Some Raptors, some Jays, a lot of other stuff in the mail - 28 minutes read

Some Raptors, some Jays, a lot of other stuff in the mail

Once again, folks, you’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty here.

Go grab a coffee or lunch or a glass of wine or whatever is your fancy, sit outside on a lovely day and take your time getting through yet another mailbag packed full of good questions and questionable answers.

Now (the superstar part of the) pendulum has swung - the superstars and the money their performance and celebrity culture make are in the driver's seat.

We also see a language shift where prominent players oppose the use the word "owners". For them it is slavery plantation language that resonates today. This shines an extra light on Lowry's restraint when the Warriors' part-"owner" shoved him during the playoff game a few weeks ago.

While the notion of billionaire / conglomerate-owned teams having all the power makes many no less comfortable, are you sad that these days it seems that everyone with an ounce of "power" or influence has completely forsaken even paying lip service to other values and priorities like loyalty, continuity, commitment, etc.  

What are we left with when everything and everyone is "disposable" and each person (with power) is always out for what is best for themselves?

Why is that poor people actually give away more of their income/wealth than rich ones? 

This is not to take anything away from Kawhi -- he did not ask to be traded to the Raptors and he gave our team and city everything he had last year and then some. 

A: There is certainly a ruthless aspect to much of life and a “I’m looking out for me first and foremost and at the exclusion of everything else” mentality that is a bit troubling to me. Somewhat understandable in that too many of our “leaders” in all facets of life have let us down and who do we trust to take the greater society in a good direction but it’s troubling nonetheless.

I don’t know how we stop or even slow this decay but we have to try everything; it’s almost gone too far now.

And I think sports is contributing to it, unfortunately. I certainly don’t want to go back to the bad old days when athletes were basically lifelong servants but the pendulum is swinging too far the other way. There must be a middle.

Aside from the words spoken by Kawhi at the end of the victory parade at City Hall, I think that it would be somehow appropriate if he could say a few things to the fans now that the dust has settled.  I am one of the legions of people who are disappointed he left for the Clippers, but not angry, yet I have the feeling that there is this final element of closure that is missing

Do you think he's said enough, or is there one more brief message to the fans that is needed to fully end this chapter of the Raptor's history? Thanks for listening.

A: I don’t think it’s “necessary” at all. I guess it would have been nicer – nicer if he bought a full page ad in our newspaper – but it doesn’t strike me as his style so I have to say I never gave it a second thought.

Q: Sir: I, too, did what you did last Sunday,("But I did watch the USA-Netherlands World Cup game in its entirety, saw an awful lot of Brazil-Peru and a fair chunk of Mexico-USA") and the one thing that was obvious is,Americans do not know how to call play by play in Soccer. Yakkity yak yak yak yak yak. Shut up already. Agree?

A: My basic premise for sports broadcasters is less is more. And because of that I have always appreciated the BBC and British style over the North American gabfests.

Three person booths are at least one person too many in most cases.

First off, thank you for doing what you do. I've very enjoyed reading your work over the past 15+ years.

I'm not sure if anyone has brought this up publicly before or if it’s even feasible:

The Raptors 25th anniversary season is just around the corner. Is there even a remote chance that MLSE and Rogers could or would do a one-off Raptors home game in the Rogers Centre during the 25th anniversary season? Bring the team back to their original stomping grounds, sell the place out and have 50,000 Raptors fans attend an NBA game. Just a thought.

A: I shudder at the thought. But, seriously, I don’t think it’s feasible all these years later and I cannot imagine the MLSE owned Raptors playing a real game in a facility they don’t fully control.

Q: Hi Doug, How do you feel physically and mentally after this dramatic season and your first one after last year’s illness? I hope you and your family nothing but the best and please take some load management as we all witness that it works. What’s your thought about the Raptors next season? To throw veterans like Gasol, Ibaka and Lowry out and rebuild immediately or to hold on to them and get to the playoffs again and see what will happen? I’m ok to both but it’s a bit sad to see if they can’t enjoy the celebrations and honour together next season. One more question: when the day arrives and you decide “this is it”, will you write a book or something else about this team/organization and your journey? Thanks for your time. Will from the struggling Hong Kong

A: First off, I hope things turn for the better over there for you and yours. And thank, I’m in my own version of load management now for a few weeks.

