BOSTON – The individual basketball ability of a particular player isn’t too hard to quantify. But what about a player’s ability to complement other players?
Some people at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference this weekend tried to determine the best way to put a team together. Two research papers regarding NBA chemistry were presented on Friday, each using a different method to figure out what types of players mesh well.
Robert Ayer, an MIT MBA, first presented a paper (click for pdf) called “Big 2’s and Big 3’s: Analyzing How a Team’s Best Players Complement Each Other.” Using data going back to 1977, Ayer grouped players in 14 different categories like “Limited, role-playing centers” and “Wing 3-point shooters.”
Then he determined the best two (or three) players from each team and measured if that team overachieved or underachieved according to their overall talent level, while also taking coaching into account. By doing that, he could figure out which Big 2 and Big 3 combinations helped their teams overachieve most.
Ayer’s conclusion was that the best Big 2 combination was from Category 8 (“Multi-faceted, high scoring wings, with high assists for their position and are great 3 point shooters”) and Category 12 (“High scoring post players, high rebounds, high block”). Current examples of those players would be Joe Johnson and Dwight Howard.
The Oklahoma City Thunder believe that they are storming their way to a championship. Raining on the Magic’s parade in Orlando would be another indication that OKC is bound to devastate all comers on their righteous path to glory.
Meanwhile, Orlando has several issues that have conspired to drop them into the lower bracket of playoff-seeded teams in the Eastern Conference. Chief among these is the uncertainty surrounding the immediate and long-range future of Dwight Howard. Otis Smith and the rest of the front office are hoping that a win over the Thunder just might convince Howard that the Magic have a legitimate shot at the championship, and encourage him to finish his career in Disneyland South.
HOW THE THUNDER CAN WIN
Notwithstanding the warp speed of Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook is quicker with the ball than any point guard in the league. As such, there’s no way that Chris Duhon or Jameer Nelson (assuming his sore knees allow him to play) can keep Westbrook from zipping the ball into the paint whenever the spirit moves him. In so doing, the Magic’s defense will be forced to collapse en masse to prevent Westbrook from shooting multiple layups. By virtue of Westbrook’s timely kick-out passes, the Thunder’s sharp-shooters will have the time and space to launch uncontested treys. Moreover, Westbrook is a rhythm shooter, who rarely misses when he can pull-up right.
The foolishness continues this week as Shaq had a wealth of plays to choose from. DeSagana Diop, Hedo Turkoglu, Corey Brewer, Big Baby Davis and Kendrick Perkins are this week’s nominees for the Foolish Hall of Fame. Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment!
PHILADELPHIA – This schedule is going to test every one of the league’s 30 teams, both mentally and physically, at one point or another. Right now, it’s the Orlando Magic’s turn.
On Monday, the Magic completed a stretch of six games in eight days, with a 74-69 defeat at the hands of the Sixers. The Magic lost five of the six games, with this one, in which they shot 33 percent from the field, being the least embarrassing of the five losses.
Of course, with Dwight Howard seeking greener pastures, the Magic have additional stress to deal with. And after watching the Magic play some awful basketball of late, it’s easy to say that Howard and his teammates are mailing it in.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy admits that he can’t fully diagnose his team’s problems, but he definitely isn’t going to worry about the Howard situation anymore than he has in the past.
“That becomes a real convenient excuse,” Van Gundy said, “when things start going badly and now you’ve lost four in a row, and all of a sudden that’s the situation. Well, was it the situation the night of the Indiana game (a 102-83 win)? Yeah, it was the same situation. So how much it’s wearing on people, I don’t know. All I know is we were able to play well in spite it before.”
In the aftermath of their annihilation of the Magic on Monday in Boston, the Celtics have a chance to further deflate Orlando’s confidence with a repeat performance. Another victory might also put to rest the widespread belief that it’s time for Danny Ainge to back up the truck and initiate a long and painful rebuilding process.
On the other side of the equation, it’s commonplace for a team to relax when several of their opponent’s key players are down and out — which was the case on Monday with Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Mickael Pietrus, and even Keyon Dooling and Chris Wilcox unavailable. The Magic couldn’t avoid thinking beforehand that the game would be a cakewalk. Instead, several of Boston’s subs took advantage of their increased daylight by playing with unexpected passion and discipline. As a result, the home-standing Magic have their pride on the line tonight in an early season must-win situation.
