The usual start of the weekend mail
Well, folks, you came through again.
And there are a few leftover for tomorrow – and some lists! – but there’s always room for more.
Q: Doug, first a quick thank you for the obvious effort you are (very successfully) putting into keeping us irregulars entertained and informed through your creativity and adventurous diversification. Thank you for venturing outside of your comfort zone, I am sure it isn't easy..._I am a bit of an optimist, so to put a positive "when..." spin on this season, what are you looking forward to most about the upcoming Raptor's season? What are your top 3 things you are focusing on and/or anticipating this season?
Really enjoy your blog. It has been fascinating watching it evolve from a weekly e-mail bag to now!
Allan F, Burlington
A: My Top 3 are, I’m sure, shared by the vast majority of fans.
In no particular order, I offer:
Can Dwane Casey team ‘em how to defend better? Not sure what “system” or “scheme” he can or will put it; I still contend players simply need to work harder at it but improvement in that area is a must.
Can Jerryd Bayless continue to develop. He had a pretty good run as a spot starter at times last year but he’s young and still relatively unproven, I don’t think they know what they’ve got and need to find out quickly.
And, finally, it’s going to be interesting to see what Ed Davis does in his second season. He had some fine moments last year pretty much out of nowhere and teams won’t let him sneak up in them this time around.
Q: A few:
Q1: Is Joey Dorsey's contract set in stone in Europe?
Q2: Would we like to see him back here?
Q3: What's more complicated, an NBA labour dispute, or any other labour dispute?
Q4: Isn't the very best gig being the substitute 3-point shooter on any NBA team?
Q4: With Jonas in Europe this year, didn't 'the powers that be' decide to tank this season? (The fans are just recognizing it, after the fact.)
Bo K, Mississauga
A: There is no out, which is fine because there was really no interest here.
Sports disputes are always more complicated because instead of having just company vs. a union, the “company” in a sports negotiation is always a disparate group that may be at cross purposes sometime.
I’m sticking with situational season and, no, the powers that be did not “tank the season” in any way, shape or form.
Q: Doug, this may have been asked before -- I can't recall. I was wondering: Have you ever had a player talk to you about an article that you've written about them? Either a positive "Thanks for the great story" or a case where they've taken exception to some criticism? Do many players even read the stuff written about them?
As always, thanks!
Chris C, Toronto
A: It’s funny. If you ask athletes – most of them, anyway – they’ll tell you they don’t read the papers or watch TV or listen to the radio. And then every now and then, one of ‘em will make some remark about something you’ve written and they’re caught.
But most of them, in my experience, have thick enough skin that when they make snide comments, it’s only a tweak; if they play terribly, they know it.
Specifically? The only guy who truly took exception in a bad way was Keon Clark, who stopped answering my questions for a week or two one time. Oh, and Oliver Miller once put us “on probation” because we were critical of him and it wasn’t that big a hardship, to tell you the truth.
On the good side, I did once in the last year have a guy thank me for a story I wrote because his mom read it and liked it.
That was cool.
Q: What kind of impact, if any, do you think the NBA lock-out is having on the potential sale of MLSE?
PS - Think it's awesome the "tall foreheads" realize what a great product they've got with your work. Don't let them screw it up!
K J, Toronto
A: There are so many moving parts in the sale, and some many components to the conglomerate, that I don’t think the lockout is having any impact at all. And I’m not hearing that it’s an issue from anyone I talk to, either. In fact, some think a new “economic order” in the basketball, and it is coming, would be better for a potential buyer.
And don’t worry, the TFs are incapable of screwing up, at least the one I deal with on this Facebook thingy.
Ed D, Detroit
A: Oh, he’s a Hall of Famer and had a nice productive career but I can’t see him cracking the Top 5, and maybe not the Top 10 if you take in the olden days.
Q: Hi Doug, I understand your argument that the Raptors should do everything they can to win every game they can, but I don't think they should spend money on lengthy free agent contracts this year (assuming there's a season).
