The Outlet #9: Aesthetics, Free Throws, and Slogging it Out

I don't like free throws. Let's start there. They're efficient, lovely, and essentially free points given how well most teams shoot them. But as a general rule I don't like them. They remind me a lot of football, a sport that (for all my love of sports) I have never been able to get very excited about. It's a stoppage in play that extends the game, often results from a sketchy call, and leads to boring no-effort full-court defense as teams return to their offense from the scene of the crime. And unlike play-stoppers like timeouts, there are rarely fun and interesting plays to be run after a free throw. There are rarely intrinsically interesting schemes. Just leisurely bring the ball up court, maybe rotate it a few times, and shoot an iso. That tends to be the play-of-choice on the other end after a free throw. And it's incredibly aggravating, from a strategic standpoint.

And really, a free throw is fine, considered alone. It's an occasional pause of the action to catch one's breath. They aren't always bad. And time-outs are fantastic, sometimes, for the same reason (and because the strategic laziness that tends to be prevalent on post-free throw plays isn't there at all). But too many free throws takes a great deal of strategy and the fluidity out of the game of basketball, and I find that aesthetically problematic. For a game whose lifeblood relies so much on the essential movement and flow of the offense versus the defense, and the strategic mores of the 10 men on the court, free throws are about as interesting and fun as a comatose dancer. It makes the referees more important than any player. And it warps the game around it, if it occurs too often.

Let's discuss last night.

Continue reading

The STEVE NASH Power Rankings: Week #2

Hey, everybody! This is the second edition of the STEVE NASH Power Rankings. The object of these is rather simple -- the ratings intend to take the predictions that STEVE NASH spat out before any games were played and update throughout the season with what teams have shown so far. The long and short of it? They're a simple re-weighting of current season SRS with the STEVE NASH projections then ran through our Gibbs sampler to predict playoff probabilities, projected records, and other various stats. Upon re-weighting, I apply the mean-regressed HCA estimates from Evan of The City and calculate predicted home wins and predicted road wins remaining in the season and add them to the team's current record. Which leads to the STEVE NASH end-state projections of what this season will look like -- an odd way to do Power Rankings, but hey. We're an odd blog. Without further ado: the updated NASH rankings. 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, Mavs fans. Without further ado, here are the rankings as of the close of all games played on January 10th Continue reading

The Outlet #8: One More Red Jefferson

According to Aaron, the end of the Lakers-Suns game was a vintage Mike Brown performance, featuring crucial defense down the stretch and a 16-1 run without Andrew Bynum. Which is crazy. I didn't watch it, but I'll trust him on that one. We've both have seen more than our fair share of MB defenses. But in any case, today at the Gothic we're not going to talk much about the games tonight but of two key players from these games. These players both have the weird property that their talent levels and aesthetics reflect certain (very specific) qualities upon their teams, only to find their teams reflect these same qualities back upon them. It's kind of complicated, and strange. So without any further ado, let's talk about our two Richard Jefferson and Chris Paul.

Continue reading

On David Lee Robinson and the dangers of obsession.

A 19 year old boy was shot and killed on Sunday. Over shoes and a coat. They were a $200 pair of shoes. Three or four men, at a bus stop. It was a shade after 2:30 in the morning. According to police reports, the men rolled up in an SUV. They got out. Shots were fired -- some by the assailants, and some by another person whose identity is currently unknown. They stole his shoes, his coat, and nothing else. He leaves behind a pregnant girlfriend, his almost-finished high school diploma, and a family that loved him. He is dead.

I repeat: a boy lost everything over a pair of shoes.

Continue reading

The Outlet #7: the Show Must Go On

I was hallucinating all night with a deathly combination of caffeine, tylenol, and the strangest sleep schedule ever. Technically, I'm not sure if I should've been up, much less writing anything. But Aaron would like us to take a new direction with The Outlet, and apparently, stepping into this new direction involves some growing pains in the form of hallucinogenic metaphors. Take my words with a grain of salt, my organization of concepts with a lot of leeway, and my concepts themselves as canon. I am going to attempt to describe the 2012 San Antonio Spurs, as they appeared last night in a thrilling game against the Warriors of Golden StateContinue reading

The STEVE NASH Power Rankings: Week #1

Hey, everybody! This is the first edition of the STEVE NASH Power Rankings. The object of these rankings is pretty simple -- the ratings intend to take the predictions that STEVE NASH spat out and update throughout the season with what teams have shown so far. I am rather busy, so I'm going to delay an explanation of how exactly we're going to do this until next week's edition -- this week, I'm merely going to post the rankings, some observations, and my thoughts on teams under/overrated in them. As a basic note: they're a simple re-weighting of current season SRS and the STEVE NASH predictions then ran through our Gibbs sampler to predict playoff probabilities, projected records, and other various stats. Without further ado: the updated NASH rankings. Keep in mind these are completely and utterly automated -- there's no human input on these rankings, at all. Continue reading

RJ Takes the Booth (Part I)

After years in the Association, stately, plump Richard Jefferson inevitably slid over from the bench to the scorer's table as a color commentator. By the end of his career, at the end of the bench, constantly making amusing, self-deprecating chatter, he had practically already busted his chops as a commentator. On the bench he'd say things like:

  • "Tim Duncan still runs like a deer. Now, can someone get me the license plate of the guy that hit him?"
  • "Ah, the starting small forward. I remember when that was me! President Reagan was in power, and we were all bemoaning Reaganomics at the end of the bench, when Red Holzman tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Kid, you're starting tonight.' I was 35. I was three years older than Red. I was actually a shooting guard but I had been eating ice cream all summer because I'd thought I'd never play. I played 20 minutes before I nearly had a heart attack. I never started again."
  • "LeBron James is still the most athletic player in the league at 30. He never developed a great perimeter game like Jordan or Kobe, but he never had to. He can just steamroll his way down the lane and bank it in for an and-one after drawing two fouls on every starter on that one single play. And then he can rest for the rest of the half while his team builds a lead. Then he does the same thing in the third quarter and steamrolls over garbage time and gets a triple-double in 15 minutes and his team wins by 30. It's sick. It's not even basketball. But you gotta respect the champs."

And so on. His teammates laughed, but they also noted that whatever he said rung of truth when they looked back at the game. And so it was that when he called a game as a test run for his alma mater, Arizona, they hired him on the spot, finding him funny, reasonable, and knowledgeable. Eventually, of course, it was these same traits (and the vetting experience at Arizona) that got him a spot calling color with the local professional team, the Phoenix Suns. After the offseason (filled, for Jefferson, with research on the newer players he hadn't played with), Jefferson was ready to show he could cut it as a commentator in the big leagues. Continue reading

The Outlet #6: the Days of Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year, everyone! I had a relatively crummy night, but most of my friends had a great one. Here's hoping 2012 is two times the year 2011 was. Or three times. Or more, even. There's reason for New Year's Cheer afoot, especially for Lakers fans. Bynum's back, the Spurs look strong, and the Rockets may still be a playoff team. All's well in the NBA world. After the jump: Nuggets-Lakers, Hawks-Rockets, Jazz-Spurs, and Knicks-Kings. Let's get at it. Continue reading

1 2