Posted on: March 3, 2012 6:12 pm

Barkley says Jordan has not done well as an exec

Barkley does not approve of MJ's work as an executive. (Getty Images)
Posted by Royce Young

Michael Jordan is the greatest ever. Let me be more specific. Greatest player ever. Because in terms of being a basketball executive, he hasn't had a lot of success.

He's the primary owner for the Charlotte Bobcats and was president of the Wizards when they drafted Kwame Brown No. 1 overall in 2001. And as Charles Barkley told ESPN Radio in Chicago, His Airness has not been all that great in the front office.
"I think the biggest problem has been I don't know if he has hired enough people around him who he will listen to," Barkley said Thursday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "One thing about being famous is the people around you, you pay all their bills so they very rarely disagree with you because they want you to pick up the check. They want to fly around on your private jet so they never disagree with you. I don't think Michael has hired enough people around him who will disagree."


"I love Michael, but he just has not done a good job," Barkley said. "Even though he is one of my great friends, I can't get on here and tell you he's done a great job. He has not done a great job, plain and simple."
Hard to argue with Barkley's assessment, seeing as the Bobcats are an NBA worst 4-29 this season, while losing 19 of their last 20. Jordan fired last season's head coach Larry Brown and basically blew up the roster trading Gerald Wallace while deciding not the re-sign Raymond Felton.

Jordan became a part owner of the Bobcats in 2006 and hired former Bulls teammate Rod Higgins as his general manager ni 2007. Jordan assumed primary ownership in 2010. In June of 2011, Higgins was promoted to president of basketball operations as Rich Cho was hired as general manager after being fired from that position in Portland.

So here's Jordan's record in charge of Charlotte: Drafted Adam Morrison third in 2006, Brandan Wright eighth in 2007 (traded him to Golden State), D.J. Augustin ninth in 2008, Gerald Henderson 12th in 2009, didn't have a pick in 2010 and Kemba Walker ninth in 2011. This will likely be the first time in Charlotte, other than the Morrison pick, that Jordan will have a decision to make in the top five the draft.

That's where you make your moves. That's where you turn things around. As of now, Barkley's right about MJ. He hasn't done a good job. But that doesn't mean all hope is lost.
Posted on: March 3, 2012 12:30 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 12:38 pm

Lamar Odom recalled from D-League

Posted by Royce Young

Another twist in the brief, but strange Lamar Odom situation in Dallas: Now he's not going to the D-League, as was reported a few days ago. The team actually sent out a press release announcing he was "recalled" despite him not actually ever playing for the affiliate. More details via ESPN Dallas:
Forward Lamar Odom will skip what was Saturday's scheduled return to the court in the D-League, and instead report directly to the Dallas Mavericks as they seek to snap a four-game skid, according to sources close to the situation.

The Mavericks, who have lost five of six, face the Utah Jazz Saturday night in Dallas.

Odom, his agent, Jeff Schwartz, and Mavs owner Mark Cuban had met earlier this week in Dallas and worked out a plan to ease Odom back onto the team after his personal absence unexpectedly extended more than a week.

He was just hours away from reporting to the D-League's Texas Legends in nearby Frisco for the morning shootaround and was to play in their game Saturday night to build up stamina before returning to the Mavs for their road game Monday at Oklahoma City. Odom has not played in a game since Feb. 20.

But after Dallas lost Friday to the New Orleans Hornets 97-92, plans changed because the Mavs need him now, a source said.

This comes a day after coach Rick Carlisle didn't hold back on Odom saying his patience was "worn thin" and questioned if he was really all in with the team.

It's not an ideal situation for a defending champion to deal with. They've had enough turnover in losing Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea and others so an issue with Odom isn't just a distraction, but hurts them on the court as well.

Odom has missed four games due to a family matter. He'll be in uniform Saturday as the Mavs play the Jazz in Dallas.
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 3, 2012 1:01 am

LeBron tweets, 'I fell short again'

Posted by Royce Young

LeBron James knows it. He knows what you're saying after Miami's loss against the Jazz. He choked. He's not clutch. He's shrunk again.

