More mail than you can handle on a rainy Saturday
My goodness, you are an inquisitive bunch, aren’t you?
We’re chock full of questions and answers here today; glad it was a rainy, crappy, ugly Saturday so I had something to do to pass the time.
Now it’s off to Hamilton, I think, to check out the Canada Under-19s since Saturday night holds little else of significance.
And for you homebodies, here’s about all the mail you can handle.
Q: Just one observation about Chris Bosh which seems to be bothering me. Chris Bosh's "other career" he keeps pursuing, the acting, the comedy, etc. Is this how a superstar shares his focus and attention? Haven't the great ones already proven that a full focus and drive on basketball is what it takes to separate great from good. Do you remember Shaq, in his news conference after they won they're 3rd championship with Lakers, a reporter asked Shaq "what changed since Orlando", and he replied his focus changed. From all the rapping and acting and other crap outside of basketball, he realized what should be his full attention (at the same time Shaw gave his verbal shots to the media). Should the Raps be leaving everything on the table in the hands of a player who's a jack of all trades, instead of a master of one? The one we care about. Basketball. Unless we get another superstar that has that drive or Chris leaves the team to partner with a superstar who has that drive, I don’t see us doing anything beyond mediocrity. Thanks
Adrian M, Toronto
A: This kills me, it really does. Does anyone really expect anyone – you, me, Chris Bosh, Joe Blow – to work 24/7/365 at their job, especially a job as physically demanding as being a professional athlete?
Mike Grange ™ did an excellent piece last week on Bosh’s off-season training plans, plans that include a lot of time in the gym and on the court. He is not sitting around eating bon-bons and dreaming up comedy bits every day of the summer.
So, for you and others who think that way, please go into work on Monday, sit down in your bosses office and tell them you want to forgo every day of vacation you’ll ever get so you can focus entirely on your job and have no life. And then report back to me in six months and tell me how burned out you are.
Q: Do you think it's fair that players have to dress up in suits, including ties, during travel to and from the games, and a coach can wear a sports jacket and t-shirt? I'm better dressed watching the games than Mr. Van Gundy is coaching them.
And, have you ever been in a situation where you were told something "off the record" and then actually found a quotable source? Did the "off-the-record" source lead you to the quotable one? If you've ever gone public with the quotable source's info, did the "off-the-record" source get upset? Did you claim "inevitable discovery" (yeah, I watch some Law & Order)?
Brian P, Cambridge
A: Actually, players don’t have to wear suits and ties anywhere; the Raptors, for instance, had no firm dress code on their charter. The league mandates sports coats and a “business-professional” look on the bench and Stan, while not Sam Mitchell by any stretch of the imagination, pulls that off.
If I hear something from someone that they’d like to keep off the record, I have no problem at all trying to get the same information from other sources. And if a second source that I trust wishes to remain anonymous, I – and everyone I know – would have no problem writing a story citing “multiple” sources.
Q: Is there a chance that the Raptors waive Nathan Jawai this off-season? Are there any other options that exist (D-League, Australia, Europe) where they could go play him and not count him towards the 15-man roster?
Imran P, Oakville
A: No chance. Why give up on a kid they’re paying a mere pittance? It’s not like he’s 35 and at the end of his career, he’s 22 years old, coming off a lost rookie season and they need to find out what he’s got. Could he spend some more time in the D League? Maybe. But that’s the only option they have for him. They cannot send him to Australia or Europe without cutting him and eating his salary and that’s not going to happen.
Q: A question about trading expiring contracts. When do free agents officially become free? Are the contracts officially expired at the end of the season? i.e Raps couldn't trade Anthony Parker for a player because they no longer have his rights. Is the situation the same for restricted free agents? Or can the rights to Lee and Robinson, for example, be traded as expiring contracts to another team, who can then sign or not sign them to new deals.
Jeffrey M, Beijing
A: Contracts expire June 30, which is when players become free agents. The Raptors could trade anyone they like between now and then, but the salary coming back, and it’s implications for the tax levels, would be on the 2008-09 numbers.
Q: A few draft questions for you Mr. Smith. What is the team's reaction when a player (like DeRozan) refuses to play against competition in a workout? Does it diminish the player in their eyes? Would they consider drafting someone like Curry who refused to work out for them if he fell to 9? How much does having a strong personality (like Henderson's) factor for coaches and scouts when selecting a prospect? Thanks Doug!
