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The weekend mailbag is all done for another week

Hey folks.

Season’s almost here, anyone excited? Or still lamenting the baseball loss?

We’ll get back to the usual shenanigans here as the week unfolds and the regular routine will be in place before the opener.

Enjoy this, there’s some okay stuff in here.

Q: Hey Doug,

Don’t want you to be bored…

Great “pot of goldblog article. Your explanation of this year’s Raptors coverage was fantastic! I’m a big fan of your Raptors coverage both in print and radio spots. Ok, enough sucking up!

With the Jays & Raptors doing well, (& “TFC” doing well-ish) is the centre of the universe finally becoming a destination again for Sports Talent?

A: Doubt it. The thing that matters more than anything is sustained winning and year-to-year improvement and I’m not sure we’ve seen enough of that yet.

TFC? Well-ish? They have the best player in the league in Giovinco, steady veteran leadership in Bradley, a guy who can make things happen in a secondary role in Altidore. If they played a seven- or five-game series, casual fans would be all over them.

Estrada/Goins/Pillar. Which one has exceeded your Opening Day expectations the most? Can you recall a team having three players improve the way they have in the same year?

A: Personally, I’d go with Estrada in a landslide. The guy put up Cy Young numbers in the second half and was unflappable. I also think he was handled exceptionally well by Gibby and the staff.

But there’s an argument to be made for the other two and it goes to prove that you need career years out of nowhere from some guys to have great team years.

Q: Hello Doug

The way I see things the Raptors 1st and 2nd rotations will include Lowry, DeRozan, Carroll, Patterson, Valenciunas, Joseph, Ross, Scola and Biyombo.

That leaves Johnson and Bennett competing for the 10th man position and room for 4 youngsters on the bench who will probably play mostly minutes in the D League.

With this wealth of talent, the Raptors seem well positioned to make moves in 2016 and beyond to further strengthen their team.  Obviously far too early to start speculating on who might stay or go but it seems to me that Masai Ujiri has done a masterful job in rather quickly positioning the Raptors both for today and for the future.  Are there any other teams in the NBA who consistently keep a similar wealth of talent around and keep it renewed yearly?  I expect San Antonio will be one team that does so, but are there others?

A: I think Masai’s got them well-positioned to be good for while, mostly because he was able to divest them of the Gay and Bargnani contracts without taking anything arduous back.

San Antonio has re-made itself a handful of times, yes; so has Atlanta, the Rockets always seem to add a key guy or two and I’d probably have them at the top of the list.

Q: The season will soon be upon us and you will have real things to write about and talk about and Demar Derozan will start hitting the basket again?

Hassan Whiteside was 0 for 9 from the free throw line in his last game. No touchy-feelys there. How is that possible? You could throw 9 balls blindfolded from the line and one should go in. I realize there are egos at stake here but wouldn’t you order the guy to go talk to Rick Barry?

Have you ever covered an election?

We have stats all over the place for sports. What stats should we have for ranking politicians? Time spent on the job? Number of questions answered versus questions avoided? Promises kept or at least Promises made, promises attempted to keep, promises successfully kept?

Richard Ganton, Milton

A: No, I would never order a guy to do something he’s never ever done in his life on the remote off chance it would work. And I know this is trite but do me a favour? Go out and run a series of, say, four 94-foot sprints nine times, bang into a wall seven of them, blindfold yourself and shoot free throws and let me know how that works out for you.

I’ve never been on a campaign bus or plane but I have been on the periphery of a campaign on a handful of campaigns, most notably as a news editor in Newfoundland and Labrador – where politics is a blood sport – on the campaign when Clyde Wells was elected premier. That was fun.

And it’s impossible to rank politicians because too many of them are the same: They want to obtain power and then retain it by any means necessary, sadly.

Q: Hello Doug!

So, the 905’s (and are we expected to say ‘905’s’ when we talk about them? Nine-Oh-Fives takes so long to say. It’s like, three long syllables. Can we shorten it and just refer to them as the ‘9’s’? Or is that already a thing?) are here and happening. And, because, as you’ve told us at least a zillion times, this is all about you, how does the arrival of a Raptors’ D League team impact your life? Will you be providing daily updates via your blog about the happenings at the Hershey Centre? Since the team’s home games are near your home, will you be expected (or perhaps you’ve already volunteered) to cover some home games and will there be an IGBT? Just imagine! Ninety plus minutes talking All Bruno All The Time with Your People!!! And do you think you might – between your usual Raptors’ stuff – try and fit in a road trip with the 905’s? Can you even begin to Imagine the possible pleasures of a Tuesday night in early January in Sioux Falls, South Dakota!!! Might be something fun to do, eh? Well, at the very least it’s not Sacramento.

