The mail all the way from Arizona
Well, you folks have done it again.
Loads of questions and lots of good ones; have fun digesting it while you get ready for the big game.
Oh, and don't get used to this being up so early every week, I'm so messed up with four different time zones in the last five days I have no idea what time it is anywhere in North America.
Q: Hey Mr. Smith, I am a huge Raptors fan, and when the Raptors lose I am one of those fans that get really frustrated. Does your fan side ever come out and you get really frustrated, or does your impartial journalistic point of view always stay with you.
Andrew H, Sutton West
A: I don’t have a fan side. I may cheer for a story but, frankly, that’s it. I hope for quick games with obvious story angles and some excitement but no buzzer-beaters, especially on deadline.
Q: Can you talk a little about scheduling? It seems that the high echelon teams are always playing on Thursday nights. We never are. We always play on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Is that because we share our arena? Or is there some strategy the league employs in deciding who plays on which days?
David S, Toronto
A: They don’t play Thursdays because that’s a night reserved for national TV broadcasts the United States on TNT, which – rightfully so – declined the chance to schedule a team that won 33 games a year ago.
And Fridays and Wednesdays and Sunday afternoons are the best times for arena availability in Toronto.
Q: Hi Doug. On Wednesday night, the Suns blow out the Hornets. The Suns play the next night on the road against the Lakers and the Lakers blow out the Suns. The Lakers play the next night in Denver and get blown out by the Nuggets. Rather than the Suns/Lakers and Lakers/Nuggets being the marquee matchups as hyped, the games end up being duds, I think, because of the road team playing on the second night of a back-to-back. What can be done to eliminate or at least significantly reduce the number of back-to-back games to improve the quality of play for both the paying customers and the TV audience (not to mention the effect on players)? Casual fans will tune out of TV games early and an exciting close game is so much better to attend than a one-sided blowout. I know arena availability is an issue, but isn't it in the NBA's best interests to provide the most competitive, entertaining games as possible for everyone? What about extending the season by a couple weeks and keep the same number of games, etc?_
Diana T, Mississauga
A: You make all valid points that the league is aware of, I’m sure, but with the tug of TV and the availability of arenas, sometimes it’s unavoidable. A lot of it really has to do with the national broadcaster, they want the high profile teams and they have to fit other games around those demands.
But instead of extending the season, the answer to me is quite simple: Whack the pre-season by about two weeks, 10 days at the least and that gives you some more time.
Q: Doug. When you covered the Raptors during Vince Carter's rookie year, was there a moment when you realized this could be a really special talent at the Raptors hands? It seems like his rookie year was quite a phenomenon, and the buzz was incredible. Also, how were he and McGrady in dealing with you and the fellow grunts, and how are things today with those guys?
Steven R, Clarkston
A: It was early in Vince’s era, actually. There wasn’t a “wow” moment that I can think of – maybe a dunk on the baseline in Indy about 10 games in would come close – but you knew pretty quickly he was going to be good.
Tracy, when he was in Toronto, was so young he was a bit quiet with the media but he did have a great “the ship be sinking” like in a particularly troublesome time that made him stand out.
Vince? I will say this: There has not been a player of his stature in the league and in the public eye who was better with us. He stopped and talked at every practice, every shootaround and after every game. He may not have said much, but he never, ever blew us off.
Same goes for Bosh now, as a matter of fact, so we’ve been pretty lucky.
Q: Hey Doug, if you were to see just 5 NBA games live this year, which ones would you attend?
And as a related follow up, in your opinion, what are the top 5 arenas to watch a game for overall experience, based on say the last season and this one?
Josh P, Toronto
A: If I had to pick games, they wouldn’t be in November or December, that’s for sure. But I’d like to see Lakers-Spurs late in the season, Cleveland-0rlando, Denver-Dallas because I think there might be some bad blood there and a Boston-Cleveland game in the final month of the season would be a hoot. Or, and give me maybe Grizzlies-Kings so I can better appreciate good games.
In-arena stuff all seems to meld together, to tell you the truth. But I do like watching a game at Conseco Fieldhouse when it’s full; a game in Phoenix is pretty good and so are ones in Chicago and Houston. If I had to pick a fifth, let’s go with the Lakers ‘cause you’ll see some beautiful – sometimes fake beautiful – people.
Q: Hey Doug. Been to two games this year and really think that the entertainment during stoppages really need some work. It's the same things every year.
