Saturday, January 5, 2013
The first two months of the Knicks season has wrapped up with the Knicks at a very respectable 22 and 10 record (through 1/4/13). I went back and took a look at how the K-Gang did, comparing it to the Knicks and my expectations overall. Details for the K-Gang are here if you would like to find out more about our little contest and standings are updated at least weekly here.
As a group, I was surprised that we did so well in the first quarter of the season (20 games). It may have been because we were optimistic about the Knicks and they proceeded to start out of the gate hot, being the last team to lose their undefeated status, but we finished the quarter at a respectable 58% correct rate against the spread. Since then we have come back down to earth, only posting a 39% correct rate. I went through our picks and if we picked the Knicks more than 50% (5 or more out of 8), we only posted a 13 and 12 out of a possible 32 games. There were 7 even splits which yield a "no decision" (nd). However, if there were at least 6 picks for a team in any given game, the K-Gang posted a 10 and 6 record. Not too bad.
The fortunes of the K-Gang and the Knicks look to be closely related. After a great November start, the Knicks seemed to regress a little. Part of that was their 3 point shooting percentages came down drastically, but this may have been due to the many injuries they sustained. In the chart below, you can see the Knicks points for (PF) and points against (PA) had a decent difference throughout the first four weeks but the gap would close as the month of December and their averages for the last two weeks were very close to league average. Hopefully, the team stays healthy in the new year and makes another run like we saw in November. It certainly is more fun when the Knicks are winning.
Back to the K-Gang. Because the spreads only come out the day of the game and the K-Gang did not want to check in every day for a game, we opted to pick the games only once a week. For this reason, the spreads were calculated internally and could vary from the spreads at gametime. One major cause of the difference, besides the inexperience of calculating spreads, was the inability to accurately factor in injuries. There was a lot more variability in estimated to actual spread as the season moved on. This could have contributed to the K-Gang being less accurate in their picks for the month of December. I would wager that underestimating Raymond Felton's contribution played a major part of that as well. He was playing great until he went down with a broken finger.
Nonetheless, there was some consistency to the K-Gang and that is the current leader. Justin has ended the week either on top or with a share of the top spot for 7 out of the 8 weeks. He led the league with a 12 and 3 record for the month of November punctuated with a 9 game winning streak at one point. Naturally, he was the easy choice for KMOTM (K-Man of the Month). As stated, December was a little rougher. We had co-KMOTM winners in Beau and John T, but they only finished the months with an 8 and 7 and a 6 and 9 record (note: record is not the only factor for KMOTM), respectively.
All in all, these two months have been a good time. I reconnected with some friends that I have not spoke to in awhile and am a little more consistent with the other people on the list. I am hoping that we improve in our picks as this year goes on and a possible increase in K-membership next season or even for the second half of this season. Here's to a fun 2013.
Sunday, November 4, 2012
Knicks have been very impressive these last two games, beating the Miami Heat and the Philadelphia 76ers by a combined 34 points. The defense has been strong and Carmelo is leading by example. As I had posted in May, Carmelo may be poised to take the MVP this season. This is am uphill battle because LeBron and Kevin Durant will be maintaining their great games, and there will be other contenders to the throne.
Speaking of contenders, can the Rockets be good this year? I like Harden and Lin in the backcourt, along with Omer Asik playing defense and grabbing rebounds. In fact, they are one of the five teams that I have chosen for my NBA League Pass Choice because I am expecting an exciting season with them. I also expect Daryl Morey, GM of the Rockets, to make another big trade before the deadline. They will have a "Lin-derella" season but will end up losing in the first round of the playoffs.
I also want to thank Iman Shumpert for bringing the 80s back.
I have never been this into the first few games of a new season before. This should be fun.
