Just in time, the mail's in
Okay, here we go.
Live from the press tent at Glen Abbey, where the sun is shining and I fear to go out in it lest creeping illness returneth, here’s most of this week’s mail.
And be warned, there’s lots of it!
Q: I don’t know if someone asked you this before, but what do you think about the passive stand that US athletes have taken with regards to China's political involvement in Darfur? Now I m with saying the right things, avoiding controversies and protecting your multimillion dollar foreign endorsements but I think sometimes opening up this subject for discussion (and a possible controversial press conference)will open some eyes and trigger a productive reaction from people around the world.
Saving one life is worth more than any money you can get from selling jerseys or making movies and commercials.
What would you do if you were a freakishly athletic multimillion dollar man playing for the US Olympic team?
Rob S, Vancouver
A: I know there will be some discussion among the players on the American team during the leadup to the Olympics about Darfur and I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of them didn’t come out publicly against the situation. But while we’re looking at athletes, don’t we also have to look at the multi-billion dollar corporations that have remained silent on the issue as well?
What would I do? I’d like to think I would be like a guy like Nash on the war, I’d gather as much information as I could, and try to convince others to read up on the issue and make an informed decision on where they stand.
Q: Why is all the talk about the 13th spot. I thought that there were 12 active spots and 3 inactive. Don't the Raptors have room for 3 more players?
Kristen K, Saint John, NB
A: Fifteen is the maximum, 13 is the minimum and because of the financial situation, the Raptors are staying with the minimum. But they could, if they wanted, add three more. They have the room, they just don’t want to use it.
Q: Hi Doug, yet another question for you here about the TJ trade. I think it is a strong move by the Raps. There is just one aspect of the developments prior to the trade that I can't understand. I've read from a number of sources that one potential trade was with Phoenix. However, TJ has made it abundantly clear that he is unwilling to assume the role of a backup. Would the Suns have looked to move Nash for a superstar if they had managed to land TJ? I simply don't see the two of them co-existing, given TJ's behaviour in Toronto.
A: I cannot imagine Phoenix dealing Nash and it was probably part of the reason the deal with Toronto never got too much traction aside being on the table. It would have been an issue but once the Raptors got involved with Indy, it became moot.
But I will say even a player with as much self-confidence as T.J. cannot imagine himself starting ahead of a two-time MVP and the presence of Ford’s old coach, Terry Porter of Milwaukee, may have been a mitigating factor.
Q: Doug, doesn't the NBA care about marketing in Canada? Everything in the offseason happens after hockey -- lottery selection, draft, free agency, even the new schedule. That just means more hockey blather drowning out what matters. I know it's not an issue in the States, but here I think that the NBA would get more coverage if it preceded the NHL for at least some of those events. Thoughts.
Alan C. Kawartha Lakes
A: Of course the NBA cares but its schedule is its schedule. And, trust me, they don’t give a rat’s bum about when the NHL does its things, and neither do many of its fans.
It’s not like the NBA lottery (nationally televised during a conference final), its draft (nationally televised on one night, not spread over days), its free-agency period (quite different in format and style than the NHL’s) were ignored up here.
Q: If you are B.C would you not attempt a sign and trade with the Hornets for Bonzi Wells?
Mark M, Toronto
A: Nope, not in a million years. Wells may have some skill but is he substantially better than anyone who plays the same position here? I’m not sure he is. He certainly isn’t a guy who’s going to make a huge difference.
Q: Assuming Kapono starts, who do you see as the Raps 6th man? Bargnani? Moon?
Alex H, Oakville
A: Isn’t that really splitting hairs. They’d be 6 and 6A; Bargnani’d be the first big off the bench, Moon the first wing. I don’t really think it matters who’s called what.
Q: Good day Doug, hope you are enjoying the links. I must be in the minority to say I like this team built now on size ie: Detroit if Bargnani can become an excellent back-up not a game to game x-factor. When do you think there will be an opportunity to acquire more quality at the wing position, without giving away too much? Of the current assistant coaches in the association who may become a head coach in the near future?
