There are a lot of questions in this mailbag
Go to it:
Q: Hey Doug. Here are a couple geeky grammar questions, one specific and one general that I’d like to hear your thoughts on.
Something that’s always bothered me is the use of the term “over .500”. To me, I think it’s used incorrectly. Here’s an example:
Let’s say it’s the end of a 100 game season. If a team finishes with 60 wins and 40 losses, I feel sportscasters/writers would say that they are 20 games over .500. Isn’t a more correct statement that they have 20 more wins than losses, as a .500 finish to that season would have been 50/50 which would mean they finished 10 games over .500? Thoughts/opinion on the matter? Should I get a life and ignore stuff like this
Do you have any favorite “words” or terms that sportscasters use that make you cringe? Describing someone as being “literally on fire” drives me nuts, as does “physicality”. Any gems that you’ve heard over the years?
Heath M, Toronto
A: If I never hear another basketball person talk about a players’ ability “to score the ball” it will be too soon.
And if a baseball player “goes yard” I might “lose it” and because that’s not “staying within yourself.”
There are a gaggle of other clichés that get to me but those come quickly to mind.
The over .500 debate will forever rage; I can see your point but with my limited math skills, I’m not sure I can engage in the discussion. Suffice it to say, I think readers know what we’re referring to.
Q: Doug, seems to me there is a reluctance of the local TV commentators (media) to be critical of the home teams. They seem to be quite knowledgeable and well informed of the limitations of the visiting teams.
Is this a case of not wanting to bite the hand that feeds them?
Can you comment on the relationship between the TV media and their bosses/audience/sponsors ?
Does this situation apply to other basketball media coverage (radio, print, etc.)?
Mike S, Toronto
A: Not in my situation, that’s for sure. I’ve never had a boss tell me what to write or how to write it in the years I’ve been covering these guys. And I’ve never heard of it happening anywhere else in this market, either.
But I can’t really speak to the television outlets or team broadcast “partners.” It would seem to me there might be some kind of implied relationship that tempers overly-harsh criticism.
Q: Hi Doug! Have you ever wondered why it is that so many GM-level commenters to your blog have not been hired? Do you think it might help their chances if they at least spelled the players' names correctly? :>)
My real question: I read a story (I believe it was the "Favre is retiring, Part XXV" story) where the report said that is was based on a source who wished to remain anonymous, since he was "not authorized" to comment on the situation.
To me, that sounds immoral, if not illegal, for a news outlet to use an "unauthorized" source to publish a report. You've mentioned several times that you won't report 'rumours' unless you can get two reliable sources. What do you think about reporters who use sources that are "not authorized" to speak on the subject?
Thanks for all the great work!
Tim H, Windsor
A: I think what’s meant in those circumstances that an assistant GM or a coach or someone else in authority but not the ultimate authority, passes along information that is supposed to come from only one “authorized” voice. I would expect that any professional journalist would have at least two confirmations of any piece of information they publish or broadcast.
Q: Hey Doug. Any idea if the team Canada games will be on television? I'm guessing the exhibition games are doubtful but am really hoping to watch the games in Turkey, will I be happy?
Dave W, Toronto
A: I think you will be happy but nothing has been finalized about the world championship broadcasts. The good folks at Canada Basketball are trying to firm up details and contracts as I type.
Q: Do you have any concerns with the American "Young Guns" blending with the international players on the Raptors. Not just co-existing but really gelling and redefining this team. Do you see much interaction off the court between the players ie: Bargnani, Derozan, Johnson, Calderon.
Derk S, Centreville
A: There was some but, really, it’s not that big a deal as long as they play hard and respect each other on the court and they do. But as for team dinners and nights out on the town? Didn’t hear of many last year and don’t imagine I will this year; these are grown men with other tugs on their lives.
Q: Hi Doug. Further to a question a reader asked about Raptors/teammates liking each other on/off the court, I wondered if there were examples of Raptors or any players in the NBA who really despise one another but still mesh well enough to play successfully?
Obviously it would be great to have a lot of love in the dressing room but as these are all paid professionals who get thrown together by the GM/management, have there been instances where there are huge personality clashes in the background but success on the court?
