The start of the weekend mail
Here I was thinking there wasn’t all that much mail as I futzed around on it and all of sudden there’s 3,500 words or so here and probably this many questions still to get to.
No way I expect you to sit and look at it all in one fell swoop so have this now and I’ll get the rest out tonight.
(Besides, I don’t have them all answered and I could this afternoon to finish).
If you see in me a mall, direct me to a stool; I’ll need it.
Q: Hey Doug. I know we are all giddy with excitement with the changes that AA has wrought with the TOD. I'm excited as well and looking forward to the next few years. However I'm wondering how different this is from the Heat and the big 3 from a couple of years ago and how we all felt about that? Yes, there was a trade involved along with some free agent signings but regardless of how it happened, the TOD is now seen as a stacked team. Are the Jays now the Heat of baseball and how do we feel now that the shoe is on our foot?
Another question if you don't mind. Landry Fields appears to be on the way back. Big if, but what if his nerve problem was what led to his poor second year in the league, could we now expect him to be more like the player he was when he first came into the league? If so, with the emergence of Anderson, how is he going to get into the rotation?
All the best to you and Super Family for the holidays?
Dave M, Puslinch
A: I don’t see any correlation between the Jays and Heat; all the Toronto moves were trades orchestrated by a general manager who had obtained enough desireable assets to make them possible and there was no collusion among players to all descend on one franchise.
I have no clue what Fields will be like if and when he cracks the current rotation. And I don’t even know when that will be, Dwane said Friday morning that he’s not about to disrupt what’s going so well. But I do know that, if he plays, Fields will play more freely without having to worry about the oddity that the hand “twitch” was before the surgery and we all know how much confidence can do to boost a player’s production.
Q: Hey Doug. My 8-year-old is really into basketball (I know, go figure!). He wasn't around when the Grizzlies were here but he knows of them. I told him I was sure I had some TV games of them playing the Raptors and he was excited to see them. So I went down and rooted through the old VHFs and found one. It was from the 1999-2000 season, a game in Toronto the mighty Grizzlies won. In my memory, the Grizzlies were horrible always, and yes, their record that year was 22-60, while the Raptors were 45-37.
But check out their rosters. Both teams seem better (on paper, anyway) than many teams today. The Grizzlies had Shareef, Bibby, Antoine Carr, Michael Dickerson, Grant Long, Dennis Scott, Milt Palacio, Country, Doug West, Brent Price, and Felipe Lopez among others. And the Raptors were positively stacked with Vince, Oakley, Antonio Davis, Alvin Williams, Muggsy Bogues, Dee Brown, Doug Christie, Dell Curry, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Willis, Yogi Stewart and Haywoode Workman, among others.
Do you think either of those teams' records would be much improved if they were playing in today's league? It just seems like there are more crap teams now, roster-wise. Or am I glorifying the past?
G M, Vancouver
A: Even knowing that my default position is to glorify the past, I agree with you. And there are more crap teams now, I think, because the disparity in the talent deployment. It’s my opinion, solely, that there are more far better teams now which means there are more far worse teams, if you know what I mean.
I’m not sure what went on with that Grizzlies team but it sure strikes me as one with more than 22-win talent.
Q: Doug, just wondering as a writer how many hours a week do you tend to work? Do you get normal vacation - I can't remember the last time you didn’t write something in a given week.
George B, Kitchener
A: How many hours are there? I keed, actually. Yeah, I work a lot but it’s not “real” work if I’m sitting on the couch watching TV and working on mail or if I’m on a stool chatting with the barkeeps and doing mail or if I’m laying on the couch watching an episode of Criminal Minds for the fourth time while every now and then checking blog comments.
Besides, I have no life and on those rare occasions where I have things to do, I do them.
And, no, I haven’t shut things down for a week in a while; I’m figuring with all the vacation I’m saving I can retire about … HEY, I CAN RETIRE ABOUT NOW!!!!!
Q: Last night on the Pistons broadcast, their colour man said, "What do TJ Ford, Jarrod Jack, Bayless, and Lowry have in common? They all came here to take this man's (Jose Calderon) job and couldn't.
Why is Jose consistently underrated and undervalued? Jose with Kobe and Howard on the Lakers would be an all-star.
I think Calderon is one of the best veteran point guards in the league with the likes of Kidd and Nash.
Why not lock up Calderon and have him here as the team continues to add young players? He seems like just the kind of unselfish experienced point guard you'd want for a rebuilding team.
