We're going to try something new here in the 'Sphere. Your comments in the blog and at the end of my columns are pretty self explanatory. Not always printable, but self explanatory. Those of you who take the time to send an email deserve a quick response. So I'm going to be responding more frequently to my, um, "fan mail," and I use that term loosely. So here's the latest batch of emails beamed from the mother ship in Fort Lauderdale. Geez, tell me what you really think ...
Bubbs writes of my take on the Celtics: "That's somewhat true of Rondo. But the Celtics only will go as far as Paul takes them, just as I said last year. He plays up to the level as a great player, we can't be beat. If he plays soft, laid back, just trying to fit in, we can't win against the great teams."
Hey, Bubbs. Congratulations. When did you sign with the Celtics? And here I thought Marbury was their only big acquisition. Seriously, you make a great point about Pierce. Despite his heroics in the playoffs and Finals last year, somehow he isn't regarded nationally as being on the same level as the top stars. But the more I watch him, the more it becomes apparent that I can count the players I'd rather give the ball to on the last possession of a tight game on four fingers: Kobe, LeBron, Wade, and Dirk. When he's on and it's crunch time, very few are better.
Jim M. writes of my take on the MIT stats conference: "Very interesting article. Could you give me more info about this? For example, what statistical criteria do they use and why?"
Thanks, Jim. There's no short answer to your question except to say that the sophisticated teams are analyzing positively everything. Their goal is to attempt to quantify things that, on the surface, don't seem quantifiable. The best example is defining clutch play. Some of the smart people I spoke with at MIT seemed OK with the clutch-play rankings at 82games.com, which define clutch time as the last five minutes of regulation or overtime with neither team ahead by more than five points. They key thing to remember is that there are multiple factors that determine the outcome of games, possessions, and the multiple chances to score that occur within possessions. For example, going back to the notion of whether or not shooters have hot streaks: The numbers show that when a player made his last jump shot, he's more likely to 1) shoot his team's next shot, 2) shoot it sooner in the possession, and 3) shoot a more difficult shot. To get the purest interpretation of these results, you have to consider that there may be more than one reason why the ensuing shot is more difficult. On one hand, the player (let's say Kobe) might be inclined to take a more difficult shot because he thinks he's feeling it. But the defender may be forcing him to take a more difficult shot because he's aware that the last one went in. The variables are almost endless, but the teams that utilize all the tools and data at their disposal, in my opinion, have a higher probability of having success. Unless they're the Clippers.
John W. takes issue with my take on the Celtics: "Oh by the way ... it was a good 1-1 weekend for the Cavs, also. Don't be so biased. You sound like a Republican in the presidential race. Try to be a little more, uh, talented."
You betchya, John! I'll try! And if somebody thinks I have a pro-Celtics bias, then I must be doing my job.
Bebeto disagrees with my assertion that the Magic won't beat the Cavs or Celtics in the playoffs: "Voila, Ken: That is why you are a non-quality writer."
According to Wikipedia, Jose Roberto Gama de Oliveira -- a.k.a. "Bebeto," is a former Brazilian soccer (a.k.a. "football") player who led Brazil to the 1994 World Cup. Spelled differently, it also means "little baby" in Spanish.
Bryan says LeBron should still be MVP, not D-Wade: "Ken, seriously. I just had this debate on a CBS message board. LeBron didn't win last year even though his stats were better than Kobe's, because Kobe was on a better team and LeBron didn't win 50 games. This year, LeBron's stats have been almost as good, if not better, and his team is much better. I love D-Wade too, but he is this year's LeBron James from last year ... and LeBron is this year's Kobe. His team is much better; D-Wade won't win 50 games, and you even said it yourself ... the numbers are very comparable. If you didn't vote for him last year, LBJ has to get it this year based on those same criteria. You can't take it from him both years."
Thanks, Bryan. Sound reasoning and a perfect example of why this year's MVP vote will be even more difficult than last year's.
Chris Fanguy says don't forget about CP3: "Leaving Chris Paul out of the league MVP talk is a crime. He is the whole New Orleans team and is having a BETTER year this year than his 2nd-place MVP year last year. He is the best overall player in the game and is a class act off the court. Everybody needs to learn to stop jumping on the bandwagon and really dig into some stats. Paul could be the FIRST PERSON ever to lead the league in steals and assists in consecutive years."
Good call, Fanguy. This analysis from HoopsAddict is from last season, but it highlights how quietly dominant CP3 really is. I have no problem with him getting all the consideration he deserves. But think about how long it took Kobe to win his first MVP. Paul is going to have to wait his turn, and LeBron, Wade, and Kobe are playing at too high a level for him to topple those giants this season. Someday, though, it'll happen.
Lucas offers a vote for Wade: "Wade is the most deserving of the MVP. Too bad all the writers already gave it to Squire James last November.
Hey Lucas, as my article proves, I haven't made up my mind.
Eric N. says I need to go West: "Your bias towards the Eastern players and teams is disappointing. How come no mention of Kobe? P.S. Have you ever played?"
It goes without saying that Kobe, the defending MVP, is in the running. But how many points would LeBron and Wade be averaging if they played with Pau Gasol? Anyway, it is well documented that I was a key reserve -- and I use that term loosely -- for the West Islip High School varsity boys' basketball team on Long Island in the late 1980s. But I should've played lacrosse.
Kevin K. says welcome to the D-Wade fan club: "I'm glad you came out with the D-Wade argument. I always liked him better than LeBron and Kobe. Maybe it is his swag, but I hopped on the Miami Heat bandwagon as soon as he joined the squad. D-Wade is my favorite player and I just hate the fact that LeBron and Kobe get all the exposure. What I really admire about my dude D-Wade is his humble attitude. That is what makes him an even better player ... I'm out.
You're out? Do we have one of Rome's clones stepping up in the BergerSphere? Nice! So here's a response: "Humble is as humble does. Sincerely, Kobe Bryant."