Monday, October 15, 2012

Goodnight, Sweet Prince.

The Diss can now be found here.  Please update your bookmarks and RSS feeds.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Your Annotated Smartphone Bathroom Reader for Sunday, October 14, 2012.

Warriors' Biedrins fights to get confidence, mental toughness back
Chris Ballard
Sports Illustrated

Three years ago Andris Biedrins was on the verge of becoming a top-5 center, and then something happened. What happened? Nobody has any damn clue. Many well-respected publications have explored the topic, but one voice has been noticeably silent: Andris Biedrins'. Chris Ballard talks to Biedrins at length about his problems, showing Biedrins to be a calm, quiet and gentle man that belies his 7'0" frame. Like the rest of us, Biedrins doesn't know what happened, but he does reveal that he is getting support from the unlikeliest of life coaches: Al Jefferson.

Coming out in the NBA
Kevin Arnovitz

When it comes to well-known gay NBA personalities, the list stops at three: Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts, former player John Amaeichi and journalist Kevin Arnovitz. On National Coming Out Day Arnovitz explores why no active NBA player has ever come out as gay, and reveals that the answer isn't so simple as "it will make other guys in the locker room feel uncomfortable". Arnovitz does a wonderful job of speaking from a place of experience without asserting that his homosexuality makes him an expert on the issue.

Player Capsule (Plus): Bloomsday with Derrick Rose
Aaron McGuire
Gothic Ginobli

For his summer project (that will continue through December), Aaron McGuire is writing a short capsule of every single NBA player. Every once in awhile he writes an extended Capsule, like he has done here for Derrick Rose. In a drawn out, but somehow perfectly apt analogy, McGuire examines Rose and James Joyce (yes, that James Joyce) and how they are both defined by, and in turn define, the cities of their respective berths. The capsule plus serves to humanize Rose and wish to see him dominate on the court once again.

How far should the Bobcats take small ball lineups?
Ben Swanson
Rufus on Fire

To be honest, I haven't really paid attention to the Bobcats in about two years, and certainly not this preseason. They did suck, they do suck, and they're going to continue to suck. But at least they have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Ben Swanson brings up something I hadn't really thought of (because I don't really think about the Bobcats): why not attempt to run a small-ball offense? They're not going to succeed by being conventional, so why not try something different by running Kidd-Gilchrist at the four, Biyombo at the five and a combination of guards at the one through three? I doubt it'll work, because the Bobcats still have below average players, but it'll certainly be interesting.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Diss Guys Miss Guys, Volume 14

Diss Guy: Brandon Roy

His story is well known at this point: the former franchise player for the Portland Trailblazers, who has dealt with debilitating knee issues for the better part of three seasons, has returned to the court for the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Man, is it good to see him back out there.  All things considered, he looks like B-Roy; his handle is tight, his legs are moving, he's finding teammates and hitting shots from deep.  What's more: his preseason numbers are nice.  He had 13 and 4 in his preseason debut on Wednesday, and went 2 for 3 from the field in eight limited minutes on Friday. I predict a healthy season for B-Roy, and perhaps a sneaky "Most Improved" award. Watch out for the Wolves, friends.

Miss Guy: Howard Lincoln

Let it be known: The Diss wants the Kings to stay in Sacramento.  We do.  Many of us here are Northern California natives, and we would be very disappointed to see one of our own hit the road.  That said: should the Kings move, we hope they go to Seattle, where hedge fund manager Chris Hansen has just about put the finishing touches on his masterful(ly expensive) arena plan which will lure the NBA back to the Pacific Northwest.  But Howard Lincoln, CEO of the Seattle Mariners, wants no part of this basketball revival -- at least not near Safeco Field, where his moribund team plays.  Lincoln and the Mariners have been outspoken critics of the arena proposal since the very start, and have incurred some negative PR as a result.  Art Thiel of Crosscut sat down with Lincoln, who used the interview as an opportunity to clarify his criticisms about the potential return of the Sonics.  Lincoln is simply worried about getting fans to Mariners games, and the congestion that a new arena would assumedly bring.  Given how crappy attendance was at Mariners games this year, I'd say that Lincoln should worry more about improving the in-house baseball product, and worry less about the basketball team that has yet to arrive.

But keep the Kings in Sacto.  First and foremost.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Really, How Good is Russell Westbrook?

At the Blogs With Balls conference that I attended last weekend, advanced analytics frequently came up, and was the topic of an entire panel. As a proponent for and user of “beyond the boxscore” metrics to evaluate basketball players, I needed no convincing, but a panelist on a hockey panel brought up something I thought was very interesting. He asserted that, while there were certainly sportswriters with their hands over their eyes refusing to understand new ways of assessing players, advanced statistics proponents were equally guilty of arrogantly writing as if they knew everything and everybody else was stupid.

Yesterday on HoopSpeak Live, in relation to a conversation about what the Thunder should do with James Harden, a debate broke out regarding Russell Westbrook’s true value. I won’t get into the full back-and-forth, but suffice to say that opinions on Russell’s ability ranged from “top 7” to “average”. I found myself guilty of what the hockey panelist had asserted, as I jumped into the debate armed only with a couple numbers and the assurance that I was right.

Jared Dubin, of Hardwood Paroxysm, objected to the structure of the debate, asking why we boil players abilities down to a single, all-encompassing number, instead of looking at those in context alongside other important metrics like Points per Possession, plus/minus, per-36 minute averages and so on. In an ideal world, we would have a model that perfectly encapsulates a players exact value, but absent that, Dubin has an important point. No one number should be taken as gospel.

There has been a lot of ink spilt arguing which all-encompassing metric is best. I’m not going to wade too deeply into that, especially because I will soon find myself drowning in the deep end of something I don’t understand, except to say that I am not an uninterested party. The three most widely used all-encompassing metrics, to my knowledge, are Wins Produced (Wages of Wins), Win Shares (Basketball Reference) and PER (John Hollinger, ESPN). Everything I have read leads me to believe that PER is a relatively worthless measure of a players’ ability, and Wins Produced is the best measure (that we currently have). I’ve also had a few posts up on the Wages of Wins blog. I’m not in any way a Wages of Wins acolyte, but I do believe they are doing good statistical work.

With that out of the way, let’s look at Russell Westbrook. I will do my best to evaluate his 2011-12 season holistically and attempt to determine where, right now, he ranks compared to other NBA players.

Sniff Test

There is no doubt that Westbrook is a very talented player. As a point guard he led the league’s second most efficient offense, showcasing his ability to attack the basket, shoot, pass and rebound at elite levels. On defense, he has the quickness to stay with the smaller point guards and the strength to stand up to bigger ones. He’s strong enough that he doesn’t suffer too much if he is switched onto a shooting guard.

