be Kobe’s fourth championship since 2000, the first one he’s accomplished sans Shaq. He’s the MVP, the singularly most gifted player in the league. Yes, he is in the same sentence and the conversation if he wins another championship.
And if he gets his fourth ring this year, why wouldn’t he have a legitimate shot to eventually get six? It’s not like this group of Lakers is near the end of its run.
Q: I am curious about Jorge Garbajosa... Will he play next year? How well can we expect him to play? Would any team be interested in acquiring him - 1yr at $4,000,000 seems a reasonable risk for a team to take on the guy... especially if he's packaged with Calderon for saaay Miami's #2, Joel Anthony and ???
Bram E, Toronto
A: Hang on sec.
You’re thinking of proposing Jose Calderon and a guy who won’t have played NBA basketball in 18 months for the second pick in the draft, a young kid making no money and something else? You’re not serious.
You can expect nothing from Garbo next year until you see him play full speed in the fall. No one has any expectations at the moment.
Q: I've read speculation on the Internet that teams like the Knicks and Heat may be willing to part with some of their good young players (David Lee, Balkman, Robinson etc.) and/or first round draft picks if a team also agrees to take some of their brutal contracts off their hands (i.e. Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry, Jerome James, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks etc.)
Now, let's pretend you are the GM of an NBA team (like say, for example, the Raptors). Would you be willing to make a trade where you could pick up a very good young player or high draft pick in exchange for some expiring contracts and maybe a decent young player or late first round pick if it meant also having to take on a brutal contract/personality to make it happen?
Serge P, Ottawa
A: It would depend on the brutality of the contract and the personality. But if you’re asking whether I would assume the contracts and personalities of Zach Randolph and/or Eddy Curry, the answer is a resounding no.
Not only wouldn’t they fit on this team, they would hamstring you financially from making significant moves for years.
No way, no how.
Now, Mark Blount’s contract isn’t that bad – it actually goes down in 2009-10 from 2008-09 ($8.5 million to $7.9 million). And Marcus Banks never makes more than $4.8 million a year so that’s not a horrible price to pay, being less than the average salary.
Q: Hey Doug, Ian Thomsen from SI says the Italian in the draft (Danilo Gallinari, I believe), 'is a better prospect that Andrea Bargnani'? Could this be possible?
Jeremy W, Uxbridge
A: Absolutely possible, I’ve been hearing the same thing for a year.
Q: It appears as if Nicolas Batum will be available when the Raptors select. My question (1) Why is he not projected to go higher? (2) Why am I not hearing his name as a possibility for Toronto? I just think it would be a huge mistake not to take this guy (aka similar to not taking Andre Iguodala few years back)
Kandeephan G, Markham
A: You have heard his name here if you’ve been reading this space or the paper of late.
And from what I hear from scouts at the moment, it’s doubtful he’ll be available at No. 17 but if he is, Toronto will take a long look at him.