Monday, November 30, 2009

Surprisingly Good For You

Who is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference? Recent PG all-stars in the East have either (i) been traded to the West (Billups, Kidd), (ii) fallen into semi-retirement because no team wants him (Iverson), or (iii) suffered multiple long-term injuries (Nelson, Arenas). So with those guys out of the picture (though Arenas is back now) several young points have emerged to look bright and fresh.

Gilbert Arenas: The most senior of this bunch, Arenas was felled by a knee injury that cost him almost all of 2007-08 and 2008-09. Now spry once more, Arenas is, as usual, shooting a horrible percentage from the field while leading his team to mediocrity. Few pundits would laud his handle or his court vision, so what exactly does he bring to the PG gunfight?

Jose Calderon: Calderon is perhaps best known for his streak of 87 straight FTs made from February 2008 until January 2009, the second-longest such feat in league history. He is an adequate passer and scorer, but he shepherds a team playing historically awful defense, not at all resembling a squad on which Chris Bosh would want to remain from autumn 2010 going forward. Hard to conceive of why he should get our nod.

Devin Harris: It was once thought that Harris would be known as the guy whom Dallas traded for Jason Kidd, but in 2008-09 he carved a niche as the speediest young'un' in the Tri-State Area. Sadly, thus far in 2009-10 he has led (?) his team to 17 losses and nary a win. A real leader would not allow that. Now in his sixth year, Harris is out of excuses.

Brandon Jennings: As the tenth pick in the 2009 draft, Jennings seemed an oddity, perhaps destined to be remembered more for his awkwardly timed stage entrance that June night than for his eventual court doings. Later in the summer, Jennings got into trouble for an illicit video that leaked to Youtube, involving BJ complaining about his coach and teammates. Jennings has been awesome in the regular season, however, averaging 22.3, 5.5, and 4.1 while leading his team to eight wins in fifteen games despite multiple injuries, as I noted in this earlier post.

Derrick Rose: Rose blasted brains last April in a seven-game playoff series with Boston. This season he has not looked quite so yowzers, slowed by an ankle injury. Putting aside his SAT-related controversy, there is no doubt that Rose can be crafty and calculating. (In fact, perhaps the admission test imbroglio reveals him as more so.) Rose will probably make all-NBA teams starting next season, but right now he appears a mite tentative on the hardwood.

Rajon Rondo: In that same Cs-Bulls series, Rondo seemed redolent of Magic's facility at scoring, passing, and rebounding. And unlike Mr. Earvin Johnson Jr. he can play some ball-hawking defense, too. Through trade rumors and contract disputes, Rondo is a darn good 1 at only 23 years of age. He is also the only guy on this list with a NBA title ring (and the second, after Harris, with a conference championship).

Maurice "Mo" Williams: I believe Williams looks good only by association with his teammate LeBron James. He was named as an injury replacement in last February's All-Star game, but had never really lit up much incandescence in his previous five seasons from 2003-2008 with Utah and Milwaukee. He is not even the primary ball-handler for his team; that duty falls to Mr. James. On the other hand, Williams did hit seven of seven 3-point attempts in Saturday night's victory over Dallas.

Dear readers, I know that only one month has passed in this astounding season, but which PG do you consider worthy of the Eastern Conference All-Star starting nod in Cowboys Stadium? None of these guys are superstars, but I think I would select Rose. In reality, Arenas, who boasts the most name recognition and has already been featured in his own ad campaign with adidas, will probably receive the most votes from fans.

Meanwhile, the Western Conference, boasting Paul, Williams, Parker, Ellis, Billups, Kidd, Westbrook, Nash, and Baron Davis, is full of All-Star caliber 1s. Combined with Ginobili, Roy, Gordon, Bryant, Richardson, Evans, and Kevin Martin (though the latter is injured again) at the "2", it is hard to see how to make enough room for the worthy guards en L'Ouest.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Friends To Know, Ways To Grow

My Thanksgiving posts are rather hasty, as I am currently family-ing it up.

Here is my question. Which of the following stars (or near-stars, or former stars) will get traded first? And to whom?

Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, Tracy McGrady, Chris Bosh, Kevin Martin, Stephen Jackson, Troy Murphy, Carlos Boozer, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Monta Ellis, Tyrus Thomas.

Off the top of my head: Houston could use Rip Ham or K-Mart. Phoenix could use Murphy, Ty Thomas, or McGrady. Chicago and Atlanta could use Brand or Boozer. Utah or Boston could use Prince. Cleveland, as widely noted, covets S-Jax. Denver wouldn't mind Murphy. The Cavs could also use Martin, though they probably cannot afford his price. Atlanta could use Prince or Thomas or McGrady.

The greatest prizes, potentially, are Arenas and Bosh. (Let's not forget, too, that McGrady is a two-time NBA scoring champion and former MVP vote recipient.) The Wizards and Raptors, respectively, are unlikely to trade those guys unless things are going horribly in February. There are many teams that could use Arenas and Bosh. Don't count out the Oklahoma City Thunder, which have stockpiled a ton of tradable assets.

As a side note, why do trades happen (or what makes a team inclined to trade a star player) in the first place? Several factors may underlie such transitions, including (i) overestimation of the player's ability at the time the team signed him to a contract or attempted to build around him (Baron Davis 2005); (ii) overestimation of the teammates brought in alongside that putative star (Mutombo 2001); (iii) surprising progress in basketball performance by other teams, making your own team suddenly a dinosaur; (Billups 2008); (iv) a personal dispute between the star player and other players/personnel of your team (Shaq O'Neal 2004, Jason Kidd 2001); (v) external economic factors making your team not profitable even as a winner (Ray Allen 2007, Pau Gasol 2008); (vi) stochastic disasters like a season-ending or career-altering injury to the star or a complementary teammate (Chris Webber 2005); or (vii) a simple failure by the supposed star to grab wins (Garnett '07). Many of the above factors apply in the case of Bosh and Arenas.

What do you think?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Might As Well Throw 'Em Out

It's kind of funny to read what John Hollinger, then working for, wrote about free agents Steve Nash and Carlos Boozer on July 2, 2004.

On Nash:
No. 1 [on Hollinger's list of overrated free agents] with a bullet after reaching a deal with the Suns that even had Allan Houston giggling. He's a 30-year-old point guard who breaks down every spring and plays no defense, and Phoenix gave him a six-year deal for nearly the max? I can't imagine the Suns will be happy to fork out $15 million five years from now when Nash is 35 and backing up Leandro Barbosa.

