Tag:Matt Moore
Posted on: March 4, 2012 6:49 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 7:23 pm
 

Mamba strikes for revenge as Lakers top Heat

Kobe Bryant took it to Dwyane Wade and the Heat Sunday. (Getty Images)


By Matt Moore


Maybe all he needed was a reason to make it personal. Kobe Bryant has struggled against LeBron James over the past four years as James has risen to become one of, if not the best players in the NBA. Bryant's Lakers lost games to James' Cavaliers and both matches with the Heat last year, and one earlier this season. But after a hard foul from Dwyane Wade in the All-Star game gave him a concussion and broken nose which required him to wear a mask Sunday against the Heat, things changed. Despite Bryant saying that he didn't take offense to the foul, he certainly looked like a man possessed. 

Bryant scored 33 points on 23 shots, a model of efficieny as the Lakers downed the Heat 93-83 to improve to 3-0 since the All-Star Break. He hurt the Heat from every angle with every type of shot. He worked in the flow of the offense, something he's struggled with this season and which has hurt the Lakers' offense repeatedly. Bryant would never admit that Wade's foul on him during the All-Star game had an effect, but it was clear that Bryant was zoned in to win this game. 

It may not have been a revenge game, but it sure looked like it.

In the bigger picture, the Lakers bullied the Heat defensively Sunday, and that was the real difference maker. They shut off their transition opportunities and in the halfcourt bodied, shook, jarred and shoved them around. It was a physical contest and yet the Lakers were the more aggressive team overall. That tough defense only drew 15 free throws on 17 personal fouls versus the Lakers' 29 free throws on 23 personal fouls.

Most impressive may have been Metta World Peace, who has struggled the past two seasons, but had 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 steals, hitting 2-4 from the thraee-point line and a series of dagger turnarounds. Basically, if the world ended Sunday night you couldn't be all that surprised. MWP was everywhere defensively, badgering James and making steals and saves to dirsupt the Heat offense.

The size advantage for Miami was huge, especially with Chris Bosh missing another game due to personal reasons. The Heat had no way to stop or deter Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, and the twin towers pounded them on the offensive glass. Let me put it this way. In the fourth quarter, LeBron James was trying to wrap-around passes to Juwan Howard for finishes in traffic. You can imagine how that worked out.

The Lakers are playing the best ball of their season right now, the Heat on the third game of a West Coast road trip without Bosh. But it was a statement game for L.A. all the same, and one they needed.

The worst of the night has to go to Dwyane Wade, who shot 7-17 for 16 points and fouled out with five fouls, including one late useless bump on Kobe Bryant. Wade was frustrated with the physical play by L.A. all afternoon (Wade only shot two free throws), and seemed bothered by the intensity of the game and Bryant in particular. 

Turns out it's never wise to make a snake angry.
Posted on: March 4, 2012 6:49 pm
Edited on: March 4, 2012 7:23 pm
 

Mamba strikes for revenge as Lakers top Heat

Kobe Bryant took it to Dwyane Wade and the Heat Sunday. (Getty Images)


By Matt Moore


Maybe all he needed was a reason to make it personal. Kobe Bryant has struggled against LeBron James over the past four years as James has risen to become one of, if not the best players in the NBA. Bryant's Lakers lost games to James' Cavaliers and both matches with the Heat last year, and one earlier this season. But after a hard foul from Dwyane Wade in the All-Star game gave him a concussion and broken nose which required him to wear a mask Sunday against the Heat, things changed. Despite Bryant saying that he didn't take offense to the foul, he certainly looked like a man possessed. 

Bryant scored 33 points on 23 shots, a model of efficieny as the Lakers downed the Heat 93-83 to improve to 3-0 since the All-Star Break. He hurt the Heat from every angle with every type of shot. He worked in the flow of the offense, something he's struggled with this season and which has hurt the Lakers' offense repeatedly. Bryant would never admit that Wade's foul on him during the All-Star game had an effect, but it was clear that Bryant was zoned in to win this game. 

It may not have been a revenge game, but it sure looked like it.

In the bigger picture, the Lakers bullied the Heat defensively Sunday, and that was the real difference maker. They shut off their transition opportunities and in the halfcourt bodied, shook, jarred and shoved them around. It was a physical contest and yet the Lakers were the more aggressive team overall. That tough defense only drew 15 free throws on 17 personal fouls versus the Lakers' 29 free throws on 23 personal fouls.

Most impressive may have been Metta World Peace, who has struggled the past two seasons, but had 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 steals, hitting 2-4 from the thraee-point line and a series of dagger turnarounds. Basically, if the world ended Sunday night you couldn't be all that surprised. MWP was everywhere defensively, badgering James and making steals and saves to dirsupt the Heat offense.