With the game on the line and the Heat down a point, LeBron passed to an open Udonis Haslem for the game-winner. Haslem missed, and now we're all talking about LeBron. After the game, LeBron tweeted this:

I fell short again. I don't know if LeBron just happened to phrase it that way, but that's real talk. That's digger deeper. That's laying it out there in a way that opens you up to his world.

He knows he failed late against the Mavericks. He knows he has a history of those moments. He doesn't deny it. He desperately wants to win and he did everything but make that shot for Haslem to get his team there. Eighteen points in the fourth, 35-10-6 for the game and brilliant defense and shotmaking down the stretch. But it's that one moment where he failed.

Except he didn't even fail. Haslem did. LeBron set him up beautifully, his teammate just missed the shot. But LeBron takes responsibility because as he tweeted, he could've done more. He could've made a difference. You can say a lot about yourself in 140 characters or less, and LeBron really did.
Category: NBA
Posted on: March 3, 2012 12:51 am

LeBron has inspiring fourth, but passes late

Posted by Royce Young

You want the LeBron James story summarized in a tidy 12-minute quarter? Take Friday's fourth quarter against the Jazz.

With Utah hammering the Heat, LeBron completely took over the game, scoring 18 points on 8-9 shooting bringing Miami within a chance of winning their 10th straight game. He was brilliant. He was spectacular. He was the best player on the floor, the best player on the planet, something straight out of a comic book. He did things only he can do and just had us all shaking our heads at his ability.

But that's not we're all talking about. We're talking about his pass to Udonis Haslem.

Was it the right basketball play? Sure it was. Open man, high percentage shooter from that spot. It's what you ask for there. But still, it feeds the beast. The beast that says LeBron isn't clutch, that LeBron doesn't want the ball late, that LeBron shrinks in the fourth quarter.

Nevermind that Kobe Bryant pulled a similar move with Derek Fisher for a game-winner against the Dallas earlier in the season. Difference is, Fisher made it. Haslem didn't. And now it's LeBron's fault.

But it is though, isn't it? There's this crazy dichotomy between making the right play and just hogging the ball and taking an off balance shot on your own. Thing is, LeBron had just done that hitting this wild shot to put Miami up three with 26 seconds left. Would you rather have had another one of those, or the open look for Haslem?

LeBron told reporters after the game, "It’s just the way I’ve always played ... When the teammate doesn’t make the shot it doesn’t matter much from a media perspective."

Could the right basketball play actually be wrong? It's all about the crunch-time debate. The statheads all say to run your offense and get a high percentage shot in those moments. The guys like Kobe, Durant and CP3 says forget that and want the weight on their shoulders. Maybe they pass in some circumstances, but it certainly isn't a habit. Can you picture Kevin Durant passing to Serge Ibaka for an 18-footer with the game on the line? I can't. Durant wants that shot.

There's a unique difference there, something we can't put our finger on. I don't think LeBron's shy or scared or afraid. I think LeBron just wants to make the right play. But sometimes, maybe it's the wrong one. It's a trend with LeBron. He's might be too perfect a player. The reason everyone made such a big stink about him passing the ball at the end of the All-Star Game was because it was part of a bigger theme. It fit the story. And then five days later, he does it again. We all want to say it's not a big deal, especially if Haslem makes the shot, but it doesn't feel that way, does it? It feels like it means something, right?

At a point, you have to be willing to live with the consequences of taking that shot. You have to be fine with answering questions of how you missed. You have to apply that same mentality that had you dominating 11 minutes and 25 seconds of a quarter and just say, "Screw it, this is my game." You have to be willing to face the music after a game and just say, "So what, I missed." That's a whole lot easier than answering questions about why you passed to Udonis Haslem.
Category: NBA
Posted on: March 2, 2012 7:37 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 7:38 pm

Carlisle: Patience has 'worn thin' with Odom

Rick Carlisle has a trophy, but he doesn't want the headaches involved with Lamar Odom. (Getty Images)
Posted by Royce Young

It's not going well for Lamar Odom in Dallas right now. He's not playing well, he left the team this week for personal reasons and instead of returing to the Mavericks, he'll be headed to their D-League affiliate in Frisco instead.

