Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mailgrunt Time!

I'm doing that thing I stole from Drunk Jays Fans where I take the questions I stole from Doug Smith, don't look at his "answers" and answer them "myself." It's meta-theft. It's lazy and amateurish which is perfect because I'm lazy and an amateur.

But, first, I just want to confess to supplying Ryan Braun with PEDs. I promise that no injections took place on Yom Kippur.

Q: Hi Doug, I know you have done this in past seasons, but if any season cries out for a road trip it is this one. What are your recommendations? I am thinking either a quick trip to NYC to take in games for the Knicks, Nets and Boston or Philly (via train) or perhaps something into the heart of Texas to see the Mavs but I am not sure how drivable the other close teams are (OKC, San Antonio etc.) Play travel agent and give your thoughts please. Thanks.

David W, Oakville

I definitely recommend Cleveland. You are not a true basketball fan until you experience the beautiful game at the ground-zero of utter municipal despair. Side story: Some years ago, friends and I roadtripped to the Big Cleve to catch a Raps game. We were blown out. A buddy actually had a brief encounter with Sir Douglas Smith in the smoker's lounge. I was told it was a magical meeting.

Also, the scoreboard, more than once, flashed the logos of the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Yankees to which the tepid crowd would pipe up with a "boo" chorus. I asked someone in our section why football and baseball logos were eliciting reaction. The guy's answer: "Those are our rival teams. NFL and MLB are much more important here than NBA." This was less than a year after LeBron led the Cavs to the NBA finals and the crowd needed prompts from other pro sports to get them going? This is why I will never feel bad for Cleveland or the Cavs' ass-faced owner.

Q: Hi Doug. As I was watching highlights of NBA games from many years ago, it is interesting that players never seemed to wear any padding or protection. Given that many players are now wearing various forms of leg, rib and shoulder pads, is that a function of rule changes allowing for the padding or just changes in attitude? Also, I assume there are some restrictions on the equipment that NBA players can wear?


Martin J, Toronto

I don't know the rules on that and since this is isn't actually a real mailbag I don't need to look it up. I hope Doug did. I'm pretty sure there are restrictions as I remember Iverson and Wade having to lose some layers of sleeves at some point. There's a problem in the NHL and NFL where, for safety reasons, pads are getting thicker, lighter and more effective. But a side effect is that players respond by feeling more secure and are more likely to hit harder, or put more impact into the contact and that's leading to injuries. An arms race issue, really. As the concussion narrative becomes more prominent we're going to see the equipment issue discussed more regularly.

[There's some extra inane personal questions to Doug because, apparently, no one has yet to inform him that readers are looking for insight into the NBA not a Q&A on how interesting his life is. Basketball questions only, here.]

Q: I keep getting the feeling that Sam got a raw deal. Jay surely didn't work out in his time, and we'll see what the new guy can do to motivate Bargnani and the rest of the misfits. Think the record would've been any different if Mitchell stays as the head coach here?

Jon K, Hamilton

With the caveat that I (and most current research on the subject) don't believe coaches make significant differences to the success of a team (I'm comfortable saying replacing a team's least effective starter with a player of equal effectiveness to their second least effective starter has more of an impact) I think Sam Mitchell would have done worse. Even with a decent roster, Mitchell employed questionable out-of-timeout plays (a place where coaches can contribute) and jaw-droppingly illogical line-ups. I think Jay Triano, for the most part, did the best with what he had to the extent of how a league-average head coach would perform. Sorry, that was an awful sentence. As for motivating Bargnani, I cannot imagine a tactic that would make an impact short of threatening castration.

Q: Hey Doug. Can you possibly explain where the Raps currently sit in relation to the CAP? We hear they'll have money to spend next summer, yet in looking at our existing roster, currently devoid of top tier talent, you'd think there would be at least some money available now. Or is Bryan just holding off on spending because of what's available right now?

Thanks again as always!

Jim F, London

Hey, a real question! Jimmy (can I call you "Jimmy?") For the first time in more than a decade, I don't have a clue. I don't, yet, understand what the cap is, what salaries are/will be, or the contract situations of the majority of what will be the Raptors' roster. I promise you, by New Year's, I will know these things. What I know is mostly gleaned from Larry Coon posts.

