The problem with numbers …

With the ever increasing popularity of fantasy basketball, an over-reliance on statistics to describe players has become the norm.  It has even crept up into real life basketball.  Scouts are relying more and more on statistics to guage performance.  The problem with statistics, as someone with a somewhat mediocre science degree can tell you, is that you can manipulate numbers to show you whatever you want.  That’s why the FDA disregards correlational studies.  You can simply present numbers that prove your point, and not detail when they fail to do so.

Let’s take my good friend Jose Calderon.  I’m trying to be objective here, even though I’ve been labelled as Raptor hater #1.  I guess people don’t remember how I was promoting him last year over Ford.  Everybody thought I was on crack back then, and now everybody thinks he’s an all-star.  Slow down there.  He might be the best backup point guard in the league, but let’s not go that far.  People tout his low turnover game as the reason why he is among the best.  You can argue all day and all night about his wonderful assist to turnover ratio.  Well, these same people are the ones that voted for Steve Nash for MVP, who is a high turnover point guard.  You can’t praise Nash for “taking risks” and turning the ball over a lot and then proceed to do the opposite for Calderon. 

 Calderon is what he is.  He is a solid backup.  He takes care of the ball, and plays within his game.  He doesn’t make too many mistakes, but he’s not out there winning ballgames by himself either.  He is weak defensively, but is the lesser of two evils because his running mate makes average people seem big and tall.  Gilbert Arenas made a pretty funny point about basing all-stars on assist to turnover ratio and then saying Kevin Ollie should have been an all-star all these years.  I’m not going to compare Ollie to Calderon, but in the end, Calderon is a solid player.  Not an all-star.  Not even close.  As a weird aside, one of the guys that I play basketball with who is definitely good enough at the game to be knowledgeable at it, would not take Chris Paul over Jose in a 1:1 trade with salary not being a factor.  Sigh.

Another example is Amare Stoudamire.  You have to wonder a bit about a player who’s nickname is “Stat” and was belittled by Jeff Van Gundy about padding his stats in a game against the Pistons where the Suns were being blown out.  With his numbers, you could argue that he would be one of the greatest power forwards of all time.  He gets points, rebounds and blocks in bunches.  What you don’t see is his lack of effort on the defensive end.  The countless times during games where he is jogging back and pointing at his man, yelling at a teammate to pick him up.  He used to form the worst S&R defensive combo in the league with Nash.  Now you’ve added Shaq, and now have 60% of your starting lineup being unable to do a thing against the most used play in the NBA.  However, Steve Kerr’s management decisions will have to be left to another day.  You would think that he dominated his matchup with Duncan last year in the playoffs.  But numbers are just numbers.  Meaningless points scored in a blowout still add to your stats.  Blown defensive assignments only really show up in the W/L column.  Duncan puts up his 20 and 10 but controls the entire game on  both offense and defense.  He is one of the most vocal big men out there with Sheed in terms of running the defense.  Quite different from Mr. Stoudamire. 

It’s over …

Well, the Rockets run had to end sometime …. and it looks like tonight was the night for it to happen.  However improbable it was, Houston won a ridiculous number of games in a row with a squad consisting of Tmac and a bunch of role players all playing out of their minds.  I’ve never seen a team overachieve for such a long stretch.  Generally you can get your role players playing beyond their capabilities for a few games in a row.  But to do it for 22 games in a row is quite incredible. 

Tonight the Rockets simply did not have the size to counter Boston down low.  Landry, their only athletic player on the front line, is still out with a knee injury.  The shooters could not cash in from three point land.  And Tmac is running on fumes right now.  Too many 48 minute games trying to extend the streak.  He needs to get some rest before the playoffs or he’ll barely be walking by then.  They have a tough road schedule coming up, and really need to keep up the good play so that they get a good playoff seeding. 

Anyways, I am having some mixed emotions right now.  It was one of the funnest stretches of games to watch for me in a long long time.  It’s great that Tmac can finally be attached to some team success.  He has the scoring titles but he’s never been really part of a team that has done anything.  Hopefully this weill be the year.

