The end of the weekend mail
Told you there was more. Probably too much but once I got rolling answering, it just took off.
Enjoy this if you can this evening, I’m taking the night off to chill with Super Son and Super Wife and coast a wee bit now that the shopping is – I think – over.
Q: Merry Christmas Doug and the best to you and your family. NO ONE makes me chuckle more during the year than you do. This being the season of joy, love, friendship and so on and since I know you love lists can you give us a list-any length you like-of the real good sports world people you've dealt with over the years. Not the best or most entertaining interviews but just real good people that you've been happy to meet and know. They can be fellow journalists, athletes, front office types, the odd "chicken" etc.
Richard B, St. Williams
A: You know, I am a bit loathe to do this simply because I know so many truly good and admirable people that no matter what length of list I give, I’ll leave someone off entirely by mistake.
But there are few players I appreciate more as men and people than Alvin Williams, Morris Peterson, Dell Curry and Charles Oakley. They are genuinely good people. And I truly believe Jose Calderon and Ed Davis should be on that list. Good, good guys.
My life is better for having known Glen Grunwald, who is least disingenuous and genuinely nice people I know and you’d have to be an idiot not to like him. Same with Jim Todd and Jay Triano and Doug Collins and Brian James.
The writers? Too many to mention, actually. KC Johnson in Chicago is a great guy I value as a friend as is Stumpy from the Sun. But that’s doing disservice to the likes of Dave D in Newark or Steve Ashburner at NBA.com and dozens and dozens of others.
I’m just lucky, actually, that I’ve met so many good people; and have been able to avoid, or get away from the knuckleheads.
Q: Doug, a HWSNBN question. What if Carter had stayed with the Raptors way back when? What would it have meant for his personal career and for the Raptors fortunes? With his then-team mates could they have been contenders? Cheers.
Ron F, Toronto
A: It being the season and all, if ifs and buts were candies and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.
No clue what would have happened but it would have probably been fun to watch.
Q: Season's Greetings, Doug! (It's not too early this time!!!)
Your gentle poke at the joy some of us experience at World Junior Hockey time is acknowledged and accepted - but I will counter by saying that the watching and enjoying of it has become part of our family Christmas Tradition. Heck. We love all the season's tourneys - we even watch Spengler from Davos! But these traditions are special to me as the kids grow up and move away and then return home for the holidays.
Now, one other kind of wacky tradition we have is that after the gifts have been opened, one of the daughters will haul out the Die Hard Box Set and we watch 'em all. Yup. That's a whole lot of Bruce Willis on a Christmas Morning. And we do this because for some reason over the years, these movies have become Christmas movies for my family. (And one of the few things all three of the kids have ever agreed on is that Die Hard 3 is their favourite...so we watch that one twice.) So, I guess all families have them...those quirky unique-to-them traditions that are part of their celebrations.
How about you, Doug: something from now or perhaps from when you were a kid that was a special part of your own Christmas Celebrations? Thank you. And thank you for all you do, all the time. And Best Wishes for a Very Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones.
Lorie P, London
A: We weren’t all that traditional, to tell you the truth. Certainly not to the Die Hard level! Die Hard??? Cool, I guess. Hope you and the daughters enjoy them this year, too.
But Super Wife and Super Son and I generally try to fire up It’s A Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve and a nice big greasy bacon and eggs breakfast while admiring new toys is there. And then I think about seven of the last nine years or so, I’ve had to go to the airport.
As a wee lad, the folks would often have people over on Christmas Eve for a bit of an open house; we’d go crash early and try to figure out what toys or games they were getting frustrated to trying to put together.
Q: Hi Doug. I'm surprised to hear you call the NCAA an "arbitrary evil organization that pays lip service to education while making billions of dollars off the backs of these kids." I agree, but I'm surprised because I believe you've also stated you support the NBA's policy of not drafting 18-year-olds. That policy ensures that this arbitrary, evil organization gets a great chance to exploit the most talented basketball players for at least a year. Sure, they could go to the D-league or play in Europe for a year, but how realistic are those options? Whatever else the age limit does, it delivers 18-year-olds to the NCAA.
