Monday, December 05, 2016

Barry White Sings Live -- 1974

The big fella. Love Unlimited Orchestra.

 I enjoy singing this at karaoke.

When I visited London, the street performers and I sang a little duet (quietly). RIP, big guy. HM

Thursday, December 01, 2016

What I Would Do to Help the Timberwolves (There May Be No Easy "Fix" Right Now)

Tom Thibodeau has a 5 year deal to run all basketball operations of the Timberwolves.  He is not going away.  So far he has been far less successful than Sam Mitchell.  That is a bad thing.  In a scarier vein, he has seemingly demoralized Karl-Anthony Towns.  In October, that would have seemed to be nearly impossible to do.  But he has managed.

Thibs' constant screaming and whining at every referee call is not conducive to leading a young team.  He has to learn to limit his bitching and whining to, say, 25% or less of all plays.

Some general thoughts on suggested changes other than that:

1) Karl-Anthony Towns is your #1 player.  He should be announced last at home.  It is a small thing, and a very petty thing, and KAT would never ask for or demand it.  But there is no way Andrew Wiggins should be announced last.  KAT is your best guy, he gets announced last.  Go through the Wolves' advanced stats and see if it makes any sense to say Andrew Wiggins is your star.  Answer - it does not.  Just accept that.

2) Your offense must be focused on KAT.  The Wolves once went 40-42 just absolutely force feeding the ball to Kevin Love.  You can do that with KAT, and KAT is a better passer, better dribbler, and much bigger than Love.  He is not quite the shooter Love was the year he was 2nd team all-NBA, but KAT is 21 years old. 

You can run the occasional stuff for LaVine.  And Wiggy has his moments where he is hot.  But KAT is your best player, recognize that and run stuff mostly for him.

3) You have to have some buy-in defensively.   I honest to god cannot tell what the Wolves are trying to do defensively.  This indicates to me that the Wolves players also do not know the answer.  Allowing Rodney Hood to get to his left hand?  Allowing Boris Diaw to spin to a right-hand hook?  George Hill dribble a full 180 degree plus wheel with his right hand and finish at the rim?  They don't put a body on anyone, and are regularly also outjumped for the ball on rebounds.

If things are so, so bleak, what you need is a sitdown with your club and just a statement of what you are trying to accomplish.  "Guys, today we keep Boris Diaw to zero made hook shots."  "Guys, if you see George Hill get more than 120 degrees dribbling to his right, go ahead and double team.  He isn't passing."   Hayward - make him drive.  Melo 0 same.  Hood - same. 

If your guys cannot even understand or execute these very basic defensive elements, then go to Plan B.  "Guys, what do YOU think you can execute defensively?  Would you like to press?  Trap?  Play some 1-2-2, some 1-3-1?  Is there anything we can run that you might enjoy?  Double all ball screens and rotate?  I mean, the Bucks double a ton and then cut off the next pass - it isn't a 100% faulty strategy necessarily. 

But you cannot send guys out for 48 minutes and leave the crowd saying "what in the hell are we doing?"  Even if your strategy is "wildly double the post and rotate" at least that is a strategy and it should at least take away post-ups.  To steal from Neal Page, Thibs' strategy in 2016 "is a miracle," it seemingly takes away absolutely nothing that the opponent wants to do.

4) Rid Yourself of Rubio and Play Some Combo of Dunn/Tyus  --  I was not a fan of drafting Kris Dunn, but I will tell you this -- Kris Dunn is a REALLY high end defender.  Now, he may be the worst person I have ever seen at trying to run an offense.  His penchant for dribbling to just inside the corner of the free throw line and picking up the ball is unnerving.  But if you played Kris Dunn 20 mpg he would be disruptive defensively and he would kickstart a little offense off deflections and steals and guard rebounding.  He isn't hopeless.

Tyus Jones is a great floor general, and his young teammates seemingly like him and want him to play.  Watch Tyus and KAT on the bench.  KAT talks to Tyus, even when Tyus isn't playing, and it is clearly about the game. 

Tyus will never be a plus defender.  But he is willing to try, and he wants to play and he wants to win.  He is not afraid.  Someone some day will play him 30 mpg and he will do very well in the NBA.

Rubio has become Tom Brookens.  Tom Brookens played 12 years for the Detroit Tigers, had an OPS+ of 83 (100 is average) and yet rolled up roughly 4,000 at bats for the Tigers as an above-average fielding STARTING 3rd baseman.   He was the best they had most years, so he always played.  He just wasn't very good.  Every year the Tigers would have a prospect to try to take his job, and he couldn't displace Brookens.  But Brookens was just not very good.  In fact, for hitting, he was very poor. 