HOW THE CELTICS CAN WIN: Neither Hedo Turkoglu nor Ryan Anderson can come close to containing Paul Pierce. Because of Boston’s nifty ball movement, Orlando’s defensive rotators were too far away to provide meaningful help when PP was placed in wing isolations. More of this same tactic is advisable.
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – Could Dwight Howard be traded before Chris Paul? A few days ago, the answer would have been “no way.” But with Paul talks in somewhat of a holding pattern, the Howard rumors reached a fever pitch in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
Talks between the Orlando Magic and New Jersey Nets for a Dwight Howard blockbuster trade have gathered momentum over the past several days, and the framework of a possible four-team deal has taken shape, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Front office sources say Nets general manager Billy King has aggressively pursued the necessary players and picks to try and satisfy Orlando’s demands for Howard, one of the league’s most dominating and popular players.
New Jersey and Orlando are working toward a core deal that would send center Brook Lopez and another significant player obtained elsewhere to the Magic for Howard and Hedo Turkoglu, sources said.
The Magic are listening, but there is still real doubt about their willingness to completely give up hope on convincing Howard to re-sign with them after he opts out of his contract in July. Howard has been willing to sign extensions with the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, but the Nets’ future in Brooklyn has been most intriguing to him.
What other teams could be involved? You would have to imagine they’d be in the Western Conference, where GMs would have motivation to keep Howard in the East and away from the Los Angeles Lakers.
The New Jersey Nets have entered into serious talks with the Orlando Magic on a multiteam trade scenario that would bring Dwight Howard to the Nets, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that the most active proposal discussed by the teams would send Portland Trail Blazers swingman Gerald Wallace to the Magic along with Nets center Brook Lopez as two of the main pieces Orlando would receive in exchange for Howard.
As part of such a trade, which could be expanded to include a fourth team, sources say Orlando would also shed the long-term contracts of Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon — both absorbed by New Jersey — while also potentially receiving future draft considerations.
Other players would have to be added to the deal to make the salary-cap math work, but sources said Portland would receive multiple first-round picks as part of the exchange for surrendering Wallace and facilitating the trade.
Yet it remains to be seen if the Brooklyn-bound Nets can convince the Magic to indeed go through with trading Howard before the season starts. Earlier this week, one source familiar with the Magic’s thinking insisted to ESPN.com that they were not yet prepared to trade Howard away, clinging to the hope that he can be talked into staying.
Howard himself is known for changing his views on the matter on a near-daily basis, torn by his desire to move to a more glamorous market like Brooklyn or Los Angeles and the prospect of staying with the team that drafted him and delivering the championship to Orlando that Shaquille O’Neal could not.
One source said that the Nets were moving “aggressively” in their pursuit of Howard after Nene — New Jersey’s top free-agent target — agreed to terms Tuesday night on a five-year, $67 million deal to return to the Denver Nuggets.
Could a blockbuster involving the second-best player in the league go down before the season starts? That’s Orlando’s decision, but a deal would be much easier to pull off before the Nets spend money on free agents, even if they’re only handing out one-year deals to preserve their 2012 cap space.
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – We knew this free agency period, coinciding with the start of training camps, was going to be crazy. And as we sit here on Tuesday morning with four days of camp are in the books and the preseason is just three days away, a few of the top free agents are still standing by the phone.
Now that Marc Gasol has agreed to terms with the Grizzlies (before the Rockets even signed him to an offer sheet), Houston will presumably knock on Nene’s door again. But the 29-year-old Brazilian reportedly has a tentative offer from the New Jersey Nets for $64 million over four years.
The Nets, of course, have Nene on hold while they try to convince Magic general manager Otis Smith that the best time to trade Dwight Howard is now, while they have the cap space to take Hedo Turkoglu‘s contract off Smith’s hands. (more…)
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU – Thursday, Dec. 8 was one of the wildest days the NBA has seen in recent memory, as three teams pulled off a trade that would have altered the NBA landscape, only to have the deal squashed by commissioner David Stern. And now, we have to wonder what kind of precedent has been set, and what this means for the future of the players and teams involved.
