The end of the weekend mail
And it looks like we might be done; had hoped to get this done a little bit earlier this morning so I could watch the gorgeous views in Monaco but some late-arriving questions kind of distracted me.
Not that I minded, mind you …
Anyway, have at this, looks like a great day ahead, go and enjoy it.
Q: What's the end game?
Create equity for MLSE? When the hockey pucks will pay a substantial increase for 1st round play off tickets. What would be paid for Cup tickets but that was always going to happen, even in the Richard Peddie days.
What's the upside for the Raps? We're paying a top ten ticket price for a lower quartile product, can't be good news for us long term.
Bryan and his team were well informed basketball professionals, just don't see an overnight sensation.
Don't follow MLS, maybe the NFL affiliation, apparently Mr. Leiweke is well connected but didn't bring the NFL to LA at the end of the day.
TV footprint for the Raps is marginal, brand has diminished.
Diversify holdings outside of core? Not a smooth start.
I have plenty of disjointed thoughts we've been through one showman, just not comfortable with another.
Obviously the Rogers/Bell affiliation is looking for a"lift", short term has to come from the Raps?
Johnny C, Mississauga
A: I wish I knew what the end game was, I don’t think anyone truly does.
The NFL is a pipe dream, I don’t care what anyone says so I can’t see that being it.
But MLSE, for all the talk about winning championships is a for-profit conglomerate with sports franchises, arenas, bars, restaurants and real estate holdings and maximizing those profilts – which comes with greater success by the core aspects of the business – has to be a huge part of what they do, doesn’t it?
Yes, the Raptors have not maximized their earnings or their place in the national sporting landscape, improving that as compared to “growing the brand” of the other sports is first and foremost and I guess that’s why we’re hearing so much chatter about corporate interest in just one facet of the business.
Q: Greetings Doug. Thanks for all that you do. Could you explain a "day in the life" of a president of basketball operations, or for that matter, what his calendar would look like for a week? Are there real functional responsibilities and are they different early as opposed to later in the season? I'm assuming the position/role varies from team to team in the NBA.
Jeff S, Owen Sound.
A: I wish I could but there is no legitimate answer because every day is different.
A calendar could include everything from scouting meetings to meetings with potential sponsors, telephone calls to agents or other team presidents or dealing with various in-house aspects of the business.
There could be reports from subordinates to read and either approve or comment on; there would be planning for such things as summer league or the fall training camp or things like travel next season.
At this time of year, it’d be a bit less game-specific; during the season you might want to sit down with the coach every now and then, or deal with league issues, things like that.
But there is no template, work happens when work happens and, like mine, the best part of the job is that there’s little routine and every day is different.
Q: Hey Doug
Rudy Gay must have mixed emotions seeing his former team do so well in the playoffs. On the one hand, he's not a part of it, but on the other, he'll get a playoff share.
Which got me to wondering: How do they dole those out? Would all former players get the same amount regardless of how much they contributed this season or would they get a share in proportion to their salary/longevity/minutes?
A: To the best of my knowledge, and this is gleaned from casual conversation with some members of the staff here and colleagues around the league, it’s much like, say, baseball, where shares are pro-rated mostly for time served during a season far more than it does production or longevity or salary.
Q: Haven't written in a while, but I kept reading your work. Great. stuff.
I am curious to see what MLSE thinks Canada's basketball team will look like. I am really curious to see how well the decision makers know Canadians and what that translates into on and off the hardwood. Doug if you were going to GM a team without constraints, What would your Canadian Team look like? Is there a style of play and attitude that Canadians love and who in the NBA best demonstrates that at each position?
A: They think, like we all do, that this is the most promising time in the organization’s history but that’s about it; Canada Basketball is an autonomous group and other than offering support in financial and other ways, they want nothing to do with meddling in the on-court product.
And until we can see just who is on the team – and for the first time maybe ever there will be true competition to even make the squad – all I’d say is that the team should play fast and aggressive defensively because the depth could be very impressive.
I warn you, though: These are basically young and inexperience players going against time-hardened men and great success will not come quickly.
Q: Hi Doug:
There's been a lot of talk about current Nuggets GM, and former Raptor A/GM Masai Ujiri. I'm guessing that part of the reason is because of his roots with the Raps. That got me thinking about former Raptors GM Glen Grunwald who is now the GM of the Knicks, I believe. I understand that Knicks ownership keeps pretty close control over all its employees so we don't hear from him much at all. And with an involved (interfering) owner, it might be hard to know how many of the decisions there are the GM's and how many came down from the owner (e.g., the Stoudamire deal?).
