Monday, October 11, 2010
Photograph by Trung Ho
It started out with Mark Critch (from This Hour Has 22 Minutes), doing a near perfect impersonation of George Stroumboulopoulos, "Hello Toronto, how are you? I am your boyfriend, George Stroumboulopoulos."
The night went on with some amazing Canadian bands playing their music, including Great Lake Swimmers, Bedouin Soundclash, and Sloan. Appearances were made by Kurt Browning (along with the cast of Battle of the Blades), a few members from the cast of Dragon's Den (Diane Buckner, Jim Treliving, and Brett Wilson), and Erin Karpluk (Being Erica).
The CBC Live Music Event was part of a day long event hosted by CBC & Culture Days, with live broadcasts, various events, and music.
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This past summer, I had the great opportunity of volunteering as a basketball coach at the Scarborough Sports Camp - a project initiated by Ena Ujic (a current Schulich undergraduate). This project was in partnership with Sogo Active and Motivate Canada.
At first, it was a great way for me to get into a volunteer position, and to be involved in what I love: basketball. I was excited to draw out a camp that would help kids improve their basketball skills, so they can take their game to the next level for their basketball teams at school. However, as the camp swung into session, and my first time ever instructing a large number of kids, I quickly learned that it wasn't about basketball at all.
I realized that kids did not like to do drills. As a matter of fact, often times they would get bored of basketball and we'd have to switch to dodgeball (at a basketball camp!). I learned that these kids just wanted to have fun. I went with my coaching layout for the first couple of weeks, but quickly scrapped it, and instead of running defensive drills or complicated passing drills, I decided to teach them what was essential in the game of basketball (and even life): teamwork, leadership, and confidence. I decided to make a game out of everything we did - for example, simple layup drills: we'd have to make five layups in a row before we move on. This forced them to work together and support each other, all while having fun. Sometimes the fifth kid would be so intimidated to go they would simply run to the back of the line! However, all they needed was a simple reminder that it's not important whether they make it or not, what's important is that they shoot and go for it.
As the weeks went on, I was amazed at some of the kids' confidence levels and how it had risen since the beginning of the summer. Since it was a co-ed camp, the other problem we had was the boys not passing the ball to the girls. To solve this, we implemented a passing rule where the girl on each team would have to receive a pass before the team can score. By the end of the camp they didn't need this rule anymore.
I was very happy with the teamwork and confidence that these kids had, but the moment that stood out for me most this summer with the Scarborough Sports Camp was near the end of the camp, when we were about to start a game of dodgeball, and one of the girls said, "but I want to play basketball. Can we play a full-court game again?".
From coaching at this sports camp this summer, I think that volunteering for a good cause is such a great way for you to not only get involved, but to also make a difference. For me, it was a great feeling knowing that I was a part of a team that helped some kids stay active and healthy throughout the summer months, stay out of trouble, and learning to work with one another.
On a related note, I really enjoyed this NBA Cares PSA, but related to it more after the camp was over: NBA Cares: It's More Than Just A Game
Hello and good Sunday morning!
I came across this great article this morning and I thought it was a very inspiring story on Pau Gasol and his path with basketball and Medical School.
Photo courtesy of ESPN.com
Probably not many people (including myself) knew that Gasol studied in Medical School at the University of Barcelona for one year before having to decide between basketball and medicine.
His decision was a great one, now being one of the top big men in the game and well respected as well. Despite leaving his other dream behind, the passion is still with him today.
Dr. Gasol? Pau's love outside basketball by Tom Friend of ESPN.
It all sparked for me when the country came together during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics to cheer on Team Canada en route to the Gold Medal finish. One of the most amazing two weeks to not just watch, but be a part of. Because that’s what made it so special, all of Canada was a part of this script-like story. Red gloves on every corner, people constantly checking Olympic news during work/school, and business people crowding around a TV in the PATH system, deeply invested in a USA/SUI match.
When those two weeks were over it was back to regular hockey, NHL hockey. Hockey that I haven’t paid much attention to since the 2004 lockout, where I religiously rooted for the Toronto Maple Leafs in the early 2000s and enjoyed watching players such as Mogilny, Roberts, Tucker, Belfour, and Sundin take the ice on game nights. But after the Winter Games, I decided to try to get myself back into being a hockey fan, and it wasn’t easy. The Maple Leafs team that I once knew as Mogilny, Roberts, Sundin et al., now looked foreign, even from a couple of years ago when they were fringing around the 8th spot with Sundin/Antropov/Ponikarovsky as their first line. Now scattered with minor league players who for the most part will not even know where they’ll end up next season, I thought to myself, “is this what I’m supposed to cheer for?”.
