So many questions, so many answers
Another week, another heavy mail bag. Here’s the first batch because even the heartiest of readers couldn’t get through it all. More coming on the weekend.
Q: Hey Doug... when you state that you must remain objective when covering the Raps, does that mean that you don't have a preference i.e. a 'favourite' team (if given the choice) of which team you'd rather cover?
If we were to play a hypothetical game of NBA musical chairs and you were in a position to swap out the current Raps team with any other team in the NBA - which one would you pick?
Terence G, Mississauga
A: You mean give up all this!?!?! Never.
But I’ll play along.
I’d love to cover the Celtics ‘cause I’d like to live in Boston. I would enjoy covering Portland because it looks like a great young team to be around. But, seriously, this is a pretty good gig over here. Good team, always-quotable coach, good grown up players, good, honest organization, and there aren’t too many better cities around.
Q: I read today that you think the Raps should go with a 9-man rotation. I honestly don't see the wisdom in using a smaller rotation. I think using the whole bench does several things:
1. Gets guys deep in the rotation more experience, so in the event of injury they are more prepared;
2. Reduces the wear & tear on the starters, so they are less likely to have injuries;
3. Keeps starters fresher for late game pushes;
4. Cuts down on fouls for the starters.
I think when the rotation was tightened for the playoffs last year, we lost the advantage that our depth could have provided.
What is it about a shorter rotation that makes so much sense to you?
Steve M, Ottawa
A: It’s my opinion that an eight- or nine-man rotation allows players to get a better feel for when they’ll be used on a consistent basis, it lessens the number of “experiments” a coach can conduct during a game and it allows more players to play through periodic bad spells in games.
I do believe there will be nights where you’ll see 10, 11, or even 12 players used; I think, as a general philosophy, that’s too many.
Q: Long time, no see!
LOVED your Beijing Olympic adventure blogs and coverage of sports which I knew nothing about, but now find kind of cool.
I'm super-excited for the upcoming season: new Boardzilla, new players, pretzels, etc.
My question: now that Carlos Del-fine-o is gone, who will have the best hair on the Raptors?
Katrina W, Toronto
A: Some things, my friend, are just irreplaceable. I believe the follicles of your favourite Raptor (in many regards) is one of them.
Now, if you’re talking beat grunts …
Q: I guess numbers don't lie when it comes to TV ratings. And from what I've read, the Raps don't have huge TV numbers. But it seems to me in travelling in Canada, once you get way outside the Toronto area, Raptors media coverage is extremely sparse or doesn't exist.
Being that you travel a lot, do you see this happening all over in smaller towns with nearby NBA teams or are we selling the Raptors short in Canada?
Also, we hear about guys putting in all kinds of work in the summer (like Bargnani) and all the high hopes of a better season as a result. But why would it be so difficult for players to improve the same way in the regular season while playing and practicing at the NBA level with NBA coaching and NBA drills?
And what ever became of Darrick Martin? Is he still with the team in any form?
Ham A, Toronto
A: The support question’s really unfair because there are no situations like Toronto, which is the only team for an entire country. When I travel, we see all kinds of regional media coverage of the home team, but that’s to be expect. No team tries to do what Toronto does, reach such a large and diverse area.
On the practice question, it’s simple. Once the season begins the games and travel pile up and the nagging injuries hit, there simply is not enough time for the kind of intense, daily work the players get in the summer.
And D Mart? Haven’t heard a peep about him all summer, I presume he’s living the high life out, hanging with his daughter and being a normal human being. But he has no connection with the Raptors at all.
Q: Doug, as I think the pre-camp mailbags are the most appropriate for lists, indulge if you will the following:
Who would be the all-time best ball handlers in Raptor History?
And on a less positive note, which players in history have had the "least positive"/"most intrusive" off court cohorts (the All-Michelle Carter Team Question)?
Geoff H, Toronto
A: My list of all-time best ball-handlers would be Alvin Williams, Damon Stoudamire and Muggsy Bogues. For consistency, care and the ability to beat their man.
And I don’t think there’s any secret on who the most intrusive people were. It’s a short list that includes the mom of He Who Shall Not Be Named, the wife of Antonio Davis, the wife of Doug Christie and, in the coaching department, the somewhat forceful presence that was Mrs. Lenny Wilkens, who once called our office to register a complaint about coverage of the team.
Q: I'm happy the season and your commentary is just around the corner.
If Bargnani either regresses or does not improve on last year, do you believe he is worth the $6.5 million option the team owns on his services, especially given other free agents that may be available at that price?
And, at what point did you say you were comfortable calling bust?
Jeremy T, Toronto
A: Doesn’t matter whether or not he’s worth it, it’s been picked up and that’s what he’ll get paid.
And I haven’t ever said I was comfortable calling him a bust. And I’m sure not going to do it now before the season begins. Let’s talk at the end of the year and we’ll make an assessment then.
Q: Hey Doug, I just finished watching Hoop Dreams and was wondering if Swirsky was one of the play-by-play voices on one of the highlight clips in the documentary.
