Mail to get you through the morning
Blow leaves into ginormous pile in back yard; drag big-arse tarp out of garage, lay on ground next to pile. Rake leaves onto tarp, haul to curb. Repeat, ad nauseum, for hours. Curse Mother Nature, loudly. Eventually retire to comfort of couch, arise from slumber to finish mail.
And how was your Saturday?
Q: Hey Doug. It seems like your reactions to everything are always very toned down compared to us fans. Is that on purpose to keep things in perspective? Or are these your true reactions?
David S, Toronto
A: I’m far more dispassionate than a fan, that’s the primary reason. And if I’ve learned anything in the 15 years I’ve been doing this and the years I covered baseball and football it’s that the one adage that’s more true than almost any other is: Don’t get too high after you win, don’t get too low after you lose.
But, really, my reaction is always going to be muted compared to those of fans. And I think the world – and my in-box – would be a better place if more people lived by that credo.
Q: Hi Doug,_I can totally appreciate how a game night story at deadline might get expanded, with some more meat on the bones, for the morning edition. But then shouldn't the expanded version be posted in place of the original, rather than alongside it, to help readers out a bit with their navigation selections?
I also wonder how (or if) your duties/approach as a blogger differ from or influence your duties/approach as a journalist. For example, do you try to more directly "engage" your readers than in the past, even with a game story? Are you also more inclined to get into the "predicting" business with your blog followers than you might have otherwise as a beat grunt?
Keep up the terrific work, as always. And thanks!
P.S. Doug, did you know that the web format The Star has been "BETA" testing for weeks on end is, for all practical intents, purposes and functionalities, identical to the web format long used by dozens of small-town Midwestern newspapers? The larly.difference is, the small-town websites are dead simple to navigate, their content options are crisp and clear, and they're flawless in operation. (Check out www.wcfcourier.com, www.trib.com or www.qctimes.com as examples.) Not sure what your web people are trying to accomplish, but they're sure not re-inventing any wheels here and they're also coming off as fumbling amateurs while they continue to test the patience of your reading public. Meanwhile, here's to 10 million more for you, sir!
David M, Ottawa
A: Sorry, I can’t speak to how or what gets posted through the night but I know someone will see this.
The approach is a balancing act, a difficult one at times, to tell you the truth.
I aim for strictly reporting in game stories that appear on the paper while also providing some kind of context while being more “conversational” in blogs. The “engaging” part comes here, and in the comments. It has dramatically changed the way I do my job and, sometimes frankly, it’s difficult trying to find the right tone in each aspect.
And I try my hardest to avoid making predictions.
Q: Doug, with the replay having been expanded this year can you see it in the future being extended to include the dreaded charge/block call? That call can change the momentum of a game especially in the last 2 minutes when replay can be used and its always a tough one to make.
Reid B, Guelph
A: I cannot imagine any support for that suggestion, and that includes from me. While block-charge is without doubt the hardest call In the game, I don’t think even video replay would get it right 100 per cent of the time. And three’s almost too much replay in the game now.
Q: Which Raptor is the most likely to be reading this right now?
P H, Toronto
A: None, I don’t think. But I do know that “people” associated with some players, coaches and management read the blog regularly and report what’s being written.
The mail bag? Not so much.
Q: Doug, Great job at providing fair balanced reporting on the team. Do you think the increased media spotlight on the team over the years (blogs, twitter, game day chats, 4 "national" TV networks, even some clown doing "Grunt TV") has created a hyper-critical fan base? I am amazed at how every game seems to be life or death of the franchise, trade this player or that. It seems the "educated" fan (I use the term loosely) is more invested because of the wealth of knowledge but also more critical. Thoughts?
Steven C, Fredericton
A: The demands for absolute and immediate gratification are so great in every aspect of life today, it’s only logical that it would invade sports. I’m not sure hyper-critical is an apt description, I think hyper-impatient may be.
Q: Hey Doug. Suppose there were robots that could be refs, and would be entirely impartial and were GUARANTEED to get every call right. Forget whether or not this would be possible.
Would you be in favour of this? Or do you think the subjectivity of the refs is an indispensable part of the game? For example, having more respect for some players than others.
