What Could Have Horribly Been…

Zephid —  August 7, 2009

Game 5 - Magic vs. Lakers

Numb to the moment, we see Kobe Bryant walk off the floor, his head down in shame.  Eerily similar to what had happened the year before, Bryant again walks off the court with streamers falling over his head, his opponents triumphant at his expense.  We can see the rage burning in his eyes, the frustration, the pain from having come so far and failing yet again when he was so close.  They had climbed the summit, just as they had done the year before, only to fall at the last possible step, when the goal seemed so attainable.  It is June 14, 2009, and the Orlando Magic have just won the 2009 NBA Title.

Following the blow-out loss in Game 1, the Magic came back with intense passion, Rashard Lewis leading the way with 34 strong points and shooting 6-12 from the three point line, squeaking out a Game 2 win on Courtney Lee’s last second lay-up, shifting the entire dynamic of the series and stealing the precious home court advantage that the Lakers played 82 long, hard games to earn.  After a Game 3 barrage which saw the Magic victorious, shooting 75% from the field in the first half, the Magic snuck out of Game 4 with a win after a near-collapse, culminating in Derek Fisher missing a last second desperation three, going 0-6 from the three point line for the night.  With the Lakers down 3-1 on the ropes, the Magic closed out in Game 5 with a strong performance from Dwight Howard, garnering a record 9 blocks, and Rashard Lewis, who scored 33 points including 7-12 from the three point line.

As we see the streamers falling down around our players, we can’t help but wonder, “Will this team ever get it done?  How many times will we come this far only to fail?”  With off-season issues looming, especially the re-signing of Trevor Ariza and Lamar Odom, how long will it be till we get another chance like this?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

We all know this isn’t what happened.  The Lakers got the bounces, made the big shots when they mattered, and came out with some hard-fought wins over a damn good Magic team.  But imagine if that had happened.

Now, we hear a report that Rashard Lewis was found to have an elevated testosterone level sometime last season.  I’ve yet to read any reliable sources as to when the actual sample was taken, so we don’t really know what time frame we’re working with.  But, Lewis was hurt at the end of the regular season and actually missed a couple of games against the Sixers in the first round, and he made a surprisingly quick recovery.  The supplement Lewis claims to have taken, DHEA, has disputed effects on testosterone levels and seems to have no intended use in athletics (the Mayo Clinic tells me that DHEA is mostly used for patients with low natural DHEA levels, depression, induction of labor, and the treatment of lupus).

So what if?  What if the Lakers had lost the championship, our entire 2008-2009 campaign going down in flames?  We hear that a possible steroid user was (highly) involved in the games that decided our championship fate as well as the fates of several other teams.  The league has suspended Lewis 10 measly games, but he stole our championship!  Probably most, if not all of us, would be decrying the use of steroids as the work of the devil and all things evil.  But is that really the case, and how heinous is the use of steroids in sports?

Steroid use is no where near as big a deal in the NBA as it is in the NFL and not even close to the level of the MLB.  Many experts argue that the effects of steroids, such as muscle growth, aren’t as desirable in basketball as they are in other, more brutish sports, like rugby or American football.  The list of NBA steroid offenders is relatively small, the list including Matt Geiger, Don McLean, Soumaila Samake, Lindsey Hunter, and possibly the most famous, Darius Miles.  But, none of these players are bona fide stars of Rashard Lewis’ level: an All-Star caliber player, playing a big role on a high-profile team, and easily one of the top 50 players in the league.  And none of the other player’s affected the league as much as Rashard Lewis did last season, where it was his shooting and his match-up problems that eliminated were huge reasons as to why Orlando eliminated both the Boston Celtics and the heavily-favored Cleveland Cavaliers.

Perhaps those with more knowledge of biology and chemistry can fill us in as to what exactly steroids like DHEA do, and how do they affect a sport like basketball, where brute strength is not the most desirable quality (unless you’re Shaquille O’Neal).  Now I am against the use of steroids to make yourself stronger or faster or whatever, but where do we draw the line?  I am all for the use of steroids and other medications to help an athlete recover from injury, but where does recovering stop and juicing start?  If an athlete (say, Andrew Bynum) was hurt and could halve his recovery time by using steroids, I would not be against it. Would you?  But if someone were juicing in order to get bigger and stronger, which we know aids in things like absorbing contact while driving to the basket, getting position for rebounds, and banging in the low-post, that constitutes an unfair advantage and violates my sense of fair-play. And what about drugs that improve your hand-eye coordination, reaction time, mental clarity, and performance under stress?  They certainly give basketball players advantages over those who don’t use them, so are they meant to be outlawed as well?  Perhaps if they are not detrimental to a player’s long-term heatlh, they are ok, but again the question is, where do you draw the line?  Your ideas are as good as mine, as most of us (hopefully someone is) are not experts in this field.

I for one am inclined to believe Lewis when he says he took a supplement that he believed to be sanctioned by the league.  By all accounts, he seems to be a good guy, doesn’t play dirty and can’t honestly be considered enough of a bruiser to seriously consider that the steroids really gave him a huge advantage.  But I also believe that Lewis was tip-toeing the line of what is allowed and what is forbidden by the league.  For Lewis, a stretch-4 playing virtually out of position, being strong enough to rebound and defend the post is something he faces every day.  If I were him, I’d want to get stronger, so long as it didn’t compromise the other strengths of my game.  But at what cost do these advantages come?  How far are we willing to push the limits of our anatomy until it becomes too much? At what cost are we willing to win, and when does that cost outweigh victory?

-Zephid

Zephid

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69 responses to What Could Have Horribly Been…

  1. Well, to start, I think it is fair to say that if you take a substance that is banned by the league, that is wrong and you should be punished (regardless of whether your intention is to speed up the healing process or to gain a competitive advantage when healthy).

    Beyond that, it is difficult for me to formulate a policy. Non-banned substances would seem to me to be acceptable in all cases. I don’t know how else you can analyze it, because any other standard would be completely subjective.

