The end of the weekend mail
And a Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours; have fun with your families, even the old drunken uncle who spills stuff and makes everyone a touch uncomfortable.
I’m at practice most of the day, some turkey later and a game tomorrow. Fun? Wow!
Q: Doug - in the years you have been watching and writing about basketball, what are some of the things you have seen that have made you say "Where the h... did that come from" or words to that effect. If anything ever did. You have probably seen just about everything but there must have been a few things. Personal things as most of us have seen the things like HWSNBN dunking in the Sydney Olympics. Things that didn't get much exposure on TV.
Gerry T, Halifax
A: Wow, I’m trying to come up with three or four and it’s taxing the old brain here. I know that others will come to me as the day progresses and I thank you for bringing this us, it’ll be interesting to see what I recall and when.
I’m going to put that Carter dunk over Frederic Weiss at the top of the list, it was simply astonishing. I’ve never seen anything like it before or since, to tell you the truth.
One was a Steve Nash pass and, yeah, he’s thrown a million of ‘em. But this one was about a 70-foot, one-handed bounce pass through about three guys that hit his teammate in stride and ended with a dunk. Can’t remember who did it, I was bug-eyed at the play.
The other? And this might be top of the non-game list for sure.
Standing at a press party before the 2000 Sydney Olympics at some race track.
There’s a bit of a commotion at the entrance, I wandered over to see what was going on and remember thinking:
Holy crap! That’s Muhammad Ali.
You know how they say the true greats have some kind of aura about them? I’ve felt it.
Q: Hi Doug. What are your first impressions coming out of training camp? How does this year compare to previous training camps.
Monty M, Toronto
A: I can’t speak too much to the on-court stuff since all we’ve really seen in a scrimmage against each other but you can tell from that there’s a bit more read-and-react in the offence and they do want to get up the floor. But turnovers, as Dwane mentioned, are up and awful and that’s a problem.
But there is a sense of optimism and I don’t think you can deny they’ve upgraded the talent; how that translates to wins and losses remains to be seen.
And, sadly, we didn’t have a real training camp last year and two years ago is almost too far back to remember, or care about.
Q: Hi Doug. Many of the Toronto TC fans are exasperated by the lack of hard questions being asked by the press at post-game and being apologists for the club's dysfunction. Many of us wonder what happened to investigative journalism.
Then someone mentioned that with so many sports team concentrated into one conglomerate, perhaps there was a fear that asking any hard questions could get a reporter blacklisted from all MLSE teams. How you ever felt that pressure when dealing with the Raptors? Is the muzzling of sports reporting on MLSE/Bell/Rodgers teams a legitimate worry of the fans?
Brad B, Ottawa
A: This really sticks in my craw, to tell you the truth.
I don’t know what you mean by “investigative journalism” because it’s not like there’s some malfeasance or cheating of the public purse going on. We ask questions about what happened, we do it respectfully because that’s the way true journalists work; we ask what happened and why and if there are follow up questions to be asked, we do.
I think you want us to rant and rave and yell and scream like fans; if you want that, I’d suggest more talk radio rather than the printed word – at least from this keyboard – because you’re not going to be satisfied. Sorry.
As for your “blacklisting” nonsense, it doesn’t happen. And no one – ever – has tried to “muzzle” anyone. Doesn’t happen.
So worry if you want because I don’t think anything I could possibly say would change your mind.
Q: Hi Doug! So I've surreptitiously unchained myself from the shackles that have me as one with the stove (all this stuffing, kneading, beating, whipping...hey, if it were anything other than Thanksgiving Dinner Preparation, you'd almost think I was having some kind of naughty fun...) to ask you ever so kindly to please explain something to me.
I've just read the text of the Infield Fly Rule from The Official Baseball Rules and I still don't understand what happened in last night's game between the Cards and the Braves. Does this rule apply to balls hit in the outfield that are judged to be field-able (is that a word?) by an infielder? And based on your understanding of the rule, did the umpire make the correct call? And have you seen many games played "under protest", and have any game results ever been subsequently overturned?
Thanks! And Happy Thanksgiving to you and Super Family and Irregulars everywhere!
Lorie P, London
A: When I first saw that play – and it was a replay at full speed rather than live – my initial reaction was that they blew the call because I didn’t think the shortstop could have legitimately made a play on the ball facing home plate. But after seeing it a couple of more times, maybe he could have, which would have made it the right call regardless of where the ball was on the field. Tough judgement call and I guess when push comes to shove, I think it was the wrong one.
And, no, no game I’ve ever been involved in, or know about in basketball, has been over-turned on any protest.
It’s probably happened in baseball over the years but I don’t know when.
Q: I saw Alex McKechnie being interviewed yesterday about Jonas. Alex seems to be respected by the Raptors coach and management. Based on Andrea last year and Jonas this year, I am wondering if Alec is too cautious and if he holds players back too long from injury. What are you hearing?
