A little Christmas music with your weekend mail
Ho! Ho! Ho!
Merry Christmas Eve, Happy Day After Festivus!
Think I better get some shopping done, hope no one’s around doing the same thing.
You enjoy this while I do.
Q: Great Christmas Movie list, Doug!
Now all we need is the top 5 Carols and Top 5 Festive Snacks (Does eggnog count as a snack?).
Cheers and have a great time with your family this holiday season.
P.S. Do yourself a favour and take the big day off. The Irregs can handle one day without the HOTH I reckon.
Andrew P, Toronto
A: Well, well, well.
Glad you asked. If you can get through this whole thing, you’ll see five or six of the favourite traditional carols, sung by various artists, sprinkled in here and there. No particular order, mind you, but just good songs well sung.
And how come no one told me this group – Celtic Woman – existed before. These ladies can flat out sing.
Enjoy ‘em all.
Q: Hi Doug. So good to have you write about the NBA again. I have particularly enjoyed today's previews of the season on the website both for the NBA as a whole and for the Raptors.
With regard to the latter, you seem to be saying that it's going to be another learning season and that a playoff spot seems unrealistic. However, I remember asking you in a mailbag (April 10, 2011) at the end of last season what the objective of the 2011-12 season should be and you had responded that "Next season should be all about making the playoffs and being better all around and anything less would, like this season, be a disappointment". Just out of curiosity, what made you change your mind between then and now?
Keep up the good work and Merry Christmas.
Matthieu B, Bern
A: At that point, it’s what it should have been but I don’t think many foresaw the extended lockout, the drafting of a player who isn’t going to be here or relieving Jay Triano of his coaching duties last April.
Situations change, for better or worse is still to be determined. I probably would have wanted them, in a perfect world, to take a different tack, circumstances wouldn’t allow it.
Q: Seasonal greetings, admittedly not b-ball related directly but having just hopped here from the IGBT (tg it's back!)I have a question. Curious as to whether your apparent distaste for the pucks has more to do with hockey itself or, as I suspect, disdain for the level of angst among the puck's faithful? Truly not something that keeps me awake at night just something that crosses my mind when I read some of the questions/comments you get in the IGBT and mailbag and your subsequent response.
Wishing you and the Super Family all the best,as always thanks for what (and how) you do what you do.
Doug T, Brantford
A: It’s more the angst and overkill that accompanies the game, it’s fun to tweak the people, fun to get ‘em going sometimes.
Plus, I have a hard time getting excited about a sport where one of the strategic moves is to send a designated fighter over the boards to get in some scripted scrap with another designated fighter, often for no other reason that to “protect” a teammate.
Q: Doug, the article last weekend on tyrant coaches (and the allusion that Casey could be one of them) got me thinking. This type of coach can either be very successful over a long period (Lombardi) or wear out their welcome and 'lose the room' after two or three years. From what you've seen of Casey, does he have any characteristics that might put him in the former group? And, given the personalities of modern players, would even Lombardi survive today without altering his approach?
Alan C, Lindsay
A: No, I don’t think a Lombardi-type coach could survive today at all in any sport, they are players’ leagues everywhere. And for a story I’m working on for the first of next week, I’m finding that Dwane is, as I expected, tough but fair and makes his points without screaming or denigrating. He is, I believe, a solid coach in dealing with the people in his charge.
This woman’s got some pipes.
Q: Great blog, and this is my first ever posting to one. So congratulations!
Yes, this season is about culture change, and no, they should not tank games and yes, they need financial flexibility in the future. However, I think this strategy has one big weakness that has not been discussed.
With the current plan, they are not trying to establish a culture of winning. For example, they still miss last second winning baskets.
In my opinion, lots of loses (as forecast) will be very tiring on the young players, and might even become a learned habit. Let's add some veterans who have a record of winning, and clutch shooting.
I hope there is some discussion on this aspect of their strategy.
