Let's get the weekend started with some mail, shall we?
Okay, ladies and germs, you’ve really done it this time.
Two smaller mailbags?
How about a medium sized one today and what looks like a rather ginormous one tomorrow that I’ll have to find time to put together this afternoon after a quick trip to the peninsula to deal with life?
Wish me well and enjoy this.
Q: Hi Doug, long time reader, first time mail bagger. With the recent hiring of Dwane Casey as the new Raptors coach, it's great to see the organization thinking defense first. We sure need it! My question is, how will this hiring be different from our last defense first coach, Kevin O'Neil? We all know how that ended. Love your blog and insight! Keep up the great work!
T L, Mississauga
A: Oh, really, it’s apples and oranges in terms of personalities, interaction with other human beings and philosophy of the game. Casey’s far more well-rounded a person and a coach as KO ever was and I cannot for the life of me seeing anything like the O’Neill year developing here.
Dwane’s far more quiet and in control that Kevin ever was and just way he treats his job and the people who work for him make it better. He’s more fair, a lot less confrontational and has a longer and better resume.
Yes, he will emphasize defence but he will do in a manner that doesn’t preclude other aspects of the game.
Q: Hi Doug. Two-and-a-half part question for you. First, how do you see the new coach making use of the summer to get to know his players and letting them know what he expects to see come October?
Second, if defense is the new mantra, is there anything a player can be doing during the off-season to work on that aspect of his game? Or does it just have to develop, going five on five, against great talent? – i.e., if you have a comparatively weak roster, are your best guys going to be able improve when they're matching up every day against lesser talent than they'll be facing all season long?
Thanks, and have a great summer!
David M, Ottawa
A: I don’t think Dwane’s going to have a chance to get to know the players at all this summer because once the lockout hits, he cannot have any contact with them at all and it looks like that’s coming next week. But, he has been in town this week with DeRozan, Davis, Bayless, Johnson, Dorsey and Weems so he’s met them and talked to them, he’s reached out electronically or by phone to the others just to say hello and let them know his philosophies.
As for the defence, there aren’t really that many individual drills that can be done but if the players work to get stronger and quicker and in generally better physical condition, it helps. So does playing games because it puts you in situations where you have to read and react and that always helps.
Your best players can always I improve, regardless of who they go up against in practice simply by repeating things until they become second nature.
Q: Glad you're sporting your rhino-hide windbreaker, Doug. Enjoyed your read on the draft very much.
For some reason, the thing uppermost in my mind the past several days has been the future of Alex English. Any hints?
TL I, London
A: Nothing official, Dwane said he’d start working on putting together a staff now that the rush of the draft is over but the only hint I can provide is that I didn’t see Alex around much the last couple of days. I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen but I would be surprised if he’s back, most new coaches like to bring in a lot of their own guys.
Q: Hi Doug. Everyone is talking about our newest Lithuanian but I'm wondering about what’s going on with our old one.
Everyone seems to be penciling in J.J. as our starting 3 but I'm still intrigued with what Linas could do. I know that the Raps were real big on him early last year with what he could do offensively posting up, shooting the ball but no one is really talking about him. What’s the latest on him?
And also were you able to get a hold of him to ask what he thinks of our new rook?
Eric L, Toronto
A: Asked about Linas yesterday, as a matter of fact. He’s still going through the rehab process and is on a good timeline but it’s not likely he’s back on any basketball court at full speed until much later this year so he’s not being counted on an awful lot at the moment.
I didn’t reach him to ask about Jonas but I know the two of them spoke and Linas gave the new kid all the usual stuff: Good guys, great city, you’ll do well, blah, blah, blah.
Q: Hi Doug. I figure you've probably had enough draft questions to last you forever, so I had a question about Maurizio Gherardini. When he first joined the Raptors, it seemed like he was held in such high regard that he would, in short order, wind up running his own team in the NBA. I confess to be surprised that it was Masai Ujiri who got a team first. Do you know if Maurizio is still held in high regard around the league? As a corollary, has his association with Bargnani, who is perceived by some to have underachieved, hurt his standing? Thanks as always.
Sohail G, Collingwood
A: Yes, Maurizio is still held in quite high regard not only around the league but around the world. I can’t say often enough how he is respected globally and how he gets things done that no one knows about. Meetings he sets up, calls he gets returned, people he gets to tell him stuff.
I don’t know that he’ll end up running his own NBA team, I haven’t asked him in a while if he even wants to, but I do know that whatever he sets his mind to whenever it’s time to change course, he’ll be great at.
