Something about the biggest collapse in NBA finals history, a long night of writing and telling stories and a slow morning have conspired to delay the usual mail delivery.
Gimme an hour or 90 minutes or so.
Something about the biggest collapse in NBA finals history, a long night of writing and telling stories and a slow morning have conspired to delay the usual mail delivery.
Gimme an hour or 90 minutes or so.
Late again, blame time zones.
Be back in Boston on Monday – maybe – and will be back to the regular routine.
Garbo's as good as gone and you have no idea how much we’ll miss him.
Funniest guy on the team (maybe a tie with Rasho), fine player, good person but, you know what?, it’s time.
With all the stuff swirling around him, playing last summer’s Euros when the team didn’t want him to, the lawsuit against the federation over the insurance money, the fact he’s will have played only seven NBA games in 18 months when camp rolls around, his desire to play in Beijing this summer, sort of had a sneaking suspicion in the back of my mind this day might arrive.
Financially, it’s not a huge boon to the Raptors, although there will be some luxury tax help when they finally come up with a buyout number, but it won’t give them any extra room to chase free agents, they’ll still just have the mid-level exception.
On the court? Well, I don’t think anyone had any idea what Garbo would have brought to camp so if there were no expectations, he’s not going to be missed a lot. If he’d been the 2006 Garbo, tough, smart, a defensive anchor, that would have been great. But if he’d been less than that, I’m not sure how big a role he would have played.
It bites when things come to an end, it especially bites when they come to an end because of an injury; this departure bites an awful lot.
Oh, and no, it won’t have any impact whatsoever on his buddy Jose.
We’re sitting around the hospitality suite here late last night, swapping stories and doing what beat grunts do – a wee bit of complaining, a wee bit of laughing, a wee bit of imbibing – and of course they have NBA TV on all the sets
This, my friends, is classic.
Well, now I can tell my grandkids I saw Candace Parker play basketball in person.
To satisfy personal curiosity, and because some friends from the league invited us to suite, took in the WNBA game between the Sparks and Detroit Shock last night.
Now, I don’t want this to sound at all condescending because some people who know me know I’ve been a fan of the women’s game for a while, but the caliber of play was outstanding.
Fast, skilled, better shooting than I can remember from other WNBA games I’ve seen in person or on TV and Parker is the real deal. Even though she was in foul trouble and didn’t play an awful lot, you could just see how excellent she is.
Now I can tell her brother I know for a fact he’s not as good (I keed, I keed).
And, let me tell you, was sitting along the baseline for a few minutes in the third quarter and I saw Cheryl Ford deck Lisa Leslie with an elbow that was every bit as nasty as any her father threw in his NBA career.
I know there’s not much chance too many of you will get to see a game in person but if you do, I’d recommend it for sure.
From the mail, and tomorrow’s mail day, don’t forget:
Q: You said in your blog today (June 11) that Basketball is the toughest sport to officiate. Why is that? What makes it so tough? What makes it tougher to officiate then soccer or hockey?
T S, Markham
A: Many, many reasons. The speed, the size of the athletes, the physical nature of the game, the compact size of the playing field and the fact there probably could be a foul called on every single possession.
You could put two of the best basketball officials in a room, show them video and they may not agree with each other on a handful of calls. There’s a lot of subjectivity that goes into officiating the game.
Hockey? It’s tough, sure; but the players aren’t as big and the playing surface is huge.
Soccer? Please. I’ve watched a lot of the European championships these past few days and, yes, the officials have to run and cover a lot of area. There are also times when two thirds of the players on the pitch are either walking or standing.
Oh, right, there’s a game on out here tonight.
Trying to figure out who’ll win? So are we. If Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are merely average in Game 3, the Celtics win and the series is effectively over and it’s hard to imagine them both being that bad again tonight.
On the other hand, it’s quite possible that neither Lamar Odom nor Pau Gasol have any significant impact on the game.
That said, though, if Rajon Rondo can’t go – and there’s no word this morning on how his ankle is – I don’t think the Celtics have a chance. As we know. Sam Cassell’s done, Eddie House is a shoot-first guard and he couldn’t handle any measure of ball pressure the other night when the Lakers had Jordan Farmar guarding him and there’s really no one else.
That ambivalent enough for you?
I’m thinking the Celtic win another ugly, low-scoring game.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know it’s late. But it’s early, too, if you know what I mean.
Lots to digest off last night, some of it even having to do with what happened on the court.
You all saw or heard this story yesterday where Donaghy’s lawyers say he knows of two games or series where the outcome was pre-determined.
I tend to believe this is the desperate cry of a man trying to minimize his jail time for a couple of reasons.
If there was a league-wide conspiracy to “fix” games and series, it’s been kept under wraps for years now and someone would have squawked before now.
Yes, the refereeing in Game 6 of that Lakers-Kings series was atrocious – of that there is no doubt – but if you’re going to go all “conspiracy theory” on us, why not suggest Game 7 was fixed, as well.
I was at that Game 7 in Sacramento and unless someone from the league office paid off Peja Stojakovic and Doug Christie to play like dogs in the overtime, the fix couldn’t have been in.
The Dallas-Houston situation? Yes, it’s called whining, everyone does it every single playoff game, it seems. I’m sure the referees were told to watch illegal screens and I can see a “league official” passing that information on to Jeff Van Gundy in a casual conversation.
But look at it this way, if the fix was in on that one, why wouldn’t the league fix it so Houston won, to further open the Chinese market behind a successful Yao Ming.
Refereeing basketball, as I’ve said a zillion times, is the toughest officiating job in pro sports and sometimes they blow calls. Or make too many of one kind and then over-react going back the other way.
