Three Days

Only three days left in the NBA’s regular season!

* The best race left is in the East, with the 76ers, Nets, and Cleveland fighting for the final two spots. If the three teams were high school seniors, New Jersey would be the guy who decided to straighten himself out so that he could graduate. The Nets have done everything they can to make the big dance, by taking 8 of their last 10, including beating Philly on Sunday.

Meanwhile the Cavs are like the B+ student that suddenly started to run with the wrong crowd. LeBron James went from valedictorian candidate (MVP) to summer school applicant. They have dropped 8 of their last 11, and have decided to work on their ping pong game instead of studying for the finals.

Philly is the average kid that decided to work harder, but got sick and missed a bunch of classes anyway. Getting a tutor (Chris Webber) didn’t help the Sixers as much as they would have hoped. However they’ll make the cut because New Jersey started off bad, and Cleveland is ending bad.

* The only serious battle left in the West is the 5th spot. The Rockets and Kings are tied, but according to Yahoo!’s standings, Houston has the tie breaking edge. I believe that they have the edge in schedule as well. Houston’s last two games are at home against the Clippers and Sonics. Although Sacramento plays the easy to beat Utah, they have to head to Salt Lake to do so, and then the Kings go home to face the top seeded Suns.

Honestly I don’t think there is a huge disparity between the two spots. Thanks to David Stern’s three division alignment, the “winner” gets to face the tougher Mavericks and the “loser” plays the Sonics, despite Dallas’ 50 point lead in win percentage.

* I can’t think of the words “Three Days” without thinking of the Jane’s Addiction song. The song is about weekend filled with drugs & group sex. If you’ve never heard of Jane’s Addiction, just wait for a Coors commercial to come around, and you’ll hear the “Mountain Song.” I guess I shouldn’t be too shocked with Perry Ferrell selling off his songs, especially the one with the lyric “cash in” repeated about 20 times. Additionally Pete Coors next Senate run should be interesting, considering the conservative’s “family values” and anti-gay marriage stance not exactly falling in line with his company’s purchasing Ferrell’s music to sell beer.

* Seven teams have clinched in the West, leaving just Minnesota and Memphis to fight for the final spot. The Timberwolves could have pulled within one game, but lost at home to the Sonics by 15 points yesterday. Just one Grizzlies win or Timberwolves loss in their combined four remaining games clinches the 8th spot for Memphis.

* In the Final playoff battle, Washington kept the hope alive that they could beat out Chicago for the coveted home court advantage in their series. The description from the AP wire read:

With Larry Hughes racing the length of the court and the clocking running down, Charlotte’s Brevin Knight knocked the ball away from behind — and right to Jamison, who put it off the glass and into the basket with 1.3 seconds remaining to give the Washington Wizards a 106-104 comeback victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday.

The Wizards luck is going to end there, as they have to win two on the road, while the Bulls get to work from home for their final pair of games. Ironically both teams face the Knicks, so my team gets a chance to play spoiler. From my perspective it’s Chicago and Washington that get to play spoilers. The Knicks are tied with Golden State and Toronto for the 7th draft spot. If both teams happen to win against New York, it could mean two spots in the draft, depending on how the Raptors & Warriors do.

11-1

Flash back to the trade deadline. The 76ers finally get a second talented offensive player to team up with Allen Iverson. That day Chris Webber was the “huge trade” and everything else was just a byline. The deal was supposed to propel Philly to the top of the Atlantic division. However since February 24th, the Sixers have only gone 6-7, and find themselves sputtering in second place.

Just before the trade deadline the division rival Celtics sent point guard Gary Payton, a first round pick, and some belly lint for Antoine Walker. That Boston wanted the 7 year Celtic back after a year and a half exile could have been the trade day laugher had Isiah Thomas not given sports talk hosts something to pounce on. Since then Boston has gone 11-1, and are 5.5 games ahead of Philadelphia. So the Celtics unexpected streak begs the question “Is this for real?”