This was supposed to be the day that the new collective bargaining agreement was ratified. And it was. But that news was completely overshadowed by what happened shortly after the league’s press conference.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
After several days of talks with several teams, the New Orleans Hornets finally reached a deal to get back some assets for Chris Paul, who they clearly believed was going to leave via free agency next summer. They traded Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers in a three-way deal that netted them Goran Dragic, Kevin Martin, Lamar Odom, Luis Scola and the Knicks’ 2012 first-round draft pick (via Houston).
Twitter blew up, the league was abuzz, and columns were being filed about the plusses and minuses of the deal. Many were already preparing for the Lakers’ next move. Since they were keeping Andrew Bynum, they were still able to dangle him in front of the Orlando Magic in an effort to team Dwight Howard with Paul and Kobe Bryant.
The first tweet of the deal, from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, came shortly before 6 p.m. ET. Less than three hours later, Wojnarowski reported that “NBA owners have pushed commissioner David Stern to kill the deal.”
Within minutes, other reporters confirmed that the deal was dead. Paul was still a member of the New Orleans Hornets and the Lakers’ dominant frontline remained intact. Training camps were set to open in less than 24 hours and we were all to pretend that nothing happened.
Later, NBA senior vice president of basketball communications Tim Frank issued this statement: “Not true that the owners killed the deal. It wasn’t even discussed at the board meeting. League office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons.”
Either way, the situation only leads to more questions, especially since the Hornets were getting back a pretty good haul in the deal.
First, if the league didn’t want the Hornets to trade Paul, why did they allow general manager Dell Demps to waste so much of his time (and the time of other executives around the league) negotiating a deal?
Second, if Demps wasn’t allowed to make this deal, is there any deal (involving Paul) that he’s allowed to make? And if Demps can’t trade Paul, aren’t the Hornets just going to lose him for nothing next summer?
Third, is this just about keeping Paul to help the team get sold? And will it get sold in time for the Hornets to make a deal that will get them something in return for Paul?
In his recap of the night, Wojnarowski reported that Demps considered resigning. And obviously, we haven’t heard the last of this story. ESPN has reported that Paul won’t be showing up at Hornets training camp on Friday.
The craziness of the day wasn’t limited to the three-team trade. The first wild moment came when we learned that the New York Knicks had put themselves in the mix for Tyson Chandler, shortly after we heard that the Golden State Warriors had offered him $60 million over four years.
The Knicks, with their payroll right at the salary cap line, seemingly had no way to get Chandler. But then CBS Sports’ Ken Berger reported that they were “in the lead” for the center dropping this bombshell: “If the deal goes through, the Knicks use amnesty on Chauncey Billups and move Ronny Turiaf to make room for Chandler, sources say.”
Chandler will obviously help the Knicks defensively, but by waiving Billups, they’re left without a point guard. And by signing Chandler to a long-term deal, they’re seemingly out of the running to sign Paul next summer. They should, however, get plenty of interest from point guards willing to sign for the mid-level exception.
No deal can become official until Friday at 2 p.m., but according to multiple reports, Billups is “irate” about the news and has already gone home to Denver.
The developments of Thursday crept into early Friday morning when ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that Howard “is preparing to ask the Magic to trade him to the Nets.”
The Magic could get Brook Lopez, another player (possibly Jordan Farmar) and picks back from New Jersey. That may not seem like a lot, but the Nets, after waiving Travis Outlaw and renouncing their bird rights to Kris Humphries, would be able to absorb Hedo Turkoglu’s contract in the deal. And that would allow the Magic to wipe $21 million off the Orlando payroll. If they then waived Gilbert Arenas using the amnesty clause, they could start fresh.
Here’s what else went down on an eventful Thursday, according to reports…
Shane Battier decided to sign with the Miami Heat, who will also sign Eddy Curry to a deal.
Caron Butler reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Clippers for $24 million over three years.
Tayshaun Prince and Jonas Jerebko each reached agreements to return to the Detroit Pistons on four-year deals.
Tracy McGrady and Jason Collins each reached agreements on one-year deals with the Atlanta Hawks.
Shannon Brown is leaving L.A. for Phoenix.
The Milwaukee Bucks reached an agreement with Mike Dunleavy on a two-year deal worth $7.5 million.
The Boston Celtics will acquire Keyon Dooling from the Bucks for a second-round pick.
Jeff Pendergraph reached a deal with the Indiana Pacers.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Well, that didn’t take long.