On Boozer:
Boozer surprisingly became a restricted free agent on Thursday when the Cavaliers didn't pick up his option to play next season at the minimum. It was a clever move by the Cavs, who can now match any long-term offers he receives instead of watching Boozer take off as an unrestricted free agent next summer. It's all but a done deal that Boozer is re-signing with Cleveland, but I have to list him just in case, since he's the best free agent out there after Kobe.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Waiting For A Sleepy Feeling

Today comes news that Allen Iverson will choose to retire from the NBA rather than entertain offers to be a savvy vet on some team's bench.

Iverson, at 160 lbs. and just a hair under 6 feet, is almost exactly my size. (He is probably slightly better built than me, despite my attempts at developing some musculature in the gym.) The man won 4 scoring championships playing among giants. That's absolutely unbelievable. I probably could not get a single shot off if I scrimmaged for a week with NBA players.

Let us give thanks that we have been blessed to watch this guy in the Association for 13+ years.

So It Makes You Wise To Break The Rules

This article by Sports Illustrated writer Mark Montieth, formerly an Indiana Pacers beat writer, is an excellent exposition of what transpired that autumnal night in 2004 when Ron Artest ran into the Palace of Auburn Hills stands to punch a fan. I remember well what I was doing that evening: I was lounging at another's house with several friends of EarlDaGoat while we watched something esoteric on television. Only when I returned to my apartment did I learn about this wild dance of fury in my hometown. Can you imagine any wackier bit of news that one could discover upon surfing to your favorite NBA website?

Here are a couple thoughts in connection with the brawl:

1) Montieth correctly notes that the young Pacers made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2004 (after completely de-constructing and re-building the 2000 NBA Finals team) and were title candidates for 2005. The wave of suspensions and trades that followed the brawl gutted the team, and they have been middling lottery players ever since. If I were Pacers owner Herb Simon, I would have cried that night five years ago (and I might be still crying); a team projected to contend for gold in 2005, 2006, 2007, and beyond suddenly became an avatar of suckage. The long-term value of his franchise surely fell by many millions of dollars. Lo, here's what Forbes has to say: the team was worth $340 million at its peak but fell to $303 million by 2008. I suppose a lot of businesses based on unpredictable commodities are similarly volatile: I wouldn't want to invest in a nickel mining company, for example. Similarly, Sony and AEG took a big risk by investing in the proposed 50-date London concert series for Michael Jackson (although they had a clever hedging strategy with (i) insurance and (ii) the subsequent movie after MJ sadly died). I don't think a team owner can take out insurance on the chance that his best player might freak out in front of 20,000 fans and a national TV audience. There's probably an adverse selection problem there for any potential insurer.

2) On the other hand, projections of long-term grandeur for the Pacers were probably unrealistic. Artest was bound to irreparably embarrass himself sooner or later (probably sooner). Jermaine O'Neal, as we know now, is injury-prone, probably due to poor workout habits. Stephen Jackson is a spoiled brat and Jamaal Tinsley is a troublemaker. Reggie Miller retired six months after the brawl and Jonathan Bender retired just 15 months after the brawl. So perhaps the brawl just accelerated inevitable disappointment.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fine With Me 'Cause I've Let It Slide

Today comes news that the New York Court of Appeals rejected challenges to the state's forcible purchase of private land in downtown Brooklyn to enable Bruce Ratner's development of the site (to be called "Atlantic Yards") for residential/commercial construction and a new stadium for the (formerly) New Jersey Nets. Ratner has stated that the goal of the project is to "transform a blighted area into a vibrant mixed-use community", although several businesses currently operate at the site.

Here is the text of the court's opinion. The court ruled (see page 13) that the NY state constitutional requirement of "public use" for an eminent domain seizure can be satisfied if the taking is for a "dominant public purpose". Apparently a basketball arena is sufficiently public for the court, even though the average primary-market ticket price to see a game is $50. The court also approvingly quoted itself from a similar 1950s case in which it ruled that although "none of the buildings are as noisome or dilapidated as those described in Dickens' novels ... a substantial part of the area is substandard and insanitary by modern tests." (Page 15) Gee, if substandard and insanitary conditions you seek, try checking out the men's room at a typical NBA game!

(As a side note, you may know from "Law and Order" that judicial nomenclature in New York is rather confusing: ordinary trial court is called "Supreme Court", while the "Court of Appeals" is not just an ordinary appeals court, but the highest court in the whole state.)

Here is a Google map of the proposed area, currently consisting of various residential/retail facilities and Long Island Railroad yards, to be condemned and built up. Below is a schematic map of the proposed site plan (click the image to enlarge), from Ratner's 2006 environmental impact statement.

The best source of information on the Atlantic Yards project is Norman Oder's amazingly prolific blog dedicated to the saga; I cannot say any more than he has. I recommend, in particular, this January 2009 post on common myths re the project.

What does the decision mean for the NBA? Assuming the infrastructure bond issuance goes smoothly (and in this interest rate environment, this is certainly a favorable time to borrow from the capital markets), it seems that we can expect a new stadium in Brooklyn in time for the fall 2012 NBA tipoff. So the Nets will have at least two more seasons in New Jersey after this one. A definite terminus on the Nets' East Rutherford stay does make them slightly more attractive to a potential 2010 free agent like James or Bosh, but then again, who wants to join a team that started the previous season 0-13? Perhaps the Nets might be a more attractive free-agent destination in the summer of 2011, when the team is improved and the Brooklyn move looms closer. Assuming Harris and Lopez are cornerstones for the Nets, the top role-filling free agents in 2011 will be Carmelo Anthony, David West, and Caron Butler. Anthony is likely to stay with the Nuggets (his mates Hilario, Smith, Afflalo, and Lawson are all fairly young) while West and Butler are likely to sniff out other climes. A team of Harris, Lopez, and Butler could be pretty solid, especially if youngsters like Yi and Terrence Williams continue to improve.

