The start of the weekend mail
You people slay me!
A late flurry of very good questions loaded this up as heavy as it’s ever been. And since I loafed a bit Saturday night – I covered a buzzer-beater soccer game, I was entitled – go through this for this morning and we’ll have the rest of them this evening.
Q: Hi Doug,
Several years ago, mired in the Isiah era, the Knicks were in the vicinity of being most disappointing sports franchises in recent memory. Perhaps the only saving grace from that time was bringing Glen Grunwald into the fold.
Now that he appears to hold the reigns, the Knicks have had arguably the best year of any team in the league, given pre-season projections and the rash of injuries that they have sustained.
I had a measure of admiration for Grunwald as being honest, self-effacing (in contrast to some other Raptors GMs), and forthright. His apology to the Raptors faithful at the end of the disastrous '98 season (see Isiah) at MLG was both a high and low light in the franchise's history.
Could you please reflect on the factors that led to Grunwald's dismissal and your appraisal of his work here and in NYC?
A: There was no one specific thing that precipitated Glen’s mid-season departure that I ever heard of; I think ownership and upper management just thought it was time for a change. I know the mixture of personalities between he and Kevin O’Neill, who was hired primarily by people above Glen’s pay grade when he was interested in hiring a guy by the name of Mike Woodson, was toxic and that might have had something to do with.
I will say this with 100 per cent confidence:
Firing Glen Grunwald was, by far, the single worst management move the franchise has ever made and likely will ever make. It set in motion a chain of events that took them the better part of a decade to dig out from under and it was the most regrettable move they ever made.
Q: Hey Doug,
A couple of random things for you:
What's the deal with Tomislav Zubcic? Is he still the property of the Raptors? Is he any good? Is he going to come over to the NBA anytime soon?
Last week you talked about Sports Icons Jackie Robinson and Mohammad Ali. I've got another that I can throw out there, how about Jessie Owens? In his time, he was about as global as an athlete could get and how about the courage as a Black American to go into Nazi Germany in the Olympics and out performs the world.
You did the grades for the players, coaches and management, but what about a grade for the Chicken?
Thanks as always,
A: Zubic is still property of the Raptors and the last time I asked about him was a couple of months ago and I was told he was going to come over and play in the summer league. That could have changed but I haven’t heard otherwise. Can he play? I honestly don’t know, guess we’ll find out.
Sure, Jessie Owens was hugely significant but he was more a one-off thing that either Ali or Robinson.
Q: Doug, I can supply a couple of questions for the mailbag. What do you think of the Cavaliers re-hiring Mike Brown? I think it is unusual to recycle a coach and wonder if he brings anything more than Byron. Does this affect the rumoured potential of LeBron returning to Cleveland to end his career?
I read yesterday that the NBA TV ratings are down this year? Why do you think this happened? Did the lockout last year keep the NBA in the news and lead to a record year? Did the games almost every night help? Did the lack of balance in the teams this year (which the CBA was supposed to fix) lead to the decline? Did the boredom of the Heat riding over everybody and expected to win the championship remove hope for other teams and their fans?
Do all the bottom feeder teams take away interest in games? Does the lack of Raptor games on TV in the USA ("USA-USA-USA") lead to lack of interest in the NBA? J
Dave B, Cornwall
A: It’s unusual to recycle a coach to the same franchise, no question, and I was quite surprised that the Cavs acted so quickly to bring back a guy they didn’t want such a short time ago. The LeBron thing, I think, is being over-stated. First, it’s at least a year away and I don’t think any team should make such a major decision on a coach with something that might or might not happen in the future in mind. Plus, I have spoken to people who’ve written extensively about LeBron and have some insight into his character and they suggest it will be talent around him rather than a coach that will be the biggest factor.
TV ratings? I imagine it has a lot to do with the basic fracturing of viewing habits, there are a lot of good other choices available and maybe some people just found what they think are better things to turn their attention to. It might not be because of anything basketball did; it could be what other networks did better.
Q: Disappointed to see that you wont do IGBT for the TFC. Would have been a fun change from the Raps, where you correct and (mildly) berate posters, to having the fans (politely) correct your soccer knowledge
A: The thing with the IGBT is that it needs some sort of talking points – like plays and baskets and issues – to be as interactive as I want. You can’t get that from soccer, it’s almost as if there’s too much action to slow down and talk about.
Sure, my knowledge isn’t nearly technically-sound enough right now (it’ll get there) but people say it’s the same in the basketball.
Oh, and if you’ve done any of the IGBTs, and I appreciate and expect you have, you know we need stoppages – whistles, quarter breaks, timeouts – for it to work.
Q: Hi Doug
It's always a pleasure to you read your blog daily. I have two questions for your mailbox. I'm asking you because I truly respect what you do. The topic is not Raptors related, but I think some of your readers might relate to this.
