On Basketball Prospectus, Kevin Pelton digs deep into the idea that LeBron James is not called for enough fouls. After some smart analysis, he concludes: "I think the numbers suggest that to the extent that James is called for fewer fouls than we would expect, the magnitude of the effect is not extraordinary. As much as the overall numbers, the example that sold me was Luol Deng. Like James, Deng is an athletic small forward who occasionally plays at the four. Their block rates are identical and their rebound percentages are similar, and Deng is called for fouls as infrequently as James. So if you're going to argue that referees have decided not to call fouls on James, you have to be prepared to make a similar argument about Deng, who is a solid player but has never been an All-Star. Any takers?"
Truth About It on a player said to be on the trade market: "Caron Butler has become a ball stopping, turnover machine (six against the Celtics). Sure, he’s trying to rebound more and take more shots closer to the hoop, but is still picking up traveling and charging calls in mass quantities."
Computers have changed how the best chess players approach the game. With their dispassionate analysis of oodles of data, it's a no-brainer they'll affect other games, too, including basektball. There are cute coaching arguments about, for example, whether to go for the two-for-one at the end of a quarter, or whether to foul up three in the closing moments. At some point, there will be convincing proof that one strategy or another is superior, and we'll move on.
A must-read blog post about a great New Yorker article with fantastic access to, and perspective on, Red Holzman's Knicks. A sample of what The Painted Area shares from Herbert Warren Wind's 1975 New Yorker story: "[On team flights,] most of the members of the team relax by gabbing or playing cards, but three -- Jackson, Bradley, and Frazier -- prefer to sit apart, in order to get some reading done. Jackson, a pleasant man who gets along well with people, reads books dealing with philosophy, psychology, and religion. When his basketball career is over, he would like to teach in a one-room schoolhouse, and it is difficult to think of a person who would be better at it. This winter, Bradley was reading Martin Mayer's 'The Bankers' and Carl Jung's 'Man and His Symbols,' and was preparing to dig into a congressional-committee report on solar energy. He does a lot of underlining, and used to do even more. 'I now underline facts mainly, not the guy's theories,' he says.... Frazier regularly studies two books -- Bartlett's 'Familar Quotations' and Webster's Pocket Dictionary. When he comes across a quotation or a definition that has particular significance to him, he copies it down on a pad, the better to retain it."
If NBA players really feel the need to protect themselves with guns, wouldn't it instead be safer to protect themselves with high-fashion bulletproof clothes?
Jerry Sloan redefines taciturn. The man simply doesn't get visibly excited very often. He got fairly excited when John Stockton hit the 3 over Charles Barkley, in 1997, to send the Jazz to the Finals. But he seemed to get even more excited when Sundiata Gaines hit that fantastic game-winner. You can see it at about the 39 second mark of this video. That's no small feat, Mr. Gaines.
As Kevin Arnovitz once explained nicely, Earl Clark, Phoenix Suns' rookie, has as much potential as any rookie in this class. But the 6-10 big man with guard-like skills has not exactly set the league on fire. What's going on? David Thorpe, who has spent time training Clark in the past, writes today (Insider): "Clark played for a tough taskmaster in Rick Pitino at Louisville, and I know from personal experience that the Suns rookie is an excellent listener and a hard worker if singled out and challenged. But in the NBA -- a man's league that does not put up with immaturity -- players must have some level of self-motivation to survive. This is part of Clark's problem. Additionally, Clark needs to take full accountability for what is happening so far (playing less than nine minutes a game) and not blame anyone else. That is the first step towards progress. Then he needs to resolve to work on his game each day. Until those things happen, he will continue to languish and frustrate the Suns and anyone else who knows what he's capable of as a player."
I have to admit, I'm mystified and fascinated by the resignation of Net assistant coach Del Harris. In his statement, he makes it sound like the Nets are plenty good, and his work there is done. This is the worst team in the history of the NBA! Are we really supposed to believe this is a case of the job being done? I have no insider information, and I'm not hinting at anything, but this version of events strains credibility for sure. UPDATE: Harris, who has his old job running Mark Cuban's D-League team waiting for him, insists there's no untold part of this story.
Related to the above, the Nets hardly seem like a team with its coaching strategy all hammered down. Sebastian Priuti of the Nets are Scorching on Nets' crunch time last night: "With the Nets getting another gift via the missed free throw, trailing the Pistons 96-93 with 17.7 seconds, they opted to push the ball up the court rather than call the timeout. After getting the ball past halfcourt, Courney Lee handed the ball back to Devin who decided to take a very ill-advised three-pointer a good three or four feet away from the line, airballing it. There were a number of things wrong with how that played shook out besides the fact that Harris didn’t even hit the rim on the shot. First, why not call the timeout after Kris Humphries recovered the rebound off the Richard Hamilton free throw miss? Second, if you wanted to push the ball and saw no play open up immediately, why not call the timeout then? Third, if you’re still eager to go for it all then, why is Devin Harris shooting the ball with 7 seconds a yardstick away from the three point line? Just odd playcalling/decision making by one of the guys who’s supposed to be the veteran presence on this team."
Coming home can be hard. The Bulls killed everybody on the road, then came home and lost to the Clippers. By the Horns blogger Matt McHale explains how getting to go home isn't always the best: "Back when I was four or five years old, my mom once dragged me to visit my great grandmother on a Friday night. That was the last thing I wanted to do, not because I didn’t love my great grandma, but because Friday night was when CBS aired my favorite television show: The Incredible Hulk. I finally nagged my mom into leaving so I wouldn’t miss Bill Bixby’s first transformation into Lou Ferrigno. No sooner had we pulled into the garage than I jumped out of the car and raced to the living room ... where I promptly tripped over our dog and faceplanted directly onto the TV stand. I ended up making a trip to the emergency room, losing a tooth and missing the entire Hulk episode. My point? Sometimes you go home and fall flat on your face." (In a follow-up e-mail, McHale assures no animals were injured in the creation of this anecdote: "She was fine. Big, strong German shepherd. I couldn't tell you whether she even knew I tripped on her... mostly because I knocked myself the hell out when it happened.")
Kevin Arnovitz shows on video how the Clippers' defense defined that game.
You know how LeBron James has always needed that ideal playmaker to run alongside him? Maybe he's that guy. John Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "I’m running out of superlatives for LeBron James’ passing over this stretch of games. Since Mo’s injury, LeBron is averaging 10.7 assists per game. He’s been the only true playmaker on the floor for the Cavs, and he’s been making it work."
Andre Iguodala, no slouch himself, says Rodney Carney is easily the best dunker on the Sixers.
Very interesting to note that good NBA teams tend to be good at all of Dean Oliver's "four factors." But if they're going to slip in one category, it tends to be turnovers. The Cavaliers, Magic, Spurs, Celtics -- none are outstanding in that regard.
Shane Battier dunked last night. Yes, that's rare enough to be worth pointing out.