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3 In The Key – Toronto Raptors Game-Day Preview Vs. Clippers

At one point in time I was a big fan of the Los Angeles Clippers. I think they were probably my second favourite club after the Raps. They had a young and athletic team, a penchant for acquiring Duke players (Brand and Maggette) and I even had a Darius Miles jersey!

(Yes, I realize that may have just put half our our readers off this blog for good…)

But the team just never could put it all together.

Injuries of course were always a factor…but so were substance abuse policy violations, cheap ownership, boneheaded GM decisions and style over substance on the court.

Hence you have the team Peter Vescey refers to as “his Paper Clips.”

This year has been perhaps the worst yet as the team has suffered injury after injury and is still trying to get key players back from horrific injuries that occurred before this season even began!

To top it off, in recent weeks we’ve been hearing rumours of in-fighting in the Clippers organization and recently I asked Kevin from Clipperblog about this and more in our weekly edition of “Blogging with the Enemy.”

1) RaptorsHQ: From the media we’re hearing lots of different things in Clipperland; Dunleavy and Sterling aren’t on the same page, Cassell seems to have one foot out the door, Brand will opt out of his contract, Maggette will eventually be traded, Livingston is being fitted with Robo-cop like joints…the list goes on and on. What’s the actual state of Clipperland and what do you see the team doing come this offseason? (Free agents, draft etc.)

Clipperblog: There’s certainly some friction, though DTS has historically demonstrated that he won’t pay coaches not to work, so I don’t think an imminent Dunleavy departure is in the cards. Cassell might pursue a mutually agreeable buy-out with the Clips. But I can’t see Elton opting out of a lucrative contract coming off a devastating injury. Maggette won’t be traded, if for no other reason than the cap space is far more valuable than whatever the Clips could get in return. Livingston is a big question mark, yes. During the off-season, I expect the Clips to let Maggette walk, which would free up the 3 for Al Thornton. They’ll need to find a quality combo guard to replace Cassell, and will likely opt for a PG in the draft.

2) RaptorsHQ: Chris Kaman seems to the lone bright spot on the team this season. Are Kaman’s numbers a case of “there aren’t many other options unless we decide to play Powell a lot,” or has the Ka-Man really taken the next step as an elite center in the league?

Clipperblog: I think his improvement is tangible. For one, he’s in the best shape of his career, which has made him even more agile. Second, he’s learned how to anticipate and recognize double teams. His rebounding stats are likely inflated, but you can’t frown on a guy’s numbers just because there isn’t a legitimate power forward alongside him to help out on the glass.

3) RaptorsHQ: Clippers at Raptors – what do you see as the keys for LA to steal one at the Air Canada Centre?

Clipperblog: That’s a tough one. Chris Bosh is a match-up nightmare for any team, and particularly for the Clips, who alternate Tim Thomas and Al Thornton at the 4. I’ve been really impressed by the Raptors’ defense. Moon does a great job of staying in front of guys, which will be a deterrent to Maggette. Calderon is very serviceable, too, so Cassell might have trouble posting him up — which Sam loves to do against opposing points. The only possible advantage the Clips will have on the offensive end is Kaman vs. the Raptors’ bigs. When Chris gets going, his footwork makes him a very deceptive force to a C/F who’s not familiar with his repertoire.

A big shout out to Kevin for that info and his discussion of Kaman leads us into the first of our three keys:

1) Keep Kaman in check. Last time these clubs met the Raptors did a nice job of making Kaman work for each shot. Not many easy put-backs and dunks, no lay-ups off of pick and rolls, etc, etc. They need to do that again tonight. Toronto has issues with points in the paint and if Kaman gets going early it could open things up for the rest of LA. Bargnani therefore must do a number on Kaman keeping him off the glass. On the other end, I’m hoping to see Andrea, who has been red-hot of late, take it to Kaman aggressively from the tip. Kaman can’t (and won’t want to) guard Andrea on the perimeter so it’s imperative that Bargnani help set the tone for this game early.

2) Make the Clippers shoot jump-shots. A huge factor in Toronto’s win in Los Angeles was that they prevented the Clippers from getting too many drives to the basket. LA’s most dangerous offensive weapon Corey Maggette in particular was frustrated, and launched 3-pointer after 3-pointer, not his usual style. I’ll be looking tonight to see Jamario Moon and other Raptors’ defenders keep Maggette and co. on the perimeter shooting contested shots. While LA has hardly been a juggernaut this year, they still have a number of guys who can go off on any night. The team gave the Celtics a good run on Wednesday night and Toronto can’t afford to assume this is an automatic W.

Toronto would rather see Al Thornton taking shots like these tonight then getting to the rim…
3) Use TJ’s momentum. And that brings me to my final key. Toronto has a chance to put this one away for good if they jump on LA early and often. We saw this against Miami and Toronto has the shooting ability to do it again tonight. In particular, the home-crowd should be fired up with TJ’s return so the Raptors need to use this energy to their advantage.

