The usual Sunday mail
You thought you’d get by with only reading one little post on a trade proposal on a lazy Sunday morning? Think again, my friends.
Here’s the usual and, if I didn’t screw up the melding of files like I did last week, there’s lots of good stuff in here.
Q: Hey Doug, how good is Orlando? What a road trip they just had: A win in San Antonio, followed by a demolition of the Kings, a win in LA, and then in the 2nd night of a back-to-back a win in the thin Denver air over the Nuggets. It just doesn't get better than that. Impressive.
Lazaros O, Washington, D.C.
A: Good. Really, really good. I have to admit I never saw this coming, there were concerns about the bench, the backup point guard spot and what they had behind Howard in the frontcourt but, right now, they might be the hottest team in the East and I wouldn’t bet against them challenging Boston and Cleveland for first overall right until the end.
I do know this, finishing first is huge because that allows the winner to miss either of the other two teams in the second round of the playoffs.
Q: Maybe this has been covered in the comments section but I've stopped reading since it tends to be a lot of people screaming for panic trades. Any word from within the Raptors' organization about Printezis? I've looked up his stats a couple of times and they seem OK. Is he a possibility for next year?
Sam S, Toronto
A: Remote. Very remote. More than very remote. He’s doing all right in Europe but certainly not dominating, I’m not sure of his contractual obligations or buyout and I’d say the best thing he can hope for is a training camp invite – if he wants one – to force the Raptors to keep his rights or cut him loose.
Q: (Tuesday) was the 10th anniversary of Jordan's first retirement. If he is in his 30s and still playing in NBA now, do you think he is as dominant as he was in the past with competitors like Kobe and Lebron?
Felix C, Markham
A: Yes. There were some pretty good players out there in Jordan’s heyday, too. And, yes, his will and his skill would make him stand out in his prime even against the Kobes and LeBrons of today, I believe.
Q: Doug, how would you compare Dwight Howard to Shaq at the same age?
Brad T, Hamilton
A: That’s a good apples and oranges one, isn’t it?
I’d say Shaq’s teams had accomplished more, they probably had about the same offensive game (you could probably say Shaq had a wee bit more variety to his offence) and both were the most dominant physical forces in the game.
So, about equal, probably.
Q: Having watched Basketball for over 50 years I am still not 100% sure as to what constitutes an assist or a turnover. Many times I have seen Jose feed Bosh who in turn will back down the defender in the post and score--assist or no assist? Jose feeds a player on the wing who takes 3 dribbles shoots and scores--assist or no assist? On Sunday I had Rondo committing at least 9-10 turnovers and yet the box showed only 4. Is a blocked shot that the other team gains possession on not a turnover for Rondo and a block for the Raptor player? Also if Rondo throws a bad pass that the other Boston player is only able to get a finger on before it goes out of bounds not a turnover against Rondo. The same if he fires a pass that hits his own player in the foot and goes out of bounds.
D Walker, Cameron
A: There’s an awful lot of subjectivity in some stats, like is a turnover charged to the guy making the pass or the guy fumbling it so I take all those numbers with a grain of salt.
Q: My question/thought is about the San Antonio Spurs. Why are they the gold standard for successfully managed teams? I'm thinking they have more luck than the others. They tanked a season when David Robinson went down and ended up with Tim Duncan. They also lucked out with Parker and Ginobli in the draft. Surely it is easier to manage and coach a team with luck like that?
Greg W, Ancaster
A: Yes, they were lucky to win the lottery for Duncan.
They were astute, far more than lucky, drafting Parker and Ginobili, they’ve managed their salary obligations so that they’ve never had to pay more than $500,000 in tax, they win the championship just about every other year and are legitimate contenders when they don’t.
Gold standard? They’re above the gold standard.
Q: With the 2008 Olympics just a memory, what are the plans for the various national basketball teams, and most notably Jose, Andrea and CB, for this coming summer? Are they committed to their national teams or is a summer of rest, such as it is, awaiting them?
Brian V, Toronto
A: Chris will have the summer off, the Americans don’t plan to run the same kind of senior program this year they did the last two; Jose has said he’ll make the call at the end of the year and Andrea missed last summer with the Italian team and I’d be surprised if he played in the world qualifier this year.
This is a relatively off-summer for FIBA, all that has to be done is find the 32-team field for the 2010 worlds in Turkey.
Q: The new blog format is great. Quick question for you. If the Raptors continue to play well, make it to the playoffs, and end up playing Boston, Is Boston worried? Do the Raptors have a reason to feel confident against this team? They seemed to play them fairly well considering they had no Jose or J.O.
Peter L, Toronto
A: Boston’s 31-9 and perhaps headed to a 60-win season and they’ve beaten Toronto four times this year. Worried? I would highly doubt it.