David S, Toronto
A: No, I wouldn’t at all.
Human failings – of players, coaches, referees, management – are such an integral part of the essence sport that to take that away would, in some small way, diminish the overall experience.
Q: Hey Doug, love the blog. Was at Friday Nights game and besides the two HUGE threes JJ made down the stretch, the biggest impression made on me was from the Raptors "extra" coach, Reggie Evans. Boot and all, he was one of the biggest cheerleaders there. And a number of times I saw him go out and talk to guys as they were coming off, sharing his thoughts and observations. I'm sure you've seen much the same. Do you know what the particulars are of his contract?
Scott M, Ilderton
A: Reggie’s got this year and next left on his deal, about $4.9 million this year, a shade over $5 million in 2010-11.
Q: Bonjour Doug. If I remember correctly, you had written before the 4-game stretch on the West Coast that the trip would also be interesting in terms of team cohesion and chemistry. What's your assessment of the team in this regard after Friday's win? It was nice to see the whole team going crazy after Turk's three at the end of the first half, so I guess it's quite good.
Kinda similar question: it seems to me that the Raps have the potential to be an excellent team this year. If we take Friday's game, how much do you think they can still improve? The obvious thing to say is that they should be better on the defensive end, but I don't know if it's realistic to expect that from them.
Merci et good luck with your leafs (at least you can get rid of them),
Matthieu B, Biel-Bienne, Switzerland
A: I do sense a growing chemistry between the players, on the court that is, as they become more familiar with each other and, frankly, more trusting in each other. That trust extends to such instances as giving up the ball knowing you’ll get it back and perhaps gambling on defence knowing someone’s got your back.
And I don’t think this team has the skills to be among the top five or six defensive teams in the league but I do think they can improve and that improvement will come with more familiarity and more consistency of effort. How much? Impossible to tell but I do think some will come.
Q: Hi Doug!_A question about your "process". Fifteen hour travel days must tax the patience of even the most intrepid traveller. What tools or skills have you developed over lo' these many years to help you navigate so calmly and professionally through the unpredictable obstacles you have to deal with? Things such as flight delays and missed connections, wonky or even non-existent wireless, shortages of appropriately positioned wall sockets and other issues big and small, that threaten to interfere with the smooth running of your day?
Lorie P, London
A: I vent to friends and family. I get frustrated and angry but have found that, as the years unfold and the issues continue to arise, I’m much more able to let things go more quickly, deal with whatever crap has to be dealt with and move on to the things that have to be done.
I guess it’s just because I’m getting older and more used to the troubles that pop up year after year after year.
But, trust me, when things first go wrong, it’s like there’s a big Do Not Bother The Animals sign that comes over my face and people know to stay away.
Q: Question for you though, road performance versus home performance- are the west teams that good or is it the travel? If the west is that much better what do the Raps need to upgrade?
I'm not considering the Nuggets game as typical because I thought the refs played too big a part in that game. Feel free to cut and paste question for the mail bag.
A: The West isn’t that much better, the fact is Toronto played two of the elite teams in Phoenix and Denver, a next-level team in Utah and a bad team in the Clips. In fact, I think 1-15, you can make a case that the East is better than the West this season. But it’s early and I don’t know if that’ll hold.
Q: Knowing your thoughts on the development of the younger Canadian players - If Magloire, Joel Anthony, and Matt Bonner all decide to play for Canada next year should Basketball Canada pursue Steve Nash for one last shot at some glory?
Rob V, Toronto
A: No, they shouldn’t, and no, they won’t because it’s futile given that Nash has no interest whatsoever in playing any more for Canada. That’s been the case for more than half a decade and isn’t about to change.
Q: Questions because you asked for questions.
Play coach for a minute. If (and I'm not advocating change and I know it's too early to be making changes and the team needs more time as is and every game is a game by game decision but generally speaking) you were to change the rotation and the starting line up, what might you change and why?
With nine new faces, who seems to be connecting best on and off the court?
The All-Star Ballots are out. Ignoring the names listed and popularity, solely based on performance this year who would you pick as your starting 5 for both teams and why?
Same idea, if you were to pick starting 5s based on excitement potential who would you pick?
