The (long) end of the weekend mail
So how about this:
The Toronto-Detroit leg of Toronto-Detroit-OKC was delayed so I wasn’t going to get the Detroit-OKC leg so after another four hours are Pearson (and, yes, that’s a mind-numbing as it sounds and the services available on the international departure side of Terminal 3 as about the worst and most limited in the world) it’s off to Atlanta. Two hour layover in Atlanta (no, Sam didn’t come take me for dinner) and a two-hour flight to OKC and it’s like midnight east when I get to the hotel, a mere 14 hours after leaving Casa Doug.
How was your day?
Anyway, have at this – it’s long, I warn you – and we’ll be back at 7 with the IGBT.
Q: Doug: I am taken by the difference between how well we can follow the LIVES of pro players and possible effects of life events on their performance. And it seems we know more about baseball players than others.
Maybe it's the length of the performance season. Do you agree? What else might account for this?
Take, for example, what we know and can follow re this year's Jays: Rasmus has a kindred spirit in catcher Mathis + a dad who looks over this shoulder a lot; Lind has a new baby and bad back; Vizquel is mentoring young ss's; Drabek is adjusting to some big challenges from major league hitters for first time in his life, etc etc.
These HUMAN DRAMAS really add to what we know and can follow in the world of baseball players we care about.
Why is it that baseball seems to lend itself more to this filled-out info on players as opposed to what we know about players in most other sports?
Charles N, Toronto
A: I think it has to do mostly with the length of spring training and the search for interesting stories to fill more than a month’s worth of newspapers and websites, especially when there are few burning issues that need daily updating.
And in some cases, like Rasmus and his dad, we find out about them and delve into them when the player first arrives as a way of introduction.
We try to do that with the basketball – James Johnson’s martial arts, Alan Anderson’s long journey, Gary Forbes and his dealing with diabetes – but there seem to far fewer days and certainly far fewer players to talk about.
We should be better, though.
Q: I am pleased that Coach Casey has his players still competing even though it amounts to playing out the string.
Is this any different than the Leaves of 2011 who made a "valiant" comeback in March and April to "just miss" the playoffs or the TOD, who have great Septembers when there's nothing on the line? If it is, then how?
Jim S, Thornhill
A: I guess the only difference is that, with NBA teams, there are so few players that impact the game, having them have some semblance of success – even at this late date – fosters a feeling of confidence and familiarity in the following season. I’m not sure that happens with the pucks or the baseball.
But you’re right in a way; it does get overblown sometimes.
Q: Doug. I was thinking about Joey Graham the other day and I remember him being a very good athlete and a marginal basketball player. What is he up to these days?
And while we’re talking about athletes, who would you say are best athletes that the Raptors have ever had? HWSNBN would likely be number 1, but since he is shall not be named, who else would make up the top 5?
The three that first come to mind are DeRozan, Graham, and McGrady who am I forgetting?
Jamie M, Winnipeg
A: Haven’t really kept up on Joey, I recall seeing something about him and D League team but don’t know if that came to fruition. Hope it did, would like to think a guy can make some money doing what he loves; outside of flying that is.
And you nailed three pretty good athletes there, I’ll probably toss Jamario on that list and if you want one out of nowhere, I’m going to give you Sean Marks. I remember Butch, I think it was, raving about his athletic abilities.
Q: I have a question about tough guys in the NBA, specifically as it relates to real, scary, don't want to mess with them toughness. Obviously as professional athletes they have to be tough to endure the grind of the season. And these guys are huge compared to us normal humans. Even Jose, a relative lightweight in the league is a pretty darn big guy compared to the rest of the population, so us normal people are naturally predisposed to being intimidated by these massive individuals who are no doubt freakishly strong (relatively). But that doesn't mean they are all actually "tough" guys. I once saw a quote from Sam Mitchell about how most of the guys in the league can't fight and just slap away at each other and then jump away. I would assume, being a former military man, he knew/knows how to actually fight and could stand up to anyone in the league. Same with David Robinson. And someone like James Johnson with his lifetime of martial arts training isn't likely to be backing down from anyone no matter how big they are. But then you've got guys like Kevin Garnett who carries himself like a tough scary guy, but has never really given the impression that he could stand up to someone if they weren't intimidated by his intensity/screaming/glaring schtick. So here's the question. Who in the league, past and present, do you know were REAL tough guys? Guys who could/would stick their nose in it and could truly handle themselves if things got out of hand? I tend to believe that guys who can, don't need to walk around beating their chest about it (like Garnett). Everyone just knows...dont' mess with that guy.
