It's all of the weekend mail at once
Know what I did last night?
Got this mail all done while watching football so I don’t have to set the alarm until maybe 8 a.m. and only have to do the game today.
So it’s up early, if I missed a late question or two, I’ll get to them sometime soon. Until then, enjoy this weekend’s one-time offering and we’ll be around here this afternoon around 1 p.m. for the big game.
Q: Hi Doug - a bit of a preamble to this one. Many years ago I was living in LA (for some reason thoughts of LA always come back to me in winter) and they had a young phenom by the name of Kobe Bryant. The LA Times had a weekly magazine in which they did a profile on a local celebrity. In one profile, they asked young Kobe (I think this was in '97) what he did in his free time. He said that he like to sit on the beach in Santa Monica and read Greek poetry! I have to say I laughed a bit about that and it still is amusing to me. I never saw him on the beach there, I can tell you that.
Anyway, my question (finally) is this: what have you found out about an NBA player that surprised you a lot -- either amused you or impressed you. Could be a hobby, could be 'what I did on my summer vacation'. I'm sure if you cast your mind back over the years, some players have managed to surprise you (in positive ways, I hope).
Sheila C, Ottawa
A: One guy who really intrigued me was John Thomas. Remember him? Big Kitchen was a bit of a renaissance man, loved to cook and spent his summers just travelling Europe like a regular schmoe tourist. Not that that’s all that weird but in the coddled world of the NBA, I found it refreshing.
That Kevin Willis designed clothes always struck me as pretty cool, too.
This group? When I get around to a bigger profile of Terrence Ross, I bet you find it kind of neat that he’s a huge auto racing fan, F1 at the top of his list.
There’s three kind of unique ones.
Q: Hi Doug - My question has to do with the referees and how they are assigned.
It seems to me that we see some of the same referees quite often but only see others occasionally - in this last category Dick Bavetta comes to mind. Are their schedules made up so each referee is assigned the same number of times to games featuring each team? I thought I read someplace that there are now 3 female refs but I only remember Violet Palmer doing the Raptors' games.
Penny D, Fredericton
A: It probably evens out – or gets close to even – over the course of a season but referees as “grouped” in about three different groups and assigned out of those. And you’re right we haven’t seen much of Dick or Bill Spooner or Joey Crawford here this year and I don’t remember seeing them more than once or twice on the road, too.
And two other female officials aren’t actually in a rotation, they are fill-ins because each full-time referee gets a week off here and there; they need replacements to fill those assignments.
Q: Hi Doug. Sorry for the vague nature of this question, but it's something that I wonder about fairly often.
On occasion, you'll hear fans (and media members) suggest that a player, team or organization "owes it to the fans" to do something or other (trade a player/spend money/play at a certain level.)
Alternately, you'll sometimes hear that the fans "owe it" to the organization, a team or a player to behave a certain way (not booing, a show of support when a team/player is down.)
I guess my question is this; do the fans 'owe' the players anything at all? Do players 'owe' fans anything at all. And, as a member of the media, who give the players and teams the coverage and attention they need to keep butts in the seats, do you feel like you're owed anything? (a certain level of access, or the guarantee of speaking to a player after a game, etc)
Walter O, Waterloo
A: I think players are entertainers and owe the best effort they can give each night, I think fans owe other fans and players respect and should act accordingly and I think I am owed by the players respect for the job I have to do and honest answers to questions asked.
That’d be about it.
Q: Hi Doug. In today’s blog (Thursday) you said in reference to DC playing Amir and Ed Davis together: "It’s not something they can plan on getting away with too often – nor should they try – but Casey managed it well for one night when it really mattered."
Can you explain the basketball reason behind what you said? They seemed to work really well together and not sure why it would not work on a regular basis.
A T, Niagara Falls
A: My point was that on this roster as it’s constructed now with two viable big men injured, I think they need one of Davis or Johnson on the floor at all times. That would mean splitting them up a long stretches while one of them gets some rest.
Yes, they do work well together and they’ve made it work for a few games.
Q: The possibility of the Kings moving to Seattle had me thinking: Why is the NBA is so many cities where it is the only major league sports team? Sacramento, Oklahoma City, Salt Lake, San Antonio, Portland, Memphis. That's 20 per cent of the league. Just a coincidence or is something else happening?
A: Mostly because those city you mention don’t have the corporate money or fan base to support a second winter professional team. Some of them have minor league hockey and some minor league baseball but those in particular aren’t big enough or rich enough to handle a second team in town.
