Interview With Donnie Walsh

Before the 11/6/09 Cleveland game I was able to ask Mike D’Antoni and Donnie Walsh a few questions.

Mike Kurylo It seems like the team is struggling from three, except for Gallinari. In the preseason you had a few guys like Joe Crawford and Morris Almond who could knock down the three…

Mike D’Antoni Morris Almond was never in the preseason… He was in the summer league.

Mike Kurylo I’m sorry you’re right summer league. Are there any thought of bringing in another shooting guard?

Mike D’Antoni No.

Mike Kurylo Do you …

Donnie Walsh Where are you from?

Mike Kurylo KnickerBlogger.Net. It seems that there are a lot of guys that are free agents at the end of the year on your own team. So just by chance you may have a lot of roster spots open.

Donnie Walsh You’re wrong.

Mike Kurylo OK. I’m sorry for assuming.

Donnie Walsh That’s what’s happening. You’re writing what you think. I like the players on my own team.

Mike Kurylo But it seems that by chance some guys will just sign with another team. For instance if you have 7 free agents, it’s possible that you may only be able to resign 3 or 4. So I was wondering if you were looking at other avenues of signing players.

Donnie Walsh Of course.

Mike Kurylo Where are you looking? Are you looking in the D-League or in Europe?

Donnie Walsh All of the above.

Mike Kurylo How do stats fit into the picture with your scouting? Do you use them half and half or do you rely mostly on scouting?

Donnie Walsh I umm… [to Larry Johnson] Hey Larry how are you? It’s good to have you here.

LJ: Look at you always working.

Mike Kurylo So my question is: How do stats fit into the picture?

Donnie Walsh I don’t know quite what you mean. Am I impressed at how many point a guy scores per game? No.

Mike Kurylo How about other stats like …

Donnie Walsh If a guy is averaging 30 points per game and a scout calls me up and says this guy is the real deal, then I’ll go watch him.

Mike Kurylo What stats are you looking at? Are you looking at true shooting percentage and any of the newer stats?

Donnie Walsh Of course we’ve got all of that.

Mike Kurylo Are you familiar with John Hollinger or Dave Berri…

Donnie Walsh I’m not overly impressed if his true shooting percentage [is X] and that means something. It’s part of the picture.

Mike Kurylo I’m a big stat guy and I feel like in baseball that 80-90 percent of a player’s value is captured in stats, in my opinion. But in basketball it doesn’t seem to be as reliable.

Donnie Walsh Because basketball is a 5-man game that has to be played together. You’re not just getting [up to the plate] to hit a baseball.

Mike Kurylo Basketball is not a one-on-one game. And the defensive stats in basketball, blocks and steals, just don’t cover what happens on that end. Someone like Bruce Bowen…

Donnie Walsh You know it’s very difficult to [quantify this]. Coaches try to do it. They come up with deflections and challenges and different stats to determine who is doing a good job defensively. But you can see that by watching. You’re right. A guy that blocks shots may be good or bad [defensively].

[Inaudible due to loud music – but Donnie and I talked about a defensive scoresheet.]

Donnie Walsh Look I don’t think gut instinct is foolproof and I don’t think stats are foolproof. I think a combination of different things [are best.] We do a lot of checking and try to get as good picture we can of the guy.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

60 thoughts to “Interview With Donnie Walsh”

  1. yeah! what an idiot! have been reading the blog for nearly two years now and have never really commented as i live in england and thought i never watched enough to say anything constructive. however i find it a little narrow minded of the top men in the franchise to treat a contributor to a site that has such a loyal following so poorly. as a general rule everyone is fair and offer well balanced opinions on the site so its not as if we have been hounding the pair of them. lost a lot of respect for them both really. D’antoni more so. Having said that im sure he is feeling the pressure at the moment. keep it up mike, this site is somewhat of an addiction as i do not have access to any basketball other than highlights atm.

  2. Ouch. Interviewing is tough. I might suggest asking more open-ended questions, like for D’Antoni, “What do you make of our ridiculously lousy 3 pt %?” Also, for Walsh I’d probably ask him about other people since he’s such a poker player and never wants to tip his hand. Like, instead of asking him about advanced stats, I’d be interested to hear what he makes of Darryl Morey’s approach…

  3. “Mike Kurylo Where are you looking? Are you looking in the D-League or in Europe?

    Donnie Walsh All of the above.”

    This brings to mind my experience with remodling my kitchen. We had one contractor named Milosh from some place in Eastern Europe. He gave no specifics but simply agreed with everything we asked.

