Knicks’ Week in Advance 11/24/2008

Hello all. Thomas B. here with the second installment of Knicks’ Week in Advance. This article appears exclusively on Knickerblogger.net (everyone else-including Stern Must Go-turned me down). I will compare the Knicks’ Four Factors to those of their opponents this week.

I’m glad the Knicks beat the Wizards Saturday. The win spared me from drafting an open that parodies those Time Life Books commercials from the 1980s:

November 2008. The administrator of a popular blog contacts a man of limited basketball knowledge and invites him to join the staff. Shortly thereafter, the Knicks begin a losing streak that has yet to end. Coincidence? Read the book.

Thankfully, the Knicks won so that open won’t be needed. Besides, about 2% of the population would have got the reference anyway. Such is my sense of humor.

This week the Knicks have home games against Cleveland and Golden State with a road trip to Detroit in between.

Tuesday, November 25 – Cleveland

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 98.4 106 50.1 14.5 21.8 19.3
Rank
1
14
11
6
29
28
Cleveland Cavaliers-Defense 88.8 104.8 46.8 16.6 28.1 26.4
Rank
26
12
8
11
20
24
New York Knicks-Defense 98.4 107.4 50.9 15.2 28.6 19.1
Rank
1
21
27
21
24
3
Cleveland Cavaliers-Offense 88.8 114 51.8 15 29.4 28.4
Rank
26
1
2
11
7
3

[First meeting of the teams this year.]

This will be the third straight Tuesday on which the Knicks meet one of last year’s playoff teams (Spurs and Boston previously). The Cavs went 9-1 over the last 10 games and look to be clicking. Conversely, the Knicks are going to work three new players into the rotation.

What to watch for: LBJ. Since the Knicks have the cap room to dream about Lebron, I think LBJ might start showing the garden crowd exactly what they could get on about July 24th 2010. That is if the price is right.

What to watch for 2: Of all the players brought in, I think Cutino Mobley can have the best immediate impact due to his defense. He and Duhon give the Knicks their strongest defensive backcourt since perhaps Derek Harper and John Starks. That’s a good thing, since the Cavs are 2nd in shooting (eFG%: 51.8%), and 1st on offense (OE: 114 pts/100poss). Much of this is due to strong backcourt play. Mo Williams and Delonte West are both shooting above 40% from behind the arc, with West’s 66.2 eFG% leading the team. The Knicks need to eliminate open shots by pressuring the ball and cutting off passing lanes. If Duhon and Mobley can pressure the backcourt, they could push Williams’ and West’s so-so assist ratios down, while bringing their slightly below average turnover ratios up.

Wednesday, November 26 – Detroit

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 98.4 106 50.1 14.5 21.8 19.3
Rank
1
14
11
6
29
28
Detroit Pistons-Defense 89.7 106.8 49.3 15.2 25.5 26.6
Rank
24
19
20
20
10
25
New York Knicks-Defense 98.4 107.4 50.9 15.2 28.6 19.1
Rank
1
21
27
21
24
3
Detroit Pistons-Offense 89.7 108.2 48.4 15 28.4 26.3
Rank
24
10
17
12
10
8

[First meeting of the teams this year.]

While still a very talented team, these are not the same defensive minded Pistons of recent years. The Pistons are in the bottom third of the league on defensive (DE: 106.8, 19th), eFG% (49.3%, 20th), and turnovers (15.2 TO/100poss, 20th). Unfortunately, the Knicks’ are ranked lower than the Pistons’ in each of those defensive categories. The Knicks have an edge on offense in terms of shooting (eFG%: 50.1%, 11th), so they should look to exploit that.

What to watch for: The Knicks’ backcourt defense. Iverson, Hamilton, and Stuckey are the Pistons’ highest usage players and the least efficient shooters. The Pistons also lack a true point after trading for Iverson, so the Knicks have to keep the pressure on him to disrupt the offense. This is true when dealing with Iverson in general.

