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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ronny Turiaf Interview

I recently wrote about my frustrating experience with an Unfinished Ronny Turiaf Interview. I am happy to report that in response to that post Danika Berry informed me that Roxanne Romero no longer is Turiaf's representative, that Turiaf was not aware of the questions that I submitted, that he never turns down an interview request and that he is happy to answer my questions. I would like to thank Ronny Turiaf and Danika Berry for making this interview possible.

Here are the questions that I originally sent to Turiaf (in italics), followed by his answers as emailed to me by Danika Berry:

1. Your comeback from open heart surgery to not only be fully healthy but also to be a productive NBA player has inspired many people. Describe what you are trying to accomplish with your Ronny Turiaf Heart to Heart Foundation.

a. What I’d like to accomplish is simple: create awareness of heart health. I had no idea that my heart was not healthy. I had no clue. And it is really a stroke of luck, being in the right place at the right time, that we discovered through an echocardiogram that I had an enlarged aortic root—a life threatening disease. I was on top of the world, when I signed with the Lakers; physically I couldn’t have been better. I had absolutely no worries as I went from one medical exam to another. How many people, kids, do you think are in that position right now, but do not have access to the medical interventions of detection? This important exam changed my life. So what I’d like to accomplish with this partnership between the ASE Foundation and the Heart 2 Heart Foundation, is to educate the health industry and the general public on the your heart. Early detection is the key.


2. You started 21 games for the Lakers team that advanced to the Finals in 2008 and then you signed with Golden State for the 2009 season. When the Lakers won the 2009 championship you must have felt a combination of happiness for your ex-teammates but also perhaps some jealousy--or at least wistfulness--that you could have been a part of that. Describe how you felt about the Lakers winning the title.

a. It’s hard to describe the bond, respect and love I have for that Lakers team. It’s like when your brother does something really great. You were there, you saw the hard work, sacrifice, and dedication—How can you be jealous? —You love him, and you are proud and happy for him. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to have been there, but there is a reason for everything. And what I received as a result of playing for the Lakers organization and with those guys—I give them nothing but the props they deserve. And don’t worry, I definitely see rings in my future (big smile).


3. Team captains generally are full-time starters who play heavy minutes but Don Nelson selected you as a Golden State captain even though you do not rank on the top five on the Warriors in minutes played, which indicates that both Nelson and your teammates highly respect you. How did your experiences as a Laker and as a member of the French National Team prepare you for your leadership role with Golden State?

a. I definitely appreciate that Coach sees some type of leadership in me and I feel proud and honored about being chosen to be one of the captains. My father always says, “Leaders aren’t born, they are made--Life’s trials and triumphs, your past and your present rolled into one is what make you special and gifted—and with that comes responsibility. ” WE work hard on the French National team. We’re these young guys who all grew up together and worked hard. We keep giving them hell every year, and we are determined to win, and if we don’t-- it was just great fun to be there—giving all you got. What people talk about is my enthusiasm. I am grateful for the incredible opportunities I have had so far. Basketball--I love the life I have been given (again). And what has prepared me for my leadership role is never forgetting that this is a privilege, an opportunity that comes to but a few. Man, don’t take a second of it for granted and share—make the journey better for some one else along the way. Love what you do, do it to the best of your ability, and things always work out.


4. You ranked fourth in the NBA in blocks per game and third in total blocked shots in 2009. The Warriors are not known as a defensive-minded team but you clearly place an emphasis on that aspect of the game. How is the mindset of a championship team like the Lakers different from the mindset of a younger team like the Warriors that is just fighting to get into the playoffs, particularly in terms of the less glamorous aspects of the game like defense, rebounding, setting screens, etc.?

a. The only difference is in the discipline or the patience necessary to get there. Every game counts: every block, every rebound--every night. Gotta keep your eyes on the prize, baby—every game, every day. And the Lakers have had practice at this mentality. Hey, we are the “warriors,” so we can do it, and we will. Youth, discipline, and focus—we’ve got it all.



5. What are some of the similarities and differences between Phil Jackson and Don Nelson as coaches?

a. Both coaches want the “W.” While one may be holistic, and another is player-by-player, moment-by-moment; both coaches want the win, and give you every opportunity to do what you do best.



