Hello, for maybe the last IGBT of the season.
Hope all's well
Hello, for maybe the last IGBT of the season.
Hope all's well
So the national junior team wins the bronze medal at the FIBA Americas qualification tournament in Brazil last night, beating Argentina by two in the third-place game.
They finished 4-1, losing to the hosts in the semifinals, and easily qualified for next year’s worlds.
Good on ‘em.
But while it is a good accomplishment and a taking-care-of-business step in the process for which they should be congratulated, it now is just that: A step.
Gone are the days that anyone should be overly excited that a Canadian age-group team – boys or girls – got to a world championship or finished on the podium at a FIBA Americas qualification event.
It is to the credit of the fine folks at Canada Basketball that qualification is a foregone conclusion and we need now to look at how the under19s or under-17s – both genders – do on the world stage rather than just in our hemisphere.
The group in charge of the game at the national level – and that’s coaches, athletes and administrators – have moved basketball so far along the line globally that even casual fans need to think bigger. We need to watch these kids against the best in the world rather just the best in North and South America; they have conquered that world in many respects – qualification for the worlds is now almost a given rather than a surprise – now it’s time to expand the horizons.
Still, it’s cool that the junior men did what they did, I fully expect the cadet men to have a successful run at their world championships shortly in Lithuania and you all know I’m pretty pumped about the women’s team as it starts its Olympic qualification tournament in Turkey on Monday.
We lose track of these teams and players for 10 or 11 months each year because they break up, other things occupy our time and life doesn’t allow for paying a lot of attention, unfortunately.
But those who follow them even at a cursory level should know that it’s time to up the ante, it’s now time to see how the youth measures up against the world.
Sorry, any Irregulars from Lisbon.
Gotta be Portugal today? Right?
I am absolutely sure there are all kinds of famous people at these games down here but I am also absolutely sure they are musicians and performers I've barely heard of and not people who'd be recognizable.
In fact, in all the years I've been coming to games in Miami -- and that includes at the old arena where you had an armed guard walk you to the media parking lot after games -- I've only run into two "stars" that I knew.
One was a long time ago when I saw Sylvester Stallone in a back hallway (he's waaaaaaay shorter than you'd think) and then there was this guy.
And who doesn't need a little Jimmy Buffett in their day?
Couple of reminders.
We’re here tonight at 9, perhaps for the last time this season, and there’s all kinds of room in the inbox for weekend mail offerings, if only to say hello in some secret code.
Wonder how the TFCs celebrated the road draw in Houston last night?
Bet not too many of them ventured to the clubs.
Want to know what’s going to happen tonight?
It’s called Koppett’s Law, named after the late, great sportswriter Leonard Koppett and it says the outcome of any game will be that which inconveniences the greatest number of people.
And if you don’t think a whole lot of us have already checked flights home for tomorrow and that our families and friends aren’t doing and thinking the same thing, you’re mistaken.
There’s a nice, direct Air Canada flight at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow afternoon that still has seats available, by the way.
Hey, I can’t find the comment or the e-mail that gave us Perricone’s as a place to eat in downtown Miami but thanks, whoever sent it.
The Old Guyz out here stopped by last night and it was an excellent call, made me look like I knew what I was talking about and, yes, I gave you credit.
If you go, try the baked brie and the lasagna and perhaps a Peroni or two to wash it down.
So, what happens tonight here for real?
But I will say this, there is every chance this one will go down to the final seconds, as almost every game in the series has so far, and I think we are seeing the value of experience as the difference between the two teams.
I’m not talking about “waiting your turn” because that’s simply a trite cliché that doesn’t really mean anything.
I’m talking about knowing what to do down the stretch and doing it, by hook or by crook. It’s not fouling needlessly, it’s making the big shot instead of missing it, it’s mental and physical and, so far, the Heat have shown the ability to rise to the occasion more often than the Thunder has.
The Durant miss in Game 2 (foul or no foul, he needed to make that chippy to tie the game)
The Harden foul on LeBron, I think it was, in the final minute of Game 3 when he should have played out the possession.
The Westbrook brain cramp with the foul in the dying seconds of Game 4.
Those are mistakes that seasoned teams don’t make, it seems, and they have been the difference so far.
I’m not counting OKC out by any means – I know the Heat aren’t all that enamoured of the idea of going to Oklahoma and that atmosphere for two games and are treating this as something close to a Game 7 – but it’s going to take a major reversal of form for the Thunder to win a game that’s tight and tense in the final seconds.
