All of the weekend mail, unless more arrives
All right, folks, this is what I’ve got so far but I haven’t looked over there in a bit. Was a stool night.
Empty house, no plans until watching the game at 6 p.m. so if there’s more, I’ll putter around on ‘em.
Q: Hi Doug, Happy Easter! So my Dad, bro and I are all huge basketball (Raps) fans. My brother has made the following statement: If I had to call it right now, I'd say Nuggets over the Heat in six in one of the most exciting Finals of all time.
I'd like your thoughts.
Also, watching Calderon be interviewed by Leo and Matt just made me miss him so much, he is such a good guy. They mentioned they did dinner last night with him and 'the guys'. Who are the guys? Was it the whole team?
Finally, how far in advance do the Raps make their summer plans? Do any of them actually stay in Toronto? Do you know what any of their plans are, I pray they will spend the off season 'getting better' as that seems to be the resounding comment made in almost every interview. Thanks so much!
A: I’m not quite ready to get to the Finals picking yet because there’s so much uncertainty in who’ll finish where and what the matchups would be. But I agree Denver has as good as shot as anyone if they can get some homecourt advantage at some point. But with San Antonio, Memphis and Oklahoma City in the mix, the West could be incredible.
Not sure who had dinner with Jose, imagine it wouldn’t have been the entire team since others may have had plans but I heard it was about 7 or 8 guys including some of the support staff.
The players have started making plans but none will reside permanently in Toronto, they all have “homes” to get to. Most, however, will be back three or four times for appearances, to visit friends and to hang out.
I don’t know of any specific plans but all will be visited regularly by members of the coaching and training staffs wherever they are to be worked out and checked up on.
Q: Hi Doug.
I wanted to write my 3 biggest negatives and positives on the Raptors season and maybe get your comments;
To me the biggest disappointment was the defence. It seemed like Duane had them going in the right direction last year and I was optimistic this would carry-forward to this year. But defensively this team has taken a big step back
The whole Andrea thing. There's not much more to say but he really lost me after that 2 for 19 disgrace
Kyle Lowry. His ability to run an offence and score definitely has not come as advertised when the trade was made
The play of Amir Johnson has to be the highlight. What a warrior
The improvement in Demar's game. He's scoring more consistently (but the ball handling - yichh)
Maybe the Gay trade, but that is still up in the air
Marvin Hoppe, Toronto
A: Can’t disagree except to suggest Jonas has been a positive but, again, we’re really jumping the gun with more than three weeks left in the season.
Let’s get it over with before we do the post-mortems, okay? That’s what I’m going to do.
Re: streaks and their effect on teams-players.
Of course a streak gets noticed. They are very rare and hard to do!
Now we have The Heat; we've had The Dolphins, Dimaggio's hitting streak is the stuff of novels and full books - and will likely never be equaled.
How do you assess the meaning of streaks? Do teams and players really want to keep them going?
Maris almost died during his HR "streak season". Why are we SO enamored of them?
Charles N, Mexico
A: I think there’s a large sense of pride among players – and organizations – that keeping a streak going once it gets close to something newsworthy is very important to them. There were people in the Raptors organization, for instance, who were quite tied into the three-point shooting streak. I also know Mo Pete was really interested in his Ironman streak a few years ago.
Why do we like them? I guess it’s part of history, it’s being caught up in some on-going narrative that gets you through what is sometimes a dull part of a season and it’s bearing witness to something no one’s seen.
Imagine, if you would, that you are an up and coming GM. You are presented with three openings, the Raptors, the Cavaliers, and the Wizards. The offers are all the same and contain the same clause - your pay will double if the team makes the playoffs in 2014.
Which team do you choose that gives you the best chance to make the big money? And why?
Thanks for the reporting and the blog.
Adam M, Halifax, NS
A: Hmm, good one. I’d probably go with Washington because of their mix of youth and experience and I like the combination of Wall and Beale better than Irving and Waiters, as a twosome that is; Irving’s the best player in that group by far. But, and this is the HUGE issue, you have to guarantee me that both Irving and Wall are able to play a full season and nothing has happened that would suggest that’s true.
I like Toronto’s wings and bigs as much as any of those other two and would likely put them second.
But it’s Fool’s Gold because what’s on the roster today is unlikely to be on the roster in the fall and those summer decisions will be the most significant thing.
