The start of the weekend mail
While I’m on the wackiest road trip for flights of perhaps of all time, you deal with this, okay?
And there’s room for a few more since I’ve got a lot of time to kill today.
Did you know you can’t go direct from Toronto to Oklahoma City or from Oklahoma City to Indy and the only direct home from Indy is an evening flight?
So how about: Toronto-Detroit-OKC today; OKC-Memphis-Indy on Monday and Indy-Detroit-YYZ on Tuesday? That’s living, folks. Primetime livin’
But first ...
Q: Hi Doug. Would you like to take the way-back machine( with or without Sherman) to watch at Augusta, or one of Maple Leaf Gardens, Montreal Forum, Tiger Stadium, or The Polo Grounds? What year would you choose? I choose Tiger stadium and Al Kaline and the boys.
Have a great Easter!
Bob E, Kanata
A: Well, having been to Tiger Stadium I have to take that off the list and was in the Gardens and the Forum. So, while I’d love to see rolling hills of Augusta, I’d probably pick the Polo Grounds. I see enough of Augusta each April, never see a great old ballyard.
Q: Questions about Linus Kleiza. Shots not falling, especially 3-pointers, doesn't seem as energized, not getting as much playing time. Wondering if it is fatigue from time off after knee surgery or if the knee is holding up. Any thoughts?
Do you think Linus is a player the Raptors might consider trading?
Arlene E, Chesley
A: I know he’s been a bit bothered by a sore Achilles, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. Don’t imagine there’s any fatigue.
And I’m sure they’d entertain trade offers, as they would for just about anyone on the team and I would think – and it’s been intimated to me that it’s true – that they might even consider him for an amnesty case if they can use his salary as part of larger deal for a free agent or two.
Q: Can you give us a Weems update? What type of season did he have? Also, what's the deal with his rights? Do the Raps have to extend him another qualifying offer this year? And if yes how much is the offer, and will it count towards the money we have to spend on Free Agents.
Finally... What's your opinion on Andre Kirilenko? For the right price he could be our answer at the 3 position... he's a match up nightmare.
Jeffrey M, Saint John
A: Man, there is all kinds of Sonny Weems love around these parts, you’d think hew as an NBA all-star rather than a role player on a 21-61 team. He had a good year, was in the Lithuanian League all-star game, wrecked an ankle and is back in Toronto getting treatment. He’s a restricted free agent but not in Toronto’s plans in any way, shape or form so unless they can add him to some deal, I would imagine they’d renounce his rights and use his cap-hold -- which is a bit below $1 million, I understand -- as money to throw in the free agent kitty.
Kirilenko’s interesting and I’ve heard his name around here as a fallback person of interest but mostly I hear him associated with New Jersey for next year.
Q: Doug, this does have a basketball angle: the same Joey Votto who reportedly just agreed to a 10 year - $225 million contract extension the Cincinatti Reds is also a basketball player! (I've played Men's pick up with him at the YMCA in Sarasota in the off season for the last few years). He's a great athlete and very low key guy who is easy to talk to - on and off the court.
To make this a question: Do you think the Raptors would ever…
Barry P, North Bay
A: Ha! Wouldn’t that be cool. Sorry, though; I imagine the people paying Votto almost a quarter of a billion dollars might have something to say about that. However, I will let you know that Votto remains close to the game; he’s been the guest of some of the Raptors staff at a handful of games here and in Florida, where he makes his off-season home and his Mom and siblings have been to at least one game here this year. And he’s good friends with a couple of members of Toronto’s staff.
Q: Not a question, Doug, sorry, but some observations after attending two games last week. Wait, I'll rephrase it as a question, as they'd do in the legislature: are you aware that a few fans still aren't aware of the concept, and they come to watch the games? If so, maybe you could pass on some advice:
Pay no attention to the starting time listed on your ticket; otherwise, you'll deprive dozens of people of the benefit of having you between them and the court as you walk up to your seat after the game has started.
If the portal says seats 1-14, and your ticket says 28, go ahead --- how could it possibly be a problem?
Stay in your seat between periods and during timeouts; wait until the ball is back in play to get up and shuffle past the people in your row, then take your time ambling down the stairs, to obscure the view of as many people as possible. Repeat throughout the match.
Thanks. btw, your recent reference to the mean-spirited editor at the Woodstock-Ingersoll Daily Sentinel-Review, he was just as miserable when I worked there a few years ahead of you, and what was even worse, he was the only one not required to work unpaid overtime.
Nick M, Winnipeg
A: Yeah, he was some dude, wasn’t he?
Okay, I’m sure there are Irregulars who have as many bad patron stories as yours, I’m going to add one. They need to lie to the people in the expensive seats and tell ‘em halftime is ending five minutes before it does so they can get back and sit down before the second half begins.
We’re in Chicago, I’m sitting about 30 minutes to tip talking to a good friend of mine who’s a minor bigshot with the Raptors but who seldom travels. My pal looks around at the Bulls fans already in their seats, goofy with the pre-game festivities and actually anxious for the game to begin.
“Why,” my friend wonders, “isn’t like this in Toronto?”
Q: Hey Doug. I think the main way for the Raptor to get better is to develop their existing players. Demar and Ed sure didn't seem to improve much on their own last summer. Demar, Ed, JJ, Forbes ... I'd love to see those guys come back noticeable improved next season.
So what is the most effective way for the Raptors to develop their players in the summer? Are there certain teams that are great at developing players that could be used as a template?
