Open Floor

Basketball is Back and More Gruesome than Ever

By J. Patrick | (10/22)

“Open Floor” is a week-to-week column that examines the events from the past week in the NBA world, and other things loosely related to it. Sometimes we may examine games, plays, players, injuries, contracts, fights, social media, whatever. It’s an open-ended column, so, as Kevin Garnett would say, “anything is possibllllllllleee!”

Sickening Injuries already Ending Seasons

Oh. My. God. If you, like me, were watching the first NBA game of the 2017-18 season, Tuesday night, you saw what should be the most gruesome injury of the year–and what could be the most gruesome injury you may have ever seen on a basketball court. If you missed it, do yourself a favor and do not watch the replay–it’s, no doubt, one of the few times where I have deeply regretted HD television. Here’s a quick recap to save your lunch:

Five minutes into the first quarter of the first game, Gordon Hayward leapt toward the opponent’s basket, aiming to catch and perhaps dunk a lob thrown by fellow, new Celtic, Kyrie Irving. The pass, however, was a bit behind Hayward, who was challenged in the air over the paint by LBJ and Jae Crowder. Enduring a hard foul in-flight, Hayward was knocked off axis enough to land so awkwardly that–without using too much medical terminology–his ankle was nearly torn from his leg. Consider this, too: in the live replay, I unfortunately noticed that you could actually hear the man’s leg break before the cameras cut to a close-up they had no business displaying.

For my part, I almost threw my beer against the wall as I screamed and cringed, like when salt is poured on a snail or slug. For his part, Hayward screamed in agony as medical staff set his leg on the court. It was truly gut wrenching. Hayward is in all likelihood done for the season, and the Celtics status as a contender are almost completely over too. There’s a sadness in the northeast I can sorta feel in eastern North Carolina.

While there (strangely) seemed to be some slight optimism that Gordon would return near the end of the season, Lin’s diagnosis and long term expectations were much easier to figure out. In the waning minutes of the fourth quarter against the Pacers, Lin landed awkwardly along the baseline after fighting for a rebound. When he went down he was visibly shaken. He began to cry and was shouting, “I’m done, I’m done!,” as he was taken off the floor. It came out later that night that he tore his patellar tendon, the tendon that holds the kneecap in place, and spans from the bottom of the quadriceps on the femur down to the top of the tibia. Most tendon tears are horrible, painful injuries. Usually for the patellar and achilles tendons you can hear a loud pop when it tears. The Nets will have to rely on younger guys like Caris Levert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Isaiah Whitehead to grow into a larger role now, much like last year, when Lin missed most of the season.

A Mixed Bag from the Rookies

The Good

Lonzo Ball got off to a rocky start in his debut against the cross gym rival Clippers. Any game is going to be tough when you have a bulldog like Patrick Beverly latching onto you. He ended the night with 3 pts, 9 rebs, 4 asts, 1 blk, 1 stl, and 2 TO’s. His second game however, was much better. Then again, they were playing the Phoenix Suns, arguably the worst team in the association. He closed out Saturday’s contest with 29 pts, 11 rebs, 9 asts, 1 stl, and 4 TO’s.

Others who impressed: Jayson Tatum, Ben Simmons, Milos Teodosic, and De’Aaron Fox

The OK

The Phoenix Suns’ first-round pick in this years draft, Josh Jackson, is up for debate. On the one hand, he hasn’t had any eye opening statistical production or highlight plays, but, on the other hand, he does pass the eye test. He seems to have an incredible feel for the pace of the game and how to keep it flowing; and he may be a better passer than advertised–he has a knack for finding bigs under the rim when he is contested on drives, and he’s strong enough to whip it back out to the perimeter for an open 3-pointer. The most immediate take I have is that he’ll more than likely have an up and down rookie season, as do many promising youngbloods.

The Bad

Poor, poor Markelle Fultz. If his free throw shooting form wasn’t bad enough, his production from the line is even worse (6-12 through 3 games and an air ball on one attempt). He’s done a nice job of penetrating in the paint, but has been virtually non-existent in every other facet of the game. It makes you wonder how bad the shoulder issues really are.

Yo … Who’s this chick Sophie Dossi?

