Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Here's a Video of Brazil/carnival:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Should David Lee be an All-Star? A Word of Caution

As my subway pulled into my stop early this morning, I came upon the sports section of amNewYork, the free daily paper here in the Big Apple. They had a photo spread of their sportswriter's All-Star reserve picks, and right there in the middle was a huge shot of David Lee. I laughed--typical hometown crap. 

But I checked the stats tonight. Did you know David Lee is the Knicks' leading scorer, at nearly 16 per game? With a true shooting percentage (nearly 61 percent) that's 11th best in the league and PER of 18.6? Those are pretty good numbers. 

The PER is basically the same as it was last year, so we can chalk up the offensive improvement to the fact that Lee is a) playing six more minutes a game; b) playing for Mike D'Antoni and c) taking four more shots per game than last season.

Still, the numbers are solid, and we all know Lee's a great rebounder. You're going to be hearing a lot about David Lee in the next few months. He's slated to make $2.7 million next season before becoming a free agent, meaning his deal expires right when every team wants to have a lot of players with expiring deals. And also right when teams that don't get LeBron/Bosh/Wade/Amare are going to have some money to spend. 

One word of caution: A huge percentage of Lee's field goals are assisted on--79 percent of his jumpers and 67 percent of his shots in close, according to 82games. I'm telling you now, you're going to have a hard time finding players with higher assisted-on rates than that. (Overall team rates tend to be between 55 and 60 percent). I checked maybe two dozen players, and I couldn't find anyone with assisted-on rates that high. I checked a sampling of both low post and perimeter-oriented forwards (some names: Aldridge, Jefferson, Duncan, Stoudemire, Garnett, Bosh) and some wings/guards, and I couldn't find anyone. I'm not saying Lee has the highest assisted-on rate in the league (I didn't check everyone; I have a job, you know), but he's up there. 

Last season, Lee's assisted-on numbers were more toward the normal range (48 percent on close shots, 67 percent on jumpers. The latter is still high but not unusual). 

The broader question I have for basketball fans smarter than me: Does having a high assisted-on rate mean David Lee's offensive stats are misleading? That he's becoming an overrated offensive player? I don't know the answer. I suspect they mean his higher scoring numbers are in large part the product D'Antoni's emphasis on pace and ball movement, and that any team that signs Lee shouldn't expect him to put up 16 per game. Ever. But who knows?

Welcome Back, TA AKA "Sugar"

I'm sometimes critical of plus/minus, but this is one those games where the plus/minus stats tell the story. The starters were sluggish, and the bench was on fire. You'll hear a lot about Eddie House's monster game (a career best 8-for-9 from deep), but the real story tonight was the return of Tony Allen, the would-be Posey of the '08-'09 version of the Celtics.  (It may only be because I watched the Mosley-Margarito fight on HBO last night, but Tony Allen looks like Shane Mosley. Like every other boxer ever, Mosley's nickname is "Sugar," and sugar, as a substance, is tantalizing and yet ultimately bad for you. This is an apt description of TA. In this little slice of the Internets, TA will be known as "Sugar.")

Sugar made all five of his shots from the field, and they were all at the rim. There are two ways to interpret this:

Half-full: Sugar's eFG% on jumpers is 26.9 percent, so he should be taking the ball to the rim.

Half-empty: Sugar will never be an effective offensive player on a consistent basis until he learns how to shoot. And he's kind of a train wreck off the dribble.

I'm a half-empty guy (and, really, who likes half-full sorts of people?), but with Sugar you have to be satisfied with him being healthy, playing solid defense and creating some offense for the second unit. He's not going to learn how to shoot jumpers this year. If he can avoid brain dead turnovers (and he had three tonight in garbage time) and slow down just a bit on offense, he can be a productive bench player. We can't ask anything more of him.

Other notes from an easy win:

• The C's starting lineup reasserted themselves in the third quarter with some help from a lazy-looking Sacto D. In one stretch, the Celtics ran the same play over and over: either Rondo or Ray Allen (usually Rondo) brought the ball up the sideline, threw an entry pass to Garnett in the post and cut hard along the baseline. A simple give-and-go. Rondo got three easy lay-ins on this play in a five-minute span. Overall, the C's starting lineup scored on nine of 11 possessions in one stretch, and only once in there did they need to use anything but a lay-up or a free throw. 

