Lots of questions on lots of issues, as usual, to get you through until Fanapalooza! arrives for the final home game of the season.
Q: Good morning Doug – We all woke up to a tragedy this morning and it is sad. You have talked many times about players getting large contracts because they cold be injured and done in a moment. Fourteen young lives have been lost from a city of six thousand and that is heart breaking to all I am sure. Kids basically being kids and enjoying the limelight in their city. It is sad !!
A: The tragedy involving the Humboldt team was unspeakably sad and crushing and just so, so, so devastating. Reduced all of us to tears at some point reading or thinking about it.
We’ve all been on buses or put our kids on them and known it’s a fun time, a time to develop friendships or just hang out. Team trips, school trips, whatever.
Those young men were robbed of their lives and I cannot imagine the suffering that accident caused.
And, yeah, life is fleeting and you never know and it’s why you should live as you do, enjoy every day because tomorrow is not promised.
Q: Just dropping by to say hi…just as you asked.
A: My Irregulars! Always coming through.
Q: Hey Doug,
A: You know, I truly and honestly don’t know where this perception that the US media hates or ignores the Raptors comes from because it’s simply not true. I don’t know if it’s too many people being too overly-sensitive or what.
I’ve heard Charles Barkley, one of the loudest and most influential voices in the game say he thinks the Raptors are the best team in East; Doris Burke, perhaps the most astute national analyst there is, sings their praises. ESPN has had three of its biggest voices – Woj, Zach Lowe, Brian Windhorst – here in the last two weeks and all of ‘em spoke and wrote glowingly about this team; Sports Illustrated sent its best, Lee Jenkins, to do a wonderful piece on Dwane Casey.
The narrative that (a) they don’t pay attention to Toronto or (b) don’t like the team is false. And I won’t perpetuate it.
As to your other point, most people I read or watch laud the Rockets while also pointing out they have the Warriors to deal with. Oh, and Harden has had a bit of playoff success over the years.
Q: Good day Doug,
Lofty heights and an amazing year already for the Raptors. Considering the roster turnover, the change in play and the unproven, very young bench, impressive indeed. Since first is locked up and the rest of the games having no impact I would love to see Coach Casey start Freddy, Yak & Skilz, CJ and Delon. It would be a great way for them to be recognized on the home court and get the ovation they deserve. I know the starting five of JV, Kyle, Demar, Serge and OG would be leading the applause, it would be a nice thing to see.
A: Nah, the best thing to do would be to take ‘em out individually to let them get the deserved ovations but who ya gonna put in?
Q: At this writing, the morning after the (second) Boston game, one has to express a small degree of relief about an impressively resilient showing on home court, keyed by Delon Wright’s versatility, indeed by the versatility of the entire roster. This has been a wonderful season of Raptors basketball, the best ever I think. And nothing that happens in the Bizzaro World of the playoffs (where the most overlooked factor is luck) should detract from it. This team will be a tough out, but season-long sustained excellence is a significant achievement to be celebrated.
It was quite a week for Spanish point guards. It is not often that I smile through a Raptor loss like the Cleveland game. Call it the Calderon effect. Just as noteworthy was the April Fools prank played by Ricky Rubio in the Twin Cities where he eviscerated his former teammates, which I witnessed soundlessly while sitting with a dying relative. I’ve seen three Jazz/Timberwolves matchups this year; they’ve all been compelling and Rubio has been brilliant enough to inspire Jeff Teague’s conjuring of a Robert Horry body check; he’s even made the occasional shot. Now that is a potential playoff series to die for.
Let me belatedly agree with your opinion of where Steve Nash fits in the firmament of Canadian male athletes. I note that your red flag attracted a few hockey bulls (and of course the best hockey player of them all is Beliveau). I’d have no problem grouping Nash with Jenkins and Walker (since I’d argue baseball is a world game too), and Bailey because his sport is the most elemental and inclusive of all.
James A., Victoria
A: I don’t know if it’s a system thing, or a teammates thing, or a late maturation thing but Rubio has been the kind of player I thought he’d be after I watched him at a couple of FIBA events as a teenager. I’m a fan and always have been.
Beliveau? Can see the argument but hadn’t heard his name in that conversation.
Q: Good morning Doug – has not the greatest of weather while we worry about what is wrong with the Raptors. But they will survive I think. This is a little bit off your beat but I would be interested in hearing your comments. The young Japanese kid Ohtani sure appears to be living up to his press which brings up a question or two. If he is the starting pitcher and in a close game can he be used as a pinch hitter and still stay in the game as a starter?? I suppose the other way would bring up the question of him starting as a designated hitter and going in as a relief pitcher for a few batters. This side I say yes he stays. What are your comments on this unusual situation.