Talk about your tough scheduling breaks.
TOD’s here on the weekend and I won’t be? Too bad, it’d be nice to catch the lads in the amusement park/ballyard in this ‘burg.
I’ll have to leave Griff a note on where to hang out but he’s far more a South Beach guy than I am so maybe my spots aren’t his spots.
In a shocking development, decided to stretch out the sleep to four hours from three last night, hope you don’t mind this being a little bit late.
Tough noogies if you do.
There is no doubt LeBron James is a polarizing figure, a lot of the great athletes of our era are, and he has surely given enough fodder for people on both sides of the fence.
Yes, The Decision was an ill-conceived moment of narcissism and the inaugural celebration of the Big Three was premature and over the top and garbage but that’s all it was, really, but the stench has stuck to him for almost two years now.
And yes, we look at that body and see those skills and feel somehow cheated that he isn’t like he was last night more often but that is simply asking too much.
I have been highly critical of James for years, I’m more appreciative of grace than raw power in this game and I would think there are several of you out there who feel the same.
But, really, if this isn’t a redemptive NBA Finals, it should be; what James is doing is simply stunning on so many levels that we really should marvel at it.
No, it will not change everyone’s opinion of him by any stretch, many people who dislike him for whatever reason still will but that, frankly, is their loss.
All he’s done is whatever it takes. He has attacked the basket, he has defended, he has made passes and grabbed rebounds and he has been astonishing to watch.
It has provided a glimpse into an athlete at the absolute peak of his abilities and if you can’t put aside whatever lingering jealousy or whatever it is for a little while, that’s on you.
The three-point shot that snapped a late tie last night – with a body betraying him and a season in the balance – was, as Erik Spoelstra said, a simple matter of will and determination winning the moment.
It was one of those “wow” moments without being athletic, it was a great shot under trying circumstances with so much on the line; it was a career-moment and I’m glad I was there to experience it.
Now, those who know me know that I cannot comprehend at any level the pain he must have been feeling; he said “it’s basically like your body just shuts down, your legs shut down on you, there’s nothing really you can do about it” and who among us knows that feeling like he does?
But it gives you an appreciation of mental toughness, and should give you an appreciation for athletic ability and, you know what, that should probably make up for whatever past feelings still linger.
Man, how did I miss this?
Super Son and I once spent a fine weekend afternoon in a theatre chortling through the Three Stooges movie – it was pretty good and Larry David as Nun has to be seen to be believed – and now it’s time to pay homage to one of the originals.
It was Moe’s birthday yesterday.
Mighty Red Tigers got drilled Tuesday night.
Just in case you were wondering.
Things are a tad jumbled around here, I’m going somewhere Friday but I’m not sure where or when but I know there’ll be time for mail.
Some brain cramp, Russ.
Yeah, the foul with 13.8 seconds left by Westbrook with his team down three and only 4.2 seconds left on the shot clock was a brain cramp but why?
Well, it all has to do with a tiny tweak by an old-time competition committee that we’re even talking about it and the next time they go through the esoteric rule changes they make, you might want to take notice.
There was 8-10ths of a second left on the shot clock when Harden tied up Haslem for a jump ball. Not too many years ago – and we couldn’t pin down precisely when the changed was made but we think it was five or six years ago – the shot clock would have been reset to 14 if the Heat had gained possession off the tip (it would have gone to 24 if the Thunder get the ball) and the Westbrook foul would have been far more necessary.
The change was actually made, according to league officials, to reward the defensive team for a good possession while still giving the offensive team a fair amount of time to get off a shot.
Still, everyone in the arena knew how much time was on the shot clock, Westbrook was reminded by the OKC bench; it was a mental lapse and the next time you roll your eyes when you hear a coach yammering on about the importance of knowing time and score, think of last night’s moment.
A quick Canada moment?
The junior men’s team had its run of wins at the worlds qualifier end Tuesday night, beaten by Brazil in the semifinals, denied a chance to play the Americans for gold.
Not all that big a deal, actually. They did what they had to do down there and that was to qualify for next year’s worlds and that was accomplished on the weekend.
It’s never good to lose, never fun but it’s hard to beat any host team in one of these events and full measure to the lads for taking care of business early.
It’s a good young group and this tournament will be an excellent experience they can take with them to the worlds next summer.
Okay, now I have to go find out what kind of flight options exist for Friday for a couple of cities. A lot of me wants to be sitting on my couch on Friday evening getting re-acquainted with the family but, you know what? This series has been so compelling and so fascinating, I wouldn’t mind another few days on the road just so I can see more.
