The end of the weekend mail
Sorry I’m a bit late; good dinner, late night, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
And the great Italian place in downtown Miami is Perricone’s, in case you were wondering.
Be back tonight at 8 for the IGBT, right?
Q: Heard Mr. Stern on Mike and Mike this week and found it interesting that he will work on Global Marketing at the request of the new commissioner as a special assignment.
He didn't get into specifics, I believe it is an initiative close to the out going commissioners heart. Global branding, growth of the game, opening of markets. Have you any indication what his plans are?
I really enjoy the international growth of basketball and take an interest in the topic.
Johnny C, Mississauga
A: He hasn’t told us the specifics but the other night at his last Finals media session he once again told us that he’d be working on international projects. Given that he presided over such astonishing growth, that makes entire sense and I know the league has a huge interest in making inroads in India, which I bet is where a bunch of attention is focused.
The last few weeks on PTS a recurring theme has been: Raptors TV ratings are terrible; Raptors radio ratings are terrible; Raptors don't sell out games; therefore, basketball is hanging on by a thread in Toronto and is on the verge of becoming not relevant. I, like most Irregulars I suspect, am a big basketball fan. This blog is a daily read and not only because the Chief Grunt writes well and is humourous and opinionated. Do you think the PTS folk are being too negative? Or is this really a dire time for Toronto basketball?
A: Dire time? I know those guys and I respect them and value their knowledge but they don’t have a clue on this one. No, rating are not through the roof, big whoop.
Attendance, for the team’s record, is outstanding, they were about 13th in the league in per-game attendance and if the team is any good, every game is virtually a sellout.
Irrelevant? To them, maybe. On the whole? Not in the least.
Q: Hi Doug:
Would the NBA ever consider making players/coaches shake hands at mid-court following the conclusion of a playoff series like the NHL currently does? It seems like a classy and dignified manner to end a playoff series.
Joe D, Mississauga
A: I doubt it. It’s a quaint pucks tradition but certainly not something I can see the NBA mandating.
What do you think sets Popovich aside from other NBA coaches? His teams seem to have the Spurs play better "as a team" and individuals seem to play better (particularly their role players), by just knowing where to go and what to do. For example, I enjoy watching Matt Bonner play off the ball, it’s clear he knows exactly what he has to do and is not simply just
watching the game. During a mic'd in portion of the TV coverage, he stressed transition D and being in the right spot and was less concerned with missed shots and you just get a sense it was about playing and trusting a system.
With a team like the Raptors, young, inexperienced and lack of superstar talent, how much of a difference would you think a coach like Popovich would make?
You get a sense too, it is not just his system but his ability to implement it with a "my way or the highway" approach. Many people consider the Spurs brand of basketball boring, but I find it VERY entertaining and different than what we see night in, night out with the Raptors.
A: If you hear Pop talk, It’s not him, it’s the ability of he and RD Buford to seek out and get players who fit. Players who will put the team absolutely above themselves and will do whatever it takes.
Now, Pop’s got the smarts to find those people – you’d be surprised at the number of NBA GMs who sign a guy and six months later go “wow, didn’t know he was like that” – but a lot of what he says is true.
Add that to his willingness to get on the star players and the subs with equal venom earns him a level of respect among players that few coaches have.
Q: Hello, Mr. Smith. What do you suppose Tim Duncan will do post-retirement? He doesn't seem the coaching or broadcasting type. And who was the 'quieter’ NBAer: Duncan or that Kareem Abdul Jabbar guy? Thanks for the great blog!
A: Wouldn’t even hazard a guess what he might do but I don’t see coaching or TV, he doesn’t seem to have the requisite personality.
One thing: I’m told by players on his team that, away from the media and the hype, he’s not at all quiet and a really funny guy.
A short while back you wrote in your blog about the major decisions made poorly by the Raptors organization since the team started basically. Although very depressing, I found it an interesting road map to how the team got to where it is today. If you or one of your San Antonio colleagues were to write the same story about mistakes the Spurs have made in that same period of time, how hard would it be to come up with anything?
Trevor B, Saskatoon
A: Really difficult. Although having to cut Stephen Jackson out of nowhere in the middle of what might be a championship season would lead me to suggest that acquisition wasn’t the best.
