TrueHoop: Portland Trail Blazers

Brandon Roy calls it a career

June, 24, 2013
6/24/13
4:30
PM ET
Pelton By Kevin Pelton
ESPN.com
Archive
SEATTLE - Brandon Roy's basketball career came full circle on Sunday. After the University of Washington's Alumni Game, where he returned to the court where he first reached national prominence, Roy told reporters he's almost certainly played his last game in the NBA.

"I haven't come out and said it publicly, but for me mentally, I've just started to settle into living a normal life," he said. "I haven't officially announced anything, but right now I haven't thought about playing in the NBA."

This decision seems far more likely to stick than Roy's first retirement in December 2011, when he walked away from the Portland Trail Blazers after the lockout. Then, Roy was gobsmacked by the assessment that his knees had deteriorated too badly to continue playing. So when an American version of the Orthokine knee treatment that has helped several NBA players offered Roy the hope of improved health, he returned to the league with the Minnesota Timberwolves last summer.

That comeback lasted just five games before Roy suffered a setback. He underwent knee surgery in the hopes of returning, but never made it back on the court. On May 10, Minnesota waived Roy, clearing his non-guaranteed contract from the salary cap.

While Roy might not have found the second act he hoped for, last season did help him come to peace with the end of his career.

"Any time you walk away from the game, you have what ifs," Roy said. "I feel like I was able to answer those questions last year by going out there and giving it a try. For me, it's a little bit easier to walk away. It's never going to be easy, but it's a little smoother knowing I gave it a try and now it's time to move on."

Roy, who won't turn 29 until next month, enjoyed a meteoric NBA career. He arrived in the league as the 2006-07 Rookie of the Year and made three All-Star appearances and two All-NBA teams in five seasons in Portland. Had his knees cooperated, Roy would still have been in the prime of his career. Instead, he's preparing to move on to a new one, probably involving basketball and perhaps coaching.

While Roy said he plans to continue to train with the Seattle natives and UW products who spend their summers preparing to play in the NBA, his basketball exploits will probably be limited to future UW Alumni Games. On Sunday, he showed glimpses of his former self, including a vintage three-point play off the dribble. More often his knees got the better of him, and he drew nothing but air on his last two shot attempts in the fourth quarter.

Still, after getting the loudest ovation of the day from a sold-out Hec Edmundson Pavilion, Roy was at peace with a journey that took him from making $11 an hour as a dock worker while awaiting his qualifying SAT score to NBA stardom.

"I remember sitting in those nosebleed seats when I was waiting to get into school," he said. "To sit back and look at things 10, 11 years later and look back on what I've been able to accomplish over my basketball career, it's been really great. Really satisfying. We all wish we could play longer, but in my case I feel like I gave it all I had and I have a lot of great memories to look back on."

20-point streak ends for James in Heat loss

January, 11, 2013
1/11/13
3:00
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Information
ESPN.com
Archive
Following a pair of Dwyane Wade free throws, the Miami Heat led the Portland Trail Blazers by 12 with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter Thursday. Unfortunately for the Heat, the Blazers took control in those final eight minutes and hung on for a two-point win at the Rose Garden. The loss was the second straight and third in the last four games for Miami.

Miguel Cabrera
James
During that stretch to end the game, Portland outscored the Heat 24-10 despite almost identical shooting from the floor by hitting free throws and three-point shots. The Blazers went 11-for-15 on free throws and 3-for-4 on three-pointers during the run while Miami went 1-for-2 and 1-for-5 on those same shots, respectively. Among them was the potential game-winning three by Mario Chalmers that rimmed out as time expired.

But perhaps even more notable than the loss, LeBron James scored a season-low 15 points on just six field goals. The six made shots were the fewest he’s had in a game since March of last season.

Entering the night, James had reached the 20-point plateau in each of the 33 games he played this season, the longest streak by any player to start a season since George Gervin went 45-straight games in 1981-82 and the second-longest by any player since the 1976 merger.

What caused the run of 20-point performances to come to an end? Struggles in the half court. James scored just seven points on 2-for-11 shooting in half-court sets on Thursday (18.1 percent), both of which were season lows. James entered the night having scored over 20 points per game and was shooting 51.0 percent in the half court this season.

On the other end of the floor, the Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge and his 20 points and game-high 15 rebounds. It marked his fifth double-double over the last six games and his second “20-and-15" of the season.

Also chipping in for Portland was Nicolas Batum who scored a team-high 28 points. It was his sixth game of the year with least 25 points and with the win, the Blazers improved to 5-1 when he reaches the 25-point plateau this season.

Lillard is valuable asset for Blazers

December, 1, 2012
12/01/12
6:11
PM ET
By Kenton Wong
ESPN Stats & Information
Archive
Russ Isabella/US PresswireDamian Lillard is one of the early favorites for Rookie of the Year.
Damian Lillard came out of a school not known for basketball greatness in Weber State. Prior to Lillard, no player out of Weber had ever averaged over 6.5 PPG or 1.7 APG in their NBA career. Lillard, through 16 games, is averaging 18.4 PPG and 5.9 APG for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Although Lillard will almost assuredly be the best player ever to come out of Weber State, he should be setting his career goals to the heights of other great point guards to come out of his hometown: Oakland, California.

Oakland's finest

Lillard starred at Oakland High School a couple of decades after two Bay Area legends patrolled high-school courts: Jason Kidd at Saint Joseph of Notre Dame HS in Alameda and Gary Payton at Skyline HS in Oakland. Lillard actually started high school at Kidd’s alma mater before transferring.

So far in his career, Lillard has proven to be a better scorer than either Payton or Kidd were as rookies – averaging nearly 10 more points per game 16 games into his career.

Pure shooter

A big reason for Lillard’s success has been his outside shot. He’s shooting 51 percent from 15-24 feet and 37 percent from outside of 25 feet – both above the league average this season.

Last season for Weber State, Lillard did a lot of his damage on 3-pointers, making nearly three per game while shooting 41 percent from that range. The adjustment to the NBA 3-point line hasn’t hurt his production from deep much. He’s making two-and-a-half 3-pointers per game and connecting on 40 percent of them.

Good value

The Trail Blazers average 102 points per 100 possessions with Lillard on the court as opposed to 97 per 100 possessions without him.

Lillard has already established himself as one of the most valuable point guards in the league this season. In terms of the ‘Value Added’ metric, Lillard is one of the top 10 most valuable point guards in the league this season.

Value Added is the estimated number of points a player adds to a team’s season total above what a 'replacement player' (for instance, the 12th man on the roster) would produce.

If Lillard continues this pace as an impressive scoring point guard, he’ll quickly join the conversation as one of the top young floor generals in the league. Mike Conley is the only point guard averaging at least 15 points and five assists per game with a higher 3-point percentage this season than Lillard.

It’s been a while since Portland has had a point guard like Lillard. The last time a Trail Blazer averaged 15 points and five assists while shooting 40 percent from 3-point land? Terry Porter in 1992-93.

ESPN Stats & Information

Kevin Love's impatient timing

July, 10, 2012
7/10/12
11:33
AM ET
Harper By Zach Harper
ESPN.com
Archive
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesKevin Love's impatience could hurt the Timberwolves' roster moves.

Before Ricky Rubio went down with a torn ACL, Kevin Love was experiencing a season like he never had before.

It wasn’t so much the statistical output he was throwing up at a close to historic rate; it was that the Timberwolves were winning, he was leading them, and they were battling for a playoff spot. Going into the showdown with the Lakers on March 9, when the season turned for the worse, the Timberwolves were two games over .500 more than halfway through the season for the first time since 2004-05. Everything for the Wolves was trending toward a bright future.

