Something to help you get through the day
Pretty good work this week, folks.
Have saved a couple to dole out during the week because, with three more off-days, pickings may get slim.
Until then, though, have at this until the start of the big pucks game but don’t forget to get back here at 7 p.m. for the game.
Q: Hi Doug. A couple of questions (with a bunch of sub-questions) regarding the recruitment of free agents...
First, I'm wondering if you could give us some insight into how teams go about recruiting free agents? What lengths do teams have to go to land a player? In particular, what did BC and his staff do last off-season to attract guys like Hedo and Jack to come play north of the border? Is it anything like in 'Blue Chips' - that movie starring Shaq and Penny Hardaway about high school players being lured by colleges?
Secondly, if you were Donnie Walsh, what do you need to do to get a LeBron, Bosh and/or Wade to play for the Knicks? Does the mystique of playing in New York still carry any weight in our globalized world? Or do you need to go after two (or more) of these players and sell them on the possibility of playing together? Assuming this is possible, of course...
Thanks for the wonderful blog.
Mike M, Ottawa
A: Not a lot of lengths, actually. They do make contact at the first possible minute – travelling to a player’s home to be there the minute talks can commence, for instance – but they pretty much lay out their financial offer, talk up their team and let the players decide. There is no huge outward recruiting in most cases.
If I’m Donnie, I appeal to their sense of competition, tell them they can make something special happen in a good city, be part of the rebirth of a once-storied franchise. Oh, and I tell them I’ll give them all the money I can.
Q: Hi Doug, so we know you are not a "fan" of the Raptors to remain unbiased in your writing. How about when you cover Olympic assignments? Is it possible to not be a "fan" of Canada, being Canadian?
Normiyuki H, Toronto
A: It is. It’s much harder but it can be done. But, truth be told, when I’m working at Olympics, I do tend to wish the best for the country’s athletes a lot of the time.
And I think in their heart of hearts, a lot of writers would feel the same way.
A lot of it has to do with the fact that most Olympic stories are generally under-told and good; better if they involve success and that’s the gist of what we do, we cheer for our stories.
Q: Hi Doug. After reading your most recent blog entry regarding what Andrea Bargnani is working on in practice got me thinking about the sensitivity of the information you share on a daily basis.
While I appreciate and enjoy reading the material, is there a concern from the Raptor coaching staff or Management that opposing teams/coaches are also reading this material which will in turn help them prepare for the team?
Thanks for all of your hard work!
Dan V. Vaughan
A: I think there is some concern, which is why we don’t see all of practice and why some information is kept quite secret and away from us. But I can’t worry about that, actually; I’m here to find out what I can to inform and entertain readers and if it’s information the team would rather not have out there, sorry.
But that’s really seldom the case; coaches and players know that opponents are going to find out quickly enough what they’re up to and no one gets too worked up by day-to-day details getting out.
Q: Hi Doug. No one wants a big showdown between the NBA and the Players Association. But here it is looming up as a major event.
Q1. It appears that the head of player's unions is a major factor in how well CBA negotiations turn out. Who is the head of the NBA Players Asscn. and what can you tell us about his/her negotiating history and positions?
Q2. When do the players really start to pay attention to the CBA negotiations?
Q3. When you get a chance, can you help us and before too long offer a summary of the major issues in these upcoming negotiations?
Q4. Many will say that the players are spoiled millionaires and who cares about their demands/needs? Others will say that players are employees too and that important personal and social issues are present when players' associations bargain with their professional leagues. Which sentiment is likely to win out in the public's mind with this next round of CBA bargaining?
Charles N, Mexico
A: I’m going to be really brief here, if you don’t mind, because this will be an ongoing topic here for months.
Billy Hunter is the executive director of the players’ association, a California-raised lawyer who’s been in his current post for about 15 years. He’s seen as a tough, but fair negotiator and criticized in some parts for being to deferential to the league.
Sadly, the majority of the players won’t get actively involved until the very last minute, although there was more vocal involvement at the all-star game meeting from big names than I can remember so early in a process.