At halftime of the Clippers-Suns game, I just saw this girl Sophie balance on a balance beam and shoot a bow and arrow and hit a target … WITH HER F**KING FEET. I’m still feeling amazed and impressed–and, truthfully, somewhat aroused–at the thought of a woman hitting a deer with a bow and arrow, using only her feet, while doing some other gymnast shit. Here’s an older clip of her doing it.

Week 1 Revenge Games

  1. Rubio vs the Timberwolves
    • Probably the lesser thought of revenge games this week. Rubio (19 pts, 5 rebs, 11 asts, 2 stls) had a good outing, but it wasn’t enough to push the Jazz past the Wolves, thanks to a buzzer beater by Wiggins for the win.

  2. Carmelo vs the Knicks
    • Melo had a very Melo-ish game in his first time facing the Knicks (22 pts on 8-20 shooting). He did hit the first bucket of the game, and he seemed re-energized when he did. Melo is going to have a lot of fun in OKC this year, I can feel it.

  3. Cavaliers vs. Boston (and Kyrie)
    • This game was already derailed by the Hayward injury, but Kyrie (22 pts, 4 rebs, 10 asts, 3 stls) did his best to put the team on his back and carry the C’s to victory. As usual, however, King James (29 pts, 16 rebs, 9 asts, 2 blks) was there to ultimately save the day and propel the Cavs to victory during the closing minutes of the 4th quarter.

  4. Dwight Howard vs the Hawks
    • Dwight had a great game in his return to the ATL, putting up 20 pts and 15 rebs. He did, however, commit 6 TO’s, but that’s okay, because he pulled off some vintage-Dwight shenanigans when he kissed a ref on a bogus call.

Lil’ Jon Did Pregame Intros for the Kings Opener

If you needed (or were searching for) a reason to watch the Kings this year (which you probably weren’t), this may be what you were looking for.

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The Process (Feels More like a Gamble)

By J. Patrick
October 16, 2017

Joel Embiid has up-ended the actual process of NBA teams signing young players.

embiid

Prince Embiid (Source: The Ringer)

Okay, so here’s my issue with cliches. It may be the same one felt by you, dear Reader. But I hate the fact that they are exactly what they seem to be. These phrases and idioms are cliche because they tend to fit, but that simple fit can rob the circumstance of depth and meaning.

By definition, a cliche is a phrase that is used to describe something, but is used to the point where the usage causes the original context of its meaning to become lost, or undermines the power behind the statement because of frivolous use. In short, it’s an overused statement. The worst are usually those that hold the least amount of uniqueness, yet they still somehow achieve the right balance of relatedness and relatability.

Insert Joel Embiid. While any number of cliches can be used to describe him or his situation–or the 76ers’ situation in the aftermath of signing him to a (mind blowing) max extension of $148 million dollars, for the next five seasons–it looks, from the cheap seats, entirely unique. Like, mystical or borderline supernatural (or unfathomable, to some). There have been similar circumstances (which we’ll cover) in the past, but there seems like very little precedence for “The Process” and the shockwaves rippling across the league in the aftermath of his explosion.

So, let’s use this to explore what I was saying about cliche phrases. We can run through some classics. They’re basically flat platitudes, and, in some ways, they do effectively describe some elements of the situation in Philly. The issue is that none of these, on their own merits, perfectly fit the situation in question.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

When we say this, we usually end up considering the actions that someone did not do, instead of the actions that have actually occurred. What if we were to apply the literal translation of this to Joel Embiid?  The argument might be something like this:

For 31 games and 25 minutes a night, Embiid averaged 20.2 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, and 2.5 bpg while shooting the ball at a 44.6% clip from the field and a 36.7% clip from deep. While his shooting % could (and will have to) improve, his numbers are not bad at all. In fact, they’re incredible for a first year player. Whether you want to label him a rookie or not is an entirely different matter, but it is still pertinent to note that this is in fact, his first season.

If this is the basement level production you can expect from him, then what would be a better indicator of a best case scenario? The best case scenario would have him completely healthy, with no minutes restrictions. That happening is essentially a fairy tale, but for arguments sake, let’s indulge. A better indicator of what he might be able to accomplish at full strength are evident in his per 36 minutes numbers (if those ever existed for him, which they won’t). But since there is only one center that averaged more than 36 minutes per game last year (KAT), we’ll just take the total minutes per game (mpg) from the top five centers in the league and average them together. Why would we do that, you ask? Because Embiid, when fully healthy, would be a top five center in the league. No questions asked.

