Posts Tagged ‘Mike Zarren’

Long, Bumpy Road Finally Smooths Out For Former Dunk Champ Gerald Green


VIDEO: Gerald Green has emerged as a solid contributor for the Suns this season

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — The dunk was so unbelievable that TNT analyst Kenny Smith hyperventilated to broadcast partner Charles Barkley during the 2008 NBA All-Star slam dunk contest.

He blew it out, Chuck!” Smith gasped. “Chuck, he blew it out!

Gerald Green indeed puffed out a candle stuck into a cupcake on the back of the rim. The reigning slam dunk king soared above the cylinder, blew out the flame and flushed the basketball in a single, stunning move.

The joint blew up. Green lapped it up. And for one night, the then-22-year-old Green was no longer just a bench warmer for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Green is now days from turning 28, and he has never been happier. He is worlds removed from that sizzling February night in ’08, his cupcake dunk never more meaningless. These days, he is a key contributor for the surprising Phoenix Suns.

The wildly athletic wing wants substance to define the rest of his career, a journey that began as a straight-out-of-high-school phenom, the Boston’s Celtics’ first-round pick in the 2005 NBA Draft.

A rocky NBA start

Gerald Green (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Gerald Green
(Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE)

Green came out of high school with a remarkable athleticism and a tantalizingly smooth jumper. He was a mostly good-natured but naive kid, a skinny baller from Houston’s southeast side. His dunks soon became the stuff of legend.

Still, Green was incapable of thinking the game beyond a playground level, oblivious to the pressures and demands of the NBA world.

“I always treated basketball when I was younger like a hobby, something I loved to do, something that kind of kept me away from doing something bad or doing something crazy,” Green told NBA.com during a phone conversation on the team’s recent road trip. “It was an extracurricular activity in my life. But once I did it for a living, I still kept treating it as a hobby instead of a job.”

After a forgettable 2008-09 season with the Dallas Mavericks, his fourth NBA team in four years, owner Mark Cuban laid out Green’s essential flaw in front of an audience of NBA executives and basketball writers at the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the context of explaining how valuable advanced statistics can be, Cuban turned to fellow panel member and Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren and famously said: “We had Gerald Green. You had Green. He does stuff [athletically] that makes you say, ‘Oh My God!’ …  He just doesn’t understand the game of basketball.”

Most NBA executives were in agreement. Green just didn’t get it.

‘The tools to be successful’ now

There is irony today in Cuban’s comment. In ’05, Suns first-year general manager Ryan McDonough was cutting his teeth in the Celtics’ front office. He scouted Green extensively and liked what he saw. Boston drafted Green with the 18th pick overall, but two unimpressive seasons later packaged him in the deal to Minnesota that landed Kevin Garnett.

This summer, McDonough traded forward Luis Scola to Indiana for young center Miles Plumlee and Green.

“The way coach [Jeff] Hornacek and I wanted to play, we wanted to go up and down and try to make the team younger and more athletic and shoot a lot of 3s, and Gerald checked all of those boxes,” McDonough said. “I think he’s proved now that he does have the tools to be successful. It just took him a little while to put it together.”

It doesn’t mean Green’s sharpening basketball IQ is quite Kobe-esque yet. Last week at Minnesota, Green swished a difficult baseline fadeaway in the final seconds, first freeing himself to get the ball and then rising high to release it over the defender. On Monday, he went 2-for-16 in a painful overtime loss at New York to end a disappointing trip at 1-4. (more…)

Sixers Plan To Get Analytical

 

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Soon, we’ll be able to add the Philadelphia 76ers to the long list of NBA teams that use analytics to help them make decisions.

New Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo said Monday that the team will be looking to bring in a numbers guy to supplement a revamped scouting department, as John N. Mitchell of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports

While he will continue to work alongside Thorn, who will assume a consultant role with the team at the end of the 2012-13 season, DiLeo has already begun to implement changes designed to make the Sixers, who open training camp next week, stronger.

DiLeo said he will begin immediately bolstering the scouting department, emphasizing that the team will have a stronger reach in Europe and abroad. He will also head up the team’s search for an executive with an “analytical” approach to building rosters and evaluating player value. It was reported by some that the Sixers might go this route in hiring for DiLeo’s position.

“I’m a big believer in that so we’re going to try to bring someone in who is an expert in statistics and analytics just to give us a competitive edge over these other organizations that don’t do it or are not at that level,” DiLeo said. “We feel that if we can supplement our basketball minds with the analytical part of it, that will give us more of an advantage and it will give me more information so that I can make better decisions.”

The irony here is that, before DiLeo was promoted, one of the candidates for the Sixers’ GM job was Mike Zarren, assistant GM of the Celtics and one of the leading analytical minds in the league. Zarren pulled himself out of contention for the job a few weeks ago.

At this point, you’re clearly behind the curve in this league if you don’t use analytics. It’s great the the Sixers are moving forward, and also great that they’re beefing up their scouting staff, because you can’t make decisions based solely on numbers. Still, depending on whom they hire, it might take them a while to catch up to some other teams in regard to using analytics to their advantage.