My goodness, you people are inquisitive
Okay, this is out of control. It’s like a regular season mailbag after four straight losses and the angst level’s off the charts. But, it’s fun, I guess.
Anyway, I’ve got a deck full of three dozen or so dragon boaters and the various spouses and significant others coming by later this afternoon so I better get to the cleaning and fussing.
Have fun, I’ll get back to your comments later and I see a handful of questions that came in overnight Saturday that I’ll get to during the week.
Q: I'll make it short and sweet. Based on everything we've seen to this point, is Andrea worth 50 Million?!?!?! I say "hell nah" and you say.
A: Nobody’s “worth” $50 million, silly.
Couldn’t tell after his rookie year, no way after his second, who knows after his third but if he continues to do what he did in the second half of last season – when he might have been the third-best centre in the East – and given the salary structure of the league, I think $10 million a season will be a good investment .
Q: With rumours of a Russian billionaire buying shares with the Nets, do you see them being big players in the 2010 free agency especially if they are willing to go above the tax limit. I watch a lot of European soccer and the Premier League, there were two prime examples of how foreign billionaires changed the scope and the market of the premier league and European soccer (Manchester City and Chelsea) their willingness to spend extravagant amount of money on star players made it harder on small market teams to sign even mediocre ones.
I know the salary cap system in the NBA dictates what's the maximum a team can spend on a player, but if a rich man doesn't care about paying luxury taxes what would stop him from offering two max contracts to say LeBron and Wade (and team them up with Lopez ,Lee, Harris) which makes their team the top destination for top players with dreams to win a championship and get paid handsomely at the same time (and possibly moving to Brooklyn in 2011 since the money is available). I like the NBA's current system but I’m convinced that if foreign money floods the market the league will suffer. Your thoughts?
Rob H, Victoria
A: No, in the case you make, it’s impossible for any team to simply go out and buy the players they want if they haven’t structured their salary cap situation well enough to have “room” to make two maximum value contract offers. And that’s regardless of the wealth of the owner.
Now, down the road, if any new owner wants to pay a tax, he or she can tell their GM to make as many big-money moves as possible but that has to come through things like trades; not simply because the owner is rich.
The cautionary tale, of course, being that spending doesn’t equal winning, as anyone in New Jersey knows by looking across the river at New York.
Q: I am wondering how an NBA coaching staff typically works. What are their lines of responsibility before, during and after a game? (i.e. How is a lead assistant different than the others?). From a Raptors perspective, what does Marc Iavaroni bring to the table besides another Italian name? What are his strengths? Do you think his unsuccessful stint as a head coach at Memphis will make him a better assistant?
Angelo M, Scarborough
A: Nice cheap shot at Marc. Very cheap. Guy played more than a decade in the league (won a title as a rookie starter in Philly in ’83) coached with Mke Fratello, Pat Riley and Mike D’Antoni and has been around the game for almost 30 years.
He is known for being a rather animated assistant, primarily responsible for defensive philosophies (and learning from Riley and Fratello sure didn’t hurt) and will be given that responsibility with the Raptors.
But, yes, his name ends in a vowel.
Now, as to the other stuff: Their lines of responsibility are, frankly, somewhat blurred. I know you’ll see Iavaroni working primarily with defensive systems and assignments but other than that, the staff is mostly a consensus building team, they discuss things and the more minds and more voices for Jay to pick and listen to, the better.
As for the difference between “lead” assistant and the others, there really isn’t much.
Q: Scenario: The raptors are up by 2 points against the Lakers with 10 seconds left in the game. Who do we send in the game to guard Kobe?
Lukasz S, Toronto
If they run him off the ball, you switch everything to make it difficult for him to get off an uncontested shot.
Not having real knowledge of their individual skills, I imagine in an iso situation, it’s probably Wright or DeRozan, maybe Belinelli Best answer you can get right now.
But whoever it is will be told to try to force him one way or the other to help.
I know you probably think that’s a bailout answer but it’s fact. No one – in the entire NBA – is going to be sent in the game to guard Kobe in that situation. You set up a team defence knowing the ball’s eventually going to get to him. Maybe you start a big on him and “pre-switch” so a swingman gets to him on the inevitable screen but there isn’t “a guy” – again, on any team – to put in specifically in that situation.
