The start of the weekend mail
A mailbag worthy of an NBA Finals, folks.
And enough left over to meet back here tomorrow; in fact, room for lots more if there’s stuff on your mind. Going to be a quiet day in San Antonio with some afternoon stool time so load ‘em up if you’ve got anything left.
Q: Hey Doug, here's a quick one for your mailbag.
I heard Jeff Van Gundy blasting the 2-3-2 format that the NBA switches to for the finals, which has always seemed strange to me -- both the NHL (2-2-1-1-1) and MLB (2-3-2) keep their 7-game formats consistent in all series.
So I'm curious, putting the travel concerns aside (which is obviously why they switch for the finals), in your opinion which 7-game series format is better: 2-3-2, or 2-2-1-1-1?
Do the players and teams have an opinion on this one way or the other? I wouldn't think that a format change could affect anything in a series, but then again I don't play in these games so I have no idea.
Thanks for all the great work.
Simon S-G, Toronto
A: I think the players, in their hearts, don’t mind this format at all because it cuts down on the number of flights they have to take; and it takes a bit of a toll if, for instance, you had to go coast-to-coast.
Don’t know that there’s any appetite for change, the logistics of moving everything from one city to the other one or two more times would be a nightmare.
And I was told by an NBA executive who would know that part of the reason for the change in the mid-80s was the then-escalating price of jet fuel and charter costs; the economy did play a role.
Q: Hey Doug,
Just wondering if you've heard how Kayla Alexander is adjusting to being a pro.
A: I was actually quite disappointing that the Silver Stars have been on the road the entire week I’ve been in San Antonio because I wanted to either see a game or a practice and do a story.
I did run into someone from the team in the arena one night – a player who wasn’t on the trip and I can’t for the life of me remember her name right now – and asked how she was doing and was told she’s handling her rookie season quite well.
Q: Hi Doug,
Your mention of St. Arnold's summer pilsner gave me an idea for an off-season top 5 list - how about a "my 5 favourite local micro-brews" list inclusive of the accompanying cities...
A: Well, some of them might not be completely local as much as regional and we know my top choice would be Yeungling so I’ll leave that off.
And if we went through a five-pack of with Harpoon from the Boston area, Stoudt’s Gold in Philly, Fat Tire that I first had out in Denver, I believe, Shiner Bock and the St. Arnold’s in Texas, I’d be okay.
Now, I do know there have to be a half dozen more – I’ve totally left out the Portland area because I can’t remember the name of what I had this past season – and it’s usually a case of me getting to whatever local I have on the road, asking the person behind the bar for a good local micro-brew and going “oh, yeah; I had that the last time I was here.”
I need to keep a note of the names in the phone; a task I’ll try to keep up with next season.
Q: There is a increasing speculation in the papers that Dwight Howard and Chris Paul want to sign with the same team this summer. When Bosh, Wade and James did this, was there talk at the NBA level about player collusion concerns and equality of playing field? I know that star power doesn't guarantee championships (as the Lakers have shown us with the Payton/Malone year and the current Nash/Howard experiment) but do you think this is a trend that threatens the competitiveness of the NBA as a whole?
A: I don’t think two is a trend and I’d be shocked in the Howard-Paul thing works out.
And given that the Heat lost a final, won a final and are in a dogfight with a team that’s been together forever – along with the two you mentioned – I’m not sure the competitive balance has been thrown out of whack at all.
Q: Hello Doug
I can't help but notice how fundamentally sound Kawhi Leonard is. He has the perfect defensive stance, his hands are always active, boxes out properly and his feet are always set when taking a jumper. Here is my question for you: Why do we tend to see less fundamentally sound players enter the league nowadays? There seems to be an obsession with athleticism and yet we tend to forget the basic necessities to play the game.
Look at guys like Andre Miller, Ray Allen and Tim Duncan. They've been consistent throughout their whole careers because of the fundamental foundation that has been instilled in them from a young age.
Phil A, Ottawa
A: Mostly it’s because AAU teams don’t teach because they’re too busy jetting around the country playing in showcase tournaments and hoping they land lucrative sponsorship deals with shoe companies and colleges don’t teach enough because they don’t practice enough and coaches are more CEOs in many cases and are more worried about upward mobility and winning than they are teaching.
There’s a fundamental flaw in the development of young players in the United States that makes the very best ill-prepared in fundamentals for each step they take.
Leonard is the exception that proves the rule, I’d contend; somehow he had the self-discipline and coaching that allowed him to have nearly mastered the basic tenets of the game.
Q: I read your "you-can't-get-there-from-here-Finals" comment and it made me wonder...
I'm assuming that teams will charter flights so that the players always have direct flights, right?
