Good evening, all
Hope things are good there
Good evening, all
Hope things are good there
Well, well, well.
How about that?
A rather interminable wait’s finally over and let’s try something a bit different, let’s see how these guys match up. With some other stuff thrown in just to break up the monotony of, you know, all inside basketball.
I bequeath to you …
Mike Bibby vs. Jason Kidd
No, it’s not going to be a track meet by any stretch of the imagination; instead of tortoise and the hare, let’s think tortoise and, well, the tortoise.
But Kidd’s been playing like he’s 28 instead of 38 and is on-court leadership really is impressive.
Dwyane Wade vs. DeShawn Stevenson
Every time I hear Wade say he’s not hurt, my man Bill comes to mind (“The lady doth protest too much, methinks) and while I don’t mean to call Wade a lady, you get my point. Still, as we saw at the end of Game 5 against the Bulls, he can still be pretty dang good.
And the lingering memory of him shooting a kabillion free throws the last time these teams met in the Final has to haunt the Mavs.
LeBron James vs. Shawn Marion
Oh, James can be vilified and not liked and all that but, man, can he play. And he’s playing at as high a level as he ever has. And something tells me he’s ready to really put his stamp on this series. If Marion can even slow him a bit, Mavs may well win the series.
Now, time for a break.
Well, let’s go with one major league digression here, ‘cause it’s what we do.
Know how the other day I posed the thought-provoking query “Ignatowski or Kramer?” Well, of course it got me thinking about Sitcom Sidekicks and who might have been, or is, the best.
Now, it’s difficult to differentiate when think about it. Is Elaine a sidekick as well as George and Kramer? How about Robert and Frank Barone? Neither? Or each? All of ‘em?
See my point?
Anyway, I’ll put my top five up against your top five any old time. Mine are, relatively, old so you might not remember ‘em but that’s what youtube is for:
Seriously, if someone says Section Eight don’t your ears perk up? And how many of you want to go to Toledo?
Maybe the original, no? And if there was a Raccoon Lodge in Hazelville, I’d find someone to invited in. Besides, he followed the June Taylor Dancers and you know how I feel about them.
Yes, I have him all over the Rev. Jim, probably not as close as some of you may think.
And when I’m done this gig, I think an internship at Kramerica might be good; or maybe I’ll open a pizza joint where you make your own pies.
Now, seriously, you didn’t think I could possibly leave him off the list, do you? I know I’m not exactly him but …
How can you not have on the list the guy who uttered perhaps the single greatest line in sitcom history:
“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”
And now back to our regularly-scheduled stuff
Chris Bosh vs. Dirk Nowitzki
I don’t care how well Bosh is playing – and he’s been excellent in the post-season, he’s not in Dirk’s class right now. Yes, Bosh often holds the key to a Heat win; but Dirk’s been out this world.
Joel Anthony vs. Tyson Chandler
As the anchor of Dallas’s defence, Chandler’s an imposing figure and good shot-blocker. He’s got some solid offensive skills, too. Anthony’s post defence is very good, he’s an aggressive rebounder and there won’t be many easy layups.
Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Udonis Haslem vs. J.J. Barea, Jason Terry, Peja Stojakovic.
Dallas gets all kinds of offensive production – but not a lot of defence – out of its bench, the Heat subs tend to hold the fort while the big guns get a blow.
Erik Spoelstra vs. Rick Carlisle
Neither guy has been here before but Carlisle’s resume is a bit more impressive, with two other trips to conference finals. Riley Spoelstra has more creative players at his disposal for end-game situations.
So, how’d I get to Heat in seven?
Well, home court’s a big factor, no question about it and with the 2-3-2 format, I think it probably takes Dallas two wins in Miami to take the series and I don’t know if they can do it.
Enjoy the games.
Well, there goes 16-0.
Mighty Rockies give up two in the bottom of the last inning and go down to a tough 12-11 victory to the Dastardly Other Guys.
Great game, though; the kids had fun, I’ll play one-run games all year. As we told ‘em right out of the gate, a lot of baseball is managing disappointment and failure (making outs, making errors) but the glory of the game is that there’s always another one soon and we’re back at it tomorrow.
Of all the things I’m thankful for covering the hoops instead of the TOD?
No shaving cream pies.
Really, it’s getting a tad ridiculous, isn’t it?
I know the dude won his first start ever last night and that’s well and good but to smear his face in celebration?
Dunno about that.
We’re here tonight for an IGBT, right?
And I know the 9 p.m. East start scares some of you and it is indeed late but my friends down there tell me tip will be right about 9, the pre-game show will take care of all the other stuff, allowing them to get going almost at the proscribed time.
