Good evening, again.
Hope all's well
Good evening, again.
Hope all's well
Often we wonder about the connection between pro athletes and the cities they represent.
We know about the transient nature of the players, the “home” team is a “home” team basically during the season and until the contract runs out and there really isn’t any cosmic coming-together very often.
Which brings us to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the city they represent.
Every player who joins the Thunder is taken to the memorial to the 1995 bombing that scarred this city and for a long time defined it.
It is a solemn and respectful and, in some ways, a wonderful memorial, it pays homage to those who lost their lives in that tragic event.
I’ve been there – walked up with Sam Mitchell and a handful of others way back in the day; wandered past it during a walkabout yesterday, too – and it really is something to experience. It gives to an idea of what happened here, how it devastated a city and, in some ways, brought it together.
And when players go see it, and they must, it has to hit them hard. It seems to have had an impact on Kevin Durant, as he told us a couple of days ago.
“Being somewhere, being in a community where you're going to live here for a while, we want to know the history, everything that went down here in Oklahoma and how they moved past it.
“You can tell by what happened in those events that the city got closer and closer, and you can tell just by landing here in Oklahoma City, just meeting people in the airport, that this city is a tight-knit family.
“With us coming here, it just made it even closer. It's just a blessing to be a part of a great city even though they went through a tough tragedy.”
Now, a lot of players bolt when the season is over for much of the summer, off to their real homes or other obligations and that’s fine and dandy.
It’s how it is everywhere in every sport, the players have other homes and families and responsibilities and few anywhere are true 12-month-a-year residents in the cities they represent.
But to know there is some kind of connection between the residents and the players, and the fact the transient kids realize what they mean to a city like this is something quite unique.
And in today’s “what do you see on the streets of OKC” travelogue we have …
Yeah, I know how to pick ‘em, don’t I?
Was listening to Kevin Durant in the interview room and looked down to see Netherlands down 1-0; I think LeBron James or Erik Spoelstra drone on when I checked to find it was 2-0.
From then the day was pretty much over and the writing in the room was accompanied by the white noise of the second half of the game.
Kind of anti-climatic, wasn’t it?
But I guess it’s not all bad. As Cathal points out here, this whole Euro2012 thing has kind of been turned on its head and it’s made for some compelling stories.
I particularly like the last few paragraphs of his piece, where he talks about Canada – or North America – not having anything like it and how we’re a bit poorer off for it.
We tend to antiseptically analyze our sports events and teams too often, worried about numbers and stats and intricacies of strategy a bit too much, leaving the true passion of the games a bit too far in the background.
I guess there probably is a middle ground between some of the “passion” we’ve seen from coaches and players in Europe and the oft-dispassionate dissecting of the games we get from players and coaches over here but we haven’t found it yet.
When we do, we will have reached a watershed point in our love of games, where we can truly balance the personalities and souls we watch and the physical magic they perform on the court or the field.
Much of this afternoon is free and I need to get a lot of it out of the way.
The Oklahoma City-Atlanta-Miami trip tomorrow with a short turnaround in Atlanta is fraught with peril – I’m dead certain my bag won’t get to Miami, and am fully expecting to miss my connection as well – and I’ll want something to do.
Hey, did you watch the Dream Team thing last night? Heard it was on late in Canada and I wonder what you thought of it.
Workouts drone on; no one’s really shone more than the others and if there are Dog Days in the pre-draft process, we’re in them.
In our whole “Let’s go, Netherlands” kind of jinx (and it’s becoming something of a trademark of mine), I’ll all about Spain against the Irish today; knowing what a celebration on the streets of Dublin will be like.
Right, the NBA Finals.
Things to watch for tonight (and, yes, we’ll do another IGBT so be here around 9 p.m. East) will be to see how long the Heat have LeBron guard Durant (it’ll be longer than the last game), how aggressive Dwayne Wade is going to the basket (I have a feeling he’ll live at the free throw line) and how OKC gets everyone involved, again, until it’s time for Durant to take over in the fourth (James Harden has to be better).
I don’t think there’s any way to really guess what the outcome will be but I think for this to be on the way to being an epic series, a 2-0 OKC lead would be great. Would put all kinds of pressure on the Heat going home and, I tell you, there just seems to be some kind of daily increasing pressure on that team that’s kind of fun to watch. They know what’s at stake, they know what will be said and written if they lose and it’s going to be fun if we get to watch it all unfold.
In the hour or so it took me to type this here Thursday morning, I don’t believe a TOD starter was injured.
