Archive for the ‘Around the League’ Category

Tyson Chandler on “The Wire”

April 1, 2008

Whenever someone links to a Tyson Chandler blog post, I always enjoy it. Should probably bookmark his blog. This link came from Bill Simmons. Here ‘s an excerpt from Chandler’s take on the end of The Wire, but it’s all worth reading:

I just don’t understand how it came to such a halt, like all of a sudden it was the last season. We should complain to HBO, definitely.

Right now, I’m like Scottie Pippen when he pointed at the MJ shoe, like “Come back.”

The Wire shined a lot of light on what’s going on. All of this stuff really happens. Like the politics, the police not having any money to do their jobs, the newspaper printing the wrong stuff, the drug trade. It’s amazing to me because it so reminds me of how I grew up.

We all identify with it, because a lot of athletes came from single-parent homes and from the inner cities. So, we’ve all kinda been through the same situations. And so when you look at it, it’s just crazy. Because I still get calls from my homeboys who get harassed by cops and got beatdowns just because of where they live at.

My mom and my family made sure to always talk to me, because they understood what was going on around me and they understood the neighborhood we lived in. So they made sure to always talk to me all the time about drugs, about people who were dealing, people who were running around and shooting people.

There were times where I was approached by people in the game, but my buddy’s cousin basically ran the ‘hood. If something was about to go down, they would tell us to go home. If there was gonna be a shootout, they made sure we were as far away as possible.

There’s also a crazy anecdote in there about Chandler and his friends having to run from house to house under adult supervision with their Sega so it wouldn’t get stolen by junkies.

To me, the saddest thing about the last season of The Wire is the misplaced rancor the show stirred up at the end. I don’t know how many profiles — some positive, many others not — were written about David Simon, the driving force behind the show and an unapologetic know-it-all. And apparently there’s been a ton of carping online over the show’s dramatic merits in Season 5. Who cares? Leave it to the MFA’s. Simon’s damn right (even if he writes like a jackass) when he says that all that crap misses the mark.

The show’s popularity has always stemmed from its legitimacy — people like Chandler were finally seeing their story told without sentimentality, and people like me suddenly couldn’t ignore that the horrors of the show (and the triumphs) were more than just dramatic devices. That’s why we all watched. The thought that should follow is that The Wire depicts real problems, ones that deserve our lasting attention. What we can do, what our politicians can do, what those communities can do, that’s where the discussion should have been and should be now. All the rest is bullshit.

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The MVP Algorithm

March 21, 2008

The other night Reid and I found a pretty cool sports bar here in SF with League Pass and got into the standard MVP discussion with the bartender: Lebron, Kobe, or Paul. We all know the arguments for and against, and they’re all both valid and yet still unconvincing. So wouldn’t the voting have to come down to what happens down the stretch? Something like this:

IF Lakers win the West

THEN Kobe = MVP

ELSEIF Hornets win the West

THEN Paul = MVP

ELSEIF The Lakers hang close enough to justify Kobe’s career-achievement award

THEN Kobe = MVP

ELSEIF Both N.O. and L.A. fade down the stretch

THEN Lebron and his ridiculous 31-8-7.5-1.8-1 stat line = MVP

Seems about right. Tracy McGrady left out of the discussion intentionally. The bartender was a die-hard from Houston and he didn’t even bring it up. Screw the Rockets, their offense is bunk.

Sunday Observations

March 2, 2008

From Cavs-Bulls:

  1. Not in the box score: Delonte West makes the Cavs almost fun to watch. I don’t know if it makes them a better team yet, but it’s so nice to watch him push the ball and keep Mike Brown from calling a Lebron isolation every. single. play.
  2. In the box score: I normally can’t stand the prose stylings of Kelly “Cats and Kittens” Dwyer, but he’s dead on (and mercifully to the point) with this post calling out Bulls coach Jim Boylan. Boylan insists on giving minutes to an ineffective Drew Gooden, usually at the expense of Tyrus Thomas, with no justification. Gooden’s numbers after four games: 38.5% shooting, 0.5 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.5 blocks in 27 minutes a game. And for this he’s been promoted. He’s been solid on the glass, but today I watched him give up a crucial offensive rebound at the end of the game that effectively killed any hope Chicago had.
  3. Meanwhile, Thomas’ per-minute numbers are almost identical, except he’s shot better — the result of more easy buckets and alley-oops — and racked up way more defensive stats. Anyone watching the game can see Thomas’s ceiling is higher, not just in the long-term, but also in his ability to impact games now. And, no, I’m not bitter because I’ve been waiting for Tyrus’s fantasy breakout since drafting him this year.

