The end of the weekend mail
Well played again, folks.
Thanks as always, some good stuff here. And when you take a break from this wondrous weather -- a nice peaceful day with friends would be nice -- enjoy.
Q: Doug, what are the top 3 must-dos for the Raptors to improve next season, apart from personnel changes?
A: That’s actually a pretty easy list if you take specific roster moves out of it.
They need to defend better, individually and collectively.
They need to trust and become more familiar with each other so that they have no compunction about passing up a good shot so that someone can get a great one and know that if the tables were turned, teammates would help them in that regard, too.
And they have to shoot three-pointers better because the overall impact on spacing for other wings and the emergence of Valanciunas as a post threat will increase exponentially.
Are those three things achievable? Without a doubt.
I have been thinking about the reaction to Jason Collins coming out both in the NBA and beyond. It was treated as almost a non-issue in the league. Does this indicate a general broad-mindedness or just that those who were upset with the event were smart enough to realize that it was best to just shut-up? Don't know if you saw this article about Glenn Burke?
The author makes the point that he expected the first openly gay athlete of this generation would come from baseball. This got me thinking about the 'cultures' of the four major sports. Could you give a summary of how you see each - you can include MLS If you want?
A: I like to think the reaction spoke to the way society as a whole is evovling, it’s seen as not that big a deal but I still contend the message it sent to young people, teens who may be strugglng with things, was the most significant part of it.
As for the cultures? I know this is probably too stereotypical but I do think basketball – with its history of race relations and its record with hiring of women in significant roles – is a bit ahead of the curve as an inclusionary sport. It didn’t surprise me at all that it was so accepting of Collins’ announcement.
I think there there remains a macho, war-like element to football that is a bit off-putting, I think hockey is a bit more closed (even many of the Europeans who play have been trained or well-versed in the North American culture) and I think baseball crosses so many different cultures there’s a bigger mix than in any other sport and that makes it hard to pigeon-hole.
Q: Hello Doug.
There are lists going around of all the things that are new since the last time the Leafs were in the playoffs. How about a list of some improvements since 1967, the last time they won the cup. Can you list, say three things that you wished we still enjoyed? (Cheap gas? the Princess Phone? Howard Cosell?)
Any ideas on what we may enjoy when the Leafs do win the cup again. Flying cars? A transit system that works? A basketball team that is consistently in the playoffs?
Bob E, Kanata
A: Three things I wished we enjoyed now that we had back then?
World’s too fast right now.
And here’s one for you: If you’d asked in 1967 what we’d be enjoying if the Leaves didn’t win the Cup for another 45 or so years, I bet someone would have said “flying cars” then so I’m going to stick with that.
And interplanetary travel.
Q: Hi Doug
As now Mississauga has an NBL team and Brampton just introduced the A's what's you take on the NBL expansion? I believe Mississauga is a perfect location for the Power.
10 teams from 7 in two years, do you think there is a future for growing the league and have western provinces joined soon? Is there a long term plan, if so what does the NBL need to do to have a Canada wide 15-20 teams league?
A: I was going to get into this a bit more in the next little while but, yes, the NBLC expanding to Brampton and moving the Oshawa team to Mississauga is great for us folks on this end of the GTA but I really wonder if two teams in such a tight geographical area will work.
I hope so but I don’t know if it’s sustainable in the long-term.
As I’ve said from the very start, the most important thing is slow and steady growth, not getting ahead of themselves by trying to do too much too quickly and I think they’ve done that. Western teams may eventually work but I think they need to solidify every in our area and the East first. Montreal’s team has some issues that have to be dealt with and they need to have a solid, established base before too much more expansion is on the horizon.
So, I was sitting in a neighborhood bar the other night with a few friends, and the conversation eventually turned to....bars! And we started ranking the local ones. And then we branched out to ones we'd been to in Toronto, too. And we were having so much fun - which might have had more than a wee bit to do with a patio, a starry night and a couple (okay a couple times several times a few more) pitchers - we expanded the rankings to hotel bars the world over.
Now, some of my friends have travelled a bit more than I have (my pick was for the Coq D'Or at The Drake in Chicago - ever been? Historic significance: it opened the day after the end of prohibition! That's some timing, eh?) and named places like the Bar Hemingway at The Ritz Carlton in Paris (!) and the Bascule at Cape Grace Resort in Cape Town, and another in Hong Kong whose name escapes me.
Now, you've been around, and seen some things in your time, and I'll bet a few of those things and times might've happened in hotel bars. :)
Care to give us your favourite Top 3 Hotel Bars, and then maybe name one or two that you haven't been to as yet, but are definitely on your One Day I'm Gonna Get There List? Thanks!
Lorie P, London
A: I have been in the Drake bar, some years ago, but I remember it being pretty cool.
Now, most of the hotel lobby bars I find myself in these days are nondescript and the same, few stand out.
But three from all time?
The Oak Room at The Plaza in New York. Spent more than a few road nights in there finishing an evening with good company (Hello, Butch) and a good cigar -- that's how long ago it was. You never knew who you'd see in there, once said hello to Richard Belzer and while others were complimenting him for Homicide: Life on the Street, I was all about his star turn in Elmopalooza.
Not sure about the names of these next two -- lobby bars tend to meld together -- but there's one in a Marriott directly across from Hyde Park in London -- the other London -- that was very cool and one on the roof of a hotel called The President, I believe, in Athens that I remember as a standout.
Oh, the one in the Westin Prince in Madrid, too! Almost forgot that one.
Thanks for the call on the Hemingway joint, that vaults to the top of the list.
Q: Hi Doug
Should be an easy question to take care of hanging on the deck with Stella (but there are so many other good Belgian women out there... I digress).
Does Wayne Embry still have a role with the team? If so, to what extent?