Yeah, another day of some digressions since it’s been about eleventy weeks since there’s been basketball news.
But don’t worry, it’s coming.
I’m wondering how long it’s going to take Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to stop playing possum.
You know, and I know, and the Mavs should know, that he wants to use LeBron James to cover Dirk Nowitzki a lot in this series, just like he wanted James on Derrick Rose in the last one.
That’s going to be a very intriguing matchup because Nowitzki seems entirely non-plussed unaffected ho guards him and with that lethal fadeaway he’s got, even James isn’t going to be able to disrupt it very much.
That’s got to be the most interesting matchup of a Finals full of them and I hope we get to see it a lot. Don’t imagine we will because it strikes me as something the Heat would like to do as a bit of a surprise or tempo changing tactic
The other ones that will make a difference in the outcome?
I would think Jason Kidd should be able to scorch whichever of the two Miami point guards that are on the floor and I would at sometime Dwyane Wade’s going to move over onto Kidd and either Bibby or Chalmers will cover Stevenson.
And how about Peja-Mike Miller off the bench? Who might have the upper hand in that battle of one-dimensional backups?
This, in a lot of ways, is one of the most interesting Finals matchups we’ve had in a while and as I head into the Mother Star office to break it down for the paper, there’s lots to think about.
I can’t believe I missed this for so long.
If this is summer, it must be international basketball time and, sure enough, the Canadian senior women are already playing.
It’s a bit of a screwed up schedule for them because their Olympic qualifier isn’t until September but in order to get much-needed games in, they had to head to Europe now to play; the European qualifier is in late June in Poland.
The Canadians lost a couple of tough ones on the weekend, to Cuba and Spain, but it’s early in the season for them.
We’ll catch up with them more later on, as we will the men when they get started, but with an NBA lockout looming, I’m hoping we get to do more than the usual amount of national team stuff.
Okay, not sure many of you would have seen this because I presume many of you have lives and weren’t sitting around watching a bit of the Twins-Angels after Tigers-Red Sox were rained out.
Anyway, I was and when it came time for the seventh-inning stretch, they show a guy billboarded on the broadcast as Jim Grant singing an emotional version of It’s A Wonderful World at a ceremony for Harmon Killebrew.
It was really good and it took me about five minutes – and I might have even had a hint from the broadcasters – to realize it was Mudcat Grant!
One of the great nicknames of all time and the guy can croon.
Check it out here (if I can make video magically appear). Not sure why this one stuck with me, but it did.
Can we get back to basketball for a minute?
Am trying to get a handle on which team captures the imagination of the casual fan more: Heat or Mavs.
I know people who follow the game intently are, for the most part, hoping Miami falls in its collective faces because of the way the roster was constructed but how about the people who only tune in at this time of year?
A brief canvass of a handful of my friends yields about an even split, which I find a bit surprising. A lot of it is “oh, I don’t really want Miami to win but they sure look good right now” but there is more support for them than I thought.
So, Mighty Rockies get a couple of hours of work in on Sunday morning, first time I’ve been able to see ‘em in a couple of weeks thanks to travel and I have to tell you, we’re not bad.
Don’t even think I can screw it up tonight when we put the 1-0 record on the line.
I see the Memorial Cup’s over?
And it was here in Hazelville?
Anyway, I know the round-robin thing makes sense and has been around for a long time but I think I lost interest in the Memorial Cup right after lying around the house listening to the Niagara Falls Flyers play the Estevan Bruins way back in the day.
(And if any of you remember best-of-seven series that were actually eight-point series, give yourselves a pat on the back.).
Oh, and even back in those days, and we’re talking a very long time ago kids, the dude who did the play-by-play on CJRN had some pipes.
Maybe you’ve heard of him?
Guy named Jeanneret?
Okay, so here’s the sked: Dave’s heading to Miami to do Games 1 and 2; I’ll pick the series up on the weekend in Dallas but, if there’s an appetite for it, we can do an IGBT for Game 1?
So mark it on your calendar, we’ll be here, or somewhere, tomorrow night.
Yes, indeed it was Barca 3, Man United 1 and, yes, I know the whole thing about a blind hog finding an acorn once in a while but what the heck, figured I’d point it out.
Anywho … have at this for now, lots left over for the week, including a Dylan-esque birthday that’ll give us something to talk about on what may be a slow week.
Off to Mighty Rockies practice in the drizzle, maybe we’ll make ‘em do sliding practice in the mud.