6. Kobe Bryant inspires a lot of strong responses from the media and fans. You were his teammate for the first three seasons of your NBA career. Describe Kobe’s leadership style as you experienced it as a young player.

a. He’s just an inspiration to be around –on and off the court. His leadership style is one of modeling—no one works harder. No one practices harder. All you have to do is watch him, and do what he does to prepare and maintain his game—I couldn’t help but get better as I matured as a player around him—who couldn’t?



7. Some members of the media claim that Kobe has changed or evolved but would it be more accurate to say that in the past couple years he simply has been surrounded by better talent and that the newer players respond more positively to how Kobe interacts with them?

a. We’re all changing, man. Life is never just one thing or another. It’s normally a combination of many things—and it’s all good.



8. Everyone likes to compare Kobe and LeBron. You have played with and against Kobe and played against LeBron; as someone who has actually been on the court with both players, how would you compare them in terms of their skill sets and the ways that they impact the game offensively and defensively?

a. You can’t compare the two players. Kobe is simply the best player on the planet! LeBron is trying to get there with his body, his game, his style and his arsenal—and he will. But Kobe will still have been there first. Both LeBron and Kobe as players and you all in the media comparing the two--make the game of basketball the greatest game there is.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:47 PM

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Rising to the Occasion: Pro Basketball's Greatest Playoff Scorers

This article was originally published in the May 2002 issue of Basketball Digest. Readers who are interested in this subject should also check out my December 5, 2006 NBCSports.com article titled Stepping Up in the Playoffs.

Evaluating individual playoff scoring statistics differs from comparing individual regular season scoring statistics. The regular season is the same length for all players, so comparisons of two players' scoring averages over five, seven and ten year periods (a subject that I examined in a January 2002 Basketball Digest article) reflect their production over a similar and significant amount of games. In a given season a player may participate in up to 20 playoff games; this means that comparing five playoff seasons of two players could mean looking at one player's production over 80-100 games versus another player's in only a handful of games.

Comparisons of a player's career playoff scoring average to his career regular season scoring average do not take into account which stage of his career a player participates in the bulk of his playoff games (see below for why Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson are perfect illustrations of this). A more precise method is to see how many seasons a player's playoff scoring average surpasses his regular season scoring average, while also considering the player's per minute point production (since most stars play more minutes in the postseason) and how well he maintains his shooting percentage in the postseason.

Entering the 2001-2002 season, Michael Jordan's 33.4 ppg career playoff scoring average ranked first in pro basketball history, nearly two ppg better than his 31.5 ppg regular season scoring average (also first in pro basketball history). His playoff scoring average exceeded his regular season scoring average 11 times in 13 seasons (including his 18 game regular season in 1985-86 and his 17 game comeback season in 1994-95). The only two seasons that Jordan did not achieve this distinction were 1986-87 (career high 37.1 ppg in the regular season, 35.7 ppg in the playoffs) and the Chicago Bulls' first championship season in 1990-91 (31.5 ppg versus 31.1 ppg).

His 38.4 points per 48 minutes in the postseason almost matches his amazing 39.2 points per 48 minutes in the regular season. Like most players, Jordan's field goal percentage declines in the playoffs but his 50.5% regular season percentage and 48.7% playoff percentage are both excellent, particularly for a guard. Jordan's 5987 postseason points easily rank first in pro basketball history and he won a record six NBA Finals MVPs.

Jerry West is the only player other than Jordan to rank in the top six in career playoff points (4457, fourth all-time) and scoring average (29.1, third all-time). His playoff scoring average is 2.1 ppg better than his regular season scoring average and his 33.8 points per 48 minutes in the playoffs slightly exceeds his 33.1 points per 48 minutes in the regular season. West's playoff scoring topped his regular season scoring nine times. He had one season in which his regular season scoring average was higher and one season in which his averages were equal. West also missed one playoff season due to injury and had two other postseasons in which he played a total of 15 minutes due to injuries.

West holds the single-series scoring average record (46.3 ppg in 1965 versus the Baltimore Bullets). He scored 40-plus points in all six games of that series, also a record. He averaged at least 30.8 ppg in the playoffs each year from 1964 until 1970 (except for 1967, when he played only one minute in one game). West won the first NBA Finals MVP in 1969 and is still the only player from the losing team to capture that honor. He shot 47.4% from the field in the regular season and 46.9% in the playoffs, exceptional accuracy for the player deservedly known as "Mr. Clutch."

