The start of the weekend mail
So here’s about half of it and it still tops out at about 3,700 words. Read this, watch the game at 1 p.m. with me and we’ll get rest up later tonight sometime.
Q: Hi Doug. Was the Sinclair interview the result of building a relationship this summer? Or were you just in the right place at the right time?
Kevin M, Maple
A: Mostly right place at the right time, actually. She just happened to be there for a day when I was. Good timing. That said, I have spoken to her in group situations many times and there was a level of familiarity there.
Q: I've got two, Doug -- I've never had two!
Do you have any idea whether Mr. Nash has ever touched base with our new Canadian athlete of the year? He has to be a fan, right?
Truth be told, I had hoped I would be a bigger fan of K. Lowry's than I've turned out to be. Given that Jose is the type of PG I most like to see, I was also looking forward to having a new smart & flashy guy on board. But now - not so much. So, are the coaches and/or players satisfied that Lowry is the guy they thought he was? What's the overall feeling about his style of play, as well as his performance in that role?
TL I, London
A: I believe they have spoken and are at least casual acquaintances from being at some of the same things.
I think most people with the organization are disappointed in the injuries that have delayed any major impact Lowry may have had early in the season. But overall, they know what he is, and knew when they got him.
Q: If getting a guy off the floor after an injury takes more than 40 seconds, are there injury time-outs? Official time-outs?
David M, Grimsby
A: If a player is hurt and there’s a 20-second timeout called and it takes longer to treat him, most referees will give some leeway; if a longer time is needed than, say, a minute or two, it’s not a timeout charged to either team.
Q: Hi Doug. We've been wondering the following for quite a while: why does there seem to be so much imbalance in the NBA schedule? Specifically, why does it so often happen that one team in the second game of a back-to-back not only has to travel, but also goes up against a rested opponent? Do you know how often the tired team wins this? While I understand the necessity of back-to-backs to fit in the 82 games, surely the NBA schedulers could make it so that teams playing back-to-backs played other teams in back-to-backs?
J & G H, London
A: I don’t have that information, sorry. But I do suspect – again without doing a lot of grunt work – that it evens out pretty much over the course of the season.
Q: Hi Doug. Question for you? Would you rather keep your gig covering the Raps, or trade it to cover the lock out?
Ben S, Burlington
A: Are you kidding? If they never won another game and every game was on the road in the Pacific time zone and every comment began with “you fat know-nothing homer” (and some have), I rather do this than write HRR or “systems issues” or make-good clauses or whatever.
Q: Hope Super Wife enjoyed her fresh Pacific salmon fresh from Van. Airport(I keed...I keed). Loius & Frank was a great start. Instead of adding Smokey, Marvin & Al you added Roger, Bruce and Mick..
Hope you had a special evening.
John C, Mississauga
A: Roger? Of course we did, and I presume there was some singing.
And it was a nice break, thanks.
Q: Hi Doug! I was wondering what impact the loss of Jamaal Magloire has had on the Raptors this year. I'm sure he's doing a swell job in the offices, but maybe he can come back?
We need his $hit talking and cheerleading, can't help but think he was a big part of the defensive improvement last year.
Mike P, Oakville
A: Jamaal’s a vet and is around every practice so, yes, he’s helping. But I think we can all agree that his days on the court are over.
Q: Thanks Doug for all your fine writing! Pick one or two players (please be reasonable) who you think would be able to immediately impact this team. Along the lines of what Garnett did for Boston. Yes we are brutal right now but I think one experienced guy who knows how to win would make a huge impact.
Last thing is I am taking the whole family to the game Friday and when I get to games (5-7 per season) the Raps usually win!
All the best.
Rob H, Cambridge
A: Glad you got your win. But, really, it’s hard to pick a guy or two, to tell you the truth, because we have no idea who might be available. Let’s say a guy like Grant Hill, or even a Derek Fisher, someone who’s been around forever. I’m not advocating for either of them and know they’re both impossible but that’s the kind of veteran I think they need. Trouble is, you don’t get them in the middle of the season because teams that have them tend to hang on to them.