A league-issued edict to favour one team over the other? Don’t see it. Sorry.
Lots of questions in the mail about the Euro camp in Treviso. Here’s a couple that are representative:
Q: Heard anything from the Euro Camp going on right now? I know Jay Triano is there checking out the talent, and the one prospect I keep hearing good things from is Serge Ibaka from the Congo. A Shawn Kemp or Amare Stoudemire type. Think he'll be there at 17? Think Colangelo would take him?
Roy S, Guelph
A: Raw. Very, very, very raw. Be there at 17? Absolutely.
Would Toronto take him at 17? Can’t see it happening.
Q: I have noticed that Nicolas Batum held a private workout today at the Reebok Eurocamp. Could you please let me know how he fared?
Adrian D, Toronto
A: I haven’t spoken to Jay or Maurizio or Masai and obviously I wasn’t there but the word I’m getting from Treviso is that he’s got a lot of different skills, can drive it, shoot and shoot with range and there’s questions about his toughness.
Looks now, at least from people I’ve talked to, that he’ll be there at 17 and it’ll be up to Toronto to decide whether they want to pull the trigger.
Talking to a few folks around the final who have their ear to the ground, the thinking is you can take the Denver Nuggets off the list of teams that need a point guard and might make a move on T.J. Ford.
No way George Karl can feel comfortable playing the world’s smallest backcourt of Ford and Allen Iverson.
One of the few bright spots for the Celtics last night?
In the first quarter, Kevin Garnett blocks a Pau Gasol dunk and then beats him down the court by 35 feet.
At that point, it looked as if the Celtics might be on their way.
Here’s some mail:
Q: Hi Doug. I asked this before but perhaps it will be more relevant as 'silly season' gets closer. Do you think that the teams that overachieved in the playoffs (Philadelphia and Atlanta) are going to be more complacent than they ought to be - especially if they hadn't made the playoffs?
Mike K, London
A: We’ve been talking about that a bit out here and the consensus is that, yes, there could easily be a “bounce factor” that sees both those teams taking a step back next season.
Sometimes teams – see the 47-win to 41-win Raptors – either get comfortable thinking they’re better than they are; they do get complacent and they forget the breaks they got and the effort it took to make a huge jump.
I’m not saying either Philly or Atlanta will drop out of the playoffs next year but I also wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.
They run through all the celebs. Jack and Dustin, Stallone and the dude warbler from the contest show. Then they show Eddie Murphy and I'm wondering, does he still qualify as a celebrity?
Pizza lovers, pay attention:
Even in the playoffs, the Lakers have one of those goofy giveaways. With a twist.
If they hold a team under 100 and win, everyone gets two free tacos.
They don’t, unfortunately, have a drop-off box for ticket stubs that the team could then give to a food bank.
Good Kobe quote from post-game last night that couldn’t get in the paper for time and space concerns.
He’s asked about his 18 trips to the free throw line, and the seven bricks he tossed while he was there:
"It felt like I was in a foreign territory because I haven't been there in so long. It's like somebody took me and just dropped me off in the middle of Shanghai with no translator, you know what I'm saying? And no dictionary; it was crazy.”
If anyone finds Lamar Odom, can they please return him to the Lakers?
Greetings from the west coast, sorry to be a bit late; gotta get this whole time zone thing worked out.
But here we go
Take a look at the list of draft prospects coming into Toronto to work this week and the immediate reaction is, yawn!
The only one who could legitimately be considered a 17th pick is Darrell Arthur of Kansas, who joins five others for Friday’s session.
The rest of them – Tyrone Brazelton of Western Kentucy, James Gist of Maryland, J.J. Hickson of North Carolina State, DeMarcus Nelson of Duke and David Padgett of Louisville -- are marginal first-rounders and more likely second-round choices or summer league invitees.
Of course, as I mentioned yesterday, it’s not like they’re all sitting around. Jim Kelly’s somewhere out here, Jay Triano’s in Italy with Maurizio and Masai and others are floating around the continent.
And with a session originally scheduled for Buffalo on Thursday now cancelled, it seems to be stuff happening outside of Toronto that’s just as important as anything going on in the city.
Big day on the coaching carousel, no?
Let’s go through them:
Detroit hires Mike Curry
No-brainer, saw it coming weeks ago, nobody’s surprised at all.
And I’m sure he’ll do a good job. You watch any Pistons game from this past season and when the players have a question during a game, it’s usually Curry they talk to. The way he works out the backups before every game – a full shooting practice – was a big reason Detroit’s bench got so good so quick.
Phoenix calls on Terry Porter
One of the game’s good guys, Porter gets a second crack at being a head coach after getting whacked too quickly in Milwaukee, where a meddling owner and a questionable GM panicked.
Tough gig, though. Aging team in a tough conference with high standards.
Chicago takes Vinny Del Negro.
Odd hire, isn’t it?
You’ve got a not bad young team that has no strong leader, are about to add the No. 1 pick in the draft and you hire a guy who’s never been as much as an assistant coach?
Not sure that’s the greatest of hires. And definitely a big, big gamble.
A dip into the mailbag:
Q: I'm a transplanted Torontonian over here in the Midwest. I'm wondering about the players coming over for draft workouts. Come June 26, should we expect that the Raptors will draft someone they had to the city for a workout? Or is it common for teams to take someone they haven't seen first-hand?
As a follow-up, do you have a sense of whom the Raptors might like? I know it's early, but did any of Douglas-Roberts, Rush, Lopez, Ajinca or Koufos impress?
Mary J, Chicago
A: It’s quite rare, actually, for a team to take someone they hadn’t worked out before the draft, the most recent example would be Milwaukee taking Yi last year without working him out.
