In the NBA, November is very very early. A months worth of games is just too soon to make any definitive conclusions. Still, we know of the general surprise stories so far that are worth watching. Just for fun, we’re going to go through each team quickly by division. Here’s a review of some stories you might’ve noticed (or might’ve missed) from the Atlantic Division:
-Boston Celtics: Boston has looked like as a good team as there is in the NBA. Many have noted that Rajon Rondo has taken his play to the next level based upon his gaudy assists stats but his PER is actually pretty much in line with last year’s (19.2). Rondo’s assist numbers have been ridiculously high so far (14.2 apg) but he’s given back points, free throws attempts, shot creation from last year. The net result makes Rondo’s aggregate stats look flat in terms of overall offensive value from last year. In fact, the real biggest stat gainer for Boston is Shaquille O’Neal, who has been highly productive in his 23 mpg (22.8 PER), his best numbers since 2005-06 in Miami. Another issue of note is that Doc Rivers, who had usually been very careful in minutes with the Big Three in the past, has ridden them quite a bit so far. Check the minutes per game of the Big Three (plus Rondo) this year compared to the past few years:
|Season||K. Garnett||R. Allen||P. Pierce||R. Rondo|
This past week two memorable players of the 1970s and 1980s passed away. First, legendary tough guy Maurice Lucas died of cancer and then, shortly thereafter, Quintin Dailey died of a heart condition. Both players were often discussed in their heydays but for different reasons. While Lucas will eternally be remembered as the quintiessential tough guy and team player, Dailey is remembered as one of the 1980s NBA problems. In his ”Book of Basketball”, Bill Simmons noted that Dailey ended up being a bust in the NBA and mentioned, in a joking matter, that he was one of many Bulls drafts busts: “They had just been burned by two questionable high draft picks: Ronnie Lester (bad knees) and Quintin Dailey (bad soul).”
How bad a soul was Dailey? He certainly had several bad moments but I thought we could focus on Dailey because he was an interesting character and more complex his problems that are our lasting memories of him. In retrospect, Dailey’s career should be viewed as one of the first modern athlete careers, where the player had plenty of issues and problems of his own creation but was probably misunderstood and would’ve been treated much differently had he been 10-15 years younger.
Make no mistake about, Dailey was not worth the trouble for some of his career but his problems are much less shocking today than they were at the time. The short version was that Dailey was a great college player, who was accused of sexual assault on a student. He pled guilty to a lesser charge and received only probation. He was initially ostracized for the plea deal. Later, drug and weight problems consigned Dailey to the 1980s disappointment bin that so many other NBA players also fell into. So, that’s the short story but let’s go through the history as it happened and see how accurate this story is.
Dailey At USF and the Incident
Dailey was a high school star in Baltimore before getting a scholarship with the University of San Francisco. Dailey, a 6′3 guard who had a knack for scoring but was not necessarily a great shooter, led USF in scoring as a freshman in 1979-80 at 13.6 ppg and improved to 22.4 as a sophomore. Dailey continued to improve as a junior to 25.2 ppg, drawing 232 free throws in only 30 games. In that third year, Dailey started to get publicity for many different reasons. Sports Illustrated did a feature on Dailey in early December 1981 which told us that both of his parents died within a few weeks of each other when he was 13 and that he was a great scoring guard. We also learned that Dailey’s girlfriend/fiancée at the time was Reggie Jackson’s niece and that Jackson was now looking out for Dailey. The article concluded a little ominously in hindsight. Dailey’s coach at USF, Peter Barry, told Sports Illustrated that “[w]e would love to see Q stay here at USF….He has a great rapport with the community. The big question is whether or not he can wait long enough for the megabucks.” Continue reading Remembering Quintin Dailey…
1. What’s In A Start?: It’s still way too early to make grand or meaningful conclusions about the 2010-11 season. The teams that have gotten the most notice (besides the Heat) are the ones that have come out of the gate very hot. The Lakers, not so surprisingly, are 6-0. More surprisingly, the Hornets and Hawks are also 6-0. But small sample sizes can do funny things. For example, the Nest are 2-4 but have a horrible -7.2 point differential, in large part because they have played the Heat or Magic in half of their games. As for the Heat, they have the best point differential in the East (+13.1), despite the fact that they have only the fourth best record in conference.