>Q: Hello Doug, can you provide the latest feedback on the progress of my boy Patrick O'Bryant?
Kawit A, Australia
A: Not really actually. He’s in town working out; saw him in the ACC the other day and they hope he can find some kind of energy and effort that allows him to take advantage of his physical gifts. But, with the presence of Amir Johnson, I think O’Bryant’s probably on quite a short leash.
Q: Hi Doug, I am traveling to Ontario on Thanksgiving weekend and I am wondering if there will be any open practices being held. I've been Raptors fan for a long time and this is the first chance I have to actually see a practice or maybe a pre-season game.
Philip P, Steinbach, MB
A: There’s a pre-season game here on the Sunday afternoon of the Thanksgiving weekend, that’ll be your only shot.
Q: Doug, I was wondering about how the Referee lockout is going to play out with Canada having tougher labour laws than the US. Who are going to ref the games if the regular referees are still locked out?
Greg W, Toronto
A: This is something I have to look into a bit more on Monday when I’m back it the office. It strikes me the same issue of replacement officials and the Canadian laws came up during a major league baseball dispute with umpires years back and it was resolved.
But the short answer right now is I don’t know for certain.
Q: Do you think any team(s) benefit more than another if replacement refs are used?
Matthew S, Vaughan
A: No, I believe it will be consistently inconsistent and equally bad for all 30 teams.
Q: I do not understand how firing scouts improves a professional sports franchise's bottom line. How much are these scouts making? Even with high travel expenses and a healthy salary how can the firing of a couple scouts do anything to the Heat or any other team's margins? That's not even factoring in the possibility that once a decade they might find you a 10 million dollar player for 1 million dollars and totally negate the costs in the first place? Are the economics so bad that they just have to make whatever cuts they can, regardless of how meaningless they are, or am I wildly underestimating how much money scout earn? It sounds counter-intuitive to fire scouts when you're trying to trim the budget, since the highest cost is player salaries and they are the most valuable piece for getting savings in that regard.
Jacob A, Toronto
A: Every dollar saved is a dollar saved, I guess that’s how it works. No, it’s not a lot of money but in this day and age, anywhere you can cut without decimating the product may be necessary in some cities.
I have a lot of friends who are, or were, advance NBA scouts who were invaluable sources of information and very good men. But, and this is the argument you’ll get from teams, with every game available every night on video, specific tendencies of opponents are not hard to learn.
And, one of the things advance scouts did was get play calls to put in their reports because they always had courtside seats. Well, in most cities now, those seats are sold to fans and scouts lose their impact sitting at the top of the lower bowl with the writers.
Teams are now likely to “share” NBA scouting by combining on a series of regional employees, which is, I suppose a more cost-effective method.
Now, on college scouting? Losing the full-timers will increase the workload on the remaining staffers and part-timers that teams employ.
Q: I've been of the opinion that the NBA cap system is probably the best out there. The thing I love about it is, it curbs spending while still giving GM's enough flexibility to make transactions. From what I've been hearing (you included), the NBA wants to remove some of this flexibility such as the sign and trade. Why should the NBA want to do that? To me, the only thing that should ever matter to them is lowering the cap, the tax, or max value contracts. Otherwise, who cares who signed who to a contract and who was traded where as long as they're under the thresholds?
Damian C, Toronto
A: It is the best in all sports in my opinion, too.
It’s not sign-and-trade flexibility that’s being kicked around and likely to be clawed back.
It’s things like maximum length of contract, percentage of Basketball Related Income that will go to the players and the guarantees that go with every deal the league would like changed.
Trust me, general managers are a crafty lot, they’ll still be able to find things to do, regardless of what the new contract – which won’t take effect until 2012 at the earliest – will look like.
Q: Do you think Brian Colangelo is slightly (or greatly) concerned about guys like "hadisworld" (his twitter account name)? As you probably know, hadis(?) is Chris Bosh's business partner. In looking at this guys posts on twitter, he doesn't seem to be the ideal influence on Bosh (i.e. seemingly too much focus on girls, clubs, parties, etc.). I also see that hadis has now befriended DeRozan, who, as a rookie, could probably use more positive influences in his life. Your thoughts?