    Mr. and Ms. B: What sort of construction/ remodel experience do you have?
    MIlosh: Yes, Milosh have that.
    Us: So drywall, plumbing, electrical?
    Milosh: Yes, Milosh have that.
    Us: What about..
    Milosh: Yes, Milosh have that too. You write Milosh check. Milosh start today.

    Then Larry Johnson walked in and we escaped out the back.

  4. Honestly it was my fault for not framing the question properly. They were both polite to me. D’Antoni I just stopped in the hallway after his pre-game interview. He didn’t have to answer my questions. Donnie Walsh doesn’t have to sit courtside either.

    Remember these guys are in a business where they have to keep their public thoughts and private thoughts in a separate box. Before I interviewed each of them they fielded a thousand questions about LeBron James. Now you know they’d both love to have the King in New York, but neither of them were able to say that.

    Their business is to deflect their true thoughts. I don’t expect them to be giving up trade secrets or their inner thoughts. I have a ton of ideas/questions to ask them when the chance arises again. It’s my job to find the right question to ask to extract the proper information from them.

  5. Great stuff Mike, you have come a long way…

    That does read like a tough interview and I agree the opening questions could have been framed a bit better.

    Having been so long in opposition, so to speak, it must be a bit strange to finally be face to face with Knicks Management. Not as strange as being face to face with Isiah would be, but still a bit strange, given how much time you have spent analyzing their decisions here….

    From what I can see, Donnie mostly says the right things. A bit perfunctory but he at least pays some lip service to the importance of stats. I do think it’s a hard in a few passing moments to really delve into these issues.

    Also, probably a bit early in your media career to be throwing heat at the Knicks GM and coach. But personally, I would struggle to resist asking something like:

    “Do you regret taking Jordan Hill and passing on Ty Lawson and Brandon Jennings?”

  6. Thanks for posting the full, unedited transcript. Another reason this blog is a great place to visit, not just for Knick fans, but for all sports fans looking to gain a perspective that the main stream media lacks.

    What I found most interesting is a) how hostile Walsh seemed at first (I mean come on– he’s really slapping you on the wrist for assuming the team is not going to re-sign Larry Hughes?); and b) how his demeanor changed when the issue of stats came up. I think it’s a subject that most people don’t ask him about, and rather than being dismissive (a la Mike D. in the hallway), he offered some insight into how the team goes about evaluating players.

    I really like this interview and hope you get more time with Walsh in the future.

  7. Its not the easiest thing in the world to ask a question. I deal with people older than me who can’t ask a question to save their lives or feel the need to cover every possibility making the question barely comprehensible and the answer meaningless. Sometimes simple and conversational works best. But it is great how far this project of yours has come in just 3-4 years.

  8. Hey Mike, because I am a new poster to this site, do you think you could give a little background as to why you started the site and how you have now gained access to Knicks management? I don’t know if you had these connections before or established them through the development of this site, but I am interested to learn.

  9. speaking of stats…
    take a look at these stats and tell me who should be playing and who shouldn’t

    Top Individual Players
    + – +/- MIN +/- /MIN G
    M. Landry 31 -14 17 12:22 1.374 1
    D. Gallinari 387 -373 14 175:38 .079 6
    L. Hughes 368 -366 2 181:25 .011 5
    J. Hill 37 -37 0 17:35 .000 2
    N. Robinson 54 -60 -6 35:51 -.167 1
    W. Chandler 389 -397 -8 203:48 -.039 6
    J. Jeffries 220 -243 -23 124:50 -.184 6
    T. Douglas 137 -163 -26 75:33 -.344 6
    D. Lee 435 -466 -31 221:43 -.139 6
    C. Duhon 432 -466 -34 221:06 -.153 6
    D. Milicic 55 -89 -34 35:17 -.963 5
    A. Harrington 335 -376 -41 184:48 -.221 6

  10. Busy and seemingly important people behave this way a lot.
    I interview lawmakers on Capitol Hill daily. I try to keep my questions short and to the point with as little set up as possible. Often times, the newsmaker reads a point of view into the question that they may judge to be subjective or critical. If that happens, they grow suspicious and act accordingly. Sometimes, if the question makes them uncomfortable, they will dissemble.
    For example, your first question translated loosely by me is “I think your team’s 3 pt shooting sucks. Would you rather have some of the scrubs who could shoot from three during the summer and preseason than the guys in your locker room now? :)
    As stark as my translation sounds, I suspect that’s how he took it.
    Perhaps you could have said, “are you considering any steps to try and improve your team’s three point shooting?”
    BTW, it’s always best to identify yourself immediately so there is no question about that, especially if you are asking him to second guess his decision-making in a town like NY, where he could be thoroughly savaged each and every morning.
    I think Walsh’s comment that said something like that’s the problem, you are writing what you think, was quite revealing. It’s basically a veiled commentary on sports journalism, where reporters opinions are constantly on display.
    Also, asking them if they use advanced stats has at its core an implication that they might not.
    Perhaps you could ask “what type of statistics are most important to you on the offensive and defensive side of the ball and how do those stats play into your decision-making process when assessing talent?”