Just hours after rumblings that Andrew Bynumcould be used as bait to try to lure either Chris Paul or Dwight Howard to Los Angeles in a blockbuster trade, there comes even more fire from ESPN The Magazine‘s Chris Broussard.
Everyone on the Lakers’ roster not named Bryant is tradeable, per Broussard, and that includes Bynum, All-Star forward Pau Gasol and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Award-winner Lamar Odom. While the idea of another super team, this time on the opposite coast, surely bothers the purists among us, it appears that this is where we are right now in the league:
While Paul’s first choice is to join buddies Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire on the New York Knicks, he would sign a long-term contract to stay with the Lakers, according to a source with knowledge of Paul’s thinking. And Howard’s fondness for Los Angeles is well-known, leaving no doubt that he would commit to the Lakers long-term.
Sources say Paul and Howard have had several conversations with each other about the possibility of playing together on various teams.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Twelve games in one day is a bit much to chew on when you’ve been away from live game action for nearly two months.
We’re admittedly a little rusty around the hideout.
But we can’t thank the basketball gods enough for delivering us this smorgasbord of hoops when we needed it most. Day 1 of EuroBasket 2011 was filled with action and plenty of surprises, both good and bad.
In case you were worried, Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t lost a step since his triumphant playoff run and Finals MVP showing. Pau Gasol looked good and rested. And the host nation team, Lithuania, didn’t disappoint in their opener.
There was even a Ricky Rubio sighting this morning, although I’m still trying to figure out how he pulled off the performance he did. In fact, Rubio stole the show here at the hideout, posting donuts across the board (save for a couple of steals) in 16 uninspiring minutes in his international debut as a bona fide NBA player.
More on that later in the rundown of games we saw … (some more than others) …
You know it’s going to be a good competition when you tip off group play with a game like this one. Italy chewed into an 18-point deficit in time to make Serbia work for this one in the fourth quarter. Serbia made just nine of 26 shots from beyond the 3-point line to Italy’s 2-for-17, another advantage for a team that finished as the silver medalist in this competition in 2009. Having superior depth is what made the difference for Serbia as they got 30 points off the bench in the win.
Italy’s 18-10 lead early on didn’t hold up, not with center Andrea Bargnani contributing just two points on 1-for-6 shooting in the first half (he came off the bench). He warmed up after halftime and finished with a game-high 22 and nine rebounds. Danilo Gallinari turned his right ankle midway through the third quarter and came out of the game a couple of minutes later. He did return in the fourth.
Milan Macvan came off of the bench for Serbia and dropped 10 second-quarter points as they erased that early deficit. He chipped in with four more during an 11-0 run to start the fourth quarter to help put the game away. He found all the holes in the Italy’s zone defense, making six of his seven shots from the floor. As we learned from the Dallas Mavericks during the playoffs, bench play is often the difference between winning and losing in a tournament setting.
Serbia’s starting guards, Milos Teodosic and Milenko Tepic, put on a show of their own. They combined for 30 points and 12 assists and combined to shoot a wicked 6-for-10 from beyond the 3-point line.
One Gasol is enough to keep defending champion Spain in the hunt for a repeat title. Having two, however, is a luxury that no doubt every other team in the competition would love to have. Pau Gasol scored 12 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter as Spain had to hold on to squeeze past Poland in the final seconds to win their opener. Marc Gasol finished with 16 points and seven rebounds in just 23 minutes of action.
Rubio was still the one guy we were most eager to look at in this game and something was clearly missing from his game. He missed a wide-open, second-half layup and was not a factor in his limited minutes on the floor. Piling up zeros across the board the way he did after all the hype that has accompanied him the past months (and years) was definitely a disappointment.
Seeing Serge Ibaka work as a role player behind the Gasols was interesting, especially after seeing him play such a huge role for a Thunder team that made its way to the Western Conference finals during the NBA playoffs. Ibaka was his usual workmanlike self, though, scoring seven points on 3-for-4 shooting in his 14 minutes.
HT-fave and former Hang Time Grizzlies point guard Juan Carlos Navarro is always a welcome sight on the court. We jokingly nicknamed him the “Stockbroker” a few years ago (the logic being that he’d look like a Wall Street-type in street clothes). It’s a term of endearment for a player that always shows up the way he did against Poland (23 points). His free throws and a crucial 3-pointer in the final seconds were the difference in what turned out to be a much tighter game than most expected.