This is a very, very good mailbag, you should be proud
Way to go, folks.
Q: Hi Doug. I asked this in a game-chat the other day but I know you have a million comments coming in at once. It also might have read as a leading question, but trust me, it wasn't. More philosophical.
You've been on record as saying you're pretty much against any coach firing anywhere. But I know that can't be the case. Surely there is a time when you think it's best to do away with the head coach. What are the factors involved where you would agree that a firing would be in the best interests of a team? And I'm not suggesting Triano be fired. Just curious in general about what you would think needs to happen for a coach to get canned.
Gus M, Vancouver
A: I know this is going to sound like the easy way out, but I don’t think there’s any one trigger, to tell you the truth.
But, yes, there are times when a move is necessary.
A lot of times it’s when there’s a breakdown in respect, if that’s the best way to put it. Players do tune coaches out and if one or two or them are doing it and potentially poisoning the atmosphere around the team, a change could be necessary to, say, save the development of young players.
And there are times when coaches simply defy their bosses, maybe not openly, but in subtle ways regarding style of play, the use of promising young players, etc.
Those instances may not be entirely apparent to the public – and it’s quite simple for fans to say “he’s lost the team” without any real knowledge of the situation – but when they do occur, I’m all for change.
And, quite simply, I do think there are times when a change of voice is required.
But it’s never one thing; and it’s not usually the same one case-by-case.
Q: PLEASE answer my question! I've been submitting tons of questions and I haven't got a single response! Please do it this time!
Wasn't there 0.3 seconds still left on the clock when the ball passed through the hoop during Kobe's game winning shot against the Bucks? What are the official rules regarding when the game clock should be stopped after a made basket? By the way, Kobe travelled right before the shot. Here's a clip of the shot:_http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62wXe4P-HGE
Ashley H, Toronto
A: It’s when “the ball clears the net” which is quite subjective and part of the reason they’ve increased the use of instant replay in such circumstances.
Yes, Kobe probably did travel; but only after he committed an offensive foul on an earlier, equally crucial, possession.
Q: Hi Doug. Here's a non-Raptors BB question: How much involvement / time does it take for you to head up the basketball writers association? Is there any US vs. Canada bias out there with writers? I know that may sound silly since I assume they had to vote you in for president, but then again I view your writing and insights up there as one of the best so it might be a non-issue in your case specifically.
Thanks and keep up the amazing writing.
Pete T, Georgetown
A: It’s not a lot of time, actually, if things are running smoothly in the 29 cities. There’s a monthly newsletter, you have to administer the organization’s writing contests but there are two truly hard-working colleagues --- vice-president Steve Aschburner and secretary-treasurer Rich Dubroff – who do the heavy lifting.
If there are league-wide issues, such as repeated access violations, change in NBA policies that have an impact on us, that’s it’s time to chat with league poobahs.
As for the bias? None whatsoever. I think there’s a respect for what everyone does, regardless of the passport. In fact, once the Raptors and Grizzlies arrived, they changed the name of the organization from Professional Basketball Writers Association of America to reflect the new reality.
Q: Hi Doug, fabulous blog, part of my daily routine, keep up the good work.
I know good advice generally warns against discussing religion or politics, but my question is related to religion. Having just finished Eid, being in the middle of Hanukkah, and with Christmas coming, I was thinking about the extent, if any, that religion plays in the day-to-day life of the Raptors.
In the past the Muslim community has been happy to have Hakeem around, he was a regular member of the downtown mosque in Toronto and was generous with his time, presence and money to community causes. Hedo, given his Turkish heritage is at least in name probably Muslim, but I suspect he does not make it a part of daily life.
As for the questions, I have many, but some of them would include:_Along the spectrum of Athiest to Fervent believers, where do most lie? Are any special considerations made to players or staff to allow for religious practice (ex. meals, days off)? Does it affect the game or practice schedule in any way (ex. no practice please, it's the Sabbath)? Does the team have a pre or post game "prayer" of any sort?