If I’m Masai, and I most assuredly am not, I’d resist any major summer moves, see how things go in the first 35 or so games of the season and then determine a course of action. I think this team, even missing the two key players, is pretty good and deserves a chance to see what it can do with, hopefully, a healthy Anunoby and a training camp together. Plus, I’d like to see what Nick can come up with.

My future is cloudy and undetermined and today I have no plans to go anywhere but I’ll certainly entertain the idea of a tome if it presents itself. But it’s hard work, very, very hard work.

A comment and a question.  Apparently the collective shaming hasn't worked because there are *still* people complaining about amber alerts.  I have terrible sleep patterns and yeah, they woke me, but on the grand scale of things in the world, my sleep isn't that important compared to missing children.   I suppose these complainers are the same people who don't make it easy for emergency vehicles to get through traffic because whatever they're doing is more important.  Apparently.

Mini-rant aside, a question about rings!  Because, after all, let's get back to discussing the fun outcomes of this past magical season.  I saw a headline somewhere debating about whether Jonas would get a ring.  Who decides?  Is it Masai? The players?  Are there general criteria or is it a 'play it by ear' sort of thing?  I know Masai has you pencilled in for one (I keed, I keed), but I am curious about a player like Jonas who was with the team for a large part of the season, but was then also injured.

I'd give him a ring, but I don't get a vote!  I'm assuming there is no fixed limit to the number of rings they can give? 

A: There really are no hard and fast “rules” about who will or should or can get not only a ring but also a share of the playoff bonus pool. And when we asked Masai about it a few weeks ago, he made it sound like it would be an organizational decision.

I would suspect, knowing the people involved as I do, that everyone who wore a uniform at any time last season would get one.

A: According to police that morning the kids and the grandfather were found “as a direct result” of the Amber Alert.

Q: Read your article and sorry - I guess I’m different than you. I was woken up by the alert.  And I’m upset.  It scared the bejesus out of me.  So of course I went to my iphone X to change the sound and/or volume of the alert.  It gave me the instructions and what?  Can’t do it.  Not in Canada.  You can in the US! The alert is too broad, too menacing and too nanny state.  It needs to be changed! Mike

I don’t care that you were woken up or that you were scared or that you in one tiny wee little bit inconvenienced. It’s part of living in the society that you do and it should not in the least be changed.

Q: Was also the first book I ever read (in grade six, during science class). It made me realize sports were so much more than the scores. The un-peeling of Mickey Mantle into a real person (rather than this 50s era American hero) was both upsetting but important. It was the truth in sport, not gloss. And yeah, Kawhi doesn’t owe us a thing. He never promised anything to us other than all he had for his contracted year. Thanks for your article.

A: I hope that a lot of people found a way to read Ball Four over the past week. It was a fun, fun read and, in many ways, a trailblazer and important part of sports literature history.


This may surprise you but I would suggest perhaps 97 per cent of NBA players have homes both in the cities where they either grew up or live now and one in the city where they play.

The decision to buy a home in his hometown had nothing whatsoever to do with the ultimate decision to sign with the Clippers.

Q: Hello! Thank you for the great reporting! But, what people can’t figure out is why didn’t Leonard publicly thank Toronto. ? This is the least the fans deserved. It wouldn’t have taken much to say thank you.

A: No, it wouldn’t have. But is it really that big a deal that some people need some kind of validation? And which part of the person that we know Kawhi to be leads anyone to think that’s something he’d do?

It’s truly not a thing anyone should care about.

Q: Hello Doug - I'd love your thoughts on the possibility that Pascal doesn't get better. With no Kawhi, teams can now double team Pascal and his production may stay even or go down, especially when there is no Danny Green to pass to for a 3 pointer and also the spacing he gives. Finally where do you see help arriving from ? Thanks and I hope your summer has been pleasant.

To my prior query could I please add and  ask you what do you think are the odds of bringing DeMar back as we will have so  much  cap room and there is little to choose from ?? 

A: A:  I suppose that possibility exists and it’d be troublesome but there’s nothing to indicate he’s stopped expanding his game. If there is a lull others will have to improve to help him – OG Anunoby, maybe Norm Powell – or maybe, next season at least, Kyle will revert to more of a scorer than he was last season, a job he’s proven quite adept at.

And there is about zero chance of DeMar coming back. Sorry. And there is always stuff to choose from.