A: It’s early and the sample size is way too small and pitchers are bound to find holes in his swing the second or third time around but, man, it’s been cool to watch, hasn’t it been?
Yeah, pinch hitters can stay in any game as a position player; it might cost you the DH but if it’s late enough in a game, you can always pinch-hit again if you want to.
But, no, if he’s the starter that you can insert him into the batting lineup.
Q: Ok, quick question, how many current NHL players can you name? Bonus points if you can name their current teams.
A: Why in the world would you give a rat’s butt? A joke? An attempt t0 think either you’re smarter than I am or that you’re trying to embarrass me?
But, because you asked: I’d say more than 25 and less than 100. Maybe. Satisfied?
My issue is with the league and thin-skinned, defensive fans who see the winter pro sports world as an either-or situation. The NHL won’t – or can’t – protect its players because it allows them to bare-knuckle fight whenever they want and the league won’t or can’t mandate eye visors for every player, which is the most basic of workplace safety issues. They reward failure by giving a team that loses a game a point for participation and any league that sets up a playoff system where three of the top four teams in conference are 100 per cent guaranteed to be out of the playoffs before the conference final is doing something wrong. Oh, and goaltender interference.
But I love the players, it’s a masterful game played by brilliant athletes.
Q: Hey Doug,
Well I guess the HOTH shut up some of those naysayers, of course not all because that’s just the way it is. Guess everyone gets angst cuz Raps weren’t playing great in the last couple weeks, where other teams went thru their swoon at other parts of the season. Nice to see the boys playing some serious defence the last couple games (against a couple hot teams I may add) as they gear up for the playoffs.
A: Trust me, the only thing any of us are scared of is inconvenient flights and expensive hotels and tough working conditions.
But I can see some of it simply being fun, who they’ll play and when and it’s basically harmless. We’ll see who they get in the first round and write about that and let the chips fall where they may. As we should.
The Jays are a revelation, for five games as I type this, but’s a marathon and, generally, a .250 hitter is a .250 hitter. Just might take longer some seasons to reach that level.
Q: Hi Doug,
A: I think this group has probably learned its lesson about the perils of falling behind 0-1 with homecourt but they have to play well. Same goes which team they matchup best with; they can beat any of them if they play, as Dwane says, to their identity. The playoffs are about mental and physical toughness, not individual matchups.
Been a pretty impressive run the Sixers, with some good wins tossed among some schedule wins and while it’s got to help their confidence, it will mean nothing next weekend.
There’s no reason to think LeBron can’t keep going at this level for another five years.
Q: Doug, seeing Cory play last night leads me to ask if you’d compare and contrast him with Fred? Money aside, an upgrade for HOTH? Cheers.
A: Fred’s a better shooter and that’s the main difference because in many other aspects – on court leadership, defence, running a team – they are very similar. But Fred can beat you in different ways.
And I understand money aside but next year, Fred’s gonna make north of $8 million a year so I’m not sure that’s an issue. I don’t know where I’ve explained it in here because I’m going to merge two files but Fred’s gonna make that money here.
Q: Hey Doug, I’m a fairly casual basketball fan but big Raptors supporter, and I’ve noticed this year a surprising number of successful chasedowns on fast-break defence. Am I just focusing on this or do you agree this is different than previous years (and are the Raptors better than other teams?)
A: The combination of Pascal’s speed, Delon’s deceptive ability to close out space quickly and Ibaka’s veteran abilities has given them far more chasedown blocks than they’ve ever had. They are just better equipped than ever to do it.
Q: Good Morning
A: Nah, nothing more than a bad day at work. We all have ‘em.
Q: As i sat down to watch the game on puter – saw Paul Krugman posted a column about indie musicians with this example - outstanding thought you would appreciate
Now to watch and hope they play as hard as the boston game.
A: Very good.
And they did, didn’t they?
Q: Hi Doug
I’m glad someone explained ROW to you but did they explain the absolute dumbest part of ROW? It is used as the 1st tie breaker between teams. In other words, the NHL is the only league (I’ll venture to say professional, minor or rec) that doesn’t use head to head record as the 1st tie breaker. When you someday treat us with your list of 5 stupidest things in sports, this should be #1 by a mile (unless it’s tied with something else, in which case you can break the tie by…..)
A: ROW would absolutely be on that list. Very high up.
Q: I hear everybody in Toronto moaning about the way in which the playoffs are constructed in the NHL vs the NBA. Now we’ve even got The Star’s leading basketball guy complaining? Geez, Louise.