Q: Hey Doug. Do you see Caron Butler playing in the final for Dallas? What happened to Cabbie? I kind of miss him in these playoffs.
Bob W, Winnipeg
A: The last I heard out of Dallas was that Butler was unlikely to be available and I’d wonder about the disruption it would mean to a smooth-running machine if he could come back now.
I miss the big lug, too.
But he’s taken his unique brand of humour to the real world of TV with the Marilyn Denis Show and while it’s not on my list of must-see shows, I’m told he’s killing. As I knew he would.
Q: Doug. As indicated to you prior to the Bulls / Heat final, unless "Rose" colored glassed really influenced the outcome, the Heat were going to win. As we turn our attention to the final my theory goes that the Heat should prevail. It comes down basically to three stars (James, Bosh, and Wade) vs. one star (Dirk). Unless the role players of the Mavs really, really out play the role players of the Heat, it might be a quick series. And I think the Miami Heat role players are good enough to prevent that from happening. Anyway, the question that arises is, Magliore and Anthony, with a Heat win, will become Canadian born players winning coveted NBA rings. When was the last time a Canadian born player won a ring? I'm thinking his initials were BW, but, I could be wrong. Oracle Doug, over to you.
Frank K, Orillia
A: I guess we’re not counting Matt Bonner, right? He’s not officially one of us yet.
I don’t have a complete list – and I’m sure some energetic Irregular will find one somewhere enlighten us – but don’t forget the inimitable Mike Smrek when you’re talking Canadian champs.
But, to the best of my knowledge, if one of them gets it this year, he’ll be the first since Fox and then it’s Bill Wennington.
Q: Hey Doug... let's suspend reality and enter the world of the hypothetical for a moment - it is, after all, an off-day, the Raptors are shockingly not vying for a championship, and I'm sure you've had quite enough of people telling you our Heroes should draft Tristan Thompson.
So here goes: 10 seconds left in game 7 of the Mavs-Heats, Heat are down by one but have possession and Eric Spoelstra keels over on the sideline into a deep coma. Pat Riley is sitting waaaay upstairs, and they need someone to call the play immediately. Bosh turns to you and says "Beat Grunt, it's up to you." Could you keep your cool? Would you sabotage the Heat's chances, in turn becoming fodder for NBA myths and legends for years to come? And what would you call? Take care and have a great time covering what looks to be a fantastic finish to a pretty entertaining season.
So here goes: 10 seconds left in game 7 of the Mavs-Heats, Heat are down by one but have possession and Eric Spoelstra keels over on the sideline into a deep coma. Pat Riley is sitting waaaay upstairs, and they need someone to call the play immediately. Bosh turns to you and says "Beat Grunt, it's up to you."
Could you keep your cool? Would you sabotage the Heat's chances, in turn becoming fodder for NBA myths and legends for years to come?
And what would you call?
Take care and have a great time covering what looks to be a fantastic finish to a pretty entertaining season.
Andrew P, Toronto
A: Well, it probably wouldn’t be a Udonis Haslem drive and kick, that’s for sure. Although that’d be gutsy.
And it certainly wouldn’t be some isolation play because I generally hate isolation plays.
But how about we put the ball in Wade’s hands, run side screen-roll with Bosh while Haslem and whoever else is on the floor set stagger screens for LeBron?
And I’m talking to LeBron, I tell him to fake going to the top and curl into the paint while Bosh elevates.
When we win, I want some props.
If we lose, it was shoddy execution.
Q: Hey Doug. Are you annoyed as me by this recent trend of coaches "walking" their team up from the backcourt? Last night I'm pretty sure Spoelstra was on the court after every defensive rebound!
Mohamed O, Burlington
A: Doesn’t sound like I’m nearly as annoyed as you are. I don’t really have a problem with it as long as they don’t impact the play. And refs don’t, either.
I will say, one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen in that regard was in Toronto the day HWSNBN came racing back up the court, ran into Stan Van Gundy (who was coaching Miami at the time, as I recall) and went down like he’d been shot.
Stan, hardly the most physically imposing guy I know, was entirely nonplussed.
Q: I can remember the summer that BC took over the helm of the Raps. I got up at like 8 am every morning and raced to the internet to read updates on the moves BC was making. He made some bold moves with Garbo, and Parker. I think he brought in a total of like 9 new players or something and they went on to win the Atlantic shortly there after. This was a very exciting off-season. BC in fact, has managed to keep me on the edge of my seat with big off-season moves almost every year... (Turk two years ago, O'Neil before that...)
What type of off-season do you think it's going to be for the Raps? Lots of trades? Sign a big player? or will it be more low key summer. Your prediction.
