I hate weeds, but I love the mail
Anyway, more to do today while you read this and relax. This might not be the longest mail bag ever, but it might contain some of the longest questions. You folks were in full throat this week and there are still some I got late Friday and Saturday that I’ll parcel out during the week.
Have a nice day.
Q: Hey Doug. I know you grunts appreciate it when players give you good quotes. What would be your all-time Raptor best-quote team? I think you'd have to have Oak as the captain, with Mike James running the point, and Jalen Rose somewhere in the mix too. Also, who coaches that team, KO or the Smitch?
Anthony D, Toronto
A: Oh, Sam would be the coach, for sure. Although Darrell Walker would be his lead assistant.
As for the players, sure Oak, Jalen and Mike James would be starters but, back in the day, Carlos Rogers was always good for a quote and I’d have to find a place in the lineup for Jason Kapono.
Matt Bonner and Mo Pete would be my guys off the bench.
And, now that I think of it, maybe one day the first of the week, when I’m looking for things to fill out a morning thing, I should come up with an all-non-interview team. Am sure there are five or six guys who could make that squad.
Q: Hi Doug. I think a great use of your free time would be profiling one of the newer Raptors (say, Joey Dorsey), but that seems unlikely so could you please humour me while I get my head around the Bosh free agency scenario? Do I understand correctly that if Bosh just signs with another team, without a sign-and-trade, the Raps have zero ability to sign a big-name free agent because they're already over the cap? I ask because there seems to be little on the roster of, say, Miami that we would want in return. Thanks.
Mike D, Toronto
A: As it stands right now, they would not have any money to sign a “big name” free agent at all if Bosh leaves. Forgetting for a minute such esoteric things as cap holds, etc., and using raw numbers, the Raptors have committed about $64 million in salary for next year. Take away Bosh’s $17 million and that leaves, what, $47 million. Given the estimated cap at about $55 million – and not taking into consideration re-signing Amir Johnson – they are not going to be players at the upper end of the market if Bosh simply walks.
The Joey Dorsey Story, alas, needs lots of time to develop. I'll get at it sometime.
Q: Is there an opportunity to sign Bosh to the max contract for the maximum length but give him a player option to leave after one or two years. This would give the Raptors one last kick at the can to show him they can win 50 or more games and still give Bosh an out if nothing changes.
Tom D, Toronto
A: No, a team at the maximum value for maximum years, can’t have an Early Termination Option under after four years. He could, conceivably, sign for three with an opt-out after two but I think that’s a long shot; I think any free agent this summer is going to want to maximize years and dollars with a new CBA coming after next season.
Q: Quick basketball 101 question: When a team is trailing in a close game, they will foul to stop the clock, giving them a better chance of possession and scoring. The team that is leading will of course do everything they can to get the ball inbounded to their top free throw guy on the floor. Is there a reason why the ball carrier is always fouled, as opposed to fouling off of the ball with a player who is less capable of hitting the free throws?
Alan C, Halifax
A: There is. An intentional foul off the ball in the final two minutes gives the team being fouled two shots and the ball back. It’s why you don’t see teams fouling, say, Shaq or Dwight Howard in those circumstances.
Q Hi Doug. Watching the playoffs I noticed some familiar Raptor faces playing more than contributing roles on playoff teams (e.g. Bonner in San Antonio, Arroyo and JO in Miami, AP and Jamario in Cleveland, to name a few). In most cases these players have elevated their status on playoff teams, from their limited role as a Raptor. I was curious what you thought were the contributing factors for their improved performance? It seems to me that many of the current Raptors (Wright, Amir, Jose, JJ among them) could fall into this category of improved performers (if they were to move on); and understanding what it would take, whether it be team philosophy, player chemistry, to develop the Raptor assets will be among the most important components for improving the team next year. Any thoughts on what plays into this? Keep up the good work.
Mark P, Burlington
A: As trite as it sounds, it’s just a “horses for courses” kind of thing. In the case of Parker and Moon, for instance, both are thrust in roles more suited their abilities, role players asked to be supporting cast members more than stars. Same with Matt, who is not being asked to do as much in San Antonio as he was in Toronto. The same could really be said for Arroyo and JO, too, much more helpers to Wade rather than guys who are needed to carry a heavy load, although in Carlos’s case, he wasn’t ready to be a prime time player when he was here.
Sometimes, it really is that simple. With the way the Toronto roster was constructed, they were being asked to assume responsibility that was too great for their talents.