Kevin V, Waterloo
A: The links are all right, thanks, except for having to bail out sick mid-day Thursday.
When? I’d say you’re looking at around the trade deadline, if they can find a taker for a package of Hump and Joey (if each are having even middling good seasons) or maybe it’s not until next summer.
As for the assistants? I really don’t have a clue, but I’m sure Thibodeau in Boston will once again be the flavour of the month (although the fact not one single team even interviewed him, or asked permission to, at the end of last season might be an indication of what he’s really thought of around the league) and I’m sure there are dozens I’m not thinking of at the moment.
Q: Hey Doug! Long time! Got a question and hopefully this time, youll pay attention! With the recent trades of East Teams (Brand, O'Neal) and the continuous acquisition of superstars, do you think there will be a good balance between the East and West when the regular season starts, or will the West still dominate? With the Raps current roster (provided they wont make anymore moves, and if they do, im sure it wont be much of significance anyways) how far do you think the Raps will go? Do they have a shot at the Conference Finals?
Tobi B, Toronto
A: As has been mentioned more than a few times, you can’t handicap the East until after the summer and Philly does whatever it does with Iguodala, Joe Dumars does something big – or not – in Detroit, and Chicago deals with Deng and Gordon. Then, we can talk.
But I will say the East is going to be just as competitive as the West, without question. And seeing as the teams with the best records in the regular season both came out of the East last year and two of the last three NBA champs have come from the East, I don’t think the disparity is as grand as others do.
Q: Any reason to think that Andrea won't follow suit and go off to Europe once he receives an inflated contract after what will probably be another so-so year?
Anthony C, Newmarket
A: I suppose that’s a possibility but I also believe Toronto has told Bargnani already they’re exercising the option on the ’09-10 season so we’re talking two years from now at least.
And who’s to say Euro tams will still be offering what you think of as “inflated” contracts at that time?
Q: Doug, a couple of questions for you. With Josh Childress taking more money to sign in Europe, I was wondering what the impact would be for the NBA. If Childress decided to come back to the NBA, would he still be a restricted free agent and if so would the Hawks still hold his rights? Additionally, is there anything to stop NBA teams from trading with a European team?
Have you heard any grumblings from teams around the league regarding the amount that a team can contribute towards a player's buyout amount? If the NBA wants the best talent in the world, teams should be allowed to contribute more towards a player's buyout. That being said, I suppose that there would be nothing stopping a European team from increasing the buyout to tens of millions of dollars.
John S, St. Catharines
A: Yes, if the Hawks don’t withdraw the qualifying offer – and even they’re not stupid enough to do that – Childress remains restricted.
And the league actually did raise the maximum contribution to buyouts a couple of years ago; I haven’t heard of any serious move to increase it again.
Q: I think the Raps will be above .500 this season but with all the other teams in the east getting some updates to their rosters, what level will the Raps compete at this upcoming season with the other top teams in the East. Thanks
Mohamed A, Toronto
A: Well, without knowing what Philly’s going to end up doing with Iguodala, not knowing what happens in Atlanta or with a guy like Okafor in Charlotte or in Detroit or in Chicago with Deng and Gordon, I don’t think anyone can say with any certainty today where the Raptors might fit. All I’ll say is I expect them to be in the playoffs again.
Q: For the 13th man on the roster, do you think The Mighty Mouse will come back to Toronto. He signed with Spurs last season and now he is free agent. He can provide some leadership and veteran experience. Who are other candidates the Raptors are looking for?
Leroy C, Waterloo
A: I think he’d be a legitimate candidate, they had serious discussions with him last year when Ford was out. Whether he’s going to play another year may be a question and, if he is, I can imagine he’d be looking for a two-year deal. But that may not be forthcoming.
The other candidates? I don’t really have a list developed; the free agent list I ran the other day with the blog probably has most of them in it.