Granted in this 12 game span, Boston has beaten up on a few of the league’s worst teams. They’ve steamrolled over the Hawks, Jazz, Hornets, and the expansion Bobcats twice. But before we dismiss the Celtics success to the schedulemaker’s whimsy, Boston has been an impressive 4-1 against teams that are .500 or better. The Beantown 12 have defeated Washington and Detroit at home, and Phoenix & Houston on the road. So maybe the Celtics’ turnaround is due to the man they (re-)acquired?

Someday in the far away future, when advanced statisticians look at 20th/21st century NBA, someone is going to write his thesis on the statistical anomaly known as Antoine Walker. The shimmying forward defies being put into any simple category. While ‘Toine is comfortable hoisting three pointer after three pointer, his free throw accuracy is inexplicably free falling towards Shaqsville. The tweener forward is a respectable rebounder (2.3 OREB/40min), but a permeable defender. He’s skillful enough handling the ball that you can run your offense through him (as Atlanta did when they played New York this year), although he’s as likely to have an assist (3.6 AST/40min) as he is a turnover (3.4 TO/40min). His most similars by age according to www.basketball-reference.com show Walker’s diverse and polarized game: Drexler to Glenn Robinson to Bird to Chuck Person to Nick Anderson to Scottie Pippen.

Antoine Walker’s 16.1 PER (career 16.9 PER) isn’t exactly league shattering. However his insertion in the starting lineup gives the Celtics a unique look on offense. They can hit the long ball from the three big spots (Pierce, Walker, LaFrentz), and the two forwards have been averaging more assists combined (7.3 AST per game) than the starting point guard (Payton 6.0 AST/game). The Walker deal also gives Boston an addition by subtraction. Since #8 dusted off his old uniform, Raef LaFrentz & Mark “Phillies” Blount have seen more bench time. In the 12 games before the trade, the two played 30 minutes or more 21 times, a feat they’ve only matched 6 times since. Walker gives the Celtics a better front court rotation.

There is one caveat with the Celtics recent success. Walker is playing a bit above his head. This year for Boston he’s been better than his career average or even best year in three main shooting categories.

Stat    eFG     3P%     PSA
Celtics 52.4% 38.9% 1.08
Career 45.7% 32.6% 0.97
Highest 47.8% 36.9% 1.01

Although I think he was a good addition to the Celtics, I suspect that they’ll cool off a bit as ‘Toine floats back down to earth. While I don’t see Boston as good as their 92% win percentage since the trade, I don’t think their improvement is a total fluke. They’re certainly not as good as the Spurs or even the APBRSonics, and it’s possible that they’ll get swept in the first round by a young & hungry team like the Bulls or the Cavs. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be shocked if they knocked off the Pistons & crept into the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Beginning of the End?

Paging through the local fishwrap one might get the impression that Lenny Wilkens’s days patrolling the sidelines at Madison Square Garden are nearing an end. The team is reeling. Key players are injured. Stephon Marbury has allowed himself to be baited into a pointless back-and-forth with the media about his value relative to Jason Kidd’s. Worse, he’s being enabled in this insanity by Isiah Thomas. Speaking of insanity, Penny Hardaway has apparently asked to be traded. Is there suddenly a market for a rapidly declining swingman with a wrecking ball of a contract that I didn’t know about? Penny must know that if he could be moved he’d have been moved. Boy, Saturday?s game against a very solid Cavs team could portend some dark days ahead for our beloved Knickerbockers, a team I once thought to be incapable of either winning or losing 5 consecutive games. If dark days are indeed ahead, here?s what I see as New York?s three major problems (excluding roster issues ? that?s a whole other blog entry for another day) as we enter the new year.

Health. Even with everyone relatively healthy the Knicks are a one-step forward one-step back team, the very definition of mediocre. The recent rash of injuries to young players, however, threatens to turn the Knicks into a two- or three-steps back team over the coming weeks. Houston is still trying to play himself into game shape. Sweetney?s ankle sprain now means that Kurt Thomas must play even more minutes than he should be playing. Not that he wasn?t already playing too many minutes, which leads me to the second major problem facing the Knicks.