I'm just wondering how he's doing in NY: if he's perceived as a good GM there. Also, any chance they would try to bring him back to T.O. or is firing a GM then bringing him back just something that isn't done? I can't think of any other ex GM that I'd want to bring back, other than Isaiah, of course. (kidding?)
Kirk M, Ottawa
A: I talked to Glen a couple of months ago, I guess it was, and h was doing very well and while it’s frustrating for people covering the team, I can see the benefits to an organization in not having too much media attention on decision makers so they can go about their business on their own.
The perception? That he was able to put together a good, veteran team and he was lauded most of the season for his acquisition and player moves. But, funny how this works, now that the season has ended and serious questions arise about what can be done to improve the team in the off-season, there are critics about the makeup of the roster.
It is forever thus.
Q: Fess up, Doug, all this secrecy about the new GM is just a smokescreen until the announcement that one Doug Smith, late of the Star is the guy. Hope you got a good contract. What will be your first moves as new (sort of) head honcho? What new team name and colours are you pushing for?
Bruce C, Mississauga
A: If I left, I got a good contract, don’t you worry about that.
First moves? Assure Ed Stefanski, Dwane Casey and Marc Eversely that they are fine for the next years of their contract.
Then I’d call 29 other GMs and tell them we were open for business and see what talks would come of that.
Name and colours? I do nothing at the moment and since I like red, white and black, I wouldn’t change those a bit; I’d probably ask my top advisors what they thought about a name change, knowing it won’t happen for two seasons and see if someone smarter than I comes up with something unique and good.
Q: Hello, Mr. Smith. How are things shaping up for The Mighty Navy Tigers? And what might the story be behind the "Navy" part?
Does the team have a motto? (Wouldn't "Pound the rock" maybe fit a baseball team even better than a hoops team?)
Now that we're in high GM hunting season, who do regard as the NBA's best/top four or five?
Thanks for the great blog!
David M., Ottawa
A: We’re 1-1 and facing a couple of games this week; had practice time taken away on the weekend for some tournament that used all the parks we’d normally get so we’re going into them a bit behind.
The Navy part comes from the fact our organization – Mississauga North – has four teams in the same league, which is run by the Mississauga Baseball Association and covers a handful of different leagues that couldn’t run full “leagues” at our age level. This year, some team scooped up the red jerseys early, we got navy so ….
Have fun, play for your teammates and extra innings forbidden because there’s a post-game coaches meeting.
And since GMs are so all over the map – Sam Presti was brilliant until he traded James Harden; Darryl Morey was outstanding until he blew it on Royce White – it’s hard to get to five.
But if I had to, I’d probably be okay with any of RC Buford, Mitch Kupchak, Pat Riley (he is the de facto GM), Glen Grunwald or Donnie Walsh running my team.
Q: Hi Doug,
I'm wondering how you would compare the Raptors Rebuild to that of Cleveland and if you had to choose which team is in a better position to date...who would it be.
A: Cleveland’s younger, more unproven, has had minimal success of late and finished with a worse record than Toronto did. If – and this is the biggest if imaginable – they continue on their path, there might be a time when they are better. I don’t know that, though, and no one does.
If I had to choose? Probably Cleveland today but it’s a crapshoot, as it always is.
Q: Hi Doug,
Liewicke has expressed that the new GM will have a fresh perspective with no ties to any of the current players on the roster. I think I remember back when Colangelo came in as GM, it was said he immediately identified the "keepers" and the "non-keepers" on the roster, and acted accordingly.
If you listen to Colangelo, the players he has currently acquired would mostly be "keepers".
I realize this is extremely hypothetical and will depend entirely on who (looks like Masai at the moment) comes in as GM, but if you had to guess, which players on the current roster will be back, and which ones might be traded as a result of this unbiased judgement of the current state of the team and its pieces?
For example, does the new GM mean Bargnani gets comfortable again and stays? Might Gay, Derozan, Lowry be moved (as Colangelo "cornerstones")?
Basically, what would an "unbiased" view of the current roster be, in your estimation?
A: I think the unbiased view is precisely the view we’ve been talking about here for months: It’s an okay roster that lacks depth, needs needs three-point shooting and toughness and time to grow together.
