The (late) end of the weekend mail
But until then, enjoy this bonus mail and we’ll be back with the usual fare sometime Monday. No promises on when given the time zone thing and an early flight out of L.A. but it’ll be here sometime soon.
Q: Season's Greetings, Doug (Or is it too soon for that?) Every now and then Twitter is really cool. I might've first dipped my toe in its waters to follow celebs, but quickly saw that it was more useful for me as a link to really interesting stuff - concert clips, links to magazine and newspaper articles, sporting events, etc.
So yesterday one of those 'interesting' links appeared and it was to a podcast featuring none other than our own Doug Smith on Chris Sheridan's show. Fun to listen to - sounds as though you two go back a long way - but something he mentioned caught my attention and it was how in your role as President of the PBWA, you are sometimes called upon to negotiate 'situations' that might arise between a member writer and the team he covers, and I guess, the NBA too?
Anyway, he said he thought you were very good at this part of your gig and I'm wondering if when you leave all the glitz, glamour and good life of the beat writer's avocation behind you, is this something you might want to pursue?
Hey - if the pucks are still pucking around in meeting rooms in NYC, maybe you can lend a hand, or voice, or swift kick somewhere useful! Cheers.
Lorie P, London
A: Oh, no. Yes, I’ve loved my time as the PBWA president – the second two-year term expires this season – and it’s been cool to mediate things between members, teams and the league but once it’s done, I am done working as any kind of mediator. I’d rather just express my opinions and let someone else listen to those of others (I keed, a bit).
And, yes, Mr. Sheridan and I go back a couple of decades, we’ve covered too many NBA, international and Olympics events than I or my liver would care to remember. He’s one of the greats.
Q: Hi Doug. I am sure you have felt like a judge at a witch hunt lately. I am sure you have your fair share of mail from the Lowry haters, Jose haters, Demar haters, and Bargs haters. I actually like all of them and would hate to think of where we would be without them. Who do you receive the most rants about? Why do you think this is?
Andy F, Aberdeen
A: This year? Andrea for sure. Last year? Jose for sure. Year before that? Jay I believe it was. Tends to move from target to target
And why? Perception is reality, fans perceive one player or coach is responsible for what’s going on – absolutely incorrectly but it’s easy to rip from a lack of knowledge – and then it becomes piling on from others. It’s kind of like a mob mentality.
Q: Greetings, so Los Angeles another place with a spectacular number of places to visit and see(and a few that it is better you don't!) A personal fave albeit somewhat south of the sprawling megalopolis, a little brew pub in the beach side enclave of Laguna Beach. First spot that I ever encountered pumpkin flavoured beer. May well retire there one day.
Anyway today's thought process revolves around "professional pride". Certainly the Jazz game was a shock insofar as the speed to and degree of, capitulation. And one thought that I was left with was this game could be a very necessary step in the maturation of the HOTH.
The frustration and embarrasment of the players might well provide the necessary incentive to buy into some plan hatched for the purpose of becoming competitive.
Not entirely fair maybe to ask you this, but …
Do you feel that there is sufficient cohesion between the parts (players) to see the solution in the form of this group? (My meaning is looking around their dressing room the faces they look at are for the most part, faces that they can believe in?)
Thanks for what you do.
Doug T, Brantford
PS It wonders me what Charles Darwin would think of the crosswalks in the Jazzs' hometown.
A: I do think they believe, yes. But I also think their confidence might be at an all-time low that’s troubling. It be all that they need is one win out of nowhere, some big victory over a good team that helps a turnaround. Or maybe they need a close win over a bad team just to validate what they’re doing.
I do see cohesion, but as you’d expect, some nerves are frayed; they’re 4-16 and everyone knows that’s no good.
Q: Hi Doug. What are the rules on trading an injured player, especially one that may be out for an extended period of time, 6-8 weeks?
Trevor B, Saskatoon
A: No rules against it. Generally teams acquiring players require that they take physicals but if everyone knows a guy is injured and will be back, they take that into consideration and do the deal.
But there nothing in the rules to prevent it, if that’s what you mean.
