It’s Opening Day!
No, it doesn’t quite resonate like baseball – we all know that time begins on Opening Day, at least that’s what the book title says – but there’s still a large measure of anticipation, is there not?
I will tell you this: Every team in every city thinks this morning that if they catch some breaks and play their best, this could turn out to be a magical season.
It won’t, of course, and that kind of unbridled enthusiasm and confidence is actually quite unrelated to reality, but who are we to dash the dreams of so many players.
That’s the one great thing about sports: You really don’t know until they play the games who’s going to win. Every night, in every sport, there’s a result that makes you go “holy crap, did the Leaves actually win a game!”
Toss it up, let ‘em play, sit back and enjoy. You never know for sure what will transpire. And that’s the fun of it.
Let’s address this tired old storyline now instead of waiting until tomorrow.
Yes, Shaq killed the Raptors out in Phoenix last year and, yes, he ran his mouth about Bosh after the game.
(Shaq running is mouth is akin to the sun coming up, to tell you the truth).
Yes, it made for one mildly interesting day of copy; it is not an issue today, nor will it be tomorrow.
Frankly, Shaq’s killed Kobe, Stan Van Gundy, and Dwight Howard in the past, I think Bosh should be honoured to be in such company.
Anyway, the seamheads have Manny Being Manny; we’ve got Shaq Being Shaq.
As I said, mildly interesting months ago, snore-inducing at the moment, as Bosh said.
“I don’t care. I don’t care … You just play basketball. Everybody can talk back and forth all day, I can sit up here and say stuff but I mean at the end of the day, it’s what happens on the court.”
While I’ll be at Casa Doug dispensing some kind of Halloween loot to urchins who will drive Super Dog batty on Saturday night, I presume more than a few thousand young hipsters will be at the Air Canada Centre taking in the Jay-Z concert.
Hmm, let me get this straight.
Jay-Z, big hoops fan, who has an investment in a team, plays concert.
Members of Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic unquestionably will be in attendance.
Early Sunday afternoon game the next day.
Oh yeah, I bet we're in for some delightfully un-intense play in that one.
I’m sure you all read with great anticipation the big NBA preview package we had in the newspaper today, right?
You’ve probably also noticed there wasn’t the goofy predictions package that usually goes with such things?
Well, that’s at least a little because we needed to save a little bit of something for here, and for Grunt TV.
So, for now, let’s do this, in part because Eric Smith asked me to do it for his blog over at Raptors.com and I said I would.
(I think you’ll see a bunch of stuff from him today and tomorrow, you should check it out)
Kobe, LeBron, LeBron, Kobe?
Seems like a two-horse race again, doesn’t it?
I gotta go with LeBron.
Rookie of the year
This seems to be quite an underwhelming class at the moment and the best player, Blake Griffin, may not start opening night because he’s hurt.
I guess you have to go with him, kind of by default.
But don’t sleep on Tyreke Evans, okay?
(Oops, just saw a story that says Griffin’s on the shelf for six weeks with a stress fracture; let’s go with Evans, all right?)
Rasheed Wallace might be the sexy pick at the moment but it’d be wrong.
I’m going back to my man Manu.
(And I don’t imagine Allen Iverson will be in the running).
Coach of the Year
Ah, never mind.
Because I’m all about the Spurs this year, I’d love to say Gregg Popovich.
But you know who might sneak in? Scott Brooks in Oklahoma City.
Let’s go with him.
Now, Eric wants some other stuff, too, so we’ll expand this a little bit.
Most Improved Player
A total, absolute guess says folks will like Greg Oden. Me? I kind of like Jeff Green.
Defensive player of the year
Voters are silly, they’ll see shots blocked and rebounds and give it to Dwight Howard again. And who am I to argue with silly.
Okay, that’s it for here.
For the conference winners and NBA champs, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
And for Raptor-specific stuff, you’ll have to wait a day.
Hey, remember last week when Chris Bosh was going all Norma Desmond on us with the TV shoot that looked like a movie production post-practice that one day?
Well, Jose Calderon and DeMar DeRozan were at it yesterday.