    Just some suggestions that probably are worth about as much as a sixteenth of a cup of starbucks coffee…:)
    But any interview conducted in a hallway is likely to be short and curt.
    Keep up the good fight, dude.

  11. wow…eddy curry actually looks in shape. that video reminded me of when he first entered the league out of high school..i will go to sleep tonite dreaming of a T-Mac for Chandler and Curry trade. oh, wouldn’t that just be magical. Houston just might be one place that could use a productive Curry with Yao being out all year and everything

  12. Holy crap! Curry looks….slim.
    I can’t do it.
    I will repeat over and over:
    I will not be hopeful. I will not be hopeful…


  13. It did seem like Walsh started opening up towards the end especially when talking about how to evaluate defense. Good luck and hang in there, hopefully you will get more chances to talk to them and you can develop a bit of a relationship with them.

  14. In 07-08, Eddy Curry played 59 games and averaged 26 minutes/ game. His per 36 were…

    Points/36: 18.3
    Rebounds/36: 6.5
    Blocks/36: .7
    Turnovers/36: 2.9
    Fouls/36: 3.7

    Let us assume that curry is a slim 300. I think because he is slimmer and moving better he will be able to stay on the court longer and hopefully avoid foul trouble. Just for fun (because Curry has not played a single minute this season), do you think Curry can replicate or exceed these numbers? How many minutes will he average by the all star game? Or Will he be the same ol’ Eddy? I wish I had his +/- numbers, but I cannot seem to find those.

  15. Dear Eddy:

    If you are truly in shape and start putting up numbers like in 07-08, and allow us to get rid of your bloated (sorry, expensive) contract this year, you will be my hero forever. I will even buy one of your jerseys and wear it to next years playoffs.

    Yours truly,

    A desperate for good news Knick fan

  16. “Hey Mike, because I am a new poster to this site, do you think you could give a little background as to why you started the site and how you have now gained access to Knicks management? I don’t know if you had these connections before or established them through the development of this site, but I am interested to learn.”

    Seconding this. New to posting, but I’ve lurked for about a year. Love the site, love the comments. Keep up the good work Mike.

  17. d-mar, that’s a great idea and I’d like to get on board.

    What would be more fitting: a then-clearance bin knicks jersey or of the prospective new team?

    I’m leaning towards the latter.

  18. Nice job on getting them to answer a few questions, at least. I agree with the suggestions above, where some of the questions might have been approached as leading them towards topics they’d naturally be leery of entering into. Not that coming up with good questions that pique their interest and get them to comfortably give you something other than canned answers, of course. Either way nice start and it’s great that you were able to gain any access at all. Good thing Dolan’s relaxed his media access policies with Walsh joining the organization.

    Also that Curry video was astounding. Walsh really wasn’t kidding when he said we’d all be surprised at how he looks. I’m really looking forward to seeing if his improved fitness translates onto the court.

    This team is shortening my life span.

  19. Mike– another idea might be an interview with Glen Grunwald. He’s seen both regimes work from the inside and seems like a smart, affable guy who can probably shed a lot of light on the techniques the team uses to evaluate players. He also never gets interviewed (and maybe isn’t feeling the heat of a 1-7 start like Walsh and D’Antoni) so his defensive shields may not be raised quite as high. Just a though.

    And while we’re on the subject: can you get me press credentials to the Knicks-Lakers at Staples? I can be the Knickerblogger west-coast correspondent! (And if not the Lakers, maybe the Clippers…. ;)

  20. By the way, Tommy Dee has lost his damn mind:

    I dunno, Dan, I mean, Raja Bell and a second rounder?

    How do you not trade David Lee for that package?

  21. “Hey Mike, because I am a new poster to this site, do you think you could give a little background as to why you started the site and how you have now gained access to Knicks management? I don’t know if you had these connections before or established them through the development of this site, but I am interested to learn.”

    I think becoming part of the True Hoop network had to be helpful in getting a credential…

    I read through the comments on that Knicks blog thread. Unreal.

    Lee for Raja Bell? Seriously?

  22. Lee for Raja Bell? Seriously?

    Hey, hey!

    Don’t forget the second rounder!

    That’s a game-changer right there!

    Raja Bell for the rest of this year and a second round draft pick!