And don't think for a second the Mavs are entirely cool with it all. In fact, coach Rick Carlisle is pretty much fed up with Odom. Via ESPN Dallas:
"When he comes back, we're going to find out very quickly where things are at," Carlisle during his weekly appearance Friday on the ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's "Galloway & Co." "He's going to have to show us with his actions and attitude that he's in."


"Mark asks a fundamental question of anybody in our franchise: Are they in or are they not in?" Carlisle said. "Our fans want to know that Lamar's in. Our players want to know that Lamar's in. It's not about how many points he's scoring or rebounds; those things are a factor. Our fans, our players want to see the guy playing like his pants are on fire and we haven't seen that so far and that's got to change."
If Odom had been clearly committed on the floor, this obviously wouldn't be a question. But he hasn't come close to playing anywhere close to the level he did last season with the Lakers when he won Sixth Man of the Year. He hasn't just had a down year. He's fallen on his face. And the Mavs, notably Carlisle and the locker room, are pretty much sick of it.

"There is a personal issue here and we do not know the extent of it or the details of it," Carlisle said. "There is a fine line between compassion, which our owner is showing, and gross insensitivity."

"I'm disappointed," Carlisle continued, "with the way the whole thing's gone. We've worked hard with this kid. I'm a patient guy, Mark is a patient guy, Donnie is a patient guy, our team is a patent team, but patience has worn thin here.

"... This is serious business. The business of winning NBA basketball games is serious business. This is not easy. It's not easy to win a game in the NBA. ... We need people that are engaged and we need people that are into it. Our players will tell you the same thing. You ask Jason Kidd, you ask Dirk and they're going to tell you the same exact thing, and every night that you step onto the court or you step into that coaching box, it's a war and you've to got to be ready to go to war as a player and you've got to have people around you as a coach on your coaching staff, and ownership that are ready to go to battle with you and that's what we ask."

Tell us how you really feel, Rick. But he has reason to be worn out with it. At a certain point you can't just toe the company line and say everything that's politically correct. Odom's making almost $9 million this season and he's not holding up his end of the deal. He's mailing it in for the Mavs and they aren't happy with it.

Carlisle even said this, which I thought was maybe his strongest quote: "When Lamar comes back, if he comes on the floor and he competes the way people expect him to compete as a member of a world championship defending team," Carlisle said, "this problem will go away." The Mavs aren't hiding behind anything here. Their cards are on the table. Now it's up to Odom to meet them.

Odom's agent, Jeff Schwartz, put out a statement Friday on behalf of his player.

"The whole idea of going to the D-League was Lamar's," Schwartz said. "He proposed it to the Mavs; they never asked him. He wanted to get some floor time in actual game conditions before rejoining the team. People need to educate themselves on the rules in place here. NBA veterans don't get sent to the D-League without their consent."

No, they don't. But NBA veterans the caliber of Odom don't typically have to be.

Posted on: March 2, 2012 4:25 pm

The Clipper Darrell saga is really weird

Posted by Royce Young

Watch the video above. It's a documentary done by Bleacher Report as part of series highlighting different aspects of sports. This one being the Los Angeles Clippers most famous fan, Darrell Bailey. But you don't know who Darrell Bailey is. You know Clipper Darrell.

Here's the cliffnotes of what's happened in the past week: Clipper Darrell put up a blog post saying he was "DEVASTATED!!!" that the organization had told him to drop the Clipper off his name. The organization responded with an oddly attacking statement saying Clipper Darrell really was never a fan in the first place, just a money hungry enterpriser trying to make a buck off the team.

It's one of those things that's hard ot understand unless you're involved with the Clipper organization or are Clipper Darrell. There are probably a lot of details, a lot of information we are privy to that would help it all make sense. But when Darrell put up his blog post, the backlash was swift. The Clippers had another black eye. Reason being the organization has a spotty past, especially with owner Donald Sterling. And it would be very much like the team and owner to alienate their most loyal, most famous fan when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are owning Lob City and have the NBA buzzing.

But then again, after reading Bill Plaschke's column in the L.A. Times, maybe it was the other way around.
"We love him in the arena, fans love him in the arena, everybody loves his energy and his passion," said Carl Lahr, longtime Clippers vice president of marketing and sales.

