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Evilmav2
01-26-2006, 02:23 AM
What took them so long?

Chad Ford
posted: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 | Feedback
My immediate reaction to the reported deal that will send Ron Artest to Sacramento for Peja Stojakovic -- what took them so long?

No, I'm not talking about the on-again, off-again status of the trade the last 24 hours. I'll write a different column about that madness later.

I'm talking about a much longer history of rumors that have entangled the fates of Artest and Stojakovic over the past year and a half.

Not only was this trade rumor the thing that prompted Artest to demand a trade to the Indianapolis Star back in December. It was also a deal that was talked about in the summer of 2004. And it was a trade I implored both Pacers GM Larry Bird and Kings GM Geoff Petrie to make in November of 2004 before the Artest brawl.

Why?

Back in the fall of 2004, both players looked like they needed a change of scenery. Stojakovic was still pouting about the Kings' decision to let Vlade Divac go to the Lakers. His relationship with Chris Webber (and the rest of the team for that matter) was rocky and he started off the season in a major slump.

Artest wasn't doing much better. He had already asked head coach Rick Carlisle for some time off during the season for personal issues due to mental and physical fatigue. Turns out Ronnie was spending night and day working on an album that consumed him.

"My body has been aching. I was going to take some time off, and I said it the wrong way," Artest told reporters in November of 2004. "Everything that happened wasn't too negative. I kind of surprised the team by wanting to take some games off, just to get back together, maybe stay home for a little bit, rest a little bit and come back."

To be fair to the Pacers, they would've gladly accepted an Artest-Stojakovic swap at the start of the 2004 season. It was the Kings who had cold feet back then too. And ... given Ronnie's subsequent actions, it's hard to be too harsh with Sacramento's decision to pass.

However, in retrospect, you've got to wonder if pulling the trigger on the deal then would have saved the Pacers, Kings and the rest of the NBA a lot of heartache.

The Kings knew Stojakovic was heading to unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2006. If they didn't trade him before then, the chances that they would lose him for nothing were high.

The Pacers knew that Artest was unreliable and a potential cancer in the locker room. Jermaine O'Neal was complaining loudly about Artest's behavior. Eight days later, Artest indeed did something that got him plenty of time off, charging into the stands after being hit by a cup of ice thrown by a fan. David Stern gave him the rest of the season to think about his behavior.

The Pacers never seriously considered an Artest trade after the suspension. Given all the controversy, they knew they couldn't get a player of the caliber of Stojakovic given all the controversy.

But once he get back on the court and started playing well, it should've been obvious that this was the right trade.

Corey Maggette, had his foot been healthy, would've been better. Then again, had Maggette's foot been healthy, it's doubtful the Clippers would've offered him.

Ike Diogu and Mickael Pietrus for Artest would've given the Pacers some building blocks. But for some strange reason, Warriors GM Chris Mullin never consented to putting Diogu in the deal.

Lamar Odom would've been the best fit of the group. But the Lakers claim he was never offered while the Pacers probably would've balked at his huge contract anyway.

That left the Pacers going full circle to where the rumors all started -- Peja.

The pros and cons of the deal haven't really changed in 15 months -- which makes you wonder why they didn't pull the trigger earlier and save lots of heartache. Both players have their weaknesses and should be better with a new start.

The Pacers will be a good fit for Stojakovic. They have missed Reggie Miller's sharpshooting. While Peja's looked like a shadow of the player he was during the 2003-04 season, he still brings a lot to the table. He has a work ethic and game that Bird loves. He has the ability to hit clutch shots, and with O'Neal drawing double-teams in the post, Peja should get plenty of wide-open looks on the perimeter.

The Pacers will miss Artest's toughness and defense. There were times in the 2004 playoffs when he, not O'Neal, looked like the Pacers' MVP. However, his unreliability even carried over onto the court in big games -- let's not forget that he melted down a bit in the Eastern Conference Finals, shooting just 31 for 104 from the field.

The Kings aren't going to get a better offer for Stojakovic than Artest. Put aside the off-court issues or his initial reluctance to play in Sacramento for a second. He is one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the league, has emerged as a potent offensive player and has a toughness about him the Kings have sorely lacked the past few seasons.

The Kings will miss Stojakovic's shooting, but they have another player, Mike Bibby, who can stroke it from 3-point range, and Artest isn't a shabby long-range shooter either. Meanwhile, their perimeter defense will take a huge leap forward.

Kings fans probably aren't thrilled with the trade right now given Artest's actions the last 24 hours. However, if he starts playing the way he's capable of playing, the Kings will be a better team and the fans will eventually embrace Artest and all of his wackiness the way Pacers fans did for so long.

Of course, both teams face risks that make this deal much shakier than it was 15 months ago.

Stojakovic's production has fallen dramatically in the past season and a half, after he produced MVP-type numbers in the 2003-04 season. He's an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the chances that Indiana can afford to keep him if he gets a max offer from another team are slim unless this trade is going to be followed by more moves that give them some luxury tax wiggle room.

Artest is a great player, and he's only is just 26 years old and is a great player. But does anyone believe that a move to Sacramento is going to solve all of his problems?

