Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Nerds Back Me Up, Lebron Is Four Times the Player Kobe Is

Ok, so this is my last Kobe post for a while. Last night there's no doubt Kobe played well, hitting some clutch shots in the 4th quarter to send the game to overtime before he fouled out and the Lakers lost in the second overtime. So Kobe was the key. And like I said, Kobe's good, just not as good as the hype. Well now I found the stats that back me up.

It all comes down to adjusted plus/minus. (Without bringing up the lame arguments my brother and I get into, I finally concede he was right on this one even though I'm still not clear how using 'fractals' proved his point. However, it was an informative 10 minutes tonight while he explained what they hell 'fractals' are while I looked at pictures of them online.) So the idea behind adjusted plus/minus is that it tries to isolate an individual's contribution to a team based on the point differential when that individual is on the floor. This seems like an obviously superior measure of a player's value than scoring, rebounds, blocks, etc. because it captures the intangibles (Yes Joe Morgan fanatics, in the team game of basketball, unlike the one-on-one match-ups in baseball, there are a whole host of intangibles like defense, tipped passes, altering shots, spreading the floor, etc. that aren't reflected in the stat sheet.) and helps quantify what instincts should tell us, that defensive specialists who own the championship bling like Bruce Bowen are more valuable then scoring machines who shoot a low percentage like Stephon Marbury.

Anyways, you can check out these stats yourself even though I know you readers (Mom) aren't going to since you don't care about the NBA, but thanks for driving me to all those practices and going to my games. You were always so supportive even though I was too short for the game. Also, if you got time, could you pick me up from the airport on Friday?

Lebron's the best in the NBA and four times the player Kobe is.

Lebron being entirely responsible for the Cavs success because every other player is average or below average.

Odom is more valuable to the Lakers' success than Kobe is.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

List of Grievances

1. Drudge Report’s Global Warming Headlines

So Drudge has discovered that there’s money to be made in questioning the overwhelming consensus among scientists that man is causing global warming. And that’s not even why I’m annoyed,even though no peer reviewed scientific article (at least until 2004) has ever challenged that man is contributing to the warming of the climate. Rather, for me the bigger problem with the Drudge Report is that it has been encouraging people to think global warming doesn’t exist at all. Apparently this winter is colder than those of the past few years in some cities. So Drudge has been linking articles like these with labels suggesting this disproves global warming. That’s just annoying. I know I’m picking the lowest hanging fruit here in my post, but it’s still hanging fruit and so it needs to be picked. (Relatedly, you ever wonder if farm workers take their dates apple picking?) A) It’s winter. It’s supposed to be cold in winter. Global warming doesn't mean it's always 80 degrees. It just means average global temperatures are warmer than they used to be. You can't say, “Man it’s cold today. Global warming is ridiculous.” B) You also don’t insinuate global warming is a myth since winter 2008 is the coldest since 1999. Temperature rise doesn’t occur in a linear fashion.

Essentially, the problem with both of those arguments is they have a ridiculously narrow focus that miss the big picture, and it’s just so annoying to adopt this narrow focus when we are talking about such an important issue like the warming of the planet. Much like how ridiculous it is for Stu Lantz and the Kobe groupies to go nuts when Kobe hits a last second shot against the Rockets even though Kobe's 13-32 shooting performance made the game much closer than it should have been in the first place. We need to focus on the big picture people. That's what separates us from the autistic.

2. Jon Cornyn’s Petty Grievance

So Obama had a good inauguration speech. I especially liked it when Obama asked us to put aside our petty grievances to advance the interests of the nation. So it was especially heartening to see that Jon Cornyn doesn’t want to do that. Instead he wants to spend three hours discussing, or investigating or whatever the hell he hopes to accomplish by highlighting the link between Bill Clinton’s foundation’s donors and the possible improprieties this could create at the State Department. If there’s one thing this country needs in its efforts to move past partisanship it’s another investigation into the Clinton’s “questionable” financial affairs. Seriously, what could the angle possibly be? That donors gave money to Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation, a foundation that helps eradicate AIDS around the globe, in the expectation that his wife would be Secretary of State and then would…practice friendlier diplomacy with a country of this particular donor’s choosing? Anyways, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe if we only give Jon some room here, maybe if we designate a special prosecutor, and give that prosecutor 7 years and $60 million we can find out whom Bill has been banging since he left the White House.