Then Rubio tore his ACL in the final seconds in that game against the Lakers, a 105-102 loss. After that, the team battled various injuries, and Love’s offensive efforts weren’t enough to even make most games competitive. Defensively, everybody seemed to check out, made evident by the 108.4 defensive rating the Wolves posted after Rubio's season-ending injury. Love played his last game of the season April 11, when he suffered a concussion early in the game against the Denver Nuggets.

From that point until the end of the regular season, the All-Star and all-NBA power forward sat and watched his completely overmatched team finish another season without truly getting a sniff of the playoffs. Without Rubio and Love on the floor, the Wolves showed just how little talent they had on which to build.

Seeing how far away this team is from being a playoff contender when Rubio and Love are nowhere to be seen -- coupled with the frustration surrounding a contract extension -- is probably what prompts someone to tell reporters that his patience level with the organization isn’t very high. As Jerry Zgoda reported Jan. 25 (the contract extension deadline day for Love), Love and David Kahn didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye on the negotiations.

Love (remember, he’s a Kevin McHale acquisition) wanted to commit to this area and the Wolves’ organization by accepting the five-year maximum extension, available to only one player per team during the life of this collective bargaining agreement. It’s presumed Kahn wanted to keep that option available to entice Rubio to stay in town after his rookie deal expired. To appease Love, the Wolves gave him a four-year maximum extension with an opt-out after three years.

It’s easy to see why Love is frustrated with the organization when you factor in his time here. He’s been working hard to turn into an elite player in the NBA, while the Wolves’ record has barely seen any improvement from his rookie season. He’s been the subject of trade rumors, even after having a historic 2010-11 season in which he averaged 20 points and 15 rebounds per game -- the only player other than Moses Malone to do so during the 3-point era. He wasn’t given the respect of a five-year max extension when he was practically begging to commit to a sputtering organization.

When Kevin Love told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, "It's tough seeing all these guys that are young and older who have all played in the playoffs. When they start talking about that, I have nothing to talk about. If I don't make the playoffs next year, I don't know what will happen,” it wasn’t anything new to those that have covered the Wolves and paid attention to how Love conducts himself in front of a microphone. He’s never been shy about voicing his opinion, and that’s part of the leadership role he’s trying to command.

And Love is correct in saying the team needs to make a serious push. Before Rubio’s injury, the Wolves were well on their way to being respectable. The future was luminous, and nobody expected the end of the season to be so deflated. Now? They have just enough flexibility to make improvements to the roster but no real credit history to show they’re a destination for players wanting to win. This is what happens when you butcher the majority of your draft picks in a three-year span.

Although people shouldn’t necessarily disagree with what Love is saying, they should definitely disagree with the timing of Love’s mild "outburst." A few days before the soft open of 2012 free agency becomes a grand opening is not the time to publicly voice that your organization needs to be desperate to win now. Dealing with agents and rival GMs for coveted players (see: offer sheet to Nicolas Batum) who will enable your team to win more games isn’t helped when your best player starts beating around ultimatums.

This is where you see that while Love wants to be a leader, he still hasn’t figured out that role. Perhaps it’s immaturity or just inexperience with leading an organization. But you’re not in a market and climate that star players are dying to migrate to. To get a super team in Minnesota, you have to be surgical in the draft and get away with chicanery in trades.

By saying the team needs to make the playoffs or changes need to happen in the days before you may or may not acquire Batum just seems like horrendous timing. The Wolves had only a glimmer of hope to get away with acquiring Batum outright if Portland decided not to match. Now Portland can be open to a sign-and-trade, knowing they can demand any and all assets Minnesota has at its disposal. It would behoove Trail Blazers general manager Neil Olshey to get on the phone with Kahn and read excerpts from Spears’ article whenever Kahn says they can’t part with Derrick Williams and Nikola Pekovic to bag Batum. They can demand Luke Ridnour be included in the deal, leaving the Wolves without any point guard depth when they're trying to rehab Rubio's knee. They can ask for first-round picks that have the potential to hang over the head of the organization as the protected first-rounder from the Marko Jaric deal did from 2005 until this past draft.

Love could have applied pressure to the Timberwolves in private, but now the rest of the league has been put on alert -- things in the Twin Cities are bumpy. That doesn't help you keep future contract negotiations and trade discussions in your team's favor. It takes away any potential for possessing the upper hand when transforming your roster.

Love wants more for this organization and his career in Minnesota. There aren’t many fans that disagree with his stance or his sense of urgency. It’s justified when you see the history of the team and the frustration surrounding Kahn’s tenure with the Wolves. It just couldn’t have come at a worse time when the team is trying to put its losing ways behind it.

Chris Bosh, Cyber Hero

October, 14, 2009
10/14/09
11:01
AM ET

Some jerk beat Chris Bosh to registering the domain www.chrisbosh.com. So Bosh went after the cybersquatter. All sorts of legal wrangling later, Bosh has won damages, his domain ... and a zillion other domains the same guy had been squatting.

There are nearly 800 names in the list, and Bosh and his internet consultant, Hadi Teherany of Max Deal, say they'll return them all to their rightful owners for free.

Which means a good chunk of the basketball world will be owing Bosh a favor. The list is thick with basketball players in the NBA, overseas, college and high school. There are also some football players, political sites, Britney Spears' child, singers, a site or two that sound raunchy, and the Mexican wrestler "El Octagon."

Just a few of the many NBA names on the list:

  • SamCassell.com
  • SteveNash.com
  • AmareStoudemire.com
  • AndreIguodala.com
  • JJRedick.com
  • EddyCurry.com
  • CarmeloAnthony.com
  • BrandonJennings.com
  • DelonteWest.com 
  • LuolDeng.com
  • KobeStopper.com
  • CaronButler.com
  • DeronWilliams.com
  • DariusMiles.com
  • BryanColangelo.com

(Also on the list is AaronAfflalo.com, even though that Denver player spells his first name "Arron.") The vast list of names also includes instructions for athletes and celebrities to get their names back from Bosh, if they wish. Paging El Octagon ...

Tuesday Bullets

October, 13, 2009
10/13/09
11:57
AM ET
  • Bret LaGree of Hoopinion on Larry Brown's ejection via replacement referee: "Larry got his 2nd T from Kevin Scott, who never got within 35 feet of Brown before, during, or after the call. Brown tried to engage any of the refs on the occasion of his ejection but none would speak with or possibly even look at him. Rather than deal with the issue directly, Scott walked to the opposite end of the court and appeared to attempt to enlist a befuddled police officer in asking/making Brown leave the court."
  • The Knicks and Nets have both claimed to have the most cap space of any team in 2010. Who's right?
  • The Bulls like each other.
  • Dean Oliver, the Denver Nuggets' statistical consultant, and the case for drafting Ty Lawson. Also, I think Oliver is in a very small club of team stats experts: He gets to inform the front office on personnel decisions, and the coaching staff on game strategy. Also, Lawson was part of a Nugget lineup that played very well in Beijing.
  • Hope in Philadelphia, where a 3-0 preseason has people feeling good. Elton Brand tells Philadunkia: "All the major injuries are totally behind me and I feel great. Plus Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala have gotten better over the summer as well as I so we're going to have a good formidable team."
  • The Blazers -- one of those teams that has had a messed up cable deal that makes it hard for some fans to watch games -- say that by January they hope to have video of every game streaming live on their website, which would be an NBA first.
  • Jermaine Taylor and Chase Budinger didn't get a lot of attention on draft day, but they're looking pretty good in preseason.
  • Rasual Butler makes the Clippers better.
  • Gregg Popovich has inspired winemakers, and now vegetable growers.
  • Kevin Durant's one-game plus/minus in last night's OT victory over the Suns: plus-24. That's what I'm talking about!
  • An old video clip of Delonte West and Paul Pierce, pre-Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett trades, talking about how good the Celtics are going to be.
  • In my review of SonicsGate yesterday, I listed four goals of the movie. Producer Adam Brown adds two more: To preserve the history of the Seattle SuperSonics. Since that history is now officially owned by Clay Bennett, we needed to document some of the good times as well as the team's demise. OKC didn't celebrate in June 1979, and they didn't cry in May 1994. We did, and we deserve this document to remind us of that. Also, to get the issue back in people's mouths here in Washington with the primary goal of getting an NBA team back. Ultimately we have to convince our politicians that a 50% privately funded arena deal will create jobs and boost the economy while allowing us to regain this cultural asset."
  • Malcolm Gladwell on the ethics of a gladiator mentality.

