Good evening, one and all.
Good evening, one and all.
I think maybe we’ve broken the back of this dopey NBA season with the eight road games in a nine-game stretch and a January from hell.
It always was about surviving this month for this team, brutal travel schedule, new coach, no camp, abbreviated pre-season, a few new faces and a brand new system.
How’d they do?
Pretty good, all things considered.
Now, 7-14 isn’t a record to be proud of at all, and there are still many issues to be addressed but as the month comes to an end, I think they’re further along in a lot of key ways than many expected.
They defend better than anyone thought they would – top four in opponent field goal percentage; Bargnani’s better than he’s ever been – coaches vote for all-star reserves in the next couple of weeks, too bad he’s hurt ‘cause that’ll hurt his chances; and they play well on the road – they’ve won five road games already and won six all of last season.
Now, with nine of the next 12 at home, including a seven-game homestand that will try the patience of Super Family because I’ll be under foot for a couple of weeks, it should give Dwane Casey even more time to work with a team that’s very much a work in progress.
There will be more practice time, which he loves, and more days off without flights that should lessen the physical toll on these guys.
No one’s really satisfied with where they are but given all they’ve had to deal with in the first full month of the season, there’s some reason for them to feel kind of good.
Now the question is: Can they keep it up?
Did you see this?
Pretty impressive, isn’t it?
I still like Vince over Weis and there’ve been lots of other impressive Griffin dunks but, man, that was something.
And don’t think NBA players aren’t paying attention; am told the twitterverse went berserk right after that play.
Oh, yeah, we’re back with an IGBT tonight, not to worry.
(Like so many of you were worried, I’m sure)
So I’m sure you all saw Griff’s report from the State Of The Blue Jays buntoss last night. It’s when Paul and Alex and John sit around and answer questions from often fawning fans.
Doesn’t sound like it was a contentious evening at all, despite what has to be considered a bad off-season to date. Face it, when the season ended last fall, there was all kinds of expectations that the team would do something bold to shore up the three or four areas that needed shoring up.
After all, this is a promising young team with perhaps the best hitter in the entire game playing right field and if this wasn’t the winter to take a giant step, when would be?
Well, some other time I guess.
We sit here about three weeks from the start of spring training (THREE WEEK!! Wow, where’d the winter go?) and the list of additions and changes to the team is, frankly, quite underwhelming.
Seems a wasted winter, doesn’t it?
There are all kinds of explanations for why they didn’t get the front-end starter, experienced closer and second baseman they needed; they missed out on Yu for money, lost Papelbon to a better team with a recent track record and there was no way Prince Fielder was coming here.
What I wonder is if this has turned off some of the new fans the team got last season when it was fun to watch, a group of talented youngsters coming into their own.
Fans are, as we all know, quite fickle but the Blue Jays fans who have remained loyal lo all these years of fourth place finishes have to running out of patience, don’t they?
I guess, as Beeston apparently pointed out last night, the proof of pudding is in the eating and we’ll see how things develop once they start playing for real in April but, right now, I fear a lot of the goodwill the team built last season is vanishing.
I’m sure you all saw the quote from Dwane at the end of my story today about the starting lineup and whether he can keep both Bayless and Calderon in a smallish backcourt.
“I don’t know if we’ll go with that lineup again, we’ll have to see. A lot of it has to do with matchups and who we play and we’ve got some tough games coming up this week. We’ll have to look and see what the matchups are.”
Not sure what he’s going to be feeling about Jeff Teague and Joe Johnson tonight here or Rondo and Ray Allen tomorrow in Boston but maybe he’ll decide that, yeah, let’s see if we can make teams adjust to us rather than us adjusting to them.
And that’s not a bad thing. I think I’d rather a coach be proactive rather than reactive and under these circumstances – and we don’t know about Barbosa and won’t until tonight, most likely – being proactive is the way to go.
Speaking fans and their reactions to the teams they follow, how do you think Argos fans are going to react to the new head honcho saying winning might not be the most important thing, as Chris Rudge did in this story with Dan Girard at our place yesterday.
Um, er, ah.
Isn’t winning something the people want more than anything? And aren’t Argo fans kind of deserving of, you know, wins?
I can kind of see what he’s saying, the “total entertainment package” has to be good but at the heart of the matter is wins.
Win and the people will come and forgive a lot of other sins.
I’d rather a new boss come out and say “we’re going to win and get to the Grey Cup in our city and do whatever it takes to accomplish that.”
That, rather than, “We were very proud of a team on the field that had a defence that bent but didn’t break … but I’m not sure people want to see a team at home that has a 9-0 record but the average score is 12-7.
“I think they’d much rather see us .500 at home with an average score of 38-34.”
I wonder if they would.
Well, well, well.
Guy takes a night off (yes, it was quite nice, actually) and the HOTH end a long, hard trip like that?
Anyway, we’re a bit shorter than usual today, mostly ‘cause Sunday was truly a day of rest.
And the lads have today off – something about spending 15 of the last 17 days on the road led Dwane to give ‘em a down day -- so it’s a couple hours of paperwork in the office and a fair bit of couch time for me.