During the course of the offseason, ESPN ran its (second) annual NBA Rank project, gathering over 100 analysts to rank every single player in the NBA. These analysts ranked Westbrook the ninth best player in the league, which I think conforms pretty well with the popular perception of him. To the vast majority of NBA fans, there is no doubt that Westbrook is an elite player.

All-Encompassing Metrics

Wins Produced:      77
Wins Produced/48:   186
Win Shares:         13
Win Shares/48:      50
Plus/Minus:         96
PER:                12

In aggregate, the all-encompassing metrics aren’t as rosy on Westbrook’s ability than the sniff test would lead us to believe. One clear take away is that some of Westbrook’s high raw stats are due to minutes played: last season he played the seventh most minutes in the league. Both Wins Produced and Win Shares, which differ vastly on his ability, agree that he is worse on a per minute basis. Now, there is something to be said for Westbrook’s durability and high-level of play despite shouldering a heavy minute load, but it shouldn’t blind us to the fact that he may be obtaining some of his high raw numbers inefficiently.

If we take the most optimistic view of Westbrook, he’s right on that top ten bubble, but if we take the most pessimistic view, he’s pretty much a league average player. This nicely dovetails with the opinions from the original debate (and perhaps show which all-encompassing statistics the debaters found most credible).


Among traditional offensive metrics, Westbrook is at or near the top. Last year he scored 23.6 points per game, fifth in the league. He didn’t obtain those points very efficiently, however, with his true shooting % placing him 150th in the league, which even takes into account the fact that Westbrook gets to the line at the seventh best rate in the league and shoots free throws well.

Westbrook’s inefficiency is an especially large problem because he is teammates with Kevin Durant and James Harden. Last year Durant was the top scorer in the league, and Harden the 27th (in many fewer minutes than Durant and Westbrook). Durant’s true shooting % was 19th in the league, and Harden’s 6th, yet Westbrook only took 30 less shots than Durant and 637 (637!) more shots than James Harden. Fittingly, Westbrook’s offensive-rating (points scored per 100 possessions) was 131st best in the league, while Durant’s was 48th and Harden’s 10th.

I can’t overstate how important those efficiency differentials are. In any given game of basketball, there is a relatively finite supply of shots. Offenses spend the entire shot clock looking for the most efficient shot given the situation. Since practically every minute Westbrook is on the court either Durant or Harden is as well, he (and the rest of the offense) should be looking to get them the ball in good situations. Instead, Westbrook shot ten more times per game than Harden!

As far as his position as a point guard and distributor, Westbrook fares no better. He was tied for 14th in assists among point guards, but was 5th in turnovers. His Assist to Turnover ratio was 64th best among all of’s 73 qualifying players. I’m not a huge fan of such a strict definition of position (quick, what position does LeBron James play?), and thus give Westbrook somewhat of a break here.

Westbrook reminds me a lot of Allen Iverson, a player who got great numbers based on a high volume of minutes and shots, but wasn’t that efficient of a player. This is where advanced statistics are incredibly useful, letting us delve beyond box score numbers, where Westbrook looks great, to try an understand his true value. All the more damning is the fact that Westbrook is teammates with two of THE most efficient scorers in the game.


It is much more difficult to assess Westbrook as a defender because, in general, our understanding of how to measure defensive impact is light years behind offense. Here we generally have to rely on the smell test and box score numbers more than we do in evaluating offense.

The raw box score statistics favor Westbrook. Last year he was 6th in blocks among point guards and 5th in steals. He also fouled at a low rate, rarely giving opponents free throws. He is highly touted as being a good rebounder for a point guard and this grades out, as he grabbed the most rebounds per game among all point guards. He’s also second in rebounds per 48 minutes, so it’s not just a function of minutes played.

The advanced statistics don’t paint such a beautiful picture. Westbrook got the 50th most defensive win shares in the league last year, but much of this was a function of his high minutes, as his defensive rating was just 215th in the league. That defensive rating was 105, while Oklahoma City’s defensive rating was 103.2, discrediting the notion that Westbrook suffers because he was on a poor defensive team. Oklahoma City was the 10th best defensive team in the league, and on that team Westbrook’s defense was below average.


It is pretty clear that saying Russell Westbrook is the 9th best player in the league is quite an overreach; 30th seems to fit better, and I could be convinced that 50th is right. Westbrook clearly has the physical attributes to excel at all facets of the game like few other players, but basketball is a 5-on-5 game, not 1-on-1. The fact of the matter is that Westbrook is not elite at scoring, yet chooses to continue to shoot as if he is. If it were instead James Harden who shot ten more times a game than Westbrook, Oklahoma City would score 1.7 more points per game! Now, whether or not Harden would keep up the same efficiency is an open question, but it is certainly one worth trying to answer right?

As many of these statistical arguments go, a lot of the difference in perceptions can be traced back to the Yay! Points! Thesis. Scoring is how you win basketball games, and Westbrook scores a lot of points so he must be good right? Absent the context of team, efficiency, and defense sure, but if you’re going to throw that all out what’s the point?

Mario Chalmers, it's Time to Get Started.

Mario Chalmers, it's time to say "no" to superstar abuse.

We've had enough. We're not taking it anymore, and he shouldn't either. We're sick of it; the all-too-common sight of a superstar yelling at Mario, undressing him with their words, breaking him down with their glares.  It's not fair.  It's not right.  It's time for it to stop.

So hear this LeBron, take heed D-Wade, and shut your trap CB. You guys leave Mario Chalmers alone.  He's an outspoken winner.  And whether you like it or not, he probably taught you guys a thing or two about being champions.


Unlike other guys that are Diss players, Mario Chalmers is not a loser.  He never has been.  He's won in nearly every spot he's been in, from high school to the pros.  He won two Alaska state championships in 2002 and 2003.  He won the NCAA championship in 2008, and of course, an NBA title in 2012.  Reportedly, he's one of seven players in history who have won championships at every level (except the Olympics and FIBA tournaments).  Mario knows winning.  Knows it well.