The Raptors have an intriguing young core of players, but are missing a starting SF (you said it yourself in today's blog). This year's draft is notably strong and deep, particularly with small forwards. Jonas isn't playing in Toronto this year, and there's a new coach implementing a whole new system.
I don't think Bryan should add any free agents this year (likely a SF and big), only to win a third to half of their games, maybe squeak into the playoffs, get a mid-teen lottery pick, and have less money to spend next year. I think it makes more sense to save those dollars for 2012/13 when you have a better sense your team needs, including Jonas's ability to contribute, and look at drafting one of the small forwards likely to go in the lottery of the 2012 draft.
I'm not suggesting they tank the season by any means, but I think they should be strategic about how they spend their salary dollars. It might mean fewer wins this season, but I believe it will be better for the team in the long-term.
Graham V, Vancouver
A: They do have a somewhat intriguing young group that needs augmenting and my rule of thumb is you have to strike while the iron is hot. Now, I’m not advocating some huge deal whenever they’re allowed to sign players but I don’t think you can make a blanket statement about not signing players just because you think the core’s good. I have no clue about the calibre of the 2012 draft and anyone who says they know for sure is guessing, if not lying. And I’m not sure they need more unproven youngsters on a team with a lot of them; I can make the case they need some old heads more urgently.
If there’s something they think makes sense to do soon, they need to do it.
Q: Hello Doug! So, 'tis the season of the Turkey Trot: the daily ritual of pounding the pavement, trying to run/walk off the overindulgence of Thanksgiving so I can do it all over again at Christmas! And what keeps me moving is the music on the iPod. 900+ songs and each is included because of its lyrics, beat, inspirational qualities. And I've got playlists organized to cover all my favorite genres - even one that's dedicated entirely to songs about sport. And here's the dilemma: while I've got boxing songs: The "Rocky" Theme, Simon and Garfunkle's "The Boxer", Bob Dylan's "Hurricane"; baseball songs: "Glory Days" by Bruce Springsteen, John Fogerty's "Centrefield", running songs: "Chariots of Fire", Jully Black's "Running" (and I included her "Sweat of Your Brow" 'cause it's so funky!); and hockey songs: Tom Cochrane's "Big League" and it's fun flipside, Great Big Sea's "Helmet Head", something's missing. While there may be hundreds of 'tunes' about hoops by no-name rappers all over the internet, for me these are not basketball songs.
And my question is: Why not? Why aren't there any great (hey, I'd settle for good) songs written about basketball? Lots of famous songwriters (see: aforementioned Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, even Mariah Carey) regularly attend NBA games; have they never been inspired by what they've seen on the court to pen a lyric, hum a new tune? Seems odd to me. (Although, if they keep lopping games off the schedule, maybe Bruce and Bob and John can put their heads together and create a song of protest.) So perhaps you, or one of the Irregulars has a theory. Or maybe even the name of a basketball-themed tune or two that I've missed. I've still got lots of room on the iPod. And I've got many miles to run before I can eat turkey again! Cheers.
Lorie P, London
A: I’m sure there are a handful of recent songs that at least make reference to basketball but they would be in a genre that bores me to tears. Now, Basketball Jones from way back in the day might be the exception to the rule.
Toss in the fact the game really hasn’t been around all that long – comparatively – and speaks to a crowd that may not listen to the artists who’ve made reference to, or songs about, baseball and I think that might be the reason for the dearth of hoops songs.
Q: In the absence of specific basketball, a general basketball question. It's about the career arc of point guards. The answer to which may have some relevance to the Raptor's decision making this year.
Do point guards need to go through a longer learning period at the NBA level than players at other positions? In particular, was Chauncey Billups unique, or was he an extreme case of a long learning curve?
Jim R, Toronto
A: They absolutely do, which is why I think teams that have young point guards need to have more patience than they sometimes do and why teams that have veterans need to stick with them.
The reasons are kind of obvious, I think.
Not only do young guards need to find their own way in a difficult league, they need to understand the talent that’s around them to best maximize it. It takes time, lots of time.
