Hello, for maybe the last IGBT of the season.
Hope all's well
Hello, for maybe the last IGBT of the season.
Hope all's well
Well, it was certainly nice to catch up with Bryan and chat about the draft a little bit but after an hour or so of sitting around and asking questions and telling stories and mining for information, this much is clear:
Not much is clear.
Oh, there’s a guess and a narrowing of the field that’s gone on and that’s just natural but there are lots of balls still in the air with just over a week left until draft day.
If I had to guess from various conversations with people around the league and other work that I’ve done, I’d say Lillard, Rivers, Waiters and Lamb are the four favourites right now but I don’t know that there’s a definitive order and a lot of it will depend on who’s there on draft night.
I do get the sense from those conversations that a trade is a very real possibility as long as it yields another pick, not necessarily in the lottery but definitely in the first round. They want another young piece but would live with getting one later in the first if they could get some immediate help.
But, again, there’s an awful lot of time left between now and the draft for things to change and Thursday’s workouts – Sullinger, Perry Jones, Terrence Jones, perhaps John Henson and maybe Lamb if they can get him back in – is significant because a few of those guys are in the 13-18 range, perhaps, and would be someone taken with a later pick acquired in a trade.
It’s going to be an interesting week, I have a feeling; and some of the stuff you read might actually happen. Not much, but some.
Oh yeah, The People and I are gonna be fast friends; or at least with a few of ‘em.
We will be back at 9 p.m. for an IGBT if we can all stay awake that late but there’s also a noon chat if you’d care to join.
It’s loads of fun, am sure there’ll be draft stuff and Finals stuff and who knows what else.
Come on by.
Let me get this straight:
A trio of 20-something pro athletes take a night off, get hammered in the club, end up in a street brawl with cops and get themselves arrested?
Colour me shocked.
I tell ya, if you can find a hidden local with solid burgers, good pizza, passable wings, friendly staff and a jukebox with this on it that stays open ‘til 3 a.m. after games, steps from your hotel, you’ve found a gem.
Better than South Beach, I tell ya.
Who is R.A. Dickey and why does he seemingly throw nothing but one-hitters.
This Mets dude, with an 85-mile an hour knuckleball, is becoming the greatest story of the baseball season and I’m not sure enough people appreciate what he’s doing.
I don’t know much about knuckleballs except that I couldn’t hit one and they seem to be the last gasp of failed minor leaguers who retire to, say, South Buffalo to live out their dotage, but for Dickey to throw one that hard and that well is amazing.
Every season we see one amazing baseball story, I thought early this season it’d be Josh Hamilton but now it’s Dickey, who is 11-1 and hasn’t given up an earned run in about forever.
Great story, better start following it.
Not an awful lot except that it’s a big week for Valanciunas, whose national team is deep in preparations for the final Olympic qualification tournament that starts early next month own in Venezuela.
He and the Lithuanians will be in Houston this weekend for a couple of games – Great Britain, Russia and Nigeria will be there as well – and you know that Bryan, the Henchmen and the coach will be in attendance.
There is an off chance Valanciunas still plays in the summer league, too. If Lithuania doesn’t make it to the Olympics – which is a longshot – the Raptors will try to get him from Venezuela to Vegas to start his NBA career.
Speaking of Valanciunas and getting back to our chat with Bryan, the impending arrival of the young big man has actually made this process this year a bit easier, according the president.
Really? Second overall?
“It’s been told to me by countless people so at some point you start believing it, it’s not just an internal thought. It’s an external thought as well. We feel very good about that.”
As well they should.
And it’s allowed them, to some degree, to avoid wasting an awful lot of time on available bigs.
“It kind of talks to the argument of do you take best player or position, we kind of figured that that position is somewhat covered so maybe the (Tyler) Zellers and Myers Leonards of the world have not really been in the flow with our draft process. We’ve studied them, we’ve scouted them but we haven’t put a lot effort into the process of digging deep right now because of the Valanciunas piece.”
Riddle me this:
How utterly bored are you by Roger Clemens and that lengthy trial that ended in acquittal yesterday?
If you’re me, you’re bored to absolute tears and when the news broke breathlessly that he was not guilty, it elicited nothing more than a yawn.