And at this point, we know Mario well.  We've seen a lot of him since 2005.  Almario Venard "Mario" Chalmers was fairly well known to the average television-watching basketball fan when he came out of the NBA draft in the 2008.  He had been the most recognizable face of Bill Self's University of Kansas team, which never missed the NCAA tournament in the three years he played.  He had the most memorable play of the 2008 championship game, a contested three over the outstretched hands of University of Memphis point guard Derrick Rose (perhaps you've heard of him) that sent the game to overtime.  Kansas, of course, would win the game, and Mario, unsurprisingly, was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

That stuff didn't trickle down to me (I was on an airplane during that title game in 2008, flying back from a grad school visit in Seattle). My lack of love for the college game is well-chronicled, and needless to say, I was not breathlessly waiting to hear how Sasha Kaun was faring against Joey Dorsey.  I started to get into Mario (or as Jason called him once, Super Nintendo Chalmers; a nickname that easily stuck) when he was a rookie. He had just been drafted in the second round, 34th overall; a surprising drop for a guy considered by most pundits to be the second best point guard prospect behind Rose (D.J. Augustin and Jerryd Bayless, current backups, were both drafted ahead of him in the first round).  He (alongside another decorated Diss player, Michael Beasley) caught my eye when they were busted for smoking weed during their rookie symposium in August.  I was impressed that these three guys would violate a bevy of rules during the orientation to their careers just to get a little high (how much can you bring on an airplane?) in-between sessions, especially with so much at stake.  Was it foolish?  Yes.  Was it brave?  Absolutely.  Mario piqued my attention at that moment, and hasn't lost it since.

His rookie team -- the 2008-2009 Miami Heat -- was one of my favorite teams from that year.  Little was expected of them. Their superstar was coming back from career-threatening shoulder surgery, they had a little-known rookie head coach named Erik Spoelstra, and were taking the court with a hodge-podge roster filled with unproven rookies and uncelebrated vets with expiring and/or short-term contracts as they geared up for the 2010 offseason of LeBron.  Moreover, the Heat had gone 15-67 the season before, and had flirted with being the worst NBA team ever.  This was a team that wasn't expected to win 30 games.

Instead, as they overachieved, and became a scrappy playoff team.  The team won 43 games under Spoelstra and a D-Wade who came back far healthier and dominant than anyone expected (he averaged over 30 a game, and had one of the most stellar statistical seasons of all time).  During the regular season, the Heat weren't barnburners, but they did many things very well.  They allowed only 98 points per game, good for 12th in the league.  Their offense wasn't spectacular -- they scored 98.3 points per game, mostly on the superhuman efforts of D-Wade, who was first overall in usage rate, second in wins produced, and third overall in player efficiency rating -- but enough to win the games they were supposed to, and steal a few that they weren't.  All of this lead to a fifth seed in the playoffs, where they lost in a forgettable seven game series to the Atlanta Hawks.

In the middle of all of this unexpected success, surprisingly, was Mario Chalmers, the team's outspoken winner.  Mario played and started every single game; something his hyped rookie-mate Michael Beasley did not do.  His per game averages were solid for a starting point guard, but excellent for a rookie.  10 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds a game, to go along with 40% shooting on field goals, and 37% from deep.  His 160 total steals were good for third in the league.  His 107 defensive rating (which has improved each season he's been in the league) certainly wouldn't qualify him for the all-defensive team, showed that he could play competent team defense on a team that relied on creating turnovers to succeed.  By any metric, Mario had a fantastic rookie season for a playoff team.

The next year, the team won 47 games, but the Heat, much like the Knicks and the Nets, had the look of a team treading water before LeBron, Bosh, D-Wade, Joe Johnson, Amar'e, and the rest of the lot hit the market.  I lost track of the team during this surprisingly successful punt of a season, but sort of kept my eye on Super Nintendo Chalmers.  Things were not nearly as rosy for him.  He dealt with knee issues and lost his starting job to both Rafer Alson and Carlos Arroyo.  His numbers went down, as did his playing time. And the naysayers, who had been waiting for their moment to pounce on Mario, lined up behind the ramparts, guns raised, looking for a clear shot. Though the team was more successful (or was the East just weaker? KG missed the second half of the season and the playoffs with a knee injury) Mario was not a part of that movement.  His role, certainly, had been diminished, and with his contract expiring, his future on the team was uncertain.

When LeBron and Bosh made their decisions to join the Heat, the team underwent a massive transformation.  The team had been a walking expiring contract, with team options that had been declined to create space for three near-max level contracts.  Only two players from the previous team were retained under contract: Joel Anthony, the defensive pivot, and Mario Chalmers, the oft-maligned  point guard.

In the next two seasons, the team would go to the finals twice, and win once.  Mario Chalmers started four games in 2011, and in all six in 2012.  And though the Heat have been nothing but successful since coming together in 2011, Mario Chalmers is not always considered to be a reason for that success.  And already, some of his teammates are questioning his readiness to change for this season.

Maybe they're the ones that need to change.  Not him.


Now hear this, my friends: a team doesn't need a top shelf point guard to win a championship.  This has been the case for quite some time now.

In the grand scheme of things, this shift away from the All Star-caliber point guard is a rather recent development, given Magic, Isiah and DJ's importance throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.  But the importance the point guard diminished over the course of the 1990s with the success of Phil Jackson's triangle from 1991-1993 and 1996-1998, and Rudy T's system, which organized talented shooters around Dream, and won championships in 1994 and 1995.

Take a look at the starting point guards for title winners since Jordan retired in 1998, as well as their overall rankings in win shares and wins produced.

In this analysis (and thanks Franklin for putting the chart together), I'm using win share and wins produced rankings as a way to determine who constitutes an elite player in the NBA.  Of this list, only one point guard could be considered "elite" for their position during both the regular season: Chauncey Billuips and Jason Kidd.  Billups was 8th overall in the league in win shares in 2004, and Jason Kidd was 12th overall in wins produced in 2011 (which surprised me).  But other than that, the list is filled with solid, but hardly spectacular point guards, most of whom were in the top-100 in the league in both WS% and WP/48 (except Derek Fisher in 2001, whose surprisingly bad numbers can be attributed to split time with Ron Harper). Super Nintendo Chalmers looks very much the part of this vaunted club.  His WS% ranking of 78 puts him at right around the average for a championship point guard, and his 95 ranking in WP/48, though a bit low, is still respectable -- only 10 off the average ranking.

However, look at Rajon Rondo in 2008.  Now, we are all familiar with the 2012 version of Rajon Rondo (simply known as "Rondo", not unlike an international soccer star like Messi or Ronaldo), who is considered, at worst, to be a top four NBA point guard alongside Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook.  2008 Rajon Rondo is more similar to 2012 Mario Chalmers than he is to 2012 Rajon Rondo, an all star and MVP candidate.

Similar to Mario in 2010, Rondo, a mid first  survived a great culling in 2007, carried forth by Danny Ainge to make room for two new superstars: Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.  When those guys arrived, critics openly wondered whether there'd be enough ball for all of the superstars sharing the court, and whether Rondo, a talented second year player who had played well enough on a 17 win team the previous season, would be able to perform well enough to be a starting point guard on a sudden championship contender.

