A rare Saturday here.
A rare Saturday here.
Let’s go a little hybrid here today, shall we?
Some game stuff, some mail and maybe we’ll do the same thing tomorrow after the rare Saturday night home game.
And since I expect this to be a very long and hard Saturday, it makes a bit easier on me; and we all know that it’s all about me, right?
So here we go and, yes, if you’ve got questions and couldn’t get to them last night, give it a shot (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we’ll see what we can do. I have lots left but there’s always room for more.
Must, must, must win?
At some level, seems like Rudy Gay is a fan.
It’s six games into a marathon of a season – and that’s early by any stretch of anyone’s imagination – but he’s talking big going into tonight’s game at home against Utah.
“We want to get this next one, that's it. We have to get this next one. The more we put ourselves in a hole, the more important the next game is and the next game is pretty important for us.”
Gay, of course, wasn’t around for the season-killing 3-19 start a year ago so he’s not talking from personal Raptors experience but he has been around long enough to know what’s up.
And getting a struggling and winless Utah team – the Jazz was hammered by 24 in Chicago on Friday night – is hugely important.
One of the things a couple of players have talked to me about since training camp began was that they had to “beat the teams they are supposed to beat” if they want to have any kind of success.
You wouldn’t have known it by how they started Wednesday but the Charlotte game was one like Utah, if they want to be even marginally good and legitimate, they cannot let games like that get away from them.
It would be a huge accomplishment to, say, beat Miami and LeBron or to take out Indy on the road – those wins are just bonuses – beating Utah at home is a virtual must.
It will be interesting to see how they handle themselves tonight.
I can hear it now …
Rudy Gay had it going and DeMar DeRozan didn’t and how can those two guys possibly co-exist.
Well, they can.
The only reason there was such a discrepancy in the out-put was because DeRozan missed a handful of shots he normally makes.
The shot distribution was not spectacular but it was okay – 26 field goal attempts for Gay and 15 shots for DeRozan – and the difference, mainly was that Gay was hot and they fed him a bunch.
But on a normal night, DeRozan makes seven or eight of the shots he missed, he finishes with 26 or 28 points and everyone’s happy.
Yes, their games are a bit similar but there is a way for them to co-exist and we saw it last night; DeRozan’s tough shooting night had nothing to do with Gay, it was just one of those nights.
Gotta love the Pacer fans.
Aside from the chant of “He’s a flop-per, he’s a flop-per” when Lowry took a charge, the pre-game intros were very cool. Don’t imagine you saw it, either.
There’s a section of seats – Area 55 it’s called because Roy Hibbert gives out the tickets with the only proviso being that fans have to cheer loudly the whole game – up in the corner behind the Pacers bench.
And when the Raptors were being introduced, the fans all stood, turned their backs to the court and yelled “who cares!” after each player was introduced.
First time I’d seen it, give ‘em credit for ingenuity and I know that would never happen in Toronto.
And now some mail?
But first …
I have no idea who this is but I heard this before the game in Charlotte and again before the game in Indiana and how the hell can two cities be “my” city?
I don’t get it.
Now the mail.
Q: Hey Doug,
Always read you talking about flights and tough travel, why don’t the Raptors put you on their plane/bus to travel with their announcers?
A: It’s mostly logistics.
When they’re flying after a game, I’m working; when they leave on a trip, I’m working.
There are other issues at play as well: We’d have to find a way to pay for flights, we’d have to stay at the same (expensive) hotels as the team and it’d just be too hard to pull off.
Plus, if you offered it to the two papers that travel, they’d probably have to make the offer to other media outlets and they could very well run out of room on the plane.
It’d be nice because there isn’t much better in the world of travel than charters and five-star hotels but it’s not workable on a whole lot of levels.
Q: Hi Doug -
Long time reader, first time writer. I've been a Raptor fan since their first season and my son is now a second generation fan.
For his birthday we are taking him to his first ever live game. Just wondered if you could give some tips - does anything happen before the 7pm tip off that he could watch? Is there a chance to get autographs? Any guidance greatly appreciated - he has been looking forward to this all year so we want to make it a special experience.
A: Doors open an hour before tip-off and if you get in right then, you’ll get a chance to see the end of the player workouts on the court before the game. It’s not thrilling but it’s something.
And I don’t know where your seats are but kids and autograph seekers tend to hang out right around the tunnel where the players enter and exit the court and a few of them will stop and sign.
