Crossover sports fans, Bird rights and more Raptors plans in Ye Olde Mailbag

Happy Mother’s Day. Be nice to her.

Solid Ye Olde Mailbag this week, folks.

Plenty of variety and issues but there’s always a chance to step out of the box even further, don’t forget.

But enjoy this and we’ll be back next week.

Q: Doug,
You mingle without a lot of other reporters throughout the course of a season, what do the American journalists think of Toronto? Do they enjoy coming here? Do they take in any of the tourist sites? Do you hang with them post game?
Fred L

A: They love Toronto. It’s a great city of great restaurants, bars, clubs, the arena’s right downtown so a car isn’t necessary. It really is one of the top destinations of folks in my business and has been for years.

And there’s a cabal that generally hangs out post-game if flight schedules work but last season not a lot of the Usual Suspects traveled so the chance seldom presented itself. Hopefully, that’s in the past and we really get back to normal.

They don’t do a lot of tourist sites because the schedule is basically fly in one afternoon, have a night then shootaround and a game and a flight the next day. One of the great myths is that we have a lot of free time in whatever road city we’re in.

Q: Hey Doug (not the one mentioned below!)

Congratulations on a great season behind the keyboard. Is it just me or was there a little more pep in your step this year? Seems like you really enjoyed the 2021-22 edition of the Raptors, and it came through in every dispatch. Feeling energized again?

You wrote about Fred VanVleet’s take on Malachi Flynn and what Flynn needs to do to secure a long-term spot in the lineup. Do you think Flynn’s got it in him?

Brian the Bee

(Perhaps you know my half-brother?)


A: Not sure about pep or anything but understand this was the first time in a season and a half where we/I actually got to see games, talk to people face-to-face and renew relationships on other than Zoom calls. We all do better work that way.

Coaches and teammates say Flynn has the skills and the demeanor to be a regular contributor; I haven’t personally seen it, he’s got to be a more consistent competitor and a better shooter.

Q: Hey Doug:
One of the great pleasures reading what you have posted following a game, or in the mailbag, are your insights on all matters of subjects, not just about basketball. Your readers are more knowledgable, better informed as a result. Looking forward to your comments on matters large and small, electoral and otherwise.
A few end of Raptors season questions:
With the Raptors down 3-0 to the Sixers, and then taking the next two, much was written about how no team has ever come back after being down 3 games. Why do you think no one has been successful, however difficult it may be? I don’t follow NCAA basketball, but every year one team is able to win the March madness championship, which involves about half a dozen straight wins. I realize this is not against NBA level opposition, but then again, neither is the winning team NBA calibre. I’m perplexed.
Reading your assessment of the Raptors roster, you state that the team should have kept Sam Dekker instead of Isaac Bonga. Can the Raptors invite Dekker back, or has that ship sailed?
Watching the end of season press availabilities with Masai Ujiri, Nick Nurse, and some of the team members, I find them to be a quite bright and patient group. Thinking that others in the NBA might have been more brusque in their responses – Gregg Popovich comes to mind. Answering reporters’ questions (most thoughtful, some less so) is obviously part of their job descriptions, though I suspect they would be perfectly happy to avoid answering some of your colleagues’ questions. I seemed to detect, for example, a bit of irritation in a couple of Nurse’s responses but overall, he seems to be the most cheerful coach the Raptors have had. I can’t recall the others laughing as much as he does. And Ujiri seems to be the most emotional of the Raptors GMs/presidents. How would you compare their personalities and their interaction with the media to their predecessors? Covid restrictions aside, has the relationship between the team and the media changed/evolved in the years since you have covered the Raptors?
(One pet peeve is that if the Raptors deem it worthy to share videos of the press availability sessions on their website, they should take the effort to have microphones available so that the viewer can hear the questions.)
Appreciated as always

A: Man, lots to get through here and I appreciate the kind words. I figure that if I keep up the three-day-a-week morning stuff, stepping outside the lane will be necessary.


The 3-0 hasn’t really surprised me too much. Teams make adjustments and finally find some that work, so few players truly effect the outcome of a game that finding someone to do it four times in a row is hard. It’s also a tough to ask a team that’s done 3-0 to maintain the playoff-level intensity necessary to win four in a row.

There are people who would have rather kept Dekker and Bonga – me among them – and in many ways because Bonga never really developed quickly enough. I do think the ship has sailed on Dekker but there are surely others like him out there they might take a look at.

This management group does enjoy some of the interaction with us but others did, too. I think the Colangelo-Mitchell coupling was probably the best, all things considered.

But, yeah, it has changed a bit. Not for the good, all in all. There are so many more of us now, tons of team employees, media organizations that didn’t exist a decade ago or would never have covered the team, websites that are new. It’s harder to develop one-to-one relationships because players and coaches are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers sometimes.

Q: Hi, Doug,

Thank you for your reporting this year. In the midst of all the other noise regarding the Raptors, I appreciated your even keel.

