Friday, February 17, 2012

The Falling Price Of Hot Air

The price of hot air must be falling precipitously, because it seems writers are spewing it all about with more callousness than ever. Having previously said that I would be handing out awards for sportwriting ineptitude, I will introduce my current target of ire, the one Ian Levy, who, in, wrote:

"For all the scoring and distributing Lin has done, [the New York Knicks] offense has been only marginally more efficient. I'm happy for the Knicks and Jeremy Lin, but plenty of problems remain unfixed in New York."

Right away, that statement bothered me, because it seemed to fly in the face of everything we've been witnessing. And when something I read or hear doesn't quite sound right, it tends to stick in my mind and annoy me like a poorly-designed t-shirt tag. Could this be correct? Was the Knicks offense pre-Lin -- the main anchor weighing down the team's poor record -- really be only "marginally" worse than the one that's been passing and swinging the ball to and fro, racking up high assist-to-FG ratios, and playing happily inspired basketball together, during this streak? I had to fact-check.

And fact-check I did; after which, armed with the stats, I concluded that either Levy 1) is a complete liar, 2) didn't bother to do any homework to qualify or quantify his statement, 3) is unschooled as to what offensive efficiency actually is, or 4) is very unclear on the meaning the word "marginal". The Knicks, prior to Lin, scored roughly 99.5 points per 100 possessions, which ranked them 25th in the NBA in offensive efficiency. During the current win streak, they have been pouring in over 105 points per 100, which would be good for around 8th-best in the NBA.

Perhaps Ian can explain how jumping 17 spots in offensive efficiency ranking is a "marginal" improvement. I suppose an "adequate" improvement is then, what, the 30th-ranked team instantly becoming the top-rated team overnight? I'm not sure what a "good" improvement would be though. Perhaps being able to beat the NBA's 50-greatest-players team, or to outscore Zeus and his collection of Greek gods.

What would cause Ian to make such a patently-false statement? Did he see the high rate of turnovers the Knicks are still producing and conclude -- jump to conclude, rather -- poor efficiency? That in of itself would be pretty dumb, seeing as how FG% is a better, albeit oldschool, measure of offensive efficiency. Looking at effective FG%, the Knicks are around .500 for the streak, a good number and much (not marginally, much) better than the .474 they're averaging for the year overall. So it couldn't be that. On the other hand...maybe we're just overthinking this and giving this writer too much credit. Given that the "marginal" statement smelled fishy from the start, perhaps that alone is evidence of the nether-regions source from which the statement originated.

For making baseless statements without bothering to do the two minutes of work it takes to validate them, you Ian Levy are our latest Sportswriting Moron Of The Week.

Keep talking and writing sports analysts. The Moron-Awards committee will find you soon enough.

* So former Denver Nugget and Chinese-league escapee J.R.Smith announced he will sign with the Knicks. This after a friend informed me that the esteemed Stephen A. Smith had to restrain himself from cussing his co-analysts on an ESPN show who suggested J.R. would possibly choose NY over the Clippers. Stephen whitled down the comparison to a choice between "playing with" Jeremy Lin or Chris Paul, a comparison that is both simple-minded, myopic, and may actually be a logical fallacy. To be technical, both the Nuggets and Knicks would use J.R. off of the bench, so it's a little faulty to say he would be "playing" with Lin or Paul; he'd be playing primarily with their backups. Furthermore, if you look at the teams' rotation, you'd have to say that J.R. would get more playing time in NY than in LA, former all-star and free-agent signee Caron Butler being juuuust a bit more accomplished than second-year player Landry Fields. So that further erodes the notion of "playing". Finally, it also is worth noting that the Knicks can and were offering their full mid-level exception of $2.5 million over this season *and* next season, whereas the Clippers could only offer the veteran's minimum salary. More money, a longer contract, more playing time and a more significant role on the team. Suddenly, Stephen A.'s "dumb" choice seems like it got "smartified". But hey, just keep opting for histrionics and hyperbole might not always make you right, but it's certainly made you successful. I ain't mad at you for that. It sure is fun to be able to repeatedly punch holes in these tirades.

Anyways, I'm off, back to the Martian grind...

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