Ron F, Toronto
A: If – and I say IF – I had to make one change, I’d probably start Wright over DeRozan but that’s only because you told me I had to. I fully agree with the way they’re bringing the kid along.
I’d say the connection between Jack, Belinelli and Amir Johnson is pretty impressive in a short period of time; but I think Hedo figuring out Bosh and Bargnani is closing fast.
All-stars on merit:
Nash, Kobe, Carmelo, Dirk, Kaman. All are making their teams better and, in the case of Nash, Dirk and Kaman, perhaps leading them to be over-achieving teams.
East: Not so easy
LeBron, Wade, Joe Johnson, Bosh, Brook Lopez
I know there’s no true point guard but what the heck.
All-stars on excitement potential?
West: Same but I’d sub Amare for Kaman.
East: I might be persuaded to put Brandon Jennings in for Lopez; or maybe Rondo.
Q: Doug;_I have appreciated the depth of insight your articles and especially the blog have produced regarding Toronto's professional basketball team. This is the value dimension in a quality blog.
Question: You may have answered this one. Can you relate the relevant reasons and background that led you and your employer, the Star, to select/assign you to cover the Raptors back in 1995?
Bill O’Byrne, Peterborough
A: Well, the Star didn’t actually come get me until 1997, when they had an opening on the beat. I had covered the first two Raptors seasons for The Canadian Press and when the Star had an opening, I guess they looked for someone with a modicum of basketball reporting experience and invited me to apply. For that I will be forever grateful to the sports editor at the time, Steve Tustin; the managing editor at the time, Phil Bingley and the guy who got my name in front of them, Chris Young.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Q: How humble - credit your bball knowledge to the hours spent on the high school courts for the Stamford Collegiate Hornets!
John S, Kleinburg
A: You forgot the University of Welland Knights.
Q: What are the conditions on the Raptors 2010 draft pick?
J M, Toronto
A: If they make the playoffs, it goes to Miami. If they don’t make the playoffs, the keep the first-rounder and give up a second-round pick to the Heat.
They give up their first-round pick in whichever year they first make the playoffs between 2010 and 2014. If they don’t make the playoffs between now and then, they do have to give up their 2015 pick regardless.
Q: I know you have touched on this before, seeing how J.Jack is coming into his own this season do you envision a starting spot for Jack and moving DeRozan to the role of providing energy off the bench as a sub?
PS love the note about the 36,000 fans screaming in the Raps win over the Bulls in that first year, was part of the 500 level fans going nuts... thank Brendan Malone for that one!
Mark B, Kitchener
A: No, I don’t. And we’ve asked Jay about it often and he’s steadfast that no lineup changes are even close to being contemplated.
And even if they were, it wouldn’t be Jack because he wouldn’t ever want to have both his point guards in the starting lineup; to finish games, maybe; to start? No way.
Q: Hi Doug:_GRUNT TV is my favorite. Oh man, we were in that Denver airport two days ago ( do you like that horse/dragon on the road outside the airport? It is very controversial. I think our 2 year old grandson might like it best ): in the airport my wife got a massage; I took a nap. Grunt TV helps us feel the grind of the road trip. Keep up the excellent background locations for GRUNT TV...it all amounts to a journal of the modern traveler and might we not wonder why people having to travel thru airports yearn for their own bed these days? Who is more tired: you or the players and coaches?
Q: That Denver team was something to watch -- in particular Nene and the way Denver was able to find him with assist passing. I know all teams can pass and catch but something abt. Denver seemed to raise those skills to a new level. Am I imagining that?
Charles N, Toronto
A: That’s what sets Denver apart from a lot of teams, and is the reason they could find themselves back in the Western Conference finals this year (although I have issues with their depth).
They pass so well, and their bigs are so active, it’s extremely hard to defend them when Anthony and Billups are feeding the bigs.
Q: Hey Doug,_LTRFTW, thanks for helping me get addicted to the Raps.
A few questions regarding bigs:
A few player rankings had Bar(g)n down well below Amir and Nesterovic at the beginning of the season and there was some criticism over his extension. 1a) Why do you think there is so little love for Bar(g)n around the league; 1b) Do you think he'll get some appreciation if he keeps up the numbers he now has; and 1c) Do you think Hibbbert’s defence is worth more than Barns offence?
