Friday, April 29, 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Whose Butt? Florida Edition

Clue -- This Florida native is known 99.99999% for being super hot and wearing few clothes.  Nothing else, almost literally.  But boy is she ridiculously hot, like the burgers she enjoys on TV.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Two Reasons to Vote for Bernie Sanders

@emrata is a huge Bernie Sanders supporter and she takes pictures that look like this.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Good-Bye Sam Mitchell -- Thanks for Trying (No, I mean it)....

When I awoke this morning, I learned that Sam Mitchell was fired by the Timberwolves.  There have been several Timberwolves coaches where their firing has resulted in me literally dancing in place the second I heard the news.  I have repeatedly called for Sam's firing, yet I did not do my Lowe/Rodgers/Blair/Wittman/Rambis jig when I heard the news.  This felt very odd, almost as if I had a soul or something.  But I have had some time to digest the firing (which I am still in favor of) and the reason for my ambivalence, and I will attempt to explain it here. 

As I have stated a number of times this year, it is rough being a Wolves fan.


Sam isn't a particularly good coach, and as I stated on December 8, 2015 (see last link above), the problems that the Timberwolves had were many and needed immediate correction in early December.
The Wolves needed to find 5-7 guys to rely upon and play that rotation a lot, play Tyus Jones as the backup PG, move LaVine to shooting guard (where he likes to play), jettison Kevin Martin, stop playing Andre Miller and Tayshaun Prince, and do basic NBA things like making offense-defense substitutions late in games.  Wiggins was regressing, so he needed to be told how to improve.

The Wolves were 8-12.  They fell quickly to 22 games under .500 (14-36) by going 6-24 over their next 30. They ended the season 29-53, so it was those 30 games where it all went wrong.  What happened in December and January?  Well, KAT played about 30 mpg.  Why?  Who knows.  Why would you play your best player 30 mpg?  The rest of the year KAT played roughly 36 mpg, and the Wolves went 15-17. 
So....settle on a rotation.  Use your best players.  Pretty simple stuff.

Tyus Jones through Jan. 31 had played 98 minutes.  And Andre Miller was starting to play some PG minutes in early February.  Tyus then started to play more in late February and March, ending the season as the backup PG.  Zach LaVine as a starter (off guard) had a Net Rating of negative 8.  As a bench player (PG) - negative 14.  As an off guard his scoring went up and his assists stayed roughly the same.  During the Wolves' darkest days, LaVine's terrible PG play really hurt them, as is reflected in his advanaced stats during that period.

Ricky Rubio, who never liked the fact that Sam liked to play LaVine 20+ minutes at PG, thrived when Miller and then Tyus became the backup, having his best months in February and March.

Andrew Wiggins, once informed that he actually needed to try to be involved in most possessions every game and attempt some jumpers and pass when tripled on drives to the hoop, played his best in March.

So, all of the things I begged for in early December of 2015 started to change around in February and March of 2016, but not until a 6-24 stretch that ruined the season.  If I can notice glaring weaknesses/issues with an NBA club, and see what needs fixing, why does it take SO long for an NBA coach to get it fixed?  It is really baffling.

An above average coach does things where a fan doesn't quite understand why they are doing them, but they seem to work.  Rick Adelman ran the exact same out of bounds play under his scoring basket 90% of the time - worked for a basket 40% of the time, got the ball in 100% of the time.  A guy like Brad Steven just baffles you with the mystery of why his team believes they are good and then goes out and beats teams with far superior talent.  Same with Pop - when the Spurs play only bench players 6-12, they still often win against good teams.

I am not asking that the Wolves hire the #1 overall coach ever to stalk the sidelines, but I would like it if I did not have to watch every single game and see the opposing PG stroll into the lane off the pick and roll for a layup or a pass for a dunk.  There ARE other ways to play the pick and roll rather than yelling at Rubio "Come on Ricky, get through there!"  Sam's team would get absolutely pounded to death with the same play, and we would still defend it the exact same way (poorly). 

Sam could be petty and condescending to the press and the fans, and I didn't appreciate his idea that the Wolves played better on the road because the home fans sucked.  He also had an odd habit of blaming his young players for poor play when, in fact, those young guys were having the best games.

So, do I think Sam should be fired - yes.  Do I hate the guy - no.  Why?

He tried.

I mean, it maybe took him 2-3 months to see the problems I was seeing and try to fix them, but at least he kept trying.  He didn't insist, in most instances, that what he was doing was 100% correct.  Eventually:  He played Towns more.  He moved LaVine (eventually) to off guard and convinced him that dribbling was a tool to be used when necessary and not a drug to make your brain think you are Kobe or Iverson.  He got Wiggy to show a LITTLE more interest in the off the ball game, and some desire to pass the ball.   He got rid of the old guys.  He started to do offense/defense substitutions late in games (albeit some odd ones at times - taking out KAT for defense?).  He stopped playing Prince 35 minutes and played him 10 mpg as a novelty defender/defender of last resort.  All of that resulted in Sam's club getting better.  He was trying.  He also stood up for his club at appropriate times.  Rambis NEVER stood up for his players with the refs.  Wittman's tirades at the refs appeared to work off a random number generator program -- "OK, today, 7th call of the game, get really mad.  12th call, pretend you don't care."

