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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jason Kidd's Value Goes Far Beyond Numbers

Jason Kidd is the poster child for the limitations of statistical analysis. He attempted just 10 field goals as Team USA rolled to a 10-0 gold medal performance in last year's FIBA Americas tournament yet he was voted USA Basketball's Male Athlete of the Year. Kelly Whiteside's July 31 USA TODAY article about Kidd contains quotes from several NBA stars who express awe about how Kidd plays the game:

"I can't explain it to you," forward LeBron James says. "I don't know what Jason does, I don't know how he does it. If I could explain it to you, I'd be like a prophet or something."

"He sees things," guard Dwyane Wade says of Kidd's sixth sense. "When you're on the court and you see him do something, you think he had to see that like three minutes ago."

"He just sees the game differently," (Kobe) Bryant says. "He grew up being a passer, understanding the angles. He makes very quick reads, very quick decisions. It's a different role for me and makes the game easier. Some of the shots you get you tend to be uncomfortable with because they're so damn easy. You're used to having guys on your arm all the time. With Jason, you get wide-open looks. He puts the ball right on the money."

Team USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski says that Kidd's basketball IQ is on par with Magic Johnson's. Kidd's defines basketball instinct as "being able to be creative in a split second." Here is Kidd's description of what he sees when he is on the court:

"When somebody shoots, I take a picture of where everyone is out on the court and then go from there with my whole thought process. There's maybe 100 things I'm going through, a checklist that all happens in two seconds. First is to get the ball, second is, where is the defender? Where are my teammates? Is my teammate tired? If I throw it too far will he quit on me? What type of pass is called for? Is it a bounce pass? Is it a chest pass? If all that isn't there, then what play are we going to run? That (answer) comes where you're probing and trying to find something and that's where your creativity and daring come in because maybe you're going to do something that most people would never think about doing. It becomes a chess match, not with the opponent but with yourself because you're trying to figure out what's the right thing to do in that split second."

Krzyzewski explains why Kidd, at 35 the oldest player on Team USA's roster, starts ahead of Chris Paul--who finished second in last year's MVP voting--and Deron Williams, who is also a terrific young point guard:

"Being the best means that you have the ability to have the biggest impact in the creation of an environment to win, and Jason has that. With the experience of that many years in the NBA and internationally, coupled with the passion to continue to do it, teamed up with talent around him, I don't think anyone on our team has a better equation. Obviously Kobe and LeBron are better players, but that entire impact, he's as important a guy as we can have."

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posted by David Friedman @ 3:49 AM



At Thursday, July 31, 2008 7:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

lebron was best player on court with kobe d wade look tight out there he is healthy agian but the king was the story he played outstanding d and great offense kobe was good didnt dominate was good facilitator. and all these players are going to get doubled so they going to get all them open shots.

they are going to win every game by 30 points plus too much talent this team.

At Friday, August 01, 2008 2:25:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Kobe was being doubled more often than other players and I'm not really sure about the logic behind that because anyone he passes to is a major threat and Kobe has demonstrated in NBA and FIBA play that he is a very willing passer.

LeBron looked great. He seems to shoot his jumper with more confidence (and accuracy) in FIBA play than in the NBA, though in either situation he gets the bulk of his points by driving.

It is important to remember that some of the previous teams beat inferior opposition by wide margins only to lose in the Olympics or FIBA World Championship. Canada and Turkey are not top notch FIBA teams. The game against Lithuania will be a better test, though Fraschilla and others have made the interesting point that some of the better teams like Lithuania may be willing to absorb a 30 point loss in an exhibition (or even in pool play if they have already qualified to advance to the medal round) in order to not show their hand in terms of zone defenses or certain offensive plays.

I think that Team USA is going to win the gold but I don't think that Team USA is going to win every game by 30 points.

At Tuesday, August 05, 2008 9:50:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous reggie

all these players are all star or all nba level players is my logic they all are threats and great players kobe has been doubled alot true so has lebron and others when they get in lane or penetrate.

lebron is like a big man he is always going to get most of his points in lane area thats how he plays but his jump shot is pretty good right now.

usa is unfocused and playing with these teams nonone going to beat them they are too good got too many weapons.

i wonder if 92 dream team played world now would they win by as much and 08 team played in 92 would they win by as much as 92.

At Wednesday, August 06, 2008 12:07:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Some of these teams trapped Kobe earlier in possessions before he even got into the lane but this is a minor point that is hardly worth debating.

LeBron shoots his jumper with more confidence in FIBA play. He did the same thing last summer and it did not translate into a better percentage during the NBA season.

I expect that Team USA will win the gold but there are some teams that can push them.

If the 1992 team played now I think that they would win by roughly 20 ppg instead of roughly 40 ppg. If the current team played against the 1992 competition I think that they would win by 30 ppg or more; once the game gets that out of hand it is basically choose a number. The 1992 team is better than the 2008 team but the competition is way, way better now than it was then. Some of these FIBA teams now have 5-6-7 NBA players, including All-Stars and MVPs (Dirk, Nash when he played for Canada).


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