And now all of the weekend mail
I’m off to Rama for practice – never been there before, kind of interested to see how they pull it off – and then need some revisions to an NBA preview thanks to the big Harden trade last night.
You’ll see more on that tomorrow.
Oh, and I can sure pick a World Series winner, can’t I? Damn Tigers.
Q: One for the mailbag. So, there's a new outbreak of SARS, massive layoffs at Mother Star, a barely-averted zombie apocalypse that wipes out half of the staff or whatever. The Powers That Be insist that the scant few remaining writers cover everything the paper normally does, and the writers will have to wear several different hats. Let's say 3 you'd like and 3 you'd hate.
What would you go for? Restaurant reviewer, fashion guru, romance advice columnist?
Would you try to avoid the City Hall or crime beat, celebrity gossip or the pucks?
Jonathan M, Toronto
A: I think I’d like to write four general columns on week on whatever I fancied and I’d probably be okay doing restaurant reviews (as long as I didn’t take it too seriously) and if I had to go do some baseball, I’d be quite happy with that.
If they made me cover politics at any level, crime or economics, I’d probably seek alternate employment.
Q: What is worse:
Having your birthday fall on Halloween or Christmas?
Being the 14th guy on an NBA bench, or a CEO for an oil sands company? (Or a city engineer in Montreal)
Having a great jump shot and being unable to dribble, or having a great handle and being unable to shoot?
Being a blog/sports reporter kind of guy or a regular schmo?
Being Obama, Romney, Dalton, Harper, or being anybody else?
Bob E, Kanata
A: Christmas would be way worse, wouldn’t it? Don’t see a lot of Halloween gifts.
An NBA 14th man has no real responsibility, it’d be way easier than being some boss and you can always teach a guy to shoot so I’d rather be able to dribble first.
My gig’s the greatest, a regular schmo’s might be too routine.
And for all the perks of the job, I think being President would be kind of neat.
Q: I love the way you periodically insert stuff that has nothing to do with basketball, whether it be other sports or other-than-sports (eg, YouTube clip on Memphis musical). As regards the latter, any idea whether and, if so when, that musical may make its way to the Frozen North?
Bill W, Burlington
A: I don’t, unfortunately. I remember reading something about them making a movie with the original cast but I honestly don’t know where that is in the process.
But if you get a chance to see it; or even watch a bit of it on-line somehow, I’d recommend it highly.
Q: This may be a bit late for this week. Assuming that the Raptors and DeRozen doesn't agree to an extension before Halloween, if DeRozen is traded this year, does he still become a restricted Free Agent with his new team next summer?
Dave B, Cornwall
A: If there’s no deal before Halloween, he’s a restricted free agent wherever he ends this season. A team that acquired him mid-season could not start negotiations until next summer on a new deal.
Q: Hello Doug. The only really troubling part of the pre-season has been the slow starts, at both ends, but especially defensively. So Coach Smith, if there was a tweak to be made among the starters, any ideas? About the only thing I come up with is maybe Kleiza for Fields. Might be good for both their comfort and productivity levels, at least until Landry gets more acclimated with Casey's system? And Kleiza has that mental toughness. Thanks for the blog!
David M, Ottawa
A: I was trying to think of that very thing after the game Friday in Memphis and I guess, all things considered, the small forward spot might be the spot, unless they wanted to make a change with Valanciunas, but I don’t think they do.
But maybe not Kleiza. Since the issue is giving up points at such an alarming rate, perhaps they look at a so-called defensive stopper like Anderson there?
But I don’t see anything happening for at least five or 10 regular season games.
Q: Congrats on the Nash interview, pleasure to read, thoughtful, insightful responses. Questions were well thought out.
Finally the regular season is here. Any idea why the NBA would kick it off with the battle of the Titans, Wiz/Cavs? Can' t figure that one!
John C, Hazelville
A: Yeah, that one does seem out of place, doesn’t it?
Only thing I can think of is they wanted a Kyrie Irving-John Wall matchup for the NBA TV game and didn’t get it.
Q: Hey Doug: Since you basically answered my question about Stern in today's blog, I'll replace it with this one (and hope it's not answered in the Nash article!):_On the cover of a recent Sportsnet magazine was the sub-headline "Can Nash and Kobe play nice?" or some such. I haven't had a chance to read the article, but can you see any sort of conflict occurring? Steve is a great facilitator, but I get the sense that there are times when Kobe wants to be 'the one.'_Thanks!
