The end of the weekend mail
Maybe this will help pass the time.
Q: Hi Doug. I'm considering making the 4 hour drive to Halifax to watch the intersquad game. Do you think it would be worth the drive? I know the ball won't be that serious but it could be good to see all the new players. Your thoughts?
Also, During training camp are there ever any official opportunities for autograph signings or is the team more focused on training and less focused on public relations in their adopted city for the week.
Jeff M, Saint John
A: You know, in all good conscience I can’t really tell you to take a four-hour drive. It’s a glorified practice with drills and a short game played at less than full intensity. I guess it could be fun but you’re looking at a 10-hour day, I’d imagine that might be a bit much. Up to you, though.
And with two-a-days Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, a single practice and rest on Thursday and the open practice and flight on Saturday, there is nothing official scheduled for the players at all.
Q: Okay, here's another one, since you asked for more: I read today the NBA is finally going to do something about the flopping. I heard it was going to be in the form of a fine after the fact. Not sure what I think about that. On the one hand, I'm glad because I think flopping cheapens the game. On the other, I kinda think it's up to the refs. They're taught to call what they see, not just the results of what might have happened. If they don't see a foul happen, they shouldn't call it based on a player falling to the ground. Also, flopping isn't a new thing. I remember being new to the sport in junior high and going to watch our senior high team play. That'd be 1979. I'll always remember being awed at this one wiry player who was a master of the flop. Maybe now it's been elevated to a new level, but that guy obviously learned it from somewhere. So question time: What's your take on the new penalty? Think it'll work?
G M, Vancouver
A: Had a couple on this, I’ll use this one and hope the other questioners see it.
I’m not sure it’ll work totally but it’s entirely worth the attempt because flopping is endemic and a blight on the game.
I would hope that officials are able, and willing, to call the most flagrant of flops that are easily seen in the course of a game at real speed.
It’s the other ones, the ones that refs don’t see at true speed but that can be picked up after the fact that I’m glad they’re going after.
And I think the way they’re apparently going to do it – with possible fines and, hopefully, suspensions after a certain number has been reached – is fine with me. I don’t want games stopped repeatedly for instant review replays, I don’t like the idea of a “coach challenge” because it slows the game down just as much so having league officials review games – and you know teams will be pointing out episodes where they think opponents flop – seems to me to be the most workable solution at the moment.
The trickery of the flop is become greater with each passing year and if it takes some league type in the office the next morning to figure out what’s transpired that officials might have missed, I’m fine with that.
Q: Hello Doug! There's something akin to sadness about my garden right now. The mandevilla, impatiens, portulaca and amaranthe are all offering up their final blooms of the season and as I sat admiring their shades of rose, cerise, magenta and fuschia I wondered when, oh when, I would see such glorious hues of pink again. And then it hit me. Doug's Shirt! And while it doesn't feature all the pinks in my garden, it is bright and cheerful and even during the dreariest of dreary Raptor contests, well, just looking at it can sort of cheer one up. Or cause one to mock. Either way it's a fun distraction. (I know, I know....it's "light red".)
So, Doug, as you prepare to head off to Halifax and really get this season's show on the road, what's your plan for Raptor coverage this season? Big changes? Small changes? No changes? Will there still be IGBT's? And gamers? And off-day stories? And morning blogs? (Whew!) And - every now and then, because we all like it so - a pink shirt? Thank you.
Lorie P, London
A: I wish I knew what, if anything, we can do to enhance our coverage this year. I’m sure we’ll still have the IGBT, we might do something each afternoon of games that’s a bit interactive, or at least informative, but the Tall Foreheads and I haven’t really had a chance to sit down and go over the season and the plan.
We’ll listen to any and all suggestions, though.
And I’m sure the light red shirt’s hanging in the closet somewhere and I think I can probably still squeeze this rather substantial girth into it. So, there’s that.
Q: You know upon your 20 million milestone hit I saw this article the next day and now I am not advocating for this site to become a public broadcast site to talk about this and that but this girl touched my heart, made me shed a tear and want to reach out to her and just give her a hug. It has to do with bullying, yes we have one for a mayor but he is what he is plus he was voted in but bullying in our young ones is so damaging, so isolating and just wrong.
