Introducing the NEW CourtsideTimes.Net!

For years I’ve been jealous. It was great to go to sites like BaseballPrimer.com (now BaseballThinkFactory.org) and BaseballProspectus.com to get in depth coverage of baseball. It seemed that you could learn something new everyday & interact with people that wanted more from sports than the same old cliches recycled for a new generation. More recently sites like the HardballTimes.com and FootballOutsiders.com continued that tradition of investigative reasoning in their respective sports. I was jealous because baseball and football had such great websites, and there was no comprehensive site for basketball. I was jealous, until today.

It brings me great joy to introduce the CourtsideTimes.Net. Although CTN was the brainchild of yours truly, it is a vision shared by others. If you’re a familiar with the some of the best hoops sites around the web, you’ll recognize many of the authors and their sites. We aim to have something for everyone. There is a news section that will have links to articles of interest, where readers can comment on them and interact with others hoopsters. (Fans of BTF’s Primer will know exactly what this means.) CTN’s other focus will be proprietary articles written by the staff.

Over this summer, there was one word I used over and over again when recruiting authors: “quality.” CTN isn’t going to appeal to every single basketball fan. There will be no rumor inventing, homerism, or hero worship. While statistical analysis will be prevalent, the site won’t be a stats sausage party. Some authors were invited to write for their ability to use statistics, and others for their keen eye. Basketball analysis is not at the stage where everything can be determined solely through numerical means. The CourtsideTimes will attempt to present this balance through its writers.

While I’ve done everything I could to create the CourtsideTimes.Net, from the coding to assembling the authors, there is one thing I can’t give CTN. The sites I’ve mentioned above have been so successful because the user interaction has created its own community. In essence it was the readers that made the site great. So I hope you head over there, and enjoy it enough to join the community.

Isiah Might Serve Up Another Gem In Butler

Last March I wrote an article titled Zeke?s Eye For The Draftee Guy which praised the Knicks GM on his ability to find talent in the draft. At the time it was based on his his only selection in New York where he stole Trevor Ariza in the second round, combined with his stellar record in Toronto where he drafted Damon Stoudamire, Marcus Camby, and Tracy McGrady. Since then he’s had three more picks with the Knicks. While the final verdict is still out on these rookies, they have been well received so far.

A few days before writing that article, Isiah Thomas had picked up two CBA players to fill out the Knicks roster. Again, I had an opinion to share about it.

Of the two, Butler is more likely to be a CBA success story ala John Starks or Anthony Mason… To think either of them is going to be part of the Knicks future in 2007 would be optimistic. However it?s the perfect type of low risk/high reward move where a GM can?t lose, but can win if he gets a serviceable player out of the deal.

Butler’s stats in the CBA showed that he excelled at scoring, rebounding, and blocking shots. After he signed with New York, he played sparingly in the NBA regular season seeing only 5 minutes of garbage time. So far this preseason, Butler has put up some interesting numbers. He’s averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per 40 minutes. Those numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Butler has only appeared in 5 games, he’s barely averaged 14 minutes a game, and preseason games don’t have the same level of competition as the regular season. But by combining his stats from preseason, the summer league and the CBA, a pattern emerges.

LEAGUE       OREB/40           TREB/40           BLK/40           PTS/40
'06 PRE       3.8              12.1              3.3              17.0
'05 SUM       4.0              11.8              1.6              11.8
'05 CBA       4.2              12.4              1.7              20.8

Although competition level and the minutes played have varied, Butler has been remarkably consistent in regards to his rebounding. He’s averaged close to 12 rebounds per 40 minutes, with about 4 of those coming on the offensive glass. Those numbers are almost identical to former Knick center Nazr Mohammed. In fact, between the three stops, Butler’s blocked shots, turnovers, and rebounds are comparable to Nazr’s. As I said in March, it would be a “win” if Isiah was able to get anything in return from picking up Butler from the CBA. But if Jackie turns into a player of Nazr’s caliber, Thomas will have accomplished a major feat and cemented his status as a young talent evaluator.

Right now, Butler is probably 4th on New York’s center depth chart behind Curry, James, and Frye, although his prospects of playing might not be as bleak. Jerome James has had only one season where he has missed less than 17 games. Meanwhile Frye might see most of his time at power forward, and Curry’s health will be an eternal question mark. It’s possible that Larry Brown might have to rely on Jackie Butler if the Knicks big men gets bitten by the injury bug. While it’s unsure if Brown will turn to Butler other than out of emergency, one thing is clear. When Jackie Butler steps onto the court, he will be a force under the boards.