The top five centers combined comes out to an average of 33.8 mpg. A couple simple math processes later, and his per 33.8 minutes numbers would look like this: 26.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.2 spg, and 3.3 bpg.

Those numbers scream, “Best fucking center in the league, hands down. Fight me.” Those numbers alone suggest we’re looking at a top-five player in the league. But as the saying goes, “Actions speak louder than adjusted projected per 36 minutes stats in a fairy tale scenario.” I think it’s something like that ….

Further, it cannot be ignored that when this phrase (actions speak louder than words) is usually deployed, we focus more on inaction than legitimate actions, or a lack thereof. It would only be fair to do so here, and it is imperative to do so when we consider that Joel Embiid has only appeared in 31 games in three years. And that’s where this cliche rings most true: Joel has to prove that he can stay on the court and be healthy, get consistent minutes on the court, and do it consistently in order to live up to this contract, even though, in this case, his action has outspoken his lack of action and most of his twitter.

There have been plenty of cases where a player’s durability has been suspect. Said suspect player is then somehow given a max extension. Fans and media harshly questioned the move, but, three years later, the deal looks more like a home run. I bring this up because it needs to be said–evaluating healthy talent is hard enough without trying to find the most effective way to measure the risk and durability associated with a player known to be a steady injury concern. Embiid’s situation is still different than most of those cases, and as I stated earlier, we’re getting there. Just trust the process. Winky blinky.

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side

Perhaps the most obscure on the list with regard to how often a circumstance arises when this is applicable. The biggest issue with the case at hand is that I’m not really sure the grass is very green on either side. The one Philly is currently standing on looks like late-fall/early-winter-semi-brownish-the-grass-is-dying type grass: If they don’t sign him, then “the process” is officially over, and the team will be without a Center, which would effectively end any hope of them winning more than 28 games this year, and possibly for the foreseeable future. If they had decided to wait until the end of the season to resign him, he’d have become a restricted free agent, which would open up the floodgates for financially irresponsible franchises like Brooklyn or Sacramento to raise the stakes to $200 million. Even if they did resign him at that point, it would severely limit the money they would eventually have to give guys like Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Dario Saric, and maybe even Robert Covington.

Plus, if Joel does stay totally healthy, no one should realistically expect him to play more than 65 games for the next 2-3 years, and possibly even over the next 5 years–the total length of the contract. That’s almost the best case scenario, and that isn’t the most promising of situations.

You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Yes, you can, and, yes, you should–they same way you should at least partially judge a record. Obviously you shouldn’t prematurely judge someone you don’t know, and especially so if done in a negative way, for no reason at all; but, what you absolutely shouldn’t do is remove all intuition and reasonably drawn conclusions in your efforts not to evaluate something unfairly. Otherwise, just because a stranger carries around a blood-soaked axe doesn’t mean it was used to kill people, so you should, of course, walk right up and make a new friend, am I right? But then, some cases lend themselves to this figure of speech more than others.

In sports, I think it’s extremely fair to go against this cliche and judge a book by its cover. Hard. Normally, it really bites you in the ass when you don’t. Without going into too much detail (out of respect to the dead), look at Aaron Hernandez. A troubled young man with a history of negative stains on his record with psychological testing, who confirmed the troubling state of his mental, and who was also eventually charged with murder on three different counts. His impact on the image of the NFL will never diminish in its severity. And maybe most incredibly, that impact is not even limited to his violent past with his recent posthumous diagnosis of CTE. But let’s examine a couple less severe cases–ones that are NBA-specific.

Look at Chandler Parsons  or Danilo Gallinari. Two guys who were either traded (Galo) or signed to a new team (Parsons), who also have had some serious injury issues leading up to their switching of teams. Parsons never lived up to expectations in Dallas, and, so far, he has been a no-show for the one year he’s played in Memphis. Note: Parsons received a max contract (which he never should’ve gotten). Galo, by contrast, was traded to Denver in 2011, and this is what his Games Started stat line looks like since then:

2011-12: 43

2012-13: 71

2013-14: 0 (Out after ACL reconstruction)

2014-15: 59

2015-16: 53

2016-17: 61

Those are incredibly concerning numbers, and nothing else needs to be said about it. And the long and short of it is that, to Joel’s immense credit, those guys don’t have Joel’s talent or potential.

