Thursday, December 4, 2008

Doing Homework, and Calling BS

There's something fishy about this:

Five games, five Golden State losses and a more than 2:1 turnover-to-assist ratio. Maggette's selfish play hasn't gone unnoticed by other players. According to sources, after the final buzzer against Boston, Celtics forward Kevin Garnett turned to Maggette and shouted, "Way to get your numbers."

"He just puts his head down and goes to the basket," an Eastern Conference scout said. "He doesn't even look to pass."

Word from team sources is that the Warriors are already regretting signing Maggette to a five-year, $50 million deal last offseason. When Monta Ellis returns to the lineup early next year, Golden State will have to figure out how to spread the wealth among three players (Ellis, Jamal Crawford and Maggette) who aren't very good at spreading it.

Was the quote from the scout recent, or something laying around the office? Had the anonymous Eastern Conference scout (and honestly, is there any justification for the anonymity here? This isn't national security, people) ever seen Corey Maggette play? This is his 10th NBA season, and this is the way he's played for the previous 9 years. Who are these "team sources" who say the Warriors are regretting the Maggette signing, and did they sign Maggette without ever having seen him play? Does anyone do their homework before paying someone $50 million?

Here's the thing: Corey Maggette has been a scorer whose style consists of putting his head down and going to the basket for his entire career. Maybe if it were earlier in his career you could try to criticize him for not expanding his skillset, but at this point, if you thought you were getting anything other than exactly what he's been for 9 years, that is stupid. No one has ever praised him for his great passing or his all-around game. He is a so-so shooter who scores efficiently because he can get to the rim and get to the foul line. That's what he's always been.

Ok, let's be generous. Let's say that Mr. Mannix, who wrote the article, and the "team sources" (if they exist at all) who are quoted, knew exactly what Maggette's game was throughout his carreer, but they are complaining that he passes even LESS than he did before. Let's see if the numbers back that up:

Compared to last year, Corey Maggette is taking slightly more 3-pointers per game than he did last year -- but this is on a team whose offensive identity revolves around jacking up threes. Further, Maggette is going to the line a little less often, but that seems like the flip side of shooting more threes. His usage rate is actually down, from 27.6% to 23.9%, which would seem to suggest the opposite of "selfish play." As for assists, his assists are slightly down, but he never got many assists to begin with. Further, his turnovers are down as well, and the assists and turnovers together might be a reflection of scheme as much as anything else -- Golden State prefers to shoot quick shots rather than risk turnovers. For instance, this year the Warriors assist on 52% of their made baskets, and that is fourth lowest in the league. 

All told, Maggette is more or less the same player he's always been. So why should I believe that his playing style is somehow surprising someone involved in a decision to sign him? 

But my problem with this article isn't only about the assualt on common sense. It's the liberal use of anonymous sources that has become so prevalent in sportswriting. First off, we have "According to sources, after the final buzzer against Boston, Celtics forward Kevin Garnett turned to Maggette and shouted . . .." Really? We need unnamed sources to describe what happened in an arena in front of 20,000 people? I realize Garnett can seem kind of intense and scary at times, but he's not in the mafia -- he's not going to kill anyone who happens to describe what they witnessed. This stinks of journalistic laziness. (Also: KG, you used to be cool, and I've always loved your game. But between this and getting involved in Bosh's business, you're starting to turn into Brett Favre. Please stop). 

Then, the quote from an unnamed Eastern Conference Scout. Putting aside the fact that even a scout from the Eastern Conference should know Maggette's game by now, I don't understand why the scout can't be named. He's not outing a spy here, he's describing something that anyone watching could see.

And finally the "team sources." I can see why they might not want to be named. Because they are complete idiots if they are surprised.

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