Q: Hi Doug, I don’t understand something The Blue Jays had one lone representative at the ASG, Marcus Stroman. But on Saturday it was announced that he wouldn’t be pitching due to a muscle strain. So great that he went but there was no playing time. Why couldn't the Blue Jays send someone else to actually play? The one Canadian team sent one player who, it was already announced 3 days earlier, couldn't play. Nice

A: Major League Baseball’s insistence that each team be represented in the all-star game has always baffled me, first.

Second, I’m not sure a team on pace to lose 100-plus games “deserves” to have an all-star. So I have no issues whatsoever with what transpired.

I guess the short answer is they couldn’t.

Q: My question would be, “Why is Lourdes Gurriel being so clearly overlooked?” on the Jays. He is clearly the best all-around player on the team. I know the attention centres around Guerrero, whose potential will likely be realized, Biggio, who has demonstrated an amazing eye at the plate and the Bo Bichette, who showed lots of skill and smarts in spring training (which I watched) and before his injury.  However, Gurriel already set impressive rookie hitting records last year and after a stint in the minors this year inspired by discomfort as an infielder, he is back to last season’s hitting form and, moved to the outfield, quickly led the league in outfield putouts.  Yes, it’s likely the Blue Jays will lose 100 games or come close. Early injuries to Borucki and Shoemaker.  And I know by the attendance that there’s currently not much interest. But for me it’s been fun to watch, especially the last couple of weeks of 6 or more runs in most games.  It’s possible this group when it grows up will only need a pitching staff with a 4.5 ERA. The Blue Jays GM — their poor grasp of PR notwithstanding — crew developed a consistent winner in Cleveland and they’ll probably do the same here. Houston suffered through poor seasons in order to blossom. I guess I’m a glass half-full kinda guy… Bluenose Eric

A: I can see where you’d see promise in the longer term and I have always thought Gurriel was a legit baseball player but how the Jays developmental people missed where he’d be most effective has to be a bit troubling.

And no team, I don’t think, is ever going to win with a staff ERA of 4.5. That’s going to be the issue in 2020, 2021 and 2022. But the kids are fun to watch but I hope they never get comfortable with being okay and losing five out of every eight games.

Q: Hey Doug: Always enjoy your musings and read them regularly.   Selfishly, I hope you fend off those retirement thoughts for a while yet.  Your columns draw me in and frequently have my head nodding. After following the Raptors since their inception and being an innate half-empty kind of guy, it's obvious Kawhi was the driver of making this past year exceptional and memorable and thanks to him for that.  That's the half-full side.  My other thoughts are that Kawhi has probably done serious damage to Toronto's chances of landing another superstar.  Had he stayed, he could have had more money; had a team around him that would have been as good if not better than he had last year; and had a medical and coaching team that worked with him to ensure he was in peak condition for the play-offs.  Yet, he left.

If you're a superstar being courted by Masai to come to our wonderful city and team, wouldn't you be saying to yourself, "There must be something seriously awry in the Great White North for Kawhi to have flown the nest at the first possible chance and leave all that behind."?  Am I off base here or is that also part of Kawhi's legacy to Toronto? rgds, Mike p.s. Totally agree with you on the raccoon plague.

A: I don’t think you’d be saying that to yourself at all and I believe you, as so many others have been, are over-thinking the situation.

Yes, he could have maximized earnings by staying and that was a personal decision, it will not have any impact on any other player who is interested in coming to Toronto and a franchise that has won and won big for more than half a decade. You’d be saying ‘they win, they’ve always won, they have money and a good team so I’ll listen to them.’

And then you would make a decision based on your own research because you are not sheep.

I confess that I am typing this on vacation in California. Yesterday I walked through the USC campus as well as downtown Santa Monica and Venice Beach. Alas, there was no DeRozan sighting on campus but I did see a mural in Venice Beach with a picture of Kawhi with the words "Welcome Home Champ." 

Now for a question. Has there been another Raptor who has had as tough a season as OG? I feel bad for him and hope this year is a positive turning point for him. Thanks for all you do to keep us informed!

A: I can’t think of one, it was an entirely wasted season for a promising young player. The coming training camp will be very important for him, without a doubt. But, truthfully, the jury is still out and anyone who says they know what he’ll be is pulling your leg.