Q: Hi Doug. A general NBA question. I often hear that early afternoon games are tough since the players are more adapted to late nights than early mornings. If so, is it more difficult for the western conference teams to play in the east than the eastern teams playing in the west? Is there evidence, statistically or anecdotally, to suggest this? If all teams lived in the same time zone do you think the gap between the east and west would be even greater than it is now? Thanks for your thoughts!
M S, St. John’s
A: I don’t have the statistical data but I do know there is a rhythm to a season that, if disrupted, can cause at least a bit of confusion.
But over time, I think good teams will win out and I don’t know that there’d be much disparity at all.
Q: Hi Doug. How would Casey or yourself get this team upbeat and confident? What are the teachable moments from Utah that you would stress and build upon?
Thanks for your insight
Scott R, Toronto
A: There were very few teachable moments in Utah, what I would do – and I don’t know if he did it – was show parts of the first and second quarters when things were going okay and make them see – again – that they can be good if they trust each other at the end of the floor.
Q: You wrote the other day that the biggest problem with the defence at this point is Valanciunas being a step slow on the rotation (due to being a rookie). What are the other problems and what are the approximate contributions of all the problems to the slide back towards the bottom of the league from the middle of the pack last year (in points/100 possessions).
Jim R, Toronto
A: The other problems are basic: Kyle Lowry gambles a bit too much on the perimeter which leads to open lanes; DeMar DeRozan’s having a harder time this year keeping his man in front of him, with the same result; and Andrea Bargnani is slow to rotate and is not having as big an impact on the ball in high screen-roll. It’s been a breakdown in almost every facet of the game. Correctible if Lowry stays home; DeRozan works harder and Bargnani is more energetic, as he was a year ago.
Harman B, Brampton
A: Glad you asked. See above.
Q: How is it that Bargnani continues to get stuck wondering around the top of the arc on the high screen and roll move that every team in the league uses. He doesn't fight through, does rotate or rush back to cover his man. His reaction seems to be to wander in that no-mans-land until the opponent scores. I'm trying to understand why the coaches, his team mates and even himself have not addressed this and why it continually happens. It's as painful as it is predictable.
Andrew S, Toronto
A: They have addressed, they do address it, every single practice and film session. And, no, he doesn’t do it often enough and that’s a problem. But, and don’t discount this, it could be that there are missed assignments on the back end; if he’s out trying to impact the ball on high screen-roll, someone is responsible for filling the gap he just created and sometimes – too often – that doesn’t happen.
Q: Hi Doug. I know you don't really like hypotheticals, but I was wondering: do you think that if the Raptors had caught a few breaks and won 2 or 3 of those close games to open the season, this meltdown could have been avoided? Maybe if they were at, say, 8 and 12 or something, they'd have had a little more fight in them? Or do you think, in retrospect even, that the way the roster was built and coached they were destined to implode?
Thanks for all your hard work!
Tim M, Kingston
A: I think winning a couple of those close games would have done wonders for their confidence and serve as validation for what the coaches were preaching and that the season would be entirely different. There is so much to be said for confidence that a win – any kind – can provide the impetus to steal even more wins.
Q: Hi Doug. A few years ago, after a big loss in Denver, I think it was by around 30 points as it was in Utah the other night, Sam Mitchell, coach of the year, got sacked and replaced by Triano. The team was disfunctional and in the dumps, as it is now. What would be your reasons, why Casey has not been sacked yet and/or may not be this season? I think he should, since his team has regressed badly from last year, and oposit to what he preaches, can not play any defence. Also who would be potential replacements? Thanks.
Arman P, Toronto
A: I think firing a coach this early in any season is counter-productive in most cases like Toronto’s; it puts everyone back to square one and costs you a season. It’s different in a place like L.A. because there are different goals for the year. I thought they fired Sam too early, too, if you recall.
And, yes, their record is worse than last year and they haven’t defended as consistently well as they did but right now, I’d rather them try to move forward even in small increments than blow it up and start all over.