But just because the kid, whoever it is, might not have been in Toronto doesn’t mean the Raptors haven’t seen him or worked him out on their own.
They’ve got scouts out at various workouts this week, three guys over in Europe and they could very well sneak a guy or two into some gym somewhere to get a look at him without us knowing. Which makes us work a bit harder trying to figure out if they do that sort of thing.
Of those five? From what I saw, Douglas-Roberts was a bit better than Rush and Lopez was the best of the bigs. But we only saw about 45 minutes or so of the workout so it’s really not a complete assessment.
This is why some nights on this beat are better than others.
Head out for dinner last night with an NBA big shot and the iconic Philly beat grunt Phil Jasner to a cool soul food place in Marina Del Ray (Aunt Kizzie’s Kitchen, if you need a recommendation).
Wander in and who’s sitting there all by himself? Rick Mahorn. In town doing his gig as an assistant coach with the Detroit Shock, who play the Sparks here tomorrow.
Sit and have dinner and tell stories for about 90 minutes. Great guy. Funny.
Had some chuckles about The Gangster (“The Gangster’s a weird guy,” he said), Bargnani (let’s just say he’s not cut in the Mahorn style) and the league (let’s just say it’s not cut in the Mahorn style).
And have the catfish, mac and cheese and red beans and sausage.
You can’t see this back home, I don’t imagine, but Jalen Rose is on one of the various ESPN panels he does and he’s wearing a dark suit, white shirt and a very baby blue bowtie. Very stylish.
So what happens tonight?
Are the Lakers going to be the Lakers who scored 41 points in the fourth quarter of Game 2? Or the team that’s averaged about 21 points in the other seven quarters of this final?
My best guess, and I’m pretty sure you’ll all point out the error of my ways if it doesn’t come true, is that the Lakers can’t quite figure it out again and Boston’s defence stymies them one more time.
There’s just something about the way the Celtics pack the paint and still get out to close out on open shooters, that Los Angeles can’t quite figure out.
I don’t think Leon Powe reprises his Hall of Fame game on the road – there’s something about playing at home that geeks most backups – but nothing the Lakers bench has done has been impressive.
The way the Laker backups have played is the biggest surprise to many of us; what was seen as a big advantage has become a huge liability. That may change at home. Maybe.
Another one from the mail and there’s lots I’ll eventually get to:
Q: Hey Doug, thanks for keeping the blog going during the summer, I've been working at the Honda plant in Alliston as a student so my days have been long and boring, but your blog certainly helps get me through them. Now, on to my question:
Me and a buddy at work were talking about my favorite player of all-time, Dennis Rodman. Aside from his crazy antics of the court there’s no denying Rodman could play. So my question to you is, do you think Rodman should be in the HOF? And do you think he ever will be?....Obviously I think he should be a first ballot HOFer but unfortunately I think some conservative voters might prevent that from happening, Your opinion oh wise one?
Marc D, Barrie
A: Anything I can help get through a boring day I’ll do. But I hope the bosses don’t read this, too.
Sorry to disappoint but Dennis Rodman is NOT getting into the Hall of Fame. Forget the antics off the court, or even some of the crap he pulled on the floor, he was a one-trick pony. He rebounded like few we’ve ever seen in this era, brilliant for his size, but when you think Hall of Fame, you think of guys who do way more than one thing better than others.
|Kobe hasn't figured out how to walk all over the Celtics.|
Winging my way westward as you read this with just a couple of things to clean up from a very fun-filled weekend.
There’s the guy who might have turned the NBA final from perhaps great to perhaps quick.
All I know is that he out-hustled every single Laker on the court last night and if Los Angeles doesn’t start to work harder, this thing may be more one-sided than anyone thought.
Couple of things jumped out at me: Lamar Odom came up very small on the big stage (again), Pau Gasol had a couple good spurts in the first half and then mysteriously disappeared and Kobe Bryant still can’t figure out what the Celtics are doing to him defensively.
Bryant, in fact, looked a lot like Manu Ginobili every time he missed a shot, whining and glaring and waving his hands. And if Bryant doesn’t explode back home, this series is not coming back to Boston.
The Celtics? Man, they look good, don’t they? They way they’ve defended the Lakers isn’t rocket science – everyone with one foot in the paint to deny Bryant’s penetration – but the hustle they show getting out on shooters makes it look like they simply want it more than the Lakers right now.
Take away that six-minute blip in the fourth quarter, and their suffocating defence simply won’t let the Lakers do anything. Not sure how the Zen Master’s going to figure this one out, but he doesn’t have much time, does he?
Here’s one from the mail bag that sorta fits:
Q: "Kobe gets 40-plus and the Lakers lose.
Wonder how many times we’ll read that this year?"
Figured I'd go through the archives and look what popped up in October! Figured I'd send this as a note.
Also, what's the deal with Alvin Williams now? Is he still a post-game panel member in Philly?
Steve G, NL
A: Did you look up the answer, too, while you were there? He scored 40 or more seven times and his team lost three of those games.
Yes, Alvin’s still in Philly, did a bunch of studio post-game work on their broadcasts but I’m not sure if he’ll keep doing next season.
Looking back to last week’s final day of Raptor workouts (had a mailbag Friday and took the weekend off) and one thing stuck with me.
We were talking to Chris Douglas-Roberts about his workout next to Brandon Rush and Bill Walker and how it was pretty competitive. Strange, these days, ‘cause a lot of agents like to hide their kids in workouts, put them up against stiffs or second-rounders. Not so with these guys.