The production values seemed a bit lower but they were filming some kind of commercial or public service announcement or something involving tossing an empty Coke can back and forth and then shooting it at a basket.
(Someone said they thought the bit had to do with recycling, which makes sense to me).
I remember when basketball practice used to be about basketball.
Ah, the good old days.
Not sure how many of you were breathlessly reading the news release out by the team yesterday that said Sonny Weems, Quincy Douby and Reggie Evans were on the inactive list for opening night.
Well, that’s not exactly true.
While I expect that’s what will end up happening – Weems went to see a specialist yesterday after suffering a foot injury on Sunday – no team had to declare its inactive list until an hour before game time.
Why the league insists teams do it at 6 p.m. on the Monday before the season starts is a mystery to some.
All right, a little scheduling note to let you know what we’ve got planned here for game days this season to satisfy what seems to be an insatiable thirst for Raptors news and NBA news and what we in the biz like to call “content” these days.
Starting tomorrow, if all things go according to Hoyle (google that phrase, kiddies), we’ll start each game day with the usual blog, do a GruntTV spot just after shootaround to set up that night’s action, then we’ll have a quick 45-minute chat at 4 p.m. Eastern time to answer questions about that night’s game, and maybe whatever else is cooking around the league. The usual in-game blog follows and then it’s off to write for the newspaper.
I tell ya, you’re gonna be sick of me by American Thanksgiving.
Have a lovely day.
Everyone have a nice weekend? Good weather in these parts, lots of work probably got done around the house. And now we can settle in for a really fun week of actual basketball that matters.
Sounds pretty good, no?
Until then, this stuff matters.
We were discussing Marco Belinelli in a scrum with Jay yesterday afternoon while the struggling backup swingman was over on the other side of the gym getting in some extra shooting.
In the course of that discussion, Jay hit on a very key point when it was pointed out to him that they desperately need Belinelli to find his stroke, and quickly.
“We need him to be a key because we don’t have a lot of points in that second unit.”
He’s exactly right, of course. Jarrett Jack’s probably going to score a little bit and you have to think Antoine Wright’s going to get better offensively as he gets more used to playing at game speed but after that, what?
Rasho and Amir Johnson? Methinks not.
And that’s why Jay’s been saying one of his goals in his rotation, barring foul trouble and injury that is, is to have two of his four main guys – Calderon, Turkoglu, Bosh and Bargnani – on the floor at all times.
It’ll be interesting to see if he’s able to accomplish that goal because having five non-starters on the court at the same time isn’t the greatest of ideas.
Speaking of Marco, this is a pretty big week for him.
And Quincy Douby, too.
As some know, the Raptors have until the end of the month to exercise a 2010-11 contract option on Belinelli. If they pick it up, his deal worth $2,372,542 becomes fully guaranteed for next year; if they don’t, he’s a restricted free agent.
I expect Bryan to pick it up, it’s not a huge number, I’m sure he factored it into the equation when he obtained him in the summer.
Douby’s an entirely different case.
His deal has a couple of different plateaus to become fully guaranteed. Not sure of the exact dollar amounts – people haven’t been entirely forthcoming – but the next plateau is if he’s on the roster at the end of the month. The next big date is Jan. 10, when all contracts become guaranteed for the rest of the season.
How, the total money on the deal isn’t big – I understand it’s the minimum – so I’m not sure that’s the biggest worry. What might come into consideration, though, is whether they want an extra roster spot open just in case.
But, then again, if it’s not a lot of cash and a chance to make some deal comes up between now and January and they need an extra spot, they could just waive him at that point.
Quincy’s a good kid, well liked by his coaches and teammates, so I imagine they keep him around, too.
This might be one of best the line of the pre-season. From a scrum yesterday discussing the combination of atrocious outside shooting and sloppy ball-handling the other night in Sioux Falls:
Hedo: “I know we didn’t shoot the ball well, we were like two-for-something from the three.”
Hedo: “We could be like 2-for-40, if we didn’t make the turnovers.”
But, seriously folks, word from them yesterday was that they were quite happy with the shots they got the other night, just quite perplexed with how many open looks they missed.