Lebron V Kicks Review

If there was anyone left in the basketball world who didn’t think LeBron James had earned the nickname King James yet, game five of last year’s Eastern Conference Semi’s changed everything. After watching LBJ single-handedly take apart the Detroit Pistons with a 48-point, career-defining performance, the last few naysayers LeBron had lined up to put the crown on his head themselves.

In just his fourth season in the League last year, ’Bron carried the Cleveland Cavaliers all the way to the NBA Finals. And sure, the San Antonio Spurs ate them up in four games, but the loss did nothing to remove the mystique of LeBron’s game, or his status as the baddest young buck—er, Cavalier—to lace up a pair of his own signature kicks since MJ himself.

While the cliché-watchers and Jordan-phytes might take objection to it, I think it’s safe to say that LeBron is the fulfillment of the term that’s been unfairly and inaccurately thrown around on players who show a little athleticism, have a string of good seasons early then fade into an injury-induced obscurity (Penny Hardaway), or self-inflicted complacency (Vince Carter): LeBron is The Next One.

There’s been no one happier watching LeBron live up to the hype than Nike. The Swoosh inked the kid to a massive $90 million deal before he was even drafted by the Cavs in 2003. It may have been a gamble at the time, but it’s one that’s reaped huge dividends.

With LeBron as their biggest basketball name (sorry Kobe), Nike has been going all-out making a sneaker that keeps their man happy on the court and keeps millions of fans emulating the guy whose game is splattered all over Sportscenter in the States, and on Court Cuts (the dopeness of that show is another article unto itself) here in Canada.

So it should be no surprise that with the recently released LBJ V, Nike has found a way to up the ante on a line that has managed to evolve just as quickly as its namesake.

Last year, I reviewed the LBJ IV and said that had it been lighter, it would have been the greatest basketball shoe I’d ever worn. After opening up the box (again, another impressive job there this year) of the LBJ V, the first thing I wanted to find out was if the weight issue from last year would make a return. Thankfully, like that weird ducktale patch on the back of Drew Gooden’s head, it was a one-year thing.

The LBJ V is an entire ½ lb. lighter than the IV, bringing it back into the stratosphere of lightweight sneakers that I enjoy wearing. This fact alone had me jacked up to see what waited for me next.

The shoe itself is another step in a new direction for the LBJ line. For the first time, the initial colourway of the sneaker isn’t a black and red one, but a white leather/blue patent combo. Whereas I thought the LBJ IV resembled the Air Penny II, with its navy blue patent leather toe box, I instantly had visions of the Air Jordan XVI.

Sticking with the look of the shoe, you can’t help but feel like you’re rocking something special when you put them on. Gold-coloured eyelets for the laces are a nice touch, as are the gold touches on the lacetips. The laces themselves are the same high quality ones that are used in the Zoom BB that just about every point guard in the League is wearing this year. The combination of the blue patent with white leather gives the shoe an incredibly clean look and the gold LeBron logo on the strap holder sets the shoe off.

But these are just looks we’re talking about. My treasure may be another man’s trash. Some people might say Zydrunas Ilgauskas is an ugly dude, but someone’s gotta love him, right? Right. My point is that beyond the physical, it’s what’s inside this shoe—how it performs—that sets it apart.

From the bottom-up, the sole of the shoe is simple enough. A clear rubber outsole has optimal motion flex grooves that work to keep your traction on the court. A positive holdover from the LBJ IV is just how padded your feet are inside of the shoe. A full-length Zoom Air unit returns and is paired with double-stacked Zoom in the heel. Zoom Air has been around for a good decade now and is still my favourite of Nike’s technologies. If you play an uptempo game and like that close-to-the-court feel, any shoe with Zoom Air is up your alley.

Back for another run with the LBJ V is the carbon fibre spring plate. The plate helps with reducing impact when running and landing, distributing the impact throughout the plate and away from your feet.

One thing I love about the LBJ V is the versatility the shoe offers you. Generally, when I see an ankle strap on a shoe, I associate it with being a big man’s sneak. I can appreciate why LeBron might need an ankle strap: the guy plays a guard/forward’s type game, but plays it in a power forward’s body. The dude is 6-8 and weighs 260; he could use that strap. Seeing as how I’m a lanky 6-0 and a good hundred lbs. lighter than the King, the strap’s not a priority for me. I wore the shoe with and without the strap and didn’t find discomfort in either wearing. The straps will be relegated to the shoebox for all future wearings for me, though.

Nike uses a phyposite bucket, which I can only assume is a lighter version of Foamposite technology in the heel of the shoe, that works along with the Dynamic Fit inner sleeve, giving great comfort for the foot while it sits secured in the shoe. The inner sleeve is a can’t-miss feature on a shoe, and something Nike’s been doing since the days of the OG Huraches in the early 90s. My favourite comfort feature inside the shoe though, is the tongue. It’s a padded, spandex-feeling tongue that lets your foot breathe. I’ve never been forced to notice the tongue of a shoe before the LBJ V. Try them on in the store to get the feeling I’m talking about. The tongue alone would have me sold on this shoe.