Lakers-Mavs:

  1. I know I shouldn’t expect thoughtful commentary from the likes of Stewart Scott, but even Michael Wilbon was disappointing during halftime of this game. With the Lakers clinging to a three-point lead, even after the Mavs shot terribly for about 15 straight minutes, all the commentators could talk about was how the Lakers were on a roll. “14-2 since they got Gasol!” they said. “What’s to stop them from rolling right into the finals?” Scott asked. Effin’ c’mon. Meanwhile, we’re told that the Mavs just don’t “look like” a great team anymore. Talk about drawing conclusions from the slimmest of evidence.
  2. Sure enough, Dallas scored the first seven points of the second half. Looks like it’ll be two good teams battling it out from here on.
  3. Contrary to an earlier assumption of ours, I’ve hardly seen Gasol working out of the high post this game. In fact, he looks to me like he’s getting almost all his buckets off dunks in the exact same role that Bynum filled in the offense — weakside alley-oops, slipping screens, running the break… I’m still waiting to see how they’ll integrate both.
  4. When Gasol goes one-on-one with a pretty good post defender like Dampier, he looks terrible. I think he’s about 1-6 — make it 1-7 just now — in isolations in the first 30 minutes of this game.
  5. Brandon Bass is a legitimately great role player, and Devean George legitimately blows.
  6. After the buzzer: that was a hell of a game. While I’m not writing the Lakers’ finals ticket by any means, they’re like Cleveland west — with Kobe on the court, they’ve always got a shot.

Warriors-Blazers:

  1. Watched this game from the nosebleeds, and it was typical, glorious Warriors madness.
  2. The bad news: Baron Davis runs, and plays defense, like a guy nursing a bad back.
  3. The good news: Davis was deferring to Monta down the stretch to initiate the offense, and the youngin’ looks totally comfortable in that role.
  4. Between Monta (age 22), Biedrins (21), and the surprising Brandan Wright (20), who looks better with every game in the starting lineup, the Warriors have one hell of core to build around next decade.
  5. A friendly tip for the concession crew: Don’t put a woman who just had back surgery on one of four booths serving the free hot dogs and cokes this game — and don’t let her take a break with no one to replace her and a line 20 deep, when it already took Amanda 25 infuriating minutes to get through her line.
  6. The Blazers hit a ton of jumpers, with guys all up and down the roster chipping in. Oden could post Tim Duncan-like assist numbers next year on kick-outs.

At L-East It’s Competitive

March 1, 2008

Don’t look now, but we’ve got another heated — maybe that’s not exactly the word — playoff race to follow. As of today, March 1, only six games separate the No. 6 seed, Washington, and the No. 12 seed, Milwaukee. Which three teams from the dregs of the league will make the playoffs? You can almost feel the excitement.

In a lot of ways, it’s like watching the inverse of the Western Conference, where five games separate seeds 1-9. Instead of wondering which talented squad will bear the ignominy of having four balls in the lottery, we get to wonder how in the world teams that either (A) are famously mismanaged (Atlanta and Philly), or (B) traded their superstars mid-season (Chicago and NJ) won’t be in Michael Beasley sweepstakes.

Seriously, can you imagine Milwaukee, Indiana, and Atlanta in the playoffs? It’s almost embarrassing.

Go Ahead and Crown Their Asses

February 29, 2008

A little perspective on how schedules contribute to long winning streaks. Opponents with winning records are in bold.