And when I suggested to Douglas-Roberts that there are a lot of guys who shy away from competition, he said:
“And those are the ones who won’t be as successful.”
Pretty telling quote.
Here’s one: What’s it do to the point guard trade market if the Pistons, as I’m hearing, are shopping Chauncey Billups around? He’s more expensive but more accomplished than Ford and would take a team out of the mix.
I’m not convinced the reports of Chauncey’s imminent departure are correct – I’m not sure Joe Dumars wants to blow things up that badly and a move would crush his many fans in southwestern Ontario – but if he is indeed on the market, every team needing a point guard will be calling.
And maybe putting Bryan Colangelo on hold for a day or so.
Speaking of the draft and workouts and such, the Raptors don’t have anything scheduled here until much later this week. But that doesn’t mean they’re not busy.
Maurizio, Masai Ujiri and Jay Triano are in Treviso at the Reebok Euro camp, Jim Kelly’s on the west coast taking in a few workouts and the other scouts are scattering around the east to see kids go through their paces.
Bryan’s sticking around the office for the first of the week, working the phones I’m sure.
I’m watching the first quarter and I look up and see Leon Powe, P.J. Brown, Sam Cassell, Trevor Ariza and Jordan Farmar on the floor and I’m thinking, yes, any team can indeed make it to the NBA Final.
Of course, then Powe has a Hall of Fame game.
A wee bit more mail:
Q: Do you think Raptors management take under consideration anything that reporters like yourself write?
For example you've stated you're not sold on Lopez as a Raptor, would that in any way affect their decision?
Also, how often do you get 'insider information' that's been communicated to you as 'off the record'?
Zach B, Toronto
A: Oh, Zach, if only they did. The world would be a much better place, wouldn’t it?
Unfortunately, I presume they read it for the entertainment value only, which I hope is considerable every now and then.
I do know they read – I’ll get a snide remark about something every now and then – but in no way, shape or form does anything anyone writes shape policy or decisions.
As for the “insider information” question: I wouldn’t say it’s every day but every other day or so someone will sidle up and in the course of conversation drop some nugget you may get to use that day or some day in the future. Or in you’re on the phone and just chatting, you may come away with a quip or a note or something to store in the notebook for a rainy day.
Okay, I’m almost as tired as many of you are of the nostalgia factor to this story but you’ve got to admit, the Magic and Larry ‘There Can Only Be One’ split screen commercial’s not bad.
Lots and lots here but don’t fret if your query isn’t among them, have plenty more to work on today. Some of ‘em require research and others fit well in the blog.
Q: Thanks for keeping the blog going during the summer, you are doing a heck of a job as always. A couple of fun questions for you:
1. You are Bryan Colangelo on draft day and it's time to announce your pick. Donte Green, Joe Alexander, Brandon Rush, Nicolas Batum, Robin Lopez, and Roy Hibbert are all still available. Who do you pick? Personally, I go with Lopez. I think he is exactly what this team needs.
2. You are still Bryan Colangelo and you just got a phone call from Rod Thorn. He's dying to unload Vince Carter for anything he can get and he calls us first because he feels bad for fleecing us. All he wants is Rasho and Joey Graham (clearly 50 cents on the dollar). Do you make the trade and try Vince 2.0? (Please note, I realize the odds of this happening are 1 in a million and I am not suggesting we propose this trade, I just thought the scenario makes for a fun question. Would Toronto welcome back Vince if we got him for next to nothing?)
Mike D, Toronto
A: Couple of interesting scenarios there, aren’t there? I’ll play along.
You like the other Lopez better than Hibbert? I haven’t seen Hibbert work but Lopez’s offensive deficiencies are huge at the moment; I know the knock on Hibbert is bad hands so I’m not sure he’s the right choice, either. And until I see the others work out, or learn more about them, I’m not ready to pick. The leader in the clubhouse might be Green, for what I’m hearing very early in the process.
The Carter question is a fun one. There’s no doubt he can still play at a very, very high level but the other crap that would go on around here might get so deep in his head it affects his play consistently. So, no matter the offer, I’d say He Who Shall Not Be Named can’t come back.
Q: I feel like I'm the only Raptors fan on the planet who's a little hesitant to throw T.J. out the door and anoint Jose as PG for the future. Don't get me wrong, I admire Jose a great deal for his team-first attitude and play but are we really ready to make him our #1 based on 2 months of great play? Everyone says his play dipped upon T.J's return but it actually began to dip before that. T.J. on the other hand has proven that he can play at a high level, when healthy, for 3 years. Lastly, I think T.J. still has significant room to grow. He'll never be Chris Paul but he has a similar skill-set and I think he'll mature and play at a higher level when he's not looking over his shoulder. Am I the only one who's not sold on giving Jose the reigns?
Aaron J, Markham
A: No, you’re not the only one at all, just keep reading here and the blog regularly and you’ll find more than your fair share of people who think T.J. is the answer.
I did, too. For a while.
But, personally, I think Calderon’s upside is greater. And, as I’ve said a billion times, the perfect scenario would be for T.J. to accept the role of a tempo-changing backup but he’s not nearly ready to accept that, as evidence by the way he handled himself in that role in the latter stages of last season. Watching him pout and try to take over games single-handedly coming off the bench was enough for anyone to realize that he’d be fine in a two-guard situation as long as he was No. 1.
Calderon has his flaws – and so does Ford – but I think when their careers are over, Calderon’s team is going to win more and he’s going to be considered a better player.
But you are certainly not alone in your assessment. And I could be entirely wrong. But I don’t think I am.
Q: Hey Doug, long time reader of the blog. With Arenas planning to opt out do you thing the Raps would even entertain such an idea? Also, if the Heat are desperate for a formidable backcourt would they part ways with Marion?
