Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New Weekly NBA Column

My good friend Sal Cipriano, who's been covering the rapid growth of Major League Soccer, has a new website called The Sports Cats. Sal will provide soccer and baseball commentary, and under the guise of "The Greenpoint Grouch," I will be writing a weekly NBA column.

The first one is up and running, and the second one is soon to follow.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Oscar Robertson Myth

Oscar Robertson is the only player in NBA history to average a triple double over an entire season. In only his second year in the league, Robertson averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 11.4 assists for the 1962 Cincinnati Royals.

This has been used to make the case for Robertson as a truly unique talent, and conversely, to label the rest of his career as a mild disappointment, since Robertson seemingly peaked at the age of 23.

Any evaluation of "early" NBA statistics has to take into account the number of possessions per game, however. This can be a little difficult to estimate, since turnovers weren't kept as a statistic back then, but it's pretty clear that 1962 was one of the fastest paced seasons ever (only 1961 was faster). Robertson's feat was only possible because of the huge number of potential rebounds and assists available.

Awhile back, I decided to find out if any other NBA player might have recorded an entire season triple double, if they had the same advantage to work with.

The player who benefits most from this is Oscar Robertson. Robertson also recorded pace adjusted triple doubles in 1963 and 1964. Robertson's best season was probably 1964. He just missed another triple double that year, with 31.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 11.0 assists. Pace adjusted, this becomes 34.0 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 11.9 assists.

Magic Johnson had two pace adjusted triple double seasons, in 1982 and 1983. Given Magic's all around brilliance, that comes as no surprise.

The next name, however, will surprise you. Darrell Walker had an unremarkable 10 year career that ended on the deep bench of the 1993 Chicago Bulls. He was always an excellent rebounder for a guard, and a few years earlier, for the 1990 Washington Bullets, he averaged 9.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 8.0 assists. The Bullets didn't benefit much from Walker's strange stat line. They won only 31 games. But if you put Walker's numbers into the wayback machine, he emerges in 1962 with 11.9 points, 11.0 rebounds, and 10.0 assists.

Grant Hill, as a young player on the Pistons, was a regular triple double threat. His 1997 season, pace adjusted, looks really impressive: 29.3 points, 12.4 rebounds, 10.0 assists. I don't think anything does a better job of capturing the stat inflation in the NBA from 1958 to 1968 than that.

Lastly, Jason Kidd, in the tail end of his prime, posted two pace adjusted triple doubles in 2007 for the Nets, and 2008 for the Nets and Mavericks. Kidd's 2007 translates to 17.7 points, 11.2 rebounds, and 12.5 assists.

You might be asking, where's LeBron James? While Bron has come very close to this fictional achievement in a couple of seasons, he's always fallen a few rebounds or assists short. Perhaps as Dwyane Wade ages, and Bron has to carry more of the load in Miami, he'll be on this list, too.

Friday, October 18, 2013

2014 Season Guide

Our 2014 NBA Season Guide is now available in paperback, PDF, and ebook form. Click the link for details. We previewed all 30 teams, made our predictions and wiseass comments, and the illustration team of Lou Mazzella and Jared Harel did another great job.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Flatbush and Atlantic is here!

So, I wrote this book on the Nets. It follows the history of the franchise from their humble beginnings as the ABA's New Jersey Americans, to the present day in Brooklyn.

There are also brief discussions of Brooklyn's basketball history (going back to 1892), and the building of the Barclays Center.

The book features 19 line drawings (by Jared Harel and Lou Mazzella), and 6 photographs, plus written contributions from John Busso and Jason Schott.

It's currently available only as an e-book from Amazon, for the extremely reasonable price of $2.99.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Ken L. Walker Interview

KLW: I first met Ian on a rooftop in Crown Heights well before this Franklin Avenue bourgie blowup started to happen. We’d head over to our friend Lance’s house and watch him make his own beer (before the BK Brewery started selling home kits) in his President St. apartment. Lance also liked to make his own sushi. Ian and I ate and drank and talked about poetry and baseball with other graduate school colleagues. Our first round of conversations was, though, mostly centrifugal to baseball’s great moments and whether or not postmodern poets could, in fact, write a great baseball (if not, sports, in general) poem. That was the summer. In the fall, the MFA program at Brooklyn College CUNY began where Ian was a second-year poet and I was a first and our mentors were Lou Asekoff, Lisa Jarnot, Richard Pearse, Julie Agoos, and Marjorie Welish. Though we may differ in our aesthetics, he wrote one of my all-time favorite poems which rests tacked above my desk at home; in it, Parfrey’s speaker introduces the manic-ness of boredom as an almost Deleuzian lens of the combined production factors hunger and boredom; the speaker dreams of a sandwich and by the end of the poem, the speaker, as a radical act, becomes the sandwich as that is his preferable existential choice to the more slighted humanity he often feels plagued by.