Houston Rockets, 13 games, Jan. 29 – present:

  1. Warriors
  2. @Pacers
  3. @Bucks
  4. @T-Wolves
  5. Cavs
  6. Hawks
  7. Blazers
  8. Kings
  9. @Cavs
  10. Heat
  11. @Hornets
  12. Bulls
  13. Wizards

L.A. Lakers, 10 games, Feb. 8 – present:

  1. @Magic
  2. @Heat
  3. @Bobcats
  4. @T-Wolves
  5. Hawks
  6. @Suns (Shaq’s first game)
  7. Clippers
  8. @Sonics
  9. Blazers
  10. Heat

Portland Trailblazers, 13 games, Dec. 3 – Dec. 30

  1. @Grizz
  2. Heat
  3. Bucks
  4. @Jazz
  5. Warriors
  6. Jazz
  7. @Nuggets
  8. Hornets
  9. Raptors
  10. Nuggets
  11. Sonics
  12. T-Wolves
  13. Sixers

Since the Pau Gasol trade I’ve heard the Lakers offense referred to as a “juggernaut” at least half a dozen times and some commentators call them the team to beat. Even skeptics like Reid — who, like me, is hardly inclined to give the Rockets’ boring-ass game any cred — said the other day he was starting to bump them into the upper echelon of title contenders before Yao went down. And yet the most impressive of any of those streaks is the Blazers’. They’ve gone 12-16 since it ended.

This isn’t to say that the Lakers aren’t very good or that the Rockets weren’t playing significantly better, but I’ll wait to decide until I see both teams face some better comp.

UPDATE: Not that this proves anything definitively, but sure enough, last night the short-handed Rockets beat a decimated Grizzlies team while the Lakers lost in Portland.

Big Stat Attack

February 26, 2008

Following up a previous post, let’s throw out some stats that seem like logical indicators of whether these huge trades worked. This isn’t ideal because I’m a little rushed, haven’t really explained why these are the stats I like, and don’t have the pre-trade numbers at my fingertips, but oh well, that’ll come. For now let’s grab the latest numbers from ESPN. A good glossary of the stats is at basketball-reference.com. Suggestions welcome in comments.

SPURS

  • I thought defensive rebound rate (DRR) would tell the tale, or perhaps defensive efficiency (Def Eff), but nope: the Spurs are currently first in DRR (77.5) and third in Def Eff (100.0). Looks like Kurt Thomas was brought in specifically for playoff match-ups against Shaq, Pau, et al. Or maybe we really were just sticking it to the Mavs.

MAVS

  • Assist rate — currently stuck at 16.4, 20th in the league, this will obviously improve with Kidd but how much?
  • Offensive efficiency and pace — at 108.2, the Mavs’ efficiency is solid, 8th in the league, but they play at a really slow pace, 91.8 possessions a game. Not sure what any change would mean, but I’ll be curious to see.
  • Dirk’s 3-pt. % — he’s currently at 29.9%, way below last year’s 41.6. Will less pressure to facilitate the offense free up his shot?

SUNS

  • Def. Eff. — 103.8, ranked 15th. Obviously they want it to improve, but not at the expense of their offense, which was humming at a league-best 110.0 points per 100 possessions.
  • DRR — 69.5, ranked next to last. (Marion was their best defensive rebounder before the trade, with a DRR of 23.0. Granted it’s only three games, but Shaq’s at 31.9 for the Suns.)
  • Amare’s numbers — It’s already obvious Shaq is freeing up his game, but will it be more than a few extra dunks and some weakside blocks?

CAVS

  • True shooting % — right now: 52.2, 24th in the league. I figure better spacing and some real 3-point shooters should get them to rely less on second-chance points. Cavs were 4th in the league in ORR.
  • Def Eff — this year it’s a pedestrian 103.8, 16th overall. Paging Ben Wallace.

BULLS & HAWKS

  • Off. Eff. — If these teams are going to improve, it’s going to have to be offensively, right? Chicago = 99.4/26th. Atlanta = 101.0/22nd. As a general rule anything below 100 is pretty awful.