Once Iverson has decided he is going to shoot, nothing short of a stoppage of play will change his mind. The trick is to invite him to take a bad shot. I say invite because you don’t have to force him into it. Much like Crawford, he does it willingly. Once Iverson is pressing on offense, he forgets to pass and the rest of team is taken out of the game. Easier said than done, but there you go.

What to watch for 2: Rasheed Wallace vs. the three headed forward. Now that Harrington and Thomas will join Chandler at the power forward spot, D’Antoni can throw three versions of pretty much the same player at Wallace. Once Gallanari gets healthy, we will have four 6’9-ish forwards who like to work outside of the paint. Not since Robert Palmer have I seen such symmetry.

The good news is that between Thomas, Harrington, and Chandler, we may have enough bodies to wear Wallace out, foul him out, or just plain psych him out. Wallace is the best interior defender on Detroit, so the Knicks would do well to get him into foul trouble. Generally, you do that by posting or driving, and that’s not what “simply irresistible” does very well.

Saturday, November 29 – Golden State

TEAM POSS EFF eFG TO OREB% FT/FG
New York Knicks-Offense 98.4 106 50.1 14.5 21.8 19.3
Rank
1
14
11
6
29
28
Golden State Warriors-Defense 96.6 107.9 49.5 16.3 30.4 23.4
Rank
2
25
22
12
29
12
New York Knicks-Defense 98.4 107.4 50.9 15.2 28.6 19.1
Rank
1
21
27
21
24
3
Golden State Warriors-Offense 96.6 107.2 47.1 15.2 31 26.5
Rank
2
11.5
19
15
4
6

[First meeting of the teams this year.]

Take a good look in the mirror Knickerbockers, the image staring back at you is that of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are slighty more efficient on offense while the Knicks are slightly better shooters. Golden State shares the Knicks’ defensive woes with both teams in the bottom third of the league in the defensive stats.

What to watch for: The return of Jamal Crawford means more offense for Golden State, but far less defense. I’d love to see the Knicks exploit this by having Q play some minutes at the two and work Crawford in the post. The Knicks could play that lineup if Lee, Harrington, and Chandler play the front court.

What to watch for 2: Rebounding. Neither team is especially strong on the glass, as they each play small. Given the pace and that each team favors jump shot offenses, the team that controls the glass should come out the winner. Look for David Lee to get his first 20 rebound game of the season.

What to watch for 3: What is up with the “Golden State?” Every other team in the league is named after either the city or the state, but the Warriors use the nickname of the state? So even if you know the state nicknames, you still don’t know the city. No wonder they can’t sell out the arena, no one can find the stadium. Yet, somehow the name works. I mean, the Bee Hive State Jazz sure doesn’t work.

Any win this week means the Knicks finish November without a losing record. Wouldn’t that be nice? See you next week.

Knicks 2009 Season Preview Part V

Part I here.
Part II here.
Part III here.
Part IV here.

FRONTCOURT: (cont)

Hailed the franchise centerpiece upon his arrival in 2005, Curry now finds himself as the odd man out in the front court. In his three years in New York, Eddy Curry’s per minute stats have stayed the same, only his minutes per game has fluctuated. During 2007 the Knick center averaged 35.2 minutes per game, about 10 minutes more than the year before and the year after, hence causing a spike in his per game stats. This has led many to believe that it was a major step forward for Curry, when in fact little developmental gain was actually made.

But two years ago the only stat Curry had peaked in was his fouls per min (3.3 PF/36). Meanwhile he had career worsts in turnovers (3.7 TO/36), blocks (0.5 blk/36), and free throw percentage (61.5%). Last year Curry’s stats were about the same as his other two in Knick uniforms. His turnovers did drop to the lowest in 4 seasons (3.0 TO/36), but his rebounding hit an all time low (6.5 REB/36). Once he does release the ball he’s efficient (TS%: 57.8%, eFG%: 54.6%) but the high turnovers and low peripheral stats make him a below average player.

