And the end of the weekend mail
Okay, driveway and walk cleared, kitchen cleaned, mail’s all done and nothing now until the game.
Not bad at all, if I do say so myself.
Q: Hi Doug. This came to me while watching the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary "The Announcement" which follows Magic Johnson and his revealing he was HIV positive. One thing that struck me was how important a role that not only Magic, but David Stern had on the perception of the disease and developing an attitude of acceptance rather than prejudice. I'm thinking that will be one of David Stern's legacies and was wondering (Jackie Robinson excluded) if any other sport/athlete had made an impact on social issues as they did over those 3 years or so. Can you think of any?
Rob K, Peterborough
A: Outside of Robinson, probably not although the pucks saga about the abuse of teenage players must have done a lot to increase awareness of that issue.
That was a difficult time in AIDS and HIV awareness and the fear-mongering worldwide was getting out of control. Yes, there were some players who fed into the misinformation but those who stood by Magic – and Stern for his work making it a league-wide issue – played a significant role in enlightening basketball fans. And for that they should be forever commended
Q: Doug! Did you see what Not-Grace got to do? Ride a Monster Truck!!! How is this even fair? Plus he got to be in Florida this week. And the icing on this crap cake? He got to see the Raps in two games that weren't stinkers. At All. (And do you believe that shot of DeMar's to win in Orlando?) Jeez. Doesn't that suck? 'Cause we all know how big a dream of yours it's been to be strapped in to a 1500 horsepower, 10,000-pound vehicle. (Not-Grace said it would be thrilling for him - a guy who drives a Subaru - to experience this. Well, Ahem. A Smelly Ford Focus? Of A Certain Vintage? Ahem?)
Anyway, Tall Foreheads want to address this travesty of sports-vehicular-reporting injustice and have offered you an opportunity to get behind the wheel of one of the following machines. Now, let's assume you are proficient at operating anything with four wheels. So, Mr. Smith, what's your preference: an F1 car (driven to speeds in excess of 350kmh at the Monaco Grand Prix) or a customized Chevy Malibu (at a NASCAR event - let's make it Talladega before 170,000 screaming, adoring, fans) or that antidote to road-rage and years of battling GTA gridlock - a 1972 Lincoln Continental - Texas Longhorns on the hood optional - at a Demolition Derby? What would you choose? Thank you!
Lorie P, London
A: Oh, I want something small and sleek and very fast. Something along the lines of a Mercedes sports car or something from the Rolls Royce line. A Jaguar would work, too.
But the best rental I ever got on the road was in Charlotte one time, it was busy and all they had was a big ol’ pickup truck with – yep! – a gunrack on the back window.
Felt absolutely at home down there.
Q: Hi Doug. I have a couple of quick questions for you.
I was reading an article in SI the other day on hockey. They did a statistical analysis on how often certain shots are taken. Not surprisingly, the backhand shot was the least used. That got me thinking about basketball. Do you feel there is there anything in the game (ie. a type of shot, pass, dribble, system etc) that is underutilized and should be used more of.
How much credit for Damian Lillard's rookie success in Portland be attributed to the coaching of Jay Triano? I know Jay has had a big role in developing quite few current and former Raptors such as Chris Bosh.
Thank You for taking the time to read my questions. All the best.
Joe D, Mississauga
A: I think some players should try to develop hook shots because they are basically unblockable and the bank shot from the wing is vastly under-utilized.
And, yeah, Jay does a lot of work on the offence in Portland and the Blazers are an effective team. It’s not just him, though, the players have to be willing to put in the work and skilled enough to make lessons pay off.
Q: Hey Doug. As someone who has seen more than a fair share of sub-500 Raptor squads, would you agree that this is one of the more enjoyable editions to watch? Despite the record, the team is competitive (despite some significant lost time due to injuries), it plays hard on a nightly basis, and has young players improving as the season progresses (Davis, Ross, and even Acy). There were seasons where the record was terrible and the team seemed to be going nowhere, but this squad seems to be heading in the right direction. What do you think?
Tom P, Windsor
A: I agree wholeheartedly that most nights they are fun to watch because they play hard and don’t quit. There is promise there, I just hope everyone’s patient enough to know it takes time to develop.
And one of Jay’s teams – I think his first full year – was the same kind of way.
Q: Watching young Ross grow up before our eyes this year got me thinking about a "Ready for Primetime" all-rookie team, for both the Raptors and the League. Kobe wasn't Kobe right away and Dirk wasn't Dirk right away. Who, in your wise grunt eyes, really hit the league running and had an impact in their rookie year? Give us a team that turned heads almost immediately after taking an NBA floor.
Wilber L, Toronto
A: Well, I remember writing in his rookie year that LeBron James had impossible expectations to meet and he exceeded them so I’d have to say he’d be at the top of the list.