Oliver N Toronto
A: I’m going to take this as representative of the dozens of Jose Calderon questions I got this week because it will allow me to hit on all the salient points.
First, the only place Jose Calderon is “consistently underrated and undervalued” is – as I’ve said too many times to count over the years – among the team’s fans.
He has a stellar reputation as a man and a player among teammates, coaches, opponents and opposing team’s coaches and management. I’ve said that so many times, I’m almost done hitting my head against a proverbial wall put up by disgruntled Raptors fans. It’s tiring, actually.
The dude has been on teams that have won two Olympic silver medals and a world championship gold, he can play and everyone involved in the game closely knows this.
As for locking up? I think they will – and I think they unquestionably should – do everything in their power this coming summer to re-sign him. They should not trade him this year, they should look to keep him as a valuable veteran on a team that’s starved for “old heads” and as someone who has never spoken a disparaging word about the franchise or the city and someone who considers Toronto a second home.
Q: Hi Doug. A winning streak is always fun, but I wonder if this is due to the quality of the opponents or the improvements of HOTH. Will we see an apparent reversion to old habits when facing better teams?
Colin K, Ann Arbor
A: I can’t really say except anecdotal evidence would suggest they will play hard and well. And I would also suggest that Dallas and Houston are not chopped liver and could be seen as “quality” opponents.
Q: Hi Doug. James Johnson was traded to Sacramento for a second round draft pick for 2013. Yet, when I look at the draft sites, Sac still is listed for the pick. Could you please clarify?
Frank B, Toronto
A: It’s because there is a “protection” on the draft pick depending on where it falls. I believe it’s protected into the 50s so until we see the final standings and where it lands, it will remain, technically, Sacramento’s.
Q: So the world didn't end (or at least hasn't yet, as of this writing), but imagine you're composing your final grunt meal. The dishes or chefs will be flown in at no expense to you. What will you cobble together, some gumbo from the Big Easy, Texas barbecue, or some pasta from that place down a back alley in Italy? Feel free to add as many refreshments as you like.
Jonathan M, Toronto
A: The thing with me is that it’s often about the company as much as the food but since you asked …
I’m pretty sure I’d have a nice well-marbled ribeye from The Palm in Philly, I really like the Gator bites as this little dump called the Cajun Cabin in New Orleans, that might be a nice appetizer. The fish dish would absolutely come from that place just off the Vatican Wall in Rome and I will never remember the name of the joint but there’s a tapas place just up the road from the Westin Prince in Madrid that had the best thinly sliced ham and sausage I’ve ever had.
Oh, and the ribs at Blues City Café in Memphis, I like them a bit more than Rendezvous, to tell you the truth.
But as long as it’s a big table with good friends, some spirits and fun stories, the food is almost secondary.
Q: Hi Doug. What do players think of the Christmas day games? It seems to be the same teams every year with a few additions/subtractions depending on "rivals.”
Does the league approach teams to see who is interested in playing on Christmas or is it just another game on the schedule and teams have no say?
I don't believe the Raptors have ever played on Christmas day.
Martin H, Kingston
A: I’ll probably get into this a bit more Monday but I think there are too many games on Christmas; five seems to me to be ridiculous. I can understand one as a way to give people who don’t celebrate the holiday – and even those who do – a distraction but they’ve overdone it, as all leagues and teams do.
There are no “invites” per se, teams get the schedule from the league and have very little say; they could ask to host but it might not be a wish granted. I do like the tradition of the previous year’s finalists meeting, though, and think that should probably be the only game.
As for the Raptors, they have played once, on Dec. 25, 2001, in New York. They got drilled and it was one of the worst games ever, no life, no enthusiasm, just a flat afternoon all around.
Q: Doug. I infer that questions of firing and trades increase as the team does poorly. Personally, when the Raptor's struggle I tend to read less about them. I was wondering whether the blog and your articles' readership/hits tend to fluctuate in a similar manner (and if so - hope hits are off the charts riding a 4, hoping for 5 game winning streak). To add a question to this - do they fluctuate with the teams fortunes?
Geoff H, Toronto
A: It actually doesn’t, it tends to hold pretty much to average however the team is doing. In fact, we saw a little spike this year when things were at their worst, likely because the doomsayers wanted to have a place to vent at a guy who had the temerity to suggest calm at one point early in the season.
Now, as I recall, we get a bit more traffic if things are going very, very well, but we haven’t been there in a while.