Steve S, Hong Kong
A: I’m not sure “really despise” would be the right phrase but a good example may the fact Kobe and Shaq weren’t exactly in love with each other as they were winning three straight championships at the start of the 2000s. That’ s probably the most recognizable – and recent – example I could give you.
Q: Hey Doug. I seem to remember last year that the Raptors mentioned to the league that they had an unfair number of games in back-to-backs against very well rested teams who came into the games with 3-4 days off prior. I agree that this is unfortunate and maybe unfair, but this seems like the kind of thing that is too difficult for the league to plan around. Do teams get a sneak-peak at the schedule and a chance to flag some games that they consider worth changing or does everyone get the same list at the same time?
Paul C, Brantford
A: They do get a look at a draft schedule and teams have been able to get particularly arduous trips changed, mainly based on arena availability and the travel of the opponent. It probably happens with one or two games for a handful of teams per year.
Q: Hey Doug, I read your blog every weekday. Thanks for making it seem much like a roundtable conversation over some brew. I don't even bother reading the basketball section anymore, just come to you.
Quick question. Why do you call regular readers "irregular"?
And one more for ya. With absence of Chris Bosh and Turkey-Glue, who on the current roster can you really see blossoming and coming to their own now that there are more touches and shots to be distributed?
Atif K, Toronto
A: Every weekday? What’s wrong with Saturdays and Sundays? (I joke)
I figured we needed a pet name for the cabal we have here and Irregulars just came to mind. I know it’s stolen – or an homage to – the Baker Street Irregulars but there you go.
And I would think DeRozan and Bargnani might benefit with more shots, and responsibility, this season.
Q: From your reporter perspective, how much fun do you think it would be to cover the start of a potential NBA powerhouse? If you could do like Bosh and leave Toronto after 15 years of covering a franchise with just one playoff series win, assuming your family would come to and equal pay, would you take your talents to South Beach?
Robert S, Toronto
A: Considering my expertise in the alternative, I think I’d quite enjoy covering a team that wins huge because there’s always less angst and pressure under those circumstances. Or so I’m told.
And, no, I would not take my talents to South Beach, I’m very much not a South Beach kinda guy. I’d be more Chicago-Boston as big cities to live in.
Maybe Phoenix but I’m not really built for the heat, either.
Q: When a player like Rasheed Wallace retires, odes he still get paid for the rest of his contract? I presume it also still counts against the various caps? Thanks.
Mike K, London
A: The amount of the negotiated buyout of the remainder of a contract is still held against the cap. If not buyout is reached, the entire amount is on the tab.
Q: Hope you are getting as excited about the Turkey Tournament as I am, and I've got a question for you about how you have to adjust your process (if at all) when reporting from international events.
To fine tune it, the topic I am wondering about is quotes. The game is the game, so to speak, but I would suspect that not all of the players speak English. Now I don't know if you are fluent in any other languages, but I am guessing Turkish and Chinese for example, are not languages that you can converse in. How will the post game interviews, scrums and other media situations be handled? Does each team have a bevy of translators as part of their staffs? Or, do you have to try to construct your questions using very, very basic terminology? Or do you forgo the whole exercise of trying to draw out the players' insightful thoughts, opinions and observations? And, if you don't mind, do you have a hard and fast rule generally regarding the use of quotes in your stories? For example, do you ever "clean up" a quote from the locker-room patois that players speak? Will you clear away the "uhs", "duhs" and words that you know for certain have been "misspoken" in order to better serve the story, or indeed, the speaker? You've said here from time to time that you enjoy a particular player or coach because they are a "good quote". Is that "quote" always for you, untouchable? Thanks, Doug, and, Go Canada!
Lorie P, London
A: Media access at international events is a little different than your typical NBA game. Here’s how it works:
There are formal news conferences after each game, with translation services, for the coach and two players from each team. I’ll use the translation process if I have to but that’s not the prime source of post-game quotes.
That comes in what’s known as the “mixed zone” which is an area between the court and the locker rooms where players and media mingle, usually divided by a small barrier. We stand on one side, they walk on the other and it’s a matter of catching the attention of the player you want to talk to.
Fortunately for me, I’ll know a player or two from each of the other team – perhaps not Lebanon – and hopefully I’ll be able to grab them for what I need.
As for the ‘cleaning up’ of quotes, yes, I’ll take the “you knows” and “likes” and “ums” out as a matter of course.
