Hey you guys and gals.
Been a long time since we did one of these games that count, hasn't it? Hope we remember how.
Hey you guys and gals.
Been a long time since we did one of these games that count, hasn't it? Hope we remember how.
Join Doug Smith at noon Wednesday for a live basketball Q&A, as the Raptors get ready to take on the Memphis Grizzlies.
And now the so-called “second half” begins.
Six over .500 at 29-23, comfortably in fifth, almost as close to fourth as they are to sixth and rolling.
Everyone feeling a tad confident?
Guess there’s reason to, they have been playing quite well of late and there’s no real reason to think they won’t keep at the same level for much of the final 30-game trek to the post-season.
But as I mentioned the other day to Mr. Bosh, mental toughness has not been a consistent trademark of this team – there are too many in-game blips and too many games where they simply don’t play hard enough – and that’s going to be the most interesting thing to watch.
And to read about here:
The first clue?
No, not Blue’s Clues, silly; blue shoes.
Seeing the different footwear on the Raptors at practice on Tuesday can mean only one thing: Wednesday is a Huskies night.
And so it is, with Memphis assistant coach Damon Stoudamire the designated honouree.
Makes entire sense to me and got me thinking about Mighty Mouse’s legacy here.
I know how fans felt – the boos for him his first visit back were almost as bad as those for the other guy you love to hate – but I wonder if they were deserving.
The enduring image I’m going to have of Damon is of him sitting at his locker in the SkyDome – go in the media entrance, turn left, there he was – almost in tears after the Raptors lost any of the dozen close games they were in during his rookie year.
The team was crap, no doubt about it, but Damon played hard every night, Brendan coached his brains out every night and losing bothered those guys more than it bothered anyone else.
Yes, it didn’t end well with Damon asking for a trade but let’s examine why:
His benefactor, Isiah, had left about three months earlier after he couldn’t pull of a deal to buy the team.
Stoudamire’s last season began with a loss, two wins and then 17 straight defeats – the most gruesome stretch of basketball the team has ever played.
There were no plans for any Air Canada Centre, there was no partnership with the pucks, there were absolutely no clearly-defined plans and who knew if the franchise would even survive.
And he wanted out? Who could blame him.
Anyway, maybe it’s time for bygones to be bygones; maybe it’s time to salute the first “best player” in franchise history for the good things he brought, and the good memories that exist.
I say stand and cheer whenever they get around to the split-second video “tribute.”
Oh yeah, want to chat?
It’s been a while but I figure we still remember how to do those game-day Question and Answer sessions, right?
So we’ll be here at noon for an hour to go over things.
You know, usually with an hour to tip-off I can be found either lounging in the media room busting people and things while having dinner with others; or sitting mindlessly at the computer trying to steel myself for another night of in-game blogging thingy.
Tonight? Tonight I might have to be semi-alert, at least for a second. An hour to tip-off is when coaches have to declare the inactive players for that night’s game and for the first time, Jay has decisions to make.
He’s got all 14 guys healthy and ready to roll (we thought he’d be in the same predicament last week but Hedo had an emergency pop up between shootaround and game time) and he’s got to decide who wears a suit, as he said Tuesday:
"It makes before the games tough. Who to play? Who not to play? Who is going to be in rotations and who is not? A lot of that will be dependent upon who we play. I'm just happy for our guys that everyone is finally starting to get healthy and knock on wood, we'll continue to play the way we were.”
My guess: Patrick and Marcus get the night off.
Of course, there’s always a chance Bryan makes some deal this afternoon and the departing Raptor isn’t around.
Speaking of the Grizzlies, they played Tuesday night, they lost Tuesday night and here’s how the local paper paid attention to the game.
I have no reason to really think this might be true but I do know that it’s running through the minds of a couple of Big Shot Raptors Types.
With the serious interest shown in Amar’e Stoudemire by the Miami Heat, is there at least a chance the Heat are reading long-distance team leaves and may be having second thoughts about the certainty that Chris Bosh will be in South Beach next fall?
Probably not; it’s probably just a case of the Heat trying to stay afloat in the East right now but I guess it’s something some people may be thinking about.
Okay, time to douse trade stuff one more time with, I hope, a bit of reality.
It’s all well and good for the suggestions to come flowing in that the Raptors should trade Patrick O’Bryant or Marcus Banks or Rasho; it’s entirely ridiculous to think they could trade any of the last three guys on the roster for someone who’s going to be better than the first nine guys who play here.
It makes no sense. Two of those guys (Patrick and Rasho) have cheap contracts that expire this year; to deal them even for the same kind of end-of-the-bench emergency status guy makes no sense. Maybe there’s a team out there willing to take Banks for this year and next at his salary but to think he could be turned into a rotation player in Toronto is folly.
All right, having not covered a Raptors game in a week, time to go remember what the rhythm of a game-day is. As I recall, it goes blog, shootaround, question-and-answer, lunch, pre-game, dinner, in-game, post-game, cocktail.