Guess that’s a good thing.
Now this may be a gross over-simplification (it’s kind of what we do) and a bit of a rush to judgement (another thing we do far too often) but one thing struck me watching the Heat these past few nights.
They don’t seem to have a lot of fun playing the games.
I don’t mean giggling and laughing and not taking things seriously; I mean just the way they handle themselves.
Now, I don’t know that it’s all that important that joy comes through publicly, it’s tremendously hard to win games and the intensity you need to compete doesn’t lend itself to smiles and giggles, but I do think the better teams consistently look like they are truly enjoying themselves out there.
Perhaps it is a reaction to two seasons of being hammered almost all the time by fans and some media, of hearing how evil they are and how they somehow jilted the rightful order of the world when they got together; or maybe the Heat are just more businesslike because of their age and the experiences they’ve had.
But just watch things like facial expressions, body language, how they react to each other and the game. Even when they were winning early and into the third quarter, you didn’t get the impression the Heat were particularly enjoying themselves.
Far too often it looks like it’s a chore to some degree rather than fun, and while it’s not the make-it-or-break-it trait for a team, I do think it translates a little bit into “how” they play as well.
I guess it hit me hardest sometime in the second half of Game 1, it simply looked like Oklahoma City, despite trailing most of the night, seemed to be enjoying themselves more.
Bit a bigger bounce in their step, a bit more enthusiasm at the end of plays, more smiles to some degree.
It won’t be the thing that decides the series – and this series still has a tremendous amount of basketball yet to be played and to count Miami out is folly – but it might be something you want to look at.
A penguin one day, this the next.
Who knows what’s around the next OKC corner.
A somewhat ho-hum day of workouts yesterday, I’m told; no one jumped out as some rotation-busting must-have draft pick and today is Canada Day to some degree.
Montreal’s Kris Joseph and Vancouver’s Robert Sacre are in; not sure either is someone they’re seriously looking at (Joseph more than Sacre if they are; he’s more athletic, and scouts think he’s got more room for skill development) but it’ll be good for them to be seen.
I have a Joseph interview somewhere in my notebook from last week in Chicago; guess I have something else to work on this morning.
I think “booked for dissent” is now my new favourite sports phrase and should be adapted by all professional leagues.
Either that or steals in the NBA should now be called “dispossessions.”
I tell you, soccer does play by play like few other sports, doesn’t it?
I know it’s not nearly as lyrical as baseball or frenetic as basketball or hockey but it’s fun to listen to a guy do a game.
(Can you call how I’ve been killing time since Euro2012 began?)
Okay, I just don’t get Erik Spoelstra.
This whole “will Bosh start” stuff is getting a little ridiculous by the way he’s obfuscating every day about what he might do.
But for Spoelstra, it’s just the opposite and he fully admitted it before Game 1.
“I'd be willing to tell Oklahoma City. I don't think it's a competitive advantage … just one of the few times that hopefully we can control a little bit of the noise out there, we don't have to get into the debate about the pluses or minuses about it before the game. The guys can just focus in, get into their iPads and focus on the game.”
How silly is that.
You have to realize he said this about 80 minutes before tip-off in the main press room, there was hardly enough time for us to go charging off to the Heat locker room to converge on Shane Battier to tell pester him about losing his job and, besides, if we did, he’d probably say “um, yeah, okay; he’s better than I am.”
And that’s not even taking into consideration the fact that the players – any players – disappear before the game for the precise reason that they don’t really want to talk to us.
Spoelstra may be a good coach – it’s debatable – and it can’t be easy to handle that group of players and the attention – but that’s just a guy taking himself, and a benign situation – far too seriously.
Maybe this “Heat needs to have more fun” thing starts at the top.
Tough call, need some help.
If I get done in time and find a stool, do I watch Strasburg-Drabek from the ballyard or Netherlands-Germany from the football?
What would you do?
Okay, folks, here’s the deal: Game days are a bit slow, especially here in OKC, and Friday’s a bit of a bear of a travel day so I’m going to have to start the weekend mail early.
As in Thursday afternoon sometime so let’s get going, shall we?
Time to catch up a bit with Canada because it’s that time of year.
The women’s national team split two games in Britain on the weekend, losing the first and winning the second, and that’s not entirely surprising because it’s always hard to win that first game in Europe after some arduous travel.
They’re off to France now for another series of exhibitions before the Olympic qualifier starts in 10 days or so and as coach Allison McNeill said to us they day they left, it’s vitally important that Canada Basketball got them over there early so they could get acclimated to the time, get over the physical toll travel takes and get re-acquainted with the European style of the women’s game.