Have at it …
Kudos to Case
Yeah, I was entirely surprised when word came down that both Jose and Jerryd would start. It thinned the point guard ranks considerably but Dwane was able to massage minutes well enough that it didn’t matter.
You have to like a coach who makes a bold move, whether it pays off or not, don’t you?
It got them off to a fine start – and a tie after one quarter is quite fine with this group – and it seemed to spark everyone.
You know me and coaches: Too much blame when things go wrong, too much credit when things go right. But I’m putting this win on Casey, for sure.
Who was that guy?
Checking the boxscore and the number jumped out like no others.
DeMar DeRozan: 11-16 FTs.
Yes, 16 free throws. In one game.
Of course it was a season high – it was also a single-game career high – and, for one night at least, he got it.
Was talking yesterday to someone who cares greatly about this team and they were lamenting his lack of aggression and apparently desire to avoid contact at the rim and somehow DeRozan must have heard it.
I’m not suggesting you’re going to see that every night but if he gets in his head that it’s the way he can be most effective, maybe we’ll see it more often than not.
And another thing …
Lost amid the play of Bayless and DeRozan was the fact Amir Johnson got back in the starting lineup and had his best game in a while.
What was most impressive was the way he showed on high screens, “impacting the ball” as they say. Dare I say it’s the kind of defence we’re used to seeing from Bargnani and it was good to see someone emulate it?
I don’t know whether Dwane will stay with this starting group for a while – it might be tough to do it against the big Hawks or the Celtics this week – but if he does, they’ll need that kind of play more consistently.
Someone catch me up: Did the Campbells win? Or the Wales?
Okay, part of the day was spent watching Heat-Bulls and this was mighty impressive, wasn’t it?
But when I heard everyone going nuts about it and how LeBron jumped over a guy and wasn’t that something special, a creeping “yawn” was felt.
This was more impressive, to me.
Okay, it’s already begun, the zany Super Bowl hype and I’m watching TV sometime Sunday and I hear some voice on TV talk about the last Giants-Pats Super Bowl – the one where the guy caught the ball against his head – and how that was “the biggest upset in Super Bowl history.”
I know it’s a young person’s world but surely to goodness someone writing copy remembers Joe Namath, no?
I’m not the biggest tennis fan in the world, I’ll watch the finals of Grand Slams if there’s nothing better to do but that’s about it, but, man, wasn’t that something yesterday?
Two great players at the top of their game, lots of drama, five sets for the first time against each other, five-plus hours and two individuals simply willing themselves to be great.
It was exceptional, no?
It’s what sports is about, guys pushing themselves to the very limits of their ability, each at the top of their game and the best man winning in the end.
It’s also been amazing to watch the apparent passing of the torch in an individual sport over the past few years.
We went from Sampras to Federer to Nadal for a while and now to Djokovic and it’s been a great, great ride. Love to see that progression in an individual sport.
Sitting around the house once Air Canada got me home on Saturday, spied Antonio Davis on NBA TV and the guy did an admirable job.
Guess the HOTH might lead the NBA in Guys Who Are Good on TV. You’ve got AD, I enjoy seeing Jalen every now and then and Sam does a bang up job when he gets a shot.
Now, if one of the radio or TV stations here wants to hire Butch, we’ll have one more to add to the list.
Well, Air Canada only cost me 45 minutes on the delay flying home so I consider it a winning trip.
And with an afternoon on a stool watching Bulls-Heat and then the HOTH ahead, who am I to complain?
Have fun with this, I’m coasting for the day.
Q: Hi Doug. Apologies in advance for the long preamble. When I was a kid and let's say there was a movie playing I wasn't sure about I had the option of reading the review in any one of the three Toronto dailies or watching the thumbs up/down guys on Sunday night. Out of town reviews (and perspective) was pretty much a blurb on the movie poster. Now in this Internet age I can't remember the last time I saw a movie without first checking Rotten Tomatoes for the opinions of a handful of guys in Boston or New York. (There's a question coming.)
After Bargnani's big game in New York you wrote it was good to play well in front of NY media. That it would be good for his exposure in the league. Shortly thereafter I was on the CBS Sportsline website and there it was, a piece on Bargnani's breakout season. Tonight they've got a short piece on being injured again...linking to your own piece in The Star. Well done to you for the international exposure, and exposure that would have been different pre-internet age. Not that you don't already have steady exposure outside of the GTA (hi Lorie in London, D-Mac in Ottawa and Ciao Paolo in Italy ... And isn't it ridiculous that one of your readers knows the names of some of your other readers...or that there's ongoing banter, in-jokes, acronyms and relationships between you the writer and us the readers.
Aside: when my wife and I go to Raptor games she asks me, in order, what the well dressed coach (Smitch) is doing, where 'chai' (Tel Aviv's own #18 Anthony Parker) is playing and where my reporter (and his pink shirt) is.