    Of course, the banned v. not banned dichotomy places a premium on the league to make sure the banned list is comprehensive; and places a (reasonable, in my view) degree of responsibility on the shoulders of the athletes to both know what is on the list and what they are putting in their bodies.

    On the issue of what should go on the list and what shouldn’t, that’s where this gets too tough for me….

  2. Honestly, Im for steroids in every sport because it makes the players better and more fun to watch. I am pretty much certain HGH (not testable at the moment) is rampant in the NBA. It is perfect for basketball players because it keeps you lean, strong, and helps you recover between games. Im hoping if Kobe isn’t on something he does… because I would love to see him run and jump like he did when he was 25.

  3. Firs of all: I don’t really see the diffrence between using AAS in order to heal faster or using them in order to get stronger.

    As far as DHEA goes, they’re in reality somewhat of a loophole. Despite what all the people who sell them, or are receiving financial support from people who do, tell you – it’s like crappy steroids efficiency-wise, but as far as the side effects go, they are similar to the more potent stuff (all depending on the dosage of course).

    People are still very naive about this in general. Of course AAS, HGH and the likes help a great deal in a sport like basketball. You get more explosive, you recover more quickly, you can train harder – the list goes on and on. I think a ton of people in the NBA use them; why wouldn’t they? And don’t believe this whole “but they are tested!!!”-bs. Those tests can’t detect HGH and those tests can’t detect designer steroids. The only people who are getting caught are the ones screwing up by taking stuff like Lewis did – if you handle it correctly, noone will ever catch you.

    Case in point: Marion Jones. She competed for years and years in a sport that is a gazillion times more heavily tested than basketball, and she never got caught despite using stuff all the time. Why not? Again because the tests can’t detect HGH and designer steroids, which is what any smart athlete with enough financial resources would use would he like to cheat (and with insane amounts of money on the line, who are we to blame them for doing it?).

  4. The Cookie Monster August 7, 2009 at 11:00 am

    There have been other incidents of steroid (or testosterone-producing drugs) I believe Matt Gieger and Lindsey Hunter, but this I think is another one out of a thousand cases for the NBA. It is sad to know that an All-Star like Lewis took drugs, but it is in all sports now! But on another note, let’s NOT talk about the Lakers losing this finals, as it is not only untrue, but also depressing and upsetting to talk about.

  5. I agree Aaron. The media hand-wringing of PED issues is so ridiculous. I wish all these leagues would stop testing and let the players do what they need to for prime performance and recovery. DHEA is nothing more than a supplement for old men to restore their testosterone level. In athletic young men it does absolutely nothing of significance.

    The NBA is absurd for even testing for this stuff. Until and unless there is a reliable test for HGH, all the testing is meaningless. By the way, I am all for athletes using HGH under supervision as it helps recovery.

  6. I have to admit I feel most of the furor over steroids is put out by the journalist and talking heads. Most of the rest of us really wish they would stop continually bringing up the subject. They all seem to have an obsession with this subject – unlike most fans.

    As to DHEA; if Lewis were going to use steroids to help himself perform better, it sure wouldn’t be DHEA. Enough said.

    As to steroids in basketball; I think steroids help you get big/strong and run fast in a straight line. The problem in basketball is that you have to move sideways to be effective. Running straight forward only gets you charge calls – see Lamar Odom. Big is fine, until this same Lamar simply goes around you and dunks the ball. Our issue with Luke Walton is that his lateral movement isn’t quick enough to stay with quicker 3s – this won’t be helped by steroids.

  7. I have to wholeheartedly disagree with you guys that steroids and HGH should be legal in pro sports, regardless of the benefit to the athletes and the franchises who make money off of their time on the court. I’m actually pretty surpirsed at everyones stance on this so far.

    Keep in mind, REAL sports are more than just entertainment for the fans. There’s are cathartic implications to society. This isn’t like bodybuilding or the WWE, where the stars are just something to marvel at. Kids, real people, look up to the athletes as role models (and its not always right to do so, but we’re human). Amateur athletes model their moves, diets, game preparation, everything they do, off of what the pros do. And I’m not saying that average people should be banned from taking FDA approved substances. But if pro athletes start using roids or HGH to recover more quickly, high school kids are gonna start doing it too, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing until you consider the fact that average people don’t have expert doctors on their payroll to make sure they aren’t harming themselves by taking something they know nothing about.

    Even if athletes are using over the counter stuff, until the FDA does a better job of controlling illegal steroids, we can’t just assume that fans and amateur athletes are smart enough to use something that is safe for them.

    And HGH, regardless of it’s power for helping recover from injuries, is NOT SAFE for casual use. There’s a reason the FDA regulates this stuff. It’s harvested only with the intention that it is used to treat serious medical conditions.

  8. I totally missed the point of this intro…

    Why would we want to imagine that “What if…” any more than the other million “What if” scenarios that are possible in sports.

    “What if Magic had missed the Junior skyhook in ’87?”

    “What if Vlade hadn’t knocked that ball directly toward Robert Horry in 2002?”

    “What if Shaq and Kobe had been able to get along?”

    “What if Jesus hadn’t been secretly hiding in the Celtics locker room in order to heal Paul Pierce from that clearly devastating knee injury that required a wheelchair and so much obvious pain?”

    The Magic didn’t get it done; the Lakers did. Why dwell on a bad thing that isn’t real?

  9. 9, rofl I now realize that I took out the part that made me think up that ridiculous situation.

    Imagine how much bigger this issue would have been if that had been true, and the Lakers had lost the championship. And now comes reports that Rashard Lewis did steroids? Just one more thing to think about when having the “yea steroids are cool” vs. “steroids are evil!” debate.

  10. Zephid… Ok, that makes more sense. If we had watched the Lakers lose, then learned that Orlando had a star player who may have cheated, how would we have reacted? I get it…

    As a St. Louis Cardinals fan, I can offer some personal perspective on that question. In 2004 the Cardinals were clearly the best team in baseball, winning 105 games and offering three legit MVP candidates. But they ran into a hot Boston team in the World Series and the rest was history.

