Monday, July 31, 2006

One more thing to add

The Knicks, who seem to be attempting to prove that they really don't know how to stop making absolutely horrible moves, have signed Jared Jeffries to an offer sheet. It seems likely that the Wizards won't match it. This means that they would need more depth in the front court, since Jeffries played all three positions there last year. Maybe the Jamison/Booth for Miles/LaFrentz would be more appealing to them to help shore up the depth issue. And I apologize for publishing so much so quickly after being away for a while.

I should clarify, I'm apologizing to my grad program and my grades.

Addendum to trade post, RE: The Sports Guy's NBA trade value index

I assume that most of the people who read my blog and would care enough to read the trade scenarios I just listed are already familiar with the Sports Guy. But in case that isn't true, there are a few things you should know. First, you should acquaint yourself with his article on the trade value of the top 40 NBA players. The link is in the title and here. You should also know that only two of the guys I listed are in the top 40, both in "Group F: 'Shhhhhh ... We'll Discuss Him, But You Can't Tell ANYONE.'" Allen Iverson is number 24 and Shawn Marion is number 21. So the other three main pieces I talked about, Grant Hill, Antawn Jamison, and Rashard Lewis, are at least not in the Sports Guy's top 40. Of course this doesn't mean they're up for any trade that comes down the line, but it does show that at least one enlightened analyst sees them as the kinds of players that could be available if a decent offer comes up. And LaFrentz/Miles just might be the kind of decent/intriguing offer needed for these sorts of players.

Some trade ideas

I should have been doing homework for the last while, but instead I was working on potential trades for the Blazers. I had to do three-way trades because ESPN doesn't have the Magloire-Blake/Ha/Skinner move in yet, but these are my favorite ones so far, all of which do some good things for the Blazers, I think, including freeing up cap space for next season in most of the moves.

I'm still not sure if I want to get rid of Miles, but if so, then these are deals I would do. I'm not saying any of the other teams would pull the trigger, but they could be intrigued. Miles was pretty explosive--defense, points, excitement--before getting hurt last year. And LaFrentz brings something to the table for a lot of teams. So here are the moves I would want to make, in no particular order (because I can't decide which one would work the best, considering chemistry and potential of people like Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, and Brandon Roy).

I don't think that Philly is willing to give up AI anymore, but if they were, I think this deal would be great for Portland, and could even be decent for the Sixers. They could move Igoudala to the 2 spot and let him and Miles fly around together, and then they would have some more crappy bulk in the middle.

This one is intriguing for a number of reasons. I really want to see Travis Outlaw thrive, and bringing in Hill would do several things to help with that. !) It would give him a proven veteran to learn under. 2) It would show that Outlaw is still is the SF of the future, since Hill's contract is up next year. 3) If Hill is healthy, he could bring a ton to the table for Portland, really the opposite of Miles in terms of locker room presence. This could be interesting for Orlanda too, since I still think Miles could burn the league up in the future, and all that junk I already said about LaFrentz.

Of these last three major pieces, I like Marion the least as a player. I love his numbers, but think that he thrives more in a system, and I don't know how he would fit in Portland's system. Having said that, I also know that he is a very good player. Oh yeah, and I know that Phoenix would probably not entertain this deal, although getting LaFrentz could be enticing in some ways. He's a center, so Amare wouldn't have to be the 5. (Which is good, since he doesn't want to be.) But he is also an oft-perimeter player, filling in nicely for the departed Tim Thomas. He also brings another shot-blocking presence to the sieve-like defense. And Miles likes to run. A lot. Maybe this would be worth thinking about.*

Jamison is my favorite of these last three major players. I like his game, I think he is
unselfish, and I think he would be a lot of fun. He's a well-rounded player, more than Lewis but less than Marion maybe, but mainly I just like him. I don't know how this could help the Wizards, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't consider the deal.

