Archive for December, 2007

Legitimate Contenders in the NBA: Part II

December 25, 2007

Western Conference

1. San Antonio Spurs, 19-7, 1st Southwest … Until the reigning champs go down to defeat in this year’s playoffs, they’re still the best team in the NBA, by far. Versatile and disciplined, the best blend of Offense, Defense & Rebounding in the league today. 

2. Los Angeles Lakers … 17-10, 2nd Pacific … With new puzzle pieces this year (i.e. Derek Fish, in place of Smush Parker; Chris Mihm, returning from injury last season; and Trevor Ariza, in exchange for Maurice Evans & Brian Cook) and the expected growth in Andrew Bynum’s game, this team will soon be a Force again in the NBA, under the Zenmaster. A “Sleeper Pick” for this season.

3. Portland Trailblazers, 15-12, 2nd Northwest … The required building blocks are in place for this franchise to have an extended run of success at the very top of the NBA … once they add-in Greg Oden next year. No team in the league has a better core group of young players, plus an elite level head coach, than the Blazers.

Crystal Balling:
When the Spurs and Kobe finally begin to wane, 5 or so years from now, it will be Portland that emerges as the #1 team, overall, in the Western Conference. 

Seasons Greetings!

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Blazing a New (Old) Trail in Portland

December 22, 2007

The 2007-2008 Portland Trailblazers are for real.

Last night’s come-from-victory over the Nuggets (POR 99, DEN 96) was their 10th win in a row.

In the history of the NBA, mediocre teams do not win 10 games in a row, within any given year … especially with the No. 1 Pick Overall from the preceeding NBA Draft (i.e. All-World-To-Be, Greg Oden/C, 7-ft, 250 lbs), not having played a single game thus far.

The Blazers roster, right now, looks like this:

No.

Player Pos Ht Wt DOB Exp College
 12 Aldridge, LaMarcus FC 6-11 240 7/19/85  1 Texas
 2 Blake, Steve PG 6-3 172 2/26/80  4 Maryland
 44 Frye, Channing FC 6-11 245 5/17/83  2 Arizona
 0 Green, Taurean G 6-0 177 11/28/85  R Florida
 1 Jack, Jarrett PG 6-3 197 10/28/83  2 Georgia Tech
 33 Jones, James SF 6-8 220 10/4/80  4 Miami (FL)
 9 LaFrentz, Raef FC 6-11 245 5/29/76  9 Kansas
 4 McRoberts, Josh FC 6-10 240 2/28/87  R Duke
 23 Miles, Darius  * SF 6-9 222 10/9/81  7 None
 52 Oden, Greg  * C 7-0 250 1/22/88  R Ohio State
 25 Outlaw, Travis F 6-9 215 9/18/84  4 None
 10 Przybilla, Joel C 7-1 255 10/10/79  7 Minnesota
 11 Rodriguez, Sergio G 6-3 168 6/12/86  1 None
 7 Roy, Brandon G 6-6 229 7/23/84  1 Washington
 8 Webster, Martell GF 6-7 229 12/4/86  2 None

* – Player injured

and is the youngest in the NBA.

Think about that for a moment, or two …

What’s the magic in Portland’s water at the moment?

As a young “Group of 5”, Brandon Roy (PG), Martell Webster (OG), Travis Outlaw (SF), Channing Frye (PF) and LaMarcus Aldridge (PF/C) are as talented (i.e. skilled, quick & strong, with good size, intensity & Basketball IQ) as any quintet in the NBA today.

Once Oden makes his debut, next season, and effectively addresses their deficiency in Rebounding (Differential = -3.1/#28); with a top flight coach (i.e. Nate McMillan) and a plethora of functional role players (e.g. Steve Blake, Jarrett Jack, Sergio Rodriguez, James Jones, Joel Pryzbilla, Raef LaFrentz) … this team is going to become entrenched in the upper echelon of the NBA for the next decade.