Q: Doug: I am having a coffee in Newport, Rhode Island, and a Div. II ref sits down next to us and we start talking. He says the NBA picks their refs out of D Leagues when they are young then grooms them for the "entertainment reffing" of the NBA. Mr. Coffee also indicated that your real good Div I ref scoffs at the ability of NBA refs, identifying all kinds of calls they do not make lest big star/big play entertainment values get hurt. Comment? Is this why sometimes it feels as if NCAA games are a more genuinely pure form of basketball compared to what we (do enjoy as) the NBA?
Charles N, Toronto
A: Welcome back, my man. Hope the holiday is good.
Sounds like an interesting conversation and it certainly has some merit. NBA refs could, as we all know, blow the whistle and call a foul on every single possession, probably; it’s really more (too much?) judgement that many would like.
But, and I honestly feel this way, they do as good a job as possible under the circumstances. Any over-officiated game devolves into a steady parade of free throws and foul trouble and has little entertainment value.
Q: I see where Lindsey Hunter is an unrestricted free agent, and I was wondering how you think he might fit in a return to Raptorland. Would he be too expensive, or need to see too much court time to be haPPY? I would think that Jose could use a little of his tutoring on the defensive side of the ball. Your thoughts?
Paul F, London
A: I think Lindsey Hunter’s been-there, done-that in Toronto and if he plays again – which is an open question right now – it’ll be back in Detroit.
Q: Hey Doug, I am a big time Raptors fan, and an even bigger golf fan! I will be volunteering at the RBC Canadian Open this week, super excited. Three questions for you: 1) who is the best golfer in the Raptors organization (including the BC, SM...) and what's his/her handicap? 2) why is golf not included in the Olympic? 3) why is hockey included in summer Olympics, shouldn't it be in the Winter Olympics?
Andy W, Toronto
A: I’m pretty sure Jason Kapono plays to close to a single-digit handicap so I’d take him in the team golf tournament but Sam’s got some game, too.
The IOC desperately wants golf in the Olympics and you might see it there in 2016.
And the hockey in the summer games is field hockey so it’s right where it should be.
Q: Good Blog, I enjoy it with my first coffee in my office every morning... Even earlier than checking my email. Short question. I understand BC is looking for a 3rd point guard, why not Earl Boykins. He is skillful, experience and affordable. I always think any player with under 6 ft survive in NBA, they must be doing something really good. What can we lose if we sign him at minimum? And I don’t think he would ask for too much anyway.
P L, Richmond Hill
A: I’m sure Earl Boykins will work for the minimum this year and I would imagine Toronto would have him on a list of possibilities. And, as a third string point guard, I’d have him pretty high on the list, too.
Q: Can B.C. offer Chicago's Ben Gordon a 5-7 year, 62.5(12.5)-91(13.0)M with any change of getting him, or should he? SF's seem to be growing like rabbits, GOOD SG's are as scarce as hen's teeth and worth their weight in gold. LeBron won't come here in 2010, nor will Kobe; so where is the NEXT piece, the fourth one, due this year?
Richard S, Lethbridge
A: No, he couldn’t and no, he won’t. Please, please, please, please, put those thoughts out of your mind. They are not making an offer to any significant free agent and don’t you think the fact that Ben Gordon hasn’t even got a sniff from too many teams should send up a flare?
And there is, at the moment, no “next piece” coming and I’m not even thinking about 2010 yet, let’s get 2008 over with, okay?
Q: Could you please give a run-down on the assistant coaches and their roles with the team? Are any of them guru's in any particular field? Is there a head assistant or are they all on the same level?
Ryan K, Nova Scotia
A: Well, roles aren’t really defined here, or on many staffs, actually. On this team, I guess the primary responsibilities would be: Jay works with swingmen, Mike Evans works with point gaurds, Alex works with the big, Eric Hughes helps all over and Gord Herbert will work primarily on skills development with the likes of Ukic, Bargnani and Jawai.
They all contribute to specific game-plans and philosophies on defence and offence, with Sam having, of course, the final say in what he’d like the team to do and look like.
A lead guy? Really isn’t one. I think Jay’s probably as close as there’d be to a “lead” assistant but, in the past, each guy has been responsible for a specific number of teams to set up game plans for.
