Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Tom Thibodeau Fired - My Thoughts.

Tom Thibodeau was fired and he has been replaced with Ryan Saunders.  I have been a Timberwolves season ticket holder for 30 years now.  I am one of under 200 individuals who can say that.  I have seen an awful, awful lot of bad things and terrible basketball.  I have seen many people come and go.  With that perspective, my thoughts on the Thibs Era:

The Good

1) Thank you Thibs for the one playoff appearance.  The Wolves had not reached the playoffs since 2004.  They managed to win game 82 against Denver and make the playoffs.  I went out to a bar and bought random people drinks after Game 82.  Why?  Did I view this as a step to an NBA title?  No.

I viewed the playoff appearance as a way to avoid the laughingstock label that has plagued this franchise for so long.  (I will note here that the people I know on the non-basketball side are excellent at their jobs, but the on-court product they sell is the worst in the history of professional sports, at least last I looked at winning percentages - it is possible that the new Browns are worse.)  When you see the graphic go up, "Have not made the playoffs since George W. Bush's first term" you cringe.

So, thanks Thibs.  That was worthwhile.

2) Thibs was a pretty good evaluator of talent.  Look, he knew Butler was good, and Butler was very good for us (on the court).  He knew that Jeff Teague was an above average PG who had gas left in the tank.  Same with Taj Gibson (old, but still good).  He drafted Okogie, who has been good for a low #1.  He drafted Bates-Diop, who has been good in the G League for a mid-low #2.  He acquired Tolliver, who (when played, see below) has been a worthwhile player.

He dumped Kris Dunn and LaVine and passed on Markkanen.  Sure he had missed on his odd love of Dunn originally (passing over Jamal Murray and Buddy Hield - who both were better players and filled a huge need).  But if you could say you would have one really good year of Butler and then get Saric and Coveington and not have signed LaVine to an $80M deal, I'd take that deal any day.

3  Thibs has a concept of what he wants to do, and he does it.  There is some benefit to this.  I mean, Kurt Rambis's players would say "We hate having to run the Triangle Offense" and he'd respond, "85% of what we run isn't the Triangle Offense."  OK, so that is WORSE!  Your players do not even know what they are being asked to do.  Thibs' players at least knew what they were being asked to do, and, quite frankly, they were often pretty good at it.  For example, while the Wolves ran a caveman style offense, they were in the upper echelon of the league in Offensive Rating.  This would be like an NFL team running th ball 75% of the time in today's game and still scoring 24 points a game.  Odd, illogical, but I guess it works.

The Bad

4.  Thibs' defense, his alleged calling card, never worked.  Whether it was (as most believed) because it was horrifically outdated, or whether it was (as Thibs believed) that his players were too bad or dumb to figure it out, what does it really matter?  When you run a scheme that makes you a bottom 20% defense (sometimes worse), how do you just blindly stick with it?  If you were teaching someone math, and they had the same blank stare at you for 2 years, would you show up every day and continue to use the same exact teaching method?  One would hope not.

This, of course, goes to Thibs' personality -- when something is wrong, it cannot be his fault.  "I know this defense works.  It worked in 2008 and 2011.  It works still today."  Well, here is an example of actual coaching -- I coached an 8th grade B team for my daughter.  We were pretty bad.  We started like 3-8.  So I had a sitdown with the girls and I said, "Look, what do you LIKE about what we do and what do you NOT like about what we do?"  Got input, heard things about how we could do better.  Where it made sense, I added more stuff they liked and reduced the stuff they didn't like.  Ended 15-15.  That is the sort of stuff you need to do.  Thibs was completely unable and unwilling to adjust his defense to his players or to the modern game.  In his defense, it appears that no player or coach or owner was willing to suggest that either. 

5.  Thibs hitched his wagon to different guys, generally not corectly.  Look, Taj is a very good player.  He shouldn't be getting 36 minutes a night.  Wiggins played 36 a night, regardless of whether he was good, bad, indifferent, or VERY indifferent.  There were absolutely no consequences for bad play if you were one of the guys Thibs liked.

It took me all of one scrimmage to recognize that Jamal Crawford was a horrific defensive player and would give you almost zero rebounds a game.  Thibs played him a lot (from what I gathered, less than Crawford was promised, but way too much for what he was giving you).  Crawford averaged more shots per 36 than Towns.

Thibs' reliance on Derrick Rose (who has completely re-worked his shooting and become a good shooter) appeared to some to be a great idea.  But if has him at 116-116 ORtg/DRtg, what is he really giving you?  A lot of difficult isolation scoring which he gives back on the other end?  Thibs also was so happy to be correct about Rose that he literally played him to exhaustion, to the point where he was too tired/sore/injured to play!  I mean, a fair evaluation is that the guy is either a guy you trade and get value for ("sell high") or he is a guy you play fewer minutes (15-24) and prolong his career and what you can get out of him both during a single seaon and in the long run.  Thibs played him 30+ minutes, often over 34. 

6.  Thibs had a weird habit of signing players (Cole Aldrich, Anthony Tollver) and then not playing them.  While these guys are just role players, why spend money on them if you are just going to have them ride the pine?  You'd be better off signing no one and then acquiring prospects that other teams had to cut at the end of training camp.  It is cheaper, and there is probably a higher ceiling for some of these guys.


