Friday, March 13, 2009

How Important Is Winning Your Conference Tournament?

In the last few days we've seen many a high seed fall in conference tournaments. Kansas and Oklahoma fell in the Big 12, while UConn and Pitt fell in the Big East, and that's only a few.

The question that must be asked, however, is just how important these tournaments are for a team's national championship hopes. I'm not talking about schools from one-bid conferences, or bubble teams, but rather teams in the top fifteen or twenty teams in the nation that are already guaranteed a spot in the dance.

I took a look back at the last twenty seasons, this season not included, to see how NCAA finalists did in their conferences prior to the season. It turns out that, in this 25 year window, only nine of twenty-two teams that played in a conference with a tournament won that tournament prior to winning the title. Similarly, six of twenty-two runner-ups won their tournament that season.

So in total, only about a third of the finalists from the last 25 seasons have won their conference tournament (when possible) in that same year. It's good to have, but by no means a necessity or a predictor of future successes.

While it seems obvious that regular-season conference championships would be a good predictor of tournament success, since there's at least two dozen games involved, I took a look for that same same of 25 winners and runner-ups.

A notably higher 17 of 25 winners and 12 of 25 runner-ups won at least a share of their conference title for that year, as one would expect. Still, this still means over 40% of finalists didn't win the regular season either.

The last four years, however, have been a bit of a different story. Seven of eight finalists, with the 2005 champion UNC team as the exception, won both a share of the regular season title and the conference tournament.

So, maybe these tournaments are important after all? Do these highly ranked teams with early losses have something to be worried about?

This post also appeared on [BleacherReport]

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Yankee Priorities: Guilting Alex Rodriguez Into Risking His Health

Recently, news broke that Alex Rodriguez had a torn labrum in his hip, an injury that should be quite notable considering the frequent turning motions of both swinging a bat and throwing across the body to first from third.

Initially, we heard he would go in for surgery and miss up to four months, as reported by his "cousin." However, the Yankees were having none of that, insisting Rodriguez should instead try to play through the pain this season.

This struck me as a strange decision, especially in the long term, for the New York Yankees. After all, Alex is under contract for almost a decade more, and it wouldn't be worth it to risk his long term health (see: revenue potential) for the first half of a season, regardless of the big free agents they've picked up to go after the 2009 World Series.

Is Brian Cashman really short-sighted enough to think making Alex be "selfless" and play through the pain in order to quiet all this steroid talk is a good plan? If this goes wrong, instead of missing the first half of the season, A-Rod would likely miss the playoffs, which has been a sore subject for them recently.

On top of that, the revenues for what we all presume to be an eventual run at Barry Bonds' home run record would be very much endangered should this hard-headedness lead to further injury.

The strangest part is that this decision appears to be the team's and not Rodriguez's. When it comes to risking long-term injury for the good of the team, that decision almost always rests in the hands of the player, as we saw with Shawn Merriman on the San Diego Chargers this year (which, of course, failed).

I can only picture Cashman and Hank Steinbrenner taking Alex into a corner and saying "You've gotten us all kinds of negative press this month, don't think you can go hide just yet! You're going to get us out of this with good press!"

Alex, of course, has agreed to play through the pain. He's trying everything he can to improve his image, and who can blame him?

I just hope it doesn't backfire to career-damaging lengths. Oh wait, yes I do, I'm a Red Sox fan.

Carry on then.

[Also appeared on BleacherReport]

Friday, March 6, 2009

Just how historic is CP3's season?

New post up at Celtics 17, excerpt below:

As he proved once again Thursday against the Mavericks, Chris "CP3" Paul is the best point guard in the NBA. He's carried the Hornets through injuries this year to a 38-22 record thus far, including the current six game winning streak.

He's managed to put together a line of points, rebounds, assists and steals thus far that hasn't been achieved by a player since they started tracking steals as an official statistic, and on top of all of that, he's starred in some of the worst deodorant ads I've ever seen.

This isn't the first year of dominance for CP3, as he finished second in last year's MVP voting, with 28 first place votes, more than Kevin Garnett and LeBron James combined. So the question then becomes: Where does Chris Paul stand in NBA history?

Check it out at [Celtics 17].

Monday, March 2, 2009

Notable Stats, March 1st

A few goals were scored

Final score: TB wins 8-6

Players with 5 or more points: Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi
Players without any points: 15 out of 36

Combined goalie save percentage: 80.3%
League median save percentage: 90.3%

Longest time without a goal: 11:07 (to start game)
Shortest time without a goal: 38 seconds (Lecavlier, 2nd period)
Goals scored less than 3 minutes after another goal: 7
Largest lead: 2 goals (Calgary, 2nd period; TB, 3rd period twice)
Lead changes: 4 times

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Under-appreciated Role Player: Chris "Birdman" Anderson

In what's sure to become an incredibly irregular segment, here's "Under-appreciated Role Player", where I examine someone random who contributes to his team more than you'd think, and doesn't really get the credit.

Chris Anderson - Denver Nuggets F/C

After a complex history of disappointments, both with his slam dunk contest hilarity of 2005 and his expulsion from the NBA in early 2006 due to drug abuse, Chris Anderson has turned out to be a solid piece of the Denver Nuggets.

In a little under 20 minutes per game, Birdman is averaging six points, five boards, and more than two blocks. Using Hollinger's PER metric, his 18.32 matches Carmelo Anthony's, mainly because of his above-average blocking and offensive rebounding rates.

This isn't to say he's as good as 'Melo (he's not), but that in his limited minutes Anderson is an important spark to the Nuggets' second unit, a unit which has helped Denver surge into that second tier below the Lakers in the west with the Spurs.

Anderson's high-flying style is a great fit with the Denver style, providing little drop-off from Kenyon Martin and Nene. Not bad for a guy that only went to junior college and came up through the Chinese and International Basketball Leagues.

KG and the mid-range jump shot

In addition to my work here, I've begun contributing to Celtics 17, a Celtics blog on the MVN network of blogs. This way I can keep my homer-ism there, while trying to continue to be objective here.

My first post is up at Celtics 17 now, discussing the shift to more jumpers for Kevin Garnett, and the effect on his game as a whole. An excerpt is below:

I remember when KG came to the Celtics, I was initially confused with his style of play. The Garnett I saw on ESPN and in all the highlights was at the rim constantly throwing it down, and sometimes featured a baseline fall-away when teams over-committed to defending the rim. However, suddenly watching him season-long, I was surprised how much he relied on the 15-18ft jumper for his production.

So I decided to take a look at the numbers, to see if he'd always played this way and I'd been blinded by small sample size, or if KG's play had really changed that dramatically with his appearance in Boston, using the current and prior seasons compared to the 2004-05 KG.

The results, in a way, showed both my options were in a way right.

