#space Jam

My favorite recent PFT Commenter conspiracy theory is that Space Jam 2, which is set to star LeBron James but remains in preproduction, actually is a vehicle to allow James, newly a member of the strikingly mediocre Los Angeles Lakers, to recruit top players with salaries in excess of the league’s caps by paying them to be a part of Space Jam 2, a movie that might never actually get made. If about-to-be-free-agent Kevin Durant signs a cheap contract with the Lakers this offseason, we’ll know the foregoing is true.

Another thing that’s true is that my friend Grant Zubritsky is a musician who just released two new tracks this week that wouldn’t be out of place on the soundtrack for Space Jam 2. (Take a moment to remember the strength of the soundtrack to the original movie.) In light of all of that and the fact that I don’t know if these Spotify embeds are going to work, here for this week’s Jams are both of his new numbers:

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ALDLAND Podcast

Even the ALDLAND Podcast is not immune from Lebron discussion, and so we start off the episode with that very topic. Where will he go? Why will he go there? All these questions and more are discussed. But don’t worry, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, we haven’t forgot about you and also predict your landing destinations. Not to be left out, soccer makes its presence felt in this edition of the ALDLAND Podcast as the World Cup final gets a healthy preview.

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Families that play together (periodically) win together: NBA champions edition

Following the San Antonio Spurs’ dominant win over the Miami Heat in the NBA finals, FiveThirtyEight decided to examine whether the popular narrative about the winners and losers– that the Spurs played a more complete, team-oriented style of basketball the Heat, increasingly reliant on their solitary superstar, could not combat– was borne out in the numbers. They did this by comparing the relative usage rates (USG%) of the teams’ lineups. Plotting the difference in USG% between each team’s “top” player, the one who “used” the most possessions to either shoot, be fouled, or commit a turnover, and each successive player, should show how well the team spread the ball around. A team that did a good job of sharing the ball should plot a flatter line than a team that did not. FiveThirtyEight’s chart supported the popular narrative: San Antonio’s line was flatter than Miami’s, and the league average, while Miami’s line topped both.

As FiveThirtyEight pointed out, this isn’t how NBA championships are supposed to be won. As much as the Heat’s assemblage of its “big three” was seen as groundbreaking, it fit the narrative that grew out of Michael Jordan’s Bulls and Kobe Bryant’s Lakers (and certainly existed before Phil Jackson coached both of those teams to multiple championships) that the NBA was a star-driven league, and the way to win championships was to have a superstar. The Heat simply presented as an extreme version of that reality, with little in the way of supporting cast members.

FiveThirtyEight only compared this year’s teams, but the article made me wonder how the last NBA champions who deviated from the star-heavy model– the Detroit Pistons team that won it all exactly ten years ago amidst a solid run– compared statistically to this year’s Spurs.

I tallied the numbers using Basketball-Reference‘s team playoff data, sorted by USG%. Before doing so, though, I made an executive decision to omit data from players who appeared in fewer than ten playoff games that year, which swept out Austin Daye (one game for the 2014 Spurs) and Darko Milicic (eight games for the 2004 Pistons). The resulting plot lines for each team are essentially equally flat:

nbachampusagechartFor perspective, keep in mind where the Spurs’ line– red on my chart, black on the one above– is situated relative to the rest of the (2014) league. It seems these Spurs and those Pistons were on the same page when it came to playing team-oriented basketball. Meanwhile, Miami is discussing adding Carmelo Anthony for next season. Anthony has been in the top ten in the league for USG% in nine of the past ten years.

Hollywood Nights: Generally, No Man is an Island

The Lakers’ season is over. With 2:41 left in the fourth quarter of game three of LA’s series against the Thunder in Oklahoma City, Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak knew it. TNT knew Mitch Kupchak knew it. And now you know TNT knew Mitch Kupchak knew it.

(HT: Grantland)

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Previously
Hollywood Nights: No World Peace in the Windy City
Hollywood (Disco) Nights: A Hero at the Forum

Hollywood Nights: A Magic Haiku

Hollywood Nights: Z-Bo and Bishop Don The Magic Juan

Hollywood Nights: No World Peace in the Windy City

We’re not into name calling, insult hurling, or piling on, but this thing runs two ways, Chicago ABC affiliate WLS, and where all involved demonstrate objectively poor decision making in an objectively public way, and the whole thing can be presented in a brief, photo-driven post involving Los Angeles, we’re going to include it in this series.

(HT: Deadspin)

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Previously
Hollywood (Disco) Nights: A Hero at the Forum
Hollywood Nights: A Magic Haiku

Hollywood Nights: Z-Bo and Bishop Don The Magic Juan

Hollywood Nights: Z-Bo and Bishop Don The Magic Juan

Apparently we’re just posting pictures now. This one’s a little less self-evident than the last one, so here’s the accompanying explanation from Chris Ryan, writing about Sunday night’s Grizzlies-Lakers game in L.A.:

Staples Center celeb sightings were pretty fun, if random, last night, with Ashton Kutcher, John McEnroe, David Beckham, and Gerard Butler (gone blond) lighting up courtside with their wattage. But the best appearance of the evening went to a man who seemed to be cheering for the Grizz: Snoop Dogg compatriot Don Magic Juan. Don’t know if there’s ever been a better union of team and fan. Oh, and he seemed to have a preexisting relationship with Zach Randolph, because of course he did.