Ready to go?
Well, it was certainly nice to catch up with Bryan and chat about the draft a little bit but after an hour or so of sitting around and asking questions and telling stories and mining for information, this much is clear:
Not much is clear.
Oh, there’s a guess and a narrowing of the field that’s gone on and that’s just natural but there are lots of balls still in the air with just over a week left until draft day.
If I had to guess from various conversations with people around the league and other work that I’ve done, I’d say Lillard, Rivers, Waiters and Lamb are the four favourites right now but I don’t know that there’s a definitive order and a lot of it will depend on who’s there on draft night.
I do get the sense from those conversations that a trade is a very real possibility as long as it yields another pick, not necessarily in the lottery but definitely in the first round. They want another young piece but would live with getting one later in the first if they could get some immediate help.
But, again, there’s an awful lot of time left between now and the draft for things to change and Thursday’s workouts – Sullinger, Perry Jones, Terrence Jones, perhaps John Henson and maybe Lamb if they can get him back in – is significant because a few of those guys are in the 13-18 range, perhaps, and would be someone taken with a later pick acquired in a trade.
It’s going to be an interesting week, I have a feeling; and some of the stuff you read might actually happen. Not much, but some.
Oh yeah, The People and I are gonna be fast friends; or at least with a few of ‘em.
We will be back at 9 p.m. for an IGBT if we can all stay awake that late but there’s also a noon chat if you’d care to join.
It’s loads of fun, am sure there’ll be draft stuff and Finals stuff and who knows what else.
Come on by.
Let me get this straight:
A trio of 20-something pro athletes take a night off, get hammered in the club, end up in a street brawl with cops and get themselves arrested?
Colour me shocked.
I tell ya, if you can find a hidden local with solid burgers, good pizza, passable wings, friendly staff and a jukebox with this on it that stays open ‘til 3 a.m. after games, steps from your hotel, you’ve found a gem.
Better than South Beach, I tell ya.
Who is R.A. Dickey and why does he seemingly throw nothing but one-hitters.
This Mets dude, with an 85-mile an hour knuckleball, is becoming the greatest story of the baseball season and I’m not sure enough people appreciate what he’s doing.
I don’t know much about knuckleballs except that I couldn’t hit one and they seem to be the last gasp of failed minor leaguers who retire to, say, South Buffalo to live out their dotage, but for Dickey to throw one that hard and that well is amazing.
Every season we see one amazing baseball story, I thought early this season it’d be Josh Hamilton but now it’s Dickey, who is 11-1 and hasn’t given up an earned run in about forever.
Great story, better start following it.
Not an awful lot except that it’s a big week for Valanciunas, whose national team is deep in preparations for the final Olympic qualification tournament that starts early next month own in Venezuela.
He and the Lithuanians will be in Houston this weekend for a couple of games – Great Britain, Russia and Nigeria will be there as well – and you know that Bryan, the Henchmen and the coach will be in attendance.
There is an off chance Valanciunas still plays in the summer league, too. If Lithuania doesn’t make it to the Olympics – which is a longshot – the Raptors will try to get him from Venezuela to Vegas to start his NBA career.
Speaking of Valanciunas and getting back to our chat with Bryan, the impending arrival of the young big man has actually made this process this year a bit easier, according the president.
Really? Second overall?
“It’s been told to me by countless people so at some point you start believing it, it’s not just an internal thought. It’s an external thought as well. We feel very good about that.”
As well they should.
And it’s allowed them, to some degree, to avoid wasting an awful lot of time on available bigs.
“It kind of talks to the argument of do you take best player or position, we kind of figured that that position is somewhat covered so maybe the (Tyler) Zellers and Myers Leonards of the world have not really been in the flow with our draft process. We’ve studied them, we’ve scouted them but we haven’t put a lot effort into the process of digging deep right now because of the Valanciunas piece.”
Riddle me this:
How utterly bored are you by Roger Clemens and that lengthy trial that ended in acquittal yesterday?
If you’re me, you’re bored to absolute tears and when the news broke breathlessly that he was not guilty, it elicited nothing more than a yawn.
Look, it doesn’t matter to the casual sports fan whether the courts found Clemens guilty of lying to the US Congress or not, if you think he used steroids before, you’re not going to change you’re mind; if you’ve been a supporter, this is vindication.