Amr E, Mississauga
A: Religion being, as you well know and have put it, such a personal matter, it’s hard to really tell but I would surmise from the interaction I have that the team would, collectively, fall at the atheist end of your spectrum.
That said, there is a non-denominational chapel service held before every game in every arena. I’m not entirely which Raptor attends the most regularly because I’m not there, but I know some do.
And, with this team, there has never been a post- or pre-game prayer but, again, I would imagine some team have done that in the past. You may recall the Knicks of the early 2000s used to have a post-game prayer circle at mid-court following every game, to which they would invite members of the opposing team; that was the most open religious “celebration” I recall.
Q: Always enjoy the blog, Doug! You've already listed your top basketball/sports books, but I was wondering what your top grunt books would be - that is, books that helped you become the charismatic (too thick?) writer you are today. Feel free to list your favorite novels too - the kids need to read more these days, Doug!
Jay D, Toronto
A: Man, I wish I could give you five. Or even 10. But taste is such a personal thing I’d feel bad for leaving something off.
But I will say this:
Anything by Hemingway is a must-read (brilliant author who used to be a Toronto Star reporter; what’s better than that, I ask?) and I will say this: The opening chapter of Don DeLillo’s Underworld is brilliant (it’s got a baseball bent that makes it spectacular). Oh, and I hear Super Wife saying if I don’t put To Kill A Mockingbird on the list I’ll suffer some serious consequences so it’s here, too.
Personally, my taste runs more to non-fiction than fiction and if you get your hands on almost anything by David Halberstam, you cannot go wrong.
I know this is not a definitive list but …
And, for all you kids out there, listen up:
Read. Read for entertainment, read for education, read books or magazines or newspapers or websites; read whatever you can get your hands on. Try different things, broaden your horizons, I one million per cent guarantee you that you’ll become better people if you read.
End of rant.
Q: Hi Doug. When I look at current elite teams like the Lakers, Nuggets, Caviliers, Celtics,etc, and championship calibre teams from the past (i.e. the Bulls, Celtics, and Lakers) there always seems to be an Alpha dog that both leads and rips into those who are not lifting their games to his level. So my question is whether Bosh has the capacity to be the Alpha dog for the Raptors?
On an unrelated note, I recently bought the Beatles' Abbey Road remastered CD. I forgot how good it was. Which got me thinking, about my top 5 all time favorite albums. I've got: Abbey Road; Boston's first record; Chicago 9; Toto's greatest hits, and the Dobbie Brothers' greatest hits ( a decidedly '70s theme). Given your recent top 5 binge, what are your top 5 favorite albums?
Mark L, Abbotsford
A: Sure, he has that capacity, but certainly not at the level of guys like Jordan, KG or Kobe but, who does? Bosh does get after people in his own way; it’s far more quiet and private that many would like (and I know of it from conversations with coaches and other players) but it’s the way he is. And it’s not going to change.
I’m not sure I can go with a lot of your albums, though. Sorry.
If I was going to an island and needed a variety of great sounds, I’d be packing The White Album, Dark Side Of The Moon, Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits, The Joshua Tree and, Born To Run. Oh, and I'd sneak in something of Van Morrison, maybe his greatest hits and take my chances no one would notice.?
Q: Hi Doug._With Vancouver 2010 just around the corner, an Olympic question for you. If you were asked to provide some coverage of the upcoming Winter Olympics, and were given your choice of any event to write about, which sport(s) or perhaps a particular athlete, would you find the most interesting to write about? And have you previously been assigned to a Winter Olympics?
Lorie P, London
A: I’d probably take the easy way out and do the alpine skiing because I’d like to know more about the nuts who ride down icy mountains on barrel staves. That’s crazy.
I know where you’d never find me? The ice rink. Mostly because I’d like to avoid the kajillion co-workers and other Canadian media who’d be there.
And I’ve done one Winter Olympics. Nagano in ’98; first time The Star sent someone to solely do internet stuff and that was my gig.
