The end of the weekend mail
All right, there’s far more than you probably want here after a long night waiting for the Fields decision and sitting at Ivor Wynne watching the Argos-Ticats with Super Son.
(More on that in the morning).
As for Fields, it was a drawn out process; the Knicks took their sweet time letting everyone know what they were going to do but, in the end, the Raptors got a guy they wanted.
Is he the answer? Not entirely but he’s an intriguing player that can guard two positions (or so the coaching staff thinks) and, I believe, is far closer to the guy he was his rookie year than the guy he was in his second season. But I guess we’ll have to wait until October to find out who’s right on that.
Where’s he play? Well, I would imagine he’ll get every shot to win the starting small forward spot and he’ll see some time at a suddenly-packed two-guard position. One thing I like, though, is that now there’s competition for minutes and it gives Dwane a hammer if some guys under-perform. And that’s not a bad thing.
And now, the mail:
Q: Doug, it was great to see your Help Section articles on improving your short game but how about a little something for those of us who are beyond help? I have the profanity down pat, but could use 2-3 family-friendly phrases for each of the following common situations: (a) slicing a drive deep into the woods, (b) topping pathetically with an iron from a decent lie on the fairway, and (c) from an uphill lie or a bunker, chipping straight over the green and down the other side or into another bunker.
Mike D, The Deep Rough
A: Oh, that’s easy
“Well, my fellow playing partners, I certainly struck that one amiss, didn’t I? Drat.”
“Just need a bit more club!”
“Get in the hole!!!! Oh, and where's the cart person?"
Q: Hi Doug, wondering if you could elaborate on why you think team record is more arbitrary than an all-star game. Especially in baseball where one game is almost completely random it seems like a very unfair way to determine home field advantage. Consider last year where the Rangers won their division by 10 games but didn't have home field vs the Cardinals, who only made the playoffs (on the last day) because of an epic collapse of another team. Anyway, love the blog, just don't quite get your thoughts on this.
Chris W, Toronto
A: Basically, it’s this (and I can probably be talked out of it and certainly see other points):
The regular season scheduling disparity – especially when it comes to relative merits of the teams you play in inter-league action – is so big, I’d rather have the best players in the game try to decide it rather than hope my American League team draws a bunch of weak sisters from the National League, or vice versa.
But I do see your point.
Q: Mr. Smith, I notice Bryan Colangelo seems to be referencing analytics in the media much more frequently than he has in the past. So, I have 3 questions:
Does this reflect a greater focus on analytics on the part of the organization (do they have an analytics department)?
Are they developing their own proprietary models for evaluation/valuation of players or do they use consultants?
What is Doug Smith's opinion on the use of analytics in the game?
Evan G, Thornhill
A: Not sure how much “greater” it is, they’ve had for a couple of seasons, two fellows on retainer to analyse data for them; Bryan just seems to be speaking more publicly about it these past few weeks.
They have consultants now – I can’t say for sure if they are employed by other teams as well – but Dwane did mention last season that he’d like to have them in-house but I am not sure where that stands and nothing is likely to be done in that regard until much closer to the regular season. And, sadly, they don’t the depth of the information with us so I can’t say what, if any, is proprietary.
Me? I think they have a place in the game but are not in any way, shape or form the be all and end all that goes into player procurement. Or player rejection for that matter. Other things, like “fit” of personalities and raw skill for players who don’t have a lot of baseline analytical information are just as important.
Q: Hey Doug, I'm curious to get your take on the Raptors letting Bayless go. I'm wondering because of the ongoing Lowry-Calderon drama. Now I guess they were going to trade Calderon anyway since they got Lowry. With Bayless signing for only $3 million in Memphis (I believe that's the number, correct me if I'm wrong) why wouldn't the Raptors have tried to bring back Bayless on a cheap contract like that? Then, you could still trade Jose for a needed piece and you could have a Lowry-Bayless young combination at the point guard spot, and that would be excellent to watch. Personally I would have done that, but then again I don't know Lowry too well and maybe his game is very similar to Bayless but contrasts well in a tandem with Jose. I guess that's why I'm not the GM!
Simon S, Toronto
A: First of more than a few Bayless questions, you’ll see others shortly.
Timing was everything with Bayless and, who knows, after they finalized Lowry and got an answer on Fields they might have made a call; financially, they had to wait.