For starters, I think it's safe to say that the Kings aren't his preferred destination. How will he react the first time he's booed by the Kings' fans. Is he mentally tough enough to overcome the fact that he's unlikely to get a warm embrace at the start. In other words, this isn't the clean slate Ronnie both wanted and needed.

If the Kings continue to struggle in the win column, Ronnie won't be happy and Rick Adelman is going to have his hands full. Some will say that this will serve as a wake-up call to Artest -- that he'll focus on being a basketball player for once and dramatically help a team like Sacramento regain their former glory.

But there's just no way to predict what Artest will or won't do in Sacramento, or anywhere else. And no way to predict whether Peja will ever regain the mojo he once had in Sacramento.

In the end, two teams desperate enough to live with a little uncertainty decided to swap one question mark for the other. It's a match made in cyberspace.

-----------------------------

Clash of the stars in Philly

CHRIS BROUSSARD
posted: Sunday, January 22, 2006 | Feedback

Now it all makes sense. Now I understand why Allen Iverson told Philly reporters after Monday's embarrassing 28-point loss to Washington that he was unsure of his role with the 76ers.

A league source told me Chris Webber went off in the Sixers' locker room after the demolition by the Wizards. Frustrated by the team's mediocrity, Webber yelled at coaches and players alike while saying, in essence, he never gets the ball.

I'm not sure if he named Iverson directly, but I'm told it was clear he was calling out A.I., who dominates the rock and is averaging a whopping 25.8 shots a game, second only to King Kobe.

Apparently, the episode made Iverson wonder whether he's leading the Sixers correctly. Why else would he question his role, which has been to hoist and hoist and hoist since he set foot in Philly 10 years ago?

Coach Maurice Cheeks was stunned by A.I.'s assertion, but certainly understood where it was coming from. That's why he spoke for 27 minutes after Wednesday's loss to New Jersey about the importance of "sticking together'' through tough times. On Thursday, Cheeks cancelled practice and instead, in an obvious attempt at bonding, took the team paint-balling.

The irony in this situation is that while A.I. and C-Webb are undeniably productive, they both have major roles in Philly's struggles. The Sixers are 20-20 for one reason and one reason only: They couldn't guard a statue.

They give up 102.9 points a game and allow opponents to shoot 46 percent. In other words, you're always hot, always in the zone when playing the Sixers.

A scout told me this week that Philly's defensive problems begin with A.I. and end with C-Webb. He said the fact that A.I. applies no pressure whatsoever when opposing point guards bring the ball up court allows teams to get into their offense too easily.

Then, C-Webb doesn't front the post, so entry passes down low are pudding. Teams can also pick-and-roll C-Webb to death because of his mobility problems. In the middle of the A.I./C-Webb spectrum is Kyle Korver, who gets toasted nightly by whichever two- or three-man Andre Iguodala's not guarding.

For all of C-Webb's complaints about not getting the ball, the Sixers' offense is not really the problem. Philly is averaging 101.8, second in the league, on 46 percent shooting.

Still, I (and to be honest, most execs around the league) wonder whether you can win big with A.I. dominating the rock so much. There's no doubt he is spectacular, arguably the best little man ever next to Isiah (he's ahead of Tiny in my book and only John Stockton compares).

I said before the season that A.I. probably should let Webber handle it more (because of his passing ability) and drop to about 24 ppg so Iguodala and John Salmons can get more involved. I don't know if that would make the Sixers win more, but a coach told me this week that A.I.'s dominance has stunted the growth of Iguodala, who just about everyone thinks can be a star.

If the Sixers are going to have A.I. continue to play as he does, they will have to go back to the Larry Brown concept to regain contender status. The one year the Sixers were legit was when Brown put a bunch of gritty, hard-nosed defenders, rebounders and spot-up shooters around A.I.

These are the best types of teammates for Iverson. Any player who can really do things on his own offensively will get frustrated next to A.I. because he always has the rock. If you can take it to the rack and create on your own, you won't mesh well with A.I. -- not because of his personality, but because of his game.

That's why none of the so-called "second stars" have panned out in Philly: Keith Van Horn, Toni Kukoc, Glenn Robinson, Larry Hughes and now C-Webb. Granted, those guys were either too young, beyond their prime or better suited to be third or fourth options. But fact is, none of them played to their offensive potential in Philly.

If A.I. pulled back a bit offensively, it would allow him to exert more energy on defense, which would go a long way in solving the Sixers' No. 1 problem.

My guess is that nothing will change in Philly: They'll deny that any rift, or tension, exists between their stars; A.I. will challenge Kobe for the scoring and launches-per-game titles; and the Sixers will finish around .500, seventh in the East.

Then they'll get shellacked by Miami in the first round of the playoffs.


Artest wasn't doing much better. He had already asked head coach Rick Carlisle for some time off during the season for personal issues due to mental and physical fatigue. Turns out Ronnie was spending night and day working on an album that consumed him.

"My body has been aching. I was going to take some time off, and I said it the wrong way," Artest told reporters in November of 2004. "Everything that happened wasn't too negative. I kind of surprised the team by wanting to take some games off, just to get back together, maybe stay home for a little bit, rest a little bit and come back."