Tim H, Windsor
A: Part of our NBA preview package that’s running the first of the week is a piece on the Lakers that gets more into this but having spent some time out there and knowing where all those players are in their careers, I suspect there will be no issues at all.
Q: Hello, Doug: It's been awhile so maybe one should be polite and ask how you are? Air Canada, Marriott, cabs and hotels and all other parts of the travelling life of a sportswriter been satisfactory - or at least reasonably priced and on time - lately? Oh, and here's some travel advice for you. If possible, avoid any trips to the North-Eastern Seaboard next week. I'm hearing something about a storm that's one part Nor'Easter, one part blizzard and one part hurricane - with a full moon and Hallowe'en arrival date thrown in for added horrow.
Anyway, my questions. I'm looking forward to reading your interview with Steve Nash in my paper tomorrow - and perhaps these questions will be answered in the piece - but right now I'm wondering about how the feature came to be.
Did you approach Steve Nash directly or was it a case of "your people talking to his people" sort of thing? Did you decide jointly to publish the interview in a Q&A format or is that always left up to the writer in these situations? Were you limited to a certain amount of time, (and was it enough?) as in, do you get the sense his days are fairly heavily scheduled? Which one of you chose the location(s)? And, as I say, I haven't read it yet - but did you ask him about any future political aspirations he might have? I'm still liking him for that Governor General of Canada gig. Thank you.
Lorie P, London
A: It wasn’t really all that hard to put together, actually. When Steve was here for the national team announcement and camp, I had mentioned I thought a trip out there during training camp would be good, the bosses thought it was a good idea that fit into the schedule and a couple of texts to Steve the week before set it up. Most players like to just do scrums after practice and get on with their day but I’ve been writing about him for 20 years or so and when I mentioned I would like a little one-on-one time after a couple of workouts, he was fine with it. John Black of the Lakers PR staff helped facilitate it to and it went off without a hitch.
As for the style, it was a discussion with the Tall Foreheads, we knew it would be wide-ranging and might not lend itself to a strict narrative so that seemed to be the best way to present it. Was kind of easy on me, just a matter of asking some OK questions and letting the conversation roll; I don’t mind that every now and then at all.
Governor-General? If not him, then me. That’s if I can’t be a Senator, that is.
And me? I’m cool, a de facto 10-day road trip to Montreal, L.A. and Memphis was a bit tough but we’re getting into the rhythm of the season quite nicely.
Q: Any changes to the intro this year and anything special for opening night planned?
Alex H, Toronto
A: Oh, I’m sure there are but I’m sure not privy to them. That’s a state-held secret.
Q: Hello Doug. I had the opportunity to attend the Raptors Coaching Clinic last Sunday. Retired NBA referee, Steve Javie, spoke to us and told us some very interesting stories about life as an NBA referee. That brings me to a few questions:
During your career, what was the most memorable confrontation you ever saw between a player/coach and a referee?
Which current or past Raptor coach was the best at working the referees during a game?
Which current/past referee is very good at managing the game and its personalities in the NBA?
Joe D, Mississauga
A: I heard that was a great day, very cool.
Classic confrontation involving a Raptor coach? That’s easy. We’re in Miami, Sam’s coaching and the officiating is, um, suspect. He explodes (right in front of Larry Tanenbaum, who was at the game) and gets ejected. He walks about 30 feet onto the court, points at each of the officials and says something to the effect of “ screw you!” to all three. Classic.
As for working the refs? Butch was really good, he’d have a way of making quiet points without much fanfare that planted seeds.
And I know some won’t believe this but Joe Crawford is great at engaging and explaining and then getting on with things during games, so is Dan Crawford, another well-respected official.
Q: With respect to finding a spot for Magloire. Are there any limits on coaching staff?
Jim R, Toronto
A: No, no limits at all and I would guess there’d be some kind of “basketball development” component to whatever job they come up with if, in fact, they do.
Q: Greetings, hmmm LA and Memphis in the same week I think I am jealous. Regarding David Stern's retirement and more specifically, his replacement. Donning your Karnak the Magnificent hat what is the unexplored frontier where a new commish could make his own mark? One would wonder the number of new revenue streams that could be found within the current market reach, leaves one to wonder if the time is right to try to consolidate the International growth somehow. Or, perhaps just managing the maturation of the current NBA business would be, in and of itself, a worthy accomplishment.