What type of off-season do you think it's going to be for the Raps? Lots of trades? Sign a big player? or will it be more low key summer. Your prediction.
Jeff M, Saint John
A: Oh, if I know Bryan, there’s going to be one deal a lot of you would consider a “blockbuster” transaction, no doubt. He’s got a 22-win team, a high draft pick, some financial flexibility, a couple of “names” he could deal (Bargnani, one of the point guards, maybe Amir) and I’m sure he’ll do something, um,, explosive.
But I don’t think it’ll be like the Summer of Change where it seemed there was a transaction every day.
Q: Hey Doug. Do you know how filming during timeouts works? Although it would be kinda cool to see what was said in the huddle after a game winning shot or in a close game, it seems like we don't really get to see a lot of Xs and Os with these "huddle cams".
Moe O, Mississauga
A: Part of the deal between the league and its “broadcast” partners is that most of what goes on in huddles concerning Xs and Os, contentious issues and the like is off-limits. It’s why most of the stuff you see is rather milquetoast and edited for showing a few minutes later.
It’s a glimpse of what goes on but certainly not the whole story. Players and coaches have told me about, you know, foul language, the calling out of players, the criticism of opponents that I can’t imagine you’d ever see on TV.
Yes, we’re all over the map today and I presume we will be for a few days as we try to figure out how to fill this space with odd and interesting stuff with a dearth of basketball news to dissect.
All ideas considered.
Until then …
Did you all see the story from Friday morning where Scottie Pippen said LeBron James could be a better player eventually than Michael Jordan.
My immediate reaction?
Scottie had a few too many mimosas before going on the air to do the morning radio show.
Now, there is no denying LeBron’s talents and if the last two playoff series haven’t shown that he can be the most dominant player in the game right now, I don’t know what will.
What he did, especially in the Chicago series, was amazing.
He took over offensively, he took over defensively, your eyes were drawn to him every time you looked at the court.
But better than Michael?
Call me in six championships.
Or call me in three championships.
Or maybe one.
But quite aside from that, the thing that made Jordan stand out to me – and the thing he’s got all over LeBron and almost everyone else – is he didn’t take games off.
It would have been easy for him to coast a lot of nights, to let others do their thing, to just show up.
But he didn’t.
He played as hard as he could on a Tuesday night in Milwaukee or a Sunday afternoon in Toronto or a game in the NBA Final.
I don’t know if it was his superior will to compete and dominate his opponent and the game or what but it’s what made him stand out, to me.
Now, I’m not saying that LeBron mails it in on a regular basis. But I have seen him, in person, be less than fully engaged in games and I never saw that from Michael.
On pure athletic ability, there’s not much to separate the two; in fact, James is such a freak of nature he may be the best pure athlete to ever play the game.
But that’s not all there is.
And here I thought after Latka that Rev. Jim would be the next of his crew to shuffle off this mortal coil.
As the whole NBA Travelling Circus And Playoff Road Show heads to south Florida to start the Finals on Tuesday, here’s something for all of you HOTH fans to chew on:
If the series goes seven games and the Heat win because of homecourt advantage, there’s one team to thank:
Remember way back in mid-April, last game of the regular season, Miami rests Bosh, Wade and James for a game at the Air Canada Centre?
I’m sure you do. Eddie House has about a million points, other no-names go nuts and Heat win?
Well, if the Raptors win that game, Miami doesn’t get home court advantage in a series with the Mavs and if the home crowd carries them in Game 7, we know who to blame, right?
An age-old question right up there with Betty-Veronica, Ginger-Maryanne.
Ignatowski or Kramer?
Okay, people. Listen up?
The mail’s almost full but I haven’t started to answer it (that’ll be tonight’s task, I imagine) so there’s room for you. Do it here.
And here’s a sampling:
Q: Hey Doug. John Hollinger wrote the other day that Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose have had similar playoffs (some great moments, but also some poor shooting, too many turnovers, and some late-game struggles), but the stories about them have been completely different. (Even now, Rose doesn't seem to be taking as much heat as one might assume.) Do you think they're being treated fairly? Also, any insight on how these stories pick up steam?
Craig B, Toronto
A: I think I might disagree on the point about Rose not getting as much heat as one might assume. He was getting killed in Chicago.
But I see the point and I imagine this is why:
Westbrook is the “other” guy and he did seem to take the better player, Durant, out of the action for too long in too many games. And that, I believe is where the basis of that criticism came.
Rose, on the other hand, was saddled with an offensively-challenged team and simply had to try to do a lot so the Bulls had a chance.
