Tag Archives: David West

One of the themes that will be explored here this season is that, today, championships have come to be over-rated, and competitiveness has come to be under-rated. To be clear, when I say that championships have come to be over-rated, I’m not saying it as one of the people who think everyone should get participation trophies just for trying. And when I say that competitiveness has come to be under-rated, I’m not saying it as an old crank lamenting that the game is not as competitive as it used to be. Yes, I liked the Knicks’ physical style of play of the ‘90s. (Go New York, Go New York, Go!) But, the truth is that I’ve only fouled someone hard once in my life, and when I did I felt so bad that I thought about sending him a box of chocolates the day after.

When I lament the lack of appreciation for being competitive, I’m talking about something else altogether. I’m saying that because we’ve come to view winning a championship as the only achievement worthy of any celebration, we’ve arrived at a strange place. Teams now “tank” somewhat regularly, on the theory that being extra-bad now will increase their odds of winning a championship later. The Sixers are the most egregious example, because they’ve been at it for a while and haven’t turned a corner yet. But other teams are tiptoeing on the line between rebuilding and tanking, and the game is suffering because of it.

The players themselves are a large part of the problem. LaMarcus Aldridge was on a Portland team that won 50+ games for a few straight years, and then he hit the free agent market this summer. He wound up on the Spurs, reportedly because he wants to win more. Along the same lines, Dirk Nowitzki consistently gives up millions of dollars of potential earnings, because he’d rather have more talent around him than compete on an even playing field with guys at his level who get paid what they’re worth. And I won’t get started on that “star” who used to play in Minnesota. You know, Kevin Love – a/k/a Kevin “Competing Is Not A Thing That I” Love.

The fans deserve plenty of blame, too. Many roast Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant, for making what they deserve, while celebrating the likes of Aldridge, Nowitzki, and David West. I’m supposed to be angry at the guys who make what they’re worth, and celebrate the guys who take less so they can win? Why don’t we just give up on the idea of competition altogether, put playoff spots and championship rings up for bidding on eBay, and give them to the players who are willing to pay the most?

In upcoming posts of this thread, I’ll argue not only that tanking teams are hurting the game, but that tanking is ineffective as a long-term strategy. I’ll also argue that fans should adjust the way they analyze and credit players, and that the NBA should make certain changes to its structure to address this problem. For now, if you disagree with any of the above, I hope to hear from you.


  • Bret

    Tanking worked for the Spurs in ’97. They folded up shop after David Robinson got hurt that year and were rewarded with Tim Duncan. The decision to tank seems to have paid off nicely.

  • Damon Bailey's Ghost

    Tweener (if that’s even your real name): I can’t wait to hear your more fully thought out observations on this notion that the noblest goal of all NBA players is “making what they deserve” and, on the flip side, taking a pay cut to play with better players, winning more games, enjoying your career, and giving yourself a shot at winning a ring that you’ll cherish for the rest of your life are ideals that threaten the very fabric of NBA society. “Know your worth” as an ethos has limited value in most contexts outside of Drake and Beyonce songs, and is especially inapt when you’re trying to dictate how NBA stars “should” act in free agency.

  • Tweener

    @Bret, the Spurs in ’97 had David Robinson, who had won the MVP two seasons before, and had been named one of the 50 greatest players of all time. None of the current tanking teams have anything close. In any event, Robinson sat because he broke his foot. If the organization did anything that constitutes tanking, it involved not rushing back an injured great player, to play in a handful of meaningless games. The Sixers have been tanking for years, and the tanking activities pursued by other teams (or desired by their fan bases) go far beyond sitting a great player for a handful of meaningless games.

    @Damon Bailey’s Ghost, if you’re gonna make music references you expect me to understand, you’re gonna have to stick to Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer. Sorry.

  • 'House

    The sixers are awful. Can’t even tank correctly and think it’s ok to take flyers on injured big men year over year. NBA does control it by the ridiculous lottery process, which I will never understand. Philly fans should be ashamed. I know DrJ, Iverson and even Aaron Mckie are. ‘Ain’t not father to my style.

