Welcome the pre-break game.
Bit of news I'm sure I'll have to repeat: No Hedo Turkoglu tonight, he's out with an excused absence for a family issue.
Anyway, settle in for some fun
Welcome the pre-break game.
Bit of news I'm sure I'll have to repeat: No Hedo Turkoglu tonight, he's out with an excused absence for a family issue.
Anyway, settle in for some fun
Seems even though Chris Bosh isn’t 100 per cent sure what his summer basketball responsibilities will entail, the folks who run USAB still want him.
Bosh was among the 27 players named Wednesday morning to the selection pool from which the American teams for this summer’s world championships, next summer’s Olympic qualifier if necessary and the 2012 London Games will be chosen.
The news value of that? Yawn.
But Bosh told us last weekend he’s not entirely ready to commit to the team that will go to Turkey this summer.
He’s got his impending free agency to deal with and wants his NBA future settled before he does anything with the national team.
Considering the free agency signing period starts about July 7 and the American team doesn’t really get going until August, it’s unimaginable that Bosh won’t know where he’s playing in time to join his USAB buddies.
But at shootaround about five minutes ago, he remained uncommitted.
"It's always cool. I just wanted to be in consideration for the next three years. I know there's business to take care of ... you have to have a job first."
Being back will put him back with nine of the guys with whom he won the gold medal in 2008 in Beijing.
Returning, at least in the group of 27 original invitees are:
Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Deron Wiliams. Not all of them haven’t given ironclad commitments either but makes sense they’ll be there when the NBA stuff is taken care of.
Roundng out the pool:
Lamar Odom, Amar’e Stoudemire, LaMarcus Aldridge, Chauncey Billups, Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, Eric Gordon, Danny Granger, Andre Iguodala, AL Jefferson, David Lee, Brook Lopez, Kevin Love, O.J. Mayo, Kendrick Perkins, Derrick Rose, Gerald Wallace and Russell Westbrook.
Join Doug Smith at noon Wednesday for a live basketball Q&A, as the Raptors get ready to take on the Philadelphia 76ers.
A fella wakes up to a light dusting of snow and given the kind of winter it’s been, he’s quite all right with that.
Nice February day
Big game against Philly?
Dangerous game, more like it.
Minds tend to wander on nights like this, to vacations in warm places, four days with no practices or games and a nice mental departure from the grind of the season.
The danger, of course, is checking out a few hours early and the history books are littered with odd results of so-called bad teams beating good ones on the night before the break.
Don’t think Jay isn’t thinking about it:
“We talked about four games that are important to us, that’s the one before Christmas, the one right after, the one before the all-star break and the one right after that.
“Four games that maybe other teams will lose the mental advantage in and so far, we’re 2-0 in those games.
“We just remind our guys, going into the break, let’s finish the job. Let’s finish the way we have been and play the best that we can. We’re not guaranteeing a win, just play well and feel good about yourself going into the break.”
That's too bad because there's nothing better than a "guaranteed" win to rile up some people.
The thing about this team, at least in the majority of the last 31 games or so, is that it has displayed some mental toughness; pulling games out late, surviving inevitable runs, finding ways to win.
It’ll be interesting to me to see how they handle this evening. Maybe not completely telling because there are so many games to go, but interesting nonetheless.
For those of you who forgot, Reggie Evans will wear No. 30 when he takes to the court against Philadelphia on Wednesday.
And that, friends, is not a number steeped in Raptors lore.
In fact, only two players before have worn it and they couldn’t be more disparate in personality, talent and contribution.
Dell Curry, one of the classiest, grown up, accomplished Raptors of all time wore No. 30 in his three seasons and 194 games.
Oh, and Oliver Miller wore it, too.
Some (like me) see the glut of wings and an extra big as a challenge to a coach, who has to find some kind of settled rotation that can’t possibly included two points, guards, five wings and four bigs. That’s about two too many.
Some (like Jay) see it as potentially a good thing, particularly with the Hedo, DeMar, Marco, Antoine, Sonny collection at the two-three.
“It’s a feel thing and one of them may get left out at one point depending on what’s going well and what we need, whether we need to manufacture points, whether we need another ball-handler on the floor, whether we need to make shots from the perimeter or whether we need to be more athletic.
“I think that’s the one thing that’s been an advantage that we’ve had, we’ve had flexibility and we’ve been able to match up with what teams have thrown at us.”
