“Yes, there were some setbacks along the way. Scores of straw men suffered savage beatings in the name of analytics, under the mistaken premise that it was supposed to replace everything that came before it.
Eventually, however, the best information wins. And ultimately, analytics is about providing more and better information to supplement what is already available. Steadily, that realization has taken hold. Not only is it now acceptable to mention things like true shooting percentage in polite conversation, but there’s also been a real quantum shift in front offices like the one I’m about to join.”
Tommy DeeIf you’ve been here since 2008, you know how we feel about hyper-metrics. If you haven’t, here it is in a nutshell. Information in all forms is important to making a final decision whether it be a transaction or part of a game plan adjustment or implementing a business partnership. There are bits of information that decision makers listen to, and such that gets tossed away immediately. It’s a collaboration leading to a hopeful improvement. What John Hollinger did for the world of writing was open doors and build a much bigger conversation about basketball. He’s a visionary and visionaries have to have guts.
John and I have never met and I’m sure if he’s ever read anything I’ve written or tweeted he would hopefully think that I view the game as a coach/scout. That’s the foundation of the platform and that’s Xs and Os and years of knowing the game from several layers and viewpoints. The fact is I’m not anti numbers, but I am critical of numbers for the sake of content, which is a negative to Hollinger’s greatness. It’s called paralysis by analysis and it’s not a niche. Too many people overcomplicate it because they think they can. In my opinion those people insult the game.
I’m critical of some metrics, not because I don’t understand them, something that I’ve been accused of and something I take very personally, but because I need to see someone integrate them into a practical solution. I’d like to hear a player say “that makes sense and I will apply that in the flow of the game.” It’s easy to sit in a press box and talk about formulas about how a player should be playing more minutes or look for a shot from a place that they have an awesome TSS%. It’s quite another to teach and train an athlete to perform at a high speed and think about executing.
The game is more music than sport in my opinion. It’s more about preparation, discipline and executing within a rhythm moreso than a calculator. Look at the impact Jason Kidd has had. I got laughed at for loving the Kidd addition while people pointed to his numbers. The fact is playing him at the two limits the Knicks’ ability to slash, but it also provides discipline and that discipline leads to minimal turnovers. That has led to offensive production and that production is the main reason the team is winning. No one can tell me that Kidd’s addition isn’t THE biggest difference between this year and last. And there’s no formula that can produce a “winning player”. No one can tell me that having a dominant elbow post player who can shoot and drive to the rim like Carmelo Anthony isn’t the greatest offensive weapon in basketball. And I wrote my graduate school thesis, 50 something pages, on the point guard position.
I believe basketball is more rhythmic than anything because of the players, coaches and executives that I’ve talked to. Until you learn to speak about the game played at the highest SPEED you ever played or a person you talk to has ever played, it’s hard to truly understand the concept of NBA rhythm from what I’ve been told. Think of it as trying to think about ANYTHING while jogging on a highway. Or think back to your high school years or tryouts. Remember playing the team that just played faster than you? I suggest talking to someone who has played or coached in an environment like Cameron Indoor.
Hollinger and I connected through a close friend of mine back in September of 2005. It was an email where I asked him for advice and he was very generous with his time and information. Find your niche he told me, and respect the game. I’d like to think our niche here is one of tremendous optimism in the face of what most recently was a very negative topic of conversation, at least from those who covered the team. We’ve battled, we’ve demanded to know the reasons for the negativity in coverage, and we’ve given advice and support to passionate fans with awesome platforms as well. Again, like analytics, information in all forms is important including sound advice, which I’ve tried to provide when directly asked via email or face to face.
Hollinger is now breaking down another barrier as he moves on to work for an NBA franchise. I wish him the best of luck and I’d like to thank him for being a visionary and not being afraid to follow and defend what he believed in. Basketball is something that can be talked about from many different view points and thanks to Hollinger analytics is now firmly one of them.