Dwight Howard is still my favorite

I am tired of reading about Dwight Howard. It’s a fair bet that you are, too, but it’s also a fair bet that we’re tired for different reasons. Very likely you’re tired of his relentless boorishness, tone-deaf self-aggrandizement, and constant waffling. That’s your prerogative. But me, I’m tired of reading about Dwight Howard because it seems like every person I read complaining about Howard has forgotten that he is awesome.

More to the point: it seems to me that the past year and change has made the majority of fans forget that Dwight did this:

Or this:

It is worth mentioning that the second clip there—Howard hanging more than 40 and 20 on the Warriors while wearing Orlando pinstripes—happened last calendar year. I found those highlights by typing in “Dwight Howard highlights” to YouTube, and while I grant that Howard is a uniquely annoying off-court presence, my response is basically to point to those YouTube results and say “scoreboard.”

Here is a small collection of things that Dwight does in those two videos:

At 3:48 in the first clip, from game 6 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, Dwight backs his man down with the third quarter coming to an end. Three defenders are in the paint, alternately crowding him and stepping into potential passing lanes for Orlando’s shooters on the perimeter. With the entire defense keyed on Dwight, Rafer Alston runs unguarded to the rim, where Dwight finds him for an impossibly wide open bucket.

At 4:50 in the same clip, Howard faces up Anderson Varejao in the fourth quarter. He takes two dribbles to his right, pivots, and spins back left, leaving Varejao three feet to his right. He finishes by dunking, one-handed, with his right hand, against

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HoopSpeak Network

The Dot is a Sports Taboo

There is a way to change the game for the better with minimal negative side effects on the court of play. It just requires such a dramatic alteration to our cherished numeric symbols that even I’m not in favor of the proposal.

I am quite serious about phasing free throws out of the NBA, though it’s hard to convince people that such an inclination is anything more than a joke. It’s a dead-ball aspect of the game that bores and suctions valuable time from our eyeballs. It’s a part of the game that bears a greater resemblance to golf–one individual, against a stagnant back drop–than to the basketball action that fans cheer on. Obviously, I don’t have the power to remove free throws by fiat, but I would celebrate the movement gaining traction eventually.

There is an impediment to such a movement, though, and it isn’t just tradition. The obvious argument against removing free throws is that the live ball action would be changed for the worse. If, as I’ve suggested, all free throws were instantly converted to points, flopping could increase substantially as teams chase a 2 point value as opposed to the roughly 1.5 point value that an average foul line trip means.

The challenge in creating a free throwless game is doing so in a manner that doesn’t fundamentally change the game, aside from nixing freebies. There is a way do this, though it will never happen. There is a way to erase free throws without increasing flopping, but it requires a conceptual shift that we’ll never be ready for.

The wacky HoopIdea suggestion would be to award 1.5 points for every foul line trip. In this scenario, the rare “And-1″ would result in 1 point, and the rarer three-shot foul would result in 2

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Change is Scary, Sarunas

One temperate Oakland night, probably in 1989, Golden State Warriors rookie Sarunas Marciulionis picked up his dribble and stepped sideways either to his left or his right. Suddenly, the Lithuanian guard jaunted back the opposite direction–either to his right or his left–as though on an invisible switchback trail. Maybe the move fooled that defender, or maybe Sarunas was called for traveling. We’ll never really know the exact moment at which the NBA was introduced to the “Eurostep.”

Marciulionis moved laterally, back-and-forth, in a way NBA players had never thought to. For at least a half century, Americans had always taken two steps forward after picking up their dribbles. It made sense, as the momentum carried them in that general direction. Nobody had ever thought to do it any differently. Or, if they had thought to, nobody had the confidence to make a public habit out of bipedal slithering.

Sarunas Marciulionis introduced this revolutionary move at a time when he personally must have felt quite warped. The season had started weeks after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, when the foreign rookie was getting his training camp bearings. Perhaps there is a natural tendency towards reversing course within Sarunas because on October 17th, 1989, he planned on going to a car dealership via the 880 freeway. At the last second, he decided on a different direction, visiting a back doctor instead. While in the office, one tectonic plate scraped against another, causing the earth to shudder buildings off her shoulders. The doctor’s building held steady, but the 880 freeway did not.

If you ask people about the fatalities in the 1989 quake, most would guess that the majority of carnage occurred on the Bay Bridge. I know this because I’m the kind of person who asks this question of people.

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The Problem With Replay Review

With roughly six seconds left, his team down by two, Kevin Durant benefited from a very, very dubious goaltending call.

