Friday, June 29, 2007

Nichols Drafted by Portland

Congratulations to Demetris Nichols who was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2007 NBA draft by the Portland Trailblazers. Nichols is the 50th Syracuse player drafted by the NBA, and hopefully he’ll be the 34th former Orangemen to play in the NBA.

The Trailblazers would have been interesting for Nichols. On one hand, it was a team with a lot of young talent, a situation that may have made it difficult for him to get the opportunities he would need to grow. It’s also a team with a very bright future. On the other hand, the Portland market is probably more suited to a player with Nichols character, a player who is somewhat shy and shuns the spotlight.

Nichols fortunes took a turn last night however, as the Trailblazers traded him to the New York Knicks for the Knicks’ 2008 2nd round pick. There will be more opportunities for Nichols in New York (I would think), and the Knicks are much closer to family, friends and SU fans. On the other hand, New York isn’t the kindest market to players who have low key personalities, so we’ll see.

I’ve always thought that Nichols has tremendous upside in the NBA. He has the right NBA style body (tall, athletic, quick) and a very good shooting touch. He needs to continue to improve his game as he did at Syracuse, but his NBA career is pretty much going to be his to define. I could see him eventually being a star player, or a guy with barely a taste of NBA action.

From a historical perspective getting out of Portland may have been a good thing for Nichols. Two former Orangemen have been drafted by the Trailblazers, and both had very short careers. Bill Smith was drafted in the 3rd round of the 1971 NBA draft (the 42nd pick overall), and Dave Johnson in the 1st round of the 1992 draft (the 26th pick overall). Smith would play 30 games in the NBA, and Johnson 59 (by the way, how mundane is it that the previous two Orangemen drafted by Portland had names so common as Bill Smith and Dave Johnson. If Mike Jones had stayed at Syracuse he could have been the trifecta in 2010).

The New York Knicks haven’t been much kinder to former Orangemen. Howard Triche and Gary Clark were both drafted by the Knicks but failed to play in the NBA. John Wallace was a 1st round pick in 1996 (18th pick overall); he’d have a seven year career in the NBA, but no where near the success a 1st round pick should have.

Though there was some hope that Darryl Watkins would get drafted, it was not a surprise he was not. He’s definitely a project in the NBA, and I think not getting drafted will benefit him. Now Watkins and his agent can pick the right opportunity for him as a rookie free agent. He may need to spend some time in Europe or the NBDL, but I could see 'Mookie' making the NBA someday as a serviceable backup player.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Iverson Effect

I believe there are often times when a player is so gifted athletically that fans (and experts) are so amazed by the great plays that they overlook the obvious shortcomings of the player. Even more so, I would contend that often the player is put into a position to be a late game hero because of his own failure to deliver during the rest of the game. This is what I call the “Iverson Effect”.

Allen Iverson is no doubt a talented basketball player. He has a reputation throughout his career of being a great clutch player, a guy who carries the team in the fourth quarter to amazing come-from-behind victories.

I would contend, however, that he is the reason his team is behind in the fourth quarter. Iverson has historically been a selfish player, a shoot first, pass second guard (not my favorite type). I'll give two examples from the 1999-2000 season. On December 23rd, 1999 in a 94-99 loss against the New Jersey Nets, Iverson, the starting point guard played 47 minutes, scoring 42 points. He had NO assists. He scored 42 points by chucking the ball up 26 times (making 11 baskets) and going to the free throw line 20 times and making 17 freebies. Nobody on the 76ers shot particularly well that day, but 47 minutes, and not one cheap assist?

Later that same season on March 29th, Iverson played the whole game in an 84-98 loss to the Utah Jazz. Iverson was 7-21 from the floor, with only four trips to the charity stripe, and a ho-hum 18 points. Again he had 0 assists. This time, his teammates were shooting sharp. Toni Kukoc was 6-12, Tyrone Hill 4-8, Aaron McKie 3-6 and Matt Geiger 6-9. Not one of those guys was the beneficiary of an assisted basket by Iverson. They are all shooting well and he throws up 21 shots, bricking 14 of them. He could’ve had 5-8 easy assists by passing the ball to the hot hand.

Iverson isn't even a great shooter. For his career he is only 42% from the floor. He good at driving the lane and drawing fouls, but even with all that he's still only 42%. He’s gotten better from the floor the past few seasons, and has learned to bring his teammates into the game. But he was already a legend by that point in time. And I’m referring to the stuff that made him a legend.

Let’s take into hand his reputation for being a clutch 4th quarter player, and let’s assume its true (I have no statistical evidence to confirm nor deny it). Let’s say that he does play better in the last 12 minutes when the game is on the line, and he shoots 50% in that quarter (a big assumption, but it will help illustrate a point). If Iverson truly is that good in the fourth quarter, which is what his supporters would like to believe, then he’s even worse in the first three quarters than the statistics earlier supported. For if he’s a 42% career field goal shooter, and he hits 50% in the clutch fourth quarter, then statistically, he must be shooting under 40% for the rest of the game; possibly well under.

Whereas, if Iverson were to play solid in the first three quarters, the 76’ers would likely have been in the lead in the fourth quarter and had no need for his late game heroics. Its because he missed the shots earlier in the game and failed to get his teammates involved, that late in the game he has no choice but to try to make it up.

And here’s where the legends are made. Let’s say you are trailing by 10 points in the fourth quarter and you take 10 shots. If you are cold, and make only 3 out of 10 baskets, your team will never really be in it down the stretch, and so there won’t be any close moments for you to blow. If you’re somewhat hot, and you make 5 out of 10 baskets, now you’ve helped bring your team back… even if you still lose. People remember, “yeah, the 76’ers lost, but Iverson helped bring them back”, completely forgetting the 1-9 effort in this first 3 quarters (for example). And if you’re really lucky, and go 7-10 or 8-10, then you overcome that big deficit single handedly, and a legend is born.

