The result of a few nice quiet, yet challenging, hours
Way to go, folks.
Make a guy sit around hours on a Saturday having a quiet cocktail or two answering all kinds of questions about all kinds of things.
It’s a delightful way to spend a few hours, a bit of solitude, a bit of a challenge to think of answers and a cool way to do stuff other than off-day reports and game stories.
Q: Hi Doug, here's one for the mailbag, and feel free to edit this as you wish as I'm not sure how to word this concisely:
I'm consistently impressed with your online work and it's not unfair to say that your work, and reputation is well known throughout the NBA. I'm curious how a guy like yourself with seemingly little interest in learning new technologies has gone about creating a must read blog? How did the online portion of your work begin? Was it a department meeting, was it an idea that you had? Did you or someone else envision a niche for you to take advantage of? I realize that there is some luck involved but I'm a firm believer that most often, good luck in this type of thing comes from having a vision and making careful plans. So if you could elaborate on how the decisions were made to move into the online portion of your job, and maybe give us some idea of what types of things went right for you, I'd be really interested in hearing about that.
Peter L, Toronto
A: You know, there really hasn’t been a grand plan carefully scripted and some days I have no idea how we got here from there.
The genesis was originally moving the NBA notebook (Nothin’ but Net) from the paper to the web for space considerations.
From there what happened, as my fuzzy memory recalls, is just a natural evolution.
I liked the more conversational tone of the web stuff, and when we went to Europe in 2007 it was a perfect way to get little tidbits out there.
I’d like to say we sat down and mapped out a course of action but it was really just me thinking “hmm, what can we do now to expand our coverage?” and the bosses in sports and the web giving me my head to run with various ideas.
I’d suggest something, like the in-game blog we added last season the mailbag we started years ago, and every suggestion was met with approval by the big shots, which is quite heartening, actually.
Now, of course, the big challenge is to make it better and add new wrinkles; GruntTV’s one but there have to be others.
Maybe a meeting is in order.
Q: Good morning Doug. With Bosh's impending free agency, a thought crossed my mind. We as fans often want a player to be 'loyal' to our city and decry him when he's not. On the hand, if a team wants to ship out a 'loyal' employee, it's lauded as a business move.
This seems to be a double standard, and I'm sure the players notice. Does there seem to be an overlying 'mercenary' attitude among players (I'm loyal to the team that pays my cheque) or how far should loyalty extend to the city?
Ryan K, Pictou County
A: Players notice, for sure.
And, yes, there does seem to a mercenary attitude to most of them because, in truth, they are commodities to be bought and sold by teams, just as they are commodities to market themselves to the highest bidder.
And I don’t have a problem with that, actually. Careers are so short and the money is so big, getting what you can when you can is the best way to settle the future.
Rare is it that we see someone give a “hometown discount” to remain with one franchise, it’s a phrase bandied bandied about something that hardly ever happens.
Q: Hi Doug, It is great to see Tom Cheek one of the finalists (and leading in the voting at this point in time) for the Ford C. Frick Award. Spent many, many hours enjoying Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth calling the Blue Jays - during those early (sometimes awful) years, through the building years and finally, to those glorious championship seasons. (I still can not visualize Joe Carter running the bases after hitting that homerun without hearing Tom Cheek's words: "Touch 'em all, Joe. You'll never hit a bigger homerun in your life!") So, a Top 5-er. Any sport, any team, any event: your personal list of five favourite play by play people. And, is (are) there any big-time "calls" they (or made by anyone in particular) that stick in your mind, too? Thanks!
Lorie P, London
A: Every single time I hear Jack Buck say:
“I don’t believe what I just saw”
after Kirk Gibson’s homer off Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series, I get boosebumps.
Now, I don’t know that I’d have Jack in my top five because it’d probably look like this:
And for under-stated elegance, Pat Summerall.
Now, that is certainly not a definitive list but it’s what I’ve got right now. I probably could be convinced on a couple of them but the top three are indisputable.
Q: How does an indefinite suspension to a player affect a teams salary cap/luxury tax thresholds?