Curry’s injury in the preseason has left him a step behind everyone else, but you have to wonder if he wouldn’t be coming off the bench even if he were healthy. It seems that versatile players do well in D’Antoni’s system. There’s hardly any set plays and not much repetitiveness, just about every player needs to be able to read and react. So a unitasker like Eddy Curry, who for his whole career has been a go-to-the-post-catch-the-ball-shoot-the-ball guy, may have trouble adjusting. Since arriving in New York, he has been handed the Knicks starting center without having to earn it. For the first time in his career, Curry is being challenged. Steady Eddy has been stagnant over the last 3 years, but he’s only turning 26 so there’s still chance he could improve. Maybe this is the jolt he needs to develop as a player.

Malik Rose is still on the roster, but he’s not likely to get much playing time when the season starts. Most likely any time he gets early will go to Jared Jeffries once he’s healthy. Under D’Antoni Jeffries will be moved from the swingman role to a frontcourt spot. There’s no question that Jeffries is a limited player on offense (career: TS%: 47.3%, eFG%: 44.3%), and his only real contribution is rebounding (3.2 OREB/36) and defense. Power forward shouldn’t be anything new to Jeffries, since he played nearly half his minutes there last year. But playing center will be, and it’ll be interesting how Jeffries handles the change under D’Antoni.

Jerome James is another player that was expected to be cut, but is still on the roster. James hasn’t played much over his Knick career, because of his incredible sense of humor. During games the camera always finds James making his teammates laugh on the bench. Obviously the Knick front office values such humor, and it’s unquestionable that camaraderie is one of those intangibles that plays a big part in winning. If the Knicks are going to turn the corner, they’ll need James to tell jokes on a nightly basis.

Unfortunately James’ tremendous contribution off the court has made the Knicks miss out on an incredible player on the court. Jerome James was easily the best Knick last year, on a per minute basis. In fact James led the league in PER, and his shooting was through the roof (TS%: 106.4%, eFG%: 100.0%). His PER jumped nearly 900% from the year before and if James continues with that kind of development, he should post a 407.7 PER this year. In other words what Jordan did in all his seasons combined (418.5 PER).

But perhaps the Knicks need laughter on the bench more than a player with a PER of the combined sum of an All Star team. Just look at any team celebrating winning a title, and you’ll see laughter. Losing teams rarely laugh. This correlation is too high to ignore. Since most of the other Knicks lack a proper sense of humor, it’s important for D’Antoni to keep him on the bench. New York can’t win a title with Jerome James on the court.

The Basketball English To English Dictionary

Language is a living evolving being. It intermingles with many different fields including sports. Phrases like “three strikes” and “the whole nine yards” are frequently used outside of sports. Meanwhile sports has acquired words from the English language and gives them a new meaning. A word like “dime” has a totally different meaning when applied to basketball. This guide is intended for those who would like to learn more about basketball terminology. All of these words are borrowed from the English language, but their meanings are radically different from their original meaning. All quotes are made up.

Intangibles (adj) – Statistics other than points per game; Tangible stats like rebounds, blocks, steals, etc.
“Ben Wallace is a phenomenal player because of his intangibles.” – Bill Walton

Proven (adj) – A player who has done this feat once in his career. Frequently used when the player isn’t likely to ever repeat that feat.
“Charles Smith will help the Knicks reach the Finals. He’s a proven 20-8 guy.” – Anonymous analyst, summer 1992

Legitimate (adj) – A player who has been a starter for more than one year. Usually refers to one that is a borderline starter.
“We could probably get a lot back for Willie Green, since he’s a legitimate shooting guard.” – Random message board commenter, Philadelphia suburbs

Winner (n) – A person that was lucky enough to play on a championship team. Today this usually applies to just about anyone who played with Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal.
“Derek Fisher is a great acquisition for Golden State. He’s a proven winner.” – Bill Walton

Choker (n) – A person that was unlucky enough to face Shaq or Duncan late in the playoffs, during one of their championship runs.
“Chris Webber isn’t a winner, he’s a choker.” – Eric Montross

Athletic (adj) – Unskilled. Usually in intangible areas, like rebounding, blocking shots, etc.
“Our team could use an athletic player like Kwame Brown or Tim Thomas.” – No one. Ever.