Others? And I’m sure I’m missing some but I’m going to go with Blake Griffin (even though his rookie year really wasn’t his rookie year) along with Jason Kidd and Grant Hill (they shared rookie of the year honours, as I recall) and how about Derrick Rose?
Q: Hey Doug. Jack Armstrong had an interesting idea about the Raps-Heat game near the end of the game. The score was tied with about 16-odd seconds to go and the Heat had possession.
What he was saying, was the Raps should foul the Heat to put them on the line and go for a three pointer to win the game. The idea behind it was that the Raps' talent level wouldn't match up against the Heat's in a 5 minute OT.
It is a very unconventional play and I don't know if any coach would have the guts to pull it off, but it could be a good strategy with the shooters that the Raps have. What are your thoughts on this?
Wesley L, Richmond Hill
A: I heard that, too. Rather unique to the NBA, that’s for sure, although it is something that happens with some regularity in Europe.
I guess it comes down to whether you have more faith in your defence to get one stop or your offence to get one score.
You also have to take into consideration – and with this team, it’s a factor – that you’d have to rebound a missed second free throw and that’s not a certainty.
And if you’ve played a team, even one with more individual talent, evenly for 48 minutes on a specific night, why wouldn’t you have confidence that you could do it for five more minutes, if necessary.
I see how it might be an intriguing bit of strategy, I don’t think I’d employ it.
Q: Hello, Doug. Just wondering, if you put Avery Johnson and Pinball Clemons in the same room together for half an hour with a mic and camera, what would happen? Christopher Walken and Billy Crystal? Any combos you'd love to see? Thanks for the great blog!
David M, Ottawa
A: There would be no sounds of silence, that’s for sure.
I’d love to hear Oak and Sam chat it up for an hour or so; but I fear it wouldn’t be a conversation more than it’d be just a couple of guys talking without paying much attention to what the other was saying.
Q: Following up on your note in Friday's blog, Amir Johnson's health is a concern. There may be no more valuable player on this team and given that careers have been wrecked before by chronic injuries (Bill Walton anyone?), at what point might they tell him to take a rest for his own good?
James A, Victoria
A: As soon as the doctors and medical staff thinks he should take some time off, they’re not going to run him out there if he can do major damage. Yes, he’ll be involved in the discussion but the ultimate decision will be the staff’s.
Q: Hi Doug. With the upcoming trade deadline, there's a lot of rumours being thrown around, with experts giving Al Jefferson, Pau Gasol and Monta Ellis the most likely chances on moving. How do the Raptors (Bargs and Calderon) stack up in the most likely to be traded list given above? Greater chance of Bargs being moved than Ellis?
I remember early February seeing big names begin to move (pre-lockout). Can we expect that again this year?
Craig B, Toronto
A: Yes, there sure are a lot of rumors floating around as there is every year at this time; exchange rate on them is about five per cent have any legitimacy whatsoever.
And it’s folly to suggest a “greater” chance of one guy being moved over another because I have no idea – and no one in my position does 100 per cent – what teams are thinking.
It’s one of those things people like to talk about simply to talk about; I find it a bit of a waste of time until I find out what’s real and what’s fake.
Q: Hi Doug. Thanks for your efforts. Longtime listener, occasional caller :)
Is there a scenario you can envision where Andrea Bargnani can be a productive part of a playoff-bound team in Toronto? Or, even if he returns to or exceeds his previous peak level, is he simply done in Toronto and in need of a fresh start?
If he had the toughness of a Kevin McHale to go along with his shooting wouldn't he be a HOF candidate?
Jeff R, Toronto
A: A: Oh, I don't think he's done at all, necessarily. It's been a while since he played -- about 20 games and counting -- and who knows how he'll play when he gets back. And, yes, if he had Kevin McHale's skills he would be a Hall of Famer, many would.
Now, it may turn out that he can't fit in smoothly and time has come for him to go but with his skills, I think they need to take a look at keeping him.
Q: Hi Doug. In comparing Kobe's 81 with Wilt's 100, with all due respect to Wilt, I have to say I respect Kobe's performance more.
From what I've read about Wilt's 100 point game, his team spent half the game intentionally fouling the opponents (the Knicks, I believe) just to increase their number of possessions and force fed Wilt. I understand that the game was also a blowout.
From what I recall from watching Kobe that night, the Raptors were leading through most of the game and the Lakers needed just about every one of Kobe's baskets until about 5 minutes left in the 4th when it was essentially over and it became about "how many points can he get".
If these depictions are accurate, I'd say Kobe's performance was greater than Wilt's due to the "respect for/integrity of the game" factor. I'd appreciate reading your insight/thoughts on this.
Thanks and keep up the great work.
