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Keeping Score: They Won a Lot of Games, and Soon a Title – NYTimes.com

Posted by Neil Paine on June 2, 2011

Keeping Score: They Won a Lot of Games, and Soon a Title

At the NY Times, I highlight the unprecedented group of superstars currently seeking their first ring.

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4 Responses to “Keeping Score: They Won a Lot of Games, and Soon a Title – NYTimes.com”

  1. Jason J Says:

    Nice article, Neil. Who do you think is currently thought of as the better player, Payton or Kidd (for their careers obviously), and do you think GP's title in Miami is a factor?

  2. Neil Paine Says:

    Thanks!

    Kidd vs. Payton, that's a great question. Our Elo voters give Kidd the edge:

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/friv/ratings.cgi

    The users have him at #26, and Payton #35. I think that mirrors the perception -- there's this idea that Kidd single-handedly carried New Jersey to 2 Finals, while Payton needed Kemp, and later some coattail-riding, to get there.

    Certainly I don't think the Heat title is a factor. A lot of people fail to even remember that Payton was on that Miami team (even though he hit several back-breaking shots in the Finals). I was listening to Bill Simmons' podcast with Marc Stein the other day, and he seemed to have forgotten until he re-watched the series. If the guy who wrote a 700-page populist history of the NBA doesn't recall that you were on a team, what chance do you have with the general public?

  3. k Says:

    The Kidd V Payton outcome is also of the moment, and the last moments of Payton's career. His fall made people, I believe, perceive his career differently, and for the most part this has been in a very negative light.

    So far as this very moment, Kidd will be hyped as an all-time great simply because of where his team's at. Same thing has been happening with Nowitzki and LeBron (for instance, I don't necessarily dismiss Pippen's statements on skillsets, but I highly doubt these statements would be forthcoming if LeBron had been on a team that lost in the second round).

    I think how a PG runs a team, leads it, is a paramount concern. But that's not the same as the simplistic value-judgment of multi round success that commentators and fans alike so often apply. Basically conflating a team's overall roster talent with the "star", which is a poor read of skillset value and reductive to the point of stultification.

    For instance, I think Derrick Rose confirmed many of my complaints about his ability, or inability, to run an offense in these playoffs. Was this magnified in the ECF? Yes and no. Mostly Rose couldn't get his own shot off comfortably, which then exacerbated his lacking presence as a floor general.

    But these skillset issues were rather obvious before the Bulls met the Heat. The saddest part is that, in this instance, Rose is such a PR presence that a large majority are still trying to ignore these issues.

    More specifically on point, many people would dock a great player simply because his team lost, no matter the circumstance. In Rose's case, I think he was a rather major problem for the Bulls rather than the Heat.

    But. But the point is, that there's a zero-sum simplicity at work, and that's why Kidd's profile is being raised now. He's far beyond his prime, and I don't believe he's really very close to Nash or Stockton levels as far as older great PGs.

    But, hey, he's made the Finals. Which may mean, assuming he doesn't retire, that he could make an All-NBA team next year. Dirk will probably shoot up to first team off of his playoff performance.

    Such is the logic of media hype, inertia from it, and the need to justify certain antecedents from within the media complex.

    But Payton versus Kidd? Yeah, Payton is underrated. Massively.

    This became as clear if not moreso a couple years ago, when ESPN had ten analysts rank PGs all-time. They put Payton behind Nash, who had maybe three seasons of high-level play altogether at that point.

    But it's naive to expect quality from a source that has names such as Marc Stein and Bucher -- basically player PR pushers (in the case of Stein, he's basically on-air agent for Nash and Nowitzki) -- providing rankigs.

    Stein even went so far as to rank Nash over Stockton. Wow. Evidently he confused all-time PG rankings with all-interview team selections.

  4. Neil Paine Says:

    In the end, we know there is only one way to resolve the Kidd vs. Payton debate:

    Oh yeah. I went there.