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All-NBA Mailbag Part 2: Current Events

Posted on April 4, 2012 at 8:50 PM

I'm going to try to tackle answering some questions sent in by readers. To read "Part 1" of the mailbag, click here.

What's responsible for the Knicks' recent defensive surge? Woodson being allowed to call defensive plays? Carmelo actually trying on defense? The schedule? – Loren

I find it interesting how teams often go through "honeymoon" periods after a head coach is fired mid-season (i.e. D'Antoni this year, when Byron Scott was fired from the Nets and Lawrence Frank won something like 13 games in a row, etc.) Why does this happen? Or at least in the Knicks case this year, what made them respond to Mike Woodson? – Mike

It’s all three of the reasons that Loren mentioned including one more, which makes four:

1) In most instances of this phenomenon, players realize that the cause of their coach being fired was not simply that the coach did a bad job, but also that they themselves didn’t execute the plays. In the Knicks’ case, I think Carmelo Anthony understood that D’Antoni resigned mostly because of him, and therefore went on to step his defense.

2) The Knicks’ schedule has played a factor as well. Their last six games before D’Antoni resigned: at Celtics, at Mavericks, at Spurs, at Bucks, 76ers, at Bulls. Their first eight games with Woodson: Trailblazers, Pacers, at Pacers, Raptors, at 76ers, at Raptors, Pistons, Bucks.

3) Woodson puts an emphasis on defense that D’Antoni clearly did not, and players who play defense part-time such as Jeremy Lin, Amare Stoudemire, and Carmelo Anthony need discipline on the defensive end of the court.

4) From a statistical standpoint, you have to consider regression to the mean (if a dependent variable is extreme on its first measurement, it will tend to be closer to the average on its second measurement). Clearly, over the course of several seasons, a team will likely go through at least one stretch in with they play either much better or much worse than the way they usually play. Since coaches are always fired after a franchise’s worst stretch in years, the chances are that just after that rough stretch, the team will return to playing either at an average or above-average level, making their new coach look good.

Most importantly, Mike D’Antoni’s offensive philosophy is “give the ball to Steve Nash”… but Nash wasn’t on the Knicks!


We all know Mike Breen is the greatest sports announcer to ever walk the face of the planet, but what is your take on other national NBA announcers. Could you rank the other play by play and color guys, in your opinion, the "good", the "bad", and the "where's the mute button?” – Tal

First, all announcers not named Mike Breen fall into the category of “Where’s Mike Breen?!” Second, watch to a video of my impersonations of NBA announcers. Now I’ll answer the question:


- Mike Tirico, Kevin Harlan, Marv Albert – all have solid ability to make the game flow well (I feel like the television channels really found the best four play-by-play guys because some of the local broadcasters are HORRIBLE!)


- Mike Fratello

- Reggie Miller

- Steve Kerr – very knowledgeable about the game, but often makes comments like “If you’re the Lakers, you really don’t want to let Dallas get a double digit league, so Los Angeles definitely wants to score a few baskets here”

Where’s the Mute Button?:

- Hubie Brown – says the most obvious observations about the game, and tweaks them to make himself sound intelligent (see video)

- Jeff Van Gundy – makes statements that just don’t make any sense… then spends ten minutes trying to justify them


Why have more teams not found a “Jeremy Lin” on their bench -- do you think they don’t exist or teams just don’t give them sufficient chances? – Seth

I think they definitely exist. It’s really hard to judge college players coming into the league (isn’t that right Hasheem Thabeet? Adam Morrison? Michael Olowokandi?) because comparing players from power-conference schools to those from smaller schools is difficult, combined with the fact that the college game is so different from the NBA. Therefore, I think a lot of second-round draft picks get overlooked by teams who are too fixated on giving their proven starters big minutes.

I’m sure that there are a lot of unheard-of players who, when put in the perfect situation that Lin had (easy schedule, a lot of teammates injured, fans dying for some wins, a coach dying for a smart point guard) could perform, because every NBA player is on a roster because he has some unique talent that could be useful in the right scenario.


Do the aging Lakers have a chance in the Western Conference playoffs to even make it past the first round? – Sacha


For the Lakers, it’s all about getting home court advantage. They win 81% of their home games, but just 42% of their road games. Currently, they are three games ahead of #5 seeded Dallas, so it appears that they will end up with home court advantage.

In addition, they have excelled so far this season against teams that they are most likely to play in the first round: 3-0 against Mavericks, 1-1 against Clippers, 2-1 against Grizzlies, 2-1 against Nuggets. So, I think they will make it out of the first round, but on the other hand, I don’t see them beating Oklahoma City or San Antonio in a seven-game series, so their chances aren’t good going forward from there.


After watching the Miami Heat loose to the Celtics, how many championships do you think they will win with the big 3? – Kyle

One. I think Oklahoma City plays so well together already, even though their best five players (Westbrook, Sefolosha, Harden, Durant, Ibaka) have an average age of 23, that they will become the dominant team in the league over the next decade. They’re absolutely going to win multiple championships once Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden hit their primes five years from now. And why does nobody realize that Dwyane Wade is an injury-prone 30-year-old whose scoring totals have gradually decreased over the past four seasons? James and Bosh are also in their ninth NBA seasons, and they’re not getting any younger.

But even now in their young ages, the Thunder’s big 3 scores more points on more efficient percentages than Miami’s. However, I think Miami will be able to pull out one title before the Thunder build up enough experience to steamroll the rest of the league. I believe that after they win one together, Lebron James is going to leave to go to someplace else where he can win by himself, because the two things Lebron wants most are (1) a ring (2) a chance to win back fans and redeem himself. Therefore, I think one championship is all the big 3 is going to get.

To read "Part 1" of the mailbag, click here.

Please comment and tell me what you think, or e-mail me a question for future mailbags!


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Reply Lev to Mike
11:01 PM on May 1, 2012 
1) NBA Announcer Impersonations Part 2 (coming next year) will have Ian Eagle in it.
2) Mike Breen is unmatched when it comes to basketball knowledge.
Reply Mike
7:55 PM on April 28, 2012 
My favorite NBA play-by-play guy is Ian Eagle. Maybe I'm partial because I used to listen to him many nights as a Nets fan in the early 2000s, but I think nobody can beat his combination of smarts, quick wits, and excitement when calling the game. Not even Mike Breen can compete in my opinion.

I like your thoughts on the mid-season coach firings, but I think the reason for the increased quality of play is mostly psychological. My theory is that the players want to prove to the world that in fact, it was the coach's fault, not their own fault, for the poor play prior to the firing. With a long season packed with games (I agree that the season should have less games), sometimes these guys need that extra motivation to play at the levels they are capable of playing