Some mail to waste away the hours
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.
Q: Hey Doug, love reading the blog, it's a constant in my daily routine._I wanted to ask you something I've been wondering for a while: There's a lot of talk about wealthy owners around the league spending their money to help their teams: Cuban in Dallas, Allen in Portland, and now Prokhorov with the Nets. But considering that every team has the same amount of money to spend, how does an NBA owner's wealth affect his team? Is it simply a matter of their willingness to go over the cap and pay the luxury tax? And how can teams make use of the "cash considerations" that are often thrown in to sweeten deals?
Gus T, Ottawa
A: It’s in the willingness to assume longer-term contracts at more money than goes out in a trade, or signing a full mid-level guy once a team’s already creeping on the tax level, that puts a team above that threshold and where richer guys might spend m ore.
The “cash considerations” included in trades mean nothing, really. It’s limited to $3 million and can’t be used to add a player.
Q: Hey Doug,_I haven't sent a mailbag in for a while, so I figured I would since I thought of one._Do you think this will be the year that the consecutive game 3-point streak comes to an end? Surely it shouldn't with the shooters we have on the team, but if the preseason is any indication.
Steve G, Grand Falls-Windsor, NL
A: We’ve been all over the three-point woes earlier in this mail bag but with an offence predicated on swinging the ball, I still think there’ll be enough chance for someone to make a three from the corner in each game. Whether they do or not? Can’t really say except to guess they will.
But, it’s a rather inconsequential “record” anyway, isn’t it?
Q: Hi Doug. Was just wondering something about the bowling outing the Raptors went on. I can't picture Thorncliffe Bowlerama (or wherever they went) stocking a bunch of size 13 or 15 or whatever shoes. Did the players play in street shoes, or did the team buy them shoes, or how did that go down?
Scott C, Toronto
A: I actually thought the same thing and asked Jay. Indeed, the lanes, and I don’t know exactly where, had enough large shoes that every player got his own pair of legit green-and-red kicks.
Q: Hey Doug, maybe it's just the articles I'm reading (ie. you), but it seems as if perhaps there is a stronger focus on conditioning this year than in previous pre-seasons. Is this a lack of other story lines, or something that is unusual compared to previous years? I imagine the injuries to Bosh and Hedo play a roll in that, but I'm sure we've had injuries before in the pre-season. Am I wrong?
Jason C, Port Perry
A: It probably got over-played a little bit but that would be because of the staggered nature of the returns. We had Bosh come back and had to do a conditioning story; a week or so later, Turk started playing and it got done again; and, finally, Antoine Wright got on the court and the issue popped up again.
Q: Hi Doug,_I was surprised to read about the bowling thing - I was wondering about the degree to which you can improve conditioning in a group over the course of a week. Forgetting about the bowling question, these guys are already pro athletes with a high standard - can you really make a noticeable difference with a week of practices and training?
Dan C, Winnipeg
A: You can, actually. It’s not like they’re out-of-shape sloths like, say, me, but you can build in short time the ability to play at a sustained high level for a longer period of time.
I give you Bosh, as an example. A week ago against Boston here, he looked winded after about 20 minutes, Friday in Sioux Falls, he was as effective in his 36th minute as he was in his first.
And, the strength guy insists that the schedule they are on, extremely hard work on day, rest and recuperation the next, hard again, softer the next is the best way to build the necessary endurance. It seems to have worked.
Q: Hi Doug,__We've talked a lot about NBA refs over the last few weeks and I'd like to know a bit more about them, especially regarding their background (ex-player? ex-coaches?) and the steps they had to take to become professional refs.
Matthieu B, Biel/Bienne, Switzerland
A: Many of them are ex-players of some ability (including former Raptor Haywoode Workman and Leon Wood comes quickly to mind, too) and some simply came up through the ranks, officiating at the high school, college and minor league level before getting to the big time.
It’s a tough slog for most of them, not many jobs come open each year (I would say fewer than 10 on average) and they have to struggle through lower paying gigs while waiting for a shot at the big time.
Q: Hey Doug,_we hear all the talk and get all the questions about who the starting five will be. What I want to know is who will the finishing five be?_I know it's early in camp but who comes to mind. Obviously the game situation would be different. I want to know who you see as the "stop team"._Up by 1 under a minute to go. Have a pint, think it over, give us your thoughts, have another pint.Repeat often.
Andrew G, Toronto
A: As I’m sure know, that’s an impossible question to answer; and it’s amazing how many times I get a variation of it.
