Atlanta Team Report, 2013: Don't Trust the Hawks

al horford bringin the ball up the court

Coming off my 370-part player capsule series, I'm taking on a significantly less absurd task -- a 30-part frame examining the evolution of the individual teams in the NBA's 2013 season. Some in medias res, others as the season ends. Somewhat freeform, with a designated goal to bring you a few observations of note about the team's season, a view into the team's ups and downs, and a rough map of what to expect going forward. Today, we cover a team I was a bit higher on than a lot of people -- the 2013 Hawks.

Throughout the capsules, I expressed a general thought that the 2013 Hawks weren't going to be as bad as most people expected. Many saw them as a fringe playoff team -- I thought it was reasonable to go a step further and call them a team with a puncher's chance at first round home court. After all. Though most people vastly underrated what Joe Johnson brought that Atlanta team, so too did most people vastly underrate what Lou Williams had the potential to bring them. Combine that with a bit of help off the bench through Devin Harris and a full season of their best player, Al Horford? The Hawks always had a good shot at being the same exact 4-5 seed type team they've been since 2009, despite Ferry's apt blow-it-up style asset trading. Checking in today, the Hawks have banked 45 of their 82 games. They sit at 6th in the East and 2nd in their division, 4.5 games behind Miami and 12 games ahead of Orlando. They've gotten a lot of benefit out of an easy schedule, but they are once again neither atrocious nor excellent. As they say: they are who we thought they were. Let's talk Hawks. Continue reading

The Outlet 3.07: The Battle of Bad Decisions

Remember how we had that one series, a long time ago, where we'd entreat our writers to scribe short vignettes on the previous night's games? We've consistently discovered there's no way for us to do that every night, but with the capsules done and Aaron back in the saddle as a more active managing editor, we're hoping that we can bring the feature back as a weekly Wednesday post. As always, the vignettes may not always be tactful, tacit, or terse -- they'll always be under a thousand words, though, and generally attempt to work through a question, an observation, or a feeling. What more could we provide? Today's short pieces are as follows.

  • LAL vs NOH: The Battle of Bad Decisions (by Aaron McGuire)

• • • Continue reading

Small Market Mondays #12: Eminent Domain

Long ago in a distant land, Alex Arnon was watching a Kings/Suns preseason game when he became so furiously enraged at a Tyreke Evans double-teamed isolation jumper with 19 seconds on the shot clock that he hit his head, fainted, and woke up a delusional new man. To my understanding, he's now wholly ensconced in a bizarro world where some guy named Xenu created the Earth, Segways changed the very core of how people get around, and small markets make up the vast majority of NBA coverage and traffic. So just remember the motto we've provided our cracked-skull columnist: "No superstars? No problem!"

Last week we discussed the All-Star candidacy of Rajon Rondo (related: why haven't we made bionic ACLs yet? Get on it, Doctors!) and Kyrie Irving (WHOO I LOVE YOU BABY). All was made right this week when Kyrie Irving was named as an All-Star reserve. And due to Rajon Rondo's extraordinarily unfortunate injury, he should be the starting point guard for the Eastern Conference! Not even a small market backer such as myself can condone the slightest of injuries to the biggest of big market players. Doing so would be quite big market bully-esque. I refuse. Get well soon, Rondo!

You know who won't be playing in the All-Star Game this year though, no injuries required? The traitorous Joe Johnson, of course! Having played in Small Market Mecca Atlanta since 2005 ("CAW CAWWWWWW"), he was rewarded by the Gods that be with 6 straight dubiously deserved All-Star appearances from 2007 - 2012. Note how I said 2012 and not 2013. Hah! Joey J made his way to the fakest of all big markets this offseason -- Brooklyn. They're not a real big market! They just moved from small-market-at-heart New Jersey this year! They parade Jay-Z around to pretend like he's a real owner. Come on! The man barely owns 1/15th of 1 percent of the franchise, just so they can be relevant... wait, hold up, I'm being told that's worth over a million dollars. That also happens to be much, much more than what I'm worth. Blast it all. You win again, Jay-Zed.

