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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lakers Jump on Pacers Early, Cruise to 109-94 Win

The Lakers threw a powerful one-two punch to knock out the Indiana Pacers 109-94 in front of a sellout crowd of 18,165 fans in Conseco Fieldhouse: Pau Gasol landed the first blow with 21 first half points (avenging his poor performance in the Lakers' previous meeting with the Pacers this season) and then Kobe Bryant delivered the second blow with 25 second half points. Bryant finished with a game-high 31 points on 11-18 field goal shooting (including 4-8 from three point range) and he tied for game-high honors with six assists while grabbing three rebounds and not committing a turnover in 34 minutes; Gasol tallied 28 points on 10-17 field goal shooting, adding eight rebounds and four assists. Lamar Odom had a strong game (13 points, game-high 17 rebounds) and Ron Artest contributed 13 points on 6-8 field goal shooting. After the game, Bryant noted that he simply played within the flow, serving as a distributor in the first half when the defense was focused on him and then taking open shots when the defense shifted a bit in the second half. Darren Collison led the Pacers with 17 points and six assists and his backcourt partner Brandon Rush scored 16 points.

The Lakers led 5-0 less than a minute and a half into the game and after they pushed that margin to 15-4 at the 8:30 mark of the first quarter they led by double digits the rest of the way. The Lakers led 36-22 after the first quarter, shooting .737 from the field (14-19) and outrebounding the Pacers 13-3; by halftime, those numbers were 59-37, .610 (25-41) and 27-10, turning much of the second half into what Marv Albert likes to call "extensive gar-bage time." After a solid start to the season the Pacers have lost three in a row, four of their last five and six of their last eight, though they did face some very tough competition during that stretch--including road losses at Utah, Phoenix, Atlanta and Chicago prior to this home defeat at the hands of the two-time defending NBA champions.

Indiana Coach Jim O'Brien was very disappointed with his team's effort: "I'm not happy with the way we competed, in all candor. You've got to bring a certain ethic to the games and, frankly, we haven't. You compete against 29 teams and if you don't bring it, you can lose the game." Collison agreed with O'Brien's assessment, adding, "I still feel like our effort wasn't there all the way. Coach had a good game plan. It's nobody's fault but the players...If we can play a little harder, we should be fine."

Though the Lakers won easily, after the game Bryant praised the Pacers (though his reference to them playing hard is likely a general assessment and not a description of this game): "I like them. I think they play extremely well together. They play hard. They're well coached, they execute well and I'll be very surprised if they are not in the playoffs."

It seemed like Bryant would probably get the fourth quarter off since the Lakers appeared to be in total control but Lakers Coach Phil Jackson put Bryant back in the game at the 5:56 mark of the final stanza with the Lakers leading 98-79. Coach Jackson explained, "I thought that it was a good time for Kobe to get back and stabilize the game. We didn't want them to score 100 points after only giving up 37 points in the (first) half." I mentioned to Bryant that in each of the past couple years he was banged up for almost the entire season and I asked if this is the healthiest that he has been in quite some time; he replied, "Yeah. I feel really, really good right now. Hopefully it will continue."

Much like TNT's Kenny Smith does not show his "pictures" during the halftime show when a game is a blowout, I am disinclined to provide in depth analysis of this kind of rout: the Lakers are the more talented team and they were highly motivated/focused because the Pacers beat them earlier this season, while the Pacers came out flat and never matched the Lakers' intensity.

However, even though the game's story is not particularly interesting I do have an interesting story from the game, namely my conversation with a veteran NBA scout who offered some very candid and insightful comments on a wide variety of subjects. He stated without equivocation that Bryant is the best player in the NBA, declaring, "LeBron's interested in his brand. Kobe is interested in championships." The scout added, with admiration, that Bryant is a killer on the court, in the mold of "#23 (Michael Jordan) and that guy sitting near the baseline wearing a suit (Pacers President Larry Bird)."

The most fascinating part of our conversation concerned what it means to be an MVP level player and some of the fallacies concerning how "stat gurus" evaluate the NBA game. When I told the scout the way that Coach Jackson answered my question about what it means to be an MVP level player (see Courtside Notes) he agreed completely, noting that there is a big difference between being a team's main option and being a team's second option: an MVP level player "performs under duress" (Jackson's phrase) in terms of overcoming nagging injuries, fighting through fatigue, dealing with physical play/double teaming defenses and still finding a way to lead his team to victories; a second option player is able to perform at a high level at times--particularly when the defense is tilted toward the first option--but he cannot sustain quite the same level as the first option can nor can the second option overcome quite as much "duress."