The results of these games really don’t matter; it’s making sure they’re getting better consistently, remembering what it takes to compete over there and being ready when the big tourney finally starts.
On the men’s side, and we’re really giving this short shrift today because I need something to use here tomorrow or Friday, the Cadet team (under 17) is about to start camp as it gets ready for the world championships that begin later this month in Lithuania and the Junior team (under 19) is off the FIBA Americas qualification tournament in Brazil.
There, you’re caught up a bit.
Yeah, I know, a bit late.
Warned you about this central time zone thing.
Spent a fair chunk of last night watching TV – I know, hardly what you’d think, right? – but it was more than worth it.
The good folks at NBA TV gave us a chance to watch their latest documentary, a 90-minute gem to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Dream Team and, man, was it good.
It’s done by the same people who did Once Brothers, the awesome doc on Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic, and for a guy who actually covered the Dream Team at the 199 Tournament of the Americas in Portland and then the Barcelona Olympics, it was a treat to stroll down memory lane with some excellent behind the scenes footage and interviews with every member of the team.
(An aside: You’re a bit screwed in Canada because I don’t know what you’ll see it; I see that there’s CFL exhibition football and soccer repeats on Wednesday night when it airs down here; NBA TV Canada will have it at 11 p.m., I'm told.)
Got me thinking about a point the film makes:
This was the single greatest sports team ever compiled in any sport anywhere.
There has never been another – even the 1972 Canada pucks team left off WHA players – and I cannot imagine any country in any sport getting that many Hall of Famers again now.
What that team did was, frankly, to alter the landscape in its sport around the world.
Sure, they won ridiculously easily but that’s not the point. Their mere presence in Portland and Barcelona – with a pit stop in Monte Carlo – gave the game a prominence it never had and is in no small way responsible for the global explosion of the sport and the presence of guys in the NBA today like Dirk Nowitzki and the Gasols and Tony Parker and Jose Calderon and Serge Ibaka and Andrea Bargnani.
I can’t tell you what it was like to see that team play. It put aside egos and it was a delight to watch. They played with and for each other and it was as close to perfect basketball as we will ever see. They were the Beatles off the court and on Las Ramblas and they were amazing to watch; there will never be another in any sport, ever.
The documentary should be required viewing for all fans (whenever you can view it back home) and my friend Jack McCallum – who was the reporter perhaps closer to that team than any other – has a book on the anniversary coming out next month that I cannot wait to read.
(Oh yeah, I told Jack I’d plug it; go here, read the excerpt and pre-order. You’re welcome, Jack)
Oh, and this ends the debate, which should never have occurred in the first place:
I don’t care what you call what American basketball team from here on in, I don’t care who’s on it or what it does or what it wins. We need to never refer to any team as the Dream Team; there was only one, it played 20 years ago and changed the sporting landscape worldwide.
Why wouldn’t you see about an eight-foot tall plastic penguin on a sidewalk in Oklahoma City?
Wow, what a day.
Frank Drucker and Teofilo Stevenson pass away on the same day?
Tough, tough day.
Now, which was the more important guy?
Frank Drucker was hilarious, the voice of reason around the zaniness of Oliver and Lisa Douglas; he handled the girls on Petticoat Junction pretty well.
Stevenson? Maybe the greatest amateur boxer ever? Think you could make that point and it’s just too bad we never got to see more of him.
So, what’s new at the Finals?
Well, we’ll get to far more on Old Friend Chris Bosh later this morning to get us through the first edition of tomorrow’s paper but the one thing I came away with from the media session yesterday was that the Heat are far, far more relaxed this time around.
Bosh was chatty without being nervous, LeBron James looked like he was going to fall asleep when he was talking from the podium and Dwayne Wade seemed a bit unexcited himself.
“Not making a big deal out of everything, I understand that this is the Finals and it’s cool and all but it’s basketball and at the end of the day, we’re going to be throwing the ball up and we’re going to do what we’ve been doing since we were born.”
Is that a good thing? Probably.
But I’ve still got the Thunder in six; how about you?
First sign of a credentialed “reporter” wearing team gear?
The guy in the Miami Heat t-shirt at about 11:45 yesterday morning in the workroom of the arena.
Nice touch. And you wonder why our reputation is what it is.
Oh yeah, we’ll give an IGBT a shot tonight, about 9 eastern time; they tell me wireless shouldn’t be an issue and as long as I’m not sitting up in the rafters it should work out all right.