Portland surely would have wanted a referee review of this play. There had been a review earlier, with 15.9 seconds left, when a blur of gnashing limbs squirted a ball into the crowd. The ball had been called out on Portland. After much waiting, a little elevator muzak…still out on Portland. On the faux goaltend, PDX could get no such painstaking Zapruder film attention. Goaltending is not reviewable–just like fouls. Many on my Twitter feed decried the policy as the Blazers went on to lose in over time.

The call was surely botched. I’m not comfortable with that. The call wasn’t reviewable. I’m quite comfortable with that. Actually, I’d prefer that basketball had no such grinding halts, even per “foot on the line” or “ball out of bounds.” I’d prefer the NBA left rewriting history to sports scribes and fans.

The goaltend was not all that happened on this infamous Durant play. View closely and you’ll see LaMarcus Aldridge make contact with KD’s elbow, in what looks to be a foul. In a world where refs review this kind of play, how would they determine what to call? If goaltending was reviewable, but fouls were not, it is difficult to see how such an approach would result in the “right” decision. Also, how would the NBA review goaltends without allowing for unwhistled goaltends to also be reviewed? And if they were to review noncalls on goaltends, wouldn’t the game have to stop during transition plays?

The bigger problem is replay review itself, a device that has no place in basketball despite its football-stoked popularity. In a free flowing game where teams average nearly 100 possessions, it makes little

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That the boys might learn the rules

“Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play,” George Orwell wrote in London’s Tribune more than half a century ago. “It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.”

War minus the shooting. That’s a condemning reflection on sport if I’ve ever heard one, and one with which I don’t necessarily agree. See, sports are different today than they were in 1945, having grown beyond limited audiences in small townships through the undeniable power of coaxial cables, television networks, and, more recently, the Internet. What has changed most since Orwell scrutinized the Sporting Spirit is the delinquent disregard of sporting rules—it isn’t as evident. But while sportsmanship today is probably at an all-time high (since many professional athletes are content to play for the money, and the money is good), “serious sport” is dominated by the referee’s whistle, though not because of increased subordination inside the lines.

It’s because the rules of the game have changed. Take the Hoop World’s Order, for instance: both National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Basketball Federation‘s (FIBA) official rule books are more than 60 pages long. Today’s official sporting guides, with their rules and sections and articles, live in stark contrast to the regulations created by basketball’s law-giving father, James Naismith, in the wicked December of 1891. (Naismith, a physical fitness instructor at the YMCA International Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts, had but 13 rules which were tacked to a bulletin board in the gymnasium so that his students could learn the rules.)

As we race forward into the future in a rapidly changing world, it’s always entertaining to take a moment and remember we have come from. In a similar light, when children’s games like Naismith’s peach-basket pastime are, as Orwell put it, built up into heavily-financed activities

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Stop Synergy Abuse

Synergy, Holy Grail of basketball information. To use it is to be addicted, to be addicted is to sometimes abuse it.

I’ve lately seen many a writer and reader cite Synergy’s individual defensive statistics as argument trump cards. Hey, this player has a stingy points per possession (PPP), contrary to your denigration of his defense. Hey, this player can’t be good at D with a total Synergy rating like that. Eat your hat, gargle it with thumb tacks, you’ve just been Synergized!

The fine people at Synergy kindly curate many defensive plays into component parts. Thanks to them, we now have information on outcomes of isolations, post-ups, spot-ups, etc. This data is certainly interesting and valuable, but it should be applied wisely and modestly.

On Hang Up and Listen, Kevin Arnovitz cited how writers used Synergy to a good end. The Warriors trumpeted free agent acquisition Kwame Brown by referencing his “post defense” as an asset. Writers took to Synergy and checked Kwame’s data from those situations. Brown simply did not grade out as Kendrick Perkins of Charlotte, the numbers showed him to be below average at guarding the low block. This was a wise application. Take a specific claim, fact check it via a specific measurement.

But people falter when looking for absolute measures of overall defensive prowess. Unlike offense, defense is about prevention, and prevention is so difficult to quantify. Offense is often created by one man, bursting through a defense en route to a tangible reward. This act is easily recorded and credited to the athlete.

Defense is about five people working as one collective organism. If an offense-minded knight (named say, Brandon) bursts through a castle wall and lances an enemy nobleman, we know that he earned his mutton leg for that evening. Now

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Gary Forbes: Enter the Wombat

Download this Gary “The Wombat” Forbes desktop wallpaper TODAY! It features all of Forbes’ HOT stats overlayed on a majestic hardwood canvas. And did you know that wombats have extraordinarily slow metabolisms?

So sit back, relax, and let this wallpaper soak into your monitor. The first download is free! If you’d like YOUR favorite player made into a HoopSpeak desktop, submit ideas to @AnthonyBain on Twitter!

