Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tough Stretch for Minnesota Sports Fans -- Torii Hunter, Flip Saunders and Jerry Kill Say Goodbye

Torii Hunter and Flip Saunders are related in my mind because they took moribund franchises who had sucked for the better part of 10 years and turned them around into consistent playoff teams.  Jerry Kill was attempting to do the same thing at the University of Minnesota, and I guess the next 20 Gopher games will tell us whether he succeeded in doing so, or simply just couldn't quite get over the hump.

I will take the three guys in the reverse order of my fondness for them:

3.  Flip Saunders -- Philip Daniel Saunders was (I am told, I was 9 and living in western NY) an excellent point guard at the University of Minnesota.  He became a coach and was a successful coach on every level (college, CBA, NBA).  He was particularly good at offensive basketball.  The Wolves during Flip's first run were able to run sets that simply baffled opponents and resulted in good shots virtually every time down the floor.

Flip is regarded as a great guy by those who knew him well.  Oddly, despite the fact that I have been a Timberwolves season ticket holder for 26 years, I never met or talked to Flip.  Never once.  I saw him speak.  I know people who know him.  But I never shook his hand or had a conversation with him.  Even in my times around him or in listening to him speak to the media, his charm as an individual never really shined through to me.

As a coach, Flip was a huge upgrade from what we had with the Timberwolves (Jimmy Rodgers, Sidney Lowe, Bill Blair) but I cannot help but wonder why Kevin Garnett could go to Boston at roughly 75% of his Wolves Ability and win a title immediately and (but for injury) would have won two in a row.  Flip had Garnett at a point in time where he was a top 4 NBA player (Shaq, Duncan, Kobe, Garnett were the best 4) and certainly the most versatile player in the NBA.  However, KG in Minnesota won only 2 playoff series (both in 2003-04).  You can blame the organization or you can blame Flip, but I think there is enough blame to go around.

Flip in Detroit had great veteran teams -- never won anything.  In Washington, the Wiz actually got BETTER when they fired Flip and went to Randy Wittman.  Yikes.  I never felt Flip's teams were very tough - physically or mentally.

Anyway, you may wonder why there was not an immediate Flip tribute on the Blog.  I have always had really mixed feelings about Flip.  And I never was able to experience the greatness of his personality that everyone else described.  But it is safe to say that many, many people loved him and he reached a high level of success in everything he ever did.  So he will be greatly missed by Minnesota sports fans.

2.  Torii Hunter -- what I am most upset by regarding Torii's retirement is the number of people saying we should not honor Torii because he is anti-gay rights and make other comments that stated he was uncomfortable around gay people.  Look, he was a black kid who grew up in Arkansas and then spent his later formative years around professional baseball players.  Do you think with that upbringing and history that he will be a liberal?  I hate to tell everyone, but for people who are 40+ years old and from the South, being against gay marriage and generally anti-gay does not make you an outlier.

Here is what I do know about Torii Hunter - 1) he was a terrible hitter who made himself a very good hitter who amassed almost 2,500 hits along with decent power; 2) he was a multiple Gold Glove winner; 3) he was good in the clubhouse and cared for younger players; 4) he wasn't constantly in the training room or on the disabled list, his ass was available to play; 5) his teams generally won more than they lost; and 6) he cared a LOT about the Twins and the State of Minnesota and worked his ass off to promote the team and the state.

Democrats (and I am one) who promote "diversity" and "tolerance" are willing to go on Twitter and say that a man who reached the top 5-10% of his chosen field should not be honored AT ALL upon his retirement because he doesn't believe gay people should be married and has made anti-gay statements. That sucks.  I am glad that everyone is so perfect and has never said or done anything that would call into question their own character.  I have a number of Republican friends who believe stuff that I deem to be ridiculous.  They are still my friends because I recognize good things in them that I feel make them, on the whole, a good person.  We all have flaws.  But as Del Griffith once said, "It must be nice to be so perfect AND odor-free."

Again, I never met Torii, but his personality did come across to me as someone who cared a great deal for people (OK, at least most people) and his profession and who worked hard and wanted to win.  I will miss Torii.

1) Jerry Kill -- when I heard that Jerry Kill retired, I cried.  The primary reason for that is my daughter has epilepsy, and I had always held Jerry Kill up to her as an example of someone who could be a public figure and an important person and do his very difficult job despite epilepsy.  But the epilepsy and the job just could not co-exist.