Houston’s Retirement A Reminder Of Cap Consequences

Judging Allan Houston by his on the court persona, it’s hard not to like the guy. Houston’s jump shot was picture perfect, straight out of a basketball text book. Using his height and a quick pull up, Allan only needed a few inches of space between him and his defender to score. Number 20’s range extended from beyond the arc, and he was automatic from the charity stripe. Houston provided a valuable scoring presence on a Knick team that badly needed it, and he hit his fair share of big shots. For 10 seasons Houston was extremely durable, never missing more than 6 games in any of those seasons. Even after his body broke down, he tried to play through the pain for a Knicks team that had no hopes of a championship.

However there was another aspect of Allan Houston that was intertwined with his on court self. When the Knicks signed Houston to a $100M dollar contract in July of 2001, a transformation occurred. He went from a franchise savior to franchise millstone. From valuable to overrated. From a respectable player to the league joke. Houston’s retirement should be a reminder that today’s sports world is hand in hand with the financial. It’s no coincidence that the Knicks made 14 straight playoff appearances before they resigned Houston, and only twice since. As one of the better shooting guards of his time he aided his team on the court, while his contract harmed them off of it. Many fans recognize that it was the Ewing trade that hampered the Knicks ability to improve themselves through free agency. Nonetheless it would be Houston’s contract a year later that cemented the door shut.

There isn’t a basketball historian that would argue the Knicks would have been better on the court in 2002 with Shandon Anderson as their starting shooting guard, but I would doubt that you would find one that would have given Allan Houston that 7 year deal. That’s the rub with modern sports. A team can get a good player and seemingly improve their team in the short term, but if they are fiscally irresponsible the long term effects can be damaging.

2006 Preseason – Mavs 104 Knicks 102

Although the Knicks played the Nets in Connecticut on Saturday night, yesterday’s game against the Mavs in the Garden was their first televised preseason game of 2006. I could do a statistical analysis of the Net game, but as preseason games go it’s hard to determine what was accomplished against the starters and what was done against New Jersey’s end of the bench. So I’ll give my impressions of some of the Knicks from Sunday’s game instead.

David Lee
With all the hoopla over Frye and Robinson, Lee has been the lost Knicks rookie. Sunday evening he was the most impressive of the bunch. The initial reports of Lee are a blue collar type, and I really didn’t see it. The Knicks power forward seemed more polished than scrappy. Lee didn’t impress me with either his rebounding or his defense. Although on defense his assignment for most of the night was Nowitzki.

Where Lee did impress was with his ability around the hoop especially driving inside. He has a nice handle for a big man, and seems to be able to finish with either hand. Although he didn’t finish as often as I would have liked (5-12), he led all players with 11 free throw attempts. In the early fourth quarter, Lee was nimble enough to keep up with Robinson on the break & finish with a resounding dunk.

Nate Robinson
I saw a handful of Nate’s games both in the Final Four and in Summer League, and that player was absent tonight. It might have just been an off night for Robinson, but the Mavericks were able to neutralize Nate in the paint. Most of Robinson’s forays to the hoop ended up with a shot block or a turnover. In the first half he looked totally outmatched, but he did pick it up in the second half. Nate used his speed to earn a few steals and push the ball upcourt for some transition buckets. One thing to watch for will be if he will be able to use his leaping ability at this level.

Channing Frye
On one play Frye did a Marcus Camby impersonation trying to put back a missed shot, but he’s not as athletic as the former Knicks’ center. Channing only played for 19 minutes, and the only other thing that I recall is that he had a nice stroke from outside.

Eddy Curry
At times Curry looked impressive on the offensive end, but other times he seemed to be sleepwalking. He scored on a nice pass from Penny Hardaway, and looks to have extremely soft hands. On the other hand he turned the ball over 4 times, and a few were offensive fouls. It would have been nice to see a full effort from Curry, but it’s still only preseason.

Jamal Crawford
Crawford looked good very early in the game as the Knicks point guard. Unfortunately a few of his bad habits crept back as he jacked up a few shots that the chucker who plays at your neighborhood park would have passed up on. Forcing Jamal to run the point and distribute the ball may curb his wild shooting habits.

Larry Brown
How intense is this guy? He got T’d up on a non-shooting defensive foul against David Lee.