Personally? I think he did take some kind of juice, whether a gaggle of high-priced lawyers muddied the waters enough to get him an acquittal or not. That’s my opinion after seeing some testimony in the past and more recently and it’s not going to change.
I suspect that’s a predominant feeling around the sports world.
Oh, hang, on, I misremembered that I don’t care.
So, before the little chat with Bryan we had a wee bit of face time with the Commissioner after the competition committee meeting and it was pretty entertaining.
While nothing has been decided, the one thing that jumped out is that there is some kind of consideration being given to some kind of retroactive penalties being assessed to floppers.
We know it’s a difficult call for refs to make in real time – there is a split second to make a decision and often no one notices until the TV replays show it – so the committee (of which Bryan is a member) figures having something like a points system where video is used either post-game or the next morning to hit the floppers is a good idea to pursue.
That makes entire sense to me, it’s a way to accrue fines or points that might eventually lead to suspensions, like they do with technical fouls now, and might at least cut down on one of the scourges of the game.
Here’s one for you:
Can you have a “great” championship series that ends, say, 4-1?
I don’t imagine it’ll happen in the NBA – I believe the Thunder have all kinds of life left in them and we’re headed back to OKC – but in case they don’t, can this one still go down as something memorable if the Heat win the next two games at home?
My immediate reaction is yes and mostly because the first three games have been compelling and there’s no reason to think the next two won’t be, even if the Heat get them both.
Saw somewhere that the Thunder have scored 286 points so far in the series, the Heat has scored 285 and except for a bizarre coaching decision in the third quarter of Game 3 and some youthful mistakes in the fourth quarter, we could be signing a different tune today.
But there you have it and maybe all this chatter about experience meaning so much could very well be true because the Thunder looked skittish at times Sunday night while the Heat simply stuck with it even when it wasn’t going well.
Why in the world Scott Brooks sat Russell Westbrook when he also had Kevin Durant on the bench in the third quarter is beyond me and Brooks’ explanation – something like “we need to get people rest, it’s hard to play 24 straight minutes, Westbrook had had a few bad possessions in a row” – rings hollow.
With James Harden invisible – and except for the first half of Game 2 he’s pretty much been awful – the Thunder needed at least one guy out there who could make something happen and while I think it should have been Durant, that it wasn’t at least Westbrook was puzzling.
But, anyway, that’s minutia and hindsight and a bit X and Oish; the fact is this series has, so far, lived up to all the hype.
The best players are being the best players, the games have been close until the final minutes and it could easily could be 2-1 OKC, or even 3-0 for either team.
We had the discussion late last night (and if we’re not going to get out of the arena until about 1 to decompress, this little offering is going to be a tad late every day, I hope you understand) and we agreed: You can have greatness in a short series, and we’re getting it now.
I fully expect to be making arrangements to be going back to Oklahoma later this week and that’ll mean a six- or seven-game series and that’ll be memorable; if we don’t have to go anywhere but home on Friday, I’m still thinking this will be known as something special.
I know there’s a big catalogue out there to choose from and there was that whole time with John and George and Ringo but if you’re looking for best McCartney post-Beatle, this has to be on the list, right?
And we mention it only because he’s 70 today.
You know, you get out with the older set here at things like the Finals and you get to telling stories and the 50-somethings remember a good bygone era, when fun was to be had and the consequences dealt with.
After all, only the greats play hurt, right?
Anyway, five are us are around a table and we’re telling tales and one of the best ones is about this guy – and names aren’t important but you have to trust me that it wasn’t me – at a finals series long time ago.
Fella goes out for some post-game hospitality, one story turns into another, the liquids are flowing and finally he decides it’s time to go because he’s got an early flight.
Gets to the room, calls the front desk:
“I need a wakeup call.”
“What time, sir?”
“Early flight, need it for 5 a.m.”
“You just missed it.”
Ah, they don’t make ‘em like they used to.
Last day, we understand, for potential No. 8 picks to trot through the building for the Raptors; Jared Sullinger of Ohio State is scheduled in.
Not sure how he fits given the bigs they already have but why not take a look?
Oh, and I hear they might try to get Jeremy Lamb back in for another session; he had to pull out after about five minutes when he sprained an ankle last week.
There you go, as up-to-date as you can get.
Now, I’m sure he’s a great guy and the expectant wife was a nice touch and it’s a sweet story but how come when I hear Webb Simpson, I think of some character from Caddyshack who hung with Judge Smails?
