Rajon Rondo, the Margin of the Moment

Rajon Rondo sighed as the game reached its inevitable resting point. Down 4 points with 2.2 seconds left, the game was as good as done. As a rule, man's reach exceeds his grasp, Rajon thought, but tonight Rajon knew he had grasped something new. He simply couldn't wait to see how he'd tilted the balance. He walked in the other direction -- towards his locker -- after a half-hearted inbounds pass. Rajon paid no mind to the ball's trajectory, or the remote possibility of a win. The buzzer sounded. It was over. Continue reading

Using Talent Right: Title Contenders Force the Tempo

This is part of a two-part series. For observations on the Spurs  and the Thunder's specific matchup, see 48 Minutes of Hell.

As one of my questions in Monday's Statistical Q&A, I fielded a question from the imitable Tim Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell. His query was whether the Spurs stand to gain in OKC smallball lineups by pushing the pace and playing fast. In short? Yes. I covered that today in detail at 48 Minutes of Hell, but there's a lot of interesting tidbits to be had in this table, enough so that I felt a separate post was necessary analyzing the trends and tendencies of the non-Spurs teams. To examine, I've produced this table that shows the W/L record, the offensive and defensive efficiencies, the eFG%, the efficiency differential, and the free throw rates of our four remaining teams in four distinct buckets of possessions. First bucket includes all games with under 91 possessions; the second includes 91-95; the third is 95-100; and the fourth and final bucket includes super-fast games with over 100 possessions. These are roughly quartiles of possessions. I placed in red a team's "worst" pace and in green a team's best.

Looking at this table, some interesting takeaways after the jump. Continue reading

A Very Gothic Ginobili Statistical Q&A: Part 1, Playoffs

This was an idea we had a few weeks back, when I posted the "Last 21 Game" efficiency rating posts both here and at 48 Minutes of Hell. An understated aspect of those posts that I was experimenting with was that I, for the day it was posted, attempted to respond to every twitter question regarding the stats used (or any statistical trend readers wanted to hear about). Probably should've advertised it more.

In a combined sense, I got a lot of great questions from the 48MoH commenters and my twitter followers -- so many, in fact, that I'd like to codify it and make it a feature. As it's memorial day, I have the day off and have a chance to actually spend most of the day sifting through data, and it's a good opportunity to kick this off. To start the discussion, here's a table of team playoff efficiency stats vs regular season efficiency stats. Continue reading

"Juwan a Podcast?" Episode #1: Playoffs, Pets, and Matt Moore!

You may have noticed a bit of a dearth on the posting front this week. Two reasons. First: super busy at work. You know the deal. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we've been preparing for something we've wanted to do for a long time. We're dropping our very own Gothic Ginobili podcast. Kicking off our inaugural episode, we're covering three main topics: why the East is so boring, finding the perfect pets for NBA players, and previewing the conference finals in the most unrelated and out-there way we could think to do it. Along the way, we're bringing you a Lipton-esque interview with the bloggissist wunderkind (not the pitching wunderkind) Matt Moore, and discussing with him his favorite player and what he likes to watch in the game of basketball. We had a whole lot of fun kicking off what we're hoping will be a bi-weekly feature from now on. We do hope you'll give us a listen, and have some fun yourselves. Normal content resumes tomorrow with... well, probably a long and detailed post about something. You know how we do, readers. -- Aaron

 

Orlando's Options: Three Hibernating GM Candidates

The news broke yesterday. Next week, the Orlando Magic plan to interview Shaquille O'Neal to fill the recently vacated office of ex-General Manager Otis Smith. I don't remember where I was when I heard the news, but I assume I was home. Because I distinctly remember laughing far louder than would've been called for at work. As I thought about it a bit more, though, it began to make more sense. If the Magic are indeed becoming comfortable with a post-Dwight world, it's worth noting that moving on would (necessarily) cement Shaq's status as the greatest player in franchise history for at least 6 or 7 more years. The franchise has had a relatively awful relationship with Shaq since he left. Starting a dialogue through an interview and starting a back-and-forth to bring your greatest player back into the fold isn't the worst idea, from a PR perspective. Certainly, a GM interview with a man that would almost certainly be one of the worst GMs in the league is a weird way to go about it.

But from that standpoint, it makes a lot of sense. After all -- if they do retire his number (which I believe they will), wouldn't it be pretty awkward if Shaq and the Orlando management still had their awkward, angry back-and-forth going? Obviously, if they hire him as GM, we can resume making fun of them. I don't think that's particularly likely, though, given Shaq's relatively lacking abilities as a talent evaluator or as a communicator. We'll see. In any event, realizing that Shaq's GM interview was best understood as a way to mend the fences with a player quite important to the franchise history, I decided to think up a few other people the Magic could tap if they wanted to continue to make amends to all they've wronged. In that spirit, I was going to title this column "three sleeper candidates"... until I realized that describing these brilliant choices as sleepers would simply undersell them. People aren't just sleeping on these guys, they're straight up hibernating on them. Join me, behind the fold.

