An off-day Sunday means a Monday mailbag
Know what? This is a pretty good mailbag, if I do say so myself.
Variety of questions covering a variety of issues and not a single “why don’t they start Wright/Jack/Belinelli” query among them.
Don’t forget, we’ll do a regular game-day chat if you like, this afternoon at 3 p.m. your time. You’re all invited.
Q: Mr. Perkins had a nice thing to say about you in his column on Friday. Do you think the older scribes envy or are happy that they didn't operate in an era of journalism that requires writers to embrace so many forms of communicating with their readership (not that anyone works at it as hard as you do)? I suppose it's entirely impossible to generalize but I was curious how the older grunts react to your work. There's a vibe and a level of detail that we get from you that enhances our followship (don't know if that's a word) tremendously and would have been stupendous if the same sort of dynamic existed surrounding the Jays in the early-90s and had been offered by a Mr. Perkins or a Mr. Elliott.
Matt G, Ottawa
A: I think there are some veterans – not necessarily in Toronto, mind you – who view this new-age system of “engaging” the readers as a curiosity and I’m sure there are those who are quite glad not be doing it.
That said, the good ones --- like my man Perk, and Griff – have come around to the era, they blog, they answer questions and they are able to get off-beat stories from the present and past in front of the readers where they wouldn’t be able to get them in papers simply because of space constraints.
It’s a great way to humanize a writer, I think. We get a louder “voice” that provides glimpses of our personality and in some ways it’s a shame it didn’t exist 25 years ago because the writers back there were characters and would have thrived letting readers get to know them better.
Q: Here is a non-game specific question for you. Considering the significance of the donation made in your name to charity by the Raptors GM, will that make it more difficult to remain impartial in the future? Especially that the $10,000 was donated by him personally, not some giant impersonal entity like MLSE? Don't get me wrong, I think it is absolutely wonderful gesture on his part, recognizing your huge achievement and part that you play in bringing us little urchins so much closer to the Raptors. Does it not make your job to stay impartial a little bit trickier though?
Kyle G, Akureyri
A: Not really. I like to think that I, and Bryan, are professional enough to understand there will be times when criticism is warranted, hard questions are asked and we respect each other enough to realize that’s just part of the job. On both sides.
And, I would also think the readers are smart enough to differentiate between the two. At least the ones I want to connect with would be.
Q: Hi Doug, this is a "story time" question. Can you recall an instance where you nearly missed a game, let's say due to transportation issues?
Natalie M, Mississauga
A: Knock on wood – and I’m tapping myself on the head as I type that – I’ve been pretty lucky. Most of my delays and travel snafus have happened on the day before I was supposed to be in a city and I’ve never been stressed too much about missing a game. There have been a couple of times where, making a connection somewhere, I’ve been late out of Toronto and missed it, forcing me to stay in one city unexpectedly and fly into the city of the game the next morning. I remember it happening in Denver on the way to Phoenix a couple of years ago and I can recall spending nights on two different occasions at O’Hare because things were messed up and connections missed.
A couple of buddies on the beat here, who’ve gambled and tried to fly in game-day, have had weather or mechanical difficulties that forced them to miss games and scramble to hire freelancers at the last minute.
But for me? So far, so good.
Of course, I’m pretty sure I’ve now jinxed myself and will miss a game for the first time in 15 seasons some time in the next three weeks. And for that, I thank you.
(I’m joking, of course).
Q: Hey Doug. I have a question about 'tempo'. You always hear the word 'tempo' used to describe the flow of a game and how it benefits one team but not the other. Honestly, unless you're watching Phoenix vs. Detroit, is there really a pace of play that benefits one team and not the other?
Aaron J, Markham
A: There is, actually. It’s just more subtle than you’d see comparing the Suns and old Pistons, for instance.
Take the other night in Dallas as a case in point. The Mavs are far better when they’re getting out and running, not necessarily for fast-break layups but so they can find the likes of Nowitzki and Terry before defences can lock in on them.
A team like Boston, on the other hand, likes to work more in a walk-it-up kind of system where they can isolate Pierce or run Allen off a handful of screens, neither of which happens a lot in transition.
Now, “tempo” is not the determining factor in every game, that’s for sure, but teams have certain speeds they play best at and try to get games to that tempo.
