You know what?
I like mailbags like this. You’ve done a really good job this week, you zany readers. Good questions about a variety of topics that are challenging to answer and allow me to step outside the usual “they have to run more high screen-and-roll” stuff of a grunt’s life.
Now, get reading!
Q: Doug, a question about the blog and the "new media" you do for the Star. First and foremost, I think you do a good balance of tidbits in your blog that you can't get anywhere else and also general informal analysis of the team. I'm curious if this just became the norm, or if you sit down with a Star staff member that specializes in new media to go over the demographics of who reads the blog? I guess to elaborate it seems likely that anyone who is tech savvy enough to hit up blogs is probably also savvy enough to watch the post-game interviews on Raptors.com and is real-time current with the goings on in the NBA. How does this change your reporting, and how does the inevitable incorporation of new media and the print version of the Star get handled on a "Sports department" level?
Mr. C, Kingston
A: You know, this thing really has just evolved over the years and I appreciate the fact you think we do a good job of tibits and analysis because that’s exactly what I strive for. It’s mostly come from my own little cluttered head, actually, rather than from meetings or focus groups or whatnot. I’ve always held that the single hardest part of my job now is finding ways to make stories informative and interesting knowing that by the time most people are reading them, they know the score, have seen the highlights and, often, heard the interviews. I try to make a concerted effort to write game stories more analytically than in the past, kind of like reviews, for that very reason. It’s hard.
Take today, for instance. The game is at 12:30 p.m., I will endeavour to have a game story on the website by 4 p.m. or so that will include some post-game quotes and will be a more traditional approach to writing about an event.
But that won’t do for people who won’t get their paper until overnight because it will be old, old, old news by then. So I’ll sit there, probably with a glazed and confused look on my face, and try to come up with some different “angle” for a story that will appear in the paper tomorrow morning and be on the website about 4 a.m.
And it’s changed the reporting process in one tangible way: I think I’m much more aware of the need for “tidbits” to feed this beast every day; I find myself seeing things and thinking, ‘hey, that’d a good little blog item’ when I used to think ‘hey, that’s a good little thing I can’t report because there’s no room in the paper.’
And while we used to have two separate editing desks at the paper, we are moving to one that will handle web and newspaper copy.
Q: Hello Doug. Simple question. What are the three things that fans don't see (or don't understand) about professional basketball. Here's my guess for one--that coaching 15 personalities with different needs, widely different salaries and at different stages of their careers is extremely difficult, much more difficult than drawing up plays and substitution patterns. It's one thing analysts never talk about, but surely it is a big thing.
Olga B, Toronto
A: Hard question, you mean.
I think your guess is bang on and would definitely be on my list; I can’t put it any better than you did and I presume you know how difficult it would be to do all those things
I don’t think people understand the media demands, especially on coaches. On a typical game day, Jay and the players are available to the media after shootaround for 45 minutes or so, league rules mandate they be available for a 45 minute period starting 90 minutes before tip off and again after the game. That’s a lot of time answering the same questions from different people, all the while having to be mindful that they don’t want to say something either stupid or inflammatory.
This may draw chuckles but it’s the difficulties of travel.
Now, with charters and five-star hotels, it’s not the hardship that, say, I deal with but it’s not all fun and games. It’s a lot of late-night flights and middle-of-the-night arrivals, they have to sit through equipment delays, late buses, different accommodations and a whole lot of time sitting around with not much to do. It’s not a huge burden but it’s a greater one than some think.
Of course, as a guy who flies Sopwith Camels to Cleveland to take another to Milwaukee after a 4 a.m. wakeup call the morning after a 1 a.m. finish to a game night, I have little sympathy.
Q: Doug, I'm stealing this from Simmons' The Book of Basketball. In the book, he finishes with a chapter where he fills out a 12 man roster with historical players at their best (e.g. 1992 Jordan, 2001 Kobe, etc). He calls it the Cellar. What would be your starting 5 for the Raptors Cellar?
Kevin R, Toronto
A: Good one. Hard. Quite subjective. But fun.
By position? I’d go with Damon’s rookie year as my point guard, I might make Doug Christie in 1999-2000 my two-guard, Vince’s 2000-01 as the small forward, this year’s Bosh as my starting power forward and that leaves the black hole of the franchise: Centre.
Since they really haven’t had a true centre who was any good ever, I’m kind of at a loss.
I guess we have to go with Antonio Davis, either in that 2000-01 season or, better yet, the same guy who gave them so much at the end of the 2001-02 season.
Q: When BC said after the first Atlanta game that the onus was on him because he put the team together, didn't it imply that the flaw was more in the potential than the performance? Was he just trying to be a good GM, or is there some genuine pessimism there?
And, do Bosh and Bargs have much of an inside-outside game? Wouldn't that open up Bargs outside, while letting Bosh repost and whatnot? Maybe switch up from the pick and roll look?
Dave H, Waterloo
A: He was taking the bullet – rightfully so -- for a horrible game by a team that’s got flaws. And I presume the day after that game there was rampant pessimism. Just as there was rampant optimism about 72 hours later.
The second part of your question I don’t quite understand.
They have by their very nature an inside-outside game since Bosh plays inside and Bargnani plays outside. But if you’re asking whether they should use Bargnani to throw entry passes to Bosh on the low post, I’d say no. It would crowd one side of the court with too many bigs.
Q: Hey Doug, always a pleasure reading your hard work. Two issues I'd be interested in hearing your opinion:
1) In a piece at the start of the year, M Grange said regarding Bosh: "... I can’t say I know him in any meaningful sense. I like him. He’s friendly and approachable; more willing than most professional athletes to engage in conversation, but what he really stands for I’m still not clear." How do you see it?
2) In the pre-season, there was a lot of talk about how Reggie is 'bringing it' to every practice, and the intensity level stays high. I know the Raptors haven't had that many practices with this schedule so far, but any word if they maintained that level?
Yony B, Montreal
A: I think Mike’s assessment of Chris is pretty bang on; he is a very good kid, quite engaging in smaller groups of conversation but he’s also 25 years old and I don’t imagine he really knows what he “stands for.” Which is not atypical.
And, no, they haven’t maintained the level of pre-season practice intensity for the simple fact no pro sports team can. Once the season begins and the games come fast and furious, practice is for tinkering and maintaining rather than “getting at it” daily. Coaches wish it was different but it can’t be.
Q: Hey Doug, this is not a basketball related question, but it has to do with sports journalism. With Peter Gammons calling it a career after 20 years of ESPN, I was curious what are your thoughts about his retirement. He was essentially a pioneer for journalists who had TV aspirations. Which got me wondering, have you ever had TV aspirations (besides the occasional gig with Primetime Sports) or were you always satisfied being in the print media?
Dave R, Markham
A: Peter Gammons was a giant and forever changed our industry in one very tangible way: He was the first to do a weekly Sunday “notes” package that everyone eventually emulated. A weekly notes thing is what spawned what you’re reading here as a matter of fact. This began as a notebook in the paper, morphed into a notebook on the web and grew to what it’s become today.
And while I really enjoy the odd television appearance and would welcome more (any producers out there reading should feel free to write) I’d never do it at the expense of writing. This is too much fun and, I think, a better way to connect with, and educate, readers.