The start of the weekend mail
Okay, here’s the deal, folks.
Got these done, I see a couple of late-comers there this morning (and you know who you are) so have at these and we’ll be back in the morning with a bit more and a bit of look back at today’s game since I imagine there’s going to be some decompression time watching TV.
Q: Hi Doug
How do you assess the saga of Carmelo and the Knicks? Against some big coach-changing odds and many ups and downs with styles of play and adding lots of new players, somehow this team did come together and play with strength. Carmelo himself seemed finally to find a very comfortable place from which to exercise his tremendous abilities.
How did they do this? What does this story tell us about super-stars and how they do-don't adapt to a new team; about how a new team grows around such a star?
Their chances in playoffs?
Charles N, Toronto
A: I believe that, at some point, the game’s top players come to realize that winning cures a lot of ills and if there have to be subtle changes in attitude and play, it’s more than worth it.
I don’t think Anthony is a substantially different player today than he was a year ago today but he seems more comfortable in the team dynamic and, just important, his teammates and coaches are comfortable with him, too.
It takes time to figure things out for everyone connected with a franchise. And, it helps that the Knicks had tremendous success right off the bat to start the season so every saw how well it could work.
That said, I can see them getting to the conference final but that’s about it. I can also see them getting some injuries that won’t allow them to get past whoever they meet in the second round.
Q: Since you asked -- I have a question about "perspective."
I think of how the Coaches for any team, and especially struggling teams, have to keep a kind of perspective on their fortunes and misfortunes that will help them to keep on battling no matter how their future seems to be, for any given season. You've commented often on the "supreme confidence" of athletes at this level who will always always believe they can make the next shot or beat any team.
Then I think of the Coaches who have turned commentators who often offer us some useful insight into just how bleak things really are and why they are that way. Whether it's "Coach" Jack Armstrong or Stan Van, the ex-coaches
have no problem at all seeing real deficits in a team's make-up or its style of play or personnel issues.
So - and I understand that this is not the position you're in personally, but you do know some people - is there a real shift in perspective when
these coaches move from the bench to the booth? Do they actually start to see things differently, or do they simply work differently on how they respond to what they see on the court?
Thanks for keeping a tough season enjoyable, Doug!
A: Not sure there’s a shift in perspective more than an ability to speak openly and honestly that doesn’t exist when a coach is employed.
There is no way an active coach is going to be publicly and openly critical of another team or pick apart the abilities of players.
They think it – just like they think of and know the limitations of their own players – but it’s not politically astute to broadcast it worldwide when they’re actually working.
Q: Hi Doug
You've asked for questions so I shall give you one. But before that I would like to express my thanks for helping us go through this not so good
season. Without the blog and all, following the Raps would be close to unbearable. Anyways.
Going through Thursday's Q&A I noticed you said that the HOTH would not have started 4-19 with Nash on the team because "he wouldn't let it
happen". Would you be willing to expand a bit on that? Can a veteran presence on a team make such a difference? Wasn't José able to provide this?
Matthieu B, Bern
A: Yes, a veteran can make a huge difference in a team’s performance down the stretch of games. I can say with 100 per cent certainty that some of those last second losses wouldn’t have occurred with Steve running the show, he would have gotten someone a good shot, made one himself and just brought a sense of calm to everything.
Q: I think we were all surprised to see Dwane spend much of training camp and the early season focusing on offence. His rep was as a defensive specialist and we saw improvement in that regard last year. So I'm wondering if Dwane was trying to do it Bryan's way at the start of the season but as we know that did not go well. It seemed out of character for Dwane but maybe he was trying to keep the boss happy. Thoughts?
Dave M, Puslinch
A: Not sure if it was totally trying to keep the boss happy but that might have been a small part of it. I do know they – organizationally – thought the offence was a problem last season and needed some work.
I agree they probably had too much focus on an area that could work itself out and I am certain Dwane regrets not putting more emphasis on defence at camp, he said as much to us in the middle of the season.
Q: Hi Doug
Bill Simmons wrote this in his April 18, 2013 column:
"As for Valanciunas, the promising Raptors big man who's been averaging a 15-7 since mid-March, here's a true story: When Sam Presti was quietly shopping James Harden last October, he called Toronto to feel out a Jonas package. And got rebuffed. Quickly."