I remember that he managed to come in post-Babcock and somewhat right the ship in terms of the cap and player situation, setting the stage quite well for the next guy. I'm not necessarily suggesting he do the same patch job (in fact, I don't think the situation is that bad -- I do see ability with the current roster for movement/improvement), but moreso pointing out that in many situations, it's not as hard as it seems to dig out of the hole.
Let's see, spent 18 days in Brazil in April, came back to Ottawa to 25 degree weather -- I guess I'll spend Saturday on the beach. Terriblyhard life we lead.
A: Yes, Wayne is still around in his role as a senior advisor to the board, Bryan and anyone smart enough to seek his counsel. He did spend more time here this season this he has In a couple, not necessarily putting out fires but he does act as a sounding board for everyone and his wisdom is appreciated and sought.
And I'm sure if there was ever a need for someone to step In for an interim period he would have been asked as he was after Rob's tenure -- his ability to jettison Jalen's contract was huge -- he'd consider it but they are no longer at that point in the middle of a season.
Q: With the dawning of a supposed new era for MLSE and renewed commitment for a winning sustainable culture for the Raptors, could there be a situation where MLSE would approve spending over the cap and possibly even luxury tax in order to put a better product on the hardwood? If the objective is to grow the game across Canada to the benefit of the MLSE media giant majority owners, would there be potential for payback for taking a cap hit in order to accelerate the road to a championship?
Rich S, Woodville, NS
A: They’ve actually spent “over the cap” for about the last decade and are projected now to be a taxpaying team, although that can be rectified with a summer roster move or two.
It’s not about spending freely, it’s about spending wisely; always has been, always will be.
And it’s easy to say “be a tax team” but with the constraints of the salary cap, you can’t just go out and give up small contracts for big ones. You kind of have to “build” to get into the tax by turning short-term contracts into longer ones.
Growing the game and the brand? That will come with winning far more than it will with silly indiscriminate spending.
Q: Doug, here are a couple of conceptual questions about assessing NBA rosters. Having superstars is the most obvious road to success however there are only a few true stars, such as Lebron. I would not put players such as Chris Bosh or Rudy Gay in the category of superstars who can carry a franchise. That leaves the bulk of the teams to build a competitive roster with chemistry and experience, within the salary cap system. When I look at the Raptors in 2012-2013, they had a large chunk of
unproductive salary dollars represented by people such as Andrea and Linas and a few others. So the questions are, is value for salary dollar a meaningful way to assess a roster and is management's offseason goal to turn those non-productive salary dollars into meaningful roster pieces?
A: No, I don’t think it entirely is, mainly becasue a few of the young stars are limited to what they can make by the rookie salary cap rules that lays out their first five years of earnings.
And I would suggest that if you looked at practically every roster of every team – even the “good” ones – you would find “large chunks of unproductive salary dollars.” It’s always – awlays – about spending wisely.
Q: Hey Doug,
I'd like your thoughts on a new playoff format that I think would add some juice to the often-boring first round. I doubt I'm the first to think of it, but I think it would be so cool.
Instead of automatic matchups (1 vs 8, etc), allow/force the top seed to take first pick of who they want to face, then 2nd seed until all the matchups are made. NOW we have a story to follow with each series because it is suddenly personal. Imagine the Heat picked the Hawks because they thought they matched up well. Wouldn't that light a fire in the Hawks players? Wouldn't it create great rivalries going forward?
It would also give an even greater advantage to getting the top seed since you would be able to control your own destiny even more - giving regular season games more importance. I don't see how anyone loses money on this so I think the NBA would go for it too.
Paul C, Brantford
A: Sounds pretty cool, so good, in fact, that they do pretty much exactly the same thing in the D League now.
Not sure if works with the real considerations taken into account: TV and arenas. But it might be something they’d look at. But how do you then do the second and subsequent rounds, taking into consideration, again, TV and arenas.
And I don’t think there’s ever been an issues with top regular season seeds worrying about anything so I’m not sure how that factors into it but I guess it could.
Q: Hi Doug,
I have long respected Chris Broussard's basketball reporting and opinions; however, his latest interview on OTL would have been more at home on FOXNEWS. A judgemental and negative reaction Jason Collin's homosexuality is exactly why gay athletes are uncomfortable 'coming out' and Broussard gave it to him. What is your take on Broussard's reaction? What should/will ESPN do?
A: I think they should do as they did: Distance themselves entirely from the substance of the comments while admitting that they have no control over one man’s opinions, as distasteful as they may be to a incredibly large number of people.
I saw a report somewhere that Jerry Sloan may come out of retirement. How cool would it be to have Phil as Prez and Jerry as coach... Could you see that scenario happen?
A: No, I couldn’t. Not enough money to pay them and I wonder about the mix.
And Jerry was interested in returning a year ago, no big news that it’s the same case this year and with maybe up to 10 jobs open, someone needs to hire him.
Q: I'd like to see a poll ...
My suggestion is:
New Team Name: Toronto Huskies
New Team Logo: the head of a black & white Huskie with blue eyes
New Team Colours: Blue, Black & White
Bo K, Mississauga
A:I don’t think you’d get too much opposition but you’re wasting your time. Not sure what the latest dissatisfaction is with the colours, logo or name but there’s no interest whatsoever at the corporate level to change. They’re quite okay with the brand as it is and don’t want to go to the trouble or expense to change it.
Stuns me that it’s such an issue with some people.
Q: Hi Doug,
Do you think OKC now regrets trading James Harden with the recent injury to Russell Westbrook?
Thanks again for your insights.
A: No, no more than they might have earlier. They made a decision based at least in part on long-term business and financial implications and while it sucks that Westbook got hurt in such a fluke manner it wouldn’t have set off any amount of “what if” thought.