A little bit more of the weekend mail
Found it, or at least most of it, I think.
Enjoy, talk to you in the morning.
Q: Doug - When he became an EXPO baseball player Carter took French lessons (!) thus endearing himself forever to the Montreal and Quebec faithful. This act by a professional athlete was, and is, pretty rare.
Today "community involvement" by players is staged and organized by the employer. Our heroes are itinerant, their loyalties tied to the next contract. Ties to THE CONTRACT appear most often to come ahead of ties to place (neighbourhood, city, province, country). Maybe that's why, in our hearts and minds, our "heroes" are not quite what they used to be and why fans turn on them when they leave.
In your experience who are, or were, the exceptions to this trend? I think of a youthful Willie Mays walking around his NY City neighbourhood, loving the kids and interactions. Which Raptors players have "loved the city"? Can we hope to ever again see players like Carter who worked to made a fuller life out of the community where they earned a living? Or do the soul-searing dynamics of modern sports "celebrity" rule out our seeing such relationships ever again?
Charles N, Mexico
A: I love the thought of player truly embracing the cities where they work and give you not only Gary Carter but, before him, Rusty Staub. And while I wish it were still that way still, those days are gone for various reasons: The pull of home and friends; extended family demands and the like.
With the Raptors, it’s generally been coaches who have “taken” to the city and even they blew out when they had a chance. Sam used to love to walk along the water and through Yorkville; Alex enjoyed the dining, Brendan Malone was a big walker.
The players? Not so much and not surprisingly it was the older ones – Oak, Rasho come quickly to mind – who seemed to get the most of living here.
The young ones? They have their haunts and locals but the greatest amount of interaction they have with the people in the city is through social media. And that’s not nearly the same.
Q: Doug. With your answer on Lin, you stuck to your guns, and said may not be a good fit in TO (at least compared to New York's system.)
What is the top five "didn't see that coming" list Of Doug Smith? Things that you thought no way, and were not right. (not a snarky question, just for fun)
Bruce M, Winnipeg
A: Oh, there has to be dozens and if I know there are folks out there in readerland who can come up with a more comprehensive list that I will. But here are three and I’ll let others chime in:
(A disclaimer, a lot of things people “don’t see coming” are basically opinions; and that’s fine with me, opinions by their very nature are neither right nor wrong)
I thought Hedo Turkoglu would be a very good fit here; a ball-moving big man who’d excel in pick and roll with Bargnani and Bosh. Guess not.
I thought it would take a lot longer than it did for the Boston Celtics to mesh back in ’07; figured they’d get there just not as quickly as they did.
I wondered if Roy Hibbert would be anything more than a run-of-the-mill NBAer; I didn’t see all-star coming at all.
Q: I love the Jeremy Lin story, I truly do. He seems like a really nice kid, and there appear to fewer of those these days in the NBA - and who can resist the against all odds, undrafted PG story. However, there was a readers poll on the Star website where 50% of responders found this story more inspirational than the Terry Fox story (13%) Muhamad Ali and Jesse Owens stories (both 3-4%). All I have to say is get a grip people. Put what these men did in the context of there times and situations and reconsider how you get inspired. I moved to this country just as Terry was making his run and I still find it hard to choke back tears anytime I see footage of him running in front of that cop car in the rain in Northern Ontario just before he had to stop the run. I love the Lin story and I really hope he continues his success, but Terry Fox he is not, and I bet if you were to ask him he'd agree wholeheartedly with me.
Damian L, Toronto
A: I believe any right-thinking person would agree with you and I respectfully suggest you take those little polls for what they are: Totally unscientific ways to engage readers and let them have a little fun with some hot topic du jour.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Q: Hi Doug. The goal of any team should be to win every game at every possible cost.(and I know you share this view)
That being said, with the "this season is not about this season" approach that the club has taken could the recent losses be considered a good thing??? Competitive and entertaining games... yet the Raps record stays in the lower sphere of the league??
Jeff M, Saint John
A: A good thing?
