Weekend mail on a Monday morning; what a wacky world!
All right, you crazy people have done it again. There were more than I could ever answer but I’ve saved a few I hope I can drop in during the week.
Until then, though, have at this to get you through a Monday while we go back to the regular gig after a practice-free Sunday.
Q: Hi Doug. My question relates to something that came up during (an) in-game chat. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain were being discussed, and someone was trying to tell you that Russell couldn't hold a candle to Wilt. This got me thinking, if you could choose anyone (in their prime of course), of any generation to start an NBA team, who would it be? I know you view Oscar Robertson as the greatest ever, but would you choose him, or would you go with Russell, knowing he has such a great resume of winning championships? What would be your top 5?
Stefans J, Kingston
A: You know, history says I should probably take Michael Jordan but I tend to agree with the learned Wayne Embry when it comes to Oscar Robertson, who I only really saw at the end of his career.
Well, I think, eventually, Kobe will be No. 1 so I have to take him and then give me Russell and Wilt.
Pretty good team, no?
Q: Hey Doug. I have been wondering all season what in the world happened to the balloons they used to give out behind the baskets for fans to try and 'disrupt' the free throw shooter. I was at opening night against the Cavs and noticed the lack of balloons, then watching games around the league I noticed that no other team does it anymore. Did something happen? Did somebody hurt themselves with a balloon?
Bryan B, Toronto
A: The only thing that I think got hurt were my senses from the incessant pounding. But what I presume actually happened was that some sponsorship deal ran out and there is no appetite from Maple Leaf Sports for going into their own pockets to pay for the noise-makers. Smartest financial move I can think of over there.
Q: Hey Doug! In the throes of the current Raps' defensive woes, let's get constructive:
Who are the top 5 defenders ever to play for the Raps?
What was the best ever Raps' defensive line up (doesn't have to be all starters --- just a plausible line-up that was together at the same time)?
Yazid P, Toronto
A: My top five:
Doug Christie, Alvin Robertson, Marcus Camby, Oak and, you know, Antonio Davis was pretty solid when he was here. And I think you’d have to have Alvin Williams in the conversation, too.
The plausible lineup would be from the best season in franchise history, the one that won a playoff series because you could put out Oak, AD, Alvin, Keon Clark (a good help side defender because he was so long) and even Chris Childs could get after it back in those days.
Q: It seems like in every sport the GM wants to bring in their own coach, Bryan inherited Sam, why did he decide to hire Jay and keep a relatively identical coaching staff instead of bringing in his own guy?
Patrick W, Toronto
A: What makes you think Jay wasn’t Bryan’s guy? The GM had no obligation to him last summer yet decided to keep him. And Bryan may have inherited Sam when he first got here but he also “chose” him with the new contract.
So I believe your question, or argument, has little merit.
Neither may not have been the choice of some fans, but Bryan had every chance to go a different direction and he didn’t.
Q: Doug, I have an A.I question (a lot of Raps questions, but nothing new). If A.I can come in and be a very good starting guard with a boat load of NBA experience and some MVP credentials, can't this be a good thing for Jrue Holiday? So long as they can find the kid somewhere around 22-25 minutes a game (which, between A.I and him playing 2-guard I think is very reasonable, especially with Lou Williams out), can't he absorb some of Iverson's ferociousness and drive?
While Iverson has been a train wreck recently for teams, is it remotely possible that could ACTUALLY be a good thing in Philly?? Even for the young guys?
David T, Ottawa
A: I suppose it’s a possibility, sure. But if his presence cuts into the minutes or responsibility of guys like Williams or Holiday, it’s not in the team’s long-term interest because those guys are the future, Iverson isn’t. But he will take some attention away from them, which might be a good thing.
Still say it’s a business move about selling tickets and creating a buzz for a team that’s fallen off the Philly radar rather than a basketball move.
Q: Is it just me or was this weeks air clearing meeting a little late coming? Antoine Wright and JJ have been calling out unnamed players for some time now without being specific about who. If it was obvious outside the locker room that there were problems one can only imagine the view from inside. If chemistry was the biggest issue, I can't believe it took this long to figure out they should deal with this Euro/U.S split in the room. Your thoughts?
Colin B, Bogota
A: I don’t think it was necessarily too late. I think sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before enough people realize there are issues to be dealt with and Atlanta was rock bottom.