I remember many moons ago when I was in high school, I walked into one of my classes and there was this girl close to tears, for whatever reasons she was always teased, ridiculed.. Well this day someone had taken her stool and books and put them out on the roof, all were laughing it just annoyed me, I went over to the window, reached down got her books and stool and told her here sit down and don't pay attention to them and no one said a word to me the teacher walked in and said what's going on I said nothing, absolutely nothing.
I just don't get it never have never will, as these people are not only people, but vulnerable so to see this Michigan town rally around this girl is the right thing, and Doug you have a young son, peers listen to peers kids need to stand up, bullying is just wrong not only in all aspects of society but especially in our schools, it will never stop as it is what it is, but administrators/teachers/parents/students can't allow it to occur under their watch.
Doug B, Toronto
A: I heard about this story the other day and was equally touched by it.
I know there’s no question here but people need to know about it.
Bullying is one of the scourges of our time, it’s far too prevalent and needs to be eradicated entirely.
Some very good friends of mine run a website that promotes one of the very best messages we can deliver to our youth.
Yes, Different Is Cool and we all need to be far more accepting of everyone. That we aren’t is a shame.
Q: I’ve been a fan of your blog since you starting posting these articles once a week. It’s been a joy to see how it has evolved over time. With that that being said, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen a top 5-10 list. With the basketball season about to start up again and you once again out on the road “What are some of the most interesting foods you have been offered in the arenas?” Hopefully the homemade cookies at the London Lighting game make it on the list.
Greg S, London
A: The homemade cookies in London were excellent and would be at the very top of the Canada list.
There are great homemade cookies delivered by a delightful woman in Minneapolis, a handful of arenas have soft-serve, self-serve ice cream as part of dinner and halftime (the Lakers and Clippers both do, and might have the best pre-game meal at a reasonable price -- $5 – in the league) and I did once have lobster in the press room in Boston before one of the games in one of the Finals.
The hot dogs in Milwaukee are pretty darn good and the freshly made omelettes you get in some arenas before afternoon games would be on the list, too.
Q: We'll I see you shot down my Walking Dead suggestion. It's all good my wife hates Zombie stuff too:)
Might have some better luck with some new music that you might like. My parents love these new bands and they can be found on Vinyl as well.
Dan Auerbach (Keep it Hide) Great bluesy, mellow, night time sipping music. He's the main guy from the Black Keys.
The Sheepdogs from SK. It's like they took your 70's record collection and mashed it all together.
Alabama Shakes (Boys & Girls)- Great new southern US band - It's like swampy blues and the singer sounds almost like Joplin.
Enjoy and hopefully 1 of them strikes your fancy.
Now for a Raps question. I think Fields will start based on defence, but hoping for Kleiza to be our gunner from the bench. I know he's had injuries during his time in TO, but this has got to be his year to do something. Do you think LK will finally show his worth in a Raptors uniform?
Daniel A, Don Mills
A: Those are all good, thanks; and don’t take the zombie thing personally, just not my type of entertainment.
I don’t know what to make of Linas, to tell you the truth. Lat year was lost – basically – to injury but he did have a solid Olympics. Mind you, he played a lot of power forward in the games I saw, which is a tough spot for him to handle in the NBA but he is a tough competitor who doesn’t mind the physical nature of the game and he can make a shot. If he has a big year, or even a good year, it’s going to be a huge plus for these guys.
Q: You want Raptors? I'll give you some Raptors! Soft of.
If the entire roster, coaching staff and notable members of management were to be all entered in a single-elimination head-to-head stand up comedy tournament, who would emerge as the champion?
Who would have the best one-liners? The best delivery? The best observational anecdotes?
Would the title of HOTH Stand Up Champ go to a wisened guy who has seen it all like Casey? Or perhaps a new, up-and-comer like Terrence Ross, ready to make waves? Could Hedo come back for a repeat of his 'Ball' monologue, a sure-fire crowd pleaser?
The people did to know! Thanks Doug; hopefully you can have fun with that one.
Andrew P, Toronto
A: My pick? Linas Kleiza. He’s got the dour, kind of cynical sense of humour some might not like but I do. And he’s probably be pressed by Aaron Gray and Amir Johnson in the top three; although I haven’t had a lot of interaction with the newbies yet so that might change.