It’s Thursday evening as I send this along and there’s not Blue Jays’ game (or even Mets-Cubs) tonight so it’s a bit of channel surfing here. And in the choice between a Phil Kessel Showcase or a Celtics vs Knicks PreSeason Game, the pretend hoops action won out. And so a chance to watch Amir play with his new team (oh, and Jose, too!!!!!). Amir looks nice in a Boston uniform (though so strange to see him in anything but Raptors’ gear) but I notice he’s wearing number 90. Do you know why he chose that number? He was born in 1987, so it’s not that…

One last thing, appreciated the link you posted in today’s blog to the New York Times’ piece about the coast to coast to cloast fan support for the Jays. A nice story about this extraordinary season. But you know what I most enjoyed? That stunning black and white photo of the light house at Cape Spear. A truly marvelous, dramatic, timeless image.

Thank you.

A: I don’t think there’s an awful lot of 905-mania in my future, maybe a couple of features here and there but with three or four Raptors game a week and the travel and time that goes with it, I might just run out of days. But they are close and if Super Son wants to go some nights, I’m sure we will.

The Amir number thing? Well, here’s what I got from some interwebs sleuthing and checking with friends. His words:

“Every number 1-34 is basically retired. My first initial number, I picked No. 5, but I know there was going to kind of be some controversy with that because Kevin Garnett won a championship. So I knew that was pretty much out the water. My number [15], of course, was retired. And I recently posted a picture on my social network, I don’t know if you guys checked it out, it was a team back in the ’90s, like ’97, ’96, I played for my first organized basketball team, which was the Burbank Celtics. It was a Celtics team. So I just kind of just put that together. The ’90s were good. I was born in ’87 but the ’90s were good.”

I know that basketball courts have a standard size, and that modern arenas are often built for profit generation rather than for character, but are there any NBA courts which offer a clear home team advantage due to the physical characteristics of the court or arena?  Are there any courts which, due to the seating dimensions or a rabid crowd, lead to the visiting team being disadvantaged?

As a boy, I listened loyally to Chicago Blackhawks games on radio, and became familiar with the benefits the home team received due to a smaller than regulation ice surface and the “in your face” fan presence in the old Chicago Stadium.  In baseball, parks such as Fenway with its Green Monster and Pesky Pole can alter the game.  In the past week, the differing layout of ballparks in Toronto versus Kansas City have been discussed in depth.

Would basketball benefit from more courts with unique characteristics?

Craig in OS

A: It’s not so much the courts, they are absolutely standard, but it’s the ambiance that provides an advantage. Utah, for instance, is generally considered one of the toughest places to play and a lot has to do with the fact it’s the tightest quarters in the league, the fans are inches away from the court, it seems.

Noise is a factor, too, in places like Golden State and, during the playoffs, Toronto.

Q: Hi Doug

Sportsnet has been posting a series of short “Get To Know Your Raptors” interviews, in which one of the questions is “which Raptor is most likely to survive a zombie apocalypse?”  Strangely, out of eight Raptors interviewed to date not one of them has suggested accomplished martial artist James Johnson in their response to this question.

Could we please get your views on this puzzling omission……is it because of JJ’s inaccurate shooting?  Does his tendency to try to do too much put him at risk of ending up in the middle of a zombie horde that’s too big even for him?  Or are all the players just anticipating that Dwane Casey’s rotation decisions will leave JJ on the bench during zombie crunch time?

On a related note, if you agree with the JJ omission, who’s your choice to survive (and why)?

Mike D, Toronto

A: I would have voted for him for sure! He would seem to have all the skills needed; who won?

And I’d probably have DeMarre Carroll second, he seems quite, um, resourceful.

Q: Hi Doug,

I have a Blue Jays/baseball question.  As I write this, I am not sure how the Jays will do in Game 6.  I am hoping they have a bit left in the tank along with some luck from the baseball gods.

My question is how does baseball compare to other sports like basketball from a cap standpoint, putting together a competitive team.  I imagine it can be a bit tougher as more players have impact on a team versus basketball where 1-2 players can have a huge impact on a team.

Do you expect the blue Jays to remain competitive over the next year or two?  Lastly, do you know why they the Jays have not (assuming they will) offer Alex Anthopolous an extension?

One basketball question – with Cleveland committing to so much money in contracts – do you foresee any issues with this?

Thanks as always,

A: Since there is no cap, and no real punitive tax system, in baseball, it’s like the Financial Wild West, you can pay whatever you want to as many people as you want so the only monetary impact would be a team’s in-house budget, which might not be enough to match the big-spenders.

I do think the Jays are built for sustained contention as long as they remain relatively injury-free and the only thing I can think about with Alex is they’re waiting for the new guy Shapiro to officially start so he can sign him on his own. If they don’t for whatever, I think they are making a strategic and public relations gaffe.

The only issue I can see in Cleveland is that they’re paying like $ 45 million to three guys – Love, Thompson, Varejao – who play the same position and that might be problematic. Oh, and LeBron’s health is an issue and so is the question of how long Kyrie Irving will last before he gets hurt again but those aren’t monetary concerns.