Rondo silenced his critics almost immediately.  He wasn't spectacular (though we saw brief glimpses of what was to come), but he didn't have to be; he had Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to do most of the offensive heavy lifting.  Instead, he honed the skills that later set him apart from his peers: his passing and his defense.  He lead his team in assists and steals, and ranked in the top ten in the league for steals, top thirty for assists.  This was more than enough with the Big Three around.
When they beat the Lakers in the Finals, Rondo wasn't the most celebrated member of the team.  But he had helped them win, and that's all that mattered.  Without his defense and his passing, three future hall of famers would never have won rings. Without his six steals in the deciding game 6, there wouldn't have been a parade in Boston. Without Rondo, their legacies would've been incomplete.

In many ways, Super Nintendo Chalmers has a far easier task surviving longterm in Miami than Rondo did in Boston.  And unlike many other Diss players, he doesn't have to do much to change his fortune.

Rondo had to become a star, and he had to do it quickly. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were acquired in their early thirties to join Paul Pierce, another superstar in his thirties.  None of those guys were young, and Rondo was going to have to fill some big shoes before too long.  Whether Danny Ainge knew Rondo was going to become a transcendent superstar himself doesn't really matter; he didn't have a choice.  If he was going to remain in Boston for the longterm, he had to be great.  Otherwise, he was going to be flipped for other young players in order to carry the Big Three to a title.  There was no other possibility for his development in Boston.  If he wasn't going to be a star in Boston, he wasn't going to be in Boston.

Simply put: Mario Chalmers is not expected to develop into Rajon Rondo. Whether he has the skills, ability and motivation to do so is another matter.  But he is not being charged with the task of becoming a transcendent player that the Heat have to build around.  LeBron and Bosh are in their primes, and even the biggest skeptic would allow D-Wade, at a minimum, two more seasons of playing at a world-class level. Instead, he's tasked with remaining what he already is: a point guard who knows how to stay on the court for a championship winning team.  Indeed, Chalmers has a few clear strengths.  He is a good shooter.  He is a valuable perimeter defender.  And he is an outspoken winner.

With LeBron on your team, ball movement is simple, and one doesn't have to concentrate on running the offense as much.  With D-Wade around, penetration isn't an issue, as D-Wade makes a living scoring and distributing around the hoop.  Bosh is an easy and steady post presence to feed the ball, and he, as a skilled post passer, can do wonders keeping the ball moving.  These are bona fide superstars; guys do the heavy lifting, and who have been domesticated (and paid) to shoulder such burdens.

Instead, Chalmers can rely on his other clear strengths: shooting, defense and ball movement, and solidify his place in the lineup.  And that's what he does.  He is another foot soldier in Miami's vaunted positional revolution, which plays LeBron at the four, and surrounds him with shooters (including Chris Bosh) who can provide space and allow him to create.  Chalmers now stands alongside Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Shane Battier and Mike Miller, who all can all roam around the floor, hit shots, and make a nice defensive play.  And he's already shown he can do the little things that end up being big deals, like guard Russell Westbrook on the perimeter, and work with D-Wade in Miami's effective zone defense.  He fits well on this team.  He has for nearly five seasons now.

So when LeBron shouts at him, or accuses him of not being mature enough, he can just look at him, in a way that screams "outspoken winner" and tell the MVP to deal.  That's right, LeBron: deal.  Because you know what?  There's a good chance you wouldn't have won that ring without Mario.

The defending champions didn't have to keep Mario Chalmers as their starting point guard.  Believe you me, they had options.  Steve Nash could've been had.  Ramon Sessions was available.  Jason Kidd would have fit in.  Even guys like Ray Felton or Kirk Hinrich would've gotten the job done.  But they stuck with Chalmers, their Super Bowl winning quarterback.  Mostly because he's under contract.  But also, perhaps, because they truly believe in him.

For the first time in awhile, Super Nintendo Chalmers has a quarterback controversy on his hands.  Second year guard Norris Cole is coming on like a boss, and could provide a more traditional point guard look for a slightly older, wildly unconventional unit like the Heat.  He also is younger and more athletic; a superficially more intriguing prospect than the still-young Super Nintendo.

But if Mario Chalmers keeps doing what he's doing -- let the superstars do most of the hard work, keep them relatively happy, and do work, everyday -- it will be hard to go anywhere else but Mario.  An elite point guard isn't necessary to win a championship, you just need one who can provide winning plays when they matter.  And the Heat already have that in Super Nintendo Chalmers.

So say no to superstar abuse, Mario.  It's time to get started.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

We Are One With the Esteemed Nerds.

I am happy to announce that Kevin "Franklin" Draper's work has been featured as a main post on the respected Wages of Wins Journal, which we greatly admire here at The Diss.  In the post, Kevin discusses why age indeed matters when it comes to winning championships in the NBA.

We are very proud of Frank, and very thankful to Dre and the rest of the gang at The Wages of Wins Journal for linking to the blog.   

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wild Speculation and Outlandish Guesses: Purchase or Pass...On Legislation

The biggest news of the last week was the NBA coming out with fines for flopping, as well as a hilarious video demonstrating what is and is not a flop. This isn't the first time that the NBA has waded into legislating gray areas of basketball: witness the imposition of a dress code a few years back. So, in another addition of everybody's favorite game, Purchase or Pass...On, we talk about rules!

Purchase or Pass...On the NBA fining players for whining and complaining about calls.

Jacob Greenberg: Purchase. I don't mind arguing a call, but the excessive body language, with hands thrown in the air, and feet stamping on the ground, gets really tiresome. Losing some bank after you demonstratively whine all night might change some obnoxious behaviors. Looking at you, Blake.

Joe Bernardo: Purchase. As much as I love the antics of Vlade Divac for comedic purposes, enforcing flopping will get certain players to finally play some hard-nosed D.

Franklin Mieuli: Purchase a very specific definition of whining and complaining. I don't mind the Tim Duncan stare, but I do mind when a player gets up in a referee's face and basically physically intimidates him into changing his call or, more likely, influencing future calls.

Purchase or Pass...On the NBA fining players for Having too much fun (a la NFL excessive celebration penalties)

Jacob Greenberg: In general, pass...on. I'm generally for happiness. Though the 2009-2010 Cavs were pretty obnoxious, and could've been told to settle down a bit.

Joe Bernardo: Pass on. Please no NFL anti-celebration legislation in the NBA. I love the dancing, the yelling, and the poses. Can you imagine the NBA without the NY Knick chest bump, the Reggie Miller Michael Jackson impersonation, or the Antoine Walker shimmy? Let the players have fun.

Franklin Mieuli: Pass on. I want more excessive celebration! I wanna see dudes chest bumping after hitting free throws, throwing their jersey over their head and doing cartwheels after they hit a three. More, more more.