Greg W, Toronto
A: I believe those were indeed the dulcet tones of The Swirsk.
Q: Hey Dougie, long time reader, first time e-mailer. Do you think Rasho's playoff streak ends this year, or will Indiana actually get in at 8 or 7. Your thoughts?
Sean H, Pickering
A: Rasho’s been in the playoffs every year he’s been in the NBA. Barring a mid-season trade, that streak ends this season.
Q: Hey Doug! Another question for you as we all playing the wait game before training camp. You've probably heard lots of criticism of Raptors NBA-TV. Certainly it falls well below expectations for me, and I'm sure most hardcore Raptors fans. So if you were at the helm, what would you change? What would a typical programming day on Doug Smith's RaptorsTV channel offer? And have you ever done, or would you consider, any TV appearances - either on Raptors TV, Off The Record, the Sports Reports, etc.?
Rob E, Toronto
A: I’ve heard some criticism, sure, but all in all, they probably do as good a job as they can, given the financial realities (they don’t seem to have a whole lot of staff).
What I believe they could do is more original reporting, more in-depth features and if they are going to show ‘Classics’ I’d make them really classic, not Heat-Knicks playoff games. (Although there was an old Houston-Minnesota regular season game on this week that I found for a minute and it was a hoot to see Sam as a player again).
And I have done some TV (there are those who are certain I have a face for radio) and it’s a hoot. I enjoy it.
But I also enjoy writing and reporting for newspapers and websites and am smart enough to know that’s where my expertise lies and where I belong.
Q: Hey Doug, was wondering if I could get your thoughts on this whole 2010 free agent class. I would have never believed that there were that many contracts set to expired in the NBA in 2010. It seems right now that a lot of trades that happen involves a team looking to clear cap space for 2010. I mean there's four stars that MIGHT leave their teams, not 6 or 7 that will for sure, what are all those teams who miss out on these guys gonna do? Overpay the rest of the free agents I assume. What if they all chose to resign back with their teams? (clearly not happening in LBJ's case but let’s pretend) When will BC start sending big time offers to Bosh? Why wait?
if bosh says no to resigning next summer and chooses to test the open market what do you think BC would/should do come February???
Peter T, Leaside
A: I think it’s folly to discuss 2010 in 2008. There is so much that can and will transpire between now and then – injuries, teams fortunes rising or falling, financial concerns, -- that to say with any certainty that anyone will even entertain moving in two years is, frankly, a waste of my time. A year from now, it’ll still be too early.
I will only say this: Given the financial realities of the NBA, there will be much less movement among the game’s big stars than many think.
And I will say that what BC should do come February is see where the 2008-09 season is going, not think a bit about the summer of 2010.
Q: The Raps are up against the luxury tax threshold, and supposedly can't afford any other players nor are willing to 'cross that line'.
What are the odds that a player would renegotiate their contract? Perhaps get an extension for a certain amount off per year? Primarily, I'm thinking of JO...although this is likely just wishful thinking.
John Z, Guelph
A: Contracts cannot be renegotiated during their terms. So, it ain’t gonna happen.
An extension can be signed at a lower salary, but that pay cut doesn’t take effect until the first year of the extension.
Q: Hey Doug. Just moved from Toronto, but I am still keeping up with your blog. A quick question: If O'Neal does not pan out and the Raptors do not improve, does that officially break down the golden wall that surrounds Colangelo?
Zack B, Kuwait City
A: It’s all about winning at this level and if they don’t win, of course the architect of it all will be held accountable.
Q: Hi Doug, I've got a question for you in light of Shaq's (somewhat) looming retirement. Of all active players, who do you think, upon their retirement, has had the greatest career? I realize this question is extremely speculative and therefore probably not the best, but these are slow times right? There are tons of players who are deserving of consideration (Shaq, LeBron, Kobe, CP3, Nash, Kidd, Amare, Garnett, Duncan, AI, and I'm sure quite a few more who I'm missing), so just wondering who your pick would be.
Geoff A, Toronto
A: Extremely speculative and far too early. But what the hell.
When this crop is done? There is no question in my mind that the guy everyone is going to look at as the gold standard – for the success he had winning championships and playing for them – is Kobe.
No question in my mind.
Q: Hey Doug, I'm back for Part II. Maybe these questions will create more discussions on realgm forums then my Carter one did. What I would like to know is if a Carter trade "will never happen" than give a list of who you could see as that "last piece" swingman the Raptors could acquire through trade. But with the 2010 cap space Colangelo could wait and sign Lebron, Wade, or Melo and have our own Big Three of one of them, CB4 and Jose!! Who would you pick out of those three that would fit? Or would you go big with Amare if CB4 shows he can play with another all star big like JO? If discussions are not made by these questions then I don't know what will. Thanks for your time.
Mark R, Toronto
A: Wait a second. You ask questions to generate discussion somewhere else? Why not go there and start them where you want?
But, I digress.
Um, of those three? Isn’t it a no-brainer that you’d take by far the most talented, that being the James fellow? Really. It’s pretty simple. And I don’t think you’d get much discussion about it anywhere.