The worst point guard ever …. #11 …. TJ Ford

The media is a funny animal.  It latches on and perpetuates a stigma on various players and never ever lets go.  Once you are branded a certain type of player, it is almost impossible to de-brand yourself.  The only medicine is winning.  If you win, suddenly all your faults are gone, even if you are still doing them.  Moody as he may be, Steph hasn’t been a shoot first point guard in years, but he’s never been able to shake that label, mostly because of the Knicks being terrible.  Chauncey and Sheed haven’t changed one bit, but rings sure seemed to cure everything in Detroit.

 This brings us to one TJ Ford.  Over the past few games he has brought ballhoggery to a new level.  I’ve watched Kobe and Jordan play on bad teams.  I’ve seen Steph and Franchise play in their primes.  Never before have I seen this level of “shooting first”.  One game Ford managed to go thirteen straight possessions without passing.  The other night against the Warriors he seemed to go the whole fourth quarter passing only to get his dribble back.  Normally, this would be wiped away if the Raptors were winning, but they are not.  Ford is nowhere near the level of the players mentioned above.  If Steph had a “shoot first” game, he’d be putting up 50 on the opposing team. 

Combined with this, is the lack of minutes given to the improved Calderon.  At least when Jose plays, the other players get to touch the ball.  I’m not sure this can be scientifically proven, but TJ Ford is the worst point guard I’ve ever seen in my life.  Ever.  Maybe he needs to continue a few more games before the hate starts.  Or maybe Toronto fans are too stupid to understand basketball.  Or maybe NBA writers are too smart to care about the Raptors.

Idiot sports writers …

I don’t really even understand why some writers even have jobs. Is it really that slim pickings in terms of quality writers for sports sites? Or are actual fans not actually capable of putting together an actual coherent article for the masses to read. Bill Simmons always complains about not getting media votes for awards when he clearly knows more than any other national reporter that covers the NBA.

It’s nearing February and inevitably the writers will put out their “who should be an all-star” articles. Of course they will pick the players performing well, and those random underdog guys that have no business being there. For the last time, the NBA All-Star game is a showcase for the fans. They should be able to pick all the players, not just the starters. The game is generally a farce and only there for people to see spectacular dunks and shooting, and lots of turnovers I guess. The players that should be in the game should be the exciting ones that people want to see. For example, Vince Carter should be in every All-Star game until he is unable to walk.

For the players to get real honors and awards that is what the All-NBA first, second and third teams are for at the end of the year. Not the All-Star game. People don’t want to see some scrub passing it to another scrub, they want to see Jason Kidd lobbing it to Vince Carter, and to even debate that is ridiculous.

UPDATE: The Toronto media is ridiculous … Jose Calderon on the all-star team?  Who is he going to replace?  Jason Kidd?  Chauncey Billups?  Sigh.

No homers allowed …

I was watching the Pistons-Celtics game last night, and the color commentary was absolutely unbearable.  Boston has quite possibly the most biased crew in the league, and that’s saying a lot since I am able to watch a lot of Raptors games.  It is one thing to like your guys, and root for them, but Tommy Heinsohn just complains about the refs the entire game.  It was hard to even watch the game, without wanting to strangle the guy.  Some may say I am biased because I am a Pistons fan, but I have seen Boston play a lot of teams I don’t care for, and the guy is still just as annoying.

The thing that aggravates me about homers, is that eventually the fans start thinking that the color guys are actually right.  Charles Barkley once said that 99% of fans don’t know anything about basketball.  I say a big reason for that is the color commentary.  They are hearing people describe the game in a blatantly incorrect way.  That’s why I like the national telecasts much more, since the guys there tend to have no allegiances to any team.

The odd thing is, that I never noticed people in Windsor being idiots when it came to basketball.  Perhaps it’s because George Blaha isn’t as biased, or because we’ve had access to basketball for longer than people in Toronto.  Honestly every single Raptor fan I’ve talked does not know anything about basketball.  Leave it up to Swirsky to tell people that the Raptors are among the league’s elite, and that their players are the among the best at every position.   News flash … the Raptors are headed for years of first round knockouts, their franchise player is at best a secondary player on a good team, and no matter how much you may try to convince yourself Darko 2.0 is trash.