And there is a footnote to it:
"Our pal Chris Broussard told me this one and nearly made my eyeballs fly out of my head. But I got it confirmed - it's true.”
I'm wondering if you know more of the details of that proposal and I presume that other significant pieces were being sought as well. Because otherwise I find it astonishing.
A: Astonishing? Why?
Don’t know what, if any, other significant pieces would have been included but they would have been substantial in order to make a maximum contract deal with Harden.
I don’t find it astonishing at all that Bryan wouldn’t want to include his best young player – a 7-footer with unlimited potential in a deal.
That’s not surprising at all.
Q: Hi Doug,
I was wondering why you are talking about the Raptors including an asset of some degree in a Bargs trade. Why not just amnesty Andrea. I feel like this would be best as it would get rid of him, and we wouldn't lose anything (i.e. draft picks, or someone else). MLSE has the money. It is times like this they need to use it.
Isaac H, Toronto
A: Giving away assets for nothing to get nothing? Not the way I’d do business.
And to amnesty him gains you nothing, cap-wise, to bring anything back.
Look, this hate of Bargnani is out of all proportion and the scape-goating of him is ridiculous. Yes, he had a terrible, injury-plagued year; no, his NBA career is not over and he still a player in the league, regardless of what people here might think.
Thanks for all the season-ending news and reflections. Following up on your article handing out grades earlier this week, I am wondering if you'd be prepared to tell us what your grades would have been for Calderon and Davis had their seasons continued in the same fashion as they started with the HOTH.
A: Probably C-pluses, but we also can never know since they were gone for about 30 games.
Q: Hi Doug, thanks for another great season of reporting, sharing your insights, etc. It can't be easy doing this job for such a consistently unsuccessful team, but you do a great job.
I read your player report cards and I was wondering about Demar's three-point shooting. I haven't had chance to watch too many games on TV lately so I was wondering if you could talk a bit about his shooting form.
Is it pretty fundamentally sound? To me, that would mean that he simply has to get his "reps" in and he can see an improvement in his percentage. Or, does he need to fix anything in his stroke? In that case significant improvement might take a few years of restructuring.
Would like to hear your opinion or anything you've heard from coaches or other insiders.
A: Oh yeah, it’s fundamentally sound, a bit wristy and he could get his legs into it more but it’s not like he has to have it broken down and re-built by any stretch of the imagination.
It’s going to repetition and hard work and just a bit more lift with his legs but there’s no reason why he can’t become more proficient.
Q: Hi Doug,
You touched on coaches being fired after thier teams dismal season(s).
Some make sense I guess, but a coach can only be as effective as the players he's given.
A couple of questions....
Out of all the coaches who have graced the sidelines for the Raptors, who do you think was fired prematurely?
Of the assistant coaches in the history of the franchise are there any you think would make a good head coach?
OKAY a few questions.....
Where is Brendan Malone these days?
A: Of ‘em all? Sam Mitchell. Think it was a bit of a panic move far too early in a season.And I always wondered if Alex English wouldn't have made a good head coach.
Brendan took last season off for the first time in, I think, more than about 30 years. He had been with Stan Van Gundy in Orlando and it won’t surprise me at all if he doesn’t get back on a bench when Stan does. Or even next season if someone needs an “old head” assistant.
Q: Hey Doug, I know you have a busy schedule so I'll try to make it quick.
What do you think about DeJuan Blair to the Raptors this offseason? His efficiency level is through the roof, and when given the time to play, He's proven he can score as well as pass; he also has great interior rebounding.
Any chance the Raptors make a run at him in the off season?
A: There are huge issues about Blair’s long-term knee issues and how much he’ll be able to contribute and for how long. He’s solid and would probably be on a list but I think it would have to be a fallback position simply because of physical concerns.
Q: Hey Doug
I'm tired of geography dictating who makes the playoffs and how the playoff match-ups are formed. I think that the NBA should have the top 16 teams make the playoffs regardless of location (with the winners of each division getting automatic berths). To make things more interesting and to prevent a team from tanking at the end of the regular season to get a better match-up, the top seed would get to choose who they play in the first round.