Purchase or Pass...On the NBA fining players for Showboating (bouncing the ball off other players, hanging on the rim etc.)

Jacob Greenberg: Pass on...with reservations! This is already adequately legislated, but not uniformly officiated, however. In my opinion, is where "star treatment" is most noticeable. D-Wade hangs on the rim all the time, and sees no techs or violations for it. If the league offered warnings or small fines, it might encourage better behavior.

Joe Bernardo: Purchase, but only if it involves penalizing for some sort of taunting. Showboating is one thing, but taunting can lead to unnecessary brawling.

Franklin Mieuli: Pass on. Just like excessive celebration, I want more showboating. Some of my favorite players are the ones that showboat. I especially love the bench warmer that starts doing it as they get onto the court. That's what makes the NBA fun: that we sit so close to the players, they don't have a helmet on, and we can see their personality.

Purchase or Pass...On the NBA fining players for using obscene language towards each other and referees during the game

Jacob Greenberg: Pass on any further regulation. This is already legislated by the league. Players and coaches get fined for postgame tirades, and/or not leaving the court in a timely manner.

Joe Bernardo: Pass on. The game is full of emotions and there are always time when players need to say Fuck, Ass, Bitch, Balls, Jiminy Cricket, etc. As Jacob already mentioned, the league already enforces it. No need for further legislation.

Franklin Mieuli: Pass on I guess. Not having risen above 3rd grade YMCA league (unless pickup at the community center is higher than that), I just don't have enough experience to know whether it is detrimental to the game at all.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Basketball? Basketball. BASKETBALL!!!!

Jesus that was a long offseason. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see people live-Tweeting the Celtics playing a goddamn game in Turkey. Sure, it’s a goddamn game in Turkey, but at least it is basketball!

Slowly though, as preseason games have continued, that exuberance has been tempered as I remember that it is the preseason. When the Warriors took on the Lakers the other night, they faced the fearsome starting five of Nash, Bryant, Peace, Gasol…and Sacre? According to Wikipedia, Robert Sacre is a “Canadian professional basketball player” and is a member of the Canadian national basketball team”. I wonder if Sacre and Nash giggle on road trips while eating Poutine and listening to Drake.

The preseason can give you a funny, inflated view of what is yet to come. The Warriors are 2-0, having beat the Lakers and Jazz, and our rookies look good! But really, the most important number is 12: the number of minutes Stephen Curry on his surgically-repaired ankle before pulling himself out of the game. 6-1 turnover ratio!! Is he actually injured? Was it just a precautionary measure? Will he be able to play through that pain and soreness in three weeks? Who knows, it’s the damn preseason.

 The preseason is also the home to my favorite sports cliché, the “he’s in the best shape of his life” sound bite. Enes Kanter weighs 8 lbs. less than last season and looks stronger? If only that included added coordination and he might be able to pull off the worm! Stephen Curry looks like he went to a gun show and traded in his pistols for some gats. He’ll be unstoppable going to the hole now, unless, you know, HIS ANKLE DOESN’T DISINTEGRATE WITH LATERAL MOVEMENT!

We’re also starting to hear some funny things from the beat reporters, as it’s not just players’ hoop game that isn’t in regular season form, but their media game. We start off with the relatively tame: Deron Williams signed with the Nets over the Mavericks because Mark Cuban didn’t show up to a meeting to swaddle Williams. On the one hand, Williams is patently absurd. He is a grown man that is signing a maximum contract, why would feeling “wanted” trump things like pay, ability to win, training staff etc. On the other hand, as Larry Coon’s recent column (ESPN Insider) demonstrates, because of the salary cap many NBA players are paid less than their full market value. Within that context, it appears that intangible benefits like “feeling loved” really matter.

On the more meaningful end of things, Rudy Gay calls out Chris Paul and the rest of the Clippers! Flop city bitch, flop flop city! Of course, Gay’s quote about Paul is pretty ambiguous: “I mean I love him but I don’t like him anymore.” What the hell does that mean? Was Gay confused as to the topic of the interview and thought it was “lame lines you tell a girl when you don’t want to date her anymore but you don’t have the balls to truly break up with her”? Thankfully, Memphis’ first game of the season is against the Clippers, where we will see hate (or mild dislike, or something) and David Stern’s new anti-flopping rule collide! Must see TV I think.

 If all that didn’t seem coherent, duh, you’re right. There is just so much high-quality preseason news coming out and, like those players, I’m still in preseason form. Frankly, the fact that there are no typos in this piece (for the love of God let there be no typos) means that I am, in injury-talk parlance, a few weeks ahead of schedule.

If you’re wondering if this all means something, the answer is, maybe, but probably not. Sure, the preseason is somewhat predictive of regular season to come, but there is a myriad of more predictive factors, notably last season’s results. We can’t go so far as to say it doesn’t mean anything, so you should care a little bit about your team not picking up that preseason donut, but I wouldn’t schvitz too much. Just enjoy the fact that BASKETBALL IS BACK!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Media: The Vince Carter Body Slam, or How Jalen Rose Got HIs Groove Back.

At some point in the last two seasons, Jalen Rose became what Diss-cussant Kurt Scott called a "certifiable boss".  And he's definitely right.  In a line-up that features fairly bland personalities, and cookie-cutter analysis, Rose has risen to the top of the ESPN food pyramid (mmmm, fats and oils. Eat sparingly).  He's ESPN's most animated, opinionated and eloquent basketball analyst; one who is rarely afraid to share his mind. Be it about race and the game in the Detroit metro area, to the embellishments of ESPN's less lovable talking heads on First Take, Rose keeps it real.  It's refreshing to see.

In his latest overshare, Rose details a short "day in the life" from the 2005 NBA season, when he and Vince Carter were teammates on the Toronto Raptors, and a playful conflict between Vinsanity and former Raps coach Sam Mitchell got out of hand.  Rose offers honest assessments of Vince, Mitchell, the Raptors organization, and the hidden stuff that happens in NBA locker rooms.  And it's all animated. You've got two and a half minutes to spare.  Don't you?  Take a minute and listen to Jalen Rose spin some yarn.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Your Annotated Smartphone Bathroom Reader for Saturday, October 6, 2012.

I'm writing this on an airplane.  In the $10 choice between in-flight blogging and in-flight drinking, I may not have chosen wisely.