And the stories pick up steam, mostly, because the media needs something to chatter about on off-days and story lines to develop when games are on and Westbrook was a lightning rod. Doesn’t make it right, necessarily, but that seems to be the way it is; we need something to do and a good give-and-take on the relative merits of a specific player isn’t a bad way to talk about a series.
Was quite interesting to act as a moderator for one of the panels at Canada Basketball’s first Congress yesterday afternoon.
It was Wayne Parrish (CEO of Canada Basketball), Adam Wedlake (executive director of Manitoba Basketball) and Sam Gibbs (chief athletic therapist for Canada Basketball) discussing the paradigm shift in how organizations use the mainstream media, social media and training programs now as opposed to how they used them a decade ago.
Today they’ll discuss better ways to involve women and new Canadians into the sport and while I know I may be biased, what the organization is doing is outstanding.
As I said yesterday to them, when I first started hanging around the game at the national and international level, there were all kinds of fractures and mistrust that dominated the game from coast-to-coast. Seeing people from all the provinces discussing the same thing, with representatives of the grassroots game, elite programs and officials is a major step.
And a good one.
I liked the Barcas over the Madrids in the Copa del Rey final so I have to cheer for them in the Champions League thing today against Man United, right?
I’m thinking 3-1.
I finally got a chance to sit and watch the final three minutes of so of Heat-Bulls closely yesterday.
Craziest finish to an NBA playoff game I ever saw in person.
(And the qualifier is “in person.”) Second would have been Jordan’s finish to his final game as a Bull in ’98 in Utah.
That was incredible. Jordan stripping Malone of the ball in post in the final minute, heading up the court, pushing off on Bryon Russell (sure it was a push-off but big whoop, happens all the time) and then hitting that dramatic game-winner.
But the Jordan play pales in comparison to what the Heat did. Sitting in the room watching it again – it was hard to pay absolute attention when I was sweating a very average story that had to be re-written in about four minutes – it amazes me how Miami simply did everything right and the Bulls did everything wrong.
And that final possession, the one that ended with Rose trying to hoist an awful shot from the perimeter, would be among the most disorganized, big-moment plays of all time.
Boy, do they ever need to build some stuff around Terminal Three at Pearson because if you’re sitting on the tarmac waiting for a gate to open for what seems like forever, it’s a rather dull life.
Anyway, the 3:30 a.m. Central wakeup call got me to the 6:15 a.m. Central (closer to 7 a.m.) flight and to Pearson and now the confines of Mother Star for a bit so …
At least I have this fancy new keyboard as another memory of a fun trip.
Question of the day:
What was the bigger collapse: Oklahoma City in Game 4 against Dallas or Chicago in Game 5 against Miami?
Well, I wasn’t in Oklahoma City so I may be biased but, man, wasn’t that a classic fold up on Thursday by the Bulls?
Up 12 with less than three minutes to go and lose?
But not entirely unexpected since Chicago seemed to play a bit scared in the dying minutes of the last three games of the series and the problems with their roster were laid bare for all too see.
The one thing everyone needs to take away from the problems of both the Thunder and the Bulls is that it takes time to learn how to win in hugely important games where every possession needs to be nearly flawless.
Hard lessons, indeed. And whether they be learned before it’s too late is impossible to tell.
If I had my druthers, I’d take the Oklahoma roster as it’s presently constructed over the Chicago roster for sure but I really wonder how long it’s going to take either of them to really get it.
There’ll be way more on this over the next couple of days but, boy, is Miami good.
Mentally and physically, they just know what needs to be done and they go and do it.
In the few seconds I had to look up from the laptop in the final 90 seconds Thursday, when it dawned on me that my “let’s go to Miami for Game 6” story was destined for the scrapheap, all I saw was the Heat making the right play.
Smart passes, great defence, clutch shots.
The two free throws by Bosh (and wasn’t that the quietest 20-10 closeout game your can remember?) were a perfect example. He hadn’t really done much in the game, hadn’t really ever been in that position in his career (I guess the missed jumper at the end of Game 2 in Orlando would be the closest) but he was calm, collected and clutch.
Just like those other two.
I’m not suggesting all basketball writers run in such big league circles but there was an impressive guest/friend of Sam Smith’s who stopped by for a little pre-game interview room presentation we had for Sam, who got the first Phil Jasner Lifetime Achievement Award.
Seems Sam used to run in some political circles before he turned his attention to the NBA and David Axelrod, who’s only the guy who’s running Obama’s re-election campaign, stopped by the United Center for the little show.
