Mail's in on a frosty morning
Have at it, ladies and gentlemen. Another nice array of questions, and even some good answers.
Q: I think we're far enough into the season you might have a sense of this. How is the league doing? Is attendance down noticeably? Interest? I can only afford to go see one game per year and this season I picked seats further away to save a few dollars. I don't think I'm alone.
Bob H, Mississauga
A: A quick glance through attendance figures for this year and last, it’s down in about two-thirds of the markets. Not a drastic decline in many cities and it could very well get back to norm as the season progresses but there is no denying the current trend.
They’re off a bit here – about 700 a game – but the interesting thing is they’ve only had two sellouts in seven home games.
But, it is early and probably should be something looked closely at around the all-star break when I think trends will have fully developed.
Q: Doug I notice that usually after a game that you cover thestar.com has a story with your byline soon after but sometimes it is by CP. Why is that? Thanks
Mike K, London
A: It depends on timing a lot of times, at least in my case. With an 11:15 p.m. deadline, if I have to file right at the buzzer (say off an 8:30 or 9 p.m. start), the website gets it more quickly than if it’s a 7 p.m. game and I have time to gather quotes. Then they get it when I file it, which is usually between 10:30 and 11.
On Sunday afternoons, I gather quotes, right a web-specific story that usually replaces a wire story within 40 minutes or so of the buzzer and then write something new for the morning newspaper.
Q: Hi Doug. I was wondering if you could contrast the recent announcement of Brian Burke's son to the announcement of John Amaechi, several years ago. Just curious if you have any memories of that time, or that situation.
Peter L, Toronto
A: My memory, sketchy that it is, is that it was far less a story than some would have thought, mostly because he was out of the game and had no real connection to it.
I honestly don’t know what would happen if someone closely connected to the game, or someone once removed like a son or daughter, was in the same situation in basketball. I’m absolutely dead certain the same circumstances exist in basketball that exist in the Burke story but no one’s come forward as publicly.
I’d like to think it would elicit yawns because it’s not an issue; I’m not 100 per cent certain that would be true, sadly.
Q: Doug, a history lesson please. How were the Celtics able to keep those great teams from the 60's together? I suspect there was no free agency as we know it today; on the other hand, as far as I'm aware, only baseball had the reserve clause. Thanks in advance.
Brent J, Barrie
A: Oh no, there was nothing like free agency. A player was the “property” of the team until he wasn’t wanted any more, quite an easy way to keep a well-built franchise together.
Q: Doug Smith, Sports Reporter, finds himself in a time machine where he is able to choose to disembark at a specific date to cover any team/event of his choosing. Other than here and now (!) which sports team or personality in which era would you find most intriguing to write about? Or could you limit it to just one?
Lorie P, London
A: Given the chance to look back, how cool would it have been to cover Ali in his heyday? That’s the one guy, the one issue, the one history-changing athlete I would have liked to have been around during his era.
Q: You've covered basketball for 15 years, the Olympics, few baseball games and even a couple of hockey games. Is there a sporting event that you have not covered that you would like to before you end your career as a journalist?
Dave R, Markham
A: You know, there probably isn’t. I have no real interest in doing a Super Bowl or any auto race. I have done Grey Cups and World Series. I guess if I had to pick one, it’d be to cover soccer’s World Cup from start to finish, just floating around writing stories.
Q: Doug after watching the raptors lay a couple of turkeys in the last couple games I'm curious to know how Jay tends to react with the players. Does he do the equivalent of the hockey version of a practice of just skating drills? Does he go into his office, close the door and beat the crap out of his desk? Or does he get the assistants to directly pass on his immediate displeasure?
Terry S. Durham
A: Coaches need to be careful, because continually ranting and raving and running ‘em to death gets old and can turn a team off in an awful hurry. I think coaches generally have like one bullet to fire a season and you better use it judiciously. Other than that, I’m sure there are all kinds of moments of private frustrations and outbursts.
Q: Hey Doug._Can you give us some insight into how the Raptors stack up financially with the rest of the NBA? Are they a positive for the NBA or a negative? And who are the teams that really need work?