Q: Hi Doug. Welcome back to the Eastern Time Zone. I want to thank you for your daily dose of raptor and basketball tidbits but what's really nice is that you spread your blog to other things going on in the world. Good on you. My questions are related to the blog:
Have you ever missed a day? I recall you sometimes typing small ones for whatever reason but don't think i ever recall missing a day.
For the other news around the world, do you jot it down on a notebook to add to the blog later or do these things come to your head as you type along each late evening/early morning...just curious.
Frederick L, Mississauga
A: I’m sure I’ve missed a day but the honest truth is I don’t recall when it might have been. Some days are slower and later and less than others but …
As for the compilation process, because my mind is often feeble, if I hear something or think of something that might be usable, I’ll send myself an e-mail or jot down a note on the iPhone (although sometimes I do that and forget to look) or I’ll open a file on my laptop for some day’s blog in the future and jot down some notable occurrence.
Q: Hi Doug. From the ending of your blog today, I'm guessing fans have been taking their frustrations on the team with you in the comment section? This is really too bad. For someone that puts in the work you do to keep us informed of details we might otherwise not be privy to, it's a shame that you have to be subjected to senseless comments.
My question is actually about acceptable and non-acceptable questions/comments. Does any comment that questions one of your previous assertions bother you, or is it more the idiotic harrassment-like slurs that bother you.
For example I wanted to ask you if, knowing what you know now about the start of the 2012 season would you still recommend picking up Casey's contract for next season. I know he is not the only factor for the bad start, but by picking up the option early last year, it kind of left the club with less flexibility.
Anyways, I'm interested in your insight on a) the type of acceptable questions and b) your thoughts on BC picking up the Casey's option a year early.
Jeff M, Saint John
A: I absolutely would have picked up Dwane’s option, I am steadfast in my belief that he is a good coach. It would have been a no-brainer so I think they make exactly the right move.
As for the questions, I certainly don’t mind any that call into question my opinions or statements or anything like that. In fact, I quite enjoy discourse like that. What I hate – and won’t tolerate any more – is stuff that is vile or rude or disrespectful. For instance, there was a guy – and I am not making this up – who began every missive with something like “hey, fat, old and stupid.” Needless to say, I will never have to see another e-mail from him, we had our IT people make sure of that. That’s the kind of stuff I will not put up with, nor should I have to.
But I don’t mind being disagreed with, it’s par of the fun of the gig. To a degree.
Q: Doug. As a fan (neutral observer) of team mascot critters, do you have a position on the possible loss of the Hornet, at the gain of getting a Pelican in New Orleans?
There IS talk of Charlotte then restoring the Hornets monicker, but that seems a poor third in franchise naming ideas, falling far behind renaming the team the Cats or even reviving the much older Carolina Cougars brand.
I think we'll miss the Hornets' mascot more than the actual team name. Thoughts?
Gary M, Brampton
A: I think Pelicans is the best name for a team I’ve heard in years. Colourful, historic, the state bird so there’s a connection and a damn site better than some of the singular crap we’ve heard over the years.
And if they bring back the original Hornet from the time they used to sellout the old arena in Charlotte before George Shinn poisoned the area, I’m okay with it.
I just hope above all hope that the Pelican is cool looking.
Q: A non-basketball question Doug - In the off season, when there was less angst, you mentioned that you were going to try Netflix on the road and catch up on movies and TV you missed. See anything good?
Richard Y, Kincardine
A: I do still have the Netflix account, or access to the family’s, but have seldom used it. I have watched the first season of Homeland on the trusty iPad mini and that’s been great. Still on the lookout for other stuff I can download and watch, what’s everyone got for me?
But the truth is, the start of the season was so busy – I think it was something like 33 of the first 38 days I was either at a game or on plane, that all TV watching is on hold.
Q: Congrats on your anniversary! (37 for me). Instead of reviewing Raptors video for the dinos, couldn’t the coaches just show nothing but what the successful teams in the league are doing. i.e. three or four passes on every possession, proper screen and roll, and actually passing to the big Lithuanian for an uncontested lay up.
Maybe by viewing Knicks games exclusively they might start hitting three pointers and rotate properly on help D.