Q: Hello Doug, Hoping this gets to you before your vacay. Thought I would wait a week and let the dust settle as Kawhi went home - it is what it is, Raptors won the championship and the players and coaches are still revelling in the victory - as they should! Funny thing about championships they are forever and no one can take it away. Am curious to see how Raps replace Green & Leonard on the floor - any early thoughts? Johnson, Hollis-Jefferson defensively & rebounding and Thomas’ shooting should be interesting to see how they mesh with the current squad which you know will be better after the championship run - feels good to say that, Caught a little Vegas summer league this week, you can just see the next wave coming - specifically Hernandez, Terence Davis and Lindell ( reminds me of Fred from a couple years ago) . Early thoughts on the $90 million of expiring contracts - you hear the hockey centric media talk about losing them with no assets coming back- always found that curious when the prize is the cap space which allows you to sign players but acquire players into space. Last one- Do Raps keep all the revenue from the playoff run or do they have to share it with the league? My apologies for the long dissertation but this will be my last one til we get going again in training camp....then again if Masai well you know. Enjoy the rest of the summer and look forward to seeing the Champs defend the title in the Fall. Always a pleasure, EP Richmond Hill

A: They won’t be able to replace what they got from Leonard and Green, I would say there are likely to be increased roles for Anunoby and Powell. The new guys – the veterans, at least – may be role players because of their defensive abilities, the rookies are rookies and are likely to spend time in the G League learning the game.

It’s better to have cap space than to not have it because it means you can trade for guys to fill it not just sign them and everyone should remember that.

The Raptors will see some sort of financial boost, they will have to share some of it with league as every team would but also remember there are some big-time expenses they incurred over those 10 weeks, too.

Q: Hi Doug, With all the player movement, and money left on the table, why did the Raptors not do a sign and trade with Kawhi and the Clippers (or with Danny and the Lakers - although Danny got a pretty good payday on his own)?  Seems like we could have got a nice return for Kawhi, he would have got more money and Raptor fans wouldn’t feel quite so lost - although damn, that championship glow  still feels good. One last tidbit - was so sweet walking into the NBA flagship store in New York on Fifth Avenue this week and the first thing you see is a big display with Raptor championship gear and Game 6 of The Finals playing on the big screen. Alan, Thornhill

A: There was no incentive for the Clippers to do that and after they gave up every significant asset they had in the George trade, it made no sense for the Raptors to even pursue it.

The sign-and-trade scenario basically played out with restricted free agents – Butler being a prime exception – but it was never a possibility in the Toronto-L.A. scenario.

Q: Hi Doug - I hope you're doing well and enjoying the summer.

What a wild ride this year was. I'm disappointed about Kawhi, of course, but I can't wait to see what Masai and Bobby cook up next. I have full confidence they're going to steer us in the right direction. In particular, I'm hopeful that this run has changed the landscape and ceiling for Canadian basketball, and that in a few years time, there will be a Canadian version of Kawhi who'll want to come home and play for us.

Also, early prediction: We land Giannis in 2 years. With everything Masai is doing for African basketball, as well as with Pascal as a centerpiece to this team, here's hoping we become a big enough draw. How fun would that team be?

Ok, now onto the question: I know Patrick McCaw isn't a gamechanger, or probably much of a gamechanger, for us. But what do you think his ceiling is? Sounds like he had a rough year this year, and playing on a few different teams and getting waived can't help. 

A: Any team Giannis is on is fun to watch.

I don’t like to do “ceilings” because they tend to rely on numbers and it’s impossible to tell. I do think a long, defensive-minded, quick 23-year-old can be a rotation player on a very, very good team. Outside of that, too many variables – teammates, role, team success or failure – come into play.

Q: Well, who knows how things will look in two or three years? The past season was as close to perfect as it gets in the NBA and nobody knows that better than Kawhi.

Aside from wanting to return home (can anyone not understand that?), here is the upside for me: Rather than becoming just another great Laker in a line stretching back to George Mikan, Leonard has joined the Clippers (nee Buffalo Braves, the first NBA team many of us saw first hand) who have never won anything, ever. To say their history is chequered (Donald Sterling, anyone?) is an understatement. I for one will be paying rapt attention to see how it turns out and I wish him well.

From the Raptor viewpoint, I greatly appreciate the adult responses from Ujiri and Nurse. "He was so much fun to coach," said Nick. 

Indeed. And he was so much fun to watch. Wait a minute, we can still watch him!

A: I’ve long held that the Clippers are the Clippers and will forever be. They do have two extraordinarily good players – kind of like when they had Chris Paul and Blake Griffin – so that will be fun to watch but, the Clippers gonna Clipper. Somehow.

