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Throwin' 'Bows: The Mailbag





/ April 28, 2004

I've let the mailbag questions build up for a while. It's time to speak directly to the people. MJD is nothing if not a man of the people. I love the questions, so please, don't be shy. Keep them coming.

Who should the Raps go after in the draft? A point guard or big man? Which ever one you decide to pick, who are some options in the draft for that position? - Jas, Ottawa

The Raptors are like a big Krispy Kreme. Or, since it's Toronto you're asking about, they're like a big Tim Horton's. The point is, there's a big damn hole in the middle. The best center in Toronto is Jing Kao. Unfortunately, she's a 5'9" Asian woman and plays for the Toronto Dragons in the North American Chinese Basketball Association Invitational Tournament.

But the problem with drafting a center is that the Raptors need one now. They can't wait. And with only a 3.7% chance of landing the top spot in the draft, getting Emeka Okafor in a Raptors jersey is a pipe dream, and there's really no one else that you can count on at the center spot to produce right away. Point guard is probably a better option. They probably won't have a chance at Shaun Livingston, but someone like Jameer Nelson, Devin Harris, Ben Gordon, or Sebastian Telfair would be available.

Of that group, I like Nelson the best, though NBA scouts don't seem to agree. I think he's a very smart player that does all the little things well. On top of that, he can penetrate, shoot, distribute, defend, and has an NBA body. The knock on him is that he's only 5'11", but his physical strength on defense and creativity on offense should be more than enough to compensate.

Given the present salaries, can you assemble a championship team and be under the cap? If so, who'll be on your 12 man team? Go on, show us you can out Jerry J.West. - P. Ang, Manila

Fun question. And while I'd never pretend that I could out-Jerry the legendary Jerry West, I'll give this a shot. I'm not even going to rely on any cracked-out, crazy-ass braintyping thing that Danny Ainge is in to. And my team will be awesome. I would guarantee a championship for these fellas. We've got $43.8 mil to work with, based on this year's salaries. I'll give you a 12-man roster, complete with youth, defense, scoring, role players, go-to guys, spark off the bench, leadership, and character. I won't even take LeBron or Carmelo on their rookie contracts, and I'll even save a little room under the cap for when we sign Charles Oakley down the stretch.

C - Ben Wallace, $5,500,000. Samuel Dalembert, $887,000.

PF - Tim Duncan, $12,676,000. Karl Malone, $1,500,000. Brian Skinner, $1,500,000.

SF - Shane Battier, $2,533,000. Brian Cardinal, $663,000.

SG - Michael Redd, $3,000,000. James Posey, $4,917,000. Mickael Peitrus, $1,661,000.

PG - Eric Snow, $4,500,000. Bobby Jackson, $2,925,000.

Total: $42,262,000.

How ya like that?

I am so tired of people coming down on the Mavs. It is no secret that there defense isn't the best in the league, but these guys have gone out the past four years and won 50+ games. What is so bad about that? You never here the Kings catching flack over there defense or lack there of. The Mavs will defeat a beat up Kings squad in the first round. In fact if they were healthy it wouldn't matter the Mavs would take them. The Mavs have a lot of playoff experience on that team, and they might just surprise some people in the second round. Don't forget about the two most underrated rookies in the league either. Haters quit acting like we are the Hawks or the Wizards or something and take a look at the best team everyone writes off. Dirk, Nash, Finley, Jamison, Walker, Howard, Daniels, and Najera are on there way haters, like 'em or not. - Nate, Dallas

Yes, the Mavs are on their way. And you should be on your way... to rehab. Nate, please put down the pipe. Fight the pipe, Nate. The Mavericks are not going to win a championship. I say that with 100% certainty. What's wrong with winning 50+ games? Nothing. Winning 50 games is fine, but shouldn't the goal be to win a championship? A team just can't do that if they can't stop anyone.

That said, I have actually noticed the Mavs getting slightly better on defense. Their improvement now puts them at the level of terrible. Before, they were horrible. Horrrrrible. Now they're just terrible. Congratulations.