Bill M, Edmonton
A: Lots of discussion, much of it here. And not to worry, the people who really count – the coaches and players – want to do precisely what you suggest. Whether they can or not is the question.
But as for adding players? Don’t think that’s going to happen, they need to develop that habit of winning with the kids who’ll be here a while and, as we know, Bryan isn’t about to take on long-term contracts and mess up next summer unless it’s the best deal imaginable.
Q: Hi Doug. Over the past few weeks, we were overwhelmed by trade and free agent stories by basketball writers that quote "unnamed sources". It seemed that in most cases, the sources must be agents or management planting stories for their own agendas, and the media are more than happy to just pass on the information without any filter. I appreciated the fact that you avoided the gossip approach to writing articles, but the broader basketball media appear to have shifted to a TMZ.com type approach. Is this just me, or has their been a change in approach among sports journalists?
Martin J, Toronto
A: The change is subtle, yes. And has to do, in my opinion, with an unhealthy desire to be “first” in this age of instant information. Is it good or right? Not always and it only takes a couple of blown stories for us all to be tarred with the same brush.
Q: Hi Doug. Since you have returned to reporting on baseball to some extent I would like to know what your take is on the team and management’s willingness to actually try to compete for a title this year? As a fan who enjoyed the good years and actually sat in the sky dome back in the day to watch them win it all on the big screen I am very tired of rhetoric (also from some star writers) that they are building for next year (year after year). At one point you have to make concerted effort to put together the parts to compete and set your goal to win a division title. Otherwise you will never amount to anything. Bit of a rant but once again I see them doing nothing on free agency, a minor trade for a closer with a very unproven track record.
Bonus question. Which NBA teams will have the worst record. I say Bobcats, Raps, Wiz, Cavs, Pistons
David W, Trier, Germany
A: I think Alex has tried to make a series of significant moves this winter already. If you believe the reports, and I do since Griff wrote ‘em, he was in on Papelbon, tried to do Darvish, kicked the tires on a couple of other guys (Latos, Gonzalez) that didn’t work out. And I don’t imagine Alex is done trying yet. We’ll talk again at the end of spring training when we see who’s on the roster.
Bottom five? Sorry, too many factors in play to even make an educated guess.
Q: Well there is no snow and the weather is supposed to be relatively warm. So is there are reason why we can't fire up the BBQ? Maybe some of the readers have more experience then I. And if it's safe to use the BBQ any suggestions for the holidays?
John P, Madison, Wisc.
A: No reason that I can think of. Biggest, and most important tip, I’ve got is to be certain the area you’re using it in is well-ventilated.
Q: Hi Doug. Just read Pietrus waived, can Raps look there again given weakness at small forward?
Mike D, Hespeler
A: No, they had issues with the health of his knee and a guy who’d know told me they thought it’d be a least a month before he was ready. By that time, they should have Kleiza back and I’m not sure there’s a whole lot of difference between the two.
The Canadian contribution to the carol thing.
Q: Two of seven Sports Illustrated 'experts' have Raps most likely to have worst record in the league with Charlotte chosen slightly more often. Seem right?
Bruce C, Mississauga
A: So five of seven didn’t? Could be right. Could be wrong. Guess we’ll know in April.
Q: You use a lot of short forms in your blog, such as HOTH and HWSNBN. Could you please give the uninitiated a table of definitions of all of these abbreviations. Thanks
Jim A, Cambridge
A: A quick rundown.
Heroes Of The Hardcourt.
He Who Shall Not Be Named (used to wear No. 15 around these parts).
Team Of Destiny.
Dancing With The Stars.
Think that might be it.
I (heart) Sarah McLachlan
Q: Hey Doug. I'm a pretty avid reader of the blog but this is the first time I've sent in mail.
