And the Summer Of Mail is over!
Well, well, well.
This will be the last of the off-season mailbags and I’m sure you’ll all have a wistful, misty-eyed feeling as you read it. I know I was choking up a bit doing some of the answers.
But, not to worry, it’s time for things to get really serious starting tomorrow at the Air Canada Centre so I’m sure it’ll be all uphill from here.
Q: One of the Toronto Raptors' greatest assets during the Colangelo era is having depth. With the departure of TJ, Delfino, Garbo and Rasho, assuming Moon starts at the three spot this season. A second unit consisting of Ukic, Adams, Kapono, Bargnani and Humphries doesn't seem like it would scare many teams.
Personally, I would love to see Bargnani start at the three (while playing zone defence) and have Moon provide a spark off the bench!
What are your thoughts on Mitchell's possible rotations this coming season?
Alvin L, Toronto
A: I cannot imagine Andrea starting at small forward for reason that I’ll explain one more time. He cannot defend threes in transition and his offensive skills – if he regains his shooting stroke – are better off exploiting bigger, slower defenders, a matchup they won’t get if he’s playing small forwards, who can stay up on him without worry.
I imagine the rotation will be: Calderon, Parker, Moon, Bosh, O’Neal, Bargnani, Kapono, either Ukic or Solomon and one of Adams, Hump or Joey, depending on the needs each game.
Q: Well, Douglas, I've never been a fan of any blog before, but I will admit I'm a daily reader of yours, even in the midst of a slow off season. A few questions; what team in your opinion, has the most die hard fans? And also, I remember 3 drafts in a row, where we had Michael Bradley, Chris Jeffries (actually Kareem Rush) and Alexi Radejkjlasdfic (or something like that), do you think Hubbert will be a similar bust? and what ever happened to these guys and why'd they never make it big? I'll forever remember Bradley as the Garbage Man! Can't wait for the real blog (and season) to begin!
Joey H, Toronto
A: Most diehard fans? You would be all right putting Utah at the top of that list, that’s for sure. They even went when the team was in the toilet. But the Knicks fans, who actually showed up the last few years, would be in the conversation, too. And Detroit's probably third.
Hibbert? I think he’ll be an okay NBAer. Never an all-star but he’ll play. There are issues with his foot speed which will follow him his whole career, but he’s a hard worker and quite coachable, I’m told.
The drafts? Yeah, they were three pretty horrendous ones, but don’t forget they got Antonio Davis the same year they took Radojevic and were hoping to hit a home run with an extra pick.
And Mike Bradley, who was a 17th pick and that’s always a crapshoot, did lead the NCAA in field goal percentage so there was something to like about him.
Q: Hey Doug! SO excited to start the season, I can get my fix of Raptors and other NBA games - SWEET! I have a comment and a question:
C: When TJ Ford comes back to the ACC, I have a feeling he's going to receive quite the cold reception (not that I think he deserves it). If Toronto fans booed him while he was a Raptor, think how hostile people will be when he's a Pacer!
Q: I always like Jamal Tinsley's game - he has good size and a good handle and can distribute the ball - he has obvious injury and character issues though. What do you think Larry Legend will do? The most likely scenario seems a buyout. Would the Raps have interest if this happened?
Bob D, Kitchener
A: I don’t think there’s a buyout going to happen, I think Bird will find some sucker, er, other team, to take Tinsley. And character issues, injury issues and the presence of three point guards on the roster – not to mention former teammate Jermaine O’Neal -- means the Raptors have absolutely zero interest in anything to do with him.
Q: I really like the third jersey, and in your article, you stated they will wear them around 10 times. Are those going to be for 10 home games? I'm also guessing, that the other two uniforms are the same as last year?
Shawn L, Bowmanville
A: We were told on Thursday at the dog and pony show to unveil the jerseys that they will only wear them at home on Opening Night against Golden State and on New Year’s Eve against Denver. The rest, between six and eight times, I believe, they’ll wear them on the road.
And, yes, there’s been no changes to the white or red jerseys.
Q: I think it's great that the new black Raptors jersey has Toronto written on the front. This gets me thinking back to the years of the purple and black road jerseys. I remember in some road games that everyone had "Raptors" on the front of their jerseys except "He Who Shall Not Be Named", who had "Toronto" on the front of his. What gives?
Jeff Y, Toronto
A: I think your memory is failing you. The league would never allow one player to have a different uniform than the rest of his teammates.
Q: What do you think of Portland this year? They have too many weapons and they should be one of the most exciting teams to watch. I guess they just need to add one or two veterans and learn how to close the game. Of course injuries could be their biggest enemy. Tell us your opinion about this young team.