Monday, October 29, 2012
Every off-season brings its fair share of 'Wow' moments. Trades and signings that may not have been expected. These days, there are so many ways to get your information, one often is under the illusion that there will be no surprises. That every situation has been considered and we hear about every disgruntled player's daily thoughts (see: Howard, Dwight). However, this summer yielded many 'Wow' moments. The Jeremy Lin signing was unbelievable when it happened because I am a Knicks fan and thought at the time that they weakened the team, but who would have thought that players would have signed with supposed hated teams like Steve Nash with the Lakers and Ray Allen with Miami? As Simmons on Grantland many times, these rivalries really only matter to fans and the media. But even still, the Lakers rebuilding and creating a team that consists of Kobe, Pau, Nash, AND Dwight Howard? That is a Wow moment. Ray Allen leaving the Celtics was a semi-Wow moment, even if the Celtics are probably better off now. But just when you thought it was all over, the Thunder announce the trade of James Harden to the Houston Rockets. Quite simply:
Was the Thunder move really unexpected? I talked about how the losing teams in the NBA Finals often retool and "break up the band" here. Additionally, analysts have repeatedly talked about how the Thunder are a small market team and the commitments to Durant, Ibaka and Westbrook have put the Thunder in a tough spot with the salary cap. Harden was also the sixth man because his style overlapped with Durant's and Westbrook's. In the end, this move may have been the best for both Harden and the Thunder. Does any of this matter though?
Even if I hope the Knicks will play better, and there are now many teams that I am really interested in, will anyone be able to unseat the Miami Heat? This is the year LeBron has transcended, right? He is going to prove to us that he is the best player ever by being even better than he was last year. The Heat are going to be unstoppable supposedly, so there really is no point to watch. Nothing is ever certain, and that is why we watch. If one of the teams I watch and like actually supplant the Heat this year, then we are better off. If LeBron gets better, then we are even better off. It has been 20 years since we saw greatness, and we may be on the threshold to see it again. So win-win. Now is a great time to be an NBA fan. It has to be. I recently dropped Major League BaseBall and am about to drop the National Football League, so the NBA is what I am doubling down on. I even bought the NBA League Pass last year during the Linsanity tour, and am considering buying it again even if it is a little expensive.
Of course, the Knicks will be on the list, especially since me and 7 of my friends will be participating in the contest. The other 4 teams I am tentatively choosing are:
Los Angeles Lakers - Steve Nash is one of my favorite players and what he did last year was nothing short of amazing. The load could be lightened with this Lakers team, even if the pressure is now heightened. But this is a team that I have to keep an eye on. Despite what I think of Dwight, he gives Nash the best chance for getting his first NBA title, and Kobe his 6th.
Miami Heat - Whether or not LeBron makes his transcendence, it is a must watch season. They played so well last season and gave us so many highlights, there is no way I can leave them off the list.
Houston Rockets - Jeremy Lin kicked off my interest in the Knicks again. I thought it was going to be another blah season for the Knicks, but he made me interested again. Now he is on a young Rockets team and paired with James Harden, another of my favorite players. It will be interesting to see how they do.
Denver Nuggets - This team will be amazing to watch this year. George Karl's style of coaching and the pieces they have in place: Gallinari, McGee, Faried, Andre Miller and now Iguodala. It will be most fun.
Although this list may change, the Miami Heat and of course the Knicks are the only teams that stayed on my League Pass list (I am only signing up for League Pass Choice, which allows you to follow 5 teams throughout the year). The Chicago Bulls, LA Clippers and OKC have dropped off the list. Celtics are not on the list because they are local and other teams I have considered are Brooklyn Nets and the Minnesota Timberwolves. No matter what teams I choose for League Pass or what happens, it looks like I will be keeping a close on eye on this season. I am expecting to see some greatness and I suspect I will see it. I cannot wait.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
With one more week to go, I have enlisted my friends to participate in a contest to determine who is best at picking the team that will cover against the spread. Full rules and bios of all participants are here. The contest will encompass the Knicks schedule for the 2012-2013 season. First set of games from 11/1 - 11/11 can be selected here: Click here to enter. The games covered are:
Thursday, August 2, 2012
First, congratulations to Lebron and the Miami Heat for their championship. This was a well played playoffs and they certainly deserved to win after coming back in the Indiana series and the tightly contested series with Boston.
Second, thanks to everyone that read and contributed to my postings. Whether you sent me a link or we had a discussion about it, I do appreciate it and it makes my basketball watching that much more fun when I have people to share it with.