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I wrote in the beginning of the season that one of the main storylines to keep an eye on is the evolution of the center position. (Here, in case you missed it the first time.)

Well, we’re almost halfway through the season, and, crunching the data regarding the center position specifically, the first conclusion to draw is that, well… um… there really isn’t much to base a conclusion on. That’s because so many of the centers have been hurt for significant chunks of time. If you play center in the NBA, chances are high that you’re having trouble walking these days. Apparently, having a “C” next to your name on an NBA roster means that you’re likely to be Crippled, or even that you might be Cursed.

Check it out: Yao is out for the season, and might be done forever. Oden, too. Bynum can never seem to give the Lakers a long stretch of healthy productivity. Kaman can’t get back on the court for the Clippers. Okur has hardly been available for the Jazz. The Suns might be a playoff team if Robin Lopez could return to the form he was in for parts of last year’s playoffs. And the Bulls could potentially be lethal — if they could keep their center, Joakim Noah, healthy.

Looking at all these injuries, I postulate that human bodies approaching or exceeding 7 feet in length are just not meant to run up and down a basketball court at the speed of today’s game. Actually, strike that. I don’t “postulate” anything — I’m trying to build up my street cred, and people with street cred don’t “postulate” things. Please let me try again… Looking at all these injuries, I hoopserve that human bodies approaching or exceeding 7 feet in length are just not meant to run up and down a basketball court at the speed of today’s game.

Nice. Now I got my street cred intact.

With my street cred intact, I’m ready for a few other hoopservations about the current state of the center position:
1a. If a team has a 7 foot body it can roll out onto the court, who can both walk straight and catch a basketball, that team is in good shape. Bonus points if the guy was born in the 1970’s, and was a force 5 or more years ago. He doesn’t have to be able to move fast or jump high. So long as he’s 7 feet tall and in one piece, you can fake your way through having a real center. Just roll him out there and hope nobody notices. It’s basically like Weekend at Bernie’s, if Bernie was 7 feet tall and used to be a good basketball player. Evidence in support of my point: Big Z in Miami. Duncan in San Antonio. And, of course, Shaq.
1b. If a team has a center who can stay relatively healthy, and produces about 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks, it has a distinct advantage over other teams. In fact, if a team has such a guy, that team is almost certainly a playoff team. Evidence in support of my point: Roy Hibbert (13.5 ppg, 8 rpg, 1.8 bpg), Andrew Bogut (13.5 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 2.8 bpg), and Emeka Okafor (10.9 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.8 bpg).

2. It’s possible to win the battle of the paint armed only with a capable power forward. The numbers that some power forwards are putting up are just silly. They’re like video game numbers. I’m talking about Amar’e (26.4 ppg, 9 rpg, 2.3 bpg), Blake Griffin (21.7 ppg and 12.5 rpg), and Kevin Love (20.6 ppg and 15.6 rpg).

Where does this leave us? I think it’s wrong to say that a good power forward without a capable center alongside him is good enough to win with — in fact, it’s interesting that Blake and Love, with numbers like those, aren’t leading their teams to more victories. One possible explanation is that those guys don’t block shots (not the most meaningful stat in the world, but a good indicator of defensive presence in the paint) nearly as often as real centers do.  In contrast, Amar’e is blocking more than 2 shots per game.

Looking ahead, I’m psyched to see what the Bulls do when Noah and Boozer get to play together for a while, what the Lakers do when Bynum and Gasol develop a rhythm, whether the Mavs are able to get over the hump now that they have Chandler playing next to Nowitzki, and what the Hornets are able to do with West and Okafor. (And, as I’ve stated repeatedly, what the Clippers will do once Kaman and Griffin are playing together.)

In closing, let’s revisit the discussion about the Knicks trading for Carmelo, in light of this information. If they keep Felton and Stoudemire, then, with Carmelo and any mediocre perimeter shooter (Gallinari, Chandler, Fields, and Toney Douglas all fit the bill), they would be good enough on offense to play 4-on-5. That would enable them to play Turiaf (an offensive liability who is a presence on D) at center alongside Amar’e, giving them a distinct advantage over most teams in the league.


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