Performance-wise, I didn’t run into any negatives with the shoe. It had zero break-in, I removed the one feature on the shoe that didn’t mesh with my tastes and when I’m on the court in the shoes, I’m 100 percent comfortable. As with any high-end Nike sneaker, the price is steep, especially considering the disparity on prices with our dollar being stronger than the Americans’ right now. That said, we’ve been dropping this kind of cash on high-end sneaks for years. $199 is the suggested retail price in Canada, which is actually about 40 bucks cheaper than the LBJ IV was last year.

From what we’ve seen of LeBron so far in the 2007/08 season, he’s managed to take his game to yet another level by improving what was already great about his game. The LBJ V has done the same, with the aesthetic of a legend’s sneaker and the best parts of its predecessor. It’s definitely worth the pickup.

What’s Your Fantasy?

The following is a recap of events that occurred on the evening of Tuesday October the
17th, 2007 between the hours of 6pm and midnight. It’s a week to the regular season and
time for a fantasy basketball draft but my thoughts are all over the map. Due to various
circumstances of which you are about to read and the general craziness that is my life,
some of the following information will not be entirely accurate but is meant to give a
representation of the craziness that surrounds my life and my love for the game.

6pm – 3 hours to the start of the draft.

It’s raining, I’ve just lost half of my finger, I’m bleeding everywhere and have just
been dropped off on a street corner next to a seedy strip joint … Wait, that’s my
street …. The missing piece of the finger is still lodged on the door latch that took
it off on a couple of hours earlier when my friend Jodie and I were moving a couch out of
my place that I was giving him for his new apartment. So here I am helping my friend
move having taken the afternoon off work and my finger is hanging by a thread and The
draft is three hours away and I’m already late for a three-hour conference I can?t miss
that starts at six and ends at nine. Just the time my basketball fantasy draft starts.

6:30 pm – 2.5 hours to the start of the draft

I was all wet and smelled like I should after helping a friend move in the rain but still
managed to have a thirty second shower and hustle my ass downtown to miss nothing more
than the hosts wasting everyone’s time trying to figure out how to work a projector while
simultaneously pissing everyone off by with their cleverly contrived sales pitch. These
people want my money, but my mind is wondering to the players that?ll still be left in
the draft when I pick 11 of 12, ten or so minutes after nine tonight. Right now, I’ve
got Gilbert ranked at number eleven but I know he’ll go well before then but I figure
someone, maybe even two players in my top ten seeing as how I end up with the 14th pick
as well, will end up in my lap. I’ve got CB4 ranked fourteenth and would love to end up
with him for some home team lovin but I?ve gotta concentrate. This is a finance seminar
and equations and balance sheets are getting thrown around left right and centre.

7:30 – 1.5 hours to draft time

I’ve got algorithms and standard deviations staring at me, Jodie just texted me to see
if I?m coming back to help him paint later that night, my hand is bleeding through my
last band-aid and it looks like I definitely won’t be making it back to the draft on
time. Here I am trying to work out a calculation that I’ve got no idea how the guy at
the front of the room arrived at and all I find myself thinking about is what my top ten
were. I know it starts with KG, Kobe and Lebron but after that, I’m not too sure. I
know Yao, Dirk, Nash and Matrix are in there but the rest has escaped me and to make
things worse, this year I’m in a league with sports media members who obviously know
their stuff and have done their homework. I on the other hand have had absolutely zero
time to do any research and am going in with nothing but my memory of last season and a
bias for all things Raptor. Thank god for the www putting everything at your fingertips.
Better still, it looks like this thing may run late and I’ve had nothing to eat all day
but a shitty slice.

8:50 pm – Ten minutes to draft time

I’m in a cab heading home. I took off from the conference cause my hand is now
officially in pain and seeing as how it’s the ring finger on my right hand and I’m right
handed, I’ve gotten blood on my shirt in all the wrong places. It looks like I’m dressed
for Halloween and that is not for a couple more weeks. I also think the loss of blood
and surreal feeling of being in such a huge room with so many people discussing math
problems has made me feel woozy from university flashbacks. My phone’s ringing again
with Jodie on the other end wondering if I can help paint. I’ve been up since six in the
morning and the last thing I want to do is paint walls but that’s what friends do and I
promise that once my hand stops bleeding, I’ll try to make it over. I run up to my
apartment to apply pressure to my wounds and clean up the mess.

