The end of the weekend mail
Okay, told you today would be better and longer and have some more stuff in it.
Have fun, we’ll be back tomorrow with the usual stuff.
Q: First, this is friendly question. Second, am also from the Falls (say hi to Bubba). With story on national team is pic with you beside Triano. Anything in how you cover stories like this that's different from others i.e. hold to higher standard etc?
K J, Toronto
A: No, not really. Same standards apply to pretty much everything I write. Yes, there’s a level of familiarity there – and has been with the national team since I’ve been writing about it since 1992 – but everyone’s careful to separate the work part from the personal part. It happened that way with the Raptors, happens that way with Canada.
Good picture though, wasn’t it?
Q: Hey Doug. If all the chips fell in Canada's favor from now to Rio, what do you think our SMNT could expect in terms of placing at the Rio tournament. Looking at the camp roster, the name that sticks out as a potential all-star is Wiggins; and that is if he "fulfills his potential." Just wondering if we realistically have the weapons to medal in an Olympics?
Also, looking at the current and prospective talent, do you not see some seriously hurt feelings in the SMNT backcourt going forward (Joseph, Ennis, Pangos, Heislip, Kabongo, Cadougan)? Can we trade a couple of pg's to the D.R. for the Al Horford...maybe?
Nick A, Toronto
A: I can’t guess about Rio and I warn you, the qualification process is hard, very hard. As it stands now, only 12 countries make the Olympics – there are 24 in the world championships – but if they get there, I’d think anything less than a top eight finish would be a disappointment.
As for the guards, it’s going to be very interesting to see who emerges as the toughest – mentally and physically – over the next few years to grab the job.
Q: Hey Doug: Since you asked so politely, here goes my question: A lot of people are putting a lot of 'hope' in Jonas Valanciunas? In your opinion, what is the biggest adjustment, or the most difficult part of the learning curve for him in his first year? What are YOUR expectations of him? Will he lead us to an NBA Championship next year?
Thanks for all that you do - even in these 'down' times in the NBA, you still find basketball (and other) tidbits to bring us. It is greatly appreciated!
Tim H, Windsor
A: The biggest adjustment on the court will be learning how to defend without fouling. It’s hard to figure out what you can get away with, how physical you can be, how strong the other guys are. I fully expect more than a few games of foul trouble early in the season.
My expectations? Less than some, I think. I would imagine it takes most of the season for him to get truly comfortable.
Q: Ciao Sir Douglas. I hope that after your Olympic summer you and your family could spend some time having nice holidays. Now the question.
I know that many NBA teams have very good scouting staff watching players all over the world (the Raptors probably have one of the best one). But I think that many times they are too much focused only on very young (18-20 years old) prospects. Two kinds of different players who could be interesting for the NBA and for my beloved Raps are:
Worldwide famous Navarro is the best example. He is a well known player who is dominating the Euroleague in the last years, who won the MVP title in the last NT Euro championships and who was able to play a wonderful final in London. With the current financial situation in Europe (particularly in Italy, Greece and Spain) every team could sign him or other experienced but not old players (Spanoulis, Teodosic, Bouroussis are only the first names in my mind).
The underrated and not famous over the sea. The best example is the probably unknown Luigi Datome._24 years old, he is an Italian professional basketball player. With height of 6.8 he plays the small forward position. Great athlete, good shooter, nice defender and always working in the gym. Datome was named the Italian League's Best Player Under 22 in 2009, while a member of the Italian League club Virtus Roma. He currently renewed the contract with Virtus Roma reducing his salary because he knows that the team has big financial issues.
Excluding the 3 NBA Italian players he and Daniel Hackett are the best Italian players.
He has also been a member of the senior men's Italian national basketball team. He played at EuroBasket 2007 and EuroBasket 2009._During the last game of the Euro NT qualifications he played an outstanding and winning game vs Turkey that's a very good team. With the minimum NBA contract he could be a very good choice for the Raptors in a position that's still a BIG HOLE. I know that you could think that I'm overevaluating him but probably he could be considered very very similar to Landry Fields. For sure he has no NBA experience but is a little higher, a better shooter and a lot (LOT) cheaper.