Sam was interested in the game and appeared to grasp (albeit belatedly) the general concepts of the game that needed improvement from his team.  He worked to make the young guys better.  He tried to learn something about his players and his players SOMETIMES played hard for him.  (The Wolves never played hard for Rambis).  His guys weren't crying out for him to be fired. 

So, good-bye Sam Mitchell.  I won't really miss you that much, but I will appreciate that you tried hard and helped the young guys make progress.  For that, I thank you for your service.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Sam Hinkie's 13-page resignation letter - My thoughts

A few thoughts:

1) My dad liked to heat our farmhouse with a wood burning stove, so once every couple of years we would go to our 50 acres of woods and cut down trees (using a chainsaw, not an axe).  We would then cut the wood into 24 inch sections and put it all in an enormous pile by the barn.  By the summer of 1984, the pile was 14 feet high by 20 feet wide.  It was enormous.  I didn't have a real job in the summer of 1984, so my job was to keep the house for my mom (who worked) and split wood (and do other farm work) for my dad (who worked at the school as his real job).  He expected me to split wood every day.  So that summer I would split wood using a mall and wedges and also using an axe.  Some days one hour, some days up to three hours.  So, there are probably not many people who know more about using an axe than I do.

Hinkie makes this statement -- "Abraham Lincoln said, 'Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe."

Now, as someone who has swung an axe for 1-3 hours a day, the idea that I would spend 6 hours chopping down a tree struck me as shocking.  I know that people back in Lincoln's day were frigging tough, but swinging an axe for six hours to cut down one tree would ruin you physically and mentally.  (Most people pre-chainsaw used a crosscut saw to cut down trees, not an axe, but anyway...).  Since there were no Sequoia trees in Illinois or Kentucky (to my knowledge) I cannot imagine anyone ever taking 6 hours to cut down a tree.  You can chop down a 12 inch diameter tree in under 30 minutes.  And if my father gave me 6 hours to chop down a tree and I told him "I will sit on my ass and sharpen my axe for 4 hours first" he would kill me.

Plus, it takes like 10 minutes or less to sharpen an axe.  If you sharpened an axe for 4 hours, there would be no axe left.  (Imagine sharpening a knife for 4 hours or sharpening a pencil for 4 hours - it would be non-existent when you were done - you are doing more harm than good).

So, in light of this knowledge on wood chopping, I decided that Lincoln must have been joking.  The only way the comment makes any sense is if Lincoln was saying, by analogy, "give someone a loose deadline and they will sit around and not do much."   So I looked it up. 

Lincoln never said any such thing.  The quote was always an old saying about if you had 5 (or 10) MINUTES to cut down a tree you'd spend half that time sharpening the axe:  The quote was never attributed to Lincoln until the 1980s when the sort of business books that Hinkie loves to read started to need to explain why you should spend a lot of time preparing for what you are eventually going to do. 

This is not mere nitpicking.  What Hinkie is trying to say by using this quote is that he needed 5 years to turn around the Sixers, and he has spent 34 months trying to do so.  That is more than reasonable, since it might take 6 hours to chop down a tree and you need 4 hours to sharpen the axe.  But the actual source of the quote is that you have 5 or 10 MINUTES to cut down a tree.  That is very little time.  Sure you cannot just start swinging wildly with a dull axe, but that frigging tree has to come down in a few minutes, not six hours (or in Hinkie's case, 5 years).

Hinkie's situation is not akin to someone having 6 hours to cut down a tree.  His situation is more like someone being called in to unclog a drain or a toilet in someone's house.  Sure the plumber might say "we need to re-do the plumbing so this never happens again" but will the homeowner agree to wait 2-3-4 months with no working plumbing?   Doubtful.

2) His Buffett analogy baffles me.  According to this interview: Buffett had determined that by 1969 there were simply no good investments out there and he would rather give the people who trusted him their money back rather than try to invest it and lose it.

So, by analogy, Hinkie would be saying that the Sixers had no more deals to make.  The market sucks and all of the assets that the Sixers have gathered were the best they could do in the current market.  His job is done, he cannot do any more.

But that is really not what he says.  He makes analogies to collecting a ton of assets designed to acquire great veteran players (Boston getting Garnett, the Spurs waiting 5 years to get Aldridge).  So........if the Sixers have Embiid (who apparently is really lighting it up in practice gyms) and Okafor and 100 draft picks (plus Jerian Grant, my lord he loves Jerian Grant) [NOTE -- it is Jerami Grant, not Jerian Grant - my bad]  then aren't Hinkie's services needed most RIGHT NOW?  Surely in 34 months he has put together a sign-and-trade plan to get Kevin Durant or LeBron or some other great player.  Right?  Why not stay around to pull the trigger on that deal?

