The start of the weekend mail
Another late rally by you folks so enjoy these and if a few of you come through today there’ll be about the same amount here tomorrow.
Me? My first baseball practice of the year is today, can’t wait to see how the talented urchins have improved over the winter and I can feel the old rotator cuff getting sore already.
(Hey, did you see the Clippers turn back in the Clippers last night? What a transformation!)
If you want to get in on the fun and frivolity here, you know how to do it.
Q: One of the basketball websites speculated that, with Steve Nash's appointment as GM of the national senior team, there was a high likelihood of Jay Triano returning as coach. Would you agree or disagree?
David H, Mississauga
A: High likelihood? I wouldn’t put it at high at all. For one, there’s a very good chance when it comes time to hire a new coach – and I cannot see that happening before 2013 – Jay may be otherwise employed in the NBA as an assistant and may not have the time to do the job.
That said, if he wants it, he vaults to the top of the list, as Nash said on Tuesday, but he’s always been coy whenever I’ve talked to him about it.
Could it happen? Sure. It is a slam dunk today? Not even close.
Q: In an effort to help you out in a slow mail week, I have a basketball venue type question. Some time ago, in this blog an Irish Pub in the vicinity of Madison Square Garden was recommended by yourself and others, I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the place. What is the name of the place and any others you might know of?
Roy D, Thunder Bay
A: It’s Tir Na Nog and it’s right at Penn Plaza, you can’t miss it. Good selection of drinks, good food, nice atmosphere.
Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention PJ Clarke’s at 3rd and about 53rd, another landmark, and Jack Armstrong wouldn’t speak to me again if I didn’t tell you to find McSorley’s Ale House and stop by there.
Thank me later.
Q: Hi Doug. Can you give us some insight into the master plan of uber-trainer Alex McKechnie during the off-season? Does he keep in touch with the HOTH between now and training camp and if so, does he focus on the "keepers" or does he also spend time with, say, Solo? Does he have pet development projects beyond the obvious ones? Packing some more muscle on Demar, ensuring Andrea's calf/thigh issues are fully rehabbed, and beefing Jonas up are the obvious ones, but is McKechnie also (say) secretly planning to add a foot to Aaron Gray's vertical jump to facilitate putback dunks?
On the same topic, does the training staff also work with the Chicken to rehab the occasional sprained wing and bent beak or does he/she/it deal with those injuries outside MLSE?
Mike D, Toronto
A: Oh, he’ll be in touch for sure and last I heard was he planned at least one visit with everyone under contract, apart from having already given them some kind of off-season regimen to follow. But don’t forget he can only talk to or deal with guys who are Toronto “property” so there are some he’ll let slide.
And, no, the staff lets The Chicken be The Chicken, who, I’m told, spends a lot of his/her/its summer working on getting the handicap to a lower number whilst teaching youngsters how to play softball. But that’s just between you and I.
Q: All right Doug, you said you are in need of some mail. I guess the question that I have most is, "What do you honestly think the chances are for the Raptors landing Steve Nash?" Knowing both Steve and Bryan and also the recent news of Steve taking on the GM duties for the Canadian National Team do you really think that it's possible. Personally I would love, but I'm a bit of a homer that way. Thanks
Tom H, Guelph
A: Oh, I think realistically the chances are a bit slim but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try everything in their power to make it happen.
And I think they need to heed Steve’s words on what will go into his “decision”:
“Dig into rosters and situations and even cities and just see what would fit me and what situation I’d fit best in. I haven’t even started.”
Q: Dear sir/ Madam. I am Nirman Acharya of age 16 years old. I am a Basket Ball players in my School. I won several school level matches held in my country. I am 11 graded science student in my country. I want to enroll with in the school/ college in Toronto where I can study as well as I can play the Basket ball with the fellowship. Please suggest me the best way to fulfill my desire. My height is 5.9 and the weight is 140 lb. Regards,
Nirman K, Acharya, Nepal
A: You know, we do a lot of things here and serve a few purposes but I’m afraid immigration issues aren’t something I’m well versed it. Tell you what: Go find your favourite teacher or coach or guidance counselor and tell them your dreams; they’ll be able to help.
Q: Hey Doug, Just saw that another paper will start charging for its internet use after a computer visits so many articles in a month. Although I would like to continue reading the news for free I certainly understand the necessary charge.
In this set up do you feel a blog should be counted the same as an article?
Also if we are going to start paying for news on the web, will the papers start doing some fact checking instead of just posting immediately and how about some spell check, if I'm paying, I expect more than a draft copy.
Robert M, Charlottetown
A: Now, you know I’m putting this entirely off on Tall Foreheads to decide what this is but I would suspect we are like everything else on the website and would count. But we’re nowhere near that, I don’t know that we ever will be so I don’t think you should lump us in with that other paper in any way, shape or form. And I believe my feelings are shared by those waaaaaaay above me.
And you never, ever get “draft” stories here. Yes, there are more typos than you ever occur and we all – writers, the few copy editors we have, bosses – share in that shortcoming but they are not “draft” stories.