We can add to this the announced sale of the Nets from Ratner to Mikhail Prokhorov, a very wealthy Russian oligarch. According to the above-linked article, Prokhorov would be acquiring 80% of equity in the team and 50% of equity in the Atlantic Yards project, though presumably Ratner would retain control of the Yards. Regardless, Prokhorov is undoubtedly pleased at today's decision. In addition to the opportunity to build a great asset in the middle of New York City, Prokhorov may be uniquely able to market basketball to Brooklyn's Ukrainian and Russian communities.
UPDATE: After I posted this, later on Tuesday Ilya Somin of Volokh Conspiracy wrote a post with some similar points. (He is a libertarian and generally opposed to eminent domain.) He also similarly lambasted the quizzical nomenclature of NY courts.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Best Way He Knows How

I've been thinking of buying Bill Simmons's new book (I will not link to it, but it's not hard to find) as a Christmas gift for a family member, or else asking certain family members to give it to me. I have always enjoyed the incisive analysis and watchful observations that Simmons brings in his writing. And he seems like a likable, cuddly guy when I've seen him on television. However, I have always been troubled by his casual references to (i) gambling, (ii) drinking to excess, and (iii) porn-watching, as though these are normal, healthy, adorably playful endeavors. I suppose in his circle of friends, these activities really are innocuous and all in a day's work — but in my view, they are disrespectful to (i) the game you cherish, (ii) your own body, and (iii) women. I wouldn't admit in print to smoking weed, physical abuse of another, cyber-stalking, or plotting terrorism (if, counterfactually, I engaged in those activities). What makes Simmons any better? Because his behaviors are legal?

(It's even odder that he's employed by a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company.)

So for now, I will stay clear of Simmons's book. Chris Ballard's new book, though, is on my must-have list. (I guess that means I'm siding with Time Warner.)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Marv Albert Fighting with 50 Cent?

This news article posted on ESPN caught my eye: Albert denies confrontation with 50 Cent. Apparently, there was a kerfuffle between Marv's crew and 50's crew at the "Jimmy Kimmel Live" show. Marv is denying that the confrontation took place. I don't know why he's doing that. If I were Marv, I would be playing up the incident. It gives Marv serious street cred.

Marv has done a fabulous job resurrecting his image after the infamous biting incident. This could have put him over the top...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I Heard The Screen Door Slam

A few surprising things from the Milwaukee-Charlotte game on Friday night:

1. Milwaukee put up 82 shots, against 59 by the Bobcats.
2. Brandon Jennings, the rookie with no college experience, put up 29 points, and is averaging 25 for the season. (He has been a great addition to my fantasy team.)
3. The Bucks are (after Saturday night's game) 8-3, despite their (ostensibly) two best players, Redd and Bogut, missing major time!

Apologies for not adding any trenchant analysis, but these three points really stunned me. Maybe Jason Kidd was wrong about Scott Skiles.
UPDATE November 23rd: One more thought occurred to me. In the NFL it is common for star college quarterbacks, top-5 draft picks, to sit on the bench for several years until they are deemed ready to lead a team. See Matt Leinart's delirious thoughts after he received some rare playing time yesterday: "Honestly, I haven't played a significant game in 2½ years - it's been a while." Last season Vince Young apparently contemplated suicide because he couldn't get in the game for the Titans, benched for an oldster. Hall of Famer Steve Young didn't become a starter until his seventh season in the league. Yet in the NBA, with some exceptions, lottery picks receive significant PT from their first day. Perhaps some combination of guaranteed contracts plus the sunk-cost fallacy explains the discrepancy: with a commitment of several years to your lovely rookie, you want to get some R on your I. In the NFL, you can just cut the bum who's no good.

In any case, were Luke Ridnour or erstwhile Buck Ramon Sessions any good, Brandon Jennings might find himself in the Steve Young position, understudying Joe Montana. But they're crummy, so Jennings has his spot.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Latest outta Sacramento

Breaking JPO News:

Kevin Johnson Offered Girl 'Hush Money'; covered up sexual harassment and embezzled charter school funds.

The full report is available here.

Just A Slob Like One Of Us

Today comes word that the Sacramento Monarchs are "folding" because their owners the Maloofs wish to focus on their other business interests (read: those Lebanese boys are tired of seeing parentheses on their P&L statement), and the WNBA will apparently attempt to re-locate the team to the Bay Area. I do not fully understand the precise contracts and transactions required for this step; will the WNBA buy the team from the Maloofs for $1 and then "sell" the team to some new private owner, contingent on moving the team to San Fran? In any case, coupled with the recent announcement that the three-time WNBA champion Detroit Shock will move to Tulsa, this is dismaying news for the 12-year-old league.

Bad businesses usually suffer the worst in a bad economy, so the above should be no surprise. The average NBA team payroll is about $72 million, while the maximum allowed WNBA team payroll is $0.8 million. You read that right! Needless to say, fan demand for women's pro basketball in North America is orders of magnitude less momentous than demand for men's hoops. (But Bhel, you might plead. I though utility has no cardinal value... Perhaps rich corporate hotshots are bidding up NBA tickets... Sure, but the raw attendance numbers in the WNBA are about 8,000 per game, compared to about 17,000 per game for the men.)

Critics of the WNBA like to observe that the quality of play is poor compared to men's basketball. That may be true, though the women do pass the ball and space themselves on the floor well. What's more, a significant bite of the NBA's zest comes from its players' phenomenal swag: the insolent dunk, the brave shot in traffic, the rakishly fancy dribble to flee a defender. These men are aggressive, combative, and dominant. Men do not often respond positively to women displaying these behaviors. I, Bhel, have been known to covet the gals who show a bit of fire. However, a woman baller who literally gets in the face of a saucy foe is well, a bit of a turnoff. Dare I admit that while watching women in an athletic context, I might subtly be aware of their sexual appeal? Well, I just did. And I generally think of myself as a moderate feminist! (e.g., In contradistinction to most of my male friends, I think a woman's changing her name upon marriage to be a dumb idea.) So the very nature of basketball as a game makes it difficult for women to gain a following.

Anyway, why does the NBA continue to subsidize the WNBA's losses, on the order of about $10 million per year? A few possibilities:
1) Commissioner Stern and his fellow owners (the "Old Boys") genuinely believe that women deserve a legitimate professional basketball league that they can aspire to watch or participate in.
2) The Old Boys believe that maintaining the WNBA as a going concern is good publicity for their main business interest the NBA, just as Goldman Sachs recently decided that giving out half a billion dollars to small businesses is good PR for the firm's battered image.
3) The Old Boys believe that maintaining the WNBA is a good pre-emptive means of complying with existing or future gender rights legislation, and/or indirectly helping US universities (the NBA's farm system) comply with Title IX.
4) The Old Boys believe that nurturing female fans — future mothers — who might not otherwise follow hoops is a good way to grow the NBA's fan base, and worth the investment. (Similarly, a lot of pundits remain puzzled as to why the NHL insists on maintaining the bankrupt Phoenix Coyotes franchise down in the desert and denying a third party's attempts to move the team to Hamilton, Ontario, where fans would lap up the hockey goodness. Apparently the league executives believe that fostering a love of hockey among the children of McCain voters is worth the short-term losses.)

