Some rants, some raves and some questions
That was the single greatest week of rants and anger and angst and raves since we started this little exercise back in the day. A Vince return and a loss, a loss to the Mavs to end a three-game home losing streak, terrible rebounding and trade speculation galore, it had it all.
I read ‘em all and loved ‘em, once again your passion, not to mention your creativity, is impressive.
And herewith are the survivors. Most of you will understand that the diatribes you sent weren’t really questions (aside from, “They stink. Comment?”) but they did provide much amusement for me.
(As an aside, doing three games in four nights before Christmas and then three games in four nights out west on a trip that starts Christmas Day is too much for one grunt to handle – and keep peace with his family. So I’m not in Oklahoma or San Antonio or L.A. but I’ll find somewhere that’s got TSN2 and wireless tonight and be back for the usual fun and games. See ya then.)
Q: Before heading out for Mexico for two months, Doug, permit me to take a moment to thank you for keeping us going thru a tough start to this season. Your YouTube summaries are a positive stroke: like Superman with tie and jacket after beat grunt clothes for the written word - if only our squad could do as well on both sides of the ball. Q: Bosh upset with booing: one hears that fans in different places have distinctive "fan cultures" for how they support their team. Putting aside the tired view that if you pay your money you can do what you like, cheer or boo - what DOES contribute to when fans show support even when a team is sagging? How does Toronto compare? Are there places where fans are famously one way or the other? Is it the culture of the fans or the team's performance that makes the most difference in how the fans' behave?
Charles N, Toronto
A: Have a great trip. I have a feeling, and a hope, that I’ll be hearing from you sometime during the journey.
Anyway, I’d say from my experience, Toronto fans are certainly among the most harsh in the NBA. Not the worst but certainly in the top 10. They grow disgusted far more easily than some cities.
A case in point: When Bargnani missed the first of his two free throws on Wednesday and the booing really got going, Toronto trailed by two points with 4 1-2 minutes left in the third quarter. In most cities, you wouldn’t hear a peep.
Perhaps it’s because Toronto fans have been so disappointed so regularly in the past – high expectations, low delivery – but there’s something there that turns them more quickly in most cities.
I remember one year being in Utah, I think it was, and the Raptors were on a run, the Jazz were reeling and the fans started cheering every Utah possession. I turned to whoever I was sitting with and mentioned that in Toronto, the Raptors would be getting killed, maybe not booed but you’d certainly here disgruntlement.
The flip side? I’d say Philly’s the toughest. We were there this year for the very first game of the season, a season of some promise for the Sixers if you recall, and there were a smattering of boos and catcalls when Elton Brand missed a free throw and the Sixers were going poorly. That was over the top.
Q: Forgetting all the very entertaining (and absurd) trade proposals, I think you would still agree that a trade will likely happen (or maybe not). Assuming you do, I'd like to know where you think the Raps are strongest (i.e. where they can afford to lose someone in a trade), and what is presently their most glaring need (a cynic might say that a 10-15 team has no strong spots, but I know you're above that). Thanks.
Errol T, Toronto
A: That’s a good question.
I think a trade will happen, eventually, yes.
Funny thing is, their strongest tradeable assets are also in the area they need the most help. They have a group of good but not great wings with easily movable contracts (Parker’s is expiring, Moon’s is low, Graham’s expires, Kapono’s isn’t too arduous) so that’s probably the kind of player they move. Making it difficult is that they need a three or a two in return who’s an upgrade.
See the problem?
Q: We have heard lots lately about the Raptors' new defensive plan to crowd the paint and force opponents into long shots, but isn't that a lot like saying "I like to wear shorts"? Shorts may keep me cool in the summer, but they aren't much use in the winter. Is it asking too much for NBA professionals to develop a variety of defensive schemes and utilize whichever one is most appropriate for a particular opponent? I know, I know... I shoud be happy if this team is able to get just one scheme right, but come on!
Nathan W, Ho Chi Minh City
A: It’s a gross over-simplification to suggest all they want to do is pack the paint and let teams shoot at will. There are schemes to rotate and close out on shooters and lots of times they work. But all teams prioritize what they want to do defensively and offensively and, frankly, I’d rather take my chances giving teams contested threes than dunks.
And I think you work on your priorities and get them as down pat as possible instead of changing them game-to-game.