Would you sign Galo or Parsons to a long-term contract? Nope, didn’t think so, and if you would, you need your brains examined. In scouting, whether or not you want to, you must judge a book by its cover, otherwise you’re risking costs in time (and money) that are likely to be high, even if/when you’re right.  

You Can’t Please Everyone

Joel Embiid is probably the happiest man on the planet right now, and can you blame him?? Just take a look.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes you Stronger

This is the most erroneous of the cliches on this list. I don’t know about you, but I would imagine that Joel’s injury-laden past hasn’t made him stronger at all. If it did, then he would be the world’s strongest man at this point, and the Superfreak, himself, Rick James would still be alive today. Prince and Bowie, too. RIP.

Time is Money

When was the last time it wasn’t? … But more to the point, what is the right ratio and when do you shake on a deal? It’s got existential connections and potential, but these NBA administrators have to seriously learn the right ways to value a minute, to value 48 minutes. And if Embiid shaking up some of the NBA’s talent-development/reward process is not quite enough, just consider his new contract in this light: Joel is getting paid $148 million, essentially, off a 31 game resume–in other words $148M for 787.4 minutes. If you feel like becoming even less comfortable, that alone breaks down into a future pay rate of $187,960.38 per minute.

Consider this, too, for record and for contrast: Andrew Wiggins, who might owe some gratitude to Embiid’s deal [1], will now be getting paid the same amount off of a 245 games sample size, 8,862 minute sample size. Is time really money? If it were, Embiid wouldn’t be getting paid the same amount of money as Wiggins. Availability should really be valued more than it is, because ya’know … Time is money (at least it certainly should be here).

Better Safe Than Sorry

There’s an element here that is at times contradictory (in and of itself) to the “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” cliche, but it’s applied differently–more to judgement than decision-making–and it seems to be one phrase we often deploy to discourage a subject (perhaps ourselves) from playing too fast and loose, from being too risky.

The most pertinent question is how it applies situationally, and, in this case, believe it or not, signing Embiid to an extension may actually fall under the “safe side” of the mantra. There are, of course, prime examples of why that may not be the case it seems (i.e., Parsons and Gallinari), but I’d argue that those guys never had the potential that Embiid has. A better comparison would be guys like Bradley Beal and Steph Curry.

Consider that both Curry and Beal have had to deal with their share of serious injury concerns (Steph’s ankles, Beal’s torn/broken whatever), and both were still given expensive (and questionable) contracts. In these cases, contrasting those of Parsons and Gallinari, both Curry and Beal have managed to stay pretty healthy while filling the potential that they’ve always had. Looking back, Steph making roughly 11 million per year for the last three seasons seems highly trivial now, even though it was a much riskier call at the time it was made. Last offseason Beal was given a 127 million max extension despite only having one season where he played more than 63 games (out of four years). Last season, he played in 77 games and averaged 6 ppg more than his previous season high.

All of this is to say that, despite only playing 31 games in one season, through the first three years of his career, the gamble on Embiid does actually seem worth its while. He should play in more than 31 games this year. Even if he doesn’t average better stats, the case could be made that it was still worthwhile. The opportunity is there for Embiid to be worth more than this contract is worth some day. Everything rests on the health and availability of The Process. Even still, the potential is too great to pass up on. I can already hear 76’ers fans saying it already:

“Damn you, Joel Embiid–defier of logic, defier of gravity, crown prince of Philadelphia.”


NOTES

  1. It’s unclear if and how much this is the case. A Wiggins extensions was discussed a few times over the first ¾ of the offseason, but it still feels a little crazy to assume Embiid’s new deal didn’t somehow motivate Minnesota’s front-office to action, even a little.

 

(More) NBA Preseason Chatter

By H. Hart & J. Patrick
10/15/2017

The NBA 2017-18 season begins tomorrow night, and we, here at The Informed Spectator, are beyond excited. Check out our general sports podcast, the MVP (streaming for free on our official SoundCloud). And for our fellow hoops junkies, we’ve started an NBA-specific podcast–another feature element on TIS’ growing podcast network. It’s here, and we’re already working on more material to help you stay informed!