I think there was something called syber vision in the seventies where repeated viewing in slow motion helped the golf swing. ( Not mine) Maybe, it could help the rookies.
Don't let the neanderthals get you down Doug. You have tons of irregulars who greatly value what you do.
Bob E, Kanata
A: Wow. Thirty-seven? Good job!
I wonder if showing video of other teams might trick them into thinking they’re better – or at least different – than they are; I can see that being a bit of a danger.
Wjohhat I know they do as part of Dwane’s teaching plan is show more of what they do well as a form of positive reinforcement as opposed to a continual low-light loop.
After the game in Salt Lake, for instance, we asked how gruesome the video session was the next day in L.A. and he said they had watched a lot of a good first quarter than a wretched second half.
Q: Hey Doug. Do you think a good coach adjusts his "system" to the players he has? Or should the players learn how to play in said system? Two examples have me wondering about this issue. First, Bargnani's ups and downs on offense this year as well as his general ambivalence on defense. Second, the Lakers don't seem any better under D'Antoni without a PG that knows his system. Thanks.
Danny P, Montreal
A: It is a very interesting question, actually.
I would say, for the most part, that a coach needs to be a bit adaptable to the personnel he has; however, if there is a chance he can bend that personnel to the style he would prefer to employ, he should. If he can’t, he needs to find alternatives.
The flip side would be this: If a coach is long-enough tenured with the same organization – think Gregg Popovich in San Antonio and Doc Rivers in Boston – he should work hand in hand with his general manager to bring in players who best fit what he has had success doing.
I know that may seem a bit of a wishy-washy copout of wanting both ways but I hope you see my point.
Dwane, for instance, was able to change the mindset of a bad offensive team he took over; had he not had any initial success, I think he might have and should have tempered some of his demands.
Q: “Get everybody healthy, that’s the No. 1 thing. We’ve got go from A to Z and get people healthy,” said Casey.
Doug: If the coach believes this is the number one problem causing the 4-18 record to date we have a serious issue. Agree or disagree?
Freddy W, Cambridge
A: I think that was a rather bland statement given in the immediate aftermath of a very bad loss. And I would presume you would have listened to Dwane often enough to realize he’s smart enough to know that’s not the sole issue, or even the biggest one.
Q: Multi-parter here, Doug. At times like these when the team is in the midst of strife and anguish, do players ever come up to you and want to vent off the record about the coach, a fellow player or what have you? If they do, are you amenable to running a story that says: A player who requested anonymity says that Coach Casey eats kittens and knocks over little old ladies? Do you at times go looking for players and offer them to go off the record if they have anything to share? And if so, how do you go about this? Clearly you can't just do it during a scrum in front of everyone else. Is there some cloak and dagger? Or at least cloack, if not dagger? Would you, say, meet in a poorly lit, undergound parking lot?
Lee Z, Ottawa
A: I go and speak to several players every day to gauge the mood of the team, on and off the record and use what I get sometimes to provide the tenor of that day’s story. And you go about it just by having typical conversations with guys you know, like “hey, what’s up? What’s really going on? Everything okay around here?”
But – and I can’t stress this enough – these are conversations players have with people they are familiar with and with whom they feel comfortable and with whom they have a level of trust.
Q: Hi Doug. Glad you made it through that last road trip with sanity intact.
In your conversations with other players, coaches, and reporters associated with the NBA this past week, what is their perception of the Raptors franchise and what do they think currently ails it?
Brad B, Ottawa
A: Perception is – and I’m sure not everyone will believe me – that this team is going to be quite okay, that Dwane is a good coach, there are good pieces and they will get it together eventually.
Q: Doug, seems to me that Lowry came back too soon from his ankle injury; there's just no comparison between his play now and the dominance and confidence of those first few games. Was this panic on the team's part, or pressure from the player. Or perhaps there is a reason for his play's deterioration aside from the physical?
Gary M, Ottawa
A: No, he was fully cleared medically to play, there was no rush at all. I do think there were some conditioning issues – he got a bit soft in the 2 1-2 weeks he was out – and that might be a concern whenever he comes back from the triceps issue now. And it’s something they will watch more closely.