• Speaking of easy shots, Rondo went 10-of-15 from the field and took exactly ONE jump shot the entire game, according to his shot chart. (And, yes, he made it, and it was from 21 feet out off a hard dribble/step back move. It was maybe the most confident jump shot Rondo's taken all year. Progress, people). The little guy got to the rim with no resistance. 

• One other shot chart note: Glen Davis was 5-for-6 from the field, and only one shot was a jumper--and even that was from just 10 feet out. Great to see Baby becoming an aggressor on offense again instead of settling. Baby, for now, has passed Powe on the depth chart, and I'm not sure I understand why, unless Doc was just that impressed by his performance against Orlando last week. Powe was out there for garbage time with Walker and O'Bryant while Baby got to relax on the bench and forget that KG made him cry in public a month ago. 

• The C's defense in the third quarter was sloppy, but it looked to me like they were experimenting a bit in a meaningless game. They had Pierce playing way off John Salmons as Salmons camped out beyond the three-point line. Pierce stayed at the foul line and roved around to try and prevent anyone from penetrating into the lane. It was the most I can remember the C's deviating from their man-to-man, and it didn't really work. The Kings moved the ball around and found cutters in the paint for good looks that drew fouls. Interesting to watch, though.  Did anyone else notice this? 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Al Jefferson and the 19/5 Club

I still monitor Al Jefferson like a proud father. I feel bad that Big Al is part of the "for practically nothing" in the sentence that goes "Ainge got KG from the T'Wolves for practically nothing." Al is happily proving that wrong by beasting it every night in Minny for a frisky T'Wolves team. 

But Big Al's scoring lines often look like this: 10-for-20, 3-for-5 from the line, 23 points. When I look at Minny box scores, I usually think, "Damn, that's not as many points as I'd like to see from that many field goal attempts."

Right now, Al's taking 19.2 shots per game and 4.9 free throws per game. (Jefferson is tied with four other players at #36 in the league in FTAs/game).  I decided to see how many times a player had averaged 19+ FGAs  and fewer than 5 FTAs per game and here's what I found: It's happened 59 times, or about once per season, since the introduction of the shot clock in 1954-55, and it's happening less often as the game evolves. It didn't happen once between 1991 and 1998. (Side note: Any theories as to why not?)

It seems like an ignominious stat, a marker of inefficiency, but there are some solid players on this list. Three players lead the way with four 19/5 seasons each: Rick Barry, Fred Carter and Mike Mitchell, a Cav and Spur from the 1980s whom my brain has, sadly, forgotten. Some other high-scoring guards and small forwards, such as Jo Jo White, Gary Payton and Alex English, also make multiple appearances. Even Larry Legend's 1989-90 season is on there. 

But Al Jefferson's a big guy, you say, and you wouldn't expect him to be on this list with all these shoot-first guards who didn't spend all their time banging down low. So I switched the height variable to include only guys 6'8'' or taller. Now we're down to just 13 seasons in the shot clock era, including Al's current campaign. 

What's interesting about this list is that if you take away the two Bob Lanier seasons, everyone else shot pretty poorly from the field and camped out mostly at 15 feet and beyond. We've got three classic Antoine Walker seasons (including two sub-40 FG% years), depressing late-career seasons from Legend, Chris Webber and Jamal Mashburn, and an uncharacteristic poor shooting season from KG in 1998-99. 

Jefferson, in fact, would finish with the second-best FG% among this group. And he's pretty clearly more of a true low post player than the guys listed above; half his shots come from in close, and half are jumpers--a less jumper-heavy ratio than Tim Duncan and Amare Stoudemire, for instance.

I'm not sure if this means anything, since Big Al is 12th in the league in PER and has scored the 8th most total points in the NBA. And, of course, 4.9 FTAs puts Jefferson on the very upper boundary of this club. But for whatever reason, Big Al doesn't draw as many fouls other big men who shoot so much; 82games has his foul-drawing rate at 12.2 percent, compared with 27.2 percent for Dwight Howard and 16.9 percent for Tim Duncan. 

