Thursday, September 27, 2007

Michael Conley's dribbling workout

Over at Yardbarker, Michael Conley posts some video footage of his summer dribbling workouts. Nothing too surprising if you've seen dribbling workouts before, but it is some nice footage.

What struck me was that I felt like I could tell what hand was his dominant hand just from watching the footage. Now if we were talking about me (or any other rec player, or even college player), I wouldn't think a noticeable difference in dribbling ability between hands was a big deal. For an NBA level point guard, however, I think it does raise some flags. Of course, I've never seen footage of any other NBA point guard doing these drills, so maybe even this noticeable difference between his hands isn't that big a deal in the context of the sort of dribbling that actually is necessary during an NBA game.

Go take a look at the footage and see if you can tell a difference between his dribbling ability with each hand (and then come back!).


Gone and looked? Watching the footage, I immediately asked, "Is he left-handed?" I don't watch much college basketball, so I had just assumed he was right-handed (I did watch a few Ohio State games, so maybe I should have noticed). A quick google search turned up the information that while he's a "natural" right-hander (he writes and pitches right-handed), he bats and shoots left-handed, apparently having decided to do so in grade school. Generally speaking, he's considered a left-handed basketball player. Maybe I was seeing something that wasn't there, but I definitely thought this left-dominance was noticeable in the dribbling videotape. If I have the chance to see him play this year (I'm not sure that the Grizzlies are going to be appearing on my TV screen that often), I'm definitely going to be watching closely to see if it makes a noticeable difference during the course of an NBA game.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Changing to international rules

Via TrueHoop, we get the news that Canadian college basketball will be adopting international (i.e. FIBA) rules for the coming season. This change reportedly leaves the USA as the only country not playing under FIBA rules. I don't necessarily think FIBA rules are better than the NBA rules, but I also don't see how they're any worse. I think I'd be perfectly happy if the NBA decided to adopt FIBA rules (or at least the FIBA court dimensions).

Yes, the lane is wider, but the NBA lane has been widened before to open up the middle (I believe it was widened originally because of George Mikan and then widened again later). Skilled big men will still be able to post-up even with the wider lane, and other players will have more room to cut through the lane. The only "downside" I can see is that power players will find it harder to catch the ball in the post and bulldoze the defenders until they're under the basket because they'll be starting from further away. Somehow the possible elimination of this sort of play doesn't make me feel particularly sad.

And, yes, the international 3-point line is shorter than the NBA 3-point line, but who cares? "People" (I hate the using the amorphous "they," but I don't feel like searching through old articles to find specific examples) say that the problem with a closer 3-point line is that it allows defenders to sag more into the lane and still recover to the shooters. Well, I have a pretty simple solution to that problem--tell the shooters to shoot from a few feet behind the 3-point line (i.e. from the distance they're currently shooting from). Either the extra space this spacing creates is worthwhile or its not, but offenses can choose whether they prefer the closer, more contested shot or the more distant, less contested shot. Nothing forces players to shoot 3-pointers from closer to the basket just because the line has been moved in.

I know American pride might be hurt by the idea that the rules of "our" game (we invented it, damn it!) are being handed down by people from other countries, but sometimes being part of an international game means needing to relinquish control of it in some ways. I doubt the NBA will switch to FIBA rules anytime in the near future, but I think it'll happen eventually.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mo Cheeks and Larry Brown

In a column from late last week, Ian Thomsen reports that Larry Brown almost accepted a position as an assistant coach with the Boston Celtics.

This report amazed me for a few reasons. First, can you imagine how confident Doc Rivers must feel in his position as coach of the Celtics? I don't know what Danny Ainge told him about his job security, but it must have been something really good considering how much criticism Doc gets from the Boston media (and the media in general). I don't care who you are (unless your name is Phil Jackson), I would imagine you would need to feel a bit insecure in your job as head coach if your GM knew that he just needed to fire you to have Larry Brown step-in as the new head coach. He might have had a terrible year with the Knicks, but Larry Brown is still a coaching legend. Brown's reputation for always angling for his next job probably wouldn't make you feel any more secure.

The second thing that amazed me is that Brown was ready to accept the offer, but Ed Snider and Billy King talked him out of it. Considering that Brown is staying away from Sixers practices because everyone knows his presence would lead to rumors that would undercut Mo Cheeks, I'm not sure I understand exactly why maintaining Brown's services in the executive suite is so important to the Sixers. He might be a coaching legend, but I have no idea what value Brown adds as an executive. Possibly King just likes having him there as a friend (since Brown helped him get the job in the first place) or possibly keeping him was really about keeping him from helping the Celtics or possibly he really is an amazing administrator, but from my outsider vantage point I don't really understand why he received the full court press.

Monday, September 24, 2007

A rebuttal to Wins Produced (not by me)

In evaluating players, I've relied on Wins Produced and Win Score a few times. While I've never really gotten around to deciding how good a metric I thought it was, I definitely viewed it favorably. It seemed to reflect my view that most commonly used tools for evaluating players over-emphasized scoring to the detriment of other parts of the game (rebounding, steals, etc.). Plus, quite frankly, Dave Berri puts forward a number of interesting observations about the game of basketball based on this metric, and those observations often struck me as being very sound.

That said, via TrueHoop comes the tidbit that some statisticians think his work isn't so hot. I have no false belief that my statistical knowledge is good enough to figure out on my own who has the better of the argument (I remember my aborted attempt to do a statistical analysis last month that still needs to be revisited), but I am looking forward to seeing the negative analysis being put forward by his peers. At the very least, reading the forthcoming paper seems like it will increase my knowledge of the world of basketball statistics and the major schools of thought currently being investigated. If this sort of thing interests you, I recommend clicking on the link above and following the linked post to all the relevant articles.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Practice? We talkin' about practice.

Allen Iverson's practice rant will no doubt go down as one of the greatest recorded rants by a professional athlete in history. In my experience, if you start mimicking his rant, people always get the reference. (And if you don't, you can watch it here.)

The occasion for revisiting this monologue was this short piece posted on the other day. It was a pleasant surprise to see him publicly expressing regret over his infamous diatribe and recognizing that he probably was sending people a poor message. His statements in the article were also a reminder that Iverson was always a complete mystery to me. One day he would sound reasonable and mature (e.g. the Olympics in 2004), but then the next day he would seem completely out of control (e.g. his practice rant or the domestic incidents that got reported). It's nice to see "mature Allen" stepping forward and taking responsibility for some of his less savory moments.

I also thought it was great that Iverson had such nice things to say about Philly fans:
"It's a tough town because they love their sports so much," he says. "And they care about it. They're passionate about their sports. And you have to love them for that. I loved every minute of playing for those fans because they cared about it and it meant so much to them."
It's pretty rare that an athlete leaves a city under acrimonious circumstances and still says nice things about the city and its fans. Philly fans always showed AI a lot of love (and he deserved it because of how hard he played), so it was nice to see him show some love to the Philly fans even after his trade to the Denver Nuggets.