The weekend mail, Delivery No. 1
Funny what you can get accomplished in 10 or 12 hours over the course of a week, a five-hour flight to the west coast and a couple of hours in a LAX Marriott sports bar.
But because no one in the world is going to sift through about 5,500 words of questions and answered, I’m going to break them up into two files.
This encompasses the earlier part of the week, Part II will have the stuff from about Thursday through Saturday.
Q: After a couple of bad losses, let's change the subject. I'm curious about the behind the scenes employees of the Raptors. Does someone like the legendary Jim LaBumbard (Media Relations) answer to BC? Or is he an employee of MLSE, the corporation? I guess what I'm asking is: When a new GM takes over, does he tend to clean house of people like our version of George Costanza (the assistant to the traveling secretary)? Or do the behind the scenes folks usually survive every regime change?
John C, Toronto
A: The Legendary Jim LaBumbard, along with all the other legends who work on the basketball side of the conglomerate, are indeed employees of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment who report to Bryan.
And, no, a new GM doesn’t necessarily clean house, he does move some people but he will always keep the good ones.
Q: Doug, just wanted to get your thoughts on some of BC's moves. There is no doubt that this team is better off with BC than they were with RB, and BC has made many good moves. However, we we're all quick to criticize RB and GG for their shortcomings so wanted to get your thoughts on what I see as some of BC's shortcomings over the past couple of years: 1. Did a good job to get rid of the excess of wings this past off season but he never did address the team's need for defence and toughness out of the wing. Thought that BC brought in Hassan Adams for that purpose. If so, why haven't we seen more of him? Seeing what Jamario and Joey are giving us, would giving Adams a chance at the wing give you anything worse? 2. Correct me if I'm wrong but because BC used the bi-annual veteran exemption on Maceo Baston last year, he could not use it this year (as we remember Maceo was wearing a suit for most of the season). As a result, BC had to sign an unproven back-up to Jose in Will Solomon as opposed to being able to use the veteran's exemption and bringing in a veteran point guard like Damon Jones. Although Jones would have had a salary of approximately $1 million he would have counted the same against the cap as Solomon with the exemption. Ultimately, our issues with the back-up point guard needs to fall right in the lap of BC. 3. Is it possible that the Raps did not do their homework on Nathan Jawai before they drafted him and signed him to a contract? They say that the first time they found out about his heart condition was at training camp but perhaps the question is did they do they proper physical testing prior to drafting and signing Jawai.
Anthony B, Etobicoke
A: Adams came in out of shape, got hurt, got further out of shape and further into the coach’s doghouse. It’s absolutely debatable whether or not he’d given as much as Moon or Graham.
With the way the finances worked out, the only money they had for that Solomon spot was minimum wage so there is no impact with Baston getting the biannual exception last year. But he did get it so it’s not there this year; it’ll be available to them next summer.
They did all the homework they could on Jawai leading up to the draft. Players don’t go through nearly as rigorous an exam in the one or two times a team can see them before the draft than they do before training camp. Is that a good way to do business? Probably not. But it is the way business is done.
Q: Are they still having problems with the stats section of the scoreboard at the ACC? They seem to disappear for extended periods of time to be replaced by a Raptors logo.
Kelly A, Toronto
A: I don’t look up that high that often, don’t want a crick in the neck for the night’s TV gig (he said, jokingly) but yes, I’m told there are still glitches that are popping up every now and then. They don’t make $8.5 million TV sets like they used to, I guess.
Q: The canned reply from Rogers Cable:
We are hopeful to be able to offer TSN2 to our customers at some point in the future, however, at the present time we have not been able reach a business agreement with the channel. As with all channel negotiations, they take time. These discussions are confidential. When we consider offering a new channel, it is not a matter of receiving emails or requests, but rather reaching a fair and equitable arrangement with the programmer.
Has a team ever leveraged games in the past to get themselves positioned onto cable carriers?
Craig S, Toronto
A: Isn’t that some bureaucratic, media relations garbage or what? Seems they are admitting what we’ve known all along, it’s about money and screw the complainers.
Maybe more e-mails are in order. Maybe that wakes someone up. I doubt it but you never know. The word I got Friday was there is “optimism” in the talks; I remain skeptical.
And since Maple Leaf Sports signed a contract with TSN and its other broadcasters (far too quickly as it turns out, in my opinion) they have little or no leverage in the issue.