Glue guy (n) – A valuable player who’s main contribution isn’t using up lots of possessions.
“Andrei Kirilenko is the type of glue guy that every team needs.” – Spokesman, Elmer’s Glue

Energy guy (n) – Unlike some of the aliens you would see on Star Trek (Q, Pah Wraiths, Trelane), these are corporal beings. Usually an illegitimate glue guy that can run the floor in transition, or excels in one intangible part of the game.
“And a fast break dunk by energy guy Tayshaun Prince.” – Kenny Smith

Chemistry (n) – Winning Percentage.
“The Lakers had great chemistry under Shaq, Kobe, and Phil Jackson.” – Jack Nicholson

Striking Gold in the Alamo

A League of Their Own
The current prevailing opinion is that there are three clear cut NBA Championship contenders?Spurs, Mavs, and Suns?with the rest of the league on the outside looking in. We as objective analysts make our living proving popular opinion wrong?except when it?s exactly right on the money.

The Spurs, Mavs, and Suns really are the three best teams in the league. How do we know this? We could point to Win-Loss record, but that?s somewhat subject to randomness at this point. In other words, it?s subject to luck and luck is neither an indicator of quality, nor has any ?predictive? worth. Instead, we?ll look at the expected win percentage calculated from the margin of victory for each team. Much has been written about using expected wins to predict which teams have been under or over performing their actual records. In fact, this metric is actually a better tool for simply judging a team?s quality in the first place since it takes into account every single play of the season and does not overvalue a lucky bounce or two.

The Spurs (+8.8), Suns (+6.9), and Mavs (+6.8) rank first, second, and third in win margin, respectively. All three have been relatively healthy, but more importantly, they each have a track record of success. These are three of the top five teams for the last several years running. But saying they are the best three does not speak for their quality. These three teams are quite a bit ahead of the next contenders, the Rockets (+5.6) and Bulls (+5.0), who are themselves far ahead from the next grouping of teams. It?s not just that one team is better than another, it?s that they are significantly better than the next?not only are they the best, they are the best by a mile.

This bunching at the top is no surprise. Last season had the same results. The Spurs (+6.8), Pistons (+6.7), Mavs (+6.1), and Suns (+5.6) finished at the top of the league in win margin, with a considerable drop to the fifth best team, and eventual NBA Champion, the Heat (+3.9).

The Gold Standard
Look at those win margins again: +8.8, +6.9, +6.8. Which of those three does not belong? If the Spurs, Suns, and Mavs are the three best teams in the league, it?s certainly not a case of take your pick for which one these is the NBA?s gold standard. That distinction belongs to the Spurs (+8.8) and to the Spurs alone.

In fact, one could argue that the NBA title picture should say Spurs, then everyone else. The Spurs rank first the way Tiger Woods is ahead of Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, or how Spitzer won the gubernatorial election, or how Ali beat Sonny. The Spurs are two points per game ahead of the Suns, which translates to four wins in the final standings. Two points and four wins doesn?t seem a lot, and it shouldn?t if we?re talking about average to above average, since it?s relatively easy to improve a team from forty to forty-four wins. But it?s considerably more difficult to get an already elite team into another stratosphere of competitive value, to go from sixty-two to sixty-six wins.

Think of the improvement with the analogy of PER. For a player to improve his rating from the league average, 15, and get to above average, 18, is relatively easy?but it?s considerably more difficult to go from a MVP-level season, 27, and genetically morph into Michael Jordan, 30. This is actually exactly what the Spurs have done. And they?ve done it with excellence on both sides of the court.

Characteristically, the Spurs rank second in the league in Defensive Efficiency, behind Houston, who has a mediocre offense. The Spurs also rank fourth in Offensive Efficiency behind the Suns, Wizards, and Pistons. The Wizards are as bad at defense as they are good in offense. The Piston?s slip in defense pushes them to merely above average. The Suns are a good, but not great, defensive team, which coupled with their league-leading offense, is enough to make them the second best team in the league behind the Spurs. For the record, the Mavs are sixth in offense and fifth in defense, so they?re no slouches either. They?re like the Spurs-lite?the less filling, low-calorie version.