8:59 pm – 1 minute to draft time

My hand is now tightly wrapped up and as I stare at my hand feeling the blood flow away
from the stricken appendage……it hits me. The draft is on in a minute. SHIT, where’s
my computer! SHIT, why isn’t my Internet working! I thought this thing was supposed to
be my saviour tonight. DAMN. What’s my top ten? Will my pre-draft order work? I need
something to eat…

9:02 pm – 2nd pick, first round

I’m in, thank God. Check in with the commish, see what I missed. WOW, Lebron beat out
KG for the number one spot and I don’t think fantasy basketball will ever be the same.
The Big Ticket has had a stranglehold on that spot for like a decade so something’s gotta
be up tonight. Second pick is on the clock and I’ve officially got just under ten
minutes to get organized and get all my research done. Open up a couple of windows on my
Mac and check in on the league on the wire. Hogtown has made it. Finally. The baller
formerly known as The Kid goes number two bringing the world of fantasy basketball back
to normality but it wasn’t the same as we left it just a couple of minutes earlier.
‘Trix goes number three and Kobe goes four and Gil goes five so there goes my eleven.
Time to start digging into the numbers and fast.

9:12 pm – 11th pick, first round

Nash went six followed by Dirk, Kidd, Amare and Pau. I couldn’t be happier cause I’ve
got two of my top ten at my disposal and two of the next four picks. I opt for Yao
thinking this has to be the year he can play at least seventy-five games and be the best
centre in the L. Ladies and gents, knock on wood for me and for maximum points, rebounds
and blocks.

9:15 pm – 2nd pick (14th overall), second round

CB4 lands to me at 14 as planned. I call Jodie back after missing his last call and let
him know that I’m going to grab a bite, relax for a bit and enjoy my fantasy draft.

9:43 – 11th pick (35th overall), third round

Aside from a few picks that have been a bit of a reach and one guy insisting that he’s
got inside info that DWade is coming back to start the season (Ed’s note: DWade is back), I’m feeling
incredibly lucky, smart or stupid as T-Mac has landed in my lap. It occurs to me that
the guy hasn’t had an injury free season since he was a Raptor and never made it out of
the first round but something tells me, if this was any other year, he’d be a top twenty
guy so I take my chances and load up on H-Town. A couple minutes later I pick 2nd in the
4th round and grab uber-rookie Kevin Durant hoping that his 6’9, 180 Lb frame can hold up
for an 82 game sched. Then I look in the mirror and realize that I weigh like 175 and am
5’9 and realize 82 might be asking a bit much. Ah what the heck, lets roll the dice
anyway

10:12 – 2nd pick (62nd overall), sixth round

The wire is blowing up with everyone ripping on one of the teams for picking David Lee
about 100 spots before he’s projected to go and he’s defending himself like Lakers
defended themselves for picking Kobe over Shaq. We all saw how that one turned out but
part of me says this guy may have unearthed a gem. Still, I just got my first PG a few
picks earlier grabbing up Leandro Barbosa and am left trying to decide between Ginobili
and Kirilenko for my 6th pick. So I flip back and forth in my head and use the full
minute and a half to come to my decision. Do I take the flashy Argentine who just who’s
coming back from another brilliant championship season with the Spurs or do I go for the
Russian who played horribly for the Jazz last year then played out of his mind at the
Euros taking his country to an upset W over hosts Spain only to win tourney MVP and
request a trade out of Salt Lake. Granted I can’t blame anyone for wanting to get the
hell out of Utah but I still grab AK47 hoping that he’s in a better mood these days maybe
because he finally took his wife up on her offer for an annual ‘mulligan’. Besides, last
year he was taken in the top ten of my fantasy draft so he’s a great sleeper at 62.

10:53 – 11th pick (107th overall), ninth round

I’m just recovering from getting grilled for picking Ben Wallaace in the 7th round and
although I got some props for grabbing Jameer Nelson in the 8th, I really turned heads
when I grabbed Stephen Jackson with my following pick. Oh they all had jokes….Did I
think he was going to shoot at anyone while in Toronto visiting the Brass Rail? Would he
be the next Baller Ternt Rappa to ask for some time off to promote his album release?
Or would he simply incite another brawl now that he was on the most thugged out team in
the L? Oh , and incidentally it looks like he’ll miss just as many games as DWade with
his suspension for keepin it real…. oh and have you seen that tat? Nah, I just figured
he’d help me out in the three-pointer category where he’s been dropping bombs for a few
years now and has a ring with San An to show for it. Not to mention, I just like those
fuck the system kind of guys. I’m beginning to either look lucky, incredibly smart,
incredibly stupid or simply on drugs. I put that on the wire and one team responds by
telling me that he is ‘on drugs’. I think I’m gonna love this league.

11:12 – 11th pick (121st overall), eleventh round

The draft has been going on for over two hours now and Jodie’s blowing up my phone again
trying to convince me to get over there and help out as some of the other boys are
starting to lose some steam. I’m also a couple of beers in but not all that tired so I
tell him if he covers the cab there and back, he’ll have a painter for a couple of hours.
But before, I still have to make a pick and line up some picks for the last few rounds.
So I grab Ashton Kutch… I mean Kyle Korver to help Jax out with the three-pointers and
start to plan out my final few picks.

