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Three pointers off the Raptors game and a dip into the mailbag


It’s the weekend of 3.14.15 and it’s also Einstein’s birthday?

Math geeks everywhere must be overjoyed! I imagine they’re having pie to celebrate.

(Esoteric enough?)

Anyway …

An early indication

There’s no doubt that was one of Kyle Lowry’s best games in a month you got the suspicion early that it was coming.

Of late, it’s looked like he’s been forcing too much too often, too many quick shots, too many ill-advised passes in traffic, just the odd mental blip we hadn’t seen too often.

Well, in the first quarter he made one of those Lowry type plays that showed me he was fully engaged and that it’d be a good night.

Stuck after picking up his dribble with a man on his back and one in front of him, it looked as if there was nowhere to go and that a turnover or a bad shot was coming for certain.

But he held the ball and kept his wits about him for an extra second, not rushing anything, in control and after that split second of patience, he found James Johnson with a smart, easy pass that led to an easy bucket.

That’s the kind of heads-up point guard play fans have come to expect.

Over-sharing

No, not that kind, although we’re probably guilty of that to some measure every now and then.

The assist to made basket ratio last night was off the charts and it was ball movement that brought back memories of November and early December.

Still, there were a couple of instances of “trying to get the other guy going” that might not have been wise and which didn’t work out.

In second quarter it was James Johnson and Lou Williams who were guilty of it. Johnson had the ball on the wing, could have driven but kicked it out to an open Williams behind the arc. As if to say “no, it’s YOUR shot, take it” Williams immediately rifled the ball back to Johnson, who drove and did not score.

Then, in the fourth quarter, Terrence Ross gives up a corner three – I bet he never even considered driving the ball – to kick it back out to Lowry, who was basically wide open. Lowry pulls a Lou, fires the ball back to Ross with explicit orders to shoot it; Ross does and misses.

Yeah, they were pretty plays and spoke to some totally unselfish play but I’d rather live with a Lou Williams open three and a Kyle Lowry three in rhythm any day of the wee.

Getting what they needed

Jonas is off being Daddy for the first day – as well he should have been – so Tyler Hansbrough gets the start to match the energy and activity of Hassan Whiteside (an outstanding coaching decision, in my opinion) and Hansbrough plays very, very well.

Then Amir gets in early foul trouble and so does Patrick Patterson and here comes Old Man Strength for the first first-quarter minutes I can remember him getting perhaps all season. And despite the fact that he can’t jump and can’t run and has shooting range that may not extend to the restricted area, Chuck Hayes gives them passable minutes.

Nice to have those kind of guys for precisely those emergency situations.

And now, what we got in the mail; I’ll be back Monday as we continue to ease through quite a tedious, boring and long comeback.

Q: Hey Doug

With the lack of interior defence/shot blocker and JV not quite getting it yet defensively, is there any chance the Raptors look to acquiring a big man free agent for the playoffs.  I believe that I saw Javale Magee and Dalembert were available.  Not that they would be a huge difference maker but a shot blocker/defender might be nice to have around come playoff time

Glad to see you back in the swing of things and feeling better and I’m really glad to hear the pay wall is finally coming down.  I’ll be back to being a irregular soon…

A: I think there is a less than zero chance they do anything with the roster in the final month of the season. First, they are creeping near the tax level and it would make no sense to pay someone not to play; second, I don’t think either of those guys are any better than people already on the roster, and, third, I see no sense in messing with chemistry or having to teach new guys new tricks at this time.

People may not believe it but on the development curve set out before last season began, this group is ahead of or right where it should be.

Q: Hey Doug…since you were on your health hiatus at the time was wondering what your thoughts are on the upcoming fight? I am glad it is happening and I really don’t care about the pundits that say it is 5 years too late, to me I miss heavyweights fights, and I am glad younger sports fans are seeing 1st hand how a prize fight is in a league of it’s own.

There is just something about them, the build-up, anticipation, the atmosphere, who’s at ringside, then the fight etc., nothing in the sports world comes close, not the Super Bowl not the Olympics nothing. A prize fight just has it’s own mystique in my opinion.

May 2nd to me will be must see pay for view, I know you are from a certain era that saw 1st hand many classic prize fights, so what is your take on the whole event.

Ok, cheers.

A: Mayweather-Pacquiao has the makings of one of those seminal moments in this sporting era and I’m just afraid I’ll be at playoff game and will have to miss it.

You’re absolutely right, there is nothing like a big, big prize fight – and since there no heavyweights worth getting worked up over this will be the one people may talk about for years.

I’ve been to a few title fights – mostly involving Lennox Lewis as a Canadian writer – and the atmosphere is second to none.

There are two moments that define the anticipation of sports above else: Championship boxers staring each other down in the middle of the ring and 100,000 fans deathly silent and holding their breath before start of an Olympic 100 metre final.

Q: : Please don’t rush yourself….your body will tell you when you are ready to give 110% 🙂

Our H.O.T.H. are badly leaking oil and we are finding out that when points are scarce our bigs are not particularly good at rebounding or defending and our guards…..well they can’t guard.

One thing I admired about Isiah Thomas when he was here was his stated focus was always on winning a championship.  Of course that was ridiculous at the time as he presided over some of the worst Raptors in their checkered history but he always said the goal was to win an NBA championship.  He didn’t talk about moral victories or winning one round in the playoffs.

Doug, is the core of this team good enough to win, some day, an NBA championship?  

I am talking about Kyle, Demar and anyone else you believe qualifies as a core player.

My feelings are this group, even with some tweaking, will still be incapable of winning the NBA championship.  Sure with the right moves they may eventually win a round or, dream of all dreams, gets to an Eastern conference final.  But so what?