Q: Doug, love your blog but take issue with your comments on the World Juniors. People watch this tournament because it’s a great brand of hockey and a wonderful holiday tradition. Not really sure why people who like it need to be made aware that no one else cares. No one else cares about most of the things we do. Most people in the world don’t care about the Grey Cup. Most don’t care about my daughter’s soccer team or the obscure indy tune I downloaded last week. Why should this matter in the slightest?
Robert B, Montreal
A: Probably shouldn’t and I don’t really care. Was making a personal point, as I do quite often. Thanks for writing.
Q: Hi Doug. I think my all-time favorite sports team name has to be the Fighting Zebras (Lincoln, High School in California). Seeing how your typical sports teams are named after ferocious carnivores, the Fighting Zebra name doesn't exactly evoke fear. What are your favorite names of sports teams?
Andy F, Aberdeen
A: Well, I know there are hundreds of great ones out there, and most come from minor league baseball but without doing much more research than probing the dark recesses of a cluttered mind, here are five personal favourites (and I know I’m leaving lots out):
UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs
Toledo Mud Hens.
Q: Doug- Let's take a baseball break before X-Mas: Blue Jays are all in with veteran players, enhanced payroll, new mgr. and opportunity in their Division. But we are anxious that it won't all gel somehow:
We have a pitcher who wants his pit bull and we have a law that bans them
We have another pitcher who reads books and seeks to make a social difference - how can he get along with our youthful exuberants who Tweet endlessly?
THERE'S ONLY ONE MAN IN TORONTO WITH ANSWERS OF HOW TO ADDRESS THESE CHALLENGES: DOUG SMITH!
Doug, for all our sakes, please provide your guidance on how best to address-capitalize on these team bldg challenges for our Jays 2013.
Charles N, Toronto
A: Yes, let’s take a momentary break.
Not sure there is an answer for the first dilemma, people have to live under the law of the land and if there are no pit bulls, there are no pit bulls. You’d hope the fellow would be mature enough to understand this and that he’d keep the whining to a minimum. Maybe he can watch a video of the animal before he pitches. I don’t know what else can be done.
The tweeters, or twitterers or whatever they’re called? Maybe they take a page from the grown ups and cut it back a little bit? As long as they don’t tweet compromising pictures of their new colleagues, we should be all right.
Q: Hey Doug, if the Raptors continue to gel and succeed playing team ball would it not do Bargnani and the organization a world of good for him to take a page out of Amar'e book?
Amar’e situation is very similar to Bargnani in terms of not gelling with the other starters. Amar’e in fact is being paid more, and has had more success in his career yet has stated he would be willing to come off the bench to help his team if necessary. Wouldn’t Bargnani’s teammates love to hear that from him? Would that not improve his image as well? Would it not give Casey and the organization the freedom to use him as instant offence of the bench? How much of a boost to everyone confidence would that be to have Bargnani to buy into Casey’s plan that way?
I think that everyone needs to stop asking Bargnani to be someone he is not and just use him to do what he does best to help the team win. I do however think it is realistic to ask him to show that he is willing to do what it takes for team success, and in this case if team needs it come off the bench. What do you think? Any chance of this happening?
A M, Toronto
A: What makes you think his image with his teammates is tarnished and needs any kind of rehabilitation? It isn’t and it doesn’t. What he needs to do is play better; talk is cheap and, frankly, pretty worthless.
As for starting or coming off the bench? Why don’t we wait the month or more until he’s ready to play to cross that bridge; barely worth the effort to think about it today.
Let’s think about Christmas instead.
Q: Hello Doug. In light of the lockouts/strikes in the NBA, NFL, and NHL, over the last few years, I've heard some people argue that all of the leagues might benefit more from contracting teams and getting rid of the teams that lose money. What are your thoughts on contraction? Do you think it would lead to more economically viable leagues and perhaps a better on-field/court product since you may have a larger group of good players playing on fewer teams?
Joe D, Mississauga
A: Not a big fan of contraction because I don’t like to think about cities losing teams; and how about the flipside: If league’s whack two or four money-losing teams, it just makes the leagues more profitable with more money to spread around and likely more contention over which side should get more of greater profits.
Q: So you don't want to talk about Kyle Lowry or Andrea Bargnani. I agree, enough has been said.
