Here's a bunch of mail to start your day
Well, we culled a wee bit and got this down to about 60 per cent of what appeared last week. Still lots, though.
I bet it’s more than enough to keep you busy until 3 when the in-game portion of a long Sunday unfolds.
See you then
Q: There was an article today in the NYT regarding the NBA's launch on its website of a "Video Rule Book". I followed the link and spent way too much time watching video replays (the NBA turned off the audio portion turned so as not to confuse!) illustrating fouls, penalties and all manner of other game violations. Have you had a chance to look at this?
Do you think it is a useful educational tool? Or do you think in part it was designed (and launched at this particular time)to generate some fan understanding of the difficulty of the task at hand for The Replacements Referees?
The article also goes on to say the league has encouraged referees to be "more accessible" to reporters to explain contested calls. Have you ever been able to interview a referee about such a call? Is there any media access to referees post game?
Lorie P, London
A: I have seen it and think it’s quite good, actually. Each year during the pre-season, or right at the start of the season, the referees would hold sessions with the writers and broadcasters in each city to go over the points of emphasis for the coming season, along with any rule changes and what they might mean. We haven’t had that this year – and I doubt we will – but it’s kind of like what they’ve put on line now.
And, yes, referees are supposed to be more available to writers this year but I’ll believe that when I see it. The rule is we have to ask, through the home team’s PR staff, for comment on a rule interpretation from the crew chief. He, or she if it’s Violet Palmer, aren’t obligated to speak but we’re told they are being encouraged to be more open. We can’t, though, as for interpretation of any subjective ruling – like a foul, for instance.
Q: I am a HUGE Jose fan, and love the dimes and his unselfish play. He is the ultiamte teammate, and use him as an example for many young players to follow. He has shown he can penetrate and shoot. But can the Raps be a contender if Jose doesn't step it up to be a legit 18 - 20 pt scorer like a Tony Parker? Was his preseason shooting just rust, or do you see him maybe taking a step back in scoring?
Marc I, Waterloo
A: This is classic.
Pre-season shooting rust? He’s shooting a high percentage from the field (51.6-49.7), from three-point range (41.7-40.6) and the free throw line (1.000-98.1) than he did last season. We should all be so rusty.
His assist to turnover ratio (if you take that first game in London out of the mix because it was his first game in five months with a host of new and unfamiliar teammates so I’m giving him a pass on it) is 6-1. He hasn’t committed more than one turnover in any of the last five games.
But, no, he doesn’t have to score 18-20 points a game at all, given the presence of Bosh, Bargnani and Turkoglu. They’ll do the scoring, he’ll do what he does best, set ‘em up and run the stuff.
Q: Hi Doug: Really like your idea to lower prices for exhibition games - it would be so great for many, especially in a city like Hartford during such a hard economic time. Incidentally, Hartford baseball fans divide 50-50 between Red Sox and Yankees with a small nod to Sox. Wonder how those Sox fans feel about Yankees advancing to Division Playoffs.
Q: How do coaches get big name players to feel good about sharing best shot opportunities? The Celtics used "player legacy - win a championship before you retire" - a smart technique for older players - two years ago to get their Big 3 to cooperate. But 2 of our Big 3 are younger: what determines how well they'll share? Coaching? The players character? Winning-losing? What a challenge when players have so much reason these days to seek best personal stats.
A: I hate to sound crass or something but it’s usually very simple: Money and fame.
Most players are concerned about what they’ll make, what their next contract would be and, on many occasions, if a coach says, “Hey, look, you got your money, now how about winning some games as a team?” it will work. Conversely, some coaches will use the old: “Hey, they don’t pay losers, if you want a good deal, get some wins under your belt.”
That sounds a bit cynical, I’m sure, but I’ve heard coaches use that philosophy.
But it’s also character, personality and chemistry.
If you have good men who realize the reason they play games is to win and it doesn’t matter how that’s accomplished, for if you have a group that likes each other and basks in the glory of a teammate as much as themselves, that goes a long way towards instilling the type of “team-first” attitude good squads have.
It’s a huge challenge for coaches, far more than coming up with some variation of the four or five plays that every team in the basketball universe uses and it’s usually what separates good coaches from not-so-good.
Q: Doug, good work.
Not sure if you addressed this yet but has BC given you any indication if he would be picking up Belinelli's 2010 option?
I have high hopes for Marco from all of the Youtube clips I have seen of his exploits but I have been somewhat underwhelmed by the little bits of him that I have seen in exhibition play.
Rene L, Winnipeg
A: I spoke to Bryan about this a week or so ago. They do have until Oct. 30 to exercise that option and are currently mulling it over. But because it’s so relatively cheap, $2.372 million, I fully expect they will pick it up. And he has been underwhelming, but it’s only been six exhibition games, I wouldn’t worry too much about it; I think he’ll be fine.