See you then.
Just got the note that Damian Lillard get his workout with the Raptors this afternoon, on his own, after a handful of others go this morning in a group setting.
If you give me a few minutes and check back to our website, I’ll get a little look at Lillard written and you can learn a bit more about him, maybe.
Have at it.
Draft time is starting to heat up considerably, this is a rather big week with individual workouts and interviews in Toronto and, frankly, things are as clear as mud at the moment.
If I had to come up with a list of guys the Raptors like an awful lot – and this is fluid and will be likely until June 28 – it’d be Dion Waiters, Damian Lillard, Austin Rivers, Harrison Barnes and Jared Sullinger.
It’s obvious than Bryan and the Henchmen are doing just what he said he’d do immediately after the season and after the lottery:
Finding what they consider the best player, regardless of position and acquiring assets.
I don’t think anyone should read anything into the names vis-à-vis guys already on the roster because the Raptors need players and if the player they like best plays a position they think could be already filled well, that’s tough. Take a guy you think can help and either let the coach figure out who plays or let the GM figure out if other moves have to be made.
(By the way, I still think the right thing to do is try to package the pick with a player, maybe two, and find some veteran three but that’s just me).
Of course, they might not have a shot at many of those people on the list because no one knows who might go before them.
Coming out of Chicago, the only thing anyone can say with certainty is the Anthony Davis goes No. 1 and then who knows?
Does Charlotte take Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Thomas Robinson? Can Washington ignore Brad Beal? Is Barnes a natural in Cleveland with Irving or do they take Kidd-Gilchrist if he’s still there? Where’s that leave the likes Andre Drummond?
It’s going to be an interesting time, indeed.
Now, I’m not going to be around the workouts in person but I don’t think that’s a very big thing.
We don’t get to see much (maybe some shooting drills, maybe an agility drill at the end of the workout) and the clichés you’ll hear start with “I think I’m a good fit, I just want to come in and do whatever the coach wants me to do” before moving to “I’m just blessed and will be happy to go wherever I go” and finishing with “this is a good young team, I’d love to come and grow with it.”
But that time in Chicago last week was pretty important, it provided a look at these kids in a different environment and we’ll parcel some more of that out (we’ve already heard from Nicholson and a bit of Lillard and Rivers) as the week unfolds.
And, no, we don’t know yet exactly who’s coming what day and history should tell us these things change daily and we might not know for sure who’s in what day until the morning they’re supposed to work out.
Did you know that on the drive in from the OKC airport to our less-than-ritzy accommodation downtown (it’s nice but far from posh) you see not only oil derricks but haystacks?
As I mentioned in this story a little while ago, this city has entirely given itself over to the Thunder in every imaginable way.
You’ve got business with Thunder signs in their windows and Thunder flags on the poles.
I was talking to a comely lass who works in one of the Bricktown establishments last night and she was telling that every seat in every gin joint in the area will likely be filled four hours before tipoff Tuesday and Thursday and they’ll stay filled until long after the game is over.
It’s not going to be like that in Miami; it wouldn’t be like that in too many cities. Perhaps it’s the geographical size of the area – for you Torontonians Bricktown wouldn’t be barely as big as Liberty Village; for you others, it’s about a three square block of converted factories and warehouses that now house bars and restaurants – but it also has to do with the relative nothingness of this city and a desire to get behind something, anything.
Trust me, there isn’t a lot of There There in OKC (oldsters might get that) and having a good young team to rally around provides something a purpose and something common to adapt.
It’ll be a lot of fun, even more fun than seeing a working oil derrick pumping stuff in the 15 minutes it takes to get from Will Rogers World Airport (yep, that’s the name) to downtown.
Hobbs vs. Hobbs V2.0 at the ballyard this week?
Man, if there was one TOD series I’d like to watch closely this would be it and here I am in OKC.
Hobbs V2.0, of course, is Washington’s Bryce Harper (you can get to know him pretty well in Griff’s rather detailed contribution here) and it’d be nice to see the kid n person.
And is it a measuring stick for the Jays, who just can’t get a handle on how to dominate – or even hang on often – in inter-league play?
Yeah, might be.
The Nationals are kind of like the Jays, a good young team trying to figure it all out and it’ll be interesting to see who does what this week. It’s not very often an early June baseball series is a big one, I think we can say this one is.
So, who wins the NBA Finals?
Luckily, they don’t want my copy until this afternoon because I don’t think I can even take a guess right now.