Q: Hi Doug, kind of a random question but when the Raptors are traveling out of town, do they fly out of the same terminals as passengers (T1/T3) or from a different terminal? Also is the plane the same as any other plane or is it customized in some shape or form?_
Behz R, Waterloo
A: They actually depart out of Terminal 1 but they meet at the charter terminal north of the airport, get a bus to the terminal where they have private lines to clear U.S. Customs and Immigration and security clearance.
The plane? A standard Airbus outfitted with extra-large seats and only about 50 of them so there’s all kinds of room to relax.
Q: Your comments about AI in (Sunday’s) blog made me think that where certain players land, controversy occasionally follows, and in this regard, if you were not covering the Raptors, which of this year's NBA teams would you find the most intriguing to report on? And why?
Lorie P, London
A: Hmm, so many choices. New York so I could ask about LeBron and 2010 every day? Portland so I could see a young team try to take the next step? Boston so I could hear Doc every day? Cleveland for Shaq and LeBron, not to mention AP and Jamario?
Nah, you know what? I’d like to follow the Lakers.
Diverse personalities ranging from the old head Derek Fisher to the combustible Ron Artest, Kobe and Gasol and Phil, while in large part condescending, might make for good daily copy.
Q: Hey Doug, love your work! You keep bringing more to the table and as a Raps fan since day 1 I just can't get enough ... so great job and please keep up the great work. My question is around Marco and his limited playing time. In the pre-season we heard Colanglo talking about 6th man of the year but so far he is averaging about 12 mins a game. Do you see this continuing or do you think he will start to get more playing time as the season moves along.
Alex H, Oakville
A: I think with the way Wright’s been playing and with the depth they have at the two-three positions, it’s going to be hard for Marco to get much more time than he is now, barring injuries, of course.
And, yes, that will limit any serious chance at a major post-season award but I also think Bryan might have been over-stating things with his pre-season assessment.
Q: Writers always consider their audience. When you write do you consider the fact that Raptor brass and even the players can and do read your blog or do you just focus on being like Oak, telling it how it is regardless.
Jeffrey M, Saint John
A: I can’t really write for any targeted readership because it’s very diverse. What you try to do is find a good story and tell it well and hope that it informs and entertains a large segment of the readership.
Q: Greetings Mr. Smith,_here's a non-game specific question for you: Given that newspapers are dropping their out-of-town coverage because it costs so much to fly, feed, and house reporters has there been any talk in the NBA or team offices to at least allow the ink-stained wretches to fly with the players like the team broadcasters? I understand that there is a bit of an ethical quandary in doing so but it would it not allow more newspapers cover the team?
Mike D, Oshawa
A: There are indeed some people who think that would sense but there are three big issues to be resolved before it’d ever come into play.
The ethical situation is first and foremost and will always be an issues.
But if that’s resolved, how do teams charge newspapers for the seat on the plane? It is a business class fare? Economy for business class service? Would reporters have to stay in the same hotel as the teams, which are usually far more expensive than any place we’d normally stay?
The third is time. Reporters still need 90 minutes or so after games to gather information and write; teams generally leave for the airport 40-60 minutes after the final buzzer.
So yes, on one hand it would make sense and allow more papers to travel, increasing the free publicity a team gets but there until some things get figured out, it’s not going to happen.
Q: Just when it occurred to me that I hadn’t been noticing the referees nearly as much as I had been up until right before the Donaghy book-subject was news last week, I saw elsewhere that there are still some who are not happy at all (yet), with the job that many of the refs are doing. My question to you is, do you see any differences at all with how the refs are doing what they do, since being the topic of discussion last week? If not, have you heard it mentioned by anyone else that he or she has seen a difference?
Steve G, North York
A: Oh yeah. There were some blips in the first couple of games (and there will be perceived blown calls in every game all, season) but overall, the quality of the officiating is improved. There’s a better consistency to calls, flows to games (yes, some are sluggish but they are fewer with the experienced refs) and a more nuanced approach to letting the players dictate the outcome.
Q: Hi Doug. Just wondering what NBA teams do with their jerseys after they finish the game. Do they wash them and use them again, or do the players use new jerseys every game?
Diego S, Toronto
A: Yep, the hard-working backroom and equipment guys are at the washing machines and driers after every game. Now, there are new sets of uniforms every now and then – players sometimes donate theirs to charitable groups or friends on other teams for their charitable works – but, basically, they wear them as long as they can.
Q: I have only been following basketball for the last two years or so. I'm curious as to what exactly a team rebound is.