Lastly, thanks to my family, especially my wife, for putting up with this minor obsession I have. I am sure I have talked her ear off and been annoying but they have always been there. This was a great year and I had more fun than I can remember in recent years. The prospects for next year are even brighter. My local team, the Boston Celtics, look to be even better than last year, despite losing Ray Allen to a division rival. And my favorite team, the Knicks, have an interesting team that may be better next year, despite some head scratching moves, that I will discuss in a few sentences. Additionally, the Nets will be moving to Brooklyn and contesting for King of New York status. That should make for some interesting storylines.
Now, back to the Knicks. What the heck happened? Heading into the offseason, the Knicks were in the enviable position of not only being good right now, but had a solid core to be great in the future. With a veteran, high caliber cast of Carmelo, Amare and Tyson Chandler leading the front line, they had great pieces in the backcourt with Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields, and Iman Shumpert. I even liked their supporting cast of Jared Jeffries, Josh Harrellson, and Steve Novak. Of the last six players I named, only Novak and Shumpert are returning, but Shump is coming off of knee surgery so who knows what the recovery time and form he will return in. I hated seeing Fields and Jeffries go because it seemed like they were great locker room guys, but I could sort of understand it. Fields contract was a little high and parting with Jeffries to get Camby and Thomas is sort of an upgrade. Not matching on Lin was really confusing though. He showed he could play and the fans LOVED him. I am not sure what the owner, James Dolan was so mad about with the Lin situation. Supposedly, he was upset with Lin and his team for going back to the Houston Rockets and getting a better deal. They could have offered Lin 4 years $6 million and Lin would have signed it. That's the most upsetting part. Besides that, they told Lin to go out and get the best deal he could. Of course a team with enough foresight and need would sign him to such a deal. How could an owner not acknowledge that this is a business anyway? All players acknowledge that they are just part of a business, that they could be traded, waived, or signed solely based on "business reasons". How is an owner unable to acknowledge this and call Lin disloyal for looking for the best option? But, enough about that. This will probably work out for both parties. It is once again Melo's team. They just have more pressure to produce without Lin than if they had kept him. Lin will also flourish in Houston. They will not be a great team, but he will probably average a 17 and 6 for the season.
Good luck to all, let's just stay away from the negativity. This is just a game afterall and I know we read and listen to analysts all the time, but I was surprised how negative Steven A. Smith was with the Lin situation. He was the last to come around to admit that the kid could play and was the first and loudest to say good riddance when he signed with Houston. Sadly, there may be other factors to Smith's assessments than purely from an analytical standpoint. I was given two examples here and here (Thanks BG!). I hope Smith truly felt those things and was not motivated by the fact that he shares the same agent as Melo.
But enough ugliness. I am still assessing how my predictive powers were this year (pretty horrible) and am going to challenge myself to improve next year. I will be sending out some invites next season to see how I stack up against friends in predicting wins and losses next year. I am thinking about the parameters (most likely a simple for or against the knicks with the spread), but will fill you in as the season approaches. If you are interested in joining me, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have fun for the rest of the summer. I will write more soon.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
I wanted to get a post in before game 3 started on Sunday (6/17/2012). I just want to say that this has been the epic matchup that we have all been waiting for and it has been evident in the ratings. A whopping 16.7 million viewers tuned in to watch game 2 of the Finals. Just to give you some perspective, American Idol is regularly the top watched show and it drew 15 million and 21 million in the last two shows of its latest season. If you are one of those people that does not watch basketball, I suggest you turn on the TV this Sunday and give it a try. In my mind, this is reaching the point like the World Cup in soccer or even the Olympics. We would never watch these sports regularly, but it is reaching the point where a bit of history is being made. True greatness is happening right before our very eyes and you do not want to miss out. You will either be seeing LeBron James or Kevin Durant win their first championship. Both of these players are the ones who will be carrying the torch (so to speak) for the NBA in the upcoming years and will be entering the conversation of greatest ever in a short time. This is like watching Tiger Woods win his first Masters or Michael Jordan win his first NBA Finals. It is not to be missed.
I still believe Thunder will win this series, but it most likely hinges on game 3. As I stated in a prior post, the winner of game 3 will win the series abot 80% of the time. And in a series such as this one, statistics matter. This will be a hotly contested series and will most likely go to seven games. The winner of game 3 will have the advantage the other team will not be able to dig themselves out of. That being said, here are my reasons:
1. Kevin Durant has scored 17 and 16 points in games 1 and 2, respectively. Meanwhile he has only scored 32 and 36 points. It feels like he is deferring to his teammates early on, but look for him to take over earlier. He must know now that he cannot be stopped and will score at least 40 points twice. I expect a 50+ point masterpiece from him at least one of these times.