But I will say this:
This is as highly-anticipated a championship series as there’s been in quite some time and I would imagine even casual fans will be paying rapt attention to it as it unfolds.
Yes, it’s probably more anticipated than Celtics-Lakers of a few years ago, which was the biggest in an awful lot of years when it began.
You’ve got Durant and James, Wade and Westbrook; young against relatively old and any number of intriguing story lines to explore and watch.
Might even be an easy one to write about and I’m all for that.
We’ll talk more about who wins and why later on but I think you’d all agree the excitement level is close to off the charts.
Everywhere except Seattle and Cleveland, that is.
Oh yeah, that Netherlands pick in the Euro2012 sure looks good, doesn’t it?
Oh, one other thing:
Late nights here and it’s the central time zone; I’m thinking the goal of having this up by 7 a.m. Eastern time each day might not be reachable.
Maybe you’ll give me until 8? Thanks.
Okay, while I’m on the Lewis And Clark journey (who else would go to Oklahoma City from Toronto through Minneapolis?) you all have fun with this and I’ll check in a bit later from the Finals. I’m sure I missed some late Saturday afternoon or evening questions and I’ll try to touch on whatever I can whenever I can.
Oh, and if you want some Raptors news, workouts for draft prospects in Toronto start Tuesday; we’ll keep you up to date in the morning stuff every day as we can.
Q: Hey Doug: This question may have been asked before - and, sadly, it could very well be that I was the on that asked it! - but I've heard that the Tall Foreheads are unhappy with your work in the Sports Department (don't worry, there will definitely be an Irregular uprising - I just don't know how long it will take to get organized), and want to reassign you to another job. In recognition of your many years of working for Mother Star, they've allowed you to pick your area. Other than Fashion, where would you like to go?
Tim H, Windsor
A: Oh, I’m going to write travel pieces; see more of the world on the company’s dime without having to do deadline game stories. Imagine that’d be fun.
Q: Reading your most recent post, about how something is missing in Miami, I started to dream about Steve Nash joining the Heat. I'm not a Heat fan, but this is nevertheless something I would love to see. What better way to cement his reputation than to make this team play like a team, and in doing so win a championship?
Doug H, Toronto
A: What better way to cement, or create, a reputation as a guy who chased a title in his dotage, ala Gary Payton and Karl Malone with the Lakers and I don’t think that’s in Steve Nash’s character. That said, he did at one time mention the Heat so you never know but that would run counter to the Nash I know.
Q: Doug do you believe there is a chance that Dion Waiters and his agent are lying and that he is not promised to a team but simply creating a ruse to create more spotlight on his name. I have seen a bunch of draft sites and waiters isn't even a lottery pick. Couldn't this be an attempt to make it look like another team sees major value in him so that some other team may bite on him? This no-show that he pulled has created a lot of media attention on Waiters.
Also, do you think from what you have heard and seen about waiters that he would just be a Jerryd Bayless number 2 or do you think their games are not very similar?
Thanks for your time!
Mario A, Toronto
A: Oh, I think “lying” is a pretty strong word so, no, I wouldn’t use it. They perhaps over-estimated something they heard but, having talked to more than a few people in Chicago, there is no doubt right now that Waiters is a lottery pick.
As for his game, I haven’t seen nearly enough -- and not any against men – to have an informed opinion right now. Hope to see some more video and talk to more people but I can’t say now how good or bad he is; I do know for a fact, the Raptors are interested.
Q: Hi Doug. How come there seems to be no doubt whatsoever that Anthony Davis will be the top pick in the draft? Is he that much better than anybody else in what has been deemed a strong draft?
Can you think of any other case of a player was a certain no 1, was chosen in that position but ended up being a bust?
Thanks a lot for the daily serving in NBA, Raptors and unrelated news.
Matthieu B, Bern
A: Yes, everyone I talk to says he is that much better than anyone else, but a wide margin in the opinion of many.
Others? Well, perhaps no one as cut-and-dried as the consensus No. 1 as Davis but there certainly have been busts. However, guys like, say, Kwame Brown or Michael Olowokandi were not thought to be far and away the No. 1 selections; they were gambles that failed.
Q: Hello Doug. It's almost swap season, and thoughts turn to trade value. Based on which current Raps might qualify as sure-fire starters on other NBA teams, I come up with just one. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I think Bargnani would likely start for at least 28, if not all 30, teams. After that, between Calderon and DeRozan, who would likely find a starting role on more NBA teams?
Now, putting starting/finishing roles aside, which of those two do you think has the higher overall trade value? Jose, because of his steady hand and expiring contract? Or DeMar, because of his athleticism and youth?