I mentioned that many "stat gurus" contend that Gasol is actually more valuable than Bryant and the scout immediately retorted, "That just shows their stupidity. You watch this game and it is very clear who the best player is, the way they defer to him--and they should." I noted that the "stat gurus" simply look at Gasol's high field goal percentage and his rebounding numbers without examining why he is producing those statistics: Gasol's field goal percentage and offensive rebounding increased after he joined the Lakers largely because of the extra defensive attention that Bryant draws. Few All-Star players get to play one on one very often, but Gasol has that luxury whenever he and Bryant are on the court at the same time, particularly if they are involved in a screen/roll action together.

Gasol averaged over 20 ppg for the first few weeks of this season and suddenly many observers touted him as not only the Lakers' best player but a legitimate candidate for league MVP--but then his performance declined significantly, with fatigue being cited as the major reason. It is legitimate to wonder how Gasol could possibly be so fatigued this early in the season after resting up this summer by not playing for Spain in the FIBA World Championship; asked about this after the Lakers' 103-89 victory over the Wizards on Tuesday night, Coach Jackson candidly admitted that he too is surprised by how worn down Gasol is, blunting stating that Gasol has played "poorly" recently and "really faltered" after his excellent start.

Gasol's performance this season is an excellent illustration of the limitations of "advanced basketball statistics" and validates what I have been saying about Gasol for the past several seasons: Gasol is an excellent player but he is hardly an MVP level player. In contrast, Bryant has been carrying an MVP level workload for the better part of a decade, making the All-NBA First Team eight times while averaging at least 24.0 ppg every season since 2000-01. Bryant is regularly double teamed and is always the primary focus of the opposing team's defensive game plan, yet he is consistently productive at a very high level, often playing through injuries that would sideline most other players (it is no secret that Bryant and Jackson were not pleased with how long it took Gasol to recover from his hamstring injury last season).

I told the scout that I thought that teaming up with Bryant transformed Gasol from a one-time All-Star into a likely future Hall of Famer not because Gasol's skill set has fundamentally changed but rather because Gasol is now in a perfect role as the second option on a championship team, as opposed to being the first option for the first six seasons of his career when he could not lead the Memphis Grizzlies to a single playoff victory.

The scout agreed with my analysis and told me his own story of "stat guru" follies: a "stat guru" had said to him that the scout's NBA team should start the players with the five highest field goal percentages because field goal percentage is such an important statistic. The scout chuckled and shook his head, incredulous that the "stat guru" did not understand/would not accept that high field goal percentages can be an artifact of a player's role on the team and that a well balanced starting five must include ballhandlers, shooters and big men: "What are we supposed to do, start five centers if those guys have the five highest shooting percentages?"

Although the scout agrees with my take on Bryant and Gasol, he disagrees with me a bit concerning the Miami Heat. The scout thinks that the Miami Heat are best served with Dwyane Wade as the leading scorer and LeBron James as the de facto point guard, though he said that they really are essentially co-number one options; I expressed my belief that--all things being equal--size matters in the NBA and that since Wade is essentially a smaller James in terms of skill set strengths and weaknesses it seems to me that James is the Heat's best player and should be the primary option. The scout countered by asking rhetorically if I think that Gasol is better than Bryant merely because Gasol is bigger and I replied that Bryant has a more complete skill set and competes better under "duress" so the analogy of James-Wade to Bryant-Gasol is not valid; the scout conceded that point but maintained that even though he agrees with me in general that size matters in the NBA he still thinks that the Heat are best served with Wade as the primary option.

What I am most interested to see this season is what happens if/when the Heat play the Celtics in the playoffs and a game is up for grabs down the stretch: who controls the ball for the Heat and what does the other guy say in the heat of the moment (no pun intended) after the game if the Heat lose? James and Wade are both used to monopolizing the ball down the stretch, so someone is not going to be very happy if he does not have the ball and the team loses.

*****************************
Notes From Courtside:

During Coach Jackson's pregame standup I had the opportunity to ask him several questions:

Friedman: "How would you compare the performance of your bench this year with the addition of (Steve) Blake and (Matt) Barnes to the performance you got out of your bench last season?"

