Tracy McGrady, Playoff PER, and Context

A few weeks ago, I happened across an interesting stat. I was noodling around the internet and decided to look up the all-time leaders in career playoff PER.  Interestingly, number eight on the list is Tracy McGrady. Behind Michael Jordan, George Mikan, Lebron, Shaq, Tim Duncan, Hakeem, and Dirk and ahead of Dwayne Wade, Charles Barkley, Dwight Howard, Jerry West, Kareem, Magic, Wilt, Bob Petit, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Larry Bird and others whose careers will most certainly be viewed more favorably than his, Tracy McGrady sits uncomfortably near the top of this list, out of place like an atheist at an AA meeting.

But should his rank there feel out of place? Is it unfair for us to judge an individual’s performance on the success of his team? Often, basketball arguments end in the broad finality of a Tolkien-style ring count (“X rings. Count em.”), but is that all there is to count? Read More »

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The Player’s Need For Unified Expression

Here we are. Stuck, helpless, and very, very frustrated. After Monday’s decision by the player’s union to unanimously reject the owner’s “last best” offer, it’s now evident that the multi-billion dollar tug-of-war decision will be placed in the hands of our nation’s brutally efficient judiciary system. Scary words (litigation) have replaced happy words (basketball). Lawyers and judges will do what dozens of grown millionaires could not, as they determine whether the owners were bargaining in good faith (swiiiiing and a miss) and if players have the right to cry about it.

Stuck, helpless, and angry is not a viewpoint shared by fans alone. Oh, no. It’s also the feeling of several active working force affiliates. And as one of the league’s top scorers, Kevin Martin seems to be the hushed group’s most noteworthy—and outspoken—member.  Read More »

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Kyle Lowry and the Mysterious Jumper

“I was never shooting in games before because I always drove to the basket. I have just been getting confidence from the coaches and teammates to shoot. It’s been hard work. I had the stigma I couldn’t shoot, even in high school.”

How can someone—after already establishing themselves with a lifetime’s worth of a sample size playing basketball—go from expendable backup to flowing on the aqueous edge of elite in under 16 months? Some players take an abnormal amount of time to find themselves and obtain the amount of confidence they need. Maybe it’s a single moment—a game winning shot or elusive move that makes 20,000 bent knees go straight—or maybe it’s a slow, gradual evolution. It’s quite bizarre for a player to show drastic improvement in the area of such blatant weakness, but it happens. Kyle Lowry is proof. Read More »

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On the NBA: Why I Might Not Want Basketball Just Yet

I’ve never even been able to consider the thought of missing NBA games. The very notion gives me crackhead shivers, the kind that you get in the morning after a particularly long night of dehydration and/or dancing. As a man with his fair share of not-so-enviable bad habits, though, I know that simply satisfying every carnal urge does not make a man (or lady) happy, at least not for very long. In the end, a little bit of contentment cannot replace the lasting serenity afforded by some sense that all is right, for the most part; therefore, I watch this NBA lockout from afar with just enough sense to know that a quick, ridiculously unfair end to this misery Wednesday will not sate me. This thing has to end with a little damn justice. Read More »

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Breaking Down Kevin Martin As A Franchise Player

Every championship contender has its separate yet connected segments. The uncompromising rebounders, self-sacrificing passers, and defensive enthusiasts. The creative coaches who know how to play complicated match-ups and designate rotations, the shrewd wheelers and dealers sitting in an office high above the battlefield, and the owners, who seem interested enough in the sport of basketball to actively involve themselves in the month to month operations of his/her team. But the most visible, and arguably the most important, puzzle piece is the guy who grabs opponents by the throat with a dizzying array of unstoppable offense; the fourth quarter scorer, the go-to guy, the One Who Takes The Last Shot.

Last year was Kevin Martin’s first full season as a Houston Rocket. He started 80 of the team’s 82 games, matching a 2006-07 career high in appearances.  Then, he was a 23-year-old in his third season. He saw the court for 2818 minutes and scored 1618 points. Last year, as at the more seasoned age of 27, Martin played 2603 minutes (215 fewer than 2006-07), and scored 1876 points (258 more than 2006-07). Disregarding all other factors such as teammates, coaches, and every other meaningful statistic, these numbers show Kevin Martin’s improvement as a basketball player who’s become more careful in utilizing his moments on the court. His career’s been one of the more unlikely upward renovations we’ve seen in quite some time.

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