If you look very closely, what he actually says is that he has to leave because of "management changes."  So this implies that he has so little power that he cannot do what he wants to do.  This is exactly the OPPOSITE of what Warren Buffett did -- Buffett had people lining up to give him money to invest, he could have invested it anyway he wanted.  Buffett, however, felt the market was so awful that the best decision was to do nothing - so he did nothing.   What Hinkie is really whining about is that the Sixers won't let him do what he wants.  That has nothing to do with what Warren Buffett did in 1969.

3) Hinkie makes some rather odd statements.  First, he mentions that in 2012-13 the Sixers had won a "disappointing" 34 games.  What Sixers fan today wouldn't be ecstatic if in the next 2 years they somehow managed to win 34 games in a season?

Second, he states how great the Sixers were on defense with a great veteran like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute anchoring the defense, but declined thereafter when using young players.  I don't recall there being any significant bidding war for Luc. If the Sixers wanted to retain him, I am sure they could have.  So why state that you used to be great at something with a guy you basically threw away for nothing? 

Third, he emphasizes that the Sixers' future is bright by stating that a website projects them in 3 years as the 12th best team in the NBA.  12th best - wow.  So it only took three years of the darkest ugliest basketball in the last 40 years to get to a point where the Sixers (in the future) may be the 12th best team!  (Hinkie suggests maybe 10th best).  Wow.  Awesome.  So you took over a team that had won a "disappointing 34 games" and now someone projects a 12th place future for you!  That is around 45 wins.

"Give me a team that won 34 games, give me three years where you are the league laughingstock and I will turn that into the possibility of 45 wins five years from now!"
Sign me up!

Back to my plumbing analogy - toilet needs unclogging, guy comes in, says, "I will make things worse for 3 months, and you will have to use an outhouse that I will place out by the road during that time, but in 5 months you will have a 25% better plumbing system. Not the best system, mind you, but pretty good."

Finally, his 'zero sum game" analysis is odd.  First, all teams do not have the same 82 games.  There are not 82 games "up for grabs" -- There are 30 teams and 82 games per team and one winner per game.  I would imagine that is 1,230 wins up for grabs, not 82.  (I am pretty sure that math is correct - if it were a two-team league each team would play 82 games and there would be 82 wins and 82 losses up for grabs).   What Hinkie's approach has proved is that you do not have to "take" wins necessarily, sometimes teams will tank and give you wins.  His entire letter implies that the Sixers intentionally lost games to gather better assets and have a steeper recovery.  Every team who played the Sixers had a better chance as a result of this strategy.

If what you need to do is "zig" while the other teams "comfortably zag" then why must we "respect tradition" as well?  I feel almost as if I am a 12 year old boy again listening to Joe Garagiola every week discuss that the number one key to pitching is (fill in different thing every week - a good fastball, changing speeds, location, being mentally tough, having a good breaking ball).  This is the sort of mental masturbation and CYA that people do who cannot explain what their philosophy is.  "I try to be a harsh grader, but fair" said one of my college professors.  "I will run you to exhaustion, but you will love showing up for practice" said a coach.  Both extremely terrible at their jobs, but both had read books stating that you need to be "_________ but the opposite of ________."   


I am not saying that The Process put in place by Hinkie may not work.  I mean, the Sixers have a good player in Okafor, an OK player in Noel and just a bevy of draft picks -- some of which may be very high picks in what is expected to be a very good draft.  Could they get Ben Simmons and Jamal Murray and all of a sudden become a playoff team?  Sure.  Hinkie may have done a good job.  Time will tell.

But when you are quitting because the boss prefers someone else, say, "Look, the boss prefers someone else, I am a figurehead, so I am moving on."  You can mention the good things you have done and say how you think the team has potential to be #1 in the East if they draft well.  No harm in that.  But the gibberish and self-contradictory crap that Hinkie tosses into 13 pages says to me that he is a very insecure person who wants everyone to know that he has met a lot of people and read a lot of books and needs people to believe that he is far, far smarter than anyone who criticizes him.  That does not earn him any points in my book, and I will always try to avoid such people, particularly where they accept at face value ridiculous quotes incorrectly attributed to Abe Lincoln.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Report on North Carolina's Academic Fraud

While you really need to be a Pollyanna to believe that Roy Williams did not know about all of this fraud, the 2005 title team was populated by AMFAM majors who were not taking real classes and, instead, were taking classes to remain eligible (that did not require class attendance and were graded by someone other than the assigned professor).

Rashad McCants, a starter on the title team, has stated that he never wrote his own papers and went over and picked up the papers he had to hand in right before he had to hand them in.

I do not see how the 2005 title is not vacated.  Then you have the 2009 title, which occurred right as UNC was ending the program (the primary person responsible for the program was retiring).  That one would probably also be vacated if the NCAA had any balls, but I imagine they will say that there is not enough evidence.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Friday, April 01, 2016

Sorry So Long Between Posts

Britney says she is sorry as well.  I will post something new over the weekend, hopefully.