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Opinion | What was old is now young, a pucks question or two and some Raptors in Ye Olde Mailbag

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A tremendous holiday weekend edition of Ye Olde Mailbag so thanks for all your contributions.

And in between barbecues or fireworks or gardening or just loafing around, enjoy all the stuff in here.

A usual week ahead around these parts and I suspect there will actually be stuff to go and write about sometime, which will be most welcome.

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Q: Hi Doug – in your (usual?) oblique way I think I caught that this is your birthday week. If I am right then I join many others in wishing you a very happy day and a good year ahead. You deserve it.

Is it a good week to ask about which players age the best and how/why they do it? Who comes to your mind among your favourite older players, past and present? And is 40 the new 30? If so, you hung ‘em up ten years too soon!

Charles N.

A: You are indeed right, and thanks. Big day today.

I don’t know if, in pro sports, 40 is the new 30 but I do think 35 is the new 27, to tinker with the math.

There was a time when it was generally held that a players’ prime would be, say, from 26 to 30, now I think it’s more like 29 to 35. And I’d attribute it to better training methods, better nutrition and athletes understanding how much more money they can earn in what used to be their “golden years.”

And while there were always outliers like a Gordie Howe, we’re seeing so many more now. Serena Williams, LeBron James, I say Steve Nash was better in his 30s than he was in his 20s, so many others but those would be my best three off the top of my head.

Q: High Doug. Apropos Bob Lanier from last week., I’m outraged, despondent, about the Buffalo murders specifically, and about American life overall.  The shooting occurred on Jefferson Avenue.  My parents just arrived to the US as undocumented immigrants from Poland, and I wrote last week came to Buffalo in 1946 where my uncle and family lived, on Jefferson Ave. with four children. The only family my dad had. as he was the sole survivor of the Holocaust.  In time we often visited, I grew up, had friends there, these are my five degrees of separation.  This will not end well.  Americans are still fighting the Civil War.

Stay well,

Frank  

A: I spent a fair amount of time in Buffalo over the years, although not nearly as tied to it as you are, and I have obviously spent a large amount of time in the United States as a whole.

I’m scared, saddened, angry and confused with the amount of hate, pure hate, that exists. I don’t know what the answer is but there has to be one because where we are headed is not where anyone should ever want to go.

And this needs to be a cautionary tale here, too. We are not inured of the same hate, it’s here and burbling blow the surface but we need to work all together, somehow, to find tolerance, acceptance and a desire to weed and expose the hatred and try to make it go away.

There are no easy answers. But there must be answers of some kind.

Q: Hey Doug,
Your POV – who are the best three sports analysts in Canada?
JR

A: That’s a tough one for me to answer because I seldom, well, never, see out of market hockey, there is no out of market basketball and that’s about all there is, right?

I really, really like Joe Siddall with the Blue Jays and hope he keeps getting time in the booth. But other than that, I really don’t see enough to have any kind of informed opinion.

I am a big, big Alvin Williams fan, though. The few Raptors games I saw him do were really good.

Sorry on the others but I just don’t have the depth of knowledge necessary.

Q: Hi Doug,

I lost my Dad this past March 31st and today, May 16th, would have been his 95th birthday. To him and to you I say Happy Birthday and remind us all to tell a good friend or family member how much they mean to you while you still have them.

Like yourself, I am thrilled to see a new look final 4 this year. By far and away the biggest surprise for me is Dallas and I look forward to learning whether they spent it all on the Suns or, as you’ve suggested, they figured it out and could be a force to be reckoned with. I’ve been eager to see what Doncic could do with a solid team around him so I hope it’s the latter. In any case, like yourself, I hope these finals series will be fun to watch.

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Stuart

A: I’m answering this before Saturday’s Game 3 of Miami-Boston but through the first four games of the conference finals, I’d suggest we’ve been disappointed. The second half of Friday in San Francisco was good, sure, but other than that? Blah.

Hopefully the Mavs put some juice in the West final tonight.

Q: Hi Doug

Thanks for a great season of coverage and looking forward to your offseason stories!

On the question of bad behaviour, I feel that more than one thing can be true.

a) The fans (in both cities) have sometimes behaved badly

b) Embiid (also in both cities) has sometimes behaved badly. I do think, while abuse is never justified, that Raps fans would not have been quite so enraged if Embiid hadn’t hit Chris Boucher in the face, hit Khem Birch in the face, hit Scottie in the face *and* stomped Scottie’s ankle. (There were other things I can’t recall, but those were among the worst.)