Of course, that’s all well and good for when the game’s just going along and he can possibly mix and match.
But it’s almost 100 per cent certain that when it comes down the final few minutes of a close game – closing time, as you might say – you’re going to see one of the point guards, Wright, Turkoglu, Bosh and Bargnani.
Don’t forget, we’ll be here at noon to answer some pressing questions – and I know you’ll be sitting around all morning trying to come up with some – and we’ll offer the first reminder about a weekend mailbag. Send those questions – and make ‘em good – right here.
Those red-hot Sixers are at five in a row and feeling pretty good about themselves coming in. Here’s how things were chronicled down there this morning.
You know, quite aside from all this basketball, now that they’re about to light the lamp out in Vancouver, it kind of makes a guy want to be there.
There’s nothing like a luge or a biathlon or a skeleton to give a guy with no winter sports coverage experience all kinds of fodder.
But, alas, it’s all about the Raptors and the NBA per usual.
I was talking to a couple of friends the other night whose daughter spent an other-worldly amount of money to travel to Vancouver and to secure tickets for the men’s gold medal hockey game.
Wonder if she’ll cheer for Russia or Sweden?
Knowing my well-publicized aversion to almost all things numbers, it may have struck some as odd that Wednesday’s offering for the newspaper – which you can read right here, thank you very much – would detail Toronto’s first truly deep foray in the world of advanced statistics.
It’s an interesting tale, though, and speaks to their desire to explore all options.
I’m told by people that I interviewed in the reporting stage that there’s all kinds of unconventional thinking associated with this, including one that really caught my attention.
Let’s say there’s 17.6 seconds left in a first, second or third quarter, you don’t have the ball and you’re out of fouls.
Every coach I can think of at every level I can think of will let the quarter run out, play defence, try to defend the last possession.
Well, what if stats showed you that you should press all over the court, try for a steal and, if you don’t get it quickly, foul, even though it puts the other team on the line.
Well, in some corners of the mathematical world, giving up the two shots, getting at least one miss and coming down and either scoring two or three yourself can be proven the right thing to do.
Next time you see a coach do that, it’ll be the first. I can almost guarantee that.
Oh yeah, when I was talking to Bryan for that story, the subject of individual plus-minus came up.
Let’s say he’s as impressed with that ridiculous stat as I am:
“For example, the whole plus-minus statistic is very misleading and not very useful.
“It’s far too generic … now, you can look at a grouping of players and give them a plus-minus but to go further, you’ve got to look at certain things in the flow of a game. There might be one player out there playing against a second unit so again, those numbers can be misleading.
“I looked at a boxscore the other day and somehow Kris Humphries was 6-for-8 from the field, he had whatever number of free throws, he ends up with 15 points, eight rebounds and he was minus-26. It made zero sense to me.”
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Chris Bosh has handled this whole impending free agency thing better than anybody else in the league and for that I’m very thankful.
He’s been consistent with his response and he hasn’t done anything distraction-causing like pine for a specific city or specific teammates.
He’s steadfast that it’s a summer time issue and that’s when it will be dealt with and that’s first class.
He was at it again Monday after practice when it was brought up for the billionth time and he gave the same answer for the billionth time.
“We don’t even address it … we’re going to keep rolling, there’s going to be a time and a place to talk about all that stuff and when it comes, I’m sure everybody will know about it.”
Yes, we will.
But, thankfully, we can wait until the summer to deal with it.
Prone on the sofa watching TV – hey, that Carter fellow’s still got it a bit, doesn’t he? – one thought occurred to me:
They need to light that flame out west pretty darn quick because I’m getting quite tired of listening to Donald Sutherland – no disrespect to him personally, he’s just a patriot thespian making a buck – tell me to Believe.
I may have been dozing off, but I swear I thought one of the kabillion times I saw that commercial that he said:
He was sipping a double-double and eating a beaver tail, I think.
But then I woke up.
Bosh as Oak.
We’re all standing around chatting with him Monday after practice and he’s going on about his off-season workout routine and how hard he worked to get bigger and stronger and more able to withstand the rigours of a long regular season.
He was, he said, driven.
And then he drops this one on us:
“If you want to get what nobody has, you have to do what nobody wants to do.”