I recall thinking in the first half that they did have some open looks that went awry and I’m sure I mentioned an air-balled open three-pointer by Bargnani that was entirely out of character.
So maybe they have a point but it would behoove them to get those shots in the basket because I don’t care if you’re playing The Sisters Of The Poor, you shoot 2-for-20 from downtown, you lose.
Since I cannot in all good conscience ever think about cheering for The Evil Empire, go Phils!
Seriously, better hitting up and down the roster, a pretty good staff and if they can keep the Arsonist Lidge from imploding a game or two, why can’t they win.
Know what I hate?
No, not those ones. The ones that fall from the four giant maples in my backyard and the huge white birch in the front.
Seriously, I know they’re good for the atmosphere and provide shade and are nice to look at and yada, yada, yada, blah, blah, blah, but man, there’s a lot of them.
Personal digression ended.
Canada Basketball’s got that really cool fund-raiser tomorrow night, the Canadian debut of the LeBron James documentary and a raft of sweet items to auction off to raise some money to ease the burden of having to send teams to all four FIBA world championships next year.
The website, which is here, has the 411.
(Is that still a cool saying?)
The Raptors, like every team in the league, I imagine, are sick of the sickies.
Jarrett Jack and Antoine Wright had to miss practice yesterday because they were under the weather – Alex English had to stay home, too – and the precautionary way teams deal with flu bugs this year must really frustrate coaches.
Of course, being extra careful in this age of H1N1 makes entire sense and the league has mandated any player with any sign of flu should be told to stay away from team and get tested.
But, still, as Jay said …
“In the past, guys would come in and we’d evaluate them and think maybe it’s better to go up and sweat it out or not. Now, we’re trying to stay away from guys spreading it.”
Oh yeah, make sure you tune in here tomorrow. We’ve got the big NBA preview package going in tomorrow’s paper – it’ll be on-line overnight – but there’ll be some extra added bonuses like predictions that you can only get in this space.
And, who knows, you might even see some other special stuff.
Everyone calmed down from Friday night? Ready to build some angst before Wednesday? Maybe this will distract you for a while.
Q: Hi Doug. Curious, what was the pre-season record of the 06/07 Raptors?
I'm reading a fair amount of "the sky is falling" response to our current pre-season record. So I thought, well, maybe the closest comparison would be to the last time there was a wholesale change to the roster. I've tried searching, but can seem to find it. Can you dredge it up?
And based on what you find, is it a reasonable/fair comparison? Seems to me that it could possibly be slow start, but may be potential to grow as the season goes on.
What I don't know is... are the schedules/opponents comparable, etc.
Kate C, Toronto
A: Oh, boy. I’m afraid it’s going to feed in the level of hysteria that’s out there. They went 7-1 in that pre-season, rattling off seven straight wins before losing in Chicago. Beat Cleveland, sans LeBron twice, Boston before the Big Three twice and won over an Israeli club team, but still …
Anyway, the dose of reality comes when it’s pointed out they began that season losing eight of their first 10, including six in a row on a western road trip that’s a lot like the first month they’ll have this time around.
They didn’t get back to the .500 level until Jan. 26, when they beat Boston to go 22-22.
The pre-season record notwithstanding, I can see many similarities. They have a bear of a schedule to start and there’s no reason to think they won’t be far below .500 maybe 15 or 20 games into the season.
And if you think the sky is falling now, wait until the first five-game losing streak of the regular season.
Q: Doug, based on BC's comments the Raps expect a significant contribution from Marco Belli off the bench. But he only played about 8 minutes in Friday's game. Why did he not play more? Is he one of the guys who is still not buying into the defensive system - and therefore not playing much until he does?__And I have to say that, overall, the bench has been underwhelming.
Paul M, Ottawa
A: He didn’t play more because he wasn’t playing well and they wanted to give as many minutes as possible to Antoine Wright, who needed them more than Belinelli.
Yes, he has been underwhelming, no question there. Can he be better? I think he can but if he doesn’t play better in practice, he’s going to find himself further down the depth chart.