The best thing, I think, would be for the NBA to draft players at 18 and then have a real minor league system where they could develop, but I think that'll never happen. It's too easy for the NBA to farm out their development to the NCAA, and of course, the NCAA has every reason to fight to keep the next generation of Lebrons, Durants, and Daviss in their orbit.
Tim M, Kingston
A: I do support the policy and it has nothing to do with denying kids access to employment, there are leagues all over the world they can go play in and I wish they did: They’d be making a salary and learning to be independent adults, which in some cases is the most significant flaw in kids coming out of college.
Q: Being tired of hearing players being slagged for "not living up to expectations", I ask myself who sets these expectations. If it is the coach and/or GM that’s fine. If it is the fans expectations, then those are expectations that are being set by people who were never good enough to play the game at this level. Bargnani is a case in point. Everyone wants him to go inside and rebound. You have said it so many times its pitiful. That is not his game and never will be. He played well last year before he was injured, and if DC stays with stressing defense the same way this year he will likely play well again.
I just think that for the first part of this year he just did not know what his role was supposed to be, and he was lost. Fans have to accept that he does best when coaches use him in a role that fits him rather than trying to fit him into a role he is not comfortable with. Of coarse I may well be wrong as I know as little about the game as anyone else here and less than most. I do however know people, and how easy it is to screw someone up by trying to get him to do things he just cannot do.
Gerry T, Halifax
A: I think too often “expectations” come from fans who equate draft position and salary to levels of predicted success. It’s unfair but, sadly, the way it is. And far, far, far too often – and I heard my man Sam Mitchell say this on TV Saturday night – people focus on what a player can’t do, rather than what he can.
I do think GMs are sometimes exaggerate a bit when it comes to what a player they’ve drafted or signed should be able to do but that’s a lot of covering one’s bum.
Q: Hi Doug. Merry Christmas to you, superson, superwife, superdog, and the rest of the superfamily! I don't know if this has been asked before so please forgive me if it is a repeat but could you please elaborate on how NBA referees work?
Often teams rush to the airport to catch their charter plane right after a game but I believe referees fly commercial albeit first class (or what passes for one in North America). Who arranges their tickets? Do they carry spare uniforms as I am sure the one they just used has not had a chance to be laundered yet. What happens if there is a flight delay?
Patrick A, Mississauga
A: Referees do fly commercial, I’ve seen hundreds over the years schlepping through airport check-in and security lines right behind or in front of me. They do most of their own booking, much of it on-line like I do, but there is assistance at the league office if they need or want it.
And I tell you, it’s my experience that refs are the greatest packers in the history of travel, they rarely check bags and always seem to have spare stuff with them if needed.
As for delays, they are inevitable but rarely do refs work back-to-back nights so it’s not that huge an issue.
I remember sitting with three refs after a playoff game in Oklahoma City last year, it was late – like 1 a.m. or so – and a couple of them, and me, had 6 a.m. flights and the accompanying 3:45 a.m. wake up calls. We headed to our rooms to have “night naps” as one of the officials termed our sleeps.
Q: Since you have been around the team from the beginning and you saw Vince in his Rookie days, how does Ross compare? I know it is difficult to compare players, but do you think Ross can be a highlight reel as Vince was? Does he have similar hops? Can he excite the fans the same way? I really like what I see so far.
Dave B, Cornwall
A: I’m trying to recall Vince’s lockout-shortened rookie year – it was a looooooooong time ago – and it strikes me that he was more powerful and had a more varied game than Ross does in his first year.
But I don’t remember, really, a more potentially electrifying Raptors rookie since Vince; even DeMar wasn’t at this level, I don’t think.
Q: Merry Christmas Doug! Do ever hear / sense any negativity when a player like AA who has been a significant contributor with small contract is out performing others on the roster who say make 3 or 5 or 10! times his salary? I don't hear a lot of complaining at least publicly from players in the NBA regarding salary. Has any player complained to you privately? There also seems to not be very many "hold outs" in the NBA vs NFL - do you think there is a reason for this? Are you going to be not blogging for any days over the holidays? As much as we want you to have some quality super family time we irregulars are a selfish bunch and need a daily read while WE are on holidays! Thanks again Mr Smith.
