And along came the mailman
All right, here’s the weekly offerings you’ve sent and I’ve tried to answer.
Got the rest of the day to do nothing, the big bird goes west tomorrow; I’ll likely stop by to say so long in the morning but after that – poof! – I’m in the wind.
Q: In your last blog you said that "Patrick O’Bryant is younger, longer and was the beneficiary of having a guaranteed contract for exactly the same money." Are you honestly telling me you think POB is better than Pops who became an instant fan favorite, gobbled up boards the second he got on the floor and played with incredible passion. Not to mention that he's like a billion times more athletic than POB who really has seemed to be a little indifferent to the game of basketball his entire career. If they could have gotten Pops at the same cost as keeping POB, I think BC dropped the ball on this one. Enjoy your vacation!
Michael C, Montreal
A: See, this is what sometimes irks me, and please don’t take this personally, it’s far more than just you.
Where, oh, where, do you get that I am saying anyone’s better than anyone else? Seriously, where? What I said, as you point out quite accurately, is that O’Bryant is younger (true), longer (also true) and the beneficiary of having a guaranteed contract which, rightfully or wrongly, virtually guaranteed his return.
Look, neither Patrick O’Bryant nor Pops Mensah-Bonsu are going to be significant players on even marginally good teams. O’Bryant is going to be the fifth, and perhaps sixth, big man on a team where two of the guys ahead of him (Bosh and Bargnani) are likely to play about 38-40 minutes a night. Pops? Who knows what his role will be on a Houston team that will be life and death to make the playoffs.
Yes, Pops jumped high and played with energy; yes, O’Bryant looked lethargic.
But, here’s the thing: They could not get Pops at the same price as O’Bryant, it wasn’t an option, couldn’t happen, was not in their mindset from the end of the season. So no one “dropped the ball” and the next time you try to interpret my words to make your point, please read what I’ve written a bit more closely.
End of rant.
Q: So some quick questions about the trade.
1. Since the Raps didn't need to fill the spot and it costs them 3 million at least, is this a favour to Carlos? (I know that Amir may turn into something but for the fifth or sixth big man? - Joey would have done it for a million.)
2. Ukic is a separate trade. Bucks really wanted him or did BC just want him gone? (I would have kept him, as I said, the Raps signed and traded a guy and put Ukic in to get two guys who may never see the floor.)
3. Talk about the starting two, who is the summer favourite?
Bruce M, Winnipeg
A: Some quick answers:
I don’t think “favour” is the right word but they did help out a guy who wanted to come back and got the kind of guy – deep rotation big – that they needed. Joey Graham was not – repeat, NOT – an option.
They needed to structure the trade in two separate transactions to satisfy CBA requirements but it doesn’t happen if Ukic isn’t included.
If you listen to the coach, it seems DeRozan is, but it’ll be a competition at camp.
Q: I was wondering, what happens to the money the NBA gets from fining a player? And for the matter when a team fines a player over an internal issue what happens to that money?
Ryan M, Ottawa
A: League fines go to the NBA’s charitable organization and I believe most teams do that as well. Sometimes they players put it in a fund and dole it out to charities as well, I’m told.
Q: With all the flurry of summer activity for the Raptors and many new faces, do any examples come to mind of teams that acquired a large number of new players and were very successful the upcoming season?
Gideon B, Richmond Hill
A: To tell you the truth, it would take going back through too many teams and too many media guides to come up with an exhaustive list.
I will point out the huge difference between the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 Orlando Magic. The former, a collection of low-paid journeymen that Doc Rivers got to a 41-41 record, was blown up for what was at the time the greatest free agent class ever, got Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady and won a couple more games.
Q: My only issue with the Carroll trade is that it leaves them with only 2 legit NBA PGs which could be an issue if injuries occur to the Top 2 (and Calderon has been known to get hurt!)
