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Picking Up the Pace

John Hollinger is looking at early NBA trends.

This has been perhaps the most important development of the season's opening week, and the least observed one: The pace is much faster.I use a measure called "Pace Factor" to track how many possessions each team uses in a 48-minute game.

Last year, the average was 92.94; this year it's all the way up to 95.83. The change may be more severe than it looks, because normally pace slowly increases as the year wears on. If that happens this year, we could be looking at an increase of 5% or more in game pace from a year ago.

For that, we can credit two primary sources: the new hand-checking rules (From the NBA Officials Media Guide: "a defender may not place and keep his hand on an opponent unless he is in the area near the basket and the offensive player has his back to the basket.") and the team that best exploited them, the Phoenix Suns.

That brings up the book I got in the mail yesterday.

There are not many perks to running an NBA blog. But one of them that I truly appreciate is that I am starting to get unsolicited "review" copies of NBA books in the mail, often before they come out.

This book, called Seven Seconds or Less, is Jack McCallum's account of his all access season with the Phoenix Suns. I spent an hour reading and skimming last night, and--believe it or not, because he had incredible access--didn't yet find anything breathtaking to relay to you. The biggest news from the opening pages is about assistant coach Phil Weber: "a bachelor whose Peter Pan lifestyle is the subject of gentle derision, as well as envy, among coaches." You heard it here first: the entire Suns coaching staff wants to put on green tights and swing from the trees.

I'm hopeful for a lot of insight from the book, and will keep you updated as I read.

In the meantime, let me totally bite the hand that feeds me, by making fun of the PR person who wrote the press release for the book (and quite possibly the person who sent me the book). I quote:

  • "Get to know the coaching staff -- Mark D'Antoni, a player and coaching legend in Italy" Umm, the guy who is the star of your book? His name is Mike.

  • "They clinched their second consecutive division title in franchise history and their fifth overall." Someone please diagram that sentence.

  • "Seven players averaged career-highs in scoring including Raja Bell (31 points), Boris Diaw (31 points), and Shawn Marion (40 points)." Hmm... I read me a lot of NBA articles and somehow I never noticed that Shawn Marion had the highest scoring average of the modern era.