11:47 – Cab ride to Jodie’s

It’s been a long day and it’s not over yet. I’ve got some more beer, pizza and painting
in my near future but having excused myself from the last few picks and thanking everyone
for a fun night, I reflect. Although I’ve never met any of the people in The Charity
Stripe league face-to-face, spending a couple of hours online, joking about who was dumb
enough to grab Greg Oden, the merits as to why Tim Donaghey would’ve been an acceptable
ref even when convicted of fixing games and which Canadian sports station has the worst
coverage (Ed’s note: please see Rogers SportsNet); I thought to myself in that I just had some good fun with some new friends who like me, loved the game.

A few years ago, I would’ve never even bothered with a fantasy pool but today, if you are
not in one, you are the exception. It’s no longer acceptable to just be a fan of the
game but you’ve got to be a student of the box scores and storylines if you want to be
able to hold your own in these leagues. And sure, there may be some friendly wagering
and bragging rights on the line but really, I?d like to think it all comes down to the
love of the game and every guys fantasy of having his own team and choosing the players
who make it up. This game that has grown men sitting in front of their computers for 3
hours on a week night, hiding from wives and girlfriends and maybe even bleeding all over
their keyboard.

The things we do for love and friends. And to think, I didn’t get home until 2:30 am
that night but on the way home, all I could think of was who I ended up with for those
last few picks??? not the finger that I lost to amputation the next day.

(…. Ed’s note: I ended up with a team of Yao, CB4, T-Mac, Leandro, BWallace, AK47, KD,
Jameer, Stephen Jax, Ashton, Luis Scola, Juan Carlos Navarro, Bobby Simmons and Devin
Harris… oh yeah, and my finger was never amputated but I’ll bet just writing it there
got your attention didn’t it?)

Nash And Dalembert On The NBA All-Star Ballot

So the time has come again, when hoop junkies all over the world to exercise their democratic right to vote their favourite NBA players into the starting roster of the annual NBA All-Star game. Now, we all knew Nash was going to be on this ballot and he should be voted into the game. Dalembert, however, is not a 2 time MVP with a superstar aura nor does he play on a high profile team such as the Suns. Irregardless of that, Samuel played his heart out for the National team this year at the FIBA Americas Tournament resulting in a stress fracture which caused him to come out of the gate slower than he would have liked. He’s beginning to develop a respectable inside game while contributing considerably on the defensive end. His statline for this season has been very respectable:

31 minutes per game
11.4 points per game
2.7/5.9/8.4 Rebounds
2.2 Blocks
FG% 54, FT% 71

Give the man some love. It’s not about whether he gets voted into the lineup or not. As Canadian hoop fans, we have the luxury right now of rooting for a small contingent of players in the NBA. It’s very easy to be critical of sports figures, and we hold that right as fans. But I feel that if we put half as much energy in supporting players like Samuel as we put in chastising Jamal Magloire for his neglectful attitude towards the National team the sports community would be better off. Show some love for Sammmy.

Magloire has played sparingly in New Jersey due to the emergence of rookie Sean Williams. I don’t know exactly when the trajectory of his career started sloping downwards but it only seemed like yesterday when I can recall reading an article on Jamal in Slam Magazine talking about wanting to be a perennial All-Star.

Shaq happens to be one of my favourite public figures of all time. Seriously. Back before the handchecking and anti-Shaq rules came in, he possessed a super-human game. Those days have seemed to be a distant memory. I don’t know if he will get voted into the all-star game this year. Shaq fans are incredibly loyal but NBA fans also happens to have very short memories. As the futility of the Miami Heat becomes more evident game after game, I just hope that it is one step closer to Joel Anthony getting some non-garbage minutes. He has played 5 minutes total this season recording a board and foul. I’m seriously considering a Play J.A. movement. Mr.Riley, seriously, it can’t get any worse. You’re going to lose that fine slick back that you call a haircut if you don’t start winning games soon. Just tell Shaq that you want him to play 48 minutes the next game and get Joel Anthony some legit minutes.

Simple CIS Math With Joe Scanlon

Last season I did a column focusing on how a plus-minus system similar to
the one used in hockey might work for basketball. I did it by focusing on
two games and the players on one team in each of those games. The teams I
chose were Ottawa U and Queen’s. In both cases, their teams were playing
against Carleton.

This season I decided to try it again this time looking at the women’s teams
from Toronto and Ryerson, again when both were involved in a game against
Carleton. I was a little worried that Toronto might overpower Carleton and
make the results a bit meaningless. As it happened, the Ravens put a good
showing against the Blues. Though they trailed by 14 at half time they
managed to give up only two more points the rest of the way. They actually
were close to making a game of it in the fourth quarter before the Blues put
on a final rush. That forced Toronto coach Michele Belanger to keep a strong
line-up in the game. The Ryerson-Carleton was even tighter: Carleton came
back to win it in the final minute.