As always, thanks for what you do.
Doug T, Brantford
A: Those are some tough shoes to fill since a lot of things are pretty solidly in place, chief among them the CBA that extends for years.
I guess the first order of business would be to start working on a new TV deal and how that might be different from this one (I believe it expires in 2015) and there have to be new multi-media and global marketing jobs that need looking after. But David’s left the ship sailing pretty smoothly at the moment.
Q: Hi Doug. I just saw a snippet on Andrew Wiggins apparently Canada's first basketball phenom. By phenom I mean highly touted basketball player before he's even reached the NBA let alone college. Some rumours are bold enough to predict he'll go no. 1 in the draft when he enters, regardless of who else is present in the draft class.
Can you tell me what you've heard on this kid, is there any reason to believe the hype?
Drew F, Oshawa
A: I’ve heard he’s incredibly skilled and dedicated and I have no reason to doubt the experts who know far more about the kid than I do.
Q: Hey Doug, I was recently reading up on the 1974 10 cent beer night in Cleveland at the Indians Vs Rangers game. I'm 25 so wasn't around for that game obviously, but I am surprised I have never heard of that riot. My question is where would you rank that riot to the fights in Auburn Hills? I'd put the 1974 riot "above" (not that either should have happened) the Pistons Pacers game only because it seemed like the entire stadium wanted to get into the Rangers dugout.
Side question: what does HOTH and all the other acronyms you use stand for? I read your blog daily and I literally can not figure it out haha.
David S, Calgary
A: I don’t recall that Cleveland incident all that well but for pure danger and the possibility of something truly awful happening, I don’t think you can beat the Palace Brawl. Who knows what could have unfolded in this day and age with the propensity to senseless violence with weapons; not sure that existed to the same degree back in ’74.
Heroes Of The Hardcourt.
Q: Hey Doug. Thanks for keeping us entertained on a daily basis! My question has nothing to do with basketball or sports. Correct me if I'm wrong but I've noticed in the last Q & A with the Raptors players and staff on NBA TV Canada, you had an iPhone 5.
I was thinking about getting one, but I'm leaning a little bit more towards a Samsung Galaxy Note.
Anyways, I just wanted to know what you think about the phone overall? I have noticed a lot of iPhone users have been very disappointed with the new one.
Saer D, Toronto
A: I do use an iPhone, but it’s the 4S one, we’re not as advanced as some. And I like it quite a lot, took some getting used to typing on a touch pad rather than my old Blackberry that had keys but that only took a couple of weeks. But I’m also a techno nerd and probably don’t get nearly as much out of it as I could. For my purposes, though, it’s fine.
Super Son has a Samsung and loves it, too. I’m not sure what all he does with it but it seems to keep him happy.
I can’t recommend one over the other, though; as I say, mine works for my needs and that’s all I care about. I especially like being able to have my own wireless network if I need it to file from somewhere where a network is not otherwise available.
Q: Doug. Please put on your sociologist's hat and comment on this. In general terms, do you notice a difference between Canadian and American sports media as far as outlook goes? Canadian and particularly Toronto media seem to approach their assigned beats with a "let's not get too excited here" approach sprinkled with a touch of cynicism at times. From what I read in US outlets, optimism and even cheer leading is much more common. And it's not just successful franchises. Take a losing team in Detroit for example and compare coverage of each team's rookie center. By and large the Toronto correspondents take your approach that JV shows promise but lets wait and see how he pans out. On the other hand, your counterparts in the Motor City are overflowing with love for Andre Drummond. He's pretty much a superstar already. One writer waxed elegant the other day about how they couldn't believe how easy a rookie big makes the NBA game look. Your take? (Not on Drummond, but on Canadian vs American outlook.
Joe S, Kingston
A: Just a matter of different strokes for different folks; we may not have as many “screamers” in the print media here as they do down south (thankfully) there are still some.
I also think, on the whole, there is more ego to members of the media in the States (“hey, look at me; I’m right, if you disagree you’re a dope”) than there might be up here.
I’m not suggesting that’s 100 per cent true but I do think we tend to not get as carried away as quickly as others, and I think it serves readers better.
As for a why? I don’t really know for sure; maybe it’s just the way we’re structured.