Look, it doesn’t matter to the casual sports fan whether the courts found Clemens guilty of lying to the US Congress or not, if you think he used steroids before, you’re not going to change you’re mind; if you’ve been a supporter, this is vindication.
Personally? I think he did take some kind of juice, whether a gaggle of high-priced lawyers muddied the waters enough to get him an acquittal or not. That’s my opinion after seeing some testimony in the past and more recently and it’s not going to change.
I suspect that’s a predominant feeling around the sports world.
Oh, hang, on, I misremembered that I don’t care.
So, before the little chat with Bryan we had a wee bit of face time with the Commissioner after the competition committee meeting and it was pretty entertaining.
While nothing has been decided, the one thing that jumped out is that there is some kind of consideration being given to some kind of retroactive penalties being assessed to floppers.
We know it’s a difficult call for refs to make in real time – there is a split second to make a decision and often no one notices until the TV replays show it – so the committee (of which Bryan is a member) figures having something like a points system where video is used either post-game or the next morning to hit the floppers is a good idea to pursue.
That makes entire sense to me, it’s a way to accrue fines or points that might eventually lead to suspensions, like they do with technical fouls now, and might at least cut down on one of the scourges of the game.
Good evening, again.
Hope all's well
Often we wonder about the connection between pro athletes and the cities they represent.
We know about the transient nature of the players, the “home” team is a “home” team basically during the season and until the contract runs out and there really isn’t any cosmic coming-together very often.
Which brings us to the Oklahoma City Thunder and the city they represent.
Every player who joins the Thunder is taken to the memorial to the 1995 bombing that scarred this city and for a long time defined it.
It is a solemn and respectful and, in some ways, a wonderful memorial, it pays homage to those who lost their lives in that tragic event.
I’ve been there – walked up with Sam Mitchell and a handful of others way back in the day; wandered past it during a walkabout yesterday, too – and it really is something to experience. It gives to an idea of what happened here, how it devastated a city and, in some ways, brought it together.
And when players go see it, and they must, it has to hit them hard. It seems to have had an impact on Kevin Durant, as he told us a couple of days ago.
“Being somewhere, being in a community where you're going to live here for a while, we want to know the history, everything that went down here in Oklahoma and how they moved past it.
“You can tell by what happened in those events that the city got closer and closer, and you can tell just by landing here in Oklahoma City, just meeting people in the airport, that this city is a tight-knit family.
“With us coming here, it just made it even closer. It's just a blessing to be a part of a great city even though they went through a tough tragedy.”
Now, a lot of players bolt when the season is over for much of the summer, off to their real homes or other obligations and that’s fine and dandy.
It’s how it is everywhere in every sport, the players have other homes and families and responsibilities and few anywhere are true 12-month-a-year residents in the cities they represent.
But to know there is some kind of connection between the residents and the players, and the fact the transient kids realize what they mean to a city like this is something quite unique.
And in today’s “what do you see on the streets of OKC” travelogue we have …
Yeah, I know how to pick ‘em, don’t I?
Was listening to Kevin Durant in the interview room and looked down to see Netherlands down 1-0; I think LeBron James or Erik Spoelstra drone on when I checked to find it was 2-0.
From then the day was pretty much over and the writing in the room was accompanied by the white noise of the second half of the game.
Kind of anti-climatic, wasn’t it?
But I guess it’s not all bad. As Cathal points out here, this whole Euro2012 thing has kind of been turned on its head and it’s made for some compelling stories.
I particularly like the last few paragraphs of his piece, where he talks about Canada – or North America – not having anything like it and how we’re a bit poorer off for it.
We tend to antiseptically analyze our sports events and teams too often, worried about numbers and stats and intricacies of strategy a bit too much, leaving the true passion of the games a bit too far in the background.
I guess there probably is a middle ground between some of the “passion” we’ve seen from coaches and players in Europe and the oft-dispassionate dissecting of the games we get from players and coaches over here but we haven’t found it yet.
When we do, we will have reached a watershed point in our love of games, where we can truly balance the personalities and souls we watch and the physical magic they perform on the court or the field.
Much of this afternoon is free and I need to get a lot of it out of the way.
The Oklahoma City-Atlanta-Miami trip tomorrow with a short turnaround in Atlanta is fraught with peril – I’m dead certain my bag won’t get to Miami, and am fully expecting to miss my connection as well – and I’ll want something to do.