Q: Hi Doug, long time follower, second time submitter (you never answered my "All VC Team" question). Quick question. Last night on what I believe was "The Beat" on NBA TV, someone (didn't catch his name) said that there are 10 minority coaches in the league, 9 of which are African American, 1 is of Phillipino decent (Erik Spoelstra of Miami). He then went on and said something along the lines of this being a problem (not enough minority coaches), but it's not as bad as other sports. What are your thoughts? Just because there are so few minority coaches, does that make it a problem? Or is there a problem and that's why there are so few minority coaches?
Carl L, Barrie
A: While far from perfect, I think the NBA is light years ahead of every other professional sport in North America, and probably the world, in minority hirings in such decision-making roles as coaches, general managers, scouts, team presidents and other key business roles.
Could there be more than nine coaches? Probably. But don’t forget that four – Sam, Eddie Jordan, Mo Cheeks and Reggie Theus – were working when the season began so the nine is a bit of a skewed number.
Q: I read the book "Covert: My Years Infiltrating the Mob" by NBA ref Bob Delaney while on vacation last week. It was a very good, very interesting read. Have you had a chance to read it yet Doug?
Sherry E, Toronto
A: I have read it, it’s a great book. And I talked a bit with Bob while he was writing it because there’s that connection with the GTA firm and the frozen fish that he and his co-author needed some fact-checking on.
I’d recommend it.
Q: Hey Doug, you still think this team's got a shot at 46-48 wins? I'm beginning to think this is a .500 team, at best. I don't mind 'em losing to team's better than them, but the way they're losing suggests they're one of those eastern sub .500 teams. (Think ATL of a few years back). Things like 'grinding' out a win against the bobcats (sans J-Rich at the time) at home kinda speak volumes.
Dean O, Toronto
A: I think maybe they max out at 44 to 46. I think 48 might be gone now. But there is still a lot of basketball to be played. Two years ago, they were 10-15 and everyone thought the season was lost and they won 47 and the division.
Q: If you ask me, the Raptors are good players, but are not mean players. They lack what Jack McCallum reports the Pheonix Suns call the "F*k-you factor." They are skilled enough to go up 10-15 on ANYONE, but it's almost as if they feel bad if they go up by 20 and the other team always creeps back. Is there anyone on the roster that you would be afraid to meet in a dark alley?
Paul C, Grassy Narrows
A: I’m a soft, old dude with high blood pressure and a family. I don’t want to meet anyone in any alley, dark or light.
But, you’re right, they are nice guys and there isn’t a “mean” one, although Jermaine’s got an edge and so, too, does Calderon.
Trouble is, you can’t make people what they aren’t so thinking this group is all of a sudden going to become The Bad Boys Redux is folly. Ain’t gonna happen.
Maybe that’s what Bryan’s got to find somehow.
Q: Quick question for you: do the Raps keep their first round pick this year, or was it promised in some past trade? I can't seem to remember. Because if they keep it then we're setting ourselves up for an interesting second half regardless of whether the Raps improve greatly and make it into the playoffs or they stink, hopefully develop their assets, and possibly sneak into a good pick. With JO coming off the books a year after (and likely to be traded) and some better talent and more experienced young guys on the team, things could be looking up. And in terms of keeping Bosh, what happens with the team next year (and in the offseason, when they could sign a coach with the ability to lead them past the first round) is a lot more important than what happens this year. As much as people are down on Bosh right now, you put him with an alpha dog type wing player in 2010 and you've got the perfect role for him.
Jimmy S, Toronto
A: Right now, they’ve got their first round pick in every year from next year on. None have been traded. Yet.
Q: A quick one for you Doug: 2008-2009 Toronto Raptors, underachievers or overrated?
Serge P, Ottawa
A: At this point? More the latter than the former.
Q: You mentioned (Tuesday) about how many e-mails you are getting regarding "I am done with these guys forever". Are you getting any e-mails suggesting, "maybe the head coach wasn't the only problem", particularly from those who flooded you with the fire Sam e-mails?
Mike D, Cambridge
A: You’re kidding, right?
Q: Since you're talking Canadian ball, do you think former Carleton star Osvaldo Jeanty will ever get a shot on the national club? He's a 'put the team on his back' kind of guy and from what I hear he's turned around his Euro team after leading the Ravens to five straight national titles. A little undersized, perhaps, but seems silly to let a homegrown talent like that go without a look.
Joe B, Ottawa
A: I’ve never seen him play, am told there might be some size/position issues, but I’ve also been told he’s absolutely great at doing whatever is needed for his team to win. And I’m sure someone on that council of elders they’ve put together will throw his name out there and then it’ll be up to him to make the team.
Q: Hi Doug, it seems that for as long as I can remember, I have been screaming at my TV screen to "REBOUND, REBOUND" whenever the Raptors play. Have the Raptors EVER had a team which were considered to be a good rebounding team? Maybe when Oakley and Davis were playing back in the "good old days"? Love the blog by the way! Thanks!
