The first of a few deliveries
I’m a little confused. What time is it? Wall clocks say 9:45, computer says 8:45 and there’s the usual 0:00 flashing on all the appliances. I need help.
Luckily, I’ve got more than a few questions to answer to keep my mind occupied. Here are some and there’s even more waiting to be done. Trouble is, some major computer problems seem to have popped up and I can’t get to where they’re saved. Guess that’ll give me something to do this afternoon.
Anyway, here’s the first load:
Q: Love the blog. Keep up the good work. Most of all, keep up the original content!
Here's a "baseball inspired" basketball question for you.
The Tampa Bay Rays have been the "feel good" story of the 2008 MLB season. Not only have they been able to go from basement dwellers to AL Champs, but they've done it with a bunch of youngsters, many of whom have gone through the team's farm system.
The NBA has a number of teams who have built (or re-built) around a similar philosophy of starting from scratch and going with youth. The Bulls and the Blazers are two teams who have gotten better by dumping players with huge contracts in exchange for draft picks and, most of all, using these picks to select quality guys. But, despite having very good teams, the chances of either the Bulls or the Blazers actually competing for an NBA championship are quite slim.
Which leads me to my questions: Has there ever been anything similar to the Tampa Bay Rays story in the NBA? Has a team primarily made up of youngsters ever won a championship? Or is the NBA such a different beast that teams must have a couple of all-star veterans on the roster to win?
The only team that I can think of that comes close to what the Rays did this year in baseball is Michigan's "Fab 5" and the run they made at the NCAA title in 1991.
Michael M, Ottawa
A: I sure can’t think of one off the top of my head. Mainly because it takes years to build the kind of cohesion in a core group that you need to be a legitimate contender. Not all five or an entire rotation, but three or four guys have to have played together for a while before they can take that final step towards championship contention because the game is just so entirely different from any other sport.
Q: I read the article from Phil Jasner and one thought came to mind. How veteran players were attracted to Philadelphia after signing Elton Brand. Elton was the catalyst to draw players there, but the colleges and schools and family was as significant a factor. This would be a stumbling block in Toronto. Significant or not?
Steph R, Glencoe
A: Not really significant. It’s part of the whole package, of course, but I don’t see it ever being the one, single thing that makes a difference.
Q: I see the Sports Guy is honouring you by calling the Oklahoma team, the "City That Shall Not Be Named". Is this a blatant rip-off of you calling that guy who used to play for the team something similar? What are the odds he contacted you and asked if it was alright? Probably higher than the Raps winning it all this year.
Shawn L, Bowmanville
A: Thanks for looking out for me, but that phrase, and versions of it, are way out there in the public domain and I’m certainly not creative enough to have coined it. Check out those wizard books the kids read.
Q: Any idea of some of the Americans on the Raptor's roster and coaching staff be heading home on November 4th to vote? I'm just curious because I know that many states don't allow early voting and there's been some confusion down in the
Tommy C, Ottawa
A: I presume you saw Dave Feschuk’s column the other day on this very matter. All the guys who wanted to vote, got to vote in absentee balloting. Not everyone voted, of course, but I’d imagine the percentage would be about the same as it is in the general population.
But, no, I haven’t heard about anyone going home Tuesday to vote, it’s a practice day.
Q: I heard today that the Mavs got the '10 all-star game and it'll take place in the new stadium being built for the NFL's Cowboys. They said there wasn't any location named after that year. I was wondering if Mr. Colangelo has put his or our hat as it may, in to the pot for an all-star game for the near future?
Adam R, Toronto
A: The indications have always been that the Raptors would bid on the 2011 all-star weekend and I haven’t heard anything to make me think that’s changed. And if they bid, I can’t imagine them not getting it.
Q: I want to ask you what you really think Jermaine O'Neal's impact will be on this team this year and next? I refuse to drink the Kool-aid on a 30 year old big man whose stats have declined so great in just 3 years to think at age 30 he'll be back to 20/10..what do you think?
Mike M, Mississauga
A: I don’t know about numbers, nor do I really care that much about them. And here’s why: If O’Neal creates space for Kapono, Parker and Calderon, allows Bosh to operate more against single coverage than maybe he ever has and takes a charge or two a game, how do you quantify that? What if he does all that and averages 12 and 5? Are people going to be upset? I would certainly hope not.