Shawn L, Bowmanville
A: It doesn’t at all. It saves the team some cash out of pocket but the cap and tax numbers they operate under remain exactly the same.
Q: Hi Doug. Love the blog and read it everyday, even in the barren wasteland of Regina, SK. I am wondering about what your thoughts are about Vince Carter or HWSNBN (sorry if the acronym is wrong, going off memory and it is about as sharp as a beach ball). Do you think Vince will ever get his due respect from Raptor fans? I was once with the masses and had nothing but animosity towards the guy but then I started asking why? The more that I thought about it, the more I started to realize what he has done for the franchise by actually putting the Raptors on the map. During the good years, he brought an excitement to the team that no one else has been able to match. I am sure I am not alone in saying that he is also the reason that I went from a passive to rabid Raptor fan. I know people are probably going to disagree but I think it is unfair to put it all on Carter.
I am also curious to see if people will turn Bosh into a villain as well if he decides to leave because he feels the team cannot win. Thanks again for making the Blog interesting even on the slow days!
P.S. This is my official endorsement to send Doug Smith to Turkey to cover the Canadian Men’s National team. Please proceed by booking his ticket immediately. Also, next time Mother Star has a contest for the Raptors, you should think about opening it up to Canadians outside the GTA. Thank you.
Sean G, Regina
A: There is no way, in my opinion, that Vince will ever get the true credit he’s due from a majority of fans for what he did for this franchise.
I know there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people around the country, and perhaps the world, who became ardent basketball fans because of the buzz he created.
And it will be quite interesting if – and this is only an ‘if’ – Bosh leaves what the perception is. I would presume, because of the circumstances of his departure, which would be his decision in the summer rather than his desire in a season, might make it easier for fans to embrace what he did when he was in Toronto.
And thanks for the Turkey thing, much appreciated. But don’t get on The Star for the contest thing, for some reason known only to them, that was an NBA restriction.
Q: Hi Doug. Great work on the blog, I appreciate your candid opinion on things. Having said that, I do wonder if you have any guidelines that the Star's legal people give you for these things. For example, it is probably reasonable to say a certain player is washed up, as you are a sports writer and players are public figures. However, do you have any guidelines when you rant above any other issues (cough, Air Canada, cough)? Ever gotten into trouble over things you write?
Sohail G, Collingwood
A: I haven’t, actually. My bosses, and their bosses, understand completely what I do and why.
I have, however, had an e-mail from Air Canada in the past – not after last week’s fiasco but after another episode – explaining what happened. And when they offered the explanation, I made the point that if that had been what I’d heard originally, it wouldn’t have become the issue it did.
It had to do with another cancelled flight and their inability to either let me know or make suitable arrangements without me going through major hoops.
Q: Hey Doug. Enjoy your effort on your Raptors blog. I'm wondering how much do defensive schemes vary from team to team in the NBA? As an example, the Celtics were missing KG & Pierce, yet they continue played excellent team defence. Do the Celts do anything differently system wise than the Raps on defence? How does Coach Iavaroni devise his defensive schemes, is it a general system or is it opponent specific like football?
Steve M, Halifax
A: The easy answer is that it’s a general scheme. There are some adaptations but not ones that vary greatly from the basic principles. It’s not, for instance, like football where you spend all kinds of time devising game-plans that change radically.
As for the Celtics, the system they use is no different regardless of who’s on the court and they seem to have gathered a collection of players one through 12 who have the desire and ability to play tough, aggressive defence. It’s not a common occurrence in the NBA.
Q: Hi Doug, two questions: (1) Can you break down what exactly Antoine Wright is doing to earn minutes, esp. over Sonny Weems? To me it just looks like he's always taking terrible shots (which he almost always misses). Is his defense really that good? And (2) any explanation for why Marcus Banks didn't get any minutes last year when we were languishing through our horrible backup PG situation? Thanks.
J S, Toronto
A: We asked Jay pretty much that exact same question about Antoine-Sonny on Saturday at practice and he said they believe Wright to be a very good, strong, smart defender and there are some matchups they feel he’s better suited for than Weems would be. Sonny’s more athletic, no question, but tends to “gamble” a bit more on defence but there are times when he’s best suited to play.