To your corollary, I don't think anything Andrea did or does will have an impact on the reputation Maurizio has.
Q: Love your blog Doug. I am an avid reader. I have a question regarding Kemba Walker. Why do scouts and GMs feel like the tools that won him success at the NCAA level not translate into significant success at the NBA level? Analyst on NBA TV (like Greg Anthony) are of the opinion that this guy is a gamer and will have an significant if not immediate impact on the team that draft him. Thanks and keep up the great work!
AJ P, Toronto
A: He could very well have a great and long career and I hope for his sake he does. The criticisms I heard were mostly to do with his smallish size that might be an issue in the NBA and there may be some defensive failings that will be exposed. But who knows, maybe he is great.
He just did not fit here in any way, shape or form under the current circumstances.
Q: Hey Doug. Two questions. I like the Valanciunas pick. DeMar and Ed still have a lot of room to grow, so I wasn't expecting much for next year anyway. I expect Toronto to be another high lottery pick next year in a much stronger draft. Do you think this pick was a case of getting bad to get good?
Also, Any thoughts on how Thompson and Joseph, or any of the other up coming Canadians feel about playing for the Senior Mens team?
Terry M, Antigonish
A: No, this had absolutely nothing to do with getting bad to be good or next year’s draft or anything like that. It had everything do with making the right choice for the future of the franchise and next season they will fully expect the players on the roster to compete and win and be a good team. No one is at all thinking about anything else.
I haven’t heard a peep about the two kids and the senior national team, which won’t even start working out for another month or so.
Q: Does each team have a representative on the Players' Association as with the NHL? If so, who is the Rap rep? Are any noteworthy NBA players involved in the labour negotiations?
James A, Victoria
A: They do, yes; and Julian Wright represented them at the Thursday meeting in New York. And, yes, lots of heavy hitters, guys like Pierce, Garnett, Anthony were at the meeting. And our boy Bonner, too, who’s on the union executive.
Q: Is their any wording in the CBA that relates to media access? Can new rules be addressed for media access to players?
Shawn L, Bowmanville
A: Not in the CBA, actually. But in the league’s operation manual and the “media guidelines” it sends out to each team, issues such as when locker rooms, practices and shootarounds are to be open to the media are spelled out. It’s a 45-minute period starting 90 minutes to game time for pre-game, after a 10- to 15-minute cooling off period following games and the last half hour of practice and 15 minutes of shootaround. If teams or players violate the rules consistently, they can be – and have been – fined.
Q: Hi Doug - what do coaches/scouts mean when they say a player has "good footwork". Are they referring to speed, knowing where to go or what? Thanks.
Andrew S, Toronto
A: Know what it mostly is? Mostly good footwork is not falling down, as simple as that sounds. It’s using slide steps instead of crossovers sometimes, having “quick” movement side to side or back and forth and being able to move quickly without thinking, if you know what I mean?
Q: Looking at the transactions page at nba.com does not mention anything about a Vince Carter buyout. I only assumed it was true because you posted that question in your blog (hadn't seen that mentioned anywhere) and didn't say any differently. Did Vince really get a buyout?
Shawn L, Bowmanville
A: Actually, they have delayed the official decision until after the new CBA is set, Suns announced that this week, but all indications are that the enormous savings – almost $14 million – that would come with buying him out and then maybe trying to structure a new deal make it financially feasible to do. But it is not officially “done” yet.
Q: Dougie! Three prongs. Grantland.com seems to be challenging the sports reading landscape, as your longer, multi-themed blogs do. Comments? Personally, I get my news in snippets and stories as, well, stories.
Did the lockout, which kept several top 12 picks in the NCAA (thus watering down Toronto Fan's draft drink) directly increase the amount of quality European players, in a "Hey, this is our shot!" kinda way?
You mentioned with yer ex-smokin buddy Bob that Butch is the best comparison for Casey...could you expand?
P.S. Give some love to my man, Walsh.
L S, Seoul
A: Grantland.com is changing the landscape a bit, and I have to admit I’m quite jealous of the talent and impressed by it. Not sure it counts as “news” and there will always be a place to alternately receive information, thankfully.
And I think the impending lockout probably moved a few non-North Americans higher in the draft than they would have been but I think they would have come, anyway.
I guess what I meant about Casey and Butch is that each seems to have a “presence” about them that will inspire most players to follow. Casey’s line about “I don’t need players to like me, I want them to respect me” is a philosophy I can see those to sharing. And both seem hellbent on game-prep and no one in Raptors history was as good at it than Butch.