Of course, during the time I was there, the Raptors and Leafs merged and the Raptors traded Damon Stoudemire and fired Darrell Walker. I remember doing “Rate The Trade” graphics and making calls to help out stories in the wee hours of the Japan night.
Q: Hi Doug. The inconsistent nature of these guys truly makes it hard for me to watch games regularly. Early on would try to PVR games if I couldn't get to them live. Now I don't. I am heading down the slippery slope of indifference. Why watch when it only gets you annoyed? Here the question: How do you stand watching a team that is so inconsistent (besides the millions Mother Star deposits to your account). Does it every get to you? Does the blog help provide an outlet? Thanks for the your efforts. BTW, I think the poor play has an effect on your blog numbers, too.
Nick L, Toronto
A: It’s really simple: It’s my job. It’s what I do. Sure, they’re inconsistent, but at least that gives me a story angle each game, think of it that way. I have to because I don’t want to go stark, raving mad.
And it doesn’t “get to me” honestly. Reading the, um, passionate and creative comments most bad losses elicits gets to me a wee bit because it’s like incessant hammering. But, again, it’s what I signed up for.
And, surprisingly, the regular blog numbers haven’t suffered at all this season and while there is more fluctuation in the in-game blog and game-day chat assessment, the numbers have at times been pretty good.
Q: Do you ever wish that you were covering a winning team? Or, at least a team with some direction? It must be depressing to read hundreds of negative emails day after day, year after year. I can't imagine grunts following the Spurs or Lakers have much to complain about, other than the immense time spent away from their families.
Travis S, Toronto
A: Oh, we all complain, it’s what we do. (I joke. A little).
But, considering that three seasons ago it was a 41-win team and that two of the last three seasons have ended with covering the post-season (which is always fun because there’s just a bigger “edge” to everything), who am I to complain. I could be a grunt having to watch, say, the Clippers for years. Or the Nets this year.
Q: Hi Doug, 15 years went by quickly didn't it? What are your 5 most memorable Raptor games that you covered? Would you include any of the games from the 2001 playoffs on your list?
Thanks, and keep up the great work!
S S. Newmarket
A: Wow. Tough one. And this is more off the top of my head than I’d probably like but what the heck.
Sure, Game 7 of that series would absolutely be in the list; so would the first game in franchise history, the first game here of the Raptors-New Jersey playoff series because the atmosphere was like nothing I’ve ever seen. Now, as for a couple more? Few really stick out in my mind, actually. I recall a triple-overtime game here against Sacramento that was brilliant and there was the day they hit about 20 three—pointers and beat Philly on a Sunday afternoon.
But let me go way back: The first time Damon had a triple-double, against Seattle in the ‘Dome in the first year was pretty special.
Q: Doug: you are a great writer. Just this last year I have been utterly fascinated with my childhood memories. One was triggered last night that left me stupefied for different reasons. cut to almost twenty years ago when i was an eighth grader off the bench back up point/shooting guard for an all Sarnia Catholic team. We would play it seemed once a week in Port Huron, Michigan at a community centre. Boxing gym/classrooms/b-ball hardwood gym. These guys would kill us every single time. If one guy on our team could (barely) dunk they were doing off the glass dunks in warm-ups.
Long wind-up to my question and I apologize for that, but my question is how far does the strategy of "let them play" go nowadays in the NBA versus the Triano very "structured/history/system/analysis" go?
Pat C, London
A: I’m not sure Jay’s as a structured as you may think, I’d put him in the middle of the spectrum of coaches who micro-manage games down to every possession.
That said, I’m all for letting them play as a jumping off point. The game requires a large measure of creativity to be played at its highest level and you stifle that when every play is called from the bench.
Of course, if you’ve got dumb players, you may need to micro-manage them to have any chance at success; but, in fact, I bet if you let players just go, they’d turn out to be a bit smarter than some think.