To be fair to the Pacers, they would've gladly accepted an Artest-Stojakovic swap at the start of the 2004 season. It was the Kings who had cold feet back then too. And ... given Ronnie's subsequent actions, it's hard to be too harsh with Sacramento's decision to pass.

However, in retrospect, you've got to wonder if pulling the trigger on the deal then would have saved the Pacers, Kings and the rest of the NBA a lot of heartache.

The Kings knew Stojakovic was heading to unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2006. If they didn't trade him before then, the chances that they would lose him for nothing were high.

The Pacers knew that Artest was unreliable and a potential cancer in the locker room. Jermaine O'Neal was complaining loudly about Artest's behavior. Eight days later, Artest indeed did something that got him plenty of time off, charging into the stands after being hit by a cup of ice thrown by a fan. David Stern gave him the rest of the season to think about his behavior.

The Pacers never seriously considered an Artest trade after the suspension. Given all the controversy, they knew they couldn't get a player of the caliber of Stojakovic given all the controversy.

But once he get back on the court and started playing well, it should've been obvious that this was the right trade.

Corey Maggette, had his foot been healthy, would've been better. Then again, had Maggette's foot been healthy, it's doubtful the Clippers would've offered him.

Ike Diogu and Mickael Pietrus for Artest would've given the Pacers some building blocks. But for some strange reason, Warriors GM Chris Mullin never consented to putting Diogu in the deal.

Lamar Odom would've been the best fit of the group. But the Lakers claim he was never offered while the Pacers probably would've balked at his huge contract anyway.

That left the Pacers going full circle to where the rumors all started -- Peja.

The pros and cons of the deal haven't really changed in 15 months -- which makes you wonder why they didn't pull the trigger earlier and save lots of heartache. Both players have their weaknesses and should be better with a new start.

The Pacers will be a good fit for Stojakovic. They have missed Reggie Miller's sharpshooting. While Peja's looked like a shadow of the player he was during the 2003-04 season, he still brings a lot to the table. He has a work ethic and game that Bird loves. He has the ability to hit clutch shots, and with O'Neal drawing double-teams in the post, Peja should get plenty of wide-open looks on the perimeter.

The Pacers will miss Artest's toughness and defense. There were times in the 2004 playoffs when he, not O'Neal, looked like the Pacers' MVP. However, his unreliability even carried over onto the court in big games -- let's not forget that he melted down a bit in the Eastern Conference Finals, shooting just 31 for 104 from the field.

The Kings aren't going to get a better offer for Stojakovic than Artest. Put aside the off-court issues or his initial reluctance to play in Sacramento for a second. He is one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the league, has emerged as a potent offensive player and has a toughness about him the Kings have sorely lacked the past few seasons.

The Kings will miss Stojakovic's shooting, but they have another player, Mike Bibby, who can stroke it from 3-point range, and Artest isn't a shabby long-range shooter either. Meanwhile, their perimeter defense will take a huge leap forward.

Kings fans probably aren't thrilled with the trade right now given Artest's actions the last 24 hours. However, if he starts playing the way he's capable of playing, the Kings will be a better team and the fans will eventually embrace Artest and all of his wackiness the way Pacers fans did for so long.

Of course, both teams face risks that make this deal much shakier than it was 15 months ago.

Stojakovic's production has fallen dramatically in the past season and a half, after he produced MVP-type numbers in the 2003-04 season. He's an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the chances that Indiana can afford to keep him if he gets a max offer from another team are slim unless this trade is going to be followed by more moves that give them some luxury tax wiggle room.

Artest is a great player, and he's only is just 26 years old and is a great player. But does anyone believe that a move to Sacramento is going to solve all of his problems?

For starters, I think it's safe to say that the Kings aren't his preferred destination. How will he react the first time he's booed by the Kings' fans. Is he mentally tough enough to overcome the fact that he's unlikely to get a warm embrace at the start. In other words, this isn't the clean slate Ronnie both wanted and needed.

If the Kings continue to struggle in the win column, Ronnie won't be happy and Rick Adelman is going to have his hands full. Some will say that this will serve as a wake-up call to Artest -- that he'll focus on being a basketball player for once and dramatically help a team like Sacramento regain their former glory.

But there's just no way to predict what Artest will or won't do in Sacramento, or anywhere else. And no way to predict whether Peja will ever regain the mojo he once had in Sacramento.

In the end, two teams desperate enough to live with a little uncertainty decided to swap one question mark for the other. It's a match made in cyberspace.

---------------------

Evilmav2
01-26-2006, 02:27 AM
Which team took the better risk -- Kings or Pacers?

Hollinger
By John Hollinger
ESPN Insider

Finally.

We almost don't even care who went to the Pacers. All we care about is that Ron Artest was finally traded, bringing months of idle speculation to a merciful end and allowing the Pacers, not to mention the rest of the league, to get on with their lives.