And Your Man Walsh is doing just fine.
Q: I noted in your article today that Dwayne Casey had a 90 minute telephone interview with the board and that he had dinner with Larry Tannenbaum. To me, this is what is wrong at MLSE. This is a basketball decision. What do these guys know about what it takes to be a good coach in Toronto with the type of assets he has to work with? That's why you pay Brian the big bucks.
Howard R, Toronto
A: Um, no. Not at all.
Let’s put it in terms you may follow more easily:
You apply for a job.
The manager of the department that you’ll be working in interviews you.
Then he goes to his boss and says, “this is the guy I want.”
That boss has every right – and often an obligation – to say, “okay, but I want to meet the guy first.”
That’s just normal operating procedure anywhere so the fat members of the board wanted to meet the guy who was going to be the head coach of the team should not be a surprise at all and it would have been a huge failing, in my eyes, had they not.
Q: After the Leafs and Raptors, back-to-back days, named coaches with NCAA recruiting scandals attached to their names, I was wondering how much these types of 'ethical' concerns enter into hirings. Did anybody ask any questions at the press conference related to the violations and does this tend to be an issue when NBA coaches are hired? What other NBA head coaches crossed ethical lines with the NCAA?
Tony C, Toronto
A: No, no one asked a thing about an incident that happened more than a quarter of a century ago and it’s a moot point. Yes, Dwane’s name was on an envelope of about $1,000 cash destined for the father of a recruit. He paid his penalty and life went on. As it should.
And I don’t know, or care, about the pucks.
Q: I also miss reading Chris Young's material. I don't remember hearing any announcements about his departure. Can you tell me what's he's doing these days?
Roel O, Brampton
A: Living the life of Riley, I understand. Was able to make a buyout work at our place and while I’m sure he’s enjoying himself, ours is a worse off paper and website because of his absence.
Q: Hi Doug, love the blog as usual...the events that took place in Vancouver has put a black eye for Canada on the international scene! But that is not my beef. The latter lies with the suspension of the water-polo player from team Canada. Why can Water-polo Canada suspend a player for actions that have not occurred in the water or at one of its events? Why does Water polo Canada need to "investigate" the incident? Wouldn't that money be better spent developing talent? My thoughts are to let the legal process take its course and if the young baffoon can't fulfill his duties as part of team Canada than kick him off until than, Water Polo Canada should remain quiet. Looking forward to your thoughts?
N B, Toronto
A: Oh, heck, why don’t we branch out and get into this a bit.
I think the idiot kid who tried to, what, light a police car on fire, should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and once his jail time is over, he should be able to do whatever he wants athletically. And while his case winds it’s way through the snail-like legal system, he should be able to continue doing what he was doing.
Q: What happen to the Raptors' 2nd round picks for the pass few years? Are they still on Raptors roster or playing somewhere in Europe? Any chance they will play for the Raptors?
Karr H, Richmond Hill
A: Not one player ever chosen in the second round of the draft by the Raptors (Matt Bonner was obtained in a trade) has ever played a significant minute in the NBA. Some are still hanging around in Europe, or at least were last season but it’s the off-season there now and I have no idea who’ll be where in the fall. And there is no chance any of them will ever be here again.
Q: Hey Doug, just like to start by saying great job with the blog.
I had an interesting thought concerning next year's draft. Suppose there is no season this year who gets the first pick next year? Do they just have another draft lottery with the same odds as this years? Or does every team get the same chance?
I'd be interested to hear your response. Thanks
Wayne J, Toronto
A: Man, this is a popular question. I must get half a dozen exactly the same every week and have had at least 10 of them in the last two days.
And there is no answer, nor will there be for months and months and months and months.
They’re trying to get a deal done rather than think about doomsday scenarios that are a calendar year away.
Q: Hi Doug. Totally agree, the worst draft comments ever were those made live on air the night we drafted Charlie V. Can't remember the morons but they should all be ashamed of the mean things they said about a kid on the biggest night of his life.
But my question is about the ongoing negotiations and how much you think the NFL settlement (if there in fact is one) will affect things. I hear the NFL players are going from a 60% share of revenue to %48, that can't bode well for the NBA players position?
Dave W, Toronto
A: The only thing the NBA is watching closely in the NFL is the muddle that’s been created by dragging the process through decertification and the courts and no one connected with basketball wants to go down that path. But because the revenue streams are so different, and the NFL takes money off the top already, it’s hard to make any comparisons about percentages and it’s not a model the NBA players want to look at closely.