My goodness, you ask a lot
Okay, here’s my dilemma.
After more than a few hours work on the mail until Thursday evening, I’m up to about 8,000 words of questions and answers and since a regular morning blog thing’s about 1,000 words, that’s an awful lot for anyone to digest.
And with practices starting again this morning and the regular junk to go through, should I blow off the blog, do an extra mailbag since it’s done anyway, take the weekend off to work on season preview stuff?
Tough call, no?
Okay, just thought about it for a minute, we’ll do a lot now, a bit more on the weekend and try to work in the usual mumble-jumble Saturday and Sunday.
Lucky you, eh?
Q: Looking forward to the regular season kick-off, but enjoyed your Beijing posts over the summer.
Caught an analyst on Canada AM this morning predicting a not-so-happy future for the NBA and NHL ticket sales, but not in a substantial way until next spring. His reasoning was that season ticket holders bought their packages earlier this year, before the economic downturn and global fiscal crisis got out of hand. Ergo, NBA teams should be anticipating fewer ticket sales next year if the economy doesn't pick up between now and then and people remain conservative with their disposable income.
Last year, I went to about 10 games, but I'm not planning to go to any this year for family and financial reasons.
I wondered how you see this broader trend affecting the Raptors over the long haul? Do you think teams in the States where the credit crunch has been more pronounced have more to worry about than MLSE?
Ellie W, Toronto
A: That analyst was bang-on. I think the NBA is smart enough to know that, if things haven’t turned around or leveled off by next summer, that they’ll either have to hold the line on ticket prices or find some way to lower them in some sections of the arenas.
But I also think the Raptors, while not bullet-proof by any means, might be better off than their American partners because it seems, at the moment at least, the crisis is hitting the United States harder. I don’t read about people walking away from their homes en masse as they are in parts of the States.
I also think you might be one of many who cut out discretionary spending on sports and entertainment first. The teams can only hope things don’t get worse and, in fact, improve over the next calendar year.
Q: I can't understand this; Sam Mitchell has tried countless rotations this pre-season as a way to experiment with different combinations and try to get the most out of his players. Why has he not considered starting Kapono for Parks and have Parks run the (so-called) second unit with an unproven but familiar point guard in Solomon? It seems (given we have the former Euroleague MVP) worth at least a look. Thanks
Stephen C, Mississauga
A: He did consider it, as we reported from Ottawa at training camp, and he and the staff decided it was best to leave Kapono coming off the bench.
And I think you’re over-estimating Parker’s point guard skills to think he could “run” a team on the floor, even if Solomon was there with him.
Q: Doug, I have an interesting question for you: If a player is a real good player but is asking too much money for their contract and his team does not want to offer that much and then another team offers the player to an offer sheet of a really low amount of $ per year for like 5 years, and the team that actually owns the player matches this offer. Does that mean the player who wanted a huge contract now HAS to settle with a small contract?
Chaz E, London, UK
A: Well, here’s what that’s never going to come up: The restricted free agent doesn’t have to sign an offer sheet and surely any agent worth his four per cent or whatever it is would never let him sign one that he thought significantly under-paid his player.
So, it may be interesting in theory but it would never happen in real life.
Q: Doug, in your opinion what are the chances we see a significant reduction of the cap and tax threshold next year? Based on the economic climate I think it is quite likely league revenues will drop. There would be less money for free agents, many would sign one year deals at much less than what they would have normally expected (hoping to see the economy and league revenue improve the following year) and the 2010 free agent class could include half the league!
Rap T, Toronto
A: I don’t think significant, no. Enough of the big-money deals the NBA has with sponsors and the like are multi-year so that gives them some protection. And if you see a decline in, say, season ticket sales next summer, it’s not going to have an impact on the cap until the 2010-11 season. And do you think they’d sign short-term deals hoping for a turnaround, or long-term deals to get locked in and be bullet-proof to more of a recession. Would a one-year deal at, say $10 million instead of $12 million, make more sense in these economic times than, say, a five-year deal at something like $11 million a year? Me? I take the security.
Q: Hey Doug, a couple:
1. Why is that some players thrive in college and some thrive in the NBA. Kind of like Mateen Cleaves being the better college player and Morris Peterson being the better NBA player.
2. People keep talking about 2010 as being the year where the Raps land someone big. What are the chances of the Raps landing a big name?
3. At Andrea's prime, what will his numbers be like?
John V, Toronto
A: Mostly because there is a HUGE difference between NCAA basketball and the NBA. I’m not a big NCAA fan – I find it quite boring as a matter of fact – and I think it’s a game of systems rather than players. Cleaves was a very good NCAA player who couldn’t cut it in the NBA; Peterson was a pretty good college player whose skillset and size made him more valuable to an NBA team. Plus, I think Peterson’s about 10 times more mentally tough than Cleaves.