Allen Iverson owns the second highest career playoff scoring average (30.3 ppg). He averages 4.1 ppg more in the playoffs than in the regular season. Iverson logs heavy minutes in the regular season (40.6 minutes per game) and almost goes the distance in the postseason (45.5 minutes per game), which is truly remarkable for a player who is listed (generously) at 6-0, 165 pounds.

Iverson scores slightly more points per minute in the postseason (32.0) than in the regular season (30.9). His playoff scoring has exceeded his regular season scoring two of the three seasons that he has participated in the playoffs (the Sixers did not qualify for the playoffs in his first two seasons). The only knock against Iverson is his shooting percentage, 42.6% in the regular season and 39.2% in the playoffs.

Reggie Miller does not score as much as any of the other players under consideration here, but he scores 4.0 ppg more in the postseason than the regular season and also averages 2.3 more points per 48 minutes in the playoffs. Miller shoots 47.6% from the field in the regular season and 45.6% in the playoffs; these numbers are comparable to West's and are good for a guard, especially considering the large number of three pointers that he makes. His legacy is not told in championships won or records set, but an extraordinary amount of clutch shots taken (and made) in the heat of playoff battle.

Rick Barry, the only player to win scoring titles in the NCAA, NBA and ABA, averaged 24.8 ppg in his NBA/ABA regular season career and increased that to 27.3 ppg (fifth all-time) in the playoffs. Interestingly, his playoff scoring average was higher than his regular season scoring average only four times in ten seasons (in three other seasons Barry's teams did not qualify for the playoffs).

Barry almost single-handedly carried the Golden State Warriors to the 1975 NBA Championship, winning Finals MVP honors. He also averaged 40.8 ppg in a losing cause for the Warriors in the 1967 NBA Finals versus the 76ers and won a scoring title for the 1969 ABA Champion Oakland Oaks, although he did play in the playoffs that year due to injury.

Karl Malone ranks fifth in playoff points (4341) and seventh in playoff ppg (26.6). He scores slightly more in the playoffs than the regular season (25.9 ppg). He has scored more points in the playoffs than the regular season 10 times in 16 seasons. However, Malone's field goal percentage declines dramatically in the playoffs--from 52.4% in his regular season career to 46.6%. He has made as many as 50% of his field goals in only four playoff campaigns, while shooting below 45% five times. Several years ago Bill Walton criticized Malone for settling for too many perimeter shots against the Bulls in the Finals and Malone’s low shooting percentages provide evidence of this.

It may surprise some people that Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson averaged 7.6 ppg and 3.5 ppg less respectively in the postseason than in the regular season. Chamberlain averaged a record 50.4 ppg in the 1961-62 regular season, so his 35.0 ppg in that year's playoffs represents a decline, even though there are only a few players in basketball history who have ever averaged that much in a playoff season. Also, while Chamberlain played 14 NBA seasons, exactly half of his playoff games came in his five years with the Lakers, when he concentrated more exclusively on rebounding, passing and defense. Chamberlain averaged 29.3 ppg in his first 80 playoff games (29.4 points per 48 minutes) and 15.8 ppg (16.2 points per 48 minutes) as a Laker (note that he played almost 48 minutes per game his entire career!) He won the 1972 Finals MVP despite playing with a cast on one hand.

Similarly, Robertson averaged 29.7 ppg in his first 39 playoff games with the Cincinnati Royals (30.4 points per 48 minutes). He played the last four years of his career with the Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 16.0 ppg in 47 playoff games (19.5 points per 48 minutes) and winning his only championship in 1971. Both Chamberlain and Robertson showed the ability to produce high scoring totals early in their careers and adjust their games later in their careers to make significant contributions on championship teams.

Bernard King's teams did not qualify for the playoffs in 10 of his seasons--but in his six playoff appearances King posted some awesome numbers. In the 1984 playoffs King averaged 34.8 ppg, including 42.6 ppg versus the Detroit Pistons, the second best series average ever at the time. He scored 40-plus points in the last four games of the five game series (a streak equaled later by Jordan and second only to West's 1965 exploits). King blew out his knee the next spring but still won the 1985 scoring title.