So, how are you with this brave new world? I'd like a Regend answer. You've written before about the challenges of writing the different voices for the paper vs. the blog but I'm curious about your thoughts on the big picture changes vs. when you started writing. Has technology made your job more or less stressful or just different stressful? What did you do at a game if you weren't doing an IBGT? Is it easier to file a story to deadline now or not? What do you like more about now? What do you miss from ten or twenty or thirty years ago about this gig? What about that your audience is fundamentally different now, or at least bigger and more international? How has that changed your writing? Or that your readership isn't some faceless, nameless entity but your beloved (?) irregulars.
Please keep up the great work, enjoy reading you every day and hope you can talk a bit to my questions above.
Dmitry L, Toronto
A: The big picture changes have been incredible, actually. There is so much more “engagement” with the readers, in the paper and in the blog that it’s difficult to explain. I guess the easiest way to describe it is that, not too many years ago, you talked “to” the readers, now you talk “with” them.
Technology has actually made the job a bit more difficult; we have more to know and, believe it or not, everything’s quicker but our deadlines are earlier. Makes no sense to me, either.
What I miss mostly is the time to develop stories. Once upon a time, you could take a day or two to do some reporting on things and see what transpired, now the need to “feed the beast” is so great, you’re not afforded the luxury too often.
And that presents the challenge, too. Because of the onslaught of media – websites, highlight shows, youtube, team publications, etc. – it’s hard to find a fresh angle to bring to the readers. It’s not so much finding “news” that the other guys don’t have – I stand on my record on that – but it’s finding good ways to tell stories that people already know.
But, truth be told, I like this way. I like knowing something about the people who are reading my stuff, their interests away for the game, their level of interest in the team. I like bringing other aspects into play, conversations, branching out to bring some oldster pop culture to a young person’s industry. It’s the fun of the job and the reason I keep doing it.
Q: Hey Doug: I was just reading your IGBT for the Denver game, and I got to thinking:
Do you think some of DeMar's problems could be the result of him having to play 'second fiddle' to Andrea at the beginning of the season, adjusting to it; then having Andrea out put the pressure on him to score more; then Andrea comes back and DeMar's the 'second option' again; and then once again, the pressure is on him to score because Bargs is out again? (Whew - just a little bit of a run-on sentence!)
Tim H, Windsor
A: I do think DeMar may be trying to “find his way” so to speak in a new system, at both ends of the floor. And it’s going to be very telling to see how he responds in the final three-quarters of the season. There can be no doubt that Dwane considers Andrea the team’s offensive focal point, it’s going to be up to DeRozan to adapt and thrive.
Q: Doug. To Paolo's point about Andrea and his MPG. Why don't more coaches get away from the two shifts per half for the starters?
Especially a guy like Andrea that exerts a lot of energy when he is playing his best. Why not go to a 4 or 6 shifts per half just to get his wind? I am not saying to go to the extreme of hockey but I believe there are a lot of players that would benefit from a few more shortened shifts than the way it is now and the overall MPG would or could remain the same.
A T, Niagara Falls
A: Right off the bat, they aren’t “shifts” in any way, shape or form. And basketball is a game of rhythm and flow and it takes a bit for some players to get into that rhythm and flow when they get on the court; giving them choppy “shifts” would take away from that. And I don’t agree with the assessment that anyone would benefit from playing shorter stints.
Q: Ya know. Stats are great. Offensive stats are fun & impressive. Sometimes, they seem like everything. I watched the 2-OT game against Utah. At the end, I looked and James Johnson was 1-4 for 2 points. But, while I was watching the game, it seemed like he made many many small plays that made a HUGE difference in the game. Should there be other stats to award such efforts? Or just leave it to coaches and observers to realize that these players make huge contributions?
Ken M, London
A: There probably should be since we live in a time when everyone wants to somehow quantify contributions by raw numbers. Some of us are glad you can’t, though. I’d rather listen to coaches, teammates and people with far superior knowledge than mine to figure out the nuanced contributions of guys who don’t post big numbers.
Q: Hi Doug. There's been a lot of hand wringing done over DeMar DeRozan's sub par play lately, so much so that I wonder if the fact that Ed Davis doesn't seem to have progressed much in his second year seems to get ignored. This was a fellow who was supposed to go so early in the draft (I know, a crapshoot) that he didn't even practice for the Raptors. Any word on how Raptors brass/coaches are viewing his progress/regress?
Sohail G, Collingwood
A: It’s not ignored at all, actually. It’s written and talked about every day. And the coaches would like him to be better but they realize – as others should – that he’s a young kid who missed all of camp and almost half a season last year and all of camp, summer league and most of the exhibition season this time around and there’s lots of time for him to get better.
The view his “progress” as pretty typical for a young big man.
Q: First off, truer words have never been said: Free Internet & Good Coffee accessible by all Airport Gates!
With Il Mago out is this the time they make DeMar the true feature of this offence to see what he can do? With the HOTH draft pick getting better by the week, shouldn't they start to figure out where the pressing need is: 2 or 3?
Bryan M, Toronto
A: Yes, it is time, just as it was time last time and that didn’t work out too well. The difference? Guys like Bayless are back from injury and Kleiza’s rounding into form, which could take some pressure off DeRozan.
Hi Doug. This ones basketball. Are any other teams as dependent on one guy as the Raptors seem to be on Bargnani?