What they did get, however, was much less than we originally suspected. When Indiana first put Artest on the market, there was talk that the Pacers wanted a young big man and cap relief, or perhaps an established veteran along with a draft pick, for Artest. Basketballwise, their demands were very reasonable. Artest is one of the best two-way players in the game, is at his physical peak and has a very reasonable contract with 2½ years remaining. Teams should have been falling all over themselves to acquire him.

Instead, Artest's knack for self-immolation scared away all but a few suitors, and those that did step up modified their offers to adjust for the risk Artest presents. As a result, the Pacers had to settle for the Kings' Peja Stojakovic, a deadly shooter who lacks Artest's defensive pedigree, has been hurt much of the year and is a free agent after the season.

When a team makes a trade as risky as this one -- and make no mistake, Sacramento is rolling a gigantic, fuzzy set of dice here -- it's hard to make a definitive claim about who "won." That's especially true when we're dealing with two organizations that have made few miscues in the past decade. What we can do, however, is break it down and see which side has done more to put the odds in its favor. Let's take a look:

Contracts: Artest is signed for 2½ more years, with a player option for 2008-09, at an average of $7.5 million for the next two years and $8.5 million for the option year. By NBA standards, he's underpaid. The contract is a blessing if Artest behaves himself, and a curse if he talks and fights his way off another roster. No other team would be willing to take a chance on him if he were to fail in Sacto, meaning the Kings would have to eat the last two years of the deal.

Because of the Kings' cap situation, the deal effectively was their offseason for 2006. With Artest's contract replacing Peja's expiring deal, the Kings are close to the luxury tax threshold even with Bonzi Wells' deal coming off the books. So unless the salary cap rises several million in the offseason (not bloody likely, judging by the crowds I've seen), Sacramento might not be in a position to use its midlevel exception. From the Kings' perspective, Artest was way better than any free agent the Kings could have obtained over the summer, so it made sense to deal now.

From Indiana's side, the big question is what its plans are regarding Stojakovic, and we can't know without first learning what the Pacers' plans are regarding the luxury tax. Indiana potentially could skirt the tax next season if it doesn't re-sign Stojakovic and the league grants the team cap relief for injured forward Jonathan Bender. However, it probably wouldn't sit well with Pacers fans to know their team essentially traded an All-Star forward for cap relief. That's why it seems likely Indy will look to either re-sign Peja or sign-and-trade him somewhere else for a piece that fits better.

Of course, there's one final piece to this puzzle -- what if Stojakovic doesn't opt out? The way his season has gone, that possibility can't be completely ruled out, in which case he'd play for Indiana next year while drawing a salary of $8.3 million.

Chemistry: Questions abound about how both players will fit into their new environments. Artest played with the Kings' Brad Miller in Indiana, but that was a very different system. Sacramento's offense is based on passing, cutting and shooting, with most plays originating from the high post. That's a far cry from Artest's preferred style of slowly backing down an opponent from the wing, and based on the comments he made about the Pacers' attack, it doesn't seem as though he'll meekly submit to Rick Adelman's will on this.

Obviously, the major speculation for Artest is off the court. The Kings have to be wondering whether he'll spend half his time suspended or creating various other distractions, and keeping him under control will be the biggest challenge of Adelman's coaching career. Sacramento already has one loose cannon in the locker room in Wells (recently honored as one of the 10 most hated athletes), and one can only shudder at the thought of what he and Artest might wreak together. Thankfully, Wells' impending free agency means they'll have only half a season together.

Stojakovic is a better fit with Indiana, although there are still question marks. The Pacers used Artest as their defensive stopper and would have liked to acquire a player to step into that role; clearly Peja doesn't qualify. As a result, Stephen Jackson and Fred Jones will have to continue to take on the tough defensive assignments. However, Peja should benefit from the double-teams Jermaine O'Neal gets in the post and the passing skills of Indiana's guards, and his new team's plodding style probably fits him better than Sacramento's footloose approach at this point in his career. He also has a former teammate, Scot Pollard, to show him the ropes and he has never been thought of as a problem in the locker room.

Talent: Two years ago, this would have been a push. Today, it's Artest by a mile. Stojakovic has dropped off badly the past two seasons, as bouts with foot and back problems have slowed him to a crawl. At his best, Peja is a devastating shooter who moves extremely well without the ball and is sneaky fast in transition, but he hasn't been at his best in some time. This season, he's down to a miserable 40.3 percent from the field, and his 13.68 PER is way below his career norm. Still, if he can get healthy, he offers an enticing package. His offense would be a shot in the arm for a Pacers team that has been in desperate need of another scorer ever since Artest mouthed his way off the team.

As for Artest, he offers two things the Kings have in short supply: A defensive stopper and an offensive player who can get his own shot. One reason the Kings have become so dependent on their passing and cutting is because so few of their players can create off the dribble; Artest immediately changes that. But his biggest impact will come at the defensive end, where he can take over Doug Christie's vacated role as the defensive stopper and provide a much-needed physical presence for one of the league's softest teams.

Team Needs: Here's why winning and losing in trades is so subjective: It partly depends on where a team is now and where it's headed. Indiana, for instance, has a clear mandate to win now. The Pacers view themselves as Eastern Conference title contenders, and since they're going to be paying $80 million in salary this year, they'd darn well better be.