Now, it’s not “pimpin’ ain’t easy, pimpin’ ain’t dead” and it’s certainly not “just ‘cause there’s glass on the highway don’t mean there was an accident” and it’s not even “don’t cry over spilled milk, just go to the kitchen and get some more” but, for Chris, it was pretty good.
So Chris Paul’s already out of the all-star game and so is Brandon Roy.
There are now worries that Paul Pierce’s foot may keep him out, no one knows about Kobe’s ankle and I’ve read about doubts on Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups because of their ankles.
I tell you, the story of Sunday is going to be the stadium because the game may end up being a second-tier event.
Of course, all those guys may get healthy enough to play and we’ll be fine but if they don’t, who goes?
It was interesting to me that the commissioner took Chris Kaman, a big, over Monta Ellis, a small, to replace Roy and who knows what he’ll do if either of the other West guys can’t go.
One thing for sure? It won’t be Tracy McGrady, no matter what the fans say.
The interesting one to me, though, is in the East if indeed Pierce has to pull out.
It’s up the commissioner to make the call – I’m sure after consultation with East coach Stan Van Gundy – but here’s one:
Does he take Josh Smith as a third Atlanta Hawk or does he perhaps hold his nose and pick a guy he once suspended for shooting a gun off out a strip club and reward Stephen Jackson with an all-star berth?
Personally, I take Smith. But that’s just me.
Antoine Wright’s been an interesting cat, hasn’t he been?
I mean here’s a guy who came in with a rep as a defensive stopper and key kind of glue guy and got off to a rocky start, to say the least. He’s playing poorly, calling out coaches and teammates, can’t make a shot, is the presumptive stopper on what looks like historically the worst defence in professional basketball history.
Now he’s making every shot he looks at, he’s guarding the other team’s best player down the stretch practically every night and who knows where they’d be without him.
How, Jay? How?
“Overall conditioning. I think (at) the beginning of the year, he had that injury (and) it kind of put him back. He’s a competitor, he wants to play, maybe came back when he wasn’t 100 per cent and was a little bit behind that way.”
But the shots? The shots are crazy.
Here’s a guy who came in as a career 29 per cent three-point shooter – 29 per cent! – and he’s 12-for-21 over the last five games and if you take out an 0-5 clunker at Indy the other night, we’re talking stupidly ridiculous, unprecedented hotness.
How, Antoine? How?
“It’s getting in here, getting my shots up and also knowing when I’m going to get my shots. Before, in the past, I’d get six shots a day and no shots the next game. Just being out there and having that confidence and knowing the ball’s going to come to me and being ready to shoot it.”
Now, we may indeed see some regression to the mean – and I fully expect we will – but this guy’s been torrid of late.
Okay, let’s see:
Season starts with great promise.
Key players get hurt.
Beloved owner dies.
Team in toilet.
Guns in the locker room.
Daily trade rumours surround remaining key players.
Apocalyptic snowstorm hits area, game postponed.
And now the only good day for the Washington Wizards to make up that postponed game sets up a back-to-back-to-back series in March?
Yeah, that’s been a season to remember down there, hasn’t it been?
Thank goodness all I have to worry about up here is a few expected early season losses, the near daily calls from the more frantic of fans for firings, trades and benchings and now all the world’s an oyster when you’re five games over .500.
All right, time to stalk the postal carrier to wait for the letter letting us know if Super Son’s sax audition was good enough to land him a spot at a big-shot music program before heading off to practice.
I’m going to tell you this about the daily practice thing these days:
The mood is always upbeat and light, lots of laughs, everyone’s happy and it gets me pining for the olden days when cynicism and bitterness ruled ‘cause I do that so much better.
Anyway, see ya.
Get up, get caught, win going away. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The Little Things
Two minutes into the fourth quarter, the Raptors are kind of reeling and all of a sudden, in a span of about 25 seconds, Sonny Weems pretty much changes the game with a couple of big defensive plays.
First, he strips Donte Greene on the post that leads to a turnover and the Raptors finish the possession with a Bosh three-point play.
Next time the Kings have the ball, Sonny’s lurking away from the play and when Andres Nocioni makes a terribly lazy pass, Weems reacts, picks it off, goes in for a dunk and all of a sudden Raps are up one after being down four.
That’s the kind of defensive plays they weren’t getting in the first 20 games of the season, reaction plays that Weems seems to be quite adept at.