And before people go off half-cocked – or fully-cocked – about the draft pick the Raptors don’t have that the other two have, this is my point: NONE of those three teams needs to get younger, they all need more veteran presence.
A great SI cover, about the famous NCAA victory by Texas Western over Kentucky in 1966 that ties nicely to your nice comments about George Chuvalo. Also surprise link to current NBA basketball. I wonder whatever happened to the two players in the photo?Bruce, Mississauga_
A: I think the one guy went into MMA and fights Danny Ainge for some championship belt soon.
Q: In your Thursday's blog you stated that you will do an evaluation of the team as the season closes out. I think we can all agree this has been a disappointing season. I really think there is enough talent on this team to be better than they are. Without giving away too much from your end-of-season evaluation (EOSE) what is the biggest issue. Is it as simple as needing a floor General
Is it that the pieces don't fit together? Is it lack of physical and/or mental toughness? Is it that the system don't fit the players or vice versa? Is it motivation? Or is it a combination of all of the above?
One thing that I thought at the beginning of the season and Jack mentioned it last night, I thought Jamaal was a critical piece of last year's team and they miss that toughness. Can this explain the lack of defense?
Dave B, Cornwall
A: You people are killing me with all this stuff about the season wrap-up when I have to save some of it for when, you know, the season wraps up.
But it is definitely a combination of all those things and I’m going to add two more:
I don’t know that there was a very high trust level among teammates early in the season that caused a lot of those late-game failings and I do think there needed to be more offensive creativity at crunch time in all those games they lost in the last 90 seconds or so.
And no on Jamaal. Sure, they missed the very few minutes he played but it doesn’t explain the lack of wing defence or man-to-man responsibility.
I have given up on the Raptors, as they seem like a rudderless ship adrift with no captain any where in sight. So let's talk music...I am determined to get you to see that great music is still being made. Ray Lamontagne is so shy he used to play with his back to the audience.....but man oh man can he belt it out. Watch the first song in this BBC clip!
A: Well, I can’t give up on ‘em because I get paid to write about them and quitting is not an option.
But that does imbue some optimism about the state of the art today.
Q: Lots of nice stuff in the papers about Jose Calderon the past few days -- and as someone repeatedly reminded us, his skills - both on and off the court - wouldn't truly be appreciated until he'd left the Raptors. And it sure seems as though that someone knew something.
Now, I've got a couple of questions based on some of these articles.
First, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Rob Babcock as the discoverer and signer of Jose, but another name appeared in one of the stories I read: a Scott Howard. Is Mr. Howard still with the Raptors?
Next, in your story you referred to there being a couple of reasons that Jose almost certainly wouldn't return to the Raptors, economics was one reason and the other was 'optics'. I think I know what you mean by 'optics', but in case I'm on the wrong track, could you expand on that a bit?
And, finally, after reading these words in your story..."Jose Calderon never really had a lot of peace of mind during his last few years in Toronto: there was always someone nipping at his heels and wanting his job; a front office that never came out and anointed him as a leader on the team; rumours swirling one after the other; a general manager who eyed his expiring contract as an asset more than he eyed the man as a player."....the final few words had me irate (again!) at Bryan Colangelo, but after some deep breathing and inner reflection, I guess it just makes clear that I don't have what it takes to be a general manager of a professional sports team..."the man as a player" would always trump the "expiring contract" for me. Especially where Jose was concerned. So, I hope we all stand and cheer and show our thanks when he returns to the ACC on Monday. We were fortunate to have him. Thank you.
(Oh, and about the Easter treats...because one of my sisters had a pet rabbit the rest of us kids had to be sensitive and not eat chocoate Easter Bunnies; instead we got those large Laura Secord cream-filled, chocolate-covered eggs. But my own kids
got lots of chocolatey rabbits - very solid, very large and very enthusiastically eaten from the ears down!)
Lorie P, London
A: No, Scott Howard, who was a scout, left right around the same time Rob did and I’ve lost track of him.
And by optics I mean that I don’t know if the present regime, which traded Jose away partially so that they could give Kyle the job after trading for, could bring him back without causing a bit of consternation.
I would fully expect a warm reception tomorrow night, I believe that’s only logical.
Q: Hi, Doug,
A follow up on your comment that there doesn't seem to be much coaching on display during March Madness.
To the extent that you have watched the games this year, do you see any coach coaching? Did some actual coaching -- and preparation -- lead to any of the upsets? Is a team like Butler -- a perennial 'upsetter' -- better coached? And, finally, which US college coach has seemed the best to you over the year at coaching?