He missed one complete season and most of a second rehabilitating but persevered to become the first player with a reconstructed ACL to appear in an All-Star Game. That may not seem like a big deal in 2002 but at that time such injuries were always career altering and frequently career ending.

King missed the entire 1991-92 season due to another knee injury but returned for his swan song in 1992-93 with the Nets. He averaged 2.7 ppg in three playoff games that year. Why is that significant? It lowered his career playoff scoring average from 27.2 ppg, which would currently rank sixth all-time, to 24.5 ppg, which is not in the top ten.

Chamberlain, Robertson and King are excellent examples to remember the next time someone takes one or two isolated statistics and attempts to use them to define a player's entire career. The true story is often only revealed in the context of all of the numbers.

A Closer Look at Pro Basketball's Greatest Playoff Scorers

Player Playoff Pts. Rank Play. PPG Rank Reg. PPG Diff.







Michael Jordan 5987 1 33.4 1 31.5 1.9
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 5762 2 24.3 NR 24.6 -.3
Julius Erving 4580 3 24.2 NR 24.2 0
Jerry West 4457 4 29.1 3 27.0 2.1
Karl Malone 4341 5 26.6 7 25.9 0.7
Larry Bird 3897 6 23.8 NR 24.3 -.5
Elgin Baylor 3623 10 27.0 6 27.4 -.4
Shaquille O'Neal 2956 NR 28.2 4 27.7 .5
Rick Barry 2870 NR 27.3 5 24.8 2.5
Allen Iverson 1213 NR 30.3 2 26.2 4.1







Selected Others












Wilt Chamberlain 3607 NR 22.5 NR 30.1 -7.6
Reggie Miller 2445 NR 23.5 NR 19.5 4.0
Oscar Robertson 1910 NR 22.2 NR 25.7 -3.5
Bernard King 687 NR 24.5 NR 22.5 2.0

Player
Pl.> Reg. Pl. P/48 Reg. P/48 Pl. FG% Reg. FG%








Michael Jordan
11 38.4 39.2 48.7 50.5
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 12 31.2 32.1 53.3 55.9
Julius Erving
7 29.9 31.9 49.6 50.6
Jerry West
9 33.8 33.1 46.9 47.4
Karl Malone
10 30.9 33.3 46.6 52.4
Larry Bird
4 27.2 30.4 47.2 49.6
Elgin Baylor
6 31.6 32.8 43.9 43.1
Shaquille O'Neal
5 33.7 35.0 56.6 57.7
Rick Barry
4 33.9 31.8 44.4 45.7
Allen Iverson
2 32.0 30.9 39.2 42.6








Selected Others













Wilt Chamberlain
0 22.9 31.5 52.2 54.0
Reggie Miller
8 29.0 26.7 45.6 47.6
Oscar Robertson
4 25.0 29.2 46.0 48.5
Bernard King
4 35.3 32.1 55.9 51.8

Notes:

Statistics do not include 2001-02 season.

Players listed in order of career playoff points.

The first 10 players rank in the top ten in career playoff points
and/or career playoff ppg.

Statistics for Erving and Barry include ABA seasons.

"Diff." refers to the differential between playoff ppg and regular
season ppg.

"Pl.>Reg." indicates how many seasons a player's playoff ppg
exceeded his regular season ppg.

"P/48" refers to points per 48 minutes.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:46 AM

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Monday, November 02, 2009

The Unfinished Ronny Turiaf Interview

I have been fortunate enough to conduct my two dream basketball interviews--Julius Erving will always be my favorite all-time player and after Erving retired Scottie Pippen was my favorite player as a teenager/young adult (and Pippen remains my second favorite all-time player). I enjoy speaking with players and coaches directly and learning about the game from their perspectives without the filtering provided by the bias/ignorance of some of the people who frequently conduct such interviews.

Although I am quite familiar with Ronny Turiaf's inspiring comeback from a serious heart condition and I respect the way that he has made himself into an excellent role player, I have never interviewed him and, truth be told, interviewing him was not on my "to do list"--but when his publicist Roxanne Romero contacted me this summer and said that she could set up an interview with Turiaf, I told her to go ahead and do it. Then she replied that since Turiaf was out of the country at the time it would work out better if I simply emailed my questions to her and then she would pass them along to Turiaf. Here are the questions that I sent:

1) Your comeback from open heart surgery to not only be fully healthy but also to be a productive NBA player has inspired many people. Describe what you are trying to accomplish with your Ronny Turiaf Heart to Heart Foundation.