2. We have seen LeBron and Wade's all in this series. They have carried the load and do not have much more. Their teammates will not continue shooting at these high levels which will leave it all in LeBron and Wade's hands. I just do not think they have anything left.
3. OKC is more fun. They can play both ends of the floor better and have proven it. They just need to play for the whole game.
4. It seems like OKC is on a mission. Last year, when Dallas won the Western Conference finals, Dirk Nowitzki went through the motions and accepted the trophy, but he left shortly after. You could tell that he was not satisfied. The same with OKC and their supporting cast. When game 1 ended, Kevin Durant went to the sidelines and hugged his friends and family. They had just won game 1 of the NBA Finals, something new to them and had never happened before in OKC. A joyous occasion right? Not to them. Not one of them even cracked a smile. When kids come home from school after an uneventful day, they are greeted by smiling parents. Kevin Durant's family did not express any emotion. Like Durant, they know there is a mission, and that is an NBA championship.
The NBA Finals Curse
In sports, there are a lot of superstitions. Some seem to be true, like the Madden curse or the Sports Illustrated Jinx. When we were going through the Dwightbacle, or Dwight Howard's inability to give his team a firm commitment. One commentator suggested that the Orlando Magic were cursed. The Magic reached the promise land in both 1995 and 2009 lead by their All-Star centers, but were promptly dispatched by the eventual champions in just a few games. They then never went back to the Finals with Shaquille O'Neal or Dwight Howard and the stars eventually left (assuming Howard leaves soon). I decided to check and see if there was, in fact, a curse. Did the losers of the NBA Finals retool a little too much and send their teams on a downward spiral? It is hard to imagine a team that comes so close one year, but then collapses a couple years later. Let us take a look:
NBA Finals Losing Teams 1999 - 2011
|Year||Team||A Few Years Later|
|1999||New York Knicks||12/22/2003. The day Isiah Thomas was hired as President of Basketball Operations. The franchise goes in a tailspin|
|2000||Indiana Pacers||11/29/2004 Malice in the Palace - 9 players suspended for 146 games|
|2001||Philadelphia 76ers||Coach Larry Brown leaves in 2003, coming back to defeat them in 2005 and then going on to win a championship. Best player Allen Iverson demands a trade in 2006|
|2002,2003||New Jersey Nets||Jason Kidd leaves in 2008, Kenyon Martin traded to Nuggets in 2004, Richard Jefferson stayed until 2008, although many injuries. Now they have to deal with Kris Humphries and his recent divorce with a Kardashian|
|2004||Los Angeles Lakers||Shaquille O'Neal leaves in 2006. Kobe accused of sexual assault in 2003, goes to trial in 2004.|
|2005||Detroit Pistons||Ben Wallace leaves for more money to the Bulls, the beginning of the end|
|2006||Dallas Mavericks||Michael Finley leaves to rival Spurs and goes on to win a championship|
|2007||Cleveland Cavaliers||July 8, 2010 - The Decision, LeBron goes from a favorite player to a villain overnight|
|2008||Los Angeles Lakers||Not much, one of few losing teams to come back and win a championship shortly after|
|2009||Orlando Magic||Dwightbacle happened, Howard expected to be traded or leave in 2012 or 2013|
|2010||Boston Celtics||Big Three breaking up in 2012|
|2011||Miami Heat||Too early to tell|
Looking through this list, not every team went the route of a complete implosion. However, it does appear that the losing teams made a large portion of the negative storylines for the NBA in the last 13 years. Losing stars to free agency or demanded trades seems to be a prominent headline as well, ranging from a seemingly quiet move such as Ben Wallace leaving Detroit to LeBron's decision which became a prime time special on TV. With a few exceptions, such as the Lakers and Mavs, there really is no plan B, and the teams suffer in the division cellars for quite some time. There is no distinguishable pattern except that reaching the top game does shine a certain light on you and many do not deal well. One thing is for certain, and a lesson I learned in third grade: some lose and learn from it, while others just cry about it. Oh yeah, and losing sucks.