The weekly mail, Part II
And for the second serving this weekend, we offer the following (and respectfully request you start working on next week’s):
Q: Hi Doug. Please consider some lead up articles in the Star for the Raptors this fall. Note that women are also very interested in the Raptors. So often, in the Homes and Living sections they highlight local celebrities etc. (see their homes etc.). If you began now doing an article per week or so on every Raptor player (highlighting just more than their stats), you might get a better readership and heightened level of interest or build up to opening night. The Star often has profiled hockey, football celebrities - isn't it time the Raptors got the nod?
Susan D, Burlington
A: Believe me, I know women are hugely interested in the Raptors and the NBA, and I think it’s one of the great things about the sport, that it attracts a varied audience.
And I’m sure if the editors of other sections are reading this, they’ll take your suggestion to heart.
Personally, I’d love to have time to do more off-the-court stuff and that’s one of the goals for the coming season.
Q: Common wisdom is that shooters start to decline at age 32. So, a guy like Jason Kapono only has 4 or 5 good years left. I expect that Kobe's game will start to change in the next year or two.
Has anyone ever bucked the trend? What's the cause? How can Jay Triano hit a half court shot with all that grey hair?
Phil W, Sydney
A: Buck your trend? Well, Reggie Miller comes to mind, so does Dell Curry and anyone named Barry it seems. The cause? I don’t entirely agree with that common wisdom so maybe there isn’t a single cause. Athletes do lose some of their athleticism in their mid-30s (at least compared to the players they are competing against) so maybe that’s got something do with it.
And Jay might be the best HORSE player connected with the franchise, do not let that grey hair fool you.
Q: I have a question for you.
Was Doc Rivers the first black coach to win a championship?
Sunny S, Toronto
A: I have an answer for you.
No. K.C. Jones did it with Boston twice in the ‘80s and Bill Russell did it twice in the 60s.
Q: Hey Doug, got a few questions here (maybe you've already answered 'em before, I don't know) so here goes:
1. Who do you see starting for the following teams: Chicago, Miami, and Houston?
2. What do you think is going to happen with Ben Gordon? I've heard him linked to Russia and maybe even San Antonio with Ginobli out but no one seems to see his value as high as he does.
3. Who's your top-8 in the East? I see Toronto, Boston, Philly, Detroit, Cleveland, Orlando, and Washington making the playoffs for sure (barring injuries) but who else gets in?
4. Hypothetical (but entirely possible): Who wins in a best-of-seven series - Toronto or Philly?
Karl L, Grande Prairie
A: Man, that’s a lot of questions. Let’s go:
Starters? This is based on nothing but my own guess since teams haven’t, you know, practiced yet.
Chicago: Rose, Hughes, Deng, Gooden and Noah; Miami: Quinn (when he re-signs), Wade, Marion, Haslem, Blount; Houston: Alston, McGrady, Artest, Scola, Yao.
I think Ben Gordon will end up playing on a one-year qualifying offer from Chicago. The so-called interest in Russia was bogus and if he hasn’t found a team to take him yet, I don’t imagine he will. He may pull a Varejoa and sit out the start of the year.
The East? I’ll take those seven and add either Chicago or Milwaukee.
A best-of-seven? Toronto. They’ve got two guys you have to double and better shooters. Not to mention better point guard play.
Q: Hi Doug. I've asked this question before, but I'll try it again. Do GMs pay any attention to the difference between how much a player scores versus how much his opponent scores (kind of the plus/minus approach)? I think that such a stat would really highlight some of the Raptors glaring needs, like watching our 2s and 3s get schooled time and again and contribute a couple points here or there. Who do you think would be the biggest plus and how about minus? Who's top five.
Mark P, Ajax
A: No, they don’t pay much, if any attention to that kind of stat at all. They do look at plus-minus a little bit but one vs. one scoring stats? No, the game’s too fluid for that to really be taken into account.
And, frankly, I couldn’t even take a guess at who’d be best or worst of the current Raptor group. Without too much thought, I’d suggest AP would be the best at matching twos for offence and that Kapono is his first year might bring up the bottom of the list.
Q: O wise one, please help us settle the score,
lend your expertise to this intra-friends deliberation:
"Between NBA Draft Year 2003 and 1984,"
Which stands better in your highly esteemed opinion?"
