It's been a busy few weeks, and I haven't really gotten the chance to either sit down and write or survey the basketball-related websites lately, so (if you were curious) that's why there haven't been any link posts in a while. Can't promise anything for another week or so, either, but today I've got a bit of a lull in activity, so here goes.
Dave posted earlier about the early ASG voting results. As you all know by now, T-Mac is currently second in the West's guards. I mentioned in the comments section that the typical reactions to Chinese voters would be voiced, and indeed they have been over the past two days. Over at Empty the Bench, Zachary Blott gives what I think is a pretty standard screed against foreign voters (emphasis mine):
So while T-Mac’s ego and Houston doing-fine-without-him are at a stalemate, China may be able to get him back into an NBA-sanctioned event. That’s because David Stern has been kissing China’s ass ever since Yao Ming was the #1 pick in 2002 so that the league can make a bunch of moolah off their 1.3 billion citizens.
As part of that smooch, China gets to vote for starters in the All-Star Game. From a logical standpoint, this makes no sense, and I think most fans who understand that the Eastern and Western Conferences are named after coasts in America where the game is played (plus Toronto, which is just across the border) agree. So apparently the Chinese vote as a block, and that block’s name is Yao Ming’s Houston Rockets.
Now, formal logic was never really my strength in philosophy, but I see very little "logically" wrong with allowing Chinese fans to vote. Maybe Mr. Blott refers to a conflict between a National Basketball Association allowing non-US nationals to vote for All-Stars, but that seems pretty weak, given the presence of a Canadian team and the importance of foreign fans to the league.
As for whether or not American and Canadian fans are any more astute than their Chinese counterparts, I think their voting record speaks for itself (AI started for the East last year - 'nuff said - and for the West the year before that). Fans vote for their favorite team's players. That's just how it works. This is, obviously, what the Chinese Rockets fans are doing. But the "difference" is that - boo hoo - there are a lot of Chinese fans.
Seriously, people, if this really, truly bothers you - if you are currently furiously typing away a response about how it just isn't fair that McGrady will probably end up with more votes than Brandon Roy or Tony Parker or whoever, here is my suggestion: grow up. It's the freaking All Star Game. Totally meaningless. Doesn't matter. Most fans I know don't watch it (and I've only seen maybe three in my whole life; the dunk contest is another matter). All-NBA teams are what matter for personal glory, not ASG appearances. It's just a bit of fun in the middle of the season - an opportunity to watch our favorite players go at it in the NBA equivalent of a YMCA pickup game. And if there are enough Chinese fans that want to see Tracy McGrady suit up for the Western Conference that he takes the West's 2nd Guard spot, then so be it.
Besides, he's not going to win, so why get all pissy about it now? A month from now, Chris Paul or Steve Nash will pull away, and we can all celebrate the fact that we'll finally have a real point guard starting for the first time since 2006.
More links after the jump.
Hoopdata looks at the effect of tall centers on basket defense, and Yao and Chuck are mentioned:
The Suns are not the only team feeling the after effects of losing a 300 pounder in the middle. After Yao Ming went down with a season-ending foot injury, the Rockets have been forced to rely on 6’6" Chuck Hayes to man the center position. How many points does that translate to? On the whole, the Rockets have allowed on average 2.7 more baskets at the rim per game compared to last year and field goal percentage in this area has increased from .587 to .647, representing the league’s two largest bumps in each category. All told, Hayes’ efforts cannot be understated. He gives up a half foot to his matchup every night and yet the Rockets are about league average in at rim baskets allowed. That is remarkable.
The NBA is (for a variety of reasons) America's most racially-charged professional sports league. A guest post at Free Darko talks about race, "thug" imagery, and Allen Iverson in the context of the NBA:
Yes, he’s had run-ins with the law, but the facts in the most egregious cases were so unclear that they are almost inadmissible as evidence to substantiate the claim that he is in fact a "thug". The usual way that people even begin to associate Iverson with being a thug is by linking his image to these artificially manufactured images of "thug life" and our lingering fears of the black "super criminal".
More than anything, this demonized "AI" persona is the personifcation of stereotype convergence: that of the hypermasculine black male athlete and a record industry manufactured "hip-hop" bravado that has lost its "utopian impulse", as once described by Cornell West. It is ultimately a shallow caricature of the "hard", hyper-individualistic, misogynistic, narcissistic, simple-minded, swaggering black male.