Late Friday Mini-Bullets

October, 9, 2009
10/09/09
6:46
PM ET
  • Shocking bit of news: Wayne Winston, the Indiana University professor I have quoted extensively in the last couple of weeks, and has been Mark Cuban's statistical consultant for the last nine years, just told me that his contract with the Mavericks has not been renewed. He assures me it's not related to his spilling the beans to TrueHoop. Winston has a professor job, and a book that just came out, and says he has not yet put much thought into whether or not he'll pursue work with other teams.
  • It's probably time to stop thinking as players from the EuroLeague as raw projects, compared to, say, NCAA players. Consider the resume of young King Omri Casspi: He scored nine points in 18 minutes a game in the Euroleague, shooting 52% from the floor. Do those numbers mean anything? It's easy to make a case that his competition -- all grown men -- was better than an NCAA title team. In his final game of the season he shared the court with Carlos Arroyo, Dee Brown, Daniel Santiago, Juan Carlos Navarro, (current Buck) Ersan Ilyasova, Fran Vasquez, and (current Rocket) David Andersen among others.
  • 20 points, 11 rebounds, eight blocks ... meet the new Roy Hibbert! (He's a Pacer, in case you didn't know.) His college coach is not surprised.
  • Since Bill Davidson's death, the ownership picture of the Pistons has been a little unclear. The insight: Per Davidson's will, the team is being run by a committee featuring his widow, the president of Palace Sports and Entertainment, and some other unknown people. So, is that clear?
  • If you're mad that you can't watch your team on TV this preseason, talk to Dwight Jaynes: "I cannot believe the sense of entitlement among today's sports fans. Sorry, kiddos, but right here you're going to have to hear an old guy give you one of those 'back in my day' talks. You see, when I was growing up, you got one Game of the Week in baseball (and it was usually the Yankees). One (if you were lucky) pro basketball game of the week, maybe a Notre Dame football game on Saturday -- you've probably heard all about it. And for most of the life of the Portland Trail Blazers the philosophy was that you didn't give your games away on television. At most, there were 20 televised games a season. That was it. But this season every single regular-season Trail Blazer game will be on television. Now some people without Comcast won't get all those games, but the fact is, a majority of the people in this market will be able to see every game. To a guy like me, that's pretty incredible. And I guess it makes people moaning about no telecasts of exhibition games seem kind of petty. I mean, really? Really? When every single REAL game is available to you? Sorry, but I just can't muster up much of a sense of injustice over this one. Be patient. You're going to see plenty of games."

Thursday Bullets

October, 8, 2009
10/08/09
2:59
PM ET
  • A prediction this year's champion will come from the East, where David Berri's numbers say Orlando, Boston and Cleveland are far ahead of the rest of the conference.
  • They asked all the Blazers which NBA players they respect the most. Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan tie for first with three votes each
  • Chris Douglas-Roberts has the messiest locker of all Nets, and he doesn't like getting taped up for games, because the tape hurts the skin on the bottom of his feet. Also, word that Douglas-Roberts and Courtney Lee are locked into a "nasty" battle for playing time.
  • The Madrid team's whole starting front line is injured for their exhibition against the Jazz this afternoon. Madrid's new coach, Ettore Messina, blogs about the slow work of integrating many new players.  On Sports.ru, he also writes about a player who won't be playing for Madrid: "As we agreed terms with [Pablo] Prigioni, a possibility to talk to Ricky Rubio came up. So, good offers were made both to Joventut Badalona and the player himself. After a week of thinking, Ricky decided that he wanted to spend the following two years (before leaving for the NBA) in Barcelona, close to his family and friends. At that point there was no way persuading him to come to Madrid. Though, obviously, we still wish him good luck." Worth noting that Messina has the impression Rubio will come to the NBA in two years -- even though it would make financial sense to wait for three.
  • Antawn Jamison doing yoga.
  • Sergio Rodriguez, for a moment, forgot which team he was on.
  • I have a pet theory that long players who can hit open jumpers, pass and play D all over the court are super valuable to any team. Suns rookie Earl Clark could be one of those guys
  • Weird thing: Dennis Rodman is one of the best players in NBA history, thanks to the fact that nobody has really ever rebounded like he did. That's what makes him great. Yet it's clearly not what people most loved about him. Here's how I know that: I just spent 20 minutes trying to find a really good highlight reel of his rebounding prowess. I thought it would be something we could all learn from, especially about recognizing and pursuing rebounds out of your area. And there are a zillion highlight reels of the guy. But as far as I can tell just about all of them are mostly dunks, fights, blocks, 3-pointers and clowning. It feels a little like we love those elements of basketball so much that even when we're celebrating a great rebounder, we won't actually do so with, you know, rebounds.
  • It's getting to be just about time for Julian Wright to show what he can do. How did the young Hornet fare in a preseason game against the Hawks? Bret LaGree of Hoopinion was there: "Julian Wright has a great (I fear it may be an innate) ability to overcomplicate a situation, to try to squeeze three moves into a play where only one is necessary but that wasn't in evidence tonight. At the start of the game, he and Morris Peterson would spot up outside the arc, leaving the paint (extended) to Paul and West, maybe Sean Marks if he set a ball-screen for Paul. Wright would cut to the basket if his man helped defensively. The three he missed was in rhythm and as good a look from that range as he's likely to have. The 16' jumper he made on the baseline in third quarter looked very instinctual. He was far superior to the Hawks 2nd/3rd string in the fourth quarter."
  • The assertion that if roles were reversed -- Will Bynum has been a first-round pick, and Rodney Stuckey had been undrafted -- Bynum would be the Pistons' starter.
  • "More Than a Game" -- the LeBron James documentary -- is said to rank up there in the sports documentary world with the Muhammad Ali story "When We Were Kings." High praise, indeed.
  • "We Believe" proved to be a bad tagline for the Clippers.
  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: "The officiating by the replacements was so atrocious that fill-in official Robbie Robinson could become the first referee to ever be fired twice by the NBA."
  • Clark Matthews, writing for Daily Thunder, on the cheap seats in Oklahoma City: "Do we have to keep calling the third tier 'Loud City?' I know the Hornet marketing team, which did an excellent job selling the sport to this market, came up with the idea, and a lot of people have embraced this, but I've sat up there a lot. It isn't loud and it's not a city."
  • Pacer rookie A.J. Price wore the wrong gear to practice and couldn't be in the team photo. Travis Diener, writing on the Indianapolis Star's website: "Those darn rookies. You've got to hold their hands through everything."