So, we know the records at this point are mostly noise. Still, can we expect great thing from the Hornets and Hawks? I tend to think the nice run is just a fluke start. Both are legit playoff teams but this start likely does not augur title contention. In fact, the Hawks also started out the 1997-98 season 11-0, with a similar good but not great team (Mookie Blaylock, Steve Smith, Christian Laettner, and Dikembe Mutombo). Atlanta remained pretty good the rest of the way (39-32) to finish 50-32 but was bounced in the first round by a decent Hornets team.
There is just too much data out there (for me at least) to assess hot starts generally but I thought we could look at the title teams of each year to see how they started out the first month to see what trends, if any, we see. Here’s a look at all title teams since 1979-80 and there records before December 1 of that season:
1979-80 Lakers, 16-9 (overall 60-22)
1980-81 Celtics, 15-7 (overall 62-20)
1981-82 Lakers, 12-5 (overall 57-25)
1982-83 76ers, 13-3 (overall 65-17)
1983-84 Celtics, 12-5 (overall 62-20)
1984-85 Lakers, 12-6 (overall 62-20)
1985-86 Celtics, 15-2 (overall 67-15)
1986-87 Lakers, 12-2 (overall 65-17)
1987-88 Lakers, 9-2 (overall 62-20)
1988-89 Pistons, 11-3 (overall 63-19)
1989-90 Pistons, 9-5 (overall 59-23)
1990-91 Bulls, 9-6 (overall 61-21)
1991-92 Bulls, 13-2 (overall 67-15)
1992-93 Bulls, 9-3 (overall 57-25)
1993-94 Rockets, 14-0 (overall 58-24)
1994-95 Rockets, 10-3 (overall 47-35)
1995-96 Bulls, 12-2 (overall 72-20)
1996-97 Bulls, 15-1 (overall 69-13)
1997-98 Bulls, 9-7 (overall 62-20)
1998-99 Spurs, 6-8 (overall 37-13)(note this was the strike season that started in February and so the record is limited to that month)
1999-00 Lakers, 11-4 (overall 67-15)
2000-01 Lakers, 11-5 (overall 56-26)
2001-02 Lakers, 14-1 (overall 58-24)
2002-03 Spurs, 11-7 (overall 60-22)
2003-04 Pistons, 12-6 (overall 54-28)
2004-05 Spurs, 12-3 (overall 59-23)
2005-06 Heat, 9-6 (overall 52-30)
2006-07 Spurs, 11-5 (overall 58-24)
2007-08 Celtics, 13-2 (overall 66-16)
2008-09 Lakers, 14-1 (overall 65-17)
2009-10 Lakers, 13-3 (overall 57-25) Continue reading Quick Thoughts…
1. The Heat…Way Too Early: Will Chris Bosh turn into P.J. Brown? Can LeBron James continue to score 30 a game on a star studded team? Regardless of stats of the stars, will the Heat win it all? I’m just like everyone else. I’m fascinated to see how the Heat blend three big stars and how they fit into their roles. Still, it is quite amazing to see how much has been written about the Heat so far and, frankly, drawing any serious conclusions from the first few games is ridiculous. I know every editor in the basketball world has directed his or her writers to jump on this story but let’s just wait a little. The sample size is just too small to get anything form a loss to the Celtics or a win against the Magic.
2. Number One Debuts: Another story of the first weeks was John Wall’s brutal shooting debut. As many predicted, Wall’s shooting will probably be spotty all year. The more interesting question is how Wall’s debut compares with that of other first picks. Fortunately, the great Basketball-Reference.com site has game logs back to the 1986-87 season. So, we went back the last 24 years to see how Wall’s first game compared with that of other number ones, ranked by game scores:
While the some of the best players were had the best debuts, there isn’t necessarily a ton of correlation between a debut game and a career quality going forward outside of the best of the best. Tim Duncan and Shaq weren’t great and Yao was the worst rookie on the list. In the grand scheme of things, Wall’s debut was slightly below average but isn’t an indicator of anything going forward. Griffin’s great start, however, is a nice thing, as all the other rookies with game scores over 20 on the list have been Hall of Fame-level players. Griffin might not end up in the Hall but his start certainly isn’t a bad thing.
Another interesting side note is that most of the rookies were very reluctant to shoot the three. Only AI, LeBron, and Bargnani even attempted a three (and only Iverson actually made one). One reason might be because the list is filled with power forwards and centers but Glenn Robinson, Manning, Coleman, LJ, Rose, and even Webber ended up taking plenty of threes later in their careers. Clearly, the rooks are expected not to shoot too much.