Q: Oh man, Doug, are you ever right about shooting 3's._Did you see_http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/sports/basketball/18threes.html?scp=1&sq=30%20years%20three%20point%20shot&st=cse
Wow. I had no idea abt. these %'s and the simple fact that on average a team that cannot shoot 60% 2's (and none can) cannot defeat teams that get up around 35-40% 3's. So the next time Jose is sent to the corner for the three point shot we will all know why!
Q: Is it starting to look as if a poor lot of 3 pt shooters may be our Achilles heel this season?
Charles N, Toronto
A: Oh yeah, the three-point shooting to now has been horrific, 24.4 per cent is simply abysmal. But I’m not sure an eight-game sample is large enough to judge anything definitively.
However, I’ve been inundated with e-mails of people suggesting this team is going to be the worst three-point shooting team ever off that eight-game sample.
So, I will point out that I’d rather look at a career perspective than one pre-season and I can be secure in saying I expect Jarrett Jack (1-15) to be closer to his 322-game percentage of 34 than he is; I expect Andrea Bargnani (8-25 now in eight games) to gravitate to his career 38 per cent effectiveness and I know for certain they will suggest to DeMar DeRozan (3-11) that shooting three-pointers is not in his, or his team’s, best interest.
I can also say with absolute certainty that in the next 10 games Quincy Douby (0-6), Sonny Weems (1-5) and Marcus Banks (2-5) won’t post those numbers because they won’t play enough to get up those shots.
So, yes, they cannot shoot very well right now; if it persists for eight or 10 regular season games, it will be an issue. I don’t think it will.
Q: Hey Doug,_how about a top five two way players in Raptors history, based on their time with the Raptors.
David S, Toronto
A: Ah, man, you know I’m going to forget someone on this list for sure, right? So, here goes
Q: Doug, caught a bit of the Orlando-Chicago preseason game on Monday and what stuck out for me was how far down the players now have to sit as they continue to add "Nicholson" seats. The Bulls were practically on the baseline. How do players and coaches feel about being so removed from the game?
Derek B, Toronto
A: I caught a bit of that, too, and all I can say is that it’s a sign of the times. I imagine there’ll come a time when the entire bench, except for perhaps coaches are at or beyond the baseline.
And no player I’ve ever talked to has had an issue about it, really. They’re still “in the game” so to speak.
Luckily, Saturday’s an off-day for them. And me.
Mail on Sunday as usual, though, and we’re a bit light on the submissions.
THREE THINGS I LEARNED
They still can’t shoot well.
I don’t care what kind of defence you play or what kind of inside presence you have, if you shoot 2-for-20 from three-point range, you are not going to win a basketball game, no matter who the opposition is.
The three-point inefficiency was troubling last night – one of the two three-pointers was a heave from about 35 feet by Jack to beat the third quarter buzzer so it was a fluke – and it’s been a bit of a bubbling issue all camp.
Now, I think a team with Bargnani and Calderon and, to a degree, Turkoglu, is going to shoot threes well eventually but it certainly wasn’t part of the attack against Minnesota.
Bargnani was, for him, entirely out of sorts, missing all four of his attempts. He even fired up an airball on a relatively uncontested three and I can’t remember him ever doing that.
Will the shooting come around? The law of averages would seem to say it has to. But if 2-for-20 pops up again, they will lose again.
Bosh rounding into form?
That was by far Bosh’s best game, and he pulled off a statistical feat we need to pay closer attention to, I think.
An old hoops columnist, one C. Young, used to track this stat and it’s pretty cool.
He called it, and I shall call it, the Big Man’s Triple Double and it come about when a power forward or centre has double figures in points, rebounds and trips to the free throw line.
Bosh was 27. 14, and 11-for-12 last night which is damn good.
Most impressive was one bucket in the third quarter when he got a defensive rebound, outlet the ball to Jack, sprinted down the floor, beat his man to the paint, took a lovely lead pass over the shoulder from Jack and finished with an and-one.
That was probably his best play of the night.
Do they have more?
The one thing that’s indisputable about pre-season basketball is that it’s played at a far lower level of intensity than the regular season.
And as I’ve watched these guys for the past six games, I’m wondering if they have that extra gear ready to kick in?