I'm really confused by the recently announced preseason game in Vancouver between the LA Clippers and the Dallas Mavericks. I get trying to grow the game in Canada, but the playoffs proved that this is Raptors territory. The part that really bugs me is that Bell is part-owner of the Raptors, yet Bell is sponsoring a game in Canada where they will spend time and money promoting a Clippers team that stalked Kawhi all year and stole him in free agency from the team Bell owns (shouldn't they be promoting the Raptors?). If the Clippers weren't involved I wouldn't even be upset, but with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer at the Raps-Knicks Summer League game we can assume that after stalking and stealing Kawhi, the Clippers now have their sights set on trying to steal Raptors President Masai Ujiri, who was also at the game? (Ballmer wasn't there to see Jordan Loyd, that's for damn sure). I guess my question is: When will the Raptors grow some stones and tell the Clippers to shove it?

A: They are not going to steal Masai, please put that as far out of your mind as possible. Please.

Now, the facts are this: The game in Vancouver is under the auspices of NBA Canada, as has every other pre-season game played – including those involving the Raptors – and the tentative schedule and booking is done at least a year in advance so there is nothing nefarious about it. It’s actually kind of funny and interesting and may help sell tickets until everyone realizes Kawhi is not likely to play in the game.

But you’re really seeing boogeymen where none exist.

Just wondering how (or when) you heard about Kawhi leaving Toronto. Did you write stories based on each scenario, ready to file one of them as soon as you confirmed the news?

A: I had the shell of two stories ready the day before, I believe it was, and just needed, for the real quick web hit, to massage the first couple of paragraphs and add whatever details I immediately got.

That took until about 2:40 a.m., as I recall, and my pals Evy and Christine were up working and posting.

Then it was a matter of getting my own confirmation of other reports, filling in details, re-writing, talking to Bruce and a few others on what we needed.

But the basic plan was well in place before the news broke.

Bill Russell won 11! NBA championships with the same team

Kawhi may win at least 3 NBA championships with 3 different teams.

Which in your view is the greater athletic accomplishment?

Russell too "went to southern California". But talk about different circumstances

Bill Russell was born in 1934 to Charles Russell and Katie Russell in West Monroe, Louisiana. Like almost all Southern towns and cities of that time, West Monroe was very segregated, and the Russells often struggled with racism in their daily lives. Russell's father was once refused service at a gas station until the staff had taken care of all the white customers first. When his father attempted to leave and find a different station, the attendant stuck a shotgun in his face and threatened to kill him if he didn't stay and wait his turn.In another incident, Russell's mother was walking outside in a fancy dress when a white policeman accosted her. He told her to go home and remove the dress, which he described as "white woman's clothing". During World War II, large numbers of blacks were moving to the West to look for work there. When Russell was eight years old, his father moved the family out of Louisiana and settled in Oakland, California. While there, the family fell into poverty, and Russell spent his childhood living in a series of public housing projects.

We now know more about what Russell faced in his years as a Celtic player in Boston.

Gary Pomerantz's book, THE LAST PASS, COUSY RUSSELL AND THE CELTICS AND WHAT MATTERS IN THE END makes clear that Cousy blamed himself for not having done enough, for not having understood the depth of prejudice Russell faced as an African-American star in a city with a fraught history regarding race.

A: To me, winning 11 titles, regardless of the era, is not only unparalleled, it is one of the most impressive feats in the history of North American pro sports. It’s No. 1 of those two, in my opinion, by a wide margin.

Q: Hey Doug, Personally, I’m kind of glad free agency is done and we can settle into the doldrums of semi basketball free news soon lol. However, here goes my question. Given how there have been various reports that Uncle Dennis may have been asking for the moon from the Raptors, how can the NBA monitor compensation that circumvents the salary cap rules? Specific example is if say an NBA team was to help arrange for marketing creative expertise or legal expertise for a player’s family member’s venture of interest, is that even kosher?  There’s a certain dollar value to services like that.   How could they track something like that? Thanks for all you do and hope you get a break soon. Mark D

A: I honestly do now know what the league can do but I do know it has to do something to get a handle on under-the-table shenanigans. And it’s not just Kawhi and Uncle Dennis and this situation, it’s been going on and getting worse every year and somehow, they have to find a way to police it better.

And don’t delude yourself: It’s EVERYONE.


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