NBA Jeopardy From Last Night

December 21, 2007

ANSWER: The number of consecutive missed Field Goal Attempts needed for the LA Lakers to squander a 16 point lead during the final 4 minutes of the game to lose to the Cavaliers, 90-94 … and make a mockery of a certain blogger’s bold-faced prediction.

QUESTION: What is *&^%$#@! … 0 for 8?

The Man at Crunch Time

December 20, 2007

The passion and day-to-day attitude  of this young man is outstanding …

but there’s a good reason his teams have yet to reach the NBA Finals.

In the final 2 minutes of the Celtics’ home defeat last night, versus the Detroit Pistons … Kevin Garnett, the early leader in this year’s race for the league MVP Award, touched the ball on several different occasions – with Boston down by 6 points or less – and never ever looked to score himself.

Despite his 26 points (9-15 FG’s, 8-10 FT’s) and 12 rebounds, during 39:56 of playing time … the incomparable Big Ticket, in general, does not want to shoot the ball himself (from the floor) with the game on the line.

Last night, Boston’s final 6 shot attempts were … 

Full-Play-by-Play 

02:06 Kendrick Perkins’ missed 2 (blocked by Rasheed Wallace)
01:37 Paul Pierce’s missed 2 (defended by Rasheed Wallace)
01:05 Eddie House’s missed 3
01:01 Eddie House’s made 3
00:18 Ray Allen’s made 3, and
00:02 Paul Pierce’s missed 2

When your team’s best player … its HEART & SOUL … leading scorer, rebounder, and interior defender, is also someone who doesn’t trust himself to make Big Shot after Big Shot, coming down-the-stretch of a close playoff (type) game … then you’re going to have a problem advancing to the NBA Finals.

Thus far, when the Celtics have really been challenged this year … it’s only been Ray Allen who has stepped up and hit a game Changing/Winning shot at Toronto … not a good sign for KG and his legion of supporters.

10 Reasons the Lakers defeat Cleveland tonight

December 20, 2007

10. Points Per Game Differential: LAL = +5.41 OVER CLE = -4.69
9. Rebounds Per Game Differential: LAL = +2.79 OVER CLE = +0.57 
8. Composite FG% Differential: LAL = 0.467 OVER CLE = 0.398
7. LAL bench scoring OVER bench scoring from CLE 
6. LAL rested OVER back-to-back for CLE
5. Fisher/Farmar OVER Gibson & Co.
3. Lamar Odom OVER any Cav … not named LBJ
3. Phil Jackson OVER Mike Brown
2. Kobe OVER Lebron
1. Purple OVER Burgundy

The Best Point Guards in the NBA

December 19, 2007

Kenny (the “Jet”) Smith ranks his Top 10 PG’s in the NBA today, Floor Leaders in High Demand, and nowhere does he mention the words “Defense” & “Rebounding”.

There are 3 broad phases to a basketball game:

Offense, Defense and Rebounding.

Neglect any two of these, at the PG position, and what you’re left with is a very talented player, who is incapable of leading his team (just yet) to an NBA championship. 

TOP 5 PG’s in the NBA 

#1 Chauncey Billups … has the ability to: i) Defend the opponent’s PG, in a 1-on-1 defensive match-up, regardless of his check’s size, strength or quickness level; ii) Defend multiple positions on the floor, in defensive “switches” or “rotations”; iii) take the ball with the Dribble where it needs to go, in order to run effective half-court and transition offenses; iv) Shoot & Make a solid percentage on perimeter jumpshots, including 3-pt shots; v) penetrate with the dribble and Finish at the rim; vi) Drive & Dish to open teammates; vii) make a high percentage of his Free Throws; viii) Rebound his position; ix) maintain his “poise” during times of stress; and, x) “control & lead” a group of 12 men. Been there and done that.

#2 Jason Kidd … a poor % perimeter jumpshooter; a former #1.

#3 Steve Nash … struggles with his “individual” Defense and Rebounding.

#4 Tony Parker … needs to improve his perimeter jumpshot; struggles to maintain his poise at stressful times.

#5 Deron Williams … the next Great, young, PG. 

Honorable Mention (in order): Baron Davis, Chris Paul and Jose Calderon.  