There were times of great lethargy in a couple of the most recent outings and I don’t know if the young guys – like DeRozan or Johnson primarily because they’re young ‘uns who are going to play – know how high they have to turn it up starting Wednesday.
And now, for the rest of the story:
Okay, this is weird.
I’m hanging out with a bunch of guys in this swinging Sioux Falls hotspot (okay, it was a Buffalo Wild Wings but it was across the parking lot from the hotel and it had good TVs) and I saw something I’ve never, ever, ever seen done before with beer.
(This may catch some of you by surprise, but I know my way around a pint so when I make a brash statement like that, it’s significant).
Anyway, I look down the bar and this dude’s got a glass of beer and there are olives in it.
I kid you not.
So, being the intrepid reporter that I am, I ask the Comely Bar Wench what in tarnation is going on and she tells me it’s what they do in that part of the world and there’s nothing strange or quirky or off-putting or weird about it.
This is about the time in the proceedings when I point you in the direction of how the fishwraps in the other city covered the game.
Well, seeing how not one single reporter from Minneapolis – or St. Paul for that matter – made the trip, that linking stuff isn’t going to happen.
Soupy Sales died and no one told me?
Shame on you.
This is a good story. For a good cause.
If Patrick O’Bryant gets 2,500 followers on his twitter thingy, the Raptors foundation (which isn’t exactly the Raptors foundation any more; it’s now part of some conglomerate of foundations for the whole Maple Leaf Sports “family”) will get more than $5,000.
It’s kind of like the E. Koreen faux-hawk thing. Started small with some people deciding to raise money if that number of followers flocked to Patrick, it grew and then he decided to kick in a rather large chunk of cash himself if the goal was reached.
I’m told by a regular contributor T. Liston that if you go here, you’ll get some details.
I spend all that time in Sioux Falls and not once did I see a shrine or a statue dedicated to our own Sherm Hamilton, who once got to spend two delightful weeks there after being drafted by the then-CBA franchise in town.
Wireless issues and I’ve got to get back to figuring out these time zone things, might take a while.
I have it on pretty good authority that Antoine Wright won’t start tonight, he’ll be one of the first guys off the bench in his pre-season debut.
Guess that makes sense since they’ve spent a few games trying to get some cohesion with the first unit and it might not be the best idea to mess that up for one game.
And, because I’m virtually certain that DeMar DeRozan will be in the starting lineup come Wednesday night, the more he gets to play with Calderon, Turkoglu, Bosh and Bargnani, the better.
What else do we get tonight?
I figure no time at all for the end-of-the-bench guys like Douby, Banks and O’Bryant and I wonder how much time there’ll be for Sonny Weems.
If Jay’s serious about tightening his rotation – and tonight’s the only chance he’s going to do that – he’s got to use nine, maybe 10 guys tonight.
And without Evans, who would be an integral part of the rotation, it’s even tightened further.
The Timberwolves – who are really, really, really bad, by the way – aren’t at all big and strong so I would think this would be a night for Amir Johnson rather than Rasho Nesterovic.
That’s too bad in one regard: When they get to Wednesday and the big Cavs, Rasho’s going to have to play.
Hey, what’s a guy supposed to do for food around here, Amir?
“It was pretty good, Sioux Falls kind of grows on you, there’s not too much to do (but) the fans are great. The food was great, actually, the roadhouse had these buttermilk biscuits that were great.”
Classic. Guy spends three months in this backwater and all he remembers is a no-name roadhouse and its biscuits.
Ian Thomsen killed with this Isiah story on the Magic Johnson book that’s coming out soon.
Interesting, to say the least, because there was a school of thought that figured the two were still pretty tight.
I haven’t read Jackie’s book yet – if the publisher’s out there, send the review copy to my office, please – and I don’t have any first-hand knowledge of the Magic-Isiah relationship but I bet it’s very complicated.
I got to know Isiah pretty well in his years here and we stayed in touch a bit when he moved on to Indy and New York. He’s a very, um, intriguing guy. I sure wouldn’t want to be on his bad side because I think he can be quite cut-throat if necessary.
