1 -- As noted in the FanPosts, Gerald Wallace's elbow injury is just a "contusion", and he seems on track to play in New Orleans on Wednesday. This is good news times two, as we likely get our best player back and avoid agonizing over whether or not Larry Brown would give starter's minutes to Dominic McGuire over Derrick Brown or Tyrus Thomas.
1a -- I'm a big believer in the Tacos AND Beer Principle. What is that? It's a humorous way of saying that the world is full of false choices. For instance, one rarely needs to choose either Tacos OR Beer; if presented that choice I'll always choose Tacos AND Beer.
1b -- When evaluating McGuire, Brown, and Thomas for purposes of deciding who deserves more playing time, there are several ways we can measure those players. We have "traditional" box score statistics, which we can pro-rate to account for minutes distribution, and which we can use to calculate shooting percentages and such. There are also more "advanced" statistics, such as Adjusted Plus-Minus, or Player Efficiency Rating, which count different events on the court, and perhaps weight the counted events in ways that require some additional math to derive a conclusion about what has been measured. And then we have our eyes and what we know about basketball, which we can use to judge events on the court that aren't captured very well by counting. Remember: Tacos AND Beer. Sometimes counting is the most accurate measure of what's happened on the floor, and sometimes we simply have to have seen it and described it to know what happened.
1c -- When Larry Brown, et al, decide whether McGuire, Brown, or Thomas deserves more minutes, I'm not sure they really take into account the known statistical record those players have put together. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that, as a group, they're very good at watching men play basketball, identifying a player's offensive and defensive skill set, and seeing how that skill set will work with other players on the roster. However, let's also assume that while they're aware of a given player's stat line, they prefer to give it very little weight in favor of their own observations of players in games and practice.
1d -- That would explain why guys like Jared Dudley, Shannon Brown, and Gerald Henderson have been marginalized and/or dumped as throw-ins in trades to teams that saw something else in them. Imagine you never kept stats of any sort. Dudley is smaller than most power forwards, not as quick as most wing players, and can't really jump. I'd bet that McGuire beats him in most conditioning-type drills. Brown, meanwhile, might handle the ball better than Eddie House, and while he can run and jump with anyone in the league, he's not exactly a perfect form shooter, or a particularly confident one, so he seems like a guy who can "only" play one "position", and not do the things LB believes a player at that position should do, which is shoot the long-mid-range jumper off a screen, or dribble drive to the rim in the half court offense. Raja Bell shot the jumper with precision and played on-ball defense with a certain flair that neither Henderson nor Brown can re-create.
1e -- All that's to say that if you didn't keep any kind of stats at all and were unaware of those players' statistical records, you might think Dudley, Brown, and Henderson are positionless bums who can't really do much, whereas McGuire plays everywhere and never seems to make mistakes, and Bell has a tight, sharp edge to his game that's a welcome relief from those guys who run out of control to both ends of the floor.
1f -- Tacos AND Beer. It's true that McGuire comfortably slides from the SF role to the PF role, but he's rarely been any good in any role, as measured by the statistical record. Career, per 36 minutes: 5.8 points on 42% shooting, 7.7 rebounds. He's 6-9, a solid, if unspectacular, athlete, and doesn't seem to make many mistakes, so it's completely understandable that merely watching him would lead to granting him more playing time. But, again, the statistical record should absolutely be a part of this discussion, because if McGuire's primary virtue on offense is that he doesn't really make mistakes, it should also be noted that Ronnie Brewer, Quinton Ross, Tayshaun Prince, and many others turn it over less often. In other words, he's proven himself such a horrifically bad offensive player that he'd have to be an elite defender just to be worth having around, let alone getting significant minutes.
2 -- The Indiana Pacers are rolling right now. Though they're "only" 8-7, they've beaten the Heat and Lakers in recent games. I've come around on them as a potential playoff team for one primary reason: they dumped Troy Murphy, and nearly everyone else on the team has benefitted. For many years, I've talked about Murphy as the kind of unappreciated player that lots of teams could use, but it's fascinating to see just how much of a black hole he is.
2a -- Let's start with some facts: Murphy is a very good rebounder and a very good three-point shooter. For his career, he's grabbed about 16% of the total available boards, 8% of available offensive rebounds, and 25% of available defensive rebounds. For reference, Paul Millsap, whose calling card his entire career has been tough rebounding, grabs 16% of total available rebounds, 11% of available offensive rebounds, and 20% of available defensive rebounds. Murphy combines that with 39% three-point shooting, or about what Ray Allen has shot from three for his career.
2b -- However, the most wins any of his teams have gotten is the Warriors' 38 back in 2002-03, under new coach Eric Musselman. That team featured Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, and Erick Dampier in addition to Murphy. With Mike Dunleavy, Earl Boykins, Adonal Foyle, and Bob Sura also getting over 1,000 minutes each, it's no wonder the team finished near the top of the league in ORtg and dead last in DRtg.
2c -- Not really relevant to the point, but amazing nonetheless: the Warriors used only two different starting lineups that entire season. 79 times, they started Arenas, Richardson, Jamison, Murphy, and Dampier. 3 times, they started Arenas, Richardson, Jamison, Dunleavy, and Dampier.
2d -- The W's traded Murphy to the Pacers in the Stephen Jackson deal, and Golden State immediately went on a run for the ages, sneaking into the playoffs, upending the 1-seed Dallas Mavericks, then playing the Jazz tough in a five-game series. Since then, the Pacers have been pretty awful... until this season, their first since 2007 without Murphy.
2e -- Murphy's teams' records are hardly an indictment of him as a player; they're just a starting point. I think what we're looking for is an evaluation of Murphy that incorporates information not found in his box score stats. Over the years, he's developed a reputation as a terrible defender. That's fine and good, but it's not quantified in ways that are particularly useful. Perhaps someone with the audience and the know-how has to start a Fans' Scouting Report for the NBA, similar to what Tangotiger does for baseball.
3 -- The Official Fiancee of Rufus on Fire and I watched Urban Cowboy the other night. While it's probably best known for it's schlock-country soundtrack, epic datedness (Houston in 1980), and John Travolta trying mightily to convince the viewer he's a West Texas hick at heart, what struck us most was that there are only two likable people in the whole movie: Bud's Uncle Bob and Aunt Corene, and they're the ones who get him drunk, set him up with a couple of loose women, and lie to his mother for him within the movie's first ten minutes. That is to say, the movie is a story of corruption, and contends that even a serial domestic abuser deserves a shot at love before the oil refinery kills him.
4 -- Terrence Williams was sent to the NBA D-League, explicitly as a "demotion", by Avery Johnson and the New Jersey Nets, mainly for missing meetings and possibly for other insubordinate behavior the team isn't making public. This is wrongheaded in many ways, not least because it reinforces the notion that the D-League is where the basketball screwups and factory rejects end up. What's so hard about using the D-League as the primary source of cheap talent to stock the 11th through 15th spots on an NBA roster? And why is that avenue to NBA success so unworthy of respect?
4a -- Beer AND Tacos. Solid players come from everywhere. Some are drafted in the second round. Some reached their peaks at 17, haven't gotten better, since. Some are still getting better at age 25. Some had epiphanies while playing pro ball in Belgium, and everything started to click in ways they didn't when they were coming off the bench for the Dayton Flyers. Wouldn't it be better for the NBA if those guys who started clicking were doing it in the U.S., where it would be far easier to identify them?