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The Outlet 2.08: It's Not Over Til It's Over

To bring our playoff coverage up, we’re bringing our formerly retired series of daily vignettes — titled “The Outlet” — back for the playoffs. “Don’t call it a comeback.” Though, you can call it series 2, as we are in the title. Every day (or, rather, every day we aren’t doing a larger and grander piece), we’ll try to share two or three short vignettes from our collective of writers ruminating on the previous day’s events. Should be a fun time. Today’s Outlet is just one piece strong, featuring a short piece on the current dogfight between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat. As the title indicates, I don't think it's over.

  • "It's Not Over Til It's Over." by Aaron McGuire.

Click the jump for today’s take. Continue reading

Timothy Duncan and the Slings and Arrows

Nate Jones (@JonesOnTheNBA) recently made an argument against Tim Duncan's private, quiet approach to life in the NBA. It's one he's been making for a long time. The argument goes like this: basketball - regardless of the product's essence - is an entertainment business. Tim Duncan is an interesting person and an important basketball player. In the hands of the right writers and interviewers, Tim Duncan could be marketed as a fascinating public figure. Therefore, opening up to the media should increase Tim's brand recognition and that of his team. In Duncan's case, it would also be good for basketball in general (and the NBA in particular) if Tim did so, because he embodies rarefied, virtuous qualities on and off the court. There are templates for Duncan to follow such as Steve Nash, but regardless of how he does it, Tim Duncan should become a more public person, at the very least showing his interesting personality to the national media. In fact, one could argue (as Jones does), Tim Duncan's salary is paid precisely because more athletes don't follow his quiet path. Duncan may not like it, but morality appears to demand that he seek an active public profile for the benefit of the league.  Continue reading

On Heroes, Villains, and Durant's Time

Narratives are a powerful thing. For whatever reason, that seems to be a controversial statement, particularly in NBA blogging circles. Stats are king, you see. My kingdom for the purity of the game. Efficiency, ball-sharing, teamwork. But like it or not? The narrative -- lacking in substance though it may be -- is important. It’s the truth. Sports are entertainment, at least as a commodity. Professional athletes are for most of us as unknowable and inscrutable as a famous actor or politician. They’re caricatures, into which we plug the stories we’ve heard, the way they act on the court, and the individual components of their game. At times we project upon them our own personalities, our own flaws and sympathies, our own feelings on what’s important to the game, and in life.

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I love Tim Duncan, and you don't have to.

Today, Chris Ballard dropped one of the greatest profiles I've ever had the pleasure of reading. Twenty-one facts and anecdotes about one Timothy Theodore Duncan, written in Ballard's incomparable form. Beyond Joe Posnanski, I'm not sure there's a man in the business right now with writing as joyous as Ballard's. I don't mean that lightly. The profile stirred a lot of long-standing pride and wonder I've had at Duncan's career. Which got me thinking. In this post, I'll share a perspective you might not be expecting from a Spurs fan. I love Tim Duncan. But after years of sniping at friends for their incomprehensible loathing of Tim's game, I've realized that in my dismay over our difference in opinion, I've been derelict in the imitation of the ideal I defend. At this point, I know where I stand. I know where they stand. I love Tim Duncan -- as a person, as a baller, and as an institution. Many don't like him, or don't care, or find him boring. And at this point? I really couldn't care less if they -- or you -- give a damn. Continue reading

HoopIdeology: Solve for Pattern (Part I)

I've been itching to respond to Steve Kerr's recent Grantland piece arguing for raising the age limit because I find so much to disagree with. However, trawling the Internet for counterarguments, I found this podcast by Henry Abbott and Michael McCann, laying out almost every imaginable critique of Kerr's piece two months in advance of it being written. I find it more succinct, organized, and authoritative than anything I could put to text. Still, at the end of the podcast I felt like something crucial went unsaid. Kerr's piece ultimately had less to do with the age limit itself than with the larger problems Kerr uses the age limit to simultaneously attack: player maturity, development, and marketing. These are clearly critical problems to be solved, and in this two-part response, we're going to work on them.

But in the framework of these larger problems, Kerr's proposal to change the age limit by one year seems at best absurdly limited and unsuitable for these problems. Kerr's argument, to me, reads somewhat like that of a high school student who writes an essay arguing something trivial like that a first-time drug possession fine should change by $50, in order to ameliorate crime, increase revenue for the state, or advance political liberty by a few ticks at the end of the fiscal year, using a bunch of ad hoc, heterodox arguments. "It will ameliorate crime because... it will increase revenue because... it will advance political liberty because..." Perhaps, Steve, perhaps. Crime, fiscal policy, and liberty are enormous problems, though, requiring a broader vision than a rhetorical, cherry-picked take whose prime directive appears to be "stay on message." Continue reading