Also, curiosity hits me, Doug. Now that Leafs has Fletcher back, Gaston with the Jays, and Matthews to the Argos, should the Raptors underachieve this season, do you think they will follow suit bringing back old familiar face at the helm? If ever, who would you like to see back running the club?
More power to the blog!!!
Rikki C, Burlington
A: I’m old so take this for what it’s worth but I’m taking ’84 over ’03 right now by a mile. I’ll wait ‘til some of the top ’03 picks actually, you, win titles and MVP awards before I put it in the same class.
And looking back through the suits that have been in Toronto before, I cannot imagine a Jay-Leaf-Argo throwback situation ever developing.
Q: I posted this question when you complained last week about a light inbox, so I'll take another shot!
If Bargnani struggles with inconsistency again in the first half of this season, do you see him as a candidate to be moved at the deadline? If he struggles again, the window to get value out of him or his replacement will close even more. I am optimistic he does well this year as a 25 min 6th man SF/PF/C, but past first round big men like Kwame, Darko, Diogu, and Gooden were moved for swingmen (Butler, Jackson, Miller) that teams had given up on and blossomed on their new team. Butler and Miller were top 10 draft picks expected to be big time players, and didn't live up to the promise until moving onto new teams.
I hope Bargs lives up to his promise, but perhaps there's a young G/F out there more likely to blossom and fill a key roster need for the Raps. Guys I have in mind include Ben Gordon, McCants, Marvin Williams, and Jeff Green. I think all of them would blossom on the Raps long term and their teams could use Bargnani in his natural role, a perimeter oriented PF. Agree/Disagree/Other suggestions?
S A, Toronto
A: I don’t think they’ll move Bargnani at the deadline regardless of how he’s playing and you could make the case that if he’s not doing well, his value – not to mention his contract – would fetch nothing of substance in return.
And I am not a fan of either Ben Gordon (offensively selfish, no real position) or Rashad McCants (can’t play a lick for a terrible team) or Marvin Williams (average player at best) so I don’t see any of them being a huge upgrade. Jeff Green’s gonna be the best of that group, by far.
Q: I've always been fascinated by the beast that is Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. To the outside observer, MLSE is almost comically opaque, and this explains to some extent why fans dump on MLSE so much. As someone closer to the team day-to-day, you might be able to shed some insight into the how the basketball side of MLSE actually functions. Although I understand that Bryan Colangelo has a fairly significant degree of autonomy in the day-to-day operations of the club, what is your sense of the relationship between management and the MLSE board? Is Bryan called before the board regularly to report on the progress of the club? Broadly, how have the chains of command changed since the days of Isiah/Grunwald/Babcock?
Sean K, Ottawa
A: I think Bryan is far more autonomous than certainly Babcock and likely Grunwald (Isiah was pretty much a lone wolf in his days as president-GM-minority shareholder) because of his reputation and the degree of success he’s had so far in his tenure.
That’s not to say he’s unanswerable to anyone – everyone has their bosses, even him – but his recommendations do carry a ton of weight at the board level and will continue to.
Q: Quick question which is not related to the raptors but relates to sports. You were in China for the Olympics and along with you, there were hundreds of other members of the media. Now that the Paralympics are happening there is almost no TV coverage of what’s going on. I think it’s such an injustice to the athletes who are competing there right now, because they are actually collecting medals where as our other athletes could hardly win anything and would get all the attention.
So my question is, why do you think the Paralympics get almost zero media coverage compared to the regular Olympics.
J K, Markham
A: I can’t speak for television (I presume it has to do with ratings) and I’m certainly not in a position to explain, entirely, why newspapers do what they do.
I would think it has to do with general interest among our readers – if there was a huge hue and cry things might improve – along with a general interest among the public. It’s a bit of a shame, indeed, but we can’t do everything, I’m afraid. I will say this, there is more coverage of the Paralympics in newspapers today than there has been in the past. Is it enough? Probably not. But it’s getting better.
Q: Have you heard what this years opening tune will be? Will it be the same as 15 other teams opening song again, or will they/have they chosen something original this year?
Also, what is the glass booth their constructing at the ACC around the press area? Could it be the D. Smith opening act primal assault defense mechanism?
Steph R, Glencoe
A: I haven’t heard, we don’t usually get a sniff of what it is until media day right before camp but I’d be surprised if more than a dozen teams used that same lame Kanye West song they did last year. Or any song that’s the same, as a matter of fact. I think last year was a fluke, or a coincidence.
