All kinds of questions, all kinds of answers
Q: Some big changes with the Raptors. That leads me to the opinion that many successful teams have leaders amongst the players (captains and 1 or 2 others) that motivate the entire group. Who does this well in the NBA (beside Kobe and KG in Boston)? What characteristics of such players do you see as very important? From the current Raptor group who fills this and why? Enjoy the Canadian Open.
Bill O, Peterborough
A: I think you’d have to put Steve Nash in that category, for sure. Along with Dwyane Wade and guys like Brandon Roy, probably. I think the characteristics you want most of all are an excellent work ethic, a professional demeanour and the ability to draw out the best in teammates by being forceful or coaxing, caustic or by using whatever means work.
And I have a sneaking suspicion that Jarrett Jack will emerge as the “leader” of this team, barring any other transactions.
Q: You've got the best blog on the net Doug. Now that I've gotten the shameless flattery out to the way, can you confirm if Kleiza and Triano exchanged some unpleasantries at a Denver game a few years back? While shooting free throws, Kleiza mouthed off at assistant coach Jay on the bench. If I recall correctly, Jay was motioning Kleiza to come on over. Please let me know if I'm losing it but this episode from a few years back seems clear in my memory.
D L, Richmond Hill
A: You’ve got it kind of right. Yes, there were words exchanged but it started when Kleiza was chattering away with none other than Kris Humphries and Jay, then an assistant, stuck for his player. The Nuggets were winning by about 35 at the time, both Linas and Jay recalled when we asked them about it a week or so ago. And Kleiza got a technical.
They’re fine now.
Q: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh each put up big numbers for their respective teams over their careers. And, I would submit, that's one reason why they're considered to be so great. With them playing together, do you think they will see their stats across the board dip as they share the ball? Or will the Heat just score so much more that their individual stats will stay about the same? Or will one or all of them take a hit, statistically speaking? And if so, which one?
Similarly, as the alpha dogs of their respective teams, they all got the benefit of the doubt with the refs. Will one of them (or more) start seeing more fouls called against him because the refs can't let everything go? What's your take?
Guy M, Vancouver
A: I think it’s most likely you’ll see the other five or six guys in the rotation see their career numbers go in the toilet. But, I don’t know if Bosh will have the ball enough to keep up his 20-plus average; Wade and James should probably get their numbers because they got them playing quite unselfishly in the past and that should still hold true.
As for the calls? It will be interesting. I would presume they would get the most senior officials for a lot of their games and I can see them coming under some extra scrutiny.
Q: In the past, you've mentioned that if there's an overabundance of smoke, there's gotta be a fire somewhere. With that being the case in regards to Chris Paul - and I think that everyone would agree that the trade talk is at a frenzy with regards to him - would you guess that he'll be on another team by Hallowe'en? Groundhog Day?
I'm not looking for prognostication as to which team will, trade for him, but rather if you think, despite the comments from the GM, he's going to be shipped out of New Orleans.
Jarrod H, Toronto
A: With all the stuff going on around New Orleans – the general manager “parting ways” with the franchise, the impending sale of most if not all of the franchise – I don’t know that anyone can hazard a guess.
If I had to – and that’s entirely what it is – I think they let things play out until at least the trade deadline and find out truly what direction they are going in.
Q: Hi Doug. I am an avid reader of your blog and look forward to it on a daily basis. I, like many, was appalled by last weeks "historic decision", and have been scouring the pages of the interweb since in an attempt to find a commentary that can properly sum up the rage towards, and disappointment in, the subject, interviewer and network that created one of the low points in television and sports history. You did a nice job of conveying your own disappointment in the sham, however, it felt like you stopped short of really digging your claws in, as Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone did in his blog here: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/matt-taibbi/blogs/TaibbiData_May2010/179533/83512. With that said, my question is, does working for a daily ever make it difficult, or frustrating, to hammer situations like "The Decision" as brutally as you would like?
Adam J, Oakville
A: It’s not so much working for a daily that makes it difficult, it’s what that work entails. I’d love to be able to sit back and take big picture looks at more things – and I know my bosses would give me full support to write what I thought, with some boundaries like use of vulgarity in place, but there always seems to be a local angle that takes up a lot of my time.
And that is frustrating.
What I need to do is learn how to maybe use the blog a bit more for things like that, but it’s tough finding the time, to tell you the truth.