Q: Doug - good morning - I guess the Lowry trade is a good thing - B.C. knows more about b'ball and players than I - and likely you and I put together - ( and multiplied ??)
I know stats aren't everything but could you tell me why he is a better point guard than Calderon?
Like you, I feel Jose has been greatly underappreciated, what improvements can we expect with Lowry?
A: From what I’ve seen and been told, Lowry is probably a more aggressive player at both ends of the court. A bit stronger and more gritty defensively and probably better at getting to the rim on offence.
Q: Hey Doug: Here is a partial quote from an SI story about Houston's attempt at getting Howard:_"...it’s fine to rant about how Howard could still “force his way to Brooklyn,” but you better be able to explain exactly how that is going to happen under the league’s cap and trade rules."
Reading that article, it does seem as if the cap/tax/trade rules are, as you often refer to them, 'arcane.' With that in mind, your answer earlier this week to a commenter's question was that you would have to wait until Monday to figure out what cap space each team has.
In order to do this, do you have access to a capologist? Is there one of the Henchmen who will help you out?
Thanks again for all you do - I can't wait to read your articles/blogs from Merry Ol' England!
Tim H, Windsor
A: Not full access but there are people in the organization here who will explain things in an unattributed form so that correct information is getting out there as it pertains to them.
And you just do a lot of reading and figuring out, ciphering and asking questions; it does take some time.
Q: Hello Doug! Just a couple of weeks now until the 2012 Olympics kick off and reports from London tell of worries about cracks in the M4, roads that are already horribly gridlocked, fake event tickets being sold online, (now that would really suck...) and the embarrassing last-minute discovery of a serious shortfall by the contractor hired to provide security. And that rain. Days and days and weeks and months of it. Good for the skin tone, though. You'll have a splendid 'peaches and cream' complexion when you come home. (That is, if you don't have one already!) But these are all fixable situations (well, except for that pesky precipitation - remember your brolly) and before you know it, things'll be well underway and you'll be watching amazing performances and sending us your stories about them.
And I can't wait to read them. But...hopefully you'll have a couple of free hours, 'cause did you know that while you're there The 2012 Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) will be taking place! Apparently it features over 800 different British real ales, ciders, perries as well as food stalls and live music. Doesn't that sound fun?
So, my question: since we know you and the Royal Family (RF) are thisclose, if you could choose, which one of the RF would you most enjoy sharing a pint and a bit of bubble and squeak with? Harry? Wills? Liz Herself? Hey, is Pippa fully Royal? Cheers! Or should I say Cheerio!
Lorie P, London
A: I’m not at all sure about Pippa but if she and Kate and I hung out, that’d be cool. Never had beers with a princess, let alone two.
I know that’s a cliché answer and I should have look for some obscure Duchess of something like that but I’m a pretty cliché kind of guy at times.
Q: Hey Doug. This is my first time writing in. I've been following the train wreck, which is the Dwight Howard saga, and I can't seem to figure out what is worse: Dwight Howard's attitude or the Orlando Magic's inability to make sound management decisions.
What are your thoughts?
Jake F, Toronto
A: I think the Orlando management, at this case has droned on, has actually acted prudently. They are under no rush to trade him, the package they might have received from the Nets was awful, in my opinion, and I think it’s wise to wait and see if anything else comes along that’s better.
And, sadly, they took him at his word last year when he opted in. That he went back on his word, at least a little bit, is all on Howard, who has handled himself terribly through this entire process.
Q: You mentioned on your blog that you can't wait to see Nigeria play in the Olympics. Personally, I'm excited to see Lithuania's Jonas Valunciunas in live action for the first time. Do you think CBC will make it a point to show more of Lithuania's games since so many Toronto basketball fans also want to see this kid in action?
Thomas W, Toronto
A: It’s actually the CTV consortium that has the Olympic broadcast right and I would be surprised if they paid much attention at all to the Lithuania games, maybe a minute or two. They have bigger fish to fry and stories with a larger reach to tell.
Q: Hi Doug. A big fan of the blog.
