The start of the weekend mail
Great crowd, arena worked for us, a post-game soiree with an Irregular, an old friend who’s a local Montreal scribbler and Jay and Jacqueline at McLean’s made us feel right at home.
Not bad at all.
Early flight tomorrow to L.A. but a night of coasting so if you’ve got more queries, I can bluff more answers.
Q: Hi Doug. Careful not to party too much in Montreal and miss your flight home.
This Raptor team is very young. Is there anyone on the current roster that you see being the face of the franchise in a few years.
Howard B, Toronto
A: If I had to guess, I say Jonas Valanciunas is going to be that guy because of the combination of his personality and his skills. The kid’s got a nice sense of humour and a friendly demeanour and I think he’s going to be a player.
He also seems to me to be the kind of guy who’d welcome that, too.
And I can proudly say that in all these years I have never missed a flight. Jinx!!!
Q: Liked your article about John Lucas III, and I like Lucas as a player. He has the right attitude, would that some of the players could learn from him. Perhaps the Raps have found a bona-fide leader. What think you?
Speaking of "pouty" players when criticized, are there many players on the Raps that you have observed with that kind of response. Know you can't name names...but wondering about team chemistry as a whole. Seems the whiners would be a detriment. With the sense of "entitlement" that appears to permeate pro sports, it is so refreshing to encounter a player like Lucas who plays for the right reasons.
Arlene E, Chesley
A: Whiners are a detriment and teammates can see when a guy is continually pouting and it does get them down sometimes. And that’s why you see trades that may not makes sense – it’s addition by subtraction – or why you may see a guy acquired (Marcus Banks was a prime example here) by a team only to be told to go home, or stay away.
And there have been some guys over the years here who I presume we all know had a propensity to hang their heads when things went wrong. Remember TJ Ford, who I quite like, loafing on the court a couple of minutes when he was a backup? I do.
Q: Hi Doug. I was watching a preview about a documentary that Raptors TV is putting on in regards to this year's training camp. One of the clips shows the team boarding an Air Canada jet for Halifax. That brought up a few questions for me that I hope you'll answer:
Do most teams in the league lease a plane like the Raptors do or do many own their own plane?
Have you ever had the opportunity to fly with the Raptors on their plane? If you did, do you have any interesting tidbits to share about what a professional player/coach gets treated to on a plane in comparison to us regular folks?
Joe D, Mississauga
A: All teams fly charter, some own their own planes (Dallas does) but most “rent” as the Raptors do in an arrangement with Air Canada. But no team flies commericial. Ever.
And most of the charters – and I know this specifically for the Raptors because I’ve been on it on a few occasions – are laid out with all kinds of space to move around. The Raptors plane, for instance, has three or four rows removed in the middle of the plane that serves as a serving area for a pre-flight snack that’s laid out while the bags are being loaded.
Let’s just say it’s a very comfortable way to fly.
Q: Doug: What's your view on fouls? I was getting tired of all the soft calls on everyone going for a layup. Detroit handed out a couple of hard fouls, one that flattened Lowery. I don't like dirty play, but once in a while, a good clean hard foul keeps everyone honest, even if it's against your team. What's your take?
Ken Burns, Matheson
A: I have no problem with a hard foul. Never had, never will, as long as it’s clean and in the run of play. And I don’t know that anyone connected with the team would have a problem with it; it’s part of the game.
Q: Hi Doug. I see that Tracy McGrady has opted to play in China this year. And Stefon Marbury is still playing there today.
My question: What's life like for a past NBA star in China? Do they live in opulence or a scaled-back lifestyle? Penthouse suites or 1 bedroom apartments? Adoring fans, or only mildly interested?
Gary D, Stouffville
A: From people I’ve spoken to who either played over there or know the situations, it’s a comfortable life but not opulent. Regular condo-apartment dwelling, at the higher end of the spectrum, and teams will help with transportation and translation services. The North Americans aren’t fawned over but they are taken care of a bit better than the average worker.
And fan support is pretty good throughout the league, they play to about 75 per cent capacity according to one story I read. Don’t have raw numbers but that’s a pretty good total.
Q: Doug. How do you see MLSE's recent semi-takeover by Bell and Rogers affecting the Raptors (and the other teams as well). It seems that under the OTPP's thumb, the organization was more concerned with profit than wins, given the years of mediocrity among all the MLSE teams. But my concern is that instead of the organization being sold to a private owner (who buy teams due to their own personal fandom), it was sold to two corporations, who also care about profit.