First Cup: Thursday

October, 8, 2009
10/08/09
8:50
AM ET
  • Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: "Brandon Jennings admitted he was in awe playing at the Palace on Wednesday night. But that feeling quickly faded for the Milwaukee Bucks' rookie point guard, as he was tossed into the fray for 27 minutes in the team's second pre-season game. Jennings faced a tough task trying to guard Detroit's Will Bynum, and the Pistons backcourt dominated in a 113-104 victory over the Bucks at the Palace of Auburn Hills. But the 20-year-old Jennings also showed some progress with a team-high 18 points, six assists and six steals, despite five turnovers. 'I was out there playing a lot and I was a little fatigued,' said Jennings. 'I just had to play through it and keep playing. I'm not going to lie; I was a little nervous today, playing in the Palace and Detroit basketball. A lot of players came through here, guys like Isiah Thomas. I felt I just had to come out here and run the team and focus on the defensive end.' "
  • Jason Quick of The Oregonian: "There is a tendency around the Trail Blazers to be careful about what is said about Greg Oden. Nobody wants to apply pressure on the 21-year-old center. Nobody wants to raise expectations any higher than they already are for the former No. 1 pick. But on Wednesday, after the Blazers second preseason game this season, nobody needed to say anything about Oden. The play of the new-look center is speaking volumes. With a lighter frame, and a brighter outlook, Oden continued his resurgent comeback campaign with 20 points and 12 rebounds during the Blazers' 89-86 win over Sacramento at Arco Arena."
  • Terry Foster of The Detroit News: "The real treat was Will Bynum (23 points, six assists), who runs the point better than anyone for the Pistons and that includes Stuckey -- the man they want to run it. Bynum is not an elite point guard, but he gives the Pistons exactly what they want. He is an unselfish player who can get into the lane and make good decisions."
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: "The Orlando Magic did not draft a shooting guard and sign another two-guard like they did the season before. No, this season the Magic just made a trade to acquire an eight-time all-star who plays shooting guard ( Vince Carter). Welcome to J.J. Redick's world. At least he can keep his sense of humor. 'Hey, I'm still here,' Redick laughed before the Magic's ragged 90-86 preseason win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night at Amway Arena. While the Magic keep putting other two-guards between Redick and more playing time, he actually has closed in on defying doubters after three seasons."
  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "The NBA is a watered-down product. The salary cap slowly has whittled benches across the league down to faceless entities, punchless sparring partners in practice and fill-ins who hope not to undo the work of their betters at gametime. But the Celtics went into last night's preseason opener against the Rockets with a modern-day anomaly. The reserves have dished out as much as they have absorbed during the first part of training camp. The second unit of Rasheed Wallace, Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis, Eddie House and Brian Scalabrine beat the starters in a scrimmage last Saturday in Newport, R.I., and figure to win a lot more. 'It's crazy,' Kendrick Perkins said of the burgeoning rivalry between the starters and reserves. 'They make us work every practice. We have no slack on the backup side, so every practice is really like a game. They're good. They have a lot of shooters. They have Eddie House, he's 10 years (in the league), Rasheed 15, Marquis seven, Baby three, Tony six, so they have a lot of experienced guys on their team.' "
  • Michael Lee of The Washington Post: "Nick Young entered this season determined that his name would not be preceded by the word 'backup,' stating before training camp that he hated sitting on the bench and was going after the starting job. That was a bold declaration coming from Young, who carried a happy-go-lucky demeanor his first two seasons in Washington. It also followed a summer in which the Wizards improved their back court with the additions of Mike Miller and Randy Foye, and DeShawn Stevenson returned from a back injury. Young feels that he squandered an opportunity last season, when injuries provided an opening for playing time that he was unable to fully take advantage of. He didn't believe he had any more time to waste. 'I always wanted to be a great player. This is the year to get it rolling,' Young said after scoring 11 points with four rebounds during the Wizards' 101-92 win against Memphis. 'It's my third year. It's time for me to grow up and get my name out there. This is the game I love and I just want to get better every year. I didn't want to be forgotten.' "
  • Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press: "Brian Cardinal has a receding hairline that makes him look more suited for a 50-and-over league. He admits he is not good enough to be a starting power forward in the NBA, yet he is approaching his 10th season in the league. Cardinal has been a backup with each of his five NBA teams, including the Wolves last season. He has never averaged more than 9.6 points in a season, but his value is measured more in work ethic and a lead-by-example attitude. 'I can't dunk on anybody, but the game is far bigger than being the greatest athlete or having a muscled-up body,' Cardinal said. 'It's about playing smart and doing the right things. That's why I've been fortunate to play this long.' Even if Cardinal makes the Wolves' final roster, he knows most of the playing time at power forward will be divided between Al Jefferson and Kevin Love. Jefferson was a freshman in high school when Cardinal was drafted by Detroit in the second round of the 2000 NBA draft. Love had yet to reach high school."
  • Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News: "One of the coaches stood in the locker room late Tuesday night, marveling about DeJuan Blair. Then he paused and changed direction. 'I love Ian Mahinmi,' he said, 'but ...' The coach roots for Mahinmi, as does everyone in the Spurs organization. Mahinmi has done everything the Spurs have asked. Still, on this night, the coach couldn't help but see the contrast. Blair turned 20 in April, and this is the first time he's ever lived more than a block from home. And yet: He showed more basketball instincts in his first NBA game than Mahinmi had in four years. It's October, and there are no guarantees Blair will be getting minutes in November. Still, his undeniable skill was on display. Blair had 19 rebounds in the first 22 minutes of his pro life, and this is something that works in any arena in any city."
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston
    Chronicle:
    "We just watched 75 fouls and 102 free throws in one basketball game. OK, it's preseason. If you pay full price to watch these games, you're not too picky, anyway. But just as the teams learn all that must be corrected in time for the season, so must the league. 'Replacement refs' should become a euphemism for 'preseason refs.' The league cannot go through real games like this."
  • Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic: "The Suns' annual propensity for giving up second-chance points undermines the defense and slows the pace. The task becomes tougher with Shaquille O'Neal gone and Robin Lopez out six to eight weeks. The Suns were 30-12 when they outrebounded their opponents last season and 12-24 when they did not. Outrebounding foes more often is misleading because, as the NBA's top shooting team, the Suns had fewer misses for teams to rebound. The Suns were 22nd in defensive rebounding percentage and gave up the fourth most offensive rebounds. 'It's a pretty heavy task of us, knowing we're a small team, but we should be able to do it,' Stoudemire said. 'For the most part, we have to rebound as a team. We also have good defensive guards. Grant (Hill) is a great rebounder for his position. Even Steve (Nash) gets in there and mixes it up. The big thing is us big guys have to grab those big boards.' "
  • Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: "A new team and fittingly a new locker-room. Well, not really new, just dressed up. Immediately upon entering the Raptors' inner sanctum, and before you even get to the actual dressing room, the first thing you see is a tight, enlarged photo of the Raptors' hands coming together in a pre-game huddle that will be repeated every time they take the floor. It's one of those shots that catches the eye because it's a little different but it's the message it sends -- togetherness -- that is the real point. On the opposite wall is the word Raptors spelled out with the initial letters in the words Respect, Accountable, Proud, Together We Shall Prevail, Organized, Responsible, Standards, all things the team is expecting their players to be. Venture further in and more words to live by adorn yet another wall. This one reads: Do the right thing. Do it the right way. Do it that way all the time. The room itself where the players lockers are remain unchanged -- other than the nine new name plates above those lockers. At least Rasho Nesterovic got his old locker back."
  • Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman: "His memories of Nov. 29, 2008, are vivid. It was a Saturday night. Newly named interim coach Scott Brooks had just told him he would be starting his first career game, against the Memphis Grizzlies. And that's when the knots started forming in the pit of his stomach. 'Oh it's a whole lot different,' Russell Westbrook said of his nerves just before the Thunder opened its preseason schedule. 'I'm so chill now. I'm so calm and cool.' Westbrook then went out and proved it, backing up his claim with a near perfect floor game in the Thunder's 99-91 loss. His final stat line -- five points, 10 assists, four rebounds -- wasn't jaw-dropping. But considering he turned the ball over only twice, took just four shot attempts and could have had 15 assists had his teammates knocked down a few more shots, Wednesday's opener was about as good as it gets."
  • Ron Green Jr. of The Charlotte Observer: "Charlotte Bobcats rookie Gerald Henderson was on the court in Cleveland Tuesday night in the first semi-official minute of his NBA career when he found himself with the ball. Henderson, the former Duke All-American, came off a screen and turned the corner, the basket in his sights. From the corner of his eye, he saw Shaquille O'Neal coming his way. Even rookies know certain things. 'I was, like, this isn't going to be good,' Henderson said. O'Neal swallowed Henderson's dunk, fouling the rookie hard in the process. Henderson made one of two free throws, and the first of what will likely be several professional baptisms had occurred. 'It was one of those welcome to the NBA moments,' he said."
  • Brian Windhorst of The Plain Dealer: "The team won't admit it publicly, but any way it's viewed, the Cavs are short a point guard. Add the continuing uncertainty surrounding Delonte West and it is only clearer. At the moment, it may not be a fatal flaw. If everything goes to plan, it may not even matter. But if there is one sure thing, it is that things rarely go to plan -- as West is currently proving. West began a second leave this season Wednesday, this one excused, to handle personal matters. He had not played in either the open scrimmage or first preseason game. There's no denying that is worrying. 'We're concerned about the state of Delonte because we want him here,' LeBron James said. 'You want your full team to see what your full potential is, but at the same time we're going to give him time.' James didn't say he was concerned about the point guard situation, but deep down he and his teammates must be to some degree."
  • Tribune newspapers: "If this had happened a month ago, the San Francisco Chronicle and city officials would have joined the list of parties skewered in Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame induction speech. The newspaper published photos Tuesday of Jordan smoking a cigar during a practice round at Harding Park, despite the city's ban on smoking on public golf courses. City officials asked the PGA Tour to remind Jordan he can't smoke while being an honorary assistant at the Presidents Cup. 'It was sort of a gentle nudge reminding them that smoking is illegal and that we would appreciate their support,' Recreation and Park general manager Phil Ginsburg told the Chronicle. As for enforcing the $100 fine on Jordan? Matt Dorsey, the spokesman for City Atty. Dennis Herrera, remains unsure how that will play out. Said Dorsey: 'But don't expect me to ask him for it.' During a Q&A on Monday, Jordan said, 'I'm not even supposed to be smoking, but this was a practice round and no one said anything.' Jordan still had his cigar Wednesday. He simply chewed on it without lighting up."