Ken M, Toronto
A: You don’t ever want to mess with Kurt Thomas or Reggie Evans. Not that they are dirty or anything, just that they’re tough. Now, you will hear people complain about “fake” tough guys and that’s probably an apt description for some players who hit and run, and there are more than a few of them.
And I don’t know that you’d want to mess with Metta World Peace or Kendrick Perkins, either. At least I wouldn’t.
Q: On Thursday night, looking for a basketball fix because the Raptors had the night off, I start perusing a basketball website. Two of their headline struck me. The first dealt with Howard wanting SVG fired. The second trumpeted Blake Griffin having dunked on Pau Gasol. Now, I'm an Irregular of a certain vintage, so maybe I'm too old but I don't get it. Stars shouldn't hold that power over coaches/management and didn't the Lakers beat the Clippers? There is much that I enjoy about Real Men's Professional Basketball, but those two stories highlight aspects of the game that I think are wrong. Any comments?
David H, Mississauga
A: Oh I don’t get it, either, and I guess it’s a bit of an indictment of the media.
I will say this, though: The Van Gundy-Howard was news and part of a continuing saga so I have far less issue with it than I do repeatedly seeing an exceptional play by a guy whose team actually lost the game.
Q: Hey Doug - A quick question of the perceptual kind: is it me or is Bryan Colangelo less in the media this year? If he has been less prominent in the media, how come? Any ideas or guesses? If not, feel free to ignore this question!
Diego S, Toronto
A: I don’t think he’s been less prominent at all; we see him around all the time. I would surmise the perception is that he’s not around because the TV guys aren’t showing a clip or two of him every night standing in the vomitorium like they used to.
I’m not sure we’ve quoted him as much as we have in the past but, really, there hasn’t been a lot to say, has there?
Q: Hey Doug. I know playoffs are a bit of an odd duck this year with the shortened season and general chaos. But I wonder who you think might be a surprise team this year? I'm really liking what I'm seeing from Houston. Beating OKC and the Lakers in the past week has really showed their resolve. They have nearly secured home advantage in the standings. Would love to see them take down some of the expected giants this year. Thoughts?
Kevin G, St. Catharines
A: With the way the middle and end of the playoff standings in both conferences are jumbled, it’s kind of impossible to tell right now what might happen with different matchups.
But I do see a huge separation in the East after the top two but the West, really, could be a crapshoot. It’s all going to be matchup-driven, I don’t think anyone would want to play Memphis or even Houston in the first round.
After the abomination of the regular season, though, it’s going to be wonderful to see well-rested team with days between games to prepare square off.
Q: Happy Easter, Doug! Now, growing up, Easter at my house was as much about the new shoes, socks and fabulous hats adorned with ribbons, bows and flowers as it was about that Bunny and his chocolates. And those new shoes and socks were ALWAYS white. Because that was one of The Rules. You know, The Seasonal Fashion Rules. My mother taught us - as her own mother had taught her - that the arrival of Easter meant it was now acceptable to wear white: white shoes, white purses, white dresses, pants and skirts. And we were also instructed that there were to be no straw hats before Easter. And that after Easter your suede and velvet clothing must be stored until after Labour Day. (And no patent leather shoes after 5pm. - any time of year!) Many, many rules. And we observed them all. Because that's what proper ladies did back then. But years pass and times change and it's now okay for women to be seen in public without hats, gloves and girdles. And that's great. Especially that girdle thing. (Talk about c!_ ompression! I'm certain those black things the Raptors wear for support have nothing on what that old Maidenform 18-Hour Super-Slimmer Model could compress.) But, I find I still follow some of The Seasonal Rules. Old habits, and all that, I guess. But what about you, Doug? Do you have any Style Rules that you live by? What do you consider a Fashion Faux Pas? And does Easter mean that you, too, will now be shining up the white loafers? Cheers! (And thanks for the Fred Astaire clip. Marvellous!)
Lorie P, London
A: You mean like no white after Labour Day, and no plaids with stripes? Or pink with orange?
That’d be about it.
Q: Goodness, with all the Jamario and Sonny questions I was almost expecting a Joey Graham update question. Perhaps part of the problem with fan expectations are that we often seem to be looking back with nostalgia rather than forward with realism.
Quick draft question.. just wondering when the ping pong balls drop and who you might have offended to have been a sequestered back room guest at such an event? What are your plans for the draft lottery extravaganza this year? Thanks for your great work.