What's your opinion? I think that the Raptors fans could appreciate so much Datome and Hackett with their approach to the game like gladiators, always battling on the floor.
Post Scriptum: sorry for my grammatically weak english, but I hope that you and your faithful readers sometimes could close your eyes and skip the errors.
Doug, just an addendum. This is the video of Datome's dunk over Erden during the game in which he scored 23 points (Gallinari 16, Hackett 15) in the 78-69 Italian win vs. Turkey.
Paolo P, Roma
A: I asked a couple of people about Datome and they think he’s an intriguing player but they aren’t sure if he’s got the game to be a regular in the NBA. They did both say he’s the fourth best Italian player after the three that are here in the NBA but they figure he’ll stay and make all kinds of money in Europe.
But from what I’ve seen, and heard, I bet the fans would indeed take to him, they do like that work ethic and skill.
I can’t really speak to Hackett but I will say this: The European leagues are scouted so well that if he wanted to come and was good enough, some team would snap him up. That they haven’t tells me something.
Q: Hey Doug. Have you ever witnessed OAK Launching Basketballs at the Opposition if they took to much time in the Shootaround? Like Vince said on OTR. Must of been hilarious.
Bob W, Winnipeg
A: Never actually saw it, but did see the day he tried to get into a scuffle with Jeff McInnis after a shootaround here, a little brouhaha that ended up with Oak getting suspended. Wouldn’t surprise me, though, if he didn’t toss a ball every now and then just to let visiting teams know it was time to give up the court.
Q: Hi Doug... I have a new puppy, a phoney Spinone. Any tips? Can you use the extendable leash from the couch, or do things get too tangled? Is it better to teach her to come and to sit, or to leap from about four feet away into your body? Stuffed toys... a little chicken, or a baby Carleton?
Enjoy your stuff! Thanks
Bob E, Kanata
A: Oh, I’ve always though the leap was way cool, especially if they miss by just a half step; that’ll teach ‘em to be better at it, experience is the best teacher.
(I keed; a little)
Do yourself a favour though: Teach the little canine urchin to sleep in; it sounds all well and good to have a morning walk in the pre-dawn period but, trust me, if you’re up at 5:30 or so doing, say, a blog, you get a bit tired of going outside while the coffee’s brewing and work awaits.
Best of luck.
Oh, find the one sports mascot you hate more than any other, find a way to get a stuffed version of it and let her rip it to bits; loads of fun.
Q: Hello Sir. Just to say hi and thanks for all you do. Just so you know, maybe it is me and the ever complicated technology men of my vintage must face, but the link to your blog is getting harder and harder to find. Perhaps the tall foreheads could put a link on the front page of the sports section?? At least in a consistent spot so your legion of irregulars can connect more readily. Will keep my eyes open for a smelly ford focus in and around the Falls ( wait can you be more specific... arent they all???)and will tip a glass your way. Your insights into things cultural as well as sports are appreciated, but I cant wait till you can sink your teeth into a season of the heroes of the HOTH. What is the over under on number of hours from start of training camp until you get your first "Andrea cant rebound and Jose cant defend, they are bums, trade them" rant? Predictions? Thanks again.
Randy M, Crystal Beach
A: When’s the first open scrimmage? Oct. 6? That’s when we’ll hear, I bet.
As for the link, down the bottom left of the sports home page seems to be where they’ve anchored me.
Now, if you’ve got a couple or three easy golf course recommendations, Super Son and I are planning a quick getaway and he’s a novice. I’m thinking the nine-hole Chippawa course at Legends (as long as you can drive, it’s all about the cart for him) and either Willodell or Beachwood.
Q: Doug: Going to impose a work project on you. Is it possible for you to put a leaflet, manual, book on where to eat -- dine --- sup -- sip-- around your many travels these past years.
The usual Raptor visits, and your worldly excursions. Thanks muchly.
Rob S, Newmarket
A: You now, that probably is something that would be fun but it might be easier for me to do it day-to-day or week-to-week during the season rather than in one fell swoop.
I’ll have to figure out how it fits into the regular workload; I don’t mind doing a bit of extra but sometimes enough is enough.