So, don’t drink the Koo-Aid but don’t judge anyone’s contribution soley on numbers. I think I’ve been pretty consistent in what I think O’Neal can do. If he plays 70 games (and Bosh and Calderon remain relatively injury free) the franchise record of 47 wins in a season is in jeopardy. And so is their record of playoff series futility.
Q: Doug, do you agree that it would really suck to be Will Solomon right now. Not only does he have a painful hamstring, but he also just lost his backup job to what appears to be the second coming of Stockton.
Jordan M, Oakville
A: Yes, it would suck. Huge. But he’s also only one tweaked hamstring from being the backup point guard so he better be getting back in shape and be ready to contribute when he has to.
Q: A little while back, you named your favourite basketball movies. Have you made a list of your favourite books on the topic? I'm reading "Big Game, Small World: A Basketball Adventure" by Alexander Wolff and I have enjoyed John Feinstein's "Season on the Brink" and "The Last Amateurs." Can you recommend any others?
Roel O, Brampton
A: We’ve done this a couple of times but it’s always worth putting a list out there again because if it encourages even one person to do more reading, that’s great.
My list? It would have to include The Inside Game by Wayne Embry and my friend Mary Schmidt Boyer; Breaks Of The Game by the legendary David Halberstam, The Last Shot by Darcy Frey (a look at Stephon Marbury’s freshman year at high school and his team), Loose Balls, a hilarious take on the ABA by Terry Pluto and, because of the advice that’s in it, you have to read They Call Me Coach by John Wooden.
There are dozens more out there, too many to mention here. But read those and you’ll be doing fine.
Q: Quick question about statistics. When a player shoots an air-ball and a defensive player catches it, does that count as a rebound for the other team, or a turnover for the player who shot the ball? And on a related note, when a player gets called for a charge, does that count as a turnover as well? These are two questions that popped into my mind as I was watching the game (Wednesday) that I'm embarrassed to not know, being a "diehard fan" and all.
That is all. Cheers
John K, Oakville
A: Yes, a rebound if, in the stats crew’s opinion, it was a field goal attempt. And, yes, offensive fouls are turnovers.
Q: Hey Doug, as the first busy night of the NBA season kicked off, I found myself, as I often am, checking on the results of several ex-Raptors. Obviously I wanted to know how TJ was doing, but also checked in on The Red Rocket and Charlie V among others. Are there former players that you regularly keep tabs on?
Tim B, Dwight
A: I read every boxscore every morning so I notice all the ex-Raptors out there. There’s not one guy I look for more than another, although if there was it’d probably be Bonner ‘cause I’m intrigued on how the Spurs will use him this year without Robert Horry on the roster.
Q: When is the earliest Mr. Colangelo will attempt to sign Chris Bosh? I don't think I can take two more years of rumors.
Shawn L, Bowmanville
A: It’s not so much up to Mr. Colangelo, actually. Bosh has the option after next year and I can’t see him giving it up early just to get a new deal done. That’s not prudent business. So settle in for a couple of years of speculation, rumour and flat-out fiction.
Q: Hey Doug, the game (Wednesday) night was amazing. Had a great time watching the Raps with friends, and we're all really excited for the rest of the season.
Something that we all agreed on is that the black jersey is bad ass. Is it just me or did that jersey just make the raps look tougher? The maple leaf on the back is a really nice touch and makes me proud of Canada's team." I wasn't sure about the jerseys when I first saw them, but now I'm sold. My question is, what are the odds the away jerseys get a permanent shift to black? The red is good and all, but I think it would be better as an alternate. The black is just too good.
Daniel P, Waterloo
A: The black is very good but I think it’s destined to be the “alternate” jersey for at least a few years. There may come a time when they ask the NBA to make the switch of road jerseys from red to black (and the league has its fingers in every decision like that) but there’s been no suggestion from anyone I’ve talked to that it’s being contemplated.
