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An Interview With Chuck Swirsky

After yesterday's hubbub I thought it might be productive to sit down and talk with the vote-casting man himself, so I fired off a few questions to Toronto Raptors' analyst Chuck Swirsky.  He was nice enough to respond.  Here is the text.

Blazersedge:  Let's jump right in with the question of the day.  The casual fan is going to look at the stats and wonder what is going on here.  

The raw stats read:

Roy  16.8 pts, 4.4 rebs, 4.0 asst, .456 fg%, .377 3pt%, .838 FT%
Bargnani  11.6 pts, 3.9 rebs, 0.8 asst, .427 fg%, .373 3pt%, .824 FT%

Adjusted for 48 minutes they read:

Roy  22.7 pts, 6.0 rebs, 5.5 asst
Bargnani  22.1 pts, 7.5 rebs, 1.5 asst

Obviously there must be something else besides statistical analysis going on here.  Help us understand what that is.  How do you define "Rookie of the Year" and how does Andrea Bargnani meet those qualifications better than Brandon Roy?

First, I want to extend congratulations to Brandon Roy. He is a class act and a terrific player.  My vote for Andrea Bargnani is simply based on the fact I saw him play 65 games and was a significant rotation player on a team that won 47 games this year. He did play against first unit players as he would come off the bench five minutes in to the game.

Without Bargnani the Raptors do not win the Atlantic.

The Raptors turned the season around when they went 18-9 in January/February with Bargnani winning EC Rookie of the Month honors.

Had Bargnani played on a rebuilding/sub.500 team there is no doubt in my mind he would have averaged at least 17 ppg.

Blazersedge:    For Blazer fans right now your vote is registering about a nine on a scale of 1 to 10 for importance (emotionally anyway).  Among other things this reaction may be a sign that they haven't had a whole lot to cheer about in the last few years.  Nevertheless right now it seems to matter.  Honestly, how serious is the voting process to the journalists who undertake it?  Do you guys spend a ton of time researching, are you keeping notes throughout the year, or is it more of a "this seems good enough" kind of thing?  Where on that 1 to 10 scale of importance does it rank for voters?

It's an honor and privilege to be a part of the NBA fraternity and I take into account everything. I respect Roy's game as I do Rudy Gay's for example. However for a rookie to make a major contribution on a playoff team speaks volumes about his ability to handle the pressure.

Blazersedge:  Did you expect to be the only voter who didn't put Brandon Roy at the top of your ballot or did you feel there would be others?

I can't speak for other broadcasters and writers. I hold true to my convictions something that I attempt to encourage my own children with their beliefs.

Blazersedge:  The way the prevailing winds were blowing you had to guess that your vote would register as a minority statement.  Often in the U.S. Congress our senators and representatives feel free to make "statement votes" when the issue is already decided that they wouldn't make if their vote actually tipped the balance.  If you knew right now your ballot made the difference would you have cast it the same way?

This was not a "statement" vote to generate publicity or attention on myself. This was a simple vote on a rookie of the year candidate. I have received hundreds of e-mails today. Many from Blazers fans and while I appreciate and respect their opinions and passion I have been taken a back by the profanity and abuse directed not only at myself but indirectly family members. One e-mail said this is a tragedy. I beg to differ. A tragedy is the loss of a 29 year old baseball pitcher over the weekend . A tragedy is a teenager killed in a drive by shooting. A tragedy is the death of  a loved one.  Brandon Roy is the NBA Rookie of the Year. It's an outstanding achievement but in the big picture it's a fleeting moment in time.

Blazersedge:  One of the pleasant by-products of all this is that Blazer fans are going to be paying more attention to the Raptors in general and Andrea Bargnani in particular in the coming years.  Give us a taste of what to expect.  What are Bargnani's strengths and what can we look forward to seeing from him in years to come?

Andrea Bargnani has an incredible upside. He will be a better defender and rebounder next year. He is posting up and is doing a much better job putting the ball on the floor. He has by far the quickest release in the NBA and is extremely accurate behind the three point line. He has a nasty/confident  side and you will see more of that next year.

Blazersedge:  Since this is a Blazer site, give us a little bit about what you see in Brandon Roy also.

To me Brandon Roy was a ready made NBA player when he left Washington.I saw him play live in Seattle against Oregon State  and he struggled much of the game but turned it on and took over at crunch time as great players do. He had a double-double against the Raps in Portland. He is extremely talented.

Blazersedge:  How far can the Raptors go in the playoffs this year?

The Raps point guards are a bit banged up so it remains to be seen what will happen in game six FRiday night in NJ but the Raps core group of Bargnani, Boish, Ford, Calderon is terrific.  Just a side note, the Raptors are very pleased with Luke Jackson.  I think Jackson could be a valuable member of the Raptors next year. Juan Dixon has struggled over the past two weeks but overall has done a terrific job since coming over from Portland.

Just a couple of reflections here on my part.

  1.  Chuck answered my e-mail almost immediately, what for him would have been pretty late at night, on what was undoubtedly one of his less pleasant days in the public eye.  If nothing else that paints him as a stand-up guy and he should absolutely be credited with that.  That doesn't mean he can't still become a by-word around here, but it should be tempered with some fondness in my estimation.
  2.  It was really apparent by what he said that Chuck honestly voted the way he saw it.  Maybe that makes him silly or maybe it makes him a visionary.  Could be a little of both.  But you have to respect that he has the guts to stick up for his beliefs.  And it sounded like that's exactly what he was doing.  Nobody should have quarrels with that even if they disagree with his beliefs.
  3.  It was an interesting comment Chuck made about Bargnani developing a nasty/confident side, since that's what we'd like to see more out of Roy as well.
  4.  I understand the e-mails and I think people have a right to question Chuck's beliefs and vote.  It sounds like he thinks so too from the promptness and openness of his response.  But for people to use profanity (at least serious profanity), abuse, threats, and vitriol in this situation is just not classy.  Nor (I hope) is it representative of the Blazer community as a whole.  Every fan base has its share of fools.  Unfortunately most fan bases get judged by the worst members among them since those are the people who seem to delight in e-mailing and board posting (present company excluded, thank God).  If I ever thought that Blazersedge was contributing to stuff like that I wouldn't write a single negative thing here again, even jokingly.  Yes, the tongue-in-cheek phrase "Pulling a Swirsky" is going to live on but tongue-in-cheek is exactly what it's meant to be.  There's miles between that and threatening someone's family.  I implore you not to ever do the latter, especially not in the name of the Blazers or Blazersedge.  It just destroys everything we're supposed to be about.  It'd be better not to have a Rookie of the Year than to devolve into that kind of crap. I'm all for questioning people's statements and judgment, but at the end of the day these are still professional basketball analysts trying to do their job, and they deserve a little respect.
I think it would be a semi-classy thing do to if some of you wanted to e-mail Chuck and say "thank you" for being willing to answer our questions and for doing it so nicely and so promptly.  I know that I already have.  Since his e-mail is already public knowledge all around the Blazer corner of the net it probably won't hurt to tell you that it's cswirsky(at)torontoraptors(dot)com.  Please use it for good intents.

--Dave (