3. Pauly Shore’s Standup

Apparently Johnny Carson wrote a paper in college about what makes something funny. That sounds like an interesting paper, and hopefully I come across it some day. In the meantime I want to talk about something that’s easier to discuss, why things aren’t funny -- like Pauly Shore’s stand-up. So Pauly went on for an hour with only eight minutes of laughable material (the laughable stuff was self-deprecating to the state of his career). The remaining 52 minutes were racist remarks (he dropped an n-bomb and adopted an absurd caricature of what a black person sounds like) and stories about how he has had sex with women. This really isn’t a grievance on the same level as the others though. Basically I just wanted to point out that I saw Pauly in Tahoe this weekend, and that I was in Tahoe snowboarding because I’m cool and cool people snowboard, and that the temperatures in Tahoe were really warm because there’s this thing called global warming and there hasn’t been snowfall in the Sierra Nevadas in weeks.

The remaining grievances are pretty self-explanatory:

4. Those that Think God Wants them to Occupy a Certain Section of Land

5. Those that Think God Wants them to Kill Nonbelievers

6. Those that Think God Wanted them to Be President

7. Ann Coulter

8. The Happiness of Others

9. The Laughter of Children

10. Those that Put Others Down, Including Former A-List Celebrities who Are Forced to do Stand-up in Podunk Towns on Holiday Weekends, to Feel Better About Themselves

Friday, January 9, 2009

Hey Kobe, Did You Ever Get Back to Shaq about How His Ass Taste?

One of the great advances in human history is the recognition of bias, experience, expectation, etc. in shaping the way we humans perceive certain realities:

MARGE: Come on, Homer, Japan will be fun. You liked Rashomon.

HOMER: That's not how I remember it.

Regardless of the inability for people to agree on all external realities, there remain some cold hard facts that everyone should agree on no matter what: death comes for us all, kittens and puppies are cute, and Lebron James is currently the best basketball player on the planet. Yet for some reason, during the halftime show of tonight’s Mavs/Suns game on ESPN, both Avery Johnson and Jerry Stackhouse said they’d vote for Kobe over Lebron because Kobe has three rings.

I mean, it’s sometimes hard to find the right metrics by which to determine which of two basketball players is superior when they both have similar skills. And I can see how in some of those close calls, when basketball players maybe played against each other in a play-off series or two with teams of similar abilities, you might use ‘championships won’ as a tie-breaker. But we can’t do that here. Kobe has consistently played with more talented teammates and had better coaching than Lebron. To make my point, why don’t we engage in a little “thought experiment.” Let’s just assume that Kobe played on a team that didn’t have the most dominant player of his era on his team. Let’s just assume that he played on a team that didn’t have the greatest coach in NBA history calling the plays. Ok, you probably guessed where I'm going with this, the 2004-05 season when Kobe led the Lakers to an impressive 34 wins. So when it’s just Kobe, no dominant center and no Phil then Kobe can’t make the play-offs. The 2005-06 season saw the return of Phil, 45 wins and a first round exist from the play-offs. In 2006-07 the Lakers get 42 wins and another first round exit. So when it’s no dominant center and Phil it’s a team that barely makes the play-offs and forces Kobe to point fingers and demand trades. But when Bynum puts his game together and the Lakers somehow convince the Grizzlies it's in their interests to trade Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol, then Kobe is the MVP and the Lakers the best in the West.

And what does Lebron do with an undistinguished coach and no dominant center or any other player of note? Well, he single handedly beats the Pistons in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. He’s also currently leading his team to the best record in the East. I mean, really, can anyone argue with a straight face that the Cavs wouldn’t be a better team if they had Gasol, Bynum and Phil? Is there any non-glue sniffing Laker fan who would trade Bynum or Gasol for any of the Cavaliers? Isn’t it just absurdly obvious that Lebron is doing the same (team record wise in the 2008 season) as Kobe is with the Lakers but with far less talent surrounding him?