Before continuing, let me make clear that doing a plus-minus for basketball
is a lot more difficult than for hockey. In hockey, especially today,
players go on and off the ice in sort shifts. No player plays the entire
game. In basketball, it is not uncommon for someone to play 30+ minutes,
sometimes almost the entire game. As a result their plus-minus is really
just the result of the team’s overall performance. If their team wins that
player comes up with a plus. If the team loses that same player will have a
minus.

Another problem is that there is a lot more scoring in basketball than
hockey so raw +/- figures are enormous. At the moment, for example, Jennifer
Donofrio of RMC is averaging 20 points a game but RMC is losing all of its
games mainly by a large margin. Since she plays on average 34 minutes per
game and RMC loses on average by 36 points her raw +/- would be 34/40 of -36
or -31, not much to write home about. In contrast, Lindsay de Groot average
17.6 points a game for undefeated McMaster and plays 27 minutes per game.
McMaster wins on average by 26 points. Her raw +/- figure would be 27/40 of
26 or +17.5. On that basis, it sounds as if de Groot is far more valuable
than Donofrio.

It’s also not all that easy to keep track of whose is on the floor when
points are scored. Unlike hockey where goals usually come minutes or even
periods apart, in basketball there can be a lot of scoring. It takes a lot
of concentration to keep track of who is on the floor for every point.
Despite those limitations, I argued last season and will do so again that
+/- could be a useful tool for CIS coaches.

The system I have used was developed by Wayne Winston is a former Jeopardy
champion who is also a Professor of Decision Sciences at Indiana University.
Along with Jeff Sagarin, the brains behind the rankings in USA Today,
Winston created Winval. It does – for basketball – what +/- does for hockey
— shows if a team does better when a particular player is on the floor and
worse when he or she is not playing. It also adjusts for comparative team
strength and strengths of other players when someone is on the floor.

What I did was take this concept and simplify it. While watching a game, I
compile the raw statistics – the difference between points for and against
when a player is on floor. (I charge points scored on foul shots to players
who were on the floor when the foul occurred.) Then I divide that raw +/- by
the minutes played. I compare that to a team’s adjusted +/-.

Here’s how it works. If Jones played 30 minutes for Team A and his team
outscored their opponents by 25 points while he was on the floor, his
average per minute played would be +.83 (25 divided by 30). If Team A
defeats Team B by 40 Points the team average per minute would be +1 (40
points more than the other team in 40 minutes). With the team average +1 and
Jones at+.83 clearly the team did better when Jones was not playing. His 25
points look less impressive when +/- is calculated. To make that clear his
team outscored its opponent by 15 points during the 10 minutes he was not
playing. That’s a rate of 1.5 points a minute, a better rate that when Jones
was on the floor.

Incidentally, any player can have an off night or on night so statistics
based on one game have to be looked at with caution. It’s also possible a
player is coming off an injury and the coach has made allowances for that.
But it would seem to me that a perceptive coach would pay attention to those
things and that a player having a good night would get extra floor time and
one having a bad night would get less floor time.

Toronto defeated Carleton 55-39, winning by 16 points. Their raw plus-minus
was +16. The team’s adjusted +/- is 16 divided by 40 or .4. If a player was
on for the entire game her plus-minus would be the team +/- in short also
.4. However, no one did that so one can take the raw +/- for each player,
divide it by the number of minutes played and see how that player compares
to the team norm.

First, let’s look at Toronto’s raw +/- statistics; and look at them in
order.

Kyla Burwash + 17, Jessica Hieuw + 17, Amanda Van Leeuwen + 17, Alaine
Hutton + 15, Christine Cho + 12, Ilana Weissberger + 11, Lyndsay Cloughley
+1, Laila Bellony -6, Erin Mc Neely -3, Sherri Pierce – 1. This total adds
up to 80 which divided by five gives the team margin of 16 points.

Clearly, the figures for Bellony, McNeely and Pierce show they were not
having a great night. Toronto won by 16 but was outscored by Carleton when
those three were on the floor. It would also appear that Burwash, Hieuw and
Leeuwen had good games since they had a + figure better than the team’s
winning margin of 16 points. However, those figures change somewhat when
they are adjusted by minutes played.

Toronto was +17 when Van Leeuwen was on the floor but she played only 17
minutes, far fewer than Burwash and Hieuw. Van Leeuwen’s adjusted plus-minus
was 1.0, two and a half times as good as the team average. Burwash was .62
and Hieuw, who had one more minute than Burwash, .61, both better than the
team’s average. Hutton however also played 28 minutes, the same as Hieuw but
had a lower raw figure. She is at .53 still better than the team’s average.
The other really good performance was by Ilana Weissberger who was +.79.
Alaine Hutton was +.53, also better than the team average. Christie Cho was
.67. All in all then Toronto’s starters were the best players on the floor
and the coach was correct – based on these figures – to give them the
playing time she did. I have not worked the adjusted figures for the three
players whose raw figures were in the minus column. Clearly they did not
have a good night. Except by Bellony, those three got little playing in the
second half.