Now, 2010? Chances? Seeing how it’s two years away, I’ll say 50-50. And I don’t want to take a guess about numbers, it’s not something I like to do because there are far too many variables (teammates, team success or failure) to make anything more than a silly guess.
Q: Doug, it's extraordinarily early to reach any conclusions at this point, but what the hey, I'll beat the Christmas rush: this Delfino-less second unit ain't gonna cut it offensively (or defensively, for that matter). The thought of Hump and Kapono and Solomon trying to create their own shots is as dread-inducing as the thought of Sarah Palin in the Oval Office. So let me be the first to make a heretical suggestion: split up the Twin Towers, other than for the last 5 minutes of the 1st half and last 10 minutes of the game. Besides, all they seem to do while they're on the court together is take turns at taking possessions off while the other one plays one on one. I know, I know, it's early, they'll get better together, yada yada. Think I'm crazy?
Lee Z, Ottawa
A: Crazy? Heck no. I think you might be closer to reality than you think. Not that the coach won’t play them together, but I think they should be much closer to a three-man big man regular rotation than maybe they are. I think you’ll see Bosh and O’Neal together for the first seven minutes of the game and the last five minutes or so of the half, the first six or seven minutes of the third and the last seven or eight of the game.
Q: Hey Doug: Now that all these "Where Does Every NBA Team Rank" articles are coming out, I was wondering if you or your kind are the people supplying the info to these major magazines on the local team? I mean, it would make sense to me to go to you for the scoop on the Raptors. I'm not saying you write the article, but do you provide heavy info for them?
D’Arcy C, Sudbury
A: I can’t speak for the others but on occasion I’ve written some of those summer pieces for the preview magazines on a freelance basis. And every now and then, a friend from, say, Sports Illustrated or ESPN will call to get my take on the team, where it is and where it’s going.
Q: Love your blog - read it too much. Couple of questions:
1. before preseason the prevailing wisdom seemed to be that Kapono would step into the starting 3 spot based on his playoff performance and his outside shooting stretching the floor for the 2 bigs. But in pre-season it’s been all about Moon then Graham. That shift didn't seem to be questioned much. Is it because they want to keep some scoring coming off the bench? Why not start Kapono?
2. Saw in SI that it referenced Scott Carefoot's "Raptorblog" so I clicked on it and see that he's back actively writing in it. Do the bloggers have any actual access to the team or does he write that based on what he sees on TV? Do the beat grunts and bloggers socialize at all?
Tom D, Oakville
A: You cannot read this too much. Honestly.
Yes, the original thought, and the existing thought, is that Kapono could provide offence, along with Bargnani, off the bench. I don’t know if that’ll change any time in the future, like if they really get off to a bad start, but I kind of doubt it.
Now, I’m slightly familiar with the blog you’re talking about but I wouldn’t know the gentleman who writes if, and I steal this from an old pucks coach, I ran him over with my truck.
The only people who are around this team on a daily basis are representatives of the four newspapers, the FAN590 radio, Raptors TV and a couple of other TV stations are hit and miss.
Q: Now that we've seen the team in action, how would you predict the Raptors to start the first 10 games of the season presuming they have no critical injuries. I'll say a slow start with 6 wins 4 losses since they need to get the bench going.
CJ L, London
A: Well, six of the first 10 are on the road, with stops in Boston, Philly and Orlando. There are a couple back-to-backs and one stretch of three games in four nights.
I’d sign a 5-5 scorecard right now and move immediately to Game 11.
Q: Here are a couple questions for you.
If you were to take your pick now, who do you think will win Rookie of the Year?
Looks like Mayo and Oden will be starting for their respective teams this year. What are some of the advantages/disadvantages of rushing rookies into starting roles?
Have a good one big guy.
Imran P, Kingston
A: Realistically, I think rookie of the year is Oden’s to lose; but I can see Michael Beasley making a run at it and, if you want a darkhorse, I wouldn’t discount Rudy Fernandez in Portland. But maybe that’s Jose’s influence.
Advantages and disadvantages? Well, I think it’s pretty obvious in most cases. The advantages would be it gets kids up to speed with the NBA game much quicker, which hastens their development; the downside, of course, is that teams laden with rookies generally lose a lot and that ticks off fans and, in some cases, gets in the heads of the rookies and causes them to lose confidence.
I’m always for bringing kids along slowly.
Q: Doug I’m very interested to watch Shaun Livingston with the Heat this year. I don’t know if he is on a guaranteed contract or not but after his horrific injury and with the potential he has (he drew some young Magic comparisons when he was drafted by the Clippers) I’d love to see him get back on track to even become a solid point guard. Do you think Livingston could work his way back to being a number one PG in this league?