As for whatever the glass booth you’re talking about is: I can absolutely guarantee you it had nothing to do with me or any other hoops beat grunt.
Q: Hi Doug, looking at the first and second units on paper started making me a little nervous. How the heck is the second unit going to produce enough offence?
Chris W, Iqaluit
A: Really depends who’s on it, doesn’t it? If Kapono and Bargnani come off the bench, that’s got some scoring potential; so would, to a lesser degree, Bargnani and Moon.
And, if they do use an eight- or nine-man rotation – as I think they should – I would imagine you’ll see one of Bosh or O’Neal on the court nearly every minute.
Q: Quick question: Any reason why the Raptors Claw logo on center court is black? I would expect it to be red, no?
Reggie N, Toronto
A: No real reason, except that they think it looks better; it’s much easier to use black than trying to match the exact shade of red in the uniform (the court boundaries certainly don’t match the red of the uniform with their pinkish hue). And it’s just different.
Q: Hey Doug, you've mentioned previously that your job requires you to remain objective and not "root" for the Raptors. As a result you give a honest assessment of the Toronto Raptors in your columns and blogs. Just a quick question though, I'm sure being around the Raptors and NBA for as long as you have, you start to build relationships with players, coaches, etc. Is your objectivity, when criticizing a game/player, affected because of these relationships? And has a player, who has a relationship with you, ever been upset with a criticism that you've made?
Dave R, Markham
A: That’s the thing about objectivity: It can’t be affected by relationships or it doesn’t exist. I think most NBA players and coaches I’ve dealt with realize that part of the job is being critical – fair, but critical – when it’s necessary. It’s not personal (when it gets personal, a writer is doing a disservice to the people who matter, the readers) and they understand that.
Sure, players and coaches have been ticked for sure, many times, but everyone gets over it eventually. At least the grown up ones, do.
Q: Hey Doug. Just read your anticipated 2008-09 player grading. Looks like an overall "C" average for the team, based on the individual results. On that basis have they any hope of finishing better than mid-division? And if so, how?
Ron F, Toronto
A: How? Well, believe it or not, I could be wrong in my assessment and players could play better than I expect. Opponents could be hit with injuries, or poor play. So there’s always hope, I guess.
Conversely, of course, I could be wrong in my assessment and players could play worse than I expect. Opponents could all have career years and stay incredibly healthy. So there’s no hope, I guess.
That’s the fun part about sports, isn’t it? You never, ever know for sure.
Q: Keon Clark, wow I haven't heard that name in awhile. He was my favorite while a Raptor, my wife and I would chear "Keon, Keon, Keon". Do you actually believe that he was never sober during a game? Do you believe he had all-star potential in him, it's really too bad he had all those problems. What's the latest on him?
Serge A, Richmond Hill
A: I do think he played games – not many – without being under the influence of anything legal or illegal. But I also think his might have been the greatest waste of talent in Raptor history, the guy could have been very, very, very good.
The latest? Well, the latest I’ve got is that he’s incarcerated in Illinois and not likely to see freedom for a while.
Q: Just been to your building (1 Yonge) to fix some computer issues (yeah, that's what I do). I think that was the 5th floor (went through hallway with pics from the Beijing Olympics) and I was told that that's where the offices for the different newspaper sections were (I saw at least Auto & Real Estate). Yes, I did wonder if the great beat grunt/blogger/b-ball guru Doug Smith was in the building, or better yet, that floor.
My question is, when you're not on the road, do you have to be in the office or you just submit your columns online (i.e. email)?
Marlon E, Toronto
A: Computer issues? Man, I know I could keep you busy for weeks, if only trying to figure out how to feed the gerbil that seems to power this machine I have.
I sure wasn’t in there yesterday, was working, as I have been for a couple of weeks, as the Casa Smith out in Hazelville before venturing into the Big Smoke for a Quag Going Away Party for a former beat grunt.
And once the season begins, I generally work from home, the arena, an airport lounge, a hotel room or an arena on the road. I do keep a desk there (for what reason, I’m not so sure) but it’s usually once every couple of weeks to do expenses and paperwork that you’ll find me in there.
But feel free to stop by next time you’re in.
