The news has spread that LeBron James may be attending Zydrunas Ilgauskas’s jersey retirement ceremony March 8th. The NBA schedule works out for LeBron, and the past works for the pair too. LeBron grew up watching Big Z lead a lot of terrible Cavs teams. Big Z hopes the star of Akron is received warmly, since they are friends.
I, on the other hand, hope LeBron is not received at all. The night is about Big Z and just a whiff of LeBron is going to lead to a handful of boos, cheers, and inevitable coverage about the pair’s friendship that overshadow the big guy.
Candace Buckner of The Indianapolis Star gives a memoir of sorts about a Cav that will never have a jersey retired, Andrew Bynum. I read the piece and really wanted to sympathize with Bynum because he does seem like he tries hard and was pushed too much at a young age. Then Bynum says, “Obviously, when I’m not playing, I tend to feel better because I’m not doing anything.” All I can think is the Cavs gave you six million dollars. What does it take to motivate you? Bynum says it’s winning, so maybe things will work out better for him on a team where he doesn’t play that much and can actually win.
Speaking of other big men past their prime the Cavs have signed, remember when the Cavs tried the Shaqsperiment? This story was overheard at the Sloan conference this past weekend.
“When [Shaquille O’Neal] came off the court after four games, I stood him up and asked him ‘What’s the greatest thing Wilt Chamberlain did?’ … He liked stats, so he said ‘He averaged 50 points per game.’ I said ‘Pretty good, but not quite. He played 48 minutes a game. Could you do that?’ … Tried it for six games, he didn’t like it so much. Then, he got in shape.”
— Former NBA head coach Phil Jackson, on getting Shaq into shape [Timothy Varner, ESPN.com]
Shaq was out of shape for us too.
The Sloan conference presented a new way to look at players any area on the floor. Teams can now track how many points a given player is probable to generate in any situation with expected point value (EPV). This stat takes into account items such as how close to an opposing player a pass puts the ball, where a player is on the floor, and what type of shot or pass the player who just received the ball could potentially make.
You can calculate how valuable a player is by how much of an increase or decrease in EPV the player had when he first touched the ball till the actual shot or end of the possession. Chris Paul had the highest EPV added rank last season. This season Jose Calderon is leading the league in EPV added and showing people the NBA really is where amazing happens.
For Cavs fans, I think the EPV stat could help us to figure out if Luol Deng is actually playing poorly when he has a 5-15 night. His EPV could be trying to break out of the Q for all I know. Maybe he is passing or cutting on the floor in a way that he’s the Viagra of the Cavs for EPV.
It can definitely prove Jarret Jack is a shot jacker when he passes up the open three for a running contested floater. And, for Kyrie Irving, the Cavs coaching staff could show him if he is actually making possession wise choices and the final shot isn’t going in, or they can show him if he is in the wrong when he pouts at another missed open three by Alonzo Gee.
There are almost too many ways I could figure out uses for EPV to justify my hates and loves in the NBA, but it really isn’t helpful for losing teams. The stat takes too much into account that isn’t related to scoring like passing efficiently and making the right decision (Yes, I did type that on purpose and Allen Iverson didn’t make me say that). I don’t care if our team ranks high in EPV added stats if they are still under five hundred. If we were winning consistently, then maybe this stat could help us tweak something when we had an odd losing streak or lost a player. Until then, it’s only justifying moral victories. It’s also making me think twice about Kyrie playing isolation ball every other play in close or blowout games. That is never a good thing.
There was another presentation that suggested there is a such thing as a hot hand. When Matty D makes a three and then proceeds to throw up two more, he’s going off of science. CJ Miles and Dion Waiters most likely sent the article to each other the day it came out and didn’t heed the warnings it gave.
The observed improvement is modest. If you’ve made more shots than you’d be expected to make given the difficulty of your past four, the new research shows that your field goal percent actually goes up by 1.2 percent, a small but significant effect. [Beckley Mason, ESPN]
The conference isn’t all stats though. It’s a lot of reported anecdotes too. Adam Silver doesn’t see PED use, knows fans love gambling, and would love to raise the minimum age for the NBA. I enjoy gambling, and if there are PEDs being used, they aren’t being abused too much because guys aren’t running around ripping other players’ arms off in a full on rage.
The idea to raise the minimum age would actually benefit a lot of teams that are trying to rebuild such as the Cavs. There would no longer be groups of barely grown boys collaborating on their next big fart based prank after signing a million dollar endorsement and being told that money makes them men. Leadership from growing up would appear on a more regular basis as players got their youth mentored out of them at college.
I have a special request to make today. Big Z has always been known as a standup guy in the Cleveland community, and the writers at Cavs: The Blog would love to hear about any first hand encounters our readers have had with him. Please send these stories to Nate Smith, oldseaminer at gmail.com, by Thursday evening. They might be used in an upcoming post.