Jeff L, St. John’s
A: The true financial picture of Maple Leaf Sports is a closely-guarded secret (kind of like the location of the currency printing press they own is) but I would be absolutely astonished if they aren’t making money and therefore a contributor rather than a drag on the NBA.
As for teams in trouble, reports have pegged the number of money-losing franchises at anywhere from 15-20 so I’m not sure what’s exactly accurate.
There are no Phoenix Coyotes, though.
Q: First I want to commend you on your outstanding work on this blog as well as covering the Raps as a whole. Love that you are embracing the Intraweb thing. You keep us engaged and informed! A "grunt" question rather a true Raps question as it's still to early to "panic" about this team only 17 games into the season. I know there will be the good side of the bipolar's come the new year.
How do the Raps stack up in terms of media coverage. By this I mean how many credentialed "grunts" tv, ink stained retches (that has a nice ring to it, haha), radio etc. cover the Raps and how do we compare to other teams in terms of numbers.
Also, since the economic downturn have you noticed a big drop city to city in terms of "grunts" covering each team and press covering out of town games. Keep up the great work Doug!
Francis SC, Toronto
A: Outside of New York, this team is covered on a regular basis by more media members than any other team in the league and I would suggest we’re not far behind the Knicks, either.
I’ve seen dwindling numbers in traveling media for a couple of years now and expect that trend to continue.
Q: When in the schedule do they play the last Eastern Conference team for the first time this year? I am thinking that would be a good time to schedule a taking stock of the year piece.
Jim R, Toronto
A: Well, they don’t play New York until the 40th game of the regular season, Jan. 15 in New York, so I’m thinking that’s a bit too long to wait.
Q: Doug. Along with the defensive schemes, can these guys be taught to give hard fouls, or is that more reliant on a player's personality? It seems that the coaches might want to impress this on the guys as a sound defensive strategy.
Thanks for the blog, from a basketball crazy prairie Raps fan.
Chris C, Winnipeg
A: They can be told the value of a hard foul but it is impossible, in my opinion, to make anyone do something like that if it’s not in their character.
Q: Doug - I have a theory about back to backs - can you please confirm or deny?
My theory is that the players negotiated FOR back-to-backs, because they like having 3 and 4 day stretches of no game after. The clubs like it because it reduces travel costs.
The fans get screwed because the NBA serves up BAD basketball games like last night's stinker for 20% of a team's schedule.
Wilf T, Aurora
A: Au contraire, my man. Players detest back-to-backs and would love it if they played every other day instead. So, it’s not on them, it’s on arena availability, the demands of television networks and the fact they try to jam 82 games into a period that’s about two weeks too short.
And, the fact is, the Raptors have only had one two-day break between games this season so far, will have one next week and then not another until just before the Christmas break.
Q: Hey Dougie, challenging you here to do some research if you don't know the answer to this question:
Any idea what NBA teams' record are on back-to-backs?
Do all NBA teams have 16 back-to-backs like the Raps do? Do you think that is too many?
A T, Thornhill
A: As of Friday morning, when I’m answering this particular question, the 29 other teams in the NBA are a combined 41-56 on the second of back-to-backs. Toss in Toronto’s 0-3 and you’ve got 41-59.
And the Raptors actually have 21 this year, which is about the average for the league. Last season, I think each team played 20 sets on average.
Q: Doug. Enjoy the blog. It is a must read for me. Oakley stated that good teams need three good starters and 2 role players (I hope I got that right). Thinking about this and applying it to the Raptors seems to make sense. Do you buy in to Oakley's theory? Assuming Reggie is out indefinitely, do the Raps feel a player of his ilk is worth sacrificing scoring talent? If he comes back, is having 2 players of that type too much? I am getting tired of this team talking, but not performing. More intensity needed. Less acceptance of failure.
Frank S, Caledon
A: Let me ask you this: Isn’t DeRozan now a “role” player? He’s not a shooter, they don’t run plays for him, he’s not an integral part of the offence. That’s a starter in a “role.”
I kind of buy Oak’s theory but I also see the rookie in that non-focus role; now, he’s got to be a better defensive player but that’s another matter.