Q: Hi Doug, With the Raptors having made another early exit from play this season I guess this might present something of a challenge for you as far as what to write about in your blog. And, I must tell you, that after this past sorry season in particular, I'm really enjoying your recent anecdotes, yarns and amusing moments gleaned from the years that you've been covering this team. (And would you agree they were once again this year a far better story than a team?) So I wonder, after 15 seasons of chronicling the exploits of this franchise, do you have a comprehensive system for filing, storing, cross-referencing and sub-categorizing all your Raptor notes? Do you organize by season, or by player, or topic? And is the info mainly online or on paper? Thank you, and please keep those stories coming!
Lorie P, London
A: I only wish I had some big, detailed filing system but I am not capable of that level of organization, I’m afraid. I do have some but not nearly enough. What usually happens is I probe the dark recesses of my mind for anecdotes and then either remember specifics enough or go to some computerized search system, either or on the web or through the Star, to confirm what I think to be true.
Q: Hey Doug. KC Johnson drew fire from some for 'holding' his story on the Del Negro/Paxson fisticuffs until a later time (presumably after the Bulls' season ended). He's since alluded to a lot of 'gray areas' that accompany a story such as this, and I'm sure many arguments could be made to hold it or send it to print right away.
I'm curious to whether you've had a chance to discuss it with KC, and given what transpired, was he justified in trying to do the 'right' thing, or should he have just run with the scoop when it happened?
Paul G, Toronto
A: I spoke briefly about it with KC right after the first story broke and I came away fully understanding what the issue was. Unfortunately, I don’t feel I’m able to share that information with you. Suffice it to say, as the story has developed into a wee bit more, I’m more convinced KC erring on the side of caution was the right thing to do.
Q: I understand that Bryan Colangelo is a professional and that his contract status should not play into his decision making, but how can it not influence it in some way? Shouldn't the Raptors "brass" address Colangelo's contract this off-season (short-term extension) so that he can know what decisions he needs to make if the big "domino" doesn't fall? I know in a perfect world everyone is professional and do not consider their contract status when making decisions, but this off-season could set the course for the Raptors for the next 3-5 years. Shouldn't that be considered? Wouldn't this big move need to be made by someone who will have some long-term stake in the team itself? Not someone who may be thinking (as fans were of Bosh) that he'll be gone after this season.
Bill V, Toronto
A: I’m sure it was considered and the people who write the cheques and the guy who cashes them are fine with the situation. And while I understand Bosh is the big issue this summer, the course of the franchise has been set regardless of what he does, with long-term commitments already to Calderon, Jack, Bargnani and Turkoglu and with DeRozan on a rookie deal that could roll out to five years.
If you think Bryan would try to make a deal just to do something splashy in what might be his final year is, in my opinion from knowing, dead wrong. He’ll do what he thinks is best regardless of what might or might not happen a year from now.
Q: There seems to be two schools of thought with respect to building a winning basketball team. Teams like the Bobcats Hawks and Thunder have crawled themselves out of the basement through the draft and by allowing young players to mature over time without adding big established free agents. It makes sense, you keep the cost to talent ratio low (if you're good at it) and you put an exciting product on the floor that tends to succeed more than fail. The Raptors have never followed this model. GM after GM have tried to fix this team through free agent signings or trades of big "name" players. Do you believe that this team really does have the nucleus of a championship contender or does Colangelo need to wake up and rebuild from the ground up? Personally, I'd rather the latter, but I fear from Bryan’s press conference that he believes he has the right nucleus.
Brian B, Ajax
A: Well, with the exception of Charlotte trading for Stephen Jackson and Tyson Chandler and Nazr Muhammed and Boris Diaw and with the exception of Atlanta trading for Mike Bibby, you might have a point. Yes, Oklahoma City is all kids, many of whom were drafted only after trades for additional high picks.
So, yes, if Bryan can make trades that net players like those one did, or if he can trade existing parts for top 10 picks, he should by all means do that.
But, since you’re talking about teams that have kept cores together, why shouldn’t he keep this one together?
Q: Do you know why we don't see player like Charles Oakley any more? I am not talking about playing tough or punch some one in the face during shoot around. I mean to speak their own mind. Just Look at Joakim Noah. He speaks what’s in his head and I think he is right. I have been to Cleveland, it’s really a city of nothing much happens. Kevin Garnet is really a..well...may be not a dirty player but I will say he is a nasty player. (Your thoughts?) Now I don't think Noah will see the Boston's any time soon, but you know how he got boo off court in Cleveland.