2) You started 21 games for the Lakers team that advanced to the Finals in 2008 and then you signed with Golden State for the 2009 season. When the Lakers won the 2009 championship you must have felt a combination of happiness for your ex-teammates but also perhaps some jealousy--or at least wistfulness--that you could have been a part of that. Describe how you felt about the Lakers winning the title.

3) Team captains generally are full-time starters who play heavy minutes but Don Nelson selected you as a Golden State captain even though you do not rank on the top five on the Warriors in minutes played, which indicates that both Nelson and your teammates highly respect you. How did your experiences as a Laker and as a member of the French National Team prepare you for your leadership role with Golden State ?

4) You ranked fourth in the NBA in blocks per game and third in total blocked shots in 2009. The Warriors are not known as a defensive-minded team but you clearly place an emphasis on that aspect of the game. How is the mindset of a championship team like the Lakers different from the mindset of a younger team like the Warriors that is just fighting to get into the playoffs, particularly in terms of the less glamorous aspects of the game like defense, rebounding, setting screens, etc.?

5) What are some of the similarities and differences between Phil Jackson and Don Nelson as coaches?

6) Kobe Bryant inspires a lot of strong responses from the media and fans. You were his teammate for the first three seasons of your NBA career. Describe Kobe 's leadership style as you experienced it as a young player.

7) Some members of the media claim that Kobe has changed or evolved but would it be more accurate to say that in the past couple years he simply has been surrounded by better talent and that the newer players respond more positively to how Kobe interacts with them?

8) Everyone likes to compare Kobe and LeBron. You have played with and against Kobe and played against LeBron; as someone who has actually been on the court with both players, how would you compare them in terms of their skill sets and the ways that they impact the game offensively and defensively?

Nearly a month passed without a reply from Romero or Turiaf, so I sent an email to Romero to find out what was taking so long. She said that Turiaf's schedule had been "insane" and that he would not be able to answer until mid-September (two months after Romero initially contacted me). September passed and I did not hear from Romero or Turiaf, so I emailed Romero again. This time she said that Turiaf had not done a single interview since she had first reached out to me and that he likely would not respond to my questions.

The whole situation is both amusing--conjuring up images of an overbooked Turiaf fighting off media hordes who are ignoring Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in order to besiege him with questions--and pathetic. Is Ronny Turiaf really so busy that he cannot answer a few questions? If so, why is his representative soliciting interviews on his behalf? Does Turiaf understand that when he hires people who are incompetent and/or inconsiderate ultimately this reflects badly on him?

Why bother to even make a post about this? Simple--I no longer have any patience to deal with people who are too ignorant and/or too inconsiderate to do their jobs properly; on several occasions I have tried to work with and/or help such people only to receive unprofessional--and sometimes even vicious--responses. Perhaps such people mistake kindness for weakness but I'm not having any more of such nonsense. I am not seeking out such people or looking for trouble but if they waste my time then I certainly will let the whole world know how they conduct their business, so that intelligent, professional people know who to avoid.

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posted by David Friedman @ 12:15 AM

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Sunday, November 01, 2009

Newsflash: Paul Pierce is Better Than Lamar Odom

Hoop Magazine editor Ming Wong reliably produces a subpar product, so it is not surprising that the newest issue includes an article comparing Paul Pierce and Lamar Odom. Never mind that they play different positions or that they have vastly different roles on their respective teams. Pierce is a future Hall of Famer who won the 2008 Finals MVP, has earned four All-NBA selections, made the All-Star team seven times, received MVP votes in five different seasons, ranked in the top ten in scoring five times and ranked in the top ten in steals four times (Pierce has also ranked in the top ten in free throws made seven times, leading the league in that category in 2002-03); Odom is a role player who has never received a single MVP vote, nor has he made the All-NBA or All-Star teams even once and he has ranked in the top ten in a major statistical category (scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, blocked shots, field goal percentage, three point field goal percentage, free throw percentage) just once (his 10.6 rpg ranked seventh in the NBA in 2007-08).

Odom is a solid player but it makes no sense on any level to compare him to Pierce--yet Hoop's goofy article rambled for two pages before concluding that Pierce only narrowly comes out ahead!

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:40 PM

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