Q: Doug, what difference, if any, is there between the role of a manager in baseball and a coach in basketball?  Is it essentially the same job or are there variations?

A: I’d say there many significant differences, along with the usual people management issues that exist for all coaches and manageres in all sports.

I think basketball coaches have a far greater impact on the game with substations, play calling and the immediate reactions necessary to the flow of the game. I’m not suggesting it’s harder or easier, it’s just different. Baseball managers do have strategic decisions to make each game with determining pitching matchups a couple of innings before they might be needed but it’s at a different pace that what’s faced in basketball.

Neither job is easy, that’s for sure.

Q: Hi Doug

Sorry for not writing in a while, I was in China and had limited internet access. While in Bejing, we met someone who was a tour guide for the US men’s basketball team during the Olympics and we heard stories about the various people who accompanied the players, Kobe’s wife, Lebron’s mother, etc. We also heard that Dwight Howard was very popular due to his outgoing personality. So first question – Have you ever gotten to know family members of players or do they keep pretty clear of media grunts? And if you see Dwight sometime, tell him hi from Jimmy in Beijing.

The other question I have is due to seeing how Ryan Goins handled himself after making an error in game two against the Royals. Reports were that as soon as the locker room opened to the media, he was there ready to answer questions. I was impressed with his maturity and willingness to be held accountable. So, who in your experience with be the top NBA players who have shown that level of maturity? Related question, is this something that players learn or is it something that you have or don’t have right from the time you join the league i.e. is it something they learned from how they were raised?

A: You are not going to believe this but I know Jimmy from Beiing! I spent a bit of time around my guys from USAB and the NBA during those Olympics and met him. He had a partner, too, whose name I can’t recall but they were quite memorable for a lot of reasons.

Family? I’ve come to know a lot of family members over the years, not in what you’d consider close friendships – a few but not many – but at least nodding and casual conversation relationships. It’s hard not to if you and they are around for 50 or so games a year.

The Goins thing was cool and what you would hope for and in my time, the very best players I’ve watched – Vince, Kobe, Bosh, LeBron – have always stood up and dealt with the repercussions of their play. I would say it’s more nurture than nature, I think kids are taught to take responsibility for their actions and to be accountable for how they handle themselves in public.

Q: Bonjour Coach…Is Brenda Lee associated with the night life in Montreal? Do they still put nickles in nickleodeons?   What is a nickelodeon?

I hear Muzique and there’s no one there.  ( except the NBA)  Do you guys get to go?

Sorry if that doesn’t make a lot of sense, I am just coming off post op medications.

Will Stiemsma play for the 905’s?

What is up with the teachers?  Don’t they know the rest of us have to pay for all their shenanigans?

Since basketball is booming with our youth, can someone get us more access to school gyms?  The kids need to practice.  We also need more adult volunteers.

To all those irregulars who love the game, the world needs more basketball refs.  Find the local ref association, and volunteer.

Just a few more sleeps to the start of the season!

Bob, Kanata

A: I didn’t do an awful lot of Montreal nightlife because I was settled on a stool watching the end of the TOD season so I didn’t hear any Brenda Lee but I would have been okay with had I!

I didn’t get one e-mail about the Steamer when he got waived but I was asked about chance of the Raptors bringing back Chuck Hayes and it was followed by an epic spit-take.

Bang on about schools opening and the need for refs and volunteers, do it folks!

Q: Hi Doug

Looking at the Raptors list for the player a GM would want to build a team around, isn’t Nick Nurse a Coach, or was he such a good player that he is still remembered.  Mind you, they may be thinking they would want him to coach a start up team.

That would suggest that he is likely to get a head coaching job some time in the not too distant future.  Would you figure that to be the case?

Regarding the Raptors line up, do you think that Dwayne has seen anything that would suggest he is reconsidering changing out any of the starting 5, or does that remain a pretty much a lock.  Watching Joseph, does he have a future as a starting PG? Does he need a little more work or a lot more work before he would be ready.

What do you see as the main weaknesses that need to be addressed on this team, in order to make them a team that could contest for the big prize, and do they have the personnel to address those problems.

The Bluejays looked good tonight, Estrada had a great game, but I think KC has the better pitching overall, and as most baseball fans have learned over the years, good pitching will win over good hitting about 80 percent of the time.

Thanks for your time.

A: I think you might have misread that survey, Nick was mentioned as a good assistant coach on maybe one or two ballots and I don’t know that he’s thought of as head coaching material right now, even after some D-League success.

I’ll get into this more at the first of the week but I think rebounding will be an issue and maybe scoring. I also think Dwane has settled on a starting five of Lowry, DeRozan, Carroll, Scola and Valanciunas and he has to give them 10-15 games so I anticipate no changes.

And, yes, good pitching always wins but man on third, nobody out in a one-run game? That’s too bad.


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