B K, Toronto
A: I think the franchise has some concerns about people who have the ear of their players, but they also know they are dealing with men who are alleged grownups and have at least a measure of confidence that the players are sheep being blindly led.
Q: I doubt it would ever happen, but wouldn't it make more sense to bring Bargnani off the bench (can you say 6th man award?)
Starters - Calderon, DeRozan, Turkolu, Bosh, Evans_key subs - Bargnani, Jack, Bellini, Nosterevic. Starting Bargnani leaves two major problems with roster:_#1 - rebounding and defence with starters_#2 - who's primary scorer with 2nd group
Bringing Andrea off bench helps with #1 (Evans better rebounder and defender) and solves #2 (hopefully)._Even without Andrea, starters have three prime scorers (Bosh, Turkolu, Calderon) and two support players (defense, rebounding)_What do you think...
Ken H, Toronto
A: No, I don’t think it makes any sense. You play your best players the most.
Q: Hey Doug - do you happen to know how many people in the Raptors' staff have 'coach' or 'assistant-coach' as part of their title? It seems to me that there are more coaches than players. If you count the head coach, the various assistant coaches, then the fitness/strength and conditioning coach, maybe a shooting coach, PG coach, and all their assistants. Do they really need that many coaches to manage a team?
Terence G, Mississauga
A: They have three assistant coaches – Marc Iavaroni, Alex English and Micah Nori – along with two assistant coaches for basketball development – Eric Hughes and Alvin Williams – with a strength and conditioning coach (Francesco Cuzzolin) and he’s got one assistant, John Lee.
It’s not really out of the ordinary in the NBA to have that many people with that many titles.
Q: I read that these 'replacement' referees work in the NBA's developmental league. Does their contract compel them to step in, (and if so, how did that happen?), or are they eager and willing scabs? Yes, I belong to a union.
Nick M, Winnipeg
A: I’m not sure of the contract wording with the D League refs, unfortunately but I can presume it includes working where they are told to work.
Eager? I cannot imagine they are eager, no.
Q: I asked this question before but worded it kind of badly. The original sign and trade for Hedo involved Douby but the hiccup meant we couldn't trade him and settled to send out Humphries.
Doesn't the NBA have a "player to be named later" type that would've allowed us to trade Douby later? That would've allowed us to keep Ukic and I think Toronto would be a stronger team with Humphries as well. We could still make the trade for Belinelli and trade Delfino for whatever else we might have wanted (needed) or maybe even sign Pops. Had that small hiccup not taken place, I think Toronto may have ended up with a slightly better team.
Eric L, Toronto
A: No, you can’t use the “player to be named later” ruse in the NBA because every trade has to fulfill requirements of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Q: If you want to get a glimpse of why there might have been friction between Bargs and the Team Italia coaches this summer watch 2 videos on Youtube: (Bargnani vs. Sweden and Bargnani vs. Czech). Both are from tune up 'friendlies' prior to the Euros. They are only highlight packages and don't tell the whole story but after watching them, you'll wonder if Bargs has learned anything about taking contact, finishing, decision making or even sealing his man. If he can play that way against Sweden then he has the potential to stink it up this winter in the NBA against top level competition.
Shawn T, Vancouver
A: Okay, so they’re “only highlight packages and don’t tell the whole story” yet you use them as a basis for your judgement of him?
Yes, that is a little dismissive and, yes, Bargnani has much to learn about playing the traditional centre position but, really, two highlights?
Is he a finished product? No. Is he Wilt or Russell or even Howard or Shaq? No.
But, really, two highlights?
For two summers now, the Raptor coaches have been working on expanding Bargnani’s game; I think it can be said he was better closer to the basket last year than he was in his second. It can also be said there’s a possibility he’s still learning.
Q: Two questions.
What is Sam Mitchell up to?
A couple of years ago I wrote to you about how I thought that Gregg Popovich had worked the refs on the sidelines during a Spurs/Raps game and ended up getting a couple of calls near the end of the game - which ultimately led to the Spurs getting extra possessions and points. The calls involved were very iffy. Your response scoffed at me. I once saw a ref change a call where Morris Peterson scored a tray and Phil Jackson said to the ref that his foot was on the line and the ref changed the call to a two pointer which only tied the game (and didn't put the Raps ahead with seconds to go). Both of these events turned games against the Raps. Do you still believe, as your response stated, that coaches have no significant impact on calls and ultimately the outcome of games?