Banks? Let’s just say last year, his enthusiasm level for being in Toronto with the Raptors was much lower than it is this year. I’m not sure, but I think he realizes he is what he is, has no illusions of grandeur about his place on the team or in the NBA.
Q: Hi Doug. This morning I heard Bryan Colangelo on CBC's Metro Morning radio show doing an interview on the topic of guns in the NBA and specifically about Arenas. He sounded opinionated, but measured.
I've always thought Mr. Colangelo was one of the most forthright, articulate and engaging GMs we've seen in Toronto over the years.
It got me wondering if he might have what it takes to eventually take over David Stern's job as commissioner.
Do you think he has the potential to get to the top of the heap let alone the motivation to get there one day?
As a follow-up question, are there front-runners in the mix to one day take over Mr. Stern's job? Stern is 67 and has been running the NBA for over 25 years - you have to think he'll retire in the next few years.
Joshua P, Toronto
A: I’ll put it this way: I think Bryan has the intelligence, the savvy and the business skills to do whatever he wants. I’m not sure he wants to be NBA commissioner some day because I think there are team-related goals he wants to achieve first.
That said, I’ve mentioned privately to people – with absolutely no basis in fact so I’ve never written it – that his next gig and next step up the ladder may well be being president or commissioner or whatever title they bestow on the guy who runs NBA Europe once they put teams over there or develop their own league.
Okay, now that we’ve got Bryan’s future settled, I don’t know how long David wants to stay but I doubt that he’d leave anything half done and won’t go anywhere until the next labour deal is in place.
I don’t think there are any “front-runners” for the job, although there has been speculation elsewhere that a guy named Adam Silver, currently one of David’s top henchman, may elevate to the top job.
Q: Doug, you regularly mention that 'every team makes a run' in games and I agree, it seems that most nights a team that is down 15-20 will get hot and make a run to get close before falling off.
It is a very predictable thing. Why does it happen?
Michael M, London
A: Couple of reasons, I think.
First, one of the hardest things for pro athletes to do is to maintain laser-like focus for entire games and if you’ve got a big lead, the tendency is to coast a bit. Think of it like your work: If you get some huge project well in hand long before a deadline, isn’t easy to pull back off the throttle until the deadline gets closer and then get it finished.
And, the fact is, teams are good. And NBA players are good. Generally, if a team builds a big lead, it’s in part because the other team is playing like crap. Eventually, they play better.
Put those two together and I think that’s why you see big leads shrink more often than not.
Q: Hi Doug. I'm almost certain this question has been answered before given the larger than average quotient of European players on the Raptors the last few years but I'll ask it anyways 'cause my memory ain’t so good anymore. Are the NBA "rookies" that have experience in pro ball in Europe (i.e Garbo, Scola etc) treated differently as far as the rookie hazing (initiation) goes in the NBA. I can’t imagine Garbo, for example, being real happy about, or agreeable to, being told to carry a Dora backpack or Cabbage Patch Doll around all year like some rookies out of college are. Actually I don't imagine that someone like DeRozan is exactly happy about it either but does it anyways out of deference to the Vets. And have you ever seen a rookie initiation thing cause real friction between teammates? Thanks.
Murray T, Victoria
A: Garbo carried a little backpack – I can’t remember if it was Spongebob or Dora The Explorer -- his rookie year and had no issues with it.
And I haven’t heard of any ill will ever really developing, although I think a lot of teams have taken a kind of “been-there, done-that” attitude towards attempts at making rookies feel publicly uncomfortable. I’m not sure what, if anything, the Raps are doing with DeRozan; it’s become kind of passé.
Q: Doug, when BC made the deal to sign and trade Delfino and add Roko to the deal for Amir and Sonny (as a throw-in for financial purposes, I assume), did he expect the impact to be what it has been so far?
Also, now that Roko is off to greener pastures in Europe, how much better does this deal look from a Toronto perspective?
Shane S, Thornhill
A: I don’t think anyone had any idea it would turn out like it had. A lot of people thought Amir had some promise, seeing how young and raw he was, but Weems was very much an afterthought to a lot of fans. I think you need to give the Raptors some credit for getting him and not some other minimum-value contract; they wanted him for his promise, but I don’t think they even knew he’d deliver quite like this.