Randy M, Crystal Beach
A: Oh, there’s some Joey in here somewhere.
The lottery extravaganza will be routine this year. I’ve done the mind-numbing sit-in-the-back gig a year ago and won’t be repeating, that’s for sure. But since they’re moving it from lovely Secaucus to New York, it might not be a bad couple of May evenings.
As for coverage? We’re too far out to be thinking about that quite yet.
Q: Greetings, have been trying to wrap my mind around something over the last couple of days. The basic thought stems more from the pucks' I will admit but there has been examples of the same idea within the IGBT.
The IGBT, to use a specific example, would seem to be an opportunity to have a much more intimate fan experience than just watching a game would otherwise provide. Premise being, and it is proven over and over again, that filtering the game through your experienced eyes and subsequent words brings an entirely different perspective to that which the casual fan may watch the game from. The rationale for certain strategy decisions and the like are explained which, to the casual fan anyway, can make something that was inexplicable, understandable.
So where I am going with this, is this, in your experience what situations represent the greatest disconnect between what the casual fan may think is the motivation and what is truly the professionals motivation on the floor?
Just prior to writing this I read your piece on Dwight Howard's less than expected effort in a game. I mention this because it is not really an example of what I am asking, in a broader sense some of the frustrated feedback over the HOTH's season is more of an example of what I am asking.
As always thanks for what you do,
Doug T, Brantford
A: I think trying to explain what’s happening and why in such a short time frame with so much else going on is the biggest challenge to the IGBT but it does provide a chance to immediately tell “why” something’s happening rather than just “what” is going on. I’d like to think it does enhance the evening for some and provides some kind of insight.
The greatest disconnect is probably trying to explain why someone is or isn’t playing, or playing well. It’s easy to sit back and think they should “feed” this guy or that guy or bring someone back off the bench, trying to explain that it’s not particularly easy to continually go to one guy or that there may be other reasons a guy is sitting is most difficult.
Q: Hi Doug. Happy Easter!
Two polar opposite questions here:
What kind of role do you expect or have heard that Jonas V will play at the Olympics this summer? What type of performance should we be looking out for? (I can see the Raptor faithful lamenting anything short of world domination, whereas I think solid performances including high effort and reasonable numbers against the elite teams should be expected.)
Drop Dwight Howard's motivation and maturity issues from your brain for a second - do you think the Magic should keep SVG or is it time to move things along given they have largely underwhelmed for many years?
That franchise is in a rut and I don't know that ALL of it is caused by DH.
David W, Toronto
A: Lithuania’s not in the Olympics yet, they have to get through the final qualifier. But I would except a relatively minor role, actually, he’s a kid playing with men against other good teams. But he’ll play, just don’t know about an immediate impact.
I long held that Orlando should have traded Howard; now I think they’ll end up losing him and the best coach the franchises has had.
Q: Matt and Jack sometime talk about their interactions with the team. Flying with the team, working out at the ACC, I guess Matt is more of a treadmill walker with a newspaper?)
I'm wondering if you have some insight/opinion into "team media" like Matt, Jack, Leo, Paul Jones etc. Also I'm wondering why there appears to be different rules for "team" media? Does the fact that they are hired by the team mean we should expect bias?
I know that you traveled that one time on Y2K with the team. But if you'd like I'll start lobbying for you to travel regularly with the team ...just tell me who to send the email to.
Jeff M, Saint John
A: I think sometimes broadcasters employed by team have to walk a fine line but on the occasions I’ve been able to hear the Toronto guys – both TV and radio – they’ve been critical when it’s called for.
And yes, the five of them – three TV and two radio – do fly in the team charter and stay at the team hotel and compared to us, it is an incredibly cushy travel life. But I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, do it regularly for one huge reason: When the road games or getaway night games at home are over, those guys are done their work, mine’s pretty much just starting and there are deadline issues to deal with.
Q: Hey Doug -- how many of the questions you get for the mailbag do you answer? All? All but some really knuckleheaded ones? Or do you get so many that you can really only answer a few?
Darren A, Toronto
A: If I had to guess, I’d say about 90 per cent get answered and I realize that causes some redundancy week to week (a lot of ones with the same theme pop up) but I don’t mind.
Interesting thing is that there are very few “knucklehead” ones because it takes more than a sentence or so to show true colours and knuckleheads usually get their work done in a very few words.
But what I honestly try to do is get a cross-section of queries and split ‘em up between Saturdays and Sundays; not sure that’s going to be possible once the season ends so I may get a weekend morning off.