Parfrey also introduced me to the bowels and beauty of New York City softball and baseball leagues where we consistently play through the warm months in many great locales—Riverdale, Central Park, Prospect Park, Riverside Park, etc. It is such a privilege to play a competitive sport in Central Park. (I read once that only 2% of the world gets to play a sport in Central Park throughout an entire life.) Later, when I broke my leg, Ian drove me to the hospital while my ankle was busy separating from my tibia and swelling to the size of a paper-towel roll. The other night I was telling that daftly senseless story to another friend who was unaware of how I got all of that numb mess taken care of and I told the friend what Ian did. The friend replied, slightly aghast, “That’s friendship.”

In his bio, Parfrey writes that he gave up the security of a small paycheck to write about basketball full time. His first book, Ten Thousand Minutes, is a historical ranking system for pro basketball players; he currently writes and edits for Brooklyn Fans, a website that covers the Brooklyn Nets and events at the Barclays Center. He lives in Greenpoint with his wife and daughter.

KLW: What is your working title of your book?

IP: There are two of them. Maybe more. I'm supposed to be writing about the first season of the Brooklyn Nets—Flatbush and Atlantic—but my heart is in a book about pro basketball teams in Brooklyn in the 1920s— Greenpoint Knights and Visitations.

KLW: Where did the idea come from for the book?

IP: I discovered the APBR website. That's the Association of Professional Basketball Researchers. They had pages for all these leagues dating back to the turn of the 20th Century that I'd never heard of, mostly just won-loss records and championships and a few basic stats. As it turned out, the Metropolitan League, based in Brooklyn, was the premiere pro league in the country in 1924 and 1925. I googled a few teams, and that led me to the Fulton History website, which has catalogued an obscene number of historical newspapers from all over New York state. So I began to write, a little bit here and there at first, and then I became very proficient in using the database's search terms. I realized there was a big story in here that hadn't been told because no one either knew about this archive, or had the patience to sift through it.

KLW: What genre does your book fall under?

IP: Obscure sports history. You think it'll sell?

KLW: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

IP: I'd just go to the Coen brothers and say, here, you figure it out. We'd probably have to pick a main character, and re-frame the story around him. "Poison" Joe Brennan was one of the great players in this league, and unlike almost everyone else, he stuck around—didn't jump any contracts, didn't play for five leagues at a time, didn't go to seek his fortune in the bigger pro leagues. He played on three of the first four champions in the Met League. The league only lasted seven seasons. The only other guy to play on three champions was Bob Griebe, who was a defensive specialist on Brennan's teams. Those are my main characters. All I know about Brennan as a player is that he had a reputation for baiting referees, and he spent a lot of time winning. The league also had some pretty good antagonists— Benny Borgeman, who's in the Hall of Fame, won the scoring title every year he played, but his teams usually fell short at the end. Stretch Meehan was the biggest guy in the league. He was 6 foot 7.

KLW: What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

IP: Unbeknownst to almost everyone, Brooklyn was one of the earliest hotbeds of basketball activity, and this is its untold story.

KLW: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

IP: I do almost everything myself. I like having some control over the process. The profit margins on e-books are pretty terrific. I shell out for the ISBN, and after that, the e-book basically prints very small amounts of money. I have one out there already, and once I have a few more, and raise my profile in the sports-writing world a little, the pocket change might start to add up. I also produce paperback copies, but that's not where the money is.

KLW: How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

IP: No draft. I edit as I go, a little, then give it a once or twice-over at the end. It's 95 pages right now, and will probably be well over 200 when finished.

KLW: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

IP: Murry Nelson's books on the Celtics and the NBL are a decent reference point. Mine will be not quite as scholarly, and have fewer... what the fuck do they call them... primary sources. My sources are the newspaper archive, my illustrations are line drawings contributed by friends. I come at this from the MFA and sports fan side, not fromthe "my footnotes are longer than the fuckin'book is" side. I don't want to strangle the story.

KLW: Who or what inspired you to write this book?

IP: My hatred of my old job? I don't know. I got an MFA in poetry, studied under Lou Asekoff, who is really terrific, and found that all I wanted to do was talk about sports, write about sports, and play them. I had no patience for what most of the poetry world was up to. It was sort of like a badge of honor to get your head all the way up your ass and write from that position. I wanted to hit home runs and shoot three pointers. This is a compromise between both sides of my brain, and it feels like exactly what I should be doing.

KLW: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

IP: The artwork is gonna be fucking amazing. And to the best of my abilities, I found statistics for these players, which can't be found anywhere else. The game itself is nothing like the one you know. It was segregated, for one thing, and everyone in the Brooklyn league was white, and most of them were Irish. If a guy was Jewish and he could really ball, they found a spot for him. They played exhibitions with the black teams, and everyone got along pretty well, but the league was lily white. The ball was larger, not perfectly round, and not always well inflated, so no one could shoot. They fouled like crazy. I found one instance of a guy scoring 30 points, in seven years in this league. His name was George Norman and he wasn't even one of the top players. In a lot of games, the entire team didn't score 30. You wouldn't recognize it at all. You'd wonder why they were holding a 5-on-5 wrestling match with a ball.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Flopping