Q: Hi Doug, I asked a question in the pre game blog that may have been misinterpreted by you in the fast paced Q and A, I'll try to restate it.
Do you think that the negative emotions expressed towards Vince Carter would have been reduced if Rob Babcock could have received a legitimate all star in return. It's not that I believe that we could have received Kobe Bryant in exchange for Vince, but I think so many fans see the final year of Vince in a Raptor's uniform, and his subsequent trade as the beginning of the darkest days for this franchise. The time where all hope had disappeared. So, in your opinion, is the frustration level so high because of the way Vince left, or is it also because there was nothing to celebrate or provide hope after Vince left?
Peter L, Toronto
A: I did misinterpret, I think, and I apologize.
The fallout of the trade would have absolutely have been mitigated if the Raptors had received even one serviceable player in return. I remember Jalen saying he expected it to be for someone like Richard Jefferson and that not only would have made it easier for fans to swallow, it would have allowed the Raptors a much more seamless transition to the post-VC era.
And I hope – doubt, but hope – that may have allowed fans to get over it more quickly; the fact they got little more than detritus for their best player was tough to handle.
Q: I noticed that the Nets have banned gambling from team flights due to the Agent Zero incident. Any plans from the Raps to do the same thing? Have the Raptors ever had any gambling problems of their own other than the Oak vs. Hill event?
Ryan G, Auckland, N.Z.
A: The Oak-Ty Hill thing took place, as I’m told, out of season, it’s a bit different.
And, I understand there are no plans to for any change to team policy now but I also know there aren’t a lot of inveterate gamblers on this team. It is, in many ways, quite a boring group.
Q: Before the Orlando game you published a story on the strategy the Raptors were going to use to stop the Magic. Wouldn't that give away something to Orlando? Wouldn't they be able to use that to better prepare against Toronto? I am assuming that they do things like read reports on the other team (e.g. your blog) from inquisitive reporters to try and get the scoop. Is your brilliant blog providing fodder to the opponents?
Richard G, Milton
A: I think the Magic have seen so many different defences and schemes and ways to play Dwight and them that there’s nothing they wouldn’t have seen. And if there was some radical new strategy, I don’t imagine the Raptors, or any other team, would tell anyone.
But, I also know this: Teams read the newspapers in the cities of the teams they are playing religiously to find out little nuggets.
Q: Hi Doug.
Couple of questions.
You mentioned that MLSEL will have to "fish or cut bait soon". What were you inferring?
Also was wondering when you are at a game do you have to go get your own concessions or do they have someone come by and take orders?
Ken L, Bath
A: I was referring to the fact that to keep Chris Bosh is going to cost in the neighbourhood of $130 million at a max-value contract and then I think they are probably still going to have to spend the mid-level salary cap exception to surround him with better players. And if that is likely to take them into tax territory and it’s a tough decision they’ll have to make.
Concessions? What do you think we do? Eat natchos and sip cocktails during games? I might grab a coffee or a soda at halftime and bring it back to my seat; it’s not like we’re ordering courtside munchies while the game’s going on.
Q: Doug, good Morning. I was wondering as to how much say that you have in selecting your travel schedules covering the Raptors? Do you plan 30 days in advance, etc? Do you have to submit a travel budget for the entire season? I would assume that you are responsible for all hotel and flight arrangements/reservations, with all expenses ( except the post game refreshments) being reimbursed to you by The Star?
I was curious.
Rob L, Waterford
A: We do the seasons in three chunks, at least we have traditionally. In late September or early October, we’ll November, December and January travel and book flights and hotels; in late November or early December we’ll do split up any of January that’s left along with February and a lot of March and right around the all-star break, when we’ve got an idea where they might finish, we’ll do the remainder of March and April.
And as for budgets, we don’t submit anything before the season begins, I know my boss trusts that I’ll find the best flights and most economical hotels. I don’t need to live in the lap of luxury, nor do I have to live first class every step of the way and I won’t spend The Star into oblivion.