UPDATE:
re: #1 … see this, then 

Legitimate Contenders in the NBA, Part I

December 18, 2007

In a recent entry, right here, it was noted that, since the 2000-2001 season, each of the two finalists for the NBA Championship have also been top performing teams during the regular season, not just according to their overall Won-Loss (W-L) records but two other simple objective measures … i.e. (i) Quality Rating (QR), and (ii) Quality Index Rank (QIR) … which reflect a team’s approach (i.e. balanced or not) to Offense, Defense and Rebounding.

Looking at the current league standings, these are the QR & QIR values for the 16 teams that would qualify for the Playoffs, if they were to start today:

Team

W-L

Score Differential

Rank

Opponent Score

Rank

Rebound Differential

Rank

QR

QIR

Boston

20-2

1

1

1

3

1

Detroit

17-7

2

2

9

13

2

San Antonio

18-6

3

3

8

14

3

Utah

14-12

5

19

3

27

4

Washington

13-10

11

16

2

29

5

LA Lakers

14-9

4

23

6

33

6

New Orleans

15-10

13

6

15

34

7

Dallas

17-9

9

14

12

35

8

Toronto

14-11

10

8

20

38

9

Orlando

17-9

7

17

18

42

10

Atlanta

12-12

17

7

21

45

11

Cleveland

11-14

22

21

11

54

12

Indiana

13-12

15

27

15

57

13

Denver

14-10

8

25

27

60

14

Phoenix

18-7

5

26

30

61

15

Golden State

14-11

12

30

29

71

16

 

While they may win a lot of games this season, based on their performance thus far, neither the Phoenix Suns nor the Golden State Warriors – with their present QR & QIR values – should be considered “legitimate contenders” for the 2007-2008 NBA Championship. 

The Source of Confidence

December 17, 2007

The power of confidence (From Deep)

How important is the simple act of winning to good performance? It’s something that most sports psychologists can’t explain, let alone sports writers. But if you accept the notion that most NBA players are excellent, with the exception of the small handful of superstars who are even better, winning, or the confidence you get from winning, seems to have a pretty important impact on actual performance.

(for example, yesterday against Toronto …)

The Celtics started the second quarter with Paul Pierce, James Posey, Glen Davis, Tony Allen and Eddie House on the floor. Last season a group slightly better than this – substitute Al Jefferson for Davis and Delonte West for Eddie House – was one of the worst teams in the NBA and a blight on the Celtics proud history. But now they’re part of the Celtics juggernaut that is laying waste to the NBA. Now they’re poised to go on a 10-2 backbreaking run to start the quarter (at which point Garnett subbed for Pierce) and pretty much end the game. Those guys aren’t great players by NBA standards, but they’re confident, winning NBA players, which means they are playing loosely and passionately. The result is an effective second unit on a team that most critics panned for a lack of depth.

True Confidence comes but from one place … prior Accomplishment.

It is understated, not brash … and, knows internally that it can get the job done, in a specific situation, because it’s been done before, under similar conditions.

An individual or a team that gets the job done properly, repeatedly … first, in practice, then in games and, finally, in the playoffs … develops an Internal Compass which is pointed, continually, in one direction, towards Winning.

“Graduated Task Accomplishment” is the powerful biofeedback ‘Learning Loop’ which conditions the performer(s) to believe whole-heartedly in the inate quality of his/her own performance, within a specific environment. 

True Confidence is not bragadocious, cocky or pretentious.

It is silent, resolved and grounded, firmly, in unrelenting Hard Work, Unselfishness and Grit.

It’s The Stuff of which Champions are made.

What it takes to win the NBA Championship

December 16, 2007

Each game of NBA basketball has 3 distinct phases:

(I) Offense,  (II) Defense and III) Rebounding.

Offense is what happens when a team has possession of the ball.

Defense is what happens when that team’s opponent has possession of the ball.

Rebounding is what happens when neither team has possession of the ball.

