Open Floor #02

Looking for Philly’s Savior; Finding Hope in Phoenix’s Dysfunction

By J. Patrick | 10/28/17

bball predictions

Source: FiveThirtyEight

Ben Simmons Says, “F**k the Process,” Sets Records

Okay, so, he didn’t actually say that, and he definitely wouldn’t say it to Joel Embiid, but Ben Simmons–the 76ers’ first-overall pick in the 2016 draft–is already making history.

On Monday night, against the Pistons, he recorded 21 pts, 12 rebs, and 10 asts, dropping a triple double in his 4th ever career game. Simmons isn’t the youngest player ever to do it (while he is 21 years old, LeBron (for reference to modern greatness) got his first one when he was 20 years old), but he is far and away the quickest to hit the mark, considering the overall number of games played.

Simmons picked up his first triple-double merits in only his 4th career game, it took LeBron a full season and almost half another one to get his. On top of that, he joins Oscar Robinson as the only two players in NBA history to record double-doubles in their first four games. Talk about elite company. So far, through his first 5 games of regular season play, Simmons is averaging 16.4 pts, 10.0 rebs, 7.4 asts per game.

Simmons doesn’t seem content to wait patiently on the process. It could be that it’s really him, and not Embiid, who will be the savior Philly has so desperately needed.

A Quick History Lesson

Joke time!

So: the Phoenix Suns. … That’s it.

Why would you think there would be more to it than that? Sadly, nothing more needs to be said.

In an era of basketball when, as the great Ricky Bobby once said, “if you’re not first, you’re last,” rings more true than ever, some teams, like the 76ers and Kings, have found a way to make losing seem appealing, or at the very least profitably worthwhile. A weird positive here is that teams that decide to take still seem to have some sense of direction, or end game–something to look forward to sometime, sooner better than later. Teams that find themselves in a kind of purgatory, floating miserable between tanking and accidentally contending, range in evaluation from merely “treading water” to sad and outright disgraceful.

Enter the 2017 Phoenix Suns. The Suns have somehow managed to make losing seem unappealing, without direction, and utterly hopeless. Earlier this week, the Suns announced, after only three games, that the organization was letting coach Earl Watson go. Following that, their starting point guard (and best player) Eric Bledsoe essentially begged to be let go and traded on twitter, tweeting, “I don’t want to be here.” What worse? This is not the franchise’s first rodeo when it comes to organizational dysfunction.

Here’s a list of players the Suns have either traded or let walk over the course of the last 12 years: Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus & Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat, Robin Lopez, Rajon Rondo, and Luol Deng (Stoudemire doesn’t really count–injuries made his situation tougher to manage).

To make matters even worse, from 2009-2015, the Suns have only retained three of their fifteen draft picks. This is a far cry from the rich history and proud legacy carried by the Phoenix Suns basketball organization. Yes, until just recently, the Suns were a respectable franchise.

In recent memory, the Suns have been nothing short of mediocre, but that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, the organization owns the 4th best winning % all-time (behind only the Spurs, Lakers, and Celtics). They have a better winning % than the Bulls, Rockets, Warriors (for now, at least), Knicks, Heat, Mavs, and Pistons. In the Suns’ entire 48 years of existence, they have only had 21 sub-.500 seasons.

Of course, there were the Steve Nash years, and the Charles Barkley-Kevin Johnson led teams of the early to mid nineties. It’s been easy, in time, to forget, but the Suns’ identity as a classy and historically great franchise is older than even those iconic eras.

The Suns entered the league, along with the Milwaukee Bucks, in 1968, and suited up for the 1968-1969 season. That season, they went 16-66, a very Suns-esque season, or so it would seem. Despite a rocky start, it only took the upstart Suns eight years to reach the finals, led by 3rd year guard Paul Westphal and rookie center Alvin Adams. They faced the Celtics in the finals that year, a team that hadn’t finished lower than the Eastern conference finals in the previous four seasons. The Celt’s were heavy favorites to win that series, and tied at two games apiece, the series returned to Boston for a huge Game 5. This game, tape delayed and aired at 12:00 A.M. at night (as most games were up until the 1986-87 season were), was perhaps the defining game of the whole Suns organization.