It is sad example of how our perceptions are shaped not only by what we see, but also by conceptual frameworks that we draw upon as short hand to "make sense" of the world, as described by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their classic book Metaphors We Live By. The problem is that to the extent that we draw upon pre-existing metaphors to make sense of people, we strip them of the agency to represent themselves as human; while these metaphors frame expectations for behavior, they also irrationally justify us assuming that our perceptions are universal common sense and those who don’t fit can be demeaned, dismissed, mocked, or vilified.
In the wake of Shaq getting his shit rocked by the Chuckwagon, Dave Berri asks if Shaq is finished.
The Memphis Grizzlies are interested in Von Wafer.
One surprise came when these correlations were broken down to Offensive and Defensive Ratings. Height actually correlates slightly better with offensive efficiency (.169) than at the defensive end (.141). Conventional wisdom has it that height is much more important on defense, which fits with what has been observed from adjusted plus-minus data in recent years--big men rate much better defensively, while guards tend to be better on offense than defense. Those results, however, are more about pitting one position against another than comparing height within the same position, which is part of what effective height picks up.
A Four Factors comparison of the 50 tallest teams to the 50 shortest teams shows that in addition to the predictable advantages in getting to the free throw line and offensive rebounding, taller teams also shoot better (in terms of effective field-goal percentage)--though this is slightly offset by their committing more turnovers. Defensively, the relationships are largely as would be expected. The bigger teams force lower shooting percentages and collect more rebounds, but create fewer turnovers. The unexpected result here is that big teams are very effective at keeping opponents off the free throw line.
In that context, Houston's changes at the defensive end make sense. Last year, when Yao helped the Rockets rank second in the league in effective height, their defense succeeded by forcing misses (fourth in eFG%), collecting rebounds (fifth in DR%) and by not fouling (second in opponent FTA/FGA). This year, Houston has slipped to 23rd, 15th and 14th in those categories, respectively. Yet the Rockets have helped make up for those deficiencies to some extent by improving from 27th to seventh in the league in terms of forcing turnovers. The relationships are not always so clean, but it turns out Houston's defense is a matter of height.
On a similar note, Chuck Hayes is the shortest center in league history. Yes, all of it.
The most notable short center in league history has been 6-7 Wes Unseld, a Hall of Famer who manned the middle for the Bullets (now Washington Wizards) from 1968-81, including helping lead them to the 1978 NBA title.
From 1988-95, when Don Nelson brought small ball to Golden State during his first stint as Warriors coach, he used the likes of 6-7 Rod Higgins and 6-7 Tom Tolbert at center. But nobody 6-6 or shorter has been found who has been a regular NBA starting center.
"We went back to the beginning,'' said Elias researcher Sal D'Agostino. "But it's unofficial. We don't measure the players. We go by listed measurements.''
D'Agostino found Dennis Rodman, which Elias has listed at 6-6, having started one December game and 13 games from Feb. 28 on during the 1997-98 season for Chicago. But Rodman wasn't the Bulls' regular center, having filled in at times for 7-2 Luc Longley.
And Rodman, who had been listed at 6-8 when he entered the NBA, was listed at 6-7 in the 1997-98 NBA Register. The Web site BasketballReference.com has him at 6-7.
Yao Ming did an interview with Esquire recently, and it has some interesting little tidbits:
When I was young, we were taught not to dunk. We were taught not to stand out from the rest of the team. It's different now. The young guys in China are new age. They want to show their stuff. But I am old-school. It was a big adjustment when I first came here to play at a camp. The coaches told me to dunk, but I would lay the ball in. Finally, the coaches made everyone else on my team run laps when I didn't dunk. I didn't want my teammates to be punished because of me. That's how I learned to dunk.
Ilgauskas and Yao talked about surgery and recovery recently.
I meant to post this back when it actually, you know, happened, but Yao Ming spoke out about HIV/AIDS discrimination in China as part of World AIDS Day. China has historically had a lot of problems even acknowledging the HIV/AIDS problem, and it's nice to see Yao helping out.
Last, here's Trevor Ariza's sick reverse dunk against the Cavs: