All of the weekend mail on a Monday
Yeah, sorry I’m late with this. Baseball coaches meeting took me out of the loop Sunday night and I got caught up on some sleep.
Take care tonight, folks. Be safe and happy.
See you in the New Year.
Q: Johnson firing. Doug, we hear it so often: "We ALL have to get better". Coaches say it about themselves. But HOW do coaches actually get better? It seems unlikely DURING a season. Maybe, for coaches, we should be asking, "Get better at what?" Keeping star player happy? Keeping top brass happy? If you were advising an NBA GM and team owner what 5 things to look at when evaluating a coach mid season, what would they be?
Charles N, Toronto
A: I guess the easiest way to put it is they get better at managing, basically by trial and error, through the course of a season. They improve in managing specific game situations, they get better by figuring out which combinations of players work best together and they get better at handling the various personalities in their charge.
Some more than others, of course.
Q: Doug, a question about the really good pass-first point guards: what role do teammates' personalities (or lack of same) play in ball distribution decisions? We've seen Jose make some great feeds to Amir and to Ed Davis that allowed those guys to make massive dunks, and in each case they've visibly acknowledged the good pass on their way back up the floor. If their reactions had consistently been more self-centered (pounding their chests for the camera, etc), would Jose (or Nash, or Rondo) feel less inclined to set them up for the highlight reel next time there was an opportunity? Or do the floor generals just look for the highest-probability scoring opportunity every time up the floor, regardless of how the recipient reacts?
Mike D, Toronto
A: We have seen familiarity, for sure, between Jose and Amir mainly, kind of like Stockton and Malone, only different.
But it’s not personalities, per se, it’s more about style of play and consistency. Jose, for instance, knows to look down the lane after Amir sets a screen, just like he knows to look behind the three-point line for Andrea or in the lane if DeMar’s coming off a weak side screen.
I think that’s it more than personalities.
Q: Hello Doug! Well, today's breathless reports on the NHL lockout seemed more optimistic than usual and maybe - just maybe - this nonsense is really over and all those millionaires and billionaires involved have found a way to share the wealth - ensuring, of course, that the rich will keep getting richer. But my question for you isn't about the owners and players, it's about the members of the media, who might have to now shake off the dust, the rust and the crumbs and get back at it. So, as someone who's been there and done that - and just about the same time last year - what advice do you offer to hockey reporters to help them 'hit the ground running' and quickly get back into game shape? Bearing in mind, of course, the added challenges/pleasures/pressures of a shortened season! Hopefully you haven't exorcised all of last season's fun from your mind! Thank you.
Lorie P, London
A: Kiss the family goodbye and tell ‘em you’ll see them in April. Seriously. What I remember most is the frenetic pace of games, you can’t really prepare for it other than to get ready to write a lot of game stories in a hurry. But one thing I would tell them is to never, ever quote a manager or a player or an agent suggesting they’re sorry for costing part-time workers months of employment and bars and restaurants tons of cash while they played their petty economic game. People don’t want to read it and I would not believe them if they said it.
Q: Over the years, there have been amnay Raptors players with the same last name. In fact, the Raptors have had many duplicate names at the same time. Watching the Raptors NOLA game, I was struck by Anderson/Anderson matchups and Davis/Davis matchups in the same game. So, which team has the most potential for name on name matchups for the Raps? To make it more difficult, was there ever a 3 Williams' team that could have matched up against the Raps?
Sheila C, Ottawa
A: Wasn’t there a time when there were three Williamses here? Aaron, Eric and Alvin? Or was Alvin done by then, I can’t remember.
And a quick glance at the rosters – very quick – makes me think New Orleans is the best match for this group. That was pretty cool, wasn’t it?
And didn’t New Jersey or Atlanta once have three Williamse’s? Maybe it was two but it happened about four or five years ago.
Gimme a day or two and we’ll get this in the regular blog with more research.
Q: Hi Doug. I wanted to ask you what you feel is the best way to teach young basketball players how to play offence. I coach a group of 13-14 year old boys and often find that once they gain possession of the ball, their natural instinct is to run. Often times they get caught in 1 on 3, 1 on 4, and 1 on 5 situations and try to do everything on their own. I've tried to implement simple isolation plays and pick and rolls along with simple offensive systems but I find they often forget what they need to do in the midst of the game and revert back to old habits. Any suggestions?
Joe D, Mississauga
A: My opinion? Teach them every facet of the game. Teach them all to pass and shoot and dribble and make them aware that the fastest way to move the ball is by passing it.
Tell them you don’t want a shot taken until four or five passes are made and stick to it.
Oh, and point out that spacing the court is huge; that they can get open on the weak side with one fake and a move. It’ll be easier for them and perhaps more fun.
