The weekend mail starts, as does a long trip
Okay folks. I’m on a very long airplane ride that began early this morning, you have fun with this and I’ll check in from Los Angeles when I get a chance.
But first … RIP.
Q: Dear Doug: Thank you for putting a perspective on what matters with your pieces on the legacy of MLK and on Ali at 70. I recall that a few years ago, you wrote that when the Raps were in Memphis, there was trip to the King museum, and the only player who joined Smitch was Matt Bonner.
How would you assess the awareness of the legacy of these individuals together with Russell, Jabbar, Embry, et. al, among the members of the current team? What players, if any, are carrying the torch?
Frank B, Toronto
A: If I remember correctly, there were a couple of other players who went to, I believe they were Araujo and Jose but I could be mistaken. It was a fine idea by Rob Babcock that was kind of telling for the absenteeism rate.
As for this current group, I’m not sure there’s anyone on the roster who will pay more than lip service to those who sacrificed or suffered before them and, sadly, I believe that to be the case throughout professional sports. There are some but not nearly enough and I think one of the things this organization should do the first day of every training camp is invite Wayne back to speak to them and provide some historical context to how they have been able to achieve the level of fame and wealth they have.
Dwane Casey is another pioneer, he grew up in the south in an era where he couldn’t go in the same doors or sit at the same tables as white people and he was, I believe, the fifth or sixth African-American player in the University of Kentucky history.
Q: Hi DS. In reading Wednesday's blog, you mentioned the following:
We’ve known from the very start of training camp that small forward was going to be an issue. There isn’t anyone on the roster that can play the spot like it should be played – with a combination of good shooting, the ability to defend, the skills to break his man down off the dribble – and it’s probably going to be like that for the entire season.
If you could clone someone from Raptor's past to take on this role, who would it be?
Simone S, Toronto
A: Oh, a young VC, to be sure. Imagine him with the space and shooting spots that are created by a very good point guard-power forward high screen-roll duo? But, with the way the small forwards on this group get open looks, wouldn’t Mo Pete be rather successful? I’d want Vince but would take Mo or Donyell Marshall if you thought he was a three and not a four.
Q: What are the feelings around the Raps 'tall foreheads' that JV is in a Raps uniform next year, 90-10, better? There has been relative confidence around us Raps fans, but we only need look at the situation with the Timberwolves and Ricky Rubio, they waited TWO full seasons!
Nick M, Hamilton
A: Apples and oranges. Rubio had a contract that called for him to stay in Spain for three years, he got out early; Valanciuna’s Lithuania deal only covers this season and it’s 99.9999999 per cent certain he’ll be here in the fall.
And, yes, that means there’s a chance he won’t for all you movie buffs.
Q: Hey Doug. So the GM survey came out recently at NBA.com. Always a fun little read, but no doubt to be taken with a grain of salt.
Some Valanciunas buzz in the Rookie/International section and some mentions here or there of Bargnani, DeMar and Jose. But here is the result that stumped me: some poor sod voted the Raptors as 'The Most Exciting Team to Watch.' This doesn't look like the worst Raptors squad ever assembled, but as present talent levels are concerned, I'm not sure why someone would rather tune in to the HOTH any given night than say, Miami, either LA team, OKC... I mean, we could go on and on here. So what gives? I know it was only one opposing GMs opinion (BC couldn't pick his own team), but that's a bit, er... optimistic.
Want to take a guess at which GM might have voted our way? My thought is it has to have been one of the four Atlantic division rivals who have watched us grow in recent years.
Anyways, hope you can extrapolate something out of this.
Andrew P, Toronto
A: Okay, I’m going to debunk the myth of these polls and surveys a little bit.
Now, I’m not saying this happens all over the league and I know there are GMs who take it very seriously. I also know there might be a GM or two who slough the thing off on an assistant, a member of the media relations staff or something like that.