This last deal is the one I would most want to see Portland do. I like Lewis' contract more than any of the other players involved, and because Fortson is so expensive--not to mention terrible--I think he would be worth dumping to take on LaFrentz's terrible contract. Also, because the Sonics have so many problems with the front-court, this could help them. LaFrentz isn't better than Swift, Sene, and Petro? And Seattle just got rid of Mikki Moore, one of their other centers. LaFrentz would also fill, slightly, the front-court shooter spot that Lewis would be vacating. Miles gives them a strong 3, so that they would have Ridnour, Allen, Miles, Wilcox/Collison, and LaFrentz. I'm convincing myself that this could be a decent team. Portland gets a great young player on the cheap in Lewis and takes on a terrible contract in Fortson, but that comes off the books next summer, which frees them up to take care of everything else. My only problem is that I still think Outlaw could be great, and this would be giving up on him as the future starter for the franchise. But Lewis might be worth it.

So there you have it, a few moves that I'd like to see from Portland if they really do want to get rid of Darius. I'm sure that none of the players I suggested are even available, but it's fun to speculate on what could happen. I'd still rather keep Miles and help him develop into the force I think he could be, but I'd love to dump LaFrentz and his giant contract, and I don't think anyone would be willing to take it on without something else, even Miles. Now I need to do homework.

*by "worth thinking about" I mean that Phoenix would wait until they hung up the phone to laugh at Portland for offering this deal.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Interesting NY Times Op-Ed

In case the link dies soon, here is the full text. I don't know if I'll get in trouble for having it here, so I'll give clear credit. THIS WAS WRITTEN BY DANIEL GILBERT FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES. Enjoy:

He Who Cast the First Stone Probably Didn’t

Published: July 24, 2006

LONG before seat belts or common sense were particularly widespread, my family made annual trips to New York in our 1963 Valiant station wagon. Mom and Dad took the front seat, my infant sister sat in my mother’s lap and my brother and I had what we called “the wayback” all to ourselves.
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In the wayback, we’d lounge around doing puzzles, reading comics and counting license plates. Eventually we’d fight. When our fight had finally escalated to the point of tears, our mother would turn around to chastise us, and my brother and I would start to plead our cases. “But he hit me first,” one of us would say, to which the other would inevitably add, “But he hit me harder.”

It turns out that my brother and I were not alone in believing that these two claims can get a puncher off the hook. In virtually every human society, “He hit me first” provides an acceptable rationale for doing that which is otherwise forbidden. Both civil and religious law provide long lists of behaviors that are illegal or immoral — unless they are responses in kind, in which case they are perfectly fine.

After all, it is wrong to punch anyone except a puncher, and our language even has special words — like “retaliation” and “retribution” and “revenge” — whose common prefix is meant to remind us that a punch thrown second is legally and morally different than a punch thrown first.

That’s why participants in every one of the globe’s intractable conflicts — from Ireland to the Middle East — offer the even-numberedness of their punches as grounds for exculpation.

The problem with the principle of even-numberedness is that people count differently. Every action has a cause and a consequence: something that led to it and something that followed from it. But research shows that while people think of their own actions as the consequences of what came before, they think of other people’s actions as the causes of what came later.

In a study conducted by William Swann and colleagues at the University of Texas, pairs of volunteers played the roles of world leaders who were trying to decide whether to initiate a nuclear strike. The first volunteer was asked to make an opening statement, the second volunteer was asked to respond, the first volunteer was asked to respond to the second, and so on. At the end of the conversation, the volunteers were shown several of the statements that had been made and were asked to recall what had been said just before and just after each of them.

The results revealed an intriguing asymmetry: When volunteers were shown one of their own statements, they naturally remembered what had led them to say it. But when they were shown one of their conversation partner’s statements, they naturally remembered how they had responded to it. In other words, volunteers remembered the causes of their own statements and the consequences of their partner’s statements.

What seems like a grossly self-serving pattern of remembering is actually the product of two innocent facts. First, because our senses point outward, we can observe other people’s actions but not our own. Second, because mental life is a private affair, we can observe our own thoughts but not the thoughts of others. Together, these facts suggest that our reasons for punching will always be more salient to us than the punches themselves — but that the opposite will be true of other people’s reasons and other people’s punches.

Examples aren’t hard to come by. Shiites seek revenge on Sunnis for the revenge they sought on Shiites; Irish Catholics retaliate against the Protestants who retaliated against them; and since 1948, it’s hard to think of any partisan in the Middle East who has done anything but play defense. In each of these instances, people on one side claim that they are merely responding to provocation and dismiss the other side’s identical claim as disingenuous spin. But research suggests that these claims reflect genuinely different perceptions of the same bloody conversation.