More at [Celtics 17]

Monday, February 23, 2009

Jerry Sloan: Too good to be coach of the year

Now this title may not seem to make too much sense: Isn't the Coach of the Year award supposed to reward, well, the best coach in the NBA?

Not really, if you think about it. Most of the time, the Coach of the Year is just another way of saying "Coach who presided over the biggest single-season-turnaround of the year", unless there's one team that's just too dominant to ignore.

Lets take a look at the last few years for some examples here.

Byron Scott (2007-08)
Scott brought the Hornets from 39-43 a year before to 56-26 this season, in the first season back in New Orleans after being displaced from Hurricane Katrina. Big turnaround + big story = sure thing.

Sam Mitchell (2006-07)
Mitchell led the Raptors to a 20 game turnaround from 27-55 to 47-35 and a division crown, setting records for the expansion franchise. Jerry Collangelo was the real key to this turnaround, as Mitchell has already been fired less than two seasons removed from this honor.

Avery Johnson (2005-06)
Another coach that didn't last long after winning his award, Johnson only led a 2 game swing, from 58-24 to 60-22, but helped a completely reconstructed team around Dirk make the NBA finals. The 2007 playoff upset by Golden State started the ball rolling, and by the end of 2008 Johnson was clearly losing his job.

Mike D'Antoni (2004-05)
D'Antoni's turnaround is the most dramatic we've seen, swinging from 29-53 up to 62-20 thanks to ditching Stephon Marbury and picking up free agent Steve Nash. D'Antoni created the most entertaining style in recent memory, and with fantastic the regular season. As popular belief became that his system would only fail in postseason, he was forced out and headed to MSG.

Hubie Brown (2003-04)
In a shocking development, Brown's Grizzlies were the biggest turnaround of the year, jumping from 28-54 to 50-32 thanks to some Hubie Magic, also known as adding Bonzi Wells and James Posey to a good Pau Gasol core. There's a reason Jerry West won executive of the year, and Hubie retired shortly after this season.

So that's four out of five years where the biggest turnaround coach won the award, and the year Avery won there wasn't an incredibly notable turnaround team. Further examples exist in selections such as Larry Bird in 1997-98, while the occasional dominant force such as Phil Jackson's 72-10 Bulls in 1995-96 fill out the other winner prototype.

So, what about Jerry Sloan?

Jerry Sloan's teams have never fit into either of these buckets, and as you've noticed, he's never won the award as a result. Sloan came into his post with the Jazz, after a poor stint with the Bulls, with the gift of Stockton and Malone, and immediately began running off his record 16 straight winning seasons.

In this consistent performance, there's little room for the big turnaround needed to be a media darling for coach of the year. The one time he had a chance with that angle, bringing the Jazz from 26-56 to 41-41, Avery Johnson's Napoleon angle won the battle.

Perhaps one of Sloan's years would be so dominant that he could win an award that way? Sloan's Jazz had the best record in the West for three straight years from 1996-97 to 1998-99, but Pat Riley, Larry Bird, and, of all people, Mike Dunleavy stood in his way.

The closest I can remember Jerry Sloan coming to actually winning the award was in the 2006-2007 season, where two years removed from a 26-56 season Utah won the division, but the genius of Sam Mitchell ended up on top...for a year or so at least.

Will he ever win it?

I'm not sure how many years of coaching the man has left in him, but this year could possibly be a compelling enough story to make it as possible as ever. Between the long-term injury to Boozer and the half-healthy early work from Deron Williams, if Sloan can squeeze 51 or so wins out of this squad (17-8 in the remaining games), it could be possible.

If not, Jerry Sloan can just take his 16 straight winning seasons straight to the Hall of Fame, for the first award he'll receive, and I'm sure he'll be just as happy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Notable Stats, February 18th

It's a Block Party: Starring Dwight Howard

Last night, Dwight put up a very impressive line in an OT affair against the Charlotte Bobcats of 45pts, 19rebs (8 offensive), and 8 blocks. While most people are very impressed by the combination of points and rebounds, I'm personally more impressed by the block total.

Teams that Howard personally had more blocks than last night: Timberwolves (5), Wizards (5), Bobcats (4), Bucks (4), Pistons (7), Nets (7), Rockets (4), Grizzlies (5), Jazz (7), Sixers (3), Spurs (4), Knicks (2), Hornets (5), Thunder (3), Clippers (6), Suns (1), Hawks (6).

Teams that Howard did not exceed: Pacers (8 - tie), Lakers (9), Magic (10 - obvious)

Combined games Howard tied or exceeded: Spurs/Knicks (6), Clippers/Suns (7), Hornets/Thunder (8 - tie).

Now that's a dominating big-man performance. Yes, overtime helped his cause, but he was well on his way before then.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Looking back - The new three point line in college basketball

Note: All data referred to is accurate as of 4pm Saturday Feb 14th, because that's when I started running the numbers.

Following the 2007 NCAA Basketball Tournament, the rules committee decided it was time to move back the three-point line. Not to the NBA distance, or the international distance, but who's counting. The women's line remains at the original spot, creating the odd look on collegiate floors across the country.

The goal of this shift was two completely different things depending on who you ask. One answer was that shifting the line back would lessen congestion in and around the lane, and provide quicker and more interesting game-play with room to operate.

The other answer is that everyone and their mother thought they could shoot the old three, leading to boring, low-percentage chuck-fests which were a pretty poor display of the game, so moving the line back should be a deterrent.

So I decided to do a direct comparison between last year and this year in terms of three-point shooting, to see if there's been a notable shift. I looked at makes and attempts on a per-game basis, standard 3Pt%, and the percentage of a teams points that come from made three point shots.

Summary results are as follows. In general, the high and low are outliers, so note the three middle categories.

One thing you can definitely say from this data is that those in the second line of reasoning for the rule change were entirely correct. Attempts, makes, and the trey's importance in a team's scoring are all down this year. At the same time, overall percentage still dropped, so maybe there's still some adjustment to be had in strategies, and usage could drop even further.

On the whole these numbers more that anything else just reinforced what was expected, but some of the other trends I noticed in the process were also interesting:

- Out of the top 25 teams in attempts per game each year, only one team in 07-08 and two teams in 08-09 are actually in the top 25 in three-point percentage.

- In 07-08 Utah State managed to be in the 10th highest percentage shooting team despite being in the bottom 25 of more than 340 teams in attempts. No such anomaly occurred in 08-09.

- In both years, the corelation between reliance on the 3pt shot and overall points per game was less than 5%, or negligible at best. 3P% held a higher correlation to points, around 45% both years, but still not a damning cause-and-effect.

- Nationwide variance in 3pt percentages jumped more than 25% from 07-08 to 08-09, while the range of percentages increased more than 35%, though standard deviation only increased 12%

If anyone is interested in playing with the numbers in a more mathematically savvy way than I have, here's my source data: [Download]

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Notable Stats, February 11th

At random intervals of my choosing, I'll pick a few random chunks of box score that I find interesting. Enjoy.