Brian C, Moose Jaw
A: There are several instances.
A missed shot goes out of bounds without any player gaining possession, a loose ball foul on a missed free throw or field goal, a technical foul shot is missed, a free-throw lane violation, a quarter or half expires on a shot.
Q: Hey Doug - okay, all this talk about jambalaya and Memphis BBQ can make a foodie like me envious. Given that you can travel around the US (and even Europe for training camp), you must have had some incredible meals.
So list time: what are the top 5 meals you've had and where? 5 worst meals? 5 most surprising meals (maybe the airport lounge in Oklahoma City serves a mean sushi...).
Bernie W, Markham
A: Man that’s a tough one and, to tell you the truth, the best meals I’ve had have been because of the company rather than the food in many instances. That’s what it’s about, no? The people.
But, that said, here are some: In Athens, the day after the 2004 Olympics, in an amphitheatre-style restaurant. Five or six of us show up, bedraggled, the the maitre-d says, “relax, don’t order, we will prepare you a meal.” About three hours later, after five courses that included squid-ink soup and outstanding seafood, with an accompanying wine with every course, we left.
A reader sent us to a place in Rome that you couldn’t find with a GPS and a search warrant. Just outside the Vatican wall, down a dead-end street, we’re the only people in the place who spoke English and the freshness of the pasta and the subtle flavours were outstanding.
Jose sent us to a place in Madrid, dinner at 11 p.m. where we grilled our own paper-thin beef on a hot stone placed in the middle of the table.
Il Vagabondo in New York City, as much for the chance to watch the locals play bocce on the court on the lower level as for the food.
The Palm in Philly or New York, great steaks but – always – with great company.
I’m trying to search the cobwebs in the head for the most surprising but I do remember having a great sushi meal in Salt Lake City one night years ago and there’s a really good upscale burger/wing place in Milwaukee that was a bit of a find.
Worst? I think I’ve put the worst entirely out of mind.
Q: Hi Doug, I have a general question for you regarding what seems to be a conflicting stance that you have taken. Just wanted to see what I am missing, and/or what your response is.
I was wondering why it seems like you always seem to think that young/marginal NBA players are better off staying with their NBA teams, and not going to the NBDL, yet when it comes to college players, you think that Canadian payers are better off playing CIS and getting lots of PT, as opposed to going D1 in the NCAA, and riding pine but getting better coaching?
Isaac H, Oakville
A: It’s really apples and oranges, isn’t it?
I think young professionals benefit from daily practice against NBA players and get used the lifestyle, which is light years different from the coddled existence they have in college.
I think young Canadians need to play to develop skills and – perhaps – find employment in Europe. Countless numbers go to the States and waste away at the end of benches their development is stunted.
I will also suggest that coaching in the CIS is entirely under-rated when compared to the NCAA. There are many, many coaches in Canada who know as much – or more – about the game than the CEO-types who dot many big-name American programs.
It may seem like a conflicting stance but it’s two entirely different sets of circumstances in my opinion.
Q: Congratulations on 10 million hits! A real testament to the hard work you've put in. And thank you for continuing to keep me in the loop, especially this year as I study abroad and can't catch any Raptors games.
How has your readership progressed? Has it gradually increased or has it taken a couple of significant peaks along the way, say, when "Chuck Checks in," ceased running. Or when you switched from "Nothing But (Inter)Net." How close attention do you pay to how many people are reading? Cheers.
Blake J, Glasgow
A: I don’t pay hugely close attention, but I will check every now and then to see if things are holding steady. And they usually are; spiking, of course, when some big news breaks.
But it seems to me that the readers are very consistent – for which I am thankful – and have been here regardless of what else is out there in the ether available to them.
Q: Comment: On GruntTV (can I type that without permission??) you sound an awful lot like Brent Butt - and, believe me, from me, that is a compliment!
Question 1: When you're on the road, who walks SuperDog?
Question 2: Do you have any idea what it would take to keep CB4 a Raptor? Win a playoff round? Make playoffs? It doesn't matter?
Tim H, Windsor
A: Seeing how Super Brother’s a stand-up comic who worked in the past with Brent, I take that as a compliment. Super Dog? I think she becomes slothful because I seem to be the only one she bugs constantly for walks.
The Bosh question is, sadly, unanswerable but I guarantee that if they miss the playoffs, he’s gone. And who could blame him?