Q: Greetings Doug. I know you are not the greatest admirer of the college game but last Saturday's UConn - Notre Dame women's match was worth watching. It was one of those slug and shoot games that coaches hate, fans love, and trainers fear. The interminable weaving that pervades the men's game withdrew to its hiding place. Players ran, scratched, pushed, and hobbled from play to play producing quality basketball moments. The crowd noise rose so loud the broadcasters had to shout at times. In the end, the level of professional animosity developing between these two schools rose even higher and it was just a middle of the year game with nothing more tangible on the line than a mark in the W column.
What initially hooked me into watching the game was the props, as the kids say, being given to one Natalie Achonwa. She was lauded as the best player on the Canadian national team and the first non-American to play for Notre Dame. When the buzzer sounded she led the Big East with eight double-doubles and had me convinced that when she enters the WNBA that I need to put down some money to watch the games online.
How can we make her name more widely known in this country and is there anyone else from the Great White North in the college women's game that I should be watching with like interest?
Mike D, Oshawa
A: Now, I don’t want to toot my own horn too much but I’ve been writing about Natalie Achonwa for a very long time. There was one from 2011 and I remember doing a piece even before she went to Notre Dame. And I happened to be in an establishment with many televisions last weekend and made sure one of them had Notre Dame-Connecticut on so I could watch.
Anyway, there aren’t nearly as many Canadian women as men in the upper echelons of NCAA basketball but if you get a chance to see Utah, pay attention to Michelle Plouffe, another excellent young Canadian, ditto with Kayla Alexander at Syracuse.
If you were to check out basketball.ca, I’m sure you find others to watch there.
Q: Good day, Mr. Smith. Just wondering if you think Roger Clemens will ever make the Hall. Do you think his record is Hall-worthy? Thanks for the great blog!
David M, Ottawa
A: Not too long ago, I would have said no, he had scant chance but I’m sensing, just from reading various baseball writers, that the blackmark of steroid use might be lessening a little bit and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he got in sometime in the next four or five years. I don’t think there’s any doubt that his numbers and career stand up as Hall-worthy, it’s the other stuff that was the issue.
But, again, I think the tide is turning.
Q: Hi Doug...Academy award nominations are out. Do you have any Raptors that were left off the list.
Best Supporting...Quincy Acy?
Best Director...Mr. Cope
Art Direction?...Amir's hair stylist
Sound...Landry Fields, when he misses a chippie.
Special Effects...The Beast
Speaking of Rawhide, now that Burkie's is no longer offering the red hots, any suggestions for the ACC types...Bryan's Burgers?
Bob E, Kanata
A: Now that’s a list!
Original screenplay: Pimptastic Boss.
And they had the Burkie Doghouse sign down within hours of his firing, was gone when I got to the arena that night
Sure, Bryan’s Burgers works and maybe Dwane’s Dogs?
Q: I was quite impressed at Wednesday's game that the Raptors had 3 double/doubles - Landry Fields, Amir Johnson and Jose Calderon. I guess that proves they are sharing the ball. Has this happened very often that they have 3 (or more) double/doubles in a game?
Howard R, Toronto
A: Funny you should ask.
It doesn’t happen all that often, with the Raptors at least. The last time was the wretched abomination that was the last game of the 2011 season – remember that stinker against the Nets – when the three guys who did it were Ed Davis, Solomon Alabi and Ben Uzoh as part of his triple-double night. Yeah, it was that kind of game.
Before that? You would have had to go back to 2006 to find a Toronto game with three double-doubles in it.
Q: Hi Doug: Can you please explain what is an illegal screen? Thanks much!
Colin W, Ajax
A: In a nutshell? Sure.
Players need to be stationary when they set it, no moving into a defender in some kind of blocking motion. It’s illegal to stick out an elbow or a hip or a shoulder, too.
Q: Has the Raptor (the Chicken) been the same man/woman since the beginning of the franchise? How old is he/she? Is the Raptor recognized around the league as the best mascot? I hope he/she makes a great living because he/she is, by far, the best part of the "in game entertainment".
Alan G, Toronto
A: I love a good Chicken query, that’s for sure.
Yes, it’s been the same person since Day 1, a rather remarkable run because that’s not an easy gig on the body, as you can imagine.
Great living? Well, Chickens command princely salaries and I’m pretty sure this one’s living high off the hog.
But it’s distasteful to talk salary with a stuffed animal so I don’t know for sure.
Q: I attend the Raps games reasonably often and have wondered about the way penalty shots are announced. Before five fouls have been reached Herbie announces "shooting 2" for a shooting foul but after 5 fouls have been committed Herbie will announce "shooting 1 plus the penalty". Why is this? Is there ever a time when two shots for a shooting foul would not occur. (I am not counting a third shot after a successful score has been made at the time of the foul.) I cannot recall ever seeing a play where 2 shots would not be awarded for a shooting foul.
