Cleaning up the mail before the calendar turns
Long day of travel, no practice, just off the road. Of course I’m going to take the relatively easy way out and go with some mail today. And it’s a good thing, too, since there are another 20 or 25 questions I see in there now and Lord knows when I’ll get to them. But it’ll be soon so don’t worry.
As for today? Well, this cleans up some old stuff and some non-Raptor stuff, which is far more interesting these days than anything to do with the team.
Enjoy, and don’t forget to check back tomorrow after we turn over the calendar.
A word first:
May you and yours have the greatest of New Year’s Eves. Have fun, be safe, don’t drink and drive and resolve to be better people to everyone you come in contact with next year.
Have a nice night.
Q: Merry Christmas Doug! Two questions for you: What, in your estimate, is the average number of plays that a coach has for his team? Also, what are assistant coaches always writing down in their notebooks? Thank you again, and happy holidays!
Sam C, Kingston
A: I’d guess most teams would have about eight or 10 basic plays but there are so many variations and counters off them that there’s probably three or four times that many options.
And the coaches are charting things like deflections, contested shots, success rates of various plays and other esoteric stats.
Q: When Colangelo picked Bargnani, I wasn't convinced he was the best in the draft but I did believe he had the most upside. However, I think my fervor for "#1" allowed me to overlook something: Bargnani doesn't seem to fit on this team. Now, I'm far from a AB-hater. I think he has a future in the league and may blossom into a great player. However, I really don't think it will be with this team. Of course hindsight is 20-20 and no one knew Roy would be the superstar he is, but he's the "type" of play I see fitting on the current roster. So my question is two-fold: (i) is Bargnani a trade asset at this point; and, (ii) are there any young players out there who might fit the "type" we need? [Don't get me wrong, if AB could consistently do 14-7 off the bench, I would keep him in a heartbeat.]
Stephen J, Toronto
A: Yes, he is a trade asset. You’d be surprised as the number of scouts who tell me their team would love to have Bargnani. Just about every coach we talk to speaks highly of him and is intrigued by what he can offer.
So if Bryan is ready to give up on him – and don’t think he is but I think he’s closer than he’s ever been to cutting his No. 1 pick loose – he’ll have takers.
Q: There's all this talk about 2010 and the possible movement of Big names, LeBron, Bosh, Wade, with the economy in shambles who is going to have money to pay these guys? New York is mentioned as a possible destination. Most of the government subsidized companies are there. I doubt that the taxpayers will let those companies keep their Boxes. There is talk about cap space, but with attendance likely to be down in most markets what's the cap going to be by 2010. I read somewhere that their current teams may be able to offer these guys the most money, is that correct?
Brian A, Toronto
A: Some of the greatest economic minds in the world can’t be sure what the financial world’s going to look like in 2010 so I sure can’t. But I don’t imagine the cap goes down because a lot of the revenue (sponsorships, television dollars) is already set through long-term contracts.
And yes, teams can offer their own free agents longer deals with larger annual raises so it’s financially better for a guy to stay for a maximum deal.
Q: When the Celtics drafted Len Bias back in the 80's, and he died of a drug overdose two days later, did the Celtics essentially "lose" that draft pick? Or is it different because they hadn't signed him yet?
Harry J, Auckland, N.Z.
A: Yes, they lost it. A tragic loss for the Bias family, a difficult loss for the Celtic franchise.
Q: Will the Raps match a New York offer sheet for Delfino? I still think he is better than all their present 2s and 3s (and better than their backup 1s too). Maybe it is time to pay a little luxury tax.
J L, Oakville
A: We’re getting a little ahead of ourselves since the Knicks haven’t even got the roster exception for Cuttino Mobley that they’d use to make Delfino an offer only if Delfino can get out of his contract in Russia, which won’t be easy.
But I’d hope the Raptors would look long and hard at matching if it happens. I don’t think the Knicks, who are aiming at 2010 like no other team, would offer a deal that’s too long or too expensive and Delfino is precisely the kind of player Toronto needs.