Q: Great work with the blog, as always._I have a non-Raps question for you. You have written about how important it is for Canada's national team to get former players involved and I think you may have mentioned how you hope that Nash will take on a mentor role with the national team eventually. I was wondering about other former players and their involvement with the program. Specifically, I was thinking of three-time champ and two-time Olympic player for Canada, Bill Wennington. What is he up to these days? Would the national program have any interest in his involvement? What other players might they get back into the fold?
Emmmett M, Bracebridge
A: Bill has actually been involved in the past; he’s helped run a few big man camps during the summers. Not sure he’s available any more, though.
And I’m quite glad to see Peter Gaurasci helping Greg Francis with the junior team so you can put him on the list as well.
And I wonder if there isn’t maybe a place for a guy like Rowan Barrett, or Sherman Hamilton to lend a hand if the current staff thinks they could offer some kind of assistance.
Q: Great job, if Grunt TV is a regular thing, when is it going to be available as a subscription Podcast?
Rene L, Winnipeg
A: Yeah, right. I think a little snippet game day afternoons is quite enough, don’t you?
Q: Does Bosh have the greenlight for 3s now?
John B, Victoria
A: No, I wouldn’t say so. But if he’s wide and it’s a shot in rhythm – like when he’s a trailer on the break – they have no problem with him taking one or two. It’s not like they’re going to design plays to get him open beyond the arc.
That said, it might be a good end-of-game play because teams won’t be expecting it. KO used it one time in a game in Bosh’s rookie year against Houston, I believe, and he made it.
Q: I'm thinking that Bosh's early season trouble from the charity stripe may be related to his bulking up over the summer. How about you?
John B, Lindsay
A: I guess it might have something to do with it, although his jump shot’s just as smooth and effective so I don’t think it’s a huge component. Let’s get a better representative sample than six games before we wonder. Let’s say 20 games to let the averages work out.
Q: Hey Doug,_this is a really late submission for the mailbag so I won't be offended if it doesn't make it until a later date or at all. I just read pieces of Donaghie's book on Deadspin.com, and even if some of his accusation are true do you think that the NBA should hold an investigation into them? As well, I hear that Random House has pulled the book, is there any chance that it'll make it to the market, because I would find it to be a good read, even as a fiction novel?
Will C, London
A: They are investigating, and so is the FBI and U.S. federal justice officials. If anything comes of any of those investigations, I will be stunned.
Q: Hey Doug, long time reader, first time writer. I noticed in today's blog that you said that MoPete's days of contributing are over. Now don't worry, I don't have an urge to bring MoPete back. But I do wonder what happened? He's not that old is he? Did he have an injury of some sort? Or, is it such a fine line at this level between being a contributor and not that losing a step is all it takes to be on the bench consistently?
Steve M, Kitchener
A: No, he’s not old, but he’s older. And therefore a step slower and therefore a bit more of a liability at both ends of the court. And, yes, last year there were a couple of nagging injuries, back and shoulder if memory serves, which helped hasten his demise.
It’s really been a combination of things.
I noticed that Byron Scott has said Mo won’t start anymore and they actually have him on the inactive list now.
Q: Hi Doug,_I noticed recently that some boxscores have a column called "+/-". First of all, how is it tracked? Do you get +1 for every point you score or only when a teammate score? How about -1? Secondly, how should I interpret that stat and how relevant is it? For example, on opening night against Cavs, Belinelli only scored 10 points but has a +19, but Bargnani with a game high 28 points, only has +11. Does it mean Belinelli played good defence? How about who contributed more to the team?_Thank you and keep up the good work, Doug.
NS L, Toronto
A: It’s like, ack!, the pucks. If you’re on the court for one minute and you’re team hits a three and gives up a layup, you’re a plus-1, regardless of whether you’ve touched the ball, set a screen, grabbed a rebound or blown a defensive assignment. And given how dependent the game is on five-man units, individual plus-minus give very little true indication of anyone’s play, in my opinion.
Q: Was wondering about Colangelo? How often is he available to the media, obviously its a bit sporadic but could you guys speak to him more if you want? It seemed that you guys knew each other pretty well when he handed over that personal cheque the other day for 10G's for charity (PS Well deserved by the way. I have been reading your blog for a long time and I appreciate how much you work - Thanks). Secondly, I love how Bargnani is developing, seems to really be coming along. Your thoughts?
