As full a mailbag as we've had in a while; have fun with it
My goodness. You people have gone berserk.
(And I mean that in the best possible way).
Anyway, there are some left for the week, when we’ll chat about such thing as amnestied players telling teams not to make claims on them, and music documentaries because all sports would make this a very dull place to be.
Have fun with this, though.
No news to start – you know about Anthony Carter and Aaron Gray and I think Bryan’s pretty much done – although the women’s national team will play its last-gasp Olympic qualification tournament in Turkey next summer.
Q: Hi Doug, I know you have done this in past seasons, but if any season cries out for a road trip it is this one. What are your recommendations? I am thinking either a quick trip to NYC to take in games for the Knicks, Nets and Boston or Philly (via train) or perhaps something into the heart of Texas to see the Mavs but I am not sure how drivable the other close teams are (OKC, San Antonio etc.) Play travel agent and give your thoughts please. Thanks.
David W, Oakville
A: You can do Oklahoma City-Dallas pretty easily (maybe 3-3 1-2 hours) and while it’s not the most scenic of trips, given the relative merits of the teams, that’d be one to consider. Oklahoma’s an under-rated city for downtown stools and restaurants, too.
Of course, if you’ve got lots and lots and lots of time, staying in San Francisco, taking in games in Oakland and Sacramento (about 90 minutes away) and then taking one of the best drives around -- down Highway 101 along the coast to Los Angeles, probably take you a full day but it’s gorgeous – would be a pretty good trip, in my opinion.
It’s long but if I had a week, that’s the one I might take, three nights in San Fran, a day or two drive, two or three days in L.A.
The easiest? Park yourself in New York by Penn Station and do Knicks, Nets, Celtics, Sixers and maybe even the Wizards by rail.
Q: Hi Doug. As I was watching highlights of NBA games from many years ago, it is interesting that players never seemed to wear any padding or protection. Given that many players are now wearing various forms of leg, rib and shoulder pads, is that a function of rule changes allowing for the padding or just changes in attitude? Also, I assume there are some restrictions on the equipment that NBA players can wear?
Martin J, Toronto
A: I think it’s mostly a function of (a) the size of the players and the relative violence of the collisions they have every game and (b) the lightweight nature of the padding, which is not restrictive at all and comes after huge breakthroughs in manufacturing.
And the league needs to approve all “undergarments” so they don’t interfere with standard uniform looks.
Q: Lefty Frizzel...Six days on the road and I'm gonna make it home tonight vs. Doug, 12 days on the road with the HOTC.
Least likely to be a C and W song?
What size carry bag? Any disposable clothing? Wash in the sink, sox?
Bob E, Kanata
A: I’ve got to tell you, you sent me scurrying to Youtube with the Lefty Frizzel one, and that’s out of the ordinary because I generally get your esoteric mentions and love ‘em.
But now that I have found him, how can I not think about adapting Cigarette and Coffee Blues as a quasi-anthem?
Now, as for the other part, it’s all about carryon so the miserable airlines can’t lose a bag and I can get a four-game road trip into one little roller bag.
And avail myself of hotel laundry services (thanks, boss!) any time I can.
Q: So with 13-14 hours of basketball on Christmas day and all your super familial obligations and potentially getting ready for the Raptors opening day at Cleveland, how much time will our favourite Grunt dedicate to watching on Christmas day? How do you rank the games?
Cluck K, Mississauga
A: Well, considering my Christmas Day is going to include, aside from the regular family duties, likely a practice and a drive/flight to Cleveland, there’s a great chance I won’t see any basketball until the late evening, if at all.
But if I had an entire day on a couch with no obligations, I’d go with the obvious: Heat/Mavs first, Lakers/Bulls second, Thunder/Magic, Celtics/Knicks and Clippers/Warriors.
Q: I keep getting the feeling that Sam got a raw deal. Jay surely didn't work out in his time, and we'll see what the new guy can do to motivate Bargnani and the rest of the misfits. Think the record would've been any different if Mitchell stays as the head coach here?
Jon K, Hamilton
A: Not sure it would have been appreciably different either way, coaches are only as good as their talent. That said, I’ve contended from the very day it happened that they pulled the pin on him too quickly that season.
Q: Doug. Saw Sam Mitchell on NBA Game Time Friday night. Very, very impressed. Didn't hoot and holler, just made good insights, often in an amusing way. Forget the coaching gig, Sam's a TV Star in the making. Don't know if he could do colour on play-by-play. But on a panel, very much YES.
Gary M, Brampton
A: Oh, I’ve always thought Sam was a natural for TV and really like the stuff I’ve seen him do. Not sure what’s in his future plans but that should definitely be a fallback gig for him and I’d presume you’ll see him a fair bit on NBA TV this year.