I know it’s not true but …
Big weekend for the Canadian men’s under-19 team, which has already earned a berth in next year’s world championships with a couple of relatively easy victories at the qualification tournament in Brazil.
They beat Columbia 98-67 on Sunday after trouncing Puerto Rico on Saturday and by virtue of having already qualified for the tournament’s semifinals, they’re in next year’s worlds.
Shouldn’t be a surprise at all, actually. Canada’s had great success at age-group championships for the last half decade or so and this continues it.
But maybe that is a surprise, that we are no longer remotely surprised when Canada does well at an age-group competition. Speaks volumes for the programs they’ve put in place and the experience these kids are gleaning can’t be discounted.
Oh yeah, me and the Netherlands are done. Over. Kaput. Finito. See ya later.
So, who should I jinx again?
How about England? Or Spain? Or maybe I just sit back and watch and see what happens. Yeah, that’s what I think’ll be.
Watch and not have a rooting interest; that’s the way to go.
Good evening, everyone.
Happy Father's Day, dads
Hey. Sorry I’m a bit late but the stone crabs were delicious and it was a great night with old friends.
Anyway, have at this, I’ve got a fair amount of writing to do and we’re back about 8 p.m. for the usual hilarity of the IGBT.
And thanks for the Miami recommendations, with off-nights Monday and Wednesday, I’ll be taking advantage of them.
Q: Hey Doug: You asked for questions, I got questions.
Which current NBA team would you like to coach?
For which current NBA team would you like to be GM?
Thanks for all you do - it is appreciated!
Tim H, Windsor
A: I guess the easier answer is you’d want to coach the Thunder because it’s a good young group that should be together for a while and it’s already successful. But I also put the Clippers a close second if not tied for first for the same reason.
GM? Well, Portland’s got some nice pieces, a couple of pretty good draft picks later this month and it’s a great city.
Q: Hello Doug. Because we all remember things in different ways and those memories are often a mixture of facts and opinions (both of which are important to telling a story) I've found the recent oral histories of The Malice At The Palace and The Dream Team illuminating reading. Telling a story that's crafted solely by interviewing people strikes me as being an interesting - albeit lengthy - process.
So with that in mind Doug, if you were to start right now (OK, OK - when you get back from doing that Olympic stuff) creating the definitive oral history of our HOTH as part of their Glorious 20th Anniversary Celebrations, whose thoughts and memories would you want to include? And assuming you'd want shared the story of others like you who've been there from the very beginning, how adept are you at translating from "Chicken"? Thank you.
Lorie P, London
A: Whose thoughts? Man, I bet I could come up with a list of 100 and even I don’t have that kind of time. It’d be the usual suspects – Isiah, Glen, Butch, Vince, Camby, Oak, Bosh, AD, Bryan, Sam, Jay chief among them – but the people behind the scenes like office workers who’ve been around since Day 1, equipment guys and travel co-ordinators, scouts and maybe people who’ve written about the team for a while are the kind of sources who make those stories better.
And, yes, The Chicken and I have developed a way to communicate over the years so he/she/it would be there for sure.
Q: Does your gut tell you that Erik Spoelstra will lose his job if the Heat don't win the championship this year?
And if you were the Bobcats GM right now, which player would you draft with the 2nd pick?
Mario A, Toronto
A: My gut? Yeah, I think there’s a better than 50-50 chance he gets let go if they don’t win, as unfair as they may be. But, I do know Pat Riley still thinks highly of him and he might let him go a third year.
I’m kind of guessing on the Bobcats true needs – I’m not all that close to the team – but I’d sure think Harrison Barnes would be a darn good fit, or maybe Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. It’d be one or the other right now, I’d lean towards Barnes.
But that’s just me.
Charlotte’s awful small and the Robinson kid’s a gamble but maybe worth it.
Q: With the baseball and soccer season upon us, I am amazed at how boring these sports are to watch on television. Even worse than hockey!
Give us your list of most boring to most exciting sports to watch.
Graham V, Vancouver
A: Here’s the thing: I don’t watch boring sports. And that’s why I won’t even stop clicking through the channels if I see, say, auto racing or curling or poker (right, not a sport, sorry) or darts. Top down on the best ones: Basketball, baseball, high level soccer, football, the pucks.
Q: Do you think the Raptors will go after Nicolas Batum in the free agent market? He's a 6'8" Forward/Guard who averaged 13.9 points and 4.8 rebounds for Portland, and is supposed to be good defensively. He would seem to meet the Raptors' needs and could play alongside DeRozan since they have different strengths.