Q: Hi Doug. You wrote "Kirk Hinrich hurt his groin in a game last night and Derrick Rose is on the shelf for months and John Lucas III picked Toronto over any chance to stay in Chicago. That really says an awful lot about the kid, doesn’t it?". What did you mean by this? It can't be that he thought that Toronto has a better chance at making the playoffs than Chicago does?
Lee S, Toronto
A: It was because he saw a chance to be with a franchise he thought was on the rise; and he didn’t really care about who was ahead of him on any depth chart.
Think it’s explained a wee bit in this story I did a week or so ago. Check out the final quote:
Q: Hey Doug. Bit of a long one here, but I thought you may find it interesting. Feel free to chop it up if you wish to share it with the public.
I've been living in the Philippines for a time now, and it's made me realize just how lucky I am to be from one of those few cities with an NBA team. Especially considering we're not even a part of the nation that the 'N' refers to. Everyone here adores basketball – far more than Canadians in terms of populace – and it's made me consider the sense of entitlement that seems to plague the fans of most Toronto sports teams. We rage and rage about wins, instead of supporting our team and appreciating that we have one. Instead of enjoying the journey – watching the young players grow – for better or worse - and creating an atmosphere that makes athletes want to perform for us. I'm willing to bet Seattle would happily take the team off of our hands, not to mention a dozen other cities.
I like the team, and I think Colangelo has made informed decisions that have unfortunately not panned out. The intricacies of the game – chemistry, athlete's individual motivation, injuries, - those things are outside of a GM's control, and so every move is an educated guess at best.
As for a question: I am very curious about athlete's work ethic.
I like to think that at an NBA level – though there are certainly advantages and disadvantages inherent in every athlete - every player is physically capable of performing.
It is their preparation – mental, conditioning, and skill-wise – that makes the difference, even if the player's ceiling is being an effective piece of a winning team.
From your experience, has this been the case? Are there exceptions that come to mind? Athletes that were dedicated, consistent, did what the coaches asked of them, and still couldn't put it together?
I'm talking about the guys that really wanted it, that devoted themselves to the game.
What about Raptors past and present? Who was the most devoted presence in our locker room?
I get the impression Lowry is that guy at the moment, but what are your thoughts?
Adrian T, Toronto
A: I’m not sure I agree with the point that every player is capable of performing, there are levels of athleticism that different from one guy to the next.
And you’ve seen guys with less than brilliant athletic ability – two here that come quickly to mind are Matt Bonner and Jorge Garbajosa – who may not be gifted but who know how to play.
And, sure, just like in any job, there are players who work harder than others – DeRozan’s a bit of a gym rat, so is Lowry – but that doesn’t make them special, actually. It’s just the way their personalities are.
Most devoted? Hard to say because I don’t know everyone who comes back at night to get up extra shots and I don’t know how serious they are when they get there. Just because people put in time doesn’t mean they are maximizing it, sometimes it might just be a way to kill a few hours.
Q: Thoughts on the John Farrell fiasco? I admit to being surprised at his lack of tact throughout the messy process, and pleased with AA for taking the high ground. Either way, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Nick H, Edmonton
A: I think they traded a marginal manager for a marginal player with another marginal pitcher thrown in. I don’t get the big hue and cry, Farrell wanted out – he used this job pretty well – and they got something for him. I think the Blue Jays handled it well and professionally and I don’t think it will have any impact whatsoever in the future.
Q: Hi Smoothie! I read somewhere that Casey had a few choice words for the players at halftime.
Question; do any of the coaches enter the dressing room at half time to "discuss" matters?
When the cameras show the players dressing room there are no coaches.
Lefty F, Cape Breton
A: Oh yeah, the coaches get in there. Generally, they allow the players five or six minutes to decompress and talk among themselves while the coaches retreat to either an office or somewhere private.
But after that, the coaches are in there discussion strategy and whatever issues have arisen in the first half.
Q: With Boston's recent signing of Barbaso do you see them a better team? And do you see Boston bouncing back from Ray's departure?
John P, Louisville
A: Maybe a bit better but I don’t know how much Leandro is going to play, actually. The Celtics have Jason Terry in that Barbosa role and Terry’s pretty good at it.
And I see Boston as far and away the second-best team in the East right now, I don’t think they’ll miss Ray Allen very much at all.
Q: Doug, since you are in LA - if you wanted to win the championship this year, whose starting 5 would you rather have - The Lakers' or the Heat's?
Neils H, Willowdale
A: Was in L.A., am back around the Heroes Of The Hardcourt now.
