Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rogue DDL - 2/18/12: Never Trust The Hawks

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Rogue DDL - The Rubio/Lin Armageddon

Friday, October 14, 2011

Save our DDL!

With the NBA season in jeopardy, those of us who frequent ESPN's Daily Dime Live worry about several things. We worry about the loss of games, undoubtedly, but we also worry about losing the sense of community and the thrill of discussing professional basketball in real time with fans and trolls alike. And frankly, I worry that Mr. Harper might lose his mind if he can't set up batting practice during the cold winter nights in Minnesota.

There is, however, a light at the end of the tunnel. Many of us enjoyed waking up at the crack of dawn this summer to watch the EuroBasket tournament on and banter about the play (and Macedonian Carlos Boozer's Boozer-tude) on DDL. That same escape presents itself when Euroleague competition begins next week, broadcast once again on

DDLers (and those of you kind enough to support our addiction), I have a simple request: Send a tweet to @RoyceWebb and @C_Ramsay,'s NBA editors and Zach's bosses, asking if we can have DDL for Euroleague. If you don't feel like doing so, no harm done. However, if you do want to help, please follow these guidelines:

1. Only send one tweet to Mr. Webb and Mr. Ramsay. They're busy people. We don't want to annoy them or flood their mentions; we simply want to let them know that there is a desire to have DDL for European competition broadcast on, if they see fit.

2. Be polite. Don't demand DDL. Ask if we can have it. Say "please" and "thank you."

That's all you have to do! Thank you in advance for your interest in making sure we get to type SMASH and talk about bacon, with or without the NBA.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Fourth Quarter "Clutch"

Most of the scoring margin data that I will cite, as well as the data for the charts below, came from the invaluable All games through 1/19. I hope to revisit these charts in the future, so if something sticks out to you, hit me up on twitter!

On Wednesday, the Utah Jazz accomplished three remarkable things - two of which were par for the course, and one of which was losing to a team that starts Brook Lopez at center and has an owner who sounds like the villain in a Matt Damon poker movie. In losing to the Nets, the Jazz were outscored in the first quarter while winning the final frame, two things that they do extraordinarily well. In fact, no team is being outscored more per game in the first quarter than Utah, and no team has a higher scoring margin in the fourth. Matt Moore of PBT and HardwoodParoxysm took a look last week at how contenders perform in the fourth quarter so far this season. He drew some interesting conclusions about the Lakers, Bulls, and Thunder, as well as pointing out how the San Antonio Spurs are blowing their opponents out of the water in the fourth quarter on the way to the best record in the league, but his numbers showed no real link between fourth quarter scoring margin and winning percentage, for the elite teams. 

Mr. Moore can be forgiven for not including the Jazz in an article about contenders, but Utah leads the league in fourth quarter scoring margin - by a full point over San Antonio and Chicago. However, the Spurs and Jazz tell two very different stories by outscoring their opponents so handedly in the fourth. In showing that there isn't necessarily a correlation between fourth quarter performance and winning, that article piqued my curiosity - how strong is the relationship? How big of an outlier is the Jazz' first quarter/fourth quarter split? And why are the Spurs destroying teams?
As the chart above shows, Utah would be hard pressed to be in their first quarter profile. They stick out like an Amish man with a mustache. Only the Knicks, Thunder, and Jazz are above .500 and being outscored in the first quarter, and no team is being outscored by more than the Jazz - not even the not-quite-Mendoza-line Cavaliers. The relationship between the two variables is .37 on a scale of 0-1 - significantly related, but not very strong. More significant is the scoring margin at halftime, however, and again the Jazz find themselves on the wrong side of the regression line.
The first thing that stuck out to me about this chart was poor, poor Cleveland. They get outscored in every quarter, so the cumulative margin just looks worse and worse. If the Cavs could have negative wins, they'd make a run at it. More importantly, look at Utah - their halftime scoring margin is more similar to teams that have winning percentages between .400 and .500.

This data will come as no surprise to anyone who watches the Jazz or even hears discussion about the team - the talk this year is that Utah is a second half team. Hell, when a Jazz blogger made an appearance in an ESPN basketball chat (go DDL!), he did so in the second half and cracked that he was just acting like the team he covered. Their scoring margin backs up this common wisdom, but it understates the extreme nature of Utah's tendency to play catch-up. The Jazz are only making up .7 points per game in the third quarter on their opponents. In fact, Utah plays so poorly in the first quarter that they still trail their opponents after the third quarter.
Poor Cleveland. This chart is strikingly significant, for two reasons. First, the relationship between the two variables is .79 - very strong, and even stronger if one removes poor Cleveland from the data. Second, Utah is the ONLY team above .500 that trails its opponents after 3 quarters of play. Utah's margin after the third is the same as Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and the Clippers. As a result, the Jazz have to outscore their opponents in the fourth quarter to have a chance at winning - and outscore they do.
Utah blows teams off of the court in the fourth quarter. They dig themselves into such a large hole in the first quarter that they must. The by-product of this style of play manifests itself in the playing time of the Jazz' starters. Utah has 6 players averaging at least 30 minutes per game; no other player averages more than 15. Deron Williams, as one might expect, handles the brunt of this - he's averaging 38 minutes per game, good for tenth in the league (coincidentally, Derrick Rose, whose Bulls also outscore their opponents in the fourth, is one spot behind Williams).