I don’t know what’s going to happen when, or if, all five wings are every healthy at the same time because I don’t think there’s room for a good rotation that includes so many guys.
But if Weems keeps making the little plays like that, I wouldn’t want to be Jay and have to decide which four of DeRozan, Turkoglu, Weems, Wright and Belinelli will play.
And he does have to pick four because combined with two point guards and at least three and maybe four bigs, having more than that play regular minutes makes the rotation too choppy.
Pass Of The Night
I can’t go on enough about the pass Chris Bosh made with just over four minutes to go that Antoine Wright converted into the dagger of a three-pointer from the corner. And it speaks to Bosh’s improved awareness of defences and what they’ll do for him.
We had a perfect angle to see it unfold: He caught the ball on the right block with a guy on his back and the Kings doubled with a guy from the top and a third defender crept on Bosh’s back from the baseline. A fourth guy was sneaking into the passing lane to take away the diagonal pass to a lifted Bargnani and when Bosh split the defence and looked for someone to pass to, there wasn’t anyone. So he waited just a split second, looked to the corner and got the ball to the only guy he really could have.
And Wright, to his credit, made a fine catch – the pass was pretty low, I believe – and when I mentioned to him that the reception and shot was pretty impressive, too, he kind of laughed:
“You can’t complain about how you get the ball as long as you get it. I remember not getting it so I’m not going to complain about the pass … but it was a difficult play, he’s getting a better feel for when he’s crowded and when to move the ball.”
Those Dancin’ Fools
I’m wondering if the Raptors aren’t going to get a call from the league office sometime about the rather over-the-top pre-game histrionics that are becoming a tradition around these parts.
As the hug-a-thon was going on – with guys at the scorer’s table, in front of the bench and wandering out to midcourt – referee Greg Willard was standing not 10 feet in front of me, entirely unimpressed.
“Come, let’s go,” he said a couple of times.
And then when Sonny Weems climbed up on the table to get the crowd going – a new touch – Willard stood there, rolled his eyes and I imagine he’s thinking, ‘yeah, I need to let the folks back at the office know about this.’
Now, I’m all for the enthusiasm this group of Raptors has, it’s nice to see and is better than the ‘ho hum, let’s get started’ attitude we’ve seen in the past. These guys do like each other, they cheer for each other regardless of their roles and that has to be a good thing.
But maybe toning down the pre-game stuff just a tad would be a good idea.
If you insist.
Found a football game on TV last evening (seemed like a big one) and it was fun. But why in the world would they have a gaggle of geriatric screamers at halftime?
Seriously, I’ve got a lot of Who fan in me and they can still play the instruments, but, wow. The vocals? Yikes!
I keep getting the feeling that you’re going to see Reggie Evans in uniform on Wednesday night against his old team.
Depends on how he comes through practice Monday and Tuesday but barring any setback, getting him out there for five or six minutes to energize not only the crowd but the team, makes entire sense.
Did you look at Tyreke Evans and see a little bit of Dwyane Wade?
Kid’s strong, no doubt; but needs to work on his ball-handling and decision-making off a sample size of one viewing.
However, until I see Stephen Curry, Evans gets the rookie of the year vote from this precinct.
I think Evans is eventually a two-guard (and no matter what anyone says, I’m not sure he and Kevin Martin can co-exist) but he looks like he’s going to be a good one.
For readers of the Sacramento publication, this is how things were described.
Back to said football game.
One question to three guys:
“Who’s going to win?”
Alvin Williams: “The Eagles.”
All-knowing Beat Grunt: “Saints by 10.”
Jarrett Jack: “The Argonauts.”
Yes, I believe Jarrett will become a local favourite quite quickly.
Here’s something you don’t see every day. Or any day, now that I think of it.
About 90 minutes to the tip and DeMar DeRozan’s just finished his pre-game work and is leaving the court. Now, there are always fans and corporate invitees and whatnot sitting around to be introduced and have jerseys and the like signed so when DeMar stopped to sign a shirt there was nothing really out of the ordinary about it.
Then I got a look at the shirt and, no, it wasn’t one of the many Raptors jerseys the nice folks at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment will sell you.
It was a Compton High School jersey, with DeRozan on the back and I’m thinking, man, they make replica stuff for high schoolers now?
Wonder what a No. 32 Stamford Hornets jersey would fetch?