But that's all beside the point -- Joe Johnson broke his streak of six straight All-Star Games by moving from Atlanta to Brooklyn. In fact, not a single Brooklyn Net is playing in the All-Star Game this year, even though they're 26-18 and it's well-deserved. Unless anyone was paying attention when Nets owner Bruce Ratner used eminent domain to displace hundreds of citizens in order to make over a billion dollars. There's no way that happened, right? Oh. It did? Well, dang. Speaking of which, how the heck did they use a law of Eminem's domain when Jay-Z is their part owner rapper?! There's got to be some beef there, right? Something's rotten in the state of Brooklyn, Horatio. Anyway. How about this -- we as fans need to use our power of eminent domain or whatever it's called to take back every All-Star spot ever awarded to them from the Nets and ensure that none of those poseur big marketeers ever make it in? Seems reasonable to me.

Hopefully, thanks to us, an All-Star spot will never be an (emi)Net's domain. Continue reading

A Strangely Prescient Conversation About The Lakers

 

Aaron and I had the following conversation on November 2nd. The Lakers were 0-2 (going on 0-3) as we had the conversation. Mike Brown hadn't been fired. While Nash's leg was already broken, we didn't know that when we were talking (recall that didn't come out until a few days after the Portland game Nash was injured in). Whatever the case, so much was going on with the Lakers, and I didn't know what to make of the stories that kept pouring in. I especially didn't know what to make of this particular conversation. So I didn't seize the moment, as Aaron suggested.

To my astonishment, it's January 25th (nearly three months after this conversation!) and I've had to make only minor edits, all for grammar/spelling, semantic clarification, cussin', and brevity. I can't make you believe we really had this conversation. All I can do is present it for your amusement (and horror, considering how disturbingly prophetic some sections of the conversation are in retrospect). Also, I am revealing to the world that I thought the Clippers would win about 43 games and the Warriors would get 35 wins, so... yeah. Nostradamus I am not. But the rest? That's gravy! Get that oil, son! GET THAT OIL!

• • •

Alex: A thought for your consideration: The Lakers are not conceivably an unstoppable team, because even in their best iteration, they are eminently and fundamentally flawed. That said, they could be scary good. Still, I'd like to see that actually happen, instead of just taking for granted that they'll get there. I mean, plenty of teams could be scary good (remember the Knicks!)... but health can do a lot to that "could" in a hurry, as can redundancy and uncreative coaching.

Aaron: Fair. This is my thought: I think the Lakers could be pretty great, and I see why the consensus is there. But making the leap from "could" to "will" requires a lot of factors to turn up in their favor, and not all are guaranteed to do so. In my assessment:

  • Dwight Howard has to get healthy. His defense looks atrocious and the back problem looms hard, because he can't seem to move laterally anymore or cover as wide an area of the court.
  • Pau Gasol needs to be able to defend perimeter guys in at least a remotely passable manner, as they're going to face good perimeter big men in every round of the playoffs. Frankly, if Pau continues to allow 8-8 on midrange to any half-decent big man he guards, they're going to be awful.
  • Steve Nash needs to be able to play ~30+ minutes per game in the playoffs. This is essential, and an underrated necessity for them. The backup options are so unbelievably bad that anything less leaves them with this gaping flesh wound for 10-15 minutes of the game, and leaves them too vulnerable offensively to respond. It's this huge internal hole the starters will always have to dig out of
  • They need to be in good health and not at all exhausted come playoff time — these are old guys and this is not a given, and exhaustion will sap an old man game more than anything, heh.
  • And finally, in a 7-game series? They need Steve Nash's performance variance either at a very low level around an average mean or at a very high level that errs on the high side.

Now, the thing with these? They all could happen, and even if only 2 or 3 happen, they'll still be a decent team. (Aaron Note: Yeah, nobody really could've seen NONE of them happening coming.) But the other thing is that it's an extraordinarily large assumption to just assume they'll all happen without a hitch. It's basically as big an inherent assumption as a Spurs fan saying: "Yeah, by the playoffs Tiago Splitter will be producing double-doubles nightly, we'll trade Blair/Neal for Anderson Varejao, Tim Duncan will only play 24 MPG of 25-15 ball in the regular season but 40 MPG in the playoffs, Tony Parker will average 30 points per game without breaking a sweat, and Kawhi Leonard will be the 2nd-best SF in the league by May." But one of the sets of team assumptions is today's "conventional wisdom", while the other is (rightfully) completely insane. Continue reading

2013 Midseason "Awards" -- Pelicans, Yachts, and Reagents abound!

Everyone seems to be doing it, right? We've reached the rough halfway point of the 2013 season and I -- Editor in Chief, Viscount of Nottinghamshire, Aaron McGuire (the Man in Esquire) -- have decided to kick off our mid-year award picks. Armed with just the acronyms of the NBA's six mainstay awards, I quickly discovered that I had absolutely no idea what any of those acronyms meant. After briefly considering looking them up, I decided instead to make up awards off the top of my head and hope they roughly matched actual awards that existed. They're close, right? Tell me they're close. TELL ME THEY'RE CLOSE.