    Years later we learned that the two key drivers of Boston’s offense were juicers: Manny and Fat Papi. (Sorry, still bitter…)

    On the surface, Cards’ fans should be upset based on the premise that we lost to a team whose stars were clearly cheating. But curiously, I’m not overly mad about the PED issue because what I cannot answer is, “Were any of the Cardinals on the juice that season too?”

    I agree with Travis in wishing that this wasn’t an issue in sports. But it is an issue, and before we get too high-minded and begin pointing fingers, it would be wise to realize we don’t know everything and could very well have been cheering on someone who was also a cheat without knowing it.

    That fact sucks, but it’s part of being a fan of sports in this era.

  11. From previous thread:

    Kareem,

    57 wins is a Hollinger like prediction. It is based entirely on statistical models and actual real data. As pointed out earlier, regression is not only a statistical fact, it strongly predicts reality in the NBA–even for the Lakers since 1986–look at the charts–or do your own real calculations.

    Keep in mind, I never said what I expect personally because I don’t forecast at all until at least half way through the season–and then extremely conservatively. I prefer facts on the ground.

    “Doomerism” (as you call it) would be the objective expectation of anyone who does the statistical/data analysis calculations. The Celtics and/or Cavs would be forced to come to the same conclusions.

    Your subjective model is not based either on statistics or reality. It is based on your fantasy of a Laker team none of us has seen even practice yet–against opponents that may be significantly different from last year. For example, do you really believe that the pattern of injuries this coming season will match those of last season?

    You may have great fantasies and telepathic talents, but your fantasies are likely to clash with Celtic fan fantasies and their telepathic talent.

  12. You seriously believe that Pujols has never touched PEDs? Seriously?

  13. Anonymous – If comment 13 was meant for me, I’d say read my prior comment again.

    At no point did I suggest a belief that the Cardinals were 100 percent clear of PEDS.

    My very point was Cards fans couldn’t be mad at Boston for cheating because there’s a chance there were Cardinal players on PEDs too.

  14. To me the topic of PED’s is like a dog chasing it’s tail. The answer in itself will never be found out. Some players will get caught using, and some will use and never get caught. Just because an athlete hasnt tested positive doesnt mean their not using. That’s the problem I have with this issue, there will never be a fool proof method of detecting who is on the juice and who isnt. The reason Marion Jones, Barry Bonds and anybody associated with Balco got away with using for so long. They didnt have a test to detect what they were putting in their bodies. Only after someone turned in a syringe with the unknown substance did a test become available to catch users. The cat and mouse game will continue to be played from now until. Just let them use at their own risk, thats what America is all about. If its harmful then your doing it to yourself and not harming anybody else.

    I do find this ironic that the governor of California is a known steroid user , but nobody thinks any less of him. So it cant be all that bad, look what it did for him.

  15. I’m firmly with Travis on this, if ethics are taken out of the equation, sports loses a lot of its fascination. Doping does a disservice to what I think should be healthy and honest competition. Not to mention athletes having all kinds of problems of side effects later in life like changes to their body (the infamous man boobs with male bodybuilders for example), organ damage etc. I know that people cheat in all areas of human interaction and sports won’t ever be perfect in this regard as well. But if you open the floodgates and just allow everything, the sport will turn into a charicature of itself.

    Granted, basketball is predicated on talent and skill to a great degree and therefore not as easy to manipulate than purely strength- or endurance-based sports. But PEDs can/would help in most areas needed in basketball – speed, endurance, strength, recovery, jumping ability. And not all drugs turn you into a bruiser. Theoretically, even a guy like Tayshaun Prince with his physique could be using PEDs. Keeping strength while getting lighter could be a useful goal for basketball players as it would improve speed and decrease the pounding the joints take. Just compare a Usain Bolt to a Linford Christie, there’s a clear trend in the sprinting events of track and field as well to get lighter, and illegal (and potentially harmful) weight loss drugs are said to be playing a prominent part.

    One important distinction in the Lewis case: he was found to have high testosterone levels, the claim that it resulted from taking an over the counter supplement came out of Lewis’s camp. So it could very well be caused by something much more severe. I hope that it was just a dumb mistake, but this is the classic strategy when caught, admit the smallest possible offense.

  16. Guys,

    PED’s are plainly not good for you. They increase the chance for prostate cancer and many other ailments that could lead to death. Letting athletes use this would be disastorous in the sense that not only would professional athletes be aloud to use these harmful substances daily, but then children who play athletics would be pressured to use them and that will lead to unhealthy futures and in the case of steroids, stunted growth. And I don’t think athletes want to be any shorter. So in my opinion steriods and other PED’s should continue to be banned.

  17. One of my in-laws is a drug tester, and a lot of our family and friends are runners, cyclists, and sports doctors. I suggested to basically the whole Christmas dinner table that the solution was legalization. My point was that it levels the playing field, possibly even reducing the advantages of genetic freaks (I believe that I used Santiago Botero, a Colombian cyclist with naturally elevated levels of testosterone, as my example) over the field. As I saw it, with PEDs illegal, track and cycling events would always be won by cheaters. Furthermore, I suggested that the financial incentives were in place to ensure that some enterprising chemist would be able to find a way to thwart testing (remember that “the clear” wasn’t ever found out by testers–a whistleblower provided a sample). This wasn’t a popular view.
    I assumed the resistance to my ideas was based on denial, and I may have been right. But the cycling world has pointed the way to a possible solution: profiling. A couple teams (like Columbia/High Road) constantly test their athletes, looking for changes in their blood chemistry. This allows them to catch the secondary effects of PEDs, rather than trying to detect the PED itself. Unfortunately, this won’t represent proof-positive, so much still needs to be done. And I, for one, don’t believe that a Tour de France has been won by a non-doper in my lifetime. Still, it makes a huge difference if the players are either all clean or all doping.
    I’m just not sure it matters nearly as much in sports like baseball and basketball. In track and cycling, the entire competition is based on fitness (OK, and some technique). But in other sports, there are fundamental skill sets not entirely dependent on athleticism. Look at the fat slobs in baseball, for goodness sake. So, I guess I find it less of a big deal.