The size advantage for Miami was huge, especially with Chris Bosh missing another game due to personal reasons. The Heat had no way to stop or deter Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, and the twin towers pounded them on the offensive glass. Let me put it this way. In the fourth quarter, LeBron James was trying to wrap-around passes to Juwan Howard for finishes in traffic. You can imagine how that worked out.

The Lakers are playing the best ball of their season right now, the Heat on the third game of a West Coast road trip without Bosh. But it was a statement game for L.A. all the same, and one they needed.

The worst of the night has to go to Dwyane Wade, who shot 7-17 for 16 points and fouled out with five fouls, including one late useless bump on Kobe Bryant. Wade was frustrated with the physical play by L.A. all afternoon (Wade only shot two free throws), and seemed bothered by the intensity of the game and Bryant in particular. 

Turns out it's never wise to make a snake angry.
Posted on: March 3, 2012 8:43 am
Edited on: March 3, 2012 9:13 am
 

Can we get smarter at building teams?

Research suggests the Magic may not have built around Dwight Howard the right way. (Getty Images)
By Matt Moore

So there's this big sports analytics conference called the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. If you're an NBA hoophead/blognut/basketball freakazoid you likely have already heard about it, since most of the writers who like to stretch beyond the tired cliches tend to spend a lot of effort talking and writing about this thing. 

The event's held at MIT with a bunch of "wicked smaht" people talking about a number of things that would likely bore you to tears if you're not a fan of sports geekery. It's not athletes talking about swagger (though NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver dropped a reference to that Friday which was hilarious), or about clutch (though there was a panel on how pressure impacts players). It's people that work in front offices and behind the scenes (for the most part) talking about regression analysis, paradigms of alternative thought, and correlation (not so much causation). 

It's easy for a lot of people to toss this stuff to the wind. It doesn't fit with how we usually view sports, and how we usually view sports is fun. It makes it complicated, it hones in on stuff that's too specific (a common complaint from players and coaches who love the forest, hate the trees), and it sounds like stuff that's too dense to take anything actionable from.

That's the trick. It's like what blogging really is about (besides funny videos, photoshops, and poor syntax). You have to search through the mess, take out the interesting components, and try and put them into a bigger perspective. What follows is an attempt to guide you through two compelling research papers presented at the conference, and why you should care about their results. 

Big 2’s and Big 3’s: Analyzing How a Team’s Best Players Complement Each Other

One major takeaway from the Big 3 results is that the data shows that, cluster 8, the multi- faceted small- forwards who are very good 3 - point shooters, are great players to build a team around, as long as there aren’t any similar players among the most talented players on the team. Very good results occur when these small- forwards are surrounded with a variety of player - types; the Big 3’s with the highest coefficients (7 - 8 - 12, and 8 - 10 - 12) both include players from cluster 8. This was true with the Big 2’s as well.  

Robert Ayer presented this study which had its methodological quirks. (I would have liked to have seen a better efficiency model than the one provided and even accounting for minutes, we should never be using per game numbers for anything more than a highlight clip for toddlers at this point.) But overall the thought process was really ineresting. Essentially, he classified players, factored their efficiency, and then ran analysis to discover what worked and what didn't work together. It's like using all of the data from NBA history to create models of the players we describe in broad terms and then using advanced metrics to figure out which of those archetypes should be used together to build a team. 

The Rub: Putting a pure point with a dominant center may not be as effective as pairing a versatile wing with a little shooting ability with the same dominant center.

The explanation: This calls into question the idea of the point-guard-big-man fit. For example, Dwight Howard, it has long been thought, needs to play with a great pure point guard. But his greatest success has been with a versatile three who could run the pick and roll and had some three-point shooting ability, in Hedo Turkoglu during the Magic's 2009 run. The analysis suggests that Howard would do better with, say, Andre Iguodala, who can defend, distribute, rebound, and score when called on, versus say Deron Williams. This doesn't mean that the two aren't a good fit. It just says it's possible that if you consider Deron Williams and Andre Iguodala equal talents in terms of their relative skillsets, that Iguodala and Howard might find more success from a production standpoint. 

It also speaks to how Otis Smith's move for Vince Carter in 2009 may have been the right move. If you improve upon Hedo Turkoglu's three-point shooting with Carter while keeping the same versatility, it's a win. The flaw may have been over-estimating Carter's diminished ability as a passer due to age. 

The fact that so much success was gleaned from wings in the study, be they versatile passers or high-volume scorers, suggests a radical shift in traditional thought about the strength of players. Wings are most often criticized regarding their tweener status while classic big men and point guards are idolized, outside of the exceptions like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. Turns out your small forward can have a huge impact on your winning percentage simply due to his position. 