Wednesday Bullets

October, 7, 2009
10/07/09
10:51
AM ET

"No Water. Just My Woman."

October, 6, 2009
10/06/09
4:16
PM ET

If you were stranded on an island, and could have just one thing, what would it be?

Andre Miller scores big romance points for his answer.

Wayne Winston is a professor at Indiana University and for the last nine years he has been Mark Cuban's stat guru for the Dallas Mavericks. Winston's recently published book "Mathletics," explains much of his work -- complete with formulas and spreadsheets. Earlier in the series (which is being discussed elsewhere, too) we have learned about:

  • Post 1: Statistics, the Maverick's kryptonite and Ben Gordon. (And a follow-up.)
  • Post 2: The player of the decade, Andre Iguodala's curious production and why the Cavs lost.
  • Post 3: The amazing Danilo Gallinari, buzzer-beating 3s, the perils of starting Greg Oden and great Laker lineups.

In the final installment, Winston focuses on coaches and referees:

On Mike D'Antoni and Going Small
Mike D'Antoni, I think, is the guy who changed the game. You spread the floor and go small, and these big guys become dinosaurs. That was a stroke of genius. Didn't win a championship, which is too bad, but that's the biggest change in the game I see.

Who'd have thought that Brandon Bass, Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jason Terry and Jason Kidd is the Maverick's best lineup? It hardly makes sense. But for the last two years, that's been by far the best thing they've got.

On Tim Donaghy
They should have spotted him. I really feel there's a big debate. The NBA is more secretive about how they analyze referees than we are in chasing Osama bin Laden.

What I looked at is ... most people think that what he did was determine who won games. He didn't. He was into total points. 

Rick Carlisle
At the time Rick Carlisle was hired, Wayne Winston's stats said Rick Carlisle was the best coach in the NBA "and it wasn't close."
(Photo by Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

So I went back to every game where the line moved. If the line moves a lot, people bet money. And in those games, there were way more free throws called than you'd expect. And that's how you'd make scores higher. To make a game go over the over number, you would call free throws. Basically, he did it.

The NBA will never tell you who made which call. But if you make public, in those games, how many of the calls were made by Donaghy ... that's what they should be checking, and maybe they are. 

But they found out about Donaghy from the FBI, right? They should have known. They have the right data. I know they hired Las Vegas people, they hired people to do this stuff. 

On Referee Bias
Are refs biased against teams? Like Joey Crawford, I don't think he was biased against the Spurs [as has been suggested].

Honestly, every team has certain refs that they hate and are convinced are out to get them. The way you should analyze that is: Does your team play worse with those refs?

With Jeff Sagarin, my best friend and my partner in this stuff, we would analyze: When a ref refs your game, across the years, does your team play statistically worse than expected? That could mean either he hates you, or his reffing is so antithetical to the way you play that it affects your style. Either way is bad.

Now, most of the time I think you'll find a ref has no significant impact on a team's performance.

Dan Crawford was a negative effect on the Mavericks, if you analyze it this way, in the playoffs. Given the record, the Mavericks think Dan Crawford doesn't like them. Whether he does or not, I don't know. But I mean, I think the NBA should be doing that, and I don't know that they are.

They need to come clean on what they do. If there's another ref who's found to cheat ... I think the reffing thing is very important. The integrity of the game: Without that we don't have a game. 

For People Who Hate Advanced Basketball Statistics
Every time I write about statistics, a certain portion of TrueHoop readers get upset. Whatever it is that they love about basketball, all these formulas and statistics seem to ruin that.

And I'm not entirely unsympathetic.

For instance, I have written that I'm against the use of performance enhancing drugs because you want to root for players who are doing things that you understand. Running and jumping and dunking the ball. A player does a good job, and we cheer that. But if it's really that the guy at the BALCO lab did a good job ... not as fun. If it becomes about drugs, then what you'd be seeing on the court is really in large part the work of someone in a lab somewhere ... and maybe we don't want to buy a ticket to watch that.

I could see that it would be the same with stats. If this is where the game is being played now, maybe that's not exciting to some people. What do you say to them?
I see what you're saying.

I just think we're trying to give the proper information they need to make good decisions. I don't think that's a bad thing. Wouldn't you want your coaches to have all the data needed to make informed decisions, like you'd want the doctor to order all the tests before deciding what operation to do on you.

I mean, should the doctor not do the tests? I don't know. This is getting to philosophy 101.

I think the skeptics would say: "I don't want the word 'data' in a discussion of coaching."
It's like the Mona Lisa. You can't quantify its appeal. But I think most fans want their team to win legally. And the stats are not the be-all and end-all. They are just one factor. The coach's intuition ... Rick Carlisle last year. Oh god last year was he good. I watch every game on League Pass. There were ten games last year that, going into the last five minutes they should have lost. And they won nine of them. He had all the information, but he just pulled the strings.

On Using Stats in Hiring a Coach
We did a study that showed he was the best coach in the NBA the last ten years. It's part of why Mark hired him.

How would you evaluate a coach? 

