A little bonus mail time
A little bonus Monday mailbag for you, there really was nothing going on with Raptors and/or the league yesterday and, given a rare Sunday off, I figured this was a good way to get to some of these early week questions that tend to get lost.
I’ll be back with the usual stuff in the morning (can’t wait to read all the fun letters if they drop one to the Clippers) and it’ll be the usual again on Wednesday morning. Thursday, I’m going to shut it down to watch Super Son open presents before the flight to Sacramento and then, hopefully, we’ll get back into a normal routine.
Also have to figure out what I'm going to do tonight, a 10:30 p.m. start is pushing up against my usual bed time but, fatigue aside, I'll probably be somewhere to watch along with you.
Have a nice day. Gotta do some shopping today, you don’t imagine the malls will be crowded, will they?
Q: Hey Doug, with the odd and unfortunate configuration of away games the next week what are the plans for the team? Stay in California or is there a window for some players to get back to their respective homes for family. Speaking of which hopefully some good team Samaritan invites Nathan to a family Christmas dinner...I'm sure he won't eat much! Season's Greeting to you and the Super Family, Doug.
A: There are all sorts of plans, I’m told. At least a couple of guys are going to spend the break in L.A. with family and head up to Sacramento on Christmas afternoon (they have a practice scheduled for Christmas night there) but a lot of guys will get charters or regular red-eyes right after the Clipper game to their homes if their in the western half of the country.
But there will be a few who take the charter back to Toronto, arriving in the wee hours of the morning of the 23rd and then be back in the air mid-day on the 25th to resume the schedule.
So there isn’t one answer, it really depends on the circumstances.
Q: Okay, second email in 2 days. Gotta be a record for me and this one is a question and not a comment. See, us fans can improve too :) Several times you mentioned how impressed you were with the basketball IQ of Kapono. This question is not intended as a critique, but as a curiosity. Can you share with us how you came to that? I have seen Kapono make some plays off the ball that impressed me and I was hoping to learn what else you see that I might be missing. Thanks as always and the very best of the holiday season to you and your family.
Dario P, Scarborough
A: Just by watching him play and talking to his coaches. One coach once said that Jason may not be the best defender on the team but if you tell him not to let his man go left, he won’t let his man go left. He may get beaten right a handful of times but he won’t be beaten left. He also has a knack of making tough passes in traffic and about the only thing he’s got a penchant for doing that’s bad is committing silly fouls late in shot clocks. Of course, if you ask him, he’s never committed a foul in his life but that just makes him typical in this man’s NBA.
Q: If Damon Stoudamire is good enough to receive a tryout with the suns, then why can't we bring him back to give Jose some quality rest? I'm positive he still has something to offer this dreadful outfit, with his passing, scoring, and overall experience. And by the way, Colangelo, please, please trade Bargnani NOW. Happy holidays fine sir from a transplanted Torontonian
Chris E, Red Deer, AB
A: Jose’s playing, what? Less than 36 minutes a night? That’s not too much at all. In fact, it’s about two minutes less than I thought he’d play.
And I’d rather have the other 12 go to a young kid like Ukic who may have some promise for the future than an old guy who’d be around for maybe five months.
Damon may have something to offer, although he didn’t in Memphis or San Antonio last year and no one’s been beating a path to his door this year so I wonder how much.
Q: What I feel the Raptors need now more than ever is some consistency, with Bargnani being a major factor. Why do you think he's been so inconsistent for so long? Is it confidence he's lacking? He's had some great games, but why does he always fall back down?
Mohammed J, Mississauga
A: Well, I have said that I don’t think he’s mentally tough enough to play through bad stretches well but I also think he’s been jerked around entirely since he got here.
He’s been a backup big, a starting three, a starting centre, a backup big. He’s been told to work on his post game and immediately sent back out to the perimeter to shoot and defend threes.
It’s my opinion that he will be a centre, a good one, when his career is over and as soon as someone realizes that and gets him on the block to start possessions rather than leaving him on the arc to set high screens the better off everyone will be.