Remember a week ago now when it was suggested somewhere on the interweb that a 2-1 week would probably be what unfolded and that’s what happened? Well, looking at the week coming and I’m thinking 1-0 is probably how it unfolds.
A slow week, isn’t it? Practices today and tomorrow, game Wednesday and then the league circus wends its way to Dallas. That oughtta be fun.
For this space? Usual crapola for the first three days, morning stuff, paper stuff, game-day Question and Answer on Wednesday around noon and then we’ve got to figure out what and when from all-star weekend. That’ll give me something to do when I’m sitting around the office this morning wading through paper work. Stay tuned.
Early, isn't it?
I hear there's a football game or something later on.
But first, real professional men's basketball
Lots of ‘em, lots of good ones and more than you can perhaps wade through before the noon start. But try, okay?
See you then.
Q: Hey Doug. Long-time reader, first time questioner.
I'm sure someone's asked this before, but what they hey, I'd prefer not to go into the backlog just to find an answer.
During practices and such, you grunts are always huddling around players/coaches and bombard them with questions.
My question is somewhat multi-faceted: Do you guys have some sort of etiquette or routine as to who asks the first question? Do you have some sort of way to determine that or is it just who speaks first? Do some grunts get more time to get more questions in? (i.e. It seems like Sherman Hamilton from Raptors TV always gets the last word)
Quang N, Ottawa
A: It really unfolds differently every day and there is no set order or etiquette or anything like that.
What happens is this: As we’re standing around waiting to be let into practice, a period that varies every day, members of the team’s staff canvass us to find out who we need to speak to that day so they can be sure the player doesn’t get out without meeting his media obligations.
But if I want to talk to Chris and the Sun guy wants to talk to Hedo and M. Grange ™ wants to talk to Jarrett we’d generally hold three different scrums and we’d all listen to all of them to make sure not huge news breaks out.
We can get some one-on-one time if we wait out those scrums or grab a guy just before he leaves, though.
And we all get as many questions as we can ask, actually. No one’s put on any limits.
Q: Hey Doug, thanks for the great blog!
I was wondering, when you're watching the game, what are the kinds of things you might notice that the average viewer at home might not see. For example, if you were watching a basketball game with a friend, what kind of things might you point out to look for that they might not notice themselves. I don't necessarily mean the differences between watching a game live and watching it on TV, but just little things we might not all look for that could enhance the game.
Peter R, Regina
A: I don’t see a lot of TV games so take this for what it’s worth in that regard. But what I look for is how guys are being defended and since TV doesn’t afford a view of the entire court all that often, it’s usually how guys with the ball are being defended.
The other night against New Jersey, for instance, even glancing at the tiny monitor courtside, I could see that viewers should have been able to notice how crazily far off Bosh that Brook Lopez was playing. That’s why I wondered about all the criticisms I was seeing in the comments about Bosh needing to drive the ball more when there was a big man about two steps off him and a help defender no more than another yard away.
I also look to see what plays are being run how often, remembering that if something works three or four times in a row, a team might put it on the backburner for a quarter or two lest the opponent figure out how to guard it.
Other than that, not much. I really wish TV could show more “full court views” so you could see off-the-ball cuts and screens and where the help defence is coming from or should be coming from in the instances when it’s not there.
Q: Man, Doug, that was some performance these past 36 hours in Toronto- Indianapolis-Toronto: travel, pre-game chat, in-game blog, story in press, next day blog, travel back, and then pre-game blog again._You are on a roll on 3 hours sleep! Sign that man up. Can we fans of your STAR coverage claim a tiny bit of credit? Would you be as motivated if we were not here?
Q: At what point does getting ready for playoffs start to impact regular season games - resting players? Putting in new sets? Testing match-ups for upcoming short series? In other words, do we actually watch "three seasons" each year:1) the start2) the getting ready and (for the teams that make it )3) the playoffs?
Chas N, Mexico
A: I don’t know if there’s a specific time but I’d say most coaches use the first couple of weeks of April to start putting in new sets in practice and perhaps shaving minutes of some players and tightening rotations a bit.
And, yeah, there are usually three distinct portions of the season for good teams:
The first month to find out what works and what doesn’t; the time from about December to the all-star break to solidify playoff positioning and March and April to really get fine-tuned for the post-season.