If the first principle of legitimate punching is that punches must be even-numbered, the second principle is that an even-numbered punch may be no more forceful than the odd-numbered punch that preceded it. Legitimate retribution is meant to restore balance, and thus an eye for an eye is fair, but an eye for an eyelash is not. When the European Union condemned Israel for bombing Lebanon in retaliation for the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, it did not question Israel’s right to respond, but rather, its “disproportionate use of force.” It is O.K. to hit back, just not too hard.

Research shows that people have as much trouble applying the second principle as the first. In a study conducted by Sukhwinder Shergill and colleagues at University College London, pairs of volunteers were hooked up to a mechanical device that allowed each of them to exert pressure on the other volunteer’s fingers.

The researcher began the game by exerting a fixed amount of pressure on the first volunteer’s finger. The first volunteer was then asked to exert precisely the same amount of pressure on the second volunteer’s finger. The second volunteer was then asked to exert the same amount of pressure on the first volunteer’s finger. And so on. The two volunteers took turns applying equal amounts of pressure to each other’s fingers while the researchers measured the actual amount of pressure they applied.

The results were striking. Although volunteers tried to respond to each other’s touches with equal force, they typically responded with about 40 percent more force than they had just experienced. Each time a volunteer was touched, he touched back harder, which led the other volunteer to touch back even harder. What began as a game of soft touches quickly became a game of moderate pokes and then hard prods, even though both volunteers were doing their level best to respond in kind.

Each volunteer was convinced that he was responding with equal force and that for some reason the other volunteer was escalating. Neither realized that the escalation was the natural byproduct of a neurological quirk that causes the pain we receive to seem more painful than the pain we produce, so we usually give more pain than we have received.

Research teaches us that our reasons and our pains are more palpable, more obvious and real, than are the reasons and pains of others. This leads to the escalation of mutual harm, to the illusion that others are solely responsible for it and to the belief that our actions are justifiable responses to theirs.

None of this is to deny the roles that hatred, intolerance, avarice and deceit play in human conflict. It is simply to say that basic principles of human psychology are important ingredients in this miserable stew. Until we learn to stop trusting everything our brains tell us about others — and to start trusting others themselves — there will continue to be tears and recriminations in the wayback.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Running diary: 1992 NBA Finals

Note: This has been sitting around for about a month now, but it shouldn't really matter since it's about an event that happened 14 years ago. I also apologize that it turns into a sort of play-by-play at the end, but the game was so crazy I didn't have time to analyze what I was seeing.

10:08 pm: Welcome to my running diary of game six from the 1992 NBA Finals. After a heavy week of World Cup action it’s time to pour down some bitter nostalgia. Fortunately I taped the game from ESPN Classic, so if things start getting too bad I can pause it and go downstairs for a piña colada. Unfortunately, since I taped the game from ESPN Classic, I don’t think I’ll get to watch any era commercials. With that, I’ll hit play.

10:12 pm:
Dave Rivsine begins by mentioning that the Bulls were battle-tested during this playoff run and that they came into the game with a 3-2 series lead. Uh-oh.

10:12 pm: I miss the NBA on NBC theme music. Ooh, maybe this means I’ll get era commercials.

10:14 pm: This game was in Chicago. I was thinking this was the eyes closed free throw game. Now I don’t know what to expect.

10:15 pm: The starters are being called, with the away Blazers going first. This is the classic Blazer team: Buck Williams, Jerome Kersey, Kevin Duckworth, Terry Porter, and Clyde Drexler. Same goes for the Bulls: Horace Grant, Scottie Pippen, Bill Cartwright, John Paxson, and Michael Jordan. Also of note: Phil Jackson’s tie is atrocious.

10:17 pm: Our first shot of Ahmad Rashad, who Marv Albert reminds us is from Portland. I would also remind you, he went to Oregon. And now Marv is letting us know that no team has ever come back to win the finals after being down 3-2 by winning the final two games on the road.