That's why acquiring a player like Stojakovic was more enticing for the Pacers than picking up Nene from the Nuggets or Corey Maggette from the Clippers. Peja can help them this year, and if things work out right, he'll help them in the one area where they're hurting the most -- offense. Indiana needed a player who would at least give it a chance to compete with Detroit and Miami, and Peja gives the team that chance.

On the other hand, Stojakovic's tenure could end up being very short, and he's not exactly in top shape at the moment. I don't think the Pacers were unrealistic about their contender status in the East -- if Chauncey Billups pops a hammy, it's up for grabs -- but I do wonder how much Peja can do to improve their lot, this year or next.

The Kings, on the other hand, clearly are a team in transition. In the last 18 months, the old core of Webber, Stojakovic, Christie, Vlade Divac and Bobby Jackson has been scattered to the corners of the earth, leaving Mike Bibby as the lone holdover. Yet, at 17-23, the Kings are only three games out of the final playoff spot, and with Artest's arrival and Shareef Abdur-Rahim's return, it's no longer outlandish to suggest they could grab a spot.

In fact, it's a pretty astounding deal if you look at it from the Sacramento side. If Artest acts like an idiot and alienates everyone, the team will have to rebuild -- but since the Kings were 17-24 without much young talent in the pipeline, they would have had to do that anyway. By adding Artest, Sacramento effectively gives itself a 30-month window to try to win something with a Bibby/Artest/Abdur-Rahim/Miller core. Given the reasonable nature of Artest's contract, this is about as risk-free as a risk can get. Even if it fails, the Kings haven't lost any ground.

That's why when it comes down to it, Sacramento got the better end of this deal. The Western team essentially waited out the Pacers to get a star-caliber talent for a player they probably were going to lose anyway. This deal involves calculated risks by both sides, and the range of possible outcomes is all over the map. But in terms of probability, you have to like the odds better from Sacramento's end than from Indiana's.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. His book "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06" is available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books. To e-mail him, click here.
------------------------

Men in tights

DARREN ROVELL
posted: Wednesday, January 25, 2006 | Feedback

Over the past couple weeks, I've noticed more NBA players wearing tights. First it was Kobe. Then Michael Redd, and then LeBron? All of them are Nike-sponsored athletes and they're all wearing this thing called the Nike Pro Tight, which is somehow selling for $35.

Here are the selling points:

Le Bron James

• "Dri-FIT fabrication wicks moisture away from your body to keep you dry" (Um, are your legs really sweating that much?)

• "Flat-seam construction eliminates chafing" (All I know is that chafing occurs at about Mile 17 in a marathon, but in your average basketball game?)

• "Drawcord at waist makes for a perfect fit" (You still haven't convinced me here, and plenty of things that look better than this have a drawcord.)

LeBron first wore the black tights on Saturday and scored 51 points, but then Tuesday night he came out in white tights. I don't know how many points he scored (I know I can look it up) because he just looked so ridiculous. At one point his feet were apart and he was standing around so it looked like he was doing a plié (think ballet). As a kid, I liked the idea of being in a class with lots of girls, so tights were pretty much the reason I would never, ever entertain ballet class. Now NBA players are sporting them?

So what's LeBron's take? (Besides the fact that he gets paid more than $10 million a year to try these things out for Nike?) "I'm 2-0 with them," James said after the game Tuesday night. "I'm wearing them to keep warm so when I go to the bench, it [his sore left knee] doesn't stiffen up."

I'm still having trouble figuring out exactly how good these things can possibly be. For a greater history of these tights, check out this column from our Uni Watch writer, Paul Lukas.

Adibok

The $3.8 billion Adidas-Reebok merger is moving along. On Tuesday, the European Commission concluded that the deal didn't threaten competition because the two companies had entirely separate marketing philosophies and products. On Wednesday, Reebok shareholders approved the deal.

Under the terms of the agreement announced on Aug. 3, 2005, Reebok shareholders will receive $59 per share in cash upon the close of the transaction.

Sources tell me that, as of now, the NFL and the NBA will still fall under the Reebok brand, though changes could be made in the near future. There are rumors in Europe that soccer teams that have deals with Reebok, including Liverpool, are likely to be switched to adidas because that is the more popular brand over there.

Nike's annual sales total $14 billion, while adidas grosses $8 billion and Reebok sells $4 billion worth of products.

Australian Open Biz Notes

It has been a great run for adidas. The women's Cinderella story was Martina Hingis, who finally lost in the quarterfinals to Kim Clijsters. Hingis is sponsored by adidas, which must be paying her peanuts since she wasn't worth much before this tournament. Adidas also sponsors Marcos Baghdatis, who will have a shot of playing in the finals if he can get by David Nalbandian. It's a good pickup for the brand, especially given that Baghdatis was wearing the swoosh last year. Baghdatis came into the tournament ranked No. 54 in the world. From a marketing standpoint, his girlfriend, Camille Neviere, is a nice added bonus.