Q: Quick question about the Canadian National Women's Basketball team. I noticed they did not qualify for the Olympics either, which surprised me since there are a few Canadian Women in the WNBA that were quite high draft picks. Then I noticed none of the WNBA ladies are on the national team roster. Why is that? There are lots of American ladies playing for both the national team program and their WNBA teams. Does Canada require more commitment then they can offer while playing professionally?
Timothy M, Toronto
A: For this year, because the national team really isn’t playing anything significant, the WNBA players are taking advantage of the break to get some down time. If they had qualified for the Olympics, I’m sure you would have seen them.
Tammy Sutton-Brown, for instance, is running a girls camp in Toronto on her WNBA break.
The difficulty with WNBA players and national teams is that the seasons run concurrent, which makes for a long year since most of the women also go play overseas in the winter to make a little extra money.
Q: Hi Doug, I've been a long time reader and keep up the nice work.
You mentioned that the Raps maybe playing CSKA Moscow this upcoming pre-season. This got me wondering, is there a possibility of the NBA champion playing in a tournament against the other league winners around the world. Your thoughts?
Justin A, Markham
A: They used to do it, called the McDonald’s Open, I believe. But in this day and age, the league wants to expand its global reach so more teams play more games against more Euroleague opposition. A tournament, or series of games between league winners would be nice, but I don’t think you’ll see it again because of the scheduling issues and the fact it limits the number of NBA teams who can “spread the brand” around the world.
Q: C'mon Doug. What is it with you and your love affair with Garbo? We loved him too. And squirmed when we saw the injury. But the dude blew off his team to play in a meaningless tourney (Spain had already qualified for the Olympics), ignored medical advice and placed his own personal desire for glory (playing in Spain in front of his home fans) over his career or his teammates in Toronto. The guy made his choice, now he lives with it. What do you know about this situation that the average Joe fan doesn't?
Tim A, Meteghan
A: I know nothing that I haven’t written here. You may think it was a meaningless tourney, I see it as a chance for a guy to play for his country, in his country, for the first time in his career in a significant event.
He didn’t take medical advice from this side of the Atlantic, he did follow medical advice from doctors in Spain. As, as it turns out, his career will continue. So maybe the medical advice he got over there was, I dunno, better for him than the medical advice he got over here.
He did make his choice, and so did the Raptors, and both are living with those choices. You may not like it, but the team and the player seem quite okay with it.
Q: A theory followed by a question or two.
I'm generally not a conspiracy theorist, and I like Garbo, but I read your blog (Wednesday) and don't buy that the main reason he's not a Raptor is due to concerns about his ability to play in the NBA. I believe he intended all along to participate in the Olympics, and the Raptors telling him they were opposed created a conflict. He was determined to play for Spain and, admirable as that is, it forced the Raptors into a similar situation as last summer when they gave in against their better judgement (and look where that got them). Garbo forced their hand and a buy-out was the only choice. The result is a cap hit. The team's best interests would have been served if he; stays a Raptor, doesn't play in Beijing, re-habs, and comes to training camp to be evaluated. That would have given them more attractive options like trading his expiring contract and getting a return or just valuable cap/tax space. But risking him playing in the Olympics, while still under contract, then coming to camp damaged would have been a repeat of last season and resulted in a buy-out and some face-saving PR spinning to deal with the appearance of mismanagement. So an ugly, acrimonious divorce was avoided, but it cost them cap space, roster flexibility and a couple mil'.
Garbo goes to the Olympics, gets paid and is free to continue his career wherever he chooses. That's my theory.
Now my questions are: How close am I to the truth? And are you merely drinking the kool-aid or serving it up on this one?
I'll understand if you choose to take the 5th, but at least put my theory up for debate among those who would canonize The Great Garbo.
Richard E, Toronto
A: As conspiracy theories go, that’s certainly one. And I’m sure Garbo’s chance to play in the Olympics for his country may have been a (small) part of the decision to buyout his contract. But if it was the issue, why wouldn’t they wait and see how he did, and if he didn’t do well, maybe the buyout number is smaller post-Olympics than it was pre-0lympics.