Get On The Bus With Royce White
Henry Abbott

In a fairly quiet first week of training camps, the biggest news came out of Houston, where it was reported that Royce White, one of the Rockets' draft picks, was holding out from camp until he and the Rockets could come to an agreement on a plan that would address White's well-publicized diagnoses of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders as he begins his NBA career.  The plan would include a number of coping-mechanisms, including bus rides to close by games, diet changes, and regularly scheduled visits with team doctors and counselors.  While most of the blogosphere and commenting public was in favor of White's decision, there were a few insensitive tweets send White's way.  Henry Abbott, who has long championed recognizing the beauty of human imperfection in highly sculpted NBA athletes, writes a wonderful piece that contextualizes White's diagnoses in light of other injuries.  Abbott reminds us that most athletes, when injured, have a plan for continued participation that take into account rest and recovery.  Abbott asks a great question: why are White's mental health issues any different?  This is a smart, sympathetic piece.  The blogosphere is lucky to have Abbott around.

- JG

Matt Moore

Royce White's holdout from training camp prompted a variety of responses, perhaps none more powerful than this short piece written by Matt Moore.  Moore discloses that he, himself, suffers from anxiety disorder, and struggled to manage panic attacks throughout most of his younger years.  Moore's experience with panic attacks can be summarized simply: "Panic attacks are like snowflakes that suck.  They're all different."  Moore's point is simple: everyone is different.  Hence, it is not our job to offer assessments of whether White is "sick", "demanding" or "crazy".  It's a good reminder from someone who, unfortunately, has first hand experience managing (and living successfully and functionally) with the disease.

- JG

Jonathan Santiago
Cowbell Kingdom

Team USA's heavy use of Instagram and Twitter proved that NBA players, despite their fame and finances, really enjoy trips.  They do.  Perhaps it reminds them of times when basketball was just a game, and excursions related to said game was mostly focused on development and having fun.  But it was clear that Team USA loved their traveling, spending time together, and chronicling it on various social networks.  It is with that realization in mind that we observe recent pictures taken by the Sacramento Kings, who recently completed a team building weekend at a ropes course in Colorado Springs last week.  There's nothing out of the ordinary here, except 6'8'', 250-something pound men, strapped up to harnesses and flying around trees like some sort of multi-millionaire church youth group.  And the smiles on their faces seem genuine.  Awwwww, our widdle Jimmer's making new fwiends.

- JG

Diana Moskovitz
The Classical

The reason this piece is included in the reader is because of its theme: being a fan of a bad team.  Moskovitz, a lifelong fan of the Pirates, issues this lament at the end of the Pirates' 20th losing season; one that saw them finish 79-83, and fall from first to fourth in the NL Central in epic fashion.  Reading Moskovitz's smart analysis on why people root for bad teams, and the coping mechanisms they use to get by, reads almost like a instruction manual on "How To Cope With Your Always Terrible Team."  Her most interesting assertion is that people are fans of bad teams to feel better about themselves; that seeing ineptitude, and supporting it through thick and thin, makes us feel better about our ability to persevere through tough times.  Perhaps.  Pirates and Warriors fans need to get together and start a support group.

- JG

Matt Yoder
Awful Announcing

It's a DC sportswriters internet brawl, and Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing (which is quickly becoming one of my favorite blogs) has all the dirty deets!  In one corner: Michael Wilbon, former Washington Post columnist-turned-ESPN personality.  In the other corner: Dan Steinberg, current Post columnist and lead blogger on the DC Sports blog.  Their subject: Washington, D.C., and whether the city is one of America's "best sports town".  Yoder's perspective: who cares?  The answer: these guys.  A lot.  Tune in for the internet fisticuffs, and watch Wilbon totally lose his marbles on the Facebooks.  Moral: I'm really happy I just do this blogging stuff for kicks.

- JG

Terrence Williams, It's Time to Get Started.

Forgive me, dearest basketball media consumer, while I reference the pseudo-sport of ultimate frisbee.

I played intercollegiate ultimate frisbee (yes, such a thing exists) at a school that had multiple intercollegiate ultimate frisbee teams (yes, such schools exist).  One team was laden with athletic stalwarts and high profile frisbee recruits (yes, such recruits exist).  I did not play for that team.  Instead, I chose the counter-cultural ultimate frisbee option (yes, such options exist), where we donned hawaiian shirts, drank concoctions that skillfully mixed "girly" drinks with the dregs of a plastic handle of vodka, and came up with irreverent cheers that make me cringe when repeated out loud today.

But lest you think we were a bunch of fatties who couldn't run for seconds at the Old Country Buffet, let alone run around in the fastest growing once-beach-barbecue-activity-now-second-tier-sport this side of Kubb, I will have you know that we were, on the whole, a fit group of motherfuckers.  Those who were not fit at the beginning of the year certainly were by the end; a mixture of track, weight, and pylometric workouts.  And those were not naturally gifted athletes (watch me take a bow) had to work doubly hard to keep up with the stallions who made that shit look simple.

A veteran player told me at some point during my sophomore year that, "it's way easier to teach a tall, fast person how to throw the disc than it is to teach a short, fat thrower how to be tall and fast."  These were true words; the best players were physically gifted, and athletically inclined in such a way where throwing a 175 gram piece of plastic became a wholly surmountable feat. As such, most of my frisbee preparation focused on me becoming taller and faster; two things that I, a stout black Jew with a distinctive pigeon-toed waddle, struggled mightily to achieve.  I envied their bodies; chisled machines that could accomplish whatever, whenever and however in a variety of ways. If only I -- the byproduct of round Eastern European Jewish immigrants and round African-Americans -- were so lucky.

But then players like Terrence Williams -- T-Will for short -- made me feel like I was being too hard on the thoroughbreds.  In the imperfect picture that is T-Will, we are confronted with the outspoken athlete; a compelling, yet frustrating player.


It is possible that "athleticism", and all the terms that come with it -- "unbelievable upside", "freakish hops", "vertical off the charts", and all the likes -- subconsciously portray a typecasted player.

Athleticism isn't always used in a positive fashion.  Often times, players who are portrayed as "athletic" are implied to be missing something else, like "basketball I.Q.", "maturity" or "refinement".  More often than not, we end up shaking our heads and lamenting the misfortune of an athlete who couldn't get it all together.  Someone like Stromile Swift, or Darius Miles, or Amir Johnson, or Tyrus Thomas; a guy who routinely appears in highlights, but never seems to harness that ability for a greater good.  Their talents unrealized, and their development unachieved, they fade into lesser leagues, or become bar trivia answers.  Pour one out for the athlete, and all the sorrow they sow.

Yet, T-Will's athleticism looks different than Stro's or JR's, or even LeBron (the guy who he feels he plays the most like).  T-Will's athleticism is sleepy sharp; a quiet fury that surprises and soothes.  T-Will can do a bit of everything.  He's quick, can jump, and can guard both guard and forward positions.  He plays a bit like Chris Paul trapped in Evan Turner's body, bringing the ball up court, directing the offense, and taking the shot when he either deems things broken or not worth managing anymore.  