Q: Doug, at the start of the season, like you, I felt the Raptors might be THE surprise team in the NBA this year. I acknowledged that banking on good health, Lowry's fitting in and Bargnani's continuation of last year's defensive awakening wasn't something favoured in Vegas. But this WAS a collection that had the parts to merit a (small) wager on being a playoff team.__Wellll, Toronto HAS been a surprise team to me, backing up the doom and gloom predictions of a lot of 'experts' south of the border. These dashed hopes do happen. But I've been most disappointed in one aspect of the team: Coach Dwane Casey. And I think what you think is unthinkable (how's that for twisted thinking?) is very much more at the front of Brian Colangelo's thought processes than previously imagined.
Of the various interviews he's done the past fortnight, he's steadfastly maintained he hasn't thought of replacing Casey before (now). But he avoided unequivocally saying he wasn't ABOUT to start thinking along those lines. And there is reason why Casey should be coming under a little more fire than he is. The 'It is too early' rationale starts losing it's potency some time in the near future.
I called Casey the best coach in Raptor history during training camp this year in a conversation with a fellow fan. Just getting Bargnani to play credible (nee near All-Star) defence last year, cemented that in my mind. His clever packaging of defensive schemes impressed everybody.
This year? Yes, the core pinning of the team, has crumbled waaaay beyond what we can blame on the big kid in the middle. Valanciunas can't be the sole reason the team has become a strong reminder of earlier Raptor teams this decade. The other various new parts were supposed to be stronger defenders than those they replaced in terms of playing time. But Casey has already admitted to not paying enough dues on practicing defence in the pre-season. Indeed, I don't remember much zone then, an integral part of last year's improvements.
And there are other troubling issues. For awhile a couple of weeks ago, this team was the worst in-bounding team I've seen in recent memory. Maybe ever. And the plays after timeouts have been a bungled mish-mash of late-in-the-clock heaves. And that's USUALLY the mark of a good (or not so good) coach. The failure to not foul in some games near the buzzer has been another sore point. The waive of early season fourth-quarter collapses also makes one question Casey's personnel management and whether he calls enough momentum-interrupting timeouts.
Let's face it, a couple of made shots, a couple of correct ref calls in crunch time, and nobody's talking replacing Casey at all. But the time is coming when the people in power HAVE to evaluate whether last year's coaching results was the outlier, or that personnel make-up and bad luck can explain away this year's poor result.
And that time is coming much more quickly than I would have imagined at the start of the year.
Gary M, Ottawa
A: One sec. I didn’t in any way, shape or form think they’d be “the surprise team of the NBA.” I thought they might have a chance to win 37 or so games and creep into eighth in the East. This season was always – ALWAYS – about a step in the process. I thought it’d be a larger step than it’s been but at now time would I have ever said they were even close to the elite. Was never going to happen this year. And if I looked hard enough – and I won’t because I really don’t care – I’d find that 37, 38, 39 number and stand by it.
You want to lay this at Dwane’s feet, go right ahead, that’s cool with me.
Let me ask you a couple of questions, though:
Has it ever occurred to you that whatever perceived “inbounds” issues you have lie with the players not doing what they should, or what they’ve been told? I’ll give you a case in point: San Antonio game at home. Parker, or maybe it was Ginobili, deflects and steals an inbounds pass only because Lowry, I believe was, lazily went to the ball and the screen set for him was ignored and lazy. That coaching? Especially when we’ve heard all year from Dwane the need to set better screens and use them effectively.
And I don’t know the advanced stats on out-of-timeouts success rates with baskets but if you do, I’d be glad to see them. And take into consideration when you dissect them that missed open shots have no correlation to the play.
And no one has for a second blamed it all on Valanciunas. He’s a kid learning to play the game – all of us were writing in the summer that he was no saviour at any level – but Lowry gambles too much and is not the defensive wiz he was reported to be, DeMar is having a hard time keeping anyone in front of him and Andrea’s regression is well-documented. So to suggest anyone is putting it all on a rookie is not factual if you check the record.
Get my points?