date
team
player
opp
notes
11-2
CLE
Donald Sloan
CHI

11-2
MIN
J.J. Barea
SAC

11-12
OKC
Kevin Martin
DET

11-15
BRO
Reggie Evans
BOS

11-20
BRO
Reggie Evans
LAL
5k fine
11-23
HTN
Patrick Patterson
NYK

11-26
BRO
Gerald Wallace
NYK

12-1
BRO
Gerald Wallace
MIA
5k fine
12-3
LAC
Chauncey Billups
UTA

12-7
ATL
Zaza Pachulia
WAS

12-10
HTN
Omer Asik
SAS

12-26
ORL
Gustavo Ayon
NOH

12-26
PHI
Royal Ivey
MEM

12-28
SAS
Tony Parker
HTN

1-14
MIN
J.J. Barea
DAL
5k fine
1-20
OKC
Kevin Martin
DEN
5k fine
1-23
BRO
C.J. Watson
MIN

3-7
DEN
Corey Brewer
LAC

3-19
SAC
Tyreke Evans
LAC

3-19
LAC
Chris Paul
SAC

3-24
HTN
Omer Asik
SAS
5k fine
3-25
DEN
Danilo Gallinari
NOH

3-29
MIN
Ricky Rubio
OKC

3-30
MIL
J.J. Redick
OKC

5-1
IND
Jeff Pendergraph
ATL
5k fine
5-1
OKC
Derek Fisher
HTN
5k fine
5-5
NYK
J.R. Smith
IND
5k fine
5-21
MEM
Tony Allen
SAS
5k fine
5-28
IND
Lance Stephenson
MIA
5k fine
5-28
IND
David West
MIA
5k fine
5-28
MIA
LeBron James
IND
5k fine
6-13
MIA
Chris Bosh
SAS
5k fine

Monday, January 21, 2013

Nets-Knicks Series Boxscore

NETS (2-2)
player
g
min
+/-
fgm-fga
pct
3ptm-a
ftm-a
reb
ast
to
ppg
Lopez
3
101
-18
23-51
.451
0-0
6-9
32
2
7
17.3
Johnson
4
163
-6
23-60
.383
11-23
9-9
14
15
6
16.5
Williams
4
156
-21
22-55
.400
6-22
14-17
18
46
14
16.0
Wallace
4
148
-32
16-33
.485
5-13
10-16
17
8
4
11.8
Bogans
3
64
+2
9-20
.450
6-14
1-3
7
1
3
8.3
Blatche
4
66
+22
13-22
.591
0-3
6-8
9
3
5
8.0
Watson
4
59
-1
9-24
.375
3-11
0-0
4
5
3
5.3
Stackhouse
3
49
+2
4-9
.444
4-7
2-2
2
1
3
4.7
Humphries
4
72
-11
7-14
.500
0-0
3-5
29
1
3
4.3
Taylor
1
2
+4
2-3
.667
0-0
0-1
1
0
0
4.0
Brooks
3
18
0
5-9
.556
0-2
1-1
0
3
1
3.7
Evans
4
80
+15
5-10
.500
0-0
2-5
43
1
4
3.0
Shengelia
1
2
+4
1-1
1.000
0-0
0-0
1
0
0
2.0
Teletovic
2
3
+7
0-0

0-0
0-0
0
0
1
0.0
Childress
1
3
+2
0-0

0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0.0
James
1
1
-1
0-0

0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0.0
TOTALS
4
197
-7
139-311
.447
35-95
54-76
177
86
54
91.8

KNICKS (2-2)
player
g
min
+/-
fgm-fga
pct
3ptm-a
ftm-a
reb
ast
to
ppg
Anthony
4
175
+16
49-100
.490
13-22
29-36
24
12
8
35.0
Stoudemire
1
27
+4
6-10
.600
0-0
3-6
6
0
2
15.0
Chandler
4
149
+14
24-33
.727
0-0
8-11
40
4
4
14.0
Smith
4
148
+23
23-52
.442
3-15
7-8
20
7
3
14.0
Kidd
3
108
+8
12-23
.522
10-20
2-5
17
12
2
12.0
Felton
3
106
+6
10-46
.217
1-8
3-4
9
16
12
8.0
Wallace
2
37
-1
5-18
.278
4-8
0-0
13
2
0
7.0
Copeland
2
39
+8
5-10
.500
3-6
0-0
4
0
1
6.5
Shumpert
1
20
-8
1-6
.167
0-3
0-0
4
2
0
2.0
Brewer
4
50
-26
2-17
.118
1-7
2-4
9
6
0
1.8
Prigioni
4
43
-2
2-6
.333
2-5
0-0
6
4
2
1.5
Thomas
2
16
0
1-1
1.000
0-0
1-2
3
0
0
1.5
Novak
3
53
-1
1-7
.143
0-4
0-0
5
1
0
0.7
White
3
10
-7
0-1
.000
0-1
0-0
1
0
0
0.0
Camby
1
5
+1
0-0

0-0
0-0
0
1
2
0.0
TOTALS
4
197
+7
141-330
.427
37-99
55-76
161
67
36
93.5