Lep DB, Toronto
A: That’s the role they have for Quincy Douby or, in emergency, Hedo Turkoglu. I would suggest that going into this season, the group of Calderon-Jack-Douby or Turkoglu is exponentially better than Calderon-Will Solomom-Roko Ukic.
Oh, and the shot at Calderon: Missed 14 games last season, none the year before, five the year before that.
Q: I'm interested in the back office machinations. Do you know if the capologists for the various teams talk trades over with each other, or are the GMs the only people talking to other teams?
Saatuk S, North Bay
A: No, that’s a role left to general managers and team presidents and, in some odd occasions, team owners who might speak to other owners. The cap experts keep their advice in-house.
Q: This is a zany question, but it's summer, so forgive me.
I have only ever seen Chris Bosh at one of our beloved TFC games, yet we have a roster chock-full of international players who hail from countries that love soccer (or football). Why is this? Do you know if Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, or Hedo Turkoglu like soccer? Does it ever come up in locker-room conversations?
Mark I, Toronto
A: I do know that Jose and Andrea follow the game; not sure about Hedo yet.
Big reason you haven’t seen or heard of Calderon or Bargnani taking in games is that they’re generally in Europe for the bulk of the TFC season. Perhaps they’re watching, you know, real soccer.
Q: Are you familiar with Cot's contracts for baseball? http://mlbcontracts.blogspot.com/
A very reliable public resource of (nearly?) all baseball contracts often quoted by respected sports writers. Is there a similar resource for basketball contracts?
Josh S, Detroit
A: Vaguely familiar with it. I know some sites devoted to basketball have salary grids that are close to accurate most times. I use a spread sheet that comes directly out of an NBA executive’s office – passed on by a buddy south of the border – so I don’t usually look elsewhere.
Q: I was wondering where do the Raptors make their money? What percentage of money comes from ticket sales? Sponsors? Merchandise? Italy?
Lukasz S, Whitby
A: I think they just go downstairs at the Air Canada Centre and print whatever they need.
No, actually, a large chunk of it comes from the league’s national broadcast contracts (I think that’s worth about $40 million a year) and the rest from such things as their share of league-wide merchandise sales and ticket revenues.
Q: Doug thanks for that interesting story about Nash and O'Neal. You said that Abbot is the best blog on the web. I am curious what are you top 5 blog sites that you visit? There are some Raps blog that are opinion based rather than news based that I've read, but other than yours I haven't latched on to any other blogs.
Jeffrey M, Saint John
A: There really aren’t five “blogs” that I look at daily. It’s pretty much TrueHoop because of the variety of stuff you get updated over the day. I read a series of columnists, Wilbon among them, and, in the summer, a lot of it has to do with what the story of the day is and where it comes from.
Things change a bit during the season when I read maybe 20 or 30 guys over the course of a day, mostly the ESPN.com and SI.com folks and teams Toronto is playing or has just played.
Q: Can you possibly enlighten as to whether the Cleveland Cavs are way over the cap?
Ian G, Toronto
A: Oh yeah, like about 28 teams, they’re over the cap. And far over the tax, too, with a payroll creeping on the $90 million level.
Q: Are you as excited as I am to see the first game of HORSE between DeMar and Matt Carroll? DeMar dunks; Matt gets an H. Matt makes a jump-shot; DeMar gets an H. Fastest game ever.
It seems this off-season BC's moves have somehow managed to over-shadow the challenge facing Chris Bosh. Does he need to make the change from all-star to all-NBA performer (the way he looked last November) for the Raps to be able to challenge the Big Three in the East?
Jimmy B, Hamilton
A: He has to play well for them to win consistently. Whether that’s all-NBA first-, second- or third-team really isn’t the point, because that’s got as much to do with other guys as him.
But given the talent around him, there will be nights when he doesn’t get his 22 and 10 and they can still win. In the past, with the roster around him, there were nights where if he was “off” (nights like everyone in the NBA goes through) they had no hope.
