My parents separated when I was 10 years old. To this day, I remember vividly the moment my dad shut the door behind him, a stuffed and angrily packed suitcase in tow. Nothing was really the same for young Adam since. Had this not happened, I might've never been the person I am today. Actually, scratch the might -- I'm pretty damn sure about that.
A few years later, my dad would get a lucrative offer from an American company. The problem? He'd have to live in the US, and would only be able to come to Poland once a month. Even though I cried and begged him to stay, (thinking he was the cool parent, the one I'd rather spend my time with) he still took the offer. After all, it would only be six months or so. Still -- these six months ended up being pretty bad. My mom was pretty depressed after the divorce, and my childlike self savoured the time spent with my dad. He'd play video games with me, take me to lunch to my favourite Tex-Mex place, everything. Every weekend was great, which only made me appreciate him more when he came back for good.
Of course, that was then. Ever since, my dad managed to completely ruin all those memories, and make them into a melancholic journey. You see, in Poland, child support -- due to the reluctance of people to hire college folk -- is held up until age 26. This is for divorced couples, and married ones alike. The only difference is that divorced couples know exactly how much they have to pay. My dad did. And he wanted to change that. So right around my 18th birthday, my dad sued me. I ended up having to deal with all the blowback from the divorce, contacting lawyers, appearing in court, calling executors. It wasn't fun. It wasn't enjoyable. It wasn't right. At least I won, though. We only met once after the trial, for almost exclusively business reasons. Oh, and so my dad could say some mean things about my mom, of course. Then, once again, my dad vanished. It turned out later that he'd left for Canada along with his wife, and my step-brother. I'd only found out because my friend chatted with my step-brother. I didn't even get a proper goodbye, and when I'd mustered up the courage to send him an angry e-mail, I received an answer that somehow blamed me for being angry. Continue reading
Let's go unfiltered at the Gothic Ginobili. I'd like to talk about a dream I had.
I had some expectations going in, as I vaguely became aware of my location in the dream. Like, I knew it would be a nightmare from the start because the room I was in was really well-lit, and yet from the window I could tell it was night. Great foreshadowing, dream. Also, in real life, I had been in a minor bike accident a few hours before going to sleep (I'm fine, just some scrapes), so I'd expected some flashes of violent imagery. So not just a nightmare, but a screamer as well. There was a compounding and foreboding sense of fear -- as if chemically induced -- that I felt all around me in the emptiness of the room. Continue reading
Hello, folks. Happy fourth. About a month back, we did a relatively successful statistical Q&A. I've been a bit absent lately, on account of residual hoops miasma, but I have today off work and it feels like a good day to bring the series back. Format is relatively simple -- for the rest of the day (or until questions dry up), I'll be answering reader questions. These can be on any number of topics -- from the offseason to the playoffs to what, pray tell, a vegetarian is going to make for dinner on the fourth of July. All's game. To start, we have an opening question from the man who had the most questions last time. Continue reading
"They didn't let me push them around." could be a summary of Dwight's plea to the NBPA. Twisted, turned and hyperbolized, Dwight came out accusing the Magic of blackmail, while another collective "LOL" and "WUT" descended upon the twitterverse. Had this been the pre-Web 2.0 Dark Ages, the editors would've probably double-checked the story before printing it in tomorrow's news. But today, as information becomes moot with every minute, those with sources have no such restraint. They'll throw whatever their sources tell them out to the masses, which will be subsequently reposted, reinterpreted in a thousand of ways.
And as the story of Dwightmare 2: Electric Boogaloo unfolded, I wanted to write an instant reaction, just as many others. Because waiting? That means that the interest goes dry. Waiting means that people probably already said what you've wanted to say independently. Fast wins, and when a few days later something changes, you always have an excuse for your too-quick reaction post.
All things considered, I've narrowly avoided that. Continue reading
There are a few things in sport that are universally understood and respected. Foremost among them is the clarity of a simple win. You score more points than your opponent? You win. They lose. In virtually any sport! No partiality at play, no subsectionality to grapple with -- it's binary, it's Bernoulli, it's beautiful. Sure, there are different types of wins -- distilled to its core, sports analytics is primarily the process of determining probabilities behind the binary outcomes presented to us. It's all about taking binary outcomes and converting them into a continuous scale that allows for more gradation. Which win was a better win? Which pitcher is more than the sum of his direct outcomes? Which team was blessed by luck? Analytics let us answer these questions. They let us find the threads of continuity that underline the binary outcomes we respect and live by as fans. It takes the all-too-simple framework of winners and losers and lets us expand into the types of winners and types of losers. It lets us go deeper.
Smart people use smart analytics and deepen their understanding of the games we watch. That seems self-evident to most of us. But there's a funny element to following sports. As much as we try to look past binary outcomes and analyze on a deeper level, we're still following sports. We're still looking at a world of wins and losses, and that binary thinking is omnipresent in all we assess. And the funny thing is, the idea of wins and losses and the principled understanding of binary outcomes as they relate to sports actively harms our ability as fans to properly assess common scenarios and situations. Take this motivating example. Today, the Houston Rockets traded Chase Budinger to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the #18th pick in the draft. And I propose to you this: neither team lost.