Jim R, Toronto
A: I would think lots of middling to bad teams couldn’t survive without their best player. Can you imagine watching Phoenix without Nash? Or even Cleveland without Irving. Take Howard off Orlando and they might be okay but on the bad side of the ledger. It’s the good teams, with depth of talent, that can survive.
Q: What are the odds the raptors try to take advantage of the NBA's tight-fistedness when it comes to the Hornets and pry the un-resigned Gordon away for a basket of underperforming young talent (DeRozan, Davis)?
D B H, Toronto
A: Doubt it. They may take a run at him in the summer, don’t see the Hornets doing anything this year. Oh, and if you worried about tight-fistedness of the NBA, why would they even consider moving Gordon for guys with longer, more expensive contracts? Seems a flaw in the suggestion.
Huge bonus day for you.
Have fun with this; hope you enjoyed the regular stuff, too. No such luck tomorrow, though. It’ll be simply mail and if you’ve got any last queries, now’s the time. I see a quiet evening after a long flight.
Q: Hey Doug. Non-basketball deep thought here or more like idle curiosity. I heard on the radio Sly Stallone was performing at a casino, talking about his life and was perplexed. It seems so pathetic. Your thoughts?
Kim A, Toronto
A: Um, it’s certainly not a “lecture” or presentation I’d care to listen to but I guess there’d be some people with too much money and too much time on their hands who’d like it.
“Celebrities” who pretend to be other people for most of their lives wouldn’t seem to have an awful lot of their own stories that would amuse or educate me.
Good Stallone story.
He used to be a big fan of the Miami Heat – may still be, I’m not sure – when they played in their old downtown cesspool of an arena. One day, we’re in the hallway and a mass of very large men headed our way. Somewhere in the middle was this tiny little bloke. Yep, Stallone. He’s hardly the imposing physical specimen you’d think.
Q: Doug, what are your thoughts on the NHL Fantasy All Star Draft to pick sides for the all star game??
A T, Niagara Falls
A: I actually think it’s a cool idea and wouldn’t mind if the NBA stole it in some fashion.
Q: Hello, Doug. Just wondering, do you have any scientific knowledge to help explain the dreaded sophomore slump?
David M, Ottawa
A: I wish I did, I’d sell it to a lot of teams in a lot of sports and make a lot of money.
But my theory includes the point that by their second year – in any game – players are no longer “new” and opponents know what they like to do and can do and act accordingly. And that puts the onus on the sophomore to improve his or her game.
Q: Hello Doug! So, you want a bit of away from the game stuff? Well this is pretty far away? In fact, up into space in its awayness! Did you read where Newt has promised to set up a space colony on the moon? Of course, the really scary part of his promise is that we'd have to survive two terms with him as Leader In Chief before he did it. But you've got to look for the positive in all things and here it might be. This does provide an opportunity to fulfill Ralph Kramden's desire to send annoying, irritating people (not Alice!) "to the Moon"! So casting your glance around the NBA, which players or coaches or owners would you like to offer up to President Gingrich to launch up to that space station on the dark side of the Moon? Chiefly, in the name of science, of course. But also for the betterment of the NBA. Thank you!
Lorie P, London
A: I don’t want him banished, per se, but wouldn’t it be cool to see how Metta World Peace would interact with beings from another planet? That, of course, is presuming there is life on the moon.
Otherwise? Maybe the guy who did this year’s schedule, the game-ops people who never let fans enjoy a moment of silence and coaches who continue to call timeouts at the end of games that are already decided.
I’m sure there’s more. What have you got?
Q: Doug: I don't care much for the NFL, but one thing bothers me. Why is it called, Super Bowl 46 or 47, and not Super Bowl 2012? How can you remember anything relevant to say, Super Bowl 33? Anyway, just an update on my can of Stella. It went down during the Clippers game. I give it a B-. The minus because it came out of a can. Still, a pretty good brew. Keep up the great blog!
Ken B, Matheson
A: I’m guessing the use of Roman numerals, which, as my man C Kelly pointed the Romans ultimately dumped, was to give the game some sense of self-importance.
Now it’s just confusing and all I remember games by is by who played.
Q: Doug, before you dismiss this question as one from an enamoured (or crazy) fan, I wonder, based on his play this year and his 'potential improvement' on defence, can… or, is Andrea Bargnani better than Chris Bosh.
Consider the obvious stats PPG (similar), rebounds (Bosh certainly wasn't and, really isn't, that great a rebounder) and blocks. Consider the non-tangibles: leadership in the dressing room (Bosh probably has the advantage), attention (double-teams) from opposing teams and scouts (Bosh had the up but I'm sure most game-plan for Andrea now in a similar fashion, and finally endurance (Bosh had more games lost due to injuries).
If, and it's a big IF, Andrea is comparable, isn't the concern (and this sounds crazy, I know), 'Shouldn't we building around Andrea while we have (or had) him playing at this level?
Or is this just crazy talk.
Andrew F, Toronto
A: Better? How about different? And you can’t diminish Bosh’s rebounding abilities, that’s just silly.
And if Raptors fans have learned one thing over the years wouldn’t it be that it’s foolish to “build a team” around one guy? What’s that mean, anyway? You add good players, or players you think will fit with your roster and system, regardless.