So, do you see all the "political correct" answers you get day in and day out from the players really boring? Do you have a feeling they are fake? Do you think we will ever see any more player like Oak at all?
Anson W, Richmond Hill
A: Of course we find them boring, which is why we poke and prod looking for statements that aren’t necessarily inflammatory but have some meat to them. But players are smart, too. They know if they say something off the wall, or something that’s really on their minds, it’s going to become a big issue and most of them don’t want to (a) deal with the fallout or (b) do something that makes them stand out from the interview crowd.
So I think the chance of seeing another, who continually spoke precisely what was on his mind, are over.
Q: Hi Doug. I have been reading your articles and blogs for a long time now and I always try to think of a question that hasn't really been answered or discussed over the years and I finally found something that is never really touched on.
Smoking. Do many basketball players smoke? I know your not around the other teams to know which players do or don't, but do you know of any Raptors who smoke on a consistent basis?
If so, do you think it is fair for the team paying these players, who HEAVILY rely on these guys staying healthy and in shape, to be able to make a player quit smoking?
Rafi K, Toronto
A: I can’t speak for the entire league, obviously, but I’d peg the number of cigarette smokers at probably about 1-3 per cent? And there have been a couple of smokers here over the years, Keon Clark comes to mind, as does Garbo, and I’m sure the team tried to get them to quit. Trust me, from first-hand experience, I know that’s easier said than done.
Q: Hey Doug. Just saw in the Star an article about the free agents and the whys and why nots of them going to New York. In their opinion re CB4 they stated that word is OKC might be interested in teaming Bosh with Durant. I mentioned this possibility to you a week ago as well. I know you do not want to get too much into speculation and rumours et al, but I was wondering if you had heard anything along those lines. Also with OKC being the game of choice for blogging with the irregulars, wondered if you might be watching this (or any other game for that matter) to get a feel for where he might land and if so what you would be interested in getting back for him.
Your opinions would be appreciated.
Randy M, Crystal Beach
A: Oklahoma City will likely be under the cap enough to make Bosh a maximum value offer (depending on what they do with Nenad Krstic) so of course you’ll hear them mentioned. But, given that they’ll have to eventually pay all their kids big bucks, I’d presume you’re also going hear sign-and-trade scenarios. Just put ‘em on the list with another dozen teams. What he’d land? Hadn’t really thought about it, I’d ask for Jeff Green to start with and up the ante from there.
Q: Hello Mr. Smith! I'll bet you haven't heard this question before.
Let’s say you're the home team in a playoff series, so you get 4 home games to the other team's 3. Suppose you would be allowed to put the home/away games in any order. Which order do you think would be the most beneficial for the higher seed? Would you just rattle off four straight games at home? Or would you space them out?
David S, Toronto
A: You’re right, it’s a first. I think I’d like to open on the road for one game, have the next two at home, go away for two and have the last time at home. But that’s just me.
Q: Hi Doug. Not sure if it has been asked and answered before, but here's a question that has been perplexing me.
It's rare, but late in games (especially desperate playoff games) we might see a player miss his second free throw in the hope that his team will land the rebound and an extra possession (thinking Pippen and Jordan here). So what prevents a player from missing the basket totally and kind of 'passing' it to one of his teammates? Does the ball have to hit the backboard, or the rim, in order for a put-back to be legal?
Jeff P, Toronto
A: It has to hit the rim, for the very reason of not wanting teams to “pass it” to each other.
Q: Energy - Pro sports is a game of fine differences in speed and execution. Steve Shutt went from from a 50 goal scorer to a 20 goal scorer because he lost a very tiny split second on his shot. I think the Raptors lost to Chicago because of a very tiny difference in energy. Chicago knows how to play when it counts. I think the Raptors came to the game with a certain amount of energy thinking they were up for the game but Chicago came with more because they knew how much energy (see last year and this years playoffs) is needed. The question is, when the Raptors are being out energied, why can't a player or Jay get them to up the energy?
Richard G, Milton
A: Because effort, despite the best intentions of a coach or a teammate, is an individual matter, players need to look within themselves to summon it. I know Jay, and teammates, were urging each other to work harder and dig deeper in that game – and in several others – and it didn’t hit home. You can only hope they learn from the experience – as you rightfully point out many of the Bulls did from last year – and have some more intensity and energy the next time they need it.
Q: Hi Doug. Caught Oklahoma City playing the Lakers in Game 1 and while much of the focus was on Kevin Durant's poor shooting game, I was amazed at the performance of Russell Westbrook. This kid can flat out play and probably like many of the irregulars I don't watch Oklahoma City as much as I should (I do have the NBA package so can't say they are never on TV!)