The Rotation
. I recall when Lenny was first hired last season. He made a remark that made me think even then, “I hope he didn’t really mean that.” He was commenting about how he?s not one to engage in sideline histrionics, yelling and screaming at players. That didn?t bother me. I have never been one who mistakes histrionics for coaching. What bothered me is that he said something to the effect that he found it most effective to remove a player?s minutes in order to send a message. The remark struck me as shockingly passive-aggressive from so seasoned a coach. But, at the time I thought, “Surely Wilkins is just looking to avoid being labeled ‘too nice’ by the NY media.” In media parlance “too nice” is most often a euphamism for weak, and it constitutes a death sentence in NY. So I couldn’t blame Wilkins if he pulled something out of his butt to make himself look closer to Vince Lombardi than Don Chaney. Nonetheless, I figured any coach who has been around as long as Wilkins must realize that diddling with minutes is perhaps the least effective way to deliver a message. If you’re going to bench a guy then bench him. Don’t jerk him around. Diddling with minutes is a strategy rife with the potential for all kinds of unintended, perverse (but entirely foreseeable) consequences. It?s easiest to deny playing time to young players who have little recourse but difficult to bench malcontents or underperformers on a roster as dreadfully unbalanced as New York’s. So ultimately whatever message a coach thinks he or she is delivering gets lost because players don’t know what playing time (or the lack of it) really means. A coach will get the players? attention alright, but for all the wrong reasons; he may also be stuck with dysfunctional rotations.

Unfortunately, it looks more and more like Wilkins’s early comments were really foreshadowing. During his tenure as Knick coach I have never understood Wilken?s rotations, particularly his unwillingness to play younger players who are also superior defenders. Usually, young guys don?t play because they don?t defend. Much to Isiah?s and (gasp!) Scot Layden?s credit, this has not been the case with the Knick youngsters over the past couple seasons. These guys defend. So as a fan it?s next to impossible to figure out why certain guys play (e.g., Moochie Norris) while others don?t (Frank Williams last season) when they so clearly fill a need. In fact I?m not all that confident that the players themselves are much better informed on these matters. For instance, coming into this season I thought it obvious that the team needed to monitor Stephon Marbury?s minutes. He simply does not need to play 40 minutes per night. He was clearly exhausted coming down the stretch and into the playoffs last season. In fact, I thought that was why Isiah went out and beefed up the Knick backcourt this off-season, not only trading for Crawford but signing a defense-first backup point guard, Jamison Brewer. Yet here we are a year later and Marbury is averaging 39.4 minutes per game, which leads me to the third major problem facing the Knicks.

Defense. The Knicks are still a pretty abysmal defensive team. Prior to Christmas (and the current losing streak), according to the Knickerblogger?s fantastic new stats page, the Knicks were allowing over 104 points per 100 possessions. The starting 5 of Marbury, Houston, the Thomases, and Mohammed simply isn?t very good defensively. That?s not likely to change much. However, a look at various other 5-man units on 82games.com shows that the Knicks can put good defensive units on the floor when they go to their bench. The Knick version of Sacramento?s old ?bench mob,? featuring Sweetney, JYD, and Ariza are among the team?s best in effective field goal defense. However, the Knick’s bench doesn?t play nearly enough minutes. I believe this is in large part due to the failure to develop a capable backup point guard who can help orchestrate enough offense to keep the second unit on the floor. Looking ahead the Knicks would be wise to either acquire a cheap, defense-first backup point guard, or give Jamison Brewer a real shot to play 12-15 minutes a night with the second unit.

The Last Emperor – East

Dynasties in China lasted about 4 millennia. From the Xia Dynasty in 2000BC, to the Qing Dynasty which folded in the early 20th century, you’d have to admit they had a pretty good run. Looking at the NBA standings, they might be done with their dynasty rule as well.

In a league where multiple championship teams are the norm, we’re seeing a new face on the NBA. Just look at the standings, and honestly say that you thought Cleveland would be leading the Central, or the Sonics in the Northeast. Before last year, the last time a team won a championship without winning one in the 5 years before or after is the 1983 Sixers. That means in the last 20 years, we’ve seen the same few teams win year after year.