Q: Hello Doug. So, this whole doping thing... every new test is countered with a new formula drug that's designed to evade that new test..._I mean, we've been accepting genetically and mechanically modified everything for 60, 70, 100 years now: plants, food supplements, the foods themselves, medicines, muscles, artificial bones and joints and – hey, how about better prostheses. Athletes can't take a simple cold medication because it will register as 'doping'? Gulping a couple of Red Bulls pre-game would be considered 'doping', right? Isn’t taking man-made insulin ‘doping’? A basketball or football player can injure a finger or an ankle, get a shot on the bench so he/she can get right back in the game, and that's not 'doping'?
Then they keep samples from four years ago, when the athletes in question had passed the current doping tests, so they can re-test them today – and now of course they don't pass, so there goes their record and there goes history ‘as it happened’. Maybe not a good example, but is that much different than, say, firing somebody for something they said on Facebook or in an email four years ago (which, I'd think, most of us would regard as kind of unfair)?_Sorry for the ramble, and I'm not even sure what the question is – I can’t really put my finger on it, but something just doesn't sit right with me with this whole doping campaign business. I know nothing about the science of doping – just how good is that science? And is it really serving a reasonable, honourable, useful purpose? We're human beings, after all – we're going to do anything and everything there is to do to try to 'improve' anything and everything we attempt to do in life – it's what we've been 'genetically' geared to do as human beings ever since we grew thumbs, crawled out of the trees and took our first steps on hind feet.
So is this whole circus really anything more than a cat and mouse game played by competing chemists? Thanks for the forum, and the great blog.
David M, Ottawa
A: Sadly, that’s pretty much what it is as many levels, people trying to find ways to circumvent rules, or tests, as soon as they’re put in place.
It goes to drug cheats too often, it also goes to GMs and franchises who try to find ways to beat CBA loopholes or rules as soon as they’re in place.
The trouble with the doping is that the testers started from a position of weakness, trying to catch up to cheaters who were far ahead of them at the beginning and it’s been an uphill slog ever since. Hope they eventually get ahead of everyone and we see if that can help; doubt it will entirely but it might a little bit.
Q: Doug. Not sure if you caught this, but a very cool Hamilton band the Arkells have penned and released a Ticats song to be used as the Ticats anthem. Check out the song here:
It's a great tune, with all of the proceeds going to the Boys & Girls Club of Hamilton.
Obviously not all sports songs are of this caliber and it got me thinking - what are your top 5 WORST sports songs of all time? To start things off, I think "Who Let the Dogs Out" has to be on the list somewhere, no?
Shaun G, Toronto
A: Wow, lots to choose from and, yes, I’m putting Who Let The Dogs Out right near the top.
Crowded up there though, with …
Everybody Clap Your Hands
Whoomp, There It is.
If none of them are ever heard again, the world would be a better place.
Q: Hello Doug. I was wondering is it possible for more than one team to put forth an offer sheet to a player? Kind of like create a bidding war for a restricted free-agent.
Ken L, Bath
A: They can talk about what might be in the offer sheet but a player can only sign one; I am sure if an agent gets a sniff of what might be in one and there are other teams on the prowl, he might use one as leverage against the other but only one can be signed.
Q: Hey Doug! Best read of the day during the Olympics you were. Thanks for that. Thank you for "Eli, the Barrow Boy" .. I'll be able to play/sing it for you soon. Run.
You forced me to re-evaluate Brian Williams. OK. He does his homework, and he's kind of become "The" voice. Still don't like how he puts words in people's mouths though. Didn't get as much of "It's all about me Jay Onrait" as I was afraid of. Didn't have to switch channels too often.
Hmm, a question. Yes.. here's a question. Will just take another second. Last week Greg Zaun told the truth about ball players wanting/not wanting to play in Toronto. The truth is: they don't. Is basketball any different? Families, cost of living (highest in NA.. even higher than NY now), and it's a WINTER sport, and the taxes, families, travel, a pucks town, families.
Doug, do YOU think players, in general, enjoy Toronto or do they just tank, like HWSNBNed, and hope for a better career somewhere else in the future. Just asking. Truth? I've asked before. Still love ya.