NBA bench play: The Good
Steve Novak (LAC vs. NYK (OT))

The Line: 32 minutes, 8-10 from the field, including 6-8 from three, for 23 points total, along with 7 rebounds and no turnovers.

Impact: Novak, along with Eric Gordon and others, helped the Clippers beat the Knicks at their own three-point game, with more attempts and nearly twice as many makes, allowing the Clippers to pull out a close one at home despite losing the turnover battle.

Roko Ukic (TOR vs. SA)

The Line: 30 minutes, 9-13 from the field, including 2-3 from three, for 22 points, along with 2 rebounds and 3 assists.

Impact: A big assist from Ukic allowed the Raps, playing without their two best in Bosh and Calderon, to out role-player the kings of role-players, San Antonio, for the win.

NBA bench play: The Bad

Goran Dragic (PHO @ CLE)

The Line: 21 minutes, 4-5 from the field, 9 points, 5 assists, but also 5 turnovers and 4 fouls in short minutes.
Impact: It's hard to imagine a worse defender than Nash, but Dragic's defense on Mo Williams helped him go for 44 points, and his sloppy ball-handling amounted to half of the Suns -10 turnover differential for the game.

Side Note

As I'll be working late for the next month or two, be sure to check me out on twitter, where I can post quickly and randomly without feeling bad about it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A different kind of Kobe-LeBron comparison

Note: All data referenced below does not include Sunday's Lakers-Cavs game.

In the days following Kobe's 61pt MSG show and LBJ's subsequent (corrected) 52/9/11 performance, everyone on earth has tried to decide which one was better, which player is more dominant, and so on.

Proponents of LeBron point out that Kobe's line included no rebounds and only three assists, and say he was being selfish, that LeBron was more of the team player. Kobe supporters point out that he shot 10% better from the floor and perfect from the line, so his game was actually more efficient and therefore better.

I'm not here to decide which performance was better, because in all reality it's somewhat trivial. I would, however, like to evaluate their seasons on the whole, and their impact on their respective teams (the two best coming into Sunday's action), using statistics.


I took each player's games and translated the line to a per-36 basis, as this is near each player's average. The only statistics I've used are points, rebounds, assist, and turnovers.

Data was split in a pair of sets, sorted by points per 36 minutes. The first set divided games between the top 10, the middle (29 for Kobe, 28 for LeBron), and the bottom 10, while the second set was similarly divided 15, 19 or 18, and 15. These divisions allow comparison of time-efficient scoring games to others.

Overall the 15 set appears more significant than the 10 set, and is therefore used in most of the comparisons. (Download)


The first thing I noticed was the incredible similarities across scoring sets for Kobe and LeBron. In their top 15, KB and LBJ averaged 34.9 and 34.2 respectively, along with 19.9 and 20.3 in the bottom 15, representing a 43% and 40.5% drop respectively.

Compared to their top 15 games, each sees more than a 20% increase in rebound rate and more than 40% in assist rate in their bottom 15 scoring frequency games, with a bigger bump to LeBron in boards and to Kobe in assists. As a good leader would, the two find other ways to contribute when having an off night scoring.

The two also share more than a 30% increase in turnover rate in their bottom 15 scoring games, when compared to all others. This too isn't a shock, as they'd try to force it in a poor game more than otherwise.


In terms of comparing the change from high frequency to low frequency scoring games for each player, the differences between the two's changes are minimal. On a direct comparison, as you'd expect, LeBron averages more boards and assists, while also having more turnovers.

Comparing the two on an individual level seems to be fruitless.

The Team Effect

Here's where the data gets interesting.

In LeBron's top ten frequency games, the Cavs are 10-0, while in Kobe's the Lakers are only 8-2, with losses to the Magic and Hornets. On the other hand, in LeBron's bottom ten games, the Cavs drop to 5-5, while in Kobe's the Lakers are an astounding 10-0.

This pattern persists when using the 15 game set, as the Cavs 14-1 vs. 9-6, while the Lakers are 12-3 vs 14-1, or on a percentage basis: [Cavs] 93.3% to 60% - [Lakers] 80% to 93.3%.

There are two ways to explain these results in the context of who's the better player, and more important to his team.

Case 1: LeBron James as the MVP

These team effects only prove that the Cavaliers need LeBron James. He is their motor, and there's no stopping them when LeBron is on his game. His ever-improving teammates feed off of his energy, so when he's getting to the basket and being the force he can be, then Mo, Big Z and everyone else can really take it to the opponent.

All these numbers prove for Kobe is that he's stumbled into an amazing supporting cast that covers up all his shortcomings. When Kobe gets greedy, then his team suffers.

Case 2: Kobe Bryant as the MVP

The fact that Kobe can compel his team to victory without having to score off the charts shows his value to the team. Simply the threat of Kobe's jump shot allows Gasol, Odom and Bynum to thrive. The two losses in high scoring affairs for Kobe are actually a result of him needing to take the team on his back, and simply coming up short against hot teams.

The Cavs' numbers show that LeBron can't really help his team without scoring, despite his complimentary stats. When the Cavs are down on an off-night for LeBron, he still tosses up deep shots, which aren't his forte, instead of incorporating everyone else, and the Cavs have little hope.


Both cases are probably valid, but in the end I personally have to give it to Kobe, for many of the reasons in the case stated above. Additionally, there is still nobody in the league that inspires more fear at the end of a game than Kobe Bryant. Nobody since Michael Jordan has compared at the end of the game, and he's getting the ball on the final play ten times out of ten if he's on my team.

That's my MVP.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A look at the Detroit Pistons' decline

Much has been made of the decline of the Detroit Pistons since trading away near-MVP-candidate Chauncey Billups for the aging, one dimensional hall-of-famer Allen Iverson. At 46 games into the season, the Pistons sit at 25-21, 6th place in the Eastern conference, compared to last year's 33-13 mark at the same point.

But can all really be blamed on Iverson? He's clearly not a good defender, and not the scorer he once was, but he's still a valuable part of a team. Let's take a look at the side of this story that hasn't been looked at quite as much: the Pistons big men. For the sake of discussion, I'll be including Rasheed Wallace, Amir Johnson, Antonio McDyess, Jason Maxiell, and Kwame Brown.

Changes from 2007-08

Aside from the short-term absence of McDyess due to the Iverson trade and his subsequent release, the only difference in the main rotation of forwards for the Pistons is they now have former #1 pick Kwame Brown instead of a half-season each from journeymen Nazr Mohammed and Theo Ratliff.

Kwame plays the least minutes of the five bigs we're looking at, so the difference shouldn't be enormous, right?