Professional basketball wasn’t always this way. In the 10 years before 1984, the league saw equality with 5 of the 10 champs being non-dynasties. I welcome parity, because it means every year any team can win. Nobody wants to start the year already knowing their team has no chance to compete. The NFL was a dynasty driven league in the 80s & 90s when only 8 different teams won in 20 years. However things have changed for the NFL, in the last 5 Super Bowls, 4 different teams have gone to Disney World. If you weren’t a fan of the Niners, Cowboys, or Packers, I’m sure you much prefer the current situation.

In the East, the biggest surprise might be the first place Cavaliers. Cleveland was suppose to be, at best, third in the tough Central. However the Pistons underestimated the importance of their bench. Detroit won the championship around a team model, and losing Okur, Williamson, and James made them less of a complete team. Meanwhile the Pacers might have forfeited their chances at taking the division with the 3 major suspensions that have crippled their team.

The Cavs’ offseason was suppose to be a disaster when already signed-Carlos Boozer bolted for Utah. However the Cavs have barely missed a beat at PF with the emergence of Plan B signee-Drew Gooden (49.8% eFG, 1.12 PSA, 19.9 PER). In addition, Paul Silas has gotten Jeff McInnis to play at a decent level for the second straight season (51.9 eFG, 1.09 PSA, 14.5 PER) which allows LeBron James to play SF, a position that more naturally suits him than PG. The Cavs no longer have the East’s best center with the trade of Shaq trade to the East, but The Big Z (47.1, 1.11, 19.6) gives the Cavs one of the better centers in the league.

Of course the biggest improvement in Cleveland might just be the King himself. James (52.1, 1.14, 26.4) has improved just like a rookie on his way to superstardom should. If you’re a fan of the Basketball Forecast/Prospectus, James has improved in all three of Hollinger’s independent stats: assist ratio (21.1 from 19.1), turnover ratio (10.8 down from 11.2), and rebound rate (10.8 from 7.6). LeBron has a higher PER despite taking less shots, because his shooting percentage has improved as well. If you’re wondering exactly how far LeBron has come in his second season, James ranks 6th overall in PER this year. That’s higher than Shaq, Marion, Kobe, Pierce, Francis, or Nash. The top 6:

TEAM	NAME............	PER	
SAS Tim Duncan...... 30.51
MIN Kevin Garnett... 30.32
DAL Dirk Nowitzki... 30.05
PHO Amare Stoudemire 29.14
MIA Dwyane Wade..... 26.82
CLE LeBron James.... 26.40

Cleveland isn’t just doing it on offense. The Cavs have the 2nd ranked defense, allowing only 96.3 points per 100 possessions. Looking at 82games.com, their only defensive weakness is PG. Opposing playmakers are averaging a 16PER against Cleveland. The good news for the Cavs is it’s the only position that’s doing better than average. If Cleveland can keep this up, and get a shooting guard before the deadline, they could be serious contenders in an East that is wide open.

Before the season started everyone was guessing that a Florida team would be atop the Southeast. However few would have predicted Orlando as the Florida team leading the division (Ed Note: since writing this the Heat have re-taken the lead, but isn’t this a nicer story?) I already did a little piece on the Magic, where I found three factors in the rebirth of Orlando: Grant Hill’s health, the improved defense, and the fast development of Howard. Hill did miss his first game, apparently because of a shin problem not related to his ankle. However it doesn’t appear to be serious, as he played 34 minutes tonight against the Lakers. As long as Hill stays healthy, the Magic will be competitors in the East.