Then the NHL playoffs arrived. Determined to cheer on my second and third favourite NHL team (Sens, Habs, respectively), I begin watching first round matches with excitement. Despite an exciting triple overtime (heart attack central) victory in game five, the Sens fell short in game six, giving up a 3-0 lead to the Penguins. I was genuinely upset. The Habs on the other hand, took Alex Ovechkin and the Caps to a game seven, where they knocked off the Russian superstar (much to Gary Bettman’s dismay I’m sure).
Photo source: "bobfina72" on Flickr.
As the games went on between the Habs and the Penguins in the second round, I started to realize what I’ve been missing for the past five years. That type of atmosphere where playoff matches meant cancel everything else you’re doing that night, where every goal mattered, where every opposition rush brought stress, and where every shot brought excitement. The type of hockey where every minute played could not be missed no matter what.
Although rooting for the Habs throughout their playoff run was exciting, it wasn’t the same. Instead however, it brought back memories of what it felt like to cheer for the team I grew up watching. What it felt like to develop hatred for opposing teams (Sens, Islanders, Flyers), and most importantly, what it felt like to love hockey again. It is after all, Canada’s game.
And now that the Habs’ playoff run have come to an end, playing nineteen more games than they “should have”, I’ll be attending a Toronto Maple Leafs church somewhere during the summer, and ask the Hockey Gods for forgiveness for cheering on the Habs (and the Sens for that matter).
While I’m there, I’ll ask for a playoff team next year as well, because it’s been far too long since I’ve attached that Maple Leafs flag to my car window and genuinely screamed “Go Leafs Go”, with about a million other Maple Leaf hockey fans.
Today was locker clean out day for the Toronto Raptors, who's disappointing season came to an end, falling 1.0 games short of heading to Cleveland this Saturday for post-season action.
Season ending final interviews were conducted today at the ACC, with the media trying to gain insight on what turned out to be a roller coaster season among other things..oh, and what Chris Bosh will do come July 1st. Hedo Turkoglu, Jarrett Jack, Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh, and Jay Triano took the podium to have their say. (See the bottom "SEASON EXIT INTERVIEWS")
If anybody told me in October that in April I'd be rooting for the Celtics, Bobcats, and hell, be deeply invested in a Bulls-Nets game (as I was last Friday), I would have...well, I still can't even imagine it. But let's be honest, nobody (with the exception of ESPN - natural Raptors pessimists) could have guessed that this is how the Raptors' season would turn out. Even after the all-star break when there were talks of the Raptors catching Boston for fourth spot in the east...wait, that was this season?
So what was wrong? They never truly found their stride. The way this team was built, I don't think it was easy to anyways. They lacked diversification and balance. There was simply too much offensive minded players on this team and not enough shots to go around for anyone to get into a rhythm. And even when they did somewhat figure it out in the middle of the season (keep in mind the winning streak was against sub-500 teams), you still lacked a lot things, including rebounding, defence, and toughness (ex/ versus CHI last Sunday...what was that all about?).
The bright spots? There were a few. They did play well against elite teams, and beat a number of them including the Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks, Magic, and the Cavs. DeMar DeRozan's development and potential, and a pleasant surprise from Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson (FA this summer).
Image source: Toronto Star: MIKE CASSESE/REUTERS
Does Jay go? No. I don't think so. I don't think firing your coach because your players couldn't come through is the right answer. Yes, it was in part his fault, but the same goes for everyone else. Keep in mind this was his first full year as an NBA coach with a training camp. He's going to make mistakes, and it takes time to learn your players.
No doubt it's going to be a busy summer for Colangelo (in his contract year also). Everything depends on whether or not Bosh stays.
Looking forward to next season:
Ideally, who I'd like back (the problem is they're mostly bench players, and if Bosh resigns, that won't leave a lot room for getting new players, unless BC trades his golden boy, Bargnani...which probably won't happen):
- Chris Bosh
I think advocates of CB4 leaving forget that he is an elite player in this league, and especially at his position. They also are confused if they think Bargnani can be the number one guy..sure he'll probably have plays run for him and sure he'll put up some big numbers, but at the same time you'll probably get only 25 wins, just saying.
- Hedo Turkoglu
Contrary to many, I want him to stay in a Raptors uniform. Yes, he had a horrible season but there were many reasons. Everyone saw what he did in Orlando, even Sacramento if you remember. I really believe that, put in the right role and surrounded by Bosh and another all-star caliber player, he can be a huge piece of the puzzle.
- Jarrett Jack
He cares, he's passionate, and he brings it every game. Oh yeah, he's pretty good too. Is he your starting one guard? That's hard to say, at times you would think so, but others (such as one on one situations against players like Rondo) you don't.
- Amir Johnson
One of the very few Raptors that goes for rebounding position after every shot. He finds ways to consistently give the Raptors the rebounding and second chances that they need. They need more people down there like Johnson to clean up the garbage.
- Sonny Weems
Another pleasant surprise this season for the Raptors. A good player to have come off the bench. A lot of energy, can score, and not a bad perimeter defender.