Finally, what do you think the chances are that all three will remain Raptors this coming season? And thanks for a great blog!
David M, Ottawa
A: I’m not sure Andrea would start on that many teams but he would on quite a few but other than he and Jose and DeMar, it would depend on fit and need. As I’ve said, Aaron Gray would be Wilt Chamberlain in Miami, allowing them to move Bosh to the four, LeBron to the three with Wade and Chalmers.
And it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other on who would have higher value for the varied reasons you state. I would presume – and this is without talking to 29 other GMs – Jose’s combination of skill and contract would make him more valuable.
And since you asked today, I’d say it’s 99.9 per cent certain today that all three are in camp. And, yes, that means there’s a chance they all won’t be.
Q: Alright Doug, we gotta go 'Back FOR the Future!'
Imagine Colangelo hops into his time-travelling Delorean and goes back to some point in the past 16 years. He has to go out and either draft a player or sign a free agent.
There are three catches:
He only has room for one guy
It must actually be a former HOTH
They can only play for the team for one season before they are sucked back into the void and go back to the past.
As such, their statistics and impact would mirror those of their rookie season or first year after signing as a free agent with the HOTH. No going back to get Olajuwon 10 years before he actually became a Raptor.
Which player's first season with the Raptors would help the current team the most? Which player regardless of our current team had in your estimation, the best first season with the Raptors?
Off the top of my head, I might answer Garbo and Mike James respectively.
Cheers Marty! Er... I mean Doug.
Andrew P, Toronto
A: I hope I’ve got this right and I think I do.
The list would start and end with HWSNBN; his rookie year in Toronto was amazing and how would that young 3 look on this team?
Garbo would help, sure; but I can’t get behind Mike James at any level, sorry.
Q: Hey Doug: This is not related to the HOTH, or even to any type of basketball - I hope I don't stir up the "This is a basketball blog" naysayers for you.
When you were growing up (or even now), what Super Hero did you (do you) want to be?
Thanks for putting up with some of our zanier requests!
Tim H, Windsor
A: Who didn’t want to be Superman? And I mean in the George Reeves era. Although Margot Kidder in the movie made that role pretty palatable.
Good job, again, Irregulars.
A fine start, lots left over for tomorrow and I can probably handle a few more but there’s a trip home from Chicago and then some other work and an early flight to Oklahoma City on Sunday so can’t promise too much.
Have fun with this, though.
Q: If you were the coach of a "no excuse" team like the Heat, what excuse would you use for not making the Finals? (Queried on Wednesday, please amend or delete if they do make it.)
Why is Colby Rasmus now hitting? Can he continue hitting? What is the most pressing need for the TOD?
Any favourite. Father Time, Fatha Hines, Life with Father, Father Knows Best, or Father Bauer? Colour Him Father? Sylvester's son's plea, ohh fatther?
Have a good one on the 17th!
Bob E, Kanata
A: Think we’ve got some Heat stuff done in the interim and will have more after we find out what transpires Saturday night.
Rasmus and Hobbs are pretty cool at top of the order, no? I don’t know this for sure, but I do think there’s a comfort level knowing you’re going to get an early at-bat that gets you into the game more quickly, I think Rasmus is probably seeing more fastballs or better pitches because of the guy behind him and it’s working out great so far.
Biggest need? Well, I think a power-hitter either for left field or first base would be on the list and I know Janssen’s been lights out but you can never have enough bullpen depth.
Fathers? How about this fadda, all the way from Camp Granada.
Q: Hello Doug. Stock traders, tax collectors, lawyers, used-car salesmen...these are professions that regularly turn up on those lists of "Top 10 Most Hated Professions". But I've yet to see "Sports Agents" included on any of those lists. Surprisingly. I believe you've used the words "self-serving". Nice understatement in my opinion. (Greedy, avaricious, mercenary, vain-glorious, egotistic are words that also come to mind.)
So, Doug, if you were suddenly charged with the task of preparing a kid for the NBA combine, how would you prepare him? What advice would you give him - say both the Top 3 Things To Do and Top 3 Things Not To Do? Thank you.
Lorie P, London
A: Kind of like being a parent, isn’t it?
Three Things To Do
Know your subject.
If you’re going into an interview with a team, do some homework, know who’s on the team, what they need and how you might fit.
Carry yourself as a grown up, look people in the eye when you answer there questions, I’d like a Mr. So-and-So or a Sir in an answer.