Jay P, Brampton
A: I think they would certainly entertain that idea but they don’t have the players/contracts available to make an offer to the Wizards in a sign-and-trade so we can forget that one.
I think the Heat like Marion, they like the fact his contract expires at the end of next season (if he doesn’t opt out, which seems unlikely) and, again, I don’t see Toronto having a package to put together to entice a trade.
I think they’ll talk to Miami with T.J. Ford as the centerpiece but a deal with Marion in it would surprise me.
Q: Hi, Doug I’ve tried many times to get you to answer my questions but it hasn't worked. I'm going to try a short question pertaining to the draft. I hoping you'll find this scenario interesting. I've read Miami is really interested in T.J. Ford. So if Miami doesn't get Derrick Rose like they want, we can do a trade giving up T.J. Ford and another player (TBA) for Miami's 3rd pick and Jason Williams (to match salaries).It would also help that he has one year left on his contract.
Ron E, Brampton
A: Dude, no disrespect but you’ve got to try harder.
Miami has the No. 2 pick not No. 3, Jason Williams is an unrestricted free agent and there’s no way in the sporting universe Miami trades No. 2 for TJ and any player who isn’t named Chris Bosh.
Q: With the pre-draft workouts now underway, I was pleasantly surprised when you reported that Toronto would be taking a look at Bill Walker. I quickly became a fan of his after watching him dominate games during March Madness with his heart and athleticism. If we decide to take the SG/SF route in the draft instead of going for a centre I think we could do much worse than adding an athletic slashing wing player like Bill Walker. Do you have any thoughts on what Bill could bring to the Raptors? Do you see many "impact" players available at the 17th pick that bring the type of game that the Raptors are currently missing?
Andrew W, Toronto
A: Glad I saved this one.
We saw Walker work out Thursday and while he was solid, he wasn’t spectacular and didn’t stand out any more than Chris Douglas-Roberts or Brandon Rush did. None of that jaw-dropping athleticism we’ve heard about but that might just have been a function of the half-court three-on-three games they played.
But, as Jim Kelly and Bryan Colangelo keep telling us, the workouts are only part of the equation that goes into making a draft pick.
Q: I've noticed that Bostjan Nachbar is an unrestricted free agent. Is this a player of interest to the Raptors? Would you consider him an upgrade over Moon/Delfino? Nachbar certainly has no problem taking it to the rim, he can hit the open three and he always seems to play well in the ACC. I imagine the salary he would command on the open market would fit the Raptors budget as well.
George T, Toronto
A: I don’t know if he’d be an upgrade but I think the possibility exists that he’s a replacement for Delfino.
Q: A bit of a random question here, but I miss talking about the Raptors. Do you think Anthony Parker could make a good coach one day? Probably not in the NBA, but perhaps the WNBA or College ball? Even colour commentary? (He seems like a funny guy and we all know he's a solid citizen.)
Amanda F, Barrie
A: He is a funny guy, we’re told. He doesn’t really show it too often to the media, though. I think he’d be better, and more comfortable, talking on TV rather than coaching but he’s also a big family guy and with a couple of young kids, he might just want to end his career and hang with them.
We’ll ask him when/if he comes back in the fall and let you know if he’s interested in coaching, it’s never come up in a casual conversation.
|Gotta give the the edge to the Celtics in wide-eyed intensity.|
Finally, they’re going to play. You pretty excited about this one? I am.
So who wins? Sit back, get the morning coffee and I’ll lay it out for you.
Before start, I’ll just say I think it’s all on the Celtics to make the series interesting, get it to six or seven games. If they play defence the way they can, and if two of Garnett, Pierce and Allen get going, this series will have some legs.
How’s it break down?
Sure, the Celtics have three great scorers but only one of them – Pierce – can create his own shot. I spent too much time watching Garnett defer in the Eastern Conference final and watching Allen miss shots he normally makes in his sleep to think the Celtics can get all three of their big guys going. And I’m pretty sure the Lakers will do the same thing with Rondo that the Pistons did, which is ignore him on the perimeter ‘cause he’s a terrible shooter. Perkins might be able to get off but if he does, it’s at the expense of one of the Big Three.
All the Lakers have is the single best fourth-quarter player in the game in Bryant, who makes free throws, makes shots and defends. Odom will have two good games, two bad ones and how he does in the other three are a total mystery, Gasol’s good but if Garnett’s guarding him, he gets nothing. Fisher is a huge winner over Rondo.
This is horribly one-sided. The Lakers can get a little bit of everything from Turiaf, Walton, Vujacic and even Farmer; the Celtics might get a basket or two from Posey but they have no backup point guard, P.J. Brown will be out-hustled by anyone he’s guarding and after that, it gets even worse.
Phil Jackson may be smarmy and cocky and self-assured but he’s got nine championship rings so he’s got to be doing something right. Doc Rivers is a great quote, as for in-game adjustments? I don’t know.
Lakers in six because that will be the thing that inconveniences the greatest number of people. I can easily see it ending in five.
Interesting day at the Raptor workouts yesterday with Robin Lopez and Kosta Koufos going at each other in a battle of bigs.
Neither, right now, is the answer.
Lopez, as you’d expect, rebounds the ball better – at least he did in a three-on-three game we saw – is more energetic but has the offensive range of a Joakim Noah clone at the moment. The chin-high release of his jumper makes him an early favourite to lead the NBA in getting his shot blocked next year unless someone does some major corrective surgery on his stroke.
Koufos? I wonder about his motor. He shoots it well, with range, but they do this drill at the end of the workout where the already-tired players run baseline to baseline for three minutes.