The Ugly

7.  Thibs's primary weakness was that he could never take a long-term view and try to develop the franchise.  He viewed every game, even every possession, as the end of the world.  If someone literally told Tom Thibodeau within two minutes of the end of the Hawks game, "You better get Rose out or there is a 75% chance he gets hurt and is out for a week" Thibs would take the 25% chance.  He needed the Hawks win that badly.  To make matters worse, the risk did not always result in a reward.

Up 25, down 25, the starters were running the last 3 minutes of the game.  There might be a 2% chance that the bench could blow that lead or the starters might come back.  All that really mattered was the one single game. Every game was Game 7 of the Finals.

Imagine if you had to drive 3,000 total miles in 10 days. On day 4 you are sick and throwing up.  You'd spend that day in bed, maybe drive more the next day.  Thibs would get a bucket and throw up in it as he ground out his 300 miles.  It would be 100% completely unnecessary to do so, and it probably would endanger the entire trip and maybe his life, but he'd do it anyway, because it wasn't the trip, it was the day that mattered.

8.  Thibs was a horrific micromanager.  It is almost impossible to play excellent basketball if you do not enjoy it.  I would tell my players when I coached, "Look, if you cannot find joy in basketball, you ought to consider some other sports."  Now, I had a coach in 11th grade who screamed at us and constantly had us do sprints in practice and who employed a full-court press against every opponent (we were very white and very slow and small).  We had the #1 player in the three-county area.  We went 7-11.  The next year we lost our best guy, got a new (more rational) coach, and went 12-6.

It just isn't any fun to play basketball when your every move is scrutinized.  It sucks. So when a player is a bench guy getting maybe 15 minutes and he gets pulled for his first mistake, you have now effectively lost him as a player.  He will not provide you with much value. 

To make matters worse, some players were micromanaged and punished for errors, while others (see #5 above) were micromanaged but never disciplined for anything.

9.  Thibs alienated his players and did not understand how to play to their strengths, 

Towns - 3rd Team All-NBA, 4th on the team in shots per minute.  How does that possibly occur?  Towns at the end of a game stepped in-bounds while throwing in the ball.  Thibs, "You stupid motherfucker!"  Now, this is inappropraite coaching or teaching at any level.  If your 15th guy got in and forgot to dribble the ball, you'd treat him better than this. 

Right before Thibs' firing, he was willing to say that Towns had played "the best he has played."  Well, wow!  Alert the media!  Towns had gone 28-12 for 6 straight games, the longest such streak since Moses Malone in 1982.  Thibs phrased this once in a generation streak as, basically "Towns is playing better."  Towns' reply, "He said something nice about me!?!?  Wow."

Tyus Jones - as I have said numerous times, Tyus Jones is a great "with the ball" player.  he SUCKS as an "off the ball" offensive player.  Where does Thibs insist on playing him?  With DRose and Jamal Crawford getting huge Usage and Tyus standing in the corner waiting for the ball.  So, you are taking guys with MAYBE a 2-1 assist to turnover ratio and having them handle the ball while your 6-1 assist-to-turnover guy (who is a very poor spot-up shooter) stands in the corner.  If you are going to operate with this strategy, then you need to not play Tyus at all.  Play an off guard or just play a huge defensive lineup.  Play someone who will compensate defensively for how terrible Crawford and Rose have been as team defenders (and Crawford as an individual defender).

And can we pry ONE positive comment from Thibs abaout Tyus?  I mean, here is a guy who you don't value (he wants to play him 12-16 minutes a game) and when forced into action as a starter (due to injury) he was one of your best plus-minus players (generally the best) and was a key to several winning efforts.  Answer - no, that will not occur.  In one such game earlier this year, Tyus was a key to victory, when asked about Tyus, Thibs said "I thought Jarryd Bayless played very well."  Um, OK. 

Wiggins -- now, it may be that no one can ever unlock Andrew Wiggins, but I can assure you this - playing him as a standstill "end of the play" spot up shooter - this is not his highest and best use.  So, again, if you believe that he can only be used in that role, you need to cut his minutes and play Tolliver or Bjelica instead.  Same as the Tyus example.  If you have a car that will go 120 miles per hour and rides rough when under 40 mph, don't drive it the 5 miles to and from work.  Drive it on long trips. 

What is really clear is that Towns hated Thibs, Tyus resented Thibs, Teague regularly tried to embarrass Thibs with the media, Bjelica couldn't wait to get away from Thibs, Butler knived Thibs in the back (maybe in the front), Gorgui almost had a mental breakdown playing for the guy, Crawford felt lied to and betrayed.  And those are the guys I, as a fan, know about.

10.  Thibs' Behavior Was Unprofessional

Look, we all wish we were king.  And I think Thibs figured he was king.  Great.  But if you really ARE NOT the king and you have a boss of any kind, then you need to build up some relationships and gather some relationship "chits" you can cash in later when things go poorly.

-- When your boss asks you to a barbecue, go.
-- When you are the coach of a team, appear in the media and do some PR.  If you come off poorly in person, have someone write you some B.S. emails to the fans, or recite some text written for you on video..
--  Do not lock employees from one side of the business out of your side of the business.
-- Do not throw a laptop through a glass conference room wall.
-- Do not tell free agents you want them and then don't play them as you said you would.
-- When your owner tells you to trade a guy, do your effing job and trade the guy.
-- Don't call your superstar a "stupid motherfucker" for committing a turnover.