What do you think?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'm Looking Through You

The Hawks and Suns are receiving lots of good press for their hot 10-2 starts, each team atop its respective conference. My initial reaction is "It's early yet. They'll cool off soon enough." Yet if this were the NFL, the season would be 75% finished and the Hawks would be undeniable favorites for the championship! I'm not sure what this reveals more: that sample sizes in football are a bit too small (the Colts are hardly as unstoppable as their record indicates, and Buffalo need not have fired its coach for missing out on a 55% win percentage by just two games), or that the NBA season drags on too long. How much more information about team quality will we learn over 82 NBA games compared to the first 12? Sure, on the margin between lottery teams and mediocre playoff teams there may be some churning (will the Raptors make it? the plucky Rox?) but it's already pretty clear which teams are best. Viz., the same teams, generally, that pre-season predictions thought to be contenders. Other than (not insignificant) revenue considerations, why play five more months and cause more injuries just to determine playoff ordering?

When I have more time on my hands, I will construct a database showing the number of playoff wins for each playoff team over 2000-2009, and run some correlations against my earlier data set of regular season wins. (Or if anyone out there would like to be an unpaid JPO intern...)

The City Game

I'm planning to get some r&r on Thanksgiving break and wanted to catch up on some b-ball. One thing I am excited about is the 8PM Magic vs. Hawks game on TNT scheduled for Thanksgiving day. Finally a chance to see whether these Hawks are for real. I'll make sure to be take my post Thanksgiving meal nap early so I'm up in time for the game.

Unfortunately, there will be a fair bit of airport time for this year (which usually means stuck in some delays), so I intend to use the time to catch up on some b-ball history. Sometimes younger fans don't fully appreciate the history of the game and those of us who came of age just as Kareem was fading may miss some important context for the game and its evolution. Much is to be learned from the old legends and their stories. (I continue to be amused that there is a separate Wikipedia entry on Wilt Chamberlain's personal life, on top of the main Wilt entry.)

To deepen my historical perspective, I just purchased Pete Axthelm's acclaimed The City Game: Basketball from the Garden to the Playgrounds, and two DVDs: The Real: Rucker Park Legends, as well as a copy of Rebound: The Legend of Earl the Goat Manigault.

After Thanksgiving break I will report to the blog my evaluation of the first two items (it is obvious to the blog what I think about Rebound). And hopefully the new BS book comes before I take off next Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Long Day Livin' In Reseda

Just a thought. How did a Philly team with Allen Iverson, Dikembe Mutombo, and a bunch of total scrubs (Hill, Geiger, Lynch, McKie, Snow, Bell) make the NBA Finals in 2001? And how did a New Jersey team with Jason Kidd, Keith Van Horn, and a bunch of rookie or second-year players (Jefferson, Collins, Martin, MacCulloch) make the Finals the following year? The early post-Jordan years were unbelievably barren for the league. There were only four MVP-level stars (Shaq, Bryant, Duncan, Garnett) in the league back then, and they all played in the West. Kidd, too, played in the West until 2001.

It is unclear why this past decade of drafts has ushered in such a bonanza of talent (generally featuring guys with first names as surnames: James, Wade, Anthony, Howard, Paul, Roy) but David Stern and the 30 owners are surely thankful for it.

Dick Vitale: NBA Age Minimum is "Criminal"

Last night, I had the pleasure of watching the Kansas University Jayhawks play the Memphis Tigers on ESPN in an early season match-up of two of college basketball's perennial powerhouses.

Although I will probably forget the game itself in a few weeks, I will not forget the choice words of ESPN commentator Dick Vitale, czar of the college hoops telestrator. During a brief segue on the NBA on last night's telecast, Mr. Vitale became exercised (as he is so prone) and declared the NBA's age minimum as "criminal." Way to go, Dick!

Two things struck me about Mr. Vitale's comments.

First, although many of us at JPO [read: everyone except Bhel Atlantic] have been critical of the age minimum as bad policy, I was taken aback by Vitale's harsh condemnation of the rule as "criminal." Legally speaking, the NBA age minimum does not run afoul of any state or federal criminal laws. But I take Mr. Vitale's words to be an expression of the age minimum's moral repugnance -- i.e., morally, the age minimum is on par with a criminal act. Is it? Well, as explained in earlier posts, the age minimum prevents a hard-working young man -- often from an underprivileged background -- from making a living to support himself and his family, and forces him to instead toil for 1 or more years in indentured servitude enriching others but not getting paid a single cent.

The age minimum is also quintessentially un-American. The American ethos is that we all have a right to succeed -- especially if we can do it on our own. Ordinarily, we are told, "if you have the desire, the will and the means, go for it!" But with the age minimum, the NBA is saying that you have to help the NCAA and wealthy universities get richer before you can begin enriching yourself. So, yes, if I take Vitale's "criminal" to mean "morally repugnant," then yes, the age minimum is criminal.

Second, I was struck by Vitale's apparent selflessness. The NBA age minimum arguably benefits college hoops and, by extension, Dick Vitale. The age minimum forces NBA-ready high school talent to enroll in college, thereby benefiting the college game and all of those associated with it. So it was refreshing to see someone in the sports business take a stand on principle even if that principle might conflict with his economic interests ...

...But then I read a couple of articles authored by Dick Vitale: see here and here. It seems like part of Vitale's agenda is to improve the college game. Dick would like to see a "blue ribbon panel" evaluate the high-school talent and identify players who are NBA-ready. Those identified players would have the right to choose the NBA or college. All other players would be forced to attend college.

So at the end of the day, Dick's plan is even more constricting than the current NBA age minimum. Not only would a talented high school player need "permission" to enter the NBA, if he chose to enroll in college for 1 year, he had to make a 3-year commitment (i.e., he couldn't enter the NBA draft if he felt he were ready after 1 or 2 years).

Shame on you, Dick.