Anyway I was trying to find the pre-season game last night on TV only to discover that it was on some obscure channel that I don't get. I'm still pretty bitter about the whole TSN2 Rogers thing from a couple of years back, which just seemed like a gouge to get fans to buy more extended cable packages. I'm hoping this was just a case of nobody really wanting to carry a mid-week pre-season game that was out of town as I think the franchise wants to get the interested fan base to watch as many games as possible. If it is something more sinister I for one won't be increasing my cable bill any further to watch more games. Let me know if you have any insight.
Best for the Holidays.
Damian L, Toronto
A: Actually, the game in Boston wasn’t available even on an “obscure” channel up here and I think they totally dropped the ball not assuming the cost to do a broadcast of the second pre-season game.
Q: Hi Doug. First of all, happy holidays to you and yours. I really liked the return of the "three pointers" in today's blog. It means we're ramping up to having some meaningful games to watch.
I'll try to make a question out of this: when watching the Heat/Magic yesterday there was a point where Spolestra put James/Wade/Bosh back in the game to see if he could salvage it (short-lived). I remember watching one Raps game in, it must have been around 2002, where the Raps built up a nice 12-15 point cushion, subbed out the starters with 4-5 minutes left and the bench let the lead go down to 5-6 within 2 minutes. Next whistle, Vince, A.D and maybe Alvin and Mo Pete are at the scorer's table to be the clean-up crew and everybody in the arena: fans, Raps and opponents, knew that the game was over. Raps win. As a sports fan, that feeling was amazing. If there has to be a question in there, it would be what's the over/under on getting that feeling with this new group, if ever? I'm at an optimistic 2 1/2 years. Sorry, I know crystal ball stuff isn't your usual.
Keep up all the great work.
David T, Ottawa
A: I’m not entirely sure how the fans will react to this group, I think we have to see how competitive they are each night, how hard they play regardless of how the game is going and what kind of “personality” they develop as a group over the season. I would suspect they would catch the fancy of the fans for those reasons but I can’t be sure.
Q: You've written something twice recently that caught my eye, and that was your negative appraisal of Vinny D. as a coach. You may have given specifics at some earlier point, but I missed them. What is it about Vinny that causes you to have "questions about the coaching?"
Thanks as always.
Marc Z, Ottawa
A: I don’t think he handled late-game play-calling situations particularly well during his time in Chicago; I think his offensive schemes were predictable and easy to defend. Maybe he’s better second time around, lots of coaches are.
Q: Hey Doug: Unfortunately, this is not a totally basketball question; I hope I don't offend anyone ;)
What would you say is the least athletic play/activity in athletics - narrow it down to the pro leagues if you want. My candidates would both come from the NFL - 'spiking' the ball to stop the clock; and 'taking a knee' to run out the clock. I'm betting that even I - a POACV (Person of a Certain Vintage) could pull off either of those!
Hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Tim H, Windsor
A: Oh, the spike and the knee win out for sure and while I’d like to say the intentional walk would be up there, there have been a few miscues like hits given up or wild pitches tossed that it might not be on the top of the list.
Or how about in the soccer, when they kick the ball into touch as a sporting gesture to turn it back over to the other team?
Or when you watch a guy dribble out 18 or 20 seconds of the clock at the end of a basketball game?
Q: Doug, I know it's still very early days but how would you compare and contract Duane Casey's coaching style with previous Raptors coaches?
Danny H, Fredericton
A: I really can’t, it’s ridiculously early. I will say this, he is more soft-spoken publicly than the three who immediately preceded him.
Q: Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa Doug...
If you could put a lump of coal in anyone's stocking, whose would it be?
How about a big lump for all the School Boards in the province for closing access to most of the gyms for two weeks?
Speaking of Cleveland... any clips of anyone in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Does Varejao last the season with the Cavs?
Hope you have a "super" holiday season!
Bob E, Kanata
A: Never mind for closing the gyms for the holidays, how about just generally for downplaying the significance, and the need, for physical education classes year ‘round?
Varejao? I wonder. If Thompson shows even a modicum of offensive improvement over the season, he may very well make Varejao expendable, and teams will be calling.