If you are the owner of a seven-foot, 280-pound body, it is incumbent upon you to learn how to control it, especially if, as a professional athlete, you are literally paid to control it. Unfortunate stuff obviously happens in the heat and hustle of the moment, but he does seem to cause an inordinate number of these sorts of incidents. When Siakam accidentally hurt Joel, he had the decency to apologize. It was interesting to see that in spite of Harden causing similar problems, there was little or no booing or profane chanting. To me the biggest difference was in the gloating; Embiid’s airplane was basically a taunt, and not the first in the series. If he wants fans to behave better, he needs to set himself the same standard.

Re the issue of awards voting — thank you for the wise words in today’s paper! Your suggestions for changes to the system (e.g., positionless or back court/front court) make a lot of sense. As for basing it on box scores, that’s a hard no from me. All the intangibles gone — the juice and soul of the sport, in many ways! It would be a travesty. Thinking of our own Chris Boucher, to take just one; on paper, his game has worsened, but on the court it has soared. 

KM

A: Sorry I didn’t get to this last week, I somehow missed it at the very end of putting things together.

Yeah, there is something about the way Embiid comports himself that I find off-putting – mainly because he’s a front-runner – but the vulgarity was going to far. Far too far. I understand the passion and the disappointment but that was a bad look and sound for what’s normally a good Raptors audience.

That said, you’re right about the inevitability of some injuries when huge bodies are flying around at breakneck speed but more care has to be taken more often.

Q: Hi Doug

First of all, you’re the best, have always enjoyed your thoughts whether on the Raptors or other any sports news.

Because we spend our winters in Florida, we are sooooo fortunate to see all the Heat games on TV. They are a great team, play an inspired defense and have Butler as their leader as he showed and you wrote about last night. When I saw that the Celtics were the favoured team I said just plain wrong, the Heat are going to the finals.

Maybe I’m using my heart instead of my brain but I believe the team with the best player normally wins.

Go Heat!

As the Leafs, ☹, their talent is surely enough to at least win some Stanley Cup rounds. It’s up to a coach to unlock that talent and motivate his team. Keefe has not been up to that task.

Joel Quenneville is available, has won everywhere, has 3 Stanley Cups, played for the Leafs so knows the pressures in Toronto. I realize the questions that got him fired in Florida are still there but I believe upper management in Chicago was to blame, not Quenneville even though he had to know what was happening.

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Your thoughts.

Stay safe and healthy,

Michael K

A: My colleague Damien Cox wrote about Quenneville and wondered how long he had to stay away before he could get another. My suggestion would be it’s still a long, long way away, if it ever occurs.

https://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/opinion/2022/05/16/joel-quenneville-could-help-the-leafs-but-how-long-does-disgrace-last-in-hockey.html

So I don’t think he’s the answer but I also don’t think the current guy is the problem, though.

And as much I hope for your sake the Heat give you something big to cheer about, I think Boston at full strength might just be too good.

Q: Raps traded out of the low 1st round into the high 2nd round.  Presumably this was with great awareness of this year’s draft class.  It does appear that there are a plethora of medium/high ceiling, low floor draft options after the early lottery.  The Raptors have had pretty good luck under Masai/Nurse at developing late picks and free agents into good contributors.

Is it possible that the Raptors have determined that there is a developmental advantage to the short term contracts that 2nd rounders get versus the relative security that late 1st round prospects get?

In other words, might the Raptors believe that it is developmentally preferable to have the carrot and stick of a short term contract hanging over a developmental prospect’s head rather than the flaccidity inducing hubris of an unearned guaranteed salary?     

Which is to say, all things being equal, absent a specifically targeted player, isn’t it possible that the Raptors would rather have an early 2nd to a late 1st

 Tony Baer, Albany, NY

A: I don’t think it was the No. 1 reason for the trade but I do know they don’t think there’s a ton of separation between the 23rd pick and the 33rd and have all the confidence in the world they can make the pick a player. And having all the control over the contract offer, not being locked into a longish multi-year deal, certainly was a factor.

As was getting Young and now having the chance to sign with him with Bird Rights without major cap/tax implications.