Slow day around these parts what with a lot of travel, a missed practice (and it sure seems like I didn’t miss anything) and just another off-day before another practice before the games start up again.
So, we’ll be all over the map here today.
Have at it:
Here we go.
Last two days before the trade deadline and the chatter – league-wide and Raptors-specific – is going to amp up between now and Thursday afternoon for sure.
But maybe the best thing that happened to this group is to have had a few days off to sit and reflect where they are, which is in a pretty good place.
The recent success is, to me, more reality than mirage, this isn’t a bad team and it’s only going to get better as it grows together.
Yes, there will be tweaks needed, backups at the two and three needed for upgrading, another big maybe, a less expensive third point guard and stuff like that.
But the core?
The core – Calderon, Jack, Turkoglu, Bargnani, DeRozan, with a big question mark around Bosh -- is solid and as we’ve seen with so many teams, letting things grow together always makes more sense than, say, bringing in nine new guys.
One thing that fans need to think about this week more than anything is long-term prospects as opposed to making some wild short-term move that may or may not pay off.
The Raptors are about where a lot of us thought they would be, the fifth best team in the East starting to come together and mesh.
And if you look at this as a two- or even three-year plan, there’s no sense busting it up right now on the off-chance some dramatic move is enough to win even one playoff series.
I know Bryan had far more than this season in mind when he constructed this team; I also hope he realizes going for some fake brass ring right now doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Got on the couch just in time to watch some of the Olympics – man, you’ve got them on a lot of channels up here in a country where they matter – and saw the medal ceremony for the Bildodeau bump-skier.
Very emotional, very cool.
One question from an old, square dude: When they play a national anthem, aren’t you supposed to remove headwear?
I don’t think this counts as a trade rumour because one of the players involved has actually said it’s going to happen and that makes it far more legit than others.
So news that Marcus Camby is being freed from the Clippers to move to Portland in a deal for Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake and something else makes me pretty happy for the kid.
Marcus is a good kid and still a pretty good player and moving to a Blazers team decimated by frontcourt should be enough to keep Portland in the playoffs out west.
Oh, no, Hedo didn’t make it back for practice Monday night, he’s still on an excused absence to deal with a family matter, but word I got was that he’s expected back on the court today.
Other than that, though, all were in attendance, which hasn’t always been the case with this franchise on the post-all-star day.
Mo Pete, and I love him dearly, used the always win the Most Tardy Raptor Award, missing at least a couple of day-after workouts because of travel woes or somesuch.
Always cost him a little bit of money and got him in hot water with his coaches and always gave us a little note to write.
I’m sure there’ve been other Raptors who’ve somehow managed to miss either the practice after all-star or the one after Christmas but it’s Mo that I remember being the most frequent violator.
Shawn Respert for Acie Earl.
In case you were wondering on this Deadline Week, that was the most obscure last-day trade in Raptors history.
They tell me the boys pucks portion of the Olympics begins tonight; guess that means the Games are officially on.
It’s funny. When you’re at an Olympics, to me at least, the “teams” competition seem oddly detached from the rest of it, at least at the start of the competition.
To me, the Olympics – and I’ve only done one Winter Games against five of the Summer variety so that’s the frame of reference – are always about “moments” and the one-day, one-competition, one-race kind of event, more drama, more surprises, better stories.
Yes, medal rounds in team events are cool and the gold-medals games have all the inherent drama but the preliminary stuff just seems a bit off to me.
And there’s today’s Olympic moment.
Back to basketball?
Okay, if you insist.
Why do I get the sneaking suspicion that the one big trade we’re all waiting on – the Where Does Amar’e Land Sweepstakes – might not get done until Thursday afternoon.
Seems Phoenix, or Stoudemire’s agents, or someone like that, has played this scenario to perfection.
Make sure something leaks out about one team so that others who may have interest sit up and take notice. It drives the bidding up, may force the first team to sweeten the pot and creates a market all because the first team’s interest hits the papers or the internet in some reputable report.
And that’s how the game is played and I would expect that’s how it’ll be played with Stoudemire over the course of the next 48 hours or so.
Man, it’s late.
Sorry, folks, long night of typing and chatting. Stuff happens.
I’m sure you’ve all been waiting breathlessly, so …
Someone was asking me Sunday night about the feasibility of an all-star game in Toronto.
Yes, the city’s great and has lots of hotel space and convention floor space and clubs and restaurants and there’d be every chance it’d be warmer there than it was in Dallas.
The issue is the Air Canada Centre.
It’s a good building, with good seats for fans in a nice downtown location and most things work well in it.
But it’s too small. No back-of-house space.
Heck, there aren’t even enough dressing rooms for the folks who sing and dance, let alone all the stuff they bring with.
Honestly, the scope of this all-star thing is huge; people, props, stuffed animals, more people and props. The Air Canada Centre, for all its charms, simply doesn’t have the facilities to handle everything smoothly.