(Notably, in 1984 Brookens was NOT the starter and was made a utility player -- the Tigers won the title.  The next year he returned to third base).

Anyway - my point?  Ricky may have the edge right now over Dunn and Tyus, but if Ricky is your PG, you ain't going anywhere.  And as long as he is around, he will probably be your PG, because he will look better than the young guys you have behind him.

You gotta rid yourself of Ricky.  You are 5-13, you aren't making the playoffs.  Just jettison him for whatever you can get.  Play the other two guys.  In fact, play Dunn and Tyus together some.  Dunn can take on the best guard and Tyus can handle the ball. 

The Spanish National Team still doesn't play Ricky much.  Is there any other coaching staff in the world who knows more about Ricky?  Sorry, Ricky, my daughter loves you, but you gotta go.  Play all of the young guys, let them sink or swim together.

5) Establish Some Sort of Team Identity -- Hey, guys, we are going to go play Minnesota tonight, so be aware that they will _________________.  Our identity when I assistant coached boys was that we would run great set offense and we would run multiple defenses.  Drove opponents crazy.  We weren't athletic or big, and everyone knew it, but you didn't like playing us, and opposing fans LOVED watching us.  (In a state tourney, I had a 6'5" fan from the inner city approach me on the bench and say "are you an assistant coach of this team?"  Sure.  "Let me shake your hand - that is how basketball should be played."  We knew what we were and we played that way.  In 8th grade we were #4 in the state. 

When I coached girls we would press full court then press half court and try to beat you up. We were more athletic than my boys had been.   The word was that we were hard to play against because we fouled all of the time.  We were 6th in the state in 8th grade.

Anyway - the point - you need to "be" something.  If your team has no identity, 97% of the time you will suck.  What are the Wolves?  Well, hey have good young players.  So....Do they run?  No.  Do they press?  No.  Force turnovers?  No.  Do they play fast?  No.

OK - they have a highly skilled big man, SOOOOO....Do they play slow and use the shot clock?  Go post up every play?  Nope.  Play physical defense?  No.  Outrebound you?  No.  Outwork you?  Certainly not. 

If you go across their Team Stats line, the Wolves are not noticeably better or worse than their opponents through 18 games at any significant stat.  I don't view that as a plus.  A team that is a poor shooting team and a great defensive team can win games because it always plays D.  A team that shoots a ton of free throws might win a bunch of games it shouldn't.  A team with great 3 point shooting might not rebound much at all.  But all of these teams have a strength to fall back upon.

A team with no discernible strength has nothing to fall back upon, which is one reason the Wolves are chokers.  When things are going poorly, they cannot say "toss it to _____ he'll draw a foul" or "sure we haven't scored in 4 minutes, but they won't score either."  Or "let's run our pet play for KG where he posts on the left block and distributes."

Anyway - I could go on and on and on.  But those are your basic building blocks.  Start with those, and maybe by the time you are 10-30 overall, you will have a team that can go 21-21 the rest of the way?


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Trump Supporter

This woman had as many votes in the election as I did.

I think for the next 4-8 years you are going to see racists such as this who feel bad about their shitty lives telling store clerks/servers with whom they are displeased (shocker, maybe a store clerk at a Michael's isn't doing such an awesome job) that the racist feels discriminated against because of "my political views."

Ladies and Gentlemen -- NBA Champion J.R. Smith

When the Cavs celebrate the 20th anniversary of their NBA title in 2036 (or late 2035, however they do those things) someone will interview the 51 year old LeBron James and the conversation will go like this:

Q - So the 2016 Cavs - great team.  Who started for you then?

A - Well, me, Kyrie, Love, Tristan Thompson was our 6'8" center.  And JR of course.

Q -- JR, Reid?

A -- No, JR Smith.  Shooting guard.  Starting off guard.

Q - Wait the guy who played for Denver and the Knicks?  He was on that team?  How much did he play?  Didn't he split time with Delly and Shump?

A - No.  JR was the starting off guard.  Against the Warriors in the Finals he played 261 minutes - 3rd most behind me and Kyrie.

Q -- So, you beat a team that had won 72 games with JR Smith playing that many minutes?  What were his Finals numbers? 

A. Well, he went 10/3/2, rounding up.

Q -- Well, at least you had Kevin Love, right?

A -- Kevin played 158 minutes and went 9/7.  Rounding up again.

Q -- (blank look) So, LeBron you are the clearly the best player of all-time. 