Q: Doug, want you to put on your capologist cap (see what I did there) for a minute. This being Toronto where pucks matter I am going to start with a Leafs analogy. By all accounts, John Tavares is a fine player, good leader and teammate. The problem is that he appears to be a $6 million dollar player who is getting paid $11 million and this is a huge problem when building the team’s roster. I know the NHL has a hard cap and the NBA a soft cap, but can you identify a half dozen or so NBAers whose pay cheque is so large that it limits the opportunities for their team to build a winning roster.

Bruce

Oshawa

A: With due respect, who says he’s a “$6million player” when the open market set his salary at what it is? And the Leafs were fully aware of the cap machinations and problems that might have come when they made him the offer he would have been foolish to turn down.

And the guy you’re talking about doesn’t exist in the NBA. Sure, some contracts may seem impossible to get around – Carmelo Anthony, maybe John Wall – but no one is untradeable and there are always ways for astute management to correct its mistakes. Might take time, but the ways exist.

And I really think most of the problems lie with management, not players who simply take contracts offered them.

Q: Hi Doug,

Thank you for writing the blog, it’s definitely a must read on my Sundays. I turned on the Blue Jays game the other day and did a double take as I heard the dulcet tones of Matt Devlin. Turns out, both of the Jays regular commentators were unavailable as both were attending their son’s graduations so Devlin was filling in for the weekend. It got me to thinking, what does a commentator do in their off season? Rest? Practice their intonation? Learn more about possible incoming players?

Thanks,

Laura in Toronto

A: Most of them don’t do a lot, actually. They work hard in the season, their contracts generally only cover a season and most take some time to relax. There’s always some freelance work or maybe some voice-over stuff as one-off opportunities, of course.
Matt, as a matter of fact, did a wonderful job one summer being the voice of this great book I heard of, called We The North.

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Q: Hi Doug,

Too many NBA blowouts, you say? Well thank the Warriors for giving you an interesting game on Friday night! Ask and ye shall receive…

Thanks for mentioning the NBA combine; many say it highlighted Scottie’s talents!

Some Questions…

1) A question about NBA ownership vs management. The Knicks would be the equivalent of the Leafs for the NBA (fanbase, revenue, attention, and ironic lack of success). Their ownership has been criticized by most as the biggest problem. Teams like Dallas and Brooklyn seem to have very hands-on and involved owners, but how much autonomy does team management have? I guess my question is who really is in charge of an NBA team?

2) The Rockets have had a couple of star players who didn’t want to play for them (Wall, Harden). As a result, the team has struggled. Do you think the league should have some sort of arbitrator to resolve these sorts of situations? Any ideas on how to stop Houston from becoming no-man’s land? (compensation for agreeing to stay & play?)

3) Switching gears, a media question. From time to time I will check out the Fox News website to see how the other half lives so to speak. Major news stories are reported just like most outlets, but the differences appear in lesser stories that they promote. The other big differences are in the opinion pieces (as you can imagine) and of course reader comments. The comments on the Buffalo shooting blame everyone (including the victims) and everything except the shooter and approach ( and in many cases qualify as) hate speech.

When and who decides when a written comment or opinion crosses the line? How much responsibility does the media bear in exacerbating the problem?

4) Follow up question … do you see a way out of the bipartisan split that seems to be happening in the media? Toronto Star vs Toronto Sun used to be more of a style/presentation choice and less of a political choice. Maybe all media outlets need to consider hiring a diversity of viewpoints, less left vs right, more just plain “us”.

Thanks again and enjoy the unofficial start of summer!

Bernie M

A: As with any business anywhere on Earth, the ultimate decisions lay with the people who own it but the good sports organizations have trusted women and men in high ranking positions whose advice is taken by ownership.

I don’t think there’s anything the league can do with Houston and I don’t think for a minute they should. If it becomes untenable there, it’s up to the Rockets to figure it out, isn’t it? As for the specifics, John Wall did nothing to suggest he wasn’t fine with the way last season played out; I don’t think that was all on the Houston management.

Every publication/website has layers of editors, managing editors, editors in chief, owners who vet or are involved in most editorial decisions. How they make them tends to shape the coverage style; the responsible ones, like ours, encourage the exchange of ideas and work for the common and greater good.

Q: Dear Doug,

I know you said Friday that not much news coming from the Raps.

I worry about illnesses and especially Fred’s hip pointer and knee.  Is there any news of an operation for Fred on his knee or do you expect an update in the next month or so?

Brian in TO

A: Fred told us after the season ended that he didn’t think any surgery was necessary on either his knee or hip flexor strain and I haven’t heard a word about it in the few conversations I’ve had with various Raptors people.

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