A major side effect of epilepsy medication is drowsiness. My daughter struggles to make it through a day without 10 hours of sleep.  If you don't want to be drowsy all of the time, you can take less medication.  Of course, taking less medication puts you at risk of seizures.  How do you know the level of medication you can take and not have a seizure?  "Trial and Error." Great.  Imagine walking a tight rope and being told you can use a shorter balance pole.  OK, great, how much shorter?  Eh, get up there and we will see.

Now imagine that you have a job where working 12-18 hours a day is not unusual.  But you need 10 hours of sleep to feel good.  So you go to your doctor - "Well, you could take 20% less medication."  And then I will feel better?  Maybe, but you also may have a seizure.  And if you have a seizure, for example, while driving, you could die and/or kill someone else.  If you have a seizure at home while lying in bed with a doctor and a nurse there to monitor you, you will be OK, but you are not supposed to drive until you are 6 months seizure free.    OK, great. 

Kill has basically stated that when his team started to struggle in 2015 that he cut back on his exercise, dropped his dosage of medication, and began to work ridiculous hours.  People reported seeing him leaving the facility at 2AM and returning at 6AM.  He started to have seizures.  He was basically killing himself.

Listening to Jerry Kill's press conference, even setting to one side my personal experience with my daughter's epilepsy, my heart was breaking.  Imagine a man who came from little or nothing, chose a career in which he started out making little or nothing, excelled at that career for 30 years despite suffering from cancer and epilepsy....and then what he knows is all taken away at age 54.  He literally has never held any other job.  Truly sad.

The positive note with Jerry Kill is that he is still alive.  And he can be productive working (most likely) in a 9-5 job where he raises funds for the University.  He can find a way to get sleep and exercise and see his family.  He has the same opportunity you used to see portrayed in old films like "Baby Boom" and "Regarding Henry."   He has the opportunity to change his life and find a way forward that is far different from what he imagined, but. perhaps, far better in certain ways.

I am rooting for Jerry Kill. but I will miss him as a symbol for Minnesota and, more importantly, for my daughter.

Tough week.

Ben Carson -- For a Company Who He Had No Idea Was Using His Image

Look, the answer is "Yeah, I thought they were a good company. I enjoyed their products. I had no idea what was going on with them deceiving the public." Don't lie and say, "If they used my image on their Web site I had no idea!"

Monday, October 19, 2015

Stretching Is Important

I may have to buy the Michelle Jenneke stretch video.

Demi Lovato and Some Thoughts on Growing Older

Saturday night, I saw Demi Lovato absolutely slay her song "Stone Cold" on SNL.  If you want to see someone truly perform a song, watch this:

The next morning I saw a Dilbert cartoon on the drawback of "Experience" --
Interesting that I would see these two things back to back. I saw it said once that brilliance fades as we grow older. That the people who are the true innovators and creators are all under 30 years old. I think, perhaps, that people over 30, or 40, or 50, are all equally capable of creativity and genius, but they have just have too much experience to try to create. If you have seen something fail ten times, you probably don't want to try it for the 11th time. Which brings us back to young Miss Lovato -- what the video I have attached does not show is that after another 5-10 seconds the camera came back to her and showed her still, eyes closed, head on the microphone. Completely drained by her performance. There is something about being 23 years old that allows you to just give it everything you have and really not give a damn about what just happened. People who are 40 or 50 appear, well, insane, if they provide such a performance. But without a willingness to throw yourself into a wall with the hope that it might possibly break, the wall will always be there. You will never actually do the impossible or reach the number of people or entertain to the level that you could if you just looked, well, insane. Just some thoughts.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Early Goodbye to Lamar Odom

What I read tells me that Lamar Odom will not survive, and if by some miracle he happens to survive he will never be close to the same person again.  So, an early goodbye and tribute to Lamar Odom.

Lamar Odom was a great high school player who went to Rhode Island and was very good, but really never was the player there that most expected.  He then was drafted #4 overall in the NBA and, well, again, wasn't quite the star player that everyone expected him to be.  That said, the primary deficiency in Odom's game was that he was never a 20+ ppg scorer.  He was an excellent all-around player and he has a lifetime Defensive Rating of 104, which is excellent.

Lamar Odom had 8 seasons were he accounted for at least 3.0 Defensive WS, tied for 20th best all-time among non-centers.  In addition, his 41 career DWS ranks him 36th among non-centers.