Heck, when the Raptors get into the playoffs, they have to feed the media in a hallway – single tables stretched out along a wall – because the joint can’t handle the extra people.
I can’t even guess what it’d be like with an all-star game and, if they apply, I bet the league would have some concerns.
Besides, we keep hearing that after Los Angeles next year, the new arena in Orlando might be a host and so, too, might New Orleans be so you could be looking 2014 at the earliest anyway.
Maybe Maple Leaf Sports applies and gets it for a long-off year and, who knows, maybe they do the Saturday at the ACC and the game at the dome but I’d be surprised.
Yes, I voted for Chris Bosh for MVP. Was the only one, too.
I figured 23 and 10 and the game-winning free throws for a hometown kid might be good enough.
Was checking in with Bryan on the weekend about trades – let’s just say he says things are pretty slow – and talk turns to him and the whole mess that was the alleged interest from him in Jersey.
Now, I never thought it was real anyway but I also thought they were hanging Rod Thorn out to dry pretty quickly. Here’s a guy who’s been a good GM (he put the team together that got to two NBA Finals) and a cheapskate owner more interested in Brooklyn than basketball kind of forced his hand on a couple of things.
Anyway, Bryan had this to say about that:
"I guess it's flattering to be mentioned for other jobs in such a limited space, but I also find it unfortunate for both my good friend Rod and my organization for anyone to speculate freely and erroneously that there's interest from either side."
That’s pretty well put.
And now, we can make that issue go away forever, right?
So what’s up for the Heroes Of The Hardcourt this week?
Well, if all of ‘em get back (and I’m constantly surprised that they can handle the rigours of commercial travel well enough to get back sometimes) they practice Monday night and Tuesday, host Memphis on Wednesday, go to Jersey on Friday and get back home for the Wizards on Saturday to finish three games in four nights.
I was talking to Chris after Sunday night’s game (you’ll read a lot more about it overnight here and in the paper) and he said his biggest worried is that they’ve lost the “edge” they had pre-break.
But I have to tell you, the kid’s got this attitude about him these days that means I don’t think he’ll “let” anyone take a step back.
He seems to be on some kind of mission to assert himself and I think they could run the table behind Bosh.
I’m trying to find a way to accurately describe that stadium we were in Sunday night.
And I can’t.
Really. Take whatever adjective you like – big, gargantuan, gigantic, over-the-top, monstrous – and it probably doesn’t do it justice.
Cavernous might be suitable.
The TV screen at midfield? You can’t imagine how big it is and how clear the picture is.
Here’s the thing: We went up one of the highest parts of the building to the football press box to have dinner before the game. The view of the field from there is pretty bad, actually, it’s a long, long, long way away but it doesn’t matter: You cannot divert your eyes from the screen. It simply dominates your vision and it’s like sitting in your living room watching stuff on the tube.
General consensus of the boys and girls I hang with at things like all-star weekend?
Average to below average, saved only because of the facility on Sunday.
Saturday was mind-numbing, Friday was typically without charm or substance and even the Sunday, close as it turned out to be, was pretty ho-hum.
Usually, there’s enough moments in the first three quarters to make you go ‘wow’ and then things get serious.
But even the first three quarters were dull in long stretches and the closeness of the game was sort of diminished by the fact that the only shots made down the stretch, it seemed, were free throws.
Which brings us to
Three favourite moments, in reverse order:
Walking onto the field for the first time and being a bit awestruck.
Halftime listening to Alicia Keys.
Listening to Steve Nash talk about being Canadian.
The over-riding sense I got about impending league-wide trades – and I saw a few people but not an awful lot – is that Amar’e Stoudemire is on his way out of Phoenix but no one knows where.
What’s happening, I’m told, is that teams are trying to make sure they make their best offers since there’s a few of them in play and I bet Steve Kerr’s just sitting back and waiting.
Might make the middle of the week more interesting and I’m just glad none of this stuff has a direct impact on me.
Okay, late flight today – which lets me get all my typing done at a reasonable hour --
It's been a long time. You miss me?
I know, way late today but at least you had the mail to get you through, right?
Anyway, after another boring All-Star Saturday (and that had to be one of the most boring in recent memory) it’s almost time to get life back to normal, isn’t it?
Until then, though …
The prevailing attitude among the ladies and gentlemen I spoke to immediately after the dunk contest was the DeMar probably should have won.
He had a better series of dunks but the miss on the first attempt of the last one probably cost him.
But, really, wasn’t that entirely underwhelming?
The star of the show might have been Sonny Weems – excellent pass off the side of the backboard, all-star work as a prop for DeMar to jump over – because the rest? Well, let’s just say with the exception of maybe half a dozen of the dunks, the stuff we saw was stuff we’d see in some regular season game.
I don’t know what they can do to jazz up that contest but if they can’t come up with either A List stars to take part or some way to make it more compelling, maybe it’s time to find something else entirely to take its place.