Of course, it’d be cool if they made a change because I’d put the over and under at two months before fans to loved him loathe him. It’s how you roll.
Q: You mentioned in the IGBT utah [i think??] that the lakers don't want Bargnani. Could you tell us why?
Larry L, Toronto
A: Without having direct knowledge of Mitch Kupchak’s thinking (I said they didn’t want him because it was obvious since any trade talks never came to fruition) I would imagine it would have been a case of fit with the roster and the style of play, perhaps this whole “they’re going to trade Pau today” stuff is a bit over-stated, perhaps they think they can get a better deal later on.
Q: Hey Doug. Just wondering why the Raptors don't use more zone defense. It was Casey's calling card against the Heat in the finals and seems to work when used in spurts this season. Wouldn't it limit the complete breakdowns and wide open threes caused by the initial breakdown of our point guards?
Eric F, Toronto
A: They’ve played a little bit of zone – not as much as last year, too – and yes, it might limit perimeter breakdowns but it might also expose them even more at the rim since the bigs have to continually be moving.
And, zones work only as change-ups, NBA players are too adept at passing and shooting for them to work for too long. They are tricks to change things up in short spurts.
Q: Just a thought but is Bargnani funk possibly tied to the fact that with Lowry arrival he is no longer "the man" on offence as Lowry can create his own shot whereas Calderon is very much a quarterback point guard. Also, with DeRozen "the face" of the team this year Andrea is not feeling the love. Last year he was the centre of attention until he got hurt and played like someone deserving of the attention. Now, just another player?
Paul F, Mississauga
A: If that’s what it is, he should be ashamed of himself. Who cares who is The Man on a bad basketball team. In fact, there has been every opportunity for Bargnani to enhance his role by playing better and he hasn’t. But I also do think he’s that shallow.
He does, however, perform better in high screen-roll and Jose runs that exponentially better than Lowry.
Q: Doug. Enjoy your work and ability "to keep your head when those about you."
Butch Carter was on Prime Time with Bob on Thursday night and while you likely did not hear the interview he said, and I paraphrase, that "Case" is certainly largely to blame for the 4-15 Raptor start and that the team has upgraded talent over last season but Coach has not gotten through to them as to how to defend and talk on defense.
Butch dropped a great stat that the team winning after the first quarter wins 78% of the time and this staff and team have not seemed to have grasped the concept of starting hard and defending.
Personally I quite like the coach but Carter's comments got me thinking:
Why did Dwane feel it so important to get out and run on offence when clearly teams with average talent win by grinding it out and playing defense?
Since Coach Casey, by his own admission I believe, spent all of camp essentially working on offence and now realistically sees it was a mistake and the season, being realistic and not negative, has essentially been "flushed" do you think one of the moves being pondered is his exit?
I suspect you will dislike the questions but I believe I am being fair and accurately describing the scenario.
Freddy W, Cambridge
A: I think people conveniently misinterpret the “get out and run” stuff from camp. They wanted – and want – easy baskets in transitions because it’s hard to score in halfcourt sets for almost every team in basketball. They did not want to become – and we reported this religiously through almost all of the pre-season, people must have missed – the Seven Seconds Or Less Suns. So he want – and every team wants – as many easy baskets as the can get.
I know he regrets a little bit not putting more focus on defence in camp but that is now hindsight and not worth thinking about too much.
And, no, in no way do I think one of the move being pondered right now is his exit.
Q: Doug - sorry about the thumb - on the farm we would tell you that if you get some treatment it will take 14 days to feel better - leave it alone and it will be two weeks - hope it doesn't hurt your typing skills
Real question - have you observed a difference in Barg's effectiveness when playing with Johnston - a little more experience and intensity perhaps - would think that A.B. needs a tougher big to play with- and that having the less experienced J.V. might be affecting his game ( not taking anything from J. V. - look forward to his development)
Bill W, Dresden
A: No, I’ve seen the same inconsistent effort from Bargnani at both ends of the floor no matter who he’s paired with. It’s true that a veteran like Amir might cover up some of his mistakes a bit more but that speaks to Amir rather than Andrea.