Sunday, November 23, 2008

The BFF Theory and other thoughts

The BFF Theory
I watched the short-handed Knicks on Friday against the Bucks. The game wasn't particularly interesting -- Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and Ramon Session continue to be fantastic, pretty much all of the Knicks besides Chris Duhon had off-shooting nights (including some questionable shot selection from Wilson Chandler). Malik Rose lost the battle of the Maliks to Malik Allen.

But the story of this particular game wasn't the score, it was (once again) Stephon Marbury. He had to dress for the Knicks to avoid a forfeit as they wait for their new players to show up, but apparently refused to play. Most of the coverage of the event is focusing on the bizarre angle or the "Marbury-as-team-cancer" angle, so I'll ignore that. Instead, I'm concerned about how we're finding this story out. The story comes directly quoted from Mike D'antoni, while Marbury is refusing to comment (when has he ever refused to comment?). So Mike: why are you telling us this? Are we supposed to hate him? Feel sorry for you? I don't know, but I refuse to play along.

Anyways, since Marbury didn't play we saw Nate Robinson play 41 minutes and Anthony Roberson play 17. Robinson was active but off -- shooting 7-21 with 4 turnovers, seeming generally distracted, and I was wondering: is there any study of players immediately after their BFF gets traded away? We saw Rip Hamilton have his Chauncey Billups taken away earlier this season, and he has struggled at times, and now we see a distracted-looking Nate Robinson playing after losing his BFF Jamal Crawford. Thoughts?

In other news:

I was watching this snippet of an interview with Rasheed Wallace:

And it occurred to me -- Rasheed Wallace seems like the perfect elder friend to understand the life of Kwame Brown. Like Brown, Wallace has made a career out of not quite living up to the lofty expectations of others, but unlike Brown, Wallace has made a satisfying all-star career for himself out of his insistence on being exactly who he wants to be (not Kevin Garnett or Tim Duncan, but Rasheed Wallace). I really think Brown could find some peace by learning from Wallace.

I watched two Kings games (both losses) over the weekend, and I am super-impressed by rookies Jason Thompson and Bobby Brown. And Donte Greene seems like a poor man's Kevin Durant, and I don't know if that's a compliment or not.

Warriors rookie Anthony Randolph might be some kind of superhero who lurks in the shadows, jumps out intermittently to cause all manner of devastation, and then just as quickly disappears back into the shadows. On Friday (Pilipino Night at the Oracle Arena!), in 13 minutes, he did this: 10 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocks, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls. In 13 minutes!

Speaking of superheroes, Trevor Ariza!! I don't know the proper imagery for what he does on the court -- he's a tornado of activity. He's not yet the sort of lock-down man defender he might become one day, but what he does fits in perfectly with the Lakers' team defense. On offense, he's added a couple of features to what he did last year (relentless offensive rebounding and cutting to the basket). I've pointed out the improved jumpshot already, but I haven't mentioned how much he's improved his ballhandling. That improvement shows up statistically in the fact that he's on pace to average a career-high in assists per game and assist percentage as well as a career-low in Turnover percentage (turning it over on just 8% of his used possessions).

There were a couple of coaching changes in the league also, as Eddie Jordan of the Wizards and P.J. Carlesimo of the Thunder were both canned. Both moves were, I think, pretty expected, so not much to say here. Here's an introduction to the Thunder's new coach, and here's another - that latter link includes a pretty insightful look into Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony. More on the Wizards' move later.

And I finally got a chance to check out the Cavaliers' new and improved offense when they played the Hawks this weekend. I'll write about it in a later post, but in the meantime, you can learn a lot about it through these two posts.


  1. jamal crawford being abruptly traded probably has some peripheral effect on robinson's game, but could it also be that the hyperactive, erratic sparkplug is also reacting to the changing conditions of playing with barely any team at all? scottie pippen did fine after horace grant left for the magic, although i don't think that was a trade so maybe that's not apples to apples.

  2. That's a good point about Pippen/Grant, although I'm thinking of the effect as related to mid-season trades. And I'd imagine that the effect, if it exists at all, is extremely short-lived (as in, lasting for a few games at most). As a football example, Laveranues Coles was pretty depressed when Chad Pennington got traded in the offseason, but he seemed to have gotten over it by the time the games started counting. Meanwhile, in Detroit, Rip Hamilton hasn't looked great since Billups left, but I don't think the BFF thing is solely (if at all) responsible -- Hamilton looked fine alongside Stuckey before Iverson arrived. In that case it just seems like an on-the-court issue -- Billups always got Hamilton the ball coming off of curls and so forth, those sorts of passes haven't really been part of Iverson's game so far in his career.

    At first I was thinking Robinson's performance against Milwaukee was less attributable to a change in on-court context, and that's why I wondered about the Crawford thing. But you're right to describe him as a hyperactive, erratic sparkplug, and there's probably not much at all to be read into one game (he looked a little more in control, though less active, the very next night against an awful Wizards team). And it's probably true that any player whose skills best suit him to being a sixth man will look off when asked to start as part of a 7-man rotation (even Manu Ginobili looked like he was wearing down a bit in the middle of last year when he was asked to start).

    I sometimes think it's fun to imagine the deep personal friendships of these people I can really only know through the way they play, but I'm guessing most of it is just that -- imagination. And I'm probably underestimating the ability of professional basketball players to get over these things pretty quickly when they're playing and practicing and traveling every day.