Elliot M, Richmond Hill
A: I’m not sure “go after” is the right phrase but I am sure that if they still feel they have a hole at small forward after the draft, they’d explore a possible free agent signing. But I don’t think he’d be at the top of a list, I’d probably have guys like Ilyasova and maybe Gerald Wallace ahead of him.
Q: Please make a fearless prediction: What happens first: Seattle gets their NBA team back with a NHL team to share the stadium costs or Quebec City gets their NHL team back.
Kevin F, Hillsburgh
A: I’m not sure but I do know this: Seattle is not at all interested in an NHL team, it’s a basketball market and that’s why they are considering a new building; there are no plans to share it.
But, given the financial woes of, what, have a dozen pucks teams if you believe the reports, I’d take Quebec in that pool.
Q: Greetings, regarding the seemingly non-existent "fun" aspect of the Miami's. Perhaps what you have touched upon is also representative of how difficult it is to "make" a Championship team in any sport, at any level. Previously you mentioned the Dream Team and how once in a lifetime kind of circumstance that was. Maybe we are also seeing that one can't make/buy/steal that magic intangible that can take a team to the highest level. Kind of like planning a party, all the preparations and invites cannot necessarily guarantee a great time for all, they can only set the stage and the final outcome rests in the hands of fate. Some may argue that it is luck that provides this boost, don't know that I agree with that totally, but there is some hard to define force that can take over and guide certain things.
Agree, disagree, perhaps an angle I am missing?
Anyways, thanks for what you do.
Doug T, Brantford
A: I think it’s called chemistry, really. If you find a group of solid citizens who get along with each other – and have a modicum of talent – it’s easier to build a successful team. You look at a group like the good Detroit team of the mid-2000s; yes, there were some citizenship issues, but that team got along and played for each other, much the way this Oklahoma City team does. It goes to finding the right “mix” of personalities and it’s not that easy at all.
It’s probably a bit of luck, along with some hard work finding out about the personalities of people you want to add.
Well, they certainly scheduled the NBA Finals pretty well for us, didn’t they?
No games Friday or Saturday which allows us to do the usual mail without having to worry about game stuff getting in the way.
Have fun with this, there’s room for a wee bit more if you want. You know the drill.
Q: Hello Doug. Question regarding Canadian-born players. Why Raptors as a Canadian only team, don’t give any Canadian players a chance? It’s not like our roster filled with superstars. There must be a hand full of players in all of Canada, who can play a few minutes here and there and maybe one day get a chance for some constant minutes.
And question number two, how come NBA teams don’t have any developing junior teams like in Europe? If you look at the roster of any European based team, there are at least few, if not half of the team, with players developed by the organization. This way you have some kind of loyalty from both parties. And more important, there is interest for kids to play organized sports. Anyways, please keep informing us with the pre-draft news. All the best.
Alex V, Toronto
A: Pardon the “here we go again” sigh I just let out but, here we go again.
There is no reason to simply take Canadian players because of their passports. If they can play and are from Mars, you get ‘em. And, as I’m sure you know, it’s not as simple as going and getting Canadians, there are drafts and contracts and other issues at play here.
If they have the opportunity to get someone they want and he happens to be from Canada, that’s all the better; that’s a rare occurrence, though.
The club system, while okay in Europe, isn’t workable here at all. There are too many different factions of the game in too many large cities; it won’t happen.
Q: Hey Doug. A lot of "experts" seem to think the Raptors will draft a shooting guard. If the Raptors are looking to draft a shooting guard, what does that say about DeRozan? Would they like to trade him or move him to small forward position? Thanks
Phil D, Mississauga
A: This is a very popular question this week, I’ll use this version as representative of the others, if you don’t mind.
I don’t think it says anything other than what Bryan said on lottery night, he was going to take the best player regardless of position at No. 8 if only to accrue assets and, as it turns out, it’s mainly a shooting/point guard group. But also remember this, there’s very little chance a No. 8 pick is going to come in and wrest away a starting job from anyone and they have a dire need for a true backup at that spot.
Q: Doug, five a thirsty man a glass of water and he's eternally grateful ... and thirsty again later in the same day. Are the Raptors more interested in JUST getting into the playoffs, or are they intending on building a title-contending team?
Which brings me to your oft-written suggestion that a good veteran wing player might be a better idea than drafting and using the number eight pick at the end of the month. Eight plus one of the excess PF bunch of Raptors might provide a decent to pretty good wing ... albeit with a big ticket.