With Amir playing so well do you think that Reggie coming back would make as much of a difference as all you grunts seem to think he will? Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see him in there (although his reactions on the bench are worth his paychecks), I'm just not convinced he's going to be this game changer that you guys make him out to be.
What the hell happened to Nesterovic? Going back to those player rankings, I remember the Yahoo one saying he was one of the biggest bargains in the off-season. And shouldn't HE be that big defensive guy taking over for Reggie in his absence? What happened?
Jay M, Toronto
A: Any player ranking that had Andrea Bargnani behind Amir Johnson and Rasho Nesterovic is ridiculous and should be automatically ignored. Truly. It’s stupid and I wouldn’t give it another thought.
Hibbert? Roy Hibbert? I hardly ever think of him, especially in relationship to Bargnani because I don’t imagine there’s a sane-thinking executive in the league who would take the Pacer over the Raptor.
There are a couple of Amir-Reggie questions later on, suffice it say Johnson will still play.
And Rasho was brought in to be a situational backup big, to split time with Johnson depending on individual game matchups and I think we’re seeing that’s how he’s being used.
Q: It's my understanding that each player gets 2 tickets to every game. Is this for both home and away games? What happens to the tickets if the player doesn't use them. Does the player need to tell someone in advance if he doesn't want them for each game?
M O, New Brunswick
A: Your understanding is correct, players (only those on the active list, that is) are provided two tickets to each home or road game. And they are seldom, if ever, not used. What happens, particularly on the road where a player might have family or friends, is that they wheel and deal.
Like, “I’ll give you my two in Houston, you give me your two in Charlotte.” Some nights, you’d half expect Monty Hall to come strolling through the locker room.
Q: When opposing star players come to the ACC, they generally get respectful cheers from the fans when introduced. Out of curiosity, when we play in other arenas, does Chris Bosh receive similar all-star cheers as well?
T C, Toronto
A: Polite applause, mostly. But he does get some recognition. Not as much as, say, Kobe or LeBron or someone of that ilk get in Toronto, where fans are quite happy to show their appreciation for the skills of visiting players. At least, that is, until the game starts.
Q: Since you were talking about the high fives during free throws a few posts ago, I figured I'd ask why players on the opposing team sometimes stand in the paint in between free throws. Do they do this to throw off the shooter? Or slow down things to get more rest? What gives?
Anthony A, Toronto
A: Some rest, some to discuss strategy like what play they’ll run on the next possession, some because they’ve got ants in the pants and just want to go for a stroll.
Q: NBA 101 question: They are headed into the second month of the season and as of today have not played a game within their division. So what are the rules for which teams they play and how many times.
John P, Mundelein, Il.
A: They play each team in their division four times and each team in the other conference twice each. The other games are rotated yearly against other Eastern teams, some they’ll play three times a season and some they’ll play four. Those are alternated every season.
Q: Hey Doug. When a team has their training camp at the start of each year, I'm assuming they go through all those drills that players would have done before the draft - like a vertical leap test, 40 yard dash, etc.? If teams do keep these stats (and it would seem insane not to) do other teams have any visibility into these when making trades, etc? It's great to say that a player had a 40" vertical when they were drafted 10 years ago, but wouldn't it be more useful to know how high he can actually jump now? Is this something a team can do? Or does the Player's Union "protect" these guys from having their skills properly measured and documented once they're drafted?
Mike D, Toronto
A: It’s not the players’ union that has the information you’re speaking of, it’s the teams and they protect and don’t, as rule, offer it up to teams enquiring about a specific player.
But, you’re right, teams do update their information each fall.
Q: Hey Doug. Long time reader and fan of the blog, although I believe this is the first time I've ever submitted a question.
In your daily interactions with Bosh, I’d presume you’ve gained a pretty good sense of his personality and at least some of his aspirations. Do you think he’s enjoying the attention being given to him as one of the possible premier talents in the 2010 free agent class?
Put another way, by giving noncommittal answers about his future (particularly to reporters from road teams), is it possible that Bosh is simply trying to use this extra media attention to further “build his brand” outside of the Toronto marketplace? Even if he has no intention of leaving Toronto (which may or may not be true), is it advantageous to him to come out and publicly announce this? Do you think this is something he’s thought about, or am I just being a little too conspiratorial?
