The start of the weekend mail
Here’s the deal:
Shut the machine down about 6 p.m. Friday, lazed my way through part of this morning and this is what I got done.
There’s about a zillion left over that I’ll get to for tomorrow.
Q: Hi Doug. This question isn't about the Toronto sports teams but their fans.
Is it just me or has fan reaction to trades and losing seasons become more and more extreme over the past few years? Burke can do no right and the hate is vitriolic, TFC fans are calling for Anselmi's ouster and want to burn him in effigy, and even the Vince Carter trade didn't generate as much histronics as the failed Nash bid. In their eyes, none of the players measure up to championship standards, they are lambasted for mistakes and any good play is dismissed as "being lucky".
How close are Toronto fans to the psychological pessimistic tipping point where nothing MLSE does can repair the confidence of the fanbase? Might the fans resort to drastic actions against MLSE? What do you think is required to pull them back from this precipice?
Brad B, Ottawa
A: I wish I could get a read on fans, I really do. I think what’s happening is in many instances there is just too much rush to judgement, everything has to be over-analyzed without context and everyone wants instant validation, which you cannot get.
But because they are fans and despite the fact they've supported mostly losing teams for almost half a century, I don’t think there’ll ever be a time when everyone throws up their arms and walks away; they will find some snippet of optimism to keep them interested and engaged.
And there truly is one magic elixir the people at MLSE can do: Put better teams out there. I know it’s hard to do and it doesn’t happen overnight but they need to win and that will appease the masses more than anything.
Q: Hi Doug. As of today how many players to the Raps have under contract for next season, and what's the chances someone from the summer league makes the team in a bit role to fill out the roster?
What's the plan for Acey? He seems be a high motor guy that might push Ed in practice??? Any chance he gets some PT next year?
Jeffrey M, Saint John
A: If you count the first two picks as signed, and they will be by Monday so they can play in the summer league, they have:
Calderon, Lowry, DeRozan, James Johnson, Bargnani, Davis, Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Kleiza and Ross and Acy. How many is that? 11? Yep. Toss in Fields as a likely (there’s no indication the Knicks will match) and that’s 12.
With a bunch of spaces to fill, it wouldn’t surprise me if Uzoh isn’t the third point guard coming out of Summer League, Alan Anderson remains a possibility and we’ll see where they go from there.
And while I don’t know if Acy will get much time in games but they’d be quite happy if he makes life miserable for Davis in practice.
Q: Hey Doug. Not so much a question as an appeal to begin your Olympic coverage early. Canada recently sent 4 beach volleyball pairs (2 mens, 2 womens) to Mexico to secure a berth in the Olympics through continental qualifying. Both sides were successful, but can only send through one pair each. As such, the battle for which team goes through will occur Saturday at Ashbridges Bay.
It's not often you will see this in a team sport so it should be great emotion, intensity and competition and it'd be great for the sport to get some Star coverage! (Plus, it may earn you some time at Horse Guards Parade for the big show - not the worst gig at the Olympics, if you ask me!)
Felix T, Loughborough, UK
A: Funny you should ask. Beach volleyball and I go way back, I covered the very first Olympic event at the Atlanta Games and wrote what I thought was a very nice story contrasting the Olympic movement, bikinis and the smell of Coppertone and loud music. And then I saw the final gold medal game in the illustrious career of American stars Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh in Beijing.
And, despite all this hullabaloo about the NBA this week, the plan indeed is to be at Ashbridge’s Bay this afternoon. Of course, the thunderstorm that’s just started may scuttle those plans.
Q: Hey Doug. What are some of the basic elements of a good pick-and-roll, both from the perspective of a big and a guard?
Diego S, Toronto
A: If you asked four coaches you might get four answers but I think these two points are most salient and would be agreed on.
The big has to set himself square, shoulders and hips, and not be sliding; the guard – and he’s the most important guy in the play, has to wait for the big to get set, no setting up his teammate for an illegal screen – and he has to run his man as close to the guy setting the screen as possible.
Q: Long time reader, first time writer (if you had a dollar for every time you'd heard that....)
Read a few draft grade reports already, but we all know evaluations after a week won't tell us anything. What length of time (three years? five years?) is a good length of time to grade drafted players - and the organizations that draft 'em? And can we see a Smith grading of drafts of (three years? five years? your choice?) past?
Ian B, Edmonton
A: Well, knowing that every player is different, I don’t think you can truly judge what you’ve got from a young kid until at least the middle of his second season and, in the case of big men, likely the start of their third. And I guess by extension that’s when you’ve got to see how an organization did.
I’m not a big look-back guy and other things seem to come up so I’m not sure you’ll ever get a grade of past drafts top to bottom. Kind of labour-intensive work that could likely be put to better means.
Q: How many picks can the Raptors lose in the Lowry Trade?
Richard S, Lethbridge
Q: How much does the Jeremy Lin to Houston offer sheet have to do with the Rockets maintaining their status as China's favourite basketball team?
Chad N, Toronto
A: None, sorry.
Not even sure that’s true any more but even if it was, it would not have a place in the decision to try and fill a spot they have no one at.
Q: Doug. A couple of questions.
Looking at the 2006 Draft is it safe to say that Bargs was a good pick? The only player who is comparable to him might be Aldridge. Gay and Rondo (8th and 21st respectively) have had solid numbers but at the time not 1st over all material. For the heat that BC has taken... Bargs is an obvious top 3 player from that entire draft. Should 4-5 years of naysayers send in their apologies to BC?
