A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Posts Tagged ‘ESPN

Stephen A. Smith somehow does not know what a scab is

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Wow. Y’know, it’s fashionable to talk about how so-called experts are actually idiots, but I tend to have a great deal of respect for most of them. Basketball journalists, while they tend to have problems really understand math, they make up for that with a lot of first hand experience and access.

Stephen A. Smith just revealed himself to be shockingly ignorant. In a column talking about Deron Williams signing with a foreign team, he says this:

Exactly. A union — any union — is supposed to personify that (unity). They’re supposed to exude togetherness as opposed to coming across as a filthy-rich scab looking to do nothing else aside from bloating his bank account.

For anyone who doesn’t know, a scab is someone who crosses picket lines to accept an offer from the management the union protests against. A union’s strength is based on preventing management from successfully running their company, so if management can get people to help them run the company during the work stoppage this is very damaging to the union.

Deron Williams is doing nothing like this. He’s going to go play for a competitor to the NBA. This technically weakens the NBA, and the money Williams earns certainly isn’t going to make him any more likely to cave to NBA demands.

For Smith to get confused on something so basic about labor-management dynamics boggles the mind. Smith has always been a bombastic commentator whose success has been more about style than substance, but this is something I would expect a decent high school student to know. For an ESPN multi-media star to have this confusion is incredibly embarassing.

Written by Matt Johnson

July 9, 2011 at 2:35 pm

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

April 28, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Kobe Theory: Adventures in Distorted Probability

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Image via Wikipedia

We saw some fantastic, hard-hitting articles this week about Kobe Bryant‘s clutch reputation. I’ll go over them briefly, and then just talk about what people’s perceptions say about people in general, and running a basketball team specifically.

Henry Abbott at ESPN’s TrueHoop does a great job of just summarizing the fact that despite Kobe‘s reputation as the ultimate clutch performer, all the evidence says this is not the case.

Kelly Dwyer at Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie shows some moxie in making clear that he’s quite comfortable saying that if NBA GM’s don’t see the problem with Kobe’s stats, then the GM’s are in the wrong.

Zach Lowe at SI’s The Point Forward chimes in, but also emphasizes the larger trend that NBA offenses in general do terrible in the clutch. Scoring at far lower rates than they do in the rest of the game.

All very cool stuff. Here’s the most telling fact as I see it: People who reject the numbers here do it by dismissing statistics as not being as valid as what they see, which is an argument that often has merit, but is not valid at all here. So, Why isn’t it valid? and Why are people like this? Read the rest of this entry »

2010-11 NBA Predictions: The Championship

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Since this blog starting out pretty much at the beginning of the basketball season, I’ll spare the world an exhaustive look at each team in the league, and just answer the big question:  Whose left standing at the end?

We’re largely seeing a debate between Miami and the Lakers, with the occasional shout out to the CelticsThe GM’s took gave a strong majority to the Lakers.  The ESPN writers had the Lakers and Heat in a dead, well, heat.  The debate between those two teams itself is drawing people to meta-analysis, which if you know me, you know I can’t stay out of.

Silver Screen and Roll wrote an article essentially saying that this difference of opinion is about the war over advanced stats.  Stat geeks vs old school guys.  He points out that the GMs are mostly old school, and then breaks down the ESPN writers based on their affiliation with modern stats.  He then caps it all of preparing us for a potential Armageddon where we can definitively say who was right or wrong because now LeBron doesn’t have weak teammates as an excuse for losing out to Kobe’s Lakers.

Alright so, I’ve got a variety of problems  with this but he does have some interesting thinking here that isn’t entirely wrong.  The correlation between stat geeks and picking the Heat is real.  The big problem is though, that I don’t think the correlation is due to stat geeks simply assuming that you can combine great players and automatically have a good team.  Rather, I’d say that this is more about how the two sides think generally. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Matt Johnson

October 29, 2010 at 2:20 pm