In another real world application, high-scoring small forwards fit well with high-scoring 2-guard, but high-scoring power forwards and those same small forwards did not make the list of good matches. So there's that, Knicks fans.

The Rub: Having two players that do the same thing on your team isn't just bad, it's really bad. 

The Explanation:  Sacramento brought in John Salmons, Isiaiah Thomas and Jimme Fredette to a back court that already featured  Tyreke Evans and (presumably, in restricted free agency) Marcus Thornton. The idea was shots on shots on shots on shots. But instead, you have several players essentially with redundant skill sets, and the paper points out this stuff kills teams' production. 

A practical application of this is an assault on the best player available concept towards the draft. It's fine to draft a player like the one you have now, as long as you move one or the other, or do not play them together. The negative impact the study reveals in redundant players suggests that there's no point in stockpiling at a position if the two players are essentially the same.

A counter to this though lies in a confounding wins vs. production element from the paper:

Most observers would think that a Big 2 from the same group would not fit as well; this is partially contradicted by this analysis. While multi- faceted small forwards who shoot 3’s don’t fit well together (8 - 8, - 4.046), teams with two high scoring 2 - guards (2 - 2, 3.97) have historically over - performed their expected win total, given the team’s overall talent level and coachi ng skill. Digging a bit further into the data, nearly all of the teams with multiple high - scoring 2 guards played at a higher than median pace; although further analysis would be required to state conclusively, this is perhaps instructive on  the style of play that teams with two high - scoring 2 - guards should employ.
So pretty much if you want to stick two gunners on the floor together, that's allright. Some real world examples of this might include the 2011 Hawks which employed lineups featuring Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, and to a certain degree the Nuggets with J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony. The best example featuring a fast team might be the Seven Seconds or Less Suns with Leandro Barbosa and Johnson.

Takeaways: When you're building a team, you need to avoid big men stepping over each other. But you can duplicate shots, if you run in a fast-pace offense. However, you should look before you leap because it turns out small-forwards are pretty important by all accounts.

NBA Chemistry: Positive and Negative Synergies in Basketball

Why is Chris Paul for Deron Williams a mutually beneficial trade? Overall, our SPM ratings rate Chris Paul and Deron Williams nearly the same, but with differences in skills. Paul is a better ballhandler, Williams a slightly better rebounder, and Williams is better at offense and defense.

The SPM framework predicts that Chris Paul is a better fit for Utah because he creates a lot of steals (3.1 steals per 48 minutes (“SP48M”)), while no one else in the New Orleans lineup does (West 1.0 SP48M, Stojakovic 1.1, Chandler 0.7, Butler 0.9). Utah, on the other hand, has many players who create steals (Kirilenko 2.0, Boozer 1.5,  Millsap 1.7, Okur 0.9, Williams 1.4). Because defensive steals has positive synergies in our system, Chris Paul's  ballhawking skills fit better in Utah, where he can team up with others and wreak havoc to opponents' ballhandlers.

Conversely, why would New Orleans trade for Deron Williams? Our framework predicts that Williams is a better offensive fit with New Orleans. There are negative synergies between two good offensive players since they must  share only one ball, and the New Orleans starters take fewer shots than Utah’s. At New Orleans, Deron Williams  would not need to share the ball with so many players.  

Allan Maymin, Philip Maymin, and Eugene Shen presented a doozy of a numbers-fest which took a non-traditional spin on advanced plus-minus. In short, how well does a team do in a specific area like rebounding or turnovers versus their opponent when a player is on the floor versus off. There were some methodology issues in this one as well, but the concept was intriguing. 

The Rub: The get-at here is that player skills are irrelevant if they don't mesh with the team. Their kicker was the Paul-Williams trade concept, which says that both teams would benefit if they made a trade for each other's guard because of who the rest of their teams were. 

The explanation: This goes back to building around a star. In short, you can build good players around a great one but it doesn't matter if those other players' skills aren't complimented by the strengths of your star. We focus a lot on bringing in talent around a player. But bringing in offensive weaponry when your star's biggest impact on other players is defensively is missing the point. It's not about trading the best player, it's about finding the best players to surround them with. 