Pure starters? With everyone available? I’d take the Lakers in a heartbeat, exponentially better at point guard and centre.
Q: Doug, what's the most pleasantly surprising thing you've seen from Valanciunas since his arrival? For me it has to be his foot speed, particularly the way he can turn his hips on defense to keep pace with a guard driving from the perimeter into the lane.
Mike D, Toronto
A: I’ve been impressed with his ability to defend aggressively and not foul. One of the usual failings of young big men is that they use two hands to move defenders around; Valanciunas has quickly understood you can use one arm extended but the other must be bent at the elbow when defending the post. It’s led to far fewer fouls than I had anticipated.
Q: Hi Doug. A question about the Raptors broadcasts.
I think Jack Armstrong is a great colour commentator. And he and Matt Devlin have great chemistry. But I dread a game when it's on Sportsnet.
Reason: Sportsnet kicks Jack upstairs, and Leo Rautins becomes the colour guy. I'm sure that Leo is a decent guy, but he is dull and tedious when it comes to his commentary.
Would Sportsnet consider making Sherman Hamilton their colour guy. He did a great job during the preseason. And Sherm is fun, interesting and insightful. Thoughts?
Gary D, Stouffville
A: I don’t see enough games on TV to have an opinion of the relative merits of any of them but I have, anecdotally, come to understand some people like Jack’s style and some like Leo’s and it’s all a matter of personal preference.
And I would think that because the networks keep hiring the analysts they do, they’re pretty happy with their work and aren’t about to make any changes.
Q: Hi Doug. A little late with this question for this year but is really necessary to rehash the 1972 Canada-Russia Summit series every year with over the top coverage on TV, internet and print? Honestly it seems that every year is a "milestone" anniversary for the series. Not to mention that with the over exposure comes the yearly conversation of whether or not Paul Henderson should be in the Hall of Fame. Is there something that hasn't been said about that topic that needs to be said every year?
Steve F, Toronto
A: Of course it’s not necessary to do it every year but there are a lot of hours of TV to fill and we are a Pucks Nation to a large degree and the demographic of viewers would, I think, be okay for the networks.
Me? I turn on cooking or something.
Q: Hey Doug: Maybe I'm wrong here, but it seems, in recent memory at least, that all work stoppages in pro sports are lockouts, as opposed to strikes. Do you - or your crack research team - know why the owners prefer a lockout to a strike? By locking out the athletes, doesn't that give the public the impression that it's the owners that are stopping the season?
Thanks for all that you do for us - I don't know when you find time to eat and sleep!
Tim H, Windsor
A: Time was, in baseball at least, the players picked the time when games would end by going on strike at a moment that would cause the greatest economic disruption to the owners, often in the middle of a season.
I would assume owners would now want the upper hand with timing and by initiating lockouts instead of negotiating after a contract has expired knowing the players might leave at any time makes a lockout make more sense.
But it doesn’t really matter who calls off the games, it’s when they do it and at the start of a season after a CBA has expired, it’s the owners who want to make that call.
Q: Hey Doug. With our frontcourt rotation being so deep, do you think Ed Davis will get the minutes he needs to continue his development? I think he is starting to show some nice things at both ends of the court.
James L, Toronto
A: This is a cliché answer but a truthful one: He’ll get the minutes if he earns them and that’s the best part of this roster: There’s competition at almost every spot and you have to keep playing well. The time has come and gone when they’d trot guys out there just to get experience and development. Now, you have to be able to contribute.
And since a lot of people told me Ed had the best and most consistent camp of many of the big men, I’d presume he’ll earn playing time, the question will be whether or not he can keep it.
Q: Doug. Is this the most Canadians we have had in the NBA at one time?
Beside the usual suspects like Nash, Joel, Magloire and Dalembert, we have this influx of youngsters like Tristan Thompson, Andrew Nicholson, Kris and Cory Joseph, Sacre.
I know some of these guys are the 14th, 15th (NBDL) guy but must reflect well on our development programs.
How is the Canadian development programs and teams viewed in the international, NCAA and NBA circles?
Rahulan S, Calgary
A: As far as I can tell, yes, this is the largest Canadian contingent on opening day NBA rosters ever and it’s got to be good for the development of the senior men’s program as long as they all want to play.
And I think NCAA teams have forever seen Canada as fertile ground, the NBA teams don’t care if a guy was born in Canada or on Mars as long as he can play. They do not check passports on draft night.