Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Spur of the moment

Do the Spurs have one more title run left in them?  History says they don't.
As Bill Parcells would say, let's put away the anointing oil.  This isn't the Spurs of old.  They are just old, relatively speaking.  They are winning with a high-powered offense and average defense.  The Spurs of old were winning championships in large part because of their defense and timely execution on offense.  I don't doubt that this Spurs' team is capable of making the Finals in a seemingly not-so-tough Western conference, but I do doubt they are capable of winning the championship.  When I think of a championship team, the first question that comes to my mind is "do they have a top defense?"  Certainly, defensive rating and defensive eFG% aren't the end-all-be-all statistics, but they are certainly stats I like to use to evaluate a team's body of work and predict how far they will go in the postseason.  Of course, this doesn't take into account that the team could improve substantially in the playoffs than what they were in the season such as the 95 Houston Rockets.  So anything can happen.  Let's look at the stats of past Spur teams: 

The 98 Spurs were 1st in defensive rating and 1st in defensive eFG%, relative to that season.  That Spurs' team was pretty much a juggernaut defensively.  Just to use one game for example, in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals vs. the Portland Trail Blazers, the Blazers were held to an astounding .247% shooting.  This was in Portland.  25%?  That is the way the old Spurs won basketball games and championships.  Certainly they didn't hold every opponent to such a ridiculously low percentage, but it's just an example of how suffocating they could be on the defensive end.  In large part because of a young and energetic Duncan, and an older but savvy ,David Robinson.

The 02 Spurs were 3rd in defensive rating, and 2nd in defensive eFG%, relative to that season.  Once again, elite defensively.  They were so great defensively, that even a team of Shaq and Kobe had no answer for them.  This was the season that Bruce Bowen really became one of the best perimeter defenders the game has ever seen, and would be a large reason why they won championships without David Robinson.

I'll spare you an extra paragraph and will just say that in 2004, the Spurs were first in defensive rating, and first in defensive eFG%, relative to that season.  In 2006, they were 2nd in defensive rating, and 2nd in defensive eFG%.  Of course we remember how embarrassingly awful the Spurs made the Cavs look in that Finals.  There was nothing LeBron James, or any other Cav player for that matter, could do against the Spurs.  Some of that had to do with the Cavs not being really anything outside of LeBron, but most of it was that suffocating defense.

As you can see, those Spurs' teams won largely because of their defense.  Of course, with timely execution offensively as well.  We look at today's Spurs and they are nothing comparable to the Spurs of old.  They are much more offensive-minded than defensive-minded as they sport the best offensive rating in basketball and the #1 offensive eFG% to go with it.  Something you didn't think you would ever see from a Gregg Popovich coached team.  Conversely, they sit 11th in defensive rating, and 16th in defensive eFG%.  This is not a championship defense.  I'm not really certain this defense is good enough to win the West; especially when you consider three of the current playoff teams in the West have a better defensive rating than them, and four of them have a better defensive eFG%.  As we've seen throughout NBA history, average defensive teams do not win championships, and I'd be willing to bet that the Spurs do not make it out of the West despite the fact that the West doesn't look all that tough this year.  It's not wise to assume that this team will just run through every team in the West and on to the Finals.  This isn't the old Spurs.  On the other hand, it's not wise for me to assume that this team can't improve defensively in the playoffs and make a title run.  I'm going off my instincts and empirical evidence.  You factor in age, an average defense, and better defensive teams than them in the West, it's hard to see the Spurs rolling through the West like many people seem to think.  It's even harder to see them beating the Chicago Bulls or the Miami Heat even if they managed to make the Finals.  Hold off on the crowning and anointing oil.  The Spurs, just like last year, could be sent packing much earlier than most anticipate.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Putting an end to World Peace

You can't spell oxymoron without moron.
This is my inaugural post on my blog, so I will get straight to the point.  There needs to be an end to world peace--Metta World Peace that is.  I'm sure you all saw the infamous elbow shot to the side of James Harden's head.  If you haven't seen it well, here it is.  The elbow shot was as dubious as Ron Artest changing his name to the aforementioned, World Peace.  Which is an oxymoron in itself, because he's the complete opposite of what his name demonstrates.  At least as far as on the court.  Whether or not you believe the elbow shot was intentional is up to you.  You ask me, it seemed intentional and Artest was well aware of what he was doing.  This does not belong in basketball, period.  End of story.  If Stern wants to send a message, he should suspend, the artist formerly known as Artest, for the rest of the year.  I would go as far as banning him from the NBA for the rest of his career with no shot at the Hall of Fame.  As despicable as what Pete Rose did, it was nothing on the level of what WP did in the Palace of Auburn Hills.  He embarrassed the NBA in what had to be the most pathetic display ever seen in a sports venue when he leaped into the stands.  For that alone, World Peace should have never saw an NBA court again.  Yet, he was allowed back and unfortunately won a ring.  He's proven since then, that he's still the headcase and dirty player that he's always been.  I think this has to be the last straw.  This guy just doesn't get it.  Why allow such a selfish, headcase, dirty basketball player continue to give black eye after black eye to the NBA?  Professional sports' athletes have responsibilities in how they handle themselves on and off the field/court/etc..  They get paid substantially because they are more physically talented and gifted than the average person.  With great power does come great responsibility.

What if World Peace wanted world peace and Harden wanted world war.
I understand that athletes are human.  We all make mistakes.  At some point, you have to draw the line.  WP has made far too many mistakes, including the mistake of all mistakes, fighting fans.  Sure, fans can be assjacks, and I can understand if an athlete wants to kick our rear ends.  I could understand if WP would want to kick my rear end if he were ever to read this disposition.  He's human isn't he?  Or is he?  Could his antics just be an act for attention, and is he trolling us all to get a reaction?  Nobody knows what's going on in that head of his.  I have no problem with WP personally.  Heck, I don't even know the man.  I'm sure he's a nice, smart, and riveting chap.  Certainly he's a philanthropist and I respect that.  The problem I have with WP is it's just been too many mistakes on the court.  This has to be it.  I'm certain Stern won't suspend him for the year for this latest act, but he should seriously consider it, and should consider banning him from basketball for the rest of his life.  WP has been given too many chances, and he keeps making the most egregious mistakes.  Think about how Goodell lays down the hammer in the NFL.  Stern has to put his foot down.  Imagine if any NFL player would go as far as fighting fans as WP did?  Goodell would probably ban that player from the NFL for life.  The fact that Stern let WP back into the NBA should have drawn more criticism than it did.  The fact that these egregious acts from him are continuing just further verifies that WP should never have been allowed back into the league.  Imagine if Harden's concussion symptoms became season or even career threatening?  You let WP play in another basketball game, and another one of these scenarios will happen again.  With WP, there is always something, and it's usually egregious.  I'm all for world peace, but not Metta World Peace.