What arenas do a lot better job in keeping fans engaged or entertained when the game is not going on and what do you think the Raptors can do to improve their own.
Ron M, Markham
A: I don’t know what they can do other than be less scripted. If the Raptors are on a run and the fans are into the game and there’s a timeout, drag out the Dance Pak and find some energetic music to keep the mood up. Don’t always follow scripts.
Best arenas? Phoenix does a very good job of getting the fans going, and so does Utah, actually. Other than that, they all seem to meld together in my mind.
Q: Hey Doug, I was just reading an SI.com article today where they were discussing the possibilities of a female coach being hired in the NBA, after Nancy Lieberman was hired to Coach the D-League. I was wondering your take on the matter. You think it'll ever happen at the highest level?
Joey H, Toronto
A: No, I don’t think there’s a general manager or an owner who’d take that shot. And part of it has to do with no one in the minor leagues – until Dallas – giving a woman a shot to learn her craft.
I think the first NBA GM who hires a woman as an assistant will one day be seen as a pioneer and, trust me, there are enough female basketball coaches in North America that some of them would be more than capable NBA assistants.
Q: Hi Doug, a non-game question for you. With the down economy and the general financial state of most newspapers, have you noticed a drop off in the number of beat reporters that are on the road with teams this year?
Brad L, Guelph
A: As a matter of fact, yes. In Toronto, for instance, we were the only paper of four to staff every game – home and away – last year and this year in the pre-season and when M. Grange ™ joins us in Phoenix, it will mark the first time there’s been more than two scribblers from Toronto on the road this season.
Around the league, the numbers of traveling writers is dwindling every year and gets worse as seasons progress and teams fall by the wayside and the economics of traveling with a bad team are too much for editors to justify.
Q: Recognizing you've covered the team for 15 years. Are you the person who has seen the most Raptors games live or is there somebody in the organization who has been there from Day 1 & seen all the games.
Paul E, Fredericton
A: I don’t know, I’ve never kept track of the total because it’d be scary to think about; but the only other two on my side of things who’ve been around since Day 1 are Leo and Jonesy and I’m not sure how much they’ve traveled over the years. Not sure if covering the most games is a badge of honour or what but it’s sure given me a good baseline to be an expert in bad basketball.
Q: I agree Doug, Monday was a very good mail bag. So I have a question, where does Toronto fit into as a basketball market? We have had issues in the past attracting, and keeping players. I think the NBA has matured to the point where players have been here enough to recognize a great city and a good market. Could you list some pros and cons of the Toronto market? And feel free to mention that we get the best and most innovative coverage anywhere.
Steph R, Glencoe
A: Pros are easy: Great city, good restaurants, good clubs and if you get paid in American dollars you’re living even larger than usual.
The cons are the winters, which can be tough; the travel, Customs and Immigration is easy compared to what it is for me but it’s still a pain; and the team hasn’t been very successful.
Q: Love the blog Doug, your mailbags are insanely long sometimes - takes long enough to read that it certainly gives me a sense of how hard you work to put it on paper.
Question: Is it just me... or is there an inordinate amount of talk early in this season about teams "finding themselves" - or is the Raptor's situation (nine new faces) just sensitizing me to comments going on about other teams (like Cleveland), and of course Duncan's quote in your article today, etc.?
Stephen H, Port Hope
A: I’m not sure there’s an inordinate amount but it’s a story here for the first time since ’07 when they remade the team so drastically. And there was a large amount of movement elsewhere in the off-season that feeds into the frenzy.
Q: Hi Doug. I read recently that Dwight Howard was fined 15k for criticizing officials in his blog. As a reporter, are there any restrictions imposed on you, either by the league or your own bosses, in regards to writing about referees? Would there be any consequences, formal or informal, if you were to completely trash an official or an officiating crew in one of your articles or blog posts?
Serge P, Ottawa
A: Restrictions? No, not a single one. No one sees my stuff before it’s published except my editors and the NBA – and every pro sport organization out there – knows it can’t mess with the media.
And if I write critically – and I’m not going to “completely trash an official” because I don’t have the same ability to fly off the handle like some fans – there are never repercussions.
Q: Hey Doug! I know we're seven games "deep" in the season, but what’s your opinion on BC should go after Stephen Jackson? He's a good perimeter defender, can create and a tough guy. Someone say that he's an aging headcase with a big paycheck, but he's maybe the right piece to contend besides the big three in the East. What do you think?