A - Certainly top 4.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thanksgiving Memories

When I was growing up, sometimes we would go to my dad's mom's house and have a huge meal.  My dad grew up in a tiny farm house in central NY state and it always sort of gave you the feeling that you were in the movie "Oliver" except my grandma had a ton of food.  We had as many as 35 people in a 1,500 square foot house, so we made friends with our cousins, or really struggled.  I remember one Friday after Thanksgiving I fell asleep at 6PM Friday and woke up at 10 AM Saturday - still my record for continuous sleep absent surgery.

Once or twice we'd go to my mom's mom's house and my aunt would bring dinner.  She was a caterer and so she made food for 100 people when we only had 15 there.  It was great food and she was a great cook, so I would have 4-5-6 servings and people would still be begging me to eat more "or it will go to waste."  I really believe that had it been a thing in 1980-88 that I could have been a competitive eater.  I am sure that there were days I had 20,000 calories plus.

But the best Thanksgivings were when we stayed home.  My mom would get up about 4AM and put in her turkey and start making stuff.  She always bitched (which wasn't a Thanksgiving-only event) but you could tell she really loved to make a great meal.  My mom - also a very good cook, though for some reason she enjoyed making a terrible vegetable stew once every 10 days.  That was a really bleak day.

The VERY best thing about my mom's cooking was that she would make dinner rolls from scratch.  She would make 64+ rolls because she knew I could eat at least 12 (I will concede that some days it may have been 24).  She'd make dinner rolls that were 3 inches high and light as a feather.  Then she'd take a stick of butter and rub the stick across the browned top.  Then we'd eat them with more butter inside.

I always loved Thanksgiving.

When I tell people today that I eat roughly 40% of what I would like to eat and roughly 15% of what I used to eat as a kid, no one believes me.  But man could I ever eat and man did I love Thanksgiving.  Now, I had a stent put in to open a 95% clogged artery at age 45, so you probably should not do as I did.  But it was fun while it lasted.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.  It can be a tough time for those who do not have family near, and sometimes a far tougher time for those who do!  But try to make it a great day and either remember the great times growing up, or if you had few or none, try to make some great memories tomorrow.


The 7 Greatest Playoff Performances By WS/48 (Minimum 500 Minutes)

3 of the 7 seasons with greater than 500 MP and over .29 WS/48 resulted in no title:

1) 1964 - Wilt drags a terrible San Fran team to the finals, loses in 5 to the Celtics despite a playoff average of 35 points and 25 rebounds a game.

2)  1974 -- Kareem loses in 7 in the Finals to the Celtics despite a playoff average of 32 points and 16 rebounds a game.

3)    2009 -- LeBron, playing at a ridiculous level, puts up .399 WS/48 and yet his team cannot even reach the Finals, losing to Orlando despite LeBron's overall stats of 35 points and 9 rebounds a game.

of the 4 winners (Jordan twice, Connie Hawkins and Dr. J)

-- Jordan's 1991 season (at age 27) is the modern day gold standard at 31 points and 6 rebounds a game while going WS/48 of .333

-- Dr. J's 34 points and 12 rebounds a game in the ABA's 1976 season demonstrate why he was such a God.

-- Connie Hawkins at 30 points and 12 rebounds a game led the Pittsburgh Pipers to the 1968 ABA title.

-- Jordan AGAIN in 1996 put up 31-5 and over .300 WS/48.  Jordan easily serves as the oldest guy on the list as we have

LeBron 24
Hawkins and Dr. J 25
Kareem 26
Wilt and Michael 1991 at age 27
Jordan 1996 -- age 32.

Over 950 Minutes in a Playoff Season

Interesting note -- of the 29 guys to log 950+ MP, only 11 played on teams who won the NBA title.  18 were losers. 

Richard Hamilton played 1079 playoff minutes in 2004-05 and yet couldn't log even TWO playoff Win Shares!!!  Other just super shitty (but durable) efforts - Jalen Rose 2000; Dan Majerle 1993.  Dennis Johnson 1987.

The 5 Best Big-Minute Playoff performances?

#5 -- Larry Bird 1984 -- won the title, 4.7 WS, .236 WS/48

#4 -- Dwyane Wade 2006 -- won the title, 4.8 WS, .240 WS/48

#3 -- LeBron James 2013 -- won the title, 5.2 WS, .260 WS/48

#2 -- Tim Duncan 2003 -- won the title, 5.9 WS (the all-time playoff record), .279 WS/48

#1 -- LeBron James -- 2012, won the title, 5.8 WS, .284 WS/48. 

Sadly, Dirk Nowitzki, who had Dwyane Wade on the ropes in 2006 in the Finals before "Letting him off the hook!" (RIP Denny Green), had a tremendous playoff season (5.4 WS, .263 WS/48) end in failure, or he would have displaced Bird from the list.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Baltimore Teacher

Are you not supposed to do/say this? 