(Special thanks to Noam Schiller for inspiring this art)


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It’s your fault, you powerless bastard

General sports fans seem to believe that a) Players are mostly to blame for this lockout and b) Owners will get the better end of a deal. I’ll table the racial dimension of this conversation for a different day–I have a rule about publishing on race after the 2 AM sleep deprivation threshold.

It is difficult to look at these numbers and conclude anything other than: “Fans think owners deserve more money than players do.” That would be an odd sentiment, considering owners already have more money, and “owning” is not an action–you only need to hold the deed.

An owner can forget about his team’s existence for ten years and still sell it for a profit. As a Warriors fan, I cite the non-experience that was Chris Cohan ownership. He may well have lived in a bunker that existed in a black hole’s vacuum. Petty lawsuits were the only evidence that Cohan kept breathing air, but for all I know, he filed those from Marianna’s Trench by the grace of gills and a waterproof typewriter. The Owning Thing eventually sold GSW for 450 million. When owners like Mark Cuban immerse themselves in team operations, it is an active choice and not an obligation.

So, how do fans come to favor passive deedholders whom they believe will get the “better end” of a lockout? To explain, I cite Dennis Rodman: “I think the players should bow down. It’s not the players’ fault, it’s the owners’ fault and I think (the players) should give a little bit, and that way, things will move on.”

Rodman did not “blame” the players, but he voiced how many want this to wrap up.

Give in. Things will move on. Bow down.

There is a fatalism to our view of these negotiations, an

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Dismal David Maims His League

In regards to the lockout, the commissioner said, “The less coverage, the better.” He said it on a nationally syndicated radio program.

The less coverage, the better. But David Stern is on my TV. And my radio. He’s talking to the house organ, to one of the Mikes–but not one of those “Mike and Mike” Mikes. Wait, never mind, he spoke to those Mikes as well. Dan Patrick gets a healthy dose of David. It was Dan, to whom David chirped “The less coverage, the better.” That ironic comment was tethered to another: “Oh, we’d be happy to not have (the lockout) covered at all.”

My head is inundated with the commissioner’s lockout lobbying. Like a horror movie protagonist who stumbles into a smoky room of funhouse mirrors, I’m surrounded by David Stern distortions. Feinting this way and that, he’s toying with me from angles oblique, smugly cackling while smudging my brain folds. Before I know it, I’m mumbling “You can’t revenue share your way to profitability,” in a lobotomized drone, to a highly-offended homeless man.

NBA PR’s approach is reflexive, dogged. React to criticism, address it with near violent vigor. Destroy the enemy. Win the narrative. Doth protest more than too much, so much that it erases all memory of whatever you’re protesting.

Stern is the ideal instrument of the PR apparatus that grew beneath his fists. Like his minions, he’s confrontational, responsive and ubiquitous. But Stern is able to do this respectably, by the grace of quick wits and self-effacing comedic touch. Stern won’t hide. The former lawyer will present his case, and those bastards will feel his wrath. This makes other commissioners seem coy by comparison. This makes David Stern seem bigger than a mere commissioner.

So, David Stern may well win the public relations fight

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Nobody really cares about stadium workers

This is in response to multiple opinion postings, but per HS policy, none will be specifically cited… Sympathy for the plighted is a good thing, and there isn’t enough of it in this country. So why am I criticizing the “Let’s focus on locked out stadium workers” trope? What could possibly be wrong with pointing out that, in a battle between wealthy factions, working stiffs are collateral damage?

To those who really do feel deep sympathy for stadium workers, I apologize. It’s not that I think you, personally, are lying–I just don’t believe you in the aggregate. Though many writers are waxing aggrieved about the thousands of lockout-pinched blue collars, I see no movement to reimburse the impacted. Where is the charity, the fund, hell, the Facebook group? If such a groundswell of actual deep feeling existed, then so too would a response. For all the concern regarding “actual” lockout victims, fingers are only lifted in the wringing of hands.

To writers, the stadium employees are symbols. They are salt of the earth, striving, dragging regular-guy concerns and needs. They are what is “good.” They are what is “real.” These proletariat stand-ins stand in contrast to squabbling millionaire bastards who deign break the seal on a season we crave. Because of this, the screwed workers are a convenient cudgel against two sides whom we would wish into any damned CBA, so long as it’s done and done quickly.

Billionaires, millionaires, accept concessions! Not for me, but for those who work concessions!

When lobbying for basketball’s hasty return, “Think of the children!” logic just sounds weightier than, “I like when ball goes through hoop.”

Or perhaps, the stadium worker symbolizes the plight-highlighting writer. Though I tend to hoop blog from a platinum-embossed swivel chair that connects to a peasant-bone

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