Q: Hey Doug, I've got two questions for you. I've read that a lot of NBA execs aren't exactly displeased with Mark Cuban's insider trading, they actually find it quite funny. I was wondering if you knew how Colangelo and Cuban got along? Secondly, do you think that Derrick Rose is the most NBA ready rookie to come into the League since LeBron? 19 5 and 6 (rounded) he might be the best point guard in the East, as a rookie
Alex D, Toronto
A: I think they’ve got a good relationship, nothing special but certainly nothing antagonistic.
Derrick Rose sure looks good but so does O.J. Mayo, whose game seems well-suited to the NBA. But don’t sleep on Rudy Fernandez out in Portland, that kid’s going to be good and looks pretty smooth already.
Q: I know you're probably getting a billion emails about a coaching change in light of what happened against Jersey and Boston. I don't want to add to your headache but I'm curious as to the likelihood of getting Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) as Raptors head coach? He seems to have hit a chord with CB4 during the summer Olympics that he's now playing out of his mind this season.
Oliver A, Milton
A: Coach K turned down an opportunity to coach the Lakers and Kobe, I cannot imagine a scenario that makes him change his mind and take an NBA job.
And I know he is a great college coach, no question; the NBA woods are littered with the carcasses of college coaches who’ve failed in the pros.
Q: It's been a while since I've submitted a question... Since I know you love doing lists (!?!), here's an old one for you. Can you redo the top 5 of the 1995 NBA draft? In my opinion, you can only truly do this exercise AFTER the players' careers are finished (or finishing). I remember Stoudamire had the best start to his career, but he was never the same after the big trade. Jerry Stackhouse had more sustained success. And Antonio McDyess transformed himself late in his career, and is still an in-demand type of player.
Mark D, Toronto
A: I don’t know that Stoudamire was never the same after the trade, he did get Portland to the seventh game of a conference final before one of the great single-game collapses of our time.
But, yes, I’m of the mind that a rush to judgment on a draft class is folly for at least five years. And in some cases maybe more.
Q: Not a slight on Maurizio, but is it possible the Raptor scouts are looking (dredging) for offshore talent rather than scouting the US for gems, or is cap space the issue and the Raptors can only afford some NBA potential that got away, or is it the European attitude/work ethic that's attractive to the front office.
Akiko C, Barrie
A: Huh? The Raptors do as much scouting in North America as any other team in the league.
Q: Wonderful blog today: insightful, accurate, offering a wider perspective. Just what keeps us reading the blog and enhancing our enjoyment of the season. Wednesday: Okafor - probably the smartest person in the NBA, at least as measured by academic achievement and language ability. I recall Connecticut sports writers used to run to their dictionaries after interviewing him: he was that erudite in his use of English and depth of his comments. Q: What is the relationship between academic/intellectual smarts and NBA basketball achievement? Over the years have the "smart ones" done better? worse? the same? And beyond performance, how have they contributed to the mix in the locker room?
Charles N, Toronto
A: I have nothing to really base this on except anecdotally but I’d say that given exactly the same physical attributes, a “smarter” man will have a more successful sporting career. It’s about understanding nuances of the game and being able to make smart, instant decisions.
And we like them, too, because it’s fun to have conversations that don’t revolve solely around the high screen and roll and who won last night’s game. That’s why I tend to appreciate the, um, elder players I get to cover.
Now, I’m not sure the league is populated by players one would consider of above average intellect because, frankly, many haven’t had to do much independent thinking at any time in their lives.
Q: Doug, Do you always have to wear a suit and tie to the games, or can you dress more casually? Not in the tight tee shirt with your navel hanging out, and the clam digger shorts from Beijing, but can you wear jeans and sneakers at all?
Chris N, Toronto
A: I have never, ever owned clam digger shorts in my life, I believe there may be a restraining order precluding me from owning a pair.
But there is no dress code, I just figure it’s best to give the TV and internet viewers something classy (or frumpy, depending on what’s on the first couple of hangers in the closet) every night.
Q: Using Swirsky for the voice-overs on RaptorsTV is a bit strange, but using the same player pictures for three years in a row is just ridiculous - and all 146 of the stations that broadcast Raps games are equally guilty. Have they really not taken a picture of Andrea since his rookie training camp? He looks ridiculous. Calderon looks like his own strange creepy younger brother. When they showed the Miami lineup the other day Shawn Marion was wearing a Suns jersey. Funny, I managed to take a picture of Marion in his Heat gear this year - you'd think a professional media organization could to do the same. I'd like Jamario to grow a giant afro and cover his face with Marbury tattoos. For the next three years we'd have no idea who the guy in the picture is.
Dave B, Toronto
A: I’m pretty sure someone in the upper echelons of Raptorland will read this and, well, probably do nothing. Jamario with an afro? And head tattoos? Works for me.