Michael K, Toronto
A: Since there is no video of that Wilt game, I can’t speak first hand to what went on or how the night unfolded. And given the difference in eras and players and the style of game, maybe we should just appreciate both for what they were: Incredible feats of individual offence.
Q: Hi Doug. Something that has been touched upon here and there (both by yourself and the irregulars), has been the idea of rebranding the Raptors (whether to the Huskies, or something else).
I know it's a bit silly, but I personally feel that given the lack of success the franchise has had had historically (non-financially anyway), a name change would be good, and could potentially be a fresh start in the eyes of the players and fans. Given that it seems as though this team may actually become good in the not too distant future, it seems like a case where the timing could work out well, and rebranding could get people excited at a time when there are some young players to be excited about.
So, with that said, have you ever heard any serious rumblings from the bigwigs? Do you think that a name change is off base, waste of time, etc?
Thanks for the hard work and the blogging!
Ben T, Halifax
A: Any time I've brought up any name change or rebranding, I'm told there's nothing planned at any time in the future.
Q: Doug, where would you rank Toronto on the scale of "fans/media that are hardest on their NBA team", with 1 meaning "incredibly supportive" and 10 meaning "only a championship is satisfactory"? And if (as is my sense) we're toward the upper end of the scale, can you shed any light on the possible reasons we might be harder on our home team than home fans in other cities?
Mike D, Toronto
A: You’ll understand I don’t see a lot of games every year in every other city but my experience over the years would put the locals at a 7. And I guess it comes basically from the number of difficult years they’ve had to experience in a row. What gets me is the violent mood swings within games, I would say people here are closer to an 8 or a 9 when to comes to fluctuating from disgust to joy in any specific game. I don’t quite get it, though, because we all know just about every team in every game goes through rough patches, turning so quickly doesn’t make much sense to me.
Q: Hey Doug: First off, let me say that this is not a condemnation of Not Grace Kelly, or his writing. It is a question of, perhaps, style. I just finished reading his 'gamer' on the Heat game. While reading it, I felt that it was a cross between the type of gamer you write, and the way you write in your blog, or the IGBT.
An example: "James was by this point beginning to run at the Toronto lines like a guy with a bayonet. Casey had promised pre-game that the Miami star would not only face “multiple bodies,” but “multiple body-types.” Sadly, there is no 12-foot-wide guy on the Raptors bench. A man so large should not so easily be able to run around people. It’s genetically selfish."
To me, this is opinion, rather than the 'facts' of the game. And, again, I enjoy reading Cathal's stuff.
But my question is, do you feel that some of the younger writers - who have been involved in social media for the greater part of their lives - have a different writing 'style' than grunts of a certain vintage? Do they feel, as they do in social media, that an article doesn't need to be "just the facts, ma'am," that they can interject some of their personality into the article?
Thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions! I wonder how many you have answered since starting the mailbag?
Tim H, Windsor
A: I’m not sure it’s an age thing, it’s probably a style thing that’s specific to each writer. And as long as we convey information and context in a manner readers find entertaining, it’s cool with me.
Our biggest problem when writing “game” stories is getting something to readers they don’t already have through any other source, like post-game TV reviews or the nightly sports news shows.
If we can do it in a style that’s somewhat personal, it does make one stand out more than another and we should strive for that. I’m not saying we do – too many gamers use the same information, often because of time constraints – but we should try.
Q: Doug, Interested to hear your take on the Phoenix situation post-Gentry. Does it not seem odd that an ex player agent, Lon Babby, now GM of the Suns, names an ex-player, with zero coaching experience on any level at all, as the new coach of the Suns? In doing this he passed over Elston Turner (14 years) and Dan Majerle (5 yrs and insane connection to Suns).
Is Robert Sarver not a smart man? How do you hire 2 people in two key positions in an NBA franchise who have zero history of performing that job? A GM who has never managed anything, and a coach who has never coached anyone. Seems like a recipe for disaster.
On a side note: The New Orleans Pelicans is ludicrous. Cannot wait to see the jerseys !!!
Dean E, Hamilton
A: I think they’ve taken a huge, unnecessary gamble by running off a franchise icon like Majerle and a veteran coach like Turner to turn it over to a neophyte who hadn’t even been on the bench before becoming a head coach. Whether it works or not, only time will tell, but the immediate result is a public relations nightmare.
Trust me, I fully believe Alvin Gentry will coach in this league a lot longer than Lindsey Hunter will.
Pelicans rule! Logo’s outstanding!
Q: Hey Doug. Not really a question but thought you might enjoy this story, might be able to put it in the blog since Cathal's on the road trip.
Take a look, it's quite the inspiring story and on cold days like the ones we've been having it warms your heart.
Judy S, Toronto
A: it does. Thanks.