If these planes have spare seats, do they ever invite media to join them? If so, would it only be for the "home town" media? Or would the media presence be considered an invasion of privacy or some such?
Slightly off-topic, when Matt, Jack or Leo, etc. travel to do TV for road games, do they get to fly on the team charter, or do they have to make their own way?
A: All teams fly charters all the time, it’s a league policy. And the only beat writer I know who flies regularly is Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News and I’m not sure how they work out a fare for his ticket. I have been on the Raptors charter a couple of times over the years, at the invitation of the coach on such occasions as Christmas Day flights to cities that are tough to get to and because they always have extra seats.
It would never work deadline or price-wise to fly regularly, when they take off at night after games either at home or on the road, I’m working at my most critical time.
Yes, the team broadcasters fly on the charter and are housed at the team hotel, they are part of the regular travelling party.
Q: Hi, Doug,
My question is about video replays and controversial calls. It strikes me there is one way to lessen the uproar. The NBA has a lot of control over on-air personnel. It should be part of their job to emphasize, more than they do, that judgement calls are just that. They should go out of their way to say something like "I thought it might have been called the other way, but it's a judgement call and so I see nothing wrong with it." Perhaps say it more than one or even twice, even.
There is a local official here; I can say that in over 20 years of watching his calls/no calls, there was only one time that I truly disagreed with him. I can't say I was always happy doing it, but all other times, I had to be honest with myself and defer to his judgement.
Dave F, Kingston
A: Sorry, there’s no way any league for any sport should interfere with team broadcasts in any way. And I don’t think it would lessen the uproar as much as it would cause greater consternation about Big Brother dictating terms of telecasts.
Q: Hi Doug
You've said many times that you don't cheer for a team, you cheer for the story, which I appreciate. I feel like this must be difficult to do, since an increase in Raptors success would increase your readership and would give your perspective a higher profile in the sports media world.
I know you don't cheer for a Raptors' win, but don't you hope for it? If they win, the mood is better, interviews are easier and your articles are passed around the internet at a higher rate. I would assume that if Toronto ever hosts a finals you would find it easier to cover it from your own accommodations.
I would assume you'd also make more money in a situation where the Raptors are a perennial playoff team and more people are clammoring for your expert opinion.
I'm not questioning your journalistic integrity, I'm asking if the scenario as I describe it is true.
Paul C, Brantford
A: No, I don’t hope for a win just like I don’t hope for a loss. I can’t say it enough, the outcome of games or seasons is totally irrelevant to me. I want good stories well told and that doesn’t depend on the mood of the players or coaches at all.
And, no, I make no more money when the team is going good as when it’s going bad, the very, very paying freelance gigs I have are not dependent on the team’s record.
And while staying home is nice, the workload that goes along with covering a team in the final would be crazy, just crazy. Check out the San Antonio Express-News or Miami Herald sites and see how busy their guys are. It’s a far cry from the three or four things I might do each day out here.
Q: Finding a name that reflects Toronto and not a quasi children's movie from the 90's is a tough job. Everybody in this city has such a different experience, typically comes from a place difference from everyone else, and a lot only came here because this is where the jobs live Some ideas I had are as follows.
The Toronto: Wind Chills, White Out(s), Blizzard(s), Canadians, Bankers, Condos, Raccoons, Not From Here's, Suburban Sprawl, but to be serious, why not..... Maple Leafs.
Here's my question, it is not done in North America and execs never make an interesting choice when safe ones are available, but is there any good reason not to call them the Leafs? I'm not really a hockey fan and when I was I always had a healthy amount of disdain for the Leafs growing up a fan of the Habs, but I can't think of anything that says Toronto like the Maple Leafs. Both teams are owned by the same people so it's not a copy right problem...
Doug talk sense into me, why not the Leafs?
These are my reason for:
European clubs have multiple sports teams by the same name.
It would really shows the empire off (I don't care about this one, but maybe the Darth Vader types at MLSE are listening) they get all the marketing and loyalty the leafs have gained.
They can make it the same as the leafs logo except red, which really makes more sense anyway and this way you keep the marketing dudes who are presently horrified at this idea happy cause you make sure people can't cheap out by using their hockey fan gear for B-ball support.
Most importantly no worries about a "culture" of winning since a culture of losing has worked out really well for the leafs. (the Canadiens fan in me couldn't resist that one)
All the best
Dan R. Toronto
A: Sorry. In no way could I condone, accept or support such zaniness.
One, there’s already a stumbling, bumbling, non-factor sports franchise with that name, why be associated with such mediocrity when you can establish mediocrity all on your own?
And second, this ain’t Europe, this ain’t no “club” system and, besides, none of those European organizations have team nicknames used in the same manner as the “brands” in North America are used.
I will concede that when some casual fans hear Toronto and sports they think Maple Leafs and I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing.