All's Quiet on the Eastern Front

east meets west

Hey, all. For today's post, I'd like to present some cross-conference matchup data. A lot of people discuss cross conference games from a perspective of raw wins and losses. I'm amenable to that, in the aggregate -- there are usually enough games that looking at raw intraconference wins/losses can give valuable results. Still, there's generally more insight to be gained by looking a tad bit behind the numbers -- not simply the raw number of wins, but how they came about, what sort of statistical quirks underlie them, and what teams are best against the opposing conference. You know, all that jazz. So come with me, friends, and let's get behind a few of the preliminary factors that drive 2013's main inter-conference trends, and note a few interesting quirks

Full-size table after the jump. Continue reading

Small Market Mondays #10: Robbing Peter to Pay Maloofs

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!"

Happy Monday, everyone! Today I'd like to discuss everyone's small market darling, the Sacramento Kings. You've probably heard the news by now -- a consortium of "lattechino"-sipping Seattle socialites are trying to purchase the Kings from the oft-maligned Maloof brothers in an attempt to forcibly bring back the Seattle Supersonics. At best, this move is robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Perhaps the Sonics were un-rightfully robbed from Seattle. Well, alright -- they definitely were. But what gives them the right to steal the Kings from Sacramento? The fact that the Seattle fanbase knows what it's like to lose a team should give them more perspective than the average observer, yet all I see from them is "sucks to suck, Sacramento". There are children in Sacramento who love nothing more than to watch Jimmer swish 3's, to see Isaiah Thomas put up 21 points in the 3rd quarter, or try to figure out why DeMarcus Cousins anything he ever does.

How do you explain this to them?

This move could result in anywhere between 600 to 1,000 jobs being lost in Sacramento, one of the hardest-hit recession cities: they're currently sporting a disturbingly high 11.7% unemployment rate. The city of Sacramento approved spending $255 million dollars of the taxpayers money to keep the Kings there. Doesn't matter! They still might be moved, thanks to the incompetence of the Maloofs! Remember those kids I made up earlier in an unabashed attempt to tug your heartstrings? Imagine them losing their favorite team while their single mother loses her job alongside them because she worked in ticket sales for the Kings. Welp.

Yes, Seattle fans, life is tough and terrible things happen. Does that really justify taking the Kings away from a city who loves them despite their extremely incompetent owners? The Sacramento Kings actually hold the record for the 4th longest sell-out streak in league history... even when they were sub 0.500 for 11 of those 12 straight years. Having something stolen from you doesn't give you the right to steal from others, no matter how unjustified the wrongdoing was. Kings fans need to pressure the Maloofs into selling to an ownership group who will take a better role in managing the team, then start a brand new record sell-out streak. Because if they don't, maybe the Supersonics really should be saved. Continue reading

Unlearning Basketball: Thought Experiments Run Amok

Who is this? What sport does he play? Why is he on Sesame Street?

"I never forget a face, but in your case, I'll make an exception."

Let's try something. Let's try forgetting everything we ever knew about basketball. Let's... look, you saw The Matrix, right? But "the Matrix" is replaced with "your present conception of basketball". Free your mind. Ain't no such things as halfway crooks. Go all the way. Forget everything. Okay, take a deep breath. If you've done it right, it's all gone. Everything's forgotten about the game. "Basketball" now looks like a curious misspelling of "baseball".

That's how fully I've bought into this hypothetical.

The first thing we find in our quest to discover the meaning of "Basketball" is a bunch of random box scores sprawling across the Internet, and an unaccountable sense that these things form a self-consistent system to try to understand. We all individually forgot, but the Internet remembered! ... But not enough to tell us the rules of basketball. (This is already getting really convoluted. Bear with me, okay?) We're all alone in the universe, and nothing can change that. Except for this hypothetical we've decided to undertake, together. Come a little closer and we can discuss the implications of this hypothetical further. It's cold outside, after all. Put on the samovar, Natascha.  Continue reading

The Once and Future Kings: Remembrance of a Wizened Franchise

webber divac

“Fool that I am, that I did not tear out my heart the day I resolved to revenge myself.”