Q: Hey Doug, what are your thoughts on where the team would be if Wayne Embry stayed on as full time GM. Honestly I think the way he EASILY moved Jalen Rose's contract and if he was given the opportunity to draft the number 1 pick we would be a totally different team. He demonstrated to me that his "GM IQ" is great! Your thoughts
Shawn S, Atlanta
A: I don’t know about the draft, I remember Wayne being pretty enamoured of Bargnani after seeing him play and work out days after the Raptors won the lottery. Would they be better off? Impossible to tell.
Q: After watching the Lakers-Celtics game last night, this game is like a rec league pick up game. Why is intensity so hard to come by for some teams (Raptors) and not for others (Celtics). Bosh looks like he's sleepwalking! How can these guys wake up?
Doug H, Toronto
A: Sleepwalking? Come on. That’s unfair. And wrong. Intensity comes and goes, in truth, I’m sure you’d see some dogs of games if you watched Boston and the Lakers each 82 times a year. And you have to admit, the juice gets a flowing a lot harder when it’s Celtics-Lakers amid all the hoopla of a finals rematch.
Q: It's been a while since I submitted to your mailbox. I was saving up for a good one :) The other day I was watching the Lakers-Celtics game. The announcer said there should be three point guards representing the East in the all-star game - Devin Harris, Rajon Rondo, and Jameer Nelson. Is this Jose snub due to American ignorance of the existence of our beloved franchise and all its associates, or have all really surpassed Jose this season?
Mark D, Kingston
A: I think that was a bit of an over-statement but it’s not ignorance or the existence of the Raptors at all, it’s a case of which teams are playing the best in the East right now.
Personally, if they did take three, I’d have Calderon in there with Harris and Rondo. And if they take two, I think you could make the case that Calderon and Rondo should get the nod.
Q: I'm sitting here watching the Raptors struggle to fend off a meager Kings team. Bosh just got back into the game - 5th foul in mere moments... sigh. Still up though and nice dunk by JG. With all this constant talk about trades on the Raps, and listening to Leo at half-time talk about how the Cavs are on the heels of the Celts and Lakers... I'm wondering if you have a take on the Detroit/Denver trade now that there's been some time for a bit of examination. Appears to be a bit of a washout for the Pistons - Denver alternatively, 17-8 since, seems to be working pretty well. Any lessons here for the Raps and us fans?
Stephen H, Port Hope
A: I thought right from the start Billups would be a great fit in Denver because he brings the kind of calming influence that group needs; the concern I had on the Nuggets end was the long-term financial aspect of the deal.
But I also said this was too big a trade to judge too quickly, we need to wait to see what Detroit does with the money it saves this summer before rendering final judgement. If they use it to sign Carlos Boozer, that’s a home run. I also never thought the Pistons were true championship contenders with Billups and they sure aren’t with Iverson.
Lessons for Toronto? Guess the only one would be not to underestimate the leadership abilities of a good, veteran point guard.
Q: List Time. Who'd you put as your top 5 players under 6 feet tall? I'd have to put Nate Robinson and Muggsy Bouges near the top there.
Justin L, Etobicoke
A: What about Spud Webb? He’d be on there way ahead of Nate Robinson. So would Calvin Murphy, without question. Damon Stoudamire in his prime was a way better player that Nate Robinson ever will be and there was a guy by the name of Michael Adams who could play a little bit, too.
Q: One of the things I've noticed this season, particularly in the game against Sacramento, is that Bargnani and O'Neil have zero chemistry on the court. It's like having both of them on the court together neutralizes one completely on the offensive end, usually Bargs. Is this something that you've noticed as well or am I imagining things? My take on it is that O'Neil commands so much space in the post that Bargs ends up just sitting out on the 3pt line, whereas, when he plays with Bosh, they can switch off each other and go inside-out.