-- Reward consistently good play and punish consistently poor play with minutes.
-- Talk to your players.
-- Say nice things about your best players or guys who give a lot of effort, even if you don't want to.
-- Don't scream and micromanage every possession.

-- When your team is playing poorly, don't panic.
-- When your team is playing poorly, don't demonstrate by your body language that you are disgusted/worried.  Instead, put up an aura of "we know how to recover from this".

These are 13 things that, again, I know about just as a fan.  Imagine the plethora of other terrible unprofessional things I am forgetting or that I am unaware of right now.


Grading on the very kind grading curve that is Wolves Coaches, Thibs was not terrible.  He had a team that made the playoffs and he was almost .500 overall.  So, I'd place him here:

1) Flip
2) McHale
3) Adelman
4) Dwane Casey
5) Thibs.

Thibs defeats Musselman, Lowe, Blair, Rodgers, Wittman, and Rambis, Sam Mitchell and anyone else I am forgetting.
(For you Muss defenders, he was crazier than Thibs when it came to lack of player development, lack of professionalism, and winning at all costs.  For Sam fans, Sam understood player development, but his teams were very poorly prepared and he could never adjust in-game).

So, how terrible has the Timberwolves franchise been?  Thibs is clearly a top-half coach in their history! 

Ryan Saunders -- long-time assistant.  Will undoubtedly have better relationships with the key Wolves players and is an immediate huge upgrade on professionalism.  His dad was an offensive genius, but didn't give a damn about defense (Garnett was basically the eraser for all of Flip's defensive indifference, with mixed results).  Hopefully Ryan will take the good of his dad and find some way to care more about defense. 

As someone who has seen 30 years of basketball and yet only 1 year where we won any playoff series, obviously I am rooting for Ryan very hard.


Friday, January 04, 2019

Tucker Carlson's Speech On How America Is Going Wrong

This is an interesting speech to give.  Carlson, apparently upset by Mitt Romney's disagreement with Donald Trump's behavior, basically goes after the Rich Wing of the Republican Party and states that the only way to a happier and healthier America is the abandonment of tax cuts and wars and finding some way to increase pay for men, particularly for men in rural areas.

The part of the speech that is getting criticized is the call for women to stop working so much, go back to making less money than men, and (for God sake) please stop having kids out of wedlock.  Do like the wealthy do -- get married first and only then have kids. 

The difficulty with this approach is that it lumps in every sort of person into the category of "single parenthood is bad."  Is a woman who makes $200,000 and who has never been married going to be a worse parent than a "2 parent family" where one works, or neither works, or both cannot afford daily necessities for themselves or the child?  Certainly not.  And if you have a child out of wedlock, is that worse than the person who has a child in wedlock and then divorces when the child is 5-8-10 years old?  We know that 50% of marriages end in divorce.  We also know that many middle-income and lower-income non-custodial parents do not pay their child support.  How is that child better off?

I think that what Tucker Carlson is really describing is the lower-middle-class or poor 16-22 year old woman who gets pregnant by an acquaintance and decides to have the child and not give it up for adoption.  Yes, that generally ends poorly because the child lacks both attention and money.  This is the worst of al worlds. 

But Carlson uses the terrible results of this sort of relationship/condition to justify his position that women should stop making so much more than men -- since these men are not marriage material, and the wealthy women just have a kid on their own.  Again, I refuse to believe that a child raised by an affluent single mom is generally in a worse situation than a child raised in a divorced family, a family where a parent dies, or any of a number of abusive two-parent families.  I guess we could see the data, but you'd have to convince me that is true.

I'd like to say one last thing on that topic.  I grew up in a lily white county in western NY.  In the 1970s and early 80s, we were #1 in NY in per capita teen pregnancy.  #1.  And 90% of the teen preganancy was due to poor to lower middle class guys having sex with poor to middle class women.  It had nothing whatsoever to do with these teenagers seeing men as unworthy of marriage.  They lived a shitty life, they wanted something to do, they had unprotected sex.  We also know that out of wedlock pregnancies exist in poor urban areas where a majority of the population has never had any decent job.  So to blame women having kids out of wedlock on men having fewer manufacturing jobs seems like an awful stretch.

Anyway - Tucker Carlson's other points are rather weird ones for a Republican to be making:  1) Mitt Romney doesn't get taxed enough; 2) the tax code favors the wealthy, 3) government should do something to make sure working men get fair wages (he really doesn't say what, other than to say he opposes socialism or libertarianism). 
; and 4) we should stop waging foreign wars.

The Republican Party, as long as I have been alive (since 1964) has done everything in its power to defeat every single one of these things.  It is the party of huge tax cuts, huge favors for the wealthy, union busting, and endless foreign wars.  Every truly wealthy person I know is a Republican.  Every one.  There are some people who are worth $1-2M who hang in there as Democrats, but the people I know who are worth $5-500M are all GOP, and strong GOP.  I have attended conventions where these people gather.  The things I have heard just absolutely shock me.  I attended one presentation where the presenter bragged that he had convinced a group of minimum wage workers that their wages should never go up or they would all be fired.  He had them fill out form letters to send to their elected representatives arguing that any increased wages would cost them all their jobs.  I know people who make $10M a year and yet fight a $1 minimum wage increased because (they say) it would "bankrupt" them.  Again, these are all Republicans. 