In the 6 seasons 2005-06 through 2010-11, Odom rolled up roughly 48 of his career 77 Win Shares.  It is believed by most in today's game that 7.0 WS in a season is a border line all-star level of play.  Odom averaged 8 over his 6 best years.  Remarkably, however, he never played in an all-star game.  His only NBA award, other than 6th Man of the Year, was being all-rookie 1st team, 

Lamar was a very key cog in the Lakers teams who went to the finals 3 times and won twice during that period.   As stated above, he won 6th Man of the Year in 2010-11.

Odom was a perfect player to play with Kobe and Pau Gasol - he didn't need, or necessarily even want, to be a star.  His skills were sharpest as a passer, ball handler and defender.  In fact, if you review Odom's versatility by looking for seasons of 14-7-3 and 3 DWS, you see that Odom had 5 such seasons, the same as Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippen.    In the 3 Laker title appearance seasons, Odom contributed 6.4 playoff WS, which, if you follow this blog, you know is rare for a supporting player.  (Any team would be very happy to have its 3rd best guy getting 2+ WS over a playoff season.)

Once his nearly $9,000,000 contract was unloaded to Dallas for a #1 pick, Odom's career and life fell apart.  Fans of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" heard all sorts of reports of Odom's drug taking and late night partying.  I have no idea what Lamar did or what caused it, but from a distance it almost appeared as if his heart was broken.  He was a key cog on a world championship team and once they stopped being world champions (being swept by Dallas in 2011) the Lakers dumped Lamar.  Again, this is pure speculation, but I think the decision by the Lakers to abandon him resulted in a downward spiral from which he never recovered.

Similar players from a statistical standpoint include Larry Johnson and Chris Webber and Terry Cummings.  So Lamar Odom was a very, very good player, a cog on two title teams, and most people seemed to think he was a good guy, before his trade to Dallas and ultimate downfall.

 Goodbye, Lamar. 

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Ten Least Productive Players 2010-11 to 2014-15 Seasons (Min. 8000 MP)

These are guys who have actually played a lot the past 5 years combined (minimum 8000 minutes) and have contributed the least (based upon being bottom 10 in WS, poor WS/48 and PER).

I give 10 points for being the worst in a category (WS. PER, WS/48) down to 1 point for being the 10th worst.

Here goes:

10th worst -- Vasquez (8 points)

9th Worst -- O.J. Mayo (10 points, wins tiebreaker due to more WS than....)

8th Worst -- Luke Ridnour (10)

7th worst Kirk Hinrich (15)

6th worst -- Al-Farooq Aminu (15, fewer WS than Hinrich, but more WS than....)

5th Worst -- Mo Williams (15 points, loses the tiebreaker due to fewer WS than the guys in 7th and 6th)

4th worst -- Brandon Knight (16 points)

3rd Worst -- Evan Turner (22 points)

2nd Worst -- John Salmons (25 points)

And, the least productive guy to play 8,000 minutes or more the past 5 years.....

#1 -- Wes Johnson (28 points, the fewest WS, the worst WS/48, and the 3rd worst PER of the group).


10 Statistically Best NBA Players 2000-01 to 2009-10 seasons

Cut off the list at top 10 Win Share performers so long as they did at least 15 PER and .15 WS/48.

Your answer:

10th best -- Ray Allen (5.5 points)

9 - Shawn Marion (7.5)

8 - Paul Pierce (9)

7 - Steve Nash (13)

6th best -- Chauncey Billups (13, beats Nash on total Win Shares)

5 -- Kobe (18)

4 -- KG (23)

3 -- LeBron James (24)

2 -- Tim Duncan (26, 2nd in WS, 3rd in WS/48, 2nd in PER)

1st -- Dirk Nowitzki (27 points, 1st in WS, 1st in WS/48, 4th in PER).

What we learned -- there are some REALLY good players 6-10, but they don't match up at all to the top 5. 

Also, Kobe does not match up to the top 4 guys statistically during this period.

Dirk has had an amazing career.

10 Statistically Best NBA Players of the 2010s

I sorted the stats so that exactly the top 10 Win Shares guys appear if they have a PER of at least 15 (league average) and a WS/48 of over .15 (a very good player on a per minute basis).

I wonder why Dwight Howard is not spit out as a result, but I can look that up. 

Then I gave one point for a 10th place finish in a category, up to 10 points for winning each category (WS, PER, WS/48).

Ten Best Guys
#10th best guy -- Marc Gasol (4 points)

#9 - Tyson Chandler (8.5 points)

#8 - Russell Westbrook (12.5 points, loses tie on total WS to....)

