Archives For September 2007

I Like PER (and other thoughts)

Kurt —  September 12, 2007

If you haven’t been following this, there has become a heated debate in the hoops blogging world about the value of PER, John Hollinger’s all-encompassing hoops stat. Carter at Plissken at the Buzzer fired the first salvo, questioning the usefulness of PER, Tom Ziller (of Sactown Royalty and writing for Ballhype) puts up a passionate defense, the smart folks at Free Darko weighted in, and if you look around you’ll be able to find updates on this discussion in the last 24 hours as well.

I like PER as a quick snapshot. Yes, it has limitations, but it provides a concise place to start. (I’d say the same thing about the Wages of Wins “wins produced” number, although I’m less confident in that methodology right now.) We all know there is no way to boil down all of basketball to one number and have it be perfect, but there are advantages to having a quality way to provide a brief snapshot of a player’s performance, and I think PER does that well.

Here’s how I use PER: Let’s say the Lakers are going to play the Hawks, I like to write game previews and I’ve seen roughly 10 minutes of Hawks basketball so far in said season. When I look at the team stats on Knickerblogger or wherever, if I see Zaza Pachulia with an All-Star level PER of 22 I think to myself “that is odd” and use PER as a jumping off point to see what is really going on with his game (did he figure out how to shoot?). Then I try to pass along that slightly more detailed knowledge to you guys (my readers), so you know why Zaza is schooling Kwame.

For that snapshot to get me looking at things, I think PER is a great tool. But nobody is suggesting that it is the Alpha and Omega of stats. It is simply a starting point.

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A couple other quick thoughts:

• While it got a lot of attention that Phil Jackson said he and Kobe were on the same page about talent, what I found interesting in that statement was Phil singled out Jim Buss as the guy who promised and did nothing. Not Jerry Buss, not Mitch, but Jim Buss. Phil doesn’t say things like that on accident.

• In a little bit of site news, I think the Internet Explorer problem this site had is fixed (let me know if anyone is still having problems). I’m behind on getting the sidebar links updated, but that will happen in the next week or so. Promise. If people have other suggestions, I’m willing to listen (this site is more about you guys the commenters than me).

• The way my college football team is playing, the NBA season can’t start soon enough.

Ted Stepien, a former owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers…died Monday at his home in Willoughby Hills, Ohio. He was 82.

Stepien paid $2 million for 37% of the Cavaliers in April 1980 and soon became the majority shareholder. The Cavaliers went 66-180, dropped to the bottom of the league in attendance and lost $15 million during Stepien’s three years of ownership.

In honor of the man whose ineptitude allowed the reigning champs to land James Worthy, I share the ignominious tale from a previous post…

Okay, so it’s really called the Ted Stepien Rule: In 1980 the Lakers traded Don Ford to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of one of many disastrous moves by Stepien.

Ford would end up playing in only 85 games over the next two years and that pick would turn into Hall of Famer “Big Game” James Worthy. The first, last, and only time that a reigning NBA champ would have the top pick in the following year’s draft.

Stepien would end up operating with such abandonment that the NBA took away the ability for him to make trades without the league’s specific direction and approval. The Gund brothers, who bought the Cavs in 1983, would only follow through with the transaction after the NBA promised to give them supplemental first round picks to replace those that Stepien had traded away.

None of this would happen in the here and now. GM’s are now backed by a slew of assistants, and all first round picks are lottery protected. The aptly nicknamed Ted Stepien rule states that teams can not trade first round picks in consecutive years and every team must have at least one pick in the two rounds of the draft.

In effect, we will never see a traded first round pick end up being the numero uno. It happened to the Lakers twice, and because common sense and league rules now dictate the process, it will never happen again.

Four coaches in one season: Stepien’s ineptitude was highlighted in 1982 when he hired and fired four different coaches in one season. The first of those coaches was Chuck Daly, who he fired after 41 games and replaced with Bill Musselman, Eric’s father.

Sacramento has interviewed Eric for their open position, and he comes with the endorsement of Daly who has called him a “basketball genius.”

Warrior fans may begrudgingly agree:

And I guess we all know how that Musselman stint in Sactown went.

-Scott Thompson aka Gatinho

Congratulations Phil Jackson

Kurt —  September 8, 2007

This weekend Phil Jackson got his well-deserved honor of being inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame. To me, the best coaches at every level are the best teachers (say what you will about Larry Brown, he’s been a top college and pro coach for decades because he is such a great teacher).

Jackson is a brilliant teacher too, but just in a way that often drives Lakers fans (and before them Bulls fans) a little nuts. His key teachings are not “Xs and Os” but dealing with the pressures of the game and situations, lessons of self-reliance and self-confidence.