Q: I was listening to Kobe being interviewed on the Dan Patrick show last week. Dan asked him what the most significant trade was in the off-season outside of the Lakers, and Kobe said it was Cleveland's acquisition of Anthony Parker. Dan challenged him on this, but Kobe was quite adamant that Parker brought a veteran presence into the locker room, as well as the ability to defend his position, and hit the 3 when required. Kobe said not to understate the importance of that on a championship calibre team.
In your opinion, who were the key acquisitions made that could propel teams over the top?
Mark L, Abbotsford
A: I think AP’s going to be a very solid addition in Cleveland, especially now with questions about how much – or maybe even if – Delonte West will play. So, right now, I’d put him as the key addition in the East.
In the West, I think hands down it’s Richard Jefferson in San Antonio and the one that’s flying under the radar is Antonio McDyess with the Spurs as well.
Q: Hi Doug. This question may have been asked 10,0000 times before. Please excuse me if it has. Are the Raptors practices ever open to the public?
Thanks so much for your time.
Sandra R, Ajax
A: I’m not sure if it’s been asked or not, so please don’t worry about that
The answer, though, is no. The one thing they do – and have already done – is host a Read To Achieve shootaround for kids.
The public, and the writers, never get a chance to see a full practice.
Q: Hi Doug,I noticed that a number of folks (Matt Devlin, Adnan Virk, Paul Jones, etc) were wearing pink ribbon ties on Sunday's pre/postgame broadcasts on RaptorsTV as part of MLSE's 'Pink Ribbon Weekend'.
Would you happen to know where the ties can be purchased?
Diana T, Mississauga.
A: I’ve asked around and the best I can come up with is if you go to the team’s website and click on the Teams Up Foundation link, there’s a Breast Cancer Awareness auction icon that would be the only place to check.
Q: Love the blog, love the in-game stuff you run. One question I had was since you now run the live in-game blog, what if there was a scenario like what happened in Atlanta a couple years back where the score was incorrectly updated occurred and a reader of the blog caught it and brought it to your attention? Would you be obliged to let the team know? Or would journalistic integrity force you to remain removed from affecting the potential outcome of the game?
Just curious as now we have hundred of fans every game watching from home with a "direct" line to someone sitting near the scorer's table.
Thanks and keep up the good work.
Steven T, Winnipeg
A: Obliged? No, not at all. But if it became an integral part of the story, I’d ask someone about it and see where that led us.
But, trust me, if that happened, the people noticing wouldn’t just tell me. In this day and age of instant communication by team staff during games, they’d find out on their own, I would imagine.
Q: Is it just me or are Toronto sports fans a little insane? Reading some posts on this & other sites you'd think we were losing a playoff series or on a 10 game losing streak!
But onto my real question. When the season starts what should we expect from Antoine Wright? I know he won't be starting, but I haven't seen him play at all so I'm interested to hear your opinion.
Love your reading your writing keep up the good work Doug.
Bill V, Toronto
A: I haven’t seen him play, either. But from what I’ve been told about the week of practices he did take part in during training camp, he’s a very good perimeter defender who had a hard time making a shot on offence. That’s not quite as troublesome giving how early it was.
People in Dallas whose opinions I respect say he’s a guy willing to take on difficult defensive assignments.
Insane? In a delightfully “this is the end of the world” kind of way sometimes? Yeah.
Q: In your opinion, has Bosch's added bulk affected his jumper? I arrived early last night at the ACC and watched him practice with one of the assistants, his stroke was terrible. He shot less than 40% on 15-17 footers from the baseline and elbow with no hands in his face. I must say, he looks good down low.
Andrew T, Toronto
A: In my opinion, no, it hasn’t. Although he hasn’t taken too many so far and I wouldn’t put any stock in watching a guy shoot in practice before the second game of a back-to-back.
Q: My wife and I were at Thursday's game against the Rockets. We were lucky enough to get some lower bowl tickets and had a great view of the game. Lots of questions swirling in my head about how the Raptors will play this year but the most crucial one in my mind is, why does Marco Belinelli play with his mouth guard half hanging out of his mouth? Does the league mandate their use or is it the player's choice?
Sean D, Toronto
A: He tells me it’s just a habit he’s gotten into; a pretty weird one, but I guess it’s something you can just get used to.
The league doesn’t mandate mouthguards but I don’t imagine there are too many players who don’t wear them.
Q: Often when teams face a large amount of personnel turnover during the summer, coaches get creative with team building exercises and social gatherings outside of practice to build unity off the court. Do you know of anything in particular behind basketball that Jay and the staff have done to bring this group of relative strangers together and begin to build a sense of cohesion and chemistry?
Dave G, Toronto
A: You mean like a game of dodgeball or something? That works wonder, no?