    You know, perhaps even more foolish than the trade proposal (which was pretty darn foolish) is this bizarre belief that Lee somehow cannot play the 4 in D’Antoni’s system.

    That just sounds like a pile of hooey. Does D’Antoni’s system usually have a 4 who can hit threes? Often, yes, but the idea that it is a requirement is absurd.

    The system just needs a 4 who can hit an outside J, and obviously Lee can hit the outside J.

    Lee not being able to be the 4 in D’Antoni’s system sounds a lot like the people who insisted that Lee couldn’t play in D’Antoni’s system period, and now that he’s thrived in it, it’s that he can’t play the 4 in the system. What a load of nonsense.

  23. So I wasn’t the only one reading through those comments wondering if I was the only one that was crazy?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d totally be fine now with trading Lee(or Chandler) bundled with another player we need to dump if we got fair value in return, and I understand the value of a 4 who can play some D and stretch the floor in this system, but cmon. Raja Bell? He’s a decent NBA player, but unless his talents are fucking “200% MAXIMIZED” in this D’antoni system, that’s terrible value in trade. I sometimes feel bad for Walsh/D’antoni for having to deal with the NY media/fans. I hope they know not everyone compares Coach D to Larry Brown and we’re not expecting some magic bullet trade. If they can get a pick and some cap relief in return for a David Lee trade, I would probably be down with it. Trading one of our ‘premier’ assets in return for some low-budget shit just doesn’t cut the mustard, though. It doesn’t matter how many times we find ourselves down by 20-30 after 1, let’s not slit our own throats here. God knows we can’t afford to do that.

  24. By the by, the Eastern Conference is in such disarray (at the bottom of the conference, at least) that the Knicks are only three games back (in the loss column) of the #8 seed.

    At 1-7, the Knicks aren’t even last in their division!!!

  25. Clearly Walsh does not use advanced stats at all, which is not surprising. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Mike, your questioning got Walsh to reveal this, which earns you high marks in my book. Now, if you could only offer to tutor him on their value…

    So much for the new and improved Harrington. He is just sickening to watch. I know he is a critical component of this team (sad to say) but I would rather watch Hill flail around than Harrington make one selfish play after another.

    Hughes is a monster 1-on-1 defender, and can do some nice things offensively, but he took two horrific shots in crunch time that are emblematic of his decision-making woes.

    Douglas is just going to get better and better. Yeah, he missed the game tying shot, but there is an intangible quality about him, a mental toughness, that impresses me. His game is more complete offensively than I feared after seeing him in Vegas. If he keeps up the rapid development, D’Antoni might hand him the keys sooner than expected…he’s clearly getting frustrated with Duhon.

    What’s going on with Gallo? Everyone seems down on Chandler, but has Gallo played any better compared to what we were hoping for? Frankly, I thought this was the kind of game that was in his hands and he did very little offensively, especially down the stretch.

  26. Testy little wanker. I’m not sure if it ought to have, but I feel as if my trust and faith in Walsh, his plan, and ability to turn around the franchise were damaged more by the way he conducted himself during this interview than by any of the personnel moves he has made or failed to make thus far. But then again, some of the worst have always seemed peachy fellows in front of the scenes. Ah well, we’ll see what mid-november holds.

    Also, supposedly Eddy Curry has been losing a lot of weight and attempting to get back into “shape,” ay? Well, assuming he doesn’t get back on the court by Thanksgiving, has anyone yet considered what this year’s Turkey Day could do to him? He could balloon back up to 400 and there would go our chances of trading him and signing 2 significant free agents during this offseason. I for one am all for abolishing the holidays this year if it would lessen the chance of a hope-killing Curry weight gain and continued fan dismay.

    He’s the kind of fellow I want to take to the horse dentist.

  27. 1. Loved the interview. IMO, the Knick’s management is defensive because they know the team is awful right now and it’s their responsibility. I’d be defensive and a little surly too. If they were winning and not highly scrutinized, I’m sure the interview would have had a different tone. In any case, great job!
    2. Great to see Curry lose so much weight. This could not have been easy. I have criticized him in the past, but he could have ate himself out of the league and retired a millionaire.
    3. Really liked what Douglas brings to the table. To me, defense is a good part effort and I believe you will see that consistency from Douglas. He also seem to have a junk yard dog mentality which the soft Knicks could use.
    4. It has taken me a while to come around to stats. I am getting there. Any way to capture more elusive trends such as leadership, clutch shooting, playing while injured, presence, etc..?