And I’m not sure it was “obvious” outside the locker room.
Q: Hi Doug. As the Raptors go about celebrating their First Fab Fifteen Years with Grand Festivities acknowledging the contributions made by former players and coaching staff, I wonder if there are any plans in place to recognize some of the "behind the scenes" people for their work in those early, building years...public relations, media, medical, travel and any other staff? And if there are not "official" plans to do so, as someone who has been around the team for awhile (!) is there any one (or more?) of these original "supporting" people that you would like to see given a nod of thanks and a wee bit of recognition?
Lorie P, London
A: There are all kinds of people who get no recognition at all but without whom the whole franchise might run aground.
I’m talking about guys like Kevin DiPietro and Paul Elliott, who make sure the planes and buses run on time, and a woman no one’s probably heard of, Doreen Doyle, whose title is ‘team services co-ordinator” but without whom, some players would be homeless, without transportation and unable to get in or out of the country.
Those are people who should be “recognized” because they’ve been around and been doing thankless jobs about forever. I doubt they will be publicly but I’d hope their bosses find a way to thank them daily.
Q: Hi Doug. Your hard work was always a welcome relief during what seemed to be (and could still be) some tough times for the Raps.
My question: I know you've done this before, but since we're approaching gift giving time, could you make a top-5 list of books about basketball that a fan of the NBA (and basketball more broadly) should consider reading?_
Marc Z, Ottawa
A: Sure why not. We’ve done it before and I’m sure we’ll do it again but if I had to pick five, I’d go with (in no particular order):
The Breaks Of The Game by David Halberstam
The Last Shot by Darcy Frey
The Inside Game by Wayne Embry and Mary Schmidt-Boyer
They Call Me Coach by John Wooden
Loose Balls by Terry Pluto
But I would also have a second pile next to the bed that includes Pistol, The Pete Maravich biography; A Sense of Where You Are about Bill Bradley, and I’ve just started The Art Of A Beautiful Game, which looks quite promising.
Q: I know you don't really get to watch many broadcasts but what do you think the biggest difference has been between Devlin and Swirsky? Truthfully on the broadcast side I prefer Devlin cause i'm no longer treated like a 2 year old.
I guess you would probably notice the difference with how players and fans connect with them both.
Mike P, Thornhill
A: You’re right, I see – maybe – a dozen games on television a year, often less, so I’m far from an expert on this.
My opinion, relatively ill-formed as it is, is that Matt’s far more sedate but Chuck was quite good for the time in franchise history that he was here.
It’s an entirely personal choice as to which one’s “better” and about all I’ll say is that they’re different and I don’t know that one is more suitable than the other.
Q: Hi Doug. With the influx of non-English speaking players in the NBA in the last few years, how have teams, including the Raptors, dealt with language or communication issues? For examples, are there translators that travel with the teams? How would that affect coaching? What about cultural differences that may arise?
Diego S, Toronto
A: There were some teams that employed translators – Houston with Yao, I believe the Nets with Yi, Denver with Nene, Toronto had one for Mengke Bateer – but this team here right now doesn’t have anyone because they are all fluent in English.
Q: Hello. There's a theory zooming out there that the main reason for the fluctuation in Raptors' (but generally any) fans' feelings towards a team is because of the internet - the ease and speed of information, the number of blogs, the athletes and writers' tweets, etc.
I think it has to do more with the average fan not having enough hours in the day, so they only have enough time to focus on one team. So when things are good, they're fantastic, because our precious time is being used well. When things are bad, well, they're brutal, because we are using our time poorly.
Unfortunately, because we only have time to follow one team, we lose the relativity part, especially when things are going bad - heh, it's only one game, they're not that bad, yadda yadda.
Any thoughts on this? Any other reasons for our collective bi-polarism? (Phases of the moon, perhaps?)
Thanks for everything you bring in your blogs and articles. Have a good one!
Manuel L, Winnipeg
A: That makes as much sense as anything.
But here’s another thing to consider: Because there is so much stuff floating around out there – and a huge majority of it simply the uninformed opinion of people with access to a computer and a small audience – some people simply grasp flawed arguments advanced by people with little real knowledge and all of a sudden it becomes a talking-point or an issue for no real reason.
Q: Hey Doug. How many different Raptors have averaged more than 20 ppg a season at least once?