10:18 pm: Jerome Kersey and Horace Grant took the tip-off. I only mention it because I was shocked that it wasn’t Cartwright and Duckworth…

10:20 pm: I just realized that Marv Albert’s booth partner is Mike Frattello. David Stern needs to bring those two back together. And the Blazers are shooting 0-5 to start the game. But at least Pippen nearly stole the inbounds pass.

10:22 pm: Shooting 0-7 now. But we get some free-throws. And Porter starts the scoring for Portland by hitting both from the line.

10:24 pm: Duckworth gets called for the “elbow” on Cartwright. Thank you Marv. And Kersey missed the Blazers eighth shot from the floor, but gets the putback. Then he steals the ball and has a breakaway dunk. So even though the Blazers started terribly they’re actually ahead now, 6-4.

10:26 pm: The Blazers are shooting 16% from the field, and the announcers just told us that Jordan was second in blocked shots for a guard only to Reggie Lewis from the Celtics. I’m glad I’m not watching this with the Sports Guy.

10:29 pm: I’m done watching commercials. These are crappy, but they’re not from 1992. From now on I’m fast-forwarding.

10:30 pm: ESPN Classic has moved us ahead to 3:06 left in the first quarter.

10:31 pm: Jordan makes a ridiculous pass to Horace Grant. I think there must be something about touching the ball immediately after MJ, because there’s no way Grant should have made that circus shot.

10:34 pm: Jordan gets his first points of the game to tie it at 19, but Kersey matched it with a sweet drive and lay-in. And now two more. And now another two. This is why Bill Schonely called him No-Mercy-Kersey. Hustle basketball? Yeah. Hustle basketball.

10:38 pm: Stat comparison for Kersey and Pippen: Jerome has twelve points and five rebounds, Pippen has four and one.

10:40 pm: Three guard offense with Porter, Ainge, and Drexler, and Clyde made a three as the shot clock expired. I just found out that the Bulls have led for 78% of this series. That’s not ominous.

10:43 pm: ESPN Classic has moved us ahead to 7:24 left in the second quarter.

10:44 pm: The scoreboard in Chicago just showed that Kersey had three fouls, so Adelman took him out. This matters because he’s been the best player in the game so far and because he really only had one. Apparently that was the fault of the Blazers trainer. No, the Blazers have never had any issues with non-playing personell.

10:47 pm: Drexler is playing terribly, but as I was typing that he threw down a sweet dunk. Portland looks really good right now.

10:48 pm: Another drive by Drexler. I guess I just needed to call him out. And now nothing can go Chicago’s way, as they try to call a timeout and instead lose the ball out of bounds.

10:50 pm: The bulls and have been outscored 10-0 since Jordan came back in. Buck Williams makes a driving lay-up and the free-throw to complete the three-point play, and Pippen’s mustache is really ugly. Really ugly.

10:52 pm: I think the wheels are about to fall off. Ainge just dribbled the ball off his foot.

10:53 pm: They just flashed this stat, in 1992 Jordan was already the all-time playoff scoring leader, averaging 34.6 ppg.

10:55 pm: Jordan drains a three after an ugly series of events by the Bulls, but one in which they somehow managed to keep it.

10:58 pm: A great image on the screen right now comparing the Finals stats of Jordan and Drexler. For Clyde the Glide: 25 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. For Jordan: 36.4 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists per game. Those guys were pretty good at basketball.

11:01 pm: Three-pointer by Jordan, which is answered by another three from Porter.

11:04 pm: Kersey gets his third foul as the first-half ends and Pippen gets to go the line to cut the lead back down to six.

11:06 pm: I’m quoting Dave Revsine, the ESPN Classic schmuck talking during hafltime: “Coming up next, Portland would extend the margin to 17 late in the third with perennial all-star Clyde Drexler and talented forward Jerome Kersey leading the charge. But would it be enough to hold off the charging Bulls?” I’m guessing it wouldn’t be, Dave. I’m guessing that’s a no.

11:09 pm: We join the game again with 6:50 left in the third quarter.

11:11 pm: The Blazers had five or so chances on the offensive end, which was capped by Kersey hitting another jumper. It’s crazy how much Kersey has outplayed Pippen in this game. As I wrote that, Kersey hit another jumper. Balzers are up 66-52.

11:12 pm: A beardless Phil Jackson seems to be contemplating how ugly his tie is. Either that or he is realizing how lonely his mustache feels.