Thanks for all the great work. Cheers!
Andrew E, Mississauga
A: I truly and honestly believe that Bosh has no real idea what he’s going to do next summer. And that comes from being around him almost daily during the seasons for the past six years, he’s a guy who lives day to day and moment to moment and knows that things will all get taken care of in time.
But, and this is also an opinion gleaned from the access I’ve had over the years, I do think he enjoys being the face of a team, its spokesman in many regards and its best player. I also think that’s true of every superstar in sports, it’s what makes them stand apart In many regards.
Q: 13 games into the season, I'm sure you want more to evaluate, but what's your view of Jay as a game strategist /x&o guy? Can you rank him against some of the other youngish less experienced coaches in the east?
C M, Aurora
PS: Impressed with Alvin, who would think a gym rat would be such a snappy dresser, did you give him any tips?
A: I think they get good shots out of timeouts and to start quarters and I think they make good in-game adjustments (the way they covered Derrick Rose in the second half of the Chicago, the decision to double and then not double in the second half of the Clipper games come to mind) so he’s doing quite well as a strategist. But I can’t really compare him to others; for one, it’s apples and oranges because of personnel and because I haven’t seen enough of the other teams.
Q: Hi Doug. Great work as always. Quick question as to what will become of Amir Johnson when Reggie Evans returns? Will Amir back up Bargnani or will he lose most of his playing time and join POB/Banks/Weems at the end of the bench? To me Amir's shown us (You? Jay ?) that he can play as a solid backup.
Ken C, Barrie
A: Lots of Amir questions this week, this hopefully serves to answer them all.
When Reggie gets back, it’s going to ease the load on everyone. I’m sure Johnson’s minutes will drop a little bit, as will those of Bargnani and Bosh. It’s better, in my opinion, to have four capable bigs rather than three. And they’d still have Rasho in the case of foul trouble (which is Johnson’s biggest failing) or injury.
Q: Hey Doug,_So I have been reading the articles over the last couple of days about how Bosh feels he gets the shaft and doesn't get classed with LeBron and Wade from the '03 draft.
Personally I don't think it is a fair comparison. Don't you think you have to consider that Bosh is a power forward/centre? Shouldn't Bosh be comparing himself to Garnett, Gasol and Duncan and the like?
Albeit he still isn't considered to be in their class either.
A T, Thornhill
A: It was actually one article, from here, that was recycled for days by people who poach work and publish when they feel like it.
Anyway, it’s not a fair comparison about on-court play, comparing bigs and wings is unfair. But his point is that draft class and he wasn’t holding himself up to the same on-court skill as smaller, quicker players.
Q: Hi Doug. Pops is clearly one of the most popular Raptors at the moment and you seem a little skeptical of his cult status. We know he always brings the effort but I noticed last night against the Heat that his efforts to seal his man on the offensive glass screwed up some isos for us. On one occasion he was blown for a 3 second call for the same reason. On defense he also bit badly on a pump fake. Can you elaborate on what Pops needs to do to become a rotation guy? At the moment, does he hurt more than help the team because of his inability to play within the system?
Paul C, Sudbury
A: Oh, good. A Pops question.
The thing that’s kept him out of the league, and out of rotations, is discipline and offensive limitations. If he addresses those he’s got a chance to crack a rotation. But it won’t be here because even if he does, there are four bigs ahead of him.
Q: Wonderful blog Doug!
What is your take on bucks rookie Brandon Jennings? Do you think the raps made a mistake in not drafting him?
Roland M, Richmond Hill
A: This is a question better asked in April because there is no way in the world anyone can definitively answer draft questions less than a quarter of the way through anyone’s rookie season.
I think Jennings is having a big month on a team that sorely needs scoring from him.
Q: Hi Doug. What are your impressions on the upgrade over the summer to fix one of the team's most glaring weaknesses in years past and that is an overall lack of athleticism?? Does this hinder them more offensively or defensively??
Mark M, St. Catharines
A: They are far more athletic at almost every position. And I don’t think upgrades hinder anything. In fact, it helps at both ends.