Because of a bit of miscommunication, got to the media availability about 90 minutes early Saturday morning and was lucky – and by lucky I mean doomed – to get there in time for some fashion show on the practice court at the Jam Session.
And that’s when we saw the sight that kind of made the day.
After guys like Robert Horry and Bruce Bowen went, along with a couple of “real” models, here comes the last guy:
Sporting a rather nifty fedora, this thin tie and sweater combo and looking entirely jaunty as a matter of fact.
And when you go to a basketball practice and find a fashion show and get to see Kris Humphries in it, you’ve had a good day.
Steve Nash has maybe the quote of the night after he wins the punt-pass-kick contest, or whatever it is they call that skills demonstration.
He’s talking about going on “a couple half-hours” of sleep after his little foray to Vancouver and how it was hard to get in and get ready.
“But it makes it okay when you win a resume-builder like this.”
Oh, David Stern is going to make our lives miserable.
Not with boring talk of dire economic straights but more with his concern about execs talking out of turn.
There was a quote this week from an unnamed team official about the league’s CBA offer and its financial implications that said something like if LeBron James wanted to make more money could go play football if he wanted or Dwyane Wade could go be a model because the NBA gravy train was drying up.
A pretty harsh, anonymous quote and the players were understandably miffed.
And so was David:
“If you know me and you know our owners, that’s not what we do. That’s not us. And the players were upset with those quotes, which I find cowardly if they were actually said.
And if I ever found out who said them, they would be dealt with, they would be former NBA people … not current.”
Great, the Wrath of David comes down on anonymous quote-givers and writers everywhere cringe.
Speaking of fashion (and we’re far more than just basketball in this little corner of the web), get ready to be, um, shocked tonight.
You know how players – and the companies that love them – like to use the all-star game to show off some funny-looking or new footwear?
Well, when Chris Bosh, and a handful of others, showed up at the East practice yesterday, the retinas started burning like I was watching a 20-foot Amir Johnson jumper.
The East is wearing blue, dark blue.
And the shoes some players were wearing? Well, if they were supposed to be blue, they better have found a new manufacturer over night.
Think a combo of light blue and turquoise, a total clash with the colour of the jerseys and it was an ugly, ugly look.
Okay, end of today’s fashion diatribes, I swear.
So Dallas trades Josh Howard, Drew Gooden and some stuff to Washington for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson and some stuff and what’s this got to do with the Raptors, you ask?
Well, it means that Caron Butler isn’t going to the Boston Celtics, and there was a chance of that happening about 48 hours ago, which has to make Raptors fans a bit happy because as long as the Celtics aren’t improving, there’s always hope.
It’s been pretty quiet around here on the trade chatter front, which isn’t usual for all-star weekend, and things might heat up this afternoon when we’ve got nothing to do but hang around waiting for the game to start.
I haven’t heard a single reputable mention of the Raptors this weekend, as a matter of fact, despite the presence of Bryan and his henchmen and a handful of other execs.
We’re only four days until the deadline and that’s usually when things really start bubbling but I honestly think the Raptors won’t do anything of substance.
Of course, I’ve been wrong before but if I’m not, this is going to be a boring week.
All right kids, we’re going to try to do an in-game blog thingy tonight off the all-star game. We’re planning to start right after 8 p.m. Eastern but I warn you: No one has any idea what the working conditions are going to be in the football stadium.
Hopefully, we see you then.
Okay, I’m going to give you all a pass on smallish mailbag. It was a very quiet week with only one game and not much news punctuated by the all-star break.
But that’s the last time, okay?
Q: Hi Doug. Surmising the theme of this mailbag may be a mix of All-Star Stuff, Upcoming Trade Deadline Speculation and Olympics, I am going to harness the prevailing national mood and go with an Olympics question. Now I know that you have had some pretty interesting experiences covering a few recent Olympic Games, but if you could have been at any Games (of the Modern Era!) can you name, say, three that would you have liked to witness either for a particularly historic reason, or perhaps an outstanding achievement by a specific team or individual athlete, or maybe just because they were held in a very nice location? Thanks!
Lorie P, London
A: Well, knowing what we know now, Berlin in 1936 has to be No. 1 on the list for its historical significance.
I’m not a real big Winter Games fan (mostly because I work at other things when they’re on and don’t know them as intimately) but I understand Lillehammer might have been the most fun games of all time from a social standpoint for Grunts so I’m putting that one on my list, too.
And I’m going with a tie for third between Munich in 1972 because of the turning point in Olympic history it presented and London in 1948 because I think London in 1948 would have been a very cool place to be.
Q: With all-star weekend upon us, I was thinking back and trying to recall various Raps participation in the festivities. Aside from Kapono, have we ever sent a representative to the 3-Pt shootout. I am having a Tracy Murray flashback but I might be making that up. Did Dell ever make it to a weekend wearing a Raps jersey?