It’s like those silly player surveys you see, where such and such is the “worst” this or the “best” that. I know people who have conducted more than a few of them on a freelance basis and what generally happens is that a player will have no idea how to answer one but if you tell him “so-and-so said this” or “so-and-so might be someone to consider” they will often say, “yeah, let’s go with him.” So take them for what they are, quasi-interesting conversation pieces rather than definitive surveys.
Q: Hi Doug. The NFL Analysts always talk about how many hours they spend watching tape. Do you watch the tape on previous Raptor games or of their upcoming opponents? How much more insight do you think you analysts gain by doing so than just by watching the practices and games?
Wayne S, Johns Island
A: The luxury afforded NFL analysts is time, a week between games to break down film; along with just one trip in a week. I don’t get an awful lot of downtime to watch video but do get a little bit of a look at coming opponents watching games they play.
Is it valuable? That’s debatable; it’s not like football where you might want to look at two very different “teams” in offence and defence and so many more players. We pretty much know what other NBA teams do.
Q: Hey Doug, I noticed in the Celtics game that when Garnett put a hard foul on Calderon that there was actually some respect displayed with KG helping Jose up. Given their history, is your view that it was culmination of standing up to the schoolyard bully and finally gaining his respect? BTW, saw your pink shirt during Casey's post game scrum...not feeling like it’s up to your usual GQ standards. Still love the blog though!
D L, Richmond Hill
A: It’s dusty rose! Yeesh.
Funny, I was talking to Jose about KG before the pre-season game in Boston and Kevin’s propensity to yap and how it was going to be interesting to see how this group of Raptors reacted.
And he said he’s had no issue with Garnett, and vice-versa, since Jose took exception to a cheap shot and a verbal jab in a game a season or so ago. Guess if you do go back at a bully you can gain some respect and it was interesting to see Kevin extend a hand to Jose when there was a little tie-up near midcourt at some point in Wednesday’s game.
Q: Hi Doug. In trying to follow a bit of European basketball, I am confused as to how the teams play in multiple leagues at the same time. Can you explain how their league systems works? Thanks
Martin J, Toronto
A: I’m not sure how familiar you might be with European soccer but it’s much the same. There are domestic leagues in most countries and the top teams from them – generally determined by the previous year’s standings – qualify for the EuroLeague or EuroCup, which are competitions outside their own league schedule.
It’s how teams from Lithuania will play teams from Spain, for instance; they play a round-robin with about six teams, I believe, with the two or so advancing to playoffs. The top four teams then advance to a Final Four; the domestic schedules are set up so there are breaks when EuroLeague games can be held.
Q: Hi Doug ... Over the years, you have seen various Team Building and events being done for the HOTH. Given the they are now being beaten like drums (shout out to Charles Barkley and his opinion of Portland vs the Vancouver Grizzlies rivalry), at this point in the program, readers will hear about the need to do one of these bowling / tour a museum exercises. The question is: any value to that or is it just better to let the team dwell on their lumps?
Dave B, Toronto
A: I think there is precious little value in those mandatory “team building” exercises other than giving guys a day off from practice. I don’t think you can ever force “cohesion” on a group of young men and good chemistry comes from winning.
But I’m sure they all have fun at the movies or the bowling alley; I’d just never read too much into it.
Q: Hello. Your thoughts on the Magloire flagrant foul on Rondo? Thanks
Hamza M, Markham
A: It was actually Kleiza and I didn’t see it well enough in real time because our seats were in a corner at the other end of the court. But seeing it on video later it was hard foul borne of frustration and nothing you don’t see a handful of times every week in the NBA.
Q: Doug: I actually went out and bought a can of Stella, so that I could have a Doug Smith moment, during a game sometime soon. My question is: Do you actually drink this stuff, or is "Stella" just a generic term for the suds of your choice? Please don't burst my bubble until after I pop the top.
Ken B, Matheson
A: Oh, I actually drink it. Find it quite tasty. It’s the default order at the couple of locals I have here and on the road if I can’t find a local delicacy to sample.
Try it, you’ll like it. Like Mikey did.