I'll speak more generally, then, to a couple of points:

- I eyeballed the Raps' committed salaries before the FA signings of Magloire, Forbes, Gray, Butler and Carter at about $42 million (I'm very open to correction on all of this). I believe the upcoming cap to be pegged at $58 million which my finger-math tells me is $16 million to play with plus $2.5 for that new mid-level exception. Also that teams must, this season and next, have a minimum salary of 85% of the cap which would be about $49 million. I'm sure the make-up of the five additions put the Raps into the low-mid-50s. Let's say it's $53 million. It's going to mean the Raps, and all teams under the cap, will not have gobs of space. But they will be able to take on salary in a trade should an opportunity present itself.

- This is what a smart, building team would do: Get your team as close as possible to the minimum by signing cheap players to one or two year contracts (which the Raps, in their defence, are in the realm of doing) then, for the summer of 2013, shed salary by trading it away or by amnesty-ing and get ready to take on salary with a free agent signing or big trade. The minimum salary will go to 90% of the cap then so the team might as well stack up salary with players they actually want. $5.3 million for Pietrus was (almost) a move against this strategy.

- I don't know how amnestied players' salaries get counted towards the minimum. Things get interesting if they do. But, because teams need to keep salary on the books no matter what, it's even dumber to amnesty Jose Calderon unless the Raps know they are going to bring in a tier one player (and that would be dumb, stil,l as Bargnani pulls almost the same paycheque, but for longer). If the amnestied salary doesn't count, then unless a team is ready to add salary (or needs to get below the tax) they might as well carry the player. If I can't trade Bargnani/Kleiza, I amnesty him next summer or the summer after.

- The free agent class this year, I believe, will be paid handsomely. There are very few players I'd want to go all in on: Marc Gasol. I'd make a competitive offer to Dalembert, Pryzbilla or Troy Murphy. I think there might be rare value on centres this year. I'd look at Kirilenko. But besides these very few options, there's no point in spending cash now to turn a 10 win team into a 13 win team. I'd see what this amnesty waiver market does (My impressions is it will empower the likes of the Lakers, Knicks and Heat even more -- yay lockout!). I'd wait for the trade deadline and try to take advantage of teams either trying to shed salary or make panicky playoff moves. I think Ronnie Brewer and Landry Fields are high value players that could be procured. I think Iguodala should be a prime target and I'd strike whenever conditions are right.

- Because it seems generally accepted that next year's draft will be strong, and noting that very good draft players are less of a bargain in this CBA, I think teams will overpay for draft picks. Even a projected top-five pick isn't necessarily as valuable as adding a proven, effective player at a higher salary. I mean, for chrissakes, it looks like the Lakers are just giving away Lamar Odom. I'll take the next four years of an (aging, yes) Odom over the median top-five rookie.

That question was fun and made me use the dark parts of my brain. Thanks, Jimbo.

Q: Greetings Doug. Since this lockout was all about "helping the small market teams" how on earth did a spending minimum of 85% of the cap make it into the new CBA? We know they looked at the puck's agreement. How did they miss the fact that the minimum was the worst part of the entire deal?

Mike D, Cambridge

Going to rock the sure-shot, Mike D? The minimum rises from 75% to 85% then 90%. It's in the CBA as a counterpoint to the cap itself. A floor to match the imposition of a ceiling. I'm against both. But as the whole salary scale is tied to BRI and salary kept in escrow, I don't know if it makes much of a difference in the end, other than to further socialize the piece of the pie assigned to lower-to-middle-income players.

Q: Doug.... oh how good it is to be back in bball land. Did you miss us? I couldn't help but notice your omission of Andrea Bargnani as part of the group of core Raptor players. Where do you see his future as a Raptor? And, do you see a future there?

Alex F, Calgary

I'll bet anything Doug is telling Alex F. how Andrea Bargnani is inches away from revolutionizing the centre position. But he's wrong. No Mago has no business earning an NBA paycheque. The Raptors commit crimes against basketballity by keeping him; that money should go to actual players. Or the Foundation. Or just give it to the Jays.

Q: Seasonal greetings, that time of year and at some point I will have time to enjoy it. Anyway, wondering a little about other possible areas that could be developed this season for the Rap's that might not be so easily noticed by the fan base. We hear talk of "culture" and "tradition" around sports teams and I wonder if there is an opportunity to make strides in these areas this season? Can the Rap's bring players in that have, as an example, an exemplary work ethic off court that hopefully creates a standard for the younger players around the team? A real seasoned pro that is able provide a solid and practical example of how to deal with back to back games? Someone who is great at focusing the team on a pregame ritual that helps everyone be mentally ready for the ball toss? I guess the real question is, given the transient nature of this year's team, will there be any reasonable expectation that the above mentioned stuff could be built this year and carried forward?