Matthew M, Toronto
A: Sorry, no Dell or no Tracy but you seem to have forgotten The Wizard, Walt Williams, who was a three-point contestant way back in 1997. He and Jason Kapono, twice, are it.
There’ve also been four dunkers – Vince, Tracy, Jamario and DeMar – and only three all-stars: Chris Bosh, that Carter fellow and Antonio Davis.
Of course, there’s also been 10 guys take part in the rookie-sophomore silliness, none more out of place that Jorge Garbajosa.
Q: Hey Doug, I have a question for you. How do you know if scouts are in the building? Does someone tell you or are the scouts required to inform the team? I notice that sometimes the AP reports state that scouts from a certain team was present in the building. If you could clarify this, it would be great!
John O, Mississauga
A: Well, if they want a seat on media row, the scouts better let the team know they’re coming. Anyway, there’s a seating chart posted in every press room before every game with that night’s seating assignments on it and you just see who’s in the house. Plus, you get to know a lot of guys over the years and you might run into them the night before if you’re on the road.
Q: Hey Doug, question about the NBA talking about changing the rules regarding age eligibility - that you would have to stay in college for a minimum of two years before being able to enter the draft. Are they talking about this because the young guys who have potential but are not quite ready for prime time are diluting the talent in the games? Is DeMar DeRozan a prime example of this?
Tanome M, Regina
A: Part of the reason they have a minimum age requirement, and why they’d like to raise it by a year, is they want players coming in more mentally mature as physically grown. The NBA is a man’s league, I don’t think teams wanted to worry about the maturity level of high schoolers and what they’ve had to teach them about off-the-court issues.
Q: Hey Doug. You do a great job on your blog. Anyways here's a good question for you.
If the Raptors capture the 4th seed (even if it's unlikely), chances are the Raps are going to play whoever they take over in the first round. So which situation do you think the Raptors as a team would prefer:
We take over Boston and become division champs. But a first round exit is very probable cause well, it's Boston. Or we take over Orlando. Get a more favourable first round match-up, but we don't get the divisional champs title.
Viktor Z, London
A: They absolutely don’t care and just because you or others may think that way, they don’t. You play to win every game, add up the total at the end of the season and find out who you get.
Q: Hey Doug, in Wednesday's noon chat, you scoffed at the idea the Raps could get to 50 wins. I'm not saying it would be easy, but they did just put the finishing touches on a 22-10 run with the win over Philly. Everyone concedes the schedule breaks Toronto's way the rest of the year; surely you have to concede there's at least a chance they can put together a similar run after the break.
Nick T, Oklahoma City
A: I suppose there is, I just don’t think they will. They have more back-to-backs, a couple of three-games-in-four-nights swings and a four-game trip out west.
But, anything can happen.
Q: Doug, I just witnessed the Raptors scoring on a play off of a time out again. Jay has to be among the top coaches in the Raptor's coaching history of calling productive plays out of time outs. Can you rank the Raptors coaches on this stat?
Danny H, Fredericton
A: In my opinion, and some of it’s clouded by the passage of time, I’d rank ‘em: Butch, Brendan, Jay, Lenny, Sam, KO and Darrell.
Q: I work/live in the states and was wondering what kind of record the Raptors would need to be shown on one of networks? John P, Fredericton
A: All the US national broadcasts are set in the summer and early fall and coming off a 33-win season, this was hardly thought to be a team anyone would want to watch.
That said, there’s always a chance a Friday night or Sunday afternoon game might be added to an ESPN or ABC broadcast schedule if they one they originally scheduled in a dog and Toronto’s might have playoff implications or something.
Well, that was entirely underwhelming, wasn’t it?
Maybe Saturday night’s better – and I can’t see how it can’t be – because a rookie-sophomore game and dunk-in is not the way to really create some buzz.
But it does create stuff like this:
You know that I’m not a real conspiracy theorist but at least this year when we’re sitting through the dunk contest there won’t be an over-riding sense that it’s, um, fixed like last year’s was.
Rudy Fernandez still got jobbed by judges a year ago who pined for – or were pointed in the direction of – a Nate Robinson-Dwight Howard final and there is no real foil for Wee Nate this year.
Which means it might be fun and it could sure use some jazzing up.
Can DeMar win?
I have no idea but he sure sounds like he wants to have some fun. Every time the thing comes up he talks about how he’s never lost a dunk contest, how he’s got some creativity in him and how he wants to entertain the crowd.
Was sort of hoping to see some of it Friday but after he made his first one and Eric Gordon pulled off a Chris Andersen imitation on his first, the thing was pretty much over.
DeMar went all boring and simple with his second, Gordon missed again and the yawns began.
Funny thing was, I was more impressed with Gordon’s attempts. They had some juice to them and at a bit higher degree of difficulty but DeMar put it pretty well after:
“You can’t miss. You just can’t.”
