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Archive for June, 2010

Layups: The NBA Finals… of Complaining, That Is

15th June 2010

Our friend David Biderman of the Wall Street Journal has a great piece today on the biggest complainers of the Finals so far:

"In the first five games of the Finals—which continue Tuesday with Game 6 in Los Angeles—the Celtics screamed, threw up their arms or spun around in disgust (or all three) after 48% of the fouls they were called for, according to an analysis by The Count. We looked at every foul in the series that wasn't intentional, tracked the observable reactions and gave extra weight to the more blatant complaints. The Lakers expressed displeasure about 36% of the time, even though Kobe Bryant disputed half of his while Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce only bickered about one-third of theirs."

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Posted in Just For Fun, Layups, Playoffs | 3 Comments »

Layups: Odds of LBJ Becoming the Top Twitter Athlete

15th June 2010

Somehow, LeBron James isn't on Twitter yet (seriously, how did that happen?), but his initiation into the Twitterverse has to be coming any day now. That's why SBR Forum has posted odds on King James' Twittering future:

"Currently, the top Twitter athlete is Shaq with over 2.9 million followers. The moment James actively decides to tweet, we anticipate his follower list to grow at unprecedented levels. The long wait of him finally becoming seemingly accessible will make his Twitter debut impressive. "

SBR guesses that James not only will get on Twitter in 2010,  but that he’ll become the top athlete on Twitter by Sept 1, 2010. Or at least they give him a 67% chance (1 to 2 odds). Would you take that bet?

Posted in Just For Fun, Layups | Comments Off on Layups: Odds of LBJ Becoming the Top Twitter Athlete

LakerTracker 2010: Games 1-5

15th June 2010

Last week, I took a look at Kobe Bryant's performance vs. the Boston Celtics in Games 1-3 of the Finals, and how it compared to his performance against them in 2008, as well as LeBron James' performance against them a month ago. With 2 more games having passed, it's time to update the numbers:

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Posted in Analysis, Playoffs, Statgeekery | 18 Comments »

Uniform Tweaks: Washington Wizards

14th June 2010

New Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has stated that he's open to the possibility of changing the Wizards' team colors, if not their name. As we all know, the Washington Bullets had a good color scheme going throughout their history, but the prevalence of gun-related fatalities in the nation's capital led Abe Pollin to change the team's nickname to the Wizards -- and change the team colors to a scheme that not even God Michael Jordan himself could make look good. However, now that Leonsis is in charge, there's been a groundswell of fan support to change the colors -- and name -- back to the way they were before the late 1990s. Of course, my hunch is that it will stay the "Wizards" for the foreseeable future out of respect to Pollin... but a change back to the old red, white, & blue colors is highly probable. Here's my take:

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Posted in Uniforms | 14 Comments »

Best Performances in a Finals Loss (1991-2010)

14th June 2010

Last night, Kobe Bryant boldly attempted to take over Game 5 of the Finals, pouring in 23 consecutive Laker points in the 3rd quarter on a collection of the toughest shots you'll ever see. However, L.A. couldn't get stops during that span, and nobody but Bryant was scoring, so the Celtics were actually able to extend their lead even as Kobe's outburst was taking place. Bryant finished the game with 38 points, but half of them came in that 8-minute stretch during the 3rd quarter, and he couldn't will L.A. to a late-game charge even as Boston seemed on the verge of a collapse in the final minutes.

The frustration was apparent in Bryant's expressions and body language throughout the 4th quarter, as Kobe was unable to do any damage from the floor in the final 8 minutes of the game. But despite his failure to drive a stake into the Celtics' hearts in crunch time, Bryant's performance was still one of the most valiant in recent Finals history by a member of the losing team. According to Statistical +/-, here are the best individual performances in a Finals loss (minimum 30 minutes played):

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Posted in Analysis, Playoffs, Statistical +/- | 24 Comments »

What’s The Matter With Kansas?

11th June 2010

In the midst of the current conference expansion insanity, we have a school that's soon to not be aligned with any major conference. They are the 3rd-winningest program in their sport's history. They've won 5 National Championships. Their first coach was the inventor of the sport itself.

So why doesn't anyone want Kansas?

Yeah, yeah, I know, football is king. Football makes the most money, has the most support, and consequently dictates every decision made by the major conferences. But how insane is it that Kansas, arguably the most storied program in college basketball history, will be left out in the cold while Nebraska, an irrelevant basketball school for its entire history and barely an above-average football one over the past decade, gets to decide the fate of an entire conference? How does that make any sense?

Over at ESPN, Eamonn Brennan tackled the issue of Kansas' inexplicable irrelevance in the conference shuffle:

"The Pac-10 doesn't want Kansas. The Big Ten doesn't seem wholly interested. The Jayhawks are, for the moment, on the outside of conference expansion looking in. Which says a lot more about conference expansion than it does the Kansas Jayhawks.

What it says is that college basketball doesn't at all factor into what conference expansion will produce."

What if the tables were turned? What if, say, Michigan was without an affiliation? Would other major conferences possibly be interested in adding them to their ranks?