Heading into halftime of that game, Phoenix was down by 22 points, and nothing was falling for them. A comeback was almost impossible against the tough, top ranked defensive unit of the Celtics. Somehow though, the Suns, more specifically Paul Westphal, came shooting out of the gate to start the third quarter, and by the very end of the fourth Phoenix was back in the game. With 39 seconds left, Westphal hit the go ahead bucket to put the Suns up by one. On the very next possession, the Celtics’ John “Hondo” Havlicek was fouled with about 14 seconds left. He hit the first free throw, tieing the game, then missed the second, the shot that would’ve put the C’s ahead by one. A Celtic player came down with the rebound though, giving them the last shot. For whatever reason, Hondo took a long jumper (before the 3 pt line was introduced, no less) with eight seconds left, and missed. The Suns had the last shot, but whiffed on an errant pass. The game goes into overtime.

It was sort of lost in the frenzy of emotion during the waning seconds of regulation, but Alvin Adams committed a blocking foul, which fouled him out of the game. Without their second leading scorer and rebounder, the Suns were attempting to do the (nearly) impossible.

Only a minute or two into the overtime period, the Suns leading scorer and assister, Paul Westphal, went down with a twisted ankle. The Celtics took a comfortable six point lead. The Suns, once again, fought and clawed their way back, collecting almost every rebound that came off the glass. Ironically, the Celtics had two of the top five rebounders that season in Paul Silas (12.7 rpg) and Dave Cowens (16.0 rpg). Anyway, with about 10 seconds left, the Suns have the ball, and a chance to win the game. Once again, they whiffed on a simple pass. Tension builds to exploding as the game goes into double overtime.

Let’s fast forward to the last minute of double OT so we can focus on what’s important. With exactly one minute left, Dave Cowens takes a lay up on the right low block and makes it, only to be called for a charge which negated the bucket. This would’ve put the Celtics up by three, and almost effectively ended the game (remember, this is before the 3 pt line was introduced). On the very next possession, the same Suns player who got the foul against Cowens committed one on Cowens, which was his 6th, which means he was fouled out too. Now the Suns are down to their third string center. The next possession down the court Havlicek is fouled again, but unlike last time he was at the line, this time he hit both shots. Now the suns have the ball with 19 seconds left to go. They called a timeout and had the ball advanced to half court. The ball was inbounded to Nick Van Arsdale in the corner, who took and made a shot. There is only 15 seconds left on the clock.

As the Celtics inbound the ball, Westphal, who had come back into the game, stole it and passed it to teammate Curtis Perry for the go ahead bucket. He missed. Another Suns player collected the rebound and passed it back to Perry, who took another shot at it. Bang! He hits a contested jumper with six seconds left on the clock. Boston Garden is in a frenzy.

With 5 seconds left, the Celtics are inbounding from half court. Everyone knows who the ball is going to. So when John Havlicek races towards the scorers table to catch the inbound pass, no one is surprised. He caught it, and raced towards the left elbow. He started fading away to the left, and took his shot. As time expired, his shot banked off the glass and went right through the hoop. This is where things get weird. When his shot goes in, there was actually two seconds left on the clock. The Bostons fans didn’t know, as they began to storm the court. The Celtics players didn’t know, as they began to run into the locker room in victory, and the Suns players didn’t know as they began to run back in defeat. The strangest part though was when a fan that had ran onto the court began to fight head referee, Rich Powers. The police escorted the fan off the court though, and restored order to the Boston Garden. Amazingly, with one second left, the man with the hot hand, Curtis Perry of the Suns, hit a turnaround jumper to tie the game once again, and it slides into insanity and triple OT.