My question is what other players out there, say give us your top 5, would you rank as the best or most exciting players that are not on most people's radar?
Mike D, Cambridge
A: Hmm, of the teams in the playoffs?
I’m sure a few of these are known to some people but I don’t know that Nicolas Batum of Portland, Serge Ibaka of Oklahoma City are widely known or appreciated in these parts; I know George Hill of San Antonio starts but I’d put him on the list, along with, probably, Ersan Ilyasova of the Bucks and I would be remiss if I didn’t have Rudy Fernandez of Portland here, although I’ve spoken often enough about him that you have to know what he can do.
So, given there are only 16 teams, let’s cut it to three and go with Batum, Ibaka and Ilyasova.
Q: Do you think Stern's hard line on the criticizing of officials has something to do with the Donaghy situation? He mentioned a couple of times in his press conference about "fan's perception" and I don't think anything hurt our perception of referees more than Donaghy's allegations (be they true or false).
That said, I'm not sure I agree with you 100% on this. Referees are human, and make mistakes. While I agree they do a (mostly) great job in a sport that is very difficult to officiate, when they make a mistake they should be accountable, publicly. The problem with our "perception" is that we see terrible calls all the time, and hear nothing about how it is handled with officials off the court. Players and coaches get fined, publicly, for speaking out against officials. If Mr. Stern removed the secrecy of how they deal with some of the more, shall we say, knuckle-headed officials, it might go a long way to improving our perception.
C A, Bowmanville
A: Hang on a sec. I don’t I think I ever said they don’t make mistakes or blow calls; of course they do. And in egregious instances, like the non-call on Oklahoma City late in the season, they do make public statements that officials missed calls. And there was a suspension of, I believe, Michael Kennedy, a while back that was another occasion. But if you think they’re going to come out and micro-manage every call in every game, that’s not going to happen, nor should it.
As for the Donaghy angle, I’m sure it’s in the back of everyone’s mind. They said right after they were trying for more transparency in the way they dealt with officials and while they’ve probably fallen a bit short in that regard, it is something they’re trying to work on.
Q: How do the NBA and NHL resolve playoff schedules when a city like Chicago has 2 teams in the playoffs, and both use the same arena?
Barry B, Brampton
A: It’s not so much the leagues themselves but the groups that manage or own arenas along with the teams. In Toronto, for instance, they get together and put “playoff holds” on the arena early in the season and when it comes time to work out specific dates, they consult with each other and the leagues to work things out.
Q: Doug. With the loonie now around par with the US dollar, what are the advantages or disadvantages for MLSE and for the players?
Some analysts are saying that this is a long-term trend, and even that the loonie could significantly exceed the dollar in value. What effect would this have on the salary cap, player salaries, etc?
Joe S, Kingston
A: I guess the advantage would be the obvious one, that they’ll take in ticket revenue at par with the many American expenses – salaries, most travel costs – they have. But, even in my limited financial knowledge (and believe you me, it’s very limited) I imagine they’ve hedged themselves against fluctuating exchange rates so that there won’t be too, too much a difference.
Q: Bonsoir Doug. So that’s it, a very abrupt end to the season of our raptors. It’s been the first time I’ve followed it in its entirety, from the summer excitement about the building of the new team, the disappointing start, the very good bit in January and February and the ugly ending. (In passing, thank you for all your work to make us live this season ; even though I live some 6,000 km away I sometimes felt as if I were living with the team.)
I must say that I feel very frustrated by the way the season ended and am wondering how much of this is linked to the fact that the NBA regular season is so short. To take an example, a usual national professional soccer season in Europe goes roughly from August-September to May with a short break in the winter. That makes almost 4 more months of games than an NBA season, not a small difference. (Admittedly, basketball seasons here are also relatively short but then there is perhaps only a third of the number of games played during the NBA regular season.)
Hence my questions: what are the reasons behind the fact that the NBA season only lasts from November to April? Is it for commercial reasons? Have there ever been talks about changing this (along the lines you’ve once mentioned, i.e., shortening of the pre-season et al.)
Thank you and bonne nuit.
Matthiew B, Biel-Bienne, Switzerland
I’ve always found it quite amazing that the pucks play exactly the same number of regular season games in about a month longer and every time I ask anyone about it, I get the same answer.
It’s part TV, part facilities, part tradition but it’s something they really need to examine.
Personally, my idea would be to whack three or four games and 10 days or two weeks off the never-ending exhibition season, tack that time on to the regular season and lessen the grind that the players – and I – have to go through.