We looked at every player that was traded to a coach's team. We looked at their rating the year before in our system and then how they did when that coach got them. And look at the difference. Carlisle crushed everybody. We sent that to Mark [Cuban] and a week later he hired Carlisle. (And I think he said that was part of it -- it wasn't the whole thing.)

But it wasn't close. He was at least two standard deviations better than average. He jumped out and there was nobody else close. He kicked everybody's butt on that.

Phil Jackson ... is he really good or did he just have Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant? That debate will go on forever. It kills me that we don't have the data going back before 2000 to try to answer that.

Monday Bullets

October, 5, 2009
10/05/09
2:58
PM ET
  • Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles has a brilliant way around the NBA's ban on criticizing replacement referees: "A huge percentage of our fouls," he says, "were legitimate."
  • Kevin Arnovitz of ClipperBlog, toying with the notion of The Return of Baron Davis:  "Baron is an unquestionably better conditioned man this October. He seems genuinely mortified by his status as an accessory to last year's debacle. Although he's not surrounded by perfect complements to his game, he knows he can trust Eric Gordon, experiment with Blake Griffin, and have Rasual Butler as a viable option in the corner for a kickout 3. Contrast that to what he was offered at the outset of last season. Davis' ego is bruised -- and that's a good thing. Whatever pleasure he derives from his extracurriculars, he understands that without some corresponding gratification in the league, those accouterments aren't worth much. The documentaries, cross-cultural endeavors and clubs are all nice -- but Baron Davis can't be Baron Davis unless he's part of the league's constellation of stars and playing basketball well into May."
  • John Hollinger's player ratings are posted, and Kevin Durant is the story (Insider). He's poised, says Hollinger, to lead the league in points per minute. There are a ton of reasons to be very excited about what's next from him. But there are still things he's really not good at: "There's no question about Durant's scoring; it's all the other elements of his game that raise eyebrows. He's a very poor passer and makes far too many turnovers for a jump shooter, weaknesses encapsulated by a -3.10 Pure Point Rating that was the fifth-worst among small forwards. Durant also gave a poor accounting at the defensive end, with the Thunder surrendering 8.2 points more per 40 minutes with him on the court than off it. His adjusted plus-minus was a horrid -8.62 points per 100 possessions, a stat that's even more alarming because the Thunder had a bad bench. His rating from his rookie year wasn't much better."
  • Some guy says he got punched in the face. That's the what. The why? Story is it has something to do with NFL player Braylon Edwards having a real dislike for LeBron James.
  • There have been some suggestions lately that Lamar Odom -- impending reality TV presence, celebrity husband -- may be craving the spotlight more than in the past. Exhibit Q, for questionable: About 85:15 into this video, he's wearing a wireless microphone in training camp. He sure appears to be headed to the bathroom. Before going, though, he looks off-camera, presumably at the tech in charge of his mic, taps the mic, and says "I'm good." As in, no need to unclip me for this.
  • Byron Scott in the Shreveport Times, with potentially bad news for Chauncey Billups, who likes to post up small guards, and plays for a Hornets' rival: "A lot of times guys are trying to post [Chris Paul] up, but our guys that are six, seven inches taller than him are having a hard time in the post because he's so strong now. A lot of it comes with maturity and age. You get a little bit stronger and a little bit bigger. But the biggest thing is that he hasn't lost any of his flexibility or quickness." (Via Hornets247)
  • One pre-season game in, Taj Gibson seems comfortable in the NBA.
  • Hey look, it's Jamal Mashburn, Jason Kidd and that other guy who used to be famous.
  • "Mad Men" fans, that's not Don Draper on the Nuggets' preseason roster. That's Donte Draper, and he made a highlight reel.
  • Danny Ainge, Rick Carlisle, Mike Dunleavy, Danny Ferry, Daryl Morey, Sam Presti, Ed Stefanski ... meet your new team in charge of modernizing how the NBA uses instant replay. Change is upon us. 
  • Tim Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell watching DeJuan Blair: "Will any rookie outperform DeJuan Blair on a per minute basis? I doubt it. He looks sensational. He's the exact same rebounder we saw at Pitt, plus he has soft hands, can finish around the basket, is an efficient passer and, surprise, surprise, has a little bit of a spot up game. Clippers fans, don't kill me. DeJuan Blair is Blake Griffin's biggest obstacle on his path toward the ROY. Don't get me wrong. The total minutes thing will remove Blair from the conversation, but per minute ..." Whether it happens like that or not, the fact that  a sober-minded observer like Varner says it could is reason enough to praise the Spurs for making good use of the draft's 37th pick. Also, Varner says Manu Ginobili looks tremendous.
  • Michael Redd is playing like a healthy man.
  • If the Nets had a lot of rubles to spend on players, what would the roster look like?
  • Shaquille O'Neal once saw LeBron James pass the ball, and still thinks it's amazing.
  • Nicolas Batum is called the best player in a Blazer scrimmage. Martell Webster, the guy who had Batum's starting small forward spot before his injury, says he hopes Batum is the starter.
  • The Salt Lake Tribune's Ross Siler in London, where it is said the NBA would one like to have a permanent NBA team: "It should be noted that The O2 [arena], built by the same people as Staples Center, would be the most impressive NBA arena today if it housed a team."