The goal is to win the NBA championship and with Kyle and Demar as your two lead “pieces” I hope Masai is both bright enough and realistic enough to know that significant personnel changes must happen over the next few years to reach the ultimate goal.

Your thoughts please.

Freddy in Cambridge  

A: Every GM who’s worked here has had a championship as the ultimate goal, let’s not lose sight of that for a nano-second. All – includlng Isaih – also know it’s a process, a long and difficult and likely ultimately futile process.

This group? At this stage of their lives? No, they had no more hope of winning a championship than about 20 other teams. But so what? Groups, or “cores” as you put it, are always evolving, either through addition or subtraction or individual. I know this, Dwane knows this, Masai knows this, the players know this. It’s not to say that with the right tweaks and adds and a huge amount of luck it couldn’t happen but I don’t think it will.

So if you’re only going to define the ultimate success of team you cheer for by its winning a title, I fear you are destined for the same disappointment that’s felt by 28 other teams each spring.

Can they play great games and have stirring post-season runs and provide a lifetime of good memories? Sure. And that’s what you should hope for because, otherwise, every year will end badly and this is your loss.

Q: Greetings from PEI!

Great to see writing again, now if the guys could win ya a game or 2

Multiple questions, feel to answer any or all.

Is there anything better than a tom sterner halftime interview?
Am I getting vibe that Terrence will not be back next season?

Any chance training camp could potentially return east to Halifax Or elsewhere?

Did you know the seahorse tavern has moved?!!!

Happy early St. Pats

A: Tom certainly does have a high level of enthusiasm, doesn’t he? Not sure how he keeps it up, frankly.

As for Ross, the Raptors do have a relatively cheap team option (already exercised) on his contract, don’t forget that.

I think camp will move around a bit for years to come and I know the organization is high on Halifax so who knows? I’d be glad to get back, that’s for sure. And if one of the pubs I know has moved, I’ll find it somehow.

Q: Hi Doug

Glad you’re back.

I was sad to see Alison Gordon had surgery about the same time you did but did not survive.  Did you overlap with her at all?

Quick question to ease into things.  Jack asserted during the game the other day that Ross and Valenciunas not getting better as fast as should be expected and that this is damaging the expected improvement in the team.  Comments?

A: Alison Gordon was a true pioneer and trailblazer in our craft and it was unquestionably my loss that I spoke with her maybe two or three times in my career.

As to  Jack’s point, I agree that Ross’s inconsistency and his lack of mental focus and Jonas’s inability thus far to grasp the nuances of the game at both ends – screen-roll defensive coverages, recognizing double teams and moving the ball quickly out of them on offensive – have been troubling and is slower than anyone would have wanted.

But seeing as the team is about to win somewhere in the neighbourhood of 48-50 games for the second year in a row, I’m not sure how much it’s held the collective back.

It will be interesting, however, to see how each handles the intensity of the playoffs the second time around.

Q: Hi Doug,

Just wanted to say welcome back.  You were missed a lot and glad you are recovering.

Just wondering what the big difference you noticed between the Raptors last year at this time as they were trending in the right direction compared to this year as the team is pretty similar.

How important is it for the Raptors to finish the last set of games strong to try and get a favourable first round match up.

Thanks as always,

A: There is one big difference and I’m not sure it’s getting enough attention.

A year ago, these guys were in the process of catching a lot of teams a bit by surprise – “holy crap, Toronto’s good!” – and it imbued in them a wave of confidence they rode a long, long way.

This year? No more surprises, the league knows they’re good, as Dwane likes to say, they are the hunted rather the hunter. Teams below them in standings want to earn their chops by knocking them off as some sort of statement, teams ahead of them are more sharply focused when they play.

And, frankly, I don’t think the Raptors have handled that change nearly as well as they should have. Again, as Dwane points out, they have collectively done next to nothing and thinking they are somehow owed something because of who they are is in equal part bogus and dangerous.

Now, as to the first-round matchups, I’ll quickly say this because I’ll probably have to repeat it weekly between now than then:

It really and truly does not matter, if Toronto isn’t playing up to its capabilities in almost every facet of the game, there are no “favourable” or “unfavourable” opponents out there.

No matter who it is – Washington, Milwaukee, Indiana, Charlotte, Miami – you’ll be able to break it down six ways to Sunday and it will always come around to one point: If Toronto is playing well, they can win; if they’re not, they won’t.

I am betting you have seen this  

https://38pitches.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/the-world-we-live-in-man-has-it-changed/

You have mentioned the deterioration of comment on various new / sports sites.

Is there a bottom to this slimy pit ?  What Schilling did in response shows his grit and class , not everyone 

would have this ability.   Your thoughts ?

A: I’m with you, I think: Just when you think the bar couldn’t possibly get lowered any more, it does and therefore nothing that happens in the future will surprise.

And I think Schilling handled this as well as anyone could have.

Q: Welcome back, Doug! Just wanted to say that over the last few years you have become my routine. That may not sound especially complimentary but having you back in my morning ritual actually makes life a little less discombobulated. That is some power. Thanks!

A: As you can perhaps imagine, I’ve had a few kind and thoughtful notes about the “regularity” of what we do and the routine it becomes part.

And to quote one of the all-timers, let me say this about that:

I took, and continue to take, great pride in being here all the time, I think it’s hugely important to build the kind of community we have, I like the thought of being part of a readers’ workaday life and it is not a responsibility I take lightly. It’s important to me and I want to make sure everyone knows that. And it’s why once things get truly back to normal – and I honestly don’t know when that will be – we’ll be on something akin to the olden days schedule.

I regularly read your blogs and thoroughly enjoy your writing. One question though,  what does HOTH. stand for.

Good to hear you are recuperating well

Sheldon Derrick

A: Since I haven’t done it in weeks, that’d be your Heroes Of The Hardcourt.

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