The 1st place team can choose any of the other 15 playoff teams to play against. Then the 2nd place team will choose next, and so on. This would bring out the drama of Miami 'calling out' Boston because they think they can beat them. Or maybe San Antonio would pick to play against Houston to minimize travel time to get extra rest for the next round.
Also this would have a greater chance of the best match up for the Finals.
Currently, we often see the best games in the West semis or conference finals instead of in the actual Finals. So it could be for example a Miami v New York Final or San Antonio v OKC Final.
As we know the TV folks control the scheduling of the playoffs so this is what's in it for them. They will be able to cover the 'Playoff Pick Day' with 24 hour coverage. Analyzing why and how OKC think they can beat Atlanta or how Golden State feels as being the first ones picked. Then after the first round the brackets would be set so that the TV folks can plan for the rest of the playoffs.
So what do you think? Are you in?
Feel free to forward this to Adam Silver.
A: They already do that in the D League, which is pretty cool.
I love the idea, actually; it’d be like Selection Sunday only with good basketball teams and players.
But let’s tweak it and keep in the conference for the first few years until they find a way to balance the schedule better.
Next time I see Adam, I’ll bring it up. Promise.
Q: Hi Doug
I looked at your player rankings this week and had a difficult time reconciling them with your idea of the Raptors having a solid core moving forward.
You have rankings of D, C, C+, C- and a B for the guy you want to come off of the bench. Unless our F nets us a nice trade piece we have a pretty mediocre team here for the next few years. Even with a substantial improvement across the board we will not see an above average team next year.
We should see better teamwork from the wings and the post should be better at both ends. The car is still being driven by someone who understands an automatic but doesn't know how to make a standard purr.
Please explain how the core is solid based on the rankings you gave out.
Nice work on the F. He will likely be a C elsewhere next year, but it isn't going to happen here.
A: It’s easy. People can turn Cs into Bs and Bs into As by improving, getting more experience, working harder.
I’m told students do it all the time; I didn’t, of course, in my mis-spent youth but I understand it can be done.
Q: Happy Weekend Doug,
How about an update or your current opinion on several of the compelling stories from last year:
1. What's your opinion of the young Mr. Lin now? Above average point guard, average or would be better coming off the bench?
2. As disappointed as we are, I imagine the disappointment in Minnesota is an order of magnitude greater. Just when they get Rubio back for a full year they lose Love... what's the talk in Minnesota these days
3. Derrick Rose misses another post season... any word on the return of the former MVP and how disappointed are the fans / grunts in the Windy City that Rose's rehab is taking as long as it is?
A: We’ll go rapid fire with answers like rapid fire with the questions
Lin is an okay NBA point guard with shooting issues; my opinion has never changed, he was always a better story than a player during the whole Linsanity thing that was driven mainly by the voracious and creative New York media. He’s an NBA starter in many circumstances but not an all-star.
Minnesota is most concerned now about whether coach Rick Adelman, one of the all-time under-rated coaches, will be back; the injuries to Love and Rubio and the rest of them are just flukes in a bad year.
When I was in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, some fans were confused – not angry – as to why Rose could practice so much and so hard but not play; the grunts couldn’t really care less, all they wanted was a definite resolution to the story so they didn’t have to ask the same inane questions about him every single day.
Love your work.
Here's one for you. I get to about 5 or games a year and I was at the last one of the season vs. Celts and the one the week before vs. the Bulls.
Here is what I don't get and feel free to challenge this. I could not believe the crowds/fans, especially vs. the Celts. The place was jubilant/sold out. Cheering, supportive - doing the wave for gosh sakes. I don't get it - especially after a season full of disappointment and the historical underperformance of the franchise. The crowd had no hostility/edge. I'm not a proponent of booing but I thought the fans, after this season would have/should have a large degree of at least apathy. All I could see was support/enthusiasm.
My only thoughts is that the city is just dying for a winner, we will cheer @ anything. I know we have a great fan base (at least measured by attendance especially given our historical lack of success) but I was honestly a little uncomfortable with the love in.
Can you explain it?
A: Fans here are, in many ways, great. And I think a lot of them “get it” in that they should take every game as a one-off entertainment event and enjoy it for what it is.
Sure, the season was bad, the game was good and why not enjoy it?
I remember the Vince year that they sold out 40 of 41 home games, that was pretty indicative of what support will be like if they’re even marginally good again.