The Spurs are not getting much press at the time since they haven?t had a double-digit win streak, and are basically under-performing their expected wins, but nonetheless, if you?re looking to find a team to top your power rankings, make a stop at the Alamo.

The Best Spurs Team Ever
The Spurs are currently outplaying their opponents at the rate of +10.0 points per one-hundred possessions?that?s not good, it?s scary. There are about fifty games left to be played, but at this pace, this years version of the Tim Duncan’s Spurs would be the first to have better than a +10.0 in efficiency. We are looking at possibly the best Spurs season ever. And mind you, the man has already won three championships.

The lowest spread for any Duncan non-rookie season was +6.3, which put them on pace for 57 wins. Of course, that?s one of the years they won the Championship, beating the Nets in six games. The Spurs best regular season was +9.6 in ?00-01. They were expected to win 63, only won 58, then they were swept out of the conference finals by the Lakers, whose only playoff loss that year came in overtime of Game 1 of the Finals to Allen Iverson?s Sixers.

Tim Duncan?s San Antonio Spurs?point differential per 100 possessions

?06-07: +10.0 (through 33 games)
?05-06: +8.0
?04-05: +9.1
?03-04: +8.3
?02-03: +6.3
?01-02: +7.1
?00-01: +9.6
?99-00: +7.0
?98-99: +8.9
?97-98: +4.8

Subjectively, this outstanding quality is hard for us to notice because the Spurs are always an excellent team. It?s easy to notice the change from bad to good, or to see that the acquisition of a new player has had a positive effect on a team. What we don?t often notice is the ascent from elite to absolute, relentless powerhouse.

Year after year the Spurs produce at an incredibly high level, with machine-like consistency, led by one of the greatest players of his generation, who also happens to have almost no marketable personality to speak of. In a very real sense, we take them completely for granted.

A lot could change in the next fifty games. Just because they?re on pace to be a team for the ages, of course, doesn?t mean they?ll finish this way. Blowouts do have more effects on the numbers. But then again, winning by a blowout (and not losing by blowout) is a good indicator of a quality team. And, of course, as evidenced by previous Spurs seasons, having an outstanding regular season win margin doesn?t guarantee you the championship. It just makes you the favorite.


Michael Zannettis has a Masters in Public Policy and writes regularly on his blog, www.michaelzannettis.com, exploring topics such as politics, science, humor, and what young people do with their free time. His first full-length manuscript, ?At the Feet of Giants?, is currently in search of a publisher. He lives in Astoria where he often dramatically reenacts the Larry Johnson four-point play at the local playground.

Klosterman & The “New” vs. “Old” Media

If this is the only blog you read and you find little reason to head over to ESPN.com these days (like Aaron Gleeman), you might not have heard about the little discussion Bill Simmons & Chuck Klosterman had the other day. The two wrote a “column” on a sports centered site that happens to discuss everything but sports. In between talking about (I kid you not) the movie Face Off and which was Pearl Jam’s greatest album, they take time out to bash blogs and the young generation.

Klosterman: …What will be interesting about the coming generation of people (at least if you’re a writer) is that they will have a twisted concept of what the word “media” is supposed to mean. A term you hear people use a lot these days is “New Media,” which really just means, “Electronic Media, Minus the Actual Reporting.” This is what the Internet is, mostly. I constantly see all these media blogs that just link to conventional “Old Media” articles and pretend to comment upon them, but they add no information and no ideas. They just write, “Oh, look at this terribly archaic New York Times story. Isn’t it pathetic?” But that sentiment is being expressed by someone who’s never done an interview and has no tangible relationship to journalism. It all seems kind of uncreative…But the net result is that all people are starting to assume that the media is inherently useless and that there is absolutely no difference between news and entertainment. This will make the coming generation even more cynical than the current one, which is mostly bad (but not necessarily tragic). I think this is why so many teenagers are obsessed with things like myspace.com: They have lost interest in the world at large, so they’ve decided to just build an interior culture where they are the sole focus. They can live without the world.

