Some thoughts on the nature of talent

What is it that makes a person “good” at something? What is it about the things that certain people do, whether they be on a court, on a stage, on paper, or in a lab, that surprise, excite, and amaze us? How do we define such a nebulous idea as “talent”?

In the NBA, this idea is often synonymous with height, length, speed, or leaping ability. Players are often drafted (or not drafted) according to these metrics. Draft previews, online or otherwise, include specific measurements such as wingspan, max. vert., lane agility, standing reach, etc.

But what do these statistics really tell us? Can any of this data actually predict a player’s future success?

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Is Motiejunas’ Glass Half Empty?

“Dirk Nowitzki, anyone?”

This is how the Houston Chronicle’s Richard Justice began his column the day after Houston selected Donatas Motiejunas 20th overall in the 2011 NBA draft. It’s a hopeful sentence that falls flat on its face, bringing to mind delicate geniuses like Andrea Bargnani and Yi Jianlian; all the promise trapped inside those extremely tall men, who struggle with English as a second language, were raised facing the basket, and are aphenphosmphobic.

They were all the rage these past 10 years, like a bag of trendy car fresheners that promised to revitalize your favorite team but instead went stale after 15 minutes. General managers dug through foreign compost looking for a rare jewel they weren’t positive even existed, and if they couldn’t find it they’d hastily grab a bag of smelly dirt, pack it down real tight, let it sit overseas, and pray that one day it’d magically morph into something precious. Of course that’s ridiculous and impossible; smelly dirt is smelly dirt, no matter what you do to it. Read More »

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On the NBA: Rick Adelman Has an NBA Coaching Job

Much has been made of the oft-mentioned bit of NBA wisdom that no coach ever really gets fired (because another team will quickly hire him), and mostly because of Larry Brown, the axiom’s found some legs over the years. And the fact that Rick Adelman, just mere months after being released from his duties by the Houston Rockets, found another home so quickly should come as no surprise to followers of the league. In fact, I’m pretty sure I had his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers all but written up when the Rockets first decided to cut the future Hall-of-Famer loose in April; apparently, so did Mitch Kupchak, that is until Dr. Buss reached his benevolent index finger down from the sky(boxes) to handpick Mike Brown. Yes, Adelman being an NBA head coach on opposing sidelines seemed all but fate from the moment he got his walking papers, but this? This?

Via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Five months ago, Adelman never would’ve imagined he’d coach the Timberwolves. He was 65 years old, wanted a contender, and the Wolves are a long, long way away. Well, $5 million a season can change a man’s mind. It’s no crime, but understand: The money mattered here. Probably mattered the most. Yes, Adelman wanted to coach Kevin Love(notes), but he had no intention of doing it on a discount. In the end, money overrode everything…

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On the player rankings

You can head over to ESPN.com for my take on some of the rankings:

Rahat Huq, Red 94: Luther Head. His 403 ranking is a falsehood, a crime against honest evaluation. Anyone who has suffered the grave misfortune of watching Luther Head play basketball up close, extensively, knows that he should be ranked no higher than as the very worst player in the entire NBA.

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A Plethora of Point Guards

A starting point guard is the established leader of a good basketball team. He directs traffic, barks orders, and decides what play to run and how said play should develop. On most teams, he possesses the basketball more than anyone else, making him the literal quarterback of an offense and also the tiny nose tackle on the defensive end, doing his best to blow up an opponent’s play before it has chance to begin. Some point guards lead through their actions, some through their demonstrative voice. They’re usually the smartest, most well-respected players on the team, capable scorers, and quick decision makers. This isn’t an all encompassing statement but more an accurate generalization: More people on a basketball team depend on the point guard than any other position. It’s the brain, the coach’s on-court extension. Even if he isn’t the team’s best player, a good point guard knows who is; when the blood begins to flow, he decides who will emerge with a band-aid.

The Houston Rockets don’t have one or two capable point guards—something every team in the league craves to take them through the slippery hills of an 82 game season—they have three. An incredibly rare luxury that straddles the border of unnecessary, like having a solid gold toilet. Read More »

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