John J, Victoria
A: The most effective way is for the coaching staff to hit the road in the summer and visit each player repeatedly to work on skill development and see how off-season training regimens are being followed. And I know that will happen There’s also the summer league to think about and while I don’t know that DeRozan or James Johnson will play in it, I’d think Forbes and Davis could benefit greatly from getting into a few games.
And, no, there really aren’t any teams that stand out over the others for an off-season template, they all do pretty much the same thing as the Raptors will this summer.
Q: Hi Doug. After watching Derek Fisher play as a serviceable backup for OKC while Gilbert Arenas struggles to continue his NBA career, I find myself once again confused. Why is it role players can hang around for 15 years but players who once dominated can flame out so quickly? Steve Francis was averaging 20 points and 7 assists one year and out of the league 3 years later at age 30. This always seemed strange to me. For Arenas, shouldn't a player who put up 25+ for a number of years be able to, at 30 years old, settle into a decent scoring role off the bench, even with age and diminished athleticism?
Allan I, Markham
A: Couple of reasons, actually.
Could be a mindset that doesn’t allow players who were used to being the focal points of their teams to accept lesser roles (I think that was the case with Allen Iverson) or it could be a quickly eroding skillset (as I believe is the case with Arenas and his knees).
Q: I'm wondering how the percentages for the draft lottery work. Does it go by record or by position finished? For example if Bobcats lose 10 more games than everyone else... do they get an even higher percentage chance at number one... or are the percentages already set for having the worst record?
Yesterday there was a single game between the 4th and 8th worst records in the league. If the lottery goes by win percentages then the chances of 4th to 8th for the number 1 pick would be close... if it goes by position finished there could be a huge percentage difference between 4th and 8th chance.
Jeff M, Saint John
A: All by position and percentages pre-determined. Regardless of record or the distance between non-playoff teams, the slots for No. 1 through 14 don’t change.
Q: Hi Doug. Last year the good people at MGD had this contest with you giving away tickets to some home games. Are they doing that again anytime soon this season?
We can all use some MGD and B Ball together, especially me. Thanks,
Arman P, Toronto
A: Nah, not going to happen this year. Not sure if our sponsorship deal ran out or what but never heard from our promotions people and that deal has died a natural death. Had very little to do with me, actually; I promoted it but they did all the work.
Q: Hi Doug. ESPN now does a quick summary in their Daily Dime of the last night's games. The lead of the Raps - Sixers under the heading 'MVP' was this and I wanted your thoughts:
"Andrea Bargnani catches a lot of flak, most of it deserved, for being a genuinely dreadful basketball player. Against Philadelphia though, he looked like the guy he was originally billed to be. He hit three 3-pointers and was perfect from the line on the way to a game-high 24 points."
I admit to at times finding Barnyard's disinterested play frustrating as anything (far less often this year), but 'genuinely dreadful basketball player' seems a bit over the top...
The author is some philly blogger named 'Tom Sunnegren'. Just another example of someone writing an opinion who has very little connection to the Raptor reality?
Matt S, Toronto
A: I think people who see teams very few times a year, either in person or even on TV, should stay away from making ridiculous bold, blanket statements. I try to and I wish others did, too.
Q: Happy Easter to all in Casa Doug. Sorry to say but James, shaken not stirred, Bond, enjoyed a beer in the last flick. Considering it was in a dive, they may not have been able to make a martini! Doug, I am really at a loss as to all the angst and desire to trade Jose by non-irregulars. He's a calming influence on of fence, highly efficient at running the offence without killing their chances with turnovers. I see him as a perfect floor general for where the team is going. Cheers!
Scott M, Ilderton
A: I heard that news about Bond, sadly. Shaken, not stirred, vodka martinis were as much a part of him as, well, as fancy cars and scantily clad women.
And the angst? Well, I don’t get it either but to each their own. Suffice it to say it’s, thankfully, not an opinion shared by anyone I talk to around the league. Maybe it’s because he’s just good, and not dynamic. Who knows.
Q: Hi Doug. Just wondering if you have ever spoken with John Saunders of ESPN? I enjoy how he hosts the Sports Reporters and always manages to include a mention of his proud Canadian roots. Last week he even referred to Andrea as 'one of the most under-rated offensive players in the league.
Thanks for your time,
Trevor B, Saskatoon
A: I haven’t spoken or seen John in a long time, maybe dating back to last year’s Final or Eastern Conference final. But I did share a few nights on the road with him way back in the day when he was working on the broadcasts here and he’s as good a guy as you think. And it’s nice that he’s proud of his Canadian roots, he should be.
Q: Jamario Moon was named D-League Player Of The Month. Are his right secured by some other team?
I'm starting the campaign to bring Jamario Moon back, especially with the thin roster right now.
Andy U, Richmond Hill
A: He was? Good for him. No, he is an unrestricted free agent, any team in the NBA can sign him and the chances of him coming back here, this year or next, are about as good as the chance of you or I playing. Been there, done that, can get an upgrade.
Q: Hello Doug. My friend and I have a bet on whether a Canadian university could participate in March Madness. I have not been able to find a definitive answer since the NCAA organizes the athletic programs of universities in the United States and Canada. Can you help settle the bet and hopefully make me some money???
Vic C, Toronto
A: Um, not sure which way you went on this one but if you said none could play, you’re the winner. The NCAA organizers university sports in the United States, the CIS administers it in Canada and aside from the odd early-September exhibition games, never the two shall meet.
Q: How would you compare Valanciunas to Anthony Davis?
Marc D, Halifax
A: I wouldn’t. Each is his own player with strengths and weaknesses. Silly, actually, to even try to compare teenagers who’ve yet to even take part in an NBA practice. Let’s just say they’re different and see how things look once we actually get to see them.