Orlando isn’t the only surprise team in the Southeast. Washington looks more formidable this year as well. So far the Wiz are getting a boost from their two highest scorers, newly acquired Antawn Jamison (46.6 eFG, 1.03 PSA, 21.18)and currently healthy Gilbert Arenas (50.0, 1.12, 19.6). However their best player maybe unheralded Larry Hughes (42.4, 0.99, 23.54). The Washington shooting guard can score (21.6 PTS/40) and is one of the best rebounding guards in the league (6.8 REB/40). What’s incredible is he’s added a passing game to his offense. Hughes has nearly doubled his assists, whether you judge by per game (2.4 last year to 5.2 this year) or by Hollinger’s assist ratio (10.2 last year to 19.8 this year). To show how good a player he’s been so far, Hughes is 10th in the league in PER, between Marion and Marbury. At $5.5M he’s a steal, and the Wizards would be smart to resign him to a long term deal.

Stay tuned for Part 2, when I cover the West’s first place newbies.

Guard, or SF/C?

Yesterday I wondered aloud why the Knicks were getting another combo guard (and to do so possibly trading away Frank Williams – someone who might already be a good combo guard), when they had other bigger fish to fry, (namely SF & C). Let’s take a look at the Knicks’ starters & top reserves for these two positions.

PLAYER 		OFF	DEF	+/- Net Pts
Tim Thomas 16.2 16.4 +2.0
A. Hardaway 11.1 13.0 +2.3
Mutombo 15.0 15.8 +0.2
Nazr Mohammed 18.8 17.7 -1.6

The first two columns are their offensive PER, and their opponents PER. Now opponents PER doesn’t tell the entire story of defense, but I think it gives a good starting point. Of the Knicks four main SFs & Cs, only 1 of the above has a PER greater than his opponents’ (although Nazr’s 17.7 dPER is nothing to be proud off – it’s his offensive PER that carries him). By this measure, the Knicks are operating at near even or at a loss at these two spots.

Comparing PER isn’t the only way to measure a player’s net contribution. The last column is the players’ net points. Net points is how many more points does the team score with the player on the court, as opposed to off. By this measure the centers are giving a negative contribution, while the SFs seems to be a small gain.

Combining the two give us a better idea of what is happening. Simply that the Knicks are treading water at these positions, or even losing out. So why is Isiah first splash this offseason at the guard position? Let’s take a look at the Knicks guards last year:

PLAYER (PER)	OFF	DEF	Net+/- (pts/100p)
Marbury 21.3 14.5 +1.6
F. Williams 11.7 10.1 +7.1
Houston 14.9 13.9 +1.6
Shanderson 10.6 16.3 -6.9

All the guards are making a positive contribution, except for Shandon Anderson, who was awful. If the Knicks trade Frank Williams and Shanderson to get Crawford, are they really getting better? Maybe not, especially if Moochie Norris (11.4/13.6/+1.4) has to gobble up more minutes. I’ll be happy if the Knicks can get away with trading for Crawford without losing Williams, who was by far their best perimeter defender.

OTOH, it’s possible that Allan Houston injury is still a concern, and if he misses a considerable amount of time, the Knicks would desperately need a SG that can start for extended periods. In this case, getting Crawford would be a good deal, although I would still like the Knicks to try to hold onto Williams.

The NBA offseason is just upon us, and if Isiah continues to shake up the team like he did last year, there are probably going to be a host of moves in the future. I just hope that we don’t go into the season with the same SF/C as we ended with last year.


Edited 9:16am:
The Daily News has reported that Cleveland might be interested in moving Zydrunas Ilgauskas. The theory is that the Cavs need a PF now that Boozer has bolted for greener bank accounts pastures. The deal would include Kurt Thomas, and someone else to work under the cap. The article sites Nazr as one possible trade mate. I’d be thrilled to have the Big Z (20.9/14.3/-3.2) roaming the paint for New York. Maybe I spoke too soon about Isiah?

Lenny Wilkens: Good Or Bad?

captain, there are doubts
regarding
your ability
to lead them
the men

— “Brave Captian”
fIREHOSE

Scott’s guest column yesterday gave me an idea. It seems that Toronto fans aren’t at all pleased with the job Lenny Wilkens did as coach of their team. So far as coach of the Knicks, I’ve had no complaints. Well maybe one, giving any minutes to Moochie Norris instead of Frank Williams. Noticing that the Knicks have a problem in the middle, Lenny tried a few different lineups, including starting Othella Harrington and Michael Sweetney, seeing if they could rise to the task (neither could). He’s settled on Nazr Mohammed as the center, which has added stability to the Knicks.