Team stats comparison
Last year, Detroit enjoyed a +2.3 rebound differential per game, along with a block advantage of nearly two per game. This year that rebound differential has fallen to -1.1, with blocks down to around one per game.
The most telling part of the rebound number is that Detroits offensive rebounds have declined greatly (down 11%) while opponents defensive rebounds have increased greatly (up 8%). To me, this implies a lack of hustle by the bigs to get after second chance points.

The Forwards
Please note that all stats referenced below are on a per-48min basis, for consistency.

Rasheed Wallace

'Sheed is considered one of the emotional leaders of this team, especially now that Mr. Big Shot has left the building. He's seeing about three more minutes per game this year, but his numbers almost across the board have seen a drop.
Wallace is down 33% on the offensive glass from last year, and down 25% in blocks, the two main weaknesses above. In less big-man-oriented stats, where Wallace tends to be ahead of the curve for his size, he's also down 39% in assists and 24% in steals. He's also become slightly more oriented to the three point shot than he already was, with a 4% increase in 3pt attempts to go with a 18% drop in 2pt attempts.

I'd never thought I'd be pining for more aggresiveness out of one of the shortest tempers in the game, but 'Sheed needs to get mad and get at it if he wants to help swing the momentum back in the Pistons favor. Although he's still leading the league in technical fouls, so maybe he just needs some direction.

Antonio McDyess

Since his return to the team, McDyess has contributed plenty off the bench. Though he's averaging about five fewer minutes per game, Antonio has seen most of his rate stats go up compared to last year.

He's seen a 10% increase on the offensive boards to go with a 17% increase on the defensive boards. He's turning the ball over 16% less as well, although he's fouling at a slightly higher rate this year, and has seen a slight drop in scoring. The one glaring weakness compared to last year is a 15% drop in blocks.

On the whole, McDyess is helping his team, and could probably help them improve in greater minutes, but as a 34yr old player already on his second life after major knee injury, pushing him any further can't be a good idea.

Jason Maxiell
Last year, Maxiell was heralded as one of the up and coming role players in the league, with great energy and possibly a replacement for Rasheed Wallace down the line. This year, he's taken a notable step backwards in his development, in the eyes of coach Curry, and is seeing five fewer minutes per game as a result.

An obvious reason for this decreased floor time could be the 20% spike in foul rate for Maxiell, to go along with an overall 7% scoring decrease. In terms of rebounding, Maxiell nets about even with a 20% increase in offensive and a 19% decrease in defensive boards. He's also seen huge swings in guard numbers, with a 56% drop in assists but a 76% increase in steals.

With fouls, offensive rebounds, and steals on the rise, and assists on the fall, I think you could say Maxiell is going in the opposite direction of Wallace, almost being too aggresive. which leads to foul trouble. He does lead the team in offensive rebound rate, however, and if he can keep his fouls under control should hopefully take more minutes from Wallace or the remaining bigs.

Amir Johnson

When McDyess was originally traded away, Amir Johnson was stated as a reason the world wouldn't end if he did not return. Coming off his first year as a regular role-player, expectations were high for Johnson coming into this year, and he's received five more minutes of play per game as a result. Thus far, he appears to have come up short in almost every way.

Almost every rate for Amir has declined from last year, with the most notable being a 34% drop in blocks and a 14% drop in rebounds overall, mainly due to a 26% drop in defensive rebounds. Though not much different than last year, Johnson's foul rate is still an outrageous 9.2per48, more than 50% higher than Jason Maxiell's rate.

Clearly, Johnson still has more developing to do, and shaving his minutes back down to last years numbers, as opposed to continuing to start him as the Pistons have of late, could assist this development.

Kwame Brown

Kwame sits as somewhat of a space-filler on this roster, as the Pistons become the third team in three years to try to juice some production out of the former top pick. He averages less than 15 minutes per game, least of the players profiled here.

Kwame is scoring and rebounding at a similar rate to Amir, but with half the blocks. Kwame may foul at a rate of only 2/3 of Amir, but he turns the ball over more than 50% more than Amir.

Brown serves as you'd expect in his role, being a somewhat serviceable fifth big man, not meriting more play but not deserving less at the same time.

The Big Picture

With a progression of forwards like this, maybe it made sense to go small-ball for a while on this team. Curry needs to emphasize to the bigs their continued importance on the team, even though the local and national media only wants to talk about Iverson, Hamilton and Stuckey.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Notable Stats, Groundhog Day

At random intervals of my choosing, I'll pick a few random chunks of box score that I find interesting. Enjoy.

Quick Hits
- Amare Stoudemire posted a +49 for his time on the floor tonight, about equal to the Suns +48 margin of victory. The Kings' John Salmons posted -43 in the same game.

- The Hornets were outscored 38-15 by the Blazers in the 4th quarter at home, going from up 15 to down by 8. This amounts to losing one point of margin every 31 seconds.

- Dwight Howard pulled down six offensive rebounds against the Mavs, equaling Dallas' team total for the game.

- Adam Morrison was the only Bobcats player to avoid a negative +/- against Utah, in 21+ minutes of floor time in a 105-86 loss.

- Darius Miles, in 11 minutes on the court, had one made field goal, one missed field goal, one block, one steal, one assist, and a minus-one +/- rating. Poor showing, but symmetry must be worth something, right?

- Yakhouba Diawara, despite getting the start for the Heat, played a team-low 6:52 out of the ten players who saw floor time, yet was only outdone in fouls by Jamaal Magloire, who at 12:38 had the second-least floor time.

Andrew Byn-who?
In their first full game without the injured Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol stepped up their game to fill the box score quite nicely.

Pau Gasol

The Line: 12/17 from the field, 7/8 FT adding up to 31pts in 41 minutes. Add in 14 boards (4 O-boards), five assists, two blocks and only two fouls and you've got quite the big man game.
Another angle: To be fair, the Knicks don't even have a decent sized PF, not to mention a center to match up with Gasol, and whoever did guard him sure wasn't getting any help whenever Kobe was on the floor either.

Kobe Bryant

The Line: 19/31 from the field, 20/20 FT adding up to an MSG-record of 61pts in 37 minutes. Three assists to go with two turnovers and no rebounds are the only detractors from this line.
Another angle: Bryant's 20/20 from the line hasn't been seen from a guard since Rip Hamilton against the Bobcats in 2004. Also, while Kobe's 20 first half attempts may seem excessive, just think about Wilt Chamberlain's NBA-record 21 attempts in a quarter, and be happy there's nobody that over-used today.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Cris Carter and Shannon Sharpe, not in the Hall of Fame?

Several great players were inducted into the Hall of Fame recently, but with two notable exceptions. Somehow two of the most iconic and dominant receivers of my football-watching life, still in the public eye working NFL studio shows, got the snub. I'm not the only one upset by this.