Question for you about the PG position for the Raptors. From Colangelo's comments about Lowry being the future, it would seem that he will be the starter. Since Calderon obviously has value (as per your article on Thursday) why did the Raptors withdraw the qualifying offer to Jerryd Bayless? Wouldn't it be wise to keep him in the fold as a back-up in case they move Calderon? It just doesn't seem like great asset management. Thanks
Chris N, Toronto
A: Mostly because they needed to have the money freed up to be 1,000 per cent sure on the Fields, Lowry stuff with a bit of wee cushion. But, and this may be hard for a lot of you to believe, but finding a backup point guard – if they have to and that’s still not certain – at less than $4.2 million that Jerryd would have made who has comparable skills is not going to be all that difficult. Yes, he was okay; but a star in the making? Not so much.
It was prudent and necessary business, that’s all.
Q: Greetings, should we all be planning the victory parade for the Raps? Of course not but I would think that when one looks back at last season, consider the number of games they played without Andrea and look forward to this season I think we can say that making the playoffs shouldn't really be a huge stretch for the HOTH. There weren't many games last year that were total blow outs and truthfully the price of admission to the post season party doesn't seem that high. Bryan and the Henchmen should be acknowledged for what they have put together and if the roster changes bring 10/12 more wins we should be at least within striking distance of the playoffs.
In your opinion how will the additions effect Andrea's numbers this coming year? Obviously health can play a huge role here, but personally I think that he should be able to find more space to do what he does best.
Thanks for what you do
Doug T, Brantford
A: I wonder if he’ll post the same scoring numbers given that you would expect they could get more offence from the centre position and small forward this year. But the presence of other threats could actually make him more effective; teams may have to pay more attention to others, leaving him, as you say, with more room.
And, again as always, he’ll have to rebound at least a bit better and more actively.
Q: Doug - great work - looking forward to your olympics coverage. Raptors look like they need one last piece. How surprised would you be if Dwight Howard was (somehow blackmailed into getting) signed by the Raps? Is there a sleeper European star out there that could be convinced to cross the ocean?
David M, Toronto
A: Hahahahaha! How surprised? Can’t say because nothing’s that ever happened in the world would be more surprising.
And, no, Europe, at this moment, is pretty picked over, according to every scout I’ve talked to. No diamonds in the rough.
Q: Hey Doug, how important do you think it is to have players that conform to our idea of the tradition positions in the NBA. The Heat showed you don't need a center or a point guard really- and yes that's a function of person, but still. Since the Raptors seem to be desperate for a SF wouldn't it be worth seeing if Terrance and DeMar can just play together as "wings' instead of worrying about who is the SF and who is the SG? They can both defend plus adding Lowry sounds like a decent recipe for perimeter defense success?
Adam T, Toronto
A: I’ve said for eons that the game, and the style of play, is changing so much that traditional names hold very little value. I think you have a point guard, two wings who are often interchangeable and two bigs who are also pretty much the same guy. It’s semantics.
And I would imagine, if things don’t change dramatically between now and October, that you’ll see a bunch of time when two of DeRozan, Ross and Fields are on the court at the same moment.
Q: Hi Doug. You've been saying Lowry-Calderon or Calderon-Lowry would be a strength of position, but I just couldn't help thinking about the Ford-Calderon or Calderon-Ford combination we had some years ago. Do you think this kind of 2 starting PGs combo would work? How do you rate the Lowry-Calderon and the Ford-Calderon combination?
Anthony C, Toronto
A: Well, it worked okay when Calderon-Ford got ‘em to the playoffs so it’s possible. Is it perfect? Maybe not. But it can be workable and is a great hedge against the injuries that pop up.
Rate them? Tough to say but I’d prefer Lowry-Calderon to Ford-Calderon because I believe Lowry is a better player, better defensively and bigger.
Q: Hi Doug. There was a lockout last year because the owners and commissioner said that things couldn't continue the way they were. After a week and a half of free agency, I can't really see how anything has changed. Players are still demanding trades while still under contract and the good teams are getting better. Would you explain things to me?
Jeffrey G, London
A: Not much has seemingly change – well, except for the fact the only player “demanding” a trade won’t get traded where he wants to go, so there’s that – but there have been some subtle shifts. If, in fact, the Knicks are worried about tax implications in their decision to not match on Fields first and perhaps Lin, that’s a win for the new CBA.
As for other good teams getting better, remember this: Steve Nash was an unrestricted free agent and I have no qualms about a guy who fulfilled his contractual obligations going where he wanted and the Heat were able to add Allen and Lewis under terms that existed in the previous CBA.