Jay D, Alliston
A: Sam’s living the high life down in Georgia, lighting his cigars with $100 (Cdn) bills. I kid. He’s involved in a variety of business gigs in his hometown, doing fine, still hoping to land back in the NBA and I’m certain he will.
I don’t remember your question of a couple of years ago (when you get in your dotage you don’t remember a couple of days ago) so I’ll take you at your word. Look, NBA refs have, as I’ve said often, the hardest officiating job in all of sport; I guarantee you that your examples can be applied to every team in practically every game. I think coaches work officials like they do in every sport, I don’t think it works to the level you assume.
Q: When I look at a starting line up of Andre, Chris, Hedo, DeRozan and Jose, there is no doubt offensively things look promising. But as has been pointed out, nobody on the starting five is going to be all defensive team NBA in the near future. I know you've mentioned team defense is more important than individual, so I wanted to ask if you had any idea how exactly they are going to go about improving this in training camp. Also, Alvin Williams was always one of my favorite Raptor players. He certainly faced some adversity early in his raptors career. Any good stories of how he was able to handle the pressure and get things turned around?
Christopher K, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Well, I don’t have the practice plans but I have spoken often enough to Jay, Marc and the rest of the staff to know that they’ll work on such basics as slide-steps and box-out drills. They will develop a defensive philosophy – likely “no-middle” – and run drills at each practice to hammer them. They will come up with a specific manner in which they’d like to defend various screen-rolls (showing, hedging, go under, fighting through) and work on them every single day.
Whether it works? Who knows.
Alvin? He’s one of the toughest-minded players I’ve covered, he could have packed it in when Butch buried him but had enough will and confidence to keep working every day in practice to become better.
Q: You said you need mail, I’ve got a question, irrespective of the different eras they played in, who would you have on your team LeBron James or Magic Johnson?
V B, Scarborough
A: Magic. Could do more things.
Q: I enjoy your blog. Regarding the Raptors poor rebounding record, do you know if the organization employs ball boys to retrieve errant shots ( you know the ones that don't go swish!) during practice drills? It seems during games the Raptors often stand around expecting someone to hand them the ball. They must have picked up the habit somewhere! Of course on offence, five guys start back pedaling as soon as the perimeter jump shot goes up. Seriously, the team needs to rebound a lot better to have a winning season.
Gordon G, Fall River
A: During individual shooting drills? Yes. During scrimmages, no. Same as every team in all of basketball.
And, yes, they do have to improve team rebounding.
Q: A common concern with the Raptors last year was not having anyone who could break down defenders off the dribble. Which players on this year’s team can we expect to break some opponents ankles?
Trevor B, Saskatoon
A: Probably no one to satisfy everyone. I think Jack has that skill, I think a healthy Jose will be better (not great, but better), I think Belinelli might be able to and no one knows about DeRozan.
Q: Hey Doug, looking at coming to see a Raptors game this year. What are some good seats at the ACC besides the nosebleed ones.
Scott V, Truro
A: I don’t sit in the seats a lot but I have been told that there really isn’t a bad seat in the house for seeing the action. I’m told that if you can get the lower 10 or 12 rows in the 300 level, they might be the best bang-for-your-buck seat in the house.
Q: An end of summer golf question. It may be an incorrect perception, but golf seems to be bigger among hockey players than basketball players. Who among the current Raptors players and coaches plays golf with any frequency? And who had/has the best golf game among Raptor players or coaches (past and current) that you can recall. Bye the way, how's your golf game?
James M, Halifax
A: This is not a golfing group, actually. I can’t say who’d be the best now that Jason Kapono’s gone. Why aren’t more players? Some of it’s cultural – I don’t think Chris Bosh grew up with the game, I’m equally certain Rasho and Turkoglu didn’t, either.
My game? Well, it depends on how much weight I can get on the first tee. I am, usually, able to get the ball airborn.