I leave it up to Wolves fans who watch this guy play every day to give us an explanation.

Checking on Kevin and the Baby C's

The Minnesota Timberwolves going 10-2 in January and generally playing well under Kevin McHale has to rank among the most unexpected developments in the league. Over the last couple of nights, I've watched the T'Wolves on League Pass and crunched the numbers in hopes of finding some explanation--like that they've played only horrible teams, or that Sebastian Telfair died or that Al Jefferson started taking 40 shots per game. 

As much as it pains me to dampen the enthusiasm at the great Canis Hoopus, the schedule does explain some of it; of the the Baby C's 10 wins in January, only two came against .500 plus teams (@ Suns and vs. New Orleans), and the Hornets were missing David West and Tyson Chandler. But there is reason for optimism. The team is playing better on both ends of the court, and they are getting significantly greater contributions from several key guys. 

The biggest changes, by the numbers:

                                               DEC                                     JAN

FG %                                      42.8                                      45.7

OPP FG %                             48.3                                      45.3

3P FG/G                               5.1                                           7.8

3pA/G                                   15.0                                         21.4

OPP 3P/G                            8.1                                            5.1

OPP 3PA/G                         19.3                                          16.0

ORB/G                                 11.9                                          14.3

OPP FTA/G                        26.5                                          23.3

So: The Wolves are jacking up more threes, hitting them at a slightly better rate (36 percent versus 33 percent), pounding the boards a bit more, fouling less and significantly limiting their opponents' three-point shooting. 

On an individual level, the biggest changes have been in the back court. McHale named Telfair the starting PG and moved Randy Foye to the two spot, from which Foye's been jacking up six threes a game this month--double his per game attempts from deep for the rest of the year overall. He's making 45 percent of them, which is outlandish considering he's a career 37.6 percent shooter from deep.

Telfair, on paper, still looks terrible, with that ghastly sub-40 shooting percentage. But you watch the Wolvies play and you see what Canis is talking about: He's shooting less during this good run (about three shots fewer per 48 this month), dishing more and taking smarter shots. He's taking more threes, and judging from the games I saw, he's trying to shoot them only when he can set his feet and take a nice gander at the rim without a hand in his face. He's still not a starting line-up caliber PG, but, for whatever reason, the Telfair-Foye guard combo is working better than the Foye/Miller/McCants mess that came before it. 

The other big improvement has been from rookie Kevin Love. Yes, Big Kev is rebounding like a madman (20 per 48 minutes), but it's at the offensive end that Love is shining. He's already taken the same number of shots through 12 games this month that he took in 16 last month, and he's already made 15 more field goals in January than December. That translates to a 54 percent shooting clip in '09 compared to 38 percent in the last two months of '08. Huge difference. The mid-range jumper suddenly looks true (though he's still only hitting 33 percent on J's for the year) and the finish around the rim is better. Can he keep it up? 

Other changes: 

Ryan Gomes, another old Celtic, is firing up about two more shot attempts per game in January while playing four fewer minutes. He's also grabbed 65 boards in 12 games this month compared with 66 in 16 games in February, which means Gomes is crashing like he did when he was the only guy going after it a few years back in Beantown. 

Rodney Carney barely played all season, and now all of a sudden he's Rashard Lewis off the bench, with four attempts from deep per game--about 39 percent of which find the hoop.

You noticed I haven't mentioned the two most well-known guys on the team, Al Jefferson and Mike Miller. Jefferson is doing his 20-10 thing every night (more on that in the next post), and Miller...well, Miller's in what may be the worst shooting slump of his career, which means it's probably good he's shooting just five times per game.

So while Foye may be due for a slump soon, Miller's due to play better. The competition is about to get tougher (Lakers, Houston and Daddy C's in the next 10 games), but the Wolves suddenly don't look like such a lost cause.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I Hate to Say I Told You So...

Great quickie post by Celtics Blog showing what Rondo has done on jump shots in the last five games. CB looks at Rondo's hot spots from that span and finds that, guess what, the dude can make jumpers when he shoots them. 

