STATS ARE THE NEW SOCIAL NETWORK
Behold, the new Black/Jew dialogue starts today at We Are Respectable Negroes. Look for myself and Dr. LIC later in the week.
I don't know if the intertwub'ns (catch the slang!) is supposed to make me feel perpetually included, or forever alone. Certainly, blogger and Twitter can go either way, mostly depending on my mood. How you make a straight social network anti-social—not in the "Joey never goes out anymore," but actually encouraging narcissism and absence of any form of interaction—is beyond me. I feel the same way about sports sometimes. So Kobe goes for 61 while I'm busy taking notes on the Blazers. I've watched the highlights. I knew it was happening. I'm writing about it. And yet this morning, I can't help but feel like I'm out in the desert with all the wrong memories. You'd think that the power of modern communication and computing could provide a reasonable facsimilie of first-hand experience. Instead, all of this build-up seem like that much more mockery. I missed it. All the catch up, prying, or immersion in the world can't get me any closer to that basic, visceral event, which provides the spark for all the web-borne reinforcement going on this morning.
But fuck it, dude score 61, it was a modern miracle, and I have something to say about that bare fact. For firsts, I know this will repercuss back onto the way this Bynum-less team is perceived. I trust a lot of these reactions will be stupid, so please refrain from airing them out here. I swear to Hoth, I will delete them. This has also allowed me to deconstruct the myth of the Garden, to which I welcome angry, or empirically sound, objections. Yes, I do equivocate the visitor's record with the all-purpose record, with the latter raising all sorts of questions about how the Knicks feel about the Garden, or maybe real evidence of a franchise style that abides throughout the ages (oft-referenced, rarely proven, truism). Or maybe I just don't understand how uncommon 50-point games are.
In Kobe's case, though, even as it was happening you heard mutterings about D'Antoni inflation. This theory holds that playing for or against Mike D'Antoni leads to a stat explosion. Therefore, any and all numbers achieved in that context deserve disdainful raised eyebrow. It's also been brought up in reference to David Lee's numbers, which because they're distorted cannot gain him entry into the All-Star Game. I'm by no means well-versed in the advanced statistical community, but it seems like we could adjust these numbers to determine just how many "real" points Kobe scored, or how many double-doubles Lee would have elsewhere.
ENTER TOM ZILLER
The so-called Mike D'Antoni Inflation Effect is wildly overstated. I can't really delve into the philosophical question of whether the mere existence of D'Antoni magically makes every player's heart swell to the point of scoring explosion (read on for Shoals' opinion), but I can strip pace from the equation, something a hundred amateur statisticians have done since the birth of SSOL.
D'Antoni's Knicks play at an above average pace, giving the players more opportunities to score and rebound and so on. The Knicks average 97 possessions/game, league average is less than 93. So adjust David Lee's 16/12 down 6% to account for the extra team possessions, and he's really a 15/11 guy. Quel horreur. (This is a quick and dirty [emphasis on the dirty] calculation; this assumes no other affects on Lee or the team if the team were to be forced into league average pace suddenly. That assumption at a team/player level makes me anxious, but so does Francisco Garcia. But you don't see me discounting Francisco Garcia's existence.)
As this chart -- the Knicks' per-game scoring figures at real pace and league-average pace -- shows, the Mike D'Antoni Inflation Effect as it pertains specifically to pace is wildly exaggerated.
In a equipace world, Brandon Roy would be the league's #7 scorer instead of his current #11. LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, David West and Rodney Stuckey also get love in a land without D'Antonis and Nellies.
This assumes, though, that the difference is a purely quantitative one. Bill Simmons's asterisk argument, I take it, is that there's also a qualitative shift, a suspension of all common sense that gives way to numbers that are not merely inflated, but also empty. I wonder, then, if there's some way not just to fix numbers according to pace (or paceless-ness), but to also quantify the amount of irrationality or impetuousness that a team like the Knicks or Warriors brings to the game. It's possible to play fast and smart.
On the other hand, when a D'Antoni or Nelson team is intent on sowing the seeds of mayhem and disrupting all basketball order, the opposing team is either tricked or forced into following suite. They are the proverbial serpent 'round the hoop, and dude, we kind of needed to listen to the serpent to so we could one day build our own zoos. I don't believe that there's no such thing as a bad shot or poor decision against these teams, just that you can get away with things—maybe even have to get into them—if you can't outright shut down these offenses. The challenge, then is to somehow quantify stupidity on both side. Wide-open lay-ups, drives into four defenders, cherry picks, full-court drives, gambling for the steal on every play. . . these are the markers of deviance, and big surprise, the ball I love. Remove them, and pace could truly be universalized. I wonder, though if there's not a slippery slope, or two of them, on either side of an equilibrium forever in question. Where you set it, what represents the mean, is strictly a matter of preference.
(We considered also adjusting for the team's own defense, with the idea that D'Antoni teams don't care about defense and can thus reserve all energy for offense, thus inflating their production -- as in, on any other team, the players would produce less because they'd get tired on defense. But this is stupid and a few steps too far. Your top scorers list would just be Celtics and LeBron. BOO.)
ZILLER LEAVES; SHOALS CHOOSES IMAGE