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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

People Are Talking About Basketball

"The pages turn themselves." Great stories live because readers care. Does the story define us or do we define it? Bob Woodward argues that great stories explore power and abuse of power

People are talking about basketball? When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton replied, "because that's where the money is." Where is the money? The story about college coaches, AAU, and shoe company money hasn't really gotten traction. Why is that? Are the dollars and the names big enough to quash the scandal? 

Shane Parrish of Farnham Street interviewed Cal Newport, author of Deep Work. Newport studies relevance and shared his information on tenure tracking, "What mattered was how heavily cited are your most cited papers? In other words, do people who went on to get tenure or have successful earlier phases of their career publish things that other people cared about? Published things ...the mainstream hard things, things that really moved the needle on topics that people are already trying to study or on topics that were convincingly new and worth studying." Will anything come out of the NBA playoffs that moves the needle? 

In The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis devotes a chapter to Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey who assembles teams using analytics. The three factors at drafting predicting NBA are 1) college program, 2) success at that program, 3) age (younger is better). That doesn't exclude outliers (e.g foreign players), but benchmarks current thinking. Second order thinking asks, "if the NBA drafts high schoolers, then the first two dimensions disappear. What's next?" The colleges lose power; the players gain power. 

In Moneyball, Michael Lewis asked, "if he's such a great hitter, then why doesn't he hit better?" The NBA Coaches selected Dwane Casey as their Coach of the Year. Casey led Toronto to a one seed, had a great regular season, then the Cavaliers led the Raptors to extinction. Casey will find his next job soon enough. What defines great coaching in NBA coaches' eyes

Home, sweep, home? The Rockets had the NBA's best record and tied with the Raptors for the best home record (34-7). But in last night's loss to Golden State, they stood around and played isolation basketball. Among the 'big four' analytics, the Warriors won the Field Goal Percentage (52% - 46%), Assists (24 - 18), and Turnover (9 - 13) battles, while hauling in five fewer boards than Houston. Five for nine three-point shooting and 41 points for James Harden mattered not, even with Steph Curry only putting up eighteen points and eight assists. Houston had no answers for Kevin Durant who fired in thirty-seven 'effortless' points. The TNT Quartet of Charles Barkley, Ernie Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal, and Kenny Smith had nothing positive for the Rockets. 

The Celtics posted a positive postseason run, so far. They've contained perimeter shooting (excepting Khris Middleton, the Bucks don't shoot the three well and Ben Simmons doesn't shoot the three), jammed the middle in transition, exploited matchups relentlessly, and overachieved with productive youngsters Terry Rozier (Louisville), Jaylen Brown (Cal), and Jayson Tatum (Duke). One win over Cleveland doesn't make a trend. And most observers think that the Eastern Conference winner gets served up as lunchmeat for the West. Just saying. 

"If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride." Hope is not a plan. The NBA has thrived with strong signature franchises, the Knicks and the Lakers. The former has their star (Kristaps Porzingis) MIA following ACL knee reconstruction and the latter rely on the charity of strangers, the mercenary instincts of King LeBron and Paul George. Speaking of George, what if he had middle names of John Ringo? It's no coincidence that Go West croons the King of Wishful Thinking


"One more (pass)." 

Kevin Eastman has a "one more" drill. 

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