The things that most help raise wages for the bottom rung of wage earners are 1) unionization, 2) minimum wage increases.  The GOP opposes these as if they were a bill to endorse widespread  introduction of The Plague.   So, exactly what Republican position is the GOP going to take that would make it so the white male in Lewiston, Maine who Carlson cares so much about can make more money?  Well, he needs givernment "help."  What is that?  That is unclear.  But we know that Carlson can no longer stand a world in which the millions of people who live in NYC and LA get more done for them than the 40,000 people who live in Wyoming County, NY. 

This seems an unbelievably odd position for anyone (Democrat or Republican) to take.  As someone from the sticks, I realized early on in my life that if I wanted to make something of myself that I needed to 1) do well in school, 2) get higher edication, and 3) take advantage of any scholarships or loans that favored me.  Then I had to move to a growing area where jobes were plentiful and my acquired knowledge would be worth money.

I was born into a family that made about $25-40,000 during my K-12 years.  My parents had five kids. That was my life.  I had a better life than 98% of people I knew where I grew up.  But that was not a life I wanted for myself.  I wanted out.  Everyone knew that, and many people sneered at that idea, that I was not content with my place in life and did not want to stick around and make the best of the area where I grew up.  But I really could not see myself ever being that person.  I got scholarships, I borrrowed money, I left.

I cannot accept, then or now, that as a lower-tier economic person I had some obligation to stay in a rural area where no one made any money.  While I am fully 100% aware of the derogatory manner in which city people treat rural people, and it sucks, I would never, as an educated person, suggest that the government owes my 40,000 person county the attention that it owes the 30,000,000 people in metro L.A. and NYC.  Carlson's suggestion that the person in a rural area should be given a greater chance than the people in areas close to jobs and industry is nonsensical.  It is like someone saying that 5'8" white guys from rural areas need a chance at the NBA, not just the much taller and more athletic players found almost entirely in the city and surrounding suburbs. 

So, if what Tucker Carlson is suggesting is that men need higher wages and more manufacturing jobs, he needs to support unions, increased minimum wage laws, and government requirements upon industries to keep and create jobs.  None of these are Republican positions.  If he wants tax increases on Bain Capital, that is a VERY easy fix.  There are under 20,000 people who game the system that way.  They have 20,000 votes.  If you pass a law, there is absolutely nothing they can do to stop it.  Again, the GOP under Trump passed an enormous tax cut.  Had they wanted to pass an enormous tax INCREASE on the super welathy and private equity companies, they could have done that in a snap of their fingers.  They did not, nor will they ever.

While I agree that the Poor Wing of the GOP should draw more attention from elected reprsentatives than the Rich Wing of the GOP, the only attention that Wing has received is tacit or not-so-tacit support for their rampant racism, and maybe a bone thrown to them for reduced sentences for opiod crimes.  Great.  Where are the jobs promised to these poor unfortunate rural white guys?  There are none.  And Tucker Carlson's proposal appears to be that we get General Motors to build plants it doesn't need in poor white rural areas......hiring only men.  Therefore, the guys I went to high school with, who had sired three children by the time they were 23, will now suddenly be deemed to be desirable target for marriage.  Their wives will agree to stay home and not work, and the world that has sucked since the steel industry went under in 1977 will suddenly srping to a glorius life. 

(Or else the company will pay them $10/hour, no benefits, and the sole shareholder will make $300,000,000 and ship their jobs to Mexico when they unionize.  One or the other.).

Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Weird Trend to Overrate Hakeem Olajuwon in All-Time Rankings

Look, I have Hakeem in my top 20 players of all-time.  But the recent lists I have seen from younger guys all seem to put Hakeem as a top 10 or even (egad) top 5 player of all-time.

While overrating a great player such as Hakeem is nowhere near the sin that wildly overrating merely good players is (like Isiah Thomas and Kevin McHale - another recent trend, I see many lists with these guys ranked above Bob Pettit), I really cannot understand the trend.

First, it appears that the "Dream Shake" really has the young guys excited.  Yes, Hakeem had a move that no one else has been able to exactly duplicate since.  Great.  So did George Gervin with his extreme finger roll and Bernard King with his half-beat jumper.  OK,  Does not make you a top 5 or top 10 player.

To place Hakeem as a top 10 player, you'd need to place him above guys like Bird, Magic and Bill Russell.  If you look at the stat "MVP Award Shares" - Bird has 5.6, Magic 5.1, Russell 4.7.  Haleem is 19th with 2.61, slightly behind Bob Pettit's 2.67.

Hakeem was only consider by voters to be a top 3 MVP candidate...........twice.  1992-93 and 1993-94.  The year David supposedly "stole" his MVP, Hakeem actually finished 5th in MVP balloting.  He never led the league in Win Shares or WS/48, he never led the league in VORP.  He is not in the top 10 all-time in any of these stats.

The true argument that should be raging for or against Hakeem is whether he deserves to be higher on the all-time list than Bob Pettit, Moses Malone and/or David Robinson.  This is the strata of player that Hakeem should be compared with.  There is nothing at all in his record (either peak level or consistency over time) that suggests that he should be a top 10 or top 5 player.