MVP -- Most Valuable Pelican
The much-ballyhooed MVP award is awarded yearly to the most valuable Pelican in the entire league. The process of choosing this award was made significantly easier when the Hornets changed their name to the Pelicans. Thanks, New Orleans!
greivis vasquez 1. Greivis Vasquez
2. Anthony Davis
3. Eric Gordon
4. Ryan Anderson
5. Brian Roberts
Aaron McGuire: I'm tempted to go with Anthony Davis, because he's their best player so far and their most important big. But I can't. He's missed too many games. So I'll go with a pick I never would've seen coming a year ago -- their steady hand at the point, Greivis Vasquez. The man has accumulated the 2nd most assists in the NBA to date and he's producing markedly more efficient offense than he ever has in his life. He's played in every game, with virtually no depth behind him, which mitigates the difference in quality between him and Davis. He's doing phenomenal work, here.
anthony davis 1. Anthony Davis
2. Ryan Anderson
3. Eric Gordon
4. Greivis Vasquez
5. Brian Roberts
Alex Dewey: Anthony Davis. Brian Roberts is the narrative pick, Greivis Vasquez is the "relative to expectations" pick, Ryan Anderson is the most productive (whatever that means), Eric Gordon is the "best player on the best team", and Anthony Davis is the best player. So Anthony Davis. Bonus points to Austin Rivers and Roger Mason Jr. for causing opposing coaches to burn their eyes out (or have a mysterious illness just before the game), which gives an opening for Monty to dominate the coaching battle.
ryan anderson 1. Ryan Anderson
2. Greivis Vasquez
3. Eric Gordon
4. Anthony Davis
5. Robin Lopez
Adam Koscielak: If not for the injuries, it would've been between Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis. But I'll have to say Ryan Anderson. The man brings them a stable presence from deep, rebounds well enough, and spreads the floor enough to make Robin Lopez look competent every once in a while. Making Robin Lopez look good for even a second warrants an award, I think.

Hit the jump for more awards, including ROTY, 6MOTY, COTY, DPOY, and MIP.

Continue reading

The Outlet 3.06: Irving the Barber, Durant the Future, and the Five Percent

Remember how we had that one series, a long time ago, where we'd entreat our writers to scribe short vignettes on the previous night's games? We've consistently discovered there's no way for us to do that every night, but with the capsules done and Aaron back in the saddle as a more active managing editor, we're hoping that we can bring the feature back as a weekly Wednesday post. As always, the vignettes may not always be tactful, tacit, or terse -- they'll always be under a thousand words, though, and generally attempt to work through a question, an observation, or a feeling. What more could we provide? Today's three short pieces are as follows.

  • CLE vs BOS: Kyrie Irving -- the Demon Barber of Q Street (by Aaron McGuire)
  • OKC vs LAC: Kevin Durant is the Living Future (by Alex Dewey)
  • EAST vs WEST: Marginalizing the Five Percenters (by Alex Dewey)

Continue reading

Chicago Team Report, 2013: Waiting for Roses

hey ladies noah

Coming off my 370-part player capsule series, I'm taking on a significantly less incredible task -- a 30-part frame examining the evolution of the individual teams in the NBA's 2013 season. Some in medias res, others as the season ends. Somewhat freeform, with a designated goal to bring you a few observations of note about the team's season, a view into the team's ups and downs, and a rough map of what to expect going forward. Today, we cover a team I recently deemed one of the league's biggest surprises, although certainly not in a good way -- we're covering the sordid, unhappy tales of the 2013 Chicago Bulls.

In the preseason, I notched Chicago for a record of 41-41. There were two main reasons. First, the obvious -- I'd gotten some information indicating that Rose was going to be out for all but 10-15 games of the season, and in Rose's absence, I had absolutely no idea how the Chicago offense was going to hold up. The defense would remain decent, but I was worried it too would experience a drop-off after the Bulls let bench mainstay Omer Asik go, let Ronnie Brewer go, and watched helplessly as Luol Deng suffered more injuries over the summer in London. Needless to say, I wasn't entirely apt -- the Bulls are hardly a great team, but a stay-puft early schedule combined with one of Joakim Noah's best years as a pro have kept the Bulls well above water. They're comfortably in the Eastern playoff picture, and if Rose is back into shape by the playoffs, they'll be as firmly ensconced in the eastern picture as any non-Miami team. How have they been so far, though?

