And so it begins, another season
You know what today’s like?
It’s like the first day of school. Everyone’s back all shiny and new, everyone thinks it’s nice to see old faces and friends and it’s kind of fun to check out how everyone spent their summers.
So, what do we do?
Well, here’s how the day unfolds:
They have a dozen or so media stations set up in the practice gym, either for photos or broadcast interviews, and once the players make their way upstairs (after doing some media and medical stuff around the various locations getting their pictures taking and recording those promos:
"Hi, this is Chris Bosh, you’re watching (sponsor name here 'cause there's always a sponsor) Raptors basketball on (whatever network happens to be showing the game.)”
Then they get scrummed by the various beat grunts who ask the usual end-of-the-summer questions that will unquestionably yield at least one good story -- not as good as the year He Who Shall Not Be Named sort of compared himself to Jordan -- but there’ll be a couple of good lines at least.
The players, at least they have in the past, then do their part of the pre-game video, which is where we might find out what the song is to soothe all the questioners, and then we all pile into trains, planes and automobiles and head off to Ottawa.
Where, I must tell you, I’m pretty sure we will all be able to avoid the debates that are going on this week.
Okay so you can probably guess what the players and coaches are going to say when they do their interviews, right? All sweetness and light, unbridled enthusiasm and optimism. But, because you’re you and I’m me, I’ve been able to extract from the minds of everyone involved what they really want to say.
"I am so going to have better hair than Oak ever did. Just watch me.”
"Defend, rebound, block shots. Defend, rebound, block shots. Right, Sam?”
"Can we get this over with? I think the replay of the Sparks game is on now."
"I just want to help my friends. Right, Garbo? Garbo? GARBO?!”
"I could be on the 13th tee right now.”
"Sometimes the shots go in, most times they don’t. I will fix that this year, or I won’t.”
"This is more people than there are in all of Goodwater.”
"Man, we never had anything like this mob in Jersey.”
"No Rasho? No Garbo? No Delfino? I thought these were the EuroRpators?”
"Another interview from Israel? Where’s AP?”
"I’m telling you, 35 minutes a game, 35 points a night.”
"Seriously, this year I’m making my mark.”
"Next guy who asks me about shrimp on the barbie gets smacked in the head.”
"Whaddya mean I gotta talk to you? I don’t have to talk to anyone if I don’t want to.”
First of the mail:
Q: Is the Raptor's Ottawa training camp open to the public? If so I may go there to watch.
Wally S, Corner Brook, NL
A: That’d be a helluva road trip, but save your money and your time. Except for Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage, which is sold out, nothing is open to the public. Heck, only the last half hour or so of each practice is even open to us.
Speaking of Sam, I’ve got the third quarter of Golden State game when we get the first curse word. Earlier if he gets into a Cranky Sam mood with the plethora of reporters who find their way to training camp.
Here’s another reason it makes entire sense for this team, this year, to have only 13 players – all with guaranteed contracts – in camp.
If, for instance, some training camp invitee came to camp and got himself injured, let’s say he blows out a knee or wrecks his back or something like that, the Raptors would be on the hook for a salary that stretches into the season and a team with only about $1,000 to spare before hitting the tax level doesn’t want to be paying some guy who had no shot at making the team a salary all year.
It wasn’t the only reason, but it was part of the decision-making process that led them to not invite any extra bodies to camp.
There’s been a whole lot of talk about Nathan Jawai and what he brings and what he’s got and whether he’ll be anything. No one can really say, he hasn’t even practiced with an NBA team officially yet, let alone played in a game, so take these comments from Jermaine O’Neal with that in mind.
"I knew Nathan was young and I thought he was raw. I worked out with him in Vegas a couple of times and when I got back here on Monday, this kid was explosive. He’s still a little bit raw mentally about his knowledge of the game but he can play."
Now, here's the other side of the coin:
Jawai goes to camp firmly behind two perennial all-stars (Bosh and O’Neal), a former No. 1 overall draft pick (Bargnani) and a young kid (Hump) with three guaranteed years left on his deal.
That’s going to make it awfully hard for the young Aussie to be much more than the 12th or 13th man on the roster.
Never let it said we won’t help a worthy cause, and I can’t think of a better one that cancer research and support.
I was wondering if you could plug our charity to the readers on your blog. The 11th Annual Gentle Ben Golf Charity Challenge will be going to LA from Nov 28th to Dec 2nd. In LA, the participants will play 2 rounds of golf and see the Raps vs Lakers on Nov 30th, and the Leafs vs Kings on Dec 1st. The purpose of the trip is to raise money for cancer research and support. Consider the event as a sports trip with a conscience. Please visit the website www.gentlebengolf.com to get further details of the event, including registration and donation.
Ping C, Toronto
There ya’ go.
Q: Quick question: Is there any difference between a preseason and a regular game?
Mary L, Ajax
A: Subtle. As for game presentation and stuff, there’s really not much difference; what you get is maybe a few changes in a team’s playing rotation, fewer minutes for the team’s top stars and less intensity than you’d get in many regular season games.
Personally? If the tickets are the same as the regular season there’s no way in the world I’d recommend going to see a pre-season game; I’d suggest spending that kind of cash for a real game.