First Cup: Monday

October, 5, 2009
10/05/09
8:52
AM ET
  • Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle: "Perhaps the setting was fitting, a reminder of how far Tracy McGrady must go. But for the first time since microfracture surgery last spring, McGrady, 30, practiced with the Rockets on Sunday. He went through a few stints of the scrimmage, moving well and without pain in a small, but significant step in his comeback. His first participation in training camp did not alter his schedule. General manager Daryl Morey said it was 'part of the process.' The Rockets expect McGrady to be out at least until an MRI scheduled for Nov. 23. Still, he played and all reports were that he played well. 'He looked good, real good,' forward Trevor Ariza said. 'He was real poised, real confident. He may be a ways away, but I think he looked good.' McGrady was less enthusiastic. He had been going through occasional five-on-five workouts in Chicago, though the Rockets were more encouraged by his energy and intensity Sunday than in those workouts. But McGrady seemed to have the steps to be taken, rather than made, in mind. 'It's another steppingstone toward making progress and trying to get back on the basketball court,' he said. 'I'm feeling pretty good. We just have to take our time on it. We'll see how I feel tomorrow and talk about it with the trainers and see what they want me to do. This is what I expected, to take caution, come out one step at a time and gradually ease my way back in to it. This is the first time I went up and down with the team. I still have a lot of work to do.' "
  • Marcus Thompson II of The Oakland Tribune: "The Warriors, I'm told, were really close to officially picking up Brandan Wright's option. They were definitely going to do it, but were waiting as a matter of safe practice. But once he came into camp looking good, it was a no-brainer. Now, not so sure. Of course, this is the very reason they waited, for the just in case, I think. Do you pick up his option? If Wright misses six months, he won't return until March. And even then, he won't be 100 percent. He will certainly be out of shape and rusty. So you can count this season as a wash. Which means, you are going into 2010-11 with the same questions/concerns about Wright that exist this season, and that's assuming that shoulder is ever right again. Do you pick him up for 2010-11 under these circumstances and hope he recovers fully? Or do you cut your losses now and pick up the extra cap space next summer?"
  • Drew Sharpe of the Detroit Free Press: "Allen Iverson should shut up and move on with his life. But he just can't. He threw another dagger into Michael Curry's already decomposed coaching carcass, telling ESPN that the former Pistons coach lied to him about never having to come off the bench. Iverson referred to his one year in Detroit as 'the worst year of his life.' Can someone give the poor man a Kleenex? It's nonsense like this that kills the NBA's reputation, furthering the perception that its stars are little more than whiny, self-absorbed millionaires with little regard for the concept of team."
  • Dave D'Alessandro of The Star-Ledger: "The pressure he faces is unlike that of the typical NBA player, and for the first time, Yi Jianlian seems ready to acknowledge that. Because you wondered: Does he feel it at all? An inane premise, as it turns out. Anyone whose every move is followed by 1.3 billion countrymen and a few dozen people in New Jersey knows he's under the microscope this season, even if you're the great stoic. So one week into camp, it's time to find out how he is handling the pressure of his job, because that is precisely what everyone in the organization has feared since his disappearing act over the last month last season. 'Try to be different from last year,' the Nets forward said Sunday, when asked what he wants out of his third NBA season. 'Show everybody that I'm better from last season. That I've changed.' Everyone changes, and in his case, it can only be for the better. But sometimes circumstances don't change. He still has a bull's-eye on his back -- a broader one now, since the injured Yao Ming isn't going to get much media attention while he spends the next 12 months in the whirlpool or on the treadmill. 'Probably more focus on me, a lot more this year,' Yi agreed. 'To me, I'm going to try to put myself in the game and control what I can control. It will be there. I know that.' "
  • Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune: "Jonny Flynn estimates he and Brandon Jennings -- the first ballyhooed prep star to bypass college ball to play in Europe for a year -- participated in 'eight or nine' pre-draft workout together, including one at Target Center that convinced new Wolves boss David Kahn to choose Flynn with the sixth pick. Jennings went to the Bucks at No. 10. 'It seemed like he was everywhere,' Flynn said. 'I couldn't shake him. Everywhere I was at, he was there.' The two began their pro careers Sunday night inside Bresnan Arena, where Flynn started for a Wolves team that built early leads of 10-2 and 14-3 and never trailed on a night when they attempted 56 free throws and made 50. ... 'Overall, I give myself a good grade,' said Flynn, who also had seven assists and three turnovers. 'With Al Jefferson and Kevin Love out there, there's a lot of room for a guy like me to get to the basket.' "
  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian: "Teammates and coaches have praised Andre Miller for his superb passing ability, on-court leadership and veteran savvy. Early indications suggest that he is going to be an asset for this team, if not a force that helps propel the Blazers to a playoff run. But as positive as the on-court reports have been, Miller's off-the-court demeanor has raised an equal number of eyebrows. After a frosty media day introduction, Miller has gone out of his way to make it clear that he is in Portland to work, not to build relationships. 'I come to practice and go home,' Miller said. 'I practice and put in the time, talk to guys during practice and keep going. If it was college, then maybe that would be different. But this is a professional environment … a business. That's just how I get down.' ... An immeasurable part of the Blazers' rebirth the past two seasons has centered on the remarkable chemistry among the players. From group dinners and movie outings on the road to that New Year's Eve celebration on the team plane two seasons ago, the Blazers have thrived, in part, because of their tight bond. In light of that, it seems only fair to wonder what impact Miller's indifference to making friends and building off-court relationships will have on his new organization. 'You have to be you, whatever that is,' McMillan said. 'Be real. And guys will go with that. Andre is going to be real and that's all we can ask. Our chemistry is going to be fine. On the floor he's done what he's needed to do. Off the floor, he's done what he needed to do. You haven't heard of any issues with him. So are you in there hanging out? Do you go to dinne
    r? We don't know. But I think he's going to be fine.' "
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: "Vince Carter has experienced just about everything during his 11 previous NBA seasons, but tonight's exhibition opener against the Dallas Mavericks will provide a career-first: his debut with the Orlando Magic. Carter acknowledged that this preseason will be more important than others because the Magic will try to develop chemistry with a bunch of new players who are expected to play key roles. 'Each game, I think, is important for us and this team,' Carter said. 'Yeah, it's your first game and the excitement's there, but I think for us, it's getting our new team and our guys established and understanding what he [Coach Stan Van Gundy] wants.' Oh, Carter noted there's one other benefit to facing another team. 'I'm tired of Dwight [Howard] elbowing me in the cheek on screens,' Carter said, smiling."
  • Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: "Basketball fate has a sense of humor. How else can you figure the Orlando Magic stealing two players from the Mavericks this summer, then getting teed up as the first preseason opponent tonight at American Airlines Center? Actually, 'stealing' is a little strong. But the Magic definitely prevented the Mavericks from getting center Marcin Gortat, a primary free-agent target. And they signed Brandon Bass away from the Mavericks. Tonight, both will be at AAC as members of the Magic. 'Brandon is a good friend, a family friend, but Kris Humphries is definitely filling in thus far,' Jason Terry said. 'And you know what? Brandon owes me some money, and I think he did just get paid, so hopefully I can collect.' Bass indeed parlayed his two seasons in Dallas into a four-year contract with the Magic worth $18 million. He returns tonight with a reasonable shot to start at power forward."
  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Though Ray Allen may not spend time 'worrying' about his future, he does have a clear goal in mind. He wants to stay a Celtic. He wants to remain a part of the Boston and New England community. 'Definitely that would be the ideal situation for me,' Allen said. 'I know what it's like to live in two other NBA cities (Seattle and Milwaukee). I don't want to know what it's like to live in any more. Obviously it would be my preference to finish my career here as a Celtic. Hopefully we raise one or two more banners in my time. Three, if possible. I would love it. That would be great.' So would be, for Allen, taking up residence with other local icons. 'Boston is a great sports town,' he said. 'It's a town that forever you're imprinted on the lives of the people. To be able to still do things in the community once you've finished playing is great. Tedy Bruschi won't have any problem doing that. I see Cam Neely and I've played golf with him a couple of times. He still has a presence in the Boston area. You know, it's wonderful to be able to raise your kids up in an environment where you still have an impact philanthropically.' "
  • Mike Jones of The Washington Times: "Younger players like Andray Blatche and Nick Young, who admittedly are more visual learners and had trouble remembering the plays the last few seasons, have picked up Saunders' system with more ease thanks to the iPod Touch devices featuring Flip Saunders' entire 750-page playbook and video clips of how each play should be run. The Wizards feel more united thanks to the off-court activities, and the unconventional teaching methods have made practices fly by. 'He keeps it fresh, keeps it fun, always has you expecting something different,' Caron Butler said. 'It's the same thing, getting your reps in, but [the methods are] always something different, so it keeps it fun.' Keeping things fresh and unpredictable is exactly what Saunders had in mind, but the unconventional approach is nothing new for him. The tools (like the iPods) may be a pioneering wave of the future. But going back to his days as basketball coach at Minneapolis Junior College at the dawn of his coaching career, Saunders has tried to find unique ways to prepare his players."
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: "Counterintuitive as this sounds, Charlotte Bobcats forward Alexis Ajinca should start worrying when the coach stops yelling at him. That's not much consolation when Larry Brown is on you more than any teammate. Still, the attention Ajinca is getting in this training camp reflects his potential and the minutes available at power forward. He can either embrace that or shrivel under it. 'When coaches don't correct you, then they've probably forgotten about you,' Brown said of all the yelling he's done with Ajinca. 'There's a difference between coaching and criticism,' Brown continued. 'I wouldn't want to play for coaches criticizing all the time. But I also wouldn't want to play for coaches who aren't teaching.' "
  • Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer: "Christian Eyenga, who was the Cavs' first-round draft pick last June, made a name for himself in Spain over the weekend. The Congo native won the Spanish (ACB) League dunk contest Saturday night. His signature moment was throwing down a slam while grabbing a small teddy bear off the rim with his mouth. The 6-foot-5 Eyenga signed a three-year contract with DKV Joventut, Ricky Rubio's old team, in July but has an opt-out to come to the Cavs next year."
  • Marlon W. Morgan of The Commercial Appeal: "As the Grizzlies head into their ninth season in Memphis, their marketing campaign centers around building unity between the team and community. During the last three seasons, the Grizzlies have been punchlines throughout the NBA while enduring seasons of 24 victories or less. But a youth movement that has seen players like Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol develop, combined with the acquisitions of power forward Zach Randolph and perennial All-Star guard Allen Iverson, has the city abuzz. The team said season ticket renewals are up 15 percent over last year, while new season tickets sales are 150 percent above last season."
Wayne Winston is a professor at Indiana University and for the last nine years he has been Mark Cuban's stat guru for the Dallas Mavericks. Winston's recently published book "Mathletics," explains much of his work -- complete with formulas and spreadsheets. The first few posts have generated a lot of discussion, and an apology to Troy Murphy, on TrueHoop, Wayne Winston's personal website, and the foremost basketball analytics discussion board. In this installment, Winston begins by discussing Tim Thomas and Danilo Gallinari.

