The STEVE NASH Power Rankings: Week #5

Hey, everybody! This is the fifth edition of the STEVE NASH Power Rankings. The object of these Power Rankings is rather simple -- STEVE NASH is my statistical model for making team projections the season, and STEVE gave us some results about teams' SRS projections before the season. So -- during the season -- we've been updating these SRS predictions to reflect the week's results. Our new results are a rather simple re-weighting of STEVE's projections and the actual results of the season. These new results are then run through a Gibbs sampler to predict playoff probabilities, projected records, and other various stats. I apply the mean-regressed HCA estimates from Evan of The City to these new projections to calculate predicted home wins and road wins remaining in the season and add them to the team's current record. Keep in mind (once again) these are completely and utterly automated -- there's no human input on these rankings, at all. So don't lynch me, Bobcats fans. Without further ado, here are the rankings as of the close of all games played on January 25th.

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Juwan a Book? #1: 101 Basketball Out-of-Bounds Drills

Lately I've been reading George Karl's 101 Basketball Out-of-Bounds Drills. This is a virtually unavailable book from 1999: I only found it through the Borgesian library of the Internet's darker channels. It's not impossible to find, but if (work with me here) 100 of you went out and bought it, I feel like that would actually prevent the next 100 of you from trying to get it. But despite this, I think Karl's book is worth talking about, if only as a lead-in to talking about halfcourt offense as a whole. After all, the book delivers exactly what its title promises, nothing more, nothing less -- the whole thing is about 115 pages long, and about 14 of those pages are non-drill pages, if you catch my drift. And while each of these pages contains a "drill," the drills are mostly full, workable descriptions of set plays with a couple extremely helpful diagrams per description. Continue reading

The Gothic's 1st Quarter All-Stars: Western Edition

For the Eastern Conference edition of our 1st quarter all-stars, click here.

A common refrain among those in my twitter feed, for anyone watching, has been that this season makes no sense whatsoever. I have to agree. The season has been unfathomably odd so far. I was going to do a freeform piece on the subject, but quickly realized there was a simpler way to go. Given that All-Star voting has begun, why not give you my first-quarter All-Stars? After all, we're already voting. And the game is in about a month. It's closer than you think, in other words. I'm not really doing statistical rankings here -- these are based on a combination of their stats (mostly documented here so we can look back later), what I've seen from watching them, and where the conference stands. It's a long look, so let's get to it. Keep in mind we'll be going with the infuriating All-Star positional designations; that is, guards, forwards, and centers. Four guards, four forwards, two centers, and two wildcard slots. Go.  Continue reading

The STEVE NASH Power Rankings: Week #4

Hey, everybody! This is the fourth edition of the STEVE NASH Power Rankings. The object of these Power Rankings is rather simple -- STEVE NASH is my statistical model for making team projections the season, and STEVE gave us some results about teams' SRS projections before the season. So -- during the season -- we've been updating these SRS predictions to reflect the week's results. Our new results are a rather simple re-weighting of STEVE's projections and the actual results of the season. These new results are then run through a Gibbs sampler to predict playoff probabilities, projected records, and other various stats. I apply the mean-regressed HCA estimates from Evan of The City to these new projections to calculate predicted home wins and road wins remaining in the season and add them to the team's current record. Keep in mind (once again) these are completely and utterly automated -- there's no human input on these rankings, at all. So don't lynch me, Wizards fans. Without further ado, here are the rankings as of the close of all games played on January 25th. Continue reading

Kevin Durant Picked Second... Again.

"First off I hope I make the Olympic team," Durant said recently, humorously humble as ever. "But if I do make it, I won't worry about that, man. I think I do a good job of taking care of my body. So if I'm there, hopefully I can push through it and make it a good season and a good summer."

--ESPN's Weekend Dime, Marc Stein, 1/20/12

Gee, reading that quote really brought back some memories! See, I know Kevin Durant from back in D.C. During the lockout he and a couple of his NBA friends would play on a neat pavement court. Being an intrepid, ruthless basketball journalist disguised as a baby-faced 16-year-old, I seized the moment and asked to join the game, right when they were shooting hoops early in the morning.

"Hey, Kevin," I said, casually as possible.

"Hey, kid. What's your name?" Kevin Durant had a really jumpy, curious voice.