Q: Hi Doug. So say you are Patrick O'Bryant (obvious physical similarity!), a big forward wanting to play. You watch as a roster spot opens up with Quincy Douby leaving. Suddenly, your team picks up another big/forward who wants to play. What are you thinking?
Sohail G, Collingwoo
A: That nothing’s changed and you’re the 14th or 15th man on the roster. But on the 15th and 30th of each month, when the cheque arrives, you’re okay with that.
Q: Hello Doug,_I enjoy your blog everyday. Thank you for your hard work. I have a question regarding the characteristics of the Raptors team. They have been known to be a finesse team, who are rather soft on defense but can score on anybody. So far these descriptions seem to fit this year's team as well. How is that possible with new coaching staff and 9 new players? Does it reflect the core of the team (Bosh, Calderon and Bargnani), how Bryan assembles the team or how they are coached? Your insight would be appreciated. Thank you!
M S, St. John’s
A: It reflects the manner in which the general manager has assembled the team. In his defence, though, the two guys he got to add grit have either missed the entire year (Evans) or been hurt for a bit of it (Wright). Other than that, though, look at the guys you’re talking about: Belinelli, Johnson and Jack. Maybe Jack’s a tough guard but the other two? Finesse players.
Q: Doug,_why don't you grunts just travel on the charter with the team? What's the big deal about another 170 pounds?
A T, Niagara Falls
A: Time and money and tradition. They leave far too soon after games to let us do our work; they’d probably charge fares far higher than we pay commercially; we don’t stay in the same hotels on the road and, frankly, they get sick of seeing us and we get sick of seeing them. We all need some private time.
Q: Hi Doug. A lot of the papers have people assigned (at least partially) to cover sports media and one former columnist now has his own website. Do you, or any of your peers (print or broadcast), actually pay any attention to these critiques?
Kent F, Ottawa
A: I can only speak specifically for myself and the answer is an emphatic ‘no.” And, an anecdotally, no one I work with ever does anything with thoughts toward whatever “critique” they might get from someone removed from the reality of the moment.
Q: This week you wrote the Raptors would win around 43 games. That probably puts the Raptors in the 6th to 8th playoff seed. As a result, the Raptors will likely face Orlando, Boston or Cleveland in the playoffs with a 1st round ouster being the probable outcome.
Questions: What are the chances Chris Bosh will be satisfied with that scenario when he becomes a free agent? How concerned is Bryan Colangelo?
Walter D, Oakville
A: I have absolutely no idea nor a guess on Bosh, Colangelo or any summertime movement until next summer.
But I want to point out that in each of the last five seasons in the East, 43 wins would be the fifth seed.
Q: Doug,_I read an article the other day on basketballprospectus.com where they had an amazing note about the Raptors.
If you compare their offence & defence to the league average, they have both the best offence, and the worst defence in the NBA since the merger in 1975.
Granted it's early, but what surprises you more? The fact that their offence has been that good? Or that the defence has been that bad?
(One more question, given that they say Toronto's defence is the worst ever, can you still really call it "passable"?)
Chris B, Toronto
A: It was interesting article that may have some relevance if the trend continues through the season so we can discuss this legitimately in March or April.
I am a more surprised at how bad they are defensively because I felt this team would score.
And, since you seem to have missed a point entirely. I will point out that never once have I said this team’s defence as it now is “passable.” What I have said, and there’s a rather significant difference I hope you see, is that for this team to do all right, all it needs is “passable” defence.
Q: Doug, I remember hearing a baseball coach saying a coach can really only affect the outcome of 10 games in a season. The rest are determined by the players. Do you think this philosophy applies to basketball? What do you think is the impact of the coach on Wins/losses in a season?
Mike S, Mississauga
A: I do; and I’d say no more than 10, and probably fewer, games in an NBA season are strictly decided by specific coaching moves.
Q: Hi Doug. With practice time during the season being at a premium, how much time do coaches dedicate to preparation for the opponent, versus the practicing of their own offensive and defensive strategies?
Jon B, Winnipeg
A: It really depends on time between games, to tell you the truth. Most full practices are dedicated to working on their own stuff, and they got about two hours a day. Most pre-game shootarounds, which go an hour, are generally dedicated to what the other team does.
