First, the mail; later, maybe news
This is a bit of an easy way out this morning; clearing up the mail through the weekend while I try to figure out some way to pick a Finals winner and do a good setup piece.
Besides, Chris Bosh is supposed to have some “big announcement” on his website today (it’s quite doubtful that it’ll have anything significant to do with his future) so I presume I’ll be back here sometime to talk about it.
So, for now, digest these and we’ll speak again.
Q: Doug - Do us a "thought experiment": Playoff games are different. What does it take to win them? Let's assume - bear with me - our Raps improve to the point that we are in Conference finals next year, 1) What would we STILL need to do to win games such as the ones we are now witnessing? 2) Is there ANOTHER WAY win playoff games at this level in this league other than SLOWER? THUGGISH? FREE THROWS? ONE ALL STAR GUY AGAINST THE OTHER TEAM?
Charles N, Toronto
A: I guess the one thing it takes, almost more than anything else, is concentration. Intense concentration on each possession. That’s knowing your opponent and what he might do on offence; knowing your teammates and what they might do and then playing accordingly.
What do the Raptors need? Well, they need to get back in the playoffs and then have a sound game plan and the mental tenacity to perform well there. Can it be a learned behaviour? I think it can, with some experience.
And I think we’ve seen there is another way to advance all the way than slow, thuggish play. True teamwork, like we saw from both the Lakers and Magic; the best players being the best players, like Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard, is a must; and the other players have to play at a consistently high level, which we saw late in both those series from the “other” Orlando and Los Angeles players.
I don’t think many would equate slow and thuggish with either of the two teams playing for the championship, which is a very good thing, in my opinion.
Q: Nice new pic! How old was the previous one? Quick question: Any chance to see any game start before 8 pm ET before the end of the season? It’s kinda tough to be up at 2 a.m. every night :) Keep up the good work.
Matthieu B, Biel-Bienne, Switzerland
A: Sorry, but it’s going to be late nights or early mornings for you, I fear. The Thursday, Tuesday games will start at 9 p.m. and, in a very minor concession to east coasters or Europeans, the two Sunday games (Games 2 and 5, if necessary) will start at 8 p.m.
Q: Hi Doug, Anderson (Birdman) has achieved cult like status in LA, a lot like JYD did here when in Toronto. Who else is there around the league that could fit that status and why?
Steph R, Glencoe
A: There really aren’t that many, actually. Because there are so few with an act quite as emphatic as Andersen’s, or a look that’s so unique.
I guess maybe you could put Nate Robinson in the discussion but there are probably isn’t anyone else. At least that comes quickly to this mind.
Q: In basketball the home team usually wears white, it's the opposite in hockey. A good argument for the way it is in hockey is that the home team gets to wear the team colours. Can you think of an argument for the way it is in basketball? After seeing it for so many years it seems natural but I can't really think of a good argument for it being that way.
David S, Toronto
A: Because basketball’s better? I honestly don’t know, but you are seeing home teams wear third jersey or colours more often in this day and age. And it wasn’t always like that in hockey, either. In the nether regions of my mind, I recall a time when home teams wore white.
Q: Hi Doug, I wonder if you could please explain the difference between a restricted free agent and an unrestricted free agent? Thanks for the blog; I enjoy reading every day.
John C, Saskatoon
A: There are two rather simple ways to explain it.
The first, of course, is that teams have the right to match any offer a restricted free agent gets and keep them for the terms of that deal.
Restricted free agency is actually rare, comparatively. First-round draft picks on rookie scale contracts become restricted if their team doesn’t exercise its option on the fifth year of that contract. Any veteran free agent who’s been in the league for three or fewer seasons is also a restricted free agent.
Everyone else is unrestricted when the terms of their contracts expire.
Q: I love the blog, great job on it. My question is regarding the technical fouls and they are for the coaches. I am not sure if this has been asked before or not but what happens if a coach get 4 technical in a playoff series. do they also get suspended for a game as well? And if they do, has that happened?
Ash M, Thornhill
A: It’s got nothing to do with four in a series, it’s seven in the playoffs and it doesn’t include coaches.