Nik W, Ottawa
A: And a few answers for you.
Teams don’t like to have kids work out on their own but they have to put up with it on the odd occasion. It’s not the determining factor whether they draft someone or not, but it is in their minds when it comes to making the selection.
And, yes, teams have drafted kids they haven’t had in for even private workouts but it’s rare. The last one that comes quickly to mind is Milwaukee and Yi Jianlian and we all know how that worked out.
Personality? It’s a big factor. In fact, some teams rely heavily on the opinions they get from having dinner with a kid, or just chatting with him. You can be sure that when it comes time to make their selection, the Raptors will take into consideration the results of chats their sports psychologists have had with potential picks.
Q: Doug, unless I've missed something, it sounds like there is no real stand-out at the 9 spot in the draft to fill our SG or SF spots. But there seems to be some greater depth at PG, which is typically a rarer talent. Do you think there is enough interest on other teams for a guy like Ty Lawson, that it would be worthwhile drafting him for his trade value rather than drafting a guy who sorta/kinda fills our immediate needs to a mediocre degree?
Jordan C, Toronto
A: There may not be a real “standout” to some people’s minds but I cannot imagine Toronto taking a guy to trade him, for two reasons:
If there are no “standouts” why would teams want to trade to get a guy from No. 9 they might get at 14 or 16?
And the Raptors do feel they’ll get someone who can contribute with that pick, regardless of what the “experts” say or think.
Q: Hi Mr. Smith. Last year there was a lot of talk about Bargnani and his off-season workouts (Big Man Camp). Is Bargnani or any other Raptors involved in any special camps this off season? Keep up the good work. #1 Blog in Canada (you should blog more often)
R R, Toronto
A: No, not really. Not sure about when, or if, there’ll be any specific “big man” camp this year after the passing of Pete Newell and everyone else is going to be working out on their own or with Raptors coaches, who will see everyone at least once to keep tabs on their progress.
Q: What does that offer to Delfino mean? Does it mean that the Raps may bring him out of purgatory? I really liked Delfino's style of play and would love to see him back. I liked him playing backup point guard.
Cath D, Kitchener
A: There is no doubt that the Raptors want Delfino back but the qualifying offer only means they retain the right to match any other offer he gets. It doesn’t mean that’s what his salary will be (the qualifying offer was about $2.3 million); it’s more a bookkeeping exercise than anything.
But everyone fully expects him to sign here in July.
Q: Quick questions: How "much," hypothetically, would the Raptors have to pay to buy a pick in the upcoming draft? Is there a standard rate, so to speak? If they did buy a pick, where do you see it being and who do you think could they nab at that spot?
Angel H, Waterloo
A: There is a $3 million limit on the amount of money that can change hands in any NBA transaction so that would be the maximum. I’d guess that’s what teams would pay for a high or middle first round draft pick, and perhaps less for one in the 20s. Generally speaking, second round picks go for between $250,000 and $300,000.
Q: What is the deadline for players to opt-in to their contracts? Do you know if Crawford for Golden State has notified his team of his intentions yet?
Jeffery M, Beijing
A: Most contracts say options have to be declared by July 1; I’m not sure if that’s the case in Crawford’s deal (it is negotiable) but I’d assume it’s right around then.
Q: Doug, can you contrast the games of Stephen Curry and say JJ Redick? They were both scoring machines in NCAA and I know about JJ's defensive woes, but I have to assume that a 6ft Curry isn't going to be much better. What is it about Stephen's game that Redick lacks that scouts think will make him successful in the NBA? JJ was never really considered to be a top 10 pick but Stephen is rumoured as high as a 4th overall. They were/are both in 'weaker' drafts.
Normiyuki H, Toronto
A: Actually, Curry measured out at just over 6-3 at the NBA combine so there’s not much difference in size at all. Scouts I talk to suggest Curry is a far superior ball-handler even though he’s played PG for about one college season, he score in more ways than the jump-shooting Redick and is a superior defender, both on PGs and SGs.
Q: It has been sort of disconcerting to hear that Chris Bosh does not particularly like his new team mate Reggie Evans and vice versa (Evans says he likes Chris now, but that's a little too convenient in my humble opinion). Coupled with the fact that Rasho (who hopefully will be a Raptor next season) mugged the guy at the basket in retaliation for a dirty play about two seasons ago when Evans was playing for Denver, is it possible that Evans may have too sharp of an edge to the point where serious chemistry issues may arise (a la Rafer Alston vs. Jalen Rose)?
