A lot of mail and some extra time to digest it
Have at it, boys and girls, and you’ll have some extra time today.
Remember, the folks who run things at the arena down here and Miami have yet to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 2000s so there’s no wireless courtside which means there’ll be no in-game blog tonight.
Have a nice time.
Q: Hi Doug. I was just wondering if and what rules there are regarding speaking with refs after the game. Are they allowed to talk to the press at all? Are there limitations to what they can and cannot talk about? And are there any off-the-record conversations about "hey you really missed that one..."?
A T, Niagara Falls
A: Yes, there are, and it’s a situation close to my heart this season in my PBWA role.
Referees – and only the crew chief – are allowed to comment only on specific interpretations of rules, nothing subjective, and only if they want to.
What happens is a “pool” reporter – one man or woman representing the group covering a specific game who then shares the answers with everyone – approaches the referees through the home team’s public relations department seeking comment.
We had some issues earlier this year where referees didn’t want to comment and when we pressed the league on it at our all-star weekend meeting, we changed the process slightly, deciding to approach them with written questions, rather than risk misinterpretation in a conversation with a team official.
And the one time that was tried, it worked and the stories were better and more thorough.
Now, if I meet up with a ref I know in, say, a Marriott concierge lounge over breakfast and we talk about teams or games, it’s always, always, always off the record and my general rule of thumb is to keep the conversation generic – people with know mutually, travel woes, family – rather than game specific.
Q: Hey Doug. You've always kept the old school approach to sportswriting, meaning you respect players' personal lives. Obviously, Toronto is still a big city where athletes, thankfully in my opinion, can have lives outside the public eye, which isn't the case in other places (TMZ in the States, the tabloids in England and Spain).
However, is there a point where you drop the dime on a player and call him out if he or she was perhaps out 'til last call the night before a game, and it apparently affects their effort the next day? Or do you assume the coaching staff knows what happens and will deal with it themselves, therefore there's no need for media to publicize it
Tim F, Toronto
A: Thanks, I like old school and am quite proud of my ethics that way.
And n 15 years doing this gig, and 30 in the business, I can’t think of specific situation where there was a need to “call a guy out” for what he did off the court and its impact on it.
Q: Doug, I admit to being a wee bit biased on this issue but can you please shed some light on why Rasho didn't see the floor at all against the Jazz? With CB4 and Il Mago struggling and the Raptors generally having problems rotating on defense and boxing out, I would have thought it would make sense to bring in the big with the best all-around post skills on the team. I know Rasho doesn't run so well anymore, but the Jazz run a half-court offense and Memo Okur (although a decent outside shooter) is never going to be mistaken for Usain Bolt. What am I missing? Was he perhaps having trouble hearing Jay call his name because of all the booing?
Mike D, Markham
A: Never thought of the booing aspect, you may be on to something there.
While, yes, Rasho has had his moments this season – usually in a starting role – I don’t think the coaching staff shares your enthusiasm for his abilities or the impact he’d have on a game.
Not saying they’re right just that’s the way they think.
Toss in the fact Jay doesn’t want to play four bigs in a game, let alone five, because it disrupts things more than he’d like, it’d be a stretch to think you’ll ever see Rasho in that kind of circumstance.
Q: Is there something about your own work you feel you're still trying to master?
Steve M, Toronto
A: Of course there is. Aside from continually trying to find the perfect turn of phrase or the time to report and write the most compelling story I ever have, patience in dealing with the myriad “interactions” with the lovely readers is still a task to be mastered.
Q: Hi Doug, Long time no write in here. I promise, no rants and just one straight forward question. When did mouth guards become so popular and why are they necessary? When was the last time someone lost a tooth playing b-ball? Dan Issel? Have they been mandated in the youth development programs and so players now are just used to them? Or is it fashionable? (I guess that was more than one question)_Certainly the Raptors don't play tough enough defense to worry about getting clocked by an elbow!! Sorry - that was a bit of a rant.
Tom D, Oakville
A: It’s been in the last decade, really, that mouthguards have come into vogue. I think, besides protecting against lost teeth, they also help reduce the impact on concussions of someone were to hit the floor quite hard (I know it rarely, rarely happens) but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Plus, there’s a lot of vanity involved in wanting to keep the pearly whites.
Q: It is obviously very concerning to see the Raptors in the state of affairs they are currently in. It does, however, paint several really interesting final weeks of the season for the squad, and the city that so desperately needs a champion. My question is this: You must be loving this! As a writer you need fuel for the fire, and the current lousy play in desperate times must be kindling for the explosion! How does finding the answers from players and coaches play itself out when times are as they are? How do you maintain your relationships in good order and dig for the business of the day without getting people upset? Does it matter?