Q: Hi Doug, in a recent int'l basketball game where one of our Canadian guys got a blindsided hit in the back of his head by a cheap and dirty player of the opponent team, do you know if the latter receive any punishment?
Michael D, Newmarket
A: No. Never expected there to be any repercussions and there weren’t.
Q: Hi Doug, is it harder or easier on Jay Triano and staff to have only three players returning from last year?
Steph R, Glencoe
A: That’s a good question.
Personally, I think it’ll be a bit harder because there will a lot unfamiliarity with what he wants to do and a lot of teaching in camp. That said, with a month of training camp and pre-season games to work with, I don’t think it’s that huge a problem.
Q: Hey, Doug Can you compare Marco Belinelli to an NBA player that he might become? With his style of play?
Kevin S, Toronto
A: I saw so little of Belinelli last season, I really can’t pick anyone. Sorry. And anyone who tells you he or she can is pretty much guessing because the kid really hasn’t found himself in the NBA given his lack of a consistent role in Golden State.
Q: Some storm, eh Doug? Will you be covering Vancouver 2010?
Raymond C, Scarborough
A: Nah, I don’t think that’s in the cards. After all, someone has to stay home and fill the back pages of the section.
Q: I've taken an interest in the National Men's basketball program since Toronto and Hamilton cohosted the FIBA World Championship in 1994.
The high point was the Sydney Olympics but since then it seems like a series of setbacks.
The challenge going into this year's World Qualifier for the Americas looks daunting. I'm wondering your thoughts on how you think this tourney could play out? One would have to consider Brazil, Argentina, and Puerto Rico as virtual locks on three of the four berths. Dominican Republic and Uruguay feature solid lineups including some NBA'ers.
Where do you think Canada fits into the mix?
I worry about our offence at first glance. Do English, Anthony, Rautins, and co. have enough to put up the points?
Geoff R, Taipei
A: I think Canada’s in tough for that fourth spot and I would put Brazil and Dominican Republic in the top two spots with Argentina, Canada, Puerto Rico in the next level with Mexico and Uruguay right close behind.
I’m not sure they do have enough offence, especially if they aren’t making three-pointers and with a distinct lack of a huge inside scoring presence, I think they might live – and die – with jump shots.
Defence is where they are going to have to shine and that’s simply a matter of hard work and good schemes.
Can they do it? I think so, but it won’t be easy by any stretch.
Q: I'm wondering if you know when Raptors single game seats will go on sale. Thanks a bunch!
John G, Toronto
A: I don’t, actually. Best guess I got from a friend in the organization is mid-September but even that’s not cast in stone.
Q: One list request and one national team question.\
In a recent blog you mentioned Henry Abbott as good reporter you trust and you've mentioned Michael Wilbon (my personal favourite) as another favourite. So a list. Who are the top five basketball reporters/journalists you follow?
What happened to Denham Brown? Where is he now and how come he isn't involved with our national team?
Rahulan S, Winnipeg
A: There really isn’t a Top 5, to tell you the truth, there’s one, maybe two guys, in each city I have working relationships with and who I read regularly during the season.
But, as for “national” reporters, you couldn’t go wrong reading Marc Stein and Chris Sheridan at ESPN.com, Ian Thomsen at Sports Illustrated, Marc Spears and Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo.com.
Denham? Blew off an invitation to camp last year without as much as a return phone call and wasn't invited to try out this year.
Q: With all these guys coming and going, I was wondering who you will miss the most and why? And while we're on the subject who is your most missed Raptor of ALL TIME? And why? Thanks!
Mary L, Ajax
A: One of the good times every home game was the period about an hour before the game, after Jay had done his pre-game stint and before the locker room closed. We’d usually wander through the locker room and more nights than not, AP and Hump would be standing around and those conversations were priceless on a regular basis.
All time? Oak, Mo Pete, Garbo, Dell and, from back in the day, Damon come quickly to mind.