The issues are all economic, the owners think they’re giving too high a percentage of income to the players. Contract length, the guaranteeing of all contracts for their full value and maximum salaries are also part of it.
Generally, the public sentiment seems to be on the owners side, I presume that will hold again.
Q: Hi Doug. An Olympic basketball related question. In the Sydney games, did the NBA suspend the season for two weeks for Olympic Basketball? I didn't follow basketball back then, I have no idea.
Wilson C, Toronto
A: No, no. The Olympics are held before the NBA season begins; in Sydney I remember coming back from the Games and having about two days before training camp began.
Q: Hey Doug, hope that new terminal on the island will make some of your flying more pleasant!
Rasho/Reggie question. You say that with the way that Reggie is playing, there's no way NOT to play a four-big rotation. However, when Bosh comes back, with the way Rasho has been playing, why is it that Reggie will most likely take that '4th big' spot when Rasho has been equally, if not more, effective? Is it the intangibles? Reggie just brings a bit more hustle?
Joey H, Toronto
A: Better rebounding, more energy, more physical play. Rasho’s been great in the role he’s in, but Reggie just has a way of getting his teammates going.
Q: Hi Doug. Been a while since I've sent in mail but letting you know I'm still here.
I feel (and I'm sure I'm not the only one who does) that 2 of the best power forwards in the league currently are Bosh and Boozer.
Can you give a little bit of a comparison as to their strengths and weaknesses? Not just like, they're both really good offensively and at rebounding but could use some work on defense. But more of who has the better inside touch, range, leadership, hustle, athleticism... etc.
Stuff us normal people can't easily get without your credentials.
Binson S, Toronto
A: I think most people would suggest that Boozer is stronger and more powerful, especially on the glass but that Bosh has much better shooting range. That would make Boozer perfectly suited for Jerry Sloan’s tough, pick-setting style.
I think what Bosh brings that’s the big bonus is the ability to put the ball on the floor better and beat his man off the dribble.
As to their intangibles? I’d say Boozer may, at times, defer to Deron Williams as the leader in Utah and that Bosh is the true alpha dog on the current Raptors roster.
Both are pretty darn good, though.
Q: Hey Doug, quick question for you. Were you ever a Raptors fan before you started to cover the Raptors as a writer? When you decide to retire, will you still watch Raptors games? Thanks, love the blog!
Eric M, Markham
A: I’ve been covering them every year of their existence so, no, I can’t say I’ve ever been a fan. I have been a fan of the game for a very long time, though.
When I retire? I presume I will watch from the comfort of some easy chair or some stool the odd night.
Q: This may be a strange question, but I'll ask anyway. Where has M Grange ™ gone?
Ro A, Otttawa
A: He’s been lollygagging out in Vancouver for some sporting event. But, not to worry, he should be back among us this week.
Q: Doug, you said during the in-game against Portland that the Blazers are now 11-3 on the back end of back to backs. I don't know the Raptors stat, but I believe its something like the reverse. Why, do you think? Better conditioning on Portland's part? Tougher mentally? Better team? Or does the overall Raptors scheduling earlier in the season (30 in 50) skew the results?
Alan C, Kawartha Lakes
A: The Raptors are 5-8 on the second night of back-to-backs.
The reason? I honestly don’t know that there is one thing you can point to. Who the teams are on the second night has something to do with it; and, yes, the early, tough schedule with a team still finding itself has lots to do with Toronto’s relatively poor record.
Q: Thanks for answering the three-second question but I do have a follow up: how does a zone defense work then? Wouldn't a big be planted in the key? Thanks!
Dan P, Baltimore
A: No, he can’t be because it’s against the three-second rule; which is why they put it in.
Q: As someone who lives in the city (Ottawa) with long cab waits and a guy you appropriately called "the prorogue doofus from Ottawa" I would like to say thank you.
Thank you for being as honest as you are with the Toronto Raptors and their play as you are with the people we elect.