Overall, I would conclude that the most part Michele Belanger was making
good decisions about who should be playing – as one would hope.

The second game I looked at was the Ryerson game against Carleton the
following night. The Rams lead from the opening whistle but Carleton came on
strong in the closing minutes outscoring Ryerson by 10 in the last quarter.

Since Ryerson lost by three, 55-52, the team’s raw plus-minus is -.075. The
fact that the figure is negative does not matter. The question remains: how
did a player do compared to the team?

For Ryerson the raw +/- figures were as follows: Kaitlyn Taylor + 13;
Rebecca Cox +7; Lisa Goldring +5; Gwen Elliot -2; Lacey O’Sullivan – 5;
Ashley MacDonald – 8; Tanya LeClerc – 13; Lindsay Taylor – 14.

At first glance, that would suggest that Taylor, Cox and Goldring were the
best players on the floor but it is not quite that simple Gwen Elliot played
only seven minutes. Her adjusted +/- is .28 far worse than the team’s
average. Ashley MacDonald (-.6) who played 13 minutes is not nearly as bad
as Lindsay Taylor who played only six minutes all in the first half when
Ryerson was winning and still managed an adjusted -2.3, a very high figure.
It means that although Ryerson was up at half time, it trailed by an average
2.3 points while Taylor was on the floor. It is not surprising she did not
get back on during the second half.

What about Kaitlyn Taylor, Cox and Goldring, the three players were + raw
figures?

Taylor was +.39. Cox was+ .18. Goldring was +.13. Except for Kaitlyn Taylor
their raw figures are deceptive. They were an asset but not as much of an
asset as the raw figures would suggest.

Experience tells me most coaches don’t trust +/-. They don’t want a
statistic that might suggest their best scorers are not an asset overall.
But I think +/- adds something to a coach’s awareness of what a player
contributes to the team and other players on that team.

I think most coaches know what is happening without the need to look at +/-.
But I also think it is a useful tool for post-game analysis and for seeing
if a player’s good scoring record actually contributes to the team’s
success. It s also possible to take a look at the figures on any given night
to see who is having an on night or an off night.

Take, for example, a look at the six players Sandra Pothier used during the
closing minutes as Ryerson watched its lead slip away. They were O’Sullivan,
Goldring, Cox, Kaitlyn Taylor, Jenny Hobbs and finally Tanya LeClerc. Cox,
Taylor and Goldring make sense as does Jenny Hobbs. They still ended up in
the plus column even though they were on when Carleton made its comeback.
O’Sullivan would have looked like a good choice: she was ahead on +/- until
Carleton made its final run. LeClerc was a more doubtful choice. A look at
the detailed+/- records show Carleton outscored Ryerson every time she was
on the floor during the entire game.

The point of this column was not to pick apart a player’s or coaches’
performance on a particular night. It was to give a little insight into how
+/- might work and suggest it might be a useful tool for coaches who wish to
look back at a game to see how well tuned in they were to how particular
players were doing.

Explosive Wing Commits To Division 1 Catamounts

Becoming the sixth Canadian to move on to an NCAA Division I scholarship in the last month, Harouna Mutombo has declared that he will skip his final year of high school eligibility in Ontario after committing to Western Carolina University.

The 6’4” 190-pound Mutombo is an explosive wing, capable of exploding off the dribble to finish above the rim with power or use his great length and bounce to completely neutralize opponents on defence. He has deep three-point range on his jumper and can fill several roles and stat lines with rebounds, steals, assists, blocks, and points.

“What made Western Carolina stand out was definitely the [Southern Conference] – a great Mid-Major conference,” said Mutombo.

“Another aspect was how much of an impact would I have. That was the main question I asked about each school recruiting me. Western Carolina just seemed like a great fit. They had been recruiting me since the [All Canada Prospect Camp in July] and they followed me to Vegas with [head coach Larry Hunter]. I thought that showed how much they were interested in me.

“Another thing was getting my degree. According to Fortune Magazine, Western Carolina is ranked #1 in Business Entrepreneurship, which is the field that I will be going in.”

Coming off a Gold Medal performance at the OFSAA AAAA provincial championships last year, the Pickering, Ontario native graduated and qualified through the NCAA Clearinghouse before the start of the current school year. He plans on enrolling in the second semester at the Cullowee, North Carolina-based school and redshirt the 2007-08 season.

“I will get a feel for the program, practice with the team, know what I have to work on in the summer, know the plays, really get my feet wet, and when September ‘08 comes around, I will have a good chance to play for the team,” added Mutombo.

Harouna received considerable attention from other NCAA D1 programs – Stony Brook, Davidson, Long Island, Denver, Virginia Tech, and Central Connecticut State – but nothing compared to the Western Carolina Catamounts.

“Coach Hunter is changing this program around. Western Carolina is in a nice city and the community really loves the basketball program, so I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

post

Tip-In: Toronto Raptors Post Game: Brutal

It’s amazing how much can go on in 24 hours. Lately work has turned my world upside down and it has been hard to find a spare minute. It was just yesterday AM that I told Franchise I would write the re-cap (much to his surprise) but that I would probably have to tape the game and watch it late night. At the time I was thinking there shouldn’t be much to write about anyway because the Raps should take this one in a walk.