Peter L, Richmond Hill
A: They’ve got a lot – A LOT – of good, young, unproven talent on that team and should certainly challenge for a playoff spot this season. I’m not convinced on their point guard play until we see how Jerryd Bayless plays in the NBA rather than the summer league. But they have a chance to be one of the big surprises this year.
One thing to think about, though: They’ve got a lot of guys (just like Chicago did about two years ago) who are eventually going to want to get paid and it’s going to be interesting to see how they handle that.
But talent? A lot.
Q: A couple of kids in the gym were talking about what position they like to play and were discussing small forward. Can you please elaborate on what are the most important attributes a person needs when playing the 3? Thanks a lot.
Lyndon L, Toronto
A: It’s not that simple, actually. As the game progresses, more and more players are able to do more and more things. Anyone who wants to play any position has to develop every skill in the game. No pigeon-holing.
If you want a priority, I would say threes have to be big, quick, have three-point shooting range and above-average ball handling skills. They have to know how to move on defence, how to keep their man in front of them with lateral quickness and be able to get out and run on the break.
You know, like every other player on the court.
The advice is simple: Become an all-around player and someone will find you a position.
Q: I read all your blog, I like to read a lot about the Raps all the time and a very huge fan of Toronto Raptors. So my question for you is: Is there anyway Raptors can Joe Johnson Next year as a free agent? I think he would be a perfect fit for the Raptors, I keep my fingers crossed so that next year the Toronto Raptors can be a championship team, I would love too see Joe Johnson on this team.
Bernard F, Mississauga
A: Seeing how Joe Johnson is under contract through 2009-10, that’s not going to happen. And if you’re looking ahead to after 2010, don’t because too much stuff is going to happen between now and then.
Q: Was David Stern right not to worry about the disparity between the East and West? Are things going to even out this year? Sure, the Hornets and Trail Blazers seem to be coming on strong, but the Suns, the Mavs, the Clippers, and the Warriors all seem poised for a slide. Denver is looking a little wonky, too.
Over in the East, Toronto, and Cleveland look to have improved via trades or free agency, Boston still looks strong, if a little less deep, and Detroit seems to have found some good young guys to complement their veterans. Miami and Chicago both got those strong draft picks. Even New York looks like it'll be less of a train wreck in the next year or so, and Indiana's got some good young guys as well. Can we look forward to the end of the “Leastern” Division era?
Tim M, Kingston
A: Considering the East has won as many titles as the West over the last six seasons, I think there was much more parity at the top than many did. Sure, there may have been better teams three-through-10 in the West, but the very best came out of the East just as often. It’s always been cyclical, that’s what some of us have been saying for a decade.
So, yeah, the East should be better this year, that’s an easy statement to make.
Q: Hey Dougy Fresh, what do you think of the new Raptors uniform? Also, how do you compare The Raptors Dance Pack with the rest of the league?
Brandon S, Toronto
A: I like the uniform, actually, especially the little Maple Leaf on the back. The Dance Pak? I dunno. It’s right in the middle, I guess; not the best, not the worst. But, honestly, I don’t have a ranking system throughout the league. It’s not that big a deal to me.
Q: Hey Doug, got a question about my Joey G. What’s up with him? Where has he been working out all summer? I’m really rooting for him this year, do you think he'll show signs of improvement?
Ahmed B, Toronto
A: Saw Joey on Friday the golf tournament, he looks good, said he had a good summer of work and rest. Didn’t say where but that really doesn’t matter, I guess.
But the reality is, he goes into camp behind Moon, Parker and Kapono on the depth chart and probably not that far ahead of Hassan Adams, either. And, quite frankly, I don’t think he’s a better player today than he was as a rookie so I’m not sure you’ll see any huge improvement.
Q: Love your blog. Do you think the NBA will ever develop a minor league system for its teams? As a fan, I would love to watch a Raps minor league team. For the players, it would give them a chance to play, rather than sit on the bench all year (ie, Joey Graham) or never get drafted. And for the organization, it would help their players develop according to their team philosophy, rather than storing them overseas (Ukic, etc). Thoughts?
Dwayne M, Waterloo
A: Actually, that’s what the D League will eventually become, they hope, and I’d presume your room is littered with Idaho Stampede paraphernalia.
But, really, teams need to have 13 or 15 guys on the roster for practices, in case of injuries, to have some flexibility so I think the way the thing’s set up right now is probably best.
Q: I haven't asked a question in a while so I figured I might as well fire away: what are your thoughts on Rick Carlisle in Dallas? What kind of fit will he be with that team? I'm particularly curious in light of Nowitzki's recent comments that Avery Johnson had a little dictatorship in Dallas: wasn't Carlisle's rep in both Detroit and Indy that he was a micro-manager?
Paul M, Toronto
A: I like Rick Carlisle, actually. I think he’s been a very good coach, albeit for a short time, everywhere he’s been. And the rep wasn’t as a micro-manager, it was that he’s a bit standoffish and, as one co-worker once told me, “he always thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room.”