Raquel R, Halifax
A: It’s really no surprise, but the 2000-01 team, with Oak and AD and Keon Clark and even Mo Pete was in the top 10 in rebounding in the NBA.
Q: Doug - earlier in the week, you mentioned Jake had to get a "physical". What's involved - do they get him on a treadmill and test his conditioning, etc. or is it just a regular medical exam?
Graham V, Vancouver
A: It’s pretty much the same as total physical you’d get at your doctors. X-rays, poking, prodding, going over medical and family history. There’s an MRI or two involved, I imagine (I’m not 1,000 per cent on that one). It’s thorough but it’s not like the check conditioning by making him run sprints or do a treadmill exercise or anything like that.
Q: Doug, do you happen to know what happens with the TV rights come playoff time? If the Raptors make the playoffs (not a given, but if they do) what are the chances of the games being shown on TSN2? If Raptor fans living in the team’s hometown don’t even get to watch playoff games ... well, that’d make us pretty much the laughingstock of the league, no?
Josh K, Toronto
A: I know it’s far off –- and there are thousands out there (myself not among them) who think the playoffs are a pipedream anyway – but TSN will have the rights to all kinds of Raptor playoff games.
And since the NBA playoffs are going on at the same time as the pucks, I can guarantee you some games could end up on TSN2. Better hope the fight over money gets solved by then.
Q: Hey Doug, just wanted to know your thoughts on Cuttino Mobley's retirement. Also, since he was unable to pass his physical, doesn't the trade he was involved in not go through?
Dave R, Markham
A: I was asked about Mobley a while ago and said I always think it’s a terrible thing when health issues make a guy retire before he wants to and Mobley was a good, solid pro for a lot of years.
Now, to the gist of your question: Teams can waive the medical examination requirement of any trade (See: Raptors and Mourning, Alonzo) so when the Knicks signed off, the deal was done, regardless off the health problems.
Q: Isn't Garnett's "intensity" getting to be a bit much? I know he's a great player but I think he might be mentally unbalanced. He's constantly screaming at people. Aside from the Big Baby Davis situation every time I watch a Celtics game he's losing his mind (for example the Hawks game Wednesday). If his name wasn't Kevin Garnett I don't think people would be so willing to let his stuff happen without saying something. Also that Calderon situation was classless.
Jordan T, Toronto
A: Even for him, it’s over the top and I know the league knows about it (the Raptors called Stu Jackson after the incident with Calderon) and I would imagine the referees are paying closer attention to what might be taunting.
Q: Love reading your blog. I attended my 3rd home game this season and aside from the game itself, can you explain what's wrong with the multi-million $ scoreboard that it’s still not working until the 4th quarter. And by then, we didn't want to see the stats.
Jeff K, Toronto
A: As a basketball scoreboard, it’s a piece of crap. As a television set, it’s not bad. As a vehicle for advertising, it’s just what they wanted.
Q: I was just wondering if there was ever anything resembling the Sundin "As the stomach churns" saga in the NBA?
Sohail G, Collingwood
A: Well, it’s not as drawn out as the Sundin saga but there sure was some angst and anticipation when Kobe was publicly toying with leaving the Lakers for the Clippers.
But to the level of Sundin? No. Of course, I cannot imagine anyone outside of Toronto really giving a rat’s patoot about Sundin, and I can imagine a few people in Toronto couldn’t care less, either.
Q: Hey Doug, when was the last time the Raps got called for a technical foul? And I'm not talking about a silly tech. I'm talking about an "emotional" technical foul. A technical foul that says, "I care a lot about this call, I'm into this game, I want to win, I'm going to make sure I'm heard". When was the last time a Raps coach got this type of technical foul? Sam used to but I feel he sort of stopped towards the end. Now I realize that techs aren't seen as a good thing for teams. But they can also be seen as a display of intensity (Garnett in Boston), toughness (Mason/Oak in NY) and a desire to win (Raja Bell vs. Kobe). For a Raps team that hasn't shown any of these emotions of late, don't you think it would be a good sign if someone got called for an 'emotional' tech? Maybe even get kicked out of the game? At least some fans may cheer. Your thoughts would be most appreciated.
Elliot H, Ottawa
A: Ah, Bosh got one in the Jersey game on Monday. Jay got one in the same game. O’Neal’s had a few this year. All of them for arguing with emotion and passion.
Getting kicked out? Doesn’t work. All it does is hurt your team.