Antoine Walker's minutes went from 28 down to 21 from game one to game two. That helped, before it went back up to 25 and 27 in the next two games. Get that number down to between 2 and 5 minutes, and it'll be even better. Antoine Walker can't defend, and isn't giving them much offensively. He should be getting Darko minutes. Seeing him start Game 4, when the Mavs had at least three different better options available, just confused the hell out of me.

Eduardo Najera should be getting those minutes. As 'Toine's minutes went down from game to game two, Eduardo Najera, one of my favorite players, saw his minutes go from 8 to 20. That helped. Then they went to 9 and 18 in the next two games. I don't know why Don Nelson can't see how much better Najera's presence makes that team.

Dirk Nowitzki has made an effort to become a better off-the-ball defender, and has been stepping over to block some shots. It's an improvement, but he's still pretty terrible. Jerry West could take him one-on-one. And I mean Jerry West right now, not in his prime. But I think the key thing is that Dirk wants to get better, and will eventually find a way to make his lack of defensive ability not absolutely cripple his team.

I just wonder what would happen if the Mavs went with a primary line-up of Nash, Finley, Najera, Nowitzki, and Scott Williams, while cycling Marquis Daniels, Josh Howard, and Antawn Jamison off the bench. Offensively, it's not the Mavs best line-up, but they could still do a lot of running and force some matchup problems. Defensively, no one's going to mistake them for the Spurs, but between Najera, Finley, and Williams, they should get enough stops to always be at least in the game.

Can you please inform Ryan from Vancouver who wrote "The Raptors are not just Toronto's team but also Canada's team", that there is absolutely no way in hell that the Raptor's are "Canada's team"!!! Vancouver lost a huge chunk of it's basketball soul when Michael Heisley stole the Grizz and fled to Memphis. Any self-respecting hoops fan would not allow that void to be filled by purple dinosaurs. - Dave, Vancouver, B.C.

I'm not going to tell him that, but I'll let you do it. I don't blame you for being upset, and I feel you on the purple dinosaurs. It's a little embarrassing. Their uniforms when they first came into the league... man, those were harsh. It was like the owner let his ADD kid a box of crayons and said, "Here, draw daddy a uniform." They're a bit better now, but still, they're purple, and there's a damn cartoon dinosaur dancing nearby. You don't wanna roll like that.

I think the Clippers were such a disappointment that I wonder if they're ever going to make the playoffs. Just look at the previous year and at all the talent they had: Lamar Odom, Elton Brand, Cory Maggette, Que Richardson, Andre Miller. If that lineup doesn't get you to the playoffs then what does? (probably Utah's...) - Raanan, Israel

Talent, they have. A winning attitude, they don't. Teams and organizations get so mired in a losing culture, and they lose the knowledge of how to win. None of the guys on that team know what it's like to be on a team that understands the committment and sacrifice it takes to succeed at the highest level. You can't underestimate the importance of that. Look at the talent on that team, and whether or not they should make the playoffs is arguable, but they definitely should have a better record than they have.

How do you change the losing culture? It's tough. Part of it is to stop looking for young, talented players. You've got to bring in veterans that have been there, who know what it takes to win, and who will make the sacrifices to do so. Someone's got to set the example. But that's difficult to do. Number one, those guys are in high demand. Number two, the leaders also have to be players. Not necessarily the best players, but they need to be on the floor. No one's going to listen to a guy that spends all of his evenings glued to the bench.

OK, so let's get it straight: I live in the German speaking part of Belgium, so I know a little bit about it. Belgium is divided in 3 language parts: Dutch, French and German. There is nearly no multilinguicity in this country, because it seems sometimes like every language group hates the others. Of course the German speaking part is the minority with about 120,000 people. But props to you, because nearly 50% of Belgium citizens don't even know that there is a part of their country where they speak German and now you, as an American, know it.

PS: Malmedy has no German Newspaper. Malmedy is in the French speaking part of Belgium, a 10-minute ride from where I live, St. Vith, a small city in the German speaking part and which HAS a German speaking newspaper. But please tell me that this is all a dream, because if I ever read again about this in your Mailbag, I have to think that the world has gone down and NBA coverage has become the most country thing ever. Peace. - Marc Solheid, the German-speaking part of Belgium

I appreciate you writing in to help us figure this out, especially when it's clear that you've been hurt by those in Belgium who disrespect you and your German-speaking brethren. You could always come to America, where we discriminate for much better reasons, like skin color and social status.