And I am not going to give a list of players they could acquire through a trade because there’s no way to know whether anyone is available. It’s ridiculous to throw names out with no chance of a deal ever, ever being consummated.
Q: Great work as usual on the blog!
Having witnessed first hand the Grizz move to Memphis (still one of Stern's worst approval moves ever), and now the Sonics move to Oklahoma, any chance in heck that Vancouver is considered for another chance at an NBA team? What other US markets do you see ahead of Vancouver on the list if any other US NBA team owner chooses to relocate?
Chris C, Toronto
A: There is no way in the world the NBA is ever, ever, ever going back to Vancouver. Sorry.
The American cities? Well, Seattle, Kansas City, St. Louis and San Diego come immediately to mind.
But I also don’t see too many franchises moving in the next decade (maybe New Orleans but even that’s a stretch now because of how good the team is). And before you say Memphis, realize that the cost to get out of the lease in that city is prohibitive and would make a move virtually impossible.
Q: Giving full disclosure I have to tell you straight up I feel I know more about basketball than you. You don't look like you have played a minute of basketball in your life other than the occasional game of NBA Jam. Not to mention the bulk of what I read from you seems to be regurgitated hyperbole fed to you by a low level Raptors employee. Having said that you can go a long way in restoring my trust as a bassketball mind by asking this question correctly and settling a workplace dispute. Who would win a basketball game a top level CIS MEN'S team (Brock, Carelton, Western) or a WNBA team with the likes of Candace Parker?
Asha P, Toronto
A: No, really, flattery will get you nowhere.
(But in the name of full disclosure, I couldn’t give a rat’s patoot what you think you know, as a matter of fact).
Now, I hope this will be the wrong answer and drive you to fits of anger but a team with a WNBA team with Candace Parker on it (oh, let’s say the L.A. Sparks) would drill a CIS team.
Have a nice day.
Q: You’ve said a few times that you don’t see any Canadian kids coming up any time soon. A Canadian-contingent AAU team made it to the finals recently in a national (USA) tournament, and have several prep stars making a name for themselves. Tristan Thompson is actually ranked 1st in his class (2010) by Slam (who if you overlook the tendency of hyperbole are a respected source who follow these players for years), while Junior Cadougan, going to Marquette, is 34th for seniors.
I know these are young kids, but maybe the future is brighter than you knew?
Matt D, Toronto
A: I will say this again.
I hope everyone of those kids goes on to great careers in pro basketball.
But – and this is the big ‘but’ that I will always, always trot out – none of them have so much as played a single serious game of NCAA basketball, let alone been a star, let alone been considered an NBA prospect.
I hope they make it.
The odds would suggest otherwise.
It’s all well and good to be at a big-time prep school or on the roster of a good NCAA school or to have success at an AAU tournament. It’s an entirely different thing to make it to the NBA.
Q: Love the blog, can't wait for the season to start.
A couple weeks ago, around Olympic time, you mentioned that you didn't see any really good Canadian basketball prospects with NBA potential coming along for a while. your colleague at the Star David Grossman wrote a great article today about Liam McMorrow, the 7-footer from Scarborough. With only two years basketball experience he’s already landed himself a Division 1-A scholarship at D-Wade’s alma mater Marquette, with a year off due to transfer rules and then three years of NCAA eligibility, do you think McMorrow has a chance to grow enough as a player to have a shot at the NBA, or at least be a key member of Team Canada going forward?
Marc S, Scarborough
A: Here we go again.
Let’s find out whether the kid – with, as you point out, a whopping two years of basketball experience – is anything more than a shot-in-the-dark-recruit by a college looking to find a diamond in the rough.
I honestly had never heard of his kid until the story appeared in our paper so I have nothing to base an opinion on except history, which would suggest that a teenager who comes to the game so relatively late never really makes it.
I hope he does; I fear he won’t.
Q: One comment and three questions.
I think the real reason that Vince would never be able to come back to Toronto, even if management wanted it, is that his Mom wouldn't have a parking spot any longer and nobody would care when he cried.
I would like to know why Charles Oakley has not been signed by somebody to be a roving ambassador for some NBA team. There is this aura about him that is resilient (after several years of retirement) and he has certainly been a very popular player. Kind of like Jerome Williams was for the Raps a few years ago. Does he still do this by the way?
Also I am curious about why there seems to be no serious basketball action in Japan which is as sports mad a country as any. Shucks they even have hockey there!
Jim D, Alliston
A: Oak’s had offers, I’m sure, but the last time I talked to him (at the Finals last June) he was quite happy living his Oak Life and the last thing I’m sure he’d want to do is deal with kids he thinks don’t know how to play a game that he really doesn’t recognize anymore.
And, no, Jerome Williams has no official affiliation with the Raptors anymore, he’s just living in the JYD World, which is not a bad place.
Japan? They play, it’s not as big as other sports but there’s a domestic league. They just haven’t produced anyone NBA-worthy except the point guard Yuta Tabuse, who was an end-of-the-bencher for a couple of teams.