Dave B, Cornwall
A: What I’m hearing, and have heard for years, is that Alex is one of the most highly-respected trainers/sports science minds in the game; the Raptors are actually lucky to have him.
And Bargnani blew out of a calf, he needed many, many weeks off; Valanciunas has been on the shelf for, what, 10 days? There’s no issue here; none at all.
Q: Hi Doug. I hope you have enjoyed your time in Halifax this week. I was wondering if, long term, the Raptors see their rookie, Terrence Ross, being more of a 3 or a 2? Also, I know its early, but have any of your NBA media colleagues informed you which of this past June's rookie class looks impressive in their respective team's training camp? Thank You.
Joe D, Mississagua
A: You know that I think most wings are interchangeable in many ways and that two-three or four-five discussions are those of semantics but, pressed, he’s a two right now; too slight and inexperienced to be a three.
And, yeah, it is early and I haven’t talked to a lot of guys and few of us have even seen a team play a pre-season game so it’s hard to pick rookies. I will, however, give you one to watch: guard Alexey Schved of Minnesota. Saw the Russian kid play in London and I think he could be good
Q: Hey Doug, you talked briefly about Royce White and his fear of flying Dennis Bergkamp who played soccer for Arsenal and the dutch national team (known as "the non-flying dutchman")and both Arsenal and his national team allowed him to travel by car and train. Also considering there are a lot of unrestricted free agents and some will get traded, who do you think will be the biggest unrestricted free agent moving teams/asking for a trade?
Pedro S, Lisbon
A: Thanks for the tip on Bergkamp, much appreciated and not something I knew.
And it’s too early to even think about trades; let’s get a quarter of the season under our belt, see how teams develop and we’ll think about it again.
Q: Do you think its ridiculous the number of times MLB teams have a wet clubhouse celebration as they advance into and through the playoffs? I certainly do.
Rob R, Vancouver
A: No, not really. Some teams might go a bit over the top but if, for instance, it’s their biggest accomplishment in years or the culmination of a stunning reversal of fortune like Baltimore, Washington or Oakland, why not have fun with it?
Q: When you report Landry Fields is "as smart a player as [the Raptors] have had in a long time" could you elaborate on what makes a "smart" player? Who are some players, past or present, that demonstrate such characteristics?
James A, Victoria
A: I guess the simplest explanation for “smart” is guys who aware of what’s going on on the court all time.
It’s seeing where to make cuts without the ball; it’s knowing where to be on every play (no, they all don’t; you’d be amazed at the number of times players got to the wrong spot to start a possession – it’s why you see point guards waving guys around); it’s being able to tell teammates what might be coming and talking on defence to move people around. I know it’s a vague phrase but it truly is just realizing what’s happening that you can exploit to the benefit of your team.
I’d say Jose’s a “smart” basketball player, Anthony Parker was, Oak might have been the smartest player ever, along with Michael Curry for the one year he was here.
Guys like that.
Q: You obviously enjoyed your stay in Halifax. Were you given a warm welcome by the locals? Did you get out on the harbour?
Do you know whether the players liked their spare time in Hfx.
Dave B, Halifax
A: We were talking about this the other day and came to the conclusion that Halifax was the best in-Canada training camp ever. The people were outstanding and very welcoming, the weather was perfect, the city’s great and every place we went was fun. Great time. But, no, I didn’t get out in the harbour, never seemed to be the time.
The players? I think they did, not sure how many of them got out an awful lot but heard good things about restaurants, they liked the facility, I know the guys who went out fishing and whale watching had a great time and Dwane raved about the museum tour he and the coaches got.
Overall? Excellent week, hope we get back.
Q: Hi Doug. Have you been around the team enough yet to get a sense of "chemistry"? How do you think this team ranks compares to past teams?
Kate C, Toronto
A: It’s early days but I think everything seems to be coming along quite nicely. Of course, they’d keep any “division” to themselves but the one thing you look for is interaction between old guys and new guys and who’s teaching and talking and joking with whom and that all looks good.
But, again, it is awfully early and no playing-time decisions have been made.
Q: Doug. So ESPN recently ranked/evaluated every team with Charles Barkley. Sir Charles was less than kind to the Raps, saying "they are the 5th best team in the division and that this team shouldn't have any expectations", no evaluation of players or coaching, just a straight up diss. In your opinion, why does Charles hate us so much?
Lance M, Toronto
A: I think if you looked at it objectively, they are the fifth best team in the Atlantic so there’s nothing really new there and after four straight years of missing the playoffs, why would there be high expectations.
But, really, who cares what Charles Barkley says today; they need to let the games begin and see how things unfold.
Q: Doug. Don't know if you've seen the Gonzaga Trick Shots video but it's worth the few minutes to see Kevin Pangos and his teammates playing a little bit of HORSE. In fact, makes one wonder if a HORSE trick shot contest might be more palatable than another Dunk Contest at the all-star game.