Hey, did you watch the Dream Team thing last night? Heard it was on late in Canada and I wonder what you thought of it.
Workouts drone on; no one’s really shone more than the others and if there are Dog Days in the pre-draft process, we’re in them.
In our whole “Let’s go, Netherlands” kind of jinx (and it’s becoming something of a trademark of mine), I’ll all about Spain against the Irish today; knowing what a celebration on the streets of Dublin will be like.
Right, the NBA Finals.
Things to watch for tonight (and, yes, we’ll do another IGBT so be here around 9 p.m. East) will be to see how long the Heat have LeBron guard Durant (it’ll be longer than the last game), how aggressive Dwayne Wade is going to the basket (I have a feeling he’ll live at the free throw line) and how OKC gets everyone involved, again, until it’s time for Durant to take over in the fourth (James Harden has to be better).
I don’t think there’s any way to really guess what the outcome will be but I think for this to be on the way to being an epic series, a 2-0 OKC lead would be great. Would put all kinds of pressure on the Heat going home and, I tell you, there just seems to be some kind of daily increasing pressure on that team that’s kind of fun to watch. They know what’s at stake, they know what will be said and written if they lose and it’s going to be fun if we get to watch it all unfold.
In the hour or so it took me to type this here Thursday morning, I don’t believe a TOD starter was injured.
Guess that’s a good thing.
Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen.
Hope this works
After months of sometimes rancorous debate and argument, the NBA and its players have settled their lockout and an abbreviated season will begin Christmas Day.
The final resolution to a lockout the league imposed July 1 came in the wee hours of Saturday after a final 15-hour bargaining marathon in New York and ends the first work stoppage in the league in more than a decade.
A 66-game regular season – down from the usual 82 – is expected to begin Christmas Day with training camps to open Dec. 9. The deal is “was subject to a variety of approvals and very complex machinations, but we're optimistic that will all come to pass and that the NBA season will begin Dec. 25,” commissioner David Stern told reporters in New York after the handshake agreement was reached.
According to several published reports, the final agreement has a little bit for each side to sell to its constituents when ratification votes are held in the next week or so.
The deal is for 10 years, according to reports, with either side able to opt out of it after six.
The league and players will split the Basketball Related Income - the pot of money from such things as ticket sales, TV deals, concessions, sponsorships and licensing agreements that determines how much cash is available for salaries – 50-50 after the players received 57 per cent of it in the prior agreement.
Free agency remains, with a few changes but guaranteed contracts for the players remain and there are few limits on the total value of contracts and the ability of players to move from one team to another.
"We thought it was in both of our interest to try to reach a resolution and save the game and to be able to provide the kind of superb entertainment the NBA historically has provided,” said Billy Hunter, the head of the former NBA Players Association, which had disbanded about a week ago in a last-gasp attempt to force the lockout into the legal system and spur a quicker resolution.
The union will re-form in the next few days to vote on ratification of the deal.
For the Raptors, a shortened training camp and pre-season (it’s expected each team will play about two exhibition games rather than the usual eight) may make it difficult to get off to a quick start.
With new coach in Dwane Casey trying to resurrect the fortunes of a team that’s coming off a 21-61 season, and a host of new players – the team has only 10 players under contract on a roster that can go to 15 – finding a quick level of cohesion may be difficult.
So, Deron Williams has an offer to go play in Turkey next year if the NBA lockout drags on, it seems.
Big bucks, too, if the reports are to be believed and there’s no reason not to.
But you know the skeptic in me, right?
I’ll believe Williams is headed to Turkey the day I see him in a Besiktas uniform and I am highly doubtful that any of his NBA brethren will head over for any long period of time.
Yes, it all sounds well and good that Europe is an option for locked-out NBA players and it certainly would give them an opportunity to play at a higher level than they’d get in the hometown gym running with their buddies.
But there are two or three huge issues that convince me this is not going to start a flood of guys signing contracts with big name teams over there.
First, and this is the biggest by far, is the fact there is little or no money for them. It’s hard enough for journeymen North Americans to get all the money they’re owed for playing in Europe and while organizations there might not want to stiff high profile guys, taking that money out of the budget – even if it’s from a sponsor – is going to cut into the cash available for the other guys. We’ve already heard of domestic players going on strike or withholding their talents over financial disputes, if they see an NBA guy making big bucks and their cheques aren’t clearing, it could get ugly.