My argument against that is that contending teams have to hit on a draft pick or two to produce low-cost starters that up the talent level of a team. Then, the dollar-savings can be used elsewhere to upgrade more of the rotational nine. Getting REALLY lucky in the draft, say getting a Durant rather than an Oden, scoring a top pick like Rose from a low-odds lottery lotto, or a starter late in the draft (Parker, Ginobili) are also important.
If we trade for the wing we can get, it also probably empties the coffers for taking a run at Steve Nash. Or even Goran Dragic. And can one more player help Jonas Valanciunas and the Raptors be good enough?
We have been parched here in Toronto, despite not doing the Knick-tanking thing for a few years. I believe making an astute pick at eight, or wherever they draft after the trading merry-go-round, would be better for the Raptors (eventual) championship hopes than simply making a move to become the Atlanta Hawks of the North.
I hear champagne can be quite quenching.
Gary M, Brampton
A: It’s not necessarily true at all that a significant offer to Nash will empty any coffers, they can – if Bryan wants – be refilled by using the amnesty provision on someone to get more money.
And I don’t think anyone’s advocating some 35- or even 33-year-old three at the end of his career as one last piece; I’d be looking for someone 26, 28, 29 to grow with a young group and if that guy’s not around, well, go with another kid. But you have to look, this team is too young and will get younger with the arrival of Valaciunas and a draft pick.
The simple fact is that every team wants to be “building a title-contending team” and to think otherwise is dead wrong. It’s difficult to do, there is no one cut-and-dried way to do it but everyone wants to.
Q: What message is being sent by having the Raptors look at draft picks at the shooting guard position, people like Austin Rivers. DeMar DeRozan can be a restricted free agent at the end of the 12-13 season, Jerryd Bayless , Gary Forbes , Linas Kleiza, Sonny Weems can all play at the 2. I understand that you pick the best player available in the draft, but there is already a backlog at the 4 that needs to be address with addition by subtraction, would not the message be that this is likely the situation as well at the 2?
Kevin F, Hillsburgh
A: Couple of flaws here, I'm afraid.
Forget Sonny Weems, please, he’s not in the mix, Linas Kleiza is no more an NBA two than you are, Bayless and Forbes are question marks with one year left on their deals right now.
And 2s and 3s, as we know, are relatively interchangeable; as, in some instances, are 1s and 2s.
Q: Hi Doug. Maybe a conspiracy theory but is there any chance Raptors are the team that told Dion Waiters that he is there man all in a plot to cool other team's interest in him?
Fred W, Cambridge
A: Big conspiracy theory and, take my word for it, please, simply not true. That said, Bryan said right off the bat that Waiters would be “in the mix” if he’s still on the board.
Q: Hi Doug. Agree with the assessment of game 2 calls. A no call is fine on the last play esp if you consider Durant could have legitimately fouled out on the Battier charge that was called a block.
My question is about James Harden. What do you think of his overall game? Is he a max player, and the heir apparent to Kobe’s title of best SG as some say? Can OKC afford to keep him? I'd love to see what he can do as the first option, although he is one of the bigger floppers and complainers.
David W, Toronto
A: Harden’s pretty good is his current role; he is light years away from being in the same class as “best SG” in my opinion.
OKC can afford to keep him if they are willing to pay a high tax bill but we’re at least a year away from finding out about and that’s a long time.
I don’t see him – today – as a maximum contract player but that’s just me.
Q: Hey Doug! Who's scheduling these games and why???? I saw the upcoming schedule and the Sunday game is starting at 8pm!!! The Tuesday game is again starting at 9pm. If the OKC home games start late for the west coast audience, why can't the MIA home games start earlier for the East Coast?
Jon D, Toronto
A: None of these start times are for any “coast.” They are for TV and TV has decided it maximizes its viewers earlier on Sundays than it does on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which is why a Game 6 in Oklahoma City will be an 8 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. Central start.
Was it a foul?
Was it the right non-call?
There was a lot of hand-wringing around Oklahoma City last night about whether LeBron James fouled Kevin Durant there with about 10 seconds left in a two-point game that the Thunder didn’t deserve to win.
Lots of contact?
But there’s lots of contact on almost every play and I have no problem at all with no whistle and the best part was that the Thunder took the high road, to a man. Especially Durant:
“You know, I think I shot a good shot. That’s a shot I shoot all the time, I just missed.”
Even pressed with a follow-up question, he wouldn’t bite.