LAKERS

  • Things are obviously clicking for the Lakeshow, but my one lingering question was if that would change when Bynum gets back. I thought maybe he and Gasol overlapped, so there would be trouble working the kid back in. Reid figured they’d leave Pau at the high post and continue to score in buckets. The stats seem to back him up. Pau is more of a scorer and distributor; Bynum hits the glass harder and cleans up more of the offensive scraps.
  • Bynum: 13.1 pts, 10.2 reb, 1.7 ast, and .636 FG% per game. Advanced: 127 Off. Rating, 17.4 Usage Rate, and 12.1 Off. Reb. %
  • Gasol: 22.0 pts, 7.1 reb, 2.9 ast, and .632 FG% per game. Advanced: 132 Off. Rating, 23.0 Usage Rate, and 6.8 Off. Reb. %

I hate to say it, but shit, that’s impressive.

In all, I hope to find time this week to talk more about these stats, especially Offensive Rating and Usage Rate, which haven’t been discussed as much on the internet as I would expect.

Trade Winds

February 24, 2008

I’m not really sure how anyone could totally process all these trades that went down, but that didn’t stop the ESPN crew from grading and dissecting them in four separate columns, to the tune of several thousand words: Hollinger, Stein, Simmons, Ford. Which is fine, we all want to read about these trades and it’s the worldwide leader’s job to provide content. What I don’t get is why sports pundits subscribe to the cable-news idea that the only worthwhile commentary is passing judgment.

For instance, Hollinger followed the draft-day model and graded every trade. Of course, he uses PER as his basis for all the grades, but most stat-heads I’ve read admit that all these complicated statistics measure only past performance. They hold little to no predictive value. So… how can you assign grades down to pluses and minuses when your numbers don’t say anything about how the new pieces will all fit? Or Simmons, who watched Chris Paul destroy an anxious, amped up, and adjusting Mavs team and declared that all his worst fears about Kidd were confirmed.

For now, even the limited evidence available is returning a ton of variation. The Suns just gave up 130 points to the Lakers and then held the Celtics to 77. Kidd had 5 assists and 6 turnovers in his first game, then turned around two nights later and handed out 15 dimes . Hell, Chicago went from being the most disappointing offensive team of the season to scoring 135 points in a regulation game — more, apparently, than the franchise ever scored in a game in the last 7 years of the Jordan era.

Going forward, it seems like it would be more helpful to offer fans something to watch for — whether on the court or statistically — that should signify whether these trades are having their intended effect. One example could be to watch how the Suns defensive rebounding rate and defensive efficiency increase with Shaq. Maybe I’ll think of some more for a post tomorrow.

At this point, only one thing is certain: everyone’s happy. Kobe’s delight, the high spirits in the Phoenix, and even Marion’s excitement about a fresh start are well chronicled. Dirk and Josh Howard are both gushing about Kidd, who’s wanted out of NJ forever. Devin Harris said he’s glad to be out from under the Little General’s marching orders. Lebron and Damon Jones seemed completely amped in a short-handed win the other night, like they were trying to put on a show for their new teammates (who had to watch in street clothes). Larry Hughes told the AP he’s happy to be out of Cleveland and no longer pretending to be a point guard. Unless you’re Brent Barry or doomed to Memphis, things are looking up, apparently.

I can’t believe I’m wrapping up by quoting Joakim Noah, but he said it best: “I think the most important thing tonight is just being happy in this locker room,” said Noah, who reportedly clashed with Wallace. “We haven’t done that too much this year.”

How long the backslapping lasts for all these teams is anyone’s guess.

Whoa.

February 21, 2008

Danny Ferry just made a good trade. What is going on in the NBA?

The Cavs get Wallace, Delonte, Wallyworld, and Joe Smith in exchange for Hughes, “Bitch Tits” Marshall, and Gooden. That actually might work. The Bulls can finally play their promising young bigs (you know I grabbed Tyrus off waivers before I even finished reading about the trade), and Hughes no longer has to pretend to be a point guard. That works, too.

And this comes in the same season when the Hawks, of all teams, got Bibby for practically nothing, which looks great on paper.

Dogs and cats living together, etc.

Where did all this competency suddenly come from?