The fact is that the NHL has FAR more parity than the NBA and so no matter if you’re the 16th seed, or the top seed, it’s never going to be clear sailing into the finals (no matter how the seedings are designed), whereas in the NBA, you’ve got about 2-5 truly elite teams (if that), so the you generally get the top 2 regular season teams (or something close to that) in the Finals. That, in my opinion, is why the NHL playoffs are so vastly superior. They are more like the NCAA basketball tournament in that regard. Much more drama and far less predictability, which is something that makes the NBA playoffs so friggin’ boring for the most part.
To cite one recent NHL example, recall that Nashville almost won the whole thing last year, despite being the 16th seed.
As far as the Leafs go, if the playoffs were to start today, sure the Buds would have home ice advantage against…(wait for it) the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions, Pittsburgh Penguins. Not sure that gives them a significant head-start to winning the Cup (although there would be something psychically satisfying about knocking out the champs).
The point is that any road to the Stanley Cup is going to be tough for Toronto and I personally like the current divisional setup as it helps to foster some great rivalries (if Winnipeg were to face Minnesota in the first round, as looks likely, that’s a great geographic rivalry in the making). And if and when Toronto finally plays Montreal in a playoff series, I suspect every hockey fan will rejoice that the NHL has had the foresight to design the system that it has.
All the best,
A: You like it, I don’t.
It’s why they have menus in restaurants, as Perk used to tell me all the time.
Q: Hi Doug
Avid (everyday) reader and sometimes writer – though not sure any of mine of ever been on the site! This comment is website related so I understand you have no responsibility for this passing it along. It appears in the past week, your blog now has advertisements on the page with full sound that cannot be turned off or muted. I, like probably one or two others, will sometimes read this at work and really do not want our computers to all of sudden blast out music (and I fully acknowledge the fact that I shouldn’t be reading at work). I’m probably not alone being bothered by intrusive website advertising that plays sound without us being able to turn it off – even CNN’s pages which annoyingly have sound can be muted. It adds a very annoying element to an otherwise great blog – so hopefully there’s something that could be said to the guys/gals in the IT dept to fix this! Just wanted let you know – now there are some kids on my lawn I need to deal with!
A: I’ve passed this on to Tall Foreheads. I can’t imagine they’ll change but they will have heard you.
And of course you should read at work. What else are you going to do? Work?
Q: Good morning Doug – a half decent game from the Raptors last night and as you said in Thursday’s blog the effort and enjoyment from the team was noticeable. We are now into the “record time of the year” – 57 or more wins which I am sure they will hit easily. With the playoffs coming up in 10 or so days the one things that concerns me is the fan reaction should they not go all the way. In a seven game series anything can happen and usually does. Regardless of what takes place the rest of the way I think we Canadians owe the team a huge thanks for the pleasure and fun they have given us. This in no way is meant to be negative – my feeling is they will get into the finals.
A: It’s going to be fascinating to see how the inevitable end to this season is handled by the masses. I am sure there will understandably be immediate hot takes about what they lack and why they lost and I would hope that it isn’t too long after that people take into consideration what an incredible season this has been and how good this team has been for so long.
Only one team will win its last game, it doesn’t mean that the others haven’t provided fans with months of high quality play and fun. And I know how this might sound but regardless of how things ultimately turn out, this has been the best season in franchise history and should be remembered as that.
Q: Greetings and salutations Mr. Smith,
My apologies if this question has been asked ad nauseum…what are your thoughts on Fred VanVleet receiving consideration for (and perhaps securing) 6th Man of the Year OR (perhaps more appropriately) Most Improved Player? Too Toronto-centric of a notion, or legitimate based on musings and discourse around the league among your peers and others in the game?
A: I am dead certain Fred will get consideration in Sixth Man voting and I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of people didn’t put him on their Most Improved ballot as well.
Each will be deserving.
Q: Fred VanVleet
Are we going to be able to afford to keep him next year? Hoping so.
A: I’m told by people I trust that they will indeed keep VanVleet, as if letting him go was a logical option. Because of his status as a restricted Early Bird free agent, the most a team can offer him is the mid-level exception and that’s basically chump change. And if another team backloads the contract to make it worth, say, $16 million in the third or fourth year that’s fine, too, the Raptors will be out from the big salaries of Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and, possibly DeMar DeRozan then and will have the money.
But, rest assured, as I type this it is 100 per cent certain he’ll be back.