Monday, November 16, 2009

S-Jax Again

Let me make one more point about the Stephen Jackson trade. Did anyone see the Miami-Cleveland game on TNT television last Thursday where Jordan was sitting next to Pat Riley in the audience? I think the vibe we all, including the announcers, felt upon seeing that scene was “Oh, Pat Riley is such a player that he has an extra-special guest.” Not “There’s two NBA team presidents hobnobbing.” And that’s a direct reflection of Jordan’s failure to take his job seriously. Why isn’t he ever quoted in the press when Charlotte makes a roster move?

On Stephen Jackson

Incidentally, wouldn't it be cool if I could demand a trade from my employer?** I would insist on a warm-weather city where I could play a featured role and reunite with my college buds. I would act "disgruntled" and refuse to bill any hours until my demands are satisfied. I would be curious to see if I would be traded for a rookie fresh from law school, or a grizzled vet playing out his contract as an "of counsel".

Darn at-will employment.

As academic theorists and lay observers have noted, guaranteed contracts provide poor incentives to employees, and make it very difficult for employers to sever relations with non-performing workers. Guaranteed contracts that include provisions allowing limited firing, "for cause", inevitably give rise to costly disputes about whether the agreed-upon cause was triggered. In turn, this makes employers more reluctant ex ante to hire. Extensive due diligence on prospective employees is one partial solution to the incentive problem with guaranteed contracts; in a way, this may help to explain (to answer my blogmate's recent query) why NBA owners support the age limit. No one wants to gamble on a raw 18-year-old, hand him 10 million dollars, and see him wither away to twigs.

(**I don't mean to suggest that I am anything but content with my current employer.)

Monday Bullets

  • What's wrong with Elton Brand? I don't think anyone expected him to reach 25/10 (at least not immediately), but 10 and 5? Please, Elton, say it ain't over...

  • Are the Suns or Hornets pretenders or contenders? So far the Suns have exceeded expectations, while the Hornets have underwhelmed. Each will have a chance to make its case in this week's marquee Thursday night match-up on TNT (although it appears that the Hornets with be without the services of CP3).

  • Did anyone think Brandon Jennings would be this good?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fantasy vs. Reality

Fantasy hoops are a big deal, as Yahoo and ESPN can attest. And with each season, the fantasy leaguers get increasingly numerous and serious. There is a growing intelligentsia of fantasy aficionados -- some of whom get their own shows on NBA TV -- and a number of professional fantasy-focused websites. (See [Full disclosure: HOSS's brother is a contributor to WinMyFantasyLeague.]

This writer is not immune to the fantasy hoops bug (although my team, Turkoglicious, has been an early season disappointment). But one thing that consistently irks me about fantasy hoops is how poorly fantasy stats translate to real life, and vice versa. Exhibit A: Troy Murphy is considered a fantasy stud. Yahoo Fantasy ranked him 35th overall in its pre-season rankings, one spot behind Carmelo Anthony, and ahead of Rashard Lewis (36th), LaMarcus Aldridge (40th) and Carlos Boozer (44th) . In real life, would anyone take Troy Murphy before those three players? On the flip side, there are guys like Shane Battier and Luis Scola, who are very good players and great at the so-called intangibles (ball-on-ball defense, help defense, diving for loose balls) for which there are no statistics. As a result, Shane Battier is ranked a distant 135th.

There seems to be a few reasons for the fantasy/reality divide. First, unlike baseball, which is really an individual sport masquerading as a team sport, basketball is a quintessentially team game. But there is no stat for "making your teammates better", or if there is one, it is imperfect. An assist means you made a pass that led a teammate to score. But there are plenty of ball hogs who have high assist numbers simply by virtue of having the ball in their hands so much (see, e.g., Allen Iverson.)

Turns out there is a whole range of basketball skills that aren't accounted for in any traditional statistics, while some traditional statistics are completely misleading. Although steals and blocks are "defensive" statistics, they do not measure the quality of a defender's ball-on-ball defense. Steals are especially misleading. Again, take Allen Iverson, who loafs all game on defense and then and gambles on steals a few times a game: his steals stats were high but his defense lackluster throughout his career. Similarly, rebounds can be highly misleading. Of course, team rebounding is immensely important, but any post player will have 6 rebounds a game simply by virtue of standing near the hoop, and rebounds off a missed free throw are one of the easiest stats to accumulate in pro sports. As long as fantasy GMs and real GMs focus on traditional stats, fantastic defenders like Shane Battier will always be undervalued. Traditional hoops statistics give you a myopic view of the player's skill or value to the team.

Efforts to expand basketball stats beyond the traditional have been choppy at best. The +/- stat, the holy grail for some hockey statisticians, turns out to be a highly dubious stat. How does Kevin Durant have one of the worst +/- stats in the league last year? Is he a detriment to his team or are his teammates so in awe of his ability that they just stand around doing nothing on offense? The likely answer is probably 'none of the above' -- but simply that +/- is not a useful stat for measuring NBA players' skill level or value to the team.

Some people have tried to devise new statistics that do a better job of capturing a player's value. ESPN analyst, John Hollinger, has devised a methodology for determining a player's actual value, called "Player Efficiency Rating" or "PER". The PER is built on traditional statistics, but adjusts for minutes played and for the team's pace of play. Although Hollinger stats are useful because they allow you to compare two players who average different amounts of minutes-per-game and play on teams with different styles, they still do not account for difficult-to-measure skills like ball-on-ball defense -- arguably one of the most important basketball skills.

There is a movement among some GMs to take basketball statistics to the next level. Some are lifting a page out of Billy Beane's playbook (of Money Ball fame) and attempting to do for basketball what a select group of young baseball GMs have done for baseball -- i.e., devise a modernized, analytical approach to determining a player's true value by using advanced statistical tools. Daryl Morey, GM of the Rockets, is an early adherent. Morey has not revealed his methodology, but if the success of the T-Mac-less-&-Yao-less Rockets is any indication, Morey is on to something.

