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Just The Sports: 2007-02-25

Just The Sports

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Celebration Satire

With the release of Young Werdsmith's single, "Pick Yo Nose (In The Club)," rap music has yet another song that professional athletes and others who view rap songs as directions in an etiquette instruction manual can act out without thought to how silly they look. The song, which chorus states "Pick yo nose in the club/While you sippin' on that bub/Pick yo nose like an eight year old/Go on and dig for that gold," has already caught on and people are picking their noses in the country's hottest clubs.

"The idea for this song just hit me one day," Young Werdsmith said, while recounting how he was inspired to write the lyrics that have already sparked talk of a Source Hip-Hop Award in his future. "I was just up in the club and everyone was being all stiff and stuffy so I said to myself that what would really loosen everybody up was if we all started picking our noses. So I did what every other rapper does when he wants people to do something foolish in public. I wrote a song about it and turned it into a video."

Adam "Pac-Man" Jones, who is the NFL leader in imitating ridiculous rap songs, proclaims that as soon as he can get into another club to wreak more havoc, it will not even be five minutes before he is picking his nose and flicking his boogers.

"The best thing about "Pick Yo Nose (In The Club)" is that if I copy what Young Werdsmith does in his video, it shouldn't lead to a stripper being punched about the head and a bouncer being shot and paralyzed," Jones said. "Then again, I said the same thing right before I made it rain and look how that turned out. As long as the club workers have seen the video, then we good."

In addition to motivating people to pick their noses in clubs, Werdsmith's musical effort will no doubt lead to football players celebrating routine plays by pretending to pick their noses through their helmets.

"Most definitely, I'll be picking my nose after I make a sack," New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who was one of the many Giants defensive players who mimed a jump shot after making a play because rapper Jim Jones did it in his "We Fly High" video, promised. "Picking noses may not have anything to do with football, but neither did jump shots and that never stopped us. Thank goodness for rap songs or I would have no idea how to celebrate on the football field or what to do with my hands in the club."


Friday, March 02, 2007

Better Bulls

In my opinion, not enough people can criticize the Chicago Bulls's off-season signing of Ben Wallace, although the criticisms are coming after the fact of his uninspiring play when I called it a poor move from the very beginning; check out the archives if you do not believe me. Still, despite Wallace's failings, the Bulls have improved defensively this season over what they were doing sixty-one games into the 2005-06 season.

Last year through sixty-one games, the Bulls allowed their opponents to score 104.6 points per 100 possessions; this year, the Bulls are much stingier with how many points they give up to their opponents, only allowing 100.3 points per 100 possessions. They have managed this improvement mainly through increasing the number of turnovers forced per possession (.151 to .176) and decreasing the number of free throws their competitors make per contest (23.2 to 20.0).

The thing to remember is that just because the Bulls have improved defensively this season with Ben Wallace on the roster does not mean he is necessarily the cause of the upgraded Bulls defense. His arrival simply happens to coincide nicely with the phenomenon. One category where one would think Wallace's presence would prove to be a difference maker for the Bulls is offensive rebounding percentage allowed, but the 2006-07 Bulls are no better with keeping opponents on the offensive glass than the 2005-06 Bulls.

Using John Hollinger's PER, which measures production, demonstrates where the Bulls have actually gotten better and it is not at the center position. Because the net PER statistic I am about to use is for the entire 2005-06 season, the comparison is not exactly like the one mentioned above, but it still shows an interesting trend. Stacking up the 2005-06 Bulls's net PER by position to this season's reveals that the Bulls are getting a higher amount of net PER production from the point guard, small forward, and power forward. The shooting guard net PER production is the same as it was last year and the net PER from the center position, the one Ben Wallace plays exclusively, has actually decreased. So much for Wallace being an upgrade over Tyson Chandler.

When giving credit for the Bulls's improved play, look no further than Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, and Andres Nocioni.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ivory Latta

Thanks to her effervescent personality, LeBron James's admiration of her game, and her friendship with Ludacris, University of North Carolina guard Ivory Latta has become the face of women's college basketball. As a result of all the publicity the media gives Latta because of her charm, the fact that this is the worst season for Latta since her sophomore year gets pushed to the side.

Before this year, Latta had improved her shooting efficiency and assist rate to turnover rate ratio from her freshman to sophomore to junior seasons. Now her shooting (57.4 TS% and 1.15 points per shot attempt) and ball-handling statistics (20.6 AsR: 16.6 ToR) are slightly worse than what she did in 2004-05.

One explanation given for Latta's decline in play is that it is the result of her off-season knee surgery, an explanation that carries with it a hint of credence. Proof that Latta has been suffering the ill-effects of her surgery this year can be found in her shot selection. She has spent the majority of her offensive season behind the three-point line and her 7.1 three-point attempts per game represent the highest such mark in her career. At the same time, her 3.3 free throw attempts per game are a career-low. A lack of mobility due to a not-quite-100% knee fits in perfectly with such statistics so it would seem that Latta does possess a legitimate excuse for her struggles this year.

Then again, she is more than likely experiencing the effect of a rough stretch of games. Before UNC played Duke for the first time, she was on pace to have the best year of her career, but the last six games have dropped her to where she is now, thanks in large part to three abysmal performances in three Carolina losses. Perhaps Latta's knee only pains her to the point of negatively influencing her performance when Carolina loses. If so, that is one convenient knee problem.