What Klosterman doesn’t understand is that it’s not the “New Media” that creates its own world, but rather it’s the “Old Media”. Every summer there seems to be a slow news week that is filled by reports of shark attacks which is blown out of proportion. Each year around 70-100 people world wide are bitten by sharks, with only about 5-15 of them being fatal. Last year in America, 2 people were killed by sharks and there were 30 total attacks. Simply put, you’re 20 times more likely to end up like the bishop in CaddyShack than the skiny dipper in Jaws.

But by watching the news you would never get that impression. Everytime a shark attack report comes on I listen intently for one of those announcers to state some pertinent facts. I wait for someone to say that shark attacks are extremely rare. That beach goers have nothing to worry about & would better serve their health looking for a lifeguard than a fin. But it never comes. By failing to do this the mainstream news is misleading the people. They’re lying by omission.

In 2002, only 0.7% of all deaths in the U.S. were homicides, and there has been only 1 case of mad cow disease in the US. (The person had just traveled from the U.K.) In reality neither of these affects the average individual on a daily basis, but you would never know that from watching the news. The “Old Media” has fabricated their own world where shark attacks, double homicides, and mad cow disease are the norm.

Klosterman blames the “New Media” (blogs) for the masses confusing news with entertainment, but the shoe seems to be on the other foot. The “Old Media” with their “if it bleeds – it leads” mentality has turned the news into entertainment. In their quest for ratings, the news has turned to fantastic stories of murder, rape, drugs, disaster, fire, and sex. To spice things up, the national news channels throw in graphics, scrolling bars, and Tucker Carlsons.

Klosterman is right about the cynical new generation with their 1000 channel televisions, high speed internet connections, and 5 second attention spans, but they are cynical because of the world that they live in. They are born into a world where everyone lies, from their favorite baseball player, to that woman who cooks & does crafts, to the right wing show host. They live in the world where the news is saturated with sensationalism and missing vital facts.

So you have a group of people who are looking for information and opinions they can’t get elsewhere. And that where the “New Media” comes in. Some bloggers give a voice to those that aren’t represented in the mainstream. Some message boards are places to discuss ideas that the press won’t talk about. When Larry King has psychological predator Sylvia Browne on his show, despite her refusal to live up to her promise to be tested for her “abilities” for 4 years, the people have nowhere else to turn but the web. The “coming generation” isn’t fabricating a world for their egos, they’re trying to discover the real world behind the smokescreen that the “Old Media” has created.

The Sun Also Rises

Last October I interviewed the author of the Basketball Forecast series John Hollinger. I only knew John from those books, his website (alleyoop.com), his Sports Illustrated columns, and some interaction on the old APBR_metrics site. Wondering if I could coax some more writing out of my favorite hoops author, I asked him if he would be reporting on a more frequent basis. John’s response:

Well, I write two columns a week for the New York Sun, so since you’re in the Big Apple that’s a big fat yes. Otherwise, I’ll be doing a weekly piece for SI.com.
After overcoming my embarrassment of not knowing that Hollinger writes for my hometown paper, I was thrilled to find out that I could read two more high quality and humorous columns a week on hoops. At first I bought the paper solely to scan for Hollinger’s articles, but it didn’t take long before I noticed that the New York Sun had the best sports section in town.

As far as I’m concerned as a basketball blogger, the crew is led by Hollinger. Now that ESPN’s Insider has John locked up on their pay site, at $.25 an issue the Sun is the only place I can afford to read his writing regularly. Yesterday John wrote an excellent piece on how the Knicks should go about rebuilding. Proving that great minds think alike, Hollinger advocated the Knicks should rebuild around Marbury, Sweetney, Ariza, and Crawford (only if he can learn to attack the hoop) while aiming for free agency in 2007.