David S, Toronto
A: Vince Carter did it five times, Bosh has done it four, Damon Stoudamire did it once, as did Mike James.
Q: Hi. Love the blog, especially after a win. Just a quick question about offensive rebounds, which we are shockingly starting to see from the Raptors. First shot in overtime against the Wiz, it doesn't go in but Bargs gets the inside position. Jumps up, and with one hand knocks it back in, but never really has possession of the ball. So is that just 2 points or a rebound as well as the hoop?_Thanks, Overseas Rap-fan_P.S You seem to enjoy drinking. Beside moderation, what's the best Grunt hangover cure?
Clayton J, Fukuoka, Japan
A: It’s a bit subjective but if he was deemed to have control of the ball, he’d get a rebound and a basket.
Hangovers? This is the new me, it’s all about moderation and it’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with that issue. Pulling the covers over the head after guzzling a pitcher of water and eating Tylenol like Smarties sometimes works, I hear.
Q: Disclaimer: my nickname was bestowed on me for pucks puglism way back in the day. (So you can guess what's coming.)
What do you think NBAers make of the Tiger Woods fiasco
It seems that outside of the sphere of golf that very little is being said, either by the athletes or the beat grunts.
Do the athletes fear any commentary invites cynicism, if not scrutiny? Would BC or MLSE have given the players code of conduct "reminders"?
Do the powers-that-be tell you to mind your beeswax and leave the gossip stuff to the columnists?
FWIW, I think M. Grange's thoughts on the matter were the most lucid I've read.
P.S. has MLSE asked you to be the grand marshall of the Raps' victory parade next June? (kidding! but wouldn't that be a way cool job?)
A: I think anyone even remotely surprised that a 30-something zillionaire known worldwide would stray is living in a fantasy world. It happens. It’s private, or should be, and is titillation for the celebrity-lovers among you. A group I, thankfully, am not part of. I read with bemusement, when I read.
The NBA and players association conducts seminars with its players at least once a year and while they are private, I would be stunned if the perils of extramarital affairs weren’t discussed.
And if I know NBA athletes, their reaction would range from mild surprise to no shock at all to, “there but for the Grace of God go I.”
Q: When was the last time a player entered his UFA year and actually signed with his own team after playing out the entire year?
Shawn L, Bowmanville
A: I’m sure there are a few low-level guys I’ll forget but I don’t think that’s where you’re going with this.
So, I’ll give you Lamar Odom last summer with the Lakers as the most recent significant one.
Q: Doug, Scotty Bowman is said to have had the oppositions locker room painted the day before a playoff series started. He also had his opponents bench cut down a couple of inches one game to make them appear less intimidating. Are there any story of NBA coaches using these kinds of "tactics" to gain an advantage?
Steph R, Glencoe
A: Not now, sadly. There are standards that teams need to keep up and no one wants to screw with opponents too much lest they get screwed with more greatly down the road.
But legend has it the great Red Auerbach used to make sure there was seldom hot water in the showers in the visiting locker rooms of the old Boston Garden.
Q: Hey Doug, You're blog is amazing, you're doing quite an honorable job listening to some of the hysterical fans out there._I was wondering what you're thoughts are on current International players becoming HOF candidates? Would you put Ginobili in? He beat team USA and has contributed to two rings in San Antonio. What about Nash and his two MVP's? or Gasol if he can win a couple more with Kobe? You hear about Kobe, Kidd, O'Neal, etc. as shoe-ins but rarely do they talk about some of the international stars and their play? Thanks again Doug!!!
Kevin M, Toronto
A: The Basketball Hall of Fame selection process is so secretive and convoluted (no one knows who’s on the selection committee, the have different categories for international players and North Americans and coaches) but by whatever process you want, there is no way I don’t put Ginobili, Nash and Gasol in.
Ginobili won an Olympic gold, world championship silver and NBA titles; Nash is a two-time MVP who led his country to its best Olympic showing in 60 years, Gasol has a world title, an Olympic silver and an NBA title his resume. Those guys are Hall of Famers no doubt.
Q: Doug does The Star let you use your frequent flier miles for personal use? Not that it is very easy to use Aeroplan miles as I know.
Mike K, London
A: They do, but I travel with so many different airlines over the course of a season, it takes a while to accumulate a whole lot; and even longer to use htem.