I'm revamping the way my company does business development on the web and I hired two very trusted marketing professionals to advise us. The new plan is for the individuals on the leadership team to blog alongside some of our subject matter experts to increase our web traffic, lead generation, and improve our overall brand. I believe this will be successful because the folks in my company tend to 'go big or go home'. Now I find myself needing to write on a somewhat regular basis on the industry I am in, for anyone or everyone to read. I'm an opinionated individual, and I've always been a bit of a black sheep with the way I think and I believe I am somewhat-not-normal with the way I think. Frankly.... Sharing worries bejesus out of me.
What are some guiding principles or rules that you put in place when you write your entries? What are some cardinal sins of blogging that you try not to commit?
If you find yourself in the Yonge/Adelaide area, I'll gladly buy you an adult beverage :)
A: Very cool on the blogging for your work, I bet it’ll make you feel far more “connected” to whoever it is you’re trying to reach.
My principles very simple, actually: Never mislead, never write something simply to provoke, always believe in what you’re typing.
I think readers of blogs want to know the writer on a deeper level than, say, a reporter so I would suggest letting them know a little about you personally. But the one hard and steadfast rule I have is no family names. It’s Super Son, Super Wife, Super Dog and that’s all. Ever. People don’t need too much information.
But mostly the one guideline: Have fun and don’t let the crazies get you down.
Q: Hi Doug
First of all thanks for the reminder about Sports Night! Think I saw them all but have never seen since so just downloaded both seasons. The ultimate compliment to this show was my wife, who hates sports, used to love the show as well.
My question is what Bryan and the Henchman are busy with now? I assume there is still pro scouting to do? Perhaps they have to stay ready in case they get a draft pick but I don't think they are the slightest bit interested.
Also just out of interest will the Raptors be represented at the draft lottery or does Houston have a representative in the chair? I assume the Raps have to send someone just in case they win the lottery and get up to top three.
Mike in Cambridge
A: There’s not a lot of scouting to do right now but if an agency is putting together some group workout they’ll go and take a look. There’s also the pre-draft combine in mid-May that they’ll be at; other than that, it’s business things, a bit of long-term planning (training camps, summer schedules for coaches to go see players, run of the mill stuff).
And, yes, they will have someone on the podium at the lottery and someone in the back to make sure nothing nefarious happens. I don’t know yet who those people will be.
Q: Hi Doug
I thought of this question while watching baseball the other night, but since this is a Sports blog, (and I'm sure that some of the answer will relate to basketball as well) here goes:
When teams travel, (thinking baseball) is there just one person in charge of uniforms, equipment, and other gear? And what happens? If a team has 7 games away from home, do they take enough bats for 7 games for each player for games and practice? Do they wear laundered uniforms, or new uniforms every game? Are the players in charge of any of their equipment?
Pretty much any insight on this would be interesting to me. Maybe there are questions that I haven't asked that you can answer that relate to equipment. I ask primarily about baseball because I assume that in basketball, the balls are waiting at each arena, and there is far less individual equipment. Also in baseball they play several games in a row, so two series back to back, away from home would be a bigger logistical nightmare.
A: It’s been a couple of years since I did any travelling to cover TOD so I’m going on memories from that time but I don’t imagine anything has changed substantially.
Teams generally have two, sometimes three travelling staffers who deal with equipment and the like and there’s also a gaggle of home-team clubhouse or locker room attendants who help getting things unpacked and settled in each different city. They’re invaluable to making things work.
I believe teams usually travel with two sets of uniforms – and they can get more flown in on a minute’s notice if need be – and they are laundered each and every day. If, for instance, the Raptors are on a road back-to-back the staffers who travel – hello, Kevin and Paul! – will usually be at the arena late at night or first thing in the morning getting things cleaned and set up. It’s a thankless job in a lot of ways.
As for bats? I can’t really speak 100 per cent to it but I imagine each guy has three or four on any trip; again, if they all get busted, either others can be shipped or they use someone else’s. Don’t imagine that happens a lot, though.
Q: In your view, how much of Andrea's problems with injuries and lack of defensive effort are attributable to a lack of off-season conditioning work? I know that when you're gassed, you need much more willpower to make your body exert the same effort (in my case this can happen halfway up a flight of stairs), and I think I've recognized that dead look in Bargs' eyes during games. Any insight from the coaching staff on how hard he works between seasons? He definitely doesn't look, um, overly conditioned
but I don't want to jump to conclusions because some body types just aren't conducive to Amir/Demar-type muscle definition.
Mike D, Toronto
A: No. I think Andrea came to camp last year in fine shape, he’d worked a lot of the summer with his own trainer in Italy and with members of the Raptors staff who went out to check him out. He also spent a fair bit of the summer here working out at the ACC.
Now, he did lose some conditioning when he missed that large chunk of December and January and that had an impact on him when he returned. And once you get that far behind in the middle of a season, it’s hard to get back to tip top shape but that’s for every injured player.
Q: Watching the Bucks get dominated begs the questions if it was better to just miss the play offs, get Lowery for a 10/11th pick in a weak draft, and go for a higher play off seed next season? Or is it always better to get there... even if it is for 4 short games?