Let's say you're a GM for an NBA team. Your team just came off a dismal 25-57 season, which is probably about right given all the D-Leaguers you called up near the end and the decent-but-flawed players at the top of the roster. Particularly the injured ones. All that sound and fury, signifying... the fifth pick in the draft! Your owner is excited, you are wary. As expected, on draft night, the top three players on your draft board are gone after the 3rd pick. You know where the 4th pick is going, so you cross that guy out too. No matter, you weren't really expecting anything different. But you look on that sparkling fifth pick with indecision even at this absolute moment of truth. Maybe this is the year you hit lucky five, where (by sheer coincidence) several present and future HOFers have landed.
Because, really. Look at the history! Maybe you'll get Kevin Love. Or Kevin Garnett. Or Ray Allen. Or Dwyane Wade! Devin Harris wouldn't be so bad. All of them (including Scottie Pippen and Charles Barkley) were 5th picks at one point. Statistically the fifth pick is the only one that has yielded close to the All-Stars as the big #1 pick in the last 25 years. You didn't know that until a few days after the lottery, but now it feels like the only thing you've said in years. Your mind dances with one part anticipation, ten parts dread. Your reputation as a GM is on the line, and you might lose your job when all's said and done if this pick never pans out. Nothing like playing roulette with your job, right? You find you have two realistic options. Open the doors, Vanna. Continue reading
Heartbreak. Noun. A special pain, reserved only for those who care the most.
So blurry, yet so clear. A lawnmower, a mailbox, a white picket fence. A teacup pig, amidst a menagerie of lovable creatures. A kick, a cry, a child. Future, family, friends. Lunches at home, vacations to paris, a wedding. These are things -- previously discussed, dissected, distended -- that flooded my thoughts after the words flashed across the screen. It was a silly time to reflect on that. We'd had about two years to think about those kinds of things. But no longer. She would not vocalize it. She would not say it over the phone, not this time.
"Aaron, I don't think this is going to work long term." We talked. I sniffled. She left.
And things fell apart, as they are wont to do.
Nature, nurture, heaven and home
Sum of all and by them driven
To conquer every mountain shown
But have never crossed the river
Braved the forest braved the stone
Braved the icy winds and fire
Braved and beat them on my own
Yet I'm helpless by the river
Angel, angel what have I done?
I've faced the quakes the wind, the fire
I've conquered country, crown, and throne
Why can't I cross this river?
In terms of raw talent and ability, LeBron might be the best player to have graced our game. The questions always concerned his psyche, his drive, his motivation. He won trophies, accolades, but always lacked the one attribute everyone associates with the best – those damned rings. With expectations from his rookie season, being a star from age 16, it’s hard to say whether he ever found himself within the huge body he inhabited. I know that when I was 16, I was pretty confused, and I didn’t have a documentary about me anywhere. I’m not a student of psychology. I don’t know LeBron. But from my (albeit limited) experience, I can tell you: that much attention, that much hype, that much expectations? Never does good for a person’s personality, never. Especially one that never had much of a life aside of them. And yet, he played through those, and yet he dominated, with no regard for human life. And the new basketball great showed he was ready to become the new basketball legend.
You'd think -- after a game like last night -- I'd be raring to write a piece on Westbrook's enigma of a night. It was marvelous. Twenty field goals for Westbrook -- to put that in context, he made as many baskets as every other player on the Thunder combined. His distribution was crisp, for him. His defense was fine. His thirst was tangible. And then -- on the cusp of defeat, with a 95% probability of a loss -- he extinguishes the last of that 5% with a somewhat silly foul, one that erases the entire rest of his game. In some ways, I agree with Danny Chau's likening of Westbrook's classic to Rondo's incredible game two performance in this year's ECF. In others, I don't -- I actually don't think Rondo's was on the same level as Westbrook's, and the level of cosmic unfairness that permeates the current "well, he gave the game away" talk is vastly above anything Rondo has ever faced.
I'm not, though. These finals are still a sore subject, especially as a fan who feels the Spurs would both match up better with the Heat. I put many of my season-long impressions of the Thunder on hold after the conference finals. I thought they needed quite a bit more in the way of "unsustainable" developments to beat the Spurs than people tend to admit, I still think they absolutely lack a good organizational presence in their coach, and I firmly believe they desperately need a better playbook. After the Western Conference Finals, I thought they'd figured those out -- I put my negativity on hold. Of course, now, all of that stormed back to loom full-form over the proceedings. I still do think they can come back, but my lord -- 3-1 is a tough deficit in the Finals, and winning three straight against this Heat team is going to be a hell of a task. But. Alas. So, instead of writing a full-fledged piece about Westbrook, or Durant, or LeBron? I'll write a piece about possible transactions. The why, the what, the how -- a mini-primer of sorts on two of the popular Thunder trade rumors that have been floating about. Continue the jump. Continue reading
There's a sick twist to those in sports offered to those who enjoy constant, unending success. At Tiger's peak, one began to find themselves more compelled when he lost than when he won. Usain Bolt wins track championships every year -- the last time I saw him on the front page of ESPN was this shocking loss. Every medal Michael Phelps loses this year will only make him more compelling. When the 2011 University of Connecticut Women's Basketball team lost its first game in 90, it was national news. It's an interesting wrinkle to a legacy of consistent success. At some point, you actually invert the properties of selection bias. When you miss nearly every shot you take in a game, your makes are that much more memorable. When you make nearly every shot you take in a game, your misses are that much more memorable. Just ask Skip Bayless. And on that note, like clockwork, it's another LeBron post! Continue reading