Q: One of the things that has not been discussions about the roster make over has been from the perspective of ball handling skills. I would be interested in understanding your POV about the implications to this years team as a result of the replacement of Joey Graham, Kris Humphries; Nathan Jawai, Jamario Moon, Jake Voskuhl and Will Solomon with Marco Belinelli, DeMar DeRozan, Reggie Evans, Jarrett Jack, Hedo Turkoglu. Watching Jamario Moon, Kris Humphries, Jake Voskuhl handle the ball for more than a few dribbles were at times stressful. What is your opinion on the prospect of this team finally becoming a transition team as a result of, in my opinion, the increase in overall ball handling skills of this years team compared to last years team?
Kevin F, Toronto
A: Consider this: Transition has very little – if anything – to do with ball-handling skills. It has to do with defensive rebounding, making good, quick outlet passes, having wings fill the lanes and finish. But it stops and starts with boxing out and getting on the boards, that’s where this team has to improve significantly to be much better.
Q: Here’s a question for you or maybe a top five list. Out of all the arenas you have been to, which ones if any have the most annoying cheers. Every time I hear "Everybody clap your hands." I cringe.
Ken L, Bath
A: Can’t think of a top five since everyone seems to do the same thing and I’ve always thought they should take those infernal thunderstix and beat those “Everybody clap your hands” people over the head with them repeatedly.
I will say that if I never, ever, hear the fans in New Orleans do this “wooooo” thing they do after every Chris Paul basket, I will be a happy man.
Q: I also never found this. Really have to start with a thank you (read twice).I rarely get to see a Raptors game but still get a feel for the team in large part to you. I'm so excited that Canada qualified and truly hope you can come over.
If you do you won't find a beer to excite you but the raki is worth at least one night and I would love to take you. I liked your picks for the quarters and hope Turkey can rebound from a poor game. Since it says questions. Any chance of you responding to the VC trade comment?
Dave H, Istanbul
A: I’ve already started the process of convincing boss of the need to go to Turkey, it’ll be a long, long process.
VC trade? Just for you, last time
Rob Babcock panicked. Why? I have no real idea, maybe he thought he had to try to salvage a season, maybe he felt he had to make what he thought was a bold move. Unless you can get into his head, you can’t tell.
I said it that it that day almost five years ago and I’ll say it one last time: It was a horrible trade that made no sense.
Q: Do you know where Joey Graham has ended up? Has he been signed by anyone or is he still an RFA? Is there any chance he would be resigned by the Raps? Is he more serviceable than, say - Sonny Weems?
Or have the Raps brass passed on Joey?
Jason F, Calgary
A: Joey doesn’t have a contract nor, as I write this, a camp invite. And his time here, as I’ve been told since July, has passed.
And, actually, they didn’t tender him a qualifying offer, he’s unrestricted.
Q: Great blog. Just wondering about the demographics of the average Raptors fan. Does MLSE keep any kinds of stats? ie. number of men/women/children/ages etc.
Fran T, North Bay
A: I’m sure they do with season ticket holders, which is about the only thing they can accurately track, but they don’t share that with us.
Anecdotally, it’s a younger, quite ethnically-diverse, includes exponentially more women, and is more upscale than any other sports crowd in the city.
Q: I was wondering you could let us know who some of the best free agents left available are. Probably has no effect on the Raptors given their full roster, but might be some of that NBA content you've been talking about.
Sohail G, Collingwood
A: I guess, technically, the best left are David Lee and Nate Robinson in New York, but they seem destined to go back to the Knicks.
Other than that? There really aren’t any significant names or much talent left to be picked over.
One guy who hasn’t re-upped anywhere yet who I think would be near the top of the list is Charlotte’s Ray Felton. But he’s also restricted and there aren’t any teams out there looking to spend.
Q: How would you define ‘success’ for Hedo Turkoglu’s first season as a Raptor? Not necessarily in terms of numbers – but a ballpark would be nice. Is it more his impact on the team? His ability to create his own shot & initiate offense? (something we’ve been sorely lacking).
Ryan E, Toronto
A: The Raptors win more games than they lose, they make the playoffs and, depending on the first-round matchup, win a round. That would be a success.
On the court? If he can take some of the ball-handling and offensive-initiation duties away from Jose or Jack and allow them to be spot up shooters, that’d be a pretty big contribution.
Q: Just wondering, would the NBA ever implement a USA vs Worlds at the all star game? i think it could work with there being a lot of international stars in the NBA at this moment.