Fine with me if you answer once March Madness is over, though I realize it may depend on how many questions you receive (or don't receive) before that!
Eric in NS
A: I see some, sure, but it’s like I’ve said before, coaches get too much blame when things go wrong and too much credit when things go right.
The thing about college coaches, in my opinion, is that they are more CEOs than coaches, they “run programs” more than coach tactics.
Not all, of course. Tom Izzo seems to be a good one and I’m sure there are others.
Q: Hi Doug,
In light of Miami heats winning streak being over. I had a question about team and individual records.
Say, to beat the current longest winning streak of 33 games, the heat had to win their last game. Would it be smart to still play their starters till the end of the season? While most teams are limiting their starters minuets to get ready for the playoffs and limit the chances of injury. What kinds of records should teams and players "go for"? Should there be any? considering a championship should be the ultimate goal of any team.
Chris M, Toronto
A: Sure it would, if that were the case. One, it’s history and why not chase it because you may never get another chance. And this whole “rest” thing is over-stated, if a team is good enough to be doing something that no other team has ever done, surely it can get a breather in the two or three days before a post-season series begins to be ready.
Sure, a championship should be the most important goal but it’s not a mutually exclusive thing; you could go for one with no repercussions on a run another.
How 'bout Reggie Evans with 22 points and 26 (12 offensive) rebounds last night against Portland? The guy was always an excellent rebounder, but WOW! Did the Raptors get anything for him when he left?
David Cooper, Edmonton
A: Reggie is an absolutely wonderful rebounder and always will be. The Raptors let him walk as a free agent and got nothing for him because (a) they didn’t want to offer much money or many years and (b) they thought at some level he would retard the development of young players like Ed Davis and Amir Johnson. They were probably right on the latter given where the franchise was, what its goals were; I might not have made that choice, ultimately, but I’m not a GM, or a coach. Or anybody, really.
Q: Hi Doug. Big fan of your daily blog. The one thing that concerns me about the Raptors now is the stamina of DeMar DeRozan. He's a high character player with a strong work ethic to get better, but to be honest, he's playing tired these days. He has had to carry a big load for the Raptors this season. His numbers this month, especially shooting percentages (regular FG% and 3 point FG%) are down compared to earlier this season. He's on pace to set career highs in total minutes played and minutes per game in addition to playing in every game this season to date. And his shooting percentages in the fourth quarter are poor compared to the first three quarters (mid 40s first 3 quarters to high 30s in the 4th). These are all signs of fatigue and exhaustion. Should the Raptors coaching staff recommend to DeMar to rest for a month or so after the season? Don't touch a basketball. Just rest and recharge his tired body.
Thanks and keep up the great work.
Michael Torres, Toronto
A: He’s got all summer to rest and recharge his body and he didn’t look too worn out getting 21 in Detroit on Friday. These guys need to play and learn each other and win some games to at least feel a bit better about themselves.
The kid’s, what, 22, 23 years old? Play, take a month off and then get back in the gym and work on the game. Everyone’s tired at this time of year but fatigue is no reason not to play. It’s his job, earn the money.
Q: Mr. Smith,
Thanks again for all you do. The Star -- and we -- are lucky to have you.
I'm eagerly awaiting the day that the C-suite figures it out and gives you the keys to your own Grantland/Peter King digital fiefdom.
In the meantime, a question: if you had to design a team, 1-12, based purely on archetypes, how would it shake out?
A penetrating, pass-first PG? A spot-up, three-point shooting SG? A slashing, above-the-rim SF with elite defensive skills?
A veteran, butt-kicking, 12th man who waves the rally towel in a circular-to-the-right motion? And so on, and so forth.
I'm very interested in the response. Again, thank you for sharing your talent for writing and passion for story-telling with us!
All the best,
A: Well, you’ve hit on the archetype roster and you could go down your list and fill it in, I’m sure.
But I will say this: The very first thing I would get would be a point guard, someone who can create for himself and others and who inspires confidence in his teammates and his coaches.
If you want my order, I’ll give you this:
PG, defensive-minded wing who can score a bit, a slashing three, a three-point shooter, a tough 4, a back-to-the-basket five, a scorer off the bench, a thug for those times when one is needed, and lather, rinse, repeat to fill out the 15-man roster.