Of course, that doesn’t hold all the time. This weekend, for instance, with a game in Boston on Friday and an afternoon game at home against Phoenix on Sunday, they will spend the majority of Saturday’s workout going over what the Suns did to them a couple of weeks back in Phoenix.
Q: You mentioned earlier that you were going to try and incorporate more NBA stuff as opposed to be too Raptor-centric. Have you been able to accomplish this? What tangible differences have you made to the blog in that regard. I think the links to "foreign scribes" has always been a great feature. Thanks,
Jeff D, St. Catharines
A: I haven’t done as good a job as I’d hoped, actually. Some Iverson, some other stuff but not as much league stuff as I’d like – or as some readers probably want – because these guys seem to be taking up too much time. Maybe things will calm down around here. (Yeah, right!).
Q: Hi Doug_Love the blog - it's a daily must read._It seems that the Raptor's really need a guy with leadership qualities who'll grab the team when they're lacking mental toughness and challenge them to step up. It's often the best player on the team, but it doesn't need to be. It seems that there is nobody on the team who is willing or able to do it (although I think Reggie Evans might be the closest possibility). Do you see anyone on the Raps who can fill this much needed role?
Steve A, Toronto
A: You know what? I think Jarrett Jack can emerge as someone who can do that role. He’s out-spoken, very vocal on the court and quite a demanding teammate. I think as time progresses, he may become one of the “leaders.”
Q: Hey Doug. I love your work immensely and I may have a silly or naive question for you on my part. My question is about rookies and are they locked in to a team for a set number of years? Please don't think I'm talking about trading DeRozan because that is the furthest thing from my mind. But can you trade rookies? I imagine they have a minimum salary for the first year but what can happen beyond the first year? My thinking on this one is that it has to be different than becoming a free agent and the team must have some control over the rookie's future.
Patrick C, London
A: Not silly or naïve at all. It’s all part of a very complicated Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Yes, you can trade rookies, who salaries are determined by a set rookie salary scale that covers their first three years in the league and includes teams options for the fourth and fifth.
It’s a way of putting some long-term cost certainty on young players.
But, yes, they can be dealt at any time, as long as the trade fits the financial requirements of the CBA.
Q: Doug. On set offense, the Raptors options seem always to run through Chris Bosh. Wouldn't it be a better-balanced scheme it they threw in a few more mid-to-high lane post ups for Bargnani? One reason I think Bargs becomes enamored with the outside stuff is that its his best chance to get into the offense._
Also, how about post ups with return passes to the guards and wings to try the outside shots?
Rocco M, Twin Falls, ID
A: A varied offence is always better, yes. But Bargnani’s not exactly a great mid-post passer or players, he’s better at that little two-dribble pull up jumper and passing out of it.
And if you watch, when they are most effective on offence, it’s times when the ball goes into the post and if there’s nothing immediately available it comes back and swings in one or two passes around the perimeter for open shots. I presume that’s what you mean by “return passes to the guards and wings?”
Q: Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey says, "Good teams don’t win close games -- they avoid them." With regards to the Raptors, although they have the talent, do you believe they have the mentality or heart to close games out consistently? Before the all-star break?
Marc M, Mississauga
A: Guess we won’t know until they get in some but I think they’ve got a few guys who can win games at the buzzer. And, frankly, in a few of their wins – Cleveland, Chicago, the Clippers, I think Detroit – they’ve actually sparkled in the final six or seven minutes.
Q: Hey Doug,_besides Kobe going from 8 to 24, Mike going to 45 when he came back, and now apparently LeBron going from 23 to 6, can you think of any other times a high profile player changed numbers without changing teams?
David S, Toronto
A: While with the same team? Nothing really comes to mind, to tell you the truth. Something tells me Artest might have done it in Indy or Chicago but he’s hardly high-profile. Other than that, it’s been when players have changed teams.
Q: Hey Doug. Not strictly a Raptors question, more of a rule question, but here goes:
If a player is making an inbounds play, and passes to a player who immediately shoots and scores, is the inbounder credited with an assist? I would assume they are, but was curious as they are technically out of play.
Keep up the great blog!
Peter R, Regina
A: Not an assist.