That said, my time is worth something, I won’t stay in a fleabag hotel to save $25 a night and I always do what makes the most sense for everyone’s interest.
Q: Hi Doug. The recent baseball stupidity regarding Blyleven and Alomar make me question the intelligence of having the BBWA elect players into the hall of fame. Personal prejudice, perceived slights, and other off-field problems seem to be much more of a determinant whether a player gets into the Hall than pure skill, ability, and statistics. I always thought the HOF was for the best players in the history of the sport, not for the best, nicest, perfect citizens to ever play the sport.
I have been a huge basketball fan since the Raptors came into existence but I never remember one instance where the selections for the NBA HOF was called into question like the yearly debate in baseball. How does basketball determine HOF entries? Do you ever remember this kind of conflict in a basketball selection?
Andrew C, Kitchener
A: I don’t remember conflicts but there are issues with the basketball hall election process, too. Players, coaches, international stars are nominated but then “committees” vote on each category, rather than having one general election. And the makeup of the committees is kept secret by the Hall, which lends an aura of “old boys club” to the whole process.
Q: Hey Doug!
Seeing as though you've been breaking the two thousand mark for in-game blog attendees, I was curious to know what kind of support you have to handle the sheer volume of comments. When comments come flooding in, is there somebody beside you at least helping with filtering out some of the "Jose sucks" comments, or do you see the comments in all of their glory? Are there certain points in the game where you're forced to skip some of the incoming commentary simply because it would be impossible to keep up?
I would think it would be difficult to get a feel for the game when having to deal with hundreds of annoying people (myself excluded of course!).
In any case, thanks as always for putting up with us._
Adam H, Toronto
A: Yourself excluded, indeed.
During the in-game blog, it’s me and me alone; the comments can get a bit overwhelming at times but in the flow of a game, and with things happening so rapidly, it’s easier for me to quickly glance over them and find ones that are relatively pertinent and timely rather than wait for someone to moderate all the comments and pick ones they deem worthy. It’s a time thing as much as anything and, honestly, I’m sure I miss some astute observations and good comments because of the sheer volume.
And because I’m actually trying to pay attention to the game.
For the chats, there is a moderator (usually my man Andrew, who does a bang up job separating wheat from chaff) who reads the questions and sends them on. That’s also a function of time and it eases my load greatly.
Q: Hi Doug, I know you aren't involved in the Raptors TV channel but I was wondering if other teams have their own similar channel/network that is tied to NBATV as is the Raptors network?
Trevor B, Saskatoon
A: A wholly-owned subsidiary of the parent company that focuses solely on basketball, RaptorsTV stands alone.
Q: A candidate for stupidest question of the year, from someone with a vertical of about two inches: Can you explain the physics involved in a dunk, specifically, why players don't break their wrists and forearms on the rims? How do they do what they do, coming down with such force, without making violent contact with the rim?
Nick M, Winnipeg
A: Not stupid at all.
I asked a couple of guys who can dunk – not having, you know, personal experience to draw on – and the spring-loaded rims make it a lot easier to avoid any kind of injury. And they seem to have a knack for getting the ball out of their hands more quickly than you’d think and avoiding hammering the iron.
Q: Hey Doug!
Not sure if this has been asked before but do you write your daily blog post all in one shot and edit after? Write it in sections? How long does it usually take from start to finish?
Thanks for the great work!
A C, Markham
A: There really isn’t one way that I go about it, honestly.
If I think of something one afternoon that I want to touch on the next morning, I’ll send myself a note, or stash it in a word file that I’ll work from.
During games, I’m jotting down Three Pointers as they come up; on non-game days, I usually have the machine at night puttering around and I’m always up between 6 and 7 a.m. to finish it off.
I guess if I absolutely had to sit down and do it from scratch in a morning, it’d be an hour or two of steady work, depending on the number of dog walks I had to go on or coffees I had to go get.
Q: Doug, I know how you feel about fan voting for the ASG...if it were just up to you, would Bargs be the backup C? If he keeps playing with this intensity, I think he's better than Shaq or Horford.