Quick sequence of events from triple OT: Celtics forward Paul Silas fouls out. JoJo White, a celtics guard, falls on the court because he’s so gassed. Glenn McDonald, a random nobody for the Celtics, scores six points to give the Celtics a 126-120 point lead. Westphal did his best to keep the Suns in it, but they couldn’t do it. The Celtics win 128-126. They eventually won the series the next game in Phoenix.

So what’s the point to all this?

What’s important about a game that the Suns lost? Two things:

  1. Just to make a point that despite how bad the Suns have been in recent years, they played in what is widely considered the greatest game of all time. I didn’t watch the game live (I’m nowhere near old enough for that), but I did watch it in the classics section of NBA League Pass, and let me tell you, even though I’m watching it 40 years later (and having already known the outcome), this game has been absolutely riveting and held my attention for a solid two hours now.
  2. There’s no grandiose theme or clever connection from the Suns of then to the Suns of now. The Suns still have a long ways to go before they can even sniff a playoff series. This is simply me showing you that things haven’t always been this way, that there are in fact, good Suns memories.

Let’s not mince words: the Suns are stuck in a weird place, and they’re stuck with a good deal of promising (albeit currently undisciplined/underdeveloped) talents. A lot of this can be placed at the feet of the front office for cluelessly handling the organization’s essential functions. And, problematic for fans, there’s not a clear and immediate solution for some of what we’re seeing. And that’s sorta why I gave that short history lesson and hardwood classic recap. All of this has been to say that despite how bleak things may look right now, there is still hope for (and reason to believe in) one of the NBA’s most storied franchises.


 

Advertisements

Take Me Out of the Ballgame?

Changing the Past(ime) Affects Its Future

By H. Hart | 10/25/17

1200px-2017-world-series-svg

It’s again that wonderful time of the year when we can all watch the best that the baseball season–err … postseason, rather–has to offer. It’s the 2017 World Series and this will be a hot one. As Fall slowly creeps on, here, in eastern NC, it’s being played in southern California and Houston. The temperature at my apartment was somewhere around 60°F. The temperature in Los Angeles at first pitch was somewhere around 95°F [1].

Game 2 is currently underway, but it feels like Game 1 only just finished, despite it being completed in what seems like record time: 2 hours, 45 minutes [2]. The long, lost Los Angeles Dodgers have finally returned to MLB’s big dance, and they got off on a good foot, last night, in Game 1. In what was largely a pitching clinic, Clayton Kershaw reminded everyone why he’ll be remembered as one of baseball’s greatest [3]. If nothing else, his distinct pitching motion should leave a lasting impression on Baseball’s collective consciousness.

Kershaw pitched 7 innings, allowing 3 hits and 1 run (earned) while tallying 11 Ks [4] (0.125 ERA/0.43 WHIP). Reliever Brandon Morrow threw the 8th inning and allowed no hits, walks, or runs; and LA’s ace closer, Kenley Jansen threw the 9th, also allowing no hit, walks, or runs, and he tallied 1 K. Houston’s ace Dallas Keuchel made two costly mistakes while otherwise throwing a decent outing–6.2 innings, 6 hits, 3 runs (earned), 1 walk, tallying 3 K (4.05 ERA/1.05 WHIP). Houston’s reliever (B. Peacock) and closer (C. Devenski) worked well and held LA at 3 beyond the 6th inning, but their potent and occasionally magical offense just couldn’t get going against the Dodgers’ impressive bullpen.

As far as action goes:

Second-baseman Chris Taylor started the game explosively with a first inning, first pitch home-run, but things settled quickly. In the 4th inning, Kershaw made his only mistake of the evening, and Houston third-baseman Alex Bregman got hold of a fastball and drove it 388 ft; it fell beyond the left field wall. Finally, in the 6th inning, Keuchel hung one cut-fastball too long, too over the plate, and LA’s Justin Turner promptly took the pitch yard for a 2-run HR that put LA up 3-1, for what would end up being the final score as the Dodgers’ bullpen methodically shut down the best offense in baseball (during the regular season, at least). There were some base hits by both teams that balanced out some of the power and pitching genius on display, and though the game was not a high-scoring affair, it remained tense and wonderfully engaging for every pitch.