Q: Hey Doug. Am I missing something here? Raptor fans constantly hear how NBA players are reluctant to come to Toronto, and the team has acknowledged this to some extent through the media reports. And if that was never more evidenced than in the last week, when our own Captain Canada, Steve Nash, could not be convinced at even $10 more million dollars over 3 years to come to T.O. (No home country discount here, and that BS about wanting to be near his kids is just a smoke screen. No matter the scenario, a person can always come up with a reason to do or not do something. Success, family, money, home, education, patriotism? etc.)_Then we consider the guys who have played and starred here for the Raptors (Stoudamire, McGrady, Carter, and Bosh to name the most obvious) who managed to work their way out of town as soon as it suited them.
Understandably, we can't force someone to love us, but why then is it, when we have quality and entertaining (maybe not superstar) NBAers like (Tracy Murray, Matt Bonner, and now Jerryd Bayless) who all wanted badly to stay here, the Raptors show their appreciation by either shipping them out of town or by doing their very best to not re-sign them?
What the Raptors need, are some players who want to be here, to at least ensure that their will be some semblance of 100% effort out there on a nightly basis. As I recall this Bayless kid played his %#@&% off every night last season, as did Bonner and Murray before him. I am really sad to see him go, as I was sad to see Matt and Tracy go before him.
Let's start a culture of having players who want to be here, and who understand what a great town Toronto is. These intangibles can help create a winning environment, because most of us would agree that we work better where we are happy.
Dave H, Toronto
A: What the Raptors need, what every team in every sport needs, is better players. And all those three guys did play hard, no question, and were not able to have a lot of success with the team.
It’s all nice and good to think about people being happy where they work; what makes them happier is winning, pure and simple. Everyone was happy in the Vince years.
Q: I'm wondering why the press seems vaguely satisfied with the moves made, to date, by the Raptors. It is apparent that they have strengthened themselves at the guard position but...our European rookie is a slim, inexperienced rookie. He will be an upgrade but very much a work in progress. Our draft pick may or may not help but it’s difficult to argue that he brings meaningful upside this year. Our acquisition from the Knicks is probably a slightly overpaid role player & a minor upgrade. Given the truly sad state of the line-up last year and scouring the potential line-up for this year is there any other conclusion than the team will continue not to have a competitve line-up. Shouldn't the pressure to add a starting small forward be obvious? Can it be said that management has taken a true half step forward without this piece of the puzzle being addressed?
Alan S, Toronto
A: Who cares whether we’re “satisfied?” Not our job. They have improved the talent level 1-15 over last year, there is no debate over that in my mind and, yes, they need more depth at the small forward but there’s time left and, let me ask you this: What if Kleiza has a great year?
Anyway, they’ve done what they can so far to make things better without really losing much (you can’t shake a magic wand and make a trade for a stud three without having one available or gutting your roster) and there’s time left before they have to do anything on the court for real.
Q: Hi Doug. This isn't meant as a shot... okay, in a way it is - but a completely uneducated one. Anyway, why is Mark Stein getting the latest Raptor stories ahead of the local media?
Joe S, Kingston
A: Sure, it’s a shot. But whatever.
Mostly it’s because the “national” guys like Stein and Woj and Spears and Berger spend a lot more time dealing with a variety of agents, GMs, player personnel people and simply have a wider array of contacts. And people love to talk to people they know and in some cases, it could be something like an agent saying, “I hear this is cooking.”
Q: Hi Doug. I thought that Alan Anderson excelled when he was brought up at the end of the season. Assimilated well to the team, confident shooter, good defender. I think he's earned a roster spot. Do you think he'll be offered a contract?
Gary D, Stouffville
A: I know they still have him the back of their mind but it’s not a priority at moment and it’s not like a dozen other teams are clamouring to get him. I can see him getting a non-guaranteed or partially-guaranteed deal to come to camp.
Q: Hi Doug. I would of liked to Steve Nash as a Raptor but can understand him choosing the Lakers at this point in his career. I was put off by him stating that this was a 'family' decision to be near his kids. If this is so important to him, why does he move away from them every off season to NY as soon as the season is over. I'm not very interested in player's personal lives but he was the one to bring this up. Why the free pass from the media on this one?
Paul R, London
A: Let me ask you this:
Do you think for a second that, in the summer while on vacation, Steve’s children might actually join him in New York? Perhaps it’s not “moving away” as much as it’s having a second residence.