Ren R, Swastika
A: There are many, many, many here who will tell you that I don’t fuel the fire nearly enough, I’m too soft because there is not a daily spewing of vitriol. That’s not my style and I don’t foresee changing.
Loving it? Not really. In times like these – and I’ve been through them a few times in the 15 years covering this franchise – it’s often a case of we have nothing to ask and they have nothing to say. So, in some regards, it’s a harder gig in difficult times.
And as much as people would like to think a reporter can go up to a player or coach and say: “You suck. Comment?” that doesn’t work.
You maintain relationship, and the respect garnered over years of dealing fairly with men, by doing just that: Dealing with them with respect, asking the hard questions when they are called for but above all else, being professional and not some out-of-control fanboy.
Q: Doug, I was just wondering your thoughts on fouling late in the game with the lead. The easy example of course is Friday night’s game against Denver. 16 seconds left on the clock and you know they're going to run an iso for Anthony who certainly can knock them down. I'll concede that you should trust your defence (and that they did a good job defending the initial play) and that a sequence of out of bounds and 1 of 2 at the free throw line put them in such a position to begin with but is there any merit to the idea of fouling on the inbounds play and then taking our chances running a play to win with 15 seconds left. Can you recall any coach having the stones to employ such a strategy?
Steve D, Hamilton
A: I can’t think of one and I’ve asked a few coaches about this over the years and the response I always get is that they think it’s easier to get a stop than a score in one possession. I think I can see their point, too.
Where to do see it a lot is in European play, where teams often foul to get the ball back and have a shot to win.
Q: Just wondering the details of Jay's contract. I know he signed the extension but I can't remember the length etc.
It sounds from some comments that BC has made that the coaching staff has his confidence. Do you think that is an accurate statement?
Jeffery M, Saint John
A: Jay got a contract fully guaranteed for this year and next with a third-year option.
And, yes, I believe that is an accurate statement today. But things change. Quickly, too. But I also know that, right now, the coaching staff has the unequivocal support of management.
Q: Hey Doug, what about the five loudest you've ever heard arenas get, live?
David S, Toronto
A: Utah in the ’98 finals; the arena in the Athens suburb of Pireaus during the 1998 world championship final between Russia and Yugoslavia; Boston during Game 6 of the Celtics series with the Lakers; Toronto in Game 1 of the series vs. the Nets, Sacramento in Game 7 of the West final against the Lakers.
Q: Hey Doug, with Hedo having had multiple instances of the stomach flu this season, a few of them popping up at half time, an interesting thought popped into my head. Could his notorious pre-game pizza eating be causing this? Even if it isn't, eating pizza's obviously not helping him stay in shape, so would the organization consider advising a healthier diet to keep him on the floor?
Scott K, Kingston
A: Surely to goodness you don’t think that fake commercial is a true interpretation of life, do you? And Turkoglu missed one game with the flu earlier this season and a game and a half this week. I guess that’s “multiple” but I don’t know that it’s an epidemic.
Q: Hi Doug, I'm a longtime fan of your articles and blog, going back to the Nothing But (Inter) Net days. I have a very weird question, and it's probably just a coincidence, but here goes._During a pre-season in-game blog thingy you do, I typed a question asking if Andrea Bargnani looked engaged during the game. It didn't get published, but I noticed that you started using the word "engaged" soon after. Now, I'd normally pass it off as coincidence, but you'd typically put the word in quotations, as if you're quoting a person, rather than using the word engaged normally. It's a perfectly good word, so why the quotations? Anyway, I noticed in today's column that you used engaged without the quotations, so, if it is my quote you're referencing, then I'd prefer engaged with the trademark symbol, like the one use for Grange, and if it is in fact not my quote and just a random coincidence, then have great day!
Richard F, Victoria
A: I think the word “engaged” is pretty much in the public domain so, sadly, the trademark possibility is gone.
Q: The news about the high schooler who just quit the pro team in Israel raised a question that has bothered me for a while.
I don't think that an minimum age requirement is the right answer for the NBA. Why don't they have a more comprehensive grading in the rookie pay scale? So for example, just looking at first overall picks, if a college senior goes first overall (based on proven skills at a high level) would get the rookie maximum while a high schooler picked first overall (based on potential)would get the rookie minimum. Juniors, sophomores and freshmen could each have their levels as well. The could have a set scale within each draft position in the first round 1-30.
They'd have to figure out a way to apply the principles to foreign players of course, but I don't see why this isn't the most obvious solution, it seems to work in the real world. Am I missing something?
Jason M, Toronto
A: That seems awful complex, the European issue is a problem and I cannot imagine the players’ association going for it.
And, frankly, they do think there’s a minimum age requirement, they’ve got in the CBA and, if anything, will try to raise it rather than eliminate it.