James F, Alliston
A: I wish I knew but, frankly, I tone out all PA announcements and never pay close attention. Not sure there’s a rhyme or reason to it; the only time two shots wouldn’t be awarded for a shooting foul is when the foul occurs on a three-point attempt, of course.
But as to the language? Beyond me.
Q: Hi Doug. Can you explain why the Raptors might be so interested in Rudy Gay now? Prior to the season, I could see why it might be perceived as a game changer. But now, with Bargnani showing nothing, Ed Davis coming on, and the wings (DeRozan, Ross, Fields, & Anderson) looking better and better, why give up a ton for a 3? That's particularly concerning if we'd have to give up Ross or Davis for him. Thoughts?
Tim E, Markham
A: Of course they shouldn’t “give up a ton” for him but this team has been searching for a dynamic small forward since Vince Carter was given away; they should absolutely make inquiries to see what the cost would be. But Bryan isn’t going to mortgage the future or deal all his young assets to do it.
But investigate? He 100 per cent should, it’s what GMs do.
Q: Hi Doug- Heard you on the Tim and Sid Show. Your 2014 prediction got me thinking. (Like the idea of a Jose resign by the way). So if Gray, Petrus, Barngani, and one of Anderson or Fields are on the way out, what kind of replacements would be on the way in and how do the Raptors get there, and why (financial, talent upgrade, week roster spot etc.)
Thanks and keep doing what your doing.
Ron S, Thunder Bay
A: They get there the way all teams do: They will have pieces to trade, perhaps a draft pick to use and some money to spend. There’s always ways to add to and upgrade a team.
Q: Hi Doug. I've never taken the time to write before but I read your blog most days and enjoy your perspective immensely. I was reading your blog from Thursday, January 10th and you made reference to the Raptors code of "zebra,zebra,zebra". I'm not 100% certain that you didn't have your tongue in your cheek when you mentioned that you don't know what it means so don't ask. I figure I'm the umpteenth person to reply with this but it is in reference to the fact that the 3 referees do look like zebras with their white and black shirts and he wants a player to grab the attention of a zebra with a foul as you mentioned.
Thanks for all the effort that you put into your work and putting up with all the 'ninnies' out there!
Tom G, Cornwall
A: I love the pucks-centric nature of us, don’t you?
That’s a hockey line; never been used in basketball where the officials aren’t zebras.
Could be, but I don’t know about it.
Q: Hi Doug, wondering about the PG situation and Lowry's conditioning, or lack thereof. He can't really seem to get by anyone out there and looks to be easily 20 pounds overweight. Has Dwane addressed this and how can it happen to a person who's job literally depends on their physical abilities?
Chris D, Toronto
A: He’s nowhere near that overweight and, in fact, is body fat is the same percentage today (they check at least once a month, along with weight) as it was on opening day; not sure what that number is but it disproves the commonly held opinion that he’s somehow heavier.
Q: Knowing that you are a bit of a seam head, I was wondering if you had caught any of the R.A. Dickey introduction at the Roger's Center and what you thought of the intro? I loved the fact that he used the words, "neophyte, metamorphosis and Zen" all in the same interview. Interesting athlete (being a knuckle baller and all) and an even more interesting personality.
Tom H, Guelph
A: I heard a very little bit of it but was hugely intrigued. I like any athlete that will engage in conversation rather than simply answer questions, I hugely appreciate people with interesting lives they are willing and able to share lucidly, I think Dickey will take the city by storm. I also think that if he loses four outings in a row and the knuckleball doesn’t flutter, fans won’t give a rat’s bum about his vocabulary or personal history.
But it’s going to be fun while it lasts.
Q: Hello Doug. Is there any way we can impose a moratorium on the concept of 'culture change' on all leagues, coaches and general managers? It seems that whenever new coaches or managers are brought in they like to discuss changing the culture as if some bad culture is what currently plagues their team. It's like a catch all phrase or concept. Has it always been such or is it the current 'fad'? They all seem to come in and talk about being a hard working team, one that will focus on defense, play an exciting style, be difficult to play against, wanting to protect home field, etc, etc, etc. Yet they all want to change the culture. It's beginning to get nauseating. I wonder, do you roll your eyes every time you hear about culture change from coaches and general managers? Your thoughts on the idea of culture change would be appreciated. Thanks!
Dominique K, Ottawa
And if I never hear “score the ball” again I’ll be quite fine.
This whole concept of “culture change” is so nebulous and vague it’s not even worth writing down any more. Everyone wants “culture change” when they take over because they are generally taking over because the people before them failed miserably and if they didn’t want to change the way things are, they shouldn’t have applied for the job.