"I'm John."

"Hi, John. Are you by any chance a point guard on the Minnesota Timberwolves?" Kevin and his friends kind of chuckled at that. As did I. Kevin Durant had jokes.

"Nah, they waived me right before the lockout ended. The Spurs signed me, at a reduced salary, as a mop-boy," This last part was true. Only mopping afforded me the insider journalistic access I sought.  Continue reading

The Gothic's 1st Quarter All-Stars: Eastern Edition

A common refrain among those in my twitter feed, for anyone watching, has been that this season makes no sense whatsoever. I have to agree. The season has been unfathomably odd so far. I was going to do a freeform piece on the subject, but quickly realized there was a simpler way to go. Given that All-Star voting has begun, why not give you my first-quarter All-Stars? After all, we're already voting. And the game is in about a month. It's closer than you think, in other words. I'm not really doing statistical rankings here -- these are based on a combination of their stats (mostly documented here so we can look back later), what I've seen from watching them, and where the conference stands. It's a long look, so let's get to it. Keep in mind we'll be going with the infuriating All-Star positional designations; that is, guards, forwards, and centers. Four guards, four forwards, two centers, and two wildcard slots. Go.  Continue reading

Stretching The Pantheon Out #1: Spurs upon Spurs upon Spurs

For an explanation of what this is about and a full listing of the Pantheon thus far, go here.

We're updating The Pantheon today with eleven links. Fun times for all. An important note that we'd like to emphasize is that we are really, really open to suggestions (discovery-wise, the list is about 40% Aaron-40% Alex-20% later suggestions at the moment), even to your own pieces. Really, we don't mean to be biased or terribly exclusive: I mean, it *is* meant to be a textual highlight reel, yes, but as we're trying to exhaust the list of the very bets, we're realizing that it's essentially inexhaustible. When we want to include something on the basis of supreme quality, we can usually find room for it. Because of this, The Pantheon is becoming more and more of a library for great pieces than anything else. We're keeping the name, and the attitude of timelessness (because all the pieces are truly timeless, and the additions are no exceptions), but we recognize the subtle Borgesian shift from pantheon to great library. And we're cool with that.

I say this because we are quite aware that the additions are mostly Spurs pieces. We're called "The Gothic Ginobili" and this is what we're familiar with. Now, we're pretty confident that other fan bases are producing content every day as hilarious and brilliant as Popovich giving Vampire Beno Udrih a withering stare that causes Udrih to impale his own heart in shame while "Luke Walton's smile supernovas into escalating sobs". We just haven't seen it. Sorry. Tell us if you do see something great (especially one that speaks to you personally as a fan of one of the teams/players), preferably in the comments of The Pantheon. This is best because it saves us the trouble of adding it directly/filtering them/until an update while still allowing readers to check it out. If you'd prefer more privacy or a longer explanation than a post or a link dump? Then try droping us a line through our staff email. We'll read it, and probably even respond!

I realize there's something inherently normative about making a freaking Pantheon (and naming it that), and every time we update it I feel a certain (kind of obsessive) pressure against the normative, the biases, and the urge to promote based only on preference in subject matter. Why? Well, because sometimes that normative part is the ugly stuff of exclusion in selection of material and a cheap delineation of what is high art and what is not, and it's kind of endemic to the human mind to compartmentalize these sorts of things. But it's not our purpose, and we're aware of the problem. Note it. Thanks. New links after the jump. Continue reading

The STEVE NASH Power Rankings: Week #3

Hey, everybody! This is the third edition of the STEVE NASH Power Rankings. The object of these Power Rankings is rather simple -- STEVE NASH is my statistical model for making team projections the season, and STEVE gave us some results about teams' SRS projections before the season. So -- during the season -- we've been updating these SRS predictions to reflect the week's results. Our new results are a rather simple re-weighting of STEVE's projections and the actual results of the season. These new results are then run through a Gibbs sampler to predict playoff probabilities, projected records, and other various stats. I apply the mean-regressed HCA estimates from Evan of The City to these new projections to calculate predicted home wins and road wins remaining in the season and add them to the team's current record. Keep in mind (once again) these are completely and utterly automated -- there's no human input on these rankings, at all. So don't lynch me, Wizards fans. Without further ado, here are the rankings as of the close of all games played on January 10th. Continue reading