Paul C, Grassy Narrows
A: Coaches, with their seven selections, need to take two guards, two forwards, a centre and two at-large players. When it comes to bigs, conceding starting spots to LeBron (a small but an all-star forward) and KG, with Howard as the centre, I could certainly make the case for Andrea. However, coaches will certainly take Bosh and I cannot imagine them voting another Raptor.
I think they’re more likely to take, say, David Lee and Horford than Andrea.
And I wouldn’t argue with them.
Q: Doug; I have appreciated comments by Raptor's coach Jay Triano about the team. In particular in my opinion, his observations are much more specific than most other coaches and previous Raptor coaches. Telling a team to play harder is too vague. But telling them to defend in closely so as to cut down three point shots (such as against San Antonio who according to reports never won this year when hitting less than five 3s in a game) is an example of a useful, concrete suggestion. What is your comment about Triano's use of such a technique?
Bill O, Peterborough
A: Funnily enough, I think Jay can be a bit too “guarded” in his public assessment of games and players. That’s entirely understandable, though, since it’s often counter-productive for coaches to rip people publicly, but it’s frustrating for us.
He does talk strategy a bit more than a Sam Mitchell did, which is okay with us.
Q: Hoops 101 question:
What is an illegal screen?
Technical question re: website:
I have difficulty keeping up with the blog every day, so I try to collect the week's entries on Fridays and print them off for reading while waiting for my kids at dance/skating/etc. Is there an easy way to print off all the entries in chronological order without having to scroll through, while cutting and pasting?
Alan G, Toronto
A: Hoops 101 answer: No one seems to know.
Seriously, illegal screens, what constitutes one and what is called one in a game vary not only from ref to ref it seems but from quarter to quarter.
Allegedly, a player has to be still when he sets one and cannot us, say, a hip or an elbow to impede the progress of the defender.
Good luck getting that called the same way twice in a row.
Technical answer? I honestly don’t know, but I’ll pass this on to someone in the office who might.
Q: Hey Doug, I don't know if the first of my questions has been asked and answered, but I'm curious about your opinion on the development of the fearless first-year coach? Everyone's asking about DeMar, but Jay's a rook too, and I'm wondering if you've seen further signs of development in his approach, both tactical and motivational, over the first 4/9 of the season?
Also I have been wondering whether the NBA has any rules regarding audience distraction of players? Specifically, "choreographed" audience activity designed to distract free-throw shooters? The balloons and yelling and loathsome Thundersticks clearly do nothing, but I'm wondering if the league has rules prohibiting resourceful fans from getting all of the people sitting behind the basket to stand up and sit down by row in a random fashion? I realize this would be a difficult thing to pull off, but I think it would be very effective, much like making a major league hitter hit with a colour changing backdrop, instead of the black tarp they use in centerfield.
Nitin K, Calgary
A: I think Jay’s coming along quite nicely. I think it was complicated early in the year, trying to figure out all the new guys and a system at both ends of the court that maximizes their talents. I think he’s shown a willingness to tweak and adapt that’s impressive.
As for the audiences? They can do whatever they want and if they want to never again use thunderstix, I’m all for that.
Q: I reffed Kevin Pangos from Dennison a couple of weeks back. I know he spent a few weeks with the National Program during the summer. He looked great in a high school game. What's his role with Leo's club?
Kevin M, Maple
A: None with the senior team, he’s been with the junior team and may get a look in the next couple of years but I don’t see a senior team spot for him.
I know he’s thought very highly of among basketball people whose opinions I respect.
Q: Hey Doug. My wife surprised me with tickets to this years All Star game in Dallas. Do you think many people from Toronto are taking advantage of this years game being at the new Dallas Cowboys stadium with a seating capacity for a basketball game between 80 and 100 000? I'd love to meet up with other Raptors fans when there. Are you going? Want me to bring you back a souvenir?
Ryan T, Keswick
A: It’s been my experience over the years that very few Raptors fans travel to all-star weekends and I don’t know if that’ll change even with the increased seating.
And I’ll be there so I can avoid the over-priced souvenirs on my own but I imagine Super Son will be the beneficiary of at least one shopping excursion.