Q: Basics: Last night's game, third quarter I think, Boston was pressing and the ball went off a Raptor, out of bounds. Do they add time to Boston's shot clock when this happens? I thought an announcer made mention of it.
Adam N, Toronto
A: If the shot clock is below 14, it’s put back to 14 if the team retains possession; if it’s above 14, it stays where it is. If it’s a turnover, it goes to 14 in the frontcourt, 24 in the back.
Q: A question that perhaps you can help me with. When I look at the stat sheet for last nights game, Moon had 8 points and 7 rebounds in 34 minutes, and Graham had 8 points and 8 rebounds in 14 minutes. Year to date, there is a similar story. It looks from TV and the stat sheet that Joey is more effective than Jamario but Moon gets the minutes. I'm sure the coach knows his players so what are we not seeing that others do?
Warren A, Haliburton
A: Because stats are not the way to determine a player’s value. Things like being in the wrong place to help defensively, losing your man entirely, not know what plays are being run and busting plays for no good reason count more in the eyes of coaches.
Q: Every time Jason Kapono comes off a screen and fires I rejoice because a) I think it's going in, b) Jamario didn't shoot, c) Will didn't shoot and, d) Joey didn't get an offensive foul with his off arm. That being said, I am frustrated in the amount of travel calls on JK. Last night Jack Armstrong said that it was uncharacteristic for JK to turn the ball over as he was called for yet another travel in the late stages of the fourth. I couldn't disagree more. What's your take? Why is this happening so much? Ref's have his number? Is Jay (and formerly Smitch) putting him in too many situations where he has to create something? Does Jason not understand that it would be better if he just chucks it whenever he gets it? How many times have you seen Jason get his shot blocked vs. him pump faking then getting called for a travel?
Dave M, Oakville
A: I have to agree with Jack, actually. Before the Indy game, Kapono averaged 1.1 turnovers per game, fewer than any of the three point guards and Bosh, Bargnani, O’Neal, Moon and Parker. That was uncharacteristic.
That said, I think he sees space where none exists when he catches the ball and his mind works more quickly than his body. He should be a catch-and-shoot guy, his release is so quick it almost doesn’t matter how close a defender is to him; and I know his coaches implore him to do it more often.
Q: I need your objective opinion on an issue debated among our friends. An argument has been made that Rob Babcock got a bad rap as the GM during his time in Toronto. Of course we all remember the VC trade but many forget that Babcock also obtained Calderon, Charlie V (has since become JO), Ukic, Joey G, and would have had the #1 pick to work with had he not been fired. Since getting hired, Colangelo has loaded us up with Kapono, Parker, Moon, Solomon, Voskuhl, and Jawai. While the argument can be made that BC's accumulation is marginally better than Babcock's, shouldn't Babcock get SOME credit for the successes (as small as they may seem right now) of the current Raptors team?
Danny R, Toronto
A: Yes, Ukic and Calderon were strokes of relative genius (although Roko fell to him in the second round and Calderon was an emergency choice), off-set hugely by Araujo and the Carter trade. All in all, Babcock did a better job than many thought at the time but overall, he was over-matched as the man in charge. It’s the total picture and there was just a sense that he wasn’t a No. 1 man. A good No. 2? Probably the role he’s best suited for.
Q: I was just thinking of the similarities between Ukic and Calderon (when he first came) and was wondering your thoughts. It seems Ukic has the potential and work ethic to be as good as Calderon. Also, both came after playing professionally in Europe and both needed to completely reconstruct their jump shots. How can players, particularly point guards, play professionally and have such bad mechanics on something so fundamental? Is the coaching disparity in the NBA and Europe that large?
Jim T, Toronto
A: M Grange ™ and I have this discussion often. Name me one player, of recent vintage, who came from Europe as a deadly accurate and mechanically-sound shooter. Peja? Maybe. Dirk? No way. Others? Hard-pressed to find many. Andrea’s was okay in his rookie year but there were some bad habits that had to be broken (splayed feet, the penchant for flat shots, learning to shoot off the dribble) and you saw some second-year regression.
So, perhaps, all this brilliant Euro coaching we’ve heard about might be a bit of an overstatement.
Q: Every time Paul Pierce hits a time out inducing big bucket he walks down the court, lifts his head to the rafters and screams out two words that involve a specific act towards mothers. Sadly the rate in which he hits those buckets against Toronto has made the exclamation that much more noticeable. I have two questions: 1) Shouldn’t the league fine/suspend/kick out a player like Paul Pierce for subjecting children to such language - I call this my Al Capone Tax Fraud approach to dealing with the Celtics - or should such penalties fall on the station that broadcasts the game and doesn’t switch the feed? 2) Why do I dislike Boston teams so much? (Don’t even get me started on the Red Sox and their fans).