Thanks as always for what you do,

Doug T, Brantford


Q: Hi Doug. Going into the lockout, the owners had stated that one of their goals was to create more competitive balance in the league by making it harder for the big market teams to acquire upper echelon talent via free agency or the sign and trade route. Do you feel this new agreement addresses this issue or should more have been done? Further, in an ideal world, what system do you feel would work best to establish that competitive balance so that any team in the league with proper drafting, trading, free agent signings, and good player development has a fair chance to succeed.

Thank you Doug.

Joe D, Mississauga

No, Joe D., I don't. And I don't believe, sincerely, that competitive balance was ever really a goal. The owners wanted to reduce salaries. There are a few trinkets, like a reduced mid-level exception for tax-paying teams that, potentially, could limit certain signings. But there's nothing that's going to stop great players from wanting, and manoeuvring, to play with each other, and the salary cap encourages that by creating price ceilings. I prefer when team sports have parity but I don't believe the NBA, from a whole-entity perspective does, now that they make so much of their revenue from TV deals. And the parity I want is not achieved by putting draconian clamps on teams but by allowing teams to operate freely and reward savviness.

Q: Hi Doug. Have ignored hoops and the raps until a week ago, couldn’t find a way to watch millionaires and billionaires argue about money.

Two quick questions - one is about the trade exception acquired in the bosh sign and trade. I know Colangelo used a portion of it during last season. Has the balance expired? If it has expired why is Colangelo not taking more heat for letting it expire? Surely he could have found a use for it in the lead up to the 2011 draft.

Can you tell us more about the one time amnesty clause available to each team. Will the Raptors be using theirs on Calderon? If a player has their contract wiped out via the amnesty clause can they re sign with the same team? Is there another candidate with the raps other than Jose for amnesty?

Thanks, enjoy the compact season!

Jeff VH, Toronto

The trade exception allowed the Raps to take on salary in a trade without sending salary back for one year after the trade. Since they were getting under the cap, and didn't seem poised to bring in an expensive player, it was a tool that didn't need using. Though maybe they could have picked up Lamar Odom. (I'm throwing my hands up and shaking my head, if you didn't already gather)

I understand the amnesty can be used once throughout the CBA through the off-season window for contracts signed before the new deal. Teams are on the hook for the amnestied player's salary but it comes off the books in terms of cap and tax. As said before, I'm not sure how it's treated as a component of minimum salary. I've talked about all this earlier but amnesty-ing Calderon would be one of the dumbest basketball moves ever made in the history of the NBA. So don't put it past Bry-Bry.

Q: Hey Doug. Like the blog, interesting and honest. I have been a season's ticket holder now for 7 years shelling out a good amount of cash every year including a return GO ticket to watch the Raps. I have to say listening to Brian on Prime Time Sports the other night really got me thinking that professional sports is the most unique business in the world. Imagine the GM of a major car company going on Top Gear and telling the boys spend your money on this car, it really isn't intended to be good and will be the baseline for future much better cars (potentially). It is fascinating that in sports you are asked to part with the same amount of money annually to buy into a long term philosophy. I guess that is the nature of entertainment. My other point about Brian is that for the first time since he has come to Toronto, I really don't buy what he is selling anymore. So, my question for you is how would you rank him as a GM? Here is the criteria I would like you to consider:

Overall team record in the years of service.

Leadership in and out of the office

Ability to deal with the media

Likelihood of future success.


Mike M, Mississauga

I don't know or care about the out-of-office leadership or media tact. The rest? Is "pukey" an allowable rating? What's the name of this blog? Put it this way... If Bryan Colangelo were a double agent sent here from the NBA to secretly destroy the Raptors, there's precious little he would do differently. He's been given a lifetime pass for an unexpected, better-than-mediocre 2006-2007 season. The three biggest contributors to that team were Chris Bosh (that went well), TJ Ford (in one of his two above average seasons) and Jose Calderon (who he tried to trade for a couple months of Tyson Chandler and Boris Diaw's carcass and now appears to be an amnesty risk). In a league where more than half of teams make the playoffs, that's just not good enough. I have and will continue to make the case that no team's operated as unintelligently as the Raptors since Colangelo came to town. In fact, that argument is sometimes all that keeps the fire burning inside my belly. I need to get out more.

1 comment:

Transition D-fense said...

Comprehensive, and rich. Great post.

Agreed about not amnesty-ing Calderon, and about parity not being a goal for the NBA. The dripping sarcasm throughout is also a plus.

Keep up the frequent posting!