Don’t just sit there, be involved. Ask why they think you’d fit with a team, ask about philosophies, history of the franchise, stuff like that.
Three Things Not Do
If you can’t speak clearly and in sentences, be quiet.
Don't go too far
Don’t ask about the nightlife in the city, or the clubs, or the bars, or stuff like that.
Knock The Team
Yes, if you’re interviewing with a lottery team, it probably didn’t have a good season and, trust me, they know and they don’t need to be reminded.
Q: Doug. Thanks for the great work as always. Glad to see a snippet from Lillard. I love the just throw out a ball and let us play attitude. If he could even sniff a combo of Payton, Shaw and Kidd rolled into one, added to seasoning from Calderon, how could you say no to that? Now that the Raps are in draft mode, are your sources for researching these kids based on info you receive from the team, other NBA sources, and how much if at all do you refer to internet draft sites and analysis? What do you do to understand and analyze these guys due to your winter hibernation from college ball/ Are their any sites or writers whose opinion you respect more than others? Thanks as always.
Randy M, Crystal Beach
A: It’s truly a combination of different sources, actually. There are scouts I know who follow college, people in the Raptors front office help out a lot and so do writers who know far more about these kids than I do. You’re right, I’m way behind the curve so I will go through the usual sites – ESPN, Hoopsworld, Draftnet, NBA.com – to get some background information. And, really, there’s not one appreciably better than the other, it’s all part and parcel of gathering as much info as I can to get rather quickly up to speed.
Q: Like you Doug, I don't really follow college ball, however, I've been looking at 2012 Mock Drafts with interest. The reports vary of who is best suited for the HOTH, as are the players named.
As an Example; 2 days ago I read the HOTH were offering up the 8th pick to get an experienced player, and yesterday read that Dion Waiters of Syracuse won't work out for teams as he has a promise from an NBA team - most likely the Raptors.
My question...Do the reports have any basis in reality or are the predictions pretty much an educated stab in the dark by the American media talking heads and writers?
And who the heck is Dion Waiters?
Sam D, Barrie
A: I think we sufficiently debunked the Waiters myth yesterday; I hope you heard.
A lot of the “reports” are extrapolations of conversations you have, logical “guesses” if you will. You have idea of a team’s needs and come to a rational conclusion on what might happen and as long as you couch in those terms and don’t suggest anything is definitive, you’re doing all right.
I don’t think there’s anything totally fabricated but some of that extrapolation I talked about goes a bit far and stretches credulity.
Q: Hey Doug: I am guessing that you have a 'feel' of how the players across the league generally think. I get the feeling that you are a well-respected reporter, not just by the Raptors, with whom you have an almost daily connection (during the season), but among other teams as well.
Having said that, if the players were to decide the playoff schedule, how would it go?
If you (and we know it's all about you!) made up the schedule what would it look like (aside from afternoon games, so making deadline is a lot easier)?
Thanks for all of you efforts for your readers!
Tim H, Windsor
A: Okay, I can’t have all afternoon games? That would absolutely be top of the list.
But how about this: Every series would be 2-3-2, there would be one day off in between games in the same city and two days off when travel was required.
We’d go Monday-Wednesday, travel, day off, Saturday-Monday-Wednesday, travel, day off, Saturday-Monday.
Works for me.
It truly is the time of disinformation – or maybe misinformation -- around the NBA and the draft right now.
There was all kinds of buzz here in Chicago that Syracuse guard Dion Waiters had a “promise” from some team near the top of the draft and that’s why he’s pulled out of the pre-draft combine.
Of course, it set the chattering masses alight because Waiters can score, the Raptors need a scorer and, well, why wouldn’t it make sense.
And it still might, except for the fact there’s no “promise” from Toronto; quite the contrary, actually.
Here’s Bryan Colangelo, not 15 minutes ago:
"His agent has told me there's a promise to another team. Regardless, if he's on the board he's in our mix."
So, on we go, more days of speculation ahead of us but you might want to hold off on getting the Waiters replica jerseys made at the moment.
Okay, off to the media session with these kids in a bit, will get whatever news I can.
I think it was the eyes. Or the facial expression. Or the body language.
Whatever, what LeBron James showed last night was true and utter greatness; calm, cool, collected, brilliant.
It is just what we want, and need, from the best of the best, a methodical, complete, surgical dominance at the time it was needed most and it’s why James is the most physically-gifted basketball player ever and why we grow a tad frustrated that we don’t see it more often because you watch and you think he could do it whenever he truly wanted, he’s that good.