  18. My issue isn’t with banned substances. My issue is with substances that the FDA has cleared for sale without a prescription. If there is a problem with these substances, then we should be going after the FDA, not the athletes.

    P.S. Many European countries are much more strict about what their citizens are allowed to put in their bodies. I do think our country does a generally poor job of this, due to the influence of large companies that make money off these drugs.

  19. “I do find this ironic that the governor of California is a known steroid user , but nobody thinks any less of him. So it cant be all that bad, look what it did for him.”

    The Arnold example is a good one, but it does not prove the point you want it to. It has to do with what kind of competition you’re involved in, both in terms of actual rules and shared fan perception. Body building, the WWE, these kinds of sports up until relatively recently had very little rigorous drug testing and there was an understanding that nearly everyone was juicing, and fans were in on it (the fan connection is really the key). It’s even well documented that pro football players on the champion 70s steelers teams were roiding it up. These are gladiator sports that place a high premium on muscle, and more importantly without a strict substance use policy (with serious penalties) in place they welcomed use and abuse — and fans knew about it, explicitly.

    In the case of all 4 of the major pro leagues, substance abuse policies were collectively bargained for (the NFL was in the mid 80s, MLB not until 03) and along with guaranteed contract parameters, retiree insurance, health insurance, player conduct policies, whatever else, they cost the other party something in return.

    The owners want testing in place because, unlike the minority of fans, most people don’t like the idea of allowing unregulated use of PED’s in sport. The reasons are legion: players giving kids the message that roiding is just part of competition; experimenting with cutting edge supplements whose long term effects can’t have yet been properly vetted; even taking things with known high risk factors (which some guys competing for the 15th roster spot WILL take even if it dramatically increases the risk of stopping your heart); I can go on for another page if you want.

    Ask yourself why owners care about this stuff. The bottom line is, as usual, money. Money comes from ad revenue, jersey sales, filling seats — the vast majority of Americans don’t want unfettered PED’s in sport, because if they did then we’d still be back in the laissez faire 80s. Note that success also brings in money (home playoff games, for example), so even if we assume players running faster and longer will translate to team success, this has been delicately balanced against lost revenue from other sources.

    It could be for any combination of the above reasons (all of which hold water), or maybe something as naive as placing a high value on keeping sport clean for nostalgic reasons (an argument I don’t think makes any sense when you consider that every previous generation has had some kind of asterisk in play, from coke to meth to “for whites only”).

    But if you think this is just about some sort of anachronistic paternalism either of journalists or owners, then I applaud you for being able to fit your Kobe jersey over your tin foil hat.

    Fan preferences are not perfectly exogenous, and the media can shape them to an extent — but there are lots of reasons to want to control what supplements athletes can use in competition, not just paternalism. And it’s hard to believe that they’re all invalid just because we think it’d be cool to see kobe jump a little higher.

  20. Nothing is good for you if you abuse it. Eating McDonalds every day can cause a heart attack, high blood pressure and other fatal illnesses. So now I guess we should close all fast food businesses to save people from themselves. The point Im trying to make is you cant police legal adult(18) decisions. If an adult decides to abuse or use any substance that might have a negative outcome, then they are the ones who have to answer for it at the end, not me, you or your next door neighbor.

  21. Wow did not mean to submit that without cutting it down. My bad on that, read it if you feel like it, here’s a quick summary:

    -Testing is in place because owners want it because fans want it. Owners want money, and more people tune in/go to the game/buy the jersey when they believe the sport is clean.

    -The reasons why fans want testing regimes is complex, but not all of them are as naive as “back in my day etc. etc.” or “kids are dumb and need better role models.” Some of this stuff people are using is very advanced, possibly high risk.

    -It’s a straw man argument that PED use is always an informed (lol), rational choice made by the user.

    -Testing regimes can’t test for everything, true, but it does not follow that we should stop testing and allow a free for all.

  22. drrayeye,

    Funny, I thought it was clear that I was fantasizing. But, before we move on, I wanted to point out the SacTownRoyalty win chart you linked. I think that it provides evidence supporting an episodic reading of winning averages and regression. If you look at the Kobe-Shaq era, 1996-2004, the Lakers teams regressed towards a 70% winning average–57 wins per season. In 1999, a “down season”, the Lakers won only 62% of games (during the asterisk* lock-out season). If we were to take that season and assume a regression towards 50% win percentage, we’d be making a silly assumption: that statistical trends operating on a macro-level apply situationally. Even casual fan recognize the temporal nature of teams’ success. When we say the “Lakers” are great, generally we’re speaking about the current team. We also recognize the Showtime Lakers, Kobe-Shaq, and, for some, the teams of Wilt, Baylor, and West. Fans recognize those teams as anything but average, and to suggest that during the golden age of each of those teams, they’re magically regressing towards a 41/41 record or 62% win average (the Lakers historic winning average) or any other Hollinger draw-a-readership device is simply misguided.

    The fact is that this team has the potential to win 65 every season during this Laker era. LeBron’s Cavs have a spectacular chance of hitting 65 wins and its not the job of a simplistic statistical model to tell you that that it is unrealistic. How about this: we control winning trends for average team age, roster continuity, qualitative measurements of chemistry, positional PER, team PER, median opposing team strength, etc. etc. etc. I want a lot more evidence before I buy into this particular statistical argument. You know what I mean?

    I think that looking at very objective factors like strength and variables of schedule, team match-ups, player acquisitions, and soft factors like team focus and chemistry is a very fair way of assessing possibilities for team success. Zephid did all of that. Sure it’s subjective, but it’s probably closer to the truth than the current “regression” models.

    —-

    On the OP:

    Personally, I think that the whole obsession with PEDs is part fetishism. I’ve never heard a talking-head go out and blast training staffs for administering strong pain relievers (a.k.a drugs) to hurt players. These doped up players are worshipped for their heroics (and they should be).