H E, Toronto
A: You read far, far, far too much into a couple of throwaway lines from now teammates. They’ll be fine, trust me on that one.
Q: Hey Doug, what about James Johnson? I have been really impressed with him and he would make sense because he is a wing. That said sifting through the many scouting reports and mock drafts taking him at #9 seems a little high? Your thoughts
Blake H, New Fairfield, CT.
A: I know there is some interest in Johnson in Toronto; not a lot, but a little. There is a question about his condition – he goes about 257, which is chunky – and whispers about how good a teammate he might be. Not sure about those character issues but, if he’s seen as equal to someone without those question – I’m sure teams would shy away. I think he’ll end up going somewhere from No. 12-16.
Q: What is the chance of re-signing AP? After all, he was the most productive player in the roster, dollars-per-point average, anyhow... Is there a chance, in your mind, of signing Garbo? (He played in Russia last season... a good defender)
Ari I, Toronto
A: If AP accepts a lesser role and no pay increase, I’m sure he’ll be back. But I bet other teams – Charlotte, for instance, or maybe even Cleveland – have some interest.
And we need to let the Garbo thing go. He is never, ever, ever coming back.
Q: So Doug you’re finally starting to talk about the young kids just a little. I understand that you can’t make any judgments until they at least play some college, let alone professional, but it’s still nice to say that, at the very least, the junior Canadian basketball scene is looking strong with players like Kabongo, Cadougan, Ashaolu, Corey Joseph and Tristan Thompson.
I know most, if not all, have played for the Canadian program, is what’s happening now just an AAU thing that’s all teenage hype, or is it a legitimate fear that these kids will turn their back on the program?
Matt D, Cork, Ireland
A: What’s happening now is that the people who are running Canada Basketball are putting together good programming with good games and good coaching for teenagers. There is still too much fascination among the young kids with the meat-market summer camp system in the US – and the resulting financial benefits that accrue to people who say they have the best interest of the athletes at heart (a claim I say is entirely bogus). That said, Canada Basketball is doing a laudable job working through that and convincing the kids it’s worthwhile to aspire to represent one’s country. Which it is.
Q: Thanks for breaking down the draft, it lead me to my own research online and I thought something weird jumped out. Why is a guy like Dejuan Blare not in the majority of people's top 10. All-American, co-Big East Player of the Year, 2nd in voting for AP college player of the year, and according to many people's in season reports (PTI ... etc.) an absolute top 10 lock. Why has Dejuan's stock dropped so much? Thanks for the great work.
Mark P, Ajax
A: There some legitimate concerns about Blair’s knees but I still think he’ll creep into the lottery, sometime after the Raptors pick.
Q: Obviously the personal coaching attention that Patrick O’Bryant and Quincy Douby are currently receiving is a good thing. But it makes me wonder, have they not received this kind of attention before from their previous teams (GS & Boston for POB; Sac for QD)? Are the Raptors doing something new or unusual with these guys?
P J. Toronto
A: I can’t speak completely to what’s gone on in the past but I wonder if the opportunity wasn’t presented but not taken advantage of. Especially in O’Bryant’s case, there have been questions about his dedication that have dogged him since he was drafted.
And while it’s not unusual for coaches to work with players in the summer, it’s usually at a players’ home, rather than in the team’s facility.
Q: I too hope they don't give up on Roko. I think is upside is significant. He has shown an ability to take and make big shots at the end of games, and isn't that what some complainers wanted (instead of Bosh!)
Also as an organization, the Raptors, seem to have done a good job of developing young talent: Bargs has improved a great deal, Calderon has developed into an All-star caliber pg, and Bosh's game has improved every year. So I do think they can improve Roko, especially if, as you say, he is so eager to work on improving.
My questions are: How likely do you think it is that Roko's improvement follows a similar trajectory to Jose's? It seems they both had similar flaws coming into the league.
Also what effect do you think Evans will have on team toughness, in demanding that others, like Bosh and Bargs become more physical and tough. What past Raptors have had that kind of impact and was it contagious like I hope Evans will be
Mich G, North Bay
A: I think Roko can, eventually, become a player much like Jose, with perhaps a bit more explosiveness on offence, if he develops a consistent jumper. And that’s the big question.