And how cool would a radio talk show hosted by Sam and Butch Carte be? Bet it blows all of Toronto away. We should make that happen, methinks. I could be the third wheel!
Q: When I read the comments of your blog, I try to figure out the ages of the people who are commenting. It seems like some of them are adults, as they mention their kids. Just wondering, what do you think is the demographic of the people who follow your blog? Also, is the following of the Raptors a younger, middle aged or older type thing? I mean what do you see at a typical game?
Eric M, Toronto
A: I don’t know for sure – and I’d have no way of tracking it, I don’t think – but I believe we tend to skew a wee bit older here, which is perfectly fine with me. After all, I think our friend Grace is the Official Mascot Of The Doug Smith Sports Blog and she's of a certain vintage.
What impresses me most about the Irregulars – almost all of them, that is – is the depth of knowledge they have on so many different things. We do music and books and movies and sitcoms here and each day, I’m floored by how cool some of the comments.
It’s absolutely unique to a sports blog or a basketball blog and it makes us what we are.
At a typical game? I see the game and my computer screen, mostly (although I do sneak a look at The Chicken and the June Taylor Dancers every now and then) but I’d say it’s a “youngish” audience in the arena.
Is it unusual for that first name familiarity to be in place so early (ha) in the season with a new coach, in a new city, dealing with new Grunts? Or does *everyone* know Doug Smith, ESQ.?
Thanks for everything you continue to do for us.
Stephen B, Burlington
A: It wasn’t the first, I don’t think, but I do recall it. It’s not unusual, I’m sure it’ll be the same with other guys and gals as the season goes on but you have to understand I’ve been around a few years and have made some acquaintances in my travels.
Some actually remember me, bless ‘em.
Q: Hey Doug. Can you possibly explain where the Raps currently sit in relation to the CAP? We hear they'll have money to spend next summer, yet in looking at our existing roster, currently devoid of top tier talent, you'd think there would be at least some money available now. Or is Bryan just holding off on spending because of what's available right now?
Thanks again as always!
Jim F, London
A: I can’t do it definitively at the moment until we get the final numbers on Forbes, Carter, Gray and find out the fate of the “cap holds” on Weems and Valanciunas, although I understand in the new CBA they made a slight change and Valanciunas is “off the books” now instead of at the start of the regular season.
Suffice it say, in a very approximate statement, there is some financial wiggle room that will likely be saved until next season. We’ll get some firm numbers in the next few days.
Q: Hi Doug, love the blog. Very simple question I hope, for you. Why the 6 pm start on the 28th for the HOTH home opener?
Trevor M, Toronto
A: Well, I’m letting the cat out of the bag a little, maybe, but they plan some faux tailgate party in the square outside the arena (that’ll be nice and warm) and they also figure it’s still part of the holiday week and want a bit of an earlier start.
Q: Why did James Johnson change his uniform number fro 0 to 2?
Can the Raptors use the trade exemption on the Pietrus trade (if it goes ahead)?
Dave B, Cornwall
A: Basically, it’s part of a deal he had with an old friend to wear the number 2; nothing hugely significant or anything. And, yes, they could have but as you now know, they didn’t.
Q: Greetings Doug. Since this lockout was all about "helping the small market teams" how on earth did a spending minimum of 85% of the cap make it into the new CBA? We know they looked at the puck's agreement. How did they miss the fact that the minimum was the worst part of the entire deal?
Mike D, Cambridge
A: Well, there always was a minimum salary requirement for teams. It was 75 per cent and now it’s gone to 85 per cent and eventually to, I believe, 90. Not sure it’s going to be a huge issue since, unlike the pucks where some teams were far, far, far below spending levels when they blew off a season, every NBA team is already close to the so-called “floor.”
Q: Doug. This is not to diminish the importance of practice or training camp overall, but how greatly do plays within offences and defences differ around the league? How hard is it for a player to learn a playbook, even with fewer practices and shortened camp?
I'd imagine every team has its pick-and-rolls, its screens, breakout plays, etc. But essentially, they're all variations of the same plays throughout the league. And same variation for how to defend them.
I would think the main variations are terminology and when/how to use certain plays and tactics in a game. And I would guess the biggest thing lost without practice are repetitions and familiarity with teammates.
Thanks for all you do! All the best,
Jay M, London
A: Oh, they don’t differ an awful lot – as Dwane said the other day “basketball’s basketball” – but it is, as you say, terminology and system that are different and it takes some time to get used to being where you’re supposed to be all the time. And that is where a lack of practice time is going to hurt this team, which is changing system, terminology and has about five new members.