Shannon Sharpe (first ballot)

Why is this even a discussion? Until Tony Gonzalez, another sure-fire hall-of-famer, broke his record this season, Sharpe was the all-time leader in receiving yards from the tight-end position, with over 10,000yds to his name, on top of 62 TDs.

Sharpe had three seasons of 1,000yds receiving or more, the same as HOF TE Kellen Winslow, one more than Ozzie Newsome. At 49.3yds per game receiving, Sharpe is notably above the 37.7yds per game of John Mackey, who was declared the best TE of all time by the NFL Network this summer.

Sharpe reached eight pro-bowls in his career, and was named first-team all-pro four times, both of which are more than the three HOF TE's mentioned above. He has three Super Bowl rings, and was especially important in the third, with two receiving TDs that postseason.

To top it off, when posted its announcement of the HOF nominees a few months back, the lead image was of Sharpe. The editor of the site apparently thought he was as obvious a choice as I do.

Cris Carter (second ballot)

Out of the two, I suppose this is the slightly harder argument to make, but it's still barely debatable. In the minds of most football viewers of my generation, Cris Carter is always the second receiver mentioned after Jerry Rice, and for good reason.

Carter sits in third all-time in pass receptions, after being passed this season by Marvin Harrison, with 1,101. There are no hall-eligible players head of him that aren't in the hall.

After being pass this year by Terrell Owens and last year again by Marvin Harrison, Carter places 7th in career receiving yards, with 13,899. There are no hall-eligible players head of him that aren't in the hall.

Cris Carter is behind only Rice, Moss and Owens in career TD receptions, with 130, although once again Marvin Harrison is about to pass him. There are, once again, no hall-eligible players head of him that aren't in the hall.

Notice a pattern here? Career-wise, Carters numbers are more than enough. Eight consecutive 1,000yd seasons, eight pro-bowls and two first-team all-pro appearances don't hurt either.

In addition to the staggering numbers, Carter is also often credited as being a mentor to both Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald, two of the most dominant receivers in the game today.

The knock against Carter is that he never won a ring, which is, as in all sports, a terrible argument. Carter wasn't an Alex Rodriguez disappearing act in the playoffs or anything, catching 8 postseason TDs from SIX different QBs, but the teams just weren't good enough.

Between 1988 and 2001 (I'm not counting the half-years that bookend his career) only nine teams won a championship, and with Carter's Vikings playing in an NFC with the Niners and Cowboys dynasties and the rise of Brett Favre, it's not much of a knock to, as a receiver, not guide a team to the title.

Now, both of these men will likely make the HOF eventually, but the fact still remains that these are hardly debatable choices. The politics need to end, and these men given the honors they've definitely earned.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Duke falls from #1, America exhales

Tonight in Winston-Salem NC, #4 Wake Forrest survived, despite blowing a 8pt lead at home with 4:07 left, to beat #1 Duke on a layup with under a second left.

Until a loss to Virgina Tech last week, the team's only loss of the season, WF had held the #1 spot, but this didn't stop the students from rushing the court, of course.

Wake had been in control for seemingly the entire second half, building up a lead of 13 at one point, while shutting down the three-point game, always a Duke staple, to the tune of 18.2%, along with inside shooting of under 41%. Aside from a slight rebounding edge, everything was tilted in WF's favor, including home-court advantage.

And yet the Blue Devils Duke'd their way back into the game, nearly pulling out a big come-from-behind road win in-conference on national television, which wouldn't have shocked anyone.

This is why most of us hate this team.

Now, in this country there's a longstanding tradition of shifting from indifferent to hateful of a team that's very successful, regardless of the sport. The Yankees, USC, the Cowboys, and the Lakers are good examples of this.

But Duke is on another level in this regard. The Blue Devils are far more hated than NCAA basketball legacies such as UNC, UCLA, Kentucky, and UConn, despite not being notably better over the last 25 years.

You'll notice a common thread among the other schools I've listed. They're all public universities. This plays into the other side of the Duke mystique that sparks national hatred: Privilege.

It's easy to hate people we perceive getting things handed to them. We see Duke University, on their quaint little southern campus, playing in a quaint little gymnasium filled with rich scrawny white boy students who, despite going to an expensive private school with a top academic reputation, have the time to camp out for tickets to a basketball game for weeks at a time.

We see a coach with an impossible name to spell, managing to bring in the only good white players in the country, working the referees into handing him half a dozen iffy charge calls a game.

We see a team that always sees the preseason top 10, despite actual team talent, and seems to regularly pull out outrageous comebacks despite awful play, like almost occurred tonight.

We see the most annoying sportscaster in the game salivating over every second he gets to talk about the team, to the point where they made him do an NBA game this year to get him away from it.

It's easy to hate this team, it's fun to hate this team, and I, along with most of the country, will continue to hate this team until they go the way of Notre Dame football and it's just no fun anymore.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A poor year for Canadian hockey in the NHL

Ice hockey is the pride of the nation of Canada. Hockey is the only of the major sport sports leagues to have more than one representative team from north of the border, boasting six different teams, all of which have better support than some of their singular counterparts in other sports.

However, these Canadian NHL teams just aren’t living up to the hype this year. None of the Canadian teams are in the top five in points in the league right now, and only one division leader is a Canadian team.

It’s not just that the best of the best are in the US this year (which they are), but even on the average the US teams are performing better. Up to this point, the 24 American teams are averaging a negligible 0.26% more goals scored per game, but a very notable 4.89% less goals against per game. This has led to an average of nearly two points more for the American teams than their Canadian counterparts (52.38 vs. 50.50) through the halfway point in the season.

Perhaps this shouldn’t be all that surprising, taking a look back at the last decade or so of hockey. A Canadian team hasn’t brought home the cup since 1992, and four out of the last five years there’s been a Stanley Cup Finals the runner-up was a Canadian franchise. This must be just so disheartening for a people so proud that the teams just haven’t put in the full effort this year.

Or it could be a random occurrence, considering Canadian-born players play on every team in the league, and foreign-born player play on all the Canadian clubs. But let’s not ruin the story, and continue to just blame Canada.

It’s never failed us before.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Live by the three, die by the three, starring the Orlando Magic

Outside of the crazy D'Antoni-ball being played in Madison Square Garden right now, nobody in the league shoots more deep shots than the Orlando Magic. They're quite good at it too, shooting over 40% for the year, compared to a league average of just over 36%, and use it to play a fantastic inside-outside game with the beast that is Dwight Howard under the basket drawing defenders.

Even the starting "Power Forward" for the Magic is shooting over 42%, so combined with some other pesky shooters and a defense holding opponents to the third lowest FG% in the league Orlando now sits far atop their division and in discussion for a title run.

While the three has been the Magic's friend most of the season, it has proven to also be their enemy when things go sour.