During the day I pondered the significance of the Raps 1000th game. The final conclusion was two fold. The first was that although it was a milestone this was nothing that significant. Second, TSN in lieu of the 1000th game proved for the 1000th time that it should not becovering basketball (Matt Bonner on the All-time Raps team?!). Nevertheless, I figured I would talk about the easy win and how the Raps were really getting their act together.

Well a few things happened between then and now. The first event was that I was graciously offered courtside seats. I have never sat on the floor and this was an experience not soon to be forgotten. Some of the noteworthy activity included the lead singer of Alexis On Fire and his date Leah Miller (dead beat) the Much Music VJ looking like they would have had more fun pulling out each others fingernails then watching a basketball game, sitting near CB4’s girlfriend (seriously she must have called him “baby” 300 times over the course of the game and apparently had some inside joke with Josh Powell about muffins), and getting to listen to these guys talk on the floor. Hearing the guys trash talk and communicate while playing D is amazing although I have to mention that I couldn’t understand a thing Chris Kaman was saying….although no-one seemed to understand what that dude was talking about because I think cave-man stopped being an internationally recognized language 2000 years ago.

The other big change over the past 24 hours is that now I have to write about how the Raps soiled the bed against a weak and very shorthanded Clippers team rather than how they marched towards another victory. Right off the bad I have to say that this was a horrific loss. Just brutal and here’s why.

First, the Raps did a horrible job against Mr. Maggette. Early on it was clearly evident that the former Dukie had it going on and was feeling it. Yet nevertheless the Raps left Maggette open for easy shots and defenders were consistently late on their rotations. If you wonder why Raps fans dream about having Maggette at the three spot now you know why. Not only was Maggette feeling it from the outside but he got to the line 13 times! In the first half he couldn’t miss yet the Raps for some reason didn’t seem to think that double teaming his was a good idea. Mitchell did a poor job adjusting on this evening. But this folks is not why this was a bad loss…

Despite Maggette’s solid performance this game was actually won when he was on the bench. From the latter stages of the third quarter up to the 5 minute mark of the fourth Coach Dunleavy kept Maggette off the floor yet it was during this same period of time that the Clips went on their run. During this stretch the ageless one Cuttino Mobley and Al Thornton took over on the offensive end. Of course it’s not like Mobley or Thornton were unconscious. The run was the result of the Raps sticking to “Plan A”.

Ahhh…..Plan A. It can be described in two words – Jump Shot. Unlike the game against Miami the Raps were having a tough time finding their stroke and once again there was no Plan B. Having no Plan B is simply unacceptable. Despite numerous opportunities to tie or take the lead in the game late the Raps simply would not stop shooting from the outside. It was like the Toronto team was allergic to the rim. Possession after possession the Raps would jack-up a 15-20 footer to no avail. Meanwhile on the other end the Clips, in particular the aforementioned Al Thornton, were attacking at every opportunity. What made this even more frustrating was that the Raps had the Clippers in the bonus early on in the fourth. It wasn’t that the Raps had to get to the hoop and score, they just needed to get fouled.

I must ask, how does BC think this approach is going to work, in particular in the playoffs? This team clearly needs a player on the wing that can create his own shot and get to the rim. Objectively when you look at this team you would think that it would be Jamario Moon but for whatever reason he is hesitant to attack on a regular basis. I’m not sure if it’s because this Toronto team is a little soft, or whether it’s just a skill set this team is missing on the perimeter. Either way this needs to be addressed soon whether by trade or in the draft.

Now there are some positives to take from the game. To me the most refreshing thing to see was the play of Andrea on the defensive end. Quite to the contrary of what one poster believes Bargs did a fantastic job on this evening against Kaman. Despite the fact that Kaman had a double-double, down the stretch Bargs was solid against this much improved big man. He held his position, didn’t leave his feet and didn’t give Kaman any easy hoops. There is no doubt that Bargs, like many others, was guilty of settling from the jump shot, but seeing solid defense against such a solid player is a very good sign.

The other big positive was the return of TJ Ford to his home court. The crowd game his a solid standing ovation when he checked into the game. Ford was also solid in his 12 minutes of game action handing out 6 assists.

Last, a big props to Purolator and the Raps who donated 100 pounds of food to the Daily Food Bank for each rebound grabbed by the Raps.

Nevertheless it is hard not to have a bad taste in your mouth after this loss. In fact, it was not until after having completed this recap I realized I didn’t stick to our usual format. The loss really makes me question whether we are not destined for another first round loss. Even watching a rookie school CB4 down the stretch made me wonder what we can expect when the “second season” comes around.

If one thing is for sure it’s that this was a game that got away and in a tight battle for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs one that could come back to bite the Raps.