This latest episode speaks to the complicated relationships he’s got with lots of people, I think. And, frankly, it might have something to do with selling books, too.
Speaking of EMTs, there’s a meeting or convention or something of the South Dakota Emergency Medical Technicians going on in this hotel and as I’m standing outside I see the Crimson Fire Department’s here because it’s truck is parked just outside.
Which makes a guy think, what if there’s a fire in Crimson?
Oh yeah, don’t forget we’re chatting today at noon (your time) to set up tonight’s game and go over some of the pre-season shenanigans with these fellows.
Chuck, the nice gentleman who provided transport from the airport here last night, let me know it’s snowed here three times already this year, it’s been very wet and it’s a bad, bad thing.
“They can’t get the beans out of the ground.”
Being the intrepid reporter I am, I was wondering what the heck he was talking about and I discover there are thousands and thousands of acres of soya beans in the state that can’t be harvested because the ground’s too wet.
But dry weather’s coming, Chuck says, so they should be all right.
Man, the stuff you learn by tuning in here is amazing, isn’t it?
Back to the Raptors, Jay was taking a whole lot of pressure off Andrea yesterday.
“I don’t think we view him as the first overall pick from four years ago. He’s a guy that’s grown into a pretty tough position (and a guy) that NBA scouts who come and watch us play have a hard time figuring out how to guard.”
Bargnani is indeed an enigma. There is all sorts of inherent pressure and high expectations that go with being a No. 1 pick and I’m not sure how well he handled them his first year.
But now, and I’ve mentioned this before, he’s far more confident and comfortable, and better, than he’s been in his first three years.
The one thing he’s far better at that some might not notice?
He’s a better teammate.
There is no question he was a ball-stopper on offence at times lat year, and more frequently in the two years before that, but now, instead of shooting the ball every tine he gets it, he’s far more amenable to swinging it to an open teammate.
And, believe me, his teammates notice and appreciate it. They noticed how it never left his hands at times last year, too, and didn’t appreciate it.
We’re in a little nest of sports stuff here on the outskirts of Sioux Falls where we’re staying.
There’s the arena attached to the hotel, the ball park where the Sioux Falls Canaries play (and I really need to find a Sioux Falls Canaries t-shirt, don’t I?) and a football stadium where some big high school game was unfolding last night.
I presume we’re in the hub of the town because for as far as I can see, there is not a single building higher than the six-storey hotel we’re in.
But I can highly recommend the Buffalo Wild Wings that’s across the parking lot as a place to hang and watch a ball game.
Yeah, it’s a glamorous life out here.
Okay, off to shootaround, be back in a couple of hours to talk.
Pretty impressive that we’ve been through three off-days (one with no practice to provide fodder) and still come up with nuggets to titillate you, isn’t it? Isn’t it?
The fact that teams are cutting costs these days is nothing new – the fact just about every corporation in the world is cutting costs these days is not new, in fact – and the Raptors point was hammered home a little bit yesterday.
Counting heads when we got into practice – it’s something we do every day – there was one guy missing: Assistant coach Micah Nori.
Figured he hadn’t gone off to help the Evil Empire Yankees hit with men in scoring position (he was a Mighty Yankees hitting consultant this summer) but where in the world could he be? Then it him me: He had to be off scouting the Cavs before opening night.
Micah, you see, came up through the ranks of advance scouting and when he was named an assistant coach in the summer, the team decided to do away with the position.
Not entirely, mind you. Micah will break off from the team every now and then to do some – as long as he’s not away for too many days in a row – and they’ll employ freelancers whenever they have to.
Lots of teams are doing that -- I’ve seen four or five guys at different game so far working for two or even three teams providing play calls and reports – because (a) it saves a bit of cash and (b) with a bunch of courtside seats that used to be used for scouts now sold to fans at unseemly high prices, having a scout go and sit at the top of the lower bowl in some arenas really doesn’t work.
So guys like Micah pile up frequent flier and hotel points, spend a bit of time away from the team and, now that I think of it, do two jobs.
Hope he’s being compensated for it.
So, want to talk?