But – and there’s always a but – coaches sometimes see things players don’t, like enviable matchups, the need to get someone involved offensively to give them a sense of belonging, if you will, so there are times when structure is good.
Q: Hi Doug, you made a comment the other day that gave me the impression that you would rank Kobe ahead of Michael Jordan. Please tell me I misunderstood.
Marc B, Brampton
A: I imagine that some day I'll be able to make that argument for sure. And right now, at least in my opinion, it’s an awful lot closer than many think.
Q: I'm no fan of the Olympic Movement, but since my taxes will be paying for the upcoming boondoggle for years to come, I will be trying to extract some entertainment value from it come February. At the very least, the games will provide a welcome distraction from the same old same old dreck provided by the Raps et al.
Which brings me to my question: will our favorite Friendly Neighbourhood Grunt be doing a Whistler beat? Your inimitable perspectives on non-basketball-related doings in Beijing were much enjoyed and appreciated. (Oh yeah, as was your basketball reporting.)
Non-sequitur (kind of): why isn't hoops part of the Winter Olympics? After all, the game was invented as a winter sport (albeit for indoors). Of course the answer is always $$$. Ironically, hockey was introduced for the 1920 Summer Games, played outdoors in the spring before the rest of the sports, and is now played indoors.
A: Alas, no, I’m sitting out Vancouver, we have a team of about eleventy going and I’d just get in the way. And, besides, while it would be a hoot to chronicle the intricacies of, say, sketeton and ice dancing, I don’t imagine I’d run into a giant, scary, big-as-a-cat scorpion as a pet like I did in Beijing, and what fun would that be? Oh, and someone has to stay back and mind the hoops store, that’s all-star weekend and the trade deadline and no one knows what these guys get up to.
Basketball’s a Summer Games sport simply because, when it was first added to the program, countries didn’t want to suspend their domestic leagues and there was a need and desire to increase the number of events in the Winter Games.
Q: Doug. The Wife, in a moment of mental instability, says "have fun!" when I mention that it would be great to head to Turkey and cheer on Canada in the World Championships. Deciding I need to run with this, I start looking for information... would you happen to know of any organization(s) that are providing packages (flight, ticket, etc..)? I need to strike before her common sense returns!
John F, Toronto
A: Ah, man. Can your wife get a gig as my boss? Please.
Anyway, I don’t know of anything specific at the moment and all I can do is send you to Canada Basketball site (www.basketball.ca) or FIBA (www.fiba.com) and see if they’ve got anything. But I also presume it’s a bit early for any package deals to be set up.
Q: Hi Doug. I'm usually pretty upbeat about the Raptors but I have to tell you this team gets me more angry than any other than any other I can remember. At least last year and in other years they were just plain bad. This year, we all know they can be good as evidenced by beating teams by 15 or 20 pts. The only problem is that they lose the next few by 15 to 20 pts.
Which leads to my question. Is it just me or does there seem to be more blowouts (i.e. point differential of more than 15 pts) this year than in previous years? I know you will disagree, but maybe the comments by Tim Donaghy have made the refs more aware and they are no longer sub-consciously keeping games close?
Rob Y, Markham
A: I don’t have the hard data for every team but the Raptors have played nine games with margins of loss or victory of 20 points or more already this season. They played 14 of 20-plus in the entire 2008-09 season.
Q: Hi Doug. We haven't seen or heard a thing from or about Wayne Embry this season. Is he still active as Senior Advisor? Does his role entail working only with management, or does he mix it up with the players as well?
Does management in general deal on a daily basis with players, or do they avoid that so as not to "interfere" with the coaching staff? Does Brian, for example, hang out at practices, or in team meetings, and get his two cents' worth in?
Final question: Coaches and players are required to be accessible for media questions. Do similar rules apply to management? How accessible is Brian to you for interviews, on- or off-the-record info, etc.?
David M, Ottawa
A: Oh, Wayne’s been around a fair amount. Not recently because he’s been out scouting and he spends the winters at his Arizona base. Now, how “active” he is, or how much weight his opinion carries now is not something I’m entirely sure of.