More Than A Survivor

"Survivor" winner Rupert Boneham, who won $1 million on the TV show in 2004, has a new business. It's called RFB Enterprises and its business is in promotion, real estate and production companies. According to the Indianapolis Star, Boneham's production company, Tournament Towers, has secured a deal to build the walkways, connections and floors of tents for Super Bowl vendors in Detroit.

Evilmav2
01-26-2006, 02:28 AM
Bucks aren't as good as standings indicate

By John Hollinger
ESPN Insider

It's funny how a single play can be so indicative of a season. On Nov. 12, Milwaukee's Maurice Williams heaved up a 3-pointer at the buzzer and drew nothing but net, handing the Bucks a shocking 103-102 win over Indiana after the Bucks had trailed by 14 points in the fourth quarter.

That game symbolized what has been a trend for both teams, though in opposite directions: the knack (or lack thereof) of winning close games. Milwaukee is a ridiculous 13-1 in games decided by five or fewer points this season, keeping the Bucks afloat in the playoff race and sending the folks at Elias scurrying toward the microfilm room. Meanwhile, Indy is only 4-8 in such contests. By contrast, the Pacers are 14-9 when the game is decided by double digits.

Ask the Bucks, and they'll tell you that confidence is the difference. "Being in those situations so many times gives you so much confidence," said the team's leading scorer, Michael Redd. "It started with our game against Philadelphia, we were in a close game and pulled it out [Bucks won 117-108 in overtime in their opener], and we kind of rode that wave through the season. The more times you do it, the more confidence you get."

Whether it's confidence or something else, it's helping the Bucks in the standings quite a bit. Through Tuesday, the Bucks are 21-19, half a game ahead of the Pacers. That might give you the impression the two teams are roughly of the same quality, perhaps even that Milwaukee is better.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth, as the Pacers amply showed in a 112-88 demolition of Milwaukee during the teams' rematch two weeks ago. Indiana, despite standing just a game over .500 at the midway point of the year, is one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. And Milwaukee, despite seemingly heading toward a playoff season, is actually no better than many clubs who appear destined for the lottery.

The latter conclusion might shock a lot of people, especially those on the shores of Lake Michigan, so let me explain my reasoning. It all starts with a tool I call Expected Wins. Expected Wins measures how many games a team can expect to win based on how many points it scores and how many it allows. It works off the "Pythagorean Projection" developed by baseball researcher Bill James (James, in turn, named it after a little-used Greek big man named Pythagoras who ran his own version of the triangle offense).

It turns out the relationship in basketball is similar to the one in baseball (Warning: Math approaching. If you require evasive action, go down a paragraph). To determine a team's expected winning percentage, take the points scored and raise them to the 16.5 power (i.e., multiply it by itself 16.5 times). That's your numerator. Then, in the denominator, raise the team's points scored to the 16.5 power, raise the points allowed to the 16.5 power, then add those two products. Finally, to convert from an expected winning percentage to Expected Wins, multiply by the team's games played.

Expected Wins = Games played * [Points16.5 / (Points16.5 + Points allowed16.5)]

Looking at Expected Wins, it's amazing how different the Central Division race looks. I've posted two sets of standings below. The first is the real standings through Sunday's games; the second is the standings using Expected Wins. As you can see, Indiana and Milwaukee diverge quite a bit.

The Pacers, who are behind the Bucks in the real standings, are comfortably ahead in Expected Wins. And using Expected Wins, the Bucks fall behind Chicago into the bottom of the Central Division. In fact, they don't only slip behind Chicago -- as the Expected Wins standings show -- they also take a back seat to Philadephia, Utah, New Orleans, Minnesota, Golden State, Washington, Orlando, Sacramento and Boston.

Yes, Boston. Overall, Milwaukee, with the league's 12th-best winning percentage, is just 23rd in Expected Wins, just a whisker ahead of Houston and Toronto.

Indiana, on the other hand, passes the Bucks, Nets, and Clippers once we look at Expected Wins, and nearly catches up to Cleveland and Miami. Throw in the fact that 23 of the Pacers' 41 games have been on the road, and nearly half have been against the powerful Western Conference, and it adds legitimacy to their claim of being an Eastern Conference contender even without Ron Artest.

I know what you're thinking: "But the good teams are the ones that win the close games." Actually, that isn't true -- the lucky teams win the close games. The good teams win by 20 and spend the final minutes cheering on little-used teammate Darko.

We know this for a couple of reasons. First, Expected Wins are a better predictor of future results than real win-loss records. Look at a few recent playoff series, for example. We'll start with the 2004 Pistons. They won 54 games in the regular season, the Pacers 61 and the Lakers 56. But in terms of Expected Wins, Detroit won 62, compared with Indy's 61 and Los Angeles' 54. Thus, their wins in the final two series were much less of a surprise than the standings indicated.

Similarly, Expected Wins proved a much better predictor than real wins in last season's Western Conference finals. The Suns had 62 Expected Wins, matching their real win total. The Spurs won only 59 games but had a league-best 66 Expected Wins. Viewed that way, San Antonio's five-game stampede wasn't such a shock.