Enjoy the game.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
Our usual post-shootaround look at tonight’s Raptors game.
TORONTO (2-3) at INDIANA (5-0)
Bankers Life Fieldhouse
TIPOFF: 7 p.m.
TV: TSN2; RADIO: Sportsnet FAN590
WEB: The delights of an in-game blog begin just before 7 p.m.
Toronto: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas; Indiana: C.J. Watson, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West, Roy Hibbert.
Gay vs. George
The Indiana small forward is turning into one of the top players in the league, getting him stopped is a must. Gay, like the other Toronto starters, eased into the game Wednesday in Charlotte, he can’t afford to do that again.
What happened this morning
Talk of toughness
Dwane Casey stated the obvious when he mentioned that the Pacers are probably the most physically tough team in the league.
He knows playing “tough” isn’t an attribute generally associated with the Raptors but he said his team needs to match the Pacers aggression to have any chance.
Much interest in Tyler Hansbrough, who spent the first four years of his career with the Pacers.
He was telling a handful of media types after shootaround that he didn’t spend a lot of his off-day yesterday socializing, he was too tired (and seems to serious) to be glad-handing and catching up.
It’s Zach Zarba, Kevin Cutler and David Guthrie who’ll be blowing the whistles tonight.
Believe it or not, the Raptors are on a roll in Indiana. They won both meetings with the Pacers are Bankers Life last season, one of them a truly gruesome game where they scored four points in the fourth quarter and still won.
Yes, that is the same Rasual Butler you’ll see on the Pacers bench, the veteran ex-Raptor made the team out of training camp.
Dwane Casey was non-committal about which of his backup point guards he’ll use tonight when Kyle Lowry needs a rest.
D.J. Augustin played a rather nondescript first half in Charlotte on Wednesday and it was Julyan Stone who took over in the second half.
Casey does believe a bit in the theory that players tend to play well against their former teams so that might give ex-Pacer Augustin the edge but he’s been so ordinary, Casey would only say it’s a “game-time” decision on who the backup is tonight.
Banged up Pacers
Stop us if you’ve heard this before but Danny Granger is hurt and out for Indiana; George Hill’s availability won’t be known until game time. Hill sat out a Wednesday win over Chicago because of a hip issue.
If it’s Friday, must be a series of little things which is good because it’s been a long couple of days and the mind isn’t truly engaged.
And sorry this is a bit late, was a slow morning for some reason.
Not sure if anyone has paid any attention to a rather smallish story that got a tiny mention in Nothing But Net (which you should go and read here) about Larry Sanders of the Milwaukee Bucks but it is interesting to me at some level.
Here it is but, in a nutshell, it’s that Sanders is some club in Milwaukee last Saturday night/Sunday morning, there’s an incident, maybe a champagne bottle or two are broken over someone’s head and details are still emerging.
The thing that I find a bit fascinating is this, and I am not singling out Sanders because I don’t know him or his character and shouldn’t comment on it.
How many times do we have to read about some middle of the night fracas involving an athlete?
Athletes have to know that they are “targets” in some regard, that if they are out, there is a chance someone is going to make some comment or try to make themselves feel important by challenging them or confronting them or whatever.
It happens more often than we hear about, I know this to be true because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen the late nights where athletes are in a corner at a table and the joint might be full of people emboldened by whatever who want to talk and to make what they think are jokes but there is sometimes an under current of jealousy or a desire to challenge (not sure that’s the right word but it’s close) or to get close to player who just wants to be out having fun.
And that’s when trouble might arise. And when bottles get broken or confrontations arise and trouble happens.
But it is a simple fact of life that professional athletes have to be held to a higher standard, they have to be aware of what they are and who they are and that they could very well be challenged and pestered every time they go out.
The good ones know this and do one of a few things. They either don’t go out (and I think it was Doc Rivers who first said this: Nothing good happens in a bar at 2 a.m.) or, if they do, they know to surround themselves with true friends who can see trouble coming and can avert it, somehow.
I don’t know what the answer is because I don’t think there is one. Athletes are people and cannot sequester themselves from life, they need to be able to go out and have fun and be with people.
But they also have to be smarter than the average person, they have to pick their spots and make smarter decisions and handle themselves in a different way.
Of course this is taking the easy way out but it’s Indy so …
Need mail and hellos and notes at email@example.com quite badly, if only to soothe the mind. Help me out?