Q: Now this is a weird questions, but I'm curious and I figured you might know the answer. As I understand it the TV and radio broadcasters are team employees and travel with the team. The Raptors are somewhat unique in that they play on several different TV networks and their colour commentator changes depending on the network. The question is: if the Raptors are on a long road trip with multiple games on TSN and let’s imagine only one on the Score, is Leo Rautins flying around with the team hanging out waiting to work the one game on the trip broadcast by the Score? Or does he travel on his own to meet up with the team to work that one game and then get to go home for the rest?
John H, Ottawa
A: It is hard to figure out who’s doing what and who’s going where and I’m sure on trips as you describe that the guy who makes all the travel work – the all-important K. DiPietro – probably goes nuts.
But what has happened on those occasions is the guy doing the one game will fly commercially and meet the team in whatever city and then head home commercially the next day.
The exception would be when that “other” game is the last game of a trip. When that happens, the first guy may or may not fly home commercially (he may just stay and watch the game) and the second guy will meet the team commercially at the last game and then fly home on the charter.
Q: Questions about trades. Does the GM give the players involved in a trade a heads up when they might be changing teams or do they simply find out about it after the fact? Once they are traded do the two organizations involved help with the problems of uprooting families and moving?
Penny D, Fredericton
A: Generally, there’s no notice because GMs like to operate in secrecy and the more people who know about impending trades – like players, agents, family members – the more chance of work leaking out.
I remember the night they traded Marcus for Oakley, they were deathly afraid word would get out before the league approved the trade and that some of the Knicks would have gone to management and talked them out of making the deal.
And, yes, most organizations have people who work with housing, cars, family issues and they help as much as they can.
Q: Hi Doug - great work with the blog. Question #1: When a player is out as long as Evans has been, is their pay cheque affected at all? Question #2: I was watching the post-game locker room interviews after the Nets game and was wondering, is there an agreed upon amount of time that each player answers questions? How does the Grunt Pack all know when it was time to move on to the next player. Thanks!
Andrew S, Toronto
A: No, injured players get paid the same as everybody else.
There is no set time, most players will stand there and answer as many questions as we’ve got but we’re a decent lot and don’t keep guys for 20 or 25 minutes. And there are two ways we know to move on: When the first interview subject is finished with and if the other guy we want to talk to looks like he’s trying to make a getaway.
Q: Hey Doug, with college football national signing day yesterday, I got a question with regards to professional team ownership and player salaries. How does the league, any league for that matter, control an owner with independent resources from enticing a prospective free agent with extra money or benefits outside the salary structure? Could Charlotte owner Robert Johnson, for example, give a player his own show on BET and pay him an absurd sum with BET and therefore have a competitive advantage over other teams wanting the player's service in a capped league and freeing up more money with the team to sign other players or stay under the cap?
James C, St. John’s
A: The NBA is very, very vigilant about “outside income” as it relates to ownership offering other inducements and the penalties would be very harsh.
As a way of two examples:
When Dennis Rodman signed with the Mavericks he lived, for a while, in a guest house at Mark Cuban’s house. The league got wind of it and forced him to either move or pay market value on the property.
In a local situation, the Raptors at one time, way back In the day, were considering a show involving Kendra Davis, who had a bit of nice TV presence and would probably have fit fine on their TV network. But, because of a perception that it could have violated the spirit – if not the specifics – of the CBA, it was dashed before it ever became more than simply an idea.
So, the short answer would be, no, it can’t be done.
Q: Doug, in a game like (Wednesday) night's where the team is looking for the bench players to act like starters, do the regulars make conscious effort to involve them early? I'm thinking of your comment about Andrea passing up a 3 to give Wright a shot, for instance. Wright and Weems seemed to get good looks (and points) early in the game... wondering if that's the coaching or heads up by the guys on the floor, or just the way things went this time.
Lyn I, London
A: I think it’s more the guys on the floor than the coaching because most looks come off reads and counters to defensive moves. Also, opponents are often caught a bit of guard by a new-look starting lineup and shots that, say Wright or Marco or Weems would get wouldn’t necessarily be there if it was Turkoglu or DeRozan.
What a dead day Friday was, wasn’t it?
I got to blow off practice, nothing earth-shattering really happened anywhere and the rhythm of a week was quite disrupted.
Luckily, there were a couple of hours free to sit and sip and answer mail so there was some wee connection to work.