Q: Hi Doug. I agree that coaches get too little credit for victories and too much blame for losses. Many of the adjustments they make during games go unnoticed by fans. Which active coaches, in your opinion, are the most effective at influencing NBA games?
Andy F, Aberdeen
P.S. Did you have a good Burns Night haggis supper?
A: As you may understand, I don’t get to see too many games not involving the Raptors, especially this year with the condensed schedule leaving little time for lounging around somewhere watching on TV.
But if I was asked to give you three who make adjustments well they’d be George Karl, Stan Van Gundy and Rick Carlisle.
And if you asked me the one guy who could keep his team on an even, positive keel regardless of the situation, it’d be Doc Rivers.
Surprisingly, haggis didn’t appear on the pressroom menu in Salt Lake and there wasn’t any recitation of great Scottish poetry during timeouts.
Q: I mentioned this in one of your recent IGBT. When Jose first came to the NBA he made good use of the bounce pass. I think it is a great pass into the paint because the ball is on the way up and the bigs just grab it and continue the upward motion to score. Whereas the lob pass must be caught, held, change direction and then try to score. Many times the ball is turned over when it is brought down. I also notice Steve Nash and Rubio still use the bounce pass quite often. What happened to Jose's bounce? Was it coached out or does it have more to do with the bigs that are receiving the pass?
Dave B, Cornwall
A: It’s got as much, if not more, to do with the defence and what’s available. I don’t think he’s forgotten how to throw it, or been told not to and he’s not worried about the guy catching it. It’s just part of the way the game goes.
Q: Hi Doug. As far as the Raptors getting off to a slow start in games this season, if I was Dwayne...:) I would be starting Barbosa and letting DeRozan ease his way in after watching the flow from the bench. Any reason they haven't tried this?. Keep up the great work.
Paul H, Toronto
A: Yeah, one, DeRozan’s not as bad as you’d suggest; Barbosa’s far more effective coming off the bench and changing tempo and there’s no way they want, right now, to give up on a kid (DeRozan) who is a huge part of their future. They need to let him grow and learn.
Q: Doug, when I see some of the defensive games James Johnson has strung together this year I can't help thinking he's becoming one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA. His blocks per game and BP48 are unreal for a wing player, especially when you consider that many of them are on the ball blocks and that he's also strong enough that wings can't post him up; he's not just a Jamario Moon type pogo-ing around outside the key. What stands between JJ and "elite defender" or even (dare we dream) DPOY status?
Mike D, Toronto
A: Consistency. Being able to do it for more than a few games in a row before trying to do too much and flying around the court a bit out of control and breaking defensive gameplans.
Q: I sent this in as a comment the morning after the Utah game and you didn't answer the question (you were probably so sleep-deprived that you could barely post the comments, far less reply to them), so I thought I'd try again in the mailbag, cause I'm quite interested in hearing your answer: with Andrea LITERALLY pulling his hair out on the bench, EVERYONE came over to try and console him. I distinctly got the feeling that the team wanted to win this one for him. Did anyone mention that in the post-game interviews? And even if they didn't, do you get the feeling that thanks to Andrea's newfound dedication, his teammates have bonded more to him than in previous years?
Lee Z, Ottawa
A: I think the other players see how hard he works, how much he’s improved, they realize what he means to the team’s success and they all felt horrible for him. Closer? Maybe a little because of the way he’s been performing and leading by example.
Q: Hi Doug, thanks for the Blog! My question is about the different kinds of offences that teams run in the NBA. I hear people talking about Flex Offences, and UCLA Cuts and even the Triangle they used to run in LA. Obviously the basic stuff like pick and roll is simple enough, but could you elaborate a bit on the other types of offences that teams in the NBA use, and maybe any types of offence they don't use, or used to use.
Peter R, Regina
A: They really are quite simple and it’s more vernacular than anything and, frankly, I try to avoid it. UCLA, or a zipper cut, is a player come up the middle of the lane from the baseline; the “Princeton offence” is a bunch of weaving along the three-point line; “floppy” is a series of baseline screens for the most part.
I try to just enjoy the flow and the movement without worrying about the names.
Q: Andrea on the bench was broken, angry,_sad, frustrated and near to cry. He put his effort, his heart (and leg) to win the game. As Raptor fan I did not like it and it could be avoided, really.
A player CANNOT play 82 (or 66) games with playoffs intensity that is necessary for the Raptors to win games. Andrea CANNOT play at that pace on offense and defense 40MPG on consecutive days games. A pro team cannot use 40MPG on consecutive days an athlete returning from a calf's injury.
There is no good or bad luck with the calf, when already injured. In your opinion what's is the first muscle that provides the first symptoms of fatigue and tiredness (cramps), to basketball and football players? In the sports everyone knows that if you returning from a calf injury the first thing to avoid is the fatigue and overexposure to risk it.
Any player wants always to stay in the field, but the coach must define a correct use (limited minutes) of the player with the medical staff.