A: It’s never, ever, ever, ever good to miss the playoffs, regardless. You get there, see what it’s like, take your lumps if necessary and learn first hand the differences between post-season and regular season play. I will never waiver on that.
Let's take our speculation to South Beach, it'll be like we work for ESPN (zing!). What's the Bosh-Calderon relationship like these days? Has it diminished since they were teammates? If you're Chris Bosh do you reach out to Jose this summer and talk to him about taking far less money in exchange for a ring?
Jose could average 15 assists in 26 minutes a night with that starting four surrounding him.
Sticking with the Heat, let's give Ray Allen his 2013 championship ring. Let's give him his 2014 championship ring. Ray Allen enters the Hall of Fame as...? Ray Allen's jersey gets raised to the rafters of ...? Does it change if you strip that second ring away from him?
A: I don’t think it’s diminished at all; it’s obviously not as close as it was when they saw each other every single day but I would imagine if the Heat asked, that Chris would for sure make a call or send a text to see if something could be worked out. And I recall specifically that Jose, when I first talked to him in Detroit near the end of the season, said money would absolutely not be an issue; it would be fit for himself and his family that determined where he signed.
And, yes, he’d look good in Miami for sure.
Allen’s an interesting one, especially if he gets a second ring in Miami. The Hall of Fame doesn’t specifically honour a player tied to a team he played for – there’s not a single hat or jersey or anything like that – but I wonder how fans will remember him. He’s had significant success in Seattle and Milwaukee, won championships with Boston and Miami and might be unique in that regard.
I’d say he’s a Heat if there’s another title but I could have my mind changed probably quite easily.
Q: Hello. Since Boston is proving that it helps to actually have a point guard, do you see any other teams lacking true point guards? The Huskies?
Mark Jackson says that Golden State has the best shooting backcourt ever in the NBA. Do you think he ever saw or heard about Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe? How about Jerry West and Gail Goodrich?
Will the Leafs handicaps go up due to their late start in the golf season?
Is BC a candidate for the Suns job? In honour of the impression left from his end of year presser, how about Lesley Gore's...Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows?
Enjoy your summer!
Bob E, Kanata
A: Well, given all the injuries, you could sure put the Lakers in that no-point guard group, couldn’t you? But those are unique circumstances; I’d also suggest Milwaukee has two “scoring guards” and no pure point but that’s debatable.
And while I laud Mark Jackson for sticking up for his players, he must have mistaken ingested peyote or something to suggest he has the best shooting backcourt ever. Nice try. Epic fail.
Q: Hi Doug
In answer to your plea for questions, I give you three.
I confess to being surprised at the issues around Rudy Gay's back. I thought that players submitted to a physical before being traded, and I guess I thought the physical would be far more through than what you or I get when we go for our physicals. Was this not picked up during his pre-trade exam?
Given the situation with Lakers, will they go for a re-build? And if so, do you think that Steve Nash will be available to be traded? (Not necessarily to the Raps but I can certainly hear people clamouring for a Bargnani/Nash trade if he gets put on the market.
When you graded the players recently, a lot of your list of things to do over the summer essentially amounted to "spend more time in the gym to get stronger". While respecting the fact that the players are in far better shape than your or I are (or likely every will be), it seems strange to me that they wouldn't already have done it on their own/had management bug them to do it over last summer, given how important this is for their careers. Can you elaborate?
A: Gay absolutely took and passed a physical when the trade was made but the back issue flared up later and I’m certain you know how those things can happen. It’s a chronic issue at all, he likely just got hit and it started to spasm and hurt. He played through it a bit and there’s no worry that it’s anything more than a week or two setback.
Not sure the Lakers can tear things down far enough to bottom out but there’s no question they need to somehow get younger and faster and that’s not going to be an easy task. Not sure they have a lot of pieces they can, or should, move to do that. It’ll be fun to watch what they can come up with.
Oh, the players – the vast majority of them – do have their own off-season programs but they are also basically young men with a lot of idle time and if their bosses can give them some structure, why wouldn’t they? It’s not that they are slothful the entire off-season but there may be specifics – upper body strength, agility, core work – that the team wants to see developed and the team’s training staff will design programs to achieve that.
Q: I know that "Making the playoffs" is the goal for next year but shouldn't we be setting the bar a little higher? Maybe shooting for a 4 to 7 seed? The Celts could and should probably blow it up, Atlanta has the Smith to worry about, and the Bucks could have Jennings, Ellis, and Redick bolt on them this off season. With our "Core group" and the "organic" growth of our young guys what's a realistic goal for next season? Also, so you think an 8th seed in next years playoffs would be enough to get BC a new contract (assuming he comes back this year)?
A: Sure, they should and they are. It’s not like they’ll only try to win enough games to finish seventh or eighth and be satisfied. But if you’re making public declarations, it’s best to suggest you’ll walk before you run, so to speak.
And we’ll let the BC stuff go for now, given the events of the last couple of days.