But thanks for the help in clearing that up. The multilinguicity compliment I gave to the people of Belgium, I take back, and shame on you, Belgians, for trying to deceive me into giving you an undeserved compliment. I stand by my compliments of the waffles, though.

I first want to say that I really like your feature. Especially the last one about the Kings-Mavs series. You're so right on that series! And I share your opinion on Don Nelson. But I've one question for you, what do you think of Medvedenko? Everytime I watch him play, I really think that he hasn't got a clue what he's doing on a basketball court. He's really good in keeping his own teammates from penetrating and making stupid fouls. And if I see Brian Cook on the bench, than I really don't get it. Cook played well in limited minutes, while Medvedenko really sux.... - Damy Gliejm, Sassenheim, The Netherlands

I like Cook, too. And Luke Walton. But at this point in the season, it's hard to blame Phil Jackson for giving an experienced guy more minutes than either of the rookies. Phil Jackson can't always count on Medvedenko to do the right thing, but he can count on Medvedenko to be Medvedenko. It might not be great, but there won't be any surprises, either. Put a rookie out there in playoff time, and who knows what you're going to get. At least I think that's how Phil probably sees it.

If Medvedenko is still in L.A. next year (he's a free agent), I'd expect to see his minutes get cut in favor of Cook and/or Walton. But in the playoffs, experience is a huge deal, so it's tough to fault Phil for rolling with Medvedenko.

Don't you guys think that Juwan Howard has a birthmark on his butt? Which means that he's always been unlucky not only for himself but also the team he plays for. The Magic are so good last year... and most people think they're better this year with the aquisition of Juwan Howard.. but I think Juwan Howard stinks.. he make teams stink. Another player I hate is the best cheerleader in the league. Mark Madsen.. it really annoys me when he doesnt do anything but he feels he's the man... Wow! Mark Madsen is very cool! - Dobby, Phillipines

Truth be told, Dobby, I've never spent much time contemplating what's on Juwan Howard's ass. I'm not saying it's wrong, in fact, if you feel like this is an avenue you need to explore, I encourage you to do so. But Juwan's cheeks are not something we're going to spend a lot of time on here in Throwin' Bows.

I don't get your disdain for Mark Madsen. What did Mark Madsen ever do to hurt anyone? That's like going to a little league baseball game and rooting against the dorky kid who gets stuck in leftfield for two innings per game, only because league rules indicate that he has to. Myself, I'm a Madsen fan. He works hard in games and practice, plays defense, rebounds, hustles, and doesn't bitch. I've never really seen anything from Mark Madsen that indicates to me that he thinks he's the man. I don't think he's ever gone into Flip Saunders office and said, "Listen, Flip. You got the Mad Dog on your roster. Stop running plays for Spree, Sam, or KG. The Mad Dog needs the ball. If you don't feed the Mad Dog, he's not going to protect the yard. It's the Mad Dog's world... KG just lives there."

As far as Juwan Howard goes... the only thing he's guilty of is poor timing. He left the Nuggets pre-Carmelo, and joined the Magic for the grand Tracy McGrady leadership experiment. I won't say he hurt the Magic, but he didn't help much. He and Drew Gooden play the same position, and only showed a few brief glimpses of being able to play well together. What killed the Magic was not the addition of Juwan Howard, but the loss of Darrell Armstrong. The Magic got atrocious play at the point guard position this year, but more importantly than that, the lost their heart and their leader. Those were the important things Darrell Armstrong brought to the team, and when he left, there was no one on the roster to fill those voids. That killed the Magic. Or, it could've been the pigmentation on Juwan Howard's ass.

Good call on keeping zone defenses... and Eduardo Najera. Quick note on T-Mac: he needs to step up his leadership to match his game, but he's still one of the all-around-good-guys off the floor. I'm a long time Duke-hater, but have to admit, I'm impressed by Duhon's toughness, poise, smarts, and skill. How do you see him impacting a pro team? - CK, NC

Thanks for the note about T-Mac. You're right. As much as I've said about him, I should also note that he is a good guy off the court. Good call.