I have no idea what the kid’s got in mind for Saturday – he’ll enlist the aid of Sonny Weems on something he told me after Friday’s dunks – but hopefully it’s a step up from his debut.
I don’t know if it’s the Olympics or the snow or the economy or the malaise that’s sweeping our industry but it seems the numbers of chroniclers in Dallas this weekend is way down.
Take Friday’s media session with the all-stars.
It’s usually packed and you can’t get near a player you want to talk to for any length of time or for many real questions. But this time around, if to you waited with even a modicum of patience you could get what you want; I had time to chat with Chris Bosh, talked to Chauncey Billups for a while and had DeMar entirely alone at one stretch.
The thing that was most impressive? Not many people were there doing silly stuff like the year one of the representatives of the international media carried around a tiny horn he wanted to get everyone to play. Seriously.
We had one group delivering tiny Chinese New Year’s packages and asking the players to say Happy New Year in, I believe, Cantonese, but that was about it.
Was kind of refreshing, actually.
Look, I don’t know Kreesha Turner from Tina Turner and I hope young Kreesha goes on to have a long and illustrious hit-filled career as a crooner.
But, for the love all that is Canada, couldn’t someone have perhaps checked that she’d get the words to O Canada right before trotting her out at NBA all-star weekend.
It’s “in all thy sons command” and not “in all our sons command” and that’s a mistake that’s made about once in every five games I go to.
Oh, and it’s “the true north, strong and free” and not “our north strong and free.”
Sixteen months until the deadline and already I’m bored by NBA labour stuff.
Yes, it’s pretty serious; yes, there was legitimate news Friday when the two sides chatted.
Folks, it is right now posturing and simple negotiations. You throw out wild proposals knowing they’ll cause angst and you work toward some middie ground.
Friday, we had union boss Billy Hunter and Derek Fisher slamming the league’s first offer of a huge cutbacks in every imaginable economic facet from the value, length and guarantee of contracts to the share of income.
Saturday it’ll be David Stern’s turn to get on the podium for his annual state-of-the-league address and I’m pretty sure it’ll be all labour, all the time.
Nash, Gretzky, Le May Doan, Greene?
Yeah, I’m okay with that.
Shame about the cauldron malfunction, though.
I’m looking at my notes from Friday night and first page, first thing scribbled it says:
“No one’s here.”
Yeah, it was a rather underwhelming crowd – exuberant and kid-filled but underwhelming nonetheless – that greeted the start of the Rookie-Sophomore Silliness.
Place filled up pretty well through the night, although certainly not to capacity, and that’s part of the problem with this weekend: It’s one night too long.
Used to be just Saturday and Sunday and that seemed to be just fine with all concerned; crowds were big, the party atmosphere was just as good and we weren’t subjected to a night built entirely around a 40-minute game between kids who have no real desire to play.
If they insist on keeping Friday an integral part of this thing – and that genie’s not going back into the bottle – they need to jazz it up somehow.
I’m thinking something with a charity or fund-raising component and kids; maybe doing something with a local charity as part of the Day Of Service; something like the U.S. Open tennis does on its opening night.
No idea how that all comes together but something needs to change on the Friday night.
So I’m thinking, because I love ya so much (and because deadlines are such that we won’t get an awful lot of post-shenanigans stuff in Sunday’s paper) that we’ll do the regular mailbag Sunday morning and also provide this usual glut of information and entertainment.
Lucky, lucky readers.
Yes, I know I’m a bit late but I was early the other day so it all evens out, right?
What the heck, let’s wade into uncharted waters for a minute.
That’s who should light the thing out in Vancouver on Friday night.
It was an idea first proposed by a friend who’d like to remain anonymous at the moment – and only one Irregular suggested when we first brought it up here – and I think it’s a perfect idea.
Local connections to Vancouver and a message that resonates worldwide in a global fight against a deadly disease.
He was a hero to millions, not just sports fans, and he’s a Canadian who should be celebrated and remembered and honoured.
He speaks to our nation, a willingness to fight for causes, to sacrifice for others, all the good qualities that embody Canadians.
He ran for hope and for others.
Now, you know me and technology (we’re not exactly kissin’ cousins) but surely to goodness it could be done, right? Some hologram or something?
I mean this with absolute no disrespect to Wayne Gretzky, who was a great hockey player and did a lot for the sport and had a gold meal win – and a seventh place finish or something like that – in his two Olympic things but no way.
He’s big, but he’s not that big. In hockey playing countries? Sure. The United States? Sure. A global icon? I don’t think so.
You need, as I said, a “wow” moment, and having Terry Fox somehow open the games would be stunning.
Might even make a grown grunt tear up.
So all the hullabaloo about Bryan Colangelo’s immediate future sure was dismissed rather quickly, no?
Never thought it was a big deal anyway and that he wouldn’t be going to New Jersey or New York next year. It was nice to find out that others thought the same way.
But you know what?
He should be with the Raptors longer than next year, too, and I think ownership would be smart to start talks about another, long-term extension right now.