This seems obvious, but look at how many teams create logjams with their decision-making. For years the Warriors have been a defensive nightmare despite having two guards who both need the ball in the backcourt. The paper also touches on ball-handlers being redundant with one another because there's only one ball to share. The success of dual-point-guard lineups seem to contradict this measure, but in those situations, the players do thrive because one player takes on a scoring role. Understanding role play is crucial to this and it would be great to get coaches' thoughts on these ideas. 
Posted on: March 2, 2012 2:54 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 3:21 pm
 

Silver says Jordan is 'trying hard' with Bobcats

By Matt Moore 

Michael Jordan wants to work harder as an NBA owner. (Getty)
BOSTON-- At the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Friday morning, NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver was asked about the impact of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and how it's impacting the smaller market teams, specifically the Charlotte Bobcats. His response was telling about both the Bobcats and the new CBA in regards to how the league has sold the deal to him. Specifically, Silver pointed to ownership and the role it plays in market dynamics.

"Michael (Jordan) has assured us that he's working harder than he ever has in his life & playing less golf," Silver said. Jordan's Bobcats are 4-29 and approaching historic levels of failure. Jordan has often been criticized for heading to the links and taking a passive approach first as minority owner and then later as majority owner. 

Silver noted that the new CBA has put teams in a better position to succeed with good management. Rich Cho is in his first year as GM and the rebuilding plan is very early in its infancy. Having a dedicated staff and ownership working in unison is the only way they're going to escape the gravity of their mediocrity which has only yielded one playoff appearance in team history. 

Silver also referenced the attendance success when the Hornets were located in Charlotte as evidence that the market is viable, while also admitting that small market teams will continue to struggle due to the alignment of market factors. Contraction is talked about a lot in regards to the Bobcats, but every indication from the league is that both the current and former Charlotte franchises (the Hornets) are both safe for the time being. 



Posted on: March 2, 2012 1:52 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 2:58 pm
 

Friday 5 with KB: Trade season approaches

By Matt Moore



In this week's edition of 
the Friday 5,
Ken Berger talks about how you should evaluate trade rumors, if anyone will ever touch Wilt's 100-point-game, and how David Stern's legacy has evolved. 

1. 50th Anniversary of Wilt scoring 100 this week. There's a lot of talk about whether it will happen again or not. Do you think if the NBA went through a hyper-scoring binge like we've seen in the past it could ever happen again, or be passed?

KB: Never. The game is too different, defenses are more sophisticated and the talent level is more equal than in 1962.

2. 'Tis the season, KB. What are the things fans should look for when judging the accuracy of a trade rumor?

KB: Excellent way to put it. You have to consider the source (who's reporting it and how many outlets are reporting it) and dissect the potential agendas that are at play. For example, is an agent trying to manufacture news because he wants his client out? Also, teams have dozens of conversations about possible trades at this time of year. The mere occurrence of dialogue isn't news; serious discussions, with details of proposals that have been exchanged, perhaps rising to the ownership level, should be valued above the garden variety, "Team X is shopping player Y." As Ricky Watters once said, "For who? For what?" Details are proof. Finally, most teams have several people in the front office who are authorized and in position to discuss possible trades, which clouds the inevitable denial of those discussions. When a GM or coach says, "I've never even spoken with that team," or, "I've never even had a conversation about Player X," that doesn't mean someone else in the organization who's authorized to have those discussions didn't do so. In short, it's a tangled web we weave in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline.

3. Steve Nash is both the most adamant he doesn't want to be traded and one of the most involved in trade rumors. Do the Suns know exactly what they want to do with him, considering their public statements of "Nash now, Nash forever?"

KB: The key question is, what does Nash want? He doesn't want to be out there publicly lobbying for a trade, but if he decides it's time to move on, I believe the Suns will try to oblige.

4. Michael Beasley's another name out there on the wire. Are coaches receptive to dealing with his... er... eccentricities?
 
KB: For a contender that needs versatile scoring punch (Lakers, Celtics, Magic), Beasley would be the ideal fit. The questions will become, can he be had for a second-round pick? And if not, will a team -- particularly the Lakers, who have two first-rounders -- become so desperate to upgrade that they'll part with one?

5. David Stern said in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel he can't be concerned with his legacy because it will impact his ability to do his job. What do you think Stern's legacy is today, given the events of the past 12 months?

KB: Any time you discuss legacy, it has to be a big-picture, textured discussion. Though the lockout, lost games and hard-ball negotiating tactics are fresh in our minds, those things can't move ahead of certain undeniable accomplishments like dramatically increasing national TV exposure and revenue and globalizing the brand. But depending on how things work out in New Orleans and Sacramento, Stern is in danger of having his legacy tarnished by franchise relocation. The financial circumstances in markets like those and Milwaukee, Charlotte and Memphis are grim. If the problems can't be solved by revenue sharing, then what? So Stern can't retire yet simply because he achieved a new collective bargaining agreement. He can't leave the NBA until he's leaving all 30 franchises (or however many there are when he leaves) on sound footing competitively and economically. So that part of his legacy, which includes over-expansion, is still to be determined.
Posted on: March 2, 2012 11:07 am
Edited on: March 2, 2012 12:06 pm
 

Podcast: Will the Celtics blow it up?