She now awaits her future position in the Trump Administration.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Phil Jackson and LeBron James

I don't really care about the "posse" comment (though it is clearly a slam on LeBron).  The more interesting thing is that Phil Jackson seems to have a real problem with LeBron.  He was a bad guy in 2004, a bad guy in 2014, a bad guy in 2016.  Just an overall bad guy.  Doesn't take things seriously, requires special treatment, etc.

If I have LeBron James as a player and he asks to stay in Cleveland overnight to hang out with his mom, I say, "Fine, go ahead.  We need you in _________ by ________ o'clock tomorrow."  Is this really a great concern?  This isn't Iverson showing up at practice with "flu-like symptoms."  The guy is 29 years old and has led your team to two titles and he wants to spend a night at his mom's house.  News flash, Phil -- regular business people do this (plan trip to a town and stay an extra day to see their families).  Oooh, "special treatment!"

The complaint about LeBron traveling all of the time.  My lord, Phil.  Tiny Archibald traveled every time he got the ball.  Patrick Ewing never ever established a pivot foot.  Every single right-handed basketball player in the NBA who catches the ball with his right foot stationary immediately switches pivot feet without dribbling.  That is how it is.  Do you know how we determine the best guys in a world where they don't get calls?  When they play international ball and the refs do not give them any leeway, who are the best guys?  LeBron is always still the best guy.    As was Jordan, as was Barkley, as was David Robinson, as was Duncan, as was Garnett.

Perhaps the biggest problem that Phil has with LeBron is that LeBron reminds us that it is the PLAYERS and not the coaches who win titles.  LeBron has won 2 titles with Eric Spoelstra and one with Tyron Lue.  He has brought teams to the Finals coached by Mike Brown and David Blatt.  So perhaps what bothers Phil the most is that he doesn't like to know that guys like Brown/Blatt/Lue/Spoelstra  can ride great talent to a title appearance.  That tends to disprove the whole myth of Zen and that you need a super coach to win.  You don't.  What you need is a top 10 great player.   All of a sudden Phil's 11 rings ring a little hollow. 

Maybe that is it? 

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trump Post-Election Option Appears to Be to Just Be an Establishment Republican.....and Worse.

Trump has an opportunity to act in a reasonable manner.  He has some policy concepts (I am not sure if he is actually serious about them) that are not awful.  Improve roads and bridges.  Try to punish corporations for moving American jobs overseas.  He sometimes (25% maybe) implies that the American worker is not making a lot of money and should make more.   He hasn't been vehemently anti-gay, so maybe he could let that whole set of social issues go. He could, if he wanted, actually be an OK President.

Then you see this.

So with a guy who lost the popular vote and who did not come close to 50% of the vote, the GOP just simply wants to gut everything done in the past 75 years to help people, and provide a $7T tax cut to millionaires and billionaires.  (No tax cut for Trump - he doesn't pay taxes, as we know).

Trump has indicated he would like to appoint as the head of the EPA someone who does not believe in climate change.  98%+ of scientists believe in climate change.  It is 65 degree in November in Minneapolis now.....regularly.  How do you even find some hack who will deny climate change?

My best hope for Trump is that he will find a way to actually try to be a "third way" between the two major parties.  If he is just going to be a whore for the establishment Republican Party, we would be better off with him resigning and allowing Pence to run the country into the ground and form a theocracy.  At least then we would not have people out committing hate crimes in the name of the President.

Speaking of theocracy, I am already so tired of the Republican talking point that non-Trump voters should not be concerned and should shut up and put their faith in God and his love.  It is so appalling to me that a campaign for President based so heavily on hate and division and bullying now says "well, guess I won, God will protect you -- just pray a lot."  WTF?  I mean, I recognize that people who follow religion are pretty gullible, but "pray and love - while we take away all of your rights and turn the clock back to 1951" cannot seriously be a talking point, can it?  People actually buy that shit?

Kids in Minnesota who are Trump supporters are writing "Fuck Niggers" and "white America" on bathroom stalls, followed by "Trump."  Kids at schools with Hispanic students are chanting "build that wall" to Hispanic students.  What can you tell these kids?  "Don't do that!"?  Um, that is what the President-elect said for 15 months!  He is endorsed by the KKK's newspaper.  Kid's reply -- Don't tell me what I can say, the American people support this behavior! 

Trump could (as he has many times) switch his position and let everyone know it was all just schtick.  It does not appear that he intends to do so.  So if you are poor or Hispanic or Muslim or fat or a woman whom he wants to OK for sexual assault - fuck you.  Not your country anymore.  There are some white folks in the South and Midwest who got all C's and D's in school and they decided who runs the country now.  Enjoy 4 years of hell.