Wednesday, February 28, 2007

University of Mediocrity

This summer, University of Michigan athletic director Bill Martin will need to sit down, turn himself towards a mirror, look deep into his own reflection, and ask himself honestly if he has a problem with the mediocrity virus that is running rampant around his university's basketball program. If he has nothing against putting a mediocre product on his athletic fields/courts and judging by his continued employment of Lloyd Carr he does not, then he should keep Tommy Amaker on as the head coach of the basketball team. If he wants to turn Michigan into a national basketball power, then it is time for him to head in a different direction.

Hiring Amaker at all was a mistake. When hiring a coach to return a program coming off scandal back to national prominence, it is best not to look to the coach from Seton Hall who only took one out of four teams to the NCAA Tournament and who seems much more comfortable in the NIT.

This season, Amaker's sixth as the head coach at the University of Michigan, also represents the fourth consecutive year Dion Harris, Courtney Sims, Lester Abram, and Brent Petway have been under his tutelage. Those four are not only seniors, but they are also the top four scorers on the Michigan team. In the four years these four have played for Amaker, Michigan basketball has improved to the tune of nothing.

Forget for a moment the non-conference creampuffs and largely useless NIT games and focus solely on how Michigan has performed within the Big Ten (11) Conference. Only in one of the four seasons (2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07) I looked at, the 2003-04 one when the aforementioned seniors were not the main cogs of the team, have the Wolverines finished the year with a higher offensive efficiency than defensive efficiency (outscoring their opponents per 100 possessions) in their conference games. The worst indictment against a coach's acumen is when the players who have spent an extended amount of time with him never get better.

Amaker may have given the basketball program at Michigan a character makeover, but as a coach, his inability to make the players he recruits into better players overshadow his players' good behavior. Lest Martin forget for too long, this is a society that uses wins as the criteria for judging success.


The Association's Mr. Glass

Unless you are sadistic or feeling particularly spiteful for whatever reason, you have probably never wished injury upon an athlete. Injuries not only result in lost playing time for an athlete, sometimes for the rest of an athlete's life, but they can also destroy teams' seasons and if the injured player is important enough, an injury can set an entire franchise back years. Or, as Los Angeles Clippers point guard Shaun Livingston has found out, injuries can retard an athlete's development and improvement.

In his three short seasons in the NBA, Livingston has already suffered a dislocated right knee, torn cartilage in his shoulder, lower back stress fracture, and now he has torn three of the four ligaments in his left knee along with a couple of bone dislocations thrown in for good measure. With a return to the court this season completely out of the question, Livingston will have only appeared in 145 out of a possible 246 games. As a result, in his third season, he is no better than he was during his rookie and sophomore years.

Although his 50.3 TS% is higher than his rookie mark of 46.1 TS% and his sophomore mark of 46.0 TS%, Livingston is so wildly inconsistent that it has kept him from posting completely significantly better shooting percentages. The same story can be told about his points per shot attempt statistics. Livingston's dilemma arises from the fact that an athlete needs good health with which to become consistent and good health does not seem to be very forthcoming for him at the moment.

Not even his assist rate to turnover rate ratio has improved over the course of his NBA career to the point where you can say it is a significant increase over when he was a rookie, made worse by the fact he is a point guard. Such is the work of injuries.

Livingston is just one example of how injury can ruin a player's career. Like, for instance, turning a former fourth overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft into someone who is staring down draft bust status. What is worse about the whole matter is the chance of Livingston ever being physically able to redeem himself is astronomically against his favor. An injury-prone player usually stays injury-prone.


Monday, February 26, 2007

The White NBA Player Everyone Loves

David Lee's success in the NBA was anything but written in the stars. Lee first came to my attention during the 2001 McDonald's High School All-American Dunk Contest where he bested fellow University of Florida recruit James White among others, beating someone in White who claimed he had never lost a dunk contest; White should not have lost that one, either (see below and decide for yourself). Lee went on to appear in every game the University of Florida played from the 2001-02 to 2004-05 seasons, 127 to be exact, but he never seemed to me to unlock the potential his athletic ability suggested.

That is why his recent rise to NBA stardom has come as a surprise. Lee had a good rookie season, which would have been better if Larry Brown did not have a hatred for any NBA player who has not played at least eight seasons at the professional level. Now, in his second season, Lee is among the league leaders in both rebounding and field goal percentage.

All of Lee's exploits left me wondering whether or not I was wrong about his days in Florida and if they had actually portended the NBA player he has become in his thus far 122-game career.

In many ways what Lee is doing for the New York Knicks does reflect what he did for the Florida Gators. He put together a 61.8% true shooting percentage on 1.24 points per shot attempt for Florida and for the Knicks his counterpart statistics are a 63.9% true shooting percentage on 1.28 points per shot attempt. If those numbers are not identical, then they are at least fraternal with the only difference in his scoring averages (7.9 ppg to 11.3 ppg) being that he does not attempt as many field goal attempts per game now (5.1 FGA) as he did then (7.4 FGA).

Where Lee has been able to improve dramatically on his collegiate days, on the cusp of being statistically significantly better, is in the field of rebounding. Perhaps with less of a scoring load being hoisted upon his shoulders, Lee has turned to rebounding in order to avoid becoming bored on the court; whatever the reason, Lee has become a much better rebounder. At Florida, he had a rebound rate of 15.6 and right now he stands tall with one of 18.9, which is a rate Lee seems like he will be able to maintain if not increase as long as he continues to take advantage of rebounding opportunities.

In all likelihood, the reason why Lee's NBA numbers are doing such a good mirror job of his NCAA ones is because he stayed in college for four years, amassing enough of a sample set that it could have been used at the time to predict how he would perform once he was paid legally to show up to play basketball.