Art G, Pasadena, NL
A: It’s one of the great fallacies of our era to think that it’s the city that’s an issue because, almost to a man, the players I’ve spoken to love the city and all it has to offer.
What free agents don’t like, and what irks some players who are already here, is the combined failures of the franchises. You don’t win, they don’t want to come. Pure and simple and until the basketball, baseball and hockey teams win more, it’s going to be hard to attract players.
And, since you brought him up, I will point out – again – that the first chance Vince had to stay, he did. For a long-term deal. And, for that matter, so did Chris Bosh.
It’s not the city, it’s the success of the team.
Q: Would a half-season lockout and no pre-season hurt the Raptors more than most other teams because of all the new players that will need to learn how to perform at a high level together?
Bob S, Hamilton
A: Maybe a bit more, sure. There was a new coach, a new philosophy and they didn’t have summer league, a real training camp or a full season. But it was the same for other young teams, too.
The veteran teams – San Antonio comes quickly to mind – weren’t as bothered because they were familiar with what they were being asked to do.
Q: Hi Doug! So word is that Justin Bieber will be appearing on an episode of The Simpsons to be entitled "The Fabulous Faker Boy" in 2013. He will be appearing as himself. And thus The Biebs adds his name to a long list of celebrities who've performed voice-overs - and sometimes even based on their own personas - on animated shows and movies: Kelsey Grammar as Sideshow Bob on The Simpsons, Michael Cera as Brother Bear in The Berenstein Bears, Alec Baldwin as Bad Guy Dennis in The SpongeBob Movie. Hey, remember Ann-Margret as Ann-Margrock in The Flintsones? Now that was classic.
So, my question. One cartoon or animated movie. One character. Which one do you think you'd have had fun doing the voice-over for? And you can't choose Natasha from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. That one's mine, dahhling. :)
Lorie P, London
A: It’d probably have to be a sidekick, that seems to be more my style and it’s way cooler to just show up every now and then, to keep them guessing.
I’m thinking, off the top of my head, that I might have been a good Great Gazoo.
Q: I'm going to ask you to be bizarro/evil Doug for a second. I read an article about how other schools perceived the recruitment of Davis and Muhammad as "dirty." This seems implausible with the NCAA watchdogs...so what kind of extra incentives do you think you (as a rep from a major school) could offer a blue chip that would convince a player to come that the NCAA wouldn't be able to catch or stop?
Paul C, Brantford
A: Man, that’s a tough one because the NCAA’s compliance people aren’t too bad and, sadly, a lot of things they find are after the fact.
I’m thinking, though, that there might be a way to offer “inducements” to family members or the like as a back-channel way of doing things.
Q: Hi, Doug. Which of the current Raptors are going to be in the top 16 in blocks, rebounds, 1s, 2s, 3s made, assists & steals/min?
Bob K, Mississauga
A: Probably none, at least as far as I can guess six weeks before camp begins and two months before the season starts. But does it really matter? Sometimes the collective is better than the individual.
Q: Hey Doug - Since it's nice and slow right now, I'll ask you to peer into your crystal ball (I know how much you like to make NBA/Raps predictions).
Are the Raptors done making significant deals before the start of the season (by significant, I mean someone who would be a rotation player)?
What of Jose? I'm a fan and would like to see him and Lowry play together, if they can do so like professionals. But as far as I've read, Calderon hasn't taken his polite demand to be traded off the table. So, what do you think will happen with Jose this year?
Diego S, Toronto
A: Oh, I think they’re done for sure, at least until we get a couple of months into the season and all teams figure out what they’ve got and how it’s working.
And I don’t think there’s anything going on with Calderon and why would there be? He’s a proven good NBA point guard, it’s not like there are two on the roster better than him, he’s got no issue with fighting for a job and it would make no sense at all to make a move now.
Q: Doug, you have always argued that basketball players will go anywhere to play if the money is right, including Canada. Does the lack of star players in Toronto mean MLSE refuses to compete on price?
Derek L, Temagmi
A: No, it doesn’t at all. See the above about Toronto.
The fact is, the Raptors and Leaves are always in the top half of their leagues in terms of salaries. It’s not how much you spend, it’s how smartly you spend it. There’s a big difference.