Fans of the Spurs may read this analysis of Utah's playing time and think that flies in the face of what we know about Coach Popovich and his tendency to get his players rest. Is it possible that Pop actually plays his starters longer minutes in order to blow opponents off the court in the fourth quarter?

The answer to that question is a resounding "no." No Spur is in the top 70 minutes per game. On average, Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili are resting for over 16 minutes per game - more than a third of the entire game! Ginobili leads the team at 32.9 minutes per game. The Spurs also have eight players averaging at least 20 minutes a game, and this doesn't include Antonio McDyess getting almost 18. Their most common 5-man unit has played less than a quarter of the available minutes together - and this isn't a result of injuries forcing rotation changes.

These numbers and trends seem to indicate that the Spurs have a secret weapon that makes them the most elite team in the game - their bench. Popovich is able to send out a 10 deep rotation that not only keeps the Spurs in games but actively opens up leads on opponents, especially in the fourth quarter while the starters rest. It's questionable how much of an impact they will have in the playoffs when rotations shorten, but the bench of San Antonio seems to largely be responsible for the Spurs' ability to crush opponents in the fourth quarter and keep their starters' minutes down, and a fresh Tim Duncan in the playoffs is a force without question. Utah, on the other hand, runs the significant risks of regressing to a worse record, wearing out the most important cogs of their team, exposing them to injury and being at the mercy of last-minute shots and situations. Both the Jazz and Spurs have been clutch in the fourth quarter this year - but only one team forces itself to be, night in and night out.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Is Carmelo the Prom Queen?

When LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh signed 3-year extensions in 2007, they set themselves up to become the NBA's Student Government. Since that time, the Heat's Big Three largely set the agenda in NBA dialogue, media coverage, and television appearances. LeBron, of course, is the president of this triumvirate, leading the group in explosive comments to the media - but Chris Bosh's recent comments about Omer Asik show that any member of the council is enough to qualify as a quorum. 

Can this "NBA High School" analogy be stretched a little more? I'd go so far as to say that Amar'e Stoudemire, in becoming a free agent last summer, also became the Homecoming King of New York - a title that Carmelo Anthony seems to crave. Given all of the anger surrounding 'Melo, though, I'm left wondering if he's really the Prom Queen.

The NBA's Student Council

Last year, my 17-year old cousin was nominated for prom queen. She was thrilled, but that excitement became horror when students at her school began vicious personal attacks. Some were attempts to support other girls at my cousin's expense - others were simply spiteful people who chose to try to tear down someone they hardly knew. Of course, no one was prepared for the most injurious invectives, which came from her friends. The people who were supposedly my cousin's supporters collapsed under her. Sound familiar?

Which one is 'Melo?

Carmelo Anthony is an odd case. He appears to always have been one of the popular kids in school - after all, he was the 3rd overall pick in 2003. When he "belonged" to fans of the Denver Nuggets, they bought his jersey, clamored over his custom shoe, and defended his inefficiencies. However, 'Melo's critics outside of Denver are very vocal and include some of the most prominent statistical basketball minds, like David Berri. And as soon as it seems that Carmelo wants to start hanging out with a different social circle, Carmelo's fans stop supporting him.

Carmelo's never quite fit into the popular clique among players, either. He is, of course, not the same caliber of player as LeBron James, but few players in history are. Beyond that, though, 'Melo was never going to be part of the Heat's Big Three. His best hope, as LeBron is quoted as saying in this article, is to "team up with Stoud in New York." It seems that even LeBron doubts Carmelo's ability to be part of a winning basketball team. 

Furthermore, Carmelo isn't part of this past summer's free agent class because he signed a four-year extension in 2007. Had Carmelo signed a three-year extension, he and Amar'e would be waiting on Chris Paul to join them in New York blue, and he may not have shattered his legacy in Denver. After all, in that same article by Ian Thomsen, Anthony says, "I would never go about it the way LeBron did it." Given 'Melo's desire to play in New York, one doubts this means he wouldn't have opted out of his contract if he had the choice. It's possible, though, that 'Melo wouldn't have announced his decision on ESPN (largely because he doesn't have LeBron's juice) or taken part in a seemingly too much-too soon, lavish introduction ceremony. If anything, his legacy in Denver would probably be more Bosh-in-Toronto than LeBronian. 

Kevin Pelton wrote an excellent piece on Carmelo's value to the Nuggets, and Henry Abbott drives home several key positives of 'Melo's as well. It appears that 'Melo is the prettiest girl in the class as the NBA's Prom - the Trade Deadline - inches closer. Is he an unfairly-vilified Prom Queen? It's hard to make that case when his decision to sign a four-year extension brought him to this point - he is a victim of his own decision-making. But the question is interesting. 