The problem is, Darrell Bailey also wants to represent the Clippers outside the arena. He wants to make paid public appearances on behalf of the Clippers and give interviews as a Clippers spokesman and essentially turn his rooting interest into a business interest. Amazingly, the Clippers don't have a problem with that either. Although most teams would sue any fan who tried to capitalize on their name, the Clippers told Bailey they would not stop him from representing them, but would simply insist that he follow the same rules that apply to every other employee.

"Like any company, we would need control over him and his message," Lahr said. "He is using our name and our colors, and we would like control over how that is done."

Bailey, who did not return phone calls for this story, reportedly felt like this attempt at control was too stifling. So last week in a phone call with Lahr, he offered to stop being Clipper Darrell. Lahr told him that might be a good idea, but that he should think about it. Bailey never phoned back, and then Wednesday afternoon issued the statement on his website, stunning a Clippers organization that thought he was being treated fairly.

"Somewhere along the line, he stopped being a super fan and became a marketer," Lahr said. "He got to the point where he wanted this to be a commercial enterprise."

The Clippers say they actually offered their cheerleader a chance to be treated exactly like a Clippers cheerleader, with a $70 nightly salary but no unsanctioned interviews or appearances, and he refused.

"He's a really good person, but he told us he's in this to make money," Lahr said. "Once that happens, that changes the whole fan dynamic."
And then shortly after Bailey went public with what happened, the documentary footage surfaced and he had the Internet buzzing about his plight. But could it all have been some brilliant plan to make a buck off the organization in a backwards way? If he wasn't succeeding by being their unofficial mascot, maybe he decided to go a different route and get people talking the other way? Could it be?

Consider this: The Clippers have given Bailey a free ticket for years, and even kept it up when a Clipper ticket turned nearly hot as a Laker one. And it's not a bad seat. It's a lower bowl ticket that's worth a fair pricetag. Say what you will about Sterling, but it's not like the organization is straight stupid. They know how it wouid look if they dumped Darrell. Why do you think they've kept him around and seemed to bend over backwards for him for so long?

I'll admit it. When Darrell's post went up, I was one of many that reacted with disgust toward the Clippers. It reeked of being a very Clipper move. Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul all tweeted support for Darrell. And then a funny thing happened: Griffin and Jordan deleted their tweets. Maybe they got a little more to the story themselves. We might have all gotten ahead of ourselves here.

Maybe the most damning piece of evidence in the column is that Bailey reportedly flew to Dallas to meet with Mark Cuban about becoming their new superfan. It was Cuban's offer, but it definitely lines up with the idea that Darrell isn't simply just a lover of Clipper basketball. But maybe a lover of Clipper Darrell and what he can get out being that.
Posted on: March 2, 2012 2:56 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 5:55 pm

Westbrook will play Saturday versus Hawks

Posted by Royce Young

UPDATE: Westbrook will make it 283 straight as he's set to play tonight against the Hawks.


Russell Westbrook has never missed a game as pro. Or in college. He's played 282 consecutive games for the Thunder, but that could be coming to an end Saturday night.

In the fourth quarter of OKC's win over the Magic Westbrook stepped on a defender's foot and rolled his left ankle. He walked it off, sinking two free throws right after and playing pretty much the rest of the way. He exited the game with about 30 seconds left and went to the locker room.

Said Westbrook after the game, via The Oklahoman: "I'm much more focused on my career ... I think missing a game instead of missing (more time) in the long run won't hurt you. So we'll just see how it feels and hopefully I'll be able to play."

(If you're wondering, the all-time NBA record for most consecutive games played is 1,192 set by A.C. Green.)

This ankle injury comes just over a week after he rolled his other ankle in a game against Golden State. Westbrook didn't miss any time because of that one, but it certainly sounds like he's taking a cautious approach, which is wise.

If Westbrook can't go Saturday against the Hawks, Scott Brooks will have an interesting choice between Reggie Jackson or Royal Ivey. Jackson is the de facto backup as of now, but would Brooks really trust his inconsistent rookie with big minutes? Or would he split time between Ivey and Jackson with Harden running a healthy amount of point?

Hopefully for the Thunder's sake, they don't have to find out.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or