Now to take a line from the guy who was at the game, what kind of "recalibrating" do the raps need to do in the off season to improve this team? Because even with the money we have if Bosh leaves it doesn't look like the media thinks we can land any major free agent.
Lyndon G, Ottawa
A: Regardless of what happens with Bosh, they aren’t going to have money to spend on high-priced free agents. The mid-level exception would be about it.
And the “recalibrating” will be spending that money wisely and also, simply, from internal growth. Good teams take time to grow together, that’s what this one needs more than anything.
Q: OK Doug, third try lucky? I'm interested in the quality of the playing surface at ACC and how it stacks up with other NBA arenas? Do players talk about the different surfaces in the NBA and whether they confer any advantages/disadvantages to home teams/visitors?
Ron F, Toronto
A: Third time lucky, indeed.
The playing surfaces don’t differ at all so there’s never an issue with that. The only thing there’s ever an issue with is shooting backdrops and the ACC is pretty much the norm. A couple are a bit differently lit – Madison Square Garden and Staples Center use “theatre” lighting – but even that isn’t enough to cause any real issues.
Q: Conversation turned recently to Jorge Garbajosa as an aged "rookie" when he came to Toronto, and the question was raised whether he was still playing in Spain or elesewhere. Is he? How is his leg?
Mark L, Toronto
A: Oh yeah he’s still going strong over there with Real Madrid. And his leg’s fine, I’m told.
Q: What’s with teams and third jersey's. Is it me or is it getting out of hand now. Cleveland is probably the worst, every time I see them it seems like a different jersey. Is this just an NBA fad? Did teams do this on there own or did the NBA start this?
Mike S, Brantford
A: It’s entirely out of hand, no question about it. And Cleveland might be tied with Golden State.
And nothing happens marketing-wise that the league isn’t aware of before it happens; teams might have an idea for another jersey but they’d have to run it past the home office for approval before they could do anything.
Q: Doug, what were your impressions of Hedo Turkoglu as a dribbler and a passer off the dribble coming into the season? Have those impressions changed now that we are two-thirds of the way through this season and you've had a chance to see him up close and too personal?
I know you're fine with the current end-of-game scenario, but isn't it just a repeat of the last few years with a different leading actor? One guy holding the ball in a stagnant offensive set? I was rather hoping the opposition couldn't key on the one player as they did in the past with Bosh at the elbow plan. Just once I'd like to see an unguarded Raptor at the hoop for an easy layup or a wide-open corner three at the buzzer for the win. Given Jay's outstanding record at coming out of timeouts otherwise, why go so stolid at the finish line?
Gary M, Brampton
A: Turkoglu is what Turkoglu has been. Pretty good ball-handler and is adept at throwing the cross-court pass to the far corner. Not sure how well he handles ball pressure coming up the floor, which is why he generally gets the ball off a dribble-handoff.
And, yes, I believe Jay would like to see an easy layup or a wide open corner three, too. Sometimes the guys defending take that away.
Q: Hey Doug! Everyone knows that the likes of LeBron James, Kobe, Bosh, and practically every all-star dominated in the game of basketball before coming to the NBA. However, how do the less-dominating players get into the NBA? Of course the rookie drafting explains a part of it, but what about signing free agents? For example, when we signed Pops a year ago... where did he come from/how was he known?
Vik Z, London
A: Almost all of them come from colleges you may not know much about (Pops at George Washington, for instance) and others from various European leagues.
Q: How much better does Amir have to get before he starts eating into Bargnani's minutes?
Jim R, Toronto
A: More than may be humanly possible.
Q: Hey Doug. What are your thoughts about Hasheem Thabeet being sent to the D-League?
Was this expected? I don't recall your thoughts on him going into the draft.
Barry C, Toronto
A: I’m a little surprised that such a high pick is being sent down because I generally think it’s better for players to stay and work out with other NBAers rather than go and play against minor leaguers.
But I always thought it was a stretch for him to be drafted so high, he’s quite unpolished offensively and his shot-blocking and defensive abilities may have been excellent in college but it’s a huge step up to playing against men.