Adam M, Toronto
A: Not a chance. Ever. Never. The guy’s contract is an albatross and while he’s a nice player, he’s never won anything as a regular and had been a disruption in his last two cities. Not sure I see a leopard changing its spots.
Q: Doug, when David Stern is having his morning coffee and looking out his window at the mess that's the Knicks and the Nets, do you think he cries?
Brent J, Barrie
A: I think he chuckles. The coverage and angst that those two teams create is in direct disproportion to their place in the league and I bet he’s just as happy people aren’t entirely ignoring them.
Q: Hey Doug. I noticed in the Chicago game, i think it was the end of the third, the Raptors had the ball in the offensive end with 1.1 seconds left, why wouldn't jay call a 20 to set up a play? Instead it wilted into nothing with the guys clearly looking disorganized. Was that a mistake on Jay's part? It seems self-evident to me that you call a timeout there to try to get a good shot.
Stephen M, Toronto
A: Because you only get one 20-seocnd timeout a half, that looked like a game that was going to go down to the final one or two possessions and he wanted to save as many timeouts as he could.
So, what’s self-evident to you made no sense to an NBA head coach and was the furthest thing from a mistake in my opinion, too.
Q: Hey Doug. Love the all the work you put in, I personally check in pretty much every day when I can, so in that regard I say thank you very much.
Anywho, question: I always wondered who keeps the stats? how are all these numbers recorded especially those ones on nba.com where they show where on the floor the shots taken (that’s crazy).
Is it like one person is in charge of keep track of one or two specific stats of all the players? Or just one for each team? Also what happens if one person screws up by not counting or giving the stat to someone else? It boggles my mind sometimes of all the stats there are to be take down.
Jorell G, Guelph
A: There’s a crew in each city, you can see them sitting at the scorers table, with either two or three members devoted to watching each team. It’s all very computerized and it takes great skill to be on a stats crew. They also take their job pretty seriously but if they do miss something, it’s usually corrected quickly.
Q: Hi Doug.
Do you think it is a good idea for the execs at MLSE to start marketing CB4 more aggressively? How about an ad campaign like "CB4, it's my world...global NBA"? He seems to crave the attention, and although winning is the priority, it takes time to build, and that is a luxury MLSE might not have. Is the timing right?
Stephen C, Mississauga
A: Market him where? He’s on just about every piece of promotional material the team puts out domestically and the league has used him in such things as Basketball Without Borders.
I don’t think there’s a fan out there who, when the conversation turns to the Raptors, doesn’t immediately think of Bosh.
Q: Hi Doug, I know the last thing that is going to happen ins Triano changing the offense but, hypothetically, do you think the Raptors would be successful at running " the Princeton offense" 4 of the five starters can handle the ball and shoot the 3 (as long as bosh is at the top of the three point mark). What would be the benefit/disadvatages to this offense? What do you think of it?
Matthew M, Scarborough
A: Hypothetically, they might. But why change a good thing? And he Princeton offence is predicated mainly on perimeter movement of ball and player, which goes away from what the team’s best offensive player – Bosh – does best.
Q: In last week's Mailbag you answered a question concerning the technology used today by writers to "engage" readers. You went on to say: "the writers back there were characters and would have thrived letting readers get to know them better." I grew up enjoying the writing of Milt Dunnell and Jim Proudfoot (I am not as familiar with the writers from other newspapers as ours was strictly a Toronto Daily Star household; for whatever reason the reading of any other newspaper was forbidden in our house.) and wonder if these gentlemen were two of the "characters" you were referring to? And, can you tell us of any other writers who you think might have done well and enjoyed interacting with their readers in the many ways that are possible today?
Lorie P, London
A: Chester, as Jim Proudfoot was known, was one funny dude, I think people would have loved to know more about him and he had a nice, dry sense of humour that those who knew him really appreciated.
The one guy, and he got into the broadcast end of things later, who would have been great, I think, was Jim Hunt.
Q: Hey Doug: No question here. Just a little nugget that reminded me of you. Early in the 3rd quarter of the Heat/Mavs game, J.O. drives on Shaq, Shaq fouls J.O. clearly, J.O. hits the deck dragging Shaq down with him as he falls, and, no call.