I first heard about T-Will from an unlikely individual: Katie McCandless, my former resident assistant from college. Katie had arrived in Northfield, Minnesota by way of Louisville, Kentucky.  Like every Louisvillian I've had the pleasure of knowing, she knew her college ball.  Like, really knew her college ball, and in that Louisville way: innocent, childlike, yet informed in a way that was sort of intimidating.  Made sense; the entire state of Kentucky is a college basketball hotspot.  There are two great colleges in the state, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, that consistently produce professionals worthy of our attention and praise.

She advised me to check out T-Will.  And I really liked what I saw.  And I still do.

I don't watch a ton of college ball.  I didn't know this type of player existed in the college game; a triple-double threat each night with freakish hops and deep range.  Moreover, I didn't know this type of player stayed for four years in college.  T-Will looked to be one of those guys that made David Stern's age requirement rule look cruel and unforgiving for those of us who lusted after able young bodies, and their tantalizing abilities.  T-Will looked ready to ball.  I was excited about him -- hell, I was excited about everyone in that 2009 draft.  He presented a grabbag skillset; someone who seemingly was good at just about everything, and had the college resume and stage presence (he had played in a national championship game), and intangibles that were off the charts.  His draft position fluctuated, but he was never projected to fall below 11 or 12 in the first round.  True to form, he ended up going 11th to the New Jersey Nets.  Folks were excited, offering suggestions that lowballed him as a poor-man's Andre Iguodala, and highballed him at a poor-man's Scottie Pippen.

But even Scottie Pippen couldn't have done anything with the 2009-2010 New Jersey Nets.  What an unmitigated disaster.  That team started off 0-18 (the worst start by an NBA team ever), and finished 12-70.  The team was in the middle of being sold, the GM-turned-coach all but had a firing clock chained to his neck, and the losses were lopsided and demoralizing.  And in the middle of it was T-Will, lost in a locker room that featured a "who's who" dossier of B-list NBA retreads.  Trenton Hassell as "Veteran Presence".  Bobby Simmons as "Highest Paid Flop".  Devin Harris as "Good Player Who Hates His Team".  Kiki Vandeweghe as "Terrible GM-Demoted-to-Coach-pre-Firing".  

These teams are sad.  They are not places to thrive.  They are not places to learn.

By and large, T-Will did not thrive.  And T-Will certainly did not learn.  Coach Kiki Vandeweghe made T-Will the team's sixth man, and T-Will struggled.  Yes, the athleticism was still there, but nothing was coming together.  On the worst team in the league -- nay, one of the worst teams in NBA history -- T-Will was statistically one of the team's wost players.  He averaged 8 points, 4 boards and 3 assists off the bench, on only 40% shooting (30% from deep).   His efficiency numbers were inexcusable, even for a rookie.  He did not shoot the ball well, nor did he shoot it smartly (though to be fair, no one on his team really did, save Brook Lopez .  His 11.4 PER coupled with a negative win share of -0.03 tell a tale that's more sad than satisfying. 

The writing was on the wall for T-Will: talented but a knucklehead.  Pre-bust status.

Seasons two and three weren't great.  In 2010-2011, Avery Johnson brought T-Will's brand new doghouse with him, pre-built and ready for use.  T-Will had a hard time making meetings and practices on time, and the Li'l General didn't take kindly.  He sent him to the bench, then to the D-League, and finally to the Rockets in a trade to get a first-round draft pick.  Though there was initial excitement about his arrival in Houston, that quickly faded when he failed to crack then-coach Rick Adelman's rotation.  He remained a Rocket throughout the long locked-out offseason of 2011, but barely saw the court in 2012.  He also showed some of the same problems he had had in New Jersey: missed practices and team meetings, and an uneasy relationship with his coach.  The Rockets released him at the trade deadline to make room for newly-acquired Marcus Camby, but also "for [him] to get court time in a contract year."  Before long, he was signed by the Sacramento Kings; a veritable halfway house for NBA never-launched's to have one last chance at financial salvation.

T-Will played in 18 games in Sacto.  He got time during every game; no less than ten minutes in any given contest.  He was able to showcase his talents in Keith Smart's wide open offense, where the emphasis was on ball movement and making the extra pass.  T-Will put up solid numbers off the bench -- 8 points, 4 boards and 3 assists per game, at a slightly more respectable 43% shooting clip.  He had only one monster game (a 21 point effort against the Rockets, his old team), but delivered nine double-digit efforts, and a 16.5 per (above the league average).  He nearly averaged a steal, so one could argue there was defensive improvement.  Nevertheless, the numbers were strong for what Keith Smart used him as: a backup small forward.

But what we saw out of T-Will in Sacto, his performances on the stage, were the most compelling aspect about him.  With a slightly more talented cast (and perhaps the strange motivation that comes in a contract year), T-Will showed how valuable a positional revolutionary could be, and that wild athleticism can take many different forms.

There were two versions of T-Will in Sacto: the quality contributor and the pseudo-star.  More often than not, we saw the quality contributor.  The first version can be seen in the above video, which chronicles T-Will's efforts in a March 30th 104-103 victory for the Kings over the Jazz.  This version of T-Will did a little bit of everything: get rebounds, run the offense, find the open man, and hit a few shots.  This is the T-Will we see in the per-game stats, one that uses his court time to its fullest extent, and helps the team in nearly every way imaginable.  He looks far more the point guard than Jimmer Freddette (decidedly not a Diss player), and does an excellent job finding open shooters time and time again (though said shooters rarely hit the shot). However, his 3-7 night from the field (including 0-1 from deep) highlights his weaknesses.  One doesn't like the contested runners he hoisted up more often than not, and wishes he picked his spots a bit better.  But the numbers are good, and the win is achieved.  When you score 8 points, grab 6 boards, get 4 assists, in all of 22 minutes, that's a great investment.

It's the slightly better version of T-Will -- the one depicted in the above video -- that really makes our lips moisten, and palms to sweat.  In this video, which depicts a 109-100 loss for the Kings against the Suns, we see "quality contributor" T-Will post power-up mushroom consumption.  His penetration is more deliberate, his passes more forceful.  He drives to the rim with not-quite-reckless abandon; surveying the floor for viable offensive options, and relying on his shot only if it makes absolute sense.  That, there, becomes the difference -- T-Will looks for the open 18 foot jumper, and does a good job hitting it.  That floater is still there, but it's falling in this case, and looks like a viable weapon against smaller ones and twos who invariably match up against T-Will.  And we even see a bit of defense in the form of a block against Suns' center Marcin Gortat.