Gary M, Brampton
A: It might be to me but here’s the problem: You can schedule all that current Saturday night stuff down to almost the minute and since it’s a big TV show mostly I can’t see HORSE being included, it might drag on too much.
Q: Hi Doug. I do agree with the concept of trying to eliminate theatrical floppers, however would calling fouls for the moving screens be another way of preventing the referees from needing to make that call? Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, I look forward to it every morning.
Nick K, St. Catherines
A: Moving screens became a point of emphasis last season and I hope it remains that way this year. But in the NBA video on what would be seen as a flop and what wouldn’t, embellishing contact on screens – both by the getting setting them and the guy running into them – are going to be monitored.
Q: Greetings from frigid Saskatchewan. You probably get quite a few questions about Canada possibly getting another team... but how valid would it be? (please note i haven't read any of your opinions on the matter)
If it were valid would it be smart? I believe the economy in Canada is due for a crash here sooner rather than later (economics major at UofR)
Unrelated praise towards you and your column: my dad has been reading your blog for a while now and told me about it at the start of the off-season I read a few days here and there and was really impressed with it (even though not much to talk about in the NBA) I am excited to a full season of following the blog! Keep up to terrific work!
Tyler M, Regina
A: I think Vancouver could very well support a team; it already has, it wasn’t fan support that forced the move.
That said I don’t see a team going back there for quite some time. There is – quite correctly – no mood for expansion and the first current team that moves is probably destined for Seattle.
So, unless a second team moves, Vancouver gets shut out.
Q: Hey Doug: How about two questions for your crack research team?
Can anyone explain the evolution of the word "Haligonian" came to mean a resident of Halifax?
Do you know why 'tanking' means deliberately losing games?
Thanks for all of your efforts - it's no wonder you reached 20,000,000 hits!
Tim H, Windsor
A: Wow, those are some questions.
Got this early enough to ask a guy across the bar from me one evening – they know everything if they’re old enough – and Haligonian, he says, is an old English word meaning to bear children or somesuch. Guess it’s an easy way to call someone a local without calling them a local.
But I’ve got nothing on tanking; maybe the Irregular Research Team can ask Mr. Google and help us all out.
Q: Hey Doug. I was thinking about the new flopping penalties being implemented this season. I wonder if it is just going to be applied to defenders since that is the context that most people refer to when talking about flopping. What about when the ball handler snaps his head back and yells whenever he attempts to go around a player even when there is no contact? Or how about when a player feels the slightest contact on his back when getting ready to jump for a rebound and then jumps sideways as if launched from a catapult? I understand why the players do it since they are rewarded sometimes when a foul is called, but it is very annoying to watch.
On a related note, as much as I agree with your thoughts on not slowing the game down (by reviewing potential flops during the game) I could be convinced that some sort of coach's challenge would work if they were limited. I know that it could not be as efficient as tennis since a flop is not as cut and dry as an in or out of bounds call, but perhaps it could be done during TV commercials or something like that.
Jason G, Port Elgin
A: All that embellishment you speak of is included in the broad definition of “flopping” that the league has set as the benchmark for its reviews and penalties. No one is ammune.
As for the coaches challenges, etc.; it might work, it might slow the game down, though and that’s the problem they have with it. As for doing it in commercials or something, not sure that would work because if you made it a live in-game call, not sure how you’d deal with the retroactive nature of it.
Morning-after reviews may not be perfect but I think it’s the best way right now.
Q: Hey Doug. Have not heard much about Amir Johnson this past week. He is not featured in any scrums and seems to not have been interviewed on any shows. Why is that?
Do you have any info on how he is looking?
Ren R, Swastika
A: There was no nefarious reason that we didn’t do much on Amir, guess other things came up, there were other tales to tell. Nothing personal, we’d say hello every day and there’s a long time left and lots of stories to do so I’m sure it’ll all work out.
Am told he’s looked okay in the scrimmages we haven’t, he had little impact on the Saturday thing, though.
Q: Hey Doug. I hate flopping and I'm glad to see the NBA planning to review and fine offenders. In my mind, flopping ISN'T the dirtiest defensive move - that dishonour belongs to the perimeter defenders who put their legs under a three point shooter to either have him roll an ankle or at least think about landing and miss the shot. Would you be in favour of the NBA reviewing this kind of play too?
Paul C, Brantford
A: They do. If teams bring it to the attention of the league office, it gets looked at.
Q: Hi Doug. I know it is early and i know you hate predictions but I thought this may be a more interesting way to approach the issue. How many wins would this team need for BC to consider that this team over performed and how many losses for him to admit the team under performed?
Howard B, Toronto
A: Okay, total guesswork, please don’t hold it against me because it’s a rather odd request but let’s say 47 on the high end and 27 on the low end.