  28. A bit of meta-criticism about the interview:

    While Mike’s questions may have been framed in a way (both verbally and situationally) more likely to piss off two highly-paid men of decision-making power than evoke a meaningful, thoughtful response, that he would post them on his site, known for its high level of dialogue and discussion, speaks volumes about his ego (or lack thereof). Mike chose to post the interview despite its relative failures, choosing not to act as mediator for his readership, exposing both the tone of the subjects (and damn, did Walsh sound snippy) and his own inexperience.

    Somehow, it all comes back to Moneyball: one of the key issues that it brought to the table is the corrosive hegemonic forces that pervade professional sports (surprise! It’s not just about fat, slow guys who are good at hitting beisbols!). Walsh spoke of his distrust of tS%, although it is a far more telling metric of efficiency than we’ve paid attention to in the past. And I don’t mean to imply that tS% should be interpreted as the final word in player valuation; to assume that would be, as most of you know, wholly foolish. Yet there is a close correlation between shooting efficiency and expected wins. So when your eye tells you (over the last few weeks) that Jamal Crawford is a sharpshooter but his efficiency statistics say otherwise, it is difficult to reconcile that experience with the factual evidence to which we have access. While basketball statistics are inadequate compared to baseball’s, the commitment to gut feeling and evaluation-via-sight are still crippling to a franchise that may choose to deny the viability of advanced statistics — particularly when used in conjunction with one another.

    In short, Mike’s decision to put honesty before ego-driven presentation illustrates this community’s willingness to admit shortcomings, whether they are linguistic or analytical. And it seems, especially given the personnel moves over the last year and a half, that the Walshtoni administration overlooks those metrics in favor of visual player evaluation — an ego driven move if there ever was one.

    Kudos to Mike for keepin’ it realer than real.

  29. I think it’s not just that they didn’t take advanced stats into account when making some of these selections. I think their position is such that they have very little leverage because of the team’s cap flexibility problems and their complete and utter lack of depth. They gambled on some, others they took because their contracts expired at the right time.

    I wanted to make one point, BTW.
    It is quite clear to me that this start is to a great degree caused by Duhon’s putrid play. His eFG is 31.8 his TS% is 39.6. He’s getting an average 6.3 assists per 36, with 2.3 TOs per 36.
    He is shooting at 23.5 percent from 3 pt…25.8 percent overall.

    These aren’t even viable back up stats in the NBA.

    Douglas is so significantly better right now, it seems a no-brainer that he should be starting. In my view, Duhon would need to play his way back onto the court, not the other way around. Douglas’s eFG is 60.8, and his TS% is 61.4.
    His assists are relatively low, 1.8 per 36 at this point, but running the point, that likely would improve greatly. He’s also the team’s second best 3 pt shooter at the moment.

    Once Nate comes back, it would seem you need to run Douglas and Nate, then Hughes and Duhon.

    Lee’s numbers are really good, eFG of 55.7 and a TS% of 57.7, but Harrington is killing the Knicks. Once again the Knicks’ leading scorer is a guy shooting 40.5 percent from the field….

    And why is Darko not playing???

  30. I think as fans we’re obviously entitled to criticize D’Antoni’s refusal to bench Harrington and Duhon, but it’s a lot trickier for the coach. I’m not entirely convinced that it would help the team to bench two of its veterans because it would seriously alter the locker room chemistry and possibly breed dissent.
    I would imagine that D’Antoni, being a player’s coach, is sensitive to issues of pecking order, etc.

    I dunno, that’s just speculation on my part and I have no idea how NBA locker rooms work, but it seems like something like that must be at play here.

  31. Also, I guess, wasn’t Duhon named a captain. So who does that players or coaches? Its impossible to dispute that Duhon has been awful, but 7-8 games might be a little soon to cut bait, particularly since Douglas has had but two good games, admittedly his last two. I don’t get the same sense I did when this came up with Charlie Ward/Frank williams all those eons ago. But it is good to see a rook showing some game nonetheless.

  32. Look i know this isn’t going to happen. But in my depression this is what i came up with. I read an article saying it is only a matter of time before New Orleans deal Chris Paul. I know its not going to be this year but this does go through and saves the ornets serious dollars in the long run.

    Knicks Get: Chris Paul, Tracy McGrady

    Hornets Get: Harrington, Duhon, Chandler and Hill

    Rockets Get: Curry and Stojokavic

  33. I don’t think team chemistry is a high priority on a team that is 1-7 after having an abysmal record last year and in recent memory. They are in a dead heat to be last in most meaningful team offensive and defensive categories.
    So I’m not sure what kind of chemistry we’re trying to preserve….

    Eight games in and the trade proposals start coming in…:)

    Jon Abbey’s consternation over having not selected a point guard in the draft seemingly is validated so far.