Brian Phillips on Kobe Bryant and outer space

In terms of watchability, the Lakers are a miserable team this year, even by NBA standards, and the pre-season rap that the (well, more than) once-great team was little more than an aging-but-relevant superstar loner, a largely unsupportive (and largely unrecognizable) supporting cast, and a coach not named Phil Jackson has borne out. Even the team’s most famous fan thinks these Lakers are a snooze-fest.

But what about Kobe this year? First, he was visibly upset about the dismissal of Lamar Odom. More recently, he was visibly ignorant of Jeremy Lin. Slightly more recently, he was the victim of Jeremy Lin’s best career NBA performance. The uniform he’s wearing this year is too big. He seems to lack context, even for himself. What’s his story this year?

Kobe has arguably reached the end of his prime, and while it’s fascinating to watch him hoop with somebody’s swooning great aunt, you can’t help but feel like the moment deserves higher stakes. Kobe’s relentlessness has always been his most celebrated quality, but this season, he’s starting to remind me of one of those space probes that somehow keep feeding back data even after they’ve gone out twice as far as the zone where they were supposed to break down. You know these stories — no one at NASA can believe it, every day they come into work expecting the line to be dead, but somehow, the beeps and blorps keep coming through. Maybe half the transmissions get lost these days, or break up around the moons of Jupiter, but somehow, this piece of isolated metal keeps functioning on a cold fringe of the solar system that no human eyes have seen.

That’s Kobe, right? While the rest of the Lakers look increasingly anxious and time-bound, he just keeps gliding farther out, like some kind of experiment to see whether never having a single feeling can make you immortal. He’s barely preserving radio contact with anyone else at this point, but basketball scientists who’ve seen fragments of his diagnostic readouts report that the numbers are heartening. It’s bizarre. He’s simultaneously the main character in the Lakers’ drama and someone who seems to have nothing to do with the narrative logic of the post-Phil team. Whatever the Mike Brown era is, he’s got no point of contact with it. Even Gasol and Bynum, his best supporting players, essentially just concentrate on not interfering with his flight path. Everyone stays out of his way, which is easy, because “his way” is a couple of billion miles from the rest of the Lakers.

So writes Brian Phillips for Grantland, in a piece arguing that the Lakers have nothing to lose by adding Gilbert Arenas right now.

I’m not sure what I think about Agent Zero these days, I do know that I think Phillips pretty much nailed it with that description. 2012 Kobe is playing like carry-the-team-on-my-back Kobe, except that he doesn’t seem too concerned about whether he’s actually dragging the team along behind him. Spike Lee’s Kobe Doin’ Work was about the 2008 playoffs, but the title might more aptly describe this season, where Kobe’s blue collar isn’t so much the value and virtue-laden, American proverbial blue collar as it is an indication that he’s merely punching the clock.

Monday child (slight return)

Saturday night’s primetime college basketball matchups saw both visiting teams come away with victories. In the early game, Michigan State beat Ohio State, ending the Buckeyes’ thirty-nine game home winning streak with a comfortable ten-point victory. In the late game, Vanderbilt erased a thirteen-point halftime deficit but were unable to close in the final minutes, losing to #1 Kentucky 69-63. (More on this game later.)

We’ve so far resisted the seemingly linfinite opportunities to write about New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin– he isn’t even my favorite Lin brother— but his 38-point effort against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers deserves mention.

Finally, while MSU ended OSU’s home win streak, the cross-state Detroit Red Wings came from behind to beat the Flyers in Hockeytown for their twentieth consecutive home win, which tied the record set by the 1929-30 Bruins and matched by Philadelphia’s 1976 crew.

C-3P-No: Chris Paul, David Stern, the fourth wall, and McCulloch v. Maryland

In a matter of hours last night, the following events occurred, in sequence, beginning around 8:00 Eastern:

  1. The Hornets, Rockets, and Lakers agree to a trade that would send Chris Paul (aka CP3) to Los Angeles, Lamar Odom, Louis Scola, Kevin Martin, and Goran Dragic to New Orleans, and Pau Gasol to Houston. Or something like that.
  2. The NBA and the re-formed players’ association finalize the new collective bargaining agreement, officially ending the lockout.
  3. David Stern, on behalf of the league, nullified the trade for “basketball reasons.”

In trying to understand what happened here, citing “basketball reasons” is pretty unhelpful. I suppose it’s preferable to “bocce ball reasons,” but still. Stern ostensibly was acting on behalf of small-market owners, including Cleveland’s Dan Gilbert, who objected to the deal. What he won’t tell you in this conversation, but everyone else knows, is that the league owns the Hornets. Keep reading…