Yesterday afternoon, we were treated to some unexpected league-changing news. From the mouth of Adrian Wojnarowski himself, word filtered down that the Brothers Maloof had finalized a deal to sell the Sacramento Kings to a Seattle-led ownership group. Most response involved some manner of shock, jubilation, and confusion. After all, it was just earlier this week that the Maloofs' Virginia Beach flirtation ended -- nobody expected them to bite on a new deal so quickly after that fell through. Jubilation is obvious -- the sad tale of the wayward Sonics is one that just about every NBA fan has been fed ad nauseam over the past several years, and the prospect of a revitalized Sonics is neat. And confusion? Again: where did it come from? Where was the lead up?

There are a lot of different considerations that bear mention when news of this magnitude shocks us. How are divisions going to realign to fit the new Sonics? How done is done -- will the Maloofs really follow through on it, or is this going to be yet another in their string of failed business decisions? And what kind of a trade is it to give up a franchise with a promising young core for a franchise that desperately needs a housecleaning? These will be answered in time, along with questions we haven't even thought to ask yet. And they may renege, it's true -- we aren't exactly talking about George W. Bush, here. No deciders. The Maloofs are notorious for their waffling, and we're already starting to see signs that this may just be their latest cowardly attempt to siphon more money from Sacramento's ownership groups.

But there was a curious lack of focus on what was actually getting left behind. Lots of thought about the future, the villains, et cetera -- almost no talk of what was to be lost. Today, I'd like to go over that history a bit. Let's remember the Sacramento Kings, and why they mattered. Continue reading

"A New Game" -- Musings on our Luckless Lakers

One pet peeve I have when discussing basketball is when people don't treat the game like the game that it is. I don't mean people that take it too seriously. I mean people that completely ignore the role of competition and the act of competing in a game of opposing players and teams with both fitting and clashing intentions. After all, it's this continuous collection of games-within-the-game that compels nearly every rational decision made in the games. The fact that basketball is a highly symmetric game with two teams, a finite amount of time, and definite outcomes (win or loss) seems to me about the first or second fact implicit in any discussion. All too often, we lose that thread in the hodgepodge of personalities, mental feats, and the impressive physical execution. It's a game, though! You have to play the game to win the game. And that game isn't "Can I get my buckets?" or "Can I fit the template of your designated Right Way, focusing on grit and hustle?" It's a game, and the game is basketball.

Enter Kobe. Segue, Denver. That intro comes about because of this strange Laker season in which everyone has mentally diagnosed an unsolvable problem with the Lakers, solved another one, and caused several new problems with short-sighted solutions. The "hypotheticals" game-within-the-game is a whole lot of fun, but as designated practitioner of the Right Way, it's probably time for all the fun to end. No more narratives for me, folks. Simple living, easy thoughts. Kobe has such a unique footprint on any game he's a part of, one that has grown ever more stark and dichotomous through all the recent roster turnover (forced and unforced). And yet, we get bogged down in all the ephemera to try to figure out what the heck that footprint actually is, because Kobe has set us up to think in terms of "Are you, or are you not, a winner?" And there are so many questions, in this world of winners.

  • Is Kobe actually having an MVP-caliber season?
  • Is Steve Nash a pale ghost of his old self this season that can't guard paper with glue or is he just as brilliant as ever?
  • Is Kobe actually a huge minus defender now?
  • If he is... is it even possible to build a contender around him, no matter how good he might be on one end?
  • Is Dwight Howard ever going to be the top center in the league again? 

All of these are interesting questions, to a point. But I've reached it. Me, I simply can't find them interesting anymore. Continue reading

The Outlet 3.04: Wade's Smoking Lung & the Defenseless Suns

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 feature. 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 two short pieces are as follows.

  • MIA vs IND: Dwyane Wade and the Smoking Lung (by Aaron McGuire)
  • PHX vs MIL: Defenceless, starring the Phoenix Suns (by Adam Koscielak)

Continue reading

Washington's Woeful 2013: Defense, 404s, and Heartbreak

washington woe

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 Washington Wizards.