  34. While I would rather have Lebron long term, it’s difficult to argue he is much better than Chris Paul right now, who incidentally is shooting 68% from three and is currently rocking a 74% ts%, which is ridiculous, even though it’s small sample size theater.

    Mcgrady stinks…

    I agree Duhon is a major problem. It shouldn’t be a surprise that after posting a career high ts% he is regressing to the mean in a big way this year.

    And your Ty Lawson update, currently has a +11 on/off and the highest Roland rating on the team (going to cherrypick a bad stat there). Last night scored 8 points on six shots and was part of the bench unit with Andersen and Smith that got the Nuggets the W. Andersen was a +17 and Lawson was +11 in a game they won by 1 point.

  35. John Abbey wasn’t the only one complaining about us not drafting Lawson, that’s what makes it so frustrating. It seemed like a fairly obvious fit for the Knicks instead of taking a big man who sucks (a role we have filled).

  36. Whatever happened to the guy who blamed Clyde for the Knicks losses last year? Maybe he was on to something. Clyde is still in the booth, and we still suck. Sounds like correlation.

  37. I’d really like to see more of Marcus Landry… see what he’s got. Playing him would make Jeffries pretty irrelevant, though, so I guess we’ll have to wait until Jeffries is (fingers crossed) traded for an expiring contract.

    There’s little chance Duhon plays this horribly the entire season. I’m not saying he’s great, and I’d like to see a bit more of Douglas as well. He just has to play better than this at some point.

    Harrington might continue to play just like this… His 05-06 TS% on a bad Atlanta team was also 51.3% (his efficiency so far this season). He has kept his TS% above 54% the past 3 seasons. I certainly wouldn’t be against a decent trade to get rid of him, but also don’t really expect one too soon.

    “They are in a dead heat to be last in most meaningful team offensive and defensive categories.”

    They’re 21st in defensive efficiency. Not good, but not a dead heat for last, either. They were 23rd last season, so it’s what I expected.
    They’re 25th in offensive efficiency, which is a surprise after finishing 17th last season. I was/am really hoping for a top 1/2 of the league finish offensively in year 2 under D’Antoni… This is why D’Antoni deserves some pressure for this start, in my opinion, because he’s supposed to be an offensive coach on what I guess is supposed to be an offensive team… and they stink on offense.

    Owen, why do you call Roland Rating (now apparently called “Simple Rating”) a bad stat?

  38. Would anyone here trade places with a Warrior fan? An article in the NYT today on Stephen Curry says that Monta Ellis won’t pass him the ball, and teammates have spoken publicly that they don’t want Stephen Jackson on the team. We may suck, but at least we haven’t become completely dysfunctional (yet).

    Speaking of GS, ex-Warrior Gilbert Arenas had 12, yes 12, turnovers last night.

  39. “Owen, why do you call Roland Rating (now apparently called “Simple Rating”) a bad stat?”

    Well, it’s not a horrendous stat, but I wouldn’t cite it if I didn’t love Lawson and if he weren’t leading the Nuggets in Roland Rating. Here is what the creator of the stat had to say about it in a recent interview…

    “It’s always tickled me a bit — I’ve read in several places on 82games that you don’t believe in the concept of a one metric determination of a player’s value…yet you’re also the guy with a metric as his namesake, the Roland Rating. But I’ve seen people use [the Roland Rating] in that context and it just gets at me that they obviously haven’t read your explanations.

    Right. The Roland Rating started out just being an on/off rating, and then people assumed that I was suggesting it was an overall rating. So I threw a bit more in there to actually make it a more serious rating. I just threw in a bit of the PER rating, that type of stuff. But yeah, the Roland Rating is a basic, quick look at the guy. You can see some patterns, like you can see Ron Artest defensively always has a good effect. But if someone were to criticize those ratings I wouldn’t jump out and try to defend them, as I don’t think there is really a summary number.

    But yeah, that’s doubly ironic since my name landed in the title.”

  40. Interesting. The reason I asked is because I ran some regressions to see what portion of team wins were explained by weighted average (by minutes played) PER v. WP48 v. Roland Rating of the individual players on a team a couple of years back. I found that weighted average Roland Rating had the highest correlation with wins.
    I just found it interesting at the time because Berri derived his formula from wins.

    I like RR as a stat in that it makes far more effort than the other two to account for individual defense. Defense (when it doesn’t result in a TO) is a huge part of the game and simply looking at TOs caused is not, in my opinion, an accurate way to measure it. In this way Hollinger and Berri are basically claiming to have single metric determinations of player value while ignoring what is probably somewhere between 40-50% of the game (defense that doesn’t result in a TO).