Serge P, Ottawa
A: I have noticed it and your take is dead on. I think both of them have to adapt and probably will in time. Bargnani has to move to open space when O’Neal’s working in the post and if O’Neal catches the ball at the elbow, he’s got to look for a diving Bagnani getting position in the paint. Hoepfully for them it comes with time.
Q: The Raptors are clearly struggling to find consistent offence behind Bosh and O'Neal and while people tend to blame Bargnani or Parker or Kapono, nobody ever seems to bring up Calderon. Unlike those other guys, he doesn't really have consistency issues, he just doesn't look for his own shot as much as he should and he hardly ever goes to the basket any more. What happened to the aggressive Calderon of last year?
Andrew S, Toronto
A: Could he be more aggressive? Yeah, probably and maybe the game in Golden State kickstarts Jose a little bit and he does get a bit more selfish. But the fact is, his scoring average is up from last year and so is his assist average. I don’t think it’s nearly as big an issue as some do.
Q: Hey Doug, I'm curious for your opinion on this one (just so I can use it in a debate with my brother in law over the holidays!): seeing Roger Mason Jr. and Matt Bonner finding success in San Antonio, is this proof that the biggest thing wrong with the Raptors over the last 5 years is a lack of patience in letting players develop? Or is it proof that you can make a bad player good by putting him in a good system?
Rob E, Scarborough
A: Biggest thing wrong? Nah. It’s one of them, but not the biggest. That might be not addressing the swingman/slasher thing.
And I agree that for guys like Bonner and, especially, Mason, the right system and the right opportunity has everything to do with it.
Q: Hi Doug: So after 3+ years of maddening inconsistency from Joey G, it seems like every reader of your blog wants to thrust him back into the starting line up only a few weeks removed from finally finding a role for the first time in his career. Do you have any inside info confirming that the coaching staff might actually be considering this? Follow up question for you: given the recent raise in the level of Joey's play, coupled with his $2.4 mil expiring contract, has he reached the point of actually becoming a sweetener (as opposed to a throw in) for trade purposes?
Blake V, Vancouver
A: I think they considered it and then dismissed it because they like what Joey brings to the second unit. Will it be re-visited? I don’t think so.
As for a trade? I don’t think the last couple weeks have really made that much difference to other GMs.
Q: Hey Doug. Always love to read the opinions on your blog. Do teams keep a log on referee's tendencies when they toss up the ball?
CJ L, London
A: I don’t think there’s anything written down but coaches and players have their own opinions and anecdotal knowledge of which referees tend to make what calls.
Q: A question re: Bargnani, but please note this isn't of the "trade him now, he's a bust" variety. You mentioned in your blog the other day that the best thing for him is to give him a stable role for a significant period to judge his real potential. While I am extremely disappointed in his lack of progress as an NBA player, I absolutely agree that the fact he's been jerked around so much cannot be good for his development – in fact, I think that should be a pretty obvious assertion for any young player in any league. My question: why has this not happened? Why do they continue to change his role on the team and never give him a chance to develop in one position, one role for any length of time? I assume it's been made a point of emphasis by management that Bargnani's development should be key to the future success of the team - so what's stopping this from happening?
Tree Q, Ottawa
A: The reason for the switch has varied, actually. They did it in the playoffs a year ago to get what they thought were more advantageous matchups with Orlando; they did it this season because they thought it might create defensive problems for opponents. I guess publicly they said the move back this year was in part because they were so thin in the front court when Kris Humphries was hurt but I don’t think that was the full and utter truth.
So, I presume the experimentation is over.
Q: Hey Doug, you mentioned during the in-game blog that you felt B. Davis and the Clippers coach were a bad mix. How critical is the relationship between PG and coach (in terms of how they view the game, playing styles, running the team)? Which PG/Coach combo had the best relationship in those terms over the course of our storied franchise history? Which PG/Coach do you feel fit each other the best in the NBA right now?
Roman D, Toronto
A: It’s hugely critical in my opinion. A point guard has to know what the coach wants without being told or having a play called every time down the court. If a coach wants his team to run, the point guard can’t be walking the ball up the court every possession, for example. They need to be on the same wavelength all night.