Q: Any word on Marco Belinelli's feelings about coming to Toronto? On the million Raptor-related blogs, items, etc I've read online this summer, not once have I seen any comment from the man himself. I would think he'd be very excited to join the Raptors, given:
1) his purportedly rocky relations with the coach in GS,
2) that he's expected to play a role in the Raps' rotation this year, and
3) the strong Italian "presence" in Toronto (Bargnani, Colangelo, Gherardini, College street).
Wouldn't someone, somewhere have asked him a few questions about this? Or does he not have a phone, e-mail, or Twitter account? Just curious.
Kevin R, Winnipeg
A: Well, I guess someone could have but, frankly, with training camp still to come and the summer upon us, trying to unearth an innocuous quote from a guy busy with his national team half a world away was not on the top of the priority list.
I can tell you that a person I know who’s spoken to Marco and knows his family says he’s quite excited about being in Toronto and being away from Golden State.
Q: Hi Doug. Thanks for your efforts, they are appreciated.
Do teams and or/ free agents in the NBA have the same kind of options as those in the NHL whereby players can sign well into the season and come riding in to the rescue?
Could for example Iverson sit at home and wait for an injury in December to a title contender or just desperation and then sign with them for the remainder of the year ala Sundin/Selanne/Neidermayer etc?
Brent E, Toronto
A: They do. As long as a player doesn’t file retirement papers, he’s still a free agent through the season and able to sign with any team, just as P.J. Brown did with Boston two seasons ago.
Q: I have a question regarding the NCAA and their rules with respect to sports.
n basketball, if a player declares for the draft and enlists an agent, then they can't go back to school, but in baseball they can have an agent represent them and if they don't sign, they can go back to school. Is there any particular reason for the difference?
Is it due to the differences between the pro leagues and their rules with respect to drafting? Kind of unrelated to hoops/Raptors, but this is something that I have never understood. Thanks.
L, G, Whitby.
P.S. Congrats on the only championship win that you will see around these parts in a very long time.
A: I can’t speak to baseball’s CBA with much authority but I would just chalk it up to the negotiated stances of both leagues.
I know the NBA has worked in conjunction with the NCAA to come up with its rules, which I think were put in place to protect the college game so teams could have enough notice when they were going to lose players – or get them back.
I presume, given the time of the seasons and the time and duration of the draft, that tug doesn’t exist in college baseball. I do know, from reading Blue Jays stories this week, that there is a “drop-dead” date when players have to sign or return to the draft – and therefore their colleges in many instances.
Q: If the NBA were to feel the need for a few more franchises, which cities do you think would be in the running? I realize this is certainly not on the near horizon but it could be at some point within the next decade or so. Would any Canadian cities make the list?
George B, Almonte
A: Ah, Almonte. How’s the Hall?
The first market the NBA has to serve would be Seattle, if and when they come to some resolution of the arena issue. After that? I’m not entirely sure. I know Kansas City has an arena ready for use, I would guess they’d look at St. Louis and perhaps the Anaheim-San Diego area for another.
Of Canadian cities? The only one on the list would be Vancouver.
But, as you say, this is not something being even remotely thought of at the league level.
Q: Doug, it seems that Roko Ukic fell out of favour with the Raps and I'm not sure why? He showed a lot of potential as a 6'5 point guard, had a similar rookie season as Calderon (Calderon was 1 year older with more experience in Europe and was statistically stronger, 11.44 PER vs 9.84 PER) but it seems the organization soured on him. Any idea what happened?
Bo C, Toronto
A: I’m not entirely sure why, either, to tell you the truth. There were concerns about his shooting and his decision-making on the court and his penchant for trying to do too much but I chalk that up to the vagaries of youth.
Q: Your blog provides a good source of entertainment during a long day at work. What's the difference between Marco Belinelli and Matt Carroll?