- DeMar DeRozan
A good young player with promising talent who looks like he's been learning and willing to learn more. Expect a great season from him next year. By the way, he's only twenty, remember?
- Reggie Evans
Although he wasn't the player he was this year like in Denver or Philadelphia (largely due to injuries which I don't believe he fully recovered from), he's tough player with grit that the Raptors need off the bench for next season.
- Jose Calderon
He's definitely digressed this season, but he'd still be one of the better back up point guards in the league.
- Marcus Banks
He's proven in his limited role this year that he can be a solid backup point guard when called upon. He needs to improve the consistency his long-range shot.
So it looks like I'd keep nine guys from the current roster. It's not about having a major overhaul like many are suggesting, they've tried that time and time again and look where they are. It's not about making tonnes of moves, it's about making key ones. I think this year hasn't gone to total waste, as we've all had a good look of who is capable of what. Of these nine players, only three are starters (Bosh, Turkoglu, Jack), the other two are key, including a need for an all-star caliber guard and a rebounding/defensive minded center. Of course, all of this is pending one thing: what Chris Bosh will decide this summer.
SEASON EXIT INTERVIEWS
Some key quotes (and some paraphrasing since I don't have the time to quote everyone word for word) from these players & Triano:
- "I'm not happy the way I played, the way I performed."
- "I know I disappoint a lot of people, especially the fans, after they watch me many years. Coming over here and expecting a lot of things from me, and I couldn't do those things and I know I upset a lot of people, but it wasn't really on purpose. I'm sorry if I break somebody's heart or expectations really high after signing that kind of contract and playing that many years. But it happens but I have to move on and learn from this."
-Turkoglu also talked about being in a very different role this year which he wasn't really comfortable with. He talked about being a forward-point in Orlando.
-On team chemistry: It was as good as it gets when you have 10 new faces. Also, we had a whole new coaching staff. Everybody is friends on some type of level.
- On coaching staff: “I think they did a great job. I think the coaching staff was absolutely wonderful. I think it comes down to us as players. It’s the will of the players.”
-On suggestions that CB4's head was somewhere else after the all-star break: "He’s one of the most focused people I’ve been around. If you know Chris, he’s methodical about the game. For anyone to suggest that his head was anywhere else … is ridiculous.”
-On CB4's FA situation this summer: “Chris is a very, very loyal person. He loves this city. I remember when I was in college and he first came, and I didn’t know much about Toronto at all and he would just call me and just telling me how unbelievable the city was, how receptive the fans were to him from the moment he stepped on the court. He seemed to have a love for the city. He’s from Dallas, but Toronto is definitely a home away from home for him. He spends a tremendous amount of the off-time here which is very rare for an NBA player. Most people use it for a working city, in that sense. He really dedicates himself to this city, he does a tremendous amount for kids around the community. He loves playing here. I think he loves being the face of the franchise, loves having a place to call his team. I think those are all incentives that you want to look at.”
- "Everything was good, coaching staff, everything was perfect. we just needed to play better basketball"
- On Bosh's this summer: "Right now, I cannot answer because I cannot imagine the Raptors without him. I’ve been here for five years and it was with him, so we’ll see."
- He just talked about how he needs to work on off the ball defence..He said it's not something he can just work on anytime because it's hard to find nine other guys, so he's probably going to use the world championships to work on it.
- On his FA situation: "I wish I knew, man. I'd let everybody know so they'd leave me alone, but I don't."
- On whether he thinks Colangelo can build a contending team around him: "I've been playing for seven years..I don't know how many years I'll have left. I have to start thinking about things like that (winning, advancing in the playoffs, etc)"
- The media asked him if he let the opinions of close people around him influence his decision: He said even his mom just asked him once what he was doing, he said he doesn't know, and she never asked again. Simply put, he said he was raised to make his own decisions (mom never help him with college choice)
- Asked if the last stretch of the season where he got injured and the team didn't really pick up the intensity would affect his decision: He said he would've liked the team to, but doesn't think it will affect his decision regardless.
Finally, Jay Triano:
- Asked he would do differently: Should trust his assistant coaches with the basketball stuff, and he should spend more time with the players, develop more personal relationships, focus on psychology aspects..it might have fostered leadership in the locker room
-On Turkoglu: "In hindsight, we wouldn’t let him rest (miss training camp) after world championship. And we discussed it with him already, it won’t happen again next year. We need him in training camp to get to know the other players"
-"The big thing for us, we need to find a better balance. Offensively we don’t have an issue. If we can drop in offence efficiency from 5th to 10th, and have defence climb in the top 15..We don’t have a lot of guys that can contain the basketball. Our defensive scheme is the same as every other team."
Colangelo's season exit interview is scheduled for next Monday, Raptors TV or streaming live on raptors.com.