I don’t want to say Koufos loafed (although you could have timed him with a sun dial) but he was taking his sweet time except for about the first 45 seconds and all of a sudden got to sprinting in the last 25 or 30 seconds. Full effort? I’m not sure. Hardly a way to impress.
Still, he’s a good shooter to just about three-point range and doesn’t mind some contact under the basket.
Oh, and here’s the other thing about Koufos. He has a Greek passport, has already turned down a multi-million dollar offer from Olympiakos and there are fears around the league that if he doesn’t like where he’s drafted, he might go to Europe for a couple of years and make more money there than he can in the NBA.
I asked him about it and he gave me a stock, agent-driven answer about only being concerned right now about the NBA.
A quick one from the mail:
Q: It seems to me like the NBA is lacking GM's with any sort of insight into the game. Teams like Phoenix, Dallas for example. They try to pull off blockbuster trades, have them fail, and then fire their coaches? I don't understand. Why don't GM's have faith in their coaches and players? What is the logic behind trading your way to a Championship?
Craig S, Halifax
A: Yeah, those dopey general managers who try to trade their way to a championship have no idea what they’re doing. They should be building championship contenders the way they did this year in Boston and Los Angeles.
The logic behind making trades is to improve your team, sometimes trades work (Celtics, Lakers), sometimes they don’t (Suns, Mavs).
And coaches, unfortunately, are sometimes simply disposable.
Another workout tidbit:
I can report that Jeremy Pargo has the same ability as a volume shooter as his brother, Jannero.
Here’s the one problem I see with Chris Bosh doing Leno as the special NBA final correspondent. There’s a chance that at the same time his bit airs tonight, the game may be in its dying minutes. Thanks for those 9 p.m. starts, NBA.
Remember the X Drill from yesterday? The left elbow, right elbow, left corner, right corner, top of the key shooting drill that was a killer.
Well, the modified it a bit yesterday. Instead of having to make 15 shots from the spots inside the three-point line, they cut it to 12; and they only had to make nine from beyond the arc.
Still took forever.
Hope we get to see Douglas-Roberts, Rush and Walker do it today.
Q: When Russell and Wilt would grab dozens of rebounds every night, was it because of something unique about that era of basketball or were they really that good at it?
Was it that the game was played differently (e.g. the game was more about transition so only the centre would be there to rebound); were Russ and Wilt just so much bigger than everyone else?
Do you think they would be able to get those same numbers if they were in their prime today?
Michael K, Toronto
A: It’s easy: More shots, more misses, more chances.
Watch games from back then and they play at a frenetic pace, coaches didn’t call every single play – or hardly any, it seems – and that created far more rebounds.
They wouldn’t get the same numbers today but I guarantee you that, if they were in their prime, they’d be right at the top of the rebounding totals with whatever number was needed.
They were a little delayed in starting the workouts with those kids yesterday morning so we got to see about the last hour of drills and, yes, they do make them work.
After a series of fitness tests that went on before we got there, we saw some one-on-one post work (I can dutifully report there were no Hakeem Olajuwon clones in that group) and then some shooting drills.
And then the killer.
After about 90 minutes of pretty intense work they went through what the Raptors call The X-drill and it’s a killer for a tired kid.
Start at the hashmark, sprint to the left elbow and shoot, run to the right elbow and shoot; run back to the left corner, just inside the three-point line and shoot, back to the right corner and shoot, back to the free throw line and shoot.
Repeat, as many times as necessary, starting back at the hashmark until you’ve made a total of 15 shots.
Take a wee break and then do it all again, only this time with the shots coming from beyond the arc.
Lots of worn out kiddies at the end of that one.
I’m not sure if anyone should be really surprised that there are teams doing more than kicking the tires of T.J. Ford and word that five or six clubs made at least minor overtures to Bryan Colangelo in Orlando last week may not be the biggest news.
Ford is far from a bum, he’s a starting point guard in the NBA (just not here with the presence of Jose Calderon), his contract is far from arduous and it’s fully insured, giving any team that acquires him some financial peace of mind.
He can help a squad that needs a point guard who can step in and play right away.
No one in the Raptor hierarchy is ready to suggest which teams are more serious than others in their discussions but the feeling is palpable that they can move Ford and get something good in return.
We’ll leave that speculation for another time (like closer to the draft or when we can conjure up some specifics) but the feeling I’m getting is that it’s 75-25 there’s a deal done right around draft time or just after the free-agent signing date of July 8.
When you go to the workouts for these draft prospects – none of whom you’ve ever seen play in person – the crack PR staff of the Raptors gives you all kinds of clips on them. Stats, background, draft projection. It makes for some interesting reading.
We read this about Courtney Lee, courtesy of ESPN:
“He doesn’t contribute a lot in rebounds, assists or at the defensive end.”
We’re thinking: Perfect Raptor.
How about this on Shan Foster:
"Foster is pretty one-dimensional. He is not very athletic. Needs to add strength. Poor ball handler. He rarely gets to the line.”
Promising career ahead.
Oh, and when you read these stories about this draft pick “being up for grabs” or that draft pick “being shopped around” consider this:
Every draft pick, except for possibly No. 1 and that’s not even for certain is up for grabs or being shopped around.
That’s what GMs do these days.
Don’t read too much into any of those yarns.
Quick visit to the mail:
Q: So I saw your comment about disinformation season being here with the Draft coming up. How does a veteran......er......seasoned, beat grunt like yourself sort through which comments you hear from the teams are legit, and which are, in the words of the unique Mel Lastman, "el toro poo poo."?