M C, Winnipeg
A: Here’s the thing about NBA players that I’ve found quite interesting: Rather than begrudging teammates who might produce less for making more money, they are happy when “guys get paid.” Honestly, I’ve never had one even privately complain about the disparity in salary. Now, I’ve had some privately worry about “not getting paid” but never in terms of what they’re teammates are making.
And I have yet to totally figure out the next couple of days but, trust me, I’ll get some down time and I appreciate the kind words.
Q: Merry Christmas Doug. Hope you have a deserved break - and enjoyment with family. There is a little dissension tho - no question A Wonderful Life is in the top two - my lovely wife ( 39 yrs- got an early start ) - and I agree that Miracle on 34th might be the second.
Basketball Q as well. I am sure many are asking - if you were the coach - with things seeming to go well ( based on wins - not on the way they have played - likely played as well in some earlier losses) - how would you get AB and Lowry (who might have to adjust to being the second best pt. guard?) back in the games when they get healthy - is there a bit of positive dynamic with the current crew?
BTW - if you know of someone who likes good beer - the Hockley tester pack is a good try out for another small Ontario brewer - you could suggest starting with the black and tan Ymmmm.
Bill W, Dresden
A: If it’s me – and I’m waaaaaaay below Dwane’s paygrade – I wouldn’t start either and I would have them on entirely short leashes when I did use them. They would have to show they are capable of playing with the same team goals this group has and that Kyle has changed some of his defensive gambling ways and that Andrea is more “engaged” at each end he has been.
I think the team could be better with them both playing a different role and style but it would be up to them to prove it to me.
Q: Hi Doug. I always enjoy your blog its diversity (even though I don’t follow baseball or football). speaking of football check out this story:
Basically football fans in Russia demand that their team should always sign white players and non-gays... This is shocking in this day and age. My question is: in your years of covering sport as a fan and a reporter do you have any stories of controversial fan behavior in North America._Keep up the good work and happy holidays.
Rob S, Victoria
A: Thankfully, I don’t. There was a jerk the other night a few rows behind us who kept dropping F Bombs because I presume it made him feel important rather than disgusting and immature but that’s about it for me over years.
The incessant heckling in the hopes someone hears you gets tiresome – I did have a guy moved in Sacramento one night years ago because he was being vulgar and borderline aggressive towards me – but unnecessary and inappropriate language is about as bad as it’s been.
The other stuff disgusts me, as I presume it does most normal thinking adults.
Q: TOD meets Boston in the ALCS. Deep down, which team are you really cheering for?
When KL and AB come back, I'm wondering which players will see time on the inactive list. There is all of a sudden a glut of mediocre SFs on the team and only Alan Anderson has asserted himself as an integral piece at present. Ross, too, but he's still developing and is likely to see his minutes diminish (if only just a tad). Will Fields get Pietrus' minutes or will he have to earn them back in practice?
Andrew B, Toronto
A: Oh, TOD for sure now. No question. And I would expect to poach a bit so I could go and cover it somehow; maybe an IGBT with Griff! That’d be cool.
I think eventually Fields will ascend to a place in the rotation but that’s going to depend on when he gets back up to game speed and shows no ill effects of the nerve issue.
But I will tell you this with certainty: They love what Ross is giving them now and I would be surprised if his playing time is lessened even a bit at the moment.
Q: Hey Doug. You mentioned that LK has been playing a bit at the 4 spot. He can post up occasionally and also stretches out the defense with his shooting abilities. I've noticed that he's been playing there a lot at the end of games. I know that this is the similar skillset that AB brings at the 4 spot and I'm trying to really see the difference between the two (besides about 4 inches). LK doesn't really play any noticeably better defensively than AB. This year both of their shooting has been about the same level of consistency. So why has the team had success with LK at the 4 and a lack of success with AB? Thoughts?
Have a Merry Christmas!
Jay M, Winnipeg
A: They think – and I tend to agree with them – that Andrea is a better shooting threat and attracts more defensive attention that Kleiza does, which allows Linas to work in the post against single defenders when Andrea always has a second guy at least threatening to come.