This issue, however, remains an open debate. We, at JPO, would love to hear from our readers. What is the best way to measure a player's value to his team? Your answers can be general (e.g., Hollinger's PER) or position-specific (e.g., John Stockton once said that the way to measure a PG was to look at the FG% of his team). Post your responses in the "comments" section to this post.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I Need No Permission

LeBron James has received extensive plaudits from the basketball press for his supposed maturity. I tend to disagree with this assessment: at times he makes appropriately humble remarks (I was impressed by his TV interview with ESPN's Doris Burke following the Knicks-Cavs game on November 6th; Burke asked him "What is it like for a player of your stature to play here in MSG?" and James deftly deflected the question, saying, "It's not about 'a player of my stature'; whether you're 5 years old or 25 years old, Madison Square Garden is the mecca of basketball, where everyone dreams of playing on the biggest stage") but he has a knack for pouting when he doesn't get what he wants, and drawing attention to himself when not necessary. James's extended colloquies with the sports media over the past year over his impending free agency showed immaturity, in my view; rather than just flat-out refusing to answer those questions, he uttered gems of hubris like "July 1, 2010 is going to be a very, very big day." Finally, just two days ago, he announced that he would no longer breathe his dragon's puffs upon those fires of possibility. But boy, did that Hungarian Horntail enjoy acting like a coquettish nymph!

After LBJ failed to shake the hands of his vanquishers, the Orlando Magic, when the Eastern Conference Finals ended last May, he defended his poor sportsmanship by saying "I'm a winner." Well, actually, on that night he was a loser. Furthermore, he has never ended an NBA playoff series with anything other than a loss. (For the pedants, he did end the 2003-04 and 2004-05 regular seasons with meaningless victories.) James is not the only player to falsely deem himself a quintessential victor: Allen Iverson, recently bemoaning his bench role with the Memphis Grizzlies, told a reporter that "I've never been a loser." Well, actually, he has, every year of his career! Only one squad is truly the winners for any given season.

We may credit these guys' unrealistic self-appraisal to years of coaches, friends, or family figures telling them that they are great. Certainly, self-esteem and confidence are key to success; visualizing a desired result is one of the best ways to deliver the performance required to achieve it. Some psychological research suggests that people suffering from depression are those who perceive the world accurately — that is, they correctly recognize that their limited abilities lead to their failure, while the non-depressed people chalk up failure to unlucky circumstances. Now, I am certainly not equating maturity with accurate perception with depression. (?!) The stakes involved for an NBA superstar are so high that their psyches really might crack if they honestly examined the obvious. But I just wish LeBron would publicly acknowledge that sometimes he's just not good enough.

Friday, November 13, 2009

You Got to Know When to Hold Em

This season one of the keys for teams like the Celtics and Spurs reminds me of the old Kenny Rogers song The Gambler.

At the Celtics game the other day, I was nervous more than a few times that KG was going to get injured on a play, and was relieved when he and many of the other starters were taken out of the game for the entire fourth quarter.

Aside from building team chemistry and practicing rotations, the regular season is almost irrelevant for these teams. Securing home court advantage in the playoffs doesn't seem worth serious injury risk to me. A bigger concern should be keeping the old players healthy. Doc Rivers and Greg Popovich will need to know when to hold their players in the game and when to take their players out at critical junctures in the game. Is a 10 point lead enough?

You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.

Gotta Serve Somebody

New Orleans Hornets coach Byron Scott was fired yesterday after a disappointing 3-6 start. Notably, Scott won the the NBA's Coach of the Year award just 18 months ago in April of 2008, after a successful 56-win season that ended with the team just one victory away from the conference finals.

The Coach of the Year award appears to be "jinxed" much like Sports Illustrated cover photos; winners of the COTY seem to lose their jobs within a couple years.
  • 2000: Doc Rivers wins, then is fired by Orlando in November 2003
  • 2001: Larry Brown wins, then resigns from Philly in June '03
  • 2002: Rick Carlisle wins, then is fired by Detroit in May 2003
  • 2003: Gregg Popovich wins – the only true exception to my rule
  • 2004: Hubie Brown wins, then resigns from Memphis in Nov. '04
  • 2005: Mike D'Antoni wins, then resigns / is fired in May 2008
  • 2006: Avery Johnson wins, then is fired in May 2008
  • 2007: Sam Mitchell wins, then is fired in December 2008
  • 2008: Byron Scott wins, then is fired in November 2009
  • 2009: Mike Brown wins (and there is no shortage of demands for his ouster)
Of the eight coaches above who lost their jobs, the average time between their COTY award and their job termination was about 23 months.

For the eight teams represented by those eight coaches, the average drop-off in regular-season victories from the COTY season to the following season was about 4 fewer wins. (For this calculation I referred to this Google Docs spreadsheet that I created for an earlier analysis back in June.)

Perhaps this jinx is tied to the criteria for the award. Rather than rewarding coaches who help excellent teams stay excellent, or help pitiful teams avoid the cellar, the award voters usually vote for coaches who helped mediocre teams become good. But teams with mediocre talent are not likely to exceed expectations two or three years in a row; thus, when the team's "true" ability becomes apparent, the coach looks to be at fault for no longer finding the lipstick to put on that pig.

Byron Scott took over as New Orleans coach before the 2004-05 season, meaning that he's already completed five full go-rounds with the team. As such, he was one of the NBA's longer-tenured coaches, tied with Mike Woodson and Doc Rivers and trailing only Lawrence Frank, Phil Jackson (if you consider him as continuously employed by the Lakers since 1999), Gregg Popovich, and Jerry Sloan. Scott will surely find employment soon enough; who would resist a man with 82 suits in his wardrobe? (I am unsure of whether he intentionally chose that number so he could pick a different suit for each day of the season.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

BS Report

Despite this review, I just ordered Bill Simmons' latest: The Book of Basketball.

(Also picked up David Halberstam's The Breaks of the Game based on reviews.)

Celtics Creaming Opponents

Yesterday I had the pleasure of watching the Jazz vs. Celtics at the TD Banknorth Garden.

As a ticket purchaser, the game was quite uninteresting. There was no drama, and the win was effortless for the Celts. Wish I had gotten tickets to a better game.

As a Celts fan, the win was amazing. The Celts didn't even break a sweat in surgically dismantling the Jazz, who I thought were a good team. It seems like the turnovers came to get them in the end, but still with a starting lineup of Okur, Williams, Boozer, Brewer, and AK, the Jazz have no excuses to get destroyed as they did.

Three points:

1) The Celts look incredibly balanced. Offensive production from every starter, and from those off the bench. Despite my qualms that Rasheed was slowly evolving into an Antoine Walker jack-up-threes-even-though-I-am-almost-7-feet-tall-and-should-be-posting-up clone, he didn't look half bad (at least his play wasn't half bad; not sure what to say about that growing gut.)