But what you want to do more than listent to me is to go to basketball.ca and see what kind of coaching tips or clinics my friends over there have for you.
Q: Hi Doug. Sorry about your Christmas travel adventures, I hope the new year goes really well for you.
I am going to pull a reverse Jeopardy and ask a question in the form of an answer. On the tank issue I decided to look at the record and find teams that drafted number one who then won a championship with that player still on the roster. I started semi arbitrarily the year after the ABA stopped playing (1977).
I found 4 teams out of the 35 champions: Portland with Walton (drafted while the ABA was still running), Lakers with Magic and Worthy (picks acquired by trade), Rockets with Hakeem, and the Spurs with Robinson and Duncan. Nobody since then.
Did I miss anybody?
There are several players (Shaq, LeBron) who won after changing teams.
I would suggest that this is evidence against the idea of tanking.
Do you have any thoughts on why the results look like this?
My thought is that winning requires management competence that's incompatible with winding up at the bottom of the league.
James R, Toronto
A: Good research, I cna’t come up with any others.
And it is as I’ve said a zillion times: It takes good drafting, good free agent signings, astute personality management, solid scouting skills and an awful lot of luck to put together a championship team, a single draft – even with the No. 1 pick – is a small, small, small part.
Q: Morning Doug. If you're Casey, what do you do with Bargnani when he comes back? If history holds (Fields and Lowry), he should go to the bench. Did you ask Casey or anyone connected with the team about it?
Paul C, Mississauga
A: I haven't asked specifically because we are weeks and weeks away and who knows what the situation will be then. It's not worth asking at the moment, to tell you the truth. But you're right, if history holds Bargnani will come off the bench.
Q: Hi Doug. As well as the Raptor's have played this month, they're still 9 games under .500 on the season. In fact, they're only .500 for the month of December.
Seeing as the 8th seed usually needs to have about 41 wins (or a .500 record) what does this do for Bryan Colangelo?
In order to get to .500 for the season, the Raptors will have to win 70 percent of their games between now and the end of the season. For perspective, they will have to finish the season with the same winning percentage that the Knicks have started the season.
Does management honestly believe that's possible with this roster?
My real question is, if you're the GM, do you begin planning for next year or do you go into the trade deadline continuing to try to make the playoffs this year?
Peter L, Acton
A: It doesn't "do" anything to Bryan except validate his long-stated opinion that this group is capable of growth and challenging do for the final playoff spot in the East and would mean he continues to make the moves he things will move them further close to that goal. If anything, the recent spate of success would suggest they are on the right path.
As for the win totals and what they need to get to, I bet the eighth spot will go to a team below .500 but we have no idea.
Q: Hi Doug. This is the first time I've posed a question for you, even though I've read your blog daily for over 3 years. I recently read about DeMarcus Cousins' latest antics in Sacramento and the team imposed suspension. The few times I have seen him play, I've been extremely impressed with his talent and potential (although his maturity level is clearly not up to par). It seems to me that both him and Bargnani are in need of a change of scenery (even though I'm all for giving Andrea another shot at working within the new found team system the raps have shown the last few games). Do you see this as a potential trade?
I am of the opinion that with the right mentorship, Cousins has All-Star potential. I believe Sacramento has had enough of his attitude, and they would welcome an established scorer in Bargnani. Let me know what you think.
Thanks for your time and insight.
Andi K, Toronto
A: I'm sure you know I rarely deal with rumours but this thought needs to be squashed and believe me, you are not alone in this suggestion.
First, not only doesn't the money work and there's not much else in Toronto that Sacramento would want back, I will ask you this question:
What does Bryan value more than anything, perhaps even talent at some level?
Character. And Cousins has been questionable even before he got to the NBA. At this point, Cousins has shown, at times,abundant talent. He also shown an equal abundance of disruptive behaviour.
Q: Will try this one again, posted Dec 27th on your blog:_" Hey Doug, given your trials and tribulations with airlines recently, curious as to why you would accept " So I'm jammed in this window seat for the quick flight over to Houston " and dealing with airports, check-in, security, arrival etc when you could rent a convertible for a 2-1/2 drive and see some sights, maybe a sidetrip to La Grange.
A: Yeah, I guess we could have but we were actually going San Antonio to New Orleans and I don't know the cost efficiency of your plan. Have done several driving trips on the Orlando-Miami, Oakland-Sacramento, Dallas-OKC,Toronto-Cleveland-Auburn Hills and the old Portland-Seattle corridors,driving is a cool way to travel if there are days off.
Q: Hey Doug: You often refer to line-ups in which the Raptors 'go small.' Just out of curiosity, what would the published heights of the five players on the court be?