Critiquing Wages: a Comprehensive Index

A few months back, when this blog first launched, I wrote a piece that was meant to be less a discussion and more a diatribe starring the work done by the Wages of Wins blog. It was the opening piece of our Juwan a Blog? series, and it currently stands as by far the most negative portrayal of any blog I've reviewed. Aaron and I both have strong opinions about what Wages does, and both its strengths and weaknesses. One strength, which we really could've done a better job of highlighting, is the sheer volume of intelligent people the WoW network has accumulated -- while we can disagree with their orthodoxy and strict adherence to their way of thought (which, obviously, we do), you can't knock the hustle, nor can you knock their intelligence. There are a lot of smart, smart people at Wages, and in my takedown of their methods, I didn't necessarily articulate that. So, please consider this articulated.

Here at the Gothic, what we hope to do more than anything is start conversations. When Aaron wrote his piece this weekend examining Kobe via Stavrogin, he didn't intend it to be the be-all or end-all of his writing on Kobe, or the discussion of his comparison -- he intended it to start the conversation. How valid is the comparison? How well does it fit Kobe, and can one stretch it further? Those are the questions we like to ask. When we created the STEVE NASH model, we didn't do so intending it to be a be-all and end-all of our statistical meandering -- we merely want to add another model to the discussion atop the various standard prediction models, and see if we can't get a few more ideas on the table. Like my pantheon, it's only the stepping stone to -- hopefully -- a some-day valuable index of the absolute best sportswriting the NBA has produced. More than anything, that's what we like doing here.

I say this all because Wages of Wins recently addressed diminishing returns on defensive rebounds in an update to their main metric, Wins Produced. Such a tweak might sound fairly standard, but they've previously exhibited stubbornness and an almost impossibly high standard for making even minor changes. By their standards, it's a huge deal. They also published a link to this very post, summarizing more well-written (and my own) critiques with links to the pieces. Again, that might not seem like a big deal that they posted it, but they didn't used to post comments like that. And the fact that they seem at least marginally earnest about starting a dialogue is fantastic. It would be intellectually dishonest to ignore progress to suit my existing narrative. So good on them. I thought it would be more fair to them as a self-contained blog if I could stop cluttering their comment pages and repost this as an well-linked, oft-updated summary of their primary critiques here on Gothic Ginobili -- ripe for their own responses, when they get a chance, and ourselves isolating things we feel should be addressed. This is that ostensible entry, if you haven't gathered already. Let's get to it. Continue reading

At Tikhon's, starring Kobe Bean Bryant.

I consider myself a relatively well-read man, at least when it comes to Russian literature. I haven't kept up with my reading as much as I used to before college (which seems to be the case with any literate math and science major), but I've become really fond of picking up my old favorites and reading a few chapters every now and again as a reminder of why I loved them. That and short stories, which is the reason I've had a quite unfinished post on Popovich through the eyes of Solzhenitsyn bouncing around in the 48 Minutes of Hell drafts page for at least a month now. I'll finish it, someday. I promise. This is all relatively beside the point. I love Russian literature. I love the cultural sensibilities at play in many of the Russian greats, and the general cossack voice that seems to lend itself to the limits of character complexity and motivations that lie at the heart of work operating at the apex of literature.

Alex and I would both attest to having spent many long hours discussing amongst ourselves the best NBA analogues to some of the characters from our favorite novels. Who's the NBA's best representation -- both rhetorically and in their aesthetic realization of the character's themes -- of War and Peace's Pierre Bezukhov? Solzhenistyn's Ivan Denisovich, or even Cancer Ward's Oleg? Gogol's incarnation of the poshlost, in the knavish Chichikov? Lermontov's Pechorin, Goncharov's Oblomov, Dostoevsky's Prince Myshkin. All incredible characters -- are there any NBA analogues, of their ilk? There are, for some. Some are reaches. And others are Eddy Curry. But that's beside the point -- one could frame relatively entertaining and insightful posts around the eternal search for an analogue of each classic character I described, if they'd like. Someday, we may do that.

Today, though? Let's talk about Nikolai Vsevolodovich Stavrogin and Kobe Bean Bryant.   Continue reading