Q: Hi Doug. As the regular season is winding down for the Raptors, with the only thing now at stake being lottery position, I can't help but look forward to the summer. You mentioned a little while back the possibility of the Raptors going after Nash in free agency. Yet, it seems to me an aging Nash would only be an upgrade over Jose for a year or two max. If you want to make a bold move why not go after Linsanity. He could be offered a heavily back-loaded contract, which New York would be unlikely to match, and provide a more permanent solution at the point. That move with the addition of a top draft pick, and the arrival of Jonas could set us up for possible playoff contention next year, with plenty of room for future improvement. So what do you think, will Colangelo consider making a serious run at Lin this summer?
Nick L, Montreal
A: Bold? Supposed it’d be bold to get a guy coming off knee surgery who’s played less than 20 NBA games as a starter and backload a contract that could be a tax or cap albatross in years to come.
Sure, they should kick the tires on Lin, right after Nash turns down the three-year, $30 million offer.
Q: Hi Doug. Last year.. there were 4 European players taken in the top 7 of the first round (Kanter, Valanciunas, Vesely , and Bismack.) This year I don't see a single European player in the first round of Mock Drafts.
Do you think the Lockout had any impact on the plethora or Euro's last year or the lack there of this year?
Could you ask some of your contacts, (maybe Maurizio) to see if there are any top 10 European picks this year.
Maybe you could come up with a list of top 5 undrafted European players to watch?
Jeff M, Saint John
A: I think the lockout last year had a twin effect: It led to some North American kids staying in school, which elevated some of the European players higher in the draft than they might have been. For instance, if Sullinger and Barnes had come out last year, I don’t know that Vesely and Biyombo would have gone so high.
This year? There are no European players in the top 10; it’s one of those cyclical things and they’re on a down cycle.
Q: Thank you for your hard work as always. I was actually at the game Sunday with the Wizards. I now have a 7 game winning streak when attending Toronto professional team games. I've seen the Leafs beat Boston twice when Bobby Orr was playing and once beating Atlanta with Mats Sundin playing for the Leafs. I've seen the Blue Jays win twice (once 24-10, once with Kelly Gruber homering in the bottom of the ninth to win) and now I have seen the Raptors win twice (once against Miami with Rafael Araujo and now last Sunday). I was sitting way up so I had the binoculars out. I checked you out a couple of times. You were looking tired and shall we say not in any way excited. Do you keep the Spock like demeanor the whole game? Do you ever get excited during a game? Or are you so focused on recording the events and do the in game blog thingy that you have no time for emotion?
I have to disagree with you about Augusta. They have the right to an all boys club. Its a private club. There is nothing to stop women from opening their own hoity-toity all women’s golf club.
And a question about Niagara Falls, your home town. I love to go there, and being from Welland I used to go alot. I went recently (had meetings at Beck GS) and made sure I visited the falls. I was thinking that they need a new attraction. There is the little grassy knoll right by the edge of the falls. They could build a platform there (and charge money for it) that would allow people to go right to the edge of the falls (it would have to be a moveable platform to handle the change in water levels) and touch the water as it goes over the falls. I would pay money for something like that. It would be a new source of revenue for the wonderful people of Niagara Falls. What do you think? As a native could you suggest it to the right tall foreheads? Do you think people would pay to do it?
Richard G, Milton
A: A grassy knoll? Hmm. Maybe they build a bookstore on it or something like that?
(Yeah, I know. Subtle)
Anyway, I don’t know that “excited” is a word I would use; maybe anxious if things are tight down the stretch, a tad anxious as deadline or game-over gets close but “excited” might be a stretch.
Q: Hey Doug: In order for an NBA team to be considered good to very good, what percent of home games, and what percent of road games, do you think the team has to win?
Tim H, Windsor
A: I’d say to be truly elite you probably need to win 75 per cent of your games at home and at least 50 per cent, maybe 60, on the road.
The really good teams probably get to 80 per cent at home and 65 on the road. Or something close to that.
Q: Doug, I am curious about how teams go about lining up interviews and tryouts of draft prospects. Do they go for numbers, including as many top picks as possible, or try to get the guys they have the best chance at. For instance if you are picking ninth do you try to talk to the guy who is the consensus number one or two.
Gerry T, Halifax
A: Sadly, most of the interviews and workouts are scheduled by agents, who like to keep their clients hidden all too often. They don’t want them going against people who might truly challenge them and take down their stock.
But most teams like to keep the number of a relative minimum and only players they might have a legitimate shot at.