Q: Hi, Doug! I'm not sure if my questions don't get through or they're too long or just ridiculous but they never get answered. Well, I'm trying again nonetheless. I think it's safe to say that a big part of the reason Sam was axed and the reins were given to Jay was for him to get the most out of this roster. One major component has been packing the lanes and allowing teams to shoot from long distance a bit more. But long shots mean long rebounds. It seems to me that for this strategy to be effective, good guard rebounding would be essential. For the Raptors, this strikes me as a lose-lose scenario. If a team has a great shooting night, they'll win. If their shot is off they'll win on second-chance points because you're relying on the rebounding skills of a bunch of guys who couldn't grab a board if they were alone in the gym!... A quick comparison: 8 games for Jay, only 2 wins (the nights the opponents shot below 35%), 6 games where the Raptors opponents have had a double-digit rebounding advantage vs. 17 games for Sam, 8 wins (on all but 2 of the occasions where the opponents shot below 45%), only 3 games where the Raptors were on the wrong end of a double-digit rebounding differential and 5 games where they actually won or tied the battle of the boards... Do you think that Jay's strategy is, in fact, utilizing this roster better than Sam's? Are the players simply ruining their opportunity to maximize their skills? Are there some tactics which you think might achieve more from these guys? Or is this roster just too flawed to do any better?
Joe T, Toronto
A: You’ll notice I didn’t cut the preamble to your questions, but this is the only time I’m letting go. Perhaps that’s why you don’t see them, too much statement, too little question.
But I digress, as usual.
The stats are mildly interesting but the sample size for Jay is too small.
I don’t know if it’s better or worse, it’s different and until he convinces the guards and small forwards to do their fair share on the boards, the rebounding issues will remain. Can he do that? Yes. Will the team be better when he does? Yes. Will it take longer than eight games? Try double that number.
Q: Hey Doug I am long time Reader and huge fan of your blog but while I was watching the Raps vs. Mavs Wednesday night I finally realized that with this current team we have no chance at making any noise in the playoffs. When your best player doesn't score or stop the other teams best player it’s hard to win. Agree?
Paul L, Scarborough
And when you’re best player has 25 and 12, you do have a chance to win.
Q: Hi Doug, after watching almost every game since 1995, it's safe to say that Raptors fans (including myself) are a quacked bunch. I was on the "I'm done with these guys for the season" bandwagon after the Jersey game. I think what I read on Chris Bosh's forum is on par with the trade scenario in your Dec 18 entry. Some guys are saying that Nathan Jawai is a mix of Elton Brand/Tim Duncan. Yes, they seem serious. What have you heard from scouts etc. as a best case scenario for this wplayer?
Chris R, Vancouver
A: Jawai? Scouts say he’s got good footwork and a nice touch on a shot that right now has no appreciable range. Best-case? I guess NBA starter in two, three years. Who knows, though. No one has seen him as much as practice against NBA players. Everything is a guess.
Quacked? Yeah, you could make that case.
Q: In Bosh's latest blog entry (from Wed. Dec. 17), he talks about the high expectations he had for a book were too high and how he was disappointed. He said the movie made out of the book better be good because "there's nothing worse" than paying a high price for a movie and it not being good. Do you think this is Bosh's way of telling the fans to shut up and accept the product as is?
Alfred C, Toronto
A: Wow. That’s definitely a stretch. I have no idea for sure but don’t you think he could be talking about books and movies?
Yeesh. Sometimes, things are what they are.
Q: I didn't get to see the (Dallas) game but I'm watching the post-up show right now, and I think you were the second reporter to ask Jay a question and I'm not sure but I thought I heard him call your name. For how long have you known JT and how close are you to him. What's you relationship like, does he know every reporter by name or are you someone special.
Eni M, Toronto
A: Nothing special. We go back quite a ways but he’s been here for seven years now, he knows us all. Like all the coaches do. And I presume a handful of players even know our names.
Q: Hi Doug, first a note of thanks to those who have been throwing out links to watch the games. On a serious note, is Jay Triano going to last the season? I'm not dumping on the guy as I realize he has inherited this roster and has had very little time to reinforce concepts in practice. I would imagine moving a few players would be the next big shake up attempt, but I can't see Jay staying on for the rest of the season if his team continues to play part of the game. Thoughts on this subject?
Kevin M, Maple
A: I cannot envision the scenario (okay, maybe a losing streak that eclipse’s the franchise record of 19 straight) in which Jay doesn’t finish the season as the interim coach. Even in that doomsday scenario, they’d probably just suck it up and play out the string.