Q: Doug. It looks like it’s going to be the season from heck for Grunt travel. In a perfect world where YOU get to pick the cities and duration of the trip what do you pick for: a preferred 4 game west coast trip, 3 game swing east/central trip and a one game jaunt? Is it based off of ease of travel, preferred hotels, choice of local soda pop or a combo deal?
Steven C, Fredericton
A: My schedule would include all kinds of three-game trips with nights off before every game to cities where I have friends or particularly good locals with solid, familiar staffs.
If I could do, say, Philly (Reading Market, The Palm, downtown Marriott), Chicago (Magnificent Mile Marriott, any one of a hundred gin joints) and Boston (Harpoon, Long Wharf, Mama Mia’s) I’d be in Grunt Heaven.
Now, all things being equaled, I’d never travel to cover games that start at 10 p.m. or later Eastern time and I’d certainly never have back-to-back road games. I’m sure my sisteren and brethren on the beat league-wide would concur.
But it’d all be based on ease of travel, accessibility of good hotels close to arenas and no back-to-backs.
Q: Hi Doug! Figured I'd keep this question in my back pocket until actual basketball was likely to be under way. Putting aside your Herculean, grunt-esque physique, if you could play any position on an NBA starting 5 what would that be?
Ryan Y, Toronto
A: While I’m not the greatest of take-charge blokes you know, I’d have to say point guard would be the best gig, no?
You get to all the shots, take some and boss people around.
Q: Doug.... oh how good it is to be back in bball land. Did you miss us? I couldn't help but notice your omission of Andrea Bargnani as part of the group of core Raptor players. Where do you see his future as a Raptor? And, do you see a future there?
Alex F, Calgary
A: Inadvertent. I see a future here, sure. Guy’s a 20-point a night NBA big man who is a matchup nightmare. No, he doesn’t rebound well (as a few people have mentioned over the years, if memory serves) and he needs work on his help defence but he remains a key cog to the future.
Q: Seasonal greetings, that time of year and at some point I will have time to enjoy it. Anyway, wondering a little about other possible areas that could be developed this season for the Rap's that might not be so easily noticed by the fan base. We hear talk of "culture" and "tradition" around sports teams and I wonder if there is an opportunity to make strides in these areas this season? Can the Rap's bring players in that have, as an example, an exemplary work ethic off court that hopefully creates a standard for the younger players around the team? A real seasoned pro that is able provide a solid and practical example of how to deal with back to back games? Someone who is great at focusing the team on a pregame ritual that helps everyone be mentally ready for the ball toss? I guess the real question is, given the transient nature of this year's team, will there be any reasonable expectation that the above mentioned stuff could be built this year and carried forward?
Thanks as always for what you do,
Doug T, Brantford
A: I think that’s what they’ve tried to do with some of their free agent signings and while they may only be here for a year, that’s enough time to show the younger kids a thing or two.
Dwane has been raving about Jamaal Magloire with respect to practice habits, teaching ability and leadership and I know they expect the same thing from Anthony Carter, who I’m told is a consummate pro who is familiar with Casey from the time they spent together in Minnesota and who can be an extension of a coach in the locker room and on the bench.
Now, in a perfect world, those “culture” changes and leadership things grow over time but a year is probably good enough for this group, which then in turn can pass on some things to the new guys who’ll be here next season.
Q: Hi Doug. Going into the lockout, the owners had stated that one of their goals was to create more competitive balance in the league by making it harder for the big market teams to acquire upper echelon talent via free agency or the sign and trade route. Do you feel this new agreement addresses this issue or should more have been done? Further, in an ideal world, what system do you feel would work best to establish that competitive balance so that any team in the league with proper drafting, trading, free agent signings, and good player development has a fair chance to succeed.
Thank you Doug.
Joe D, Mississauga
A: There is no perfect system, never will be. Players are like any other employee, when they have the chance to choose where they want to work, they will make it. I do think the NBA has made it financially more attractive for free agents to remain with their teams – and put some limits later in this CBA on how much the highest-paying clubs can offer free agents – that it may work a little bit better.
But a blanket system that will insure parity? I don’t think there is one.
Q: So from your blog I get the feeling you are telling us fans to sit back and just be happy these guys are walking out there to play for us. We have no chance to win (and please don't use your tired line of that's why they play the games) so we might as well drink the cool-aid and be happy. Think you covered the Leafs too long during this lock out and it makes me happy that at least I have the Flyers and Pats to cheer for, two clubs who try to win not just put "warm bodies" on a team. Have fun with this season you all cause IMO they should of kept them locked out and waited for a hard cap.