Q: Hi Doug. I love your blog. It's great to have good accurate news and opinion about the team on a daily basis.
There have been talks about how this is a building year for Toronto but how the style is going to make it more entertaining for the fans. I personally don't think that will satisfy me as a fan. I want to see wins. Realistically speaking though it will be a battle night in and night out for each one. In your opinion, what are 5 things that fans should look for this coming season (aside from wins) that will make it a success?
Thanks again for the great blog.
Brett F, Lethbridge
A: Sure, wins are the most important thing and should be the one thing all fans want more than anything else.
But you’re not going to win them all and there’s a very good chance this team won’t win many games at all.
So what I think you need to look for, and I’m only going to go to three things, is:
Consistency of effort; they need to play hard every night.
Improvement of skills; you want to see kids like DeRozan and Davis improve in all facets of the game.
A respect for the team; I think you need to look for cohesion and ball movement and doing the right thing for the team rather than the pursuit of any individual goals.
Q: The four player deal seems to be a great move for the Pacers and decent for the other two, but I'm puzzled as to why the Hornets made it.
I will preface what follows by saying that I can see that the GM who deals away perhaps the best player at their position might quickly find themselves out of work, but...
Why not deal Chris Paul (and hopefully Okafor's contract along with him) for an all-star, a legit prospect, and picks?
Why not rebuild around Collison and Thornton, who could form a potent backcourt for years to come. Considering that that CP3 is also coming off an injury, and may very well leave anyway when his contract is up, and I'm stumped as to why the Hornets would make this move.
Would you have dealt Paul or do you think this is a case of 'cooler heads prevailing'?
Btw ... you're BC and Charlotte now offers you Diaw straight up for Calderon. Do you make that deal?
Mark T, Toronto
A: No way I would have dealt a proven all-star with two years left on his contract with a new coach coming in and tickets still to be sold. No way. Sure, Darren Collison might be really good; he might even one day be as good as Chris Paul (he certainly isn’t yet) and if you’re banking on him being as good as Paul why not keep, you know, Paul.
And what it gave the Hornets, and you can debate this ‘til the cows come home, is a dynamic wing they’ve never really had in Ariza.
Having seen Boris Diaw in person now, no, I would not make that trade in a billion years.
Q: Hi Doug. You had mentioned at the end of the last season that the Raptors staff would check in periodically on the players over the summer in some fashion. I was wondering if you've heard anything interesting from these check ins? Who's been following the prescribed program, who's been working extra hard and who, perhaps, has been taking things for granted a little (if that's possible for a non-playoff team).
Sohail G, Collingwood
A: Nothing of big interest, no. In the conversations I’ve had with Jay and Micah Nori and Bryan and Maurizio, the coaches who’ve been out working guys out are pleased with the effort and work ethic but there’s really no one thing that they’ve mentioned specifically.
And, if there was someone slacking, I’m not sure they’d bring it up even in private conversation, unfortunately. That might come when I see guys in person and more often but right now it’s kind of fleeting conversations on the phone or e-mail or text and it’s tough to get a true read.
Q: Hi Doug. Love the blog over a fresh cup of coffee in the morning so keep up the great work! With Turkey and the World Championships just around the corner and the irregulars lust of list, I was wondering if you would be able to put together a list of who to watch at the Worlds? Like do you think Rudy Fernandez will have a bounce back performance because he will be with the national team again where he looks most comfortable or will it be a no namer like Mousa Alawadi of Jordan (yes I Googled that and picked at random). I would be interested to see what the Guru has to say. Also, if you have any updates on Garbo that would be awesome! Thanks Doug and have a great time in Turkey!
Sean G, Regina
A: Oh, you’ll be inundated with stuff about obscure players from teams you’ve never concerned yourself with before, although I don’t plan the big Mousa Alawadi takeout any time soon.
But all in due time, I’ve got all this week and up until an Aug. 26 departure next week to go group-by-group or even team-by-team as some sort of preview.
In fact, we’re just trying to put our heads together to come up with some kind of game plan leading up to the games, given that Canada is gone now and I won’t see them until the day before the worlds start.