Sohail G, Collingwood
A: Hard grunt work. Multiple sources on different teams. A level of trust with sources within in the organization you cover. The use of common sense. You know, all the stuff that makes a beat grunt a good one.
You’ve got to check this out.
I think Ron-Ron may have a new career path since the rap thing didn’t seem to work out all that well.
For all the workouts the Raptors are conducting in Toronto, there’s a handful of others in other spots they’ll be at as well.
DeAndre Jordan isn’t too interested in traipsing around the continent doing workouts for teams so his agent is holding one in Philly this weekend for a handful of teams and Toronto will be there.
They Raptors are also spreading out around the globe, too.
Jay Triano’s in Turkey now doing Basketball Without Borders and then he’s off to Italy for a camp, where he’ll be joined by Maurizio Gherardini and Masai Ujiri.
No idea if any of this will yield a player for this year but what it does is give the Raptors another look at young kids who might be in the draft in the future or who might fall through and become free agents.
Not so much a question from the mail as a statement but …
Q: My crystal ball predictions for a Raptors Divisional Banner for the 2008-09 season.
1) Draft one of the swings i.e, Walker, Rush, Batum or Greene to increase athleticism on perimeter and hopefully find a decent wing defender.
2) Trade one of our current wings (AP) for another athletic wing i.e Julien Wright of the Hornets or Outlaw from Portland (If they are available).
3) Trade Calderon for a decent big man that can help Bosh. Calderon is most tradeable asset but not as precious as most in Toronto thinks he is (doesn't defend or get to the rim like top tier point guards) and most championship teams do not need an all-star point as evidenced by Lakers and Celtics this year.
This is a recipe that will have winning division next year and baking Championship cakes in 3 years.
Kelsie M, Toronto
A: Interesting, all of it.
I can see them taking a wing as you suggest, I don’t imagine they can pry Wright away from New Orleans but I’d look seriously at seeing if there was a deal with Portland (I know the organization is looking at who the Blazers might want to divest themselves of) and if I had to bet today, the bet is that Ford is dealt. And I think you underestimate Calderon’s ability to get to the rim after turning the corner on the high screen-and-roll. Certainly, he can improve defensively but in the right team concept his flaws can be minimized.
Championship cakes in three years? That might be a bit of a stretch.
Tough day to be a coach.
Flip Saunders gets the Pistons to three consecutive conference finals and gets whack, Pepu Hernandez takes Spain to the world championship and gets fired two months before the Olympics.
Tough job, isn’t it?
And, as a pre-emptive strike to the mailers, no, neither of them are on Bryan’s radar.
As an oldster, I come to this NBA final with a perspective that reaches back to the late 1960s, before I presume many of you were fans but a time when every spring seemed to finish with Celtics-Lakers.
It was tough trying to get anyone else enthused – the neighbourhood was full of 10-year-olds far more interested in playing for the Leafs than watching basketball and ball hockey ruled the day – but it really didn’t matter.
All I know is that Russell-Chamberlain was something to behold and the first replica jersey I owned was a homemade job, one of those old white undershirts with a green No. 6 drawn on the back. Yeah, I was Bill Russell.
I couldn’t understand anyone who hated the Celtics, sports was about winning and the Celtics won. A lot. Sure, Red Auerbach could be a bit of a pain and lighting a victory cigar on the bench was a bit much but, still, it was nice to know that nearly every season ended with a championship.
The only thing about the Lakers I liked, really, was Chick Hearn. I’d take him over Johnny Most any time, any day.
But when I get asked about a favourite moment in the rivalry, I try to plumb the memory banks for something from the 60s. And, unfortunately, a specific moment doesn’t come fresh to mind.
I guess I’ll have to go with ’87 then, Magic’s hook shot that won Game 5 and led the Lakers to another championship win.
You know what the biggest trouble with the Raptors picking No. 17 in the draft is?
In large part, they will have their decision on who to pick made for them.
With so many players of varied size and skill projected in the 10-20 range in the draft, it’s going to come down to who’s left as much as it is who they want.
The thing most fans should worry about is what the teams immediately before the Raptors are going to do rather than what they think Toronto needs, or wants.
Sure, it’s all well and good to say Roy Hibbert’s a perfect fit, or Brandon Rush is the man or Joe Alexander is the biggest sleeper available but other teams may think the same thing.
What’s likely to happen is the Raptors will grade their list of potential picks and whoever’s at the top of it after the 16th pick is made will be No. 17.
Jim K in Newmarket, who obviously had some down time on the computer yesterday, sends these two videos along with the note that follows them:
Hey Doug - I'm getting ready for the finals and learning more about the Celtics Lakers rivalry.
Give us your thoughts on McHale's clothesline on Rambis. The funniest part of the video clip are the commentators talking about strategy and being part of the game. Fast forward to this year and Marvin Williams clobbers Rajon Rondo in a similar way. The commentators are just disgusted.
Different eras, different attitudes. Shows how far things have come, doesn’t it?
I think McHale’s hit was way over the top but, don’t forget, we’re talking about an entirely different time, when stuff like that, while not “acceptable” was more a part of the game.
I, for one, am glad it’s cleaned up a little bit. I’m all for hard fouls and no layups but no shots to the head or clothesline takedowns.
Q: I've got a history question for you. Can you explain why the Charles Oakley for Marcus Camby trade was such a good idea? Retrospectively, at least, it seems like they traded a blossoming star for a guy in his mid 30s who's best days were behind him.
Tim M, Kingston
A: I think “blossoming star” is a stretch when you’re talking about the 1998 Marcus Camby, who had missed a quarter of each of his two seasons with Toronto because of injury and looked horribly fragile. I don’t think you could have found too many people around the league who would have thought he’d stay healthy enough to play eight years, let alone more than a decade.