But the success of the last week has as much to do with a renewed attention to defence – a skill that, truth be told – is not one of Kleiza’s strengths, and the schedule.
I’d still take Bargnani if I had to choose.
Q: Hi Doug. The HOTH have been a pleasure to watch over these past few games. If they keep playing with this style and effort, win or lose, it'll be a good season.
In your IGBT you attributed the turn-around to ball movement, the schedule, and defense, which makes a lot of sense. But I wonder, to what extent is this good streak an indictment of Bargnani and/or Lowry? Those two have nothing to do with the schedule, of course, but when I think of good ball movement and defense, Lowry and Bargnani aren't the first names that spring to mind. Do you think this win streak reflects poorly on them?
Tim M, Kingston
A: I think it reflects a bit poorly on them, yes. And they with both have to modify their games a little bit when they get back, a fact Dwane has mentioned on more than one occasion.
But both of them are skilled, in different ways, and the team will be better if they buy in and change in at least some small way.
Q: Doug. Happy holidays to you and your family.
A curiousity question: Both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are unrestricted free agents in 2013.
I personally don't think CP3 and Superman seem very happy where they are now.
Do you think they'll re-up with the Clippers and Lakers?
Gary D, Stouffville
A: I think it’s impossible to tell since neither of us has even a clue as to how they actually felt and how they might feel whenever the season ends for each team.
So we’ll have to check back in, say, July.
Q: Seasonal Greetings! Was watching Andrea in the background last night during a couple of the timeouts and I found his countenance very reassuring. By my eye it would appear that someone has finally struck on the point of leadership that the HOTH were struggling to find. Gratifying to see the look of engagement on Andrea's face in the late moments of the game, bodes well for present trends continuing when he is able to be back on court. Not meaning to single out Andrea here particularly but when those in the street clothes are up and following the goings on in the timeout I think that speaks well of the team's buy in to the current approach to playing.
Writing this from work (don't tell my boss, please) so keepin' it short. best of the season to you and yours, and to all of the Irregulars that keep this spot so interesting. For you, in particular, feel OK about leaving us to our own devices for a bit and just you be SuperDad/Hubby for some time!
Thanks for what you do,
Doug T, Brantford
A: Your work secret is safe with me, honest.
I think Andrea feels a distinct need to be involved these days; he was upset about the story in the Italian media, he is not unaware of what’s being and said and written and wants to be involved.
But I will tell you this from first-hand knowledge: He is “one of the guys” far more than most people think. He hangs out, tell stories, jokes with and is part of everything going on with the team.
Q: I am going to take full responsibility for this year's Raptors early season funk. After a few years of being away, if they had actually gotten off to the start many of us had hoped they would, I certainly would not have recognized my beloved Raps. However, what I am recognizing in this recent resurgence is the contribution of a battle tested veteran bringing leadership and toughness onto the court that has been sorely lacking since the loss of my favourite, Jorge Garbajosa, another battle tested veteran who brought it each night (who was likely preceded by everyone's fav, Oak). Other than those similarities, is there anything in Alan Anderson's game that would be similar? Can you look into your crystal ball and see Anderson having a similar impact as Garbo?
Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. As always, thanks Doug.
John D, Oakville
A: Some similarities but not all that many. I think Anderson’s a bit more athletic, far more vocal and probably not quite as savvy as Garbo was when he got here.
Don’t get me wrong, Anderson is as right for this team now as Garbo was when he got here but the stakes were different back in that era. They are building to something a bit less grandiose this year than they were in Garbo’s rookie year.
Q: First: Christmas greetings to you and yours. You share enough with us that perhaps we should have you over for the holidays as extended family. Now my question. If you could unwrap a present this season that would be a fix for the Raps, what or whom would it be? Since this season is the season of love, what would it take to get Kevin Love from Minnesota. Rumour, for what it is worth, reports he is not happy there. (Please Santa, we’ve been real good his year). Are there any other players that might well be on the move that you would like to see in a raps uniform? Tis the season... Thanks for a wonderful year and all you do for your irregulars.
Randy M, Crystal Beach
A: Not going to even get close to trying to figure out what it would take to obtain an all-star player that the team he’s playing for doesn’t want to move.