So how can we tell if a coach is good or bad? Phil Jackson fans will point to his championships with two different teams to attest to his greatness, while those that would mock him as “Chief Big Triangle” will be quick to point out that the credit should go to the great players he’s always had.

Bill James created something called Pythagorean Expected Win Percentage. It basically says that a team should win a certain percentage of their games depending on how many points scored for and against a team has over a season. So another theory (which I will call the Rob Neyer manager theory) says that if a coach consistently wins more games than expected, he’s probably a sound coach when it comes to in game strategies. Digging up Lenny Wilkens’ actual and expected wins I came up with this chart:

Year	Team	WINS	LOSS	ExpW	ExpL	ActW%	ExpW%	DIFF	SIG
1969	SEA	36	46	33	49	.439	.402	+.037	+1
1970	SEA	38	44	38	44	.463	.463	+.000	+0
1971	SEA	47	35	42	40	.573	.512	+.061	+1
1974	POR	38	44	42	40	.463	.512	-.049	-1
1975	POR	37	45	37	45	.451	.451	+.000	+0
1977	SEA	42	18	46	36	.700	.561	+.139	+1
1978	SEA	52	30	49	33	.634	.598	+.037	+1
1979	SEA	56	26	55	27	.683	.671	+.012	+0
1980	SEA	34	48	35	47	.415	.427	-.012	+0
1981	SEA	52	30	53	29	.634	.646	-.012	+0
1982	SEA	48	34	48	34	.585	.585	+.000	+0
1983	SEA	42	40	40	42	.512	.488	+.024	+1
1984	SEA	31	51	24	58	.378	.293	+.085	+1
1986	CLE	31	51	29	53	.378	.354	+.024	+1
1987	CLE	42	40	43	39	.512	.524	-.012	+0
1988	CLE	57	25	62	20	.695	.756	-.061	-1
1989	CLE	42	40	39	43	.512	.476	+.037	+1
1990	CLE	33	49	33	49	.402	.402	+.000	+0
1991	CLE	57	25	57	25	.695	.695	+.000	+0
1992	CLE	54	28	60	22	.659	.732	-.073	-1
1993	ATL	57	25	57	25	.695	.695	+.000	+0
1994	ATL	42	40	45	37	.512	.549	-.037	-1
1995	ATL	46	36	45	37	.561	.549	+.012	+0
1996	ATL	56	26	59	23	.683	.720	-.037	-1
1997	ATL	50	32	53	29	.610	.646	-.037	-1
1998	ATL	31	19	31	19	.620	.620	+.000	+0
1999	ATL	28	54	23	59	.341	.280	+.061	+1
2000	TOR	47	35	48	34	.573	.585	-.012	+0
2001	TOR	42	40	39	43	.512	.476	+.037	+1
2002	TOR	24	58	21	61	.293	.256	+.037	+1

[DIFF is the difference between actual win% and expected win%. SIG means was the difference significant enough to say it was a positive or negative season. I used a .025 difference to determine this. The first four years in italics are when Wilkens was both a player and a coach. I’ll ignore them for now, since we can’t split his contribution as a player from his contribution as a coach.]

So what does this chart tell us about the different stops Lenny has had?

Seattle: 8 seasons, 4 significantly better than expected, 0 worse.
Cleveland: 7 seasons, 2 better, 2 worse.
Atlanta: 7 seasons, 1 better, 3 worse.
Toronto: 3 seasons, 2 better, 0 worse.

According to this Seattle was his best tenure, which most people would agree with since that’s where he won his only championship. It’s ironic that Atlanta shows up as his worst job, since he’s credited with taking an average franchise and turning it into a contender. Even more ironic is Toronto, where he was booed last night, because Wilkens has no negative seasons.