Now, there are exceptions to the rule – Derrick Rose, Chris Paul come quickly to mind – but even greats like Steve Nash and Billups needed to be brought along slowly. And, in both those cases, they needed to find perfect “fits” for their unique talents, too.
Q: Hey Doug! Love the blog - I look forward to it every morning.
Anyways, my question is in regards to Jonas Valanciunas. Bryan Colangelo has taken quite a bit of flack from various fans and media-types for drafting a player that he knew wouldn't be playing in the NBA for a year. Is it at all possible that Colangelo is a closet pessimist and figured there would be a good chance that the labour dispute we're in the midst of would eventually cancel the whole season?
If so, from where I'm sitting, that seems like a pretty brilliant move! The Raptors top draft pick gets another year of seasoning at a relatively high level of play, and when the league (hopefully) starts up again after a "lost" year, Valanciunas is ready to go.
What do you think?
Andrew B, Pickering
A: The day they took Valanciunas, they had no idea whether he’d be able to come in one, two or three years; it was a calculated gamble that they could hasten his buyout. I don’t know that any sense of foreboding about this NBA season really played into it. They took a guy at a spot they wanted to fill who they thought had lots of promise.
I will say I’m sure they’re quite glad he’s playing – and playing a lot – instead of just working out.
Q: Hey Doug, nice to see you've joined the bookface hordes. I'm sure you will eventually become addicted to its charms.
The NBA lockout and Occupy Wall St. got me thinking about an idea I have tried to float every time the fans get screwed by the greedy sports bureaucracy..."The Fan Strike" I figure that a properly organized response to the ridiculous salaries/profits generated by outrageous ticket prices( I realize there are other revenue streams) might make these suckers wake up and realize they are strangling their own golden goose. I guess my question is...Do you think such a thing is possible, probable or just downright insane.
All the best,
Scott M, Toronto
A: Yeah, that Faceoff thing’s a gas.
Now, the question will indeed be what can the fans do to voice, or show, displeasure whenever these dopes get things together and figure out how to split billions of dollars.
And while the thought of a one-night boycott or fan strike is appealing, I’m not sure how practical it is to organize, or who would do it.
I do presume that early-season attendance will be down whenever they get back but as for something planned and league-wide, it’s just not going to happen, I don’t think.
Q: Greetings, regarding questioning the logic around the HOTH's timing of their coaching change. I can't help but be suspicious that the final driver in the timing decision had something to do with simply "doing something". And "doing something" mattered more to the business side of the season ticket sales, box sales and sponsor relations leading up to what would have to be considered a very dreary period. I don't mean to suggest that the Rap's Tall Foreheads would tank the evolution of the team, just to point out the obvious, it is a business after all, and dependent on it's cash flows.
Thanks for what you do
Doug T, Brantford
A: I think, in some ways sadly, you’re absolutely right, that fans who had suffered through a series of disappointing seasons needed to be placated in some way and the coaching staff became sacrificial lambs. But I still contend that seeing how the majority of NBA insiders saw a long lockout coming they could have save the “bullet” to fire sometime during this coming season – if indeed it became necessary and I’m not entirely sure it would have.
But I think any “goodwill” they might have bought with the change has been lost with the inactivity around the team and the league thanks to the work stoppage.
Q: Dear Doug. Do you remember Antoine Wright? Now he plays in Spain for Estudiantes. Sunday, in the last game, he played against Barcelona, in a loss by 46.
The unbelievable aspect is his performance:
0/7 2PT, 0/3 3PT, 0/2 FT, 5 T0s, 5 Fouls (Fouled Out) in just 25 minuti for a -19 of evaluation/
Maybe the Raptors were really (and are) terrible in the SF role?
Paolo P, Roma
A: Now, I’m not going to put a lot of stock in one game – even one as obviously atrocious as that – but there are those among us who didn’t quite see Antoine Wright as a valuable member of an NBA team’s rotation when he was here. And I think the recent past – the Estudiantes season aside – as proven that to be an astute observation.
But that is one ugly boxscore line.