Jody L, Lunenburg
A: These are my Irregulars. Even when they don’t want to be here, they’re here.
Have fun this winter yourself, I bet you’ll be back.
Q: Hi Doug. Have ignored hoops and the raps until a week ago, couldn’t find a way to watch millionaires and billionaires argue about money.
Two quick questions - one is about the trade exception acquired in the bosh sign and trade. I know Colangelo used a portion of it during last season. Has the balance expired? If it has expired why is Colangelo not taking more heat for letting it expire? Surely he could have found a use for it in the lead up to the 2011 draft.
Can you tell us more about the one time amnesty clause available to each team. Will the Raptors be using theirs on Calderon? If a player has their contract wiped out via the amnesty clause can they re sign with the same team? Is there another candidate with the raps other than Jose for amnesty?
Thanks, enjoy the compact season!
Jeff VH, Toronto
A: The amnesty is quite simple: Teams can use it one time to waive a player they had under contract on July 1, 2011 and not have to count that money against either the salary cap or the tax level. They can use it this year until Dec. 16 but it will also be available in each year of the current CBA.
The Raptors will not use it this year, they may next summer and while technically, yes, a player can return to the team that amnesties him but not until the term of his original contract has expired so it’s a virtual certainty that will never happen.
For instance, if you use it on a guy with three years left on his deal, he can’t come back to your team for three years. It won’t happen.
Q: Hi Doug. What does "buntoss" mean? I can't find a definition for it anywhere.
Uncle Laszlo, Toronto
A: Sort of like a chinwag, only different.
Think of a buntoss as a gala celebration of something, a get-together, a bash.
Q: Thanks for making me feel like an old fogey - watched that Get Smart clip (a fav from my early teens as well ) and the thought ran across my mind - " why don't they make programs like this anymore" that and any sentence that starts with " kids these days "- is proof of moving into fogeyism and getting close to the land of the geezer .
Bill W, Dresden
A: I blame the kids for everything from global warming to the proliferation of reality TV dreck so horrible sitcoms is just a natural extension of that, no?
I know there’s no question but I like taking shots at the young ‘uns.
Q: Doug. I'm trying to dig into my memory bank for that year Doc Rivers almost got a really bad Orlando Magic team into the playoffs (thus paving his path to Boston). But, if memory serves correctly, that team was all about hustle. Given the compacted schedule and the very apparent need to step beyond the ideal 8/9 contender rotation, could a Raptor team win as they did a few years ago by playing in waves? Could Casey be the guy to extract that kind of performance out of a team where everybody on the active roster on any given night is going to get minutes and hustle his butt off in attempt to wear down the opposition? Are any other teams in the league capable of overcoming talent deficits by going pedal to the metal for the full 48 most nights (we all know, it's a loooong season, even at 66 and you can't get the max effort from everybody every night)?
Anyway, just a thought.
Gary M, Brampton
A: I believe you’re thinking of 2000 with Doc in Orlando, very young team he got almost to the playoffs in what was considered a great coaching season.
To tell you the truth, I haven’t seen enough of Dwane in action, nor spoken privately to enough players to know that for sure, but there is a “presence” about him that I think the players will respond to.
Q: Hey Doug. Like the blog, interesting and honest. I have been a season's ticket holder now for 7 years shelling out a good amount of cash every year including a return GO ticket to watch the Raps. I have to say listening to Brian on Prime Time Sports the other night really got me thinking that professional sports is the most unique business in the world. Imagine the GM of a major car company going on Top Gear and telling the boys spend your money on this car, it really isn't intended to be good and will be the baseline for future much better cars (potentially). It is fascinating that in sports you are asked to part with the same amount of money annually to buy into a long term philosophy. I guess that is the nature of entertainment. My other point about Brian is that for the first time since he has come to Toronto, I really don't buy what he is selling anymore. So, my question for you is how would you rank him as a GM? Here is the criteria I would like you to consider:
Overall team record in the years of service.
Leadership in and out of the office
Ability to deal with the media
Likelihood of future success.
Mike M, Mississauga
A: Rank him? Like every other GM, actually. Some hits, some misses, tries is best, is willing to admit mistakes and try to correct them as quickly as he can. Hasn’t hit a huge home run but I defy anyone who’s followed this team closely since he got here to tell me they weren’t over-the-moon thrilled with the playoff appearances in the first two years. Lot of revisionist historians out there, methinks.
So, by overall team record: Average to below average.
Leadership: As well respected as anyone, moreso than most.
Media: Deals well with us, is accessible, doesn’t hold grudges, will answer questions but won’t lie.
Future success: Impossible to guess but he has the franchise in a very good place, on the court and on the books, in my opinion.