But he’s different from Avery, not quite as excitable (I saw a lot of Sam in Avery back in the day, actually).
I don’t think the Mavs are anywhere close to being a legitimate contender in the West but I do think Carlislewill get the most out of them.
Q: Do you see any sleepers on the current roster?
Any predictions on how long the coach can control his language?
John P, Chicago
A: I told Sam I had Wednesday night (or the first time he had Joey, Hump and Jamario on the court at the same time) in the pool. But I didn’t tell him I think he’s got more willpower than that.
Sleepers? No, not really. I think the three or four guys at the back of the roster – Graham, Adams, Solomon and Jawai – might have their moments, but not likely enough to really be called “sleepers.” Of those four, maybe Admas has the bench chance to earn some minutes.
Q: When do we (the fans) start panicking for a back-up guard? Can you really see Roko or Willie as competent Gs in the NBA?
Tony F, Toronto
A: Ah, what he heck. Go ahead and start panicking now. Get ahead of the curve.
Sure, I can see either or both as competent backup point guards. Of course, we’ll know a lot more when they actually get on the court and everything but right now, why not think they can do the job. It’s not like they can’t dribble with their heads up or are as slow as a middle-aged sports writer or anything.
Q: Hey my name is Doug and to tell you the truth I despise being called Dougie. The only ones that get away with it are were my grandma and an aunt since passed away. Doesn't it bother you, as I cringe whenever I see it?
Okay now on to Gilbert Arenas. What were the Wizards thinking, this is a disaster waiting to happen, and is already unfolding as such. Can't the Wiz try and get this contract deemed null and void as it’s obvious Arenas was not forthcoming about his knee injury or else the Wiz didn't do their due diligence. They were a fine team without him as they proved why sign this guy to $111 million. Just mind-blowing.
Doug B, Toronto
A: Do you think if the name thing bothered me, I’d ever admit it? That’d be like a red flag to a few out there.
Okay, now onto Gilbert Arenas. No, the Wizards have no recourse whatsoever, it’s not like he got hurt riding a moped or snowboarding or anything.
Q: I remember you having an affinity for the "Black Stars", Ghana's soccer team. That team did well, which brings me to my question. Do you think the NBA is only really just staring to tap into the basketball talent in Africa, or has there been some basketball development going on there for a while.
Also, I've always thought that Sam Mitchell was an articulate and interesting guy, when he doesn't feel like he or his players are being antagonized. Others in sports who have had an adversarial relationship with media at times have crossed over and joined them. Mitchell seems to be a talker. Do you think he would have what it takes to be a broadcaster or colour commentator?
Ham A, Toronto
A: I don’t think they are starting to tap into Africa, teams have been scouting over there for decades. The problem is with the basketball infrastructure in many of the countries, there simply aren’t enough courts or qualified coaches to really tap into the talent pool. That’s why a guy like Toronto’s Masai Ujuri, who runs a camp or two every year in his native Nigeria, and the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program, which delivers teaching to many nations, are so important. I believe there are lots of good young players in Africa, it’s a matter of identifying them earlier and giving them the structure and coaching they need.
Now, Sam as a TV commentator? I think he’d be great because he’s never afraid to say what he thinks. But the day he becomes a member of the media is the day that us members of the media get to ride him unmercifully. And that’ll be fun.
Q: Hey Doug, have written in a few times, hoping this one will make the cut of 'worthy inquiry'. This one goes out to all the guys, yourself included I believe, that seem to think that Jamario, no longer deserves his starting spot, just because Kapono finally came into form for 4 playoff games. My question is, do you see Jamario's ceiling as being not to far above his head now? Or do you think he can still improve and get better as a 27+ year old sophomore, and if so, why not stick with our freakishly-athletic-learning-not-to-shoot-threes, Small Forward, and let him turn into something special. Jamario virtually did nothing for us in the playoffs coming off the bench, I think he offers us more then an on-again off-again Kapono. But maybe that’s just me. Thanks alot Doug!! We all appreciate your tireless efforts to keep us on top of our Raps.
Joey H, Toronto
A: Let’s clear up one misconception in your question. You say Moon “virtually did nothing for us in the playoffs coming off the bench” but I cannot imagine you can make such a bold statement from a sample of two games. Can you?
That aside, I do think there’s an argument to be made for having Kapono start over Moon on a team with two big scoring threats like Bosh and O’Neal and I’m sure they’ll take a look at that this week in Ottawa.
Moon’s potential? If he wants to work, I think he can improve in every facet of the game so the ceiling is really up to him. I don’t think he’ll ever be an all-star, or a guy who plays 35 minutes on a legitimate title contender but he can get better, it’s just up to him.