So why the sudden surge in overrating?  I would imagine it is because the young guys know that when Michael retired Hakeem won an MVP and won two titles.  Well, the 1994 Rockets would have lost to a pretty average Knicks team had John Starks been able to make any wide open shot.  And the 1995 Magic just collapsed after Nick Anderson blew game one by going 0-4 in the closing seconds of the game.  Neither the Knicks nor the Magic were dynasties or dynasties in the making.  Second, Michael Jordan has reportedly been recorded as saying that he feared Hakeem because he knew he couldn't stop him.  That seems like an odd comment for Jordan to make, so it was probably just a subtle intended slam at some other player. 

Of all-time playoff performers, Hakeem is 15th in Playoff Win Shares and tied for 16th in WS/48:  Of First-team all-NBA players, Hakeem has the 20th most Win Shares as a First-team all-NBA player:  Again, admirable.  But when you have 73 Win Shares as an all-NBA player and Magic and Bird have over 120, how do you get ranked higher on all-time lists than they do?  Because you were greater for a short period of time?  That is not true either. Bird had 2 seasons better than Hakeem's best season; Magic had 4. Moses Malone had 4 seasons where he finished in the top 2 of MVP balloting, including three wins. 

If we are judging players by team playoff success (an area where John Stockton and Karl Malone generally get killed in ratings) Hakeem's teams' career record in playoff series was 16-13.  In 94 and 95 he was a combined 8-0, so the entire remainder of his career he was 8-13, including 9 first round exits and 3 failures to make the playoffs (including 1991-92 where Hakeem was 29 years old).

Stop and consider that for a second -- Hakeem played 18 seasons; his team reached the second round of the playoffs or better in only 6 of those seasons.  Imagine the torching LeBron James would receive if two out of every three years his team was sitting home by Round 2.  he would not be considered by some worthy of being even a top 50 player.  Chris Paul has played 14 seasons and made the second round or better 5 times.

 Karl Malone and Stockton were together for a 16 win and 18 loss playoff series record, and Karl added 3 wins and a loss for the 03-04 Lakers, so Karl was 19-19 in playoff series. Hakeem is not appreciably better.

(Bird's teams, BTW, 24-10 in playoff series).

So, anyway, I have no problem with Hakeem as a top 20 or even arguably top 15 player.  He is not a top 10 player and certainly has no good argument to be a top 5 player.  Let's PLEASE put an end to this one, and then we can move on to address the ridiculous overrating of Isiah and McHale.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

My 9-Day Business Trip -- Top 10 Moments

I will save my pat-down experience at DFW for another Blog entry.  It didn't occur outside the U.S., and it, in any event, deserves its own entry.

10.  Met someone in Europe who sold military product to North Korea in 1988.  Discussed Kim Jung-Il's claim to have shot an 18 on an 18-hole course.

9.  Ate at an Italian restaurant where the owner knew my client -- received at least $200 worth of free food and drink (plus we paid for more than that).  Probably the friendliest restaurant experience I have ever had.

8.  Set foot in Iceland on a layover -- the forecast for the entire 10-day period was 40 and raining.  They had us walk off the plane, outside, through a steady rain, no cover, no umbrellas to a bus 30 yards away.  Unclear why they could not move the bus closer to us.  I can add that every building I saw in Iceland was made of some sort of corrugated metal.  Apparently since there are no forests on Iceland they ship in as much corrugated metal as they can. 

Reykjavik from the air resembled Madison, Wisconsin in size.

7.  Flew over the tip of Greenland on the way home -- awfully cool to see a place basically no one will ever go to.

Foreign travel features a lot of heart-stopping moments, which will be featured in items 6-5-4

6.  Reached Iceland, walked through the steady rain to the bus, entered the terminal and got in line for the flight that the board says is "London Heathrow".  About 75% of the way to the gate the sign changed to "Tel Aviv."  Now, it would be cool to go to Tel Aviv, but it is a ways from London.  I just stayed in line - F it, London or Tel Aviv here I come!  It was London.

5.  In Dublin when they give me a boarding card, unnoticed by me was that while my flight left at 3:40 p.m. the boarding card says "Gate Closes at 2:05 p.m."  I first notice this warning at 2:10 p.m. while having a snack.   I sprint to the security line, sweating profusely, hoping no one notices that I cannot go forward to the gate. No one mentions anything at all. I am at the gate by 2:18.  I stop sweating around 2:30.  I have no idea whether the "Gate Closes" time was merely advisory, an error, or just not enforced.

4.  At Gate 402, PA announcement, "For those Americans traveling to Chicago, please go to U.S. pre-screening by Gate 408."  Now:  a) I had been through pre-screening back around Gate 301; b) every video board in the place says "Chicago - Gate 402"; and c) I doubt there is even pre-screening down by Gate 408.  I walk up to the gate agent - "Um, pre-screening at Gate 408?"  Reply - what are you talking about?  "The announcement said...."  Reply - there was never any such announcement.  Walk back to my seat, confused, 4 different Americans ask me, "So, do we go down to Gate 408?"  Sorry folks, no, we are all just sharing a mass hallucination.  Stay here.

