The usual start of the weekend mail
Lots and lots and lots of basketball in here. Wonder why?
If you want more, or have other stuff you want to talk about, last chance to click here and do it.
Q: Hi Doug: Word around town is that as part of the CBA, David Stern is stepping down and one, Doug Smith is the new commissioner of the NBA. Besides increasing your pay, rewriting the contract so you have a whoppingly large Defined Benefit Plan Pension for life and oil changes for life for the Focus, what are the first 5 things you'd do in your new position? You can make it more than 5 if need be, Mr. Commissioner
Richard B, Mississauga
A: Oooh! Power! Love it.
Okay, here we go
Shorten the season
By decree we go from 82 games to 70. Done. Oh, and we don’t start training camp until the first of November. Season’s way too long.
Cut the pre-season
Four games, tops. And one of the two at home is free, the other has tickets maxed out at $25; season ticket holders don’t have to pay for the one game, either.
Two games on Christmas
Look, you want it to be some kind of big day, that’s fine. One game at 1 p.m., one game at 8 p.m., that’s it. You give earlier diners a game and late diners a game and a whole bunch of other people get the day off.
Change the contracts
No contract can be fully guaranteed for longer than three years; you can sign a five-year deal if you want but three’s the top on guarantees.
I put four teams in NBA Europe. London, Madrid, Rome, Paris. Each NBA North America team makes one 10-day road trip there each year; the European teams play amongst themselves for the rest of their season.
This is done not to “grow the game” or anything like that, this is done solely so North American beat grunts can get one extended European trip to four great cities each season.
Can’t forget one’s roots, can one?
Q: I don't know if you caught Chris Paul's press conference when he was introduced by the Clippers. He started off by thanking the fans and the city of New Orleans for everything and vowed to continue to be a part of the community and talked about how much it meant to him.
Is it safe to say that had LeBron spoke of Cleveland in the same regard upon announcing his decision, he wouldn't be so viciously hated right now
Allan I, Markham
A: I think that’s probably a logical assumption but there would still have been a lot of venom; far more, I think, regardless of what he said or how he said it.
The connection between Paul and New Orleans – a city still in need – was strong, I am not at all surprised that he took the road he did by thanking them. Classy move, actually.
Q: Hi Doug! It looks to me like this organization has finally found their man in Dwayne Casey. The Raps were one of the worst teams defensively once again last season. My question is: Can the Raptors be a better team defensively in this league with Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani in their starting lineup?
Sylvio M, Ottawa
Look at it this way: Can they be worse?
Q: Gotta any good Christmas songs today?
Doug S, Mississauga.
A: Glad you asked.
Q: Hey Doug. Continuing with the tank-spiracy theory, one of your fellow bloggers (Charley Rosen in his blog " the worst free agent signings so far) named Gray and Maglore as 2 of the 8 worst signings so far this Free Agency. Is there something in there that BC sees that those of us seeking wins or hope are missing?
Rob N, London
A: To each their own, I guess, and I guess it would depend on understanding the context of the signings for someone from afar to opine on them.
If you’re trying to win quickly, a 33-year-old centre and another big man aren’t the greatest of signings. If you were woefully thin and relatively soft in the frontcourt and wanted to a couple of bangers in on one-year deals that would still allow you to add significant pieces a year from now while waiting for a promising first-round draft pick, the signings make absolute sense.
What Bryan sees is what he’s been telling everyone since May: He needed to get some size, some experience and still not mess with the financial flexibility he has while waiting for Valanciunas. And in that regard, Magloire and Gray are exceptional pieces.
I imagine I’ll say this a zillion or so times: This season is not about this season.
Q: Hi Doug. Thanks for all the hard work. Having never played basketball but grew up watching one or two games, I became a fan in university when my roommates forced me to watch with them. To keep up with them I had to quickly learn as much as I could and that's when I stumbled onto your blog. Most of my basketball knowledge has come from you. Thank you.
First question: Have you considered writing a autobiography or historical account of Raptors history? I would buy both as would many of your loyal followers.
Second question: Looking at the draft next year and the young core we have, which positions do you see the draft/free agency will need to fill? My first choice would be PG because Calderon is getting up there and Bayless is unproven, and we need a solid stud at SF and James is also unproven. What do you think?
C L, Peterborough
A: There may be a book in the future but not quite at the moment, I don’t think. Need a hook to sell it and there isn’t one, unless you call it A Tale Of Mediocrity and those don’t usually fly off the shelves.
Draft, schmaft. Seriously, that is not something I’ll even start thinking about until May or June and we see where things are. It’s a longstanding tradition of mine and it’s not changing now. Sorry.
Q: Hey Doug, with Nene resigning with the Nuggets, it got me to thinking that the Raps might have the weakest roster talent-wise of any team in the NBA this year. Looking at all the other teams that finished near Toronto in the standings, many of them seem to look better this year, even if only a little bit. Even the Cavs, with the addition of Irving and Tristan Thompson, look like they should overtake the Raptors. My question is, do you think, on paper right now, that the Raps should finish last in the NBA?
