A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

The Wade-Particle Duality

with 4 comments

Trying something a little different here. Typically the conversations I have with ElGee over at BackPicks.com are among the best basketball geekage I can get into anywhere. Thought y’all might enjoy them too, so take a gander and let me know what you think. Oh, and the conversation below happened yesterday, before Game 4, just in case you’re confused.

Image via thenerdiestshirts.com

MJ: I’m loving watching Wade return to his peak self. He has what I call all-over-the-place-ness.

LG: Very elegant description there Matt. Be sure to use that in your teaching: “this electron has “all-over-the-place-ness”.

MJ: It’s a technical term. Actually there is a word I could have used for this generally: ubiquitous. It just doesn’t seem like it conveys the frantic nature of a basketball player doing what Wade does. Got a better way to describe?

LG: Hmmm. Well, in LeBron‘s case, I think what he does is “make the court look smaller”. In Wade’s case, he is like a fast moving particle. Dude is just all over the freaking place.

MJ: Wade the photon, movin’ all probabilistic.

LG: I got it! NERD ALERT…

MJ: Goggles on!

LG: The Wade-Particle Duality

MJ: Nice, just what I was looking for…And with that I think we’ve officially crossed the Dennis Miller Ratio.

LG: Clearly only people wearing pocket protectors will get that joke…

I’ve been thinking about Wade, both in terms of this year and historically. I have a Mom test. When my mom watches a sport and sees and athlete “pop,” then there’s usually a sizable gap between that athlete and competition. She started texting me about Wade in Game 3.

My mother always said "Take it to the hole!"

MJ: Interesting. I remember watching young Jordan “pop.” He just seemed to have a level of energy no one else on the floor could come close to.

LG: Exactly – the energy level sometimes is so key. Have I told you that Wade is the only basketball player who has ever really reminded me of Jordan?

MJ: Not sure, but we’ve talked before about how Wade simplifies the game. That’s how I felt about young Jordan. Both developed more complexity over time, but in the beginning it was just a force-of-nature thing.

LG: For me it’s the combination of that mental application (simplification), the first step (two of the best ever), and the sheer athleticism they exhibit on defense as average-ish sized guards. And of course speed.

MJ: Agreed. I’ve never felt the same about Kobe. I’ve actually wondered if Shaq got in the way of that. No doubt though that Kobe embraced complexity to his scoring game like crazy as he emerged. He wanted to have every tool possible in his toolbox.

Wade I always loved his restraint. When he couldn’t shoot 3’s well enough to live up to his other skills, he just didn’t shoot them. Who does that these days? To have such aggressiveness and such restraint is a beautiful thing.

LG: Well said. With Kobe, there is an aesthetic similarity on the jump shot and the interviews and the mannerisms. But Kobe’s athleticism was always a little different than Michael’s. And of course his game evolved so differently. He was never as quick or as explosive, but he made that jumper a 3-pointer around 2003 and it totally changed his scoring power.

MJ: Well one of the things about Kobe is he never had the core strength of Jordan or Wade. While neither are bulls like LeBron, they could take the punishment better. Then again, I do think they had the explosiveness edge too.

LG: Phil Jackson did say that strength was the biggest difference between them at one
point (Kobe v MJ).

MJ: It’s funny how little things can swing a guy’s game in one direction or another. You think wade’s performance right now is heavily influenced by the matchup?

Jedi Mind Tricks only go so far...

LG: Yes. I think he’d be playing well against anyone, but it looks to me like it’s helping, in terms of foot speed and spacing on defense. Jason Kidd uses length, position and Jedi Mind Tricks to bother shooters. He’s not able to do that against Wade. Now, the league has this problem as a whole (staying in front of Wade) so maybe Dallas should try a different lineup, I’m not sure. Kidd hasn’t done anything on offense in the series.

MJ: Those are points to consider. I do feel like that as much as I love Wade’s performance it needs to be
kept in perspective. He’s averaging 29 PPG against Dallas, and on the whole the Mavs’ defense isn’t doing bad. This doesn’t seem too shabby considering that Wade is clearly playing completely energized right now.

LG: Yeah but his success goes way beyond scoring in these 3 games, eg, his EV is off the charts on both offense and defense. He’s accounted for 62% of Miami’s “production” in the stat – blocking shots, steals, passing, creating. Mike Breen actually had a great word for it: “Wade is a terror right now.”

MJ: Ah. That’s actually what I mean. Dude’s playing unreal across the board. If your defense is holding him under 30 PPG and your defensive efficiency is solid despite all this, it’s hard for me to say you’re
doing it wrong

LG: I see what you’re saying from the Dallas POV, and I would agree they aren’t doing much “wrong.”
I mean, he’s getting a bunch in transition on his own turnovers, he’s making 3 or 4 shots a game in which you just bow your head. And they aren’t fouling too much this time around, although maybe that’s because Mark Cuban hasn’t been blogging much.