Q: Hey Doug. I keep getting hit over the head with "Jonas Is Coming" TV promos, and it has me wondering about the Raptors PR department. How many people work full time on the Raptors PR team? Is there a PR firm that handles all of MLSE's PR? Can you point to anything that is the obvious result of the Raptors PR machinations? I have the impression that the PR team coaches players on what to say in exit interviews so that the "message is consistent". Thanks,
John J, Victoria
A: The HOTH have three of the hardest working guys in showbiz handling their media, ably led by J. LaBumbard, who is among the absolute best in the NBA year in and year out; and that’s a league-wide opinion, not just mine, since he and his staff were one-time winners of the Brian McIntyre Award as the best media relations department in the league in the opinion of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.
Now, as for MLSE, they have a “corporate communications” staff that handles all that kind of stuff, quite separate from Jim and his people and the folks who handle media for the Leaves and the TFCs. No hiring out goes on.
As for “message is consistent” I can tell you the Raptors people may make players aware of the issues of the day and what might come up in conversation with reporters but they are not presumptuous enough to tell anyone what to say.
I’m sure there are corporate “talking points” or “key messages” but on the day-to-day team things, they don’t tell players what to say at all.
Q: Hello Doug. I will be visiting New Orleans at the end of May with my wife for a week. I know you have been a few times, so, any recommendations of things to do, places to see, and local establishments for an adult beverage or two?
Kevin L, Toronto
A: Oh, man. So many places.
A few hints: Not sure of your age or marital status or “situation” but walk Bourbon Street once at night and get out; see the sight and then leave them. Actually, stop at Cajun Cabin for the alligator bites, they’re not bad; and if you get far enough up the street, there’s a placed called, I believe, the European Jazz Club that’s pretty good.
But get on to Frenchman Street (near top of Bourbon) and find any live music place, you’ll enjoy it. And whatever you do, go to Café du Monde and have a beignet breakfast. Like the guy with the New York question, you can thank me later.
Q: Hi Doug. I know you won't talk draft until after the lottery, but this question is more about you (and we all know it's all about you). How do you go about covering the draft? Talk to Raptors scouts, the coach and GM, I assume. Who else is important? Do you get a chance to talk to many scouts and execs from across the league? And do you get much opportunity to evaluate potential draft picks for yourself? To what extent do you try to look at the draftees and decide who's going to be a player and who's not, and to what extent are you out there gathering information about what teams think and who they're going to pick?
Thanks, and keep up the good work!
Tim M, Kingston
A: Of course I seek insight and information from Bryan and the Henchman, some of it for attribution, most of it for background and to have a sense of what’s going on. But because they have a vested interest in the team and this is always the age of misinformation and some mis-direction, there are a handful of other scouts, execs, college baskeball experts and, yes, writers I’m in touch with on a regular basis.
Sadly, we don’t get to see nearly enough in-person work with these kids so I – and everyone else – has to go off video for the most part.
Q: All right a draft question to please the readers. Not about this draft, to pad the mailbag and to please you. In the past, people have constantly pointed out how we could have drafted this or that guy who turned out to be a star, a pick or many picks later. It's all a crapshoot generally, guys like Ginobili went in the second round and who knew how good they'd be.
So, my question is, what players did the Raptors not take who they were legitimately interested in, who were distinct possibilities? For example, I remember you mentioning they had interest in Biyombo last year, and Jrue Holiday the year before. Are there any agonizing picks where they missed out on someone they were seriously considering taking? Or any close calls where they almost took someone stiffer than Hoffa? Cheers.
Jonathan M, Toronto
A: I’ll preface this by saying there is always some level of hindsight that creeps in immediately after a selection, it’s human nature that at least one of the Henchman would wonder if they made the right choice.
And while, yes, there was some interest in Biyombo last year as soon as it became apparent Valanciunas was going be there, the decision was made.
Holiday was an intriguing prospect in his year but Bryan had his mind set on DeRozan early in the process.
One that I recall from the past concerns Zach Randolph. Yes, he could have been had and might have been a more inspired choice than Michael Bradley but they had compiled a very thick dossier on off-the-court issues that shooed them away. Makes sense, too; no way they would have had the patience to wait until he finally grew up a bit, just as a handful of other teams didn’t.
So, yes, there is some to and fro after the fact, most times in my history the pick has been the guy they wanted, rightly or wrongly.
Q: Hi. What everyone really would like to know is what free agent the Raptors are interested in. Is it too early to speculate? Do you have any ideas?
Who would you like to get for the team?
Most importantly, are you going to the summer Olympics?
Dave B, Victoria Mines
A: It’s far too early for any specifics, actually. While there are some preliminary thoughts rolling around, any final prioritizing of free agents won’t happen until after the draft and any deals that are struck around them. I’m all in favour of throwing substantial money at Steve Nash, as regular readers know; other than that, it’s a somewhat underwhelming free agent class. I am a big fan of Gerald Wallace and, to a lesser extent, Nik Batum so they’d be on my list. Bryan hasn’t shared his with me, yet.
And, yes, I will be in London for sure.