And, as we near the end of another year, I want to thank you for all of the time and energy you put into keeping your readers informed, entertained and challenged. I cannot begin to figure out how much time you spend 'talking to us.' It is truly appreciated.
I wish you and Super Family all the best in the New Year!
Tim H, Windsor
A: Thanks, very much.
Let’s take one “small” lineup and the heights from the media guide:
Jose Calderon, 6-3; Terrence Ross, 6-7; DeMar DeRozan, 6-7; Landry Fields, 6-7; Ed Davis, 6-10.
Q: Greetings, tinged with some jealousy. Sitting here at work, watching the snow falling on the Hammer and thinking of Orlando.....
So Kyle was back playing in NO, and apparently playing quite decently and also apparently embracing the recently succesful style of play. For whatever reason I had been under the impression that Mr Lowry tended to be a little more focused on what he does rather than seeing himself as an important cog in the team wheel. Have I been wrong in my perception?
Early in the season there had been mention made of "trust" issues between the players, is it fair to assume that the recent run of decent performances indicates that, by and large, "trust issues" have faded for the most part?
Watching the kids tonight which may preclude following the IGBT so let me wish you, the Super Family and fellow Irregulars(maybe we should buy some shares in Metamucil?) a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year at this point.
Thanks for what you do.
Doug T, Brantford
A: I think Lowry is smart enough and basketball savvy enough to have seen what works and to adapt. I am sure there will be lapses and stretches where he tries to do too much at both ends but I do think he's found reason to be more trusting in his teammates and the system.
Q: Hey Doug. As always, thanks for the blog. I hope the rest of the holiday travel is better. You haven't talked much about how hard 15 of the first 22 on the road were for the beat grunts. Enjoy this six game home stand.
This note is on a bit of a touchy subject for Raptor fans. I was watching a holiday edition of Court Cuts on the Score and they were showing sets of highlights from various players. And they had one on Vincent Lamar Carter.
Now it may simply be time, it may be an faded, aging memory, or it may be that I blocked it all out because it made it hurt less, but Vince was a truly_spectacular player as a Raptor. He was electrifying, and gave Raptor fans the best run we ever had. I don't think that washes away the way he left town, but it should provide a little perspective.
And I saw the Mavs play OKC the other night, and Vince was matched up on Durant. And he was working his tail off, and playing about as good one on one D as you can on KD. And I had to think 'what if he had that motor and heart earlier in his career?'
I curiously now find myself rooting for Vince a bit. I think he also gets hated even more because of what we got back in his trade, because we sent him to a division rival, and because we haven't been good enough to surpass the memories he gave us.
Well, I think having never had the heat of passion us die hard fans had for the Raps (and Vince) you don't have the same anger to soften, but I think it is past time to move on.
Matt S, Torono
A: It's been time to move on for years, there is too much selective memory loss for my liking. Always has been.
Q: Doug, I tape the games and watch them latter, usually the next day. The advent of the PVR and Tivo make it easy. I can blast through half time, commercials and the nonsense that Leo and his ilck rattle on about. I can replay a play after it's done and watch it again to see it develop. I think it's made me more appreciative of the game as it allows me to undertsand the game better. Have you taped a game to watch later and do you see the benefits of doing so?
Steph R, Glencoe
A: I don't generally. I have gone back to watch specific plays or stretches of games if I have a specific question I want to ask Dwane or one of the assistant coaches but that's about it and that doesn't happen too often. I would be like you, though, quite happy to watch with minimal distractions.
Q: Good morning Doug. This may seem like a silly question but is it possible to make a trade of team names. It has always seemed to me that New Orleans should be the Jazz, and that Utah should be the hornets. Utah's state symbol is a beehive so the hornets is more of a logical choice for the state team, and when you think of jazz, your blog represents such logic. Do the trademarks for logos and such belong to the team, the NBA or both? Couldnt they just switch or would that be too logical and be common sense? ( which many leagues seem to lack these days?). Thanks
Randy M, Crystal Beach
A: The licensing agreements for things like that are trademarked through the league so it'd be one pocket paying the other at some level. Makes sense at some level, too.
But I'm all about the Pelicans anyway.
Q: Hi Doug. This summer in a post you mentioned BC wouldn't have to worry about what happens to the organization if he doesn't get Nash because he wouldn't be around to worry about it.
With the horrid start to the season, do you think there is even a chance BC's option for next year gets picked up? Is there a number of wins the Raps have to reach that will validate BC's progress? Would 35 wins do it? Maybe at least be in the running for the 8th playoff spot? Or do you believe, as you off handedly suggested this summer, that his run with the Raps is probably at an end?