Yes, shots he sometimes misses went in and that got him rolling and that allowed the night to become so memorable but that 45-point performance might be – given the stage and the circumstances and what was at stake – the best individual basketball game perhaps I’ve ever seen.
And he did so calmly, so coolly, just like I want it. No chest-thumping, no histrionics, no primal screams.
He knew what was at stake, took a game and strangled it. He went about his business in a businesslike manner, brilliantly. It was, I’d suggest, out of the norm. He has had his moments of outward emotion like all athletes do and it makes it look like he’s working tremendously hard. Last night he was so great but it looked, well, it looked easy. There was an economy to it that was amazing to me. It truly was something to see.
James is one of the most polarizing athletes of our time; he inspires awe with this athletic ability and scorn for his Decision. There is a brutish part of his game that I’m not hugely in favour of, I like nuance rather than power but there is – never has and never will be – any denying of his prodigious talent.
Last night, though, we saw a surgical side to him, a calm, that was something to behold.
Hey, TFC people.
Riddle me this?
When are they going to fire the guy who keeps hiring the guys they have to almost immediately fire?
(In case you missed it, Our Man Dan – second hardest-working man in showblz – has the details here)
Really. Doesn’t someone at the top have to be held responsible for the fact that franchise has now had seven coaches in seven years?
I know it’s at the top of the MLSE poobah food chain where these decisions are made but at some time, aren’t the decision-makers responsible?
I’ve been in the States, particularly Boston and along the eastern seaboard about a zillion times over the years, and I think this Dunkin’ Donuts coffee I’m having about 5:30 this morning might be the first I’ve ever had from that omnipresent chain.
And I can dutifully report that it’s nice there’s a 24-hour one a few steps from my hotel but this coffee is gawdawful.
Weak, watered down, tasteless.
Hope Starbucks next door opens at 6 a.m.
Okay, you know I don’t know an awful lot about these draft kids I’m here seeing – this is a journey of discovery in a lot of ways – because I don’t pay any attention to college basketball in the winter.
(Over-coached, too many timeouts, every offence is a three-man weave for about six minutes before someone takes a three; it’s mind-numbing).
Anyway, it’s information gathering and a getting-to-know-them trip (first up was this piece on Andrew Nicholson) and I’m trying to figure out which guys on the Raptors list I should be speaking to.
Two of them – and I have it on very good authority they are at least on a list of possibilities – are Weber State guard Damian Lillard and Connecticut guard Jeremy Lamb.
An aside: There is no definitive list of possibilities for Toronto at No. 8, it is expanding and contracting almost daily, there is much work to do, they are barely closer to finalizing anything than they were a week ago; they don’t know who’ll be there, aren’t sure who they like best and all the speculation you’re reading is just that, rampant speculation.
Now, I’m not sure how much you can learn about kids in the group interview sessions we have but I will tell you this, I’m far more impressed with Lillard than I am Lamb and here’s why:
This is a time of keepaway in some ways, lots players – on advice of self-serving agents who don’t want their clients exposed – don’t like to play against anyone; they want to show their individual skills but games, sometimes even three-on-three, are verboten. Flaws are exposed, draft slots suffer, money is lost and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
So I’m talking to Lillard and he said he much prefers the group dynamic because it allows him to show what he’s got and when it’s pointed out to him that some of the other guys in the room shy away from that, he says this:
“I’m from Oakland. Gary Payton was that kind of person, really competitive. Jason Kidd, Brian Shaw. I feel I have to bring that same thing to the table as an Oakland point guard. I wand to compete and I feel I still have to prove myself playing against higher lever guys and I’m happy to have the opportunity.”
In the next session we get to speak to Lamb and it comes up that not only isn’t he going to compete at any level here, he’s not even going to do the skills drills. He might do some agility today but that’s likely it.
“Not sure, it’s my first time going through it. I was just told I don’t need to do that, (I) need to get ready for the interviews and things like that. I’m not sure on it.”
Now, there are other guys here who won’t go through the gamut of drills and who won’t take part in every session. I read somewhere that Thomas Robinson, a top 10 pick most likely, isn’t going to do anything and I’m sure there are others as well.
But if I’m a GM, I’m troubled by guys who don’t do it all.
Click. Write. Send. There are some boring bits during a day here waiting to talk to people, I need something to do.
Hey, I’m watching TV a lot of yesterday and this morning and there’s all kinds of chatter about Euro2012 and a whole bunch of people who are a whole lot smarter than I are picking Netherlands!
Maybe I’m not so dumb after all.
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).