Q: Just a question that you might look at in those quiet periods, about team chemistry. You probably saw a blog post from a pundit in the US old enough to remember the 68-69 and 69-70 Lakers, when three superstars (who might in the aggregate be better than James-Bosh-Wade) got together, looking to win some championships. The three were Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. Twice they made it to the Finals, twice they lost, then they went their separate ways. The implication was that the level of pure talent will almost get you there, but when you're in that final series, against the best of the best, the deficiencies in chemistry will be what sinks you. What do you think Doug? Is there a message there for the Heat trio? Or did their stint with the US Olympic program demonstrate that chemistry would not be a problem?
Brian B, Toronto
A: Chemistry, and putting aside any petty jealousies that will inevitably come up, is a huge issue with that team. But I do imagine they saw how well the three guys in Boston meshed on the court and will be mindful of not stepping on each other’s toes too much.
There will be blips, I’m sure, because those are three pretty forceful personalities who’ll have to change the very way they approach the game and how they handle them will determine a lot.
And isn’t that a good debate: West-Chamberlain-Baylor vs. James-Wade-Bosh. Give me the Lakers threesome any time.
Q: Hey Doug, Know what you mean about drummers. Out two sons both began as drummers. (We now have a set in the basement.) Yes, it got loud! The elder decided to branch out. I think he got tired of the jokes. (Q: What do you call people who like to hang out with musicians? A: Drummers!)
Problem is, I think that both of them must have failed sandbox. They don't get on (I hope it's temporary) and refuse to share their toys.
A Raptors question - Is there possibly a conflict between having an up-tempo, wide-open offensive scheme and playing good, tight defense? if so, how might they address it?
Don B, Toronto
A: A bit of a conflict, yes; a quicker game leads to more possessions and probably more points allowed and unless they address some of their defensive deficiencies like bad defensive rebounding, they’ll be taking the all out of the basket far too often to run effectively.
So that remains a big sticking point and the way to address is really quite simple: People have to defend better all over the floor. Whether they do or not is the billion dollar question.
Q: Doug, looking at the Wade/Bosh/James setup in Miami I'm struck with the thought that Kobe may be the luckiest player of his generation.
In 2003 he was both reviled and disgraced and had destroyed any chance of following in MJ's marketing footsteps, but...
While his peers have focused on tweeting, blogging, and selling us sneakers Kobe has focused solely on the game. He didn't worry about being nice, likable, or team oriented and inadvertently stumbled into Jordan's "winning is the ONLY thing" footsteps.
Now his closest rivals (with the significant exception of Durant) absolutely destroy their reputations as fierce competitors by holding hands on the way to South Beach.
I mean, given the state of his reputation in 2003 who would have thought that he'd be the best the league had to offer in 2010?
Rob L, Toronto
A: It has been a long, long road back and there are still many who revile him. But as a competitor and someone who cares solely about winning and someone who has simply stayed out controversy off the court and away from the game, he’s been a perfect study in image rehabilitation.
Q: When will the 2010-11 schedule be finalized and available for vacation planning purposes? Thanks, Doug.
James A, Victoria
A: There’s no firm date but I seem to recall it’s in the first 10 days or so of August. Maybe later this year, I’m sure they were waiting to see where the top free agents landed before they finalized even a first or second draft.
Q: You said that it wouldn't be so bad if Jose and Jack came back to the Raptors but as I can recall from last season, Triano had no idea who to start as either one of them could have started after a good game. What do you have to say about this?
Zaid K, Mississauga
A: I say you’re wrong. They did have an idea who they wanted to start, made changes when injuries it and I presume if both Jarrett and Jose are back next fall – a pretty large presumption – they’ll see who works best with whatever starting unit they have and decide on a No. 1 then.
I don’t think having two good point guards on your team is a bad thing at all.
Q: Hello Doug! Read the blog every morning and have enjoyed your 'glowing endorsement' of Summer League Play. That being said, is Summer League worth while considering the lack of talent both on the court and in the officiating? Is it really better than nothing? Any suggestions on how to improve it?
Steve T, Ajax
A: I don’t know that it can be improved, actually, it’s very much a case of “it is what it is.” That being a place for young guys to play five-on-five at full speed in a competitive environment, even if the competition is not up to snuff, and a place for guys who don’t have contracts to perhaps get noticed.
But the other day, for instance, the Raptors shot 23 free throws in one 10-minute quarter. That’s terrible.
Q: I'd like to ask about the end of last season. Chris sat out the last string of games when we were fighting for our playoff lives. He sat out because he took a hard elbow to the face. I can understand him missing that game, but to sit out the rest of season because of it? Then we see Steve Nash get gashed above the eye and continue playing 5 minutes later, or Manu Ginobli playing with a broken nose wearing just a bandaid over it. They do whatever they have to to help team win. To me it looks like Chris took a nice vacation when we needed him most. What do you think?