And, of course, this:
Noon start on Sunday, eh?
Yes, it’s TV driven, and football game driven as well (the ABC window is 2:30-5, they could have played at 6, as silly as that sounds) but it’s awfully early.
And even earlier for some.
In one of the more significant, yet subtle, changes the Raptors have made this season, for early Sunday games they get to the arena around 9 a.m. for a walkthrough up in the practice facilities.
They go over what the other team does, work on some of their own stuff but that’s really all secondary to the purpose.
The real reason is to make sure all the players are out of bed and at least functioning close to normal by the time they hit the court.
I’ve talked to a few players about it and they all say pretty much the same thing:
It’s good to get in early, break a sweat, get up some shots and then go play the game.
There have been years where there was nothing mandated for the players before early Sunday games. For a noon start, some would drift in at 9:30, some at 10, some at 10:15; they got up, dragged their sorry selves out of bed and went to work.
Now, they’re all in at the same time, they work as a group and their minds and bodies get engaged well before tip. Or so they say.
And it seems to have worked.
They’ve won four of their last five early Sunday starts with n early start defined as any one before 6 p.m., when the usual game-day schedule that starts with a 10 a.m. shootaround is in effect.
Of course, in the “it’s all about me” world I inhabit, whether they shoot or don’t shoot or sleep or don’t sleep is of no real concern. Three hours before a game I’m usually sitting in the press room or wandering the halls in search of sources so noon, 3, 6 or 7 really makes no difference.
Things aren’t particularly groovy out in Sacramento, as the Bee reports here.
Should he or shouldn’t he?
Turk and the mask, that is.
Guy takes a practice off and all heck breaks loose about facial protection for an injured guy’s broken orbital bone.
Doctors say Turkoglu is cleared to play as long as he wears a mask.
Turkoglu says he doesn’t want to wear it, it feels uncomfortable, he’s a grown man, there’s risk there anyway and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
What to do?
I can really see both sides and I don’t know that there’s a right or a wrong answer.
The risks inherent with playing professional sports are obvious. Everyone’s one missed step away from having a career end in a flash of pain and torn ligaments and cartilages or what-have-you and I don’t know that a piece of plastic on a face really makes all the difference in the world.
Do you lessen the risk by putting on a mask? Maybe. Marginally. But I don’t know for sure. No one does.
If someone gets hit with enough force to break a bone, I imagine that same blow would cause just as much damage whether there’s a bit of protection or not.
And the argument that the Raptors need to “protect their investment” is, to me, flawed. Their “investments” are at risk every second of every game; they’re actually at risk every second of every day, regardless.
That’s just the way it is and to all of sudden start bringing up that argument seems a wee bit disingenuous.
Look at it this way:
Let’s say Player A, who doesn’t tape his ankles routinely because it’s uncomfortable, sprains an ankle in some game.
He sits out a week or so, the swelling goes down, the doctors clear him to play and the staff suggests that maybe he’s got a smaller chance of spraining that ankle again if he gets it taped every game.
Player A says, ‘nah, I’m cool. Hate the tape, doesn’t feel right, limits what I can do on the court.’
You think the team would insist he tape it up and play? I don’t.
Anyway, I have no idea how it will get resolved – don’t imagine I’ll know until about noon tomorrow – but I can certainly see Hedo’s point.
And kind of agree with it.
Do you realize that not once yesterday did I get an e-mail about some trade speculation floating around the internet?
I call that a good day indeed.
So, with the Kings making their only visit here Sunday, guess you should all pay attention to Tyreke Evans, who I’m told is at the moment is one of the leaders in the rookie of the year race.
The other kid to watch, though, is Omri Casspi. Couple of scouts I’ve talked to rave about him and think he’s got a chance to be pretty special.
Okay, Super Dog needs a walk and I need a coffee before heading off the practice. Wouldn't it be cool if every player on the team showed up wearing a mask?
Not so good for unearthing nuggets and news so I’m not sure what’s here but something is.
As I mentioned, it was a slow day so …
Been a few days since something out in the ether caught the attention of the masses – and even some of The Irregulars – enough that it’s created a need for reaction.
But the volume of “hey, Josh Howard says he might end up in Toronto, whaddya think” chatter was getting out of control.
In various transmissions with folks in these parts who would have an idea about this sort of thing, two words stood out:
Yes, that means Toronto has no interest in Howard, have no chats going with Dallas and it’s not going to happen.