Jackson: "There were (good) moments last year but we weren't consistent. We had a bench that played relatively well two years ago until Jordan Farmar got hurt in late December and was out for a month. So our bench has not been consistent (since December 2008) and this is the year that we were kind of really bent on getting a consistent performance from our bench. Last night they played well, although they were outscored by the Washington bench; Shannon (Brown) scored, Blake and Barnes did not score (much) but they played a good floor game and I thought that they carried the duration of the game when it was important in the second quarter."

Friedman: "Early in the season, Pau was mentioned as an MVP candidate but lately he seems to be struggling with playing so many minutes. You have coached several players who won regular season NBA MVPs. How important is it for an MVP level player to be able to sustain playing 35-40 minutes per game for a whole season, not just for a two to three week stretch and then start to wear down?

Jackson: "Yeah, I really think that it is performance under duress that counts for MVPs. It is a guy who picks his team up and carries the team and helps you win ball games that are important ball games when it seems like the team is going to lose; whether it is a guy playing 34-36 minutes or 38-42 minutes doesn't really matter. It's that critical moment. Pau has not performed well down the stretch for us in the last few games and I think that is a point that we like to emphasize (to Pau) about why people are given those kinds of credentials, like MVP credentials."

Friedman: "What memories stand out for you from coaching in Indiana? This might be your last trip here, if this is your last season."

Jackson: "I was telling our staff that we had a really hard time winning in this building in the early going. Indiana had some great teams and we would come here on a Sunday and Shaq would still be rubbing his eyes and just waking up from his sleep and we'd be out there sleepwalking and getting our butts kicked by an Indiana team--and we had really good basketball teams at the time. So, that is what stands out about this arena. In the old arena, it's got to be the Bulls-Indiana series in--what was that, 1998?"

Friedman: "Right, 1998 Eastern Conference Finals."

Jackson (with a mischievous twinkle in his eye): "We got cheated out of a couple games here--"

Friedman: "The (Reggie) Miller push (to get open for a game-winning shot)?"

Jackson: "Yeah and then Larry Bird went on the air and said that Pippen was fouling Mark Jackson all the time, so Pippen could not guard him (as relentlessly) the next two games here--he had foul trouble just like that. It just got kind of messed up in that series but we won in seven games--but that was a hard fought series and one that I think that people remember."

Friedman: "Was the way that that game seven was a grind in 1998 similar in any way to the game seven of the NBA Finals this year? Both games had low shooting percentages and a lot of offensive rebounding."

Jackson: "Yes, it was--and I have seen a number of game sevens that have been like that, where it takes one quarter to break the game open or to make a winner out of a team. It is just a grind all the way through because everybody knows everybody else's moves and you're just going at it physically."

I think that when some people look at game seven of the 2010 NBA Finals they focus far too much on shooting percentages and asserting that players choked, thus betraying their failure to understand the nature of such contests as eloquently described by Coach Jackson. The Lakers claimed the championship with an 83-79 game seven victory by capturing the pivotal fourth quarter 30-22 as Bryant scored 10 fourth quarter points "under duress" (to borrow Coach Jackson's phrase), finishing with a game-high 23 points and a remarkable 15 rebounds from the shooting guard position. I love Coach Jackson's comment after that game: "It was not well done, but it was done."

***

Here are links to my articles about the Lakers' previous four visits to Indiana:

Lakers Pound Pacers in Paint, Roll to 118-96 Win (January 28, 2010)

"Fortuitous" Murphy Tip-In Lifts Pacers Over Lakers (December 3, 2008)

Basketball Clinic: Kobe Mentors Bynum, Lakers School Pacers (November 21, 2007)

A "Sad" Performance for the Lakers at Indiana (February 3, 2007)

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posted by David Friedman @ 8:05 AM

12 comments

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12 Comments:

At Thursday, December 16, 2010 11:52:00 AM, Anonymous Ilhan said...

Great job, David.

I've wondered more than once why you don't interview scouts more often in the style of (your) 'A Scout's Eyeview of the Game'. Clearly, your approach to basketball analysis overlaps with that of professional scouts and you frequently do end up with informative and complex disagreements (instead of moustache *jokes* and insults) that benefit the reader. Why don't you do this more often? Perhaps a discussion related to the most improved player award. I would love to read your and, if possible, scouts' takes on the skill set improvements of Hibbert and others.