The Magic as a team shoot over 33% of their shots from behind the arc, compared to a league average of 22%, and (D'Antoni-ball excluded) 6% higher than anyone else in the league. Because of this, a 5-6% variation in 3P% has a greater effect on total points than most teams.

So when the shots aren't falling, things get bad. Teams can start to collapse harder onto Howard without fear of paying for it from deep. Additionally, the shooting culture of Orlando leads to cold shooters continuing to shoot anyway, which can't help.

Tonight, for example, the Magic lost 90-80 at home to the Boston Celtics, in a match-up of two of the three best teams in the East. Seven weeks ago, the Magic also lost to the Celtics, in Boston, by a 107-88 margin. The common factor? Poor shooting behind the arc.

In the first match-up, Orlando shot 5/26 (19.2%) from deep, leading to a 19pt margin of defeat despite winning the rebounding battle and breaking even in turnovers, the two regularly telling factors in swinging a game.

Tonight, the Magic shot 7-22 (31.8%) from deep, not awful but still almost 9% below their average for the year. The ten point loss, then, stems also from being outdone slightly in turnovers and rebounds, without a dominant deep ball to bail them out.

A good three point shooting team can be as dangerous as anybody, making leads disappear in just moments. The Magic have the ability to be that team, as they've shown, and have the ability to be far from it, as they've also shown.

The question then is this: Can the Magic be hot from deep four out of seven games in a series come playoff time? Can they adjust to an off night without relying on a titanic performance from Dwight Howard?

Regardless, it's fun to watch. Let's hope they don't change a thing.

Notable Stats, January 21st

At random intervals of my choosing, I'll pick a few random chunks of box score that I find interesting. Enjoy.

The big story out of the Lakers-Clippers game was the big game out of Andrew Bynum in addition to the triple double of Kobe Bryant. However, the Clippers' young center, DeAndre Jordan, deserves another look too, in only his second big-minutes game since Marcus Camby's injury.

Andrew Bynum (21yrs old)

The Stats: 17/24 FG (70.8%) and 8/11 FT, totalling 42 points, in addition to 15 rebounds (8 offensive), 3 blocks, and only two fouls and two turnovers in 36+ minutes of work.

Analysis: For a guy averaging only 10 FGA/gm, 24 shots is crazy, but he completed a very high percentage. Adjusted for minutes played, he also rebounded at a higher rate than normal on both sides of the floor, and stayed more in control with regards to both fouls and, to a lesser degree, turnovers. This kind of explosion is what makes it less outrageous when Bynum brings up being on the olympic team.

DeAndre Jordan (20yrs old)

The Stats: 11/12 FG (91.7%) and 1/2 FT, totalling 23 points, in addition to 12 rebounds (6 offensive), 4 blocks, and only two fouls and one turnover in 43+ minutes of work.

Analysis: This rookie was drafted based on raw physical ability, with scouts expecting a big learning curve in the pros of at least a year or two. Now that he's been thrust into a bigger role early, he's made the best of the opportunity. Between this performance and the prior game's 8pt/10reb/6blk affair, Jordan could be an important piece of rebuilding an awful-looking team.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Guess who's not missing Elton Brand?

Could it be Willie Green?

Since Brand's been hurt, he's seen plenty of starts in the Sixers small-ball lineup. His overall minutes haven't really increased though, nor have his stats.

Could it be the Sixers team?

In games Brand doesn't play in, the team is 10-8, compared to 10-13 with him. That said, it's been a season of streaks for this team, so things could swing at any time.

Could it be his old team, the LA Clippers?

Quite the opposite. Brand may have been injury-prone, but at least he doesn't work for Jenny Craig.

It's...Marreese Speights, that's who.

In the absence of Elton, Speights has really managed to shine, dominating rookies in John Hollinger's PER stat, and nearly matching the resurgent Chauncey Billups.

It's tough to figure out how the PER number is attributed between Brand and Brand-less time, so lets take a different approach (on a per-minute basis, of course) to see how this jump from 12 to 19 minutes per game has affected his game:

Fouls and Turnovers: A big man is only useful if he can stay on the floor, out of foul trouble. In Brand's absence, the amount of time Speights sees per foul has gone up almost 50% (from 6:00 to 8:44), moving him from a liability to around average for a forward/center. A similar story for turnovers, with a 25% increase (from 20:20 to 24:21).

Scoring: A slight increase, from 0.50 to 0.52 points per minute, which still keeps him in the league of Pau Gasol and Amar'e Stoudemire in scoring frequency.

Rebounding: The only negative, possibly as a result of smaller lineups, Speights drops from 0.30 to 0.22 rebounds per minute, dropping him from the league of Tim Duncan and Al Jefferson to the league of Rasheed Wallace and Andray Blatche.

Blocks: Leaps and bounds here, jumping from a rate of 1.8 per 48 minutes up 78% to 3.2 per 48, a rate trailing only a former D-POY Marcus Camby and Ronny Turiaf. Perhaps a product of the system, teammate Samuel Dalembert also saw a 75%+ jump in block rate without Brand.

I think it's safe to say that Marreese Speights is thriving in Elton Brand's absence, with amazing productivity and efficiency. Will he be included in rookie of the year discussion? No, because he doesn't shoot fifteen or sixteen times per game on a team that hinged all their hope upon him.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Forget the stats: AFC Championship Game

The Game

It was the hard-nosed battle we had hyped it up to be. The picture to the right sums it up quite well.

In a game with five fumbles (two lost) and three interceptions, both teams combined to average only 3.85 yards per play, barely more than half the 6.53 yards per play of the earlier game.

The rookie QB finally showed his youth, untimely turnovers, big overthrows, and a QB rating less than his young age.

A superstar safety scored a defensive touchdown that defined the game. The problem was it wasn't who the hype expected. And so the team with the most super bowl wins and second most appearances is to take on the team that barely knows what a super bowl is.

The Rant

Contained within this old-school defensive game is a troubling trend in this league, one that will make me sound like an old woman as I rant about it.

Clearly both the Steelers and Ravens make their name being imposing defenses, with players scared for their skins should they leave themselves unprotected. This doesn't justify, however, the amount of wreckless head-first tackling in this game and throughout this season by defensive backs and others.

Tonight featured a direct helmet-to-helmet hit from a frustrated Limas Sweed, on what was a meaningless block, along with a similar hit by Ryan Clark, of Wes Welker destroying fame, causing Willis McGahee to be carried off the field on the cart. In related super bowl conversation, Anquan Boldin knows just what I'm talking about.

Now, I'm all in favor of big hits and hard play, but this helmet-to-helmet viciousness has to stop. The more kids at home see this on the pro field, the more they'll think it's an appropriate and desirable way to make tackles, when in fact it's dangerous to both parties and unnecesary. Concussions and neck injuries are far more likely, while it'd be a better football play to hit the ball, not the helmet.

