Sharing secrets, Nick Nurse’s mindset and some Khem Birch in Ye Olde Mailbag


Happy Thanksgiving Sunday, folks.

Hope it’s nice and relaxing and filled with fun and laughs and if that’s actually tomorrow in your life, well, we’ll say the same thing tomorrow.

And you can spend today sifting through this mail, watching stuff on the gridiron if that’s your thing or, be like me: WNBA at 3, Canada Soccer at 6 and baseball to flip through in between.

Not going to be a lot of time for turkey.

Q: Hi, Doug

I’m a new fan of basketball and did indeed jump on the bandwagon in 2019. Having said that, my love and interest is deepening. So much so that I ordered cable TV to watch this year.
Here is my question and forgive my ignorance. When a player leaves a team, do they share team plays with their new one? As in, isn’t Kyle going to be able to provide so much “insider information “ to the Miami Heat?
I get that it’s the lay of the land as players move all the time, but wondering if there is any etiquette around that.
Many thanks!
Monica M.

A: Not ignorance all, a very legit question.

The thing is, teams and players are so well scouted these days that even having institutional knowledge of what one team might do to attack or defend an opponent doesn’t often make a difference.

It might help some with terminology, but even then things go at such a pace in-game that it’s barely an advantage.

Q: Hey, Doug
It’s great to read your stories again, with you being there in person at Scotiabank Arena, and from the Raptors’ training facility.
Will be you going on the road to cover the Raptors’ games or will they be done remotely from Casa Doug? If you are let out, which cities are you most eager to visit?
It’s still early in the pre-season, but based on what you’ve seen so far, who would you be surprised to still see with the team when the regular season starts on Oct. 20?

Appreciated as always,


A: Yeah, we are going to be on the road, much like we were in 2019-20 before the pandemic hit, doing maybe half or two-thirds of the road games depending on the story, the schedule, the availability we’ll have and the cost a bit. We’re still in the process of finalizing the first three months of travel.

Given what’s transpired in the first couple pre-season games (I’m typing this Saturday afternoon), I’d be a bit surprised if Wainright or Dekker stuck around, but you never know.

Q: Hi Doug,

Watching Thursday’s game and seeing Jack and Matt broadcasting from Toronto while the team is in Philadelphia.

Do you know if that will be the norm for away games this season or only during pre-season?

Will Toronto media be able to be at away games or just Zoom interviews when the team is away?


A: My understanding is that it’s business as usual for all the broadcasters, and I think us writers will all pick and choose the most logical trips to take.

Q: Doug: Thanks for your encouraging remarks as slowly things get back to normal. Keep on giving us suggestions on how we can safely overcome our hesitations to be out and about as we emerge from this isolating pandemic.

Some people look at what a situation gives and decide to give up or blame someone. Coach Nurse appears to look at the cards he is dealt and says, “OK, let’s see what we can do with this.” Willing to think out of the box, you describe how Nurse will have “little men without the ball(!)” beating the opposition down the court.

Coach Nurse displays an unentitled view of the world and his work. Where does he get that from? His origins? His personality? His music? Would that more of us could shed cynicism and follow Nurse’s positive, fresh, unspoiled approach.

Charles N.

A: I think most of it comes from a long and varied history – mostly in the minor leagues – that forced him to be adaptable and willing to take a chance on the fly because his team did all the time, too.

And I do think there’s something deep in his personality that allows him to know that he’s not necessarily the smartest guy in the room and it’s best for the greater good not to be intractable.

Kind of refreshing, actually.

Q: Doug: One of the pleasures watching the Jays this past season has been the joy and exuberance demonstrated by the players and particularly on the bench.  Yes, these players have an occupation playing baseball, but they surely enjoy their teammates and the game itself.  It really makes one wish for success for these fine players.  I particularly enjoyed watching George Springer interacting with the younger players on the bench, and the scenes of the home-run jacket.

Have you ever seen a basketball team even approach the level of joy shown by the Jays?  Certainly the stop-and-start nature of baseball lends itself to emotion, as opposed to a celebration of a basket, almost certainly followed by an easy hoop at the other end.  Will young Barnes be the joy we might be missing?

Craig in OS

A: Remember the Raptors team with the Bench Mob? That roster sure had a ton of fun playing, didn’t it?

And you know what brings joy? 91 wins in a baseball season and a basketball playoff appearance.

Q: Hello, Doug
My question to you,  given your access and interaction amongst the Raptor personalities …
Who do you think has the personality to become the Raptors “Alpha amongst alphas,” to eventually lead this team to a championship?
We know Kyle was an alpha and took charge much of the time, but didn’t have the chops to put us over the top himself.
DeMar was talented, a good regular-season guy but faded in the playoffs.  Kawhi was, well, Kawhi; a cold-blooded superstar mercenary who didn’t wake up until something serious was on the line, and he delivered the chip.
So who do you think has got “it” on this team, now?
OG, Precious, Flynn, Barnes?  Yes, I left out Pascal, given his struggles when games are on the line.
Just curious if you can share any observations on who think could one day be the last man standing.

Start C.

A: Fred VanVleet. No question in my mind and all you have to remember is how he dominated the fourth quarter of Game 6 in Oakland in 2019.
Dude’s got “it” in spades, I’d say.

Q: Why can’t Montreal get a baseball team?

Al M.

A: Lack of a suitable stadium. Lack of ownership. Lack of MLB’s desire to expand. That about sums it up at the moment.

Q: Good day. Hope everyone at Casa Doug is having a good safe Thanksgiving. The question that might need help from Laura Armstrong: In the match at Azteca Stadium, why was Canada NOT awarded game once play had been stopped for the homophobic chanting? As previously reported, this is not Mexican fans’ first being caught doing this. 