And we’ll be around for an IGBT about 7, stop by if you like.
Two things about travelling these days:
I can’t wait to get off planes to check in with loved ones.
I can’t wait to get off planes to check the tweeter feed to see what the mayor and, now, is family, has done.
They are the two delights of my days.
Wander into St. Elmo last night for a few glasses of something and a shrimp cocktail and my man Chuck is working, as he has been for the last decade. Sit on the stool and before I can order:
“Doug? What’s up with the Mayor? Crack? Wow.”
And then I wished the satellite had been able to pick up CP24
Yep, your city is something else.
You know how I’m often lamenting how we tend to rush to judgement these days, how immediate gratification is the norm and none of us can wait to see how things unfold because it’s a “now” world?
Well, how about those Raptors?
They are five games into a marathon of a season – FIVE GAMES – and I don’t remember time when more minds were made up so quickly about what’s going to happen.
They suck. Dwane sucks. Rudy and DeMar suck. The point guards are awful. They are going to have a terrible season.
Now, that may all be fact, that may all end up being true but here’s the thing:
The season isn’t over. I guarantee you there will be some good nights and some entertaining nights and some nights when things look very good.
Yes, there will be some bad nights and some dull nights and some nights when things go in the toilet right off the bat.
This is a flawed team in its construction, of that there is no doubt and anyone who expected anything other than ups and downs was, frankly, delusional.
I have no idea how the season will shake out because there are so many questions to be answered. And that’s precisely the point: At five games, we don’t know, no one does so declarative statements are silly.
They’ll win some, they’ll lose some, there will be mistakes made. There are likely to be trades and nights when it looks like garbage and nights when it looks really good.
It’s too early to say which there will be more of.
What’s up in Indy?
Well, aside from the traditional St. Elmo stop before the stool and games on TV (plus the obligatory journey to Steak ‘N Shake on the way back from shootaround later) here’s what the local paper has today.
That one will get the chatter going, won’t it?
Contentious finish, atrocious start, all kinds of time for second guessing and I know how much a lot of people enjoy that.
And while I realize the result wasn’t to the liking of many, at least it wasn’t a boring, uneventful night. Not be a long shot in any manner.
Well, should they have?
Fouled, of course.
I’m sure you’ve all read the story (it’s here if you haven’t) wherein Dwane explains the decision and since it was his to make, we have to respect the fact he made it knowing he’d have to live with the consequences.
I have two issues and one point to make.
First: Dwane always – ALWAYS – extends games and to not to in those circumstances runs absolutely counter to his history and, we thought, his philosophy. It was just so out of character that I was kind of caught off guard while the play was unfolding.
Second: Even if you accept that they’ll try for a stop and hope Charlotte takes a shot with a few seconds left, it’s incomprehensible that after the ball went out of bounds with 5.2 seconds left and 3.3 on the shotclock, they didn’t foul on the catch of the inbounds pass. That was perhaps the most egregious aspect of the whole thing, they had time to think about it as a staff. And at some point in the whole 30 seconds, someone had to realize that, hey, Charlotte is THE SECOND WORST FOUL SHOOTING TEAM IN THE LEAGUE!
Now, Dwane’s a big boy and has been around a lot longer than any of us and he knows full well how is he is held accountable and by whom.
I respect him for that, he is unwavering in his confidence in his abilities and his decisions and understands that second-guessing is part of what he signed up for.
He’ll be second-guessed for that one more than any other; and I think I’d be leading the pack.
The point: It’s one that I’m sure Charlotte coach Steve Clifford thought of, too. The Bobcats got lucky, it’s not like they had the greatest of execution down the stretch but still got away with it.
The next step
It became glaringly apparent early last night – and now that I think of it, it was an issue Tuesday – that there is one thing that stands out in the “next thing Jonas has to focus on” evolution of the kid:
How many times early last night did he get switched onto a small and play so far off the guy that not only did he give up an easy jump shot, there was so much room to drive that he was virtually defenceless.
Yes, it can be a learned skill, it’s best he learns it quickly.
The next step, part 2
So many fans wonder why Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan have a penchant for over-dribbling and taking their time to get off shots or attack the basket and here’s the simple reason:
Neither of them are good passers right now.
Blurred court vision, a single-minded focus on the opportunities in front of them rather than consistent creativity, it’s a big reason for the bog-down in the Raptors offence.
Can that be taught? Not likely well enough to make them into assist machines but with constant reminders and video sessions, you have to hope they improve.