Q: Dear Crazy Beggar. It's precarious; but the Raptors are within shooting range of that 8th position in the standings, with a lot of basketball yet to be played. Sweet!
It looks like it will be a battle between Toronto, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and possibly Detroit right until the wire. Of those four teams, Toronto has looked the strongest of late (we'll see what happens Sunday), Milwaukee has had a mid-season coaching change and is sliding a bit, and Philly seems to be feeling the effects of some roster changes.
Do you think they're going to pull it off?
Thank you and all the best,
Bittah Assassin, Leeds, UK
PS: Wu-tang nicknames are ridiculous.
A: I have no clue, actually. I would doubt it because for as good as the schedule has been for the last month, it’s going to get hard again and that hole was very deep. I do think, and have thought for a while, that they will play more important games later in the season than they have in the past four years or so.
Q: Wanted to know if you agreed with this. Do you think its possible Acy's getting extended minutes because Ed Davis or Amir Johnson is about to get shipped off for Rudy Gay.
Racket R, Toronto
A: Mere words cannot express how much I disagree with that and how far off base you are.
But thanks for playing along.
Q: Hey Doug: Any news on JV or AB? If the Lakers were to offer the Raps Kobe in exchange for the Raps' water boy, would you do it? What if the water boy was a really good water boy? ;>)
I asked earlier about where your preferred seating in an arena is. How about on a plane? Front, middle, back? Aisle or window seat? First class or cargo?
Thanks for all of your hard work -seemingly non-stop - for us. I hope you know that you are truly appreciated.
Tim H, Windsor
A: First class? What’s that? I remember hearing something about it.
For short flights, I like aisles as close to the front I can get so I can get on the plane late and off quickly; if I’m headed way west, a nice window to lean up against to sleep is very welcome.
And I will say this about flying, since Super Family got me one of those handy-dandy iPad Mini things, watching video or typing is way easier.
Q: Hi Doug Haven't written in a long time! Great win yesterday. Sad I didn't get to see any. I really liked MKG's hustle and heart in college. You got a chance to see him yesterday. What do you think? Where's the ceiling at this level? (player comparison would be nice).
David W, North York
A: Friday night? Looked like a terribly lost rookie playing on the league’s worst team. But that’s just one game and he was much better the last time I saw him. And you’ll forgive me if I don’t do “ceiling” because I have no idea what it means – nor do you, right? – and I can’t honestly do a player comparison off seeing him for two games.
Q: Hi Doug, your comment on the outlet pass was valid, but on the two plays prior to that Fields ran the floor equally hard, similar to Demar running the floor and Calderon finishing. Bottom line, you run, you put pressure on the opposing team. I have a hustle stat and it usually plays well into the final score. The starting five is playing well, and it has been beaten to death about what will happen with Andrea when he comes back. Do you think a trade could be done with the Bucks to bring Illisova to Toronto? I have often said that he is the kind of forward the Raps need. Rebounds, three pointer, and plays hard on defence.... thoughts?
Matt D, Dorchester
A: I don’t know about a trade, Milwaukee may very well want to hang on to pretty good player they signed to a big contract last summer. I will tell you there are people in the Raptors organization who like Ilyasova an awful lot and would love to have him. But not at any cost.
Q: Hey Doug, been reading a long time- you do a great job. While you are not a 'fan' of the team, you must still have some professional hope that the Raps win- less angst, more interest in the team, and playoff stories. When's the last time you made the big print on the cover of The Star with a Raps story? Was it Bosh's exodus? The last playoff win?
Also, I have no way of buying your paper to support what you do- how does The Star monetize the internet from their advertising? Is it page views or clicks on banners? Just trying to do my part to keep this going.
A: I really don’t care a bit about “big print on the cover” to tell you the truth. Where my story gets played is the least of my concerns. And isn’t it only logical that they’d be happier and therefore easier to deal with when they win? Sure, but it doesn’t make my job appreciably different; in fact, some angst and anger around a losing streak makes for better stories.
I think there are minds a lot sharper than mine who are several pay grades ahead of me trying to monetize the interwebs; no sure they’ve got it figured out. And when I’m talked to about the website stuff, it’s hits that come up in conversation.
Q: Hi Doug. The Pistons and the Raptors are both 7-3 in their past 10 games. Somewhat encouraging signs for two rebuilding teams. Comparing the young building blocks on both teams, what team would you say presently has the most upside?
Joe S, Kingston
A: Without knowing Detroit’s long-term salary situation – I believe it’s not all that great – and knowing that DeRozan, Ross, Valanciunas, Davis and Johnson are all 25 or younger, I’d have to say Toronto.