The Iverson effect is essentially, a player puts himself into the situation to be the star of a game because of his inability to play well earlier in the game. I think this happens with several ‘superstars’ out there in many different sports. The player can’t stay focused for the whole 9 innings or the whole four quarters or 3 periods. So they hang around, playing mediocre, and give it their best shot late in the game.

It’s really the opposite of the “ARod Effect”. The ARod Effect would be a player who puts up great stats but has a reputation for failing in the clutch. ARod’s critics would say he hits an ‘empty’ 50 home runs and meaningless 140 rbis. Perhaps he does struggle in some close moments; but I would contend that the number of close moments is greatly reduced because he played so well during the rest of the game. Because ARod hit that 3 run home run in the ‘meaningless third inning’, the Yankees were leading by 5 in the 8th inning and didn’t need any heroics. Or because he hit that ‘meaningless 2 run homer in the first inning’, the Yankees were down by only one run late in the game… and he strikes out at that point making himself the goat.

I’ll admit I’m not Iverson fan. He possesses many characteristics I dislike in modern athletes. A criminal background, a lot of hype, self centered style of play, more athleticism then basketball skill. He was everything John Thompson didn’t like in a guard, but played for the Hoyas, in my opinion, because of a political statement by Mr. Thompson.

Look, Allen Iverson is a very good player, with great athletic ability in a 6’0” frame. And in the past few years, he’s learned to involve his teammates. But if a guy in my church basketball league put up 27 shots in a night and made only 11, and did that on a regular basis, we’d all have a simple name for him: he’s a ‘chucker’. You wrap that chucker up in an athletic body, and suddenly he’s labeled a star. Accomplishes the same thing… but gets more recognition doing it. In my book, if you put up 25+ shots in a game, you had better score 30+ points. Scoring 20 points on 10-14 shooting is impressive; scoring 20 points on 10-30 shooting isn’t.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

US Open 2007 - Truth in Advertising

Allow me a minor diversion from Syracuse basketball.

Tiger, Phil, Vijay and others prepare to tee off this weekend for the 107th US Open on one of the country's toughest golf courses in Oakmont, PA according to the official US Open site. However, that statement isn't quite true.

The US Open is being played at the Oakmont Country Club, a record 8th time for a site to host the open. The Oakmont Country Club, however, is not located in the beautiful village of Oakmont. Only a maintenance shed on a corner of the property is located in Oakmont.

The club is instead located in Plum Borough, PA. Plum is the second largest borough (in terms of land space) in the state of Pennsylvania with 28.6 square miles, and a population of 27,940 (2000 US Census). It's best described as a rural suburb, on the outskirts of the Pittsburgh suburban area. It is also the home of the OrangeHoops blog, and thus the compulsion by me to set the facts straight.

Now to be fair, the area of Plum where the Oakmont Country Club is located is mostly small housing and open fields. The business section of Plum, what little there is, is miles away from the club location. Whereas the village of Oakmont is literally right next store, and the large beautiful homes of Oakmont decorate both sides of Hulton Road as you go down into the village. In fact, residents of Plum who live in that area, refer to themselves as living in "East Oakmont", though they are indeed Plum residents.

So Plum won't get the notoriety this week (except in this blog). But the residence, such as myself, can take some solace in having a nice bump in the tax revenue for the borough over the next week.

Good luck to all the players in this week's tournament. And as history shows, it will definitely be a tough battle.

Tailgating and Visting the Syracuse Area

If you're looking to visit the Syracuse area, and in particular are looking to attend a Syracuse football or basketball game, I would suggest visiting the blog of TexanMark. He has done an outstanding job of detailing the campus, city and regional area, and gives a large amount of information that will help those unfamiliar with the area, and many helfpul hints.

He's put together similar guides for other Big East venues, so give those a shot too if you're going there. If he's put together the same vim and vigor for those as he did for Syracuse, you should be in good shape.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Details of the Poll

The results for the poll for the Greatest Syracuse Orangemen keep coming in; we're now up to 158 voters. The overall results really haven't changed (still the same top 5), and the same candidates in the top 10, though the lower half have shifted around. There does seem to be an individual trying to stuff the ballot box for Jimmy Lee, which I find amusing.

If you want to see how individuals are doing in the polling, you can click on their name, and it will tell you how many first-through-tenth place votes they have.

Dave Bing has by far the most number one votes, which pleasantly suprises me. His breakdown of top four votes goes a follows: 77 first place, 28 second place, 8 third place, and 4 fourth place

Looking at the remainder of the top 5, this is how they break out:

  • Carmelo Anthony 36 first, 40 second, 15 third, 12 fourth
  • Derrick Coleman 8-33-36-22
  • Pearl Washington 3-19-23-24
  • Sherman Douglas 1-7-19-20

Thanks for all the continued interest.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Orangefan - Goodbye

Sadly, Orangefan has decided to discontinue his blog after 22 months of service. He's been a wealth of information on Syracuse recruiting, putting together a nice comprehensive coverage on a routine basis, and frankly covering an important aspect of Syracuse basketball that I've admittedly had little interest in doing myself. I've found him to be a good source of filtering out the rumors and putting together a good look at not only who the Orange are really looking at, but how good they could be.

The blog business does take a lot of time, both on the writing end and on the information gathering. I'd like to wish him well as he moves on with more important things. As we all know, Syracuse basketball is a great diversion, but it is just that.

If you enjoy his stuff, please make sure to drop him a goodbye.

Thanks Orangefan.