Category: Basketball (page 1 of 4)

Zach Lowe’s “Welcome to Manu’s Familia”

This is one of the best articles on Manu Ginobili’s career I’ve read. Includes many gems like this:

Ginobili carried no sense of entitlement; he outworked everyone in practice, especially during scrimmages, when he played as if it were Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Toward the end of an early September 2007 pickup game involving Spurs and visiting free agents, Ginobili dove through three players to retrieve a loose ball and flung it to a teammate. That player scored, and Popovich, watching, stopped the scrimmage even though it wasn’t over.
He gathered everyone and asked them: “What does that play mean to you?” Popovich told them Ginobili wanted to win more than anyone on the floor, and that if the Spurs wished to repeat after their 2007 title, they would all need to play that hard. Popovich walked away, and everyone thought the speech was over. Suddenly, he turned: “And Manu: It’s f—ing September. Never do that again in September.”

David Robinson was my childhood hero, and the newly retired Tim Duncan is inarguably the greatest Spur ever, but Manu Ginobili is my favorite basketball player, and he’s coming back for one more year. Lowe’s piece does a great job capturing all the things that are special about him.

Thank You Tim Duncan

ThankYouTDTim Duncan is retiring after 19 seasons with the San Antonio Spurs. Over the next several days millions of words will be written about his impact on San Antonio, on the NBA, on basketball. The Spurs have already put up a lovely career retrospective, with pictures, videos, and highlights from his every year in the league. The hashtag #ThankYouTD is trending on Twitter and Instagram. He’s retiring with what, by any reasonable estimation, is one of the greatest careers in the history of the league, up there with Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Michael Jordan and Bill Russell. During his nearly two-decade tenure the Spurs won 71% of their games. His 19 straight years of winning more than 60% is a record not just for the NBA, but also for the NFL, NHL, and MLB. Tim Duncan was drafted right around the time I entered high school, and has made my hometown team the most successful organization in American professional sports throughout my entire adult life. I’ll never, as a sports fan, have it any better than that. Thank you for the memories, Tim.

The Fundamental Problems With On/Off Statistics

A lot of modern so-called “advanced” basketball analytics, like RAPM, are attempts to ignore traditional statistical measures and use on/off or plus/minus stats to holistically capture performance. This method doesn’t work particularly well without secreting arbitrary, consensus-affirming weightings into the mix, but it’s growing in popularity anyway. Over at Boxscoregeeks, Patrick Minton has published a very simple set of thought experiments that show why on/off NBA analytics are flawed.

I Was Wrong: Klay Thompson Edition


This is Klay Thompson. It turns out that he’s a really good basketball player.

Him being a really good basketball player is somewhat surprising, as–statistically speaking–he didn’t used to be. His WP48 his first three seasons were .003, .033, and .061, which are all below average. When the Warriors passed up the chance this summer to trade him for Kevin Love, I said we were going to be laughing at the team for years. But so far this season, under new head coach Steve Kerr, he’s putting up a WP48 of .221, which makes him the 25th most productive player in the entire NBA. It’s also significantly better than Kevin Love, who has somewhat struggled on his new team, the Cavaliers. Also notable, Thompson just broke the NBA record for most points in a quarter, with 37 against the Kings. No, really. He scored 37 points in a quarter.

The previous record for a quarter was 33, recorded by George Gervin of the Spurs, who did it without the benefit of a three-point line. But still. Klay Thompson is balling, and the Splash Brothers are now the best backcourt in the NBA.

So that’s me shown. At least we can all still laugh at the Thunder for the James Harden trade. He’s putting up MVP type numbers this season.

President Obama Honors the San Antonio Spurs

The President, an NBA fan, gets a few good jokes in as he celebrates the Spurs’ NBA championship.

Yao Ming’s Ideal Team

Former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming did a Reddit AMA to promote his new Animal Planet documentary about elephant poaching. I always liked Yao when he was a player, so was pleased to read his answer to the question, “Can you describe your vision of perfect basketball? If you are given free rein to build a basketball team, what would it be like?”

He replied, “My ideal team would be the Spurs. San Antonio Spurs.”

Spurs 2014 Championship Ring Ceremony

I drove down to San Antonio to attend the first game of the season with my Dad and watch the Spurs get their rings and unveil their fifth banner. I recorded the ceremony, and while I spent some time wrestling with the brightness settings on my phone, I managed to get some great moments (including a rare Gregg Popovich fist pump). Here’s what it looked like in the arena.

Spurs Season Preview at Boxscore Geeks

The fine folks over at Boxscore Geeks were kind enough to let me write what was probably the easiest team preview of the season. The short version: if you liked last year’s team that dominated the Finals and took home their fifth title, good news! They all came back!

One thing worth noting is that, while the text is mine, the table data comes from Arturo Galletti’s player model. He’s apparently calculating things somewhat differently than in years past, and says an explanation post is forthcoming. I look forward to reading it.

Tabclosing: Let’s Pretend Things Never Changed

I’m sort of locked in to using the tabclosing tag for these entries now, but the name has become a pleasant fiction. These days when I want to save something for later reading, I just send it to my Pocket queue. I’ve neglected actually looking at that queue the last couple of months, though, and so my Pocket is stuffed to bursting. Let’s change that a bit. (And pretend we didn’t.)

  • A Brief History of Romantic Friendship – Maria Popova writes about an era when homosocial romance was considered innocuous or laudable, and how growing “sophistication” about sex in the 20th century curtailed the practice.
  • This Is What Gentrification Really Is – Annalee Newitz offers a nuanced, historical view of gentrification as a form of immigration, and examines how (as with other forms of immigration) opinions of it are largely shaped by narrative.
  • ‘Human Props’ stay in luxury homes but live like ghosts – an article that is, more than anything, about companies monetizing the desire to pretend nothing has changed.
  • “Why Did You Shoot Me, I Was Reading A Book?” – Article in Salon by Radley Balko from last year about the militarization of America’s police forces. This has been linked a lot since all the horribleness in Ferguson started.
  • The San Antonio Spurs hired Stars star Becky Hammon to be the first woman employed full-time as an assistant NBA coach. This is historic, but, in typical Spurs fashion, they never mentioned it. In their press release about the signing, they talked exclusively about Hammon’s qualifications and didn’t refer to her gender once. Which, in a Finkbeiner test sense, is exactly what they should do. Here are a bunch of articles about it: from the New York Times, from Esquire, from Rolling Stone, from Pounding The Rock.
  • And finally, “Happy Fun Room,” a science fiction short film by Greg Pak, about a woman who’s gone through a change so severe, she’s blind to things changing again:

The Intersection of All Good Things

How on Earth did I miss Bill Russell telling Tim Duncan, immediately after a Spurs championship, “In the words of Star Trek, ‘Live long and prosper.'”