And the Spurs once employed Dennis Rodman and that sure felt counter-intuitive.
Hey Doug! I got a couple of questions.
Q: A few months ago I was reading about the idea of getting Hakeem Olajuwon to work with Jonas this summer. Any news about it?
Jose, Garbo and Anthony Parker all came as free agents from Europe. Besides they all could play, all three of them were model professionals, glue guys and seemed as good people. How come the Raptors haven't search in Europe for veteran talent since? I could think of a few guys that could be a great fit... And that brings me to the third questions - what's up with AP since retirement?
Looking forward to creative ways you'll entertain us during the summer.
A: Nothing on Olajuwon, not sure it’ll happen but it sure doesn’t hurt now to have a Nigerian budding icon in the GM’s chair. But Jonas is pretty busy all summer, don’t even think there’d be time.
And the Raptors, and every other NBA team these days, are in Europe constantly, Maurizio was at every significant event, Ed Stefanski made at least two trips that I can recall and Bryan was there.
But there’s this to consider: Maybe people we think would be good fits and solid NBAers don’t want to come. Maybe they can’t take the pay cut or the lifestyle change and maybe they are just fine where they are. It’s a tough thing to ask and I can see someone saying, “hey I’m quite fine where I am, thank you very much.’
Q: So, Doug, I hope there is some fun mixed in with all that hard work you're having to do. And so as not to take up too, too much of your discretionary schmoozing time with a question that might require research and wracking the deep recesses, here's one that I hope is quick and easy for you to handle.
Now, you've shared lots of stuff about what for you makes up the perfect watering hole so far as what's on tap, the food, the servers and TV's (and more plugs, pleaser) but I don't know if you've ever shared what constitutes the all-important stool.
Should it be padded, swivel, backless? Describe for us please how you prefer your seat to be treated when you're seated. Thank you.
Lorie P, London
A: It absolutely has to be padded, on the seat and on the back, it should have armrests and has to swivel because you need to look around a lot.
And the most important thing: It needs a foot rest so you don’t always have to lean forward and put your feet on the bottom of the bar.
Q: Hi Doug. I am a first time writer. My questions is regarding a specific group of sports writers. After years of reading Toronto sports publications I have found a group of writers that do nothing but spew venom no matter what or who they are writing about. I decided long ago to just skip over their articles entirely (I do appreciate your factual writing and your opinions since they do not seem to have that venomous tone). Watching the Masai press conference yesterday I noticed one of those gentlemen rear his ugly head again (hello Mr. Simmons). I have two questions. 1. Are those writers asked to write that way or is that just the way those people are? 2. Im sure players, coaches and GM's know who those writers are. What is the typical reaction when those writers ask questions in scrums and request interviews. Thanks. I look forward to continuing to read your stuff!!!!
James B, Dorchester
A: I think you’re over-reacting, unfortunately. No one does nothing but spew venom; that group includes gifted writers who have a balance.
But, no, no one is asked to write in any form and coaches and GMs are respectful enough to provide legitimate answers to legitimate questions.
Q: Which comes first "the style" or "the players"? Does a team define its identity and then find the right players? Or, do the players on the roster define the style of play? It seems as though successful teams have a clear vision of the type of game they want to play. Based on that vision, did the successful teams go find the right players for all positions who fit their identity? In contrast, the teams without a consistent personality across the full roster seem to under-achieve. Although the Raptors have had some talented players over the last few years, it seems they don't have a clear team personality. Here's hoping Masai can create this for the Raptors. Have you had any hints of what "kind" of team he would eventually like to build here in T.O.? Do you think Casey can lead the team depending on what this identify might be.
A: Ah, the age-old question, basketball’s version of the chicken or the egg.
I think the players come first, you see what you’ve got, how it meshes and coach them to get the most out of their abilities, knowing flexibility is often the key.
I give you the Spurs as a perfect example:
Remember when they were the best defensive team in the league and they played a style that was theirs and dominant? They walked the ball up the court offensively, played inside out and won that way?
Now, with a few of the same players at different stages of their careers, they are quicker, more prone to shoot 3s, more interested in early offensive while staying true to a handful of basic defensive tenets.
I think coaches need to be flexible depending on the talent at their disposal and GMs should be looking to add players who have skills the coach can exploit. That’s not always possible but something to try.