What’s Christmas without a choir?
Q: Hey Doug. I recently read that Chuck Hayes failed his physical and as a result Sacramento voided his contract. So I was just wondering, what goes on during the physical? Do the players go through a serious of tests or is it more like an analysis of medical documents by the team doctors?
Thanks for what you do
Ray F, Waterloo
A: Very extensive tests, actually. Aside from the usual stuff you get checked each year in your physical, they can have everything from MRIs to x-rays to heart tests. And a good thing, too, for things like Jeff Green in Boston, Nate Jawai when he was here and others.
Q: Merry Christmas Doug! Thank you for the gift of your talents all year long.
I publicly recant any upper management season tanking theories after watching the first game and hearing the player/coach reactions to their play in the ensuing days. I know there are going to be some ugly wins and losses this season, but I kinda like those. It is like a Reggie Evans quote, unpolished and hard to figure out, but you knew it was always honest. I know they won't always win, but I have a feeling there will always be an honest effort, no matter how unpolished and confusing the play looks. Having watched them play which 5 do you think look the most "polished" together right now and do you think that 5 will be at the end of the season?
Rob N, London
A: Not surprisingly, I think the five most polished right now – as a group – are Calderon, DeRozan, Johnson, Bargnani and Ed Davis; I wouldn’t be surprised if Kleiza doesn’t supplant Johnson by the end of the season.
Q: Hey Doug. You mentioned the NBL in your blog this week. My son and I had the opportunity to see a first - we were there when Moncton won their first home game. While the Miracles are indeed at the very bottom of the league, the game was great fun to be at. The fans cheered loudly and the basketball product itself seemed to be much improved from what I saw earlier in the season. I think it is great to be able to see this caliber of basketball in Canada. Thanks for promoting it.
You talked about NBL locations and franchises. In your opinion, how many teams would be the optimal number so the quality of basketball is good and there are enough franchises to thrive in Canada?
Andrew S, Sackville
A: There are so many factors at play – travel costs, good-sized facilities, corporate and media support – that it’s difficult to say.
I’d like to think that a 12-team league – three or four in Atlantic Canada, three or four in southern Ontario, one Quebec and three in the western half of the country (Edmonton or Calgary, maybe Saskatoon or Regina, perhaps the Vancouver area) would work best.
But it’s going to take time for these teams to truly grab a foothold in their cities and the last thing they should do is rush to expand.
Mariah should have been on the best-singers list. My bad.
Q: Doug -- sent a question last weekend about the pricing of tickets this season. The minipack pricing had become more expensive post-lockout for all seat ranges and I was asking 'what gives'?
I spoke to MLSE and they indicated that the reason was that they improved the quality of the opponents in the mini packs, which led to increased prices. I don't really think that's a great argument, but it leads to a broader question.
I haven't seen much that MLSE is doing to make it up to fans that there was a lockout, games lost, and a compressed season. Have they been doing some things and I've just missed it? Or are they just assuming that the fans will come back eventually regardless?
Darren A, Toronto
A: No, they really haven’t done an awful lot, actually. I do know there were some ticket sales quickly offered, and they asked the league to have the pre-season game free but were rebuffed. There may be more things rolled out as the season progresses but there’s been less than I think there should have been to this point.
Q: Doug, when a coach is replaced mid-season in the NHL they are happy to pick someone who is 'permanent'. The NBA, however, prefers to use interim coaches and then pick a 'permanent' one at the end of the season. Why is that?
PS: Merry Christmas
Mike K, London
A: I really can’t speak too much about the hockey but it’s my sense that basketball franchises would prefer to wait until the end of a season to see what other coaches might be on the market and looking for work. Or they might want to wait for half a season or so to hire someone with a good coaching background who is out of work but not necessarily interested in coming to a team halfway through a season.
And that, to me, makes a lot of sense.
And what list of carols wouldn’t be complete without Der Bingle.