11:14 pm: This game makes me miss the early ‘90s Blazers more than I thought I did. There were really good. And fun to watch. Maybe if they hire Adelman as coach again, everything will go back to the way it was. I’m going to click my heels three times…

11:16 pm: Jordan makes a turn-around fade-away over Porter and gets the foul. Vintage Jordan? Perhaps.

11:17 pm: The Blazers play a lot like the current Suns. Well, except the Blazers play good team defense and good individual defense,

11:18 pm: Apparently back in the early ‘90s if you got a bloody nose they put a cigarette up your nostril. At least that’s what it looks like they did with Duckworth.

11:20 pm: Jordan has a one-on-three and the Blazers take advantage, with Drexler blocking his lay-in. This Portland team was really good.

11:22 pm: At the end of the third the Blazers lead by fifteen.

11:25 pm: Bulls make a three, and then the Blazers give the ball away. Now Kersey is getting called for a flagrant foul. That was terrible. He was going for ball but came through and hit Scott Williams on the shoulder. Williams only hit one of two, but then the Bulls get another two.

11:29 pm: Stacey King makes two free-throws, so the Bulls are now within nine.

11:30 pm: Pippen hits a short jumper to bring them within seven. Double dribble by Drexler. And Jordan isn’t even on the floor. Oh the humanity.

11:32 pm: Good pass to BJ Armstrong, which he loses. He has to run outside as he regains possession, and then decides to turn around and drill a mid-range jumper. Bulls within five.

11:33 pm: Stacey King just made two more, the Bulls are now down by three.

11:35 pm: Porter dribbles it out of bounds off his knee, and Jordan is back in the game.

11:36 pm: First Bulls miss in a very long time, followed by Drexler getting an easy lay-in. Maybe Portland can hang on?

11:37 pm: Sweet alley-oop attempt from Drexler to Robinson, but they couldn’t quite get it done, Bulls come back with it.

11:38 pm: I just saw Buck Williams talking trash with Jordan. That doesn’t seem like a good idea.

11:39 pm: The young Cliff Robinson I remember shows himself, taking a really bad shot. The Bulls follow it up with a sweet Pippen lay-in and a classic Jordan floater. One point game, timeout Blazers.

11:41 pm: More good news, the Blazers only have one timeout left, the Bulls have four.

11:42 pm: The Blazers have made all 17 of their free-throws so far, which means they’ll miss the ones at the end of the game. By the way, they’re back up by three.

11:43 pm: Pippen hits a three to tie it with a man in his face as the shot clock expires, but Porter answers with a long two.

11:44 pm: Jordan ties it with another floater. In case you were wondering, the Bulls last lead was 4-2.

11:45 pm: Jordan takes the ball out of Williams’ hands and dunks it to take the lead for the first time since the first quarter, but Drexler immediately ties it back up.

11:46 pm: Timeout Bulls.

11:48 pm: Pippen just made another pull-up jumper, Bulls up by two. Then Porter gets the ball stripped, but as he tries to grab it again he knocks it out of bounds.

11:49 pm: Jordan drains another turn-around fade-away, and Portland takes its last timeout down by four.

11:51 pm: A telling stat, the Blazers have zero points off turnovers, the Bulls have 16.

11:52 pm: The Blazers still haven’t missed a free-throw, but are down by two with no timeouts left and 1:13 to go in the game. That is classic Adelman.

11:53 pm: Drexler went up for the lay-in, ran over Scott Williams—who would have been in the circle if that was in the rule-book—no foul on anyone, jump ball on the rebound. Portland gets the ball out of—wait, they reverse the call. Chicago gets the ball out of bounds after the jump.

11:55 pm: Jordan just took the ball all the way down to put Chicago back up by four.

11:56 pm: Portland still hasn’t missed from the line with Kersey hitting the first of two.

11:57 pm: And perfection from the line is maintained. Porltand is down by two. Portland fouls Jordan, who goes to the line with 11.8 seconds left and a two point lead. Of course, MJ makes both, the Blazers can’t do anything, since Adelman already burned all of their timeouts, and the Bulls win their second straight NBA championship. Excuse me, WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP.

In case you want to see a YouTube version of the end to this game, click here.