As for Duhon, I think he can have a huge impact on a pro team, so long as that pro team is in the NBDL or Europe.

Alright, maybe that's a little harsh. I'm still a little burnt out on Duhon from the NCAA Tournament when I couldn't go more than 5 seconds without hearing about his incredible toughness and heart. When Verne Lundquist actually said the words, "What a man!" it was over for me. I was off the Duhon bandwagon permanently.

Trying to be objective, though (never one of my strong points) I'd give Duhon a decent chance of sticking in the NBA as a back-up point guard. I don't see him having the ability of a starter, though. I like a lot of the things he does. He defends. He's athletic, and he can get up and down the floor. He plays a smart game. But the offense just isn't there. He doesn't have a great jumpshot, and can't get to the rack all that well, either. I like point guards who are primarily distributors, but it's a lot harder to create things for teammates when no one has to have much respect for your ability to penetrate or stick the three. But he could be a solid career back-up point guard, the kind of guy who has a long and unspectacular NBA career as a role player.

Yo MJDeeze, can we talk Kobe! This is one of my favorite subjects. If KB looked off some shots on Sunday to prove a point, I'm cool with that. Remember MJ had to put Phil in check once when he only took 8 shots against the Pistons. That great triangle isn't nearly as effective without a Mike or Kobe pressuring the D and going for 30 and there's nothing wrong with giving Phil a lil' reminder. Back to my Hoss! Big Baby Shaq and those other 2 clowns posing as Lakers this season need to stop crying about Kobe's shot totals. Bottom line is without Kobe going for 30 while dishing out 5 assists, the Lakers are a very ordinary squad- Shaq or not! The fact remains for everyone who wants #11 to be some big factor in LA's title run, this team is still Kobe and Shaq's! And what real LA fan wants to see Kobe shoot 10 times, scoring only 18 points if it means watching some old and busted JAZZ power forward score 17 on turnaround jumpers and lay-ins. I will never forgive the Honorable Dr. Buss for allowing this jerk to wear the Laker purple and gold. He's the reason I have no pick for winner of the Western Conference - I can not and will not pick or pull for a team with that clown on their roster. Maybe I'd feel better if someone would have let Darrell Walker hit him with that chair after he knocked out Zeek. Later... - Youngin', The D

It's kind of an old issue by now, but we've not discussed it before. You're absolutely right, the Lakers are going nowhere without Kobe. The Lakers minus Kobe would probably beat the Rockets in a 7-game series, but after that, they'd be in trouble. For the Lakers, this postseason is really all about #8.

The "controversy" about Kobe sabotaging a game was ridiculous. Say what you want about Kobe, but even if he's the worst human being in the universe, he's got a huge will to win. It's MJ-like. And there was a half when he took no shots... So? Kobe's been doing that a lot this year, taking the first half and trying to get his teammates involved, and taking over in the second half if need be. It's not selfish, it's not unselfish, it's Kobe knowing that it's best for the Lakers for his teammates to get in the flow of things. It's a strategy. And if the other guys were hitting their open jumpshots that they got because of Kobe, he'd have 10 assists in the first half, the Lakers would've won, and no one would've said a word. Sabotaging the game? Please.

As far as Karl goes... I'm not a huge fan, either, but your Karl hate certainly outweighs mine. I think he's been a dirty player throughout his career, and I think he was planning on selfishly hanging around the league until he broke the all-time scoring record, but I think that's changed for him. I think he's done after this year. The death of his mother was hard on him, and I'm just guessing, but it probably changed him a lot as a person. I'm never going to be in the Karl Malone fan club, but it's hard to hate him at this point, knowing he's gone through so much and is probably about to retire.

And not only that, he's a pretty important player for the Lakers. Not in terms of scoring, but in terms of sharing the ball, helping to move the offense, setting an example, working hard, and sacrificing for the team. Those are things they'll need if they want to win the title.

Question, comment, problem, tirade, hate mail, love note? Send it along here.

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