    Tying in with the discussion between Mike and Donnie Walsh somewhat, this is where box score only approaches hold back the statistical analysis of basketball compared to, say, offensive baseball stats: the box score doesn’t tell the whole story. To be taken seriously, we have to start looking outside of the boxscore, IMO, which is why I like 82games… Of course I look at B-R for box score derived stats more than 82games myself… but anyway.

  41. “Hollinger and Berri are basically claiming to have single metric determinations of player value while ignoring what is probably somewhere between 40-50% of the game (defense that doesn’t result in a TO).”

    Ted – Hmmm…

    I disagree. Stats capture a lot of what is happening on defense. . They capture three of the four factors, defensive rebounding, turnovers, free throws allowed, and blocks (which aren’t crucial but have some value). All they don’t capture is Efg.

    Efg allowed is mostly off box score, and it is by far the most important of the four defensive factors, but I disagree that it accounts for 40-50% of the game. I wouldn’t say it is anywhere close.

    Also, Berri does account for this aspect of defense in a crude fashion in his metric. Each player receives a credit or debit on a pro rata basis for the portion of a team’s success derived from its defensive efg. To the extent that some players are more responsible for a team’s success or failure it isn’t entirely accurate. Chuck Hayes and Kyle Lowry should be getting more credit than Aaron Brooks. But some of that is in there.

  42. I never got why Berri felt that splitting up a team’s defensive efg evenly was fair. I mean, if you’re going to go for something straightforward like that, why not go to the efg of the opposing position? That’s obviously not perfect, either, but it’s a lot better than just an even distribution, right?

    And is it really all that much extra computing?

  43. Owen,

    I just threw 40-50% out there somewhat arbitrarily. I came to that number because 1. I don’t think that box score stats tell us that much about defense but also 2. because I’m a big fan of defense (perhaps from growing up watching the Riley/Van Gundy Knicks teams).

    I guess first you would have to come up with what % of possessions end in a TO, and what % of those are actively caused by the defense vs. what % are unforced errors.

    There’s the “guys who go for a lot of steals and blocks can also be the same guys who give up a lot of wide open shots” angle. Then again, I don’t know. Blocks and steals are generally a pretty good proxy to tell us who is a good defender. What % of the time is a guy who causes a lot TOs a good defender and what % isn’t he? I have no idea.

    There’s the issue with how much weight is given to rebounding given that a certain player is going to just get a baseline number of rebounds. If you are a bigman going against the Knicks you are going to get a whole lot of gimme, uncontested defensive rebounds because their strategy is (somewhat inexplicably, in my opinion) predicated upon running at least 4 of 5 guys back on defense as soon as a shot goes up.

    Do Berri and Hollinger account for charges drawn? I have no idea.

    Mostly I just feel from watching games (completely subjective) that on most plays you have strong or weak defensive play that is not directly assigned to a player in the box score. A very good defender might deny his man from even getting the ball in the first place, let alone doing something with it. On the other hand, someone like LeBron can make good defense look silly by slicing through all 5 defenders even when they mostly do the right thing, and then he gets bailed out with a foul when he can’t.

    I am primarily talking about plays like cutting off penetration and causing the offense to reset (for example). Or forcing a guy into a bad shot. These do show up in the other teams eFG% to some extent, but it’s pretty hard to assign that on an individual level. If that’s the case then we should be assigning credit for a team’s offensive eFG% to everyone on the court for their spacing and non-assist passing… (and maybe there’s something to that… I don’t know. I mean why does the pass to the open man get all this credit, while the pass to the man who passes to the open man gets none at all? Because assists are a proxy for passing, but someone who is looking 2 or 3 passes ahead might get penalized here relative to some selfish showboat who only passes the ball to a teammate he thinks can score).

    When you take a guy from one system to another, when you are making the decisions that actual NBA personnel people make, it would be nice to be able to separate the guy who looked good defensively because of those around him from the guy who looked bad defensively because of those around him and all the shades of grey in between.
    I guess it’s pretty impossible to allot credit between the guy who funneled his man right to the help that resulted in a blocked shot vs. the actual shot blocker. Would be nice to at least quantify when a guy just lets his defender dance right by him and gets bailed out by a blocked shot vs. the first scenario, though.
    Anyway, I feel like Etan Thomas writing on HoopsHype: basically, I have no point… just rambling.

  44. I don’t like that Berri just fluffs that off. I mean .133 to .142 the difference is .009 which seems tiny but with such small numbers is around 6%. Not huge but isn’t it beyond insignificant. And that’s the example he chooses to use, is it more with others? Then really why not just do the same with offense. It reads like he came up with his system and that’s that. Stay away kid and don’t bother me with these trivialities sort of attitude.