Hi Doug. First off, thanks for all the Raptors content over the years, as a die hard you definitely provide more info and insight than I could imagine. Now I'll try to frame this as a question but it may just be more of a rant. After last nights dismantling it has become pretty clear this team is going out in the first round if they make it that far. The raps are the only playoff team with a negative point differential, and by looking at that stat we are closer to being a team like Philly or Indiana than Miami or Charlotte. Good teams just don't get blown out as often as the raps have. At this point I don't even know if I want Bosh to re-sign (I am a huge Bosh fan by the way, I'm not dissing him here, I just think for his sake he should go somewhere where his talent and prime won't be wasted) because if he does come back we'll have essentially the same poor defending no heart team. So to try to frame a couple of question out of this (and i know you hate hypotheticals)
If we lose Bosh, what are the odds of a sign-and-trade occurring?
What do you think this team will look like next year if Bosh doesn't re-sign (I'm guessing 30 wins would be a good year?
Besides Triano what type of coach do you think would be ideal for the team the way its currently constructed?
Eli F, Toronto
A: Well, you’re right on the hypothetical thing but …
I think there’s a 95 per cent chance that if Bosh leaves it’ll be in a sign-and-trade which will get back a pretty good player to what I think is a solid core so I think 30 wins is a crazy low number. I don’t know what that number would be, but it’d be more than 30.
And, yes, I think Jay and his staff are good teachers and will be fine with whatever team they are presented with next season.
Q: Hi Doug. You mentioned that the Raps were exposed for their lack of toughness in the Utah game, not the first time this has happened this year and I fully agree. Question: Where does team toughness come from? Is there a single leader whom everybody follows i.e. Garnett, Boozer, etc? Thought Reggie was going to be this guy for the Raps but does it have to be a starter or somebody with more scoring skill? Is Chris not tough enough to lead this aspect of the team? Might see some from Jarrett but I don't recall a hard foul coming from DD, Hedo, Andrea or Jose. Is it more than hard fouls?
Dave M, Puslinch
A: Toughness is so, so, so much more than hard fouls; it’s an attitude more than anything. I think Antoine Wright has it in him; I think Jarrett does, and, while it may not be entirely apparent to many, I think Jose’s got it in him. Reggie does and, given some time to mature, I think both Sonny and Amir might have it.
But it’s elusive, and I’m not sure it can be “followed” by players who don’t have It in their nature.
I don’t think Chris is a “tough” guy so to expect it is asking too much.
Q: Dear Doug: I have two questions:
The media has recently drawn attention (as you did today) to the Raptors pregame routine. Back when I lived somewhere where I could attend a game or two I was always struck by this difference in preparation. To what extent does the Raptors pre-game routine - in as much as there is one - differ from other teams' (OKC was mentioned this week)? Given that the Raptors routinely "start" games 5-10 points down, might a change be in order (what could it hurt)?
2) Do players have the right to waive their trade-kicker clauses under the current collective agreement?
Jason P, Nova Scotia
A: It really doesn’t differ at all.
Starting about two hours to tip, different “groups” of players come out for warmup sessions (with the Raptors, it’s Sonny, DeMar and Patrick; Marco and Antoine; Rasho, Amir, Reggie and Andrea; Jarrett and Jose with Marcus; and Chris and Turk are usually the last group) and that’s consistent with all other teams in the league.
They get their individual work in and are quite serious about it; the goofing around comes after their sessions are over.
And, no, players cannot waive trade kickers just as no one can renegotiate a contract mid-term.
Q: Hi Doug, I read your blog everyday and enjoy your honest assessment of the Raptors. It is great to get an inside look at the day-to-day ups and downs of the season. You have a way of putting things into perspective over the course of a long season without resorting to doom and gloom tactics. It sounds like you have a lot of fun with your job, which is something that should be applauded._Not sure if this has been asked before, but I have a coaching question. There is a lot of heat on Jay Triano, which I think all boils down to his lack of experience as an NBA head coach, and therefore not getting the respect that he may deserve. This made me think: Can you make the case of current "respected" head coaches that had to go through their own growing pains? In your opinion, how long does a head coach take to "mature" in the NBA and establish themselves?
Sal L, Toronto
A: Well, let’s see.
Jerry Sloan was fired in Chicago and he went on to have a pretty good career; Doc Rivers was a genius with an over-achieving Orlando team and then a bum before he got fire and was thought to be on the way out in Boston the year before the Garnett-Allen trades. Oh, and Stan Van Gundy was so lightly regarded, the Heat told him to stay away when Riley replaced him in their championship season.
But I also do think there’s any magical time frame; it differs with level of talent available and support of ownership.
Q: I had a question for you. As writers, do you guys and the other reporters (radio, TV) get a stipend of sorts for travel on the road? It must be expensive buying food everytime on the road. Most of time, you guys go to pubs and not places like McDonalds either. I would think they would give you something no?