Told me used to do a little work for Dalton McGuinty at some time, which I thought was kind of cool and represents about the only way I’d see a connection between Obama and McGuinty.
Who’s going to win the Final?
Well, it’s about 5:30 a.m. Eastern time, I’m going on about 90 minutes sleep and, frankly, my mind’s so cloudy I’m not 100 per cent certain who’s in it, let alone who’ll win it.
Let me get back, chat with the Tall Foreheads and figure out when, of if, we’ll do out big setup package.
Then, and only then, will you get the pearls of wisdom for which you are all so anxiously awaiting.
Big things cooking at the Royal York today with Canada Basketball’s first annual Congress.
Not sure what impact it’ll have on you individually but if you’re kid plays the game, or if you play the game, or if you care a lot about the game, it’s a pretty significant step.
Lots of panel discussions and chances to exchange ideas among people who coach, ref and administer the sport. There may not be immediate and drastic change, but give the folks at CB credit for bringing together various stakeholders in the game.
(See how tired I am? I just typed the word “stakeholder” and that’s one of those goofy words I really hate to use. If I write “score the ball” or “physicality” you are allowed to slap me upside the head if you see me).
Anyway, this may not mean much to you but Canada Basketball was able to attract FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann and FIBA Americas poohbah Alberto Garcia to the buntoss and that’s significant in how the national organization is regarded around the world.
I’m going to throw this in here as a way of talking more about Sam Smith.
Q: You mentioned the 'giants of the business' in today's blog. To whom might you be referring to?
Danny P, Toronto
A: To me, the giants are the guys and gals who’ve been around forever and still churn out great, insightful, entertaining copy on a regular basis.
I’m not going to get into current favourites or must-reads because that changes almost daily depending on the issue of the day and where it takes place.
But if I could have the careers of the following five people – and I can’t because I don’t write well enough, won’t be around long enough and won’t have as great an impact on our craft – I would be happy as a clam (and I don’t know exactly what that means, it must have to do with pearls, but you get what I mean.)
(I know there seems to be a Boston bias but those are the kind of long-serving greats who I consider “giants”).
There are so many others, too, I’m giving short shrift to too many people but …
Back to the Final for a second?
I’m thinking Jason Kidd-Mike Bibby is the slowest point guard match up maybe in history.
During the drive back to the O’Hare Marriott after the game, the three of us were listening to the sports chat shows and, man, Chicago is one tough city.
In order, the goats were, according to the chatterers and their hosts:
Guess we kind of concurred – I might switch the last two – but no one got the one guy we thought should have been on the list: Kyle Korver.
Really, if he’d had any impact or made any shots, who knows what that would have done to move the defence around and give Rose some more space.
Okay, I have absolutely no clue what’s up for the weekend work-wise and blog-wise and life-wise.
So just in case I have to do mail tomorrow or find some time this afternoon somewhere to work on it, I’d be happy to accept all greetings, queries and general conversations if you’d be kind enough to click here and write to me.
The Star's Doug Smith sends his regards from inside a plane sitting on the tarmac at Toronto's Pearson airport. Due to a flight delay, his blog will be updated later than usual today.
Last game of the series tonight?
A tantalizing collection of unrelated notes today, folks.
Speaking of tantalizing, how about them Thunder?
It was another tough finish of missed shots, bad decisions odd coaching and the vagaries of youth on display.
And painful, painful lessons learned.
But those lessons are important ones and while I know Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor (there is no way he waved off Kevin Durant in the final minute, was there? That couldn’t have possibly happened, could it?) are the targets right now, I don’t think they really need to make any change.
Seriously. And I don’t say that just to stop the onslaught of “how do the Raptors get Westbrook” questions that come every day.
Each of those four kids – Westbrook, Ibaka, Harden and Durant – are 22 years old or younger and none of them has been through anything like this before.
I know Westbrook had his moments, and Durant wasn’t nearly as forceful as I would have liked him to be in many respects but to think they need to “blow this up” is, to me, ridiculous.
They’ll figure it out and if they don’t, well, maybe in two years or 18 months you start thinking longingly at free-agents-to-be Chris Paul or Deron Williams but right now, you let ‘em burn inside a little bit and hope they come back better.
No reason to think they won’t, is there? They’ve improved in leaps and bounds in two seasons, why can’t they get a bit better in the next two?
That’s a very good young team – with the emphasis on young – and the NBA’s a man’s league.
Mike Brown to the Lakers?
Wow. That’s a gamble to me.