    Players are sacrificing their bodies and for contracts. As someone said earlier, how can we blame them?

  23. “The point Im trying to make is you cant police legal adult(18) decisions. If an adult decides to abuse or use any substance that might have a negative outcome, then they are the ones who have to answer for it at the end, not me, you or your next door neighbor.”

    Actually, we can and we do. All the time. And often it has nothing to do with third party harm. (Motorcycle helmet laws are a typical example)

    It is also naive to think that rampant, explicit PED use would not have an effect on third party behavior. You don’t have to believe “athletes are role models” for this to be true. It would send a very strong message to junior high school players if MLB dropped its substance abuse policy and said “police yourselves, just make sure you google Andro before you use it.” We already don’t trust kids to be able to decide if they can consent to sex, use cigarettes, or drink alcohol.

  24. Mcdonald’s is not illegal sir

  25. Steroids are not just about bulking up (although you have to wonder what’s going on in the NBA when even point guards have deltoid muscles the size of bowling balls).

    I’m a doctor, and I know first hand about a doctor who supplies anabolic steroids etc. to dancers from nationally troups when they come through our city. The main reason is injury recovery. Unlike athletes, dancers will continue to perform with injuries, and steroids “turn off” some of the body’s response to injury.

  26. there seems to be this misconception that steroids aids only in strength and bulk. the truth is that steroids aids in increased strength as well as speed, quickness and recovery. steroids would help out a basketball player just as much as a football player. it also allows for increased stamina. nevertheless dhea doesn’t seem to be a good route if you really want to cheat. rashard probably made an honest mistake.

  27. Kareem,
    “I’ve never heard a talking-head go out and blast training staffs for administering strong pain relievers (a.k.a drugs) to hurt players. These doped up players are worshipped for their heroics (and they should be). ”

    You haven’t? I have heard that a number of times, particularly in regards to football players.

  28. dreye, are you seriously saying that using a regression model for the history of the lakers franchise and other nba teams is valid for predicting future records? this is obviously invalid because the situation and teams are different year to year. the past winning percentage has nothing, I repeat nothing to do with the future. for a simplified example it would be like using a regression model for flipping coins. one flip has no bearing on the next. if you get 100 heads in a row, you can’t use a regression model that says this series of flipping coins should revert to its 50/50 mean, thus tails become more likely on subsequent flips. the coin has no memory. the odds will always be 50/50. just like the winning percentage of this next lakers team has no relevance on the kobe/shaq era or on the showtime lakers. it is a different flip. this teams winning percentage will be based on current circumstances. a subjective prediction is much more reliable than your statistical model.

  29. “Body building, the WWE, these kinds of sports up until relatively recently had very little rigorous drug testing and there was an understanding that nearly everyone was juicing, and fans were in on it (the fan connection is really the key).”

    I think all fans in any sport(baseball,football,basketball) has to be blind not to see the oversized arms and thick neck athletes and not wonder. It didnt take a positive test for me to see that out of shaped baseball players suddenly turned into calender models. Or I see football players crashing into each with the force of a car accident, and wonder how they get out of bed the next day. All sports are beginning to have the same feel as WWE, and bodybuilding in a way that everybody is under suspicion. The fans are really skeptical of who is clean and who is not. So that does put us fans in on it, in a blindsided way.

  30. (23)Thanks, Kareem,

    We’re making progress.

    Before we dismiss the admittedly simplistic one year regression prediction, let’s consider that it would have the Lakers, Boston, Cleveland, and Orlando more neck to neck than last year in terms of w/L–especially with 90% confidence limits of about +/- 3 games. If regression has the Lakers at 57, the Cavaliers would be 57+, the Celts and Magic about 54–virtually a projected four way draw among those four teams.

    If we look at the Sactown data, it certainly is reasonable to suppose that the Lakers have cycled higher and dropped less than most of the other teams in the NBA over the past 24 years. If one carries out a nonlinear regression analysis based on such a team cycle assumption, then made some sort of rolling average forecast, the predicted wins for the Lakers would be closer to 65 games, and the other teams would drop back–except possibly San Antonio in the Western Conference.

    Where our subjective and objective approaches are irreconcileable are with the so called “objective factors” and “soft factors” that you would like to use to tweak predictions.

    I wouldn’t even consider making an adjustment beyond a regression analysis until the teams start playing during the season. I could then imagine various contingencies that would lead to predictive adjustments as the season unfolds–much like the Hollinger approach. Although I like the Lakers team for next year very much and am very hopeful, I’d like to see those hopes translated to victories next year before I do any subjective speculation–even if you and Zephid have arrived there way ahead of me.

  31. One of the arguments against allowing unfettered use of PEDs is that unlimited drug use will ‘force’ players who don’t want to use them to do so. If you know that your income/contract are dependant upon your performance and other players are using PED’s then either you’re going to perform worse than they are, and have a commesurately lower salary, or you’ll be ‘forced’ into using PED’s yourself to keep up; even if you really don’t want to take them for future health reasons. You can bet that a number of the players, in all sports, who’ve used PED’s have done so strictly to keep up with other who use.

    Banning PED’s helps keep the playing field level, but in reality also gives the most players the ability to perform without having to do things they don’ want to. There is a good argument that people have made that Barry Bonds only started using PED’s because he felt he had to keep up with McGuire and Sosa (after their record-breaking and record attention getting homerun duel).

    I’m sympathetic to the libertarianish argument about letting people put into their bodies (or do whatever) they want as long as it doesn’t effect others. But, as I hope I’ve described above, unregulated drug use in sports does in fact effect others because if forces, against their will, other players to either use drugs they don’t want to use, or suffer salary loss due to lower performance compared to their drug using counterparts.

  32. I wish that people would stop using the helmet law for motorcyclists as an example of only hurting yourself. That is demonstrably not the case. If hospitals would let motorcyclists without helmets die, without any treatment, then we would be talking about only hurting yourself. However, we do operate on these people – at considerable cost to the rest of us, because head injury is extremely expensive – whether they have insurance or not.