Who’s the opponent, what kind of team do they have on the floor, who’s in foul trouble, who’s playing well, who’s hurt, who’s having a big night and who’s not?
Get my drift?
But I’ll play along one time only:
Calderon, Jack, Wright, Bargnani, Bosh.
Why? If you force a miss, you need good free throw shooters – Calderon, Bosh, Bargnani – on the floor; Wright might be their best perimeter defender and Jack will direct traffic.
So, the impossible is answered.
But given all those variables, it probably never happens.
Q: ESPN reports that the Nets are considering moving to the Newark Prudential Center from the Izod Center. The issue of the Izod Center being a unattractive stadium was a main trigger in the planed movement of the nets to Brooklyn.
With Mikhail Prokhorov purchasing 80% of the nets, their move to Brooklyn is almost a sure thing. But New Jersey is a rather big market, Izod Center issue aside.
Question: When the Nets move to Brooklyn, what is the likelihood of another NBA team moving into the Newark Prudential Center. Would not the Newark Prudential Center be at the top of the list of relocation sites given that Seattle still has not addressed their stadium issue, KC is a rather small market and Los Vegas has really been hit by the recession. There has been so much talk about the Phoenix Coyotes and NHL team overall moving, can you provide a snap shot of the potential of a NBA team moving, and where they may move if they move.
Kevin F, Toronto
A: Slim and none, I would expect. The way the Nets draw in Jersey, which is terrible, even when they were winning conference titles; and the number of those few fans who come over from New York makes me think no one in their right mind would put another team in that market.
Q: Looking back, which do you think is the worse trade - Vince to New Jersey or KG to Boston? Which team got shafted more -Raptors or Minny
Chapo G, Toronto
A: Minnesota got the best player of all of them in either trade in Al Jefferson but the Timberwolves aren’t very good and won’t be in the playoffs for years. Toronto’s been in the post-season twice but has nothing to show anymore from that transaction.
Call it a wash.
Q: Doug: "Simple" question. What is the best case scenario for the Raps this year? Is anything higher than a 5 seed and a second round exit realistic?
Matt M, Toronto
A: It’s entirely up to the individual, actually. If you ask anyone connected with the team, it’s top five, maybe four, and a playoff win.
I think the realistic goal is getting into the post-season and seeing what the matchup is.
Q: Hi Doug, thanks for doing this. So the big goal for this season is to be a contender in the east to convince Chris to stay and hopefully win the championship. When I look at the best teams in the league they are all over the salary cap. Teams like Lakers, Spurs, Boston, Cleveland but also Dallas, Washington and others. Do you think that the Raptors can be real contenders in the league without going over the cap? I know that we have a committed ownership, but in my opinion a salary cap team might not be enough to be a contender in this league.
Thomas L, Toronto
A: They’re over the cap. They are not over the tax but if there’s a need to go there, Bryan’s said he’d take it to the board and see what they say. In the right circumstance, and I have no idea what that is, I bet they’re amenable to it. But to pay a tax as a matter of course makes absolutely no business nor basketball sense whatsoever. As proof, I give you the New York Knicks.
Q: Hey Doug, I have a concern regarding the atmosphere regarding the Raptors organization and how it may adversely affect some of the players. It seems like this year, especially with Jay Triano as head coach, there seems to be, more then ever a high degree of a corporate approach to things. I am referring mainly to the classroom type of coaching Jay has instilled during this training camp. I truly believe that sports is one of those things that cannot be taught textbook style. It is purely application on the court that will get the point across. What have you heard from the players in regards to this approach. I am certain that old school, tough as nails coaches who have great success such as Jerry Sloan, Nellie, Phil Jackson would scoff at such a notion.
Johnny T, Mississauga
A: I’ll dispute the “high degree of corporate approach” by mentioning that for a week of camp a month ago, he ran more structured pre-practice meetings in a meeting room at the hotel rather than on the court at the gym. The substance was exactly the same as practiced by 29 other teams, the meetings were just a bit more structured here than usual. Since that time three weeks ago, they are doing precisely the same thing they’ve done forever, meet and watch film before practice in the locker room.
And the players? The players have been fed film sessions since they were teens, it’s no big issue to them.
As for the “tough as nails” approach, a guy can’t be what a guy can’t. Jay has to be himself, he can’t be Sloan, who is tough; Nellie, who is more experimental and temperamental than tough; or Jackson, who is far more new-age than “tough as nails.”