Every year since 2000-2001, each of the two teams which have reached the NBA Finals (i.e. the Champion and the Finalist) have also finished the regular season schedule with a Quality Rating (QR) of 34 or better and a Quality Index Rank (QIR) of #9 or better (when compared to all playoff teams that year).

A team’s Quality Rating (QR) is calculated by the following equation:

QR = A + B + C, where

A = Score Differential Rank (Score Differential ordered from 1-30), when Score Differential = [Points Scored Per Game] – [Opponent’s Points Scored Per Game];

B = Opponent’s Points Scored Per Game Rank (ordered from 1-30) ;

C = Rebounding Differential Rank  (Rebounding Differential ordered from 1-30), when Rebounding Differential = [Rebounds Per Game] – [Opponent’s Rebounds Per Game];

and,

Quality Index Rank (QIR) = QR ordered from 1-16.

2006-2007
Champion, San Antonio Spurs, QR = 12; QIR = #2 
Finalist, Cleveland Cavaliers, QR = 16; QIR = #4

2005-2006
Champion,  Miami Heat, QR = 20; QIR = #3
Finalist, Dallas Mavericks, QR = 13; QIR = #2

2004-2005
Champion,  San Antonio Spurs, QR = 9; QIR = #1 (tie)
Finalist, Detroit Pistons, QR = 9; QIR = #1 (tie)

2003-2004
Champion, Detroit Pistons, QR = 8; QIR = #1
Finalist, LA Lakers, QR = 34; QIR = #7

2002-2003
Champion, San Antonio Spurs, QR = 17; QIR = #1
Finalist, New Jersey Nets, QR = 19; QIR = #4

2001-2002
Champion, LA Lakers, QR = 21; QIR = #4
Finalist, New Jersey Nets, QR = 22; QIR = #5

2000-2001
Champion, LA Lakers, QR = 34; QIR = #9
Finalist, Philadelphia 76ers, QR = 10; QIR = #1

Within any given year, measuring a team’s performance in this way – which balances Offense, Defense and Rebounding – is a simple and effective tool for determining whether or not it has a legitimate chance to win the NBA championship.

Does your favorite team have what it takes to win the NBA championship this year?

Check their QR and QIR … the answer might surprise you!

—————————–

Update:

Now including …

2007-2008
Champion, Boston Celtics, QR = 6; QIR = #1 
Finalist, LA Lakers, QR = 30; QIR = #10

Defining Athleticism in the NBA

December 13, 2007

What makes Steve Nash a Great Athlete? 

David Friedman’s article, “Is Steve Nash the Best Athlete in the NBA?” (20 Second Time-out), asks and attempts to answer this exact question. 

While referencing some of David’s thoughts and ideas, here’s my take on Steve Nash: 

#1. Re: Friedman: … Williams is undoubtedly faster than Nash and Boozer is bigger, stronger and a better jumper than Nash but in a confined space–and with a “head start” based on the ability to anticipate or read a play–Nash beat both of them. 

Yes, it’s True that Boozer is bigger, stronger and a better jumper than Nash but it’s False to observe (incorrectly) that Williams is faster than Nash because he is simply not. 

#2. Re: the following exchange between David & Mike D’Antoni (Phoenix Suns, Head Coach) 

Friedman: “Obviously, you have been around the game a long time as a player and as a coach. Have you ever seen someone who when you first met him had what you might call ‘bad’ hands and then at some point that person developed ‘good’ hands?” D’Antoni: “No, not really. You might see some improvement over the years but never to the point where you’d label him as someone who has ‘good’ hands. You either have ‘good’ hands or not.”Friedman: “So that is something that is an athletic ability.” Thus, the implication is that something which qualifies as an “athletic ability” – i.e. like having “soft/good hands” or not –  is inherited and, therefore, cannot be improved over time through repeated practice.  This is a False/inaccurate perception. #3. Re: Friedman: “Anyone can tell if someone is fast or has a great vertical leap; that is something that is obvious and you don’t have to be specially trained to see that. ‘Hands’ is a more subtle thing.” This is a False/inaccurate observation regarding the limited ability of others to discern correctly just “how fast” a specific person is … relative to his opponent, at a specific basketball position. Relative to other Power Forwards or Small Forwards, Larry Bird, at his size & strength, was just as fast or faster (in an imperical, linear sense) than the vast majority of players who checked him in the NBA. One of the unusual aspects to Larry Bird’s “game” was how AWKWARD and slow he “LOOKED”, to the untrained observer’s eye, while running at his Maximum Speed, which was actually quite fast, compared to his individual check during any given possession. 