Both can shoot from deep, but the consensus seems to be that Carroll will be waving the towel at the end of the bench when DeRozan throws one down rather than being on the court.
What is stopping Carroll stealing Belinelli's minutes, or for DeRozan/Wright for that matter?
Mike B, Toronto
A: How about the same difference as, say, apples and oranges. Belinelli is a better creator and passer, handles the ball better and plays more quickly. He’s also about six years younger.
Matt Carroll is not talented enough to “steal” minutes from any of those guys you mentioned. He is a shooter to round out a roster.
Q: Doug, since this is the slow season as far as NBA basketball is concerned, could tell me the Top 5 players you were sorry to leave the Raptors (retirement, trade, free agency) and why? I would bet that Oak is on your list. Popeye's on mine.
Tom B, Toronto
A: Guys I was sorry to see go?
Well, yeah, Oak would be on that list, so would Kevin Willis, who was a pretty cool cat when he was here. Not sure about Popeye, that was a long, long time ago.
Garbo was hilarious and a good guy to sit around and joke with so he’s missed.
From back in the day, a guy like Eric Montross was a grown up who could chat about a bunch of things.
And who didn’t shed a little tear when Mo Pete blew it off for greener pastures?
Q: Morning, Doug, maybe we could wile the dog days away with a list or a poll or two?
Now I can’t imagine anyone who’d be able to argue very successfully that, hands down, the Raptor who was most hugely gifted with pure basketball skills and athleticism was none other than HWSNBN. But who else would make a top 5 (or top 10) list?
Not talking about Junkyard Dog or Pops-type crowd pleasers here, or who contributed most to a Raptors team, just pure, raw individual B-ball mojo, skills and talent.
Of the 140-some(?) guys who’ve worn a Dino jersey to this point, after HWSNBN, who makes your top 5?
My own list would have to include Hakeem Olajuwon, Chauncey Billups, CB4, T-Mac and Antonio Davis, pretty much in that order.
After that, wow, a lot of great players to mull over: Maybe Boogie Williams should be up there? Jose? Damon Stoudamire, Kevin Willis, J O’Neal, the Oak, Mo Pete, Alvin Robertson, maybe the Matrix and even Rod Strickland might be in the discussion.
And I can see a couple of newcomers (Hedo and Jack) making serious waves in Raps history debates before this year’s out. Or is this even a doable list?
D-Mac Ottawa P.S.
A: I’m not sure if it’s doable because it’s so highly subjective but what the heck.
Yes, Vince was – hands-down, by-a-mile, no-question-about-it – at the top of that list.
Your list is pretty good but Olajuwon was done when he got here, Chauncey was raw, I’d probably put Bosh and Tracy on mine and AD was more a worker than a gifted NBA player.
Here’s a couple who showed great raw skills, knowledge of the game and talent you might want to consider:
Marcus Camby. I know he was hurt a lot of the time but there was something about him that made me always think he’d have a good, long career.
You know who else had great, raw skill? Sean Marks. I swear he was one of the best athletes when he was here and the fact he’s still playing is a testament to that, I think.
Damon had some skills, no question about it and he’d probably crack my list, too.
Let the debate go on.
Q: List time! I know Iverson may not fit well into some of the systems/philosophies that NBA teams try to create or model themselves after, but I find it odd that a reigning league MVP and scoring champ, who still has some gas left in the tank, has yet to be resigned. Can you think of a top 5 list of players, who have credentials similar to Iverson's that struggled to resign near the tail end of their careers?
Drew F, Oshawa
A: Is there a dispute about how much he’s got left? He had career low scoring and assists numbers last year and broke down with a bad back at the end of the season, which is always a troubling sign.
But, that said, I presume someone will pick him up, if not now then during the year when things start to go sour or injuries pile up.
Five? Not sure I can get that deep with legitimate guys but how about Marbury, Steve Francis, Latrell Sprewell; those three guys did have some game but ended careers in the relative toilet.