A Porter, Markham
A: First, the league sees all and knows all, I’m sure they’ve had a word with him, and others, about on-court decorum. Fines? I doubt it.
Second, you should get some help for that (I kid) ‘cause not all of us Red Sox fans are insufferable.
Q: Can't get enough Raps. It's hard not to be encouraged. They are getting better, I just wish they would win a few more. Anyway, two questions. First, has anyone ever kept track of which teams give up the highest number of career high, or year high games by opponents? It sure looks like to me that the Raptors are leaders here. Sunday Ray Allen, Monday Paul Pierce and if I remember Pierce had a high of some sort last time they played. It looks to me that the problem is keeping the big game by an opponent on the perimeter off the sheets, not just weak perimeter defense. Second, and this is something you can see being court side that is tough for us to see on TV. I love Chris Bosh and find little to criticize but sometimes he looks flat out gassed, resulting in getting out boarded, stymied on offense or blowing a defensive assignment. Is he tired or does he just loose his concentration from time to time?
Warren A, Haliburton
A: First off, neither Allen nor Pierce had career highs. Allen’s is 54, Pierce’s is 50. And the fact that high-scoring wings have season highs, or explosive games against Toronto surely doesn’t surprise you? But there are no stats like that that I know of.
And, on the second issue, I think it’s a combination of both. Sometimes his intensity fluctuates and sometimes the workload, especially if he’s defending a big, strong four on the block, takes its toll and wears him out.
Q: Are we seeing a shift in the balance of power between the two conferences? If you take out the typical scramble between the middle teams and look at the two extremes you'll notice that the East has 3 of the top 4 teams (by winning percentage) while the West has 6 of the bottom 7. Thoughts?
Ed C, Toronto
A: For now, yes, the best teams in the league are in the East, or at least the majority of them, like three of four and I’m not sure where I’d put the Lakers, actually. Are they No. 2 and, if so, are they behind Boston or Cleveland or both and how close is Orlando to being the second- or third-best team in the league at the moment?
But it’s cyclical and in two years we could be talking about the (L)Eastern Conference.
Q: Doug, the recent coaching change on this team has left me with many questions with regards to NBA head coaches. This one came to me while watching the 2nd loss to the Celtics in the back-to-back. In the post-game interview, Jay Triano mentioned that he "Has to get wiser" when it comes to using fouls and timeouts. My question is, How do coaches progress in their roles? What do they do when they don't have the answer? (Other than lose games and inevitably end up in the unemployment line) Do they simply rely on experience and learning from mistakes, or is there much interaction between coaches in the league?
Jeremy D, Kawartha Lakes
A: They don’t have Summer Leagues for coaches or training camps or anything like that, no. But coaches get better by, frankly, stealing ideas they’ve seen on tape, they do have little chat groups who get together and talk in the summer and they brainstorm with their friends and close colleagues.
Q: Given the desperation point guard situation vs. Indy, it seems the 2 headed PG, Soloukic has plateaued in a hurry. Did they just return to form after some early success in this past stretch, or did the scouting of other teams just catch up and figure out the book on these 2? Jose, come back soon.
Wilber L, Toronto
A: They are what they are. A 30-year-old two-guard trapped in a point guard’s body and an unproven 24-year-old rookie. If anyone’s surprised there’s a steep fall-off in point guard play with Calderon hurt, they shouldn’t be.
And it should be Ukimon.
Q: Simple question, Doug. I'm a season ticket holder. Love hoops but hate watching a 30-win team. Knowing what you know now, would you renew for 2009-10?
Mike D, Toronto
A: It all depends on how rich you are and what the tickets cost and how much you value your idle time. I’d hang on writing that cheque for a month or so. But there have been entertaining games (not as many as many would like), it’s just that wins have been lacking.
Q: Love your blog and coverage of the Raptors. Three questions for you... Given what we have seen out of Ukic this season, especially since Calderon's latest injury, what do you project his career prospects to be?? Has he shown enough to infer he may have the potential to be a bonafide starter or does he look more like a quality backup? (I know its still early but I'd like to read your insights) Second question.. Anymore news on the Delfino front? I read about what he said at the Olympics and we could use him at the right price... Third question.. Since trading Billups, the Nuggets have been playing some quality basketball. Are they a real threat in the West or are they pretenders?
Justin L, Richmond Hill
A: It’s impossible to predict the future but I’d say Ukic definitely has the physical skills and mental makeup to be a starter in the NBA. Not now, maybe not next year, but if he keep progressing, he sure could be.
Delfino isn’t coming back this year, put that out of your mind. But when it comes to the summer and free agency, look for the Raptors to be seriously interested.
Denver? Pretenders. Good pretenders but not in the class of the Lakers and Spurs, and maybe even the Hornets, right now.