Popovich said that this year's schedule is crazy and that to avoid injury to Duncan, he will not play back to back to back making him missing some games (maybe will be limited to drastically reduce the duration in minutes). Andrea, returning from the calf strain, played 40 minutes to win the game.
The day after, after a trip, Andrea, returning from the calf strain, plays 40 minutes to win the game AGAIN. IT WAS TOO RISKY. There will be a doctor that said to Casey the level of risk 3 minutes before the 4th quarter's end Andrea was gassed, tired and his face was PURPLE (I just wrote it in your blog 3 times and I was worried for Andrea).
The theory we win the game and pray to the basketball's god hoping it will not spoil the best player on the team does not exist even among amateurs.
Doug, injuries always can happen BUT_NOT in this not professional way.
Paolo P, Roma
A: I understand your point fully. I also think injuries happen at any time to any player and it’s part of the breaks of the game. I don’t think he was over-used at all; I think he caught a bad break. And, yes, some players can handle 40 minutes a night, some can’t. Andrea, for instance, is averaging less than one minute more per game than he did last season.
I wouldn’t have taken him out; not sure many coaches would have taken him out and Popovich is resting Tim Duncan, who has an awful lot more miles on his body than anybody on the Toronto roster.
Okay, this is somewhat of a bonus, there’s some mail coming later but there were a few snippets I thought you might like. It’s a bit shorter than usual but it’s late so …
Am headed back to Casa Doug tonight so not sure when I get to comments or whatever but have fun with this and the mail later on.
I’m tired and glad to be flying back.
Crisis of confidence?
It was interesting to hear Dwane elude to the team’s belief in itself, or lack thereof, when he was dissecting the result.
(It’s in this story if you haven’t seen it yet).
And that’s kind of what I’ve been seeing, especially from DeMar, in games that Andrea has missed.
It’s troubling but it’s not insurmountable and all it’s going to take is a strength of will from a kid who looks confused and tentative for the first time in his career.
Everything’s come easy, or relatively easy to him so far; he’s been the best player on probably every team he’s been on and went through his first two NBA seasons having a modicum of success, even if it was on a so-so team.
But now it’s not easy, he has to become a basketball player with great athletic skills rather than a brilliant athlete who plays basketball.
We’ve seen him do it before, I’m sure we’ll see him do it again but now it’s time to see what he’s got deep down.
Could be a fascinating study into a young athlete.
Asked, and answered
Yes, the Raptors were only down nine points with less than seven minutes remaining when Dwane took out Jerryd and Barbosa and Kleiza and replaced them with Calderon, DeRozan and James Johnson.
No, no Bayless.
“It’s the same song. I thought they were spent. They expended so much energy getting us back in, they had to come out. Bayless was bending over, grabbing his shorts. They did their job of coming in and getting us back in the game.”
Would I have gone back to Bayless for the final three minutes after a four-minute rest? Probably not in the whole regression to the mean thing; I am glad Barbosa and Kleiza got back in the game.
A comic confrontation
Sam used to tell us the funniest thing in the world was a basketball fight because no one really wants to fight.
And I absolutely giggled when Al Harrington pushed his teammate Rudy Fernandez while allegedly trying to get at Linas Kleiza with about 10 seconds left in the game.
Seriously. It was hilarious.
And afterwards, Al was talking tough.
“I’m not happy. We had a great win, it’s the NBA. Guys think its funny because you know you can do all that, like the referees’ out there saves him, but I don’t play games like that. So it is what it is.”
And a little bit of other stuff …
The Orlando Magic cough up a 27-point lead at home and lose to Boston on a Thursday and then go into New Orleans against a very average Hornets team and get drilled by 26 while only scoring 67 points.
Oh yeah, that’s a team in disarray and if you think it’s going to get better before they deal Dwight Howard, I think you’re mistaken.
If I’m general manager Otis Smith, I’m making a round of calls to other GMs this morning because it might be time to make a bold move.
Here’s one for you.
(The Winter X Games are in Aspen, the Snow Show is on at the Denver Convention Centre, this is snowboard/ski/what have you capital of the world; it was Shaggy-haired Ragamuffin Central around my hotel).
Anyway, kid’s got a white band across his right forearm that says, simply, Sarah.
You know I had to ask and, yes, it was a continuing tribute to Sarah Burke, the apparently well-loved Canadian skier who so tragically died of injuries suffered in a training crash.
Chatted with the young fella, he said he knew Sarah quite well and was crushed by her loss. As so many others are.
Well done, Canadian women footballers.
Of course, it wasn’t anywhere I could see it while having one after the game but I’m told Christine Sinclair was all that she needed to be.
Two goals, big plays, dominance, and a win.
The one thing I like about Sinclair and this team, and have since I started periodically writing about this team a few years ago before Beijing, is that they really don’t give a crap. They play hard and physical and don’t worry about the repercussions.
Good on them for coming through when they had to and in grand fashion. Hope I get to see them in London.
We’re talking about those Memphis Grizzlies throwback jerseys and I’m told that the night we’re there in mid-March they’re going to trot them out again.
And then a week or so later it’s the debut of the Raptors camouflage things and, I tell ya, I truly long for a time when teams had two jerseys and that was it.