Q: It’s getting a little bit interesting now that the basket ball season is less the 60 days away. I am looking forward to reading Raptors Mail bag regularly when the season starts. My question is, have the Raptors moved up the ladder or down compared to last season and beefed up east, especially 76ers.
Nipin M, Brampton
A: We’ll get into this a whole lot more once, you know, camp opens and things start happening. But right now, the quick answer from here is that the Raptors are in that same glut of teams 3-10 in the East and injuries and how quickly new players get acclimated will determine where they, and other teams, finish.
Q: Jermaine O'Neal played an average of 11.55 mpg over an average 52.75 gp/year while in Portland. This must save at least 2 to 2.5 years of wear and tear on his body. Injuries and missing games must save another 1 to 1.5 years. Anybody who thinks he's running out of gas is full of 'stuff' or incompetent to write about basketball.
In Jermaine's last full season, 2003-04, he played 35.7 mpg over 78 g, scoring 20.1 ppg, 2.5 bpg, 0.8 spg, 2.1 apg and 10.0 rpg.
In Jermaine's last season, his worst, he played 28.7 mpg, over 42 g, scoring 13.6 ppg, 2.1 bpg, 0.7 spg, 2.2 apg and 6.7 rpg.
If he plays 32.2 mpg over 70 g, scoring 32.2 ppg, 2.3 bpg, 0.75 spg, 2.15 apg and 8.35 rpg, everyone should be extremely pleased. Anything better will give Torontothe 'Title' again.
Richard S, Lethbridge
A: This is stats manipulation run amok, my man.
First off, I don’t think anyone is suggesting he’s out of gas; out of health, maybe.
And, yes, if he plays 32 minutes a game for 70 games and averages 32.2 points and 8.35 rebounds a game, people will be very happy. And shocked beyond belief because he will probably win the scoring title.
Q: Just a quick question/comment about starting Bargnani at the three, seem to me watching the Olympics that Bosh has little to no problems switching and guarding quicker guards and small forwards on the perimeter. Do you think that having that when Bargnani is on the floor with O'Neal and Bosh that it would make sense to have Bargs guarding the opposite four and Bosh guarding the three?
Derik F, Moncton
A: In 10 games against sometimes spotty competition, playing fewer than 24 minutes a game, Bosh did a good job defending the high screen and roll. By showing hard, not by switching very often.
In 82 games against NBA competition, probably playing more than 36 minutes a night, he would be exposed.
Q: Hey Doug, I hope you're not dissing the West Coast, I am originally from Toronto! Anyways, here's my 40th question (feel free to allow my questions never being answered streak to run to 41.)
Okay, done with my sarcasm...Can you please let the fans in on your take of the Raps this coming season? Let me make it easier on you - it's a fabled land and all the starters stay healthy and play to their potential. Are we a Final Four team, or do we struggle to make it past round 1??
Mo D, Vancouver
A: You see, here’s the thing. My take is not formed yet, we need to at least see them practice once, right? My take, right now, is that they are as good, and perhaps a bit better, than last year. More settled at more positions but, as we all know, how they do is going to entirely depend on how Jermaine O’Neal plays and whether Andrea Bargnani improves.
So, the take right now is very much a work in progress and I can’t give you anything more until after the pre-season. There are too many variables.
Q: Further to our Anthony Parker conversation, and your quick defence of him, I offer the following:
5th in Points per Game
5th in FG%
Behind Jamario Moon for 3 point FG %
Shouldn't any team expect more from a starting SF and former EuroLeauge MVP?
Just saying, when TJ and Jose have better overall stats and split starting duties, it seems like Parker could be better.
Dean E, Hamilton
A: Um, I’m not sure where you were looking but Parker was actually the team’s second-leading scorer last year, and while he indeed was fifth in overall field goal percentage, he shot 43.8 per cent from beyond the arc, compared to 32.8 per cent for Moon.
Expect more? Sure, everyone should expect more from every player on every team, that’s how teams get better.
Good – not great – stats for a starting shooting guard on a .500 team? Yeah.
Q: Love your blog, and a big fan.
I have few questions about new NBA team.
We all know that the most recent one is the "Thunder". My questions are, how do they recruit players at first? and What does it do to the season? how many more games does it add to our original 82?
Ken C, Toronto
A: Um, it’s not a new team. It’s Seattle. The Sonics moved.