Twenty-four hours later and already many storylines have been discussed exhaustively–takes related to the Dodgers starting out with the right momentum after taking Game 1; Houston’s slow start but inevitable slide into Houston, where the Astros are undefeated this postseason (even stellar during the regular season [48-33]); Kershaw’s dominance and his mission to turn the tables on his postseason trends; and still others of note and/or general interest. Yet, here’s one that at least I haven’t seen much made of that, in this writer’s opinion, deserves some attention:

Recall: This game (and Game 2) are in Dodger Stadium, which is located in the supposed liberal bastion of California. [5]

During the 7th inning stretch, someone audaciously made the decision to remove the game’s musical staple “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Did they bring out beloved guests for an activity or leave a few moments of silence for the fans to enjoy try and get a real sense of the moment they’re all part of, you ask? No. Instead, they brought out troops–whom I fully support, to go ahead and get that on the table–and those brave and sacrificing vets were asked to coerce everyone into a terrible rendition of “God Bless America.” If you were also shocked, or if you missed it and are in disbelief just reading that, good for you–you have a healthy sense of what baseball shouldn’t be.

I was stunned, honestly. Look, I’m all for patriotism and progressivism, but this stood out as strange, forced, off-putting, and it generally kind of ruined the spirit of the game. It broke the fourth wall with political sentiments, and it brought to mind a few questions:

  1. Do we really need more faux patriotic bullshit? More specifically, do we need more of it (semi-arbitrarily) stuffed inside of–or moved to replace–traditionally identifiable elements of the game?

  2. Shouldn’t there be a good reason for these changes? … It’s hard not to think that it’s just FOX exerting political influence.

  3. How is this different from injecting it into a game by kneeling? … And should those who don’t stand and/or sing be subjected to a healthy public humiliation?

I can only imagine what writers like Roger Angell or Frank Deford, or the great Bart Giamatti, would have to say about such a change. And, really, I say this first out my own sort of “crotchetiness,” but second, and not least of these, because this over-seasoning of American patriotism (which is also generally more poser-esque in its in-game execution) can’t be helpful to the game’s ability to appeal to a more global audience. Consider the structure: If the game asks you to sing the anthem before you start play–which can at least be worked around to fit any anthem–and then interrupts play to sing a song about America that is also somewhat cast in Christian ideology, what, about that, seems overly inclusive?

Again, this could just be a thing because of some aspect of FOX’s television programming goals and agreements. But a) if not now, when?, and b) the World Series is probably the best time to gain viewers and fans than any other during the season, and it seems closer to stupid to get too self-righteous and political than to do the work needed to appeal to help fans see not just the best baseball possible, but to see that they also get viewers as close as possible to more of a “classic” baseball experience. Removing important pieces of the game to posture, or so it felt to this writer, but even during a near-classic World Series Game 1, it was enough to sour the game’s overall sweetness.


NOTES

  1. This is slated to be one of the “hottest” World Series in the history of the sport.

  2. Considering that, for most of the regular season, the average time for a game was 3 hours, 5 minutes. On average.
  3. And in light of this, too, it’s often hard to completely grasp that I’m watching one of the greatest to ever play the game, but when he’s got it going (which, this season, has been more often than not), it’s abundantly clear that this is indeed a very special player.
  4. Last pitcher to do this in a World Series game was Randy Johnson for Arizona (2001).
  5. There’s a solid chance this is more directly related to being televised by FOX. If it is this case, it’s just one more super annoying instance of politicizing patriotism to a point where it’s nauseatingly postured and paraded around by a specific group of people.

 

Open Floor #01

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.

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