Not surprisingly, that plea has fallen on deaf ears.
Q: Hello Doug. How are NBA referees compensated for the playoffs, is it an overall bonus or is it for each game worked? While I'm sure the vast majority of referees are honest and upstanding individuals, we all know there have been a few bad apples in the bunch over the years.
If compensation is on a game-by-game basis there could be a financial bias for extending the length of a given playoff series.
Adam B, Toronto
A: The referees are paid playoff bonuses depending on the number of rounds they work, not the number of games.
Q: Hello Mr. Smith, I know it's been a while since I wrote and I'm sad to admit, I haven't been keeping up (but have been trying to catch up). It's a weird thing when your brain beats your heart into submission and makes you realize some things you didn't want too (i.e. another player using us a training ground again). Looking back, do you think there was a growing resentment from the rest of the team, perhaps maybe why Hedu played so poorly, knowing in the back of his mind that he committed to five years, assuming he would be playing with one of the better players in the league? These guys can say it's a business all they want, but everyone on this team must have a feeling of resentment towards the fakechise(tm), too know that everything said throughout the year and in the previous off-season was just a cover. Knowing what you know now, would you (as a reporter) have handled anything different from the beginning of last off-season? It sometimes felt like the local media wore white gloves and only after it became obvious to everyone, did writers start to take those gloves off. As well, would you have made a move at the deadline, or do you think you could get more in a sign and trade, which seems unlikely, knowing that LeBron will probably have to be signed and traded as well, which leaves little to be desired from even the strongest of rosters.
Shawn L, Bowmanville
P.S. Sorry if this has been asked a lot, but I'm about 10 mailbags behind at the moment.
A: I don’t think anyone in my business would have handled anything differently last summer. We reported what was happening and that’s what we do. And, in matters of opinion, the ones expressed then were genuine and there’d be no reason to change them in hindsight.
And, no, I would not have made a move this year at the trade deadline. I’m not big into hindsight, the team was going well at the time and I’d never, ever agreed with suggestions they should have traded their best player.
Q: Hi Doug. I always appreciate your insight and basketball knowledge.
My question is about mental toughness. In one of your blogs a question was asked about putting Marcus Banks in for Calderon or Jack to play defense. You responded by saying (to paraphrase - apologies if I misinterpreted what you said) it wasn't a good idea because players have roles on the team and their egos can be affected negatively if they are taken out of their specified role - particularly if they are replaced with a guy that isn't in the regular rotation. Yet, you've also mentioned on a number of occasions that when a team loses the players forget about the loss quickly and move on to think about the next game.
My questions: How can a player be so fragile in one instance and yet have a thick skin in another instance? Would mentally fragile players be affected negatively in both instances and a mentally strong player not let either situation affect them negatively?
Sean M, Boston
A: That’s sort of apples and oranges, isn’t it?
It’s one thing to know that, in the heat of the game, your coach has so little faith in you that he pulls off a move he’s never made before to make it known to all concerned that he doesn’t think you can do the job on that particular night. That would get to a lot of people in their professions, I think.
Losing a game and shrugging it off because there’s another one the next night is simply a survival trait for athletes.
Q: There aren't many self-effacing & proven execs out there in the sports world. Ones that stand out in my mind are guys like Scotty Bowman and Pat Gillick. Guys who have a respect for the game & those who play it. As opposed to wise-guys who like to think they're smarter than everyone else (and usually blow it big-time). There's one giant in the hoops world that I'd love to see come to Toronto & do his thing. Jerry West. No raging ego. Just a deep desire to the right thing & build a winner. What's HE doing these days?
Tony I, Oakville
A: Well, I think the folks in Memphis might argue with you, but that’s neither here nor there. Jerry’s living in California and relaxing. I heard his name bandied about with regard to the Clippers spot but that’s been quiet for some time.
And I will say this, without reservation: Any man who rises to the level of GM respects the sport he’s involved with. Some have different styles but none are wrong, just personal. All, however, love the game. And if they think they’re smarter than their colleagues, well, I’m okay with that. You want someone with confidence.
I can guarantee you that the two guys you mentioned were brimming with confidence in their abilities.
Q: All this talk about money made me recall Garbo's Health Insurance policy. Were the Raptors able to recover some money from the insurance company; or is that still with the lawyers?
Cruz F, Melbourne
A: I don’t have the specifics, but I know the Raptors wouldn’t have let the issue die without being completely satisfied with the financial end of things.