Q: Why does Chris Bosh not attack back by calling out Amare and ZBo???
Lance Q, Winnipeg
A: Why lower yourself to their level?
Q: Who's your pick for Orlando's PG, Jameer Nelson or Rafer Alston? Do the Magic get this far with Nelson playing? Which will start/stay in Orlando next season?
Justin L, Etobicoke
A: Nelson will be the starter when next season begins, of that I have no doubt, and he should be. And Rafer, who is entering the last year of his contract, will, I’m sure, be okay with a backup role because he’ll want to get a contract after next season and if he’s a disruption, it’s going to cost him money.
Q: I've been reading you for quite a while and in the Raptors context you've mentioned that in the run for the playoffs (or if they make it), they should shorten the bench. In the past, it seems that most teams would take that approach but I think that all the conference finalists seemed to use a full bench?
T B, Toronto
A: I think most of the teams sometimes used nine guys trying to find a good combination that worked. Mostly, though, it was eight players: Johnson, Gortat and Pietrus in Orlando; Smith, Johnson and Andersen in Denver although Klieza did get some time near the end of the series; the Lakers were an exception because they couldn’t figure out whether to use Brown or Farmer and Walton or Vujacic along with Odom; and Cleveland was a mess because the bench was so bad.
I still think eight works best in most situations.
Q: Doug, with the Raptors coaching staff up in the air for a few more days at least, are you aware of any efforts to assist players in their summer workouts the way Gord Herbert worked with Andrea Bargnani last summer. Specifically with Bargnani, there was a lot of focus last year on turning his situation around (private workouts in Italy, big man camp in the States). Is there a plan for him this summer, or is he just going to be playing for the Italian national team and expected to work out on his own the rest of the time?
David G, Toronto
A: Well, Jay’s been out working with players, Eric Hughes has seen a couple but I’m not sure about Alex and Mike though.
I absolutely guarantee you someone from the Raptors staff will pay Andrea a visit at least once this summer and probably a couple of times.
But, really, it’s only been seven weeks, let the players get some rest before you start thinking about workouts aimed at next October.
Q: Hi Doug, re golf: was the "blistering pace" today more a comment on the shape of your hands after 100 holes? Real question: After watching the intensity of most of this year's playoff series (skill, depth, determination, hustle, heart, etc), how far away do you think the Raps are from getting into and winning a 1st round series - regardless who returns/is added.
Barry P, North Bay
A: I don’t see why, depending on a matchup, that they can’t do it next year. Will they? I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to find out but if things mesh and the players improve, why can’t they?
Q: BC has commented that he could live with waiting until next summer for the Bosh situation to reach resolution. Reasonably, does he not need to have a grounded understanding of Bosh's willingness to sign an extension before draft day in order to maximize possible return if he realizes he's facing the cornerstone walking?
John U, Toronto
A: No, not at all. You’re talking about a year from now and there are more holes to fill this summer than worrying about finding a replacement power forward who’ll fill in if Bosh isn’t here in October, 2010.
Q: Were you around in the 70's to see the NBA franchise in Buffalo play in Toronto? Did the Braves playing a few games in Toronto help pave the way for Toronto gaining a NBA team?
Chris W, Michigan
A: I did see them, grew up a fan of Randy Smith and Bob McAdoo and Ernie DiGregorio and thought Dr. Jack was a great coach back then. But while it may have opened the eyes of some people in Toronto about the NBA, I don’t think he had anything to do whatsoever with either the league’s decision to expand here in the ‘90s.
Q: If you had to pick an all NBA toughness team (one player per position), made of players in the league right now how would it look? People who never take a possession off, aren't afraid to get in people's faces, play through injuries and sacrifice their bodies. This is what I came up with off the top of my head: PG - Billups SG - Iverson SF - Artest PF - Garnett C - Shaq
David S, Toronto
A: That’s not bad. But I’ll take Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Garnett and Dwight Howard and beat you six ways to Sunday.
That’s what makes guys like Bryant and James Bryant and James, they don’t take possessions off.