    The helmet law benefits all of us – not just the motorcycle rider.

  33. This ongoing moderation is killing this site. By the time my comment is listed there are 15-20 more added.

  34. I think it is important to note that steroids, especially those that cause elevated testosterone levels, do more than make it easier to gain muscle, absorb impact. They make you faster, and increase your aerobic base, which means you get tired at a slower rate than a “normal” person. It is possible to achieve these results with old-fashioned hard work, but where do you go when you are a professional athlete, have reached your physical “max” or “peak” (which varies from person to person) and it is still not where you want to be? This is the conundrum. What do you do when you are doing the best you can possibly do, and it isn’t good enough? The more intense the competition, the higher the temptation there is to use illegal substances.

    They are illegal for a reason. Not only are they unsafe to the person using, but they also cause increased levels of adrenaline (which is known to reduce pain, response time, mental clarity, and ability to perform under pressure) but also cause fits of anger in certain people. When do you stop being a rational person, and start losing control? It is dangerous for others playing in a sport already dangerous due to the amount of contact. When do runners jump into the air and and land on the feet of their opponents? Rarely do baseball players make contact with anything other than the ball, and they wear protective clothing in football. Soccer is played on a grass field, not hardwood flooring.

    Personally, I am glad that basketball does not have a reputation for their athletes using illegal substances. I want to see pure competition, athletes built on their talent and hard work.

    When to say when? That depends on the person. Not everyone is capable of performing under that level of scrutiny. They have such a tremendous amount of pressure on them to perform at such an elite level, who is to blame them for searching for something to give them an edge? Fans can say its wrong, but who are we to judge, when we don’t have an entire fan base cheering us when we do well, and boo-ing us when we miss the game winning shot?

  35. (31)Kaveh,

    It’s not “my” statistical model. It is well established and widely used.

    You need to go to Sactown Royalty and Blazer’s Edge for more background and real data. Regression toward the mean is known to be a very powerful predictor of season to season performance in the NBA. There is also strong evidence that teams go through longer term multiyear cycles.

    The first concept is easy to apply from the expansion of the binomial. The second concept is more difficult, since the relationship is neither linear nor completely regular, but, as Kareem suggested, those trends are a very solid and objective empirical basis for a forecast to modify the “regression to the mean” projection upwards–but not above 65.

    The predictions are not based on the binomial alone in isolation, but the proven association between the binomial expansion and actual w/l percentages in the NBA over the years. One can both make predictions and calculate confidence limits.

  36. PeanutButterSpread August 8, 2009 at 12:14 am

    I’m pretty sure the Yankee fans want that 2004 championship back from the Red Sox after the steroid reports of Manny and Ortiz came out.

  37. Edited for political circumstances

    As others have pointed out before , a level playing field is very important in sports. Systematic doping, like it was done and is still done in cycling, is a direct result of the percentage of riders doing it increasing gradually over the years until one either had to do it as well or just couldn’t compete.

    Again, in basketball doping does not have as direct an effect as in cycling for example. But it does improve all the necessary conditions for athletes to compete on the highest level.

    Motivation for using PEDs could be internal like wanting to cheat and seeing a risk to one’s health as a necessary evil. But we would also have to look at external factors, like whether an 82 game regular season really makes sense. It does put a lot of pressure on NBA players’ bodies, especially as their opponents get stronger and faster as well.

    The lesson from all the sports clearly infested by doping are that the use of PEDs is inherent in the system. Meaning that the way the competition is set up requires for almost superhuman feats; you have to keep up with other athletes who could be trying to get an unfair advantage; and the media but also the fans are yearning for heroic stories and glamor without caring about how such feats are achieved. Then you have a system that can lead an athlete to use PEDs, even those who really didn’t want to.

  38. Edited for political concerns

    It seems to me that most of our anti-drug laws are created in a reactionary fashion, without much thought or wisdom.
    Thus the quandary we’re in.

    Which produces more long term damage:
    the athlete that drains a knee and gets shot up with cortisone repeatedly so he can play when his body is obviously telling him not to,
    or one using steroids or HGH with a doctor’s supervision to improve his overall performance (assuming laws were changed to allow this)?
    Because of our indoctrination, the first is seen as macho, while the second is a “cheater”.
    Curious.

  39. Good call to eliminate politics. No sports fan comes to a sports blog to hear about someone else’s politics (or religion).

    And if anyone starts blathering on about their abusive fathers, feel free to clip them, too.

  40. What is a PED? Is it inherently an illegal drug, or is it anything that might help performance? Is it something that helps you recover from injury faster so you can do what you were able to do before the injury?

    We really have to spell out what we mean when we make a comment.

    I contend that anything that has been around some time, is legal, and does not require a prescription should not be considered a banned substance. If it has some use in society and is not regulated by the government, then we shouldn’t be talking about it. If anyone has a problem with this, then they should work to get that drug/ingredient declared illegal or placed on a prescription list.

    Things that are brand new should be reviewed before they become legal. Things that has bad side effects should only be available by prescription.

  41. To P Ami, I read your last post and understand your point. However, I have deleted the entire conversation between yourself and I because I feel it is traveling down a road that I do not wish to traverse.

    I agree with you on almost all of your views, I just don’t agree with the way you express them, and I see how such expressions can be unavoidable if we continue pursuing that train of thought.

    I think there’s plenty to talk about without broaching the subject of whether it is morally correct to moderate the actions of other humans. I hope you understand my apprehension.

  42. Not Charlie Rosen August 8, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    One thought that occurs to me, while reading through all these posts (love the level of discourse, here, btw, have only seen one or two other sites in my life where we could have a conversation like this)…

    One of the fundamental assumptions of competition is that there is a “level playing field”, and the victor is determined based on effort and skill, instead of advantages available to some but not all. That’s why we get so happy when “our guys” win…it’s not because there’s some advantage that the Lakers have that other teams don’t, it’s that–anytime, anywhere, against anyone–we can lace them up, and our effort and skill will prove to be better.