3.  I ate at a London restaurant that is considered the best/most popular new restaurant in London -- it was very good, not super awesome.  But the two things that will stick with me are:  a) every guy was 20+ years older than his date; b) every guy was a 4-6 out of 10 and his date was an 8-10.   I am not sure you could attend a Miss USA pageant and see this many beautiful women in one location.  Client had to guaranty that the table would spend 600 pounds or we couldn't get a table.

2.  I am pretty sure my town car driver on the way back was either a spy or a representative of the Russian government, but he thought I was HILARIOUS (which further aroused my suspicions).  And he also loved 1980s-90s NBA basketball.  We talked Jordan/Shaq/Barkley for 15 minutes.  At the end of the drive, he gave me his card and said, "Man, if you are ever in London again, I really want you to call and I will drive you around again.  We can talk some NBA."  The guys was like 40 years old.

1.  I met up with an old law school friend, which I always enjoy.  Her husband was SUPER pissed that his train was late and it took him 2 hours to reach the restaurant.  But he bought me dinner anyway, an offer which I probably should not have accepted so quickly (but sometimes my dad's cheapness really comes out of my DNA).

"HM, let us buy you dinner."
Me - Really?
"Sure.  Why not?"
Me - OK.

Lesson for all those who interact with me - never offer me free stuff.  I will take it.


Monday, October 15, 2018

Ariana Grande Dumps Pete Davidson

When I was 25, I met a woman named Jordan.  Absolutely gorgeous, absolutely a gold digger.  I always say, "We met in an elevator - she was wearing a swimsuit, and I was wearing a suit and tie.  We both saw what we really were interested in seeing."

Anyway, whatever I am, I am.  If I am in decent shape, I can be a good solid 7.  If not, well, 5.  She was a 9 or 10. 

We dated for three weeks.  Then she just absolutely dumped me.  "This is ridiculous; it is going nowhere.  We are done."  The funny thing about it is, this 3 week experience does not make anywhere near close to my 10 worst experiences with females I dated.  Why?  Well, who could possibly expect that this would ever occur.  It always hurts to be bumped, but I can tell you that in two weeks Pete Davidson will be 100% fine.  He played a starring role in the NBA.  So now he might have to go back to being a 9th man in the Spanish League, but you cannot take that brief moment of stardom away from him.


Wednesday, October 03, 2018

22.5 Plus and 30 Plus "Game Scores" -- Who is the Best?

The idea of a "Game Score" statistic is basically to determine whether someone had a good game or not (rather than me searching through the box score, what generally would these stats, when combined, say about a player.

A Game Score is calculated as noted here

That calculator will also allow you to plug in some standard values for a player and figure out what that guy is probably doing on a nightly basis.  For example, LeBron so uniformly goes 27-7-7 with a steal and a block that the people have lobbied to have the 27-7-7 part called a "LeBron."  So if you plug in those values and have him shoot 50% from the floor and 70% from the line and turn it over 4 times, that is a 20.1 Game Score.

It is fair to say that a typical LeBron "Game Score" would be pretty welcome news to any coach in the league for any guy he had.  The inventor of Game Score says he intended for 10 to be a "good" starter Game Score.  I would consider the scale (based upon reviews I have done) to be as follows:

Good bench Game Score - 7
OK Starter Game Score - 10
Good Night for a Starter - 15
Very Good - 22,5
Outstanding (top 2 in the league that night) - 30
Superstar Level (rare for even great players) - 40
Call the Media - 50
Historically great 60 (it has happened 3 times)

With that as a baseline, I considered this question -- what NBA greats have had the most 22.5+ and 30+ games, and, more importantly, what percentage of their overall games were at these levels?

There were 23 guys who appeared on at least one of the "most total games" lists, limited to the top 20 in either category.

Of these 23 guys, here are how they did in percentage of regular season games over 22.5 Game Score

1.  Jordan 53%
James 51.3%
Durant 41.1%
Barkley 38.5%
David Robinson 35.6%
Karl Malone 35.5%
Larry Bird 34.3%
Shaq 34%
Hakeem 33.6%
Harden 33.5%
Curry 33.3%
Magic 33.2%
Iverson 31.2%
Nique 30.55%
Westbrook 30.3%
CP3 - 30%
Kobe 29.9%
Wade 29.8%
Clyde Drexler 25.7%
Dirk 21.5%
Stockton 20.2%
Garnett 19.9%
Duncan 19.3%

So, we should probably stop here. has records back to 1980.  So Bird and Magic are all in.  Kareem only gets the declining part of his career, Wilt, Oscar, West, Mikan, Pettit get nothing. 

And what we see is that Good Team Defense is not generally rewarded (Duncan, KG, Stockton, Wade, Kobe, CP3 all plus defenders) while big scoring generally is rewarded (Iverson and Dominique Wilkins are not better players than KG or Duncan). 

But, if you do a grading curve and say 10% get A's, 25% get B's, 35% get C's, 20% get Ds and 10% get Fs, you'd have

2 As - Jordan, James,
1 A minus -- Durant

1 B+ Barkley

6 Bs -- David, Karl, Bird, Shaq, Hakeem, Harden

8 Cs - Curry, Magic, Iverson, Nique, Westbrook, CP3, Kobe, Wade

1 D+  Drexler

2 Ds - Dirk, Stockton

1 D minus - Garnett

1 F - Duncan

On the 30 Plus Game Score, Michael Jordan so completely dominates this stat that he gets an A+ and literally no one else deserves an A.  Michael destroys the curve.