Not exactly the most grandiose of a start I could've hoped for, but you can't win them all. Today, to start this new series outlining the stories and evolutions of each team in the NBA, I'm starting with a team most people can't bear to watch: your 2013 Washington Wizards. A bit of backstory. In the preseason, I notched the Wizards for 35 wins -- short of the playoffs, but only 5 or 6 games back. I was a bit surprised to find the Wizards I had in my head -- a scrappy (though well below average) defensive unit with a roughly average offense -- apparently didn't exist anywhere outside my head. As they stand, the Wizards are among the slowest teams in the league, and currently hold the dubious distinction of sporting the 10th worst offense in the history of the NBA. Some of that's bound to improve when John Wall comes back. How much of it? Let's find out.

Continue reading

Small Market Mondays #9: Respect Your Elders

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!"

Good morning, small marketeers! I hope you all enjoyed your New Year's celebrations. Today I come to you with a simple request for the year -- remember the legends of the game. Far too often we consider our generation's greatest to be the greatest ever when the small market way of life would be to simply respect the all-time greats. It's impossible to know who the greatest of all time truly is due to the ever-changing rules of the game, evolving training methods, and differing strategies. All of the greats hang up their jerseys knowing that they'll be forgotten by the annals of history, left out of everyone's favorite moments. And because of this, in an odd way, the decision for a player to retire from the NBA is somewhat like the decision to end a relationship.

You see, the worst part about a break-up is knowing you'll be forgotten soon enough, thanks to the sands of time or a replacement coming into that person's life. Perhaps that replacement isn't as objectively good as you once were, but to the person in love -- the person who used to be in love with you -- that new person is their everything. Hell, even if they know deep down that this new person isn't as good a fit for them, at least that person is actually there in the here and now. They're a tangible object as opposed to a distant memory. And who can trust memories anyways? They're always these wispy, fragile things floating around your head subject to change on every emotional whim. Sure, the best times and the worst times stand out for as long as they can be remembered. But that constant day-in, day-out support and love and just being there for the person is the first thing to be forgotten.

And so it goes for the greats of time immemorial. It's easy to remember the things like small market superstar David Robinson's 71 point game and his season-ending injury but forget that he averaged over 23 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game for 7 straight seasons. Moses Malone's fo' fo' fo' declaration will live on forever in basketball history, but what about his nearly 25 points/18 rebounds per game averages in 1978-79 with Houston, a feat that hasn't come close to being replicated since? Kareem has the all-time scoring record, but how about his 34 point/16 rebound average with the Bucks in 1971-1972? Adrian Dantley put up nearly 31 points a night along with 6.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists for the Jazz in 1982-83... as a 6'5" power forward. They weren't just flashes in the pan to be defined by their highest moments. These stars made their bread the same way today's lunch-pail players make theirs -- they show up. They're just there.

My point here is that there's a lot of nuance which gets left behind in the debate to find the greatest ever. We have a habit of overrating the stars of our generation, the ones we came of age with like an unforgotten high school love a la Michael Jordan or the ones we get to see ply their craft on prime-time each and every night like LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. We'll never know who was truly the best and that's alright. There's been so many amazingly talented players. It's a certainty that someone better will come along, just as someone better will come along after that new GOAT has retired. Your children are going to proclaim their generation's superstar to be better than Michael Jordan and we're going to put up the counter-argument of it being a different era just as the elders who proclaim Bill Russell the greatest ever do today. So I propose this -- let's stop trying to figure this out. Let's remember all the greats for just how phenomenal they were on such a lengthy timeline instead of remembering them as "that guy who's only the 5th best power forward of all time". Let's stop being obsessed with rankings and arguments and focusing on just a few players at the top. Let's learn our history, respect everyone's game, and marvel at just how separately talented two players can be while playing the same sport.

And most of all, let's respect our elders. Continue reading

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