Second, any NBA player with a contract who goes over there to play assumes a rather significant risk. None of their contracts will be insured since they’re playing in another league and one injury could cost them millions and millions of dollars. And NBA players guard their millions of guaranteed dollars like no one guards anything.
And, third is the fact the NBA could very well settle the dispute before the actual season begins and, trust me, anyone in Europe will come running back the first chance they get.
So, yes, the Williams story is intriguing, no doubt. But it is not over.
Sadly, anyone sent to the minors by the Raptors next season won’t get to enjoy the delights that Erie, Pa., has to offer.
Now they’ll see what’s up in Bakersfield, Calif., and that’s got to be better, right?
Yep, it was D League Affiliate Day around the NBA yesterday and when they spun the wheel, the HOTH won the Bakersfield Jam!
(Wonder if the spin brought three crowns, a crown and anchor or a spade? Anyone?)
Anyway, it’s no big deal, that’s for sure. But it is Raptors “news” and we all know you’re dying for some of that.
And some of you will know this, some will have to go deep into the dark recesses of your mind to find out but the Jam (Jams?) are/is the fifth Raptor affiliate in the long and storied history of co-operation between the D League and the NBA.
Promise you won’t look down below until you’ve thought long and hard, okay?
You gals and guys did okay on the mail yesterday but not as good as the day before and you’ve got one more shot to let me know what’s on your mind.
Do it here and we’ll get the weekend unfolding at its usual pace.
Hey, anyone want to spoil the season-ended Treme episode for me?
Missed it Sunday ‘cause I was sitting on a stool at Legal Seafood sipping Harpoon and eating stuffed baked shrimp.
And since I probably won’t get an hour at On Demand for the next day or two …
(No, wait. Don’t. Please. I hate it when people give stuff away like that).
Canada drops its first game of the classification round at the world juniors today, beaten by three by Latvia. Things are not going to plan, at all, over there.
Big day for the winning teams, though, the knockout quarter-finals go and Jonas Valanciunas and Lithuania get Poland.
We’ll catch up with him and how he’s doing as soon as I can talk to some Henchmen who’re taking in the tournament.
Next up for Basketball Canada’s programs?
The junior women are up in Barrie until Tuesday get ready for their worlds and Leo’s senior men’s team starts its first phase of camps here in a week or so. The men, still the marquee team in many eyes even if the women at the junior and senior level might be more legit threats to do well, have a lot of time to get ready, their Olympic qualifier doesn’t go until September.
To a guy of a certain vintage, that’s a great picture and it was pretty sad news yesterday to hear of the passing of Dick Williams and I know this sounds a bit crass, but I wish I had still been in Boston when the news broke.
Dick Williams was a giant and I don’t think he gets the credit he deserves. Aside from Boston’s Impossible Dream of ’67 (first Series I really paid close attention to), he took two other teams to the World Series, won with the old A’s and was known as one of the toughest, no-nonsense managers in the history of the game.
He probably wouldn’t last a homestand in this day and age and that’s too bad.
Anyway, his Toronto links are solid – a couple of International League titles back when the International League mattered – and I’m waiting for Griff and Perk to regale us with some stories.
Here’s the best tribute I found out there, give it a read.
So we’re in the car listening to a homemade CD and on comes a song from the soundtrack of Rent. It’s one of the songs featuring Jesse Martin and the question immediately popped to mind:
The greatest multi-faceted actor from the various Law and Order franchises was …?
Really, when can you think of a TV show about cops and robbers and lawyers that’s had a couple of guys like Martin and perhaps my all-time fave Lenny Briscoe in it over the years?
And while I like Martin in Rent, how can you not go with Jerry Orbach as the answer to that question?
(Oh, yeah, we’re branching out here big-time every now and then)
In case you didn’t get the answer: Arkansas Rimrockers, Colorado 14ers, Idaho Stampede, Erie Bayhawks and now the Jam (Jams?).
So, what’d you think?
Of the new guy, that is.
Seems to have a bit of a “presence” doesn’t he?
Seems to be able to command respect from those around him, can make his points quickly, lucidly and with passion, leaving no doubt that he’s in charge.
I don’t know for sure how that’s going to translate once he gets on the floor as the guy in charge but as first impressions go, I think he made a good one with the people in the room.