Q: Doug, got a Contract/Collective Agreement question for you (I know! What fun!!). Can you clarify the possibility of Chris Bosh signing a contract extension this summer? As I understand it (and I could absolutely be wrong on this), he would severely limit his earning potential by signing an extension this summer as his contract does not expire for another 2 years (Early Termination Option next summer). In order to sign an “extension” wouldn’t he have to nullify his current contract and thereby give up his “Larry Bird/Franchise” rights, which would limit the years he can get in the deal? So isn’t the chance of a re-signed Bosh this summer next to nil? I ask because there is a prevailing sentiment out there of: “If Bosh doesn’t resign this summer he has to be traded”!
Matt A, Toronto
A: No, he wouldn’t lose any future Bird rights because the contract he originally signed was, at its maximum length, greater than three years and wouldn’t kick in until the start of the 2010-11 season anyway.
Q: A couple of questions coming out of nowhere:
1. Can you name your top five most ambidextrous NBA players (current or ever--your choice)?
2. Do you think the referees pay attention to the score? Here's an analogy: exam papers. Profs aren't allowed to see names when they're marking them. Shouldn't refs make the right call regardless of the outcome at a critical moment? I'm thinking specifically of the play last night with 0.5 seconds left, where Varejao fouled Howard if previous calls in the game were a precedent.
Don R, Stratford
A: All the great players through the ages could finish, dribble, play with either hand so I’m not touching the first one.
The second? Refs will tell you score has nothing to do with how or when they make calls. I wonder if subconsciously they’re not aware and react accordingly; it could be, after all, simple human nature.
Q: Is a max contract adjusted in any way with movements in the cap? If not, how cautious are teams given that it’s not crazy to think the cap may come down again next year?
Tom L, Toronto
A: Yes and no. (I know, a bailout answer if ever there was one).
But here’s why: The max value of a contract is 30 per cent of the salary cap, so that if Joe Blow signs one this summer to start next year, he will make 30 per cent of the cap number and the annual raises will work off that number.
But, if Joe Blow signs a maximum value extension this summer that kicks in after the 2009-10 season, it will be for 30 per cent of the cap at the time it kicks in, not at 30 per cent of the value of the cap this summer.
So, if the cap goes down between now and then, so will the anticipated dollar amount.
Q: You stated in your blog regarding the reason why the Cavs are on the verge of elimination as follows: "Why? Because never, ever, ever, ever, can one guy do it alone. It doesn’t work for Chris Bosh in the regular season, it’s not working for LeBron or Kobe in the playoffs; it hasn’t worked ever in the past, it won’t work ever in the future." History has proven you wrong on this one. Take a look at:
(1) The 94-95 Champion Houston Rockets, starring The Dream and a bunch of jump shooters
(2) 95-96 Champion Houston Rockets starring The Dream, a bunch of jump shooters, and an almost washed up Clyde Drexler. One guy did virtually do it alone. If Hakeem had played with a Pippen, we would be talking about him in the same breath as MJ.
Khurrun A, Toronto
A: Yes, he was the leading scorer, top rebounder and, by a large margin, the best player on the court. But, no, he wouldn’t have won two titles without the contributions of his teammates. Sorry.
Q: Is there anything that can be done about fast-break fouls? For example, Player A has the ball, after a turnover, at midcourt and is going to blow by Player B for an easy basket. However, Player B gives him a little tap on the waist, which doesn't really impede his way to an easy score. The whistle is blown and Player A's team has to take the ball side out of bounds because Player B's team only has 2 team fouls in the quarter. Now, I know the "clear path" foul is called from time to time, but it seems rarer than just a simple foul call. How about adding a - and be open-minded about this for a second - gasp! soccer rule, referred to as an "advantage". This is where the play is allowed to go on after a foul as long as the offensive team remains in a favourable position. However, if after the "advantage" is allowed, the defending team gains an advantage back, then the foul is called. It may allow play to flow more smoothly and would increase fast break points, and those exciting break away dunks. Too subjective of a call for basketball?
Mike S, Seoul
A: There’s too much subjectivity to officials’ calls now, I cannot support an idea that gives them more. Plus, possession changes so much more quickly in basketball than soccer, it’s hard to say a “favourable” position would last.