Bryan’s at every practice when he’s in town, almost every home game and I’d say about half the road games, observing more than providing daily input, but he’s there.
And, no, there are no media requirements for front-office personnel, if they decide to return a call or not is entirely up to them. I will say this: Any time I’ve needed comment from Bryan on a story, I’ve been able to get it.
Q: Doug, can you please enlighten us on how officiating crews are assigned to games during the regular season? Is there some kind of draw involved? Are the best referees (those handling the playoff games) somehow given the "marquee" games during the regular season or can they also find themselves calling Nets vs. Timberwolves? Do all referees work on about the same number of games? Lazaros O, Washington, DC
A: There are “groups” of officials, not sure how many in each, from which crews are assigned. And the league says it doesn’t put “good crews” in “big games” because scheduling is built around making sure the same guys don’t see the same teams every week or so and travel considerations play into it as well.
And, yes, each ref works roughly the same number of games a season, I’m told, barring injuries, of course.
Q: Morning Doug, I can see Jay's job being in jeopardy if the players don't play with some intensity and play like they care about the outcome before too long. GM's have a history (and rightly so) of not tolerating that type of play forever. After all, it does come down to the head coach to motivate the players. It's too bad because I feel that Jay can be a really good coach at this level. The players are lucky to have him. It's also too bad because I remember watching Jay play in high school for A.N. Myer - against David Coulthard from Tillsonburg - now there was a really good Canadian player no matter what Jack Donahue felt - and I have some investment in emotion wishing him to succeed. Do you see his future as the Raptors coach maybe being a little bit in doubt?
Bill H, Ailsa Craig
A: No, I don’t. Not in the least. And that’s what I’m getting from people in the upper levels of Maple Leaf Sports, too. And it’s too early to suggest anything be done; it’s about a third of a way through one season and I think everyone can – or should – agree that there have been some good moments, too.
Now, as a guy who grew up in Niagara Falls and remembers a legendary Triano-Tom Skerlak Myer-Notre Dame game, and a fellow whose first job was at the Tillsonburg News and who recalls writing a nice feature on the Tillsonburg Livingstons at one time, I know where you’re coming from.
Q: Charles Barkley was never shy about pointing out if an opponent was a terrible team. These days, most players put up less fodder for lockerboards, and when they mean an opposing team's not very good they stick to "They're professionals, but we should get that one." I've always wondered though whether players ever admit their own team simply isn't very good. Would a reporter ever ask, "Was it really effort/shots not falling/inconsistent defence or are you guys just not very good talent-wise?" and would a professional athlete even respond affirmatively or is it just not wired in their DNA, almost like they were giving up?
Tim F, Toronto
A: Sure, we would ask. But most players are well-trained and would provide the various clichés we’ve come to know and loathe. That’s why I honestly think some of the best game-story writing contains few, if any, quotes.
Q: Hi Doug. Great blog, I enjoy it every morning before court. Would you please be so kind as to provide us readers the record (at this point in the season) for the Raptors in significant years gone-by.
Wayne M, Halifax
A: Sure. A quick glance at the record book (and I’ll take it after 30 games since that’s where we’ll be later on this afternoon shows):
Last season, they were 12-18 on the way to 33 wins; they were 16-14 two years ago when they made the playoffs and 13-17 in 2006-07 when they ended up with 47 wins. In their best year, 2000-01, they were 15-15 after 30; in 2003-04, when they ended up with 33 wins, they were 16-14.
Q: In your estimation what percentage of a coach's skill needs to be x's and o's and what percentage needs to be player management and the psychology of energizing the team. The game is interesting. Sometimes the Raps are all hitting their shots. The next time no one could hit a swimming pool. One time the defense is energetic and the next time like Swiss cheese. It seems to me that a lot of it is the psychology piece. What is your take on this and how good are great coaches at the psychology piece? Any names come to mind?