Reggie? I think he’ll make the team tougher by his presence. I don’t think you’ll all of a sudden see Bosh or Bargnani laying people out, it’s not in their DNA, but teams will not take as many liberties with guys like them knowing Evans is around. And that’s the trickle-down impact he brings.
Q: Two questions Mr. Smith:
How does this draft compare to the 2000 draft in terms of pre draft chatter, rumors and such?
What's Wayne Embry up to these days?
Andy C, Toronto
A: It’s impossible to tell how this draft may turn out in comparison to 2000 but as I recall, back then they were far more skeptical about it being a good draft than they are worried about this one being one of the worst ever. I’d venture to say that, in five years, this will be thought of as better than 2000.
Wayne? He’s here, lending his expertise to the process and he’s doing quite well.
Q: Kudos to Patrick O’Bryant and Quincy Douby for getting in the work, but, Doug, aren't there some of the other, younger Raptors that could benefit from it as well? Why just these two?
Alan C, Peterborough
A: Well, these two are the only ones in Toronto now working out but everyone’s getting their work in. And, before the summer’s out, the coaches will have seen everyone.
Q: Hey Doug, what are three changes in the skill sets of kids coming out of college that you've noticed over the past 25 years or so?
A: Well, I haven’t been around a quarter century, it just seems like that. But in my 16 years or so, I’d say they can handle the ball better, especially the bigger guys, and they are far superior in terms of quickness and athleticism, of course. But because so many have come from high school or one or two years at college, the biggest thing I’ve noticed is the lack of fundamental skills – shooting, especially. It’s because they don’t practice nearly enough.
I know, that’s got old codger written all over it but it’s an opinion widely shared.
Q: Hi Doug, thanks a lot for the fantastic work throughout the season and now beyond. You mentioned after the Lakers won that Kobe is still not in your top 5 of all time. I'm wondering who does make up that group? I'm assuming MJ, Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell are in it? Who would round it out? Magic? Wilt?
Geoff A, Toronto
A: Wilt for sure, and yeah, I’d put Magic in there for the way he revolutionized the game. And the top three are dead locks. Of course, the order is open to debate. How’s Oscar, Bill and Michael strike you?
Q: Firstly, in regards to the John Hollinger article, people have to remember that last year he said Anthony Randolph was going to be a big bust. Looks like he missed on that one too. Secondly, Mr. Smith, if you had to venture a prediction as to what the Raptors draft board (top 10) looks like, what would it be? Thirdly, will you be doing a live blog during the NBA draft?
Evan G, Thornhill
A: I don’t know that there are 10 names on a list. If you mean who they think will get selected ahead of them, it’s the obvious group of Griffen, Rubio, Thabeet, Harden, Curry, Hill and Evans. And I think they’d round out that group with Holiday, DeRozan and Johnson. After that, I think they’d go Flynn, maybe Henderson, Blair, the young Mullens kid and that’s about it.
We’re still working on the timing of draft night, but I’d suspect a live blog that night and then a chat the next day sometime around noon. Stay tuned, though, that’s not cast in stone.
Q: Doug, is there any word on the Raptors interest in Brandon Jennings? He seems to be a player with TREMENDOUS upside but apparently has a polarizing effect on people.
Josh S, Thornhill
A: I can honestly say I have never heard his name mentioned by anyone connected with the team, even in idle conversation. From what I’m hearing around the league, he can’t make a shot to save his soul and has some personality “issues” (he’s rather hard-headed and not that open to coaching) so I don’t think he’s a fit here.
Q: Hey Doug, I read your column religiously (as I continue to wait for the Raptors to make it to the playoffs and make an impact) but I have one question about a former Rap, Tracy McGrady. Lots of talk about him getting traded, but would anyone really want him? He's got a big contract that might look better coming off the books but that won't happen for another year. Who takes him and what would it take to get him? Maybe a big box of tape would be enough to get him, but the team would need that tape to help his injuries every two weeks.
John H, Chatham
A: Tracy’s contract ($22.5 million this year) expires at the end of the season and that may make him attractive to GMs. It would also be a clear sign that a team is giving up on next season because it’s doubtful he’s even on the court before Christmas.
Q: Hey Doug, do you think trading up for guys like Rubio, Harden and Evans is likely? I mean it doesn't look like we are going to have an individual work out with any of them, but it would be interesting to know. Thanks as always
Alex H, Toronto
A: I think it’s virtually impossible. Not only because they haven’t had workouts for them but because Toronto has nothing to offer those teams.