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Flat earth, manipulating standings and summer thoughts: It’s all in the start of the weekend mail

Go Blue!!


A: The TV crews and radio teams do have access to live monitors courtside and often use them to call the games, sometimes even when they have unobstructed views but particularly when a coach or a player or a ref gets in their way.

I actually had a long chat with Jack about the college game last week when we were home – I think it was before the Monday game? And we both agreed the depth of talent is basically non-existent, the passion is real and genuine but it’s not really that good all around.

I said the shot clock is too long, he thinks it’s too short; I they run three-man weaves into threep-pointers no one can make, he thinks they run too much screen-roll and they can’t.

We both prefer the NBA game.

Q: Hey Doug

What are your thoughts on how potential playoff teams are scouting the current raptors roster? Without Lowry in the fold, I would feel that it would be hard to predict what plays will be run on offence and hard to create a defensive gameplan. On the other side of the coin, would you think it’s hard for Casey and staff to know how this team will play with Lowry and could their be a potential of chemistry issues rising during the playoffs?
What I’m asking, do you think we are at an advantage coming into the playoffs because the opponent won’t have film on a complete raptors team?
Fred Lorico

A: I don’t think it’s an advantage or a disadvantage either way. Players and coaches are so quickly able to adapt to what’s going on that it doesn’t really matter that Lowry hasn’t played in a while and that he’s never played with Ibaka and Tucker.

There seriously are only about four “plays” and every team runs them, it’s the reactions to reactions and counters to counters that matter and you can’t scout that.

Q: Hi Doug,

Thanks for all the hard work that you do covering the Raptors! Can you please find out if any of the Raptors agree with Kyrie Irving, and Shaq that the world is flat??!! I sincerely hope not. Interested to hear your take on Irving and Shaq’s beliefs.

Isaac Hall


A: In all my discussions with all these guys, I can say with confidence that none think the earth is flat. Lucas might be the contrarian but that just Lucas.

My reaction? Yawn. And people are crazy.

Q: Hello Doug!

Much has been made of the importance of the Raptors trying to finish third in the East in order to avoid a potential second-round meeting with Cleveland. (Assuming, of course, Toronto gets out of the first round, and history tells us that is not necessarily a safe assumption.)

I’m not a fan of trying to manipulate the standings by losing intentionally—I’m of the mind that the Raptors should try their damnedest to win all of their remaining games, because everything else that happens is outside of their control. That said, at the time of this writing, Cleveland and Boston have the same number of wins—although Cleveland has two games in hand against Boston, which is significant with so few games left to play.

I still expect Cleveland to finish first overall, but it certainly seems possible that Boston could finish first. If Boston manages to leap ahead of Cleveland over the next few games, does finishing fourth start to look more attractive to Toronto than finishing third? And is it really worth tempting fate when Cleveland still might spurt ahead to finish first at the end of the season? (I say no, for what it’s worth—the Raptors should try to run the table and let the other chips fall where they may.)

Thanks very much,


A: I think the last thing any team ever should do is try to manipulate the standings for playoff matchups and it’s even more ridiculous and dangerous to try to figure out better second round series when the first hasn’t even begun.
You mess with the Basketball Gods and they’ll mess with you, I guarantee it. And I vaguely remember the year Toronto played Washington in the first round and how that was supposedly better for their second round series and that sure turned out great, didn’t it?

Q: Hi Doug,

I know the playoffs aren’t even here yet, but I can’t help looking into the crystal ball and knowing the Raps are going to have cap issues to address this offseason. 

As we know it can be very difficult to trade in the NBA, since player salaries have to match up.  

My question is, are there any loop holes in the NBA offseason where these cap rules wouldn’t apply to trades? My thought process is that I’m sure there is a date when teams need to declare they are salary cap compliant before the regular season starts. Until that date, can teams ignore their cap and trade say a $ 10M guy for a $ 500k guy?  

Drew F

A: No, there are no loopholes where anything like that can happen. If you want to assume salary, you either have to divest it or have room under the cap to take it on and it doesn’t matter when in the calendar that is.

And I don’t know where “declare they are salary cap compliant” comes into effect but it’s not in basketball.

Q: Hello,

Do you think the NBA would ever consider creating/owning/running an international tournament (World Cup) of its own?  I ask this because:

 a) There’s probably money in it and other sports are doing it.  My sense is that the World Baseball Classic is slowly gathering momentum – hopefully MLB moves it to mid-season as a replacement for the all star game every 4 years once the owners realize how lucrative owning their sports’ premier international competition can be.  I’m confident that FIFA makes oodles of money from their World Cup (which also took a few editions to get going) and that the owners of Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, etc. would love to have a financial slice of that particular pie.  And the NHL has gone the owning the World Cup route, although possibly only as leverage in their negotiations with the IOC.  Does the NBA share the same problems with the ICC as the NHL? 

b) Basketball already has a popular international following.  You can probably go almost anywhere in the world and people will recognize the names Messi and Ronaldo.  That might be true for LeBron, Kobe, Jordan as well.  Is there another team sport where that’s the case?