I lied to Connie Hawkins.

True story. In fact, not only did I lie to Mr. Hawkins, I took his money - and I did it without a single ounce of regret. So why would I name my blog after him (and make it a Church in his honor, at that)?
Because I'm really Donald Sterling?

Well, you see, I did it legally and with Mr. Hawkins knowing there was every chance that I was being dishonest with him. I played a lot of poker in college, and Mr. Hawkins used to play poker at Casino Arizona in Scottsdale, AZ. Whenever I had a free weekend (or a class that needed ditching), a friend or two and myself would make the 100-mile trip up to the casino instead of playing in the smaller stakes games in Tucson. I don't remember any specific hands that Mr. Hawkins and I played, but I do remember 3 distinct things:
Connie Hawkins knows the meaning of
Life, the Universe, and Everything
  • Connie Hawkins is one of the nicest people I've ever met. He took time to shake hands and converse with everyone that came up to him, many of whom were unsure that it was really Connie Hawkins until they saw his ABA ring.
  • That ring was often on a finger on a hand that tended to eclipse the lights inside the casino whenever Mr. Hawkins waved to one of his friends or fans. I always found that fitting for a player I associate with the Suns.
  • Mr. Hawkins was at the casino shortly after Kobe Bryant's 81-point game. I asked him what he thought. He smiled his wide smile and said one word. "Impressive," and then he laughed and insisted that we return our attention to the poker game.
My goal in writing this blog is to focus on the positive in the NBA and to not speculate, prognosticate, or demean people who don't deserve it (Donald Sterling is and always will be fair game). When I think of kindness and positive people in the NBA, I think of Connie Hawkins because of the kindness I saw him show in a casino - so this blog is named after him. Mr. Hawkins only ever played in the 4/8 Omaha Hi-Lo Split game as far as I saw - a game where people tended to push money around and, at the end of the day, the casino was the only real winner. That game had all of the characters one usually associates with a poker game, but I'll never forget my opportunities to lie to Connie Hawkins.                                                         

Monday, January 17, 2011

My 200 favorite things in the NBA: 1-25

In today's marathon DDL, I made an off-hand reference to my 198th favorite thing in the NBA - Stan Van Gundy's sarcastic responses to almost any question that an unfortunate sideline reporter is tasked with asking. This, of course, caused others to question what my other favorite things were, so I thought I'd make a list. Here's 1-25.

 1. DDL.  Enough said, really, but it makes watching the NBA even more entertaining.
 2. Steve Nash.  I am a homer, after all.
 3. Michael Jordan.
 4. Bloggers.  More specifically, the quality information that the NBA bloggers bring to the table. There are a ton of different voices and different perspectives, and each enlightens me to a new statistic or way of viewing basketball that I didn't see before.
 5. The 1992-93 NBA Finals, Game 6.  It was heartbreaking as an 8 year old NBA fan, but that emotion got me addicted to the league.
                                                Image courtesy of Bleacher Report
Oh, Paxson. You broke my heart.

 6. Twitter.  Being able to discuss the NBA in real time is amazing.
 7. The Phoenix gorilla.
 8. Donald Sterling.  He reminds me that pure evil exists in this world.
 9. Jordan Farmar dribbling.  Farmar fly? No, he fall.
10. Chris Webber.  Dude is one of the best analysts in the NBA. Seeing he and Kevin McHale tucked away on the NBA channel makes me sad.
11. LeBron James.  He's an amazing ball player and he's caused interest in my favorite sport to sky-rocket. I just wish he'd stop backpedaling.
12. JR Smith flexing when down double-digits.
13. Clippers fans.  Please, please take Los Angeles away from the Lakers. I cannot stand those stupid little flags that start flying in LA when May rolls around.

Image Courtesy of the Association
Knock it off, Kobe.

14. Blake Griffin.
15. ShamSports' Criminals Page.  Seriously, look at all those arrests!
16. Alvin Gentry.  I feel like Mr. Gentry is a great coach who was thrust into a really tough position. On the other hand, it can be tough to defend the man when he's jerking around his rotations.
17. Photoshop.
18. JJ Redick.  Didn't like the man in college, but I like that he proved that a player can have a place in the NBA if he fills a niche really, really well.
19. Tim Duncan.  If you don't like fundamentals, that's your problem.
20. Rasheed Wallace leaving Robert Horry wide open. Dude has crazy basketball IQ - or so everyone says - which just goes to show you that anyone can make mistakes that cost his team a championship.
21. HoopData's Motion Charts.  Easily one of the best ways to visualize NBA data.
22. The fact that one of my favorite bloggers lives in Israel.
23. Al Harrington.  I hadn't heard a reference to "Dinosaurs" in years - until I started hanging out in DDL.
24. Boshasaurus Rex.