I also have to give him some credit as he appeared more than comfortable coming off the bench (contrast: Allen Iverson). Plus he had some nice new tats.

2) I didn't appreciate how good Paul Millsap could potentially be until seeing him live. If I were a betting man, the Jazz should bet their future on him over Carlos Boozer.

3) I was reminded by one of my friends at the game about some of the well known AK-47 stories. The one I had forgotten was when AK started crying about not getting enough minutes. My friend claimed that AK-47 had the highest salary to skill ratio of any player in the league. Kenyon Martin has a good claim to that list as well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hoyas, Oh Boya!

Georgetown is typically thought of as having one of the strongest basketball programs in the NCAA. They have had a number of good players, but with the recent implosion of Allen Iverson down in Memphis, I started to think about whether G-town has produced any really great players.

Some would say that Iverson is a really great player, but given his recent antics it is probably safer to say he was a great player. He has aged like a fancy bottle of wine that has been corked. So much potential, such a disaster. My current feeling towards him is pure disappointment.

But what about the others? Here is the list from the top of my head:

Othella Harrington
Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje
Jahidi White
Roy Hibbert
Dikembe Mutombo
Alonzo Mourning
Patrick Ewing, Jr.
Jeff Green
Paul Tagliabue (former NFL commish)

and of course the best player on the list

Patrick Ewing

I used to like Ewing when I was younger, but after his famous strip club incident, I started to like him less. (I'm sure some of my fellow bloggers might say they liked him more after this incident. What do you say, Bhel?)

Patrick Ewing is the first G-Town player of the modern era to make the NBA Hall of Fame. Even though I admire Alonzo's story, I suspect Ewing will remain the only one for quite some time. It seems like the lights are dim for A. I.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Father Was A Gambler Down In Georgia

Tonight Brad Miller hit a spectacular Derek Fisher-style catch-and-release shot with three-tenths of a second remaining, which shot apparently would have elevated his Chicago Bulls to a one-point victory over Denver. The referees called the shot good on the floor, but reversed their decision after extensive video review. Thus, the Nuggets escaped with a 90-89 win. [Update: on Wednesday the NBA league office confirmed that the referees made the correct call.]

I had the good fortune to be in attendance at this game. I have seen many live basketball games in my life, but I have never before witnessed such a sudden tumult of emotions in such a short span. After a thrilling fourth quarter, the Bulls managed to tie the game with 10 seconds left on two Derrick Rose free throws, and the whole gym was thinking of overtime. The place was rocking; the plump gent to my left and the kind father behind my back both wanted to exchage high-fives with me. But then when Chauncey Billups drew a foul (on a clearly-done and thick-headed whack from Kirk Hinrich with 0.6 seconds remaining) and fans slowly grasped that their men would lose, the effect was like that of 20,000 children on Christmas morning realizing that Santa overslept and failed to fill the stocking.

As the Bulls prepared to inbound the ball at 0.3 seconds, half the crowd was tottering on concrete stairways, making for the exits. My friends asked if we could leave too, but I said: "No, if the Bulls make this shot, we can tell our grandchildren in fifty years that we were there when the Bulls beat the Nuggets!" My vantage point was behind the Bulls’ basket, so I couldn't quite see what happened as Miller received the pass and flung up a set shot. But when a thunderous cry radiated upward through the arena bowl, I knew that yes, I would have that tale for the little Bhels. My friends and I felt exhilarated.

For several minutes thereafter each squad huddled near its respective bench; we soon inferred that the referees needed to review this play on video. Joakim Noah, caught on camera during this nervous time, patted Brad Miller's head and grinned, seemingly confident that the play would stand. Meanwhile, Chauncey Billups looked cool as ice. (How could both squads both be so confident? In an imminent post, possibly tomorrow, I will explore the issue of over-optimism among ballers.) Naturally, the Chicago scoreboard operator showed the tally as Chicago 91, Denver 90, hoping that such facts on the ground (or facts in the sky) could help to establish some finality for the home side.

After a while, the arena announcer told us the answer: "The referees have ruled the shot no good. Thank you for coming, everyone!" That Chicago lost the game was left for us to figure out. Stunned, we walked out into a chilly autumnal evening. Folks around us uttered vile insults revolving around the word "nuggets".

Here is the video of tonight's game, including Miller's crazy shot:

In a way this night was like Election Day of 2000, nine years ago: Gore took Florida! No, Bush took Florida! No, we're heading for a recount! There are few athletic settings where apparent outcomes can switch so fast. The best recent example I can think is last February's Super Bowl, in which the Cardinals completed a thrilling comeback with a go-ahead touchdown at 2:58 of the fourth quarter ... and then Pittsburgh came right back with a winning touchdown at 0:35. With the potential for rapid scoring, football can hold your heart in a martini glass and shake it real good ... but basketball does this even better.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Understand Your Man

On Thursday November 5th, (i) Sacramento mayor and former NBA All-Star point guard Kevin Johnson and (ii) Washington DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced that they are engaged to be married. (I have always been skeptical of too much pomp and circumstance over engagements; viewing a marriage as a merger, an engagement is merely an agreement to agree, and we know those don't always work out. My colleague EarlDaGoat also opined recently on a baller's broken plans to wed. But seriously, I do wish Johnson and Rhee all the best.)

As a child, I admired KJ; he was my second-favorite point guard after Isiah, the people's champ of my home town. I certainly rooted hard for Phoenix when they opposed Chicago in the '93 Finals. Yet recently Johnson's integrity has looked mushier than before; a federal investigation found that his nonprofit organization in Sacramento mis-used hundreds of thousands of dollars of AmeriCorps grant money, which misuse included car washes for Johnson's personal vehicles. (I invite you to read more details about the story at this Wall Street Journal link, this New York Times link, and this Washington Examiner link.) The wrongdoing occurred before Johnson was elected in November 2008. Earlier this year, President Obama fired the AmeriCorps Inspector General, Gerald Walpin, who was causing trouble by pushing for Johnson, and possibly the city of Sacramento, to be barred from receiving AmeriCorps funds. Ironically, Obama may have violated a federal law regarding inspector generals** that he sponsored as a Senator.

Obama thinks of himself as the first basketball president, so it is not surprising that he would support Johnson. Also, Sacramento's ability to receive federal funds was important for the Recovery Act i.e. "stimulus package" passed earlier this year.