Q: I have been reflecting on some of the hall of fame inductees for this year and memories of watching these great players while I was growing up. Maybe this is a touch nostalgic, but I feel like the 80's and 90's was comprised of the greatest talents that will ever play this game and had the opportunity to pad the record books while bringing the game to never before seen popularity. Which currently playing NBAers do you think have the skill and influence to maybe come close to equaling the achievements of those two star-studded decades? Thanks for the blog!
Michael R, Calgary
A: In that pantheon? From now?
Kobe. And LeBron will be when, or if, he wins some championships but I do think his legacy might actually be tarnished by this summer and his part in the orchestration of a team full of stars instead of him deciding to go on his own and beat them.
Q: Doug, as you predicted, Dwayne Jones was released. My question is this: Why does the NBDL exist? Does anyone believe that development is actually happening in the NBDL? Are player stats in the NBDL totally ire melevant? Mr. Jones apparently led the NBDL in rebounding last year -- something you'd think the Raps would be interested in. But then I remembered that Pape Sow and Quincy Douby were NBDL stars as well. Your thoughts?
Tony B, Baraboo
A: It exists so basketball in small cities can enjoy games and have a team to cheer for, it exists as a training ground not only for some players but also for organizations who might want to train front-office or back-of-house employees and it exists so some player without NBA skills don’t have to go to Europe to carve out a living.
And, yes, there may not be many stars who emerge but there’s been more than a few adequate NBAers who’ve learned to be professionals in the minor leagues.
Q: Hi Doug, do you know if any teams will be changing any aspects of their logo or uniforms for the upcoming season?
Frank A, Toronto
A: I haven’t checked out the other 29 teams, I presume there will be a few tweaks and “alternate” jerseys unveiled but there are no changes planned here that I know of.
Q: I try to read your blog daily; I rarely read the comments, so maybe you covered this in a response. I'd like to hear what you have to say about Sam Mitchell's new job with the Nets -- how he will fit into the constellation of coaches there.
Is it at all unusual to have two former head coaches at assistants on the same team?
Jim W, Toronto
A: I think he’ll fit in quite well on Avery’s staff. He’s been in the coaching ranks long enough to have some cache with the boss and, knowing Sam, will make sure his voice is heard.
And it’s not unusual at all to have two, or even three, former head coaches on the same staff. When Vinny Del Negro was in Chicago, for instance, he had Bernie Bickerstaff and Del Harris on his staff at the same time and I’m sure there are lots of others. Even in Toronto, you’ve got Jay with P.J. as his No. 1 guy, another former head coach.
Q: Hey Doug, love the blog, thank you for always keeping me on my feet in Raptorland.
Was wondering if the organization can learn a trick or two from either a Portland or Houston, teams that consistently have similar frameworks who don't need a star to build around. Those teams are perennial solid playoff teams, do we have someone in our organization with the brains to put together an original framework?
Tzvi F, Thornhill
A: I’m not sure when they were the Jail Blazers that anyone wanted to mimic Portland anywhere and in the post-Olajuwon era the Rockets were hardly a model of consistent success and contention.
That said, those are two pretty good organizations now and I have no idea if the Raptors are smart enough to win the lottery in Yao Ming’s year or get someone to trade them Brandon Roy for Randy Foye on draft night. I guess they hope there’s someone working there like that.
Q: G'day Doug, Glad to hear you got yourself out of the city at least for a little while. Quick question regarding 'grass roots', if you will. With players like Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson, having played high school basketball in the US, and ultimately college ball as well, is it not in the best interests of the local schools, and really the 'system', to try and develop these players themselves, as opposed to having over 100+ students/players going South to play and learn? Not to mention draw on some of the 'profits' that are bestowed upon so many of the schools there? Or do we just not have the support system in place to nurture them? Thanks so much for putting up with us, and feeding us whatever info there is to be fed.
Joey H, Toronto
A: It’s absolutely in their best interest and I know there are people trying their hardest to convince some of these kids to stay home. But, sometimes there are other factors at work, street agents who tell kids what they want to hear rather than the truth and who plant visions of greatness into the minds of some who simply aren’t going to be good enough.
That said, there will always be the odd case where a kid really is good enough and needs a constant high level of competition to reach his potential.
It’s the other ones who I think should stay home and it’s going to be up to the “basketball community” of coaches, administrators and clubs, to improve all facets of the programs they offer to keep the middling players at home.