And Oakley was exactly what the Raptors needed at that time, a grizzled veteran who could lead by example and keep young teammates on the right track.
Today? The deal may not look good but if Glen Grunwald hadn’t made it, there’s no telling how much the Raptors would have continued to flounder.
Still trying to figure out exactly what’s going to transpire in the final, my guess right now is that the Lakers win with relative ease and we’ll have a big package of preview stuff here and in the newspaper tomorrow and the next day, which gives me the rest of today and tonight to figure it all out.
Here we go.
The pre-draft workouts start in earnest Tuesday for the Raptors, who’ll probably run 35 or 40 kids through the Air Canada Centre between now and the June 26 draft.
|The pre-draft workout, um -- Rush -- is on!|
What’s it all mean? What do they do?
The biggest thing the Raptor brass – and they are all here, coaches, scouts, everybody – will be looking for is overall talent. They have had guys out scouting these kids in games all winter but it’s hard to really get a handle on how quick they are or their shooting form and ball-handling skills when you’re sitting in the stands watching. Maybe they go see a college kid and he gets two fouls in the first four minutes and has to sit down for the rest of the half. Maybe they’re in Europe when a guy has a horrible game.
You really can’t get a good look scouting like that, or from tape.
So they’ll run them through myriad drills, defensive and offensive, and just watch.
Then, unfortunately, they will tell us nothing.
This is now the age of draft disinformation, teams don’t like to let on who they like or what they’ll do lest some other team make a pre-emptive strike. You’ll hear this guy was okay and that guy has to work on this or that; you’re not going to hear full honesty any time between now and draft night.
The kids will say they see themselves as a good fit in Toronto; they’ll say they’re a good fit in any city they’re in, actually.
The work we do comes well after the actual workout when maybe a scout will offer off-the-record assessments that are close to the truth.
Wednesday, it’s bigs Kosta Koufos of Ohio State, Stanford’s Robin Lopez and Drew Neitzel of Michigan State and guard Jeremy Pargo of Gonzaga. Guess since they had brother Jannero on the roster, they may as well take a look at the sibling.
Thursday’s the big day with Alexis Ajinca of France, Chris Douglas-Roberts of Memphis, Kansas State’s Bill Walker and Brandon Rush of Kansas.
Oh, and I’m told the Malik Hairston of Oregon who’s coming in tomorrow is not related to Happy. Too bad. Would have been a nice Laker angle to explore.
Hands up how many of you watched at least a little bit of the LA-Washington WNBA game when you were clicking through the channels.
I’m sure there were more than a few – I know I watched a large chunk of the game – and that can only be because of the presence of Candace Parker.
And I’m sure that if you watched you were impressed. I caught a bit of the fourth quarter when she was playing point guard and chasing what I’m told would have been the first triple-double in WNBA history.
Imagine, then, what she’s doing for the game in the States if she’s making the WNBA at least semi-relevant up here. I know people tuned in because she’s AP’s sister but you’ll watch again because she’s such a great player.
I don’t know whether there are any grand – or formative – plans over at Maple Leaf Sports to think about a WNBA team but it might not be a bad idea.
Do you think they could draw 5,000 fans – on average – to a women’s team in the summer at, say, Ricoh Coliseum? Is there enough familiarity with players who aren’t Candace Parker to sustain interest? Can they price the tickets low enough so that families with young girls who play basketball could go and maybe find a role model or two?
I think it would work.
Here’s one from the mail with a common theme:
Q: 9 p.m. starts for the games in Boston? Madness. I suppose they wanted to have a uniform tip-off time for the series but this strikes me as crazy.
Has it been like this for a few years now and I've just forgotten?
Graeme F, Toronto
A: Yes, unfortunately, it has been that way for a while and will remain that way for the future, too.
Funny thing is, the TV types will tell you viewership grows in the time after 11 p.m., which I guess is a good thing for the network and not so much for kids who might want to watch.
I bet, though, that this series will have higher ratings than maybe any since the Jordan era. It’s pretty compelling.
So, as I’m watching that WNBA game Saturday, it’s Tree Rollins coaching against Michal Cooper?
That’s pretty cool in a throw-back kind of way.
To all who’ve asked: The only guy on the Detroit roster Toronto should be interested in – if Joe Dumars is going to undergo a big makeover – would be Antonio McDyess.
Rasheed’s too expensive for one year, I don’t see Dumars moving Prince or Hamilton, Billups isn’t a good fit at his age right now and none of the good backups (and that’s limited to Jason Maxiell and Rodney Stuckey in my book) are going to be available.
I know Bryan tried to obtain McDyess in the middle of the 2006-07 season for a package centred around Mo Pete; maybe he makes the same offer with AP as the guy?
Yes, Giorgos Printezis had a team-best 21 points as Olympiakos beat Panathinaikos to tie the best-of-five Greek league final 2-2.
No, this does not mean the former second-round pick can help the Raptors. It means he had a big game in the Greek league playoffs.
Last time I talked to a scout who had seen him, the word was he wasn’t close to NBA-ready. I don’t imagine that’s changed.
Hey, Ghana Black Stars 3, Libya 0 in World Cup qualifying.
They may still be celebrating in Accra.
Big win. Impressive home triumph.
Doug Smith has been a sportswriter for more than 30 years, a journey that's included seven Olympic Games, numerous and varied championships and more dreary regular season games than he'd care to remember. Here, he'll talk about them all, as well as current events and pop culture. (Just don’t ask him about music nowadays — it's not his cup of tea).