So my concern is that our Toronto teams are going to keep making moves to maximize profit rather than wins. Is my concern justified? What's your take?
John K, Hamilton
A: Don’t see it having any immediate impact at all, actually. Money, or having the resources to spend, was never an issue under the old group, it was how that money was spent that was the issue. But I do know television draws far better in the post-season than in the regular season across all “platforms” so there may be a bit more of a push from the absolute top to have success. That being said, all businesses are run for profit so that will always be a factor, regardless of ownership.
Q: Hi Doug. Was at the Madrid game and really liked John Lucas. Obviously he's a score first PG but why hasn't he gotten more respect and could he be a solid number 2 PG after Lowry. I thought the team was so much more exciting with him as opposed to Calderon. Why can't coaching teach him to move the ball around more?
Alex B, Toronto
A: I think there are limitations to Lucas’s game that are well-documented; he isn’t a pass-first guard, never was and never will be so I don’t know that he’s a long-term answer as even a full-time backup. Trust me, coaches have tried, sometimes guys just don’t have what it takes to get the job done. That’s not a criticism, it’s simply a fact.
Q: You’re off to YUL to see the oldest team in the NBA. How happy are the Celtics? If the up tempo doesn't work against the NYK, scrap it! Pondering about the semi-demise of the Mavs, remembered Dwayne and Terry Stotts were asst coaches. and we all discuss the impact of players A & B but rarely consider good coaching. How impactful can solid B Ball people impact your team? Also, I was looking at Dwayne's assistants, any special attributes jump out from the group?
John C, Mississauga
A: I think good coaches – who get too much blame when things go wrong just like they get too much credit when things go right – have a knack for getting through mentally to their players to bring out the best in them and the good ones also realize the faults their players have and don’t put them in positions where they are likely to fail.
And on this staff, there aren’t a lot of special attributes that pop out, they are all well-schooled in teaching NBA basketball fundamentals like footwork and shooting and the like and they teach well but no one stands out as a genius in any particular phase of the game.
Q: Hey Doug, I'm sure this has been asked about a kajillion times, but why don't the Raptors offer up preseason games at a drastically reduced price (like 50-60% of regular prices).
Or maybe even offer up those reduced rate tickets just to schools to let the little ones catch a game at a reasonable price.
Seeing the almost empty arena last night just made me think that it would be better to have some warmer bodies in those seats, no matter the cost?
Jeff H, Toronto
A: I have no idea and when I ask I’m told it’s part of the ticket package and won’t likely change. I’ve long been a proponent of taking the pre-season games out of the season ticket package, selling all lower bowl tickets for $25, all upper bowl seats for $10 and letting people sit where they want.
Fans will thank me when the team comes to its senses and follows my advice.
Q: Doug. Love your "Ivory Towers" nickname.
One thing I am pleased about and was looking for your thoughts on is how "Big Val" plays D, and seems to be able to force opponents to change shots.
While I suspect he will never shoot the three like Bargs without question the Raptors do not need another 7 footer who likes to hang out around the three point line.
Would you agree their skill sets appear, admittedly very early, to compliment each other?
Freddy W, Cambridge
A: It’s only been about half a game that I’ve seen but you’d think a stretch four who can shoot from distance would be a perfect complement to a 7-footer comfortable in the paint. Too early to tell how well it’ll mesh, though.
But one thing to think about is how often you see Valanciunas at the high post with the ball; that’s what Andrea usually does and it’s going to take some time working that out.
But in theory, it’s a good combination.
Q: Hey Doug: You may have already answered this, but I for one would like a refresher. What is a typical (as if there is such a thing!) game day for you, for a night game at home? Thanks!
And, if you get that diving Chicken thing worked out, let me know - I'd be willing to buy a ticket for that game!
Tim H, Windsor
A: Typically, it’s a long day and sometimes a fella can get worn out.
But it starts with the blog and a 5:30 a.m. alarm, shootaround availability at 11 a.m., maybe some goofing around on feature work in the afternoon at the arena (or a quick trip home if I have something to do) and then back the gym around 4 p.m. Locker rooms open at 5:30 p.m. for 45 minutes, Dwane does his thing about 5:45 p.m., IGBT at 7, write for a 10:30 or 10:45 p.m. deadline and then decompression time.