More? A bit I’m sure.
Joni Mitchell is 70 years old today?
I’ll tell you, if you wander the streets of Charlotte in a stupour and find a joint that’ll sell you $3 pints of Harp while you type stuff, a night can end well.
Here’s to the Carolina Ale House and a nice place to take your mind off the events of the day.
Next stop: St. Elmo’s.
Oh yeah. If you didn’t get in on the noon-hour chat yesterday (the fruits of that labour are here and we missed some of you), there’s always the weekend mailbag. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org and we’re always anxious to hear from old friends.
How did that game play in Charlotte. Like this.
So I read today that USAir, which will eventually carry me to Indianapolis this afternoon, is going to allow us to use small, handheld devices – phones, iPads, tablets of various kinds – for entire flights through taxiing, takeoff, landing, whenever.
First reaction: Great, more time to work, just what I need.
I guess it makes sense, and will make things a bit easier to get some work done or read or whatever and I presume it’s the next logical step in air travel.
I hope some day soon on the flights that offer wireless that they will let me use mine instead of paying for theirs so I can stay in touch by e-mail with friends and loved ones but we’re apparently not there yet.
But here’s what they cannot ever, ever, ever do and this goes for every airline transporting people anywhere all over the world:
Do not, under any circumstances, allow us to talk on cellphones during flights.
Never mind the navigational issues – if they exist and I wonder about that – I just don’t want to hear conversations and in a plane there’s nowhere to escape to if some boisterous businessman starts working on deals or some Mom and Dad start checking in with their kids and giving vacation reports.
Now, I don’t know about you, but the first thing I do when the wheels touch down is turn on the phone and get in touch by typing; already too many people start gabbing as soon as they can, I don’t want some lonely traveller chatting for an entire flight.
And a fine good evening to you, again.
Our post-shootaround look at tonight’s Raptors game.
TORONTO (2-2) at CHARLOTTE (2-2)
Time Warner Cable Arena
TIPOFF: 7 p.m.
TV: Sportsnet; RADIO: TSN1050
WEB: Yes, an in-game blog will commence shortly before 7 p.m. at thestar.com
Toronto: Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson, Jonas Valanciunas; Charlotte: Kemba Walker, Gerald Henderon, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Josh McRoberts, Bismack Biyombo.
Valanciunas vs. Biyombo
Coming off his best game of the season – albeit in limited minutes in a loss – Valanciunas should be able to take advantage of a distinct size advantage over the Bobcats centre.
What happened this morning
Not an awful lot
Charlotte won in New York on Tuesday and Toronto lost at home to Miami so both teams eschewed shootarounds for some rest.
The back-to-back for the Raptors is the second in six days (last Friday at Atlanta and Saturday at Milwaukee) and they face another Friday in Indiana and home Saturday to Utah.
After that grind ends, the next back-to-back isn’t until Dec. 13-14.
Another gruesome bit of Raptors history.
The hadn’t beaten Milwaukee in 11 games and now haven’t beaten the Miami Heat in 11 games and they come into this one having dropped five in a row in Charlotte.
The last win here came on March 29, 2010
They’re coming home
He’s been gone for a season but a sentimental wave should wash over D.J. Augustin, who spent four seasons with the Bobcats before playing for the Pacers last year.
And that makes this week – games in Charlotte and Indianapolis – the D.J. Augustin Return Tour.
Given the way he’s played, maybe a trip down memory lane will help him remember past successes.
Oh and Tyler Hansbrough has to get some love in Charlotte after his career at North Carolina.
Esoteric note of the day
The last time a Toronto team was over .500 after five games of a regular season was Nov. 6, 2009, after they beat New Orleans.
What about the Bobcats?
As Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer recounts, they got a huge game out of point guard Kemba Walker in New York on Tuesday, now can he do it on consecutive nights?
And centre Al Jefferson (ankle) has not been officially ruled out of tonight’s game but it’s unlikely he’d make his first regular season appearance without benefit of a practice.
The usual note
Because you all need and want to know, Monty McCutchen, Dedric Taylor and Sean Wright are the officials in charge of tonight’s festitvities.
Of course everyone’s going to read too much into Game 4, it’s what you do but …
It was a game they shouldn’t have won and didn’t and in a lot of ways, it’s best put behind everyone. No, there are no “trends” to worry about a week into the season, let’s see what happens in the next three weeks.