Here's an example of a guy I think is really underrated, and if he's healthy can help the Mavericks immensely: Tim Thomas.

Last year, every good lineup the Knicks had included Tim Thomas. They traded him. I don't know why.
Danilo Gallinari
Winston says Danilo Gallinari was the key to the Knicks' good play for a stretch last season. "The guy just can shoot with his eyes closed. And he's not a bad defender."
(Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images)

The Knicks had a streak last year where they were pretty good, right? The way they were pretty good was they put [Danilo] Gallinari, Thomas and [Al] Harrington on the floor. They spread the floor and they were unguardable.

Gallinari ... his effective field goal percentage was like the best in the league. The guy just can shoot with his eyes closed. And he's not a bad defender. They were really making a playoff run and than he got hurt and that was it.

And they got rid of Thomas and they didn't have that lineup anymore.

Some coach told me that "there's ice cream among the s---." That's what you're looking for with the lineups. If the players are bad, there's probably a couple of combinations that work.

The amazing thing is, teams play lineups that don't work.

Like the Bulls. The five lineups they played the most last year were all bad. I mean, how dumb can you be? 82games.com has some of this data. How you can not look at how your lineups perform is beyond me. It really is.

But the lineup stuff, I really think we're good at that.

I really think I can look at a playoff series, and look at that data, and I can basically mine that stuff. I think the Mavericks are one of two teams to win 50 games nine straight years and that's how long we've worked for them. I think that's part of it. A very small part obviously. But I think they have better information than most people, with what we do.

What's the process? You're in Indiana ... How do you inform the Mavericks what's going on?
Oh e-mail. There's a website that Mark [Cuban] gets, and it has all the player ratings and the lineup ratings, and a scouting report for each game. I send a lineup calculator that breaks down how each combination of players does in and out of the game.

I haven't talked to Mark on the phone. Ever. I have met him in person a couple of times, but it's all e-mail. That's how Mark is. I don't have his cell phone, I don't know his number. If he decides to call me, that's great.

The only game I went to, it was horrible, I went to that Game 6 double overtime when they got eliminated by Phoenix. They had a 13-point lead in the third quarter, and as soon as they put Alan Henderson in I knew it was over because he was terrible that year.

Then it came down to this big debate. Do you foul when you're up three? They let Steve Nash hit a 3 to tie that game. Almost no coach will foul until there's five seconds left in the game. I think that's something we don't know the answer to. But that's something we could study.

You should definitely go for 3 at the end of the game if you're down two. I think there's no question of that. Most coaches don't. The only team that did that, that I know, was Reggie Miller and the Pacers. They always did that. They always let Reggie take that shot. They would want the buzzer to go off with the ball in the air and it worked a lot of times.

I feel like I've seen Kobe do that.
Yeah, I mean Kobe's probably done it too. But the math is solid there. If I've got the ball and I can take the shot with the horn going off, you should go for 3. You only win the overtime half the time. Suppose you have a 50% chance of hitting the two. So you make a shot half the time, and then you win in overtime half the time, you win the game just 25% of the time.

But if you shoot the 3, you've got at least a 30% chance. That's all you need to know.

[Houston GM] Daryl Morey, I guess, never talks about what he does. That article about Shane Battier, though, you know the one I'm talking about? A lot of that was adjusted +/-. They have their own adjusted +/-, I guess.

The dataset we use is every minute of every game -- who's on the court? That's really, to my mind, where the game should be.
Greg Oden
When Greg Oden played in Joel Przybilla's place with Portland's starting lineup, Winston says the team was far less effective.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images)

I hate fantasy football, for instance, because it totally wrecks the whole point of the game, which is to win. When the quarterback throws the pass, and you have the running back, you get mad. Well if it's your team, you shouldn't get mad. Oh it's horrible. It's not why you like basketball or football. I mean, Adrian Peterson is the best player in fantasy football and he didn't even help the team, hardly, last year.

If you had unlimited minutes, adjusted plus/minus would be a perfect metric. We don't, so sometimes it'll mess up. When it does, there are little adjustments that we make, that I don't want to talk about, but I think that's why we do a better job than some of the other people.

There are some problems with the data analysis that can make it difficult to analyze a player. Most people who are running plus/minus are using canned stats packages like SPSS or SAS. And I think if you do that you can't make the adjustments very easily for the players whose numbers will be screwed up by the normal process.

But that's like our secret so we don't talk about that much. The lineup stuff ... after a bunch of games you can really see the three-man combinations that work. You can see that others don't work. Things pop out.

Are there teams that have great lineups that they just don't know about?
Oh yes. You see all kinds of things. For instance, in the Bulls/Celtics playoff series last year, everyone talks about Kevin Garnett being out. But if Luol Deng had been healthy, the Bulls would have won. I'm pretty sure.

The average team plays something like 4-500 lineups a year. Amazing.

In Portland, the lineup they played the most was pretty good. LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Steve Blake, Joel Przybilla and Brandon Roy was 14 points better than average. Put in Greg Oden for Przybilla ... it's one point worse than average.

For the Blazers, there are some great lineups I see to close games. Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Fernandez, Joel Przybilla and Steve Blake. They played 167 minutes and were 32 points better than average.

That's the starting lineup with Rudy in place of Batum.
Right, so it's 17 points better with that one substitution.

There are a lot of minutes here, so that's a lot of data.

The key to the Lakers -- it doesn't take a genius to figure it out, is you close with Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and Kobe Bryant. If you do that, you can't really go wrong.

You take out Bryant and leave Odom in, they were good. You take out Odom and leave Bryant in they weren't good. That's why I say Odom was better than Bryant.

OK, this is what they closed with: Trevor Ariza, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. That's 18 points better than average. And isn't that the one that closed every game? That's a good lineup, and they played that one the most.

Artest will be interesting.

Another good lineup is if you take that same thing, but put in Luke Walton for Fisher. Or Walton for Ariza. That's just as good. Doesn't make any difference.

This lineup is off the charts, and didn't play much: Bryant, Gasol, Odom, Luke Walton and Shannon Brown.

That lineup won by 55 points a game. They played 50 minutes together.

There's things like this on every team. Let's look at Houston. They should know everything. I had dinner with Daryl Morey once when he still worked for Boston and I showed him what we do. So he knows what we do. I don't know what he does, but I know he does a lot more.

I'm happy for him. He's a really nice guy, he's been very supportive of my book and he's good for the math people. He's the "Moneyball" of the NBA.

The Rockets six lineups that played the most, five of them are ten points or more better than average.

The only bad one was Rafer Alston, Shane Battier, Tracy McGrady, Luis Scola and Yao Ming, and they won't be playing that one this season.

More to come from Wayne Winston on Monday.

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