The Sun’s other NBA columnist is Martin Johnson. Johnson was the first person to mention my site in print, and his local bar is my old college haunt which proves his impeccible taste. When not at the bar, Johnson’s keeps his finger on the pulse of the NBA like Hawkeye Pierce, and can surgically separate hype from substance. Martin’s levelheaded and analytical style allows him to cut through the trends and get to the core of a team’s ability.

The New York Sun’s excellent sport section doesn’t end with its’ basketball coverage. The rest of the writers are a veritable who’s who in sports statistics analysis. I’ve seen articles written by Aaron Schatz from www.FootballOutsiders.com and the soon to be released 2005 Pro Football Forecast. This week the Jets & Giants draft needs were covered by Sean Lahman, famous for his sports databases, who also writes for the Pro Football Forecast. Now that baseball is in full swing, the Sun is featuring articles from a potpourri of writers courtesy of BaseballProspectus.com. Almost daily year round, you can find a piece by Tim Marchman who all-baseball.com called “one of the brightest young baseball writers in the country.” Finally for those who like more than the top 3 American sports, there are regular columns on the more esoteric boxing, horse racing, soccer, and something our ice age ancestors called hockey.

The best part about the New York Sun, is that the sports coverage reads more like a magazine than a newspaper. With that I mean the articles get to the heart of the matter, and are not just scraping the surface of the day’s events. While I don’t want to mention any other writers or papers by name, this is a far cry for what normally passes as sports reporting. If they aren’t publishing the latest Bull Durham-esque trivial player quotes, they’re passing along every possible rumor that comes across their plate. Occasionally it’s sexy to hear GM hearsay and free agent gossip, but its superficial reporting.

Yesterday for example the Sun contained a column from Baseball Prospectus on constructing a batting order. While sounding simplistic on the surface, it referenced a Bill James study, calculated the additional plate appearances the different spots get over the course of the year, and discussed which teams around the league are taking advantage of the second spot in the order. It’s just so much more refreshing than hearing for the 11th straight year how Chris Webber would love to play for the Knicks, or how a manager thinks his team keeps “playing, and that’s the type of team that I need to have.” (That is a true quote from today’s paper, name withheld to protect the guilty). As far as I’m concerned when it comes to sports coverage by the New York print media, it’s crystal clear that the New York Sun rises to the top.

John Hollinger to Join ESPN!

If they keep this up, ESPN is going to have to change their name to ESPMN. The “M” would stand for Moneyball, for the controversial book that chronicled the stat-centric Oakland Athletics front office. Today Moneyball is synonymous with any type of sports statistical analysis. For years Rob Neyer has been the main attraction of ESPN’s statistical writers. The former Bill James assistant is sabermetrics’ most popular author, bringing objective analysis of baseball to a main stream audience on a regular basis. Already having baseball’s best number-crunching author, ESPN is building a Moneyball monopoly by signing Neyer’s basketball’s equivalent.

It has been learned by KnickerBlogger.Net that John Hollinger will soon be writing for ESPN.com Insider. Hollinger made a name for himself when he created a web page, www.alleyoop.com, for his thoughtful sports analysis. His groundbreaking work didn’t go unnoticed for long, and John would eventually write for CNNSI.com and the New York Sun.

However, Hollinger might best be known for authoring the annual Pro Basketball Prospectus/Forecast books. Largely if not entirely a solo project, he fills the pages with analysis on every NBA player, while interspersing his own unique studies. John avoids the monotony or writing about such a number heavy topic with his humor. He circumvents using complex terms or stats where common language can succinctly get the same point across. For example, his entire analysis on guard Bimbo Coles who ceased being useful years ago: “Please, let this be the end.”

The unofficial announcement was made on Friday by fellow hoops author Dean Oliver on APBRmetrics, the main forum for basketball statistical discussion. To date there hasn’t been an official word on the move. Odds are Hollinger’s columns won’t appear on ESPN.com rival CNNSI.com, and it’s still unknown if he’ll still be writing for the New York Sun. What is known is that ESPN.com’s Insider members can now enjoy fantastic writing in two sports.