Andrew, TO

A: My understanding is there’s no mechanism in the game’s laws for one to be abandoned by officials in such cases, although there should be.

Q: As a great article in The Athletic wrote: There is we’re 4 100 loss teams this year in the MLB until 2017 only one year had ever had that many but 3 times since. This tanking in action. It helps distort the outcomes because teams can end up facing opponents either before or after the tanking takes place.
Do you having any ideas to stop taking in baseball
Yours truly
Adam Wetstein

A: Most baseball teams lack the will, or the financial abilities, to spend to compete with the biggest teams. I think there needs to be some better way of taxing spenders, distributing that money among teams that don’t make a ton for whatever reason and some other form of revenue sharing to even the field.

Q: You wrote that Khem Birch hadn’t taken part in a single training camp session because of NBA health and safety protocols,

What exactly has happened? Is he unvaccinated?  Or did he simply test positive? Or come into contact with someone else who tested positive? 

The last thing the Raptors need is an Andrew Wiggins type of situation, so I’m curious to know exactly why he’s been out of training camp for so long. 

Thanks in advance.

Marshall A

A: This is being treated – as it should be – exactly as similar situations were last season. When Birch is back, it will be up to him to tell us as much, or as little, as he wants. The reason for his absence is to observe “health and safety protocols” and that has been the NBA’s policy since Day 1.

I’m interested in what he has to say but it will be up to him.

Q: Why is nobody asking the question, “If all the Raptors are Vaccinated,
why does Khem Birch have Covid?” Things not making sense here.
Murray Perry

A: Without getting into unknown specifics of the Birch case, I will point out that (a) being out under health and safety protocols does not necessarily mean there’s been a positive test and (b) vaccinated people can still contact COVID, although it is rare and always a less serious illness.

Q: Hi Doug,

Hope you and yours are riding out the fourth wave safely, and enjoying the return of a few bits of normalcy.

On to the questions!

1) Was shocked and very disappointed to hear about the healthcare fraud scandal involving over a dozen former NBA players, some of whom were well known and earned millions playing.

At least one had a court appointed attorney (i.e. couldn’t afford a lawyer ).

Obviously, the elephant in the room is that many young men have learned a great deal about basketball, but little else. Blowing through multiple millions of dollars shows that the league really must do a better job of teaching life skills, especially after a player’s on-court career is over. Too much has been focused on getting and keeping players in the league. Your take?

2) About those Raptors… Exhibition game #1 was the best-case scenario for the group at present ( quick, long, energetic defense with everyone touches the ball offense) while Game#2 was more worst-case scenario ( out-muscled in the paint at times, inexperience showing for the young guys), but, hey… It’s exhibition season. Impressed with Barnes, he is as advertised and looks like he could/should start in the absence of Siakam and Boucher. Also think Champagnie is another undrafted steal, no hi-light reel plays, but he’s in the right spot to get baskets. Your thoughts?

3) I saw the GM survey came out and looked at a few of the past ones. Everyone is ready for a Laker-Nets final, and not impressed at all with the Bucks or Suns, despite playing in the finals! Looking at past years, the GMs are conservative in their opinions about teams and players, however they do tend to be worst at judging rookies, especially who will be the best 5 years later and draft steals. Any opinions about the GM survey?

4) My 2 cents, but I think the Nets are not a lock for the finals. Much depends on Durant’s ability to focus/slap some sense into Irving, and the ability of the three to occasionally defer or sacrifice control of the ball. However, Kyrie’s track record suggests he’ll have some distracting opinions or complain about his teammates, while Harden’s partying may grate on Nash. How about you?

Bernie M

A: Wow, tons to get through here so let’s go.

I think every player has vast resources through his union, his league, his agent to get whatever advice they need. And to bilk the union, your team and, by extension, your co-workers and those who blazed the trail for you is beyond slimy.

I like Champagnie and think with a year spent mainly in the G League he might turn into a solid NBAer. I’m not going any further than that after three pre-season games.

The GM survey’s a fun early season exercise to create interest and they do know more than us, but not as much as you’d think.

Brooklyn has, by far, the most talent in the East and is, today, the overwhelming conference favourite. That said, the disruptive nature of Irving’s situation cannot be allowed to fester too long.

Q: Greetings Mr. Smith, 

Just asking a minute to weigh in on pies, certainly one of the world’s most important subjects. 

Pumpkin pie with real whipped cream at Thanksgiving is an annual treat most looked forward to in the Doug from B-ford household. Admittedly not all of the usual participants are quite so enthusiastic but when I do the pre-holiday survey of our brood it does get a majority response. If I want to create some controversy I will sprinkle some walnut pieces on top, this does move the needle to extremes for a couple of the usual participants. In non-pandemic times I must also keep nut allergies in mind because when we have the full group together it will also include my ex and her guy, my ex that has a severe nut allergy. It would be bad form to overlook this detail. 

Quickly on to another topic, a neighbour who became a great friend and golfing buddy quite a few years ago introduced me to something that on the face of it sounded revolting. Lemon meringue pie with real maple syrup poured on top. Don’t knock it till you try it. Perhaps having some insulin handy would be a good thing. I believe George and I managed to consume the entire pie and half a bottle of Quebec’s finest. Graham cracker crust made using whey butter is heaven and when I manage to get the meringue just right….

Thanks for what you do

Doug from B-ford. 

A: Still not going with the pumpkin stuff, sorry. There is a nice, big chocolate cake in my immediate dessert plans.