Simon S-G, Toronto
A: I was big Shaun Livingston fan before he got hurt, didn’t quite see Magic Johnson in him (although that’s who a Toronto scout referenced Livingston first came out) but he was going to be a good one.
That said, he’s yet to take part in even a single pre-season game in Miami so to expect him to have any impact for a long time is asking a lot. Let’s let him get back to simply being on a roster before we think of how good he might once again be.
Q: My son and I are big Raptor fans (yes, we admit to having built last year (but since removed) the official Rapta Gangsta shrine) So many forearm bands, so little time...
Onto this season - we're proud to be K Hump fans but in all the games we've seen, we cannot remember a single K Hump assist
Here is the question for you: How many assists will K Hump have? as in the entire year? and in which game will the inaugural assist take place?
Wayne C, Etobicoke
A: I can imagine they came from all over to worship at that shrine!
You must have blinked because Hump had a Stockton-esque 28 whole assist last season, which breaks down to almost one every two games! Seriously, Stockton-esque, I tell you.
This year? I think he might crack 25 again, in fact let’s put that at the over and under number.
Q: Great work with the blog as always. Just a quick question, and I'll even keep it snark-free: Given how poor of a season Bargnani had last year, and given the promising reviews he's gotten thus far in training camp, how does he stack up now compared to year one? That seems like a better measuring stick than last season. Also, does this mean he's getting back on track to be an impact player on a good team in the NBA?
Jim G, St. Catharines
A: I don’t mind snark.
With the proviso that it’s just been the pre-season and we really need a dozen or so games of the regular season to get a baseline, I’d say Bargnani’s much closer to his rookie season form than to the off-kilter, out-of-sorts kid we saw last season.
So, yes, that would put him back on track but, again, it’s early.
Q: Loyal follower of your column Doug! It seems like Jermaine O'Neal will mesh well with Bosh if he can stay healthy. But I can't help but notice a young up-and-coming star in LaMarcus Aldrige, who wouldn't look too bad adjacent to Bosh. The guy rebounds and block shots, and he's establishing himself as an interior force - very similar to JO.
Now correct me if I'm wrong, but the fellow Texan was highly regarded by Bosh, until BC and crew decided instead to go with our infamous Italian. So, does the signing of JO mean that BC made a mistake in drafting Bargnani (ahead of Aldridge), or is he finally realizing what CB4 knew three years ago in terms of what the team needed?
You can probably tell I have all but given up on our Roman...
James L, San Diego
A: I don’t think one has to do with the other at all. Colangelo saw an opportunity to address one of his team’s needs, and maintain key financial flexibility in a couple of years, and did it. I have no idea if he’d have pulled the trigger on the same deal if Aldridge had been a Raptor or not (and neither does anyone else so PLEASE don’t flood the in-box).
And I don’t think Aldridge is in the same category of “inside force” as O’Neal. He’s much closer to Bosh than he is Jermaine. He’s good, no question.
Finally, yes, I can tell you have all but given up on Bargnani. Trust me, you’re not alone.
Q: Touching on a question that was answered recently about opt-outs in player contracts. What happens to the team, if anything, if a player decides to opt-out? Does the team receive any compensation? Are they protected by the league against this scenario? Thanks a lot, and always a pleasure reading your bits.
Nathan B, St. Catharines
A: No, the team gets nothing. It fully understood what the implications would be when it signed a player to a contract with an opt-out clause in it.
Q: Doug, the assumption is that the intensity that Bosh showed on D in the Olympics won't be carried into the regular season because it would be too taxing. But, I could argue that KG displays that same intensity on both end of the court for 82 games. While I realize that the assumption will probably play, but my question is why should it be considered impossible?
Greg W, Toronto
A: Because Kevin Garnett is wired differently than any NBA player I’ve ever seen.
Q: I have a quick question What was a bigger mistake by the Raptor management? 1. Drafting Bargnani over Rudy Gay, or, 2, drafting Rafael Araujo over Andre Iguodala
Jaspreet S, North York
A: Araujo, by far. He gave them nothing, there’s still a chance Bargnani’s a player.
And I’d rather have Iguodala on my team than Gay any day.
Q: The Raptors bench is thinner than Manute Bol. I predict Colangelo will have to make a move between now and December even if it's a small one. I know he's kind of handcuffed by the salary cap but something will have to be done. Do you agree?
Doug H, Toronto
A: If they stumble out of the gate, I would think there’d be some minor moves seriously contemplated. Just like there would be in any year.
Q: Depth is over rated and every team in the league lives in fear of their star player going down. I completely agree that this years team is better off with the tighter rotation. I would suggest Toronto go one further and trade Graham (or Parker), Kapono and a 2nd round pick for Jamal Crawford. The salaries work, NY dumps a salary and a guy who isn't fitting in and Toronto improves the one area that is the most deeply flawed. Love your blog, but I would add a weekly portion to the best adult (new or otherwise) beverages brewed in each city visited during the season.