Q: I always enjoy your comments. I had to be out last night but my wife graciously let me tape the game while she watched her shows on the smaller screen in my study. What I saw was an unpolished but highly enjoyable game, made even more so by a very good, pure basketball broadcast. Matt Devlin, with a solid game call, seemed to be able to keep Leo a solid analyst, leaving the inane tangents of the past behind him. Hopefully, there is more of the same to come. I wanted to congratulate Matt himself, but I couldn't find an e-mail address.
Thanks for listening.
A: I think Matt might read this, or someone who knows him will, and I’m sure he’ll see it.
Q: I know I have been spoiled by having Chuck doing the play by play on TV for the last 10 years, but I simply can't recall one Raps game I have watched that is as dead as yesterday. It sounded like a baseball broadcast at times. I know it is only the first Raps game for Matt and I know it takes time for him and Rautin to develop chemistry, but I simply think Chuck's shoes will be too big to fill. As big of a basketball fan I am, I am an NBA fan before the Raps even existed, I have to admit Chuck was one of the main reason I tried tuning into all 82 Raps game every season. I have watch a number of games on TNT, ESPN, and NBA TV, but I have yet to find another commentator that show the same passion and love for the game. Having said that, since those game play-by-play commentator works for the network and not for a particular team, I was wondering what how the other play-by-play person is around the league who represent their respective team. Is Matt the norm or are there other guys who shows the same passion as Chuck?
Jay H, Thornhill
A: Maybe you want to talk with Tim, above.
Q: Just a question about the Magic. I've been reading all of these Eastern Conference Previews by several columnists, saying what teams are going to do what in the East and so on. It seems no one's giving much love to our familiar foes and most have Orlando finishing behind Philly and/or Toronto. I, for one, am not willing to forget how they mopped the floor with the Raps in the Playoffs. Why do you think no one's really talking about them? Are they going under the radar because they didn't make a major move this off-season like the Raps and Sixers? Or are they sincerely expected to decline in the newly competitive East?
Amanda F, Barrie
A: I’m not discounting them, that’s for sure. That’s a very good team that’s well coached and I can see them playing for a conference championship quite easily.; But the lack of a major move was certainly part of it out there among the general populace although they did add a starter in Pietrus. And I really think Tony Battie is going to be a big help shoring up the bench. But they are not one of the sexy picks at all perhaps because, you know, it’s Orlando and no one cares about Orlando.
Q: 20-20 hindsight: If the Raps had selected Granger rather than Graham in the draft, they could be very close to a championship right now.
Brian M, Toronto
A: Your 20-20 hindsight needs to be re-examined.
"Very close to a championship”?!?!?
You’re kidding, right?
Before you put Granger in the Hall of Fame, let him do something of substance, okay?
Q: I know we need help at the wing positions. Do you think Travis Outlaw or Martell Webster would be made available since Portland now has Rudy Fernandez. I believe both their contracts are coming up soon and there will probably be a logjam for minutes there. Would you consider them upgrades (difference makers) over who we have?
Bernard B, Toronto
A: Well, since Webster’s hurt, I don’t see ‘em doing anything with either of them this season and I’m not starting on next summer’s signings quite yet.
Are they good? Yes. Are they upgrades? Yes. Are they legitimate possibilities? No.
Q: Hey Doug, after watching Jermaine O'Neal in the preseason, it is not hard to compare him with the Hakeem Olajuwon signing a few years back. They were both coming off of a few injury filled seasons and are both well past their prime. There was so much hype behind both signings and what can make you believe that O'Neal can actually make a difference? Please help me out here! It is starting to worry me.
Steve C, Woodstock
A: Well, to start with, O’Neal’s about 100 years younger. And exponentially more motivated that Olajuwon was. Oh, and probably a better player now than The Dream was when he got here.
Q: Hi Doug: It's been a while since I've written (OK, since last season), but I've been a religious reader of your blog through my travels around the world.
My question for you today -- if you had to pick the single most critical player to the Raptors in this coming season, who would that be?
My take on this would be JC. While CB and JO have the most talent, and are arguably the secret sauce that allow us to get deeper into the playoffs, it's becoming clear that JC will be needed to spark the bench as well as the starting unit. That means logging heavy minutes, at least until mid-season when hopefully Ukic and Solomon can hit their stride. Therefore, JC and his good health will be the critical success factor for the team this year. What's your take on this?