  45. “If you are a bigman going against the Knicks you are going to get a whole lot of gimme, uncontested defensive rebounds because their strategy is (somewhat inexplicably, in my opinion) predicated upon running at least 4 of 5 guys back on defense as soon as a shot goes up.”

    That’s actually a great point and I have thought the same thing many times since D’Antoni arrived. Lee’s offensive rebounding percentage has been much lower this year and last than it was in his first three years and you can see why. He is often spotted up somewhere far from the hoop, and when a shot misses he is sprinting back rather than crashing.

    I think its a conscious choice by D’Antoni, but it seems to me that it’s much easier to fast break when you don’t have to worry about a guy like Lee on the offensive boards.

    As for the rest of your “ramble”: I have thought a lot about off box score defense and I am still thinking about it. For the moment I think a significant portion of “off box score defense” is actually in the box score. What isn’t in there is probably more like 10-15% in my view, but I could be convinced otherwise.

    One thing I have noticed is that a lot of the “intangible” guys whose value you supposedly can’t measure through the box score actually come out looking great in WP. Basically, what Morey is doing isn’t all that arcane, because guys like Hayes (over .200 twice in the last three years), Lowry, Battier, and others all look pretty good just through the box score, and even better when you give them an extra bump for their defensive impact.

    And fwiw, Berri does not account for charges drawn in his formula, but has said that if it were easy to include in his formula he would do it, although it would be a negligible impact in most cases. Although for a guy like Varejao it would be a pretty big impact, like 80 extra steals…

  46. Nick – It’s not a triviality. But the thing about Berri is that, from an academic perspective, his WP metric is really just a sideshow. It’s his work in other areas that has made him one of the top guys in the field of sports economics (he is currently the President of the North American Society of Sports Economists,) He has been published scores of times in peer reviewed journals, the basketball stuff is just a few of those pieces.

    He actually just got signed on as a writer for the Huffington Post. Here is the first article he wrote for them, to give you a taste of what he really does for a living…

  47. Owen, with the intangible guys do you think they show up great in the box score b/c of what they do (and tally) or what they don’t do, like shoot 5/13 or commit 4 turnovers (assuming that makes any sense)?

  48. Well, just to be clear, my point re the “intangible guy” is that it’s a misnomer, since their impact is often very tangible. But to your point, I think with great role players it’s a mixture of both. If Chuck Hayes turned the ball over a ton he wouldn’t be as good as he is.

    I play a lot of poker and in poker the biggest factor separating the average good player from the average bad player is the ability to fold marginal hands. What separates the great players from the good players is a lot more complicated and difficult to quantify. The NBA is similar I think. There are some (role) players who know what they can do very well and stick to that rather than diluting their value by trying to do more than they are capable of. They are “positive expected value” players who are never going to be the biggest winners but who will show a much bigger profit than the high variance guys swinging from big highs to even bigger lows (al harrington anyone?)

    But you can only go so far with those kind of players. At the end of the day you need to have some guys who can turn a profit in every aspect of the game if you want to field a championship contender, you need a Phil Ivey or Patrick Antonius so to speak…

    That’s my ramble right there…

  49. “it seems to me that it’s much easier to fast break when you don’t have to worry about a guy like Lee on the offensive boards. ”

    Good point. I think that with a high eFG%/TS% offense (like D’Antoni’s Suns teams) it’s a better strategy then with the Knicks. To me it’s one of several reasons D’Antoni was a great fit in Phoenix for that roster, but a poor fit for the Knicks. I mean the Knicks would be mediocre-to-bad in the NBA with any coach, but I think D’Antoni and his system accentuate their weaknesses:
    1. encouraging them to ignore the offensive glass,
    2. encouraging guys with poor shot selection and low b-ball IQ to shoot as quickly as they can,
    3. not playing any sort of a defensive center on what is a solidly below average defensive team,
    4. letting guys stand around without a great play-making jitterbug like Steve Nash to create for them and very strong passers for their position at other spots (Joe Johnson, Boris Diaw, Grant Hill… all better playmakers than Duhon and none of them PGs),
    5. Taking a hands off approach when you have little on-court/locker room leadership on the roster and a bunch of low b-ball IQ guys,
    6. He said in Phoenix that his job is not to develop young players… I don’t know his exact philosophy or methods (i.e. maybe he means that they need to put in the work to “develop” themselves), but the Knicks definitely need their young guys to develop one way or another.
    Those are the big ones that I see, but maybe there are others and maybe there are counterpoints that make him a good coach for the Knicks. For example, his perceived value in attracting FAs… which I have to start questioning since Larry Brown had a much longer track record and much more career success before coming to NY and lost a lot of his credibility remarkably quickly.

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