Kevin H, Toronto
A: You’re suggesting that while New York wants to dump salary, Toronto would be willing to take on about $28 million over the next three, possibly making them a tax team and all but taking them out of the free agent frenzy coming in 2010? And Jamal Crawford, while good, is not the difference to this team winning it all, or even the East if you take away Parker or Graham and Kapono.
And don’t worry, I think we’ll get a little more travelogue stuff from the road in the blog this winter.
Q: Hey Doug, love the work. Was at the final pre-season game last night, and had a question after watching J.R. Smith destroy the Raps. Is there anyway this club doesn't get repeatedly scorched by perimeter players again? I know O'Neal provides a presence in the middle, but Kapono couldn't guard a chair, Moon is not terribly strong, and Parker can't play 48 minutes a night. This looks like an issue that needs to be addressed.
John B, Edmonton
A: Yes, it is an issue that needs to be addressed. Correct. It was an issue last year, that along with interior defence and rebounding. They addressed one and not the other for a variety of reasons.
Q: Hi Doug: I know you love hypothetical questions about the Raptors, so here's one for you -- sorry it's not trade related. Let's suppose that the Raptors were allowed to play 6 on 5 for all 82 games this season; what do you think their record would end up being? One more thing: the only caveat is that the 6th player has to be YOU. I'm going with 73-9. What do you say?
Kevin R, Winnipeg
A: Dude, my teammates would be so busy carrying the defibrillator up and down the court, I’m thinking 9-73 might be more like it.
Q: What do you think of the Hall of Fame prospects for some of these players? Tracy McGrady is a bonafide superstar but has had little playoff success (although he has played a few Game 7s). Cousin Vince Carter has had more post-season success but hasn't been nearly as dominant. I feel Carter's career path was a lot like Ray Allen's before last season. Paul Pierce (for sure) and Ray Allen (maybe) are Fame-worthy in my opinion. What do you think the Hall of Fame chances are for McGrady (yes), Carter (no), Baron Davis (no), the 2004 Detroit Pistons starters (Billups)? Thanks!
Kevork H, Toronto
A: I’ll get into Hall of Fame stuff in the regular blog because it’s a very interesting question but I cannot agree that Tracy’s a Hall of Famer. Not yet. Probably not ever.
Of those you mentioned, I’d make Pierce and Allen maybes, Carter and Davis in the ‘no’ category and I honestly don’t think anyone of that Piston starting five deserves Hall of Fame recognition.
Now, as I’ll explain in other items, I’m a real hard-ass when it comes to who gets into a Hall of Fame and who doesn’t.
Q: Can you explain a financial picture within 2-3year period of the Raptors? If they need a star player to make a push in deep playoff, can or will they do it?
Alex K, Toronto
A: Short answer, barring any changes this year: They’ll have the full mid-level and a couple of other exceptions next summer and more than $20 million the summer after to add pieces.
Q: Just a question on the most important issue facing the raps, what will we call this new point guard trio? Will be it be Calderokoman? Or maybe we would just have one for the backups, Soloroko? In the words of the Sports Guy...We need an answer for this!
Stew M, St. Thomas
A: Ukimon. It’s the only one to go with. Leave Jose out of it.
Q: The Doug Smith rotation works for me aside from two items.
Twenty-two minutes per game isn't enough for Bargnani who has shown signs of breaking out this pre season and forty minutes per game is way too much for Jose Calderon who can play that many minutes on any given night but will likely be burned out by the time the playoffs roll around if he logs so much time.
Quite a sentence huh?
If Jose goes down for any extended period of time we're in deep doo doo.
Do you think that either Solomon or Ukic can play and not be the team's weakest link?
Thomas W, Toronto
A: Helluva sentence, wish I had written it.
Okay, let’s go with 24 for Bargnani and 38 for Jose. Probably closer to what’s going to happen anyway.
And it really depends on who they’re on the floor with but, right now, sure, they’re the weakest link when they play. Just how weak against the competition remains to be seen.
Q: With Darius Miles being released from the Celtics, wouldn't it make sense for a divisional rival of the Blazers to pick him up and have him play minimal minutes for their team? Doesn't he just have to play 10 or so games before the Blazers take a 10 million cap hit? Seems like that would be a sneaky way of making sure a good young team doesn't get too good too fast.
Tim A, Burlington
A: What goes around, comes around. If he can’t play, even for 10 games, teams aren’t going to give him money just to screw a rival, even a little bit, because there is a level of honour among NBA general managers. If he can play, that’s an entirely different story.
(And it’s not like his salary on Portland’s books will cripple them financially, it’ll just be an extra hit).