#7 Blake Griffin (12.5 points, wins tie over Russ)

#6 Stephon Curry (14 points)

#5 Kevin Love (15.5 points)

#4 James Harden (18 points)

#3 Kevin Durant (25 points)

#2 Chris Paul (26.5 points)

#1 LeBron James (29.5 points)

OKC had the ##3, 4, and 8 guys on the same team!

What Can We Reasonably Expect From a 19 Year Old Tyus Jones? History Says Not Much.

I am not sure why I am getting so few results, but of smaller rookie guards in their teens, the Basketball reference search engine spits out only 6 guys:

3.7 Win Shares by Stephon Marbury is BY FAR the best output of a rookie 19 year old guard under 6'3" tall.  Dajuan Wagner and (I had forgotten him) Eric Money registered positive Win Shares as 19 year olds, but just barely.

I suppose I should expand the search to 20 year olds - maybe guys graduate high school closer to 19?  So, we do that and............  Yep, that is the ticket.  Guys generally are 20 years old in their first NBA season.  Tyus will not be 20 until May 10, so he will play the entire season at age 19.

The five best young small point guards 20 and under have been Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Brandon Jennings, Stephon Marbury, and Gilbert Arenas.  Three of the five have been all-NBA in their career. 

For Tyus - assuming that he is not Chris Paul (interesting note - the lovers of Tyus always compare him to Chris Paul) -- what is a fair expectation?  Maybe the 20th best season of all-time, so, 0.4 Win Shares?   That is pretty awful for a team that is trying to win games.  So as a Wolves fan I hope Tyus is top 10, but that would mean he would have a better rookie campaign than Russell Westbrook.  Hardly a "reasonable expectation." 

Best wishes to Tyus, but history teaches us that a 19 year old small PG contributing a fair level of wins has not been done since Stephon Marbury -- maybe it is time to make it a Timberwolves tradition? 

Jeb Bush -- My Brother Was a Liberal

Jeb (oh, I am sorry, he wants to be referred to as "Jeb!" complete with exclamation point) is trying  desperately to locate himself on the scale somewhere near the "severely conservative" Mitt Romney (whom everyone knew was just a flimflam man trying to get elected -- witness his 1st and 3rd debate with Obama where he basically espoused Democratic Party policies and often would just say "I agree with the President.") 

But the bigger concern that I have with this story is the statement that a recent poll found that 73% of people who identify as conservative have a favorable view of George W. Bush!!!

 In my lifetime, George W. Bush is the worst President, probably 10% worse than Jimmy Carter, who was second worst by a mile.  GWB did almost nothing well and almost everything extremely poorly.  Keeping us safe?  More dead of terrorism in the U.S. than any President.

Foreign policy?  Spent a trillion dollars on unnecessary Iraq War despite warnings that the war would destabilize the region (which it did).

Economics - led us into a stock market collapse and almost a second Great Depression.  This is true even though he took a balanced budget from Clinton and immediately ballooned it by huge tax cuts coupled with spending on programs like the military, wars and Medicare Part D, 

Foreign relations - everyone hated us.

Rule of Law -- no respect for the rule of law, set up torture sites, tortured, set up Guantanamo Bay detention area.

The guy was the absolute worst President of at least the past 70 years, and probably back to Harding (1920).  Clearly among the 10 worst Presidents in U.S. history, and battling hard for the bottom 5.  (I would imagine that guys like Zachary Taylor, Pierce, Buchanan, Harding, were worse, but I don't think you could locate 6 other guys who even are arguable worse.  Maybe Coolidge, maybe Hoover, maybe Andrew Johnson.  But I would not put those guys below GWB - I think he is probably 5th worst.

But honest to God, if conservative Republicans are so stupid that they cannot concede that GWB was a terrible President (and only 27% of them appear to have seriously qualms about him) then where does that leave us as a country?  We have basically reached a point where people live in their own private reality as defined by whether they watch Fox News or not. 

As a Democrat, I recognize that Jimmy Carter was an awful President (great guy, smart guy, has done very well later in life, but an awful President).  I also recognize that Reagan was a good President and Nixon, while a criminal, did a good job in most of his Presidential duties.  It really , really bothers me that 73% of conservatives feel GWB was a good President.  It is as if 73% of Vikings fans felt Spergon Wynn was a good quarterback or if 73% of Bears fans felt having Jimmy Clausen as a backup was good insurance in case Cutler got injured.  I mean, that would be a form of mental illness. 

But anyway -- I am glad that Jeb! Bush is now able to identify that his brother sucked.  Sadly, it appears that he is fighting uphill against a GOP primary voter who saw absolutely nothing wrong with GWB's performance and who will probably be a little hurt that Jeb! is going after him.