Q: Hey Doug. Long time reader, and... actually long time writer too! I've got a quick question. When players go through physicals, what exactly do they do? I'm a family doctor and can't imagine it's just limited to the quick 20 minute physical I do on patients.
And when they fail their physicals, what does that mean? Failure to me means something like cholesterol is too high. But I'm wondering if they go through a gamut of endurance tests that you or I would possibly fail, but any professional athlete shouldn't.
Mark D, London
A: No, they’re not quite what you do at all. It varies from team-to-team to some degree but the standards include a lot of cardio-vascular exams, stress tests and the like, along with a very close examination – perhaps even to the point of MRIs – on any pre-existing conditions.
I would presume there’s an awful lot similar to the exams you give your patients but perhaps a bit more “in-depth” if that’s the right phrase.
Q: Hey Doug. I really enjoyed TJ Ford's time here in Toronto, for the most part. I haven't seen him play since, but from the sad headlines (i.e. trade talks, possible buyouts) it sounds like he's really hit rock bottom at an age where he should normally be hitting the peak of his career. What do you think happened - was it physical or mental?
Rob N, London
A: I’m taking the easy way out and going to suggest it’s a bit of both. The neck and spine injuries had to weigh on his mind, despite what he said publicly, and I think that may have changed the style that he played just a little bit.
But, truth be told, he’s so slight and relied so much on his speed that I didn’t think he’d have a long and glamorous career from the get-go.
Q: Hi Doug, now that some of the smoke has cleared from last seasons "scorched earth" approach by the Wizards I keep reading that Gilbert Arenas is very available, but I never read his name come up in trade rumours. Do you have any idea if he really is on the market and do the Raptors want him if the price is right?
Rob N, London
A: Regardless of what you hear publicly from the Wizards, if someone made a good offer for Arenas, he’d be available. I, of course, wouldn’t make a “good” offer for a guy who’s had multiple knee surgeries, has played 42 games over the last three seasons and is owed almost $80 million on his contract.
Q: Hi Doug, who's pegged in at the starting center position at the moment for the Raps?
Frank A, Toronto
A: If they had to start the season today – which they don’t – I would imagine it’d be Amir and Andrea in the frontcourt.
Q: Hey Mr. Smith. Really enjoy your blog. You do a great job running it and let me tell you that I read lots of basketball but your blog is the only one I deem to report accurate information on the raps. True fans really respect accurate reporting.
Anyways, getting back to the business of the e-mail: I heard a report out there that the score dropped their coverage of the raps and that all the games will be broadcast by TSN, TSN2 and Rogers Sportsnet. I'm wondering if you know if this is true and if it is, why would The Score drop their coverage? Did the ratings go down or was this decision done by the Raptors brass where they decided that Sportsnet either paid more to broadcast their games or offered a better service? I'm just a little perplexed as to who, how and why these decisions are made.
Georges B, Gatineau/Ottawa
A: Oh, it’s true. The Score’s done as an NBA broadcaster for now. No one’s really coming about the exact reason but I’m hearing it has everything to do with the new Sportsnet network coming on board (check out Chris Zelkovich’s piece here for some of the details) and a need for content.
I think the Raptors brass listened to pitches – and finances would have played only a small part because their games aren’t huge money-makers – and decided where they wanted their games shown.
Q: Hi Doug. I was watching Pardon the Interruption yesterday and one of the hosts was asked about the significance of the four team trade. His response was something like: "who cares, the NBA is a four team league now" and anything else is irrelevent"
While the comment is typical "TV", it is hard to dispute the fact that if you are not a fan of the Elite Teams, there is very little to be encouraged about as a NBA fan for the forseeable future.
Short of earning the right to choose several top three draft picks through multiple years of dubious play, can you see the Raps being anything but mediocre for years to come?
Rob T, Port Carling
A: Mediocre would be a step up, no? Seriously, right now there is a huge and growing disparity between haves and have-nots in the NBA and until the have-nots decide to make bold moves that pay off – and until the new Collective Bargaining Agreement that’s coming addresses that disparity somehow – I can’t see anything changing.
Sure, a team might get lucky and catch lightning in a bottle for a year and one of the “haves” may have a bad season for some other reason but there are serious issues that have to be dealt with.