There's another way we know the difference between real wins and Expected Wins comes from luck rather than skill: The same teams don't exceed their Expected Wins total from year to year, not even when their personnel is unchanged. If teams really "knew how to win close games," we'd expect them to repeat the feat from year to year. Instead, a team like Detroit can keep the same personnel for three straight seasons, but go from underperforming their Expected Wins total in 2003-04 to matching it in 2004-05 to greatly exceeding it this year; or in New Jersey's case, do the exact opposite between 2001-02 and 2003-04. In fact, no team has been able to exceed its Expected Wins consistently for a period of years. Thus, we're left to conclude that doing so is mostly luck.

Especially since we can't pinpoint one reason why the Bucks have fared so well in close games this year. "It hasn't been one thing," coach Terry Stotts said. "Sometimes it's timely shooting, timely defensive plays. Maybe a little bit of luck was involved, but I believe you make a lot of your own luck ... I look at it as a positive that you win games. Certainly they could have gone either way."

So unless you think the Bucks own some magic close-game elixir that will enable them to go 26-2 in those games this season, get ready for their results to mirror their Expected Wins record more closely. Although Bucks fans might take offense, they should just be glad those 13 wins in close games will be part of their record the rest of the way. If the Bucks go through their final 42 games playing like the 15-25 team Expected Wins says they are, they'll end up with 37 wins -- which might be enough to squeeze out a playoff berth in the perennially pathetic East. Had they gone a more reasonable 7-7 in those games, they'd be staring at 31 wins -- a one-game improvement on the year before.

Here's another reason the Bucks should care about Expected Wins. With the trade deadline looming, Expected Wins provides important information for Milwaukee's brass. The Bucks might look at the standings and think they're one player away from being a real threat in the East, but the standings are effectively lying to them. As a result, the Bucks shouldn't be making short-term moves that will cost them young players or draft picks because they're still among the league's weaker teams.

Similarly, Indiana is in a much stronger position than we might have thought. Looking at Expected Wins, it doesn't seem so unreasonable that the Pacers want immediate help in return for Artest instead of draft picks or developing players. Should injuries befall the Pistons, one could argue Indiana would be the one team most likely to benefit and end up winning a weakened Eastern Conference.

In sum, Expected Wins can tell us what the standings won't: that the Pacers are for real and the Bucks a mirage. Lady Luck has masked those differences so far, but there's no reason to expect Milwaukee's good fortune -- or Indiana's bad luck -- to continue.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. His book "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06" is available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books. To e-mail him, click here.

MavKikiNYC
02-01-2006, 10:51 AM
Update request.

Male30Dan
02-01-2006, 11:05 AM
Bucks aren't as good as standings indicate

By John Hollinger
ESPN Insider

It's funny how a single play can be so indicative of a season. On Nov. 12, Milwaukee's Maurice Williams heaved up a 3-pointer at the buzzer and drew nothing but net, handing the Bucks a shocking 103-102 win over Indiana after the Bucks had trailed by 14 points in the fourth quarter.

That game symbolized what has been a trend for both teams, though in opposite directions: the knack (or lack thereof) of winning close games. Milwaukee is a ridiculous 13-1 in games decided by five or fewer points this season, keeping the Bucks afloat in the playoff race and sending the folks at Elias scurrying toward the microfilm room. Meanwhile, Indy is only 4-8 in such contests. By contrast, the Pacers are 14-9 when the game is decided by double digits.

Ask the Bucks, and they'll tell you that confidence is the difference. "Being in those situations so many times gives you so much confidence," said the team's leading scorer, Michael Redd. "It started with our game against Philadelphia, we were in a close game and pulled it out [Bucks won 117-108 in overtime in their opener], and we kind of rode that wave through the season. The more times you do it, the more confidence you get."

Whether it's confidence or something else, it's helping the Bucks in the standings quite a bit. Through Tuesday, the Bucks are 21-19, half a game ahead of the Pacers. That might give you the impression the two teams are roughly of the same quality, perhaps even that Milwaukee is better.

Yet nothing could be further from the truth, as the Pacers amply showed in a 112-88 demolition of Milwaukee during the teams' rematch two weeks ago. Indiana, despite standing just a game over .500 at the midway point of the year, is one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. And Milwaukee, despite seemingly heading toward a playoff season, is actually no better than many clubs who appear destined for the lottery.

The latter conclusion might shock a lot of people, especially those on the shores of Lake Michigan, so let me explain my reasoning. It all starts with a tool I call Expected Wins. Expected Wins measures how many games a team can expect to win based on how many points it scores and how many it allows. It works off the "Pythagorean Projection" developed by baseball researcher Bill James (James, in turn, named it after a little-used Greek big man named Pythagoras who ran his own version of the triangle offense).

It turns out the relationship in basketball is similar to the one in baseball (Warning: Math approaching. If you require evasive action, go down a paragraph). To determine a team's expected winning percentage, take the points scored and raise them to the 16.5 power (i.e., multiply it by itself 16.5 times). That's your numerator. Then, in the denominator, raise the team's points scored to the 16.5 power, raise the points allowed to the 16.5 power, then add those two products. Finally, to convert from an expected winning percentage to Expected Wins, multiply by the team's games played.