And not at all the direction I thought they’d go; I figured they’d throw all kinds of money at a “name” guy like Jeff Van Gundy or try to pry Coach K out of the colleges or get Jerry Sloan off the farm or Rick Adelman or someone of that ilk.
The fact they didn’t really look at Brian Shaw was a bit of a surprise, too; I imagine we’ll be hearing his name being mentioned for every other opening right now.
Anyway, I wasn’t a huge Mike Brown fan when he was in Cleveland because I didn’t think his teams had any semblance of effective offence other than running clearouts for LeBron and it’ll be interesting to see how he manages Kobe, Pau, Bynum, Odom, Artest and whichever point guard they have next year.
Of course, I also think coaching is bit over-rated so maybe he’ll be fine; after all, he does have an awful lot of talent to work with.
Well, another travel first.
And I’m not even talking flying from Miami to Chicago and getting into O’Hare from the west so we skirted the weather.
I get to my seat, 28C, to find a guy in 28B and a fellow dead asleep leaning against the window in 28A.
They’re about to close the doors when a dude in a suit and two very imposing Miami-Dade police officers come walking down the aisle.
They stop at 28, the guy in the suit wakes the guy sleeping and tells him the two officers want him to go with them.
Sleeping guy gets up, meekly walks out of the seat, is taken by the arms up the aisle and out of the plane.
Last I heard, by the guy who go this seat on the over-sold flight, was that he was being patted down by the two cops while a detective waited for him on the jetway.
No guns were drawn and the sleeping guy didn’t look around to take a hostage but it was cool.
After watching Mark Cuban and listening to him in the post-game celebration, I’m wondering how many of you are going to have to hold your nose and cheer for the Mavs when they play whoever.
I have a lot of time for Rick Carlisle, he’s good man and an excellent coach, and, yes, it’d be nice to see Dirk get a ring and some more accolades but there’s just something about Cuban and Jason Terry that rubs me the wrong way.
Hmm, how easy is this:
Q: Top 5 cakes?
Antony N, Amman
Chocolate ice cream
You know, remember yesterday when it was mentioned that it’d be nice to see LeBron try to guard Dirk a little bit in part of a Mavs-Heat final?
The other one I’m really looking forward to is seeing Shawn Marion on James.
Quietly, Marion’s been playing at an all-star level for most of the playoffs and he’s quick and long and strong enough to, perhaps, give James a spot of trouble.
Not that anyone is capable of stopping James, of course, but Marion’s long been under-rated as a defender and I know him well enough to know that he thinks he can wildly effective against a guy like James.
Confidence has never been an issue with Marion; the way he’s playing now will only fuel that.
So, if the Heat wins tonight, the Final starts Tuesday in Miami.
If the Bulls win, we all have to traipse back to Florida for a game Saturday, the Final won’t start until next Thursday in either Miami or Chicago and that’ll be terribly inconvenient for a lot of us here now.
That pretty much guarantees a Bulls win. Maybe in an overtime or two.
Not only didn’t I get to Chicago in time to catch Oprah’s last show, I didn’t get to a stool in time to join any of the “viewing parties” I saw chronicled all night on the local news.
And, surprisingly, I don’t feel cheated.
I wonder if the folks in Oklahoma are going nuts today about the inability of the Thunder to get a defensive rebound when it mattered most and calling for this guy to be traded and that guy to be fired.
Those two in the final seconds are a prime example of bad breaks and bounces and, as coaches all point out, the need to “finish defensive possessions.
Mighty Rockies 22
Dreaded Other Team 8
Now that’s a season opener!
Know what I learned yesterday?
If you’re going to do lists of people with a body of work like Dylan’s, 10 might be a suitable number.
Oh, a mail call for the weekend ‘cause I have no idea when I’ll be doing what but it’s pouring rain today here and there might be some lobby time to get to it.
We don’t need no stinking analysis.
Let’s just prattle on about a series of unrelated items.
We all know LeBron James is freakishly gifted but what he did last night was, frankly, incredible.
If you saw the game, especially the latter part of the second quarter, you saw just how fast and explosive Derrick Rose can be, those two dunks were something else, particularly the second one where he slithered through about three defenders after beating his man.
But James, who is about 6-8 and 275 pounds, was not only able to get up on Rose and take away his shooting space when he defended him, he was quick enough laterally that Rose couldn’t get by him if his life depended on it.
That last possession of regulation time – hell, pretty much any possession in the final five minutes of the game and the overtime – was as good on-the-ball defence as you might ever see.
I remember writing before the series began that Erik Spoelstra felt James could guard every possession on the floor and being a bit skeptical.