1 A plus -- Jordan 24%
1 B+ - James 14.3%

8 Bs - Barkley 13.2%, Harden 12.95%, Bird 12.5%, David 11.6%, Curry 11.4%, Durant and Hakeem 10.5%, Shaq 10.3%

5 Cs - Magic 9.7%, Karl Malone 9.4%, Iverson 8.9%, Westbrook 8.8%, Kobe 8.3%

4 D's -- Wade & Nique 7.8%, Clyde 7.5%, CP3 7.3%

4 Fs -- Dirk, Stockton, KG, Duncan (all under 4%).

The lesson here is that a Game Score of 30 is pretty rare, even for great players.  Jordan did it every 4 games, James every 7 games, but generally doing it even once out of every  8 games is pretty awesome and every 10 games is hard to do even for all-time greats.

If you drop down to 15+ as a Game Score, you will see that Jordan and James and Durant all are "good" or better 80% of the time (Jordan and James 81%, Durant 79%).  Charles and Karl are in the 70s and then everyone else is in the 60s or 50s.  Remarkably, Bird only had a 15+ Game Score 53% of the time, next to last after Stockton (50%).

We can examine that another time, but what is the answer here?  Who are the best and most consistent in the 22.5 and 30 Game Scores?

The guys who are top 12 players in those categories combined:

12th - Magic (ekes in, by far the least consistent of these 12)
11th - Shaq
10th - Curry (wins tie with Shaq as Curry has a 7th place v. Shaq's 8th)
9th - Karl Malone
8th -- Hakeem
7th - Harden
6th - Durant
5th - David Robinson
4th - Bird
3rd - Barkley
2nd - James
1st - Jordan

Upside surprises - Harden, David, Barkley

Downside surprises - Kobe, Russ, CP3.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Serena Williams - Has Only Herself to Blame

In response to:

"This happens to me all of the time here!" wailed Serena Williams as she was given code of conduct penalties.  Serena has played at the U.S. Open since 1998.  She has had 4 incidents in which she thought she was wronged.  In that same time period, she has won 6 U.S. Open titles.

So, to state that she has had bad things happen to her "all of the time" is ridiculous.  If you play 20+ years, you are going to have 4 rough calls that you think are against you.

What do all of Serena's incidents have in common?  1) They occur when she is struggling or feels she is going to possibly lose.  2) They are made far worse than they need to be by her subsequent behavior.

In her 2018 incident, Serena's coach is called for illegal coaching. She says he never coached her.  He says he always coaches her illegally, but it is a rule that is never called.  So this is sort of like an offensive lineman arguing that he wasn't holding and his coach saying, "Of course he was holding, that is how we teach them to block - it is never called."

Now, let's assume that we can trust Serena's coach and he was coaching but it is never called.  What occurs here is basically like LeBron James early in a Finals game being called for a touch foul when guarding a guy out front.  It is either a bad call or a call that is just never made.  LeBron now has two choices - he can either lose his mind or he can say "Geez, come on" and adjust his play accordingly.  I'd strongly suggest option #2.

Asked after the match whether the chair umpire and she had run-ins in the past, Serena said no.  She said the umpire had actually done many of her matches and performed quite well.  Therefore, based upon her own words, she has no reason to suspect person bias or animus against her.  What happened is you had a good referee make a bad call against you. 

Serena is struggling with Naomi Osaka.  Serena is concerned she is going to lose.  She makes a bad shot.  She then absolutely crushes her racket. This is, 100% of the time, a code violation.  The refs will look the other way if you just skim the ground or abuse the racket a little.  If you crush it and break the frame, that is a code violation 100% of the time.  Serena now loses a point.

This is where things get weird.  Serena thinks it should be a warning.  No - you got the coaching warning for your warning, this is now a point.  WHAT!?!?  I got a coaching warning?  Look, if you got a coaching warning; that was the time to contest that issue.  Now that you have lost a point, you suddenly feel offended?  "I have a kid.  I don't cheat."  Huh?  What sort of claim/statement is that?  I know a lot of players with a lot of kids.  Many of those players cheat.

But now Serena (again, who is losing) suddenly sees the world is against her.  She demands an apology.
This is sort of like LeBron in my example above walking up to the ref in the 3rd quarter after foul #4 and saying, "You owe me an apology for foul #1.  Remember back them?  I don't cheat; I have three kids."  That sort of exchange would be unthinkable.  But Serena is losing; she is melting down; the world is against her.  She oddly pulls out the "I am a mom" argument.

The chair umpire, unsurprisingly, fails to provide the requested apology.  This further angers Serena.  Now she sees a vast conspiracy against her to deny her the title she wants.  But we know at this point that Serena has two conduct violations; this is basically playing with four fouls.  This is not the time to tempt fate.  Serena now pushes her chips all in, "You are a thief.  You stole a point from me."

Now, I have played a lot of sports and coached a lot of sports.  I have had CONSTANT problems with officials.  All of the time. You want to know what "all of the time" is?  Basically every game.  I don't care for officials, and I generally think they don't do a great job.  That said, the general thing I would do in these situations is complain and complain and complain and then if the official told me to shut up, I'd shut up.  I only have ever received two technical fouls.  I have complained to referees 5,000+ times.