My questions today deal with “bird rights.”

1. How are they assigned?

2. Some players come with them, some don’t. Why? How does that work?

3. I realize there can be an advantage to having them on a player, but when do they matter?

4. Does the term have anything to do with Larry Bird? What is the origin of the term?

5. How does a team get a player without these bird rights? What advantage is it to a team to retain the rights?



A: In quick terms, Bird rights – and, yes, the phrase comes from the original contract of Larry Bird – allow teams to keep their own free agents without regard to the salary cap, it can exceeded in those cases. They only come with players who have contracts of three years or longer but are transferable in trades.

They matter for teams that are over the cap and can’t or won’t “clear room” to keep players they want; in that way they are financially invaluable.

Q: Hi Doug,

Do all of the Raptors athletes take off once the season is over? I imagine they’re pretty banged up and want to see family, etc..

No judgment, but it would be so cool to see Siakam and Anunoby yukking it up in Leafs jerseys at a game, or to see the VanVleet family at May the 4th at the Blue Jays. Or Banton and Flynn catching a Toronto FC game. We saw quite a few celebrity and athlete supporters at Raptors games, and they’d be treated like gods at any games they attended. Seems like they might enjoy the perk while they had the chance.


A: Some stick around and some go to other games but like to keep a low profile. Nick, in fact, told us last Monday that he’d been at the Jays game the day before; I know more than a few have taken in Leafs games and there are some TFC fans, too.

But I think they like the privacy of just being fans.

Q: Hey Doug
Just wondering what is going on with Serge. His career seems to have taken a nose dive since leaving Toronto. He wasn’t getting the time in LA and then the back issue and surgery. Has he not found his form since the surgery? Just not given the same minutes he needs to excel? I see with Milwaukee he’s playing garbage time. Two minutes total in two games against Boston. I hope his health is good. Be nice if Toronto could reacquire him. Even as good bench depth. I can’t imagine with his current contributions his contract ask would be much.

A: I love Serge but he’s also 32 years old, has played more than 900 regular season games and another 150 in the playoffs over 12 seasons and the grind is real. He’s had a tremendous career by any standard but sometimes those careers draw very close to an end.

And I don’t think for where the Raptors are that he’s any kind of fit, unfortunately. As much as I might appreciate sentimentality, it can’t factor into building a roster.

Q: Hi Doug,
Many thanks for your great coverage of what was a fun and satisfying year for the Raptors. At the beginning of the season a friend and I made the bold prediction that it was going to be a roller coaster ride and it turns out we were 100% right.
With the disaster that was the Lakers, the sweep of the Nets and the struggles of the 76’ers who, after what seems like a decade of The Process still don’t look to be close to a championship, do you think that the era of the superstar manipulated/manufactured teams may be over?
The best teams now left standing seem to have followed the model of building a strong, deep core and then either through draft or trade plugging in a superstar player. This was the model that worked for the Raptors in 2019 and seems to be the one that continues to work best.
Your thoughts?

A: I agree it’s the only way to go for sustained success, has been forever. Find a group, nurture it and let it make its makes, tinker on the edges and make the bold move when – or if – it presents itself.

The trouble is, general managers and presidents and owners are often the least patient people around and that’s often counter-productive.

The other question is this: How long is too long to let a group simmer?

It’s a tough question in some ways, but I’ve always been on the side of the patient, steady growth group.

Q: Hi Doug,

Hope the post-Raptors postseason isn’t too stressful for you.

I guess it gives you a chance to focus on other players you normally don’t key in on unless they are playing against us.

Which leads me to ask…

1) Anyone impressing you with their playoff performance? I see why Lowry wasn’t dealt to the Sixers if Maxey was part of the asking price!

2) While Dragic was here, you defended him against fans who were less than thrilled to have him. Two questions:(a) If he had bought in and gave us 100% from Day 1, how do you think the Raps would’ve done? (he’s still the kind of player our line up needs) (b) Given his Twitter taunt (7 laughing emojis) minutes after the elimination game, do you think much less of him as a person?

3) Any opinion on the ‘Inside the NBA’ Stanley Cup handling controversy?

Personally, I wasn’t horrified.

Thanks for your player assessment and article about Nick Nurse’s post-season activities. It was interesting to see what the team is doing in-between seasons. Hopefully, we’ll hear about more of that stuff.

thanks again

Bernie M.

A: The playoffs have unfolded pretty much as I expected but I suppose Ja Morant’s taken a big step. Like Trae Young did a year ago, mind you.

I don’t think the Raptors would have been as good with Dragic because it probably wouldn’t have meant as many different opportunities for Barnes and that was what the season was about. And I don’t think any less of him for the emoji thing, just as I don’t think any less of the thousands of Raptors fans who trolled him when Brooklyn got swept.

I have no clue what the Inside the NHL Stanley Cup “controversy” was and I cannot imagine caring much even if I did.


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