Q: Hi Doug, do you see any smaller, subtle changes occurring, or do you instead see one *big* trade happening? Would you consider something subtle like, Kapono for Battier as possible? I wouldn't have asked last season, but now with Artest in Houston, Battier's role has been reduced it seems. Your thoughts?
Kevin L, Toronto
A: I think if something happens, it’ll be more of the “substantial” style rather than subtle. I think he’s trying to trade for a starter, not a rotation guy.
And I’ll only address Houston because it seems to be a big deal among the readers. Why, I ask you in all seriousness, would the 16-8, third-in-the-west Rockets want to mess up a good thing? They finally have everyone healthy and playing (and that’s McGrady, Yao, Battier and Artest) so to think they’d move one is, frankly, ridiculous.
Q: Why can't the Raptors sign Flip Saunders as a head coach?
Prabh S, Brampton
A: Because, as I’ve mentioned about a kabillion times since even before Sam was fired, why limit your search in December, if in fact you have a search?
And what makes you think Flip Saunders would even be remotely interested now? Why wouldn’t he wait until the summer when at least six jobs will be open, and perhaps more?
So nothing’s stopping them except logic.
Q: You want questions, Doug? I got questions. Do you think this team, as currently constituted, is built for the running game offence that Jay is preaching? In the dozen or so games since Jay's been coach, how many easy baskets (layups or uncontested, high-percentage jumpers) have they gotten in transition? At most, one a game? And there are obvious reasons for this: a team that can't rebound needs everyone on deck to try to bound and can't afford to leak out a player or player(s) for easy baskets. Plus, apart from Graham, they have no one who can finish on the break (other than JK spotting up for the occasional 3). Jose can't or won't break his man down off the dribble on the break, leading to the open looks that you want in your transition game. So all it's doing is tiring out the players and taking Bosh out of his half court rhythm. One more question: when does Jay sit Moon down for good and give Graham the starter's job (and the minutes that go with it)? And does Moon not realize that the clock is ticking on his career? Do you honestly think that anyone is going to sign him after his contract is up?
Lee Z, Ottawa
A: I don’t think they need to get into Showtime running or even crazy Phoenix but I do think more baskets in transition are huge and they can get some even with five guys on the boards. I remember one play in, I believe, the Jersey game in Toronto where someone got a rebound (five guys were on the boards, shockingly), outlet to Jose, four or five dribbles, Kapono trailing, quick pass, quick three. That’s the kind of “running” they want.
And if they don’t get it, or if the opportunity doesn’t arise, I think they have to wait for Bosh and O’Neal and pound the ball inside, it’s what worked most effectively early in the season and should still.
I bet the Graham-Moon thought is on Jay’s mind right now and, if it was up to me, I’d probably do it in Sacramento, after they’ve had a practice. But you have to admit, as an energy guy with that second unit, there’s a case to be made that Graham’s better in the role than Moon might be.
Q: I was reading your comments about Gary Payton and Chris Webber providing analysis for NBA games. Is it just me or are they just trying too hard? As in, trying too hard to be like Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith and their gang? I love watching Inside the NBA with Charles and Co. but watching Chris Webber and Gary Payton.... seems like they are trying too hard to be funny and joking around but it comes off as being very annoying. Although, when Chris Webber was on with Charles and co on Thursday he was quite insightful, maybe it’s just Gary Payton? How do you think Gary and Chris can improve?
Sadiq M, North York
A: I think being good on television requires experience, and Payton certainly doesn’t have it, and I think he definitely tries too hard to be funny and comes off as, at times, incomprehensible. I think the think with Barkley is that he’s funny and will say anything but there’s always a nugget of solid opinion and fact in there and it’s well put, I don’t think you can say that for Payton yet. But maybe some producer sits him down with some tape and says, hey, relax, here’s where you’re bad and here’s where you’re good and he improves.