And another one bites the dust.
At least it wasn’t Chris Bosh to Dallas, right? Been a long time since we’ve had to debunk any of that zaniness.
Seriously, the internet is going to be buzzing over the next fortnight with all kinds of rumour, innuendo and outright lies because so many big names are – allegedly – in trade play this year.
Andre Iguodala, Tracy McGrady, Amare Stoudemire are of course the big three at the moment and surely others will surface.
But I will warn you about this: Most, if not all, substantial trades in any sport just happen. They aren’t out there for public debate for days, they pop up unexpectedly and I have a feeling that’s what might happen between now and Feb. 18.
The trouble with making deals this year is going to be the uncertainty about the next collective bargaining agreement and the financial atmosphere it’s going to create. Everything every team does will be with eye on 2011 and what the deal might look like and that could give cause to pull back from taking on any long-term monetary obligations.
What do the Raptors do?
Well, look at it this way: They like the core, I like the core, a lot of people like the core. And does moving a bit part really make a difference? I don’t in any dark recesses of my mind think there’s a Hedo trade out there so take that one off the books. No way they deal Bosh or Bargnani and DeRozan’s long-term potential is pretty good and his contract’s very good so I don’t know that he’d ever be in play.
That, of course, leaves the point guards, a position that is an absolute strength for this team, despite the rants you read in so many places.
And no matter what some of you think, having two starting point guards willing to do what they do with the team first in mind, for total salary obligations that never add up to even one maximum value player over the course of each of their deals is a good thing. A great thing, as a matter of fact.
And since the other four spots in the starting lineup are set – and Bosh is as set as he can be at the moment – does diminishing one of your greatest points of power to strengthen an already good bench make sense at any level?
Doesn’t to me.
This is apropos of nothing but, as I said, it was a slow day and this has been kicking around in my head for a week or so.
Did you know the Olympics are coming? Like a week from now? Really, they are.
Anyway, there’s lots of talk, I hear, about who’s going to light the torch right at the end and Stumpy and I were talking about this very thing at a study session last Friday night.
It comes down to this:
Since we don’t have an Ali, we need an archer.
The lighting of the torch is a global event, no question about it, and the moment has to be so special, so over the top, that people sit up and take notice. It can’t be any relatively run-of-the-mill athlete, it has to be a symbol or some “wow” moment that will remain with people for years.
The most compelling ceremony I ever saw was Muhammad Ali in Atlanta; it was moving and incredible. The next? It might have been the archer in Barcelona, whose arrow lit the cauldron, or maybe the people walking through air in Beijing.
But we don’t have Ali, so we need a moment.
There is another guy I know who was talking about this very same thing a couple of nights later and he came up with what I think is a pretty damn good idea.
But I promised him I wouldn’t use it until after the ceremony because he’s sure – and I’m sure, too – that the organizers will come up with something no one thought of.
So if someone remembers to remind me a day or two after the Games get going, I’ll let you know what it was.
Oh, and if someone will let me know how the ceremony is, that’d be nice, too.
Because when it’s going on, I’ll be somewhere in Dallas wasting my time watching DeMar DeRozan do two dunks and Chris Bosh, um, coach.
Think that story gets good play in the paper?
Word Thursday was Jose has a “mild” sprain of his ankle and is being listed as day-to-day.
I swear, a Raptor could come hobbling off the court with a bone protruding from his arm and he’d be day-to-day. It’s just the way they roll.
And since I’m not going to be at practice today – I have to go see a lady about some Altace and other pharmaceuticals – I’m not sure if that report is going to change any time in the next two hours.
My best guess, and it’s truly a guess – is that with the way the schedule is going, they give him Sunday off, too, for some extra rest and treatment.
That’ll give ‘em two more days to work on it before coming back Wednesday against Philly right before the break.
But we, as they say, shall see.
Oh yeah, it being a day after back-to-backs, let alone it being Pizza Day at lunch, so the Hawks were off yesterday. Just in case you were wondering.
The mailbag’s really good as far as I can see, although there are far too many “why don’t they trade this guy for that guy” scenarios for my liking, so here’s the last offer of the week.
Send the questions here and I may find a couple of hours at my new Hazelville Local (Hi, Boston Pizza by Square One with the great TVs) to sit and sip and answer today some time.
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).