The end of the weekend mail
Good job, friends.
Not sure we’ll be able to sustain two mailbags a weekend as the summer progresses but you’re killing right now.
Q: Hi Doug - now that we've closed the book on another NBA season, I'm going to ask you to cast your mind back to when you first started covering the Raptors.
(Yes, it was a very long time ago)
Things have changed a lot over time. Rules have changed, playing style has changed, concessions, in-game entertainment (I know you love it), uniforms have changed, the world of the internet has changed things immensely!!! etc. etc.
What changes do you think have been best, and what have been the worst?
Thanks, as usual, for all you do!
A: Things sure have changed, haven’t they? In every facet of the game.
Here are three things that I think have improved the product an awful lot:
It’s opened up all kind of space for guards and ushered in a new era.
Allowing zone defences
You remember how horrible it was to watch two offensive players stand out beyond the three-point line doing nothing while their teammates on the bench pointed at the guys guarding them and yelled: “Illegal! Illegal!” because defenders weren’t close to them?
I had isolation plays with a passion, it’s a game that should be more ballet than four guys watching one guy work and teams that run motion stuff are far more fun to watch.
Now, the bad things?
Terrible. Horrible. Screamers. Add nothing. Bore me. Bore most of the fans. Have I been clear enough?
The three-point line
I think it’s too close, the game is too reliant on it and it’s not a challenge. I know there’s no way to change the corner three, which is the best shot in the game but move the top of the arc back.
Standardizing, and increasing, the number of TV timeouts has suck the life out of some games and allowed coaches to horde their own timeouts for end-of-game situations. Let ‘em play, let the players figure it out.
Q: Hi Doug
Wonderful finals. Kudos to the Heat for rising to the level of the sum of its parts against a team that was greater than the sum of its parts.
My question concerns the Raptors Management. In the ancient days, Red Auerbach was coach and general manager and probably swept the court while puffing on his stogie.
Now the management has Leiwieke, Colangelo, Ujiri, the fellow who replaces Stefanski, Bobby Webster, Embry, Gehrardini. And that's before we get to the scouts, coaches, trainers, analysts.
What do these people do? To what degree are they all necessary?
Frank B., Toronto
A: I wish I could say specifically but I honestly don’t know. There are a lot of them and I guess the best way to put it is the add counsel to the decision-maker, Masai.
Some have truly specific duties – they will have one guy who’s job is solely to scout college prospects, Webster is the team’s salary cap guru – but they are, in fact, advisors.
And, no, I don’t know that they are all totally necessary. I think a lot of is just following league-wide convention – if Team A has this many guys working in the front office, we better have the same number or more – and I wonder how much of it has to do with a small bit of insecurity.
I’m not saying anyone is going to place blame on staffers if things don’t work out, but having people around and making decisions consensus rather than individual does, I’m sure, make it easier in some way.
Q: Hello Mighty Coach
Will you be banning any Canadian pop stars from any post game celebrations this summer? First Drake couldn’t get into the Heat locker room, then they have the gall to ban the Beebs from another party. I wonder if Auerbach banned Paul Anka from chumming with Havilcek?
Do you think the Commonwealth team will have any draft picks by Thursday?
Now that you are back in the great white north, enjoy all those cool temps! Hope the AC is working!
Bob E, Kanata
A: I think Red would have burned an entertainment interloper with his cigar and good on him.
Now, you do raise an interesting point about Thursday. I don’t think they necessarily should but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Masai didn’t try to get into the draft somehow, if only to stock the end of a bench that he said he wanted to be filled with younger players.
So I have to make some calls and see what’s up and a couple of days of coasting might be in jeopardy.
Q: Hey Doug,
Do NBA players conspire every year to use the same meaningless cliches to answer questions from the media? Classics such as, 'I am gonna leave it all out on the floor,' or 'I am just taking one game at a time,' drive me crazy. Being in the scrum you must get bombarded with these tired cliches. What are the top five cliches you hear from players these days?
A: So, so many to choose from; and I’m trying to recall the worst because my eyes tend to glaze over and my mind wanders.
But if I give you:
Score the ball.
My teammates were helping me.
Staying within myself.
Just trying to help the team.
Just doing what the coach wanted me to.
I’d be all right with that list.
Q: Hi Doug,
This is probably on the boring end of questions, but always curious about the hours of an NBA team. As fans we generally shift our focus to sports after work for the 7pm games or on weekends, however as far as the actual work of the general manager and front office, is it more of a 9-5 job? I know coaches and players would obviously be working around the game times etc, but always curious about the front office and administrative positions. Specifically - would trades only go down during business hours or would rival GM's actually discuss trades during games or on weekends?
And second question (for another mailbag I guess); what is the general process for a trade to be initiated? Would each GM in the league have each other's phone number and call or email whenever interested in a player? Would the call have to be routed through someone else (like an ass't GM or VP) first? And when initiating, is an offer proposed up front, or is it just as simple as saying "I like Player X, what would you be looking for to trade him away?".
A: For those on the business side – sales, sponsorships, mundane office lives – it’s pretty much 9-5 although I’m sure there are nights when some of them might have to entertain clients at games or something like that.
The basketball side? It’s really 24-7; they have to at least be on call because you never know what’s going to happen when.
And that goes for a large number of the staff. Let’s say you work in community relations and it’s a game day. There might be a post-shootaround appearance or a post-game reception and you have to be around to make sure the players get to it. Same with post-practice, when there might be a school visit or an evening appearance that has to be staffed.
The media relations guys are the same way with things like photo shoots or interviews.
As for the trade stuff? Oh yeah, every GM has numbers for every other GM, NBA front office personnel and agents and the like stored in their phones.