And I do know the process of buyout discussions began long before Spain decided who’d be on its Beijing team.
Q: I wrote in recently questioning the decision to let Delfino walk as I wasn't sure which other guards/wings on the roster, besides the point guards, could effectively initiate offence (either for themselves or the team). I think this issue will become more apparent when other teams trap or press the Raps.
Now I find myself wondering how the newest Raptor, back up point guard Roko Ukic, will do in terms of creating offence given he doesn't have any North American basketball experience. If it takes him a while to assimilate to the NBA game, ala Jose Calderon, who do you think Toronto will turn to in the interim? Or, will the coach give him a long rope right out of the gate?
Blake V, Vancouver
A: Well, he’s run high screen-and-roll in Europe (that’s a bread and butter play over there), I’m pretty sure he’s got the ability to throw an entry pass into the post and he’s going to have a month of practices and eight pre-season games to be able to handle the 13-15 minutes he’s likely to play off the bat.
And if he can’t do it, Sam will look down the bench to whoever’s behind him as the third point guard and let him do it. But I really think the kid’s going to be okay in the role they have for him.
Q: Hey Doug, to be honest I really don't see the big deal with some of these guys going over to Europe. I say worst case scenario is we may see some highly touted European players staying in Europe because of the money, versus the rookie scale contracts on the NBA. These signings have piqued my interest in that where do they get the money from to sign these players - an mid-level type NBA players at that? Do these teams only have the capacity to sign one or two players to this type of contract? Is it a feasible long-term plan for these overseas teams?
L G, Whitby
A: I, and many more astute observers of international or Euroleague ball don’t thing so for the very reasons you suggest. Outside of the Russian league – which has by far the highest salaries in Europe (perhaps because of the wealth in the hands of a few sports fans in that country) and maybe one or two teams in a couple of other leagues, no franchise generates the kind of income right now that would allow it to get more than one highly-paid player.
That may change, but I’d be surprised. The arenas are too small to make a lot of money off ticket sales, TV contracts are miniscule and overall marketing doesn’t create the wealth needed.
Q: Why isn't Jawai playing for Australiain the Olympics? Any idea if he was even approached to play?
Steve G, Grand Falls-Windsor, NL
A: At such a young age, I doubt whether he was even approached. The Australian team is chock full of veterans, many who’ve already been in Olympics; I imagine it’s just a matter of waiting for his time since he’s never been a member of the national team.
Q: Reading about how physically dominating and what an "athletic freak" that has continued to keep Joey Graham employed in the NBA, I am often puzzled when brains and brawn aren't necessarily put together. Societal stereotypes often accept most athletes would never be confused with, say, people studying medicine at Queens. However, does Joey Graham not have a pilot's licence? Last I checked, that takes a certain amount mental acuity doesn't it?. Is it fair to say that the mental aspect of playing basketball in the NBA is much more difficult than say, what is required to fly a plane?
Jeff M, Kitchener
A: Pro sports in general, and basketball in particular, require “intelligence” at many different levels. Games are so free-flowing and are often decided on split second decisions and athletic “creativity” that is so far removed than learning something by rote that it’s not even funny.
You can be book smart, street smart, athletic smart; there are varying types of intelligence and one doesn’t always carry over to another.
Q: Hi Doug, enjoy the blog, thanks for writing it! A couple of random questions that I hope you can answer for me:
(i) I remember reading somewhere that a team that's under the salary cap doesn't have the mid-level exemption to spend. If that's true, does this mean that a team over the cap has more to spend than a team that a million under the cap?
(ii) Are the contract size and length for 1st round draft picks pre-determined? If so, when does it sometimes take several weeks for a 1st round pick to sign?
Ian L, Kitchener
A: In another salary cap quirk, a team that’s under the cap by less than the value of the mid-level exception has, I believe, that full exception to use.
And the lengths and values of first-round contracts are pre-determined, sometimes it just takes time to get paperwork drawn up, teams and agents to have time for each other (both may have other pressing issues to deal with) which delays the signing of contracts.