And I can tell you this - other than swearing at an official, the one thing they do NOT like is if you question their integrity.  You can get away with saying a call was awful or hurt your club or saying "how can you possibly miss that?"  What you cannot get away with - stuff like "Call it both ways" and "We all know who is supposed to win here."  They do NOT appreciate that.  And for good reason.  As a general rule, they are trying.  They may be bad, but they are trying.  So if you state or imply that they are dishonest or biased, you're treading on very thin ice.  If you call someone a mother-fucker or say they suck, that, in a way, is better than saying/implying that they are cheating against you. 

Against that background, Serena should have known that she shouldn't have impugned the integrity of the umpire.  The umpire in that situation now has been called a thief - dishonest, biased.  He now has three options - 1) pretend he didn't hear it; 2) issue what James Blake calls a "soft warning" (hey, don't say that again); or 3) give a code violation (1 game penalty).

Now, since the whole thing is being recorded and the sound amplified, it is hard to do #1, particularly when Serena has been in your face about it already and demanded that you apologize for trying to do your job.  If you do #2, you know what happens?  Serena says, "Yeah?  Well, you're a thief." and after the match she says "He baited me!  I was just minding my own business and he knew I was upset and he baited me!"  The chair umpire, eschewing these two worse options, did #3.

Now, the defenses of Serena are:

 (A) She was treated unfairly because she is a woman. McEnroe did basically the same thing in a 1990 Australian Open match that he was LEADING in, and he was straight out defaulted. 

Since Serena's opponent was, herself, a woman, it is a miracle that she somehow was able to abide by the conduct rules during such an unfair, anti-woman job of refereeing.  Yet, like Michael Scott, Somehow She Managed.

It really does a huge disservice to women to claim that when a ref doesn't officiate as you want that he is somehow anti-woman.  That sort of claim actually sets women back and separates them from men in a negative manner.  I saw Anthony Davis get ejected from an NBA game last year.  He deserved it.  I wanted to watch him play, but he was gone; straight tossed.  But he deserved it.  He felt he was getting a raw deal and he said too much. Why should Serena get a pass because she is a woman? 

(B)   She should have been treated differently because she was Serena.  Um, what do people CONSTANTLY bitch about with the NBA?  Star players getting star treatment.  Look, there is no evidence this umpire hated her.  She herself said she'd never had any issues with him.  So what the umpire was supposed to do (if we assume the coaching call was wrong) was spend the remainder of the match ignoring further violations?  Because she is Serena Williams?  I mean, wow.  Come on.

(C) Tennis has always rewarded bad behavior.  What I found most amusing about this defense is that it refers to incidents back in 1977-87 to state that this has always been the case in tennis.

As someone who was around back in 1977-87, I can assure you that there were multiple calls in the media and elsewhere to outright ban McEnroe for his tantrums.  Conners was given a little more leeway since people liked him more, but certainly no one in the media ever stood up and said, "Geez, that John McEnroe/Ilie Nastase, we really admire them!  Good for them for sticking up for themselves!"

(It should be noted here that McEnroe's dysfunction was really a terrible anger management problem.  It made no difference whether he was winning or losing, he was just a dick on the court.  If he were up 5-0, 30-love and the linesman missed a call, he'd lose his mind.  (See his default at Aussie 1990, where he was actually ahead).  Similarly, being hopelessly behind didn't calm him either.  McEnroe viewed a missed call as a personal affront, thus rendering the time or circumstances of the call irrelevant.  McEnroe lobbied endlessly for instant replay, way back in the late 70s early 80s. 

In any event, since McEnroe's last Grand Slam win in 1984, 34 years ago, who have been the non-Serena standard bearers for tennis?  Lendl was constantly carping about calls, but he never really did anything that caused a scene (he was once given a misconduct warning by an umpire who explained that "3 hours of constant bitching and moaning, even without profanity, adds up to a warning") Sampras (deadly boring, hardly spoke), Agassi (flashy and trash talking to his opponent, did some complaining but certainly not anywhere near McEnroe's class),  Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, Murray.  Absolutely none of these guys is known as someone who constantly confronts umpires.  Djokovic and Nadal can be a tad whiny when things don't go their way, but they push the envelope VERY little.  Federer, as a general rule, doesn't even like to challenge obvious missed calls.

On the women's side, Navratilova could be a little testy, but Evert was not, Graf was not, Seles was not,  Hingis was not, Clijsters was not, Henin was not.  So, again, we have to harken back 35 years to find someone who is a star tennis player who is a problem or who is "glorified" for abusive behavior.

This defense of Serena is apparently that Serena's behavior could have been a LOT worse.  OK, granted. Roberto Alomar once spit on an umpire and he is now in the Hall of Fame.  So what?  Serena reached the point where she should have known under any reasonable review of the situation that she should have kept quiet.  She did not.  When you reach that point as an athlete, you are playing with fire and you might get burned.  She got burned. 

If Serena really felt she had to call the umpire a "thief" to "stand up for what she believed in (which is a ridiculous position to take), then she should be ecstatic that she was sanctioned for it.  You really cannot have it both ways.  If I go into court as a lawyer and get so screwed over by a judge that I say, "Your honor, you are corrupt," then I better mean it and I better be willing to go to jail for contempt.  If, instead, I just don't like that I lost and I just am blowing off steam and saying something to make myself feel better, I then have............only myself to blame.