Ah, ya gotta love the start of a new season -- anything is possible, and cruel reality hasn't set in yet :-). All the best, and see you at the games !!
Harley W, Toronto
A: Welcome back. This is a tad old but that's on me so what the heck, haven’t seen you around games so I’ll get to you this way.
To me? It’s all about Bargnani. He’s got to score off the bench and he’s got to be able to spell Bosh and O’Neal enough so they don’t get worn out and maybe hurt. Sure, Calderon’s important ‘cause they are so thin behind him but if the big kid doesn’t play well more often than not, they’re doomed.
Q: A couple of Qs about a couple of guards:
1) I remember that on one occasion, after he was drafted, Roko Ukic wore a Reggie Miller Pacers jersey. Has Ukic shown any sort of reverence toward former Pacer and current Raps teammate Jermaine O'Neal?
2) Do you see the super-quotable Julius Hodge making it back to the NBA one day?
And kind of a question #2b here: Kiki Vandeweghe told Hodge that 15 guaranteed contracts left him no choice but to waive the player. Are there really no options to keep Hodge in that situation?
Jeff W, Ajax
A: Have not heard a peep about the Pacers from Ukic at all. And no reverence, either.
Julius Hodge? Maybe on the end of someone’s bench. Maybe. And the only option a team would 15 guaranteed contracts would have in a case like that would be to waive someone and pay them to go away. And, believe me, Julius Hodge is not good enough to make a team throw money away to keep him.
Q: Hey Doug, was reading your blog yesterday, and one reader had a VC15 comment that got me thinking... do you think Vince is headed to the hall?
Also do you think any Raps on today's roster, other than Bosh, might make it?
C L, Markham
A: Who? In the what? No chance. None. Just like I can’t see anyone from this team going in the Hall, either. Unless they rattle off like three championships in a row or something.
Q: “If the Raptors start slowly, the questions about Mitchell's future will grow loud."
FOR SHAME, DOUG! Of all people, I would not have expected you to add fuel to this fire. Not only has Sam been named coach of the year, he's also taken our shoddy euro-roster to the playoffs consecutively. My question for you; who would you propose as a replacement? Who could do a better job than Sam Mitchell?
Craig S, Halifax
A: Hold on a minute, don’t get your knickers in a knot. What fuel? Am I wrong? Nope, not in the least.
And I don’t have a replacement, that’s not what the comment was about, it was simply a statement of fact.
Q: Hey Doug, since people are always asking you questions about who your favorite players are, who are the 5 players you dislike the most right now? It could have to do with their style of play or even their personality on and off the court. You have to put JR Smith on your list haha.
Philippe A, Ottawa
A: Dislike the most? I’m a pretty easy going guy, there aren’t many people I dislike but you can be sure that any list I come up with would have Nate Robinson on it, JR Smith, too. Leon Powe does far too much woofing for my tastes and Jason Terry would have to be in consideration. Oh, and I’m sure not a big Andrew Bogut fan.
I’ll let you guess whether those guys are there for style of play, personality or a combination of both.
Q: Hey Doug, so before and I guess after reading your article on Bosh and how he is trying to get the most out of his talent. I was wondering who in the Raps storied history were the most and least dedicated to basketball and the team in terms of all out hustle night in and night out, practice/being gym rat and working out and being in shape, using summers for improvement etc.
On the positive side I would say Bosh is there, my boy Alvin Williams pushed himself till he couldn't walk anymore and I guess JYD squeezed out a career by hustling. On the negative obviously "nameless" could have been one of the greats and Keon Clark who walked away from a career. Your thoughts?
Mike P, Thornhill
A: Most? Yeah, Alvin would be on that list for sure, and JYD maybe, but I think he liked being JYD more than he liked working hard. Damon Stoudamire put in a lot of extra hours when he was here, too. And Popeye Jones always worked hard.
The negatives? Sure, Keon Clark would be right there, and there are people who were mystified why a guy like Loren Woods, with all kinds of ability, just didn’t have the work ethic and wasted his talent. That’d be the top two in my books.