The thing I want from airlines almost more than points is lounge access to work and relax. Oh, and upgrade certificate I can actually use would be nice.
Q: Hello Doug. If you look at the conference standings today, the Torontos have a nice little 8 beside them. Is it just me or is the playoff picture in the East shaping up already?
When you look below the Raptors you see this list: Chicago, Washington, Indy, Philly, and the two Hudson River Monsters.
Which of these current bottom feeding teams has a chance of being a legit playoff team this year?
A: Sorry, it’s way too early to even sniff at playoff races. I don’t even look seriously at the standings until at least the turn of the calendar year.
Q: Doug, you mentioned the Habs ceremony the yesterday (Saturday) in your blog. Now I hate the Habs but gotta agree with you about that ceremony - it was terrific. Watching Roy's reception was pretty cool. Got me thinking about the better sports towns with the most fervent fans who can actually appreciate the play of a visiting player and/or team. Is there a moment or two you can recall when the fans made a large gesture of appreciation for an opposing team? (As an aside, I was in Fenway when the fans gave the Twins' Gaetti a curtain call for turning two around the horn triple plays in one game...was easily the most raucous standing ovation I've ever been part of)
Matt G, Ottawa
A: It really depends, to me, on the person. I know when David Robinson was making his farewell tour of the NBA, he was greeted with great respect and acclaim everywhere he went. The same held true, to a slightly lesser degree, to guys like Jordan and Reggie Miller.
As for a city: I do think Boston sport fans have a level of appreciation for greatness that’s admirable and, to tell you the truth, so do New Yorkers.
Q: Doug. What are your thoughts about the Raptors time outs? I remember that Smitch was often to quick to call them and I used to think at times that it would be better if he let them play through whatever made him call the time out. On the other hand, Jay T., tends to let them play through it a bit longer and the opposing team really take advantage of the momentum. Do you think properly timed time outs can influence a game?
A T, Niagara Falls
A: Influence a game? No, not really. I think they should be judiciously used but there is no formula. And, frankly, with two a quarter being mandatory for television purpose, it often lessens the need to call a lot because there always seems to be one coming.
Q: Hi Doug, Greetings, One of the guys that it would been interesting to see develop was Jawai. Given the Raps issues with defense up the middle, would have been interesting to see if he could have helped. What’s going on with him?
Also you thoughts on how Hump is doing in Dallas. Any changes from when he was in TO.
Brian A, Toronto
A: After a quick start – mainly because Jefferson and Love were hurt – Nate’s hardly playing on an atrocious Minnesota team. He’d be getting Patrick O’Bryant minutes if he was still here.
And Hump? He’s doing all right, getting consistent minutes and playing with his usual verve. I think if they hadn’t had to include him in the deal with Dallas, Memphis and Orlando, he’d have made it unnecessary to trade for Amir.
Q: Good Morning Doug. I see the Rockets are attempting to trade Tracy McGrady and his $23+ million contract. Is there anyone that might take a flyer on him if (and its a big if) the finances can be worked out? The only team I can think of that might show some interest are the Nets
Fritz M, Nova Scotia
A: Don’t sleep on the Knicks if they can foist some of their brutal contracts on the Rockets, which I doubt they can.
But no one’s going to touch Tracy before he gets on the court for a couple of weeks.
Q: Reading your in-game last night, you mentioned that you had to file 650 words for the paper, which made me think...who negotiates that "quota" for you?
Do you have an agent who cuts a deal with the paper at the beginning of every season outlining exactly what your duties will be, what things will be changed (i.e. changing from post-game videos to the GruntTV thing, how many words you have to submit, how many road games you're covering, etc.).
If you don't have such representation. Is it ever awkward to come up with those deals yourself? Does Super Wife get a say?
S B, Burlington
A: An agent? Ha. Ha. Ha. No, nothing quite like that.
What happens is that I usually go sit down with the bosses around the start of the season and try to figure out how we can improve our coverage over the previous year and we’ll revisit some things (like GruntTV, which we’re grappling with to find a consistent time slot and format) about now.
As for the rest of it, like the odd radio gig, I just wait for the phone to ring and see if I can fit it into my schedule.
Super Wife, bless her soul, sits back, shakes her head at the work load, reminds me of the few responsibilities I have around Casa Doug and then lets me go.
