Friday, November 27, 2009

Hip Hoop Junkies talks hoops with Raptors broadcaster, Matt Devlin

We got a heavy hitter in for a Q and A here at Hip Hoop Junkies.  Matt Devlin, the Raptors official play-by-play announcer, was kind enough to take the time to answer some of our Raptors questions.  Matt, who is in his second season with the Raptors, has a nice broadcast background behind him and has covered everything from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Charlotte Bobcats all the way down to Olympic wrestling.  Co-blogger Sean and I asked Mr. Devlin a few questions about the Toronto Raptors, his prior knowledge of Canada and what music he listened to in high school.

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Hip Hoop Junkies: Ok, Matt. We're part way through the season and we've seen some great play from the Raps but we've also seen some poor defensive play as well. Break down the good, the bad and the ugly with the Raptors so far this season.

Matt Devlin: The good has been Bosh’s high level of play. He leads the NBA in 20/10’s in double-doubles, top eight in the league in scoring, top three in the league in rebounding and top three in offensive rebounding. Although Andrea has had some tough games overall, he is leading all Eastern Conference centres in scoring. Jarrett Jack was huge against Miami so it’s been great to see him break through his shooting slump and on Sunday he tied his career-high with 11 assists. Amir and Belinelli have been major pluses off of the bench. And having Turkoglu in late-game situations, you know down the line will definitely pay off despite missing that shot against Phoenix.

All of this lends itself to the offence, which is fourth in the league in scoring so you know what the bad’s going to be! No Reggie Evans and the inconsistent play on the defensive side of the ball.

The ugly has been the schedule. It’s been the second-toughest schedule to date in the NBA (based on playoff teams from a season ago) and that doesn’t include the Phoenix Suns’ revival. The Raptors have also played the second-most road game in the Eastern Conference. But there is a good to this, the schedule will come back around to them, they just need to take advantage of it.

HHJ:  Prior to joining the Raptors organization had you done much travelling in Canada and were you aware of the dedicated basketball fan base in Toronto and across the country?

MD: Yes. Through the years I have done numerous games in Toronto for Memphis and Charlotte, as well as, playoff games for TNT. I was definitely aware of the passionate fan base, i.e., I announced Game 4 of the Toronto-Orlando first-round matchup for TNT during the TTC strike and despite the strike, the ACC was packed, the fans were outstanding and we acknowledged that on the broadcast.

Also, I have family here in Canada so I remember as a child going to Montreal, Calgary, as well as, Vancouver. My family did the old Griswald trip when we lived in Northern California. In the late-‘70’s, we drove to see my uncle in Calgary, to see the Stampede and then drove across to Vancouver where I picked up a B.C. Lions jersey before heading home.

HHJ: According to biography you have experience in calling NBA college hoops, NFL, MLB, and even Wrestling in the Olympics! Is it your passion for sports that has driven you to be involved in various sports in your career as opposed to being dedicated to only one for your career?

MD: Absolutely. I love sports. I’m passionate about sports and I love different aspects of each individual sport. Each one is very unique in its setting as well as participants. Basketball is phenomenal because you are right on top of the action and it’s fast-paced. Baseball is more cerebral. Football is like the gladiators of old.

I’ve also been involved in two Olympics and there’s something extremely special and powerful about athletes representing their own country.

HHJ: Hopefully you won't get the opportunity to call playoff games for TNT this year if the Raptors can make it into the post-season, but we were wondering how much the crowd's vibe and excitement plays a factor in the intensity & enthusiasm in the way you when call games of that magnitude?

MD: I’m always aware of the crowd and its impact on the game and a playoff atmosphere is definitely different that the regular-season atmosphere.

During the playoffs when I’m calling a game, I focus on the magnitude of that game. For instance, calling Game 5 between Dallas and Denver. The Nuggets won and advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 24 years. So as time was ticking away, everyone from the producer, to the director, the analyst and myself were extremely aware of what that moment meant for not only the players, but for the fans as well.

HHJ: You've worked with the Grizzlies organization, what's your take on this whole Allen Iverson situation? What effect do you think this will have on the organization and the team itself?

MD: I don’t understand why they signed him in the first place outside of the fact that they’re trying to sell some tickets and that didn’t even work. Obviously now it’s played out and because he isn’t willing to accept a lesser role, he’s having a hard time finding teams that want him.

HHJ: So you've been around with this new-look Raptors squad for a couple months now. Who's the "class clown" of this team?

MD: It’s interesting because Sonny Weems is the first guy that comes to mind. He plays it up for the cameras. But behind the scenes, Rasho Nesterovic and Hedo Turkoglu can get laughs.

HHJ: Ok, flashback to your high school days....who was your favorite NBA team, NBA player and (I'm going to throw a curveball here) music artist/group at that time?

MD: Because I went to high school in a non-NBA city (Nashville, Tennessee), like many kids I followed the league as a whole and at that time, it was the Lakers and the Celtics that dominated the ‘80’s. Also, Atlanta because of the proximity to Nashville. We would get their games on SuperStation TBS, but also because they had great battles with Boston. My family is also originally from New York so that was a team that you always looked at the box score. One of my best friends was a huge Chicago fan and we could always get Bulls games on WGN and they had this guy named Michael coming up.

As far as players it was Larry, Magic, Dominique and the early years of MJ.

For music artists, U2 was the soundtrack of high school for me.

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A huge thanks goes out to Matt Devlin for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer our Q's. Check Matt out on Toronto Raptors broadcasts, on his blog out at and you can also follow him on Twitter, @RaptorsDevlin

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