Who would be your picks for the starting lineup for each team?
Nilesh P, Ajax
A: It’s been suggested many, many times by many, many people but I have never heard of it being seriously considered. I’m sure it’s been discussed at the board level but, frankly, the problem with all-star weekend isn’t the Sunday game, it’s the Saturday night.
Parker, Manu, Dirk, Gasol and Yao for the world, I guess.
Wade, Kobe, LeBron, Duncan and Howard for the USA.
Q: Just wondering what your thoughts on the difference between the Euro-style team concept and the standard NBA one on one Super-Star style play is. Do you think a team playing the Euro-style could win it all? I know Detroit was very good playing a team style game with no star's at first but theirs was more defensive oriented.
Gary B, Richmond Hill
A: Yes, I do but not very often and it takes a special blend of player. I think Detroit is a good example of a team that didn’t run a lot of isolations but, also, the San Antonio team with Parker, Ginobili and Duncan had great individual talent that brought into a style of play that was predicated on teamwork rather than the specific skills of one player.
Q: Two questions for you, Sagacious Sultan of Slam:
1. You said your "Gatorade X-Factor" guys for this year would be DeRozan and Belinelli. But what are the chances that Amir Johnson turns into an extremely pleasant surprise? He's still a pup, he's a ball of energy and athleticism, he's playing for a new contract, and it seems like he didn't get much of a shot in Detroit. I bet he'll be counted on as a second-unit sparkplug by mid-season.
2. When Belinelli scores, will Herbie yell "Marco!" and will the crowd yell "Polo!"?
Dave C, Toronto
A: A couple of answers for you:
I don’t quite know what to make of Amir Johnson. Is he the guy Detroit thought would blossom into an excellent player two years ago or the guy who failed when given that chance? I do think he’ll be given every opportunity to unseat Patrick O’Bryant as the fifth big on the roster, and if he plays well, he might have a shot at cutting into Rasho’s minuets Or he won’t accept the challenge and be just another “could have been.”
And, no. Please, please, please, please no.
Q: Hey Doug.
Can't wait for the season. Two "inside the world of the beat grunt" questions and one about ACC game ops:
Fresh air update. How's the battle going? We're all committed to our favourite beat grunt wellness program.
Frequent flyer miles: How many miles/kms did you put on covering the Raps last season?
Okay, so they've got the gourmet hot dogs. Any word on REAL halftime entertainment this season? I enjoy watching the mini hoopsters from time to time, but miss the unicycle acrobat flipping bowls onto her head and her friends.
Wilber L, Toronto
A: The fresh air situation is, um, cloudy. It’s hard, very hard and there’s been some slippage. Not as much, but some.
And, you know, I don’t know about my mileage because it’s split between a zillion different airlines and hard to track. It was a lot.
I don’t know anything about halftimes, sadly; I know last year it was quite disappointing, or so I was told. I want more “Quick Change.” And the dogs, love the dogs.
Q: Hi Doug.
I was reading an article about the NJ Nets Brooklyn project and it got me thinking. I've been following the Phoenix Coyotes Trial that might see the team end up in Hamilton (which apparently is part of the Leafs territory) and so I was wondering what if any effect does the Nets possibly playing in Brooklyn have on the Knicks. I mean I know they were already really close in NJ, but being in Brooklyn seems as though it would be a lot easier and more desirable for New Yorkers to go see a game. Would the Knicks receiving any type of compensation? Did/will this move have to be approved through a vote by the owners? Or is it just a different thing all together because of the relative little distance of the move and the teams already being so close?
Mike M, Toronto
A: No, given the geography that currently exists, and the league bylaws, the Knicks would get nothing. Now, they may ask, but they’ll be turned down, I’m told by people I’ve asked.
Q: A weird and confusing question here:
How can you tell the difference between: 'a game that your team won because they were better' and 'a game that your team won because the other team didn't try'?
Mary L, Ajax
A: Not weird at all, but very, very hard to answer. I think the easiest way is to say you build up a baseline of information on individual players and teams with regard to effort, consistency, work ethic and the like. And then, when you see them, you apply that information to see how hard they are working each night, given vagaries like travel, scheduling (is it their fourth game in five nights) and nagging injuries.