Q: Bet you’re enjoying being home instead of on this monstrous road trip. I've been pondering all day what direction Colangelo might choose to take. A move for Marion opens up cap space this year. In your opinion, do you think it's wise to do so? The competitors might be fewer in the '09 offseason compared to 2010. They might be able to snag a restricted free agent. Thoughts?
Jon C, Milton
A: Without talking about Marion specifically – except to reiterate there have been some cursory conversations about him – I think it’s wise to get cap room whenever you can. Deal with it as you like but it’s better to have two summers of shopping than one, isn’t it?
Q: So Bosh, by all accounts, grew enormously due to his experience with the US Olympic team. He comes out in Nov. with MVP on his lips and in his game. Now it's in neither. Is it possible that that experience also spoiled him a bit, that now a few slaps from reality have got him sulking? Is the Raps core problem (personnel aside) that Chris needs to raise his maturity level, and soon?
JR M, Peterborough
A: I think, if anything, the experience, which is no nearly four months gone, showed him the work ethic and preparation that champions put into their games and that’s not a bad thing. Is he frustrated by his own play? Sure. Is he frustrated by the play of his teammates? Sure. Did he learn to be more demanding of himself and others? Yup. And that’s a good thing.
The Raptors core problem is this: More players have to play better. It’s silly to put it on one guy, or one guy’s maturity level, or one guy’s play. This is far deeper than one guy.
Q: Who do you think would win in a game of 2-on-2, the Parkers or the Grahams? (I mean Anthony and Candace, not Tony and Eva)
Geoff H, Toronto
A: I don’t know, but I’d pay money to see it. The Tony and Eva one, that is.
Q: Thank you for your ever-enlightening observations. Although the recently atrocious Raptors-- blowing a 12-point lead to a Dallas team that New Jersey then demolishes, letting that same NJ team come back (twice), showing no pride in OKC, etc-- I need your opinion on an even bigger threat: out here in Vancouver we watched poor management and lackluster play lead to the Grizzlies fleeing town. If the Raptors' performance continues to plummet, what is the risk that Canada could lose its only NBA team?
Eric C, Vancouver
A: I was taught but a wise man out your way to never say never. So I’ll say none. Or virtually none, if you’d like. They are too ingrained as part of the Maple Leaf Sports conglomerate, and too profitable, for them to ever leave. And, believe me, these may be tough times but they are nothing compared to the 16-66 year and a couple of others that I can recall.
Q: Heya Doug, Second time sending this in, and because of that, I won't waste any time/energy and beat around the bush like I did in the previous email. Keeping Roy's 52-point gem against Phoenix a couple days ago and the fact that Bargnani will probably never have that kind of impact on the game in mind, would you finally agree that the pick for Bargs was a mistake? Roy is the aggresiveness on the wing that the Raps sorely lack. Forget the Iguodala-Araujo and Granger-Graham blunders (You said before that they were too far in the past and that changing history would have too many ramifications on the roster today, fine.). But c'mon. You can't say that the Raptors wouldn't be a LOT better right now with a lineup including Mr. Roy over there.
Jay C, Toronto
A: Yes, Brandon Roy is a better player than Andrea Bargnani right now and would look very good on this team. He’d also look good in Charlotte, Chicago and Atlanta, all teams that passed on him, not to mention Minnesota, which drafted him and traded him to Portland. There were questions about Roy’s long-term durability leading up the draft and no matter how much you beat yourself up about it, he was never on Toronto’s radar.
Drafting, we all know, is an inexact science and at the moment a handful of teams got Roy wrong.
Q: Hey Doug. I have to admit, lately I've been one of those "I'm never watching the Raptors again!!" fans, but then I dutifully watch the very next game. But speaking objectively, I wanted to get your thoughts on the following; 1) Ukic looks like he has the ability to be a pace changing point guard. Aside from shooting what does he need to do to improve? 2) Should Graham get a shot at starting to replace Moon? 3) If you had to find a wing player on another team not getting a lot of time that has the potential to help this team, who would you go with? I've been scouring opposing teams rosters and coming up with nothing.