Our second post here was called "Hey, Rondo: Shoot!" and it referenced Rondo's hot spot diagrams from last year's playoffs, when he shot 50 percent on long two-point jumpers. The Celtics will be a much, much better team in the short- and long-terms if Rondo takes 15- to 20-foot jumpers regularly and makes a decent percentage of them. It's just unhealthy to have a guy passing up open looks. It makes things harder for everyone. 

Also: Red's Army has the video of the Paul Pierce halftime piece ABC ran today. We don't learn all that much new, but it's worth remembering that Paul Pierce, NBA Finals MVP, almost died in September 2000. I know a few Celtics fans who will never forgive PP for the gang sign controversy and the wildly inappropriate Pacers incident in 2005, and I can respect that. But life is about mistakes and redemption, and there's no denying that Pierce has become a different kind of player late in his career--unselfish, hard-working and serious about defense. Maybe it's only because the C's brought in KG and Ray Allen, and Pierce couldn't pout and be lazy without looking bad in comparison. I don't really know what kind of person Paul Pierce is, but I can't remember a late-career transition that made me happier. 

The Formal Introduction of the Voskuhl

Voskuhl (voss-cull) noun--When a big man's combined fouls and turnovers exceed his combined points and rebounds over the course of a game. 

Usage Example: With Michael Redd out for the season, the Bucks need Dan Gadzuric to contribute more than his usual Voskuhl.

Word History: The term was coined in a dormitory television lounge at Dartmouth College in March of 1999, when several friends were rooting for UConn to defeat Duke for the NCAA men's basketball championship and bemoaning the limited contributions of UConn starting center Jake Voskuhl. In three of UConn's six tournament games, Voskuhl came very close to achieving a Voskuhl--including a two point, two rebound, three foul effort in UConn's narrow title game win over Duke. The blog Be the Three (written by one of the men present in the dorm room in 1999) mentioned the term in a post earlier this month entitled "Field Trip! Suns @ Raptors, Nash's Game and What's a 'Voskuhl'?"

Voskuhl, selected by the Bulls in the second-round of the 2000 draft, has continued to pile up Voskuhls during his NBA career. Voskuhl has appeared in 427 games and recorded a Voskuhl in 54 of them--a Voskuhl rate of about 12.6 percent. Seven of those Voskuhls have happened this season.

But a look through Voskuhl's Voskuhls shows that there are really two different kinds of Voskuhls--one in which the big man plays just a minute or two and has little time to accumulate any stats (this may be more accurately termed a "Madsen"), and another in which the big man records a Voskuhl despite playing enough minutes to at least pull down some boards.

Two of big Jake's six Voskuhls from the 2002-03 season serve as good examples of the two archetypes. On April 6, 2003, against the Lakers, Voskuhl played three minutes and recorded two fouls, zero points and zero rebounds. A couple of weeks earlier in a loss to Dallas, Voskuhl played nearly half the game (21 minutes) but scored just one point and recorded a paltry three rebounds. He committed five fouls and three turnovers. This may be termed a "True Voskhul."

(One note in that box score: Suns reserve guard Casey Jacobsen nearly recorded a Voskuhl, with two points, one foul and one turnover. The stat is meant for big men, though).

On Dec. 18, 2003, Voskuhl set a personal high for minutes played in a Voskuhl. He started for Phoenix against Portland and played 34 minutes, but recorded zero points and five rebounds before racking up the maximum six fouls. He also committed a turnover.

Voskuhl, however, is not at the top of list of Voskhuls among current players. At least one fellow back-up big, Mark Madsen, has recorded them at a higher rate--84 in 443 games played, for a Voskuhl rate of about 19 percent. Madsen only played a minute or two in many of those games, meaning they do not rise to the level of the True Voskuhl.

Quality big men are not immune to the Voskuhl. Suns star Amare Stoudemire suffered a Voskuhl against Boston earlier this month, when the Celtics held him to three points and one rebound while he committed four turnovers and four fouls. This was the day after Amare declared that he was about to "get my gorilla game on." Greg Oden recorded two Voskuhls in December. 

Other frequent Voskuhl-ers include Gadzuric (10 already this season), the Spurs Fabricio Oberto (four this season) and new Bobcats center DeSagana Diop (five last season, four this year).