A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Archive for April 2011

Bogansing the Vote

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Keith Bogans

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

ESPN did us the solid of sharing their expert picks, and lo &  behold the  picks by Dr. Jack Ramsey blew some minds. Manu Ginobili for MVP is the kind of off-the-wall pick that someone of Ramsey’s stature  might make people reconsider their opinions on. There’s nothing to be done though when he picks Keith Bogans as Defensive Player of the Year. Suffice to say, that there is no conceivable way that a guy who plays less than 20 MPG should be getting consideration for really any on court accolade. Even 6th Man of the Year is well out of his league, so DPOY is many orders of magnitude out there.

How do we reconcile that with the fact that Ramsey is a Hall of Fame coach who clearly knows the game on a level matched only by a few handfuls of people on this planet?

Well, by recognizing that Ramsey just isn’t putting that much effort into his picks.

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Written by Matt Johnson

April 28, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Book of Dimes, Choking Palimpsest

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Palimpsest of street posters in Pondicherry (P...

Palimpsest of street posters via Wikipedia

Alright, this ought to be interesting. Working on 40 hours with no sleep, and Ethan Sherwood Strauss’s fascinating piece on LeBron’s narrative is pushing me toward the abstract. My apologies if this comes out gobbledygook.

Here’s Ethan’s gist:

They leave behind a blue Twitter cloud of snickering scorn. Pundits rush to agreement: The opposing team’s best player is what LeBron isn’t and what LeBron should have been. Sportswriters light a fire beneath Erik Spoelstra’s seat before the coach even slumps into a post-series presser. It’s a disaster, much to the delight of the chattering classes.

And LeBron James will be the “choker.” That narrative already exists — last year’s exit gave us that framing device. The thinking went: James either choked because he quit or quit because he choked.

Before culminating in:

But in the imagination of many, LeBron will have “choked” because the story people want often overrides reality. To quote Maya Angelou, “people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I’m on record as the amoral analyst. I cheered for LeBron to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers simply because I wanted to see what would happen. I follow narratives with enthusiasm without making a morality play of things.

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Written by Matt Johnson

April 26, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Why the Bulls will be in trouble after the 1st round

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Derrick Rose

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

Despite an evenly played series, the Chicago Bulls jumped out to a 3-0 lead against the Indiana Pacers – now 3-1, and should close it out in Chicago in Game 5.

There have been teams who’ve looked shaky in early rounds but still proved title winners or contenders. The 2008 Celtics needed 7 games to dispatch the Hawks in their 1st round. The 97 and 98 Bulls had low margins of victory in their first round sweeps. But I believe the Bulls struggle to dominate the Pacers indicate flaws that will likely come back to haunt them.

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Written by jr.

April 24, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Howard is the DPOY, but he’s no Garnett

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Kevin Garnett led the league in defensive rebo...

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Dwight Howard just won his 3rd straight Defensive Player of the Year, and I don’t disagree with the choice. In fact, I don’t disagree with any of the three votings that gave Howard the award. However, with Howard becoming the first player to win the award three times in a row comes discussion of how Howard stands compared to the best defenders of other eras, and there is a problem with this: Howard isn’t even the most impactful defender of this era, that would be Kevin Garnett.

Let’s start out by acknowledging that Howard and Garnett don’t play defense the same way. When we think of the great defensive big men, we tend to think of blocked shots. Howard fits that bill significantly more than Garnett. Although lets pause and consider that Howard’s 2.3 BPG this year, is only just ahead of Garnett’s 2.2 BPG peak – and that Howard’s never actually averaged 3 blocks per game in his career. If Howard were putting up these blocking numbers in other eras, we wouldn’t look at him as anything like the shotblocking ideal he often gets talked about today.

Still, thinking about defense in these terms, it’s not at all hard to see why people think Howard’s the superior defender when comparing peak to peak, and especially now as Garnett ages. Add in Howard’s current rebounding edge, and the fact that Orlando always ranks well on defense despite Howard’s supporting cast not having a stellar defensive reputation, and the debate is over before it begins in a lot of people’s minds.

Garnett, Russell & the Horizontal Game  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

April 23, 2011 at 12:07 am

Dirk vs Aldridge, Hakeem vs Malone in ’95 and where the rubber meets the road in the playoffs

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Dirk Nowitzki playing with the Dallas Mavericks

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Two games into the Dallas-Portland series, Dallas has 2 Ws. Despite Dallas winning 57 games to Portland’s 48 in the regular season, Portland became the popular upset choice with their play after the Gerald Wallace trade and the overall “meh” feeling about the Mavericks roster. So far Dallas has proven the pundits wrong.

Both teams have played similarly. Dirk Nowitzki (30.5ppg) and LaMarcus Aldridge (25.5ppg) have scored a ton, the rest have been limited to ok shooting %s, due to strong defense on both sides. Both games were dead even at the start of the 4th, with a 61-61 tie with 10 minutes left in Game 1 and a 78-76 lead for Dallas with under 9 left in Game 2. Then the gap between Dirk and Aldridge became apparant. In Game 1 Dirk scored 15 points in the last 10 minutes while Aldridge scored 6. In Game 2 Dirk dropped 13 points in the last 9 minutes, Aldridge 3. Dirk assassinated the Blazers in both 4th quarters.

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Written by jr.

April 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm

My Awards Ballot

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What my hypothetical awards ballot looks like after the completion of the regular season:

MVP:  Dwight Howard. See my 2011 POY Watch – End Regular Season post for details.

Pre-Season Prediction: Kobe Bryant

No regrets about my prediction. We saw Kobe getting MVP buzz late in the year when the Lakers got on a role despite the Lakers relying less on Kobe this year that I would have ever imagined. If the Lakers had rolled to 65 wins like I still think they’re capable of, Kobe would have taken this.

Rookie of the Year

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Written by Matt Johnson

April 21, 2011 at 11:57 am

Posted in Basketball

Information Gain: The secret to a must-watch event

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Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson and Boston Ce...

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TrueHoop makes an argument today in an article about the importance of parity in praise of uncertainty in sporting results that I think almost completely misses the mark:

Research suggests that more uncertain outcomes lead to more certain income, or … more pie.

There’s a reason that the TV deals for the NFL and the NCAA basketball tournament both dwarf the NBA’s. In just about every game of the NFL season, and in just about every game of the NCAA tournament, you simply must watch to know what’ll happen. It all matters. You wake up the morning of the game with almost no ability to pick any winners. That’s the kind of thrill-ride that leads to enraptured fans and huge TV income.

Don’t confuse luck with parity 

Really, in every game you don’t know what happens in football and college basketball, but it’s a given in the NBA? Pshaw. I’ve tackled the issue of certainty/uncertainty here before on several occasions. Here’s the table from when I compared March Madness to the various pro playoff systems:

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