Q: Hi Doug,
Albeit the playoffs are ultimately what the Raptors’ success will be measured against once the season has concluded, I am really pulling for the HOTH to finish 1st place in the Eastern Conference. I don’t believe the franchise has ever secured the top seed in the East correct? Where would you score this on the list of all-time franchise accomplishments?
A: It is the first time ever and it is a very significant accomplishment. Off the top of my head it would fall between getting to an Eastern Conference final through two gruelling playoff rounds and making the playoffs for the first time in all-time accomplishments as a team
Q: Hi Doug
With the playoffs almost upon us, a quick question relating to the Celtics. One of the more concerning things about the Raptors’ loss to the Celtics was the way Toronto had no answer for the Boston’s decision to go big. So how does Toronto handle that going forward? Do you try something really crazy like a big lineup featuring JV, Ibaka, AND Poeltl or Bebe? Or is that just too radical a departure from what has been tried in the past? How does the team cope with Boston’s strategy (which I’m sure will be garnering LOTS of attention elsewhere in the league, especially if Boston tries it again this week and proves successful with it)?
All the best,
A: They didn’t have answer on Saturday, they did have an answer on Wednesday. And they did it by staying smallish when Boston went big and defending better.
Q: Hey there,
I’ve been keeping an eye on the bucks, Wiz and Heat. I have a suspicion they are all after that 8th seed rather than face Cleveland or Boston (especially the Wizards). Do you agree?
Q: I’m losing confidence in the Raptors ability to stop LeBron.
I don’t believe a championship team can have Anunoby playing significant minutes. I love the kid but it is too much to ask.
The solution, I think, is reminiscent of how the Detroit Pistons used a very young Dennis Rodman. The Pistons had a similar rotation to the Raptors . Their “bench mob” was a four man team with Vinnie “the Microwave” Johnson rotating through the guard positions. They began bringing Rodman off the bench early, robbing the starter of about ten to twelve minutes a game. Now the starter was 6 time All-Star Adrian Dantley, who complained so loudly they had to trade him.
I think this is how Pascal Siakum should be used. I name him because I don’t see anyone else on the team that has a chance of being successful against James.
Breaking up the second could have disastrous effects, but Siakum could get extra minutes with the starters specifically to dog LeBron. He is a young, strong guy and there is lots of rest in the playoffs. Ride him like you’re coming down the stretch in the Kentucky Derby.
A: In his last 10 games, OG’s playing about 15 minutes a night so “significant” is not case and it’s by design. I would presume he plays five or six, maybe seven, minutes to start the game and the second half then they’ll get into whatever rotation works best each night. It’s what they did with Scola two year ago.
But they don’t have to change what they do substantially and here’s the thing: No one stops LeBron.
Q: Hi Doug
Given the recent slide of the Raptors do you think it’s a case of teams figuring out their plays and the fact that the bench may not be able to sustain intensity for the playoffs? Do you also think that after the all star break, our lack of another shooter can hurt us, that being said it was sad to see Lou Williams gone after that breakout year, think was a mistake not to have made him an offer, imagine having him in our line up along with Miles, your thoughts…
A: One of the best moves they’ve made in years was to let Lou go, they had become far too reliant on offence at the expense of defence and I think history proves me right. That said, bench has sustained its intensity for 78 games as I type this, why wouldn’t they for another 25 or so if need be.
Miles and Williams was never, ever going to happen – sports is not linear – and if it did, you could probably get 15 a night at the other end.
Q: I know criticisms of Dwayne Casey seem dumb with the team doing so well but even the greatest can stumble . The use of Lucas is puzzling. I can t remember the exact games but Nogueira came into three games and made a significant impact on defense. He was then shelved for several games which include boston and cleveland which they lose. He then plays against Boston and they win. Was he the key factor in the voctory? I believe so but even if you don ‘t see it that way there is no doubt that he can at least offer rim protection which was missing from their losses. Casey should at least offer some explanation as to why lucas is left on the bench even when they are losing and please don’t give me some stock answer like he can’t defend the 3 when they are getting killed in the paint
Tony de carlo
A: To me and people in the organization who matter, it’s not puzzling whatsoever. Lucas is a wonderful talent but he cannot be relied on to play regularly. He goes through stretches where he has no impact on the game whatsoever and then he gets hurt and misses two week.
I love the guy, nice guy, delightfully skilled and as I told someone this morning, if you rely on him for more than spot duty, he’s just good enough to get you fired.
Dwane offers explanations every time we ask, you might have missed it: Right now, Jonas and Jakob give them more consistency than Lucas and that’s why they play. He is a third centre on a team that plays two and you can’t argue with the success.
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