Years ago – and I don’t know if they still do this, I presume they do – there was a Red Book (yes, it was actually red) that had every home, office and cell number of every key member of every team staff and New York office staff member. It went from David Stern’s home number to the cell numbers of team travel co-ordinators.
I got my hands on one many, many, many years ago and it was like gold.
Q: Hello Doug,
Well, silly me. Here I thought The Grunt Trifecta involved eating your weight in Deep-Fried Brown Things, accompanied by Limitless Stella and A Padded Swivel Stool to enjoy 'em on. Who knew it was actually, you know, work-related! Good question from @Dave T, Ottawa and reply from you in today's mailbag. Veteran teams summoning amazing performances made for one
of the most compelling Finals I've seen. The only disappointment was in knowing it had to end. And thanks, as always, for your stories and, of course, the IGBT - which continues to be the most fun way to experience the whole thing - from San Antonio and Miami. Very much appreciated.
Now my question. A while ago - and I can't recall if it was in the mailbag, the blog or during an IGBT - someone bemoaned the fact that many NBA player seem to be lacking in the basic skills department and wondered why these things aren't developed during their college years. And you said NCAA basketball was more about showcasing coaches and less about actual instruction. Or something like that. So, I'm wondering, if this is the case in men's college basketball (and it sure seems to be the case, sadly) is it the same in other college sports such as football, baseball etc.) or is it unique to hoops? Thank you.
Lorie P, London
A: Not sure I can speak too much to that point but it would be my opinion that basketball, which demands a more varied skillset from each player – passing, shooting, dribbling, defensive footwork – would be unique.
And because the best players are one-and-done, it differs from, say, football or baseball where the, ahem, “student-athletes” tend to stay longer and work more on their games.
Q: Hello again, Mr. Smith. I believe you asked for a reminder about talking heads. Thanks for the great blog!
David M., Ottawa
A: Well, let’s just stick with the NBA and know that I don’t get to see a lot of the local broadcasts too often over the course of a season.
If you’re looking at play-by-play guys, I’d say my top three would be Mike Breen, Kevin Calabro and Kevin Harlan.
And if you’re looking at analysts, I’m giving you Hubie Brown, Jeff Van Gundy and Chris Webber.
The best studio show is Turner’s, almost by default because that ESPN pre-game show is, basically, an embarrassment and NBA TV runs too many different voices through the show to be consistent.
I do like Sam, though. I think he’s got a future.
Q: Hi Doug
With Game 7 having just ended, and the Heat winning the Championship I have a question about the series overall. I am not a Heat fan, nor did I want them to win. But I will admit that throughout the series they manufactured points or stops exactly when they needed to, and thus came out on top as the better team.
That being said, do you feel that the no calls in Game 6 (specifically on the Danny Green 3 point attempt in overtime and the Ginobli drive to the basket) affected the series more than the play of the actual players? While I know you don't like to play the what if game and I won't ask, but do you feel that the refs unduly influenced the outcome of this series?
Many thanks and the best of luck getting back home on Air Canada,
Ryan from Toronto
A: No, I don’t think the officials did anything. In fact, I think it was the most well-officiated series start to finish that I can remember.
As I mentioned in the weekly chat, former ref Steve Javie explained why the Ginobili play wasn’t a foul (it’s in here somewhere) and the Green play was a clean block.
The quality of the two teams was matched by the quality of the refereeing, in my opinion.
Q: We all seen the greatest that is LeBron in these finals, What aspect of his game do you think is his greatest attribute? Personally I say his durability and lack of major injuries is amazing and key to his greatness.
A: That’s one of the keys, although he did have that weird elbow issue at the end of his last playoff series in Cleveland.
But you know what I think it is now? His shooting ability. He was a liability as a shooter early in his career and now it makes him exponentially more dangerous on offence. He is, by some statistical measures, the best mid-range shooter in the game now.
Oh, and his overall court vision and basketball IQ are perhaps unrivalled in the game.
Q: Hello Doug,
With the Heat's 2nd straight championship and 3rd consecutive finals appearance, can Erik Spoelstra now be considered as one of the NBA's top coaches or will he still be viewed, much like Cito Caston, as a guy who won because he had the best talent?
A: I believe the public will always think he’s just the guy who makes sure LeBron and Wade show up on time and let’s them go.
People with knowledge of the game see him as one of the great coaches in the game for the way he devises offences and defences to allow a non-traditional roster to thrive and for how he handles the personalities, the egos, the demands of a group of very strong-willed players. You cannot discount that.
Generally, I fear he is under-appreciated, just as Cito was, but those not truly close to the game.
Q: Doug, any chance the Lakers would trade Nash? Any chance the Raps would be interested? (and would the Lakers be interested in Lowry?)
A: I don’t know at all what they’ll do but there’s no interest whatsoever now in Toronto. A year ago, yes. For where they are today? The last thing they need.
Q: Three questions
Which current Raptor players are, indeed, Dwayne Casey's type of preferred player right now?
Which former Raptor & currently active players are, indeed, Dwayne Casey's type of preferred player right now?
Which other currently active players are, indeed, Dwayne Casey's type of preferred player right now?
(I see Jonas, Amir, Rudy, DeMar, Kyle & Quincy as the six players to build around, so we still need a 3rd swing & a second PG that can challenge the others for their minutes, to keep them going in the right direction...)
A: Those are really hard – no, really impossible – to answer.
So you go.
Dwane’s preferred type of player is a hard-nosed, tough, veteran and he has absolutely none on his roster at the moment. But he coaches what he has to the best of his ability.
Former Raptors? I imagine he would have loved Oak and he would have loved Kevin Willis and probably Mike Curry and Alvin and he would have loved Vince and Tracy and Mo Pete, too.
And, yeah, those six are pretty solid as long as you can afford them.