It probably depends on your definition of “significant” but the first medical indication of the seriousness of Andrea Bargnani’s calf injury has to be seen as at least a little good news for the Raptors.
According to a statement issued by the team in Denver on Friday morning, tests done Thursday “revealed no significant damage to the calf.”
That said, it’s unclear when Bargnani might be able to play again; he is “expected to be sidelined for an indefinite period of time” according to the release.
Bargnani was hurt in the first of two overtime periods in a game at Utah on Wednesday night. He missed six games earlier this season with a strain of the same calf muscle.
It’s unclear who’ll start in his place – Ed Davis got the call the last time he was hurt – and coach Dwane Casey should address the issue later Friday afternoon when the team completes its game-day shootaround at the Pepsi Center before Friday’s game against the Denver Nuggets.
Well, we’ve got a fair amount of basketball in the paper, there’s no news on Andrea until later today (shootaround won’t be over until after 2 p.m. east) so …
This is one of those days, or will be one of those nights, I should say, when even casual fans of a team that gets scant attention most of the time will wonder what’s going on.
It’s one of the win or lay in ruins games for a national team, this time it’s the women’s soccer team that faces Mexico tonight in an Olympic qualification soccer match that is of paramount importance.
Win and they’re in the London Games and some of the stench of the last World Cup will be gone; lose, at home, in such a significant game, and an era thought to hold such promise will go by without as much of a whimper.
Sure. But that’s what sports are about, right? Putting yourself in a position to do something you must do and see how it all turns out.
Probably not but what can you do.
I know a little about this team – did a fair amount of stuff at the Beijing Games, followed them pretty closely through that disappointing World Cup and have known one of the poobahs since his days of being exasperated by Stumpy at basketball games – so there is more than a passing interest.
Anyway, if they don’t win – and I have no idea if they will – there is a chance this group of athletes will be known within their sport as some of the great under-achievers of this or any other era.
They were probably done in by a horrible choice of coaches before the World Cup, the autocratic, loner style of Italian Carolina Morace obviously didn’t work and drove a rift between the governing body and the staff but it’s now up to the athletes to make that right.
Making the Olympics isn’t close to making waves in the something as significant as the World Cup but not making the Games would be disastrous.
I don’t imagine there’s anyone brimming with confidence that the men’s program will do anything to enhance our reputation as a soccer playing nation so it’s up to the women.
Kinda like another sport I follow closely.
I do not know fashion.
But I do know this:
The Memphis Grizzlies should take those gold-top-green-shorts-ABA-throwback jerseys they wore last night in LA and throw them in the Mississippi.
Ugly. With a capital UGLY.
Oh, and as I’m watching the game, I hear Dick Stockton and Steve Kerr and Reggie Miller talking about the Memphis Tams (the old ABA team) and how it got its name and, of course, they drag out some cockamamie story about hats.
I don’t know who’s doing TNT research but if I know that’s wrong, someone there who’s dealing with national broadcasters should know.
The name Tams comes, simply, from geography.
It’s for Tennessee Arkansas and Mississippi and that ends today’s ABA lesson.
I’ve got time.
So, best Denver story?
We’re all out one night a few seasons ago standing around telling stories and chatting with the saloon staff ‘cause that’s what we do.
We decide that the comely lass serving us should go to the game and arrange to have a couple of tickets left for her.
Conversation goes on, we find out she’s from Wisconsin, quite near where one of the fellows in our travelling party is from.
Guys says to her, in words to this effect, after we’ve arranged for tickets and been nice and had fun:
“Hey, I’m from near there. Cool, eh?
“Yeah, guess so.”
And she walks away, entirely bored and unimpressed.
Oh, Raptors news?
Sorry I didn’t get to this yesterday but had kind of forgotten in all the Andrea stuff.
Wednesday was the deadline for offering early contract extensions for players taken in the 2008 draft. There’s some stuff in Nothing But Net about it but the connection to Toronto is that the HOTH had no interest, really, in doing anything with their only graduate of that class, Jerryd Bayless.
Makes entire sense and I’m glad Bryan resisted any urge to tie up even a few million dollars of his financial flexibility with a longer-term deal.
That’s not say Jerryd isn’t a good and serviceable member of this team or that he won’t get consideration to come back but you’re going to be able to get him for the same money in the summer as you would have this week and it makes entire sense to sit back and wait to see what unfolds.
You know my feelings on the TSA and airport hassles and the institutionalized security paranoia (that’s a C Sheridan term I’ve used often) right?
Well, they’ve gone even further.
Seems that now, in at least two US airports I’ve been at this season, they not only screen you going to the gate, they choose random flights and show up right the gate to check – again – your ID before boarding.
Seems to be overkill, no?
Right, one more Raptors thing.
Asked Dwane the other night about possibly fouling on that final possession at the end of the first overtime when the Raps defended nearly perfectly, only to see Paul (not Ronny) Millsap hit a miracle three to tie.
“We had a call when it got down to five or six (seconds left) we were going to wrap him up and go for the foul. Amir was hesitant.”
So there you go; they would have taken the chance to foul in the dying seconds, hoping whoever had the ball didn’t get a shot attempt up and go to the line to shoot three free throws.