Then why do it? To make the opponent fear for his spine while your coach fears for your own? To beat your chest and bark into the camera? For the pride of standing over your victim?

You're better than that, NFL. Think of the children.

Notable Stats, NFC Championship Game

At random intervals of my choosing, I'll pick a few random chunks of box score that I find interesting. Enjoy.

Arizona Cardinals passing attack, Weeks 12-16 (1-4 record) vs Week 17 and the playoffs (4-0 record)

Larry Fitzgerald
Week 12-16: 4.8 receptions, 72.4yds, 0.8 TDs/gm, average long of 36yds
Since Wk 17: 7 receptions, 137.3yds, 1.75 TDs/gm, average long of 49yds
Impact: Cemented himself as the best wide receiver in the league, showed he should not, under any circumstances, be single-covered. Also is looking forward to potentially tearing apart the hearts of his early fans.

Kurt Warner
Week 12-16: 59.9% passing, 233yds/gm, 73.5 QB rating, 1.2 TD/gm, 1.2 INT/gm, 0.6 fumbles/gm
Since Wk 17: 65.6% passing, 258yds/gm, 114.9 QB rating, 3 TD/gm, 0.75 INT/gm, 0.25 fumbles/gm
Impact: Renewed debate about his 5th place in the MVP voting, while reminding us he's already got two MVP's in the bag. Also instilled an increased fear of the influence of higher powers, and brought two more weeks of face time for one of football's favorite spouses.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Notable Stats, January 13th

At random intervals of my choosing, I'll pick a few random chunks of box score that I find interesting. Enjoy.

Tony Dungy - NFL Coach 1996-2008

Lifetime: 139-69, 70gm over .500, 66.8W%

Tampa Bay: 6 seasons, 12gm over .500, 53.6W%
Median Team Defensive Rank: 6th in pts, 4.5th in yds.

Indianapolis: 7 seasons, 75.9W%, at least 10 wins per season, 12 wins per season last six years.
Median Team Offensive Rank: 2nd in pts, 3rd in yds.

All-time win% rank: 11th place, 6th in the Super Bowl Era.
Playoff appearances: 11, T-8th all time.

Questions about his character: Zero
Debate of HOF status: Zero

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tebow and Hansbrough: The Pro Shortcomings of a College Legend

It's hard not to draw the comparison between Tim Tebow and Tyler Hansbrough. Both are goofy half-redneck white boys, the motor of their respective teams, have piles of accolades, have loyal followings and outright haters.

They also have another thing in common: They're going to be very underwhelming professional athletes. Don't get me wrong, they'll both eventually go pro, and more than likely be drafted in a respectable but not spectacular position. Despite being dominant in the college ranks, both have obvious shortcomings that will hinder them at the next level.

Hansbrough, at 6'9" 250lbs, is big enough to bump around in the lane for rebounds and tough baskets in the college game. In the pros, however, players of that size that stay in his natural Power Forward position, such as Tim Thomas and Rasheed Wallace, have a much more developed outside game and lateral quickness and coordination, to make up for a lack of dominating power, that the clumsy hustle of Hansbrough can't match.

Tebow, on the other hand, has quite the opposite problem. Quarterbacks don't tend to be 6'3" 230lbs of neckless force in the NFL. Linebackers do. The experiment of Tim Tebow the pocket passer didn't work at Florida leading up to their only loss of the season, so why would it work in the NFL? The experiments of Vince Young and Tavaris Jackson show running quarterbacks are not the path to success in the league.

This isn't to say that these two players' inability to dominate at the next level diminishes their achievements in college. Hansbrough already has the career scoring record for UNC, a school with such prolific scoring players as Michael Jordan and Bob McAdoo, and is a NCAA poster-boy, staying in school four years after winning freshman of the year.

Tebow, with one Heisman on the shelf and the most 1st place votes in this year's crazy Heisman race, could easily finish his career with three championships, two (and a half) Heismans, 100 passing TD's and 60 rush TD's with less than 20 INT's, he could surpass Vince Young (if he already hasn't) as the most transcendent college QB of this era.

But that's where these legends will end. Like any of us that were great athletes in high school to be obsolete come college, or playground heroes as kids to find our names not on the freshman team roster, they can only achieve so high.

The difference, and some consolation?

At least their grandkids will believe their legends.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Yankee Stadium, same old greedy sports teams.

(Note: I know this is old news, but the Texiera press conference put this back fresh in my mind)

Sports teams are run like any other business.

We’re given this refrain time and time again, whether it’s when a NFL team cuts a player because he got hurt, or a baseball team raising ticket prices for another year. Teams have a bottom line to watch, and winning may only be a means to help support that bottom line. We follow player contracts, salary cap rules, and even know the names of sports agents, as the business side of sports interests us so greatly.

In several important ways, however, sports are quite different from any other business, thanks to a variety of legal exceptions.


You’ll notice you don’t see Cedars-Sinai, Mass General and the Mayo Clinic lining up in an orderly fashion to select the highest rated med-school grads from Harvard, Yale and Johns Hopkins, then paying them a set salary based on how early they were selected, with no bargaining power in the hands of the doctor-to-be.

Sports have been granted some big exemptions to certain antitrust laws to allow them to operate the way they do now, allowing leagues to restrict entrance into their league based on otherwise discriminatory practices, trade players against their will, like machines if not slaves, and, until 1972, never allow a player to leave the team that drafted them unless the team consented. Baseball has the biggest of these antitrust exceptions.


Despite these government granted advantages, sports teams still crave more ways to pad their bank accounts. That's where lobbying comes into play. Not just reserved for the Pfizers and Exxon Mobil's of the world, once teams are done milking their local area financing half their stadium, sports teams beg for tax advantages from big brother at the federal government.

This is where the city and state of New York and the NY Yankees come into the picture. Currently there are three projects for major stadiums in the city, between the new Yankee Stadium, CitiField (Mets), and the basketball arena in Brooklyn for the Nets. Accordingly, upwards of $500,000 of taxpayer money was spent to encourage the IRS to create tax loopholes for stadium bond issues.

In October, their wish came true as the IRS passed regulations tightening up tax-free financing of private stadiums, but making exceptions for the three New York projects.

A Yankee Windfall

This comes just in time for the Yankees, who at the time claimed to be running out of cash from their original $942 million bond issue and need $366 million more to finish the project. By comparison, the new $1.318 billion price tag is more than twice the $612 million for Citi Field.

While the new Yankee Stadium will be more complex and thereby more expensive than Citi Field, a large chunk of this excess value disappears with some scrutiny. The assigned value of the land on which the stadium is built is an important piece of the total amount that can be borrowed tax-free. Originally, the city assessed a value to the 17+ acre plot of $26.8 million, or $36 per square foot, similar to recent assessments of surrounding plots of land.