Expected Wins = Games played * [Points16.5 / (Points16.5 + Points allowed16.5)]

Looking at Expected Wins, it's amazing how different the Central Division race looks. I've posted two sets of standings below. The first is the real standings through Sunday's games; the second is the standings using Expected Wins. As you can see, Indiana and Milwaukee diverge quite a bit.

The Pacers, who are behind the Bucks in the real standings, are comfortably ahead in Expected Wins. And using Expected Wins, the Bucks fall behind Chicago into the bottom of the Central Division. In fact, they don't only slip behind Chicago -- as the Expected Wins standings show -- they also take a back seat to Philadephia, Utah, New Orleans, Minnesota, Golden State, Washington, Orlando, Sacramento and Boston.

Yes, Boston. Overall, Milwaukee, with the league's 12th-best winning percentage, is just 23rd in Expected Wins, just a whisker ahead of Houston and Toronto.

Indiana, on the other hand, passes the Bucks, Nets, and Clippers once we look at Expected Wins, and nearly catches up to Cleveland and Miami. Throw in the fact that 23 of the Pacers' 41 games have been on the road, and nearly half have been against the powerful Western Conference, and it adds legitimacy to their claim of being an Eastern Conference contender even without Ron Artest.

I know what you're thinking: "But the good teams are the ones that win the close games." Actually, that isn't true -- the lucky teams win the close games. The good teams win by 20 and spend the final minutes cheering on little-used teammate Darko.

We know this for a couple of reasons. First, Expected Wins are a better predictor of future results than real win-loss records. Look at a few recent playoff series, for example. We'll start with the 2004 Pistons. They won 54 games in the regular season, the Pacers 61 and the Lakers 56. But in terms of Expected Wins, Detroit won 62, compared with Indy's 61 and Los Angeles' 54. Thus, their wins in the final two series were much less of a surprise than the standings indicated.

Similarly, Expected Wins proved a much better predictor than real wins in last season's Western Conference finals. The Suns had 62 Expected Wins, matching their real win total. The Spurs won only 59 games but had a league-best 66 Expected Wins. Viewed that way, San Antonio's five-game stampede wasn't such a shock.

There's another way we know the difference between real wins and Expected Wins comes from luck rather than skill: The same teams don't exceed their Expected Wins total from year to year, not even when their personnel is unchanged. If teams really "knew how to win close games," we'd expect them to repeat the feat from year to year. Instead, a team like Detroit can keep the same personnel for three straight seasons, but go from underperforming their Expected Wins total in 2003-04 to matching it in 2004-05 to greatly exceeding it this year; or in New Jersey's case, do the exact opposite between 2001-02 and 2003-04. In fact, no team has been able to exceed its Expected Wins consistently for a period of years. Thus, we're left to conclude that doing so is mostly luck.

Especially since we can't pinpoint one reason why the Bucks have fared so well in close games this year. "It hasn't been one thing," coach Terry Stotts said. "Sometimes it's timely shooting, timely defensive plays. Maybe a little bit of luck was involved, but I believe you make a lot of your own luck ... I look at it as a positive that you win games. Certainly they could have gone either way."

So unless you think the Bucks own some magic close-game elixir that will enable them to go 26-2 in those games this season, get ready for their results to mirror their Expected Wins record more closely. Although Bucks fans might take offense, they should just be glad those 13 wins in close games will be part of their record the rest of the way. If the Bucks go through their final 42 games playing like the 15-25 team Expected Wins says they are, they'll end up with 37 wins -- which might be enough to squeeze out a playoff berth in the perennially pathetic East. Had they gone a more reasonable 7-7 in those games, they'd be staring at 31 wins -- a one-game improvement on the year before.

Here's another reason the Bucks should care about Expected Wins. With the trade deadline looming, Expected Wins provides important information for Milwaukee's brass. The Bucks might look at the standings and think they're one player away from being a real threat in the East, but the standings are effectively lying to them. As a result, the Bucks shouldn't be making short-term moves that will cost them young players or draft picks because they're still among the league's weaker teams.

Similarly, Indiana is in a much stronger position than we might have thought. Looking at Expected Wins, it doesn't seem so unreasonable that the Pacers want immediate help in return for Artest instead of draft picks or developing players. Should injuries befall the Pistons, one could argue Indiana would be the one team most likely to benefit and end up winning a weakened Eastern Conference.

In sum, Expected Wins can tell us what the standings won't: that the Pacers are for real and the Bucks a mirage. Lady Luck has masked those differences so far, but there's no reason to expect Milwaukee's good fortune -- or Indiana's bad luck -- to continue.

John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. His book "Pro Basketball Forecast: 2005-06" is available at Amazon.com and Potomac Books. To e-mail him, click here.

I wonder how many "EXPECTED WINS" we were supposed to have in 03 when many called us overrated and said we played above our abilities . Were we getting wins that we shouldn't based on this standard, or was the "OVERRATED" tag misused?

Five-ofan
02-01-2006, 11:14 AM
Why raise it to the 16.5 power??? that seems like a really random number.