The best in Toronto history? Alvin Williams and Lenny Wilkens were always in sync.
Best in the league right now? I’d say Gregg Popovich and Tony Parker.
Q: Here's a non-Raptor related question, Doug. I'm just wondering how many people in the newspaper business still enjoy "fresh air". I know it's a old cliché, and a newsroom 30 years ago would probably be covered by a thick cloud, but what about today? How prevalent is it? Just curious. Thanks Doug.
Nick P, London
A: Hardly prevalent at all, as a matter of fact. I guess that just mirrors general society but the “fresh air breathers” are few and far between and getting fewer with each passing year. Yes, that’s a good think but it makes it kind of lonely on the loading docks or outside some arenas.
Newsrooms? Man, they are pristine. But I remember early in my career when they were far from that.
Q: Long time reader; first time e-mailer (as they say). Couldn't help commenting on your answer to Mohammed J re: Bargnani being jerked around "He’s been a backup big, a starting three, a starting centre, a backup big." Don't most young centers play all of the listed positions except for the '3' and that move was only to get him more minutes. And by the way, I think that's a big part of why is block stats are up (i.e. guarding '3's who are about eight inches shorter).
Fred H, Toronto
A: Um, no. Not at all. Most, if not all, young centres play centre, maybe a big of power forward but the ones who are asked to play small forward as well as the two-big man positions are few and far between.
And, um, no, threes are not eight inches shorter than fours or fives.
Q: I generally value your opinions and feel like you are on the ball with most of your comments but in regards to Bargnani you say "It’s my opinion that he will be a centre, a good one, when his career is over". 1) He has virtually no back to the basket or low post game and seems extremely uncomfortable and rushed anywhere near the basket. 2) He's a terrible rebounder (how many double digit rebound games has he had in his career?). 3) He's not good at setting hard screens and seems to foul doing so. 4) I don't think he has the attitude, toughness or personality to be a good centre. He'd prefer to float around the 3 point line and shoot. The only (Centre like) skills I think he has is his defence on other bigs. But all in all to me he's a 7 footer with the mindset of a 2 guard - shoots the three and pull up jumper outside the paint. So my question is what do you base your opinion of Bargnani on? Are you seeing something behind the scenes that we are missing?
Bernard B, Toronto
A: Man, lots of hate on for Andrea these days.
I disagree entirely with your first point and use as an example the few times in the first six or seven games of the year when he was on the block and showed solid offence and defensive skills. A couple of nice baseline jumpers comes to mind and if you go back and check the video, he did a pretty good job guarding the post.
He is a bad rebounding three, yes; he could be a good rebounding four or five if he’s close to the basket guarding other bigs.
Screens and fighting for rebounds can be learned skills.
So I guess we’ll agree to disagree.
Q: Since it's the holidays and these are times for good cheer, thought I'd ask a question with a positive slant– Can you give me a list of your top 5 ex-Raptors (all-time) that you'd enjoy having an adult beverage with? Does you-know-who crack the top 20?
Steve M, Toronto
A: The list starts with Oak (mostly ‘cause I have shared time on the road with him and it’s a hoot). After that? Here’s a couple you might not think of: Uros Slokar and Sean Marks for sure and Jalen would have to be at the table, too. The fifth? Wow, that’s a hard one. I bet Rasho would be fun to hang with for his dry sense of humour.
And yes, I’d put him in the top 20.
Q: Hey Doug! Managed to make it out of Toronto late Sunday night back home to Winnipeg for some family holiday time. Wound up Monday night in a north-eastern part of town watering hole. Action: At some reasonable time after the 9:30PM (Central) tip-off, I ask the bartender if they get TSN2 Reaction: "What's TSN2?" Just a little clue in to the absolute lack of involvement/angst/team following outside of the Centre of the Universe, apparently
Paul G, Toronto/Winnipeg
A: I think that says a lot about a lot of things. But wait ‘til they put a Bombers game on TSN2.