Another way to measure a coach’s effectiveness is how the team performed before and after the coach’s arrival. When Wilkens took over Seattle in 1977 the team changed radically, so it’s impossible to say whether the impact was Wilkens or let’s say Gus Williams. After he left the Sonics, Bernie Bickerstaff took over the reigns. Bickertsaff had the same exact record, despite adding the 4th overall pick Xavier McDaniel to their starting lineup. I would say that this could be a “plus” for Wilkens.

George Karl’s ’85 Cavs bear little resemblance to the ’86 team that Wilkens led. In fact all 5 starters were different, as Ron Harper, Brad Dougherty, and Hotrod Williams all played their first year in the NBA. When he left Cleveland, Mike Fratello won 7 less games the next year. An old Larry Nance played half a season, but the Cavs did make a few additions in Tyrone Hill and Chris Mills, so it’s hard to make a determination either way. You could argue another “plus” or “neutral.”

Wilkens won 14 more games than his predecessor in Atlanta his first year there. Danny Manning was an addition for that team, but I don’t see Manning as making a team 14 games better, so I’ll credit Wilkens with some of this improvement. Lon Kruger won 3 less games than Wilkens, but the team was significantly different, so I can’t credit or condemn Lenny there.

In Toronto Butch Carter’s ’99 team had Tracy McGrady and won 45 games. McGrady left via free agency for Wilkens’ first year, but the coach ended up winning 2 more games than his predecessor. That could be a “plus” as well. As for last year, Vince Carter missing half a season is not enough an excuse for winning only 24 games, and I have to give Wilkens the blame.

The three methods I’ve used:

Visual (a.k.a. my opinion) – Wilkens looks good as the Knicks coach, but it’s very early.
Actual Wins vs. Expected Wins: Good for 2 teams, bad for 1, 1 tenure neutral.
Wilkens’ vs. other coaches with similar teams: 2 to 4 times he was better vs. only 1 worse.

These are only three methods of evaluating a coach, and even though I tried to be as objective as possible and use statistics (except in the first), it’s nearly impossible to get a non-subjective viewpoint of a coach’s impact on a team. Of course I didn’t even touch any other things like player development, rotation management, or chemistry.

As for the Raptor fans dislike of Lenny I can say that it might be warranted. Dean Oliver’s Basketball On Paper goes in depth on the 2002 Raps, if you ever want to read a whole chapter on them. That team had three extended winning and losing streaks. That kind of inconsistent play will draw the ire of fans. Last year’s expectations were much higher than the 24 games he won. It gets worse when the team’s franchise player criticizes the coach.

As for his current role, it’s unknown if Wilkens will be the coach of the Knicks after this year. But as far as I can tell, he’s a good coach for ths team.

Defensive Specialist

Now what could make him think that way?
What could make him act that way?

— “Right Wing Pigeon”
Dead Milkmen

I just stumbled across this article, by Doc Rivers.

I have to tell you, when I signed on to ABC and they gave me the schedule, and I looked at this game — New York-Cleveland — and I thought, “Whoa my goodness, why are we doing this game?”
Obviously, ABC knew more than us because this will turn out to be a terrific game.

I’m not upset at this, because:
A. It’s his job to say these things as an announcer.
B. No one could have predicted that the Cavs would be up by 23 points at one point.
C. I would have said the same thing beforehand as well.

It’s this gem that has me all warm inside:

The Tim Thomas vs. LeBron James matchup will be interesting as well. I’m not sure Tim Thomas will get the assignment, but it’s my guess he will. Tim Thomas is long and athletic and with the Bucks, he was their defensive specialist — if they had a defensive specialist.

Now I thought Doc was a good coach, despite what happened to him at the beginning of this year. You can argue that Doc Rivers didn’t mean to say that Thomas was a defensive specialist. You can argue that he didn’t mean to imply that Thomas was the Bucks best defensive player. You can argue that he didn’t mean to say that because he is “long and athletic”, Tim Thomas is a good defensive player.

Umm, so what is Doc Rivers trying to say with that sentence?