    That, to me, is the main reason I cheer, and am a Kobe fan instead of a V.Carter or TMac fan…they play on the same court, with the same height hoops and the same balls, but my guy works harder to get better and gives more of himself on the court. Winning is ultimately a by-product, an artificial measuring-stick to see who cares more and gives more of himself to his craft, which is ultimately what we care most about…the trophies and rings and stats are just things, markers used to assess the more fundamental aspects that excite and move us.

    And that’s why PED’s don’t sit well with me: setting aside all questions of possible negative physical impacts, and the affect on kids looking to their role models, and legality, the biggest issue is that it creates a second, separate playing field which fundamentally cannot be leveled. You just can’t trust that victory vs. defeat is determined only by who works harder and is more skilled…and that seriously dilutes how much of myself I can invest in caring.

    It’s a question of trust, ultimately: if I can’t trust how results were achieved, then I don’t care as much about those results anymore.

  43. I understand you apprehension and respect it.

    2 things.

    I am really interested in how my “style” is disagreeable seeing that the substance is, in my opinion, valuable. If you wouldn’t mind providing an analysis of this I would genuinely appreciate any assistance your assessment might provide. Beautiful friendships have started on shorter airstrips.

    Anybody else who wants to be helpful is welcome to write as well.

    pidyon.ami@mac.com

    Second, seeing that this topic will continue, and comments like #41 will inevitably be made (it is inevitable that folk will discuss how to improve oversight), removing the points I am trying to make concedes the ground to the view that such controls are “moral” (as you put it), or consistent with liberty (as I would put it). Something for you to consider.

    I am sorry if my style offended anybody and hope you might consider how reasonable taking offense to such things really is. There was certainly nothing hateful expressed by this commentator.

  44. After reading the article on why DHEA is still legal, I do realize that politics plays a part in how the drug companies do business, but I still stand by my statement that anything legal and available over-the-counter without a prescription should not be banned by sports.

    In the US we have to put up with some of the folly of our political system, but all political systems in the world have some shortcomings so I feel we just have to live with ours until we are able to make changes.

  45. Steroids are only a cause for concern in which numbers matter. Sports in which times are kept or stats matter.

    Track and field, swimming,weightlifting, etc. Of course baseball has it’s sacred stats and bench mark numbers in which a player “makes” the Hall of Fame.

    Even if steroids were rampant in basketball, it wouldn’t matter. Just like it doesn’t matter in the NFL (Shawn Merriman…). Players aren’t judged on stats alone like they are in those sports.

    Stats are the only reason steroids are a big deal. That is why I am against the overuse or misuse of stats. It cheapens the game.

  46. One can argue that PEDs can help level the playing field.

    Take the argument Not Charlie Rosen made as regards Kobe vs VC. Not everybody is born with the metabolism to work as hard as Kobe. Some of us would literally go insane with only 3-4 hours of sleep a night. Most of us have ligaments that take longer to heal then Kobe does. So, at least on this level, the playing field is skewed towards a metabolic freak like Kobe. Suppose you could take a pill that increased focus, maximized REM, helped your joints remain supple in spite of all the wear and tear, etc… You get my point, one can argue it’s not fair that Kobe has the personality that Kobe has while most of the rest of us, how shall I put it, have peripheral interests.

    As much as a level playing field is a nice concept, it seems to me we aren’t measuring how an individual or team performs on a general level playing field. We are interesting in seeing how, when the rules of the game are applied, the individual or team is not level with playing field. We enjoy the drama expressed by competing combination of natural ability with dedicated honing to achieve stratification. If you want to level the playing field you’re going to have to give Kobe a lobotomy and take the cushions off PJ’s chair.

  47. yaaawwwnnnnn
    when does the pre-season start?

    well, at least we have 2 good LA baseball teams, and we can root for a possible LA World Series?
    (then we can restart that
    world Champions” conversation…)

    yaaawwwnnnnnn……

  48. I personally believe Lewis did not take the illegal substance with the intention to “cheat.” Besides, it’s not as if Rashard Lewis is built like Dwight Howard, in which case, his intents may be more validly questioned.

    At the same time, I believe any and all substances that could speed recovery and doesn’t include performance enhancing affects (if there are any), should be allowed.

    Players sitting out for shorter periods of time due to injuries is good for competition, for the league, and for us, the fans.

  49. Athletes that prepare for the Olympics, in order to bypass drug testing, sometimes even take(syringe) their own blood as supplements to increase oxygen levels in their blood, and there are also rumors that some purposely get pregnant and have abortions because some of the changes due to pregnancy actually enhance their capacity.

    The former doesn’t sound all that bad, but the latter, even if you are pro-choice, comes off rather inhumane, and that’s where things are going to head if you don’t draw a hard and clear line on performance enhancing.

  50. Yeah, level playing field is a must!!

    Thank goodness the officials call everything equally! Can you imagine what it would be like if they didn’t?

  51. Did anybody answer the question as to what a PED is? I am the other person that does not know what you mean by those three letters.

    Anyway, if a player can recover from an injury quicker, I think whatever they can use to do that, should be allowed and done. I mean, if Bynum injures a knee for the third year in a row, I want him back As Soon As Possible (ASAP) for the back-to-back Championship win in 2010.

  52. sT: ped= Performance Enhancing Drug

  53. @sT 52 – Performance Enhancing Drugs

    In other news, it looks like Rambis is officially out-

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=4386466

  54. The level playing field argument is absurd for a number of reasons, some of which are discussed above. Nothing is equal or level in this world.

    I was also amused at the comments of those who are so sure that PEDs are not good for you, because, you know, they heard it on ESPN (i.e., no evidence necessary).

    Also, for those making the legal/illegal argument, keep in mind that the status of substances is subject to change at any time based on who has more lobbying power in D.C. Do these same people actually believe that legal substances like those advertised on TV accompanied by a laundry list of potential adverse effects are super great and safe for you? Seriously?