No, they haven’t done any zany team-bondings like special outings or events; they do eat together and hung out a lot in meeting rooms during the Ottawa part of camp but nothing out of the ordinary.
Q: Hi Doug, I would first like to pass my condolences to you and your family, I have read your work since Nothing But Inter-net days. Your TMI, and other personal stories, makes the entire blog a little bit more human than just a guy writing about basketball.
On to the question: one thing that strikes me on pre-season is how no one runs their "stuff", within a few games of the regular season every team know what the other team is doing anyways; so is it not more important for the Raptors to run what they want for more familiarity?
Also the true contenders for the championship all seem to be over the tax threshold, will the NBA become more and more about buying a contender rather than building one and hope to keep your own players?
Kevin V, Waterloo
A: It is a bit of the element of surprise, if you steal a win in the first week or so because some new set works well, that’s a bonus. It goes particularly for late-game situations, one-possessions situations and things like out-of-bounds plays.
That said, you’ll see teams revert to their usual stuff later in the pre-season in small doses; I’m sure the Raptors will run some high screen-roll action with Turkoglu and someone regularly in the final two games just to do it at full speed.
Q: Doug, Whenever people talk about playing Jack and Calderon at the same time, it's always assumed Jack will be the 2 spot. Why?
They're both about the same size, if anything Calderon looks bigger...and Calderon had trouble guarding quick point guards last year, so wouldn't it make sense to have Calderon guard the bigger but slower 2's?
I know my logic is wrong for some reason but was hoping you could point out why.
Jim T, Toronto
A: Call ‘em whatever you want but there will be times when Jose’s guarding the bigger of the two guards for sure.
Q: Hey Doug. How are the new players reacting to Jay's defensive system? Do they think it is new and effective, do they think it is new and useless, or do they think it is the same as their old systems?
Dwayne M, Waterloo
A: Well, if they thought it was useless, I don’t think they’d tell me.
But it’s not “new” in the sense that no team has ever tried to shrink the court on defence; it’s a renewed emphasis here.
They’re fine with it; they just have to implement it well.
Q: I'm thinking that it's going to take a good couple months for us to see some chemistry in terms of team D. Something even Jay eluded to on the radio. All the top defensive teams in the league have a group of core players that have been together for 2+ years. Boston, Orlando, etc. That being said, I don't have a problem with a slow start, say 7-13, but do you agree that we will see the Raptors get written off by the casual fan?
Oh and, Last game against Houston in the 1st half. When Weems missed the wide open dunk after a second consecutive steal, He's out of the game on the next whistle. Message from Jay?
David C, North York
A: Weems came out because he tweaked his foot either during that play or when he got dunked on during the subsequent Houston possession.
Q: Hey Doug, I heard Jack Armstrong on the FAN 590 yesterday responding to a question from the Bobcat and John Shannon regarding the "lack of buzz" surrounding the Raptors this year.
This question surprised me, especially given that ticket sales were doing well and the blogs have been abuzz since the Turkoglu masterstroke by BC. Do you agree that there is less buzz this year, or is this just another case of the pucks-focused media not being in tune with the Raptors younger, more new-media savvy fanbase?
Sean K, Ottawa
A: I’m not sure there’s a lack of buzz but there is, compared to last year at this time, a lack of expectations. After being burned by the failed Bosh-O’Neal tandem, I think lots of fans are – quite rightfully -- taking a “wait and see” attitude, which isn’t unexpected at all.
Maybe that’s what they were referring to as the lack of buzz.
Q: Hi Doug, how are the preseason games determined? Is it based on the Division opponents? I noticed we have Sixers, Celtics and Timberwolves twice this preseason. Does the team have choice who they want to play or it's all dictated by the NBA?
Eulysses C, Scarborough
A: Teams do set up their own pre-season schedules, usually up to a year in advance. I know the Raptors are now trying to figure out where they might go in 2010.
Sometimes, it’s a matter of one team saying to the other, “hey, if you come to our place for a pre-season, we’ll come to yours” or, in the case of Philly this year, it just made sense to move on down the 401 one night after playing in the Sixer-owned arena in London.
And sometimes, it’s part of deals. Like, you take this bad contract, we’ll take that less-bad contract and we’ll come to your place for a pre-season game sometime in the next couple of years. That, of course, can’t factor into trades as part of them meeting salary cap obligations, but I’m sure it goes on.
Q: I kind of asked this in Wednesday's live in-game blog, but it didn't make it - WHAT'S UP WITH THAT MAN???? :>)
But seriously, from a coaching point of view, what is the purpose of these pre-season games? What are they looking for (other than, "PLEASE don't get hurt!") What's the benefit to the team?
Tim H, Windsor
A: Mainly to find out what works and what doesn’t with things like playing combinations -- is there enough offence if Johnson and Evans play together, can Jose and Jack defend backcourts well enough at the same time).
Oh, and to stay healthy.