The start of the weekend mail
Well, that was something.
The “season preview” thing for season ticket holders at the ACC on Friday night was part schtick (Hi, Cabbie!), part hype (Hi, everyone) and part revival meeting (Hi, Masai, who was “the best of Benny Hinn, Oral Roberts and Jim Baker” according to one learned observer).
A few snippets, remembering this was preaching to the choir and there was only one question about tanking that I heard:
Masai wants the fans to make the ACC “a living hell” for visiting players and hammered that point home repeatedly.
He vows patience and to see what this team is before doing anything drastic, or anything at all.
He was adamant in his support of Dwane Casey and also paid homage to Bryan Colangelo, who “worked his ass off” while with the Raptors.
Tim Leiweke vowed once again to build a state-of-the-art, world class training centre, an idea that’s been bandied about for nearly a decade and I’ll once again reiterate that if they build it in Mississauga close to Casa Doug, that would be great.
All in all, nothing really new from the evening but there was a palpable enthusiasm in the house and an over-riding desire to get the damn season started.
Now, as for the mail?
There’s not an awful lot here (although I am shutting this down late Friday night so I can hopefully have a peaceful, fun, soft, quiet Saturday morning) and since I hope in the name of all that’s good in the world to have the same thing Sunday morning, I need you to get some questions in toute de suite today.
You know how to do it, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and I really need you.
Q: Doug, based on the peak performance of players during your time, who would make up your all time NBA allstar team: five starters plus backups at point, wing and big?
Gary M, Ottawa
A: Okay, so it’s my almost 20-year stretch only? And we’re talking about players in their prime during that period, right?
You’ve asked me to do the impossible and here’s why:
Which of Jordan, Kobe and LeBron do you leave out of your starting five? And, no, I won’t cheat and move one of them to the four.
So what should I do? I guess since I really started in ’95, I could not take Jordan and maybe move him to the bench? That’s what I’ll do.
And I’m going with Steve Nash at point guard, Tim Duncan as the power forward and Shaq as the centre (I pretty much missed the glory days of Hakeem Olajuwon, right?)
My backups? Well, I can’t not take Jordan, right? And how about John Stockton and Karl Malone off the bench?
Let the vitriol fly.
Q: Hi Doug
I know "Coach" is on record as saying the final 2 preseason games are when they really put in the finishing touches.
Nonetheless I would counter after their 5th exhibition tilt the decisions on first and second units should be finalized and the final three games should be played like the curtains have been raised.
I just don't think this team is good enough to enter the regular season still trying to figure things out. I think, and obviously this is just one opinion, that this team has about a 25% chance to sneak into the playoffs and they cannot afford a single game trying "to figure out the second unit".
Freddy in Hespeler
A: My thoughts are that the pre-season and training camp are twice as long as they need to be and they will be just fine when it comes to figuring out what they are or what they need by the Oct. 30 opener.
I think the units are quite well established, it’s a matter of making them function better and there’s almost two weeks left to do that.
Q: Hi Doug
During this pre season, have there been any combinations put on the floor by Casey that have intrigued you and that you would like to see more of? Any that you hope you never see again??
A: There have been so many since he’s goofing around to see what he’s got but I will say I’m not a fan of the Buycks-Augustin backcourt, I think it’s too small and too offensively challenged and I’m not big on a Hansbrough-Daye frontcourt because it’s small and slight. But I don’t think you’re ever going to see them when it counts so maybe it doesn’t matter.
Q: Hi Doug:
I know we all hope JV becomes a good if not great center but I do think the Raptors would improve if we had a decent backup. Aaron Gray is obviously not the answer and will probably rarely if ever play. Do you think this is something that needs to be fixed and who would you like to see the Raptors acquire for the role?
A: I’m not going to go centre-power forward on you but I think we all know my feelings that there are point guards, wings and bigs. That said, I think this team is lacking in backup bigs – I believe Hansbrough to be too small and Gray is an emergency fill-in – and I would imagine Masai feels the same way. But things don’t happen overnight so finding a good, young big man might take a year, maybe two.
As for who? I have no idea because good, young bigs aren’t generally available.
I understand that it must be frustrating to be moved so far away from the court after all these years. It's as though your boss gave you a Ferrari for nearly two decades and then decided that it was no longer worth the money to renew the lease. This must be irritating to someone who has grown accustomed to driving their Ferrari 41 days a year.