I see where you’re going with this and I suppose there are those who think that – not understanding fully the blind luck of the lottery and the crapshoot that is the draft – but I’d rather my team learn to win close games rather than lose them to give themselves a couple more ping pong ball combinations.
So, sorry, I’m can’t possibly get behind “good thing” although I fear I might be in the minority in that.
Q: Hi Doug. During free throw attempts, why do ref's hand the ball to opposing teams bigs to rub the ball before they hand it to the shooter. Is this some sort of superstition thing? Also, has there ever been an incident of a player caught trying to grease the ball before the free throw? A little grease on an important free throw...could be the difference between a win and a loss.
Jeffrey M, Saint John
A: I guess it’s to get any condensation or moisture off the ball, they tend to do it before some inbounds plays, too.
And, no, I have never heard of anyone doctoring a ball with any substance; be kind of hard to hide it, ala Gaylord Perry or some of the other, um, crafty old-timers.
Q: If Lin keeps this up. Should the Raptors go after him in the off seasons? Like to see how he does with his first shooting slump.
Gerald B, Mill Cove
A: Yes, they should. Of course, that’s presuming the people who run the Knicks have some sort of undiscovered seizure and let him get away.
Q: Maybe you could squeeze this one in with those "lost" questions!?! I keed, I keed...
From you mid-season grading you mentioned the guys were being graded against themselves - wouldn't Bargs then rate at least an A because of his "break out year"? I suppose Lin is really the only one worthy of the A+ having completely exceeded any and all expectations. Anyone else in the NBA nearing anything remotely close to a surprise this year and a possible 'A'? As a teacher I like that you aren't throwing A's around - they got to be earned!!
John C, Cairo
A: Yeah, gotta go a very long way to grab an ‘A’ over here, and I’m fine with that.
As I look around the league, there aren’t really an awful lot of players or teams who are having seasons where they totally and completely exceed expectations. The best teams are the best teams and the best players – judged against themselves – are the best players and doing what they should be.
Q: Hi Doug. My apologies if you get inundated with Jeremy Lin related email. It is a great story though -- kid gets passed over time and time again, then finally gets a legitimate shot on basketball's biggest stage and comes through like nobody thought he could.
My question to you is this: do you think there might be many other players out there like him? Guys who've been passed over for whatever reason, but given the right team and the right situation, could come in and contribute at a high level? Or is this really a one-in-a-million thing? I've just been wondering if there are maybe 5, 10 players out there right now who, despite NBA scouts' best efforts, are still toiling away in obscurity when they could be stars, or at least solid contributors.
Maybe I'm just hoping that the rugged defensive/rebounding 3 the raps have needed for years, the one with just enough offensive skills and with consistent effort, is out there somewhere just waiting to be discovered.
Tim M, Kingston
A: One general manager this week told me he thought there might be dozens and dozens of players in either the minor leagues or out of the game who could legitimately be NBA players had they just been given an extended opportunity.
But he also said there’d be less than a handful who could actually have the immediate impact that Lin did – and that was before Sunday’s game.
Will the Raptors find one? I doubt it; I also doubt many other teams will.
But then you think about this guy from Spain who never really got a look for whatever reason and was unheard of by almost all fans and you wonder. Guy named Garbajosa.
Q: Doug - great job. It's been an interesting stretch of Raptors basketball - way better than a strike! I was disappointed by the Mayweather comments - race is definitely an aspect of the Lin story, but hopefully not the defining one. I recall when Jamario Moon made the roster, it was similarly a big deal - from D-league, to Raps, to dunk contest - although maybe that was just in Toronto. What would you say are other similar stories - maybe non-Asian ones?
David M, Toronto
A: I honestly cannot think of a truly similar story from all my years around the NBA. Sure, there’ve been guys like Moon and other undrafted players who’ve come in and had big impacts – Ben Wallace comes quickly to mind – but nothing like this. But I will say it could be because of the position Lin plays; he’s always got the ball In hands and is dictating how the game goes.