Let’s say another four years, maybe with an option for a fifth?
There’s no doubt the franchise is better today than when he got here; the team’s headed to the playoffs for the third time in four years and there’s more promise than there’s been in a while.
Chris Bosh notwithstanding, all the key players – Jack, Calderon, Turkoglu, Bargnani, DeRozan – are under contract for years, the financial picture isn’t overwhelming and the GM has proven willing – and able – to fix any mistakes that may occur.
Why not send a message, to the fans and the players and the league, that he’s a valuable guy? Why not give him a new deal now?
Some bad news, folks.
For a variety of reasons – time of things down here more than anything – I’m afraid we have to pull the plug on any planned question-and-answer thing this morning.
We’ve got media availabilities with rookies and sophomores at one place, Saturday night guys an all-stars at another place, a union news conference and just general journalism to commit.
Sorry about that but we will be around for a usual in-game blog thingy on Sunday night.
List time, quickly:
I figure there has to be a cowboy component to the big weekend in Big D, right? Which makes a guy think about The Top Three Halftimes He’s Seen
Horses rambling through the Pepsi Center
Yes, it was quite a night in Denver when they rode out from right next to us. Nothing says NBA all-star weekend better than horses.
Mariah Carey serenades Michael Jordan
For pure over-the-topism (nice word, eh?) I don’t know that you can beat the songbird’s tribute to Jordan at halftime in Atlanta. It was like Happy Birthday, Mr. President (google it, young ‘uns) but not as good.
The wrong fashion choice
So Destiny’s Child is (are?) warbling at halftime in Philly in ’06 and when one of them – does it matter which one? – shows up in a Kobe Bryant jersey and there’s a smattering of boos, some are surprised. Me? I’m surprised no one threw anything at her, it was in Philly after all.
Kobe’s out. Iverson’s out. Roy’s out. Paul’s out.
Yes, this all-star game is becoming more and more about the stadium than the game with each passing hour, it seems.
And that’s okay with me because the game will follow the same old pattern: Pick-up ball and dunk contest for three quarters or so, and a passable shot at competitiveness down the stretch.
For those first three quarters, we’ll all be watching on the big TV screen.
You should have seen it here Thursday.
A guy lands right around noon to find more snow in Dallas than in Hazelville and it was still coming down around midnight when the social session finally ended.
Now it wasn’t “real” snow, it was big, wet flakes that didn’t really stick on the roads and there was no wind but you should have seen the panic.
The cabbie from the airport looked physically afraid of the drive. Maybe 40 kilometres an hour on three separate highways, a death grip on the steering wheel and no chatter whatsoever.
All right, we’ve seen all kinds of reasons for sports events to be postponed, or forfeited or just not played, right? Weather, travel, illness, problems with gyms and stadiums.
Well, you Hawthorn Hawk fans out there – and I know who you are – should know this: This week’s game was called off because too many of the players were on the bad “Homework Not Done” list (no, Super Son was not one of them, I don’t think) in the class room and that cost the team its game.
Pretty good message, no?
Oh, and to keep this all about me and mine, Super Son’s incessant saxophone practicing paid off, he passed an audition and aced an interview and is off to Mississauga’s version of Fame next fall.
Last call for mail. Send the queries here and I’ll putter away on them over the next couple of days.
Okay, this is getting up in the ether stupidly early because I have a stupidly early wakeup call to make my way to Dallas and it was easier to get it done before rather than after.
Don’t get used to it, okay?
The Kid Was All Right
Final minute of the second quarter, things seem under control, and Jarrett Jack finds himself kind of boxed in with the ball under the basket and nothing really to do. He puts up a somewhat half-baked layup with spin on the ball hoping for his Mo Pete Moment but it’s not going in under any circumstances.
Out of nowhere, it seems, here comes DeMar down the lane, he elevates about six feet from the rim with no one paying a bit of attention to him, grabs the miss and dunks it; perhaps his best play of a pretty good game.
And it strikes a guy that maybe we should see more of that outstanding athleticism because right now, it’s the best part of his game.
The kid was really good Wednesday, assertive on offence, not a defensive liability and if he gets more comfortable making plays like that one, it’s going to be a fun final 30 games.
But before anyone gets all worked up about the three minutes DeRozan played in the fourth quarter – quite an usual happenstance – let me point out that when Jay was asked specifically about it during his post-game media session, he explained that the Raptors were down a man (Hedo), another wasn’t playing well (Marco) and when Sonny needed a blow, the coach was kind of out of options.
But, still, it was good to see DeRozan finish the unofficial first half of the season with one of his best all-around games in a while.
Speaking Of Marco
No, not a very good game at all (I’m wondering if that ankle isn’t giving him a little trouble) but there was still one play that stood out.
Early in the second quarter, Willie Green misses a long jumper which yields a long rebound that Belinelli corrals. Without a second of hesitation, he’s off on the break with Amir Johnson running beside him.