#4. Re: D’Antoni: “I think that just knowing how to play the game is an ability or talent that you are born with. It is like playing cards. Everybody knows the basic rules of a card game but then you have really good players who have an ability to assimilate things; I don’t think that you teach that finite thing of being a great card player.” 

The ability to ASSIMILATE things is crucial … and the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of what it takes to separate one’s self from the pack of other “just as good or better” athletes at an elite level. 

#5. Re: Friedman: Strength is not the first thing one thinks of with Nash, primarily because bigger guards like Chauncey Billups or Deron Williams can use their size to back him down–but Nash is wiry strong and this strength reveals itself in subtle ways. 

Steve Nash is not “wiry strong”.  

Stacey Augmon (bigger) was “wiry strong”.

Allen Iverson (smaller) is “wiry strong”. 

Chauncey Billups (6-3, 202) is stolidly (physically) strong … for his height. 

Steve Nash (6-3, 178) is … pound for pound … plenty strong … for his height and weight. 

#6. Re: Friedman: A good illustration of this is a play that took place with a little less than three minutes remaining in the third quarter of Wednesday’s Phoenix-Utah game. Nash dribbled down court at full speed and Matt Harpring picked him up at the top of the key. Without breaking stride, Nash drove hard to the left, got all the way to the rim, stopped, jumped off of his right foot while fading backwards, and then made a short bank shot over Harpring’s outstretched arms. There are several important things to understand about why this was such an athletic move: (1) Harpring is 6-7, while Nash is 6-3; (2) Nash is right handed and most right handed players are more adept at jumping off of their left leg; (3) Nash stopped and jumped so quickly–and with just the right amount of fade–that Harpring could not recover. If Nash had dunked over Harpring, then the play would be shown five times and everyone would talk about how athletic Nash is–but what Nash did is an extremely difficult athletic play and he does those kinds of things on a regular basis; that is why he can shoot such a high percentage despite playing in a league in which so many players are allegedly more “athletic” than he is. If you don’t think that this move took athletic ability, then the next time you are on a basketball court, try it yourself–it’s not nearly as easy to do as it may sound or look. 

This is a fine example of Steve Nash’s level of ATHLETICISM, which is actually outstanding … on The Horizontal Axis/Plain. 

#7. Re: Friedman: “Talking to Steve Kerr and Coach D’Antoni, they mentioned things like your balance, your vision, your hands–that those things are really athletic skills and athletic abilities as well.” Nash: “Court vision, rhythm, balance, timing, agility, creativity I think are all parts of athleticism, not just explosiveness.”Friedman: “Steve Kerr mentioned something to me that he called the ‘ball and stick’ test for athletic ability: if you give someone a ball and a stick–a baseball bat or a golf club–what can he do with it? He said that from that standpoint you might be the best athlete in the league or at least one of the better athletes. What do you think of that?”Nash: “I think that you have to incorporate everything. You can’t just say that athleticism is explosiveness. It’s explosiveness, it’s coordination, it’s balance, it’s all of those things–like I said, even timing and creativity. Obviously, I think that there is a lot more to it…but it doesn’t really matter.” (The) Steve Nash (whom I know, personally) is one of the very best athletes in the world … set apart from others within his field because of his Rare ability to carry forward his complex skill set, with full Ambidexterity & Balance, at His Maximum Speed, which is something others can only execute effectively at a speed well below Their Maximum. This is THE Gift of Nature that has been bestowed on Steve Nash – i.e. exceptionally well coordinated Maximum Velocity Complex Skill Retention/Execution – which he has developed through sheer hard work to the best of his ability.