Ken T, Waterloo
A: I can’t even guess at a percentage, to tell you the truth. And, yes, one of the huge parts of being a successful coach is being able to coax consistency out of players and putting them in situations where they can succeed sometimes in spite of themselves.
And look at the good coaches who’ve lasted forever through different rosters and been able to have consistent success: Jerry Sloan, Rick Adelman, George Karl, Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich come quickly to mind.
Q: Hi Doug. I know you've said all along that this team just had to be within striking distance of .500 at the start of the new year. My question - what is "striking distance" in terms of number of games back? If they're 10 games under, do you figure that's too much to overcome?
Happy Holidays to you and your family, Doug!
Mike D, Toronto
A: The way the East is going? I’d say 7-8 or maybe more.
Q: Does Roy Halladay leaving town (another in a long line of Toronto's star players) have any impact what-so-ever on Bosh? Is there any talk of the trade around the arena other than between scribes? Do the big shooters from the different sports ever pal around here in Toronto? Thanks.
John D, Toronto
A: No, it really doesn’t. It’s apples and oranges and salary cap vs. no salary cap. And there is very little interaction other than at things like banquets and personal appearances where stars might run into each other.
Q: Hi Doug, odd question -- when I get a chance to hear the starting line-ups announced at Raptors home games, I notice that Herbie Kuhn is still doing "dall'Italia, numero sette, Andrea Bargnanai" and "de Espana, numero ocho, Jose Calderon." I seem to recall Rasho being introduced in Slovenian a couple of years ago, too, but when it comes to Hedo, he sticks with a regular old "from Turkey, number 26." Do you know any reason why that might be? Thanks, have a good one.
Michael R, Toronto
A: I went right to the source on this one, and asked Herbie before last Friday’s game.
It’s all timing, as matter of fact, in that he’s not had time yet to ask Hedo for the proper way to pronounce an intro on Turkish. That’s mostly because Turk’s usually the last guy on the court shooting and Herbie’s already at the mic by that time.
But, I would be he’d now search him out one day and find out how to say and incorporate it into his intro.
Q: I’ve been listening to the FAN 590 lately (heard you on The Game Plan the other day.. You should do it more often). Recently, there's been some fun "behind the scenes" anecdotes told about contract negotiations involving some of Toronto’s other teams. It got me wondering... do you have any funny "contract negotiation" stories from your time around the Raptors?
PJ H, Toronto
A: Not a lot, actually. There haven’t ever been any goofy clauses in contracts, mainly because the league goes over every deal with a fine-tooth comb looking for ways teams might want to circumvent the salary cap. For instance, there have been family members of Raptors – AD’s wife comes to mind – who could have found spots at RaptorsTV but couldn’t because it would a violation of cap rules.
Oh, one I do remember: Still with Antonio, when he re-signed here in 2001, I’m told he wanted – and got – a deal assuring he’d get a suite, rather than a regular room on road trips.
Q: Since we're in the dog days of the season early we can concentrate on important things, like who has been the best true centre that the Raptors have ever had (excluding 4s playing out of position like AD and Bosh). I have it down to either Eric Montross or Keon Clark (I'm voting for the Montrossity). I guess that Kevin Willis guy had some skills too and I was at the game that Mamadou N'diaye had the 6 blocks against the Knicks.
Scott D, Brantford
A: Gotta pick one, eh? Can’t leave it blank by default? Don’t suppose there’d be much will for choosing, say, Nate Huffman or Oliver Miller or Mengke Bateer?
But I’m okay with Montross, who was severely under-rated here.
Mamadou? Well, if you saw that game, you saw the highlight of his career, I believe, and should consider yourself lucky.
I remember that Knicks game well.
Gave me what I thought was an excellent lead paragraph to my game story, or a story the following day, that said:
No one blocks shots like your Mamadou.
Of course, my editor at the time thought that was pretty good, too; and I was told it was going to be the headline and that I had better find a new opening graf.