Q: Hi Doug. I have a quick question for you. What determines which team has possession at the beginning of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters?
Daniel S, Toronto
A: The team that controls the ball off the opening tip also gets it to start the fourth quarter; the other team gets it to start the second and third.
Q: Hello Doug from Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas. Working on a cruise ship I have to live my sports life catching 1, maybe two Raps games every year (unless I am on vacation). So I get my information from web sites such as Hoopshype, Real GM and your blog. I have a few questions if you have the time.
1) As I can't watch the games, are they really playing as bad as people make it out to be? Aside from the blow out yesterday, most L's have been close right?
2) I thought Bargs was going to have a breakout year and according to the box scores it seemed he started out well, but has not had many decent games lately, is he not focused? I though JO did a lot to help him play solid D but now that JO is gone he seems to have slipped back to his old ways. Lots of minutes but not much to show for it on the stat sheet.
3) to coach this team, if you were the GM, Sam Mitchell, JT, Butch Carter?
Keep up the great work, being so far away it is great to follow someone on the beat and in the know.
Mike S, Cambridge
A: Some games they’re as bad as you’d think but not as bad consistently as some make them out to be. Bargnani’s being Bargnani, generally good at home, below average on the road.
Coach? Of those three? Butch. For sure.
Q: Why do fans in Toronto seem so much more impatient than fans in other cities?
Wilson C, Toronto
A: Man, that’s like figuring out crop circles, or how you get the caramilk in the Caramilk bar. Impossible.
Q: Do you think that the early schedule has more of an impact than anyone will admit? Given the travel schedule, even if these guys are supposed pros and in great shape, I still believe that it may be a huge factor in there overall development as a cohesive team. Or am I just making excuses for them?
Take care Doug
Tom B, Uxbridge
A: It was a difficult schedule that included a de-facto eight game road trip with seven against the West, and some very good West teams (Dallas, San Antonio, Phoenix, Denver, Utah). That they struggled should come as a surprise to no one. But eventually the schedule will ease and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle that stretch.
Q: Hey Doug. I read your column/blog every day and am a real fan of the team. We hear about how certain European player's struggle with defence. Why do you think this is? Is it a different coaching they receive at a young age? Less athletic ability or is it perhaps a misconception/bias on the part of North American coaches and media?
Gilbert P, Lethbridge
A: Misconception. Easy targets. Lack of knowledge. Here’s the deal: There are as many bad North American-trained defenders as there are Europeans. But if anyone’s in desperate need of a reason to justify their feelings – and I’m not saying you do – take into consideration the different styles of play, the lack of isos in the European game, the lack of dominant post presences which means no doubling and rotating out of double-teams. It’s a different game.
Q: All the comments about coaching as of late made me wonder who you regard as the best basketball coach in your lifetime? Red Auerbach? Phil J? John Wooden? Jack Armstrong?
Ed S, Hamilton
A: It’s a bit of apples and oranges but if I had to start a basketball team, I’d want John Wooden to coach it. And I’d want him to have Red Auerbach, Jerry Sloan and Gregg Popovich as his assistants and Phil Jackson as an adviser.
Q: Hi Doug. A stat question, After a missed shot, when a player tries to save the ball from going out of bounds and succeeds.. who gets credit for the rebound? Him or his teammate or is it a team rebound?ti
How about shot clock violations, who gets the turnover? player or team?
Roland M, Richmond Hill
A: If the player saving the ball doesn’t ever “gain control” it’s usually scored a team rebound (it’s a bit subjective) and, yes, that’d be a team turnover.
Q: Hi Doug, I can't stand to cringe about this Reggie Evans returning infatuation. Truly, at the start of the year Reggie was going to be the first big off of the bench. Now that Amir is filling that role, do you think he is giving as much as people thought Reggie would have?
I fear that when Reggie comes back he won't produce as much as Amir because the fact that he will have to find his legs - so do you play him, and let all the Reggie waiters have their moment, or stick with someone who is giving as much that could be expected from the start of the year?
Personally I would stay with Amir.
Derek C, Peterborough
A: Why can’t they play four bigs? Cut the minutes a little to keep the other three fresh? It’s not like they’re going to bench Amir Johnson because Reggie Evans plays; think of him as a complementary piece rather than a replacement one.