A: I don’t think there’s any appetite at all at the league e level to branch out into running international events that would directly compete with the World Cup and/or Olympics. Basketball is so globally more successful and important than baseball that it’s not even funny and there’s no reason to do more.

Q: Hi Doug,

I love Serge.  I watched two great documentaries about him and he is an admirable man, father and sportsman.  But I cannot condone the whole “being a man” and needing to retaliate against Lopez.  He was a few millimetres away from breaking a finger and being out for the season.  He was lucky.  As a veteran he should have had the wherewithal to back away and let Lopez get thrown out by himself.  I love his hustle, toughness and smarts on the court but a veteran should be able to handle himself better for the good of the team.  (BTW, I admit to being a complete hypocrite here.  Just ask the guy who cut me off on the 401 today.)


A: I’m sure both Ibaka and Lopez regret the chance they took getting into that skirmish but, you know, the emotions of the moment are high and get the best of even the best of men.

Crap happens, you regret it and feel relieved after that nothing too bad happened.

But it’s not like it’s a common occurrence with either of them or even throughout the league so I don’t think there’s much to worry or think about now that it’s over and everyone got off unscathed.

Q: Hi Doug

Couple of things that bug me about overtime.

First is there an unwritten rule that no subs are allowed ? Yea the guys that were on the floor at the end of the game are warm and usually the guys you want out there but you can see how exhausted they are by the sloppy play. Fresh legs that may gather an extra rebound might be the difference. The other is that you stop running any offense and put the ball in Derozan or Butler’s hands and get the hell out of the way. I was shocked to see the ball move and end up up in Cory’s hands for the winner. Instead of an exciting part of the game overtime has become a boring one on one affair with an endless string of timeouts to extend the game.


A: No, there’s no rule about overtime subs at all and you hit the nail on the head with why coaches are not inclined to make changes in the five-minute span.

And doesn’t your point that it was Cory Joseph who hit the dagger fly in the face of the argument that it’s one-on-one with eight guys standing around?

Q: Not sure if this was already asked; Why did Nogueira fell out of the rotation? I think he brings more at this point than Jakob.


A: It’s been asked. And while you are quite fine with thinking what you think, Dwane Casey and his staff seem to think otherwise.

And, as he’s said repeatedly and I’ve said for years, everyone can’t play. Doesn’t mean they’re not any good, just means they’re not as good as the eight or nine or 10 guys who play ahead of them right now.

Q: The story this week is all about resting players. I understand all the fuss because fans go to other cities to see stars and when a team rests several players at the same time it robs fans of their hard earned money. If one star was rested at a time, I don’t think it would be as bad. Also, with teams fighting for playoff positions, a team essentially throwing a game is undfair to the other teams fighting for position with the winners of the gifted game.  Also TV has invested 24 Billion in the NBA which has led to the high players’ salaries. I fully understand them being perturbed when they pick a desirable game to broadcast and the stars rest. Not so many years ago the Spurs were fined $ 250,000.00 (I think by David Stern) for resting a few players. Why haven’t this carried through this year? It might actually help.

Lowry was supposed to see his doctor last week (I think) to evaluate his wrist. I haven’t seen any report on the results. Have you heard anything? Is it progressing well, poorly or as expected?

After watching Jimmy Butler beat the Raptors several times, I like his game. With Chicago possibly rebuilding, Jimmy could be available this summer in a trade. Would you want Jimmy on your team? Would you give up Caroll (assuming Chicago would even want him) and some young assets for Jimmy? In other words, could he really help the Raptors?

At this time we don’t know the penalty for Serge’s faux fight. Let’s hope the Raptors don’t lose him for more than a game. Any longer could really jeopardize their push for third. By the time you reply, we will know the outcome. Is the penalty fair?



A: There is no easy or simple answer to the “rest” issue, just like there isn’t any easy or simple answer to the “tanking” issue and what the Lakers and Suns are doing is, to me, at least as bad as giving three or four stars off on the same night. They’ll never fix it, they just need to find a way to make it more punitive to sit multiple players.

Lowry checked out fine and is doing more each day and, no, there is no indication when he’ll play. I figure we’ll find out a day, maybe two, before he’s back.

Butler’s an outstanding player, I would not gut my team to get him and I don’t think he makes the Raptors all that much better given the cost it would take to get him.

Q: “The maturation of DeMar DeRozan is really one of the under-told stories of the season”. 

Amen! This guy continues to improve; his ceiling is not yet in sight.

There was a second coming out party for a Raptor rookie in the Chicago game. I don’t think they win it without VanVleet.

For five years Dwane Casey has been perfectly consistent in discussing what he wants from his players. Now all he has to do is point at Tucker and say, play like him.

James A., Victoria BC

A: I’m trying to work on gathering my thoughts – and some quotes to go with it – to write a story that says this has been the greatest coaching year of Casey’s career. By far.