After watching what James did to Rose, who is only the current MVP and a small, quick guard who should punish bigger defenders, any skepticism is gone.
And now I’m wondering how he’ll do guarding Dirk because you know he’s going to get a shot to do it down the stretch of close games.
Well, it’s not much – still nothing on Jay – but am told they will in fact meet with and work out Enes Kanter in Chicago in the first week in June.
And, according to one fellow I corresponded with yesterday, there was no huge snub in Chicago last week, it was the case of an e-mail canceling some meetings not being forwarded.
Hey, how in the world did I miss Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday yesterday?
But when I finally heard, figured if there was a CD playing an endless loop of these five songs, it’d be just fine:
The Times They Are A’changin’
Subterranean Homesick Blues
Mr. Tambourine Man
Like A Rolling Stone
Blowin’ In The Wind.
Enjoy hearing those in your head all day. I will.
Got this one out of the mail a few days ago:
Q: Doug. This started off as a comment but I turned it into a list question for the mail bag.
I think must of us get what you are saying comparing yourself to an NBA executive but really "a drill press operator...."? Agreed your travel schedule sucks and when you "have to" do something for a living it is "work" and work is work. However, at the end of the day, you get to talk about a sport that is obvious you enjoy, for a living, not a bad gig overall from an outside point of view.
Having said that, what would you say are top 5 best and worst things about being a beat reporter for the Raptors?
Having said that, what would you say are top 5 best and worst things about being a beat reporter for the Raptors?
A T, Niagara Falls
A: Oh, it’s a very good job and I love it and that makes it easier to work hard. But, as I’m sure you and zillions others know, even great jobs have their moments.
But a list you want and a list you’ll get:
The places you go
I’ve walked on the Great Wall of China, seen Sagrada Familia, visited the Parthenon and the Placa and seen the Sydney Opera House because of my job.
The peoples you meet.
I’ve been in scrums with Muhammad Ali and met all kinds of fascinating people because of my job.
No two days are alike and I quite enjoy that aspect of it. The sameness of any job would take away some level of enjoyment.
Yes, I have bosses but it’s nice to know that they give me my head, so to speak; trust me to get the right story and tell it well and that’s a rather liberating feeling.
I am answering this sitting on a stool at a poolside bar in Miami with a glass of Land Shark at my left and a gentle breeze blowing to take the edge off a 30 C day.
Yes, the job has taken to me to wonderful places and outstanding events but for a while there – and it’s eased a bit now – I averaged about 125 days a year on the road. That’s a lot of time away.
The hassle of travel
Airport two hours before a flight to the US, 90 minutes if it’s domestic in the States, take out laptop, take off shoes, remove belt, deal with – often – very dopey TSA employees who must have to check their common sense in the lunch room before they start their shift. Stand in security line behind new travellers who don’t remember to leave cell in bin, take coins out of pocket, remove all metal.
Sometimes they’re simply brutal. There are nights when they need 650 words at the buzzer, the outcome of the game can change once or twice in a split second and you have make enough sense of it that people don’t throw their computers in disgust when they read it. Hardest part of the job.
Extra off days
Seriously, coming up with something interesting and entertaining to write when a couple of off-days fall back-to-back is hard. There’s not a lot of time to develop really good stories, you tend to follow the back and that’s wrong. Easy, but wrong.
Not enough time
I guess this is a combination of those last two but we tend to have to write so quickly that it’s hard to turn a nice phrase, develop a theme, and tell stories well all the time. The giants of the business can, I’m not quite there yet.
No one guessed the two northern most cities correctly here, although a couple of keeners back in Toronto took time out from draft prep to figure it out and let me know.
Bloomington and Minneapolis.
Bit of a trick question but what the heck.
Oklahoma City’s got no chance tonight, right?
Too mentally worn down from blowing that big lead in Game 4, up against the team that’s playing the best in the playoffs and on the road to boot?
Spurs by 12.
I guess if Kristie couldn’t win, it’s good that the athlete did, right?
And, next season, we are paying much closer attention to DWTS.
Worst part of going to Chicago today?
Mighty Rockies opener tonight and I’ll have to miss it.
If any of you kids are reading this, play hard, play for the guy sitting next to you, respect the game and have fun.
Oh, and hit line drives right through the pitcher’s legs, field the ball down to up in the infield and hit the cut off man.
Doug Smith has been a sportswriter for more than 30 years, a journey that's included seven Olympic Games, numerous and varied championships and more dreary regular season games than he'd care to remember. Here, he'll talk about them all, as well as current events and pop culture. (Just don’t ask him about music nowadays — it's not his cup of tea).