I suppose the only criticism would just be dribble contain. Kidd needed help on him last game more than anyone I can remember seeing. I checked the numbers, and he’s the only player this year to need help defensively 10 times in a game (Game 3 of the Finals).

Image via thestartingfive.net

MJ: I think your suggestions are good, and I think you’d also agree, that Wade’s the thing. Is Wade’s defensive EV continuing to utterly dwarf LeBron too?

LG: Through 3 games?

MJ: lol, well yes (I know, small sample size).

LG: It’s 7 points better. This is probably the worst 3 games LeBron’s had in that regard. What people don’t realize about counterpart data — and it might be worth a post — is your man won’t score if you don’t rotate off of him when you SHOULD rotate off of him. And LBJ just hasn’t had the greatest defensive games here, despite the counterpart numbers. Actually, the Mavs are 11-18 shooting against him and 2-14 against Wade (through 3 games).

MJ: Thoughts on Lebron – Why the struggles?

LG: Good question – I’d say Marion/Dallas is focusing on him. But I don’t think his offense has been that far off. My criticism would actually be that he hasn’t been a defensive terror, but maybe that’s a little matchup dependent based on Marion’s role on the other side. He’s done an OK job of slowing down Terry‘s creation from pick and roll.

MJ: Thoughts on reacting to a teammate (i.e. Wade) going nova? I’ve always thought it’s difficult to be an aggressive #2.

LG: Well, I think his feel for the game in that regard is as good as I’ve ever seen. Wade said it best. “We call the plays for LeBron and he called a play for me” (paraphrasing). I’m pretty sure if they put Marion on Wade and ran doubles at him, it would be James slashing off the ball or shooting open 3s. Of course, the beauty of Wade is that he dictates to the defense, so it’s not like Dallas can do this easily (they both make the right pass so well).

MJ: I feel for LeBron here. I thought for sure he’d finally kill the narrative that he shrinks when it matters, but the way things are going right now, doesn’t look like that happens. I don’t buy that narrative at all, but i can’t look at Wade & LeBron right now and think Wade’s just hot. LeBron just isn’t
playing as bold out there.

Image via flisted.com

LG: Agree – he’s a touch passive. And I mean that about his overall floor game, not just scoring
Whereas Wade has the aggression levels at ballistic.

MJ: Right – the fact that Wade is doing it everywhere more than LeBron is the thing. LeBron addressed the concerns about his lack of aggressiveness telling the press to pay attention to both ends of the floor- but when you do that, you’re still stuck shouting  “WADE!”. This is fascinating because I really consider LeBron to be the much more impactful defender generally.

LG: Agreed. I’m chalking it up to 1 series. People obsess over the Finals because it’s the Finals, but it’s still just 1 series.

MJ: So here’s the question: Is it “just 1 series” because low sample size skews matters, or because Wade has the potential for super-short nuclear explosions that simply cannot be sustained for longer?

LG: Well, that is a good damn question. Wade looked worn down in the Chicago series after chasing Ray Allen. Does that make you think higher of Wade then? 🙂

MJ: And both of those questions are what have been going through my mind. LeBron’s a tank. I don’t want to take anything away from him. Additionally, I remember his ’09 playoffs where he was unreal pretty much the whole playoffs, so I don’t what to get too myopic here, but dayum Dwyane..

LG: I guess for me I’m not intertwining LBJ and Wade as much, which is where the national narrative is headed. As if Wade doing well is hurting LeBron. It’s not a zero-sum game. Dude did just roast Chicago while Wade struggled a bit.

MJ: I think the intertwining is hurting lebron two-fold here. One you’ve got the superficial narrative. Two, I do think LeBron is more aggressive generally if Wade plays like he did against the Bulls.

LG: Yeah I’m not critical of it, at least offensively. Well, at least not until Game 4, but maybe that’s a discussion for another day…

MJ: The once and future King? We shall see.

Written by Matt Johnson

June 8, 2011 at 5:45 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Awesome. It reminds me of the long dialogues Hunter S Thompson used to use in his work (although in his case, I was always concerned that the other party was entirely fictional).

    Wade has another level of both-sides-of-the-ball activity that few players in the league can match. It’s an interesting concept as to whether he’s inherently a “burst” player in the playoffs, dependent on a good matchup that doesn’t require a huge amount of direct energy expenditure.

    An interesting Finals parallel here might be Cornbread Maxwell in ’81, a player whose effectiveness was enhanced by the (successful) defense on a more talented teammate. Not an absolutely accurate parallel, of course, but…

    Wouldn’t mind some more of these, in fact.


    June 8, 2011 at 6:05 pm

  2. Next week: James playoff contributions described by Fourier series.

    Great stuff! Keep up the good work.


    June 9, 2011 at 6:21 am

  3. Appreciate the positive feedback guys. We thought it turned out pretty well, but hard to know how the humor would translate.

    Matt Johnson

    June 10, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    • Oh it’s geek humor, absolutely, but it’s all good.


      June 10, 2011 at 8:58 pm

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