In our second episode of The Dish (linked directly below), we take a look at the projected over/under for each team in the NBA’s Western Conference–aka the “Bestern” Conference.

The Dish #02

Additionally, as with the first episode, we made our own predictions for the number of wins we expect each team to accumulate through the season. Below is another at-a-glance look at some of the basic information around the O/Us (and projected final conference position) for each team side-by-side with our projections/predictions.

Again, we imagine this will be as fun to revisit at the All-Star Break as it likely will at the end of the season. [Note: In a couple cases, one or both of us chose the Over or Under more for argument’s sake than actual feeling, and these are denoted by a boldface type.]

Western Conference O/Us + Predictions

nba western conference

Team Last Season O/U (Rnk) JP HH
DAL 33-49 35.5 (12) Under Under
DEN 40-42 43.5 (6) Over Over
GSW 67-15 67.5 (1) Over Over
HOU 55-27 54.5 (2) Under Over
LAC 51-31 43.5 (7) Under Under
LAL 26-56 33.5 (14) Over Over
MEM 43-39 38.5 (10) Over Over
MIN 31-51 46.5 (5) Under Over
NOP 34-48 40.5 (9) Under Under
OKC 47-35 52.5 (4) Over Under
PHO 24-58 28.5 (15) Under Under
POR 41-41 40.5 (8) Over Over
SAC 32-50 29.0 (14) Over Over
SAS 61-21 53.5 (3) Under Under
UTH 51-31 38.5 (11) Over Over

 

NBA Preseason Chatter

By H. Hart & J. Patrick
10/11/2017

If you’ve been paying attention at all to sports, we’re at a point in the year where you really need multiple televisions and dependable high-speed internet connectivity to make sure you don’t miss something exciting or even incredible. MLB playoffs, NFL season heating up, the NHL season is getting started, and the NBA preseason is full-steam ahead. The NBA 2017-18 season begins next Tuesday, and we at The Informed Spectator are beyond excited about that. In fact, if you’re a fan of our general sports podcast, the MVP, we’ve been teasing our development of an NBA-specific podcast for TIS’ growing podcast network, and it’s finally here.

The Dish #01

In the first episode of The Dish (linked above), we take a look at the projected over/under for each team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Additionally, we made our own predictions for the number of wins we expect each team to accumulate through the season. Below is an at-a-glance look at some of the basic information around the O/Us for each team, and we have also recorded our projections/predictions for each.

We imagine this will be as fun to revisit at the All-Star Break as it likely will at the end of the season. [Note: In a couple cases, one or both of us chose the Over or Under more for argument’s sake than actual feeling, and these are denoted by a boldface type.]

Eastern Conference O/Us + Predictions

article-2015-nba-eastern-conference-team-by-team-preview-xl

Team Last Season O/U JP HH
ATL 43-39 27.5 Under Under
BOS 53-29 53.5 Over Over
BKN 20-62 26.5 Over Over
CHA 36-46 42.5 Over Over
CHI 41-41 22.5 Under Under
CLV 51-31 54.5 Under Under
DET 37-45 38.5 Under Under
IND 42-40 30.5 Over Over
MIA 41-41 42.5 Over Over
MIL 42-40 46.5 Under Under
NYK 31-51 30.5 Over Under
ORL 29-53 30.5 Over Over
PHI 28-54 40.5 Under Over
TOR 51-31 47.5 Over Under
WAS 49-33 48.5 Over Over

#RequiredListening

Hello Beloveds.

It’s been too long. The hiatus lasted longer than anticipated, but we hope you find some reassurance in the fact that some big things are developing behind the scenes as we at TIS start to expand.

In the meantime, we suggest at least playing the following DOOM/Alchemist track from MF DOOM’s most recent (and ongoing) project in conjunction with Adult Swim“The Missing Notebook Rhymes”; 15 weeks, 15 tracks. If you’re a fan of the Masked Madman, the Metal-Fingered Emcee, this is only great news. If you are new, this is as good an entrance as any.

Step aside, give him some room, player /
Till the end of days he’ll be the ill doomsayer /

 

— H.H., Editor-at-large