Actually, this isn’t a rip-roaring comedy troupe by any means, unfortunately.
Q: Given the short NBA season last year, with the very brief training camp they had, are pre-season games more important/interesting than normal this year? Also, do you you know if MLSE shifts hockey support staff over to the Raptor basketball side of things now that the NHL lockout is in full swing?
Bill G, North York
A: Not sure they’re at all more important than they have been in any other normal season. The one thing that’s good for the locals is that Dwane Casey gets a full camp and a full month of pre-season games to work on stuff.
And as far as I know right now, there are no plans to change anything in the staffing situation at MLSE. And, trust me, the three guys involved in the NBA media relations – poobah J. LaBumbard and his henchmen P. Summers and R. Yau – are more than capable of handling the work load.
Q: Doug: We all hope that the calf injury to big Val won't be a lingering problem, but could you contact Reggie Evans and try to borrow his blue sports coat. I think he looked pretty neat on the sidelines, not to say quite dashing. The jacket looks classy with a boot cast. Thanks.
Ken B, Matheson
A: I’m waiting for the Reggie Evans Line Of Linen Sports Coats to hit the malls. I’m seeing standardized grunt uniforms in varying shades.
Q: Hi Doug. Agree with your assessment of the Jays season but I felt at the beginning of the season they had too many "ifs" and once the pitchers went down so did their season.
I don't want to be negative but don't you think Raps, even if improved, have too many "ifs"?
If Lowry brings what we think he can. If Jose can coexist with Kyle. If Double D can rise to increased competition. If Andrea can build upon last season. If Eddy D can get that jump shot working. If Fields plays more like his rookie season as opposed to his sophomore season.
You see my simple theory is those with the least "ifs" make the playoffs.
Freddy W, Cambridge
A: They have a lot, no doubt, but so do a lot of teams and I don’t know that all of them have to come to fruition to be a success. Am putting together a list of priorities that’ll be part of our big pre-camp Raptors package on Monday afternoon but let’s just say now that, in my opinion, the biggest involves Bargnani.
Q: Hey Doug: Regarding the Escobar incident: Although what he did was very wrong and inexcusable, do you think that what he did is, in some small part at least, because that sort of thing is common in MLB locker rooms - and perhaps in all locker rooms for men everywhere? I think you've had access to locker rooms in a few different sports; have you seen any such 'joking around?'
Tim H, Windsor
A: I am not naïve enough to think that all manner of inappropriate comments are made in the sanctity of the locker room and in the heat of battle. But because they happen in privacy and on the court or the field or the ice, we’re not privy to them.
That said, if teams start with some kind of educational programs with kids as soon as they get them it could mean eventually things change and those locker room comments that many would find offensive are at least toned down.
Q: Hey Doug, We are looking forward to the arrival of the Raptors on the East Coast and can't wait to watch the inter-squad game. Do you believe the Raptors have the right pieces to take better care of the ball this year? The only true glimmer from last year was Jose Calderon, but as a team they were less than efficient with the ball.
Ross C, Nackawic, NB
A: Well, anecdotal history would suggest Lowry is a bit loose with the ball, I can’t speak to Fields’s ability on the wing and DeRozan’s ball handling has been a source of concern since he got in the league.
So, no, I don’t imagine they’ll take better care of the ball this year at all.
Q: Hi Doug. There has been talk and actual articles about moving DeRozan to the 3. There was an article (not by you if I remember correctly) stating that he actually has at least the size to do so. Now, the Raps don't have another starting 2 at the moment, but what would be the advantages and disadvantages of having him play the 3 at least some of the time (e.g., to give Ross more time at 2, or Jose and Lowry on the court together)?
Ken M, London
A: Semantics, actually.
The old “shooting guard vs. small forward” dynamic is pretty much dead, the two positions are interchangeable for the most part. So call him or Fields or Ross or Alan Anderson whatever you like, they’re all wings to me and to the coaching staff.
Both Dwane and Jose mentioned earlier this week that Lowry and Calderon could see time on the court together; I think it will be the exception rather than the rule. I would be you’ll see more of DeRozan and Fields or Fields and Anderson or Kleiza than you will Calderon and Lowry.