Here’s one name: Ersan Ilysaova. I’d make a call on him.
Q: Now that we see that the Raptors have turned it around of late, should we ascribe more blame to the coaching staff for the brutal 22 game start to the season? As is often repeated, Coach Casey didn't get dumb all of a sudden; but maybe he didn't select the right plan for this team. The team got away from some of the things that worked last year and it cost them until they returned 4 or 5 games ago. Also, it seems that the way Coach Casey set up a new system for Lowry, and the way Andrea had to adjust his game to Lowry's, also did not work. In retrospect, shouldn't we say that Coach Casey has responsibility for a chunk of this? Of course, if Kyle and Andrea had made a few more of the shots they missed in some of those heartbreakers, the team would have a much better record and there would have been far less angst.
Alan G, Toronto
A: So if they’d made those shots, the coach would have been right?
Not sure you can have it both ways, which appears to be what you’re saying.
Sure, the coach has to take some responsibility, as does the general manager, as do the players.
Q: Hi Doug. The moves Alex made this off season in baseball got me thinking about the Raptors. I don't think the Raptors are in a position yet to compete since they have a lot of youth.
If Bryan was to make a move do you see him acquiring a veteran who may not be around in 2-3 years when guys like Jonas and Terrence are more mature, or do you see him acquiring more picks/youth to add on to the core so that he can leverage those prospects for veterans in a future trade years from now when the team is more mature.
It almost seems like Bryan is at a crossroads. I personally would prefer to continue with the youth movement and then make a splash in a couple of years as opposed to now.. but the Raptors have failed to make the playoffs for a long time now so there might be a lot of pressure in generating wins sooner than later.
S S, Newmarket
A: I think he’d try to find someone who fit for longer than two or three years; maybe someone in his late-20s, early-30s who has six, seven or even eight years left. But those guys don’t seem to be readily available since teams tend to, you know, like and keep them.
That would be the optimal move, in my opinion, but I’m not entirely sure it’s doable.
One thing is for certain: They need some veterans and not more kids on their rookie contracts.
Q: Hi Doug. I have a couple of questions with regards to NBA player development and drafting. The NBA has two draft rounds, significantly less then the NFL or NHL, and way off from the MLB, all of which see lower drafted players succeed at the top level. NBA teams also appear to put less emphasis on player development in terms of a lower tier 'farm league'. It seems that some teams would rather keep their young players on the NBA roster even if they seldom play (Ie. Raptors and Quincy Acy)then send them 'down'. So what gives? Why not have a few more draft rounds so teams can search for hidden gems and let them develop in the D-league instead of sitting on the bench in the NBA?
Good luck with the Christmas shopping, and a speedy recovery to Super Son.
Alex P, Fredericton
A: No sense going to the expense of running a farm system outside of the D League because so few new guys come into the league each year. Not cost or time effective at all; the NCAA and Europe are flawed, but they’re a cheap source of young talent.
Q: Hey Doug! Happy Holidays!
Just wondering: You and others always talk about how most rookies who come in the league need to get stronger in order to find their game in a place where men play.
My question is this: if this need is glaringly obvious, why are they not preparing themselves earlier in their careers - whether it be a guided thing in college or a personal thing on the side?
Same thing goes for big men who can't shoot. Why are they not prepared earlier? I think I am going to answer my own question, but feel free to comment. Money - all about money.
The NCAA is its own thing, and the lack of affiliation with the NBA is hurtful for players.
Instead of teaching skills, they teach systems, and kids are lost in it.
I am ashamed to think that, in cases where NAB talent is obvious, kids should be staying away from college, and moving to the DLeague to improve their skills.
Would that not make for a better transition?
Most talented kids don't get to second year anyway, right?
Ren R, Swastika
A: I put the lack of basic basketball skills solely on two places:
The NCAA and AAU coaches.
The NCAA limits practice time in some failed attempt to make athletes more accountable academically and coaches are more worried about winning games and enhancing their own resumes than they are about making kids better all around players.
And AAU coaches want to schedule games and tournaments and put kids in schools ahead of developing skills.
I will say this: No teenage basketball player in North America practices as much as he – or she – should.