Continue reading

Small Market Mondays #11: Hey Rondo, You're An All Star

Long ago in a distant land, Alex Arnon was watching a Kings/Suns preseason game when he became so furiously enraged at a Tyreke Evans double-teamed isolation jumper with 19 seconds on the shot clock that he hit his head, fainted, and woke up a delusional new man. To my understanding, he's now wholly ensconced in a bizarro world where some guy named Xenu created the Earth, Segways changed the very core of how people get around, and small markets make up the vast majority of NBA coverage and traffic. So just remember the motto we've provided our cracked-skull columnist: "No superstars? No problem!"

Remember Smash Mouth's smash hit "All Star"? Having made that song my life's motto many moons ago, I was incredibly disappointed recently when I learned that the absolute poetry which legendary frontman Steve Harwell blessed our lives with isn't 100% true.

With All-Star Game voting concluding recently, I had latched on to one lyric in particular - only shooting stars break the mold. What an astute metaphor that was for the wonderful game of basketball, I thought. Only rising small market superstars could break the big market mold. I knew that the unholy liberal elite New England media stranglehold was going to incessantly push for stat-padder and all-around petulant child Rajon Rondo to start in the All-Star Game. I also knew that small market darling and future greatest point guard of all-time Kyrie Irving was much more deserving than Mr. Rondo as is evident by a quick look at their Player Efficiency Ratings: Kyrie is 2th among all point guards in the East, behind only Kyle Lowry who has played 329 minutes less than Kyrie, whereas Rondo is 6th among Eastern conference point guards. This is surely incontrovertible evidence, right? Wrong.

You see, I forgot to factor in the fact that those uppity liberal elites would stop at nothing to win! The All-Star Game is a popularity contest voted on by the unwashed masses and who else but big marketeers would have millions of these cretins in their city? As you probably know by now, Rajon Rondo will be starting for the East in this year's All-Star Game and not Kyrie Irving. Smash Mouth lied to me. Smash Mouth lied to us all. I've been spending the weekend making all of my friends promise not to eat anything associated with Guy Fieri or listen to Insane Clown Posse records (which, granted, no one should be doing in the first place) because of the resemblance they all bear with the Mouth's lead singer. But I guess only one thing truly matters now:

Hey Rondo, you're an all-star. Continue reading

MEM/SAS: A Tapestry of Turnovers (or: the Fabric of the Game)

bob knight

According to A Season on the Brink by John Feinstein, legendary Indiana coach Bob Knight once had a sign in his locker room reading "Victory favors the team making the fewest mistakes." Knight loved it. I do too. If you think about it, in a situation of uncertainty, that's all we can do. Try to get better, and try to make fewer mistakes than your opponent, if there are opponents involved. More broadly, coaches seem to understand at all times something that fans, commentators, and bloggers all at times seem to forget: you're in a game to compete with the other team, not to look competent, even if that's only a few letters off. Whether or not that's always possible with political and organizational realities is another matter altogether, but that's the job description, right after acting as leader and manager and putting the best sporting product on the floor. You have to compete. And competing means looking carefully at the levers by which wins are raised, and attempting to aggregate as much leverage for your team in a given match-up as possible, and denying the same to your opponents. That's -- in a nutshell -- what it means to compete.

Let's talk about mistakes. Continue reading

The Outlet 3.05: Grant Hill's Tenth Centennial, Shot Clock Follies, and Dribbles

Remember how we had that one series, a long time ago, where we'd entreat our writers to scribe short vignettes on the previous night's games? We've consistently discovered there's no way for us to do that every night, but with the capsules done and Aaron back in the saddle as a more active managing editor, we're hoping that we can bring the feature back as a weekly Wednesday post. As always, the vignettes may not always be tactful, tacit, or terse -- they'll always be under a thousand words, though, and generally attempt to work through a question, an observation, or a feeling. What more could we provide? Today's three short pieces are as follows.

  • HOU vs LAC: Grant Hill's Tenth Centennial (by Aaron McGuire)
  • LAL vs MIL: Lurking Demons & Shot Clock Follies (by Alex Dewey)
  • PHX vs OKC: Dribbling the Night Away (by Adam Koscielak)

Continue reading