Thanks for the reply and love the work you do on the blog!
Jake J, Mississauga
A: Stipend? We have all of our road expenses covered, in my case as long as they are legitimate and are accompanied by receipts. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, travel may seem like a glamorous part of the gig but it keeps you away from your family, can be quite tiring and if they’re sending me on the road, it’s not costing me a dime.
Q: Hi Doug, I find it interesting that you find NCAA tournament “hurts your eyes”. Obviously you look well beyond the entertainment and excitement to more a quality of play, shot selection etc. view. If I ever had the chance to watch a game with you (where you are not working and we could enjoy an adult beverage) what would you be able to spot out to me that would give me a new appreciation of the game I myself enjoy to play?
Dave W, Trier Germany
PS: Should you ever be on a trip to Germany and would find the chance to watch a game together then I would provide the post game beverages and could teach you a thing or three about German beers. Btw. - got a chance to see Nate Doornekamp play for Trier – size isn’t everything I guess quick fouls and a few missed shots and his head would hang.
A: I think what I’d try to point out, and I’ve said this before, is the physical nature of play away from the ball and usually out of range of the TV cameras and how players get open on the “other side” of the court. Oh, and I think it’s far more apparent in person than it is on TV just how big a difference one step – a yard, tops – makes between what’s a good open shot and a well-contested one. There is no space out there.
Q: Doug; You were at the CIS Basketball finals in Ottawa last weekend. It made me think about how Canadian basketball teams could be invited to participate in March Madness. I know there are problems with this but assume it worked out, who might go. I would see two partaking from this group of three - Saskatchewan Huskies, Carleton Ravens, UBC.
How many rounds might one go and why? I think as long as they did not face a 4 seed or better, they might go 2 rounds.
Bill O, Peterborough
A: While I know some top-level CIS teams have beaten low- and mid-major NCAA teams when they come visiting around the Labour Day weekend each year, that’s the start of the season.
CIS basketball has improved but even the very best team would have to play out of its mind and catch an NCAA opponent on one of its worst tournament days to have a chance at an upset, in my opinion.
Q: Hi Doug. Simple question - if Bosh does decide to leave do you see him being booed on his return if he basically says he is leaving to get a chance to win? He wouldn't deserve it but the crowd is harsh....
Chris D, Leeds, Englan
A: Of course he will be. It’s what they do around these parts.
Q: Hi Doug. We keep hearing Colangelo & TO media, state that if Bosh decides to leave the Raptors, it would be good for both parties if he agreed to a "Sign & Trade.” Just wondering which mutually- beneficial "Sign & Trades" in NBA have taken place in the last five years or so?
Mary-Anne B, Toront
A: The truth is, there really hasn’t been one. I’m trying to come up with the most recent one that was even remotely good for both sides and the best I can do is Grant Hill to Orlando from Detroit for Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins and even that one turned one-sided in the favour of the Pistons eventually.
Q: Hi Doug, Instead of Grunt TV, could you try using that fancy new computer to show us some basic playes? Using X's and O's with some movement. Education of fans knowledge would expand with a better understanding of basic basketball plays.__Of course I think that would mean an intense leson on how to use that laptop, but it might be worht it for soem of us who don't always see the plays as we should. Thanks, as always.
Steph R, Glencoe
A: I’m lucky if I can keep a wireless connection and file on time; designing plays may be a Herculean task I’m not up to. But the plan was to do some fancy-schmancy stuff at the end of the season and to set up the playoffs – if they make it – so all I can say is stay tuned.
Q: Doug, for the final 11 regular season games and playoffs, I submit to you the following.
The best chance for Raptor success is to start the five they started against the Nuggets: Andrea, Chris, Jose and then Sonny and Antoine. Then you have a natural 6th man who is a scorer in Turkoglu, JJ to run the point, the rookie, and Amir.
Whether you agree or disagree do you think the Raptors would be willing to go to Hedo with $40+ million dollars left on his contract and tell him for the good of the team this is what will happen for the rest of the season?
Mike D, Cambridge
A: I think they are so desperate to get this turned around in the final few games that they could very well try that.
Q: Do you think that a team will pick up the stereotype of it city? I mean when it comes to the Raptors, for the past 15 years people always think of it is a soft team. We all know all Canadian is like this. Thank you this, sorry that.
However, a team like most of the tougher city in the US (don't want to name names, but you know, the one that you don't feel like taking their subway after dark and the city of cars) even if they are bad team, is because they are not soft.
From Vince to Bosh, all good guys but when it comes to kick butt they will say excuse me first and I am sorry after. Do you recall any Mr. Nice guys team ever win anything meaningful?
Anson W, Richmond Hil
A: Well stereotyped. Well, not well, actually. Kind of bad.
And I give you: Spurs, San Antonio as proof.