  55. We need a Rambis thread. Who is the future Lakers coach post PJ?

  56. Tviper–

    Oh come on, many people who care about this don’t just post what they cut/paste from google.

    People used to think anabolic steroids were not just “ok,” but a really good idea. People took steroids, time passed, now we know more about what those steroids do to you, and it’s some disgusting stuff. Now nobody takes the kinds of steroids people took in the 70s, we just stick that in horses.

    Your counter is probably that modern PEDs don’t have bad side effects. Actually we already know that many of them do have pretty bad side effects, so that would be totally wrong, but you can google HGH or Andro or Boli or whatever if you want to learn them for yourself.

    More importantly, what we know is dwarfed by what we don’t know because we haven’t seen their effects over a long enough period of time on human beings, both in “safe” and “unsafe” dosage or use patterns/methods.

    Copious facial hair on women, Man boobs (not from McDonalds), shrunk testicles, infertility and impotence (we could stop here and this would be a deal breaker for most people), stunted growth, atrocious backne (Mike Piazza?), enlarged hearts (and I don’t mean being generous), statistically significant contribution to certain cancer risks (but you’re going to die to cancer anyways, so why not right?), roid rage/violent mood swings, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria (ok this last one is from ghostbusters).

    That’s literally off the top of my head in the last minute, of stuff that has been linked to junk people used less than a quarter century ago, I’m sure I missed 50 more.

    Can you guess how much of this stuff they knew for sure was bad back when the eastern bloc “womens'” gymnastic teams were roiding it up in the 60/70s? Basically none of it until they had to start grooming their goatees.

    Anyways, people who love PED’s that’s ok, people who hate PED’s that’s ok too. I can’t convince you, you definitely can’t convince me, at least not here. But read a book about it, read a medical journal article, read something that’s not from wikipedia.

    We’re better than that, we root for the Lakers.

  57. “We need a Rambis thread. Who is the future Lakers coach post PJ?”

    I guess Brian Shaw is the last man standing?

    I think Rambis did a decent job, sad to see him go. Has Shaw actually coached a game yet? THIS is wikipediable.

  58. According to wikipedia, Shaw has been a scout and an assistant (the latter it looks like for 5 years). I’m sure Phil will miss a game or two this year and we can see if Shaw can handle the grizzlies or thunder on the road (not a tough game like Charlotte).

    Color me underwhelmed, but here’s to hoping Phil lives forever. Someone donate another hip to this guy!

  59. dang! I’m gonna miss ol’ Superman, Clark Kent.
    loved those Rambis Youth!
    it’s sweet that he took the “fired” Kevin mcHales spot!

  60. Wow this is awful. I can see why Kurt ran away on vacation. It’s understandably difficult to keep people on track with basketball (on, shockingly, a basketball blog) when there’s no basketball being played.

    Sad to see Rambis go. I’m not sold on how successful he’ll be, but he definitely deserved 1st shot after Phil, and I think he has as much chance to be successful as any new head coach in the league, likely more. He could have ended up being a great successor who kept the triangle in LA.

    Chris h – lol that’s a great point, I didn’t think of that – Rambis taking over for the ousted McHale. Belated, yet very sweet revenge.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7r6vXeOfyQ

  61. ESPN has a poll out in which 66% of the repondents don’t think “PED are a serious concern to the NBA'”.

    Really?

    What if KG had tested positive for the same thing as Lewis? Or if Pierce tested positive for DHEA (whatever that is) after he miraculously recovered from that leg (?) injury.

    To me this just short-sightedness or naivety. And no, I would not want that discussion to be dominate NBA chats and talks like it does MLB.

  62. I’m not particularly bothered by Lewis’ positive test; nor do I think I would’ve been had ORL won. Did he gain some advantage? Of course, he wouldn’t have taken it otherwise. But I don’t think it made him the player he has been. I also have to give him the benefit of the doubt and allow for the good possibility that he really did think he was taking a legal substance to help him recover from injury or whatever.

    I think there’s a difference with PED use in basketball. In an Olympic sport where the difference between gold and 5th place may be <1sec, PEDs are the difference maker. In baseball, Sosa and Ortiz were monsters on roids and mediocrities when clean. If PEDs could turn Odom into a scoring machine like Lebron, we’d have a real problem. But that isn’t the case. Lebron is a freak of nature, not Pfizer, the proof of which being there is only one Lebron. If PEDs are being widely used in the NBA, I think the effect has been to improve the overall level of play without perniciously distorting the relative skills, rankings, and records of players and teams.

    Does this mean the NBA should turn a blind eye or just legalize PEDs? No. I think they still have to do the best they can to prevent use of the more dangerous steroids and maybe take an agnostic view on things like HGH. One of the reasons we love sport is that it is one area in life that comes as close to a pure meritocracy as we have. Rampant drug use — even if all it does is keep the playing field level b/c “everybody does it” — will necessarily degrade the value of sport and our enjoyment of it.

  63. I think it’s a good thing for Rambis to get a couple of years as a head coach before taking over as the Lakers coach

  64. For Rambis, this is a great opportunity. He will have lots of good young talent and a 4 year deal that will at least give him 2-3+ years to try to make it work. Plus, there isn’t the instant win-now pressure of having to replace the greatest coach of all time. This is a nice step for him to take and if he does well and we need a head coach in a few years…well maybe he comes back with some head coaching credibility that is a must for LA.

  65. Maybe we will get a Post for talking about the coaching situation in LA. Would it be best to promote from within or bring in somebody from the outside after PJ retires, probably after next year. Do you just eliminate the triangle offense or keep it. Lot’s of questions and issues here for that. Rambis will do fine, I think over there with the Tmberwolves and their young core of players.

  66. the other Stephen August 9, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Haven’t gotten to read your post till now, zephid. I’ve been travelling in Italy (it’s hard to believe Kobe lived here). I really liked your post!

  67. very hard to believe the intro actually coming true.. very very hard.. just imagine how much the the Haters would criticize the lakers now (especially odom)

  68. I think doping is the bigger challenge for sports all over the world.Every sports person should be aware of that.