Jackie Butler
Butler had a quiet first half. He didn’t do anything to overly impress, but he didn’t do anything stupid that you would expect from a 20 year old out of high school with 5 minutes of NBA experience. That in it of itself is a big accomplishment. I remember Butler blocking a shot, and looking at the stat sheet it was the only one the Knicks had all night.

Penny Hardaway
When Penny started the game, my jaw almost hit the floor. Could it be that last year’s prodigal son will find a role as Brown’s perimeter defender?

Klosterman & The “New” vs. “Old” Media

If this is the only blog you read and you find little reason to head over to ESPN.com these days (like Aaron Gleeman), you might not have heard about the little discussion Bill Simmons & Chuck Klosterman had the other day. The two wrote a “column” on a sports centered site that happens to discuss everything but sports. In between talking about (I kid you not) the movie Face Off and which was Pearl Jam’s greatest album, they take time out to bash blogs and the young generation.

Klosterman: …What will be interesting about the coming generation of people (at least if you’re a writer) is that they will have a twisted concept of what the word “media” is supposed to mean. A term you hear people use a lot these days is “New Media,” which really just means, “Electronic Media, Minus the Actual Reporting.” This is what the Internet is, mostly. I constantly see all these media blogs that just link to conventional “Old Media” articles and pretend to comment upon them, but they add no information and no ideas. They just write, “Oh, look at this terribly archaic New York Times story. Isn’t it pathetic?” But that sentiment is being expressed by someone who’s never done an interview and has no tangible relationship to journalism. It all seems kind of uncreative…But the net result is that all people are starting to assume that the media is inherently useless and that there is absolutely no difference between news and entertainment. This will make the coming generation even more cynical than the current one, which is mostly bad (but not necessarily tragic). I think this is why so many teenagers are obsessed with things like myspace.com: They have lost interest in the world at large, so they’ve decided to just build an interior culture where they are the sole focus. They can live without the world.

What Klosterman doesn’t understand is that it’s not the “New Media” that creates its own world, but rather it’s the “Old Media”. Every summer there seems to be a slow news week that is filled by reports of shark attacks which is blown out of proportion. Each year around 70-100 people world wide are bitten by sharks, with only about 5-15 of them being fatal. Last year in America, 2 people were killed by sharks and there were 30 total attacks. Simply put, you’re 20 times more likely to end up like the bishop in CaddyShack than the skiny dipper in Jaws.

But by watching the news you would never get that impression. Everytime a shark attack report comes on I listen intently for one of those announcers to state some pertinent facts. I wait for someone to say that shark attacks are extremely rare. That beach goers have nothing to worry about & would better serve their health looking for a lifeguard than a fin. But it never comes. By failing to do this the mainstream news is misleading the people. They’re lying by omission.

In 2002, only 0.7% of all deaths in the U.S. were homicides, and there has been only 1 case of mad cow disease in the US. (The person had just traveled from the U.K.) In reality neither of these affects the average individual on a daily basis, but you would never know that from watching the news. The “Old Media” has fabricated their own world where shark attacks, double homicides, and mad cow disease are the norm.

Klosterman blames the “New Media” (blogs) for the masses confusing news with entertainment, but the shoe seems to be on the other foot. The “Old Media” with their “if it bleeds – it leads” mentality has turned the news into entertainment. In their quest for ratings, the news has turned to fantastic stories of murder, rape, drugs, disaster, fire, and sex. To spice things up, the national news channels throw in graphics, scrolling bars, and Tucker Carlsons.

Klosterman is right about the cynical new generation with their 1000 channel televisions, high speed internet connections, and 5 second attention spans, but they are cynical because of the world that they live in. They are born into a world where everyone lies, from their favorite baseball player, to that woman who cooks & does crafts, to the right wing show host. They live in the world where the news is saturated with sensationalism and missing vital facts.

So you have a group of people who are looking for information and opinions they can’t get elsewhere. And that where the “New Media” comes in. Some bloggers give a voice to those that aren’t represented in the mainstream. Some message boards are places to discuss ideas that the press won’t talk about. When Larry King has psychological predator Sylvia Browne on his show, despite her refusal to live up to her promise to be tested for her “abilities” for 4 years, the people have nowhere else to turn but the web. The “coming generation” isn’t fabricating a world for their egos, they’re trying to discover the real world behind the smokescreen that the “Old Media” has created.