Of course they would -- they'd kill for Michigan. Because Michigan is the football equivalent of Kansas basketball. Another KU analogue, Notre Dame, has been fending off would-be conference suitors (in football, at least) for decades. That's the reality of being a college football powerhouse. But when an elite basketball program becomes available, the only question is, "How's their football team?"

Like Brennan wrote, basketball fans may understand this summer's conference free-for-all on an intellectual level, but that doesn't make it any easier to stomach when one of the prestige programs in the entire country, the place where Dr. James Naismith himself coached, finds itself on the outside looking in while historically lame basketball programs like Colorado and Nebraska dictate its future.

Posted in NCAA, No Math Required, Rants & Ramblings | 6 Comments »

Boston’s Bench Boost

11th June 2010

Led by Glen Davis (18 pts, 5 reb) and a superb relief performance by the bench in general, the Celtics scrapped their way to a 96-89 win in Game 4 of the Finals, drawing the championship series even at 2 games apiece. Just how good were the Boston reserve corps last night? Since 1991, here are the teams that received the biggest Win Share boosts from non-starters in a Finals game:

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Posted in Analysis, Playoffs, Win Shares | 6 Comments »

Layups: Blogger Q&A with Charles Barkley

11th June 2010

This week, I was invited back to participate in's Blogger Q&A series again. The guest was Charles Barkley, an inner-circle Hall of Famer and one of my personal favorite players (and announcers) of all time, so I asked Charles to weigh in on the Kobe-Pau Finals MVP debate (which may have been a bit premature in retrospect, as the Celts drew even in the series last night). As always, thanks are in order to the NBA and YouCast Corp. for putting together this opportunity.

Other Content:

Sir Charles on
TNT Crew A-Team Video
Game 1 Mini Movie
Game 2 Mini Movie
Game 3 Mini Movie
Lakers/Celtics Top 10 Moments

Posted in A Word From Our Sponsors, Layups, Playoffs | 6 Comments »

Alpha Dogs, Second Bananas, and the Finals MVP

10th June 2010

During yesterday's Kobe Bryant discussion, an interesting point was raised about just what it will take for Laker second banana Pau Gasol to be named Finals MVP this season. My rhetorical question on the matter was this:

"I wonder if an established best player on a team has a sort of "incumbent effect" when it comes to Finals MVPs? In other words, how badly would Kobe have to play -- and how well would Gasol have to play -- for Kobe not to be named Finals MVP? [...] What kind of handicap does a 2nd banana have when trying to overcome the Alpha Dog for Finals MVP?"

Today I want to look at this phenomenon statistically, and see how often the winning team's agreed-upon "best player" won Finals MVP honors, how the second bananas' numbers compared to the Alpha Dogs' during the Finals, and hopefully determine what kind of handicap a non-"Alpha Dog " faces when vying for the award.

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Posted in Analysis, History, Playoffs | 31 Comments »

Layups: Clutch Players and Wall Street Bankers

9th June 2010

In this Huffington Post piece, MIT Management Professor Dan Ariely looked at two high-pressure jobs -- Wall Street Bankers and NBA basketball players -- to see if some people actually respond positively to stress:

"With the help of Duke University men's basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski ("Coach K"), we got a group of professional coaches to identify clutch players in the NBA (the coaches agreed, to a large extent, about who is and who is not a clutch player). Next, we watched videos of the twenty most crucial games for each clutch player in an entire NBA season (by most crucial, we meant that the score difference at the end of the game did not exceed three points). For each of those games, we measured how many points the clutch players had shot in the last five minutes of the first half of each game, when pressure was relatively low. Then we compared that number to the number of points scored during the last five minutes of the game, when the outcome was hanging by a thread and stress was at its peak. We also noted the same measures for all the other "nonclutch" players who were playing in the same games."

Their initial finding?

"We found that the non-clutch players scored more or less the same in the low-stress and high-stress moments, whereas there was actually a substantial improvement for clutch players during the last five minutes of the games. So far it looked good for the clutch players and, by analogy, the bankers, as it seemed that some highly qualified people could, in fact, perform better under pressure."

However, upon further inspection, they found that the "clutch players" in the study didn't shoot better in the last 5 minutes... they just shot more. To use the Wall Street analogy, they knew they had to do something to justify their mystique and high salaries, so they make it look like work was getting done, even if they weren't necessarily being truly productive.

Now, creating shots in and of itself is a skill, and that's certainly what the study's clutch players did in the final 5 minutes. However, those players already proved they could create at a high level in ordinary situations, so it's difficult to imagine that creating even more shots in minutes 44-48 is so much tougher than in minutes 1-43, that only the special clutch players can do it in those closing sequences. And remember, they're not even making many of the extra shots, they're just taking them.

I clearly believe in a usage-efficiency trade-off, and in the value of creating shots, but theoretically the clutch players were supposed to be able to increase their efficiency in crunch time as well (or at least hold it constant), not just increase their usage.

Posted in Layups | 6 Comments »