Kevin N, Ithaca
A: Bryan’s very available, as a matter of fact. We all have e-mails and phone numbers and, historically, if you write or call, he’ll get back to you. Of course, we don’t abuse that because if you continually pester him with inconsequential questions, he’s likely to be slower returning calls and texts.
But, as a rule, he’s more accessible than any exec I’ve dealt with here.
Bargnani? As good in the first six games as he was in the last 40 last season – perhaps better in some regards like rebounding and moving the ball on offence – but let’s wait another 15 games before we come to any kind of conclusion.
Q: Hi Doug_you were asking for non specific game questions so I thought I would roll this one out.
You have said that you don't like the plus/minus stat, or at least you think some people think it is too important. Could you elaborate on that? Why is it not useful? Or how much you think others overuse it and why.
Jim R, Toronto
A: As I mentioned a couple of questions ago, it tries to quantify individual contribution to a team game and I don’t think you can accurately do that. Let’s say, for instance, that Player A and his team are having a good defensive game, and Player A is helping lock down his man when he’s on the floor. Now, let’s say Player A’s team can’t make a shot to save its soul when he’s out there, they miss like eight jumpers in a row – none of them his shots -- and give up three baskets in the resulting possessions.
That makes him a minus-6 in maybe four or five minutes but is hardly representative of his contribution.
Why is it overused? Because people want some quantifiable measure to judge a guy by.
Q: Did the Raptors ever making a pitch to Steve Nash to sign w. them, or was Nash seriously considering joining them after his contract w. Phoenix expired, especially since Raptors coach Jay Triano coached Nash for so many years on the national team?
Don P, Maherthorpe, AB.
A: Well, seeing how Steve’s contract this past summer never expired, there was no interest whatsoever recently. And there was even less when he first left Dallas for Phoenix.
And wouldn’t you think Mike D’Antoni would be as much a drawing card as Jay if Steve was to ever contemplate leaving Phoenix, which he now can’t do for two more seasons after this.
Q: Say in a hypothetical situation that Ben Wallace retires and the Detroit organization says they want to retire his old number when he was a great defensive player. Now that Stuckey wears number 3, would they just take Stuckey's number and tell him to find a new one? How does that work?
Eric M, Guelph
A: In the unlikely event, I’m sure that’s just what would happen, they’d give Stuckey the choice of a new number and there might be some, um, compensation (a new watch, a cheque) offered in return.
I have a two-part question. In his book "Basketball on Paper", Dean Oliver (now working for the Denver Nuggets) explains his method of defensive metrics called "Project Defensive Score Sheet". The numbers were collated in the 2001-2 season in the WNBA by a volunteer force he organized. He mentions in the book that the NBA was starting to keep the numbers as well, but weren't releasing them. Do you know 1) if they are still keeping those numbers? 2) if so, are they planning on releasing them?
Secondly, I notice that the Raptors currently have the third best offense in the NBA (at 116.4 points/100 possessions) and the second worst defense (at 115.3 points against/100 possessions). Using Project Defensive Score Sheet for myself so far this season, I notice that Jose currently has a stop percentage of about .350. That means he's getting scored on very frequently (and that does not count the times that a point guard has ended up being guarded by Bosh or Bargnani on the perimeter and scored off a drive). Jack's stop% is just over .490. Given how the offense seems to be doing just dandy without Jose doing much of anything and the little he is doing not being done particularly well, is there any serious discussion in the Raptors' coaching staff about reducing his minutes? I think there ought to be. I'm not calling for him to lose his starting spot entirely, but it certainly seems the team could reduce his minutes and probably gain from that until he starts playing passably well.
Blake K, Kitchener
A: I presume some teams keep them, I don’t imagine anyone would release them.
No, no discussion, no changes contemplated at this time and anything that tries to isolate individual defensive ability in a game that relies almost entirely on team defence is, in my opinion, inherently flawed and should not be considered a valid representation.
But I guess it’s good for chatter around the bar.
Q: Hey Chuck, congrats on getting 10,000,000 hits, well deserved... I just saw that Desmond Mason got released, and I know the Raps could probably use a little more depth at the SF. Do you think the Raps might think of letting Quincy Douby go and picking up Mason? Not that I want to see Quincy go, but I know that there is speculation around it.
Madhav K, Thorold
A: Hey, Bill, thanks for the congrats.
No, I’m thinking a non-shooting under-sized three who could dunk a few years ago and who would play behind Turkoglu, Wright, Belinelli and probably Weems, is not someone they should even think about considering.