Rob L, Mississauga
A: You’ve got of a problem with total recall, I’m afraid. He didn’t sit out because he “took a hard elbow to the face” at all. He missed the final five games of the season because he had surgery on his nose to fix a displaced fracture. It wasn’t as if you could strap a mask on and play.
So, your whole “vacation” theory doesn’t wash.
Q: Hi Doug, absolutely love the blog, never miss it. My question is about Richard Jefferson. What are your thoughts about him and do you think he would be interested in the raptors or do you think the raptors have any interest in him? He might add a veteran scoring punch. Any opinion(s)?
Tony W, Winnipeg
A: I think Richard Jefferson’s best days are behind him, he’s 30 and on a decline that began when he left Jason Kidd. I don’t think he’d provide anything significant for the cost that would be involved. And I can say with great confidence that a rebuilding non-playoff team is about the last place he’d want to play anyway.
Q: Thanks for all the hard work as usual. At the end of the season, Andrea (or maybe it was a team official) said that he was going to go to Italy to work on his rebounding. Do you know if or how this is taking shape, and do you have any expectations on how good of a rebounder he could be? A centre/power forward only pulling down 6 a game has got to be a liability, no?
Duke L, Toronto
A: I have no clue how good a rebounder he will be, but he does have to be better. And with Bosh and his 11 boards a game gone, there will be opportunities. And Andrea is right now working with the Italian national team so I would imagine he’s getting a lot of work on the boards and as a help defender, two areas that beg for improvement.
Q: Hey Doug. LTR, FTW...my question is about the summer league team for the Raptors. Do the Raps have 'first dibs' at signing the guys on the team or is any team able to sign them if they don't have contracts?
G W, Toronto
A: No, no “first dibs” at all, contractually. If a player wants to go somewhere else, he’s free to go. I will say familiarity with an organization might entice a guy to look at the Raptors but Toronto has no hold on anyone not already under contract.
Q: The Charlotte non-trade got me thinking about trade possibilities that could happen but never actually do (such as pulling out of an agreed upon trade after the players have already been informed).
With a sign-and-trade, does the player actually sign a contract that forces the team to trade him? Or, theoretically, could a team sign the player and then renege on the trade aspect?
Specifically, if Dan Gilbert was feeling just a bit extra spiteful, could he have agreed in principle to the sign-and-trade with Miami and then refused to trade LeBron after he signed the contract? And c’mon, wouldn’t that have been just a bit amusing!
Chris C, Toronto
A: It would be hilarious. And illegal and can’t happen. If a simultaneous trade as part of a sign-and-trade transaction doesn’t take place with 48 hours, the contract is null and void.
Q: I know you don't pay much attention to summer league Doug, but I was wondering what you thought of Solomon Alabi's free throw shooting through the first 4 games (15-16 at the line). I understand that as of this moment he is still very much a long term project and is likely to spend some time in the D League this season, but I find the idea of the Raptors potentially having two seven footers who can shoot a healthy percentage from the FT line very encouraging.
Andrew G, Peterborough
A: It’s a huge boon if you’re bigs can shoot free throws well, it allows you to leave them on the floor down the stretch of close games, not having to worry about a bad free-throw shooter being fouled at a crucial junction
That said, I agree with your assessment that we’re not likely to see Alabi in any of those situations next season.
Q: A few questions about the Raps Offense, for the coming season ...
You've commented that with Bosh's departure, the Raps are likely to be moving away from so much reliance on half-court offense, but wouldn't a quick-break offence have suited Bosh pretty well? Or is that scheme dependent on the skill-sets of the other players ?
Sort of related ... watching Phoenix in the playoffs, I loved watching the "2 man game" between Nash and (usually) Amar'e, and I wonder why Toronto didn't develop something like that. I know Jose isn't Nash, but he does have a similar skill set, and Amar'e is also uniquely skilled, but Bosh and Bargani are pretty skilled, and even Johnson showed some offensive ability.
Which is the bigger challenge for the Coaching staff, developing Offensive and defensive schemes for last year's Raptors, with all of the new players, or for next year's Raptors, with the core (Bosh, Turk, and likely Jose) changing?
Joe U, Markham
A: If there was/is a weakness to Bosh’s offensive game – aside from his tendency to hold the ball – it’s that he didn’t finish on the break a lot; he’s quick and athletic compared to most PFs but not getting up and down the floor.
As for screen-roll, they ran it an awful lot here with their bigs, it’s just that where Stoudemire would roll hard to the rim, Bosh and Bargnani tended to pop and take jumpers. Different styles, that’s all that is.
And defence is always harder to teach with new guys. Getting them to communicate, buy into a system, know where to steer their men to the right help is exponentially harder than finding ways to mesh offensively.