Just so we can start getting into a routine here at whatever this place is, how about doing a little live chat tomorrow? Say around noon? I don’t imagine there’ll be all kinds of hullabaloo in Sioux Falls that’ll keep me busy so let’s talk for an hour or so and see how it goes?
It’s all part of our increased game day coverage and, man, are you readers going to be busy. I am, too, but that’s what I get paid the mediocre bucks to do.
We’ll unveil the rest of it over the next few days to try to work the kinks out leading up to Wednesday; for now, we’ll do one of those live chats to get the ball rolling, and the pre-season over.
Speaking of Sioux Falls, I’m told by people who’d know that there indeed will be wireless internet access courtside so we’re good to go with an in-game blog.
Wonder if I can grab up some nifty Sioux Falls Skyforce souvenirs over the next couple of days? I do notice that the Skyforce is an NBA affiliate of both Miami and Minnesota, which now gives me an idea of what the hell we’re doing traipsing all that way for a pre-season game.
A guy who hoped for an L.A. Freeway Series sure is getting screwed over, isn’t he?
All the interviews are done yesterday after practice, everyone’s packing up and getting ready to leave and there are three guys down at the other end of the court working pretty diligently.
Shooting Guru Hopla, basketball development assistant coach Eric Hughes and – ta-da! – Marco Belinelli.
Now, Marco’s stats are rather unimpressive so far this pre-season and he really hasn’t taken control of a game with his somewhat frenetic style yet but one thing I do know is that he’s noticed that same fact and is working to correct it.
Talked to him the other day, I think it might have been in Hartford, I don’t recall 100 per cent, and when I asked him how it was going, the first thing out of his mouth was, “I’m not happy with my shot.”
He’s as smart as fans, coaches or the media, I see.
No one is saying this out loud but watching Reggie Evans walk around on crutches still makes it’s as plain as the nose on your face that there’s no way in the world he’s ready for opening night.
That’s a bit of a blow – I bet they’d like to see him out there knocking Anderson Varejao around a little bit – but what can you do?
But with those backup bigs – Reggie, Amir and Rasho – minutes were always gong to be a night-to-night thing depending on the opponent.
“My rotations will probably vary on a nightly basis depending on matchups, who’s playing well and who’s 100 per cent healthy.”
Oops, forgot to mention this yesterday, and haven’t really mentioned it too much in the past few weeks, much to your chagrin, I’m sure.
I’m now a big Sabrina The Teenage Witch fan on DWTS and her surviving the other night was justice.
Speaking of television, we wander off the elevator beside the practice facility on the third floor of the arena yesterday and it was like walking onto the back lot of some movie production company
All kinds of equipment strewn about, a gaggle of workers ready to set everything up and all I can think of is, finally, they’re going to do A Day In The Life Of Doug for some reality television channel. I get my best Gloria Swanson ready -- “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up” – but nooooo, it’s not for that.
It’s for an upcoming Bosh car commercial they were filming and, if equipment means anything, this is going to have amazing production values.
But all I can think is, seriously, it HAS to be better than the Sam one from a couple of years back, doesn’t it? I mean, they took a guy with a rather impressive personality and sucked it out of him.
Can’t wait to see this one.
Guess dodgeball had been done.
We all know by now that they blew off the official practice yesterday to hit the lanes for some bowling and some team-building schlock, er, I mean beautiful chemistry-developing fun.
Jay told us it was long-planned, the only time they could really get away as a group, and it was all sweetness and light, lots of laughs, some quality time together and a nice respite from, you know, getting better on the court.
It was nice, however, to hear that everyone actually got in the gym either in the late afternoon or evening to get some shots up with the assistant coaches and Guru Hopla because, frankly, a full day off isn’t exactly what the group needed.
I guess if you look at the schedule, it was the obvious day to get away from it all, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Personally, I’m not all that sold on off-the-court contrived outings; a nice long team dinner on the road, maybe something impromptu, works in the same manner, to my mind.
But as Jay say, and it’s true, it’s difficult, almost impossible to get everyone together at one time given the lives these guys lead and the tugs on their time so bundling them all into a bus and heading off to the lanes at least assures they’ll be one group.