I hope you travel worries are behind you and that your holiday season is filled with good stories lines, and interesting fan questions :)
Jeff M, Saint John
A: Not sure I suggested it was over at all, what I suggested was that they should probably wait and see if the expectations that were set publicly by him and the team -- which I remind everyone again were to see improvement in players and challenge for an Eastern Conference playoff spot -- were realized. We are a long, long way from that point but I do think we can agree that two young players in DeRozan and Davis are better. As for challenging for the post-season they are not there yet but there's a lot of basketball to be played.
How it turns out between now and the end of April will be the determining factors, as I always expected it would be.
Q: Maybe I missed your comment or maybe you didn't make one, but the end of the year Sports shows have been replaying the comment from a baseball player "That’s a clown question bro." on a regular basis. I suspect that’s a ball player who will get no respect from that sportswriter in this lifetime. Maybe it was a dumb question although I have been told and believe there is no dumb questions, just opportunities to learn, but I think the player could have handled it with either a little more kindness or just ignored it. I also think the TV talking heads could have just left this one alone, rather than yukking it up about it. What was your take on it, if you had one?
Gerald T, Halifax
A: It did seem, as I recall from back then, both an inappropriate question and an inappropriate answer. There as probably enough blame for both sides to share, if that’s the right word. I know some people who ask questions more to provoke than elicit information and I think that’s pretty shameful. And I can see an athlete growing frustrated and lashing out, but I think they can find a way to not answer without getting too snippy.
It’s a tough balance, though.
Q: Hi Doug. Second question for today: what can you tell us about the Rap's other second round pick Tomá_ Satoranski? Has he ever been brought over here for a look? How did the Raps even know about him to take a flyer on him? Thanks for all you do, can't give up on reading you and The Star online... something about how you can take the boy out of the city... etc etc
Richard R, Kelowna
A: Can't tell you too much at all. Kinda of a stretch four who is a very, very long term project. And, no, he has not been here and I know of no plans for him to arrive. Perhaps he can have dinner sometime with Ramon Van Der Hare and Giorgios Printezis and chat.
They would have seen him here and there over the years, there was no one revelatory scouting moment,
Q: Hi Doug. Great work over the holidays keeping us die-hard NBA fans informed!
With the recent Avery Johnson firing, former Raptors assistant PJ Carlesimo has been given the keys in NJ for the time being. I've always liked PJ as a coach and he seems the kind of person who instantly gets respect due to his experience coaching in the NBA. With the dip in defensive "intensity" this year on the raps, how much would you attribute that to PJ no longer being here? Was he even a defensive specialist on the coaching staff?
Thanks for taking the time out to answer these questions and wishing you and your family a happy new year!
Mo S, Toronto
A: Well, since PJ wasn't here last year, I'd have to say less than none.
Q: Hi Doug. With the firing of Avery Johnson this week I'm interested in your thoughts rue the role that Deron Williams played. When you have a supposed "star" player openly questioning the coach's strategy it is always a bad dynamic and shows a lack of leadership in my opinion. Seems to me he did the same thing in Utah leading to the demise of Jerry Sloan. Didn't like him then and would not want him on my team. Is Williams a coach-killer? Thoughts?
Enjoy New Orleans. I'm sure that Preservation Hall is on the list of must sees for Super Son.
Dave M, Puslinch
A: As I might have mentioned in the regular blog or the Nothing But Net if there isn't blood on Williams' hands, his fingerprints are all over the crime scene. Of everyone involved in that franchise and that move, he is the one who most has to improve from his so-so start to the season. I don't know that he's a coach-killer but is now two teams where changes were made mid-season and it's up to him to prove it's not his fault.
Q: Hi Doug. Long-time reader (and listener, when you're giving your take on the radio)! My wife and toddler son had the fortune of having tickets in the 4th row on Friday night, and I was looking up and down press row to see if I could spot you (I did end up having a photo with Paul Jones, and getting his autograph on my tickets)!
Anyways, I came away from the up-close vantage point of the game with 5 thoughts:
Amir is worth a lot more than his stats indicate. The man is like a hybrid between Charles Oakley and JYD. (The red Raptors logo on the back of his head really meant a lot to me as a fan, too.)
Jose is a charismatic, veteran leader who is cool, clutch, and defensively solid. He does not let the team nor the fans down!
Dwane Casey's mobile, swarming defence makes team defence greater than the sum of its parts.
Big un-athletic shooters - like Kleiza and Bargnani, are not worth putting out there to be exposed on defence, also while the whole ACC dreads seeing them jack up mid/long-range jumpers.
This team can win its share of games against teams that have no superstars to torch them.
I'd love to hear your expert thoughts and comments on my untrained observations!
Thanks and keep up the good work!
Bernard W, Thornhill
A: I’ll agree with all of your points except maybe the last one. There are nights when teams – and I include Toronto in this for sure – need big shooters for various strategic reasons.