Written game reviews are the least interesting part of a basketball writer's work. Why would one of us read a review of the game when we could watch a highlight package? In 2013, highlight packages are available in various lengths, so not getting the full story isn't an issue. In fact, there tends to be more left out of an article about a basketball game than a video recap.
Games are the one part of the NBA experience that any fan with an internet connection can see. It's the other parts of the league: practices; travel; shoot-arounds, that are of more interest to us. Those are experiences that we simply cannot get through our televisions and rely on you, as insiders to relay to us.
During the first handful of pre-season games, several Raptors writers (I won't name names) constantly tweet inside baseball to each other, making it difficult (read: impossible) to sympathize with them. I'm not sure their jokes about what their friend beside them is doing would be much funnier if they were closer to the court.
Having said all of this, I would be remiss not to tell you that I thoroughly enjoy your perspective on the Raptors and the NBA as a whole. Your commitment to avoiding rumour mongering is most admirable; it's comforting to know that some people still value fact over fiction.
I'm sorry that you don't have your Ferrari anymore but it won't have any impact on how we take in the game and many of us hope that you stop bringing it up sooner, rather than later, or perhaps the games should be played in a private gym for the writers and you can just tell us what happened.
Matt, from Hamilton
A: My issue with the seating precisely addresses your concerns: Being that far away – further than perhaps any other arena in the league, Madison Square Garden might be a tie – doesn’t allow me (or us) to get the little snippets and interactions that could lead to stories that are not boring game recaps. So in that regard, it may have an impact on reporting the game and the things that arise from that.
I take a bit of pride in not filling stories with “inside basketball” stuff because I think there are other ways to educate and entertain readers and I appreciate that you notice it.
Q: Hei Doug,
Thanks for the tip ongoing Sheridan. I like his writing. Pretty crazy reporting plus betting scheme he has going on. Have a feeling his 10K will disappear in one of the many Las Vegas casinos.
Anyhow reading his article got me to thinking about the upcoming basketball season and the Canadians that play there. Which of the Canadians playing in the NBA do you think will make the biggest impact and why? Plus do you think Steve Nash will have a rebound year?
Keep up the good work.
Scot in the grand country of Norway
A: Sheridan’s my boy, always have to take care of him.
Good question on the Canadians, my bet right now would be Tristan Thompson, I think the Cavs are a really intriguing team and I think he might make big strides. And if Cleveland is good, he’s going to have a lot to do with it.
Nash? I’m dubious. I think he’ll have a good year but not a great one, I imagine they’ll hold him out of some games to give his body rest and I would imagine when Kobe comes back it’ll be All Kobe, All The Time and I think we saw at times late last season that Steve was marginalized in the offence. So I think he’ll have a better year than last year but not a great one.
I was at the Raptors game against the Celtics on Wednesday night and witnessed what I thought was the greatest finish that I have ever seen in a basketball game - NBA, college, high school, YMCA or playground pickup. Then I read your game blog sum up - "uneventful" finish - and I wonder if you we were at the same place.
Did you miss the final 24.2 seconds? Did the Bostons not claw back from a 10 point deficit to get within two points then? Did the Guys in Green not press full court when the Raptors came out of their time out? Did the press not look effective until Julian Stone (who only minutes before had been bestowed the nickname Ice when he drained two free throws to interrupt the Celtic clawback) took off for the Raptor end to catch the inbound pass over the defence and go in alone for the dunk? Did Ice Stone not clang the dunk off the back rim? Did the Celtics not quickly advance the ball for the jumper to tie or win? Did the shooter not put up a brick? Did the Raptors - caught in defensive transition misery - not fail to box out the Rebounder in Green who gathered in the brick with mere seconds remaining? Did the rebounder not put back a half-foot brick of his own to seal the defeat? Was that not a movie ending waiting for the rest of the script to be written?
Come on, Doug, write it like you see it, so people can get a sense of just how good even bad basketball can be!
A: It was pretty wild for a meaningless pre-season game with groups on the floor that will likely never be seen again and if the Celtics had tied it and forced five more minutes of that I might have expired.
Sloppy, awful, mistake-filled and it couldn’t have ended soon enough.
And had I actually been writing, I would have mocked it as much as it deserved to have been mocked.
Glad you had fun, though.