Now, I’m immediately thinking Marco’s going all the way to the rim and something wild might happen but he ends up making a perfect pass to Johnson for a dunk.
Two things about what’s little more than a routine play:
In past years, the Raptors didn’t really have a backup wing – or a starter for that matter – who’d get that ball and go, which is exactly what Jay wants. Jamario? You shuddered at his ball-handling skills. Joey? A charge waiting to happen. Jason Kapono? Yeah, right.
That’s why this team gets so much in transition when it gets stops, because it has guys who can get it and go and it seldom did before.
Second point: Maybe Marco’s decision-making is improving; I don’t know how many times we’ve seen him not give up the ball or take some crazy shot. To make the smart pass to a finishing big is not remarkable, just a bit out of the ordinary.
A Good Decision Not Made
Don’t know how many caught it, or if you did on TV, but just before what turned out to be a pivotal jump ball with about 90 seconds left between Bosh and Elton Brand – after the second of two “inadvertent” whistles in the game, which is surely a season-high – the Raptors had Jose at the table to check in for Sonny.
Well, seems to you can’t make a sub on an inadvertent whistle and Jose had to wait. Bosh loses the jump, Sixers get the ball and Sonny, who could have been on the bench watching – makes a steal that leads to Andrea’s dagger of a three.
I asked Jay about it after the game and he said they weren’t going to get Jose in until Toronto took possession because he really wanted Sonny on the floor to cover Lou Williams (smart move since he ended up turning him over) but it sure looked like Jose was trying to get on the floor before the jump.
Sometimes, things just work out well.
Sure. Why not?
I’m sitting there watching the warm-ups about two hours before tip-off, Alvin Williams is working out DeMar DeRozan and Sonny Weems and down the other end of the court, the Sixers TV analyst Ed Pinckney is getting some pre-game work done.
And after I mention to Al that this might be the first time he was the second-best Villanova Wildcat in a Toronto gym, he goes on to make about eight straight shots over DeMar and Sonny in a rotating game of one-on-one.
Of course, I hold to my contention and when I made the same point to Ed, all he said was he was glad there weren’t any members of this year’s Villanova team in the building.
So, the Olympics start on Friday, right? And since I’m not there and won’t see any scary giant bugs or wonder how they get the horses in the pool for water polo, maybe an every-now-and-then trip down memory lane will keep me connected.
I hear Clara Hughes will carry the flag and I cannot think of a more appropriate choice, especially since I have some history with her.
Back in Atlanta in ’96 (and Olympics I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to entirely erase from my mind because they were so poorly run), I’m working as an all-around Grunt for The People’s Wire Service.
Well, we don’t have a lot of staff and we’re spread all over the place when word comes down that this cyclist from Winnipeg had won a medal.
It’s up to me to high-tail it from wherever I was up to, I believe, Buckhead, to get to the post-race news conference and all I can think while I’m in the cab is, what the heck race did she win a medal in?
And then I find out, get some quotes, write a not-bad story and become, for a couple of hours, an expert in cycling
And that’s what covering a Games is like for a guy like me:
Today I am an expert in …. (fill in sport you know little or nothing about).
Lucky, lucky readers, I say.
So, Reggie, how’d you feel?
“I was tired. Just one word: I was tired. When I came out of the game, it felt like I wanted to pass out. The inside of my shins were burning. I had to go into the locker room to cool off, get away from everybody and get some fresh air. It felt good though.”
Okay, this is too cool.
I’m having some quiet time after the game, typing and sipping and generally letting the post-game adrenaline slow down when The Chicken – sans costume because who wants to wear a costume all the time – wanders over to cluck that he/she/it will see me in Dallas.
And then the beans get spilled and I can’t believe I didn’t find this out during the game.
One of the other fellows at the table – and in one of the seats – was the guy who was the original Vancouver Chicken! Yes, Griz and its alter ego Super Griz took in the game.
I can’t believe they couldn’t have come up with some schtick, which would have been spectacular but Griz has apparently gone on to ply its trade in the world of moving pictures.
Guess there is life after being a Chicken.
In Philly, this is what one of the stories read like.
All right, what’s the plan for all-star weekend for The Irregulars and Me?
No firm idea but the thought is to do some kind of a Friday Question and Answer to set up the weekend; I’m thinking noon so I can go and make all the media things that afternoon. And then, perchance, an in-game blog thingy on Sunday night? Not sure about Saturday, to tell you the truth, since I’m not sure about either the interest back in Toronto or the setup down in Dallas.
Guess the best thing I can tell you is to check here Friday morning because, eventually, I have to get this worked out for my own schedule and yours.
Doug Smith has been a sportswriter for more than 30 years, a journey that's included seven Olympic Games, numerous and varied championships and more dreary regular season games than he'd care to remember. Here, he'll talk about them all, as well as current events and pop culture. (Just don’t ask him about music nowadays — it's not his cup of tea).