Ms. Rhee, who like me, Bhel Atlantic, is a former Teach For America member, is a real character herself. She posed for this photo below for the December 8, 2008 cover of Time Magazine, and then later claimed she didn't realize the pic would offend people. Note to Ms. Rhee, if you made that comment in good faith: Never suggest that you are considering firing every one of your employees.

** I know the preferred declension is "inspectors general", but that sounds stuffy to me. Adjectives are supposed to come first in English.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now

When we began this blog last year, I identified a principal objective to be an assault on unfair refereeing. Heck, our very URL suggests that we don't like "star calls". Hence, I was really quite overjoyed at the finish of last night's Bulls-Cavs game. Watch the video for yourself (fast-forward to the 2:26 mark). LeBron James drives to the hoop with 4 seconds left, down by one point.

I applaud the referees for not calling a foul against Noah or Deng. However, a more egregious depredation occurred on the same play. Watch carefully: after James gathers his dribble, he takes one step, then a hop with both feet. Then he hops again and, in mid-air, attempts to put the ball in the hoop. No travelling call?!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In Memory Of Earl Manigault

Exactly 11.5 years ago to this day, society lost one of the great ballers to ever grace the Earth.

I realize that many of my fellow bloggers and readers may not know who Earl "Da Goat" Manigault is. He is my namesake.

He was arguably the best baller that ever lived with an unmatched quickness and a 52" vertical jump. He was better than Kareem, then Lew Alcindor, back in the day. One of the main reasons people remember Da Goat was the movie Rebound. This is when I first came across his story.

Here is an obit from the New York Times.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Best Basketball Movies of All Time

When I was 14 or 15 years old, I was introduced to a musical genius who would come to define my youth: R. Kelly.

Kelly sang the theme song to Space Jam, "I believe I can fly." Mixing animation and real footage, Space Jam was forgettable, but the song prompts me to ask a question: What have been the best basketball movies of all time?

The conventional answer, the easy answer, is Hoosiers.

I like one better: Blue Chips.

Blue Chips captured some of the flavor of college basketball in the early 1990s. Outrageous recruiting efforts and the tension between going college and going pro are both all well characterized in the film. Nolte's anger and the moral high-ground he assumes make for outsanding drama.

Thanks to HBO--I've seen the film at least a half dozen times...and it's still enjoyable.

Some other good ones: "Final Shot: The Hank Gathers Story," "Coach Carter," "White Men Can't Jump." Not sure I can think of many others. Dikembe Mutumbo had one produced by Disney...that had memorable commercials...but never really made much of an impact.

What are your thoughts, fellow bloggers and readers?

These are our heroes...

Thinking a bit more about Limbaugh's comments on the NBA and "hip hop culture," I was motivated to remember some hip hop songs which mention the NBA or its players.

One example I've already linked to is Nelly's It's Hot in Herre:

"I gotta friend with a pole in the basement, what?
I'm just kid like Jason"

Or there is Jay-Z's song Encore when he says:

"I am the Michael Jordan of recording"

These two examples are offhand references which might not have required too much thought. One could say this also applies to attempts by NBA players to rap such as Shaq Fu, C. Webb, Jewelz (aka Allen Iverson), Ron-Ron Artest, and (by far the worst) Kobe Bryant.

Given the Kobe reference, I would be amiss to forget perhaps the most elaborate NBA reference in Nas's classic song These are our heroes:

"Uh, Massa used to breed us to be bigger to go play
Athletes of today in the NBA, make me proud
But there's somethin' they don't say
Keep gettin' accused for abusin' White pussay
From OJ to Kobe, uh let's call him Tobe
First he played his life cool just like Michael
Now he rock ice too just like I do
Yo, you can't do better than that?
The hotel clerk who adjusts the bathroom mat?
Now you lose sponsorships that you thought had your back
Yeah, you beat the rap jiggaboo, fake nigga you
You turn around then you shit on Shaq
Who woulda knew, Mr. Goodie-Two-Shoes
He love a little butt crack, got enough cash
Little kids with they bus pass who look up to you
To do something for the youth, stupid spoof
But you let them use you as an example
They would rep, but our heroes got they hands full"

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Real RJ Story

So last night Richard Jefferson finally had a break out night with the Spurs (even though it was overshadowed by a batty incident) scoring 21 points. One of the intriguing stories to watch this season is whether RJ will push the Spurs over the top this year before the rest of the team croaks because of old age.

But perhaps the more intriguing story with RJ, the son of Christian missionaries, is the story from this summer when he pulled the plug on a wedding to dancer Kesha Ni'Cole Nichols two hours before the ceremony.

At least he was legit enough to give his boys the AMEX for the night to make up for it. (He also allegedly gave Ni'Cole a very legit payday to make amends.)

Upon reading this story I came away with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I feel bad for the humiliation that the girl suffered and it seems that RJ did not carry himself with any class. On the other hand, I'm sure RJ had his reasons and probably better to opt out earlier rather than later. Indeed, one could make the case that aside from the humiliation, both sides might even be better off: RJ without making a mistake, and Ni'Cole given the payday.

My most conflicted feelings come from whether this should shape my impression of RJ as a player. One might say, let his game speak for itself, but it is impossible for me to separate this story from whether he is able to take the Spurs to the finals. But come the spring, I might be singing a different tune.

I suppose the same issues apply to a Mister Robert Sylvester Kelly.

Too-Tall Jones, Nay, Grewal

Today's Toronto Star features a story about two Punjabi-speaking broadcasters who have been calling hockey games for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and now will begin a regular gig calling Toronto Raptors games. Bringing in new fans is unequivocally good for the NBA, of course. My co-bloggers imagine me to be a staunchly Tancredo-voting conservative, but I support this kind of development.

Last January, I ruminated on why so few (viz., zero) men of Punjabi background have made it to the big leagues of basketball, despite their unusual height. Obviously there are plenty of tall children of Punjabi immigrants in North America who have no problem following the Association and aspiring to be the Jordan of their driveway skirmishes. However, they all want to be doctors, so they may be a lost cause. This new CBC service could help to make basketball the new "it" sport of north India. As I indicated in the third comment on this post from Saturday, Commissioner Stern needs to find a way to market hoops to the cricket-crazed people of South Asia. Ironically, the great Punjabi hope may be in mother Bharat and not here Stateside; given that the returns to education are so much greater here, tall people with athletic potential in India are less likely to be tempted by the traditional professions.