Craig B, Mississauga
A: Aside from the shooting, I think Ukic has to be more decisive running the team in the halfcourt, he often waits too long to get them into sets, and that’s something that comes with time.
Graham? I’d seriously consider it but only if they were comfortable that he wouldn’t lose the aggression he’s been showing more often than not as a backup.
Other teams? Haven’t really looked. Am going to wait to find out news rather than anticipate it.
Q: Do you think it is time to give Parker his starting SG job back? It seems like he has not been the same player off the bench, and the original spark from Kapono seems to have gone away. As well, I agree completely with your assessment on the radio the other day - Andrea will hopefully become consistent when his role on the team stays the same for 25-30 games minimum.
Isaac O, Thornhill
A: I think the sample size is too small to see whether Parker can adapt to playing off the bench, although he hasn’t had a great impact yet. It’s been five games and in a couple of them he was still feeling his way back from the ankle injury. It might be something to consider in the next week or so but I’d give it a couple of more games.
Q: I've sent some sarcastic/funny e-mails/suggestions before to no avail. Maybe this serious one finally does the trick! If not, I'm still going to keep reading and keep sending some questions anyways! Ha ha At what point does B.C finally realize that this isn't the best team he has assembled in Toronto and start taking "some" of the blame for setting such high expectations for this struggling team?? He even fooled you into thinking this team could win 48!Ha ha Also, do you think that with the GM having so much belief in this team that it’s affecting how he looks at trades?
Dave G, Grand Falls-Windsor, NL
A: Well, one of the first things he said when he fired Sam was that it was a much on him as anyone else, fans are killing him, I’ve mentioned more than a couple of times that the roster has some serious flaws. He’s getting some heat, probably just not enough to satisfy some fans.
And, no, I think he’d make trades to make the team better regardless.
Q: Do you see any type realistic changes (trades, signings, etc.) coming in the near future? It’s hard to imagine a team run by BC not doing anything to get better when they're doing this bad, and frankly, the Raptors are underachieving.
Philip P, Steinbach, MB.
A: I see a deal in the next three weeks to a month, yes. And I’d bet it’s a trade rather than a signing because of the financial picture.
Q: What's your opinion on jump balls, are you a fan of them or should the NBA change to the possession arrow? A lot of people seem to want to change it, and situations like Chris Paul blatantly cheating in one against the Spurs a week ago solidify the case. Do you think they should keep it?
Harry J, Auckland, N.Z.
A: I’m not a big fan of jump balls, mostly because I don’t think nearly enough officials can throw the darn ball up well enough.
That said, though, I am so against that silly possession arrow that I’m willing to live with the odd badly-conducted jump than I am to see everyone look over at the scorer’s table, hoping, every time there’s a shared possession.
Q: Not a question, but a story backing up what you already knew– Matt Bonner is a good guy.
I remember one summer night a couple years back going to a Queen Street bar for a drink and running into Matt Bonner there. He was the DJ.
It was a pretty sparsely attended night, but Matt was in good spirits (Pape Sow was hanging out there, too). He was happy to talk music with me and honour a few of my song requests, even letting me peruse his iPod™. Funny.
I don't think we talked about basketball for one second.
When I said, "So, Matt, it's July– What are you still doing in Toronto?" He responded, "What, I'm supposed to want to go back to New Hampshire?!"
We talked for a bit, and he really, really loves Toronto. Nice guy. I'm really happy to see him doing so well on a pretty darn good NBA team these days.
Side note– My friends and I thought it was pretty darn funny that Pape didn't get up from the bench he was sitting on the whole time we were there.
I'll actually try to ask you a question about the current team soon. And I apologize in advance for whatever that may be.
Steve M, Toronto
A: And the legend of The Bonner grows.
Q: What's with the headband on Moon?
Jacques L, Toronto A: Fashion? Being one of the cool kids? Hoping for a change of fortune? A tribute to Slick Watts? I’m not sure, I’ll ask him when I get out west but it wasn’t that good a look, was it?