Basically my problems with Kobe go beyond a mere comparison with him and Lebron. Kobe is an enormously gifted athlete who can make more forced shots than anyone else in the league, but that doesn’t make him a better basketball player. Basketball is a team game it’s not about how incredible some of your made shots look. And while less often then it used to be, Kobe still too often uses his unbelievable athleticism to attempt an ill-advised shot fading away from the basket while surrounded by three defenders instead of passing to an open teammate. It'll make the highlights when that shot goes in, but more often than not it doesn't and Kobe glares at the ref while everybody else erases the poor decision-making from their collective memory. So my problem is that there has been an overvaluing of Kobe’s talents for his entire career. I mean, the Shaq v. Kobe debate should never have been close. Kobe should have deferred to Shaq up until the 2006 season (assuming the Lakers didn't appease Kobe by trading Shaq and assuming Kobe could have learned to live with Shaq like every other teammate Shaq ever had who found they could, because then the Lakers would have done what hindsight demonstrated they should have and wrung another championship or two out of the big dog) but Kobe's pride has never allowed him to defer to anything, even the most dominant center of an era. Anyways, just to prove my point let’s look at the cold hard facts of the time those two spent together. From 1996 until 2004, for Laker games featuring O’Neal but not Bryant, the Lakers were 36-8, an .818 winning percentage. In games featuring Bryant but not O’Neal, the Lakers were 53-45, a .541 winning percentage.

So in conclusion, he even though Kobe hits some pretty difficult jumpers at the end of games like he did tonight against the Pacers, if we just focus on those moments and not the three possessions in the last six minutes where he didn’t give the bigs a touch and forced up contested shots that missed, and if we ignore the talent of his teammates and coaches in helping him succeed, or if ignore the lack of success his teams had without a dominant center, or if we look over Lebron’s depleted roster, then we are missing the big picture. Kobe is great, but not as great as many believe. Also, he really should get back to Shaq about the ass taste. It’s just rude to take that long to answer someone’s question.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

That's Weird, It Looks Like the Senate Democrats Have Spines in that Picture

So apparently the race card is a trump. I wish I’d know that when I was playing crazy 8s the other day. See grandma had played the King of Corruption, and I didn’t have any cards to play since there isn't really a Corruption suit in a regular deck and I was out of 8s. But Grandma is half-crazy and full-senile so maybe it didn't matter anyways. But jeez, if I had known that all I had to do was assert that her card play was akin to an old fashioned southern lynching to get back to Diamonds (I had lots of Diamonds) then I would have at least tried.

I would also like to make a few more points with my remaining time. Point 1- seriously? Do you Senate Democrats just always cave? I mean, this wasn’t like this was the Bush Administration placing the vote for an unnecessary war right before a midterm election or anything. This was a few old guard civil rights leaders claiming that keeping your word to block any appointment from the corruption-tainted governor who looks like Sean Astin/some guy I went to law school with who I shouldn't name since he's not really a public figure but if you knew who I was talking about you'd say "Yea, he does look like the governor" as segregation politics. You Dems really need to learn more about saving face because this wishy-washy folding in the face of criticism makes you guys appear like a bunch of spineless wussies. Point 2- really old guard civil rights leaders, you were serious? You really believe that this was an old style lynching? You really think that language is appropriate and no way diminishes the old practice of hanging black people by trees with the rope squeezing their necks so tightly that oxygen no longer pumped into their hearts and brains and then their body was left out for everyone to see all for the purpose of keeping the backward/racist/tyrannical social Southern order? You think that language in no way diminishes real claims against real racism in the future so that you guys have absolutely no credibility when you try and stop those real attempts at racism?

Anyways, so this has been a disappointing week by our nation’s leaders and it leads me, as it often does, to say U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!