If you’re picking, say, seventh, the guys projected to go one, two or three probably would blow off any entreaties so they might get five or six guys with a legitimate shot at being chosen there. Of course, you do need to fill out workouts with other players who might be late-first or second-round picks; teams generally like to have six guys in each time just to get a good workout in.
So, the total number might approach 30; the realistic number is half a dozen at best.
Q: Hey Doug. "I’m this close to anointing him as the best point guard in franchise history"
I agree 100 percent, I love Calderon, I love his poise, his leadership, his stroke (though it has been a little off compared to previous years). I'm just curious as to how many years as a starter he has in the tank? The trend is to made an up-tempo mid-20s pg running the show (Rose and Westbrook come to mind), and I don't think that Jose has Nash-like longevity.
Speaking of Nash, sports writers have been throwing around the Raptors as a legitimate destination for him for the next destination. Do you agree that there is at least a decent possibility of that happening? And what becomes of Jose if Nash does come to TO? There's a little bit of redundancy there, and as much as I like Calderon's game, I think it would be counter-productive to have both on the roster.
Alex H, Toronto
A: Not sure it’s sports writers, plural, but I do think, and have written, that the Raptors need to offer him a huge contract – say three years starting at $10 million a year huge – and see what he says. I’m not going to guess what his reaction would be, though. And no one should because no one knows.
Anyway, I would have no problems with a point guard tandem of Nash starting and Jose backing him up on the final year of Calderon’s contract.
Q: So I was thinking the other day about Amir's ceiling, to wit: it's higher than what he's showing. About 3 or 4 times a season, he does that nice little twisting move where he drives from the foul line or elbow and finishes nicely at the rim, rather than just hoisting up that set shot of his (you know the one: he goes into his shooting motion, you go into the kitchen to make yourself a salami and cheese sandwich, return to the tv room, go back to the kitchen because you've forgotten the dill pickle, return to the tv room only to realize you've got to take a whiz, then return to the tv room and Amir is FINALLY releasing his shot). And I was thinking, damn, I'm gonna ask Doug about why he doesn't drive more often, and then I thought, well, Doug will answer to the best of his abilities, but wouldn't it be better to ask the horse's mouth, so to speak? So Doug: how about adding a new feature: how about you moderate an "ask the coach" segment, where readers send in their questions (or "helpful coaching advice", lol) and you print a selection of the best questions along with DC's replies. Maybe you could do a one-off this season at some point, and then next season, when things are more relaxed (i.e. non-compressed schedule), you could make it a semi-regular feature? Thanks.
Lee Z, Ottawa
A: We’ll take that under advisement for next season but coaches have a tendency to be too busy once the games start and I’m not sure brutally honest any of them would be in a public forum.
Probably wouldn’t be wise of, say, someone to answer your particular query with: “We don’t know either, except to say that sometimes athlete’s brains don’t kick in all that quickly, besides, those three or four times a season you might see it could be offset by the dozens of turnovers we get up there.”
But I’ll ask next year and see what we get.
Q: Hi Doug. Having watched the Valanciunas "centred" videos I wondered what your opinion of Alex Mckechnie is since his arrival?
Has he much of an impact on the roster?
Phil J, Birmingham, UK
A: I’ve only seen snippets, which is hard to believe since it’s on about a billion times a day.
Anyway, the players appreciate Alex’s work ethic and the stuff he designs to keep them functioning in an aberration of a season. I’m not around the inner sanctum enough to have a lot of insight into how much he’s done to keep them all relatively healthy but anecdotally, he’s always got them working with some kind of contraption trying to develop better core strength. I think the measure of his contribution will come with the summer programs he designs for them and next year when he has a full month of training camp and pre-season to really work. This year, as it’s been all around the league, is more about preventative medicine than anything.
Q: Hi Doug. Watching Demar the last few games got me thinking the reason to be optimistic about the Raps is the number of guys with "upside" on the team. It seems like his game is growing and he has yet to show us what he might (or might not) become as a player. I'd say the same about Bargnani, Ed Davis, James Johnson and Amir; how will maturity and experience round out their games in the coming years. The NBA is a veterans league.
Jeff S, Toronto
A: Experience is huge, it cannot be understated. I said last year this group didn’t know really how to play in the NBA, this year they don’t know really how to win in the NBA and as they morph from boys to men, you hope they develop a better understanding of the nuances of the game.
It would help if Bryan were to get a old head or two with some game left to help expedite the process. And, no, I don’t know who.