The ball's headed the other way in a 4 on 4 as the two bigs try to pick themselves up. Then, with about 16 seconds on the shot clock and no big man in sight, ball hits Moon's hands in the corner, he chucks up a three and misses.
Me? It made me smile.
Chad N, Toronto
A: You’re right, no question here but a sweet story. I saw exactly the same play sitting in the sports bar at the LAX Marriott and almost did a spit-take when he hoisted that shot.
Q: I'm hoping you can explain this one for me: Why is a defensive three-second violation an automatic technical foul, but a three-second violation on offence is simply a turnover? The Raptors keep getting defensive three-second calls and it seems an unfair penalty.
Mason W, Toronto
A: Because the league believes – rightfully so, in my opinion, that there should be a harsher penalty for camping out in the lane guarding no one and dissuading anyone from driving to the basket than for an offensive player to stand there clogging up space. The penalty in that instance – giving up possession – is fair.
Q: Byron Scott and Sam Mitchell. Can we add any other coaches to the list of those fired shortly after winning coach of the year?
Jen L, Calgary
A: Avery Johnson, coach of the year 2006, fired 2008.
Q: Hi Doug. I'm curious about the personalities and mental states of pro athletes. Being around the raps players so much, how much a sense do you get of their inner worlds and the effect it has on their game. For example - we love Bargnani but hate his inconsistency. His confidence seems always to be at one pole or another on the court. How does his personality play into this? Can you get a sense of how he's going to play based on how he comes across before a game?
Dan C, Winnipeg
A: Andrea is the same before every game, a bit dour, polite but not engaging. And as we’ve seen, that has no correlation with how he’s going to play on any given night.
Q: So the Raptors released Douby. Sure, he's been inactive, and was probably the last or second last guy the Raptors would have went to for help (Marcus Banks and POB come to mind) if one of our key PG's/SG's (okay, several) went down with injury. But what was the point of this move? Why now? It doesn't hurt to have someone who can step onto the court when called upon.
I think something is brewing here, and Colangelo has something up his sleeve. He's continuously pondering ways to improve this team, and I think he may have either a trade, or a pick-up on the horizon. Couldn't hurt to find one or two more defensive minded players, right?
What do you think Doug? Anything you can dig up with your sources?
Ravi C, Brampton
A: There’s nothing brewing here. Trust me. As I’ve explained, it’s a cost-saving mechanism and gives them some roster flexibility if they want to use it, which they don’t at any level right now.
The timing was easy. He would have had more guaranteed money coming his way if he’d been on the roster on Nov. 15 and since they’ll be in the middle of a road trip that day, it was better to do it in Toronto than on the road.
Q: Hi. Was Bellinelli brought in to be a friend for Bargnani? How much are they friends so far?
Dave B, Sydney
A: Belinelli is not a stable pony, for goodness sake. He was brought in because he can play. And he and Bargnani are close, which is not surprising since they’re from the same country andh have been teammates on the Italian national team.
But to think he’s here to hold Andrea’s hand or give him a paesan to hang with is dead wrong.
Q: Hey Doug. 2nd time asking here.
I'm currently a high school student and as an NBA addict, I'm loving your blog big time, as it has been as regular as homework to me.
I just have a question. As someone who is mathematically gifted, coupled with a passion for basketball, what are your comments about today's sports statistics boom, especially in basketball? On the same note, what is the career path of an NBA statistician, like someone who is hired by Dallas' Mark Cuban or Houston's Daryll Morey? I'm sure many other people would be interested in knowing.
Patrick P, Scarborough
A: I think stats are a small part of the process of assessing talent and team-building. They have a place but never at the expense of actually knowing the character of players, the personal dynamics of teams and inter-personal relationship, which have far, far more to do with the success of a team or an individual than basing decisions on the study of numbers.
Career path? Well, I’m not sure. I think the guy in Dallas Is no longer in Dallas and, statistically, there aren’t enough examples to determine a trend.
Q: Doug -- just a comment after reading the rags with all the talk about intensity and rebounding. It starts with the coach -- I don't think I've seen an NBA coach sit during crunch time as much as Triano. His philosophies aside, and, granted, he's up and vocal contesting bad calls, I'm going to throw up the next time I see the team lose 3 or 4 boards consecutively and watch the camera pan to a sitting, contemplating Jay.
Alex E, Toronto
A: You think because the coach stands up, players play harder? That, I believe, is a stretch and is proved at least a little false by the success of Phil Jackson.