The Yankees weren't happy, so they got the city to change it. By over 650%. The city revised its assessment to $204 million, or $275 per square foot.

The area of the Bronx where the stadium sits is far from prime property. When there isn't a game going on, there really isn't much going for the area. (Even when there are games, no permanent jobs are really created) So an assessment of $275 per square foot then seems especially outrageous when compared to the implied $87 per square foot value of the Hudson Railyards, sitting in a prime position at 30th & 11th in Manhattan, according to a proposed deal.

It's next to impossible to defend this kind of a value for the land beneath the stadium, but the city had no problem jacking up the value to help the Steinbrenners. They've even got emails to prove it.

As icing on the cake, the timing of these IRS exceptions saves the Yankees $247 million in interest costs on their borrowings, or a little more than the combined contracts of CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett. Should be a nice condolence to the New York taxpayers who can't afford admission to any of the home games that they can at least watch these two big additions.

That is, if they can still afford cable, including the YES network, owned by the team.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Notable stats, January 5th

At random intervals of my choosing, I'll pick a few random chunks of box score that I find interesting. Enjoy.

Game: Texas 24 - Ohio State 21 [Fiesta Bowl]
Team Stat: Ohio State rushed for 5.6yds per carry, 1.0 more than their season average, and double the Longhorns' average allowed of 2.8yds per carry. OSU also rushed for 213yds on a Texas D averaging under 74yds rushing allowed.
Player Stat: Colt McCoy 41/58 for 414yds, including 74yds passing on the game-winning drive. McCoy's 58 attempts was greater than Texas' 54yds rushing.
Bigger Picture: McCoy finished the season, including this game, with a 76.7% completion percentage, crushing Daunte Culpepper's 1998 record of 73.6% set at UCF. Plus, girlfriend. That's the real big picture.

Game: Denver 135 - Indiana 115 [NBA]
Team Stat: Nuggets first half: +4pts, +8 turnovers, including 7 TO to none in the 2nd quarter. Nuggets second half: +16pts, -1 turnovers.
Player Stat: Danny Granger had 26pts at the half, and finished with 36 on 50% shooting from both 2 and 3, with 5 assists and only one turnover in 41 minutes. Granger continues to be a rising star in this league.
Bigger Picture: It took Denver, a clear playoff contender, a huge run fueled by 58% shooting for the game (10% higher than season average) to pull away from a talented but sputtering Indy team. Despite having a dead even turnover differential, having 9th highest turnover averages counteracted by 8th highest turnovers against should lead to volatile games, and losses to inferior teams, which Denver has avoided so far.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Doc Rivers rears his ugly head once again

The Celtics skid now stands at four losses out of six games. Granted, five of these were road games, four of which on a west coast swing, so a grain of salt is necessary, but we can still take this as a sign of future problems. I know where I'm starting to look: Doc Rivers.

Now, I'm usually in favor of not giving a coach too much credit for success or blame for failure, and I'm not saying Rivers has caused this recent slide, but he's not necessarily helping it either, especially when it comes to bench management.

The Celtics bench, as heavily reported, has been very sub-par this year after losing James Posey, PJ Brown, and Sam Cassell (sort of) from last year's title squad. To quantify this, I took a look at the last ten games played, which included the six games from this "skid", three home blowouts, and the tight Celts-Hawks game.

In these games, the Boston Bench played 77 minutes per game (49 low, 105 high) compared to opponents' 81 minutes per game (41 low, 127 high). Opposing benches outscored the Celtics 33.2 to 28.5 in this span.

Applying the bench point-per-minute numbers to a full quarter (12 minutes) for five players (broadly assuming starters play 3/4 of the game), the failure of the bench becomes incredibly telling. One of the ten games was to the Celtics advantage (the blowout @Sac), while the three biggest deficits came in losses: -17.1 tonight @NYK, -12.0 @Port, and -6.6 @Lakers.

Despite using less bench minutes, Doc has still reverted back to playing all twelve players regardless of situation, as noted in prior seasons by a certain overzealous fan. Seemingly every time the Celts build up a lead, the bench gives it right back when the starters rest.

Brian Scalabrine, a man with no discernible skills other than being the only white guy on a team in a racially challenged city, continues to average ten minutes per game. Listed as a power forward, Scal has shot under 39% for his career, which would be bad for a guard. He ranked dead last in Hollinger's PER rating for PF's last year, and is sitting pretty at 6.17PER for the year right now.

It could be said that Rivers is coaching the team for the playoffs, not the regular season, and resting his stars while he can, knowing full well they'll make the playoffs. It's also tough to form a second unit or rotation when Eddie House, a player built to run and rain threes off-ball, is handling the ball at point.

But this still doesn't excuse the lack of cohesion on this bench, whether it's Scalabrine tossing up aimless threes, Tony Allen dropping his head down and charging toward the basket without recourse, or Glen Davis dropping passes in the post. This should be a focus in practice, and Rivers needs to make it happen before Boston complacently slips to the 3rd seed in the East, or worse.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Finally, the real Brett Favre

Those who know me know I've never been a fan of Brett Favre. It wasn't so much that I thought he was a prick or anything, or particularly cared about the Packers, or had some weird jealousy complex. I guess the issue I've always taken with the man is his idol status in the media.

The Good

Brett had a good run with the Packers about a decade ago. He won three consecutive MVP awards in the 1995-1997 seasons, including a Superbowl following the 1996 season. He possessed one of the strongest throwing arms we'd ever seen in the NFL, and had that golden Louisiana smile and charm. He was a bona fide superstar. This was the apex.

In the time since, Favre has been a solid starting quarterback in the league. He's been the epitome of durable, has only led one team with a losing record, and has thrown for 3000yds or more for seventeen straight years. As a result of his longevity, Favre owns nearly every career passing record, including total yards and touchdowns.

The Bad

However, Favre also owns the record for career interceptions. He currently sits tied for 20th in career QB Rating, behind such studs as Jeff Garcia and Trent Green.

Many explain away Favre holding the interception record the same way one explains away Cy Young having the pitching loss record: "He played for so long!". While yes, Favre has started the most games at QB ever, he still throws a disproportionate amount of interceptions. See the chart below:
I used most of the quarterbacks that have been active at some point since 2004 with ~2000+ pass attempts. Favre sits in the company of lifetime mediocre but consistent starters Brian Griese, Jon Kitna, Kerry Collins, and Vinny Testaverde, along with the perpetually poor-decision making Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger.


All things considered, this man should not even be in the discussion for greatest QB of all time, the same way Pete Rose isn't the best contact hitter of all time simply because he has the most hits.

The Jets have learned this the hard way, having put all their faith in Favre, costing Eric Mangini his job, missing the playoffs despite six Pro Bowlers, tearing apart a locker room, and watching bloggers everywhere revel in the schedenfraude.