How about Charlie V? I thought he had a relatively good first year but hasn't produced much since then. Assuming you agree with my assessment, to what do you attribute this? Was Sam good at getting the most out of him? Was it the newness of the NBA? Was he devastated by being traded so early in his career? Was he not the right fit on the subsequent teams? Is it a lack of motivation (which was mentioned as a concern when he was drafted)? I look forward to your insight.
Dave B, Cornwall
A: I didn’t follow Charlie all that closely when he went to Milwaukee and then on to Detroit but even at the end here, there were questions about his work ethic and his team play and I don’t think those went quickly away.
He has some physical skill, no doubt about it. It’s the mental part of the game that perhaps held him back.
Q: Hi Doug. Why do you not cover the young Canadian basketball talent we have right not in your sports blog? We have Anthony Bennett as one of the top players in the county and a player of the year candite. Nik Stauskas starting on the number 2 team in the country and playing well. The future of Canada Basketball Andrew Wiggins considered the top High School player in America. The list of players making an impact goes on with Pangos, Cadougan, Wiltjer, Olynyk, Birch etc.
Andrew G, Toronto
A: All in due time; think we need to let some of them get through more than half a college season, or a high school season. Let ‘em do something and we’ll catch up.
Q: Doug. I just watched some terrible Gerry Dee segment on The Score and it prompts me to ask, do you know if players actually enjoy participating in these sort of things?
I know you've mentioned the shenanigans at Super Bowls, and every year players seem to be subjected to these quote-unquote comedy routines. Generally they seem uncomfortable or annoyed, but I may be transposing my feelings onto them. I'd imagine the coaching staff can't stand them, but the team's marketing department loves the "humanizing" aspect of these segments.
The Cabral Richards segments seem to be the exception to the rule. Any insider knowledge on their true feelings?
Thanks again for all you do.
Jay M, London
A: I don’t think they “enjoy” it as a rule but most of them do play along good-naturedly. And entertainers like that generally know who the go-to guys are in the locker room to get what they need.
I will say this, though: I think Cabbie is outstanding. And I know a lot players like seeing him around. The other guy shows up once or twice a year, none of the guys really know who he is.
Q: Hey Doug. Do you think the Raps new fight has anything to do with Amir's mouthguard episode? Like a coach taking a tech. Has that incident re-energized a sagging team?
James I, London
A: No, I don’t think it had anything to do with it. That was a momentary, personal gaffe by one player. I think the resolve they’ve shown comes in large part from the consistent beatings they took and that there wasn’t “one” moment that turned things around.
Q: Given how poorly most of the advanced-stats types rate Andrea Bargnani (he's historically bad according to the wages of wins crew, and your All-Star friend Bill Simmons and his Sloan conference pals have openly ridiculed Colangelo on his podcasts). Is it realistic to think any team would be interested in Bargnani? Maybe the best approach is to simply amnesty a player who doesn't fit very well with the coach, and the team?
Chris B, Toronto
A: Giving away a player for nothing is never the best approach, in my opinion. They need to find some way, if they determine it’s over here, to get something of value for him.
But amnesty? I’d never do it because I believe there will be at least one GM, and probably several more, who would/will have interest.
Q: Ok Doug, here's a question for your mailbag. Let's say hypothetically that the HOH re-acquire via trade Turkoglu or Bosh or someone else who's current deal was originally penned by the Raps before the new CBA. Would the team in this ridiculous hypothetical situation then have the option to amnesty that contract?
Lawrence G, Toronto
A: Wow, those are some odd circumstances. But, no, it wouldn’t work; amnesty can only be used on players who were under contract to the team in July, 2011.
Q: Hi Doug. And I quote: "And we're going to ride him, come hell or high water".
Well, hell came early and often. And when we couldn't ride him anymore, the coals of hell cooled and a breeze came in.
When is this organization going to realize that a jump-shooting big man (who can't actually shoot, by the way!), who plays no defence, doesn't pass, doesn't rebound, doesn't get dirty on the floor, etc. is the last thing you need to "ride"?
The "fire Colangelo" voices have calmed down over the last week, but if anything they should be louder, because this week proves the folly of his philosophy.
Paul C, Mississauga
A: Not too surprisingly, you have misrepresented your entire point by attributing a quote to the wrong guy. It was actually Dwane who said that, after the San Antonio game here.
And, yes, they have had more success in the last four games (I’m typing this on Thursday) than they did early in the season. If you think it’s on one guy, you’re 1,000,000 per cent dead wrong but nothing I can say will likely dissuade you.
But riddle me this: If they fire Bryan, who are you hiring and you will guarantee fans a better future, right?