What’s in a name?
Well, a fair amount if you’re FIBA, it seems.
News came down yesterday that the world basketball championships are no longer the World Basketball Championships.
Starting in 2014 in Spain (Boss? I’m going, right? Will be a great story I’ll do well, promise) the tournament will be known as the Basketball World Cup.
Guess if it’s good enough for soccer, it’s good enough for basketball.
Dear Boss: I am too old for this.
Signed: Stressed grunt.
A tough, tough break
I don’t know how all of you feel about Andrea Bargnani, either in the past or in the present, but anyone who didn’t feel bad for the kid seeing him hobble off the court and sit on the bench looking dour, sour and dejected doesn’t have an ounce of compassion in them.
He’s been the best thing about the Raptors this season, we’re seeing him blossom into the all-around player some thought he should have been before now and for him to suffer a second calf injury inside a month just sucks.
No idea how long he’ll be out – he’ll have an MRI today, he said was a lot worse than the last one as you can read somewhere in here – but it’s just a shame he had to get hurt again.
Now, muscle pulls and strains and tears happen all the time; they happen in the course of seasons no matter how often the games are coming and I’m not buying this “they rode him too hard” stuff I’m hearing.
The first time? He’d played about 28 minutes the night before.
This time? He’d had a long run in Phoenix and a good run in Salt Lake but it wasn’t an injury entirely attributable to fatigue or wear and tear. It’s a muscle, muscles get hurt all the time; it’s just a bad break at a bad time for a guy who felt terrible about it.
Message delivered … quickly
Makes entire sense and it’s nice to see him follow through on it.
Like he did – quickly – last night.
With Jose on the bench with a couple of quick fouls, Jerryd was about all he had at point guard for much of the first half against Devin Harris and Earl Watson.
But when Bayless loafed back after a turnover, about a minute after he’d entered the game, Casey got the hook out and went to Gary Forbes. The coach wandered down to the end of the bench where Bayless was sitting, said something like “run back!” and marched back to his spot.
About 90 seconds later, he called for Bayless to go back in the game and gave him a reassuring pat when he was headed to the table.
That’s a message delivered but at no significant cost to the team and, in my book, is outstanding coaching. Some guys would have either let Bayless slide for his transgression and left him in the game; some others might have hooked him and left in him buried on the bench while a game got out of hand just to prove a point.
Casey handled it perfectly.
An idea, perhaps?
Okay, it’s been firmly established that the Raptors are having difficulty getting off to good starts of late; they give up too many points and look passive.
Okay, it’s been established that their zone defence seems to be about where coach Dwane Casey wants it; they are talkative, animated and cohesive.
Now, I’m no rocket scientist, or even a good basketball mind, but do you think that maybe they might think about starting a game playing zone and see how that works?
You’re welcome, Dwane.
(I keed, I keed; I bet he’s actually thought of that)
Teams put out printed quote sheets after games and the good folks in Salt Lake did their job quite well after that long game.
Trouble was, the quotes uttered by the Raptors coach were attributed Dwane Johnson, giving whole new meaning to Pound The Rock.
Oh, you knew this was coming, right? Given all the travel and where we’re headed and all that stuff …
I know not many of you are – and few probably even know – but this was pretty cool.
We’re in the airport about 9 a.m. eastern time and a news release arrives that Jeremaine Copeland had retired from the Argos.
We’re still in the airport about 10 a.m. eastern time and a news release arrives that Jeremaine Copeland had been hired as receivers coach with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
That’s either the quickest job interview/hiring process ever or just typical CFL follies.
Kinda cool in a “who cares, it’s only the CFL” kind of way.
Okay, when I’m elected Supreme Being Of The World (you’re all voting for me, right?) there will be a few edicts:
All airports shall offer free wireless internet because we’re held there hostage far too often.
Oh, and all airports shall have Starbucks outlets on the other side of security.
One more on the game, if you don’t mind (I couldn’t stay up for Federer-Nadel, there wasn’t any baseball news and I haven’t studied up on my Mock NHL All-Star Draft yet).
Heard something in Salt Lake I hadn’t heard in the 16 or so years I’ve been coming here -- no, it wasn’t: “The bar is always open, sir!
It was boos.
I think I’ve mentioned this before but say what you will about Utah Jazz fans, when things go back in a game, as they often do, they tend to try to cheer the home team back into it rather than boo them out of it.
Not so much last night.
When Devin Harris bricked those last two OT free throws – and they really weren’t close – there was more than a smattering of boos raining down on him.
Guess it’s understandable given the time and score but I’ve seen the Jazz play awfully at times over the years and never once heard a single boo.
Not sure what that means but it’s late and I needed something and I thought you might be interested.
Okay, one more shot at the mail.
Here. Please. Good stuff wanted. Deepest thoughts. Away-from-the-game stuff welcome.
Doug Smith has been a sportswriter for more than 30 years, a journey that's included seven Olympic Games, numerous and varied championships and more dreary regular season games than he'd care to remember. Here, he'll talk about them all, as well as current events and pop culture. (Just don’t ask him about music nowadays — it's not his cup of tea).