The one thing anyone wants in a coach is to be able to capture the attention of his players, get them to buy what he’s selling and a lot of the good ones do it by the force of their personality.
The Xs and Os don’t change all that much from one organization to the next or from one coaching philosophy to another; what the good ones do is get players, fans, bosses and, yes, even the media who distribute the message to listen intently and give respect.
This might have been one of the best lines from Casey:
I don’t need players to like me, I want them to respect me.
Fooled you on the mock draft, didn’t I?
Sorry about that, got caught up in a whole bunch of Dwane Casey for the web and the paper and it got put back a day.
Tomorrow’s paper and the website later today for sure. I just need to find the precise reasons why Brandon Knight makes more sense that Kemba Walker here. You understand, right?
So, another bargaining session comes Friday and that has to be good news.
But when they start talking about billions of dollars and hundreds of millions in give-backs or takeaways or whatever, my eyes kind of go all glassy and my mind wanders.
I don’t think there’s an appetite among fans or readers for the minutia of contract negotiations, I know for a fact that I don’t have the expertise or even the contacts to fully explain it so I don’t know that I’m going to be much help as this story drags on interminably.
My Man Sheridan does a good job explaining things, he’s been far closer than I to these kinds of stories for years so here’s what he wrote about yesterday’s chat.
Speaking of the draft, I had a couple of guys in the organization make the same point to me in separate conversations yesterday.
Is there anyone at No. 5 who is better than what they have at the same spot now?
Think about it and we’ll discuss it a bit more in the morning but right now they have a young team with some promise, a new coach who may be able to change things, and there is a feeling of optimism around there. It may be cockeyed optimism but at least it’s not dread and when you look at the possibilities for the pick, is it really a huge upgrade at any spot?
More specifics tomorrow but here’s one: Is Kawhi Leonard really an upgrade over James Johnson? Seriously. Maybe in a few years but that’s a total guess. Is he today? I don’t know. And neither do a couple of Henchmen.
Oh, this is going to make the new coach popular in some circles.
A hockey analogy:
“In the playoffs, we spliced in some hockey into our game film because we thought we were playing too soft at the start of the Miami series and it really set the tone. I don’t know a lot about hockey, I’ve heard about it, but we spliced in guys checking players up into the windows and boards, that type of thing. That’s the way we’re going to play.”
This is why I like Rick Carlisle.
Sent him a text early yesterday morning wondering if he was around and able to chat for a minute or two about Casey.
Got one back about 30 minutes later saying, yeah, he was around and to call right then.
I did, we talked, got some good quotes and a bit of insight and when we were making small talk about life in general, he told me he was walking the streets of Paris on vacation.
That’s above and beyond the call of duty for anyone, there are players and coaches who don’t have time for you when they’re in the same gym, let alone on a different continent.
All kinds of players filtering back into town, I hear.
Saw DeMar and Sonny at the Casey thing yesterday, I understand Jerryd Bayless and Ed Davis are in town and I expect there’ll be some working out and fooling around going on in the gym over the next few days, the same kind of unofficial workouts that happen in September.
That’s not a bad sign, I guess. It’ll give them a chance to at least meet the new coach, hang out a bit and, perhaps, get to know whatever draft pick they end up making on Thursday night.
Oh and because you know me and hairstyles/fashion/stuff I really don’t know a lot about, DeMar shows up with these cornrowy things on his head and all I can think of is that if he lets it grow for a month or two, he’ll look like Oak when he had those twisty things that were, um, unique.
One more Casey quote on his demeanour, which can be quite animated during games:
As a head coach, I’m not going to be as hard-charging as I was an assistant. With our staff the way it was built in Dallas, that was my job, my role … that’s what I had to bring every day. I may have to do it here, I’m not going to say I’m not going to do it but I may have to temper that and my staff has to do a good job of making sure I temper it with the right disposition.
I don’t want to wear our players out, I want it to be fun to come in and play hard every day … that’s on us to be innovative, be creative as part of our approach to practice.”
Doug Smith has been a sportswriter for more than 30 years, a journey that's included seven Olympic Games, numerous and varied championships and more dreary regular season games than he'd care to remember. Here, he'll talk about them all, as well as current events and pop culture. (Just don’t ask him about music nowadays — it's not his cup of tea).