Q: See the great news about your blog's 20 million hits (Congratulations to you and how fortunate for us that you produce this), made me wonder the following. What is the average number of readers/hits per day? Are there days in the week where it tends to be more or less read (i.e., how does the weekend mailbag compare with other days?)? How seasonal is your blog's readership; is it significantly higher during the NBA season? Does it drop when the Raps don't make the playoffs? Does it spike when there's significant NBA or Raptors' news? Did it drop significantly during the NBA strike?
Richard W, Toronto
A: It’s actually pretty consistent, although the numbers do go down on the weekends when Irregulars have, you know, lives.
It’s also pretty season, we’ll average somewhere in the low five figures during the season, in the high thousands during the summer of late and that’s to be expected. This coming season will be interesting to see since it will be a normal year with some minor expectations.
And there is this giant electronic board in our newsroom that the Tall Foreheads look at; it charts almost every story on our website, which is being the read the most and the longest and it’s all hieroglyphics to me.
Q: Long time reader, third time poster here, sup Doug! I got a question, i know all about Jose's team first attitude, but do you think at some point in this season he's going to ask for a trade? Say the season is in shambles, which I don't think will happen, but say it is, and Jose's name keeps getting brought up...won’t the good guy be fed up?
Racket R, Toronto
A: Sup? Um, okay.
I don’t for a second think he’d ever “demand” a trade; it’s not in his DNA. He loves the city, likes the organization and since he was once traded only to have the deal kyboshed and still came back to give his best every second he’s on the court, that should tell you something about him.
And, as a 30-year-old going into his seventh NBA season, he knows the realities of life and that his name is going to come up in rumours; it just goes with the territory.
But ask for a trade? I don’t see it happening.
Q: Hi Doug. Thinking about he dilemma that OKC has with offering Harden the type of contract that he's probably going to command if they let him get to RFA status. Miami solved it by getting Lebron/Wade/Bosh to all sign slightly less than max contracts which was above board. Could Durant and Westbrook collectively decide that their title chances are better with Harden than without, and agree behind the scenes that they will carve off a million a year (or whatever it reasonably takes) and give it to Harden so he could sign a less than max contract and keep OKC under the luxury tax (and their Big 4 together)? I'd assume the CBA deals with player/team dealings not player/player dealings. Obviously, it's not a likely scenario, just wondering if they could do it._Thanks.
Normiyuki H, Toronto
A: They could have, I suppose, seen this coming but both signed their contracts and they cannot be re-opened so asking them to take a bit less to keep Harden cannot happen. Once a deal is signed, there’s no going back and re-doing the terms.
Q: Hey Doug. Just wondering what you think the rookie impact will be this year on the Raptors, how much playing time Terrance Ross + Big V will get? And what kind of production we can expect out of them.
Do you expect the Raptors to have a shot at the playoffs this year? I'm thinking it’s still unlikely, but depends on how a few Bargnani deals with injuries.
Brett D, Vaughan
A: Can’t really guess on the impact of the kids but I do think Valanciunas will be player sooner rather than later and Ross is going to make life difficult for DeRozan. But neither has so much as taken part in an NBA practice, let alone a game, so it’s entirely guesswork.
Shot at the playoffs? All things being equal – and they seldom are – I think they can make a serious run at being in the mix for spots six through 11 in the East. And, thankfully, we have 82 games to watch and see how it unfolds here and in other cities. The one salient point I think a lot of people miss is that it’s not just what happens here that matters in that playoff chase, what goes on with a handful of other franchises matters just as much.
Q: Hey Doug. As a fellow 5:30 am dog walker (big shout out to Toby the wonder dog) I agree with summer being over., had to add a jacket a couple of weeks ago, and last week changed from shorts to sweat pants. Just couldn;t handle to cold breezes anymore.
FYI Toby loves the weather, doesn't do heat well.
Jim M, Richmond Hill
A: Not sure what it’s like up there in the frozen tundra of Richmond Hill but down here in the sunnier climes it’s still shorts walking weather. A jacket, perhaps, but I’m not giving up yet.