Q: Some questions to brighten up your day, as I assume the mood around Raptorland ain't what it used to be after the 3-0 start. 1) How come in the NBA, big guys can't seem to "win" games for the team? With that I mean, looking around the league, even teams with Duncan, Garnett, Howard, etc. seem to rely on guards (i.e. Parker/Gino, Pierce, and Lewis/Turk) in the 4th quarter to win close games. Big guys seem to put up better numbers in 1st-2nd quarters, while late game heroics are usually left to the guards. Why is that the norm? Is this a stamina issue that big guys are not as effective near the end? (e.g. defending/battling/grabbing boards against Shaq for 40 minutes is certainly not the same as defending JJ Reddick) 2) I know you hate looking 2 years into the future full of unknowns, but bear with me for a sec. I'm just curious as to what our expectations should be regarding the 2010 FA class. With 20 teams simultaneously clearing cap room, what can we expect to get at that time? Obviously, we're not going to get a LeBron or a DWade given that teams with "better" situations are offering them max money as well. If we're fortunately enough to resign Bosh, should we be expecting a "second-tier all-star" as our prized FA signing? Or are the shelves so empty that we should only expect a "decent starter"? 3) When are your bosses going to get you that Beyonce-esque assistant you've been requesting?
Aaron C, Cambridge
A: I appreciate all attempts at brightening a day. Here we go:
1. Guys who “win” games – and I presume you mean with late-game plays -- are guys who can create for themselves or break guys down off the dribble, not attributes generally attached to bigs.
2. I don’t think the shelves will be “empty” at all and, depending on where the Raptors are positioned in two years, they could very well attract a big name player. But if they suck, it’ll be harder.
3. I don’t believe an assistant – Beyonce-esque or otherwise – is anywhere in my future, unfortunately.
Q: Doug you have had some questions about Raps hiring someone like Pat Ewing to tutor Andrea. I think these posters are forgetting we already have Alex English (one of the top scoring bigs ever) on the team. How would you compare their games and do you think he can (is) influence Andrea? Alex seems to be more quick and mobile with mid-range and short range scoring while Andrea is stronger (this year) with more long-range scoring and low-post (this year). What do you think about this pairing and also Alex's influence on Hump and Bosh?
Alex L, Sudbury
A: Alex works a lot with Andrea after practice and I think he’s had a big influence on him during the season. But, really, it’s a group effort with everybody working with everybody at times.
And on the Ewing thing, I need to point this out: I like Pat Ewing and he’s probably a pretty good coach and Dwight Howard’s a beast but, frankly, if he’s not dunking he’s not scoring, he remains a brutal free throw shooter and his shooting range is about eight feet. He’s got power moves but little finesse and I think is a result of his awesome physical abilities as much as it is of coaching.
Q: Quick question, How many years left does Jermaine O'Neal have on his current contract. And how much is the contract worth.
Zaki H, Toronto
A: He’s got this year and next left on his deal (although he has an opt-out clause at the end of this season I cannot imagine him using). He’s paid about $20 million this season and about $23 million next year.
Q: Doug, love the blog. In his NBA preview, ESPN's always entertaining Bill Simmons said the following about Jermaine O'Neal: If O'Neal somehow returns to 20-10 form, it would be the first time that a big man rejuvenated his career in his 30s without the excuse, "He's not doing cocaine anymore" (which happened a few times in the '70s and '80s). Power forwards and centers are like porn stars and singers: When they lose it, they lose it. That's it. End of story. We have six decades of evidence to back this up. So the Raptors aren't just gambling on O'Neal's returning to All-Star form, they're gambling on an improbable turn of events that has no precedent in the 62-year history of the NBA. Tom Chambers, Antoine Walker, Artis Gilmore, Ben Wallace, Mutombo, Ewing, Hakeem, Shaq, Moses, Larry Johnson, Derrick Coleman, Ralph Sampson, George McGinnis, Spencer Haywood, Jerry Lucas, Nate Thurmond ... seriously, find me a former All-Star big guy whose statistics dropped as dramatically as O'Neal's did from 2005 (24-10) to 2008 (13-7) and then rallied back the other way. You will come up empty. So what do you say Doug, given O'Neal's gimpy leg, is Simmons on the money?
Gus G, Toronto
A: Yeah, I don’t imagine O’Neal’s going to put up the same numbers he did three years ago. I don’t think anyone expects him to. If he gets close, that’ll be enough. So, yes, Simmons was on the mark with his assessment a couple of months ago.