He won’t call a timeout when the other team is on a second quarter run – Phil’s team needs to figure out how to stop it themselves. He gets flack for sitting passively on the bench, seemingly doing nothing while games seem to slip away from his teams. Apparently some people think you need to scream to be a coach.

But then, come the playoffs, Phil’s teams have learned and are applying lessons that others have not. It works — his teams have nine titles in large part because he taught them how to win.

Phil gets knocked for the talent he had at his disposal, which frankly is just a silly argument. First, as JA Adande points out, Red Auerbach rolled out 10 NBA Hall of Famers, but you don’t hear this knock on him. Second, how many very talented teams never win titles? Starting with these very Lakers prior to Jackson’s arrival in Los Angeles.

Jackson took a CBA team from worst to first, he’s shown he can bring along young players. He has a lot of lessons to teach generations of basketball players.

And that’s one good reason he belongs in the Hall. Congratulations from Lakers fans everywhere, Phil!

Tennis Stars’ NBA Equivalents

Kurt —  September 7, 2007

Sitting watching another night of the US Open tennis tournament—seeing Andy Roddick play the best tennis he could and still get swept by Roger Federer — I started thinking about what tennis player equated to what NBA player. So, for fun I started a little list. It’s some harmless early September NBA blues fun (we’ll save discussing power struggles in the house of Buss until next week).

This is just a start, if you have suggestions put them in the comments and I’ll move the best ones up to the main post.

Roger Federer = Tim Duncan.
Well-rounded games with seemingly no weakness. Incredible consistency against the bottom feeders or the top tier. The ability to step up under pressure. And winning titles, just winning titles — all while not showing off or acting like a pampered ass. Sometimes I want to hate the guy, but I just have to respect them. (By the way, I think Payton Manning could fit in here perfectly and make it a trio.)

UPDATE:
Several people (starting with Lakerfan, I think) have chimed in that comparing Duncan to Federer is a disservice to Fed. Maybe true. While Jordan is the best comparison, I was going with active players. But the point that Federer is an MJ, a Tiger Woods, the dominant person in the sport is a valid one.

Rafael Nadal = Dwyane Wade.
Young, fun to watch aggressive player who wins a title (or for Nadal, a few majors) but who’s style and energy put such a strain on their bodies you sometimes wonder how long they can keep it up.

Novak Djokovic = LeBron James. Loaded with talent and everyone knows it’s just a matter of time until he wins the big one. He’s beaten the big two before, but never in a major moment when it was all on the line.

Serena Williams = Shaq O’Neal. Off the court interest take focus away from the on the court game, and all that can lead to weight/training issues. But when focused and in shape nobody can stop them.

Andy Roddick = Karl Malone. Hall of Fame, unquestioned talents who (as Bill Dwyre put brilliantly in the LA Times yesterday) have one fatal flaw — being born in the same era as the greatest player in the history of the game. Said player becomes their nemesis.

UPDATE: mookiebrainlock suggests John McEnroe = Rasheed Wallace. Does this mean Rasheed has a series of clever but overplayed American Express ads in his future? Probably not.

Also, nobody seems to love the Roddick/Malone comparison, with Jeremy rightly pointing out that Roddick does have a Major under his belt. (Well, you don’t really wear belts in tennis, but you get the idea.) He suggests the better match is Scottie Pippen, “Loads of talent, just not quite as good as the rest of the superstars.” Burningjoe suggested maybe Reggie Miller is a better example (although that presents the same championship issue as Malone). Roddick is the one I had the hardest time with (save Kobe, I never found a match I liked there).

UPDATE 2: Jake Oakley throws out an interesting one: Kobe Bryant = Boris Becker.

Sounds a little odd maybe, but if you think about it … Both one three big ones early in their career, they were young superstars Becker with his Wimbledon championships at 17 and 18 and Kobe with Shaq. They had great coaches ( I can’t think of the name of Becker’s though) and both of them had a huge sex-affair. Becker’s 5 seconds with Angela Ermakowa are famous over in Germany.

And from the good people at SLAM online, Mike Miller = Maria Sharapova. I think Miller may actually fiddle with his hair more.

Chick Hearn Rap

Kurt —  September 6, 2007

Nobody scours YouTube for the best hoops stuff like J.E. Skeets, the Steve Nash of NBA bloggers. (Note the Canadian shout out there.) I don’t subscribe to many podcasts, but The Basketball Jones is one I don’t miss.

Skeets found this first and pointed it out to me, and I’m posting it here as well because I feel I must. Enjoy a Chick Hearn mashup.