The end of the weekend, and the end of the mail
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.
Q: Doug. Waaaay early in the season. And injuries complicate things. Plus, the numbers don't shout Evan Turner-like improvement. But will Andrea Bargnani be in that Most Improved conversation? Or do the voters just ask who got the biggest PPG jump and mail their vote in?
Gary M, Brampton
A: As someone who’s voted on that award in the past, I take a wee bit of exception to the “mail their vote in” line and, yes, it’s waaaaaaaay too early.
Q: Although sad, I was quite moved by watching Dre cry and pulling on his hair on the bench. He's also showed more passion and enthusiasm this year than ever before. What do you think it is about Dwayne Casey that makes this possible for Andrea? My thoughts are that Sam was too much tough love and Jay was way too lenient. Thanks.
Martin V, Toronto
A: I’m sure there’s a difference in the relationship between Casey and Bargnani than between Bargnani and either Sam or Jay. It is perhaps the level of “accountability” and Dwane’s personality. But it also could be in part that Bargnani is maturing as a player and a man.
Complex issues for which there are no clearcut answers.
Q: Hey Doug. When are you going to give us an update on how Valanciunas is doing in Europe this year? I haven't heard much, and we all want to know how our all-star starting centre is doing! (I keed). I encourage the tall foreheads to think about letting you fly over there for a quick trip.
Secondly, what is your evaluation of the Raptors season so far? I'd say they're right where they want to be. Casey has effectively instilled a new culture, and while they clearly need to add skilled players over the next few years (hello! (TM, Jack Armstrong), 2012 draft!), they can feel about winning some hard-fought games. When a casual fan (my wife) notices that the Raptors are playing better defense, you know they're doing something right.
Graham V, Vancouver
A: I encourage the Tall Foreheads, as well. And some of the Henchmen were just in Lithuania, I’ll check with them next week on where the kid is.
Season so far? If the idea was the change their attention to defence, it’s been a rousing success through 19 games.
Q: Hi Doug. Linas Kleiza had an incredible performance in the Utah game. What do you think the future holds for him in Toronto? Will he even be here after the trade deadline? And if so, might his offensive game force him into the starting lineup, especially with Bargnani down again with injury?
Alex H, North York
A: If they get offers for Linas that shorten the financial obligation, they should listen to them. Don’t imagine they will, though.
As for starting, well, we saw him start the first half Friday but not the second, not sure how that experiment will continue.
Q: Greetings, just finished the piece you wrote dealing with Steve Nash. How many times have we heard you refer to the "wow" moments that can materialize in a game played by the best in the world, yet I have to think that Nash's response regarding his position on asking for a trade would have to rank right up there with the greatest of "wow" moments. I would imagine that in this day and age all of us would have expected a significantly larger degree of mercenary in the response given to that question being asked of most anyone else.
I recognize that the interview was conducted by someone else and not yourself, but would not Steve's answer have been something of a shock at that exact point in time? Can you think of any other athlete that would deign to respond in any kind of a similar manner?
I would think that Mr Nash would not be comfortable being considered the poster boy for the epitome of professional for his perspective on how he fits into a much larger economic machine than most of us have any knowledge of, yet perhaps he should be.
There are two cliches that come to mind here, one "nice guys finish last" and, two "good things happen to good people". I sincerely hope for Mr. Nash that the latter rather than the former proves to be the indicator of how his basketball days play out.
As always, thanks for what you do.
Doug T, Brantford
A: Knowing Steve as I do having covered him since about 1993 or ’94, I’m not at all surprised at his response to Marc’s question, or his loyalty to his teammates, city and organization.
And, I’m sure there are other players who would have been as honest and open, it’s that I haven’t had time to develop the kind of relationship Steve and Marc do; it goes back years and years and years. That’s the thing about NBA guys, I’ve come to learn; if you deal with for a long time in a fair, mutually-respectful way, you’ll get great insight. You might not get it as well put as it was from Nash in that specific instance, but you’ll get open honesty if they know and trust you.
Q: Doug. First, in your opinion, is Bargnani playing at an All-Star level?
Next, in your opinion, if Bargnani didn't get hurt, do you think he had a chance at making the All-Star team? In other words, is the rest of the association taking note of his development, maturity, and two-way play? Owen K, Ottawa
A: He will probably get lots of consideration from coaches when it comes time to pick the all-star reserves because of the offensive skills he’s shown and the impact on his team. But there are a handful of other bigs who’ll also get some consideration and I wouldn’t presume to guess how coaches might think. One thing that will probably hurt him is there is every chance he won’t play very much – if at all – before coaches fill out their ballots.
But he is having an all-star calibre year.
Q: Hey Doug. This question has been on my mind in recent weeks. Leandro Barbosa is one of the fastest players in the NBA (they don't call him the Brazilian Blur for nothing) and also has a pretty long wingspan, if I am not mistaken. Yet plays mediocre defence (at best).
Why is this the case? Is it effort? Consistently guarding SGs while giving up significant size?
Have a good weekend.
Jose S, Scarborough
A: Not sure that speed equates to defence, which is more will and footwork (as opposed to raw speed) and system. He’s smallish for a two-guard which makes it difficult for him in post-up situations and, quite frankly, he works harder on offence that he does on defence.
Q: Doug, do you think Michael Ray Richardson would ever be considered for the job of coach of Canada's Men's Basketball Team. He seems to have all the qualifications. He played both in the NBA and in Europe. He is described as a good motivator with a few years of coaching experience.
Dave B, Cornwall
A: No, I don’t. I don’t think he has the knowledge of the international game – at the Olympic or world championship level – and I think there are probably a dozen more qualified candidates when they come to fill the job sometime in late 2012 or early 2013.
Q: Doug, long time reader, first time writer etc etc_was watching a game and Dick Bavetta was one of the refs, and it struck me that he seemed to be a half step behind during the entire game. What (if any) are the requirements to be an NBA ref? Do they have to meet physical requirements or is it a tenure-ship where once they're a ref they can stay until they retire?
Ken G, Cambellford
A: They have physical testing before each season, they are graded out game-by-game during the year but there is no mandatory retirement age.
Q: Hi, Doug. Do you think that long-term (not just this season) that Bargnani's second injury might be better for the team? I'm thinking of the Spurs-Duncan situation, where David Robinson went down for the season, the Spurs won the lottery and drafted Duncan.
Is there anyone in the upcoming draft that could be s franchise-type player?
Dave F, Kingston
A: Nah. Remember that San Antonio didn’t finish with the worst record in the league the year they won the lottery; it, as much as the draft, is a crapshoot and I’d never want the best player on my team injured and not able to play.
Q: Hey Doug. Not so much a Raptors question as it is an ACC question. I know you've mentioned in the past that it would be nearly impossible to have the NBA all-star game in Toronto, partly due to lack of space at the ACC. Do you ever see Toronto hosting the NHL all-star game, or would the same reasons prevent that from happening?
Arris G, Barrie
A: I don’t know what the NHL’s needs are in that regard but, if memory serves, they did have an NHL all-star game in Toronto, didn’t they?
So it must work.
The theatrics and space needed in the arena to stage an NBA all-star game is exponentially greater than it is for the pucks.