Rajon Rondo (Getty)
By Matt Moore 

The Celtics are facing a huge upheaval, and aren't being quiet about it. Rumors continue to swirl regarding the end of the Big 3 era, as the team looks to the future. Rajon Rondo has been the subject of the majority of talks, despite being the best player on the team at this point, and despite Doc Rivers' insistence to the contrary. But how has this affected the Celtics? Is it bothering them at all? More importantly is it time to blow this thing up?

We talked to WEEI columnist Paul Flannery about the feel from players right now and where the organization stands as the precipice of a rebuild rapidly approaches.

 


So since we did that interview, we've posted on the Celtics being interested in Michael Beasley and Doc Rivers vehemently denying that they are shopping Rondo. All this talk of what the Celtics are or are not doing reasserts what Flannery says regarding how the Celtics are constantly looking to improve.

The fact that Ainge is so unsentimental about the Celtics has always been a strange offset to the team's unity among its players, dating back to the "Ubuntu" philosophy from 2008. But Ainge has been looking forward since last year's trade of Kendrick Perkins, and while Rondo is their best player, it's clear that the Celtics won't be closing any doors. And as long as they're open to making moves, those convesations will wind up in the media.

The drama continues to unfold in Boston.

Posted on: March 2, 2012 10:57 am
Edited on: March 2, 2012 12:14 pm
 

Silver touts transparency in lockout tactics

By Matt Moore 

Adam Silver could be pulling the strings at the next CBA negotiations. (Getty)
BOSTON -- Adam Silver appeared Friday as a panelist for the opening session of the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. During the conversation on the panel of "In the Best Interest of the Game: The Evolution of Sports Leagues" Silver was asked about the keys to the league's success in the recent labor negotiations, and referenced "transparency" as a key. Which is kind of interesting.

Silver specifically said that the league's opening of their books to the players was crucial to the league's approach. Personally, I thought starving the players off their paychecks for two months was helpful, too, but sure, whatever. That issue was hugely contested throughout the lockout, as the league continuously held back releasing its figures. When the league later did "open the books," the players heavily disputed how their figures regarding losses were calculated. A Forbes report also disputed the NBA's conclusions. The league went on the offensive to defend their assertions of losses and presented a compelling case in some of the most open discussion about the realities of the league's financials we've seen.

Why is this relevant?

We're nearly four months out of the lockout, and the battle is still being waged with the same talking points. Silver referenced the possibility of being back at the table in six years, when both the NBA and NBPA have an opt-out which could drag professional basketball back into lockout hell once again. Silver repeated the same tenets we heard throughout the lockout from Silver, but in this session, there wasn't the edginess we saw after the tense hours at the negotiating table over the summer and fall. Silver impressed with his command of the talking points while also conveying something we hadn't seen from the league in several months, empathy, for the owners, players, and fans.

Silver noted that after the lockout's resolution, there seemed to be "very little acrimony" between the owners and players.

We'll see how true that is in six years, when it could be Silver leading the league for the first time as both its head negotiator and public face. If Friday is any indication, the players should be prepared for an even tougher opponent should that acrimony miraculously return.

Posted on: March 1, 2012 12:09 pm
 

Quote of the Day: JaVale can't say he does

JaVale McGee on understanding message Wittman is sending with benching: "I can’t say I do, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out sooner or later."
via Twitter / @MrMichaelLee: JaVale McGee on understand ....

Are we being too hard on JaVale McGee? I mean, I don't want to just crush the young guy for his attitude, behavior and general lack of anything resembling common sense without good reason or purpose. It's just that he's 24, in his fifth season. Don't you have to figure things out eventually? McGee is so phenomenally talented, could be so good in this league if he were to instill the right discipline. You wonder what would have happened to him if he'd landed on a team with a more serious outlook, a more dedicated approach, if he had a veteran busting him to stay in line.

McGee doesn't get in trouble off the court. He's acerbic with the press, but who cares, lots of guys are. It's that he continually does things on the court which, let's face it, to borrow a phrase, "just don't make no sense."  

The circus act was fun in Washington for a few years. You know, six years ago. Eventually you have to instill a new culture, and you wonder how much of a house cleaning they're going to have to do in order to make that a reality. They bough into Andray Blatche when his contract was up and look how that turned out. Will they do the same with McGee? You have to think the culture in Washington is a bigger problem than the talent.  
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com