Suggested Reading

Kurt —  November 29, 2006

Two things of note I wanted to point you toward.

One is Roland Lazenby’s interview with Laker assistant coach and NBA player in the 80s and 90s Brian Shaw. Some very interesting stuff (as always from Roland):

“You have someone like Kobe who is so competitive and so dominant,” Shaw observed. “When he senses that things aren’t going right he does everything in his power to take over and try to right things. In the process sometimes, some of the other guys become an afterthought. So they struggle. It’s difficult for them to figure out how and when to fit in. When they are so young, it’s difficult.”

Lakers guru Tex Winter has often expressed admiration for Shaw as a young coach. What makes him so effective for these Lakers is that he remembers clearly those days as a young Celtic trying to find his way playing alongside a fierce competitive nature like Larry Bird.
Larry and Kobe?

“It’s like comparing apples and apples,” Shaw says.

That’s because Bryant and Bird share something special.

“When Larry would maybe miss a shot that would have won the game for us, or something like that, he’d stay after and shoot,” Shaw recalled. “He’d be there first thing the next morning, shooting, working on his game at game speed. Kobe is the same way. He doesn’t want to lose in any thing. Cards, whatever it is he’s playing. Larry had it. Michael had it. Magic had it. All the great ones do. And Kobe’s right there with him.”

Dominique Wilkins once said of Bird: “Look in his eyes and you see a killer.”

Shaw sees the same thing when he looks at Bryant. “Basically, Kobe is a killer,” he said. “I say that, meaning that he’s not going to reach out and embrace you. He’s not going to respect you, if you aren’t true to your craft and you don’t show that killer instinct as well. To him it’s a sign of weakness. As long as you’re out there giving it your all, he’ll respect you, because he is, he’s giving it his all.”


The other thing worth reading, particularly if you are a fan of the new breed of NBA statistics, is a piece by Kevin Pelton at Courtside Times.

For those out of the loop, in recent weeks there has been a debate about what is a better system for rating players — john Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Ratings (EPR) or the Wins Produced system championed in the recent book Wages of Wins.

Pelton’s take:

My question is, “What’s the point?”…

Hollinger has said in the past that he intends PER as a jumping-off point to start a discussion about a player, as a summary of the other stats we track for players. That’s difficult, however. Intellectual laziness makes it easy to look at Chuck Hayes posting a higher PER than Jason Kidd and say that implies Hayes is better than Kidd. In Basketball on Paper, Dean Oliver paraphrases Bill James to say, “Reducing quality to one number has a tendency to end a discussion, rather than open up a world of insight.” I tend to agree.

Take a second and think about your favorite pieces of writing by Hollinger or Berri or any other APBRmetrically-inclined writer. Think about something that challenged your perceptions or made you think. Now think about this — did that writing center around a player rating? I’m willing to bet it didn’t.

I use PER fairly often on this site, but I try to use it as a quick snapshot of a player’s offensive contributions, not as a definitive statement. When I see someone like Luke Walton, whose PER jumped from a 9th man level of 11.6 last season to the good starter level of 17.8 this season, it is a snapshot that makes me ask why.

Which is why I basically side with Pelton in this debate: What’s the real point between Wins Produced or PER? The real interesting stuff is in the details.

to Suggested Reading

  1. No PER or rating will tell you which are the mistakes that Smush does on the defensive end. It’s the sum of those mistakes that adds up to the final score… And that cannot be given by any stat.

    Smush allows a PER of (don’t know the number) to opposing guards. But what’s his mistake? No lateral movement? Not fighting through the picks? Not contesting the shots? Those are the things that matter the most…


  2. The question isn’t really Smush’s mistakes. The real question is who do we replace him with. Farmar?? I don’t think so – not only is he a rookie, but he doesn’t yet have the endurance for starters minutes (like Andrew doesn’t have the endurance either). Sasha?? He can’t handle the ball well enough against the quick PG. Shammon?? He doesn’t seem to be the answer either. I think we have to live with Smush until 1) he changes his ways or 2) Farmar becomes toughened up (however, he probably will run into the rookie ‘wall’ half way through the season).