And they will get time in the gym for some heavy lifting on alternate days.
Hard work day Monday, light day Tuesday, they’ll go hard again today and lighter tomorrow going into the Friday game.
Saturday’s a day off – which has been scheduled since before training camp began – hard work Sunday and taper through Monday and Tuesday before Wednesday’s opener.
I do know they don’t just make up this scheduling stuff on the fly.
They’ve got just about every day mapped out between now and the end of the season – when they’ll get a day off, for instance, in the middle of a tough stretch of schedule. It can change, of course, but they are mindful of rest and travel requirements on west coast trips, when they want to come home right after out-of-time-zone road games and when they’ll spend the night.
Maybe The Replacements are going to be replaced!
My boyz (and how’s that for cool, friends?) C. Sheridan and M. Stein (both of whom are big fans of Toronto and Canada, by the way) suggested last night that there’s some movement on the referees situation; the latest they had is here.
Good news? Heck yeah. Maybe next week we can go back to whining about officials we know and love.
Really, it just makes entire sense, given the way of negotiations these days that the next pressure point – namely the start of the regular season – would be the thing that got the sides talking and moving towards an agreement.
You may remember that I think refereeing NBA games is the toughest officiating gig in all of sports.
Because of the speed of the game, the amount of incidental contact and the need for subjectivity so as not to bring the game to a screeching halt.
And I think referees with experience are exponentially better than guys who have never seen the game up close played at its highest level of intensity.
Anyway, it’ll be good to have ‘em back.
We were told Marco Belinelli rolled a smooth 157 the first time he keggled in his life.
One of us thinks that at least proves there’s something he can knock down.
Shots are next.
This means two things, I hope.
First, he’ll get a chance to play more than garbage minutes – and with Kevin Love hurt and Al Jefferson hurting, I think Jawai might be the best big Minnesota has right now – and that’s a good thing for him.
Well, I’m thinking it means Jake Voskuhl grabs a roster spot in Dallas.
That’s a bit more complicated because the Mavs have 15 guaranteed contracts but they like what Jake brings (guess they haven’t had enough fouls over the years) and they could very well pay Shawne Williams to stay away, like they have been doing for months.
Oh yeah, if any of you have ever been to Sioux Falls, S.D. (and I cannot imagine why you would have been), I’m all ears for restaurant recommendations. A Thursday night off in that lovely burg can’t be wasted.
You will never guess where I’ll be bright and early this morning?
At the office, learning how to use the video application
(or app, as Super Son tells me) that comes with this fancy-schmancy new MacBook thing I’ve got.
Oh yeah, folks. We’re planning all sorts of fun and games around our coverage this year. Including video. Of moi. GruntTV. You lucky, lucky dogs.
This is a pretty sweet deal.
The folks at Canada Basketball have somehow secured the rights to the Canadian general release premier of More Than A Game, the highly-touted documentary about LeBron James and his high school class.
It’s part of a fund-raising gig next Tuesday night and it’s a good first step for the organization to raise some much-needed cash for what’s shaping up to be a costly summer of 2010, what with both the men’s and women’s headed to the worlds. Which gets me to the Czech Republic and Turkey, right boss?
Can I just add, in light of what seems to be a long of to and fro on the decision whether or not to start the rookie that who finishes the game is of far, far, far, far more importance to everyone connected with the team.
Given no serious foul trouble and a game unfolding as usual, who’s the other wing with Calderon, Turkoglu, Bosh and Bargnani?
I know the coaching staff hopes it’s Wright. They haven’t seen enough of him to get a true indication of what he brings and how hit fits but I guarantee you that, from conversations I’ve had with decision-makers, that finishing job is his to lose.
If you see nothing in the papers tomorrow or on the web today, it’s because the grunts hung out playing paintball.
Doug Smith has been a sportswriter for more than 30 years, a journey that's included seven Olympic Games, numerous and varied championships and more dreary regular season games than he'd care to remember. Here, he'll talk about them all, as well as current events and pop culture. (Just don’t ask him about music nowadays — it's not his cup of tea).