“I was just worrying about the shot. I really couldn’t tell you (if there was contact). I’ve got to watch the film, I guess.”
What he’ll see is James get him a bit with the elbow, as almost every shooter gets hit on a lot of those shots, but it was still an eminently makeable look that he just didn’t make. One of those make-or-miss situations that often turn games, this time it turned against the home team.
We know that NBA officiating is incredibly under the microscope these days what with all the flopping and slow-motion HD replays being played a billion times after every contentious call or non-call.
Sure, there are missed calls and debatable non-calls and that was one of many in the game. The Thunder knew better than to make it an issue because they knew it wasn’t the reason they lost. Forget for a moment that the Heat still would have had about seven seconds to win the game (and wouldn’t that have been wonderful to see unfold; to see who took the shot, what the play was; the angst that would have followed), they had been so sluggish for so long earlier in the game that it never should have come down to it.
That was, for the most part, a delightful game and I’ve got a feeling this series is going to turn into something special
And think of it this way:
All that chatter about the James-Durant play took the attention away from the blown goaltending call earlier in the game that also went against the Thunder.
Pretty good day for the Canadian women over in France yesterday. They beat Croatia 66-49, which isn’t too bad since that’s one of the teams at the Olympic qualifier and even a possible quarter-final opponent as the women try to make it to London starting next week.
But, as I do almost every summer, I warn not to read too, too much into it; teams – including Canada at times – have been known to hold back stuff when they are playing exhibition games against teams they’ll meet when things actually count.
That’d be nice.
So today’s the day the dude walks across Niagara Falls, or something like that, on a wire, right?
Yeah, we know how to attract ‘em to the old hometown, don’t we?
Look, there is a lot to like about Niagara. There’s Mick and Angelo’s (hell, Ralph and everyone else), the park is really pretty, the Falls themselves are breathtaking and we have lots of really nice golf courses where you can negotiate enough strokes on the first tee to make the day worthwhile.
Lots of weird wax museums – the Criminal’s Hall Of Fame was a personal fave from way back in the day – and it’s the most neon city in the country, I would bet.
And now some guy is going to traipse across the river on a wire for some TV show?
While I wish the guy luck and hope it all works out, this dude is no Blondin.
That guy pushed a wheelbarrow across the Falls while walking on a wire, carried a guy on his back; Blondin was a daredevil.
Was always cool to drive down Clifton Hill, look up at the statue of him crossing the street and give a nod.
HOTH are just about done the majority of their pre-draft stuff. Only main name they’ve got to get in is Jared Sullinger of Ohio State as Ed told me last night; after that it’s a bunch of second-rounders they’ve already seen a time or two.
But here’s one thing to think about when the debate gets around to Syracuse’s Dion Waiters and whether the Raptors would take him without having him in for a private workout and interview, which is probably the biggest thing in the equation:
Waiters is from Philly and Ed and Alvin Williams, who are as tied into the Philly basketball scene better than almost anyone so they’ve got a good idea of what the kid is like without having to involve sports psychologists or chats over dinner.
Not saying they’d take him if he’s there, but they know enough about him to feel comfortable doing it if they want to.
Off to Miami today (have a 40-minute layover in Atlanta, it’s 1,000,000 per cent sure my bag doesn’t make it; I’d say it’s 5-95 that I make it) and can’t wait to get to the hotel there.
It’s a short walk, less than a mile I’d guess, from where the guy tried to chew the face off the other guy in a most recent episode of cannibalism.
Yeah, I live in some cool neighbourhoods on the road, don’t I?
One thing’s for sure, I’d expect this evening to begin or end, likely both, at Mike’s, one of the great locals on the road, a little hole in the wall place on the ninth floor of a condo building next to the Biscayne Bay Marriott that you can barely find with a GPS and a search warrant. It’s for locals and by locals, good food, a pool table, a patio and precisely the kind of joint you could get to like over the years.
And seeing how I’m not exactly the South Beach type (I know, you’re stunned, right?) that’s the kind of Miami place I can enjoy.
Any other recommendations would be welcome, we’re going to be there a week with a few nights to waste away.
(And, no, I won’t be going back the Clevelander at the ballpark)
Doug Smith has been a sportswriter for more than 30 years, a journey that's included seven Olympic Games, numerous and varied championships and more dreary regular season games than he'd care to remember. Here, he'll talk about them all, as well as current events and pop culture. (Just don’t ask him about music nowadays — it's not his cup of tea).