I don’t know – and can’t guess – at what a new GM thinks specifically of the players but I’ve thought since February that Andrea has played his last game in Toronto and needs to be moved and that there are pieces that need to be put into place.
Whether a new GM – whether it be Masai or anyone else – can pull that off is the great unknown.
Q: A question that might be too obvious and easy for the mailbag but I have to ask it, anyway ('cause I don't know the answer): Is it a given that NBA players not in the playoffs who are or might be overseas watch every minute of what's going on in this current run to the NBA Championship?
I've been so enjoying the playoffs and last night's (Friday's) Pacers win over the Heat has me in awe of the game - all over again - and I'm wondering specifically about my favorite young NBA center, Jonas Valanciunas, and if he would have access to all of the playoff games wherever he might be? With Lithuania being the basketball hotbed that it is, I'd imagine the NBA playoffs are a big deal there, but . if that wasn't quite the case or if he was elsewhere, would the Raptors (at least) make certain that young players like JV get whatever benefit there would certainly be in watching the best-of-the-best giving their best-of-their-best for the ultimate NBA prize?
A: I think there are some players who don’t watch a second of post-season basketball because they want a clear break from the game and don’t care who wins or loses if they are not taking part.
And there are others who follow friends and former teammates with something of a rooting interest.
I would say the majority would be the latter, players like to stay up to date but certainly not with the fervor of true fans.
Jonas? He wouldn’t have as much access as you and I and I would imagine he’s catching some games every now and then but not one every night. Could be wrong but I bet I’m not.
Q: Hi Doug
Very late (sorry!) submission, so this may not make it into this week's mailbag, and if that's the case I'll send 'em along in comments!
First, I know you don't play reindeer games, but the mention of Garbo this morning had me wondering this: do you think that if he hadn't sustained that horrible leg injury, and had gone on to have a splendidly successful career as a Toronto Raptor, that the organization would have invited him in his post-playing days to stay and work as an 'ambassador' or 'community liaison' or in some other such position? And how cool would that have been?
Second, why the change from 'Red' to 'Navy'? Are this year's Tigers mandated to be more cerebral and zen-like and less angry and aggressive: is this a change in philosophy, strategy or simply an adjustment because of sponsor colour preference?
And third, (and most imporant!) I always enjoy your updates on the SWNT and am wondering if you'll be receiving updates and reporting on their European exhibition games throughout the summer?
Lorie P, London
(And did Super Family get to go see the Cawthra Choir's performance Saturday night? Oh, and that other group they were performing with, as well!?)
A: As well as I know Garbo, I imagine he was always destined to head back home and live the relaxing Garbo life some of us are jealous of. Not sure he had an abiding interested in ambassadorship or front office work here; loves home too much.
Think I got to the Navy part of Mighty Navy Tigers somewhere else in here (that’s just a trick to make everyone read all answers) and, yes, I expect I’ll get some kind of reports from the women’s team during this lengthy European tour and will let everyone know as much as I can.
And, no, prohibitive ticket prices kept everyone away from the show, maybe for the next one we can find a couple more affordable; anyone out there got some help?
Usually don't do this in terms of promo but I recorded a podcast with Todd MacCulloch yesterday. I've published the link here:
It was a very fun and candid chat about his career, and includes some fun tidbits about Iverson, Nash, Kidd and Shaq. He also talked about his experience at the 2000 Olympic Games and also how he got a reference on the Chappelle Show and his pinball career.
I thought I'd pass it along to see if you wanted to share it with your followers, as I know a lot of Canadian basketball fans would find this a good listen, but I don't necessarily have the following to get it to those people.
Not looking for a promo for the podcast or anything, just want to see this get out to the right audience.
Anything you can do would be awesome.
A: Not sure this is awesome but there you go.
Todd’s one of my favourites and a great guy.
Q: Now that Bryan seems to have the "President in charge of branding" title, does this mean that you will forward all Toronto Huskies requests directly to him?
Alan G, Toronto
A: You think I don’t already?
I keed, sort of.
But there are times when I kind of want Bryan to see what some of the people are thinking and I will send him, or one of The Henchmen, the more, um, interesting things I get.
One comes to mind:
The suggest early last year that he (a) trade Jose to Boston for Rajon Rondo straight up and (b) move Andrea and Kleiza to Minnesota for Kevin Love and Luke Ridnour because, if I remember correctly, it was “four guys unhappy and not playing well.”