So, ease up on the “fire this guy, trade that guy, bench this other guy” stuff, okay?
And then read all this breathlessly.
An odd group
Yes, I think one of Jonas Valanciunas or Amir Johnson should – barring crazy foul trouble or an injury – be on the court at all times for what I think a size-challenged team.
I understand entirely the need at times to have Landry Fields or Rudy Gay at the four, there will be matchups that demand it, but I think the other big needs to be one of those other two; not Tyler Hansbrough, who is a good and gritty defender but who offers little or not rim protection.
Now, we did ask Dwane about it, the answer is somewhere in this story, and his reasoning obviously made sense to him and that’s all that really matters. He knows his personnel better than you or I do and it’s decision to make.
I think what we’re seeing is that it’s going to take a few games to settle on some kind of consistent rotation, especially on a team that really has just two bigs and is trying to buy time with others.
Will they figure it out? Sure, it’s early. But I think the days of neither Valanciunas nor Johnson on the court at the same time need to come to an end quickly.
But what do I know, right?
Not so much a hell on earth
Here’s a somewhat surprising number:
That was the announced attendance, about 1,500 shy of a sellout, and that kind of struck me as odd.
Hadn’t been a game in Toronto in about a week, the Heat have historically been an outstanding draw over the past four years and to have that many empty seats has to make someone at MLSE sit up and take notice, doesn’t it?
Masai’s big hope of turning the ACC into something of a torture chamber for visiting teams has a long, long way to go before it’s reality and I have to say this:
If the fat cats in the high price tickets are going to treat the team and the game with as much disrespect as they do now at the start of the game and the third quarter, it’s never going work the way the GM wants.
It stuns me – and I’ve been in a few arenas over the years – just how many people care so little that they can’t make their way to their seats before the game actually begins or resumes.
Now maybe it was just that I was little cranky after a long day but last night it seemed even worse that usual to me.
There probably isn’t an answer – you can’t stop the paying customers from socializing and loafing – but it’s shocking how little the people sitting the most expensive seats seem to care.
Doesn’t happen in too many other cities.
Not time yet
Yes, that was a totally ineffective night for D.J. Augustin, who really did nothing of note, not even “hold serve” as the keeper of the ball when Kyle Lowry has to get some rest.
I’m dead certain the coaches have noticed – Dwane’s been harping on the fact no one has seized that position since about the second week of training camp – and I know there had to be some disappointment last night.
Now, given his veteran status and history and the fact he was quite serviceable in the first three games, I don’t think it’s time for a change at that position but I think they need to get a spark there in the next three or four games before it’s Julyan Stone’s time.
Okay, that’s far too much rambling on Game 4 of 82. Let’s move on, shall we?
Now, as one who considers himself a bit of an expert in daytime TV cop dramas, here’s one for you.
Best CSI franchise theme song?
Gotta be this, right?
Right out of CSI New York, beats Who Are You from the original and We Won’t Get Fooled Again from CSI Miami all to hell.
In fact, that’s how you have to rank the three versions of the show from best to worst, right?
Love the New York one – and show that’s employed both Melina Kanakaredes (I dare you to remember Providence!) and Sela Ward wins going away, right?
CSI Vegas gets second by default because I’d rather watch CSI Richmond Hill or CSI Markham than the over-acted tripe of the Miami one. The red-headed guy should never have bailed on Sipowicz.
Don’t forget. Chat at noon if you’re up for it. I’ll be going on a couple of hours sleep I presume after a looooooong day and short night but I’ll be alert enough to be entertaining, I hope.
I know Canadian basketball fans are all rightfully caught in the extraordinary Andrew Wiggins hype, he’s the most talked-about one of us may be ever and his expected lone season at Kansas could very well be special, if over-hyped.
But I hope at least some of you noticed that Trey Lyles, born in Saskatoon and a high school sensation in Indiana, committed to Kentucky yesterday for next year.
Now, I have no idea how his skills develop but I will tell you this story:
Remember the free-for-all camp they held for Canadian kids the summer before last at the Air Canada Center in Steve Nash’s first big splash as the national team general manager?
I can’t remember how many knowledgeable people – NBA assistant coaches and scouts and various Canada Basketball officials – raved about the kid. Great footwork, good body, knew how to play and if you’re looking for the next, next big thing you might be wise to jump on that bandwagon now.
Of course, I don’t care for too much hype but this kid could be really good.
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).