Friday, April 07, 2006

3/19/2006 - D-Fense

The end of the NBA regular season is approaching and I am hoping that my devoted readers will forgive me if I embark on a series of intermittent posts reflecting on the game as my team (the Nets) marches towards possible victory.  Knowing my audience, and the die-hard basketball fans that they are not, I will attempt to reflect on the sort of interesting tidbits that require no taste for the game.

The Nets have just won their 14th game in a row, a rather unimaginable feat made all the better by knowing that they did so against many of the best teams in the league.  Throughout the streak, critics have complained that there was something unreal about the streak, that it made the Nets appear to be better than they actually are.  I think I know why and I think that the critics are wrong.

Basketball is a game of scoring.  Unlike in where 2-1 is a high scoring game, basketball is a game of points.  Teams frequently top 100.  If the Nets had gone on their streak by suddenly scoring 120 points a night, the critics would have stayed in their arm chairs and not commented.  But rather, the Nets achieved there streak by suddenly stepping up the defense.  A statistic that is frequently mentioned is how often the Nets have held the opposition to under 20 points in a quarter (as opposed to 24 or 25 which might be considered a league average quarter).  The funny thing is that, despite this achievement, critics tend to denigrate the individual Nets players as not being good defenders.

Why?  There are few good defensive stats.  It is easy to measure who scores a lot of points, and who helps whom score a lot of points.  But defense is hard.  There are blocked shots and steals, but typically you don't see much of these, so they don't explain the difference between scoring 100 points and only scoring 85.  There are rebounds, but that doesn't really explain why the other team missed the shot.  And there is opponents shooting percentage, but it's hard to say whose responsible for that.

The Nets are clearly doing something right, but nobody is measuring it back to the individuals, a problem that is endemic to the sport.  I actually think that I have a method for measuring such statistics.  Oh, it would cost $1,000,000 to implement with no guarantee of success, but it's a method alright.  I actually had a chance to pitch it to the Nets once.  I came across the name of someone in HR, responsible for hiring and sent her in my method.  The response?  No response.  They laughed at Einstein, too.

20,100 unrequited steps today.  Cheers,


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