In these videos, T-Will looks like he's a good fit.  He doesn't look like a fish out of water, a boy playing a man's game, or any other silly sports euphemism.  No, he looks like a valuable cog in a machine; an offensive grab bag that coaches happily take trinkets from, employing their uses in a myriad of scenarios.  T-Will looks like a dynamic game changer, someone who can just as easily be brought off the bench as a backup point guard as he could as a starting two or three.  And people look like they like playing with him.  Coaches seem unafraid to play him.  It's almost as if he's a professional.  It's almost as if he's home.

Which is too bad, because home is fleeting.  The Kings, with committed money to Francisco Garcia and John Salmons, and having drafted Thomas Robinson, had no need for T-Will.

Once again, T-Will was looking for a place to fit in.


Fitting in is important.  Especially for the outspoken athlete.

One could point to Gerald Green -- a bonafide Diss player since 2011 -- as a modern prototype for how important fitting in is.  Green, originally the Celtics' 18th overall pick in 2005, is (pardon the phrase) a freakish athlete who has won multiple dunk contests, and has perhaps one of the greatest in-game dunks of all time. He just recently signed a one-year deal with the Indiana Pacers.  His most notable accolades are based upon his athletic gifts of hops and creativity around the rim.  This is how he has become something close to a household name.

But Green has had to shed many skins to get to this point in his career.  Like T-Will, he, too, has lived and died by his athleticism and potential.  Jonathan Abrams of Grantland detailed Green's own professional game of chutes and ladders, which has casted him alternatively as a young, potential franchise cornerstone to a waiver-wire player in the Euroleague, and required him to actually learn from mistakes, and take stock in unlikely life experiences.  His first two seasons on the Celtics were promising enough to convince Kevin McHale to take him in the KG trade.  But things didn't go well with Randy Wittman, and soon, much like T-Will, Green was looking for work while trying to shed both "locker room cancer" and "athlete" labels.  Much like T-Will, Green got short term NBA jobs, but never stuck around.  It took two seasons in Russia, a short-stint in China, success in the D-League, two-ten day contracts, and one unbelievable dunk to make sure Green stuck around.

And stick around he did.  And stick around he will.  While playing a ten-day with the Nets, a terrible team long out of playoff contention, Green did everything he was supposed to do with his athleticism, averaging 13 points and 3.5 boards.  He still flew high, swatting shots and dunking dunks, but he played within himself, and used D-Will to maximize his talents.

Shedding the "athlete" label didn't mean becoming unathletic.  Far from it.  Instead, Green found ways to contribute, having picked up some tricks in a multitude of stops, and having found perspective from life events that showed him how good NBA life could be.  It took age, experience, and some unexpected turns to bring Green to where he is today.  And he's in a good spot -- his contract with the Pacers is good for three years, and he has a chance to be a big contributor on a playoff team.  But it wasn't perfect from the start.  It doesn't always have to be for things to work out in the end.


Luckily for him, and for us, T-Will was given another chance to reinvent himsef, and harness his outspoken athleticism.

On September 20th, T-Will signed a minimum, non-guaranteed contract with the Detroit Pistons.  T-Will (alongside Jonny Flynn, another pariah from the 2009 draft) are the 16th and 17th players on a 15 man roster -- in other words, if the season started today, both of those guys would be looking for new jobs elsewhere.

But there are some positive signs.  T-Will is back with Lawrence Frank, the coach whom he spent sixteen awful games with, but also ran his first ever NBA training camp.  Frank has ideas to reinvent T-Will.  According to the Pistons' coach, T-Will has been "miscast" as a small forward, and he sees him as essentially a point guard.  And based on what we saw with the Kings (especially playing alongside that tree stump Jimmer Fredette), Frank may very well be right.

At the beginning of this longwinded missive, I argued that, in ultimate frisbee, it's far easier to teach athletes how to be smart and skilled than it is to teach smart people how to be athletic.  As a short fattie who could throw and see the field, I was always going to be at a disadvantage to the varsity athlete who couldn't throw, didn't know how to play, but had all the time in the world.  Their shortcomings were going to be rectified through practice and experience, and on the whole, easier to resolve.  Mine were only going to be addressed through exercise and conditioning, and even then, my genetic makeup would only allow for so much improvement.  This made things easier, on the whole, for the athletes.

The same thing exists in professional basketball, to an extent. It is far easier to tell an athletic knucklehead to grow up, make better decisions on the court, and acquire skills that will help their team win games than it is to tell a less-talented, more mature, more skilled player to become more athletic.  Jared Dudley, for all his civic strengths, and improvements on the court, will not become an All-Star.  He won't.  It's a cruel world where 6'7'' and a 30 inch vertical just isn't enough, but this is the world that he lives in.  Jared Dudley has reached his apex.

T-Will has not.  T-Will needs to grow up, make better decisions on the court, and acquire skills that will help his team win games.  If it happens with the Pistons as a point guard, wonderful.  If it happens in Europe or Asia -- like it did for Green -- that's good too.  But as we saw briefly in Sacramento, T-Will has all the tools to be a dynamic, game changing player.  He can make it happen.  He should make it happen.

Simply put: it's time to get started.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Diss Guy Miss Guy, Media Day Edition

Diss Guy: Iman Shumpert

I don't know whether I'm more excited about the fact that Iman Shumpert's rocking a classic 'Will Smith Fresh Prince' high top fade, or that he just went Office Space on the iPhone 5. On top of that oldish news, Shump also got into the rap game last year while recovering from his torn ACL, and delivered a solid "Clique" flip for the cameras during Media Day in between razzing Steve Novak and swagging out with the Knicks self proclaimed 'Bench Mobb'. Shumpert clearly had as much fun as possible (without coming across as a goofy child -- see Beasley, Michael) during the de riguer of what's turned into NBA "media week," and for that, he's our Diss Guy. 

Miss Guy: Darko Milicic

Darko Milicic is now on my favorite NBA team. That's enough to make him the Miss Guy of the week by any stretch of the imagination, but Darko's already off to an ignominious start after Media Day, telling the Boston press: "So now, if I have to go kill someone on the court, I'll kill someone on the court." 

This coming from a guy who's worn out his welcome on several teams for his lazy, intemperate approach (at best) on the NBA court during his seven year career. This coming from a guy who's most recent hometown paper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, said in a postpartum report:

"Milicic frustrated coaches with his work habits and turned off teammates with his sour demeanor and many were relieved when owner Glen Taylor signed off on using the amnesty provision on his contract to get rid of him."

Good luck with Darko, KG... If you made Glen Davis cry, I can't wait to see what happens at the end of the bench this season... and Darko, I'll believe you're going to hustle when I see it, and for that, you're the Miss Guy of the week.