Q: Hi Doug.
Anything in that mayonnaise jar from Funk and Wagnall's porch? What does the all seeing, all knowing, great mystic foresee?
Does BC have the okay to make any deals in this interim period before the next GM is hired?
Do the assistant coaches sign any long term leases?
Do they package Gay/Bargnagni and something else for something else? Is Cleveland or Dallas involved?
How about one from Groucho's "You Bet Your Life"... Who is buried in Grant's tomb?
Bob E, Kanata
A: Tim said on the conference call this week that if deals came up there would be a consensus on whether to do them but his preference was that nothing of substance be done until the new guy gets here.
And since I believe the new guy will be here any day now and that there’s very little to be done at this time of the year, it’s probably moot.
I didn’t think the assistants should have signed long-term leases before any change; I sure don’t think they should now.
Funk and Wagnall’s?
Been reading your blog about the Bryan and Tim. I never saw the interviews or news conferences so I could be way offside. However, do TL and BC have previous history??
The reason I ask is that reading the stories and your blog, I can see a couple of possibilities. One is the old Dog in the Manger thing.
Tim doesn't want Bryan to be the President or GM of the Raps, but he is afraid to turn Bryan loose for fear Bryan gets a new job and comes back to haunt the Raps. Which is a definite possibility.
Another is that Tim was enjoying firing Bryan but just after he announced Bryan was going to be used far away from Basketball, he got a phone call from someone with a little more altitude in the corporate office tower, informing him that he was wrong on where Bryan was going to be used.
This would obviously cause something less than joy, and would account for the statements about Bryan not going to be involved with the team or any decisions.
Whatever the reasons, any idea that Bryan will not be involved with decisions concerning the team has got to be just wishful thinking on Tims part.
No thinking GM is going to ignore Bryans experience and knowledge of the game and the players. If you want to be successful, you have got to use all the sources available to you to help make decisions.
The GM will obviously talk to Bryan about moves, money players etc but will and should make the decisions on his own. Decisions by committee usually don't work very well, and basketball is not an exception so the GM has to have the last say.
I cannot believe that TL would be so foolish as to make those statements to begin with. If he did. he has already backed himself into a corner.
The head shed will only have Tim to blame if the team doesn't succeed this year, cause he won't be able to point at Bryan under those circumstances. Already starting to sound like TL is on a major power trip. Could get scary before it all plays out, and I still think of the possibility that the only GM they will be able to hire is one who has no experience or who is willing to be a yes man to TL. That would likely not be a winning combination.
A: I don’t know if there’s a “history” other than the run of the mill contact they would have had as NBA executives over the years, certainly nothing of substance has been mentioned to me. But I agree that it’s going to be an interesting and perhaps difficult transition and certainly not perfect from anyone’s point of view.
All I know for certain is this: Bryan Colangelo’s depth of knowledge, his experience and his contacts within the basketball world are a resource that any organization should want to take advantage of and if the new guy doesn’t, he’s cheating himself and the organization.
Q: Canada Basketball
Wouldn't Bryan be better off joining Maurizio over there, even as a Raptor liaison, using his promotional capabilities to increase the Canadian public's awareness of the excellent future we all share in those endeavors?
Bo K, Mississauga
A: Bryan’s been on the board of Canada Basketball for years and has been a huge contributor already. That’s not going to change; it could very well be enhanced.
All the time the senior men spent working out and practicing at the ACC? Who do you imagine set that up at not cost?
Q: Afternoon Doug.
Just read that Charlotte has confirmed a change of name 'back' to the Hornets for the 2014/15 season. If you've answered this recently, my apologies, I have not been as diligent as I would like with the weekend mailbags..
Having said that, with all the changes happening at MLSE I would imagine a franchise name change ranks somewhere below finding a new GM for the basketball team. I hope. But given the change and the new regime, what would be your view on the appetite for change be?
It's not like the Raptors name has a long and storied history (plus, really, it is kind of ridiculous). And if there was a change, would Huskies be the only logical name to change to? I hope so.
Thanks as always.
A: There seems to be a huge appetite among fans for a name change and it gathered momentum this week when Tim Leiweke started talking about “re-branding.”
But you know what? Huskies is becoming so logical it’s almost illogical, if you get my point. Maybe there’s something even better out there that no one’s thought of yet. But whatever happens, it’s not going to happen for a couple of years so we’ve got some time to debate it.