Andre Drummond may end up being pretty good – time will tell – but he’s about the most promising “young” player on that Pistons roster.
Q: Hey Doug. Sadly, lots of talk in the T.O. media lately about the resignation of Toronto District School Board head Chris Spence due to plagiarism.
Having been a scribe for many years what are your thoughts about this whole topic? The athletic world is full of cheats thanks to the use of steroids. Is plagiarism the academic equivalent?
I'm sure you've been put in the hot seat many a time when the Tall Foreheads impose a tight deadline to submit an article. Have you ever been tempted to do a "Google" search and borrow a few lines from someone else?
Or do you believe plagiarism is the most lowly deed a writer can do and punishment should be swift and severe.
Thanks for your insight into this unfortunate topic.
Frank M, Dubai
A: I can’t abide plagiarists, especially serial ones, as I mentioned in the daily blog on Friday, I believe it was; it’s lazy and cheating. And I can honestly say I’ve never, ever had he urge to cut and paste someone else’s work under any circumstances. Not only is it ethically abhorrent, if you know me and computer ability, it’d be harder to find something and do it than it would be to simply write.
Q: Doug, not to belabor the Enigmatic Roman, whose best future role may be as Jason Kapono (but softer). But while we are in the category of grossly-ill-advised personnel decisions, would you not agree that young Jonas is nowhere near ready to play anything but garbage time at this stage? He routinely gets pushed about 10 feet under the basket on defense. Perhaps in about 3 years and 50 pounds, he could challenge Roy Hibbert. Do you believe BC is pushing him onto the court ahead of DC's objections?
Wilf T, Aurora
A: You are belabouring it and the cheap shot about Kapono is rather childish.
And I believe you’re also dead wrong on Valanciunas and it’s pretty obvious that you missed the first 20 games of the season or have not seen much professional basketball because there were times when he acquitted himself quite well. Oh, and no, no one’s pushing anyone.
Q: Been thinking of big man coaches. Seems the go-to guy these days is Olujawon, although I have some real respect for Patrick Ewing did with the uncoachable (it appears) Dwight Howard. Jabbar always seemed too cerebral on the occasions he ended up trying to help out Laker bigs. So, is coaching in Kevin Garnett's future? Not as a head coach, his head would explode. But what about as a big guy guru? As a side issue, if he and Bargani were to somehow end up on the same squad, do you think he'd be able to extract the essential inner defender we saw the last month and a bit in 2011? Finally, for the bonus, has there ever been a good (read successful) 7-ft. plus head coach? George Mikan? Plenty of tall men ... Russell, Issel, Bird if you qualify 6-9 as big. But REALLY big guys?
Gary M, Brampton
A: There are those among us who don’t think Patrick Ewing did very much for Dwight Howard, to tell you the truth. I don’t think Howard’s offence evolved very much at all in his years in Orlando; he dunked, he dunked again, he had about six foot shooting range and shot free throws like he was blindfolded. So there’s that.
And I know the sample size is quite small due to injury but Amar’e Stoudemire is no closer to being like Hakeem Olajuwon than you are right now.
And I can’t come up with a successful or even unsuccessful 7-foot coach.
Q: Hi Doug. A correction if I may. Frank Ramsey before Hondo as Red's sixth man.
Keep the faith,
Frank B, Toronto
A: Dang. Should have remembered that one.
(Young ‘uns? Go google him)
Q: Hey Doug, here is a question/comment/rant. I was at the game today against OKC. My wife managed to score 2 good seats from her job and gave them to me to take one of my buddies. They were $257 a pop, tax in, sideline 14th row. I have been to the Raps games before, can't say I love it but today I finally realized why.
Let me preface this, I love sports, love the passion, competition and everything about it. Grew up playing football (the real one :)) and basketball in Europe. I would say that I understand the game better than the average fan, but by no means am an expert. Well today at the ACC I saw a good team pretty much have its way with our beloved Raps, kind of expected it, this is not why I got upset. The whole experience sucked, from the stupid circus-like introductions, the ugly blaring music before and during play to the non-stop promotions... IMO all this takes away from the game of basketball. Not sure why MLSE and the NBA think that they need all this to sell the game of basketball. Is it like this in all the cities, or does MLSE think that here the fans need all these shenanigans to lure them to attend games? May be, I am in the minority, but I would never pay my own money to attend this NBA "basketball" game. I would think that the fact that these are the best players in!_ the world playing in the best league in the world is enough to draw the fans of the game. _Anyhow, these are my 2 cents.
Nasko S, Toronto
A: Good rant. Have said it, in some form, for years.