Q: Hi Doug

Something I have been contemplating for a while,

Lakers and Celtics are, I think, 1-2 in long term success in the NBA.
Lakers I get, they got lucky with an early star, then moved to LA and got all that attractiveness going for them.  But the Celtics?  How do they do it?  For a long time it was Auerbach, but he has been gone a
while. Watching Ainge in the Toronto outfield, one would not have expected him to become a dominant basketball GM, but that does seem to have been what has happened.  Is that the story? Auerbach to Ainge?
I must get this bit in.  In the early days there was also the story about Walter Brown facing down Abe Saperstein about drafting black players, but the effects of that ought to have faded by now.
Jim Rootham

A: It’s really unfair and wrong to compare Auerbach and Ainge because the eras were so incredibly different.

Ainge has done an excellent job of amassing assets and turning them into greater assets and, frankly, finding GMs more desperate for immediate success because of the demands of their owners. It’s how he did Garnett and Allen in 2007 or so and how he convinced Billy King at the Nets to take one of the most lopsided trades for future talent ever, simply because King was under immense pressure from an owner who didn’t get it to turn things around quickly.

Q: Doug

Watching the Raps without Kyle makes me think that Masai has no choice but to open the vault and pay Lowry whatever he wants. Any choice on this?

Keeping in my mind budget (see #1) and considering the rapid improvement of the young (and cheaper) guys on the team, which guys on the current roster do you think will be on the 2018-9 roster? I can see Joseph and Valanciunas being elsewhere.



A: Take this is in the spirit that it’s offered, which is light-hearted and understand that I know how valuable Lowry is but as I type this, their winning percentage without him is higher than with him.

But, no, there is no choice, I’d offer the max right off the bat and get it done.

I’m not gonna guess at summer roster machinations until this season is over but it would be wise to think Masai will be shopping around to make some changes and save some money and those two players are sure to come up in discussions.

Q: Doug

Every time the Raptors make an acquisition of a key defensive player, he is always touted as the one guy who can guard the opposition’s best player.  Several years ago, the player talked about in this manner was Terrence Ross.  Then, when we acquired Carroll, he replaced Ross as that guy.  Now, PJ Tucker is referred to as that guy.  My question is, although it’s hard to quantify based on stats, in your opinion is Tucker that much better on the defensive end than Carroll, and subsequently Carroll than Ross, and if so, by how much?

As a follow up question, as good as the defensive abilities of the aforementioned players are, they are never mentioned in defensive player of the year talk.  How far away are they from the elite defenders of the league, such as Jimmy Butler, Kawhi, and Lebron?


Dr. Justin

A: It is impossible to quantify. Tucker’s strength, to me, is his ability to guard multiple positions which allows the Raptors to deploy him all over the court and to switch pick and roll stuff which lessens the need to rotate and recover. In that regard, he is better than Carroll and Ross by a mile. Ross didn’t have the size or strength to guard other positions, Carroll doesn’t have the quickness to switch as much.

I don’t think, if you asked NBA people to be honest, that they are that far away from the perceived truly elite.

Q: Hi Doug

I enjoy your column on a daily basis, appreciate the insights and your “even keel” approach in a world that tends to overplay every positive and negative that comes by.

But, and you knew there was a but coming didn’t you, I’m noticing more and more misplaced words, wrong words, missing words, etc., in the stories. For example in today’s column I discovered “how how rewarded” coach Casey was. Was surprised that when Wright drove the baseline you “figured he go all the way to the rim” but changed his mind when he “saw too man bodies”. And I still can’t figure out who else you are referencing in the paragraph when talking about Poeltl when you say “he and Poeltl rebounded”. The kid is good but as far as I know there is only one of him.

Now I may be coming off as an old time nasty grammar nerd, but I know how much you respect your profession of journalism (loved the link to the Jimmy Breslin columns). But I don’t blame you at all. Having spent a good part of my life writing professionally, I know that a writer’s best friend is a proof reader. I also know that the state of journalism today probably doesn’t allow for the expense of proofing copy before its published and I think you and I would agree that is a shame.

So, I’ve got that off my chest and maybe given you something to pass along to the tall foreheads to let them know that people do notice and that it reflects poorly, not on the writer, but on the publication for not allocating appropriate resources.

Keep up the good work!

A: I’m going to take all the heat for Friday’s screw-ups. I re-read like I always do and either didn’t save the changes or missed them all. You’re right, I do take great interest in the use of the language and how correct grammar and spelling have become a lost art. It’s shameful and a pox on our educational system in some ways.

But you’re also right in that newspapers have slashed staff so dramatically that we’ve lost a layer of editing what was vital to our craft.


Good morning

As a fellow Raps fan, I enjoy your articles and your refreshing spin on sports writing.  Keep up the good work.

Go Raptors!!!

Raymond A

A: I appreciate the kind words but always keep in mind that the only things I ever cheer for are my stories and easy nights.