Q: Doug, I watched the Clippers play last night and was amazed at Reggie Evans and how he went after the ball. The announcers said that if he played a full game, in minutes that he would lead the league in rebounds per game, with his average right now. Question- Was he so expensive to keep, or did he just become a force like other raptors who leave the team? Does Toronto take the life out of players? Why Is Magloire here?
Drew L, Edmonton
A: I think small doses of Reggie allow him to do what he does best; I, and several of his coaches, believe it would be a case of diminishing returns if he played, say, 35 minutes a night. Anyway … Reggie wasn’t, at the time of free agency, all that interested in a one-year, minimum-value contract here, they weren’t all at interested in a longer-term deal, they needed to find out whether Ed Davis could play without looking over his shoulder at Reggie (Davis isn’t worried about Magloire or Gray taking minutes) and it was just time for a separation.
Q: You want mail well you got it Doug! My 1st time writing to you and I wanted your expertise on my thoughts of moving DeMar to SF and possibly having Bayless and Calderon on the floor together. I know, defensive nightmare!! Still might be better than some of the offensive droughts this team goes through at times putting us out of games in 2nd halves. Looking at what Minny has been doing with Rubio and Ridnour, if it's working effectively teams will have to adjust to you and not vice versa. DeRozan seems to play more effectively matched up vs slower 3's while Bayless can provide some matchup problems as well at the 2 with his speed and while it does create some defensive problems is it any worse than present really? Jose can never seem to stay with many PG's anyways so moving him over to guard the 2 on occasion while Bayless picks up the PG. Thoughts? or do you think I'm drunk and babbling?
Aldwin C, Toronto
A: I don’t think you’ll ever see Bayless and Calderon together for other than one or two possessions in the dying seconds of close games to get good free throw shooters and ball-handlers on the floor at the same time. One, you need one of them resting to be able to spell the other and, two, it is a defensive nightmare. We have seen a little bit of Calderon-Barbosa-DeRozan and I’m okay with that for a few minutes when they need the offence.
Q: Hello, Doug: So, was it a Celtic PR person that decided Jose Calderon had to stand squarely in front of a wall sign that read "Is Your Wisdom Gas Tank Running On Empty" for the post-game media time Wednesday? Jeesh! Talk about rubbing salt. Poor Jose. The one guy who always seems available no matter how crappy the team's performance! Doesn't the Raptor PR team haul around a backdrop covered with the team logo just for such occasions? Oh, well. At least there were no spelling mistakes. Cheers!
Lorie P, London
A: Didn’t see the Jose thing, as you can imagine, but, yes, the team does haul around that ratty backdrop you see Dwane standing in front of for his pre- and post-game interviews. It’s seen better days in person, hope it looks okay on TV.
Q: Why no pops for Kleiza as the starting SF? No doubt he's still rusty but also no doubt he's the most accomplished SF on this team. A good (not great defender, but by far the best offensive player of the three. ) He's a couple of weeks away from getting the job in my opinion.
As per Magloire and Grey...so far...yechhhh.
Thomas W, Toronto
A: There may come a time when they consider Kleiza for that spot but, and this is the big truth, there’s not a whole lot of difference between he, Johnson or Butler. All of ‘em are passable but hardly major cogs.
Does he eventually get a shot? Maybe. Will it change much? Nah.
Q: You mentioned the Elias Sports Bureau and their statistics recently. Well, I noticed a rather bizarre statistical anomaly the other day in the Raps-Bulls game. At the half, the statistics shown to us TV viewers were identical, right down to the shooting percentage. I can't imagine that's ever happened before. Can the Elias people confirm that?
Jim A, Fenelon Falls
A: Oh, I’m sure it’s happened before; in fact I would imagine a lot of close games have first-half stats that are almost identical. But here’s the thing about Elias: It’s mostly organizations and teams that have accounts there; it’s not economically feasible for our paper to so if I need something esoteric checked, I ask my people at teams and leagues.