My second thought is in regards to expectations. All season long the Raps sold themselves on two different type of expectations. First the expectations of the upcoming off season, and second on the expectations of Valancunias coming over from Europe this season.
Do you think the over zealous promos for Val might end up hurting the player, and (in directly) the organization if he has a slow rookie year? We've seen what high expectations can do to a player (Andrea???).
Jeffrey M, Saint John
A: Oh, you’re going to get screamed at with the top 3 but I don’t think you’re all that far off (great, now I’m going to get screamed at, too). Not sure apologies are in order but it really should be a lesson in not rushing to judgement too quickly.
As for Valanciunas, I don’t think people are expecting too much and, yes, the team and its officials have praised him to high heavens but every statement is with the qualifier that he’s not coming to be a saviour. Sure, they expect him to contribute and be a very good player and that’s fair comment. It’s also correct judging by just about everything I’ve hear, especially from people whose opinions I trust who have no vested interest in the Raptors.
Q: Hi Doug. I'm happy to see the defensive upgrade at PG, but the gaping hole at SF remains. Have you heard any talk about who the organization would like to go after in a trade, and what would they be willing to give up to make it happen?
For that matter, if they aren't able to find an upgrade at SF, how much better are they with Valanciunas at C and Lowry at PG?
Thanks for taking my question. Cheers!
Geoff E, Toronto
A: Gaping hole might be a stretch; it could use an upgrade but there are guys who can play the spot. And, no, I haven’t heard names and will tell you if or when I do.
And I have no idea how much better they’ll be, that’s why …
(Irregulars know the rest)
Q: Doug. The Raps getting Lowry may be a blessing in disguise. He is no Nash from a court vision or marketing prospective, but he fits the culture the coach is trying to develop to a T and he is absolutely an above average PG, just outside the top 8 or so.
Fields is an underappreciated move as well. The guy knows how to play and only suffered adjusting to a Carmelo stagnant offence in NY.
My question is this (or these): Casey clearly values shooters in his offence, does this make Demar expendable? Also the organization likely does not want to shove Jose to a backup role (and given Lowry's appreciation of his last PG controversy they would probably want to avoid that as well). will the Raps try and trade Jose for a swingman, or is Ilyasova now the target... and would that be the end of Amir?
Joe D, Waterloo
A: Wow, lots of assumptions there, some might even be close to true.
No, nothing to do with Fields makes DeRozan “expendable” in any way, shape or form.
And it’s not a “shove” but if Lowry beats out Jose for the starting job in training camp I have no doubt Jose would be fine coming off the bench.
And if there’s a trade there that they think upgrades their talent and has to include Calderon, it will; but it will be reactive rather than proactive.
Targets? Everyone’s a “target” in that GMs call about everyone who’s available; they wouldn’t pass up what they see as good deal to maybe make one later for a “target.”
And depending on what comes in, it could very well mean Amir, or Ed, has to be moved out.
Q: Hey Doug, hoping not to get stoned by the disgruntled irregulars for saying this, but I'm actually quite optimistic going into next season. Bryan's smart decision last year with Jonas has him poised to arrive, and had we drafted him a week ago (as #1 or #2) the fanfare around here right now would be huge.
People can not like Fields (overpaid), Ross (reach), or Lowry (not Captain Canada) all they want, but the truth is we have a GM who is listening to his coach/people to field a young athletic basketball team.
Considering everyone's place in the rotation, the three guys I see most susceptible to getting moved at some point this season are Amir (duplication at his position), Kleiza (no longer seems to even have a position) or Jose (because of the expiring contract - not because he can't play, should be amnestied, etc, etc).
If you were a betting man where would you place your bets on the next HOTH to move and how? Amir-Amnestied? Jose-traded?
Forest K, St. Catharines
A: Yeah, you’re three are probably right because they have value; I’d say James Johnson is higher on the list but I don’t know that’d he’d be much more than cap ballast.
Sorry, not betting on anything but I will say this: They will NOT use the amnesty clause on Jose, ain’t happening and, frankly, you just have to trust me on that one.
Q: I have noticed the news today is very slanted. I can read the same article in both of Toronto's major news papers and fine one is written extremely left, and the other extremely right. I can only assume this is a corporate mandate. Have the sports writers been told to write articles about teams with a certain tone? BTW a great example of this is the Nash fall out coverage.
Ben S, Toronto
A: I have never, ever been told how to write a story, construct a feature, use any specific angle and wouldn’t stand for it if I was; it would be a huge issue.
And I’m not entirely sure you or anyone will believe this but there isn’t cabal of editors who meet each morning, call in reporters and tell them how to write stories, either.
Q: Doug. Enjoy your column and in game blog. Keep up the good work,
Do you think there are any merits in re-visiting Kris Humphries? The man has demonstrated that he can rebound and score. I know we have a lot of bigs, but how many perform to his level??
Alan K, Alberton, PEI
A: I like Hum a lot and I’m glad he’s finally figured out what he is and how he’ll make his mark in the NBA, I’d be glad to have him on my team. But unless they divest themselves of at least one and probably two bigs – leaving a main frontcourt rotation of Valanciunas, Bargnani and Hump – and I wonder if that’s best.