Donte M, Mississauga
A: They could. They could not. Guess that’s why they’ll play 66 games and, really, who gives a rat’s bum what things look like “on paper” before the pre-season even starts? I don’t. You shouldn’t.
Q: Hey Doug. In the coverage of the Raptor's acquisition of the veterans lots and lots about how they are there to provide leadership, mentor the young ones etc. Is this really taken into account in deciding to take someone or just PR when you a sign a guy whose down to his last few years?
K J, Toronto
A: There are so many relatively-elderly out-of-work NBA guys that, yes, a good “fit” or the ability to get along with help younger teammates is a huge consideration. The last thing you want is some mopey mid-30s guy sitting on the end of bench bitter that he can’t play and poisoning the atmosphere.
The fact Jamaal’s a good guy, that Carter has some history with Dwane Casey and that Rasual Butler has much-needed skill (three-point shooting) was a significant factor in the decision to offer them contracts.
Q: Hello Doug. How do rate Bryan's job filling out the roster this pre-season? And how do rate the roster itself, this year compared with last year? Thank you, sir!
David M, Ottawa
A: I think given the parameters of what he wanted to do – get some experienced people around who were good guys and would work on short contacts without jeopardizing future flexibility, he did as well as he could.
Now, is better than last year? Well, all I’ll say is it’s older and more experienced and I thought last year’s group was too young. Does it translate into wins? Who knows? I think, comparatively, this is another step on a journey that began at the start of last year so not sure you can say it's better or worse.
Q: Hey Doug: Knowing how much you like 'predictions,' I have a question for you. If you'd like to predict, as we now sit, what are the odds that the roster that ends the year will be the same roster that starts the year? And, to my actual question, what are the sorts of things Bryan would look at when determining if he should make moves or not?
Thanks again for all you do - I know I am not the only one who looks forward to reading your blog on a daily basis!
Tim H, Windsor
A: I’d say there’s a better than average chance that the team that starts the season ends the season. This is all about maintaining that much-talked-about “flexibility” for the next off-season, to be able to see after a full year just what the priorities are.
And while I know Bryan will be itching to make moves almost all season – it’s in his DNA, I swear – the only thing that will allow him to do anything is if it’s to take back a very short-term contract. I don’t think they have the pieces to offer to get the kind of true stud wing this team lacks; I think he stands pat unless he’s absolutely blown away by some offer and that seldom happens.
Q: Hi Doug, where was David Stern (and the league) when we gave the Nets Vince Carter for some spare parts and the honour of paying Alonzo Mourning $38mm to go play for the Heat? Too bad we didn't have the NBA as our owners at the time! (Also, how happy do you think Chauncey Billups is with this trade??)
Bill L, Toronto
A: Sadly, the league didn’t own anybody involved in that transaction. That’s what made New Orleans work, it’s not like David sticks his nose into every transaction.
And I would imagine Chauncey was far more upset with being amnesty’d in New York than he was being picked up by the Clips, who are now a somewhat sexy story. Bet he has a fun year; hope so, too, he’s a good guy who has been a good soldier his entire career.
Q: Hey Doug, love the blog, keep it up! Had a question:
Do you think hiring so many vets at once, and giving them all permission to speak to/advise/direct the team might cause a conflict (ie. too many cooks in the kitchen), or do you think vets of a certain age generally agree on the way things should be run on a team?
Or do you think the vets will stick mostly to advising the players that play their individual positions (Carter advising the point guards, Magloire advising the bigs, and Butler advising the wings?)
And my last question is, will they be televising the Raptors' preseason games this year, or will I have to wait till the regular season to watch the HOTH?
Thanks in advance!
Ravi C, Brampton
A: I think the message from both Magloire and Carter – and, really, that’s all they’re talking about – will be consistent so it’s not really an issue. Plus, it’s more about leadership on the court, working hard, being in the right place, doing the little things to be successful that’s more important than any locker room chatter, which tends to be a big over-rated, in my opinion. But for “technical” issues like how to box out or how to steer an opponent a specific way, those lessons are rather position-specific once scrimmages or drills unfold.
Pre-season games? Sunday's home game is on Sportsnet; the one in Boston won't be on TV.
Q: A relatively simple question: Am I the only one who is tired of trade speculation and roster shuffling and just want to see these athletes do what they do best?
When the players were locked out what I missed was the athleticism and emotion. I did not miss the constant rumors and trade demands set forth by the leagues best players. It's time to play ball.
Thank you and keep up the great work.
Joe W, Ajax
A: Only one? Heck no. You’re not the only one in this conversation to be a bit tired of it, am sure you’re not alone among the great unwashed. It has been tiresome, hasn't it?