In any case, it is always a pleasure to read your interviews with basketball insiders, whether they are executives, coaches, or former players. I think it essential that the interviewer have extensive knowledge both of the subject area and of the interviewee in regards to his/her place in that area. You clearly meet both standards. One aspect I enjoy a great deal in your interviews is seeing the change in the interviewee. At first, they provide the typical trivial answers on the assumption that you are just another media guy, i.e., ignorant and/or foolish. Once they see that not to be the case in light not only of your questions but also of your follow-ups, they get enthused and engaged. Perhaps I am deluding myself and reading too much into it, but it seems to me that there is great significance in that. Namely, public figures could and, perhaps, would speak their minds, let the outsiders a peak into the workings of things, IF the journalists who are speaking to them are informed, honest and interested in procuring some knowledge and NOT in getting soundbytes which they will *expertly* insert into stories, gaffes, scandals, "breaking news" formulated in advance.

There is one question, though, that bothers me every time I come to this blog. It is clear that you've been blackballed out of the blogosphere by the you-know-who's, a handful of characters who control the traffic by linking and not linking to sites. Thus I doubt more than a few are even aware of the existence of your blog. Why not write for a newspaper or something? Do you choose not to? Is the economic situation inimical for such opportunities? Is it a more general problem in that the media including the newspapers prefer cheap bloggers over beat writers of old who are more costly? I ask this for you have written for professional publications such as Lindy and still attend press conferences, so you are not altogether a stranger to the old establishment.

I know it is a personal question but I believe we, as your readers, have an interest in it. That a certain yahoo or Abbott gets paid to do whatever it is that he does, while you have to, I presume, relegate basketball writing to a hobby because you dared to criticize the state of things is an offense to me, however mild. It is an offense to any sense of merit and, at the same time, a loss in that you don't write nearly as frequently as you could (we know this from the past).

 
At Thursday, December 16, 2010 4:03:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Ilhan:

You are quite correct that initially some public figures are skeptical--and justifiably so, given the media's low standards--at the beginning on an interview but when they realize that I know my stuff then they open up. My knowledge of basketball history and my understanding of basketball strategy enable me to communicate with GMs, coaches and scouts in a way that most NBA writers simply cannot do.

You asked why I don't do more such interviews but if you look in the site archives you will see that I have done many such in depth interviews, in addition to "sneaking in" some in depth questions during pregame and postgame standups. Wouldn't it be amazing to see what I could produce if I had the resources of a large publication/website supporting my endeavors? I certainly have been quite prolific as a one man, independent operator.

The newspaper culture is very insulated, it is not conducive to producing the kind of in depth writing that I do and the newspaper economic model is collapsing before our eyes. The written word's future, for better or worse, is online.

The nature of the mainstream media and the so-called "blogosphere" is self evident to any intelligent observer and I have already said plenty about Henry Abbott, Ming Wong, the editors at Slam/SlamOnline, a certain yahoo and various other characters who control those scenes and/or have attained prominent roles. Your choice of the word "blackballed" is interesting; years ago, I wrote that I did not see the value in Abbott simply providing link dumps to various ESPN articles and articles by widely known writers from large publications but he responded that he links to the best basketball writing without favor regardless of where it has been published. I found that response very disingenuous: he links to a very high percentage of ESPN material (understandable considering who his employer is but are we really supposed to believe that most of the best basketball writing emanates solely from ESPN?) and he clearly favors Dave Berri among "stat gurus" even though plenty of other "stat gurus" have pointed out serious problems with Berri's methodology. Abbott has repeatedly bragged that virtually everyone who got a full time NBA writing job in the past year was affiliated with his TrueHoop Network in some fashion; I don't know if that is true or not but that statement certainly tells you a lot about how this business works. I have not visited his site in a long time so I have no idea who he is linking to now but it has always seemed to me that factors other than quality influence his decision making process--unless you think that John Krolik, a certain yahoo and various True Hoop Network writers write better than I do.

I am respectful in my initial encounters with people in the field, regardless of their perceived status, but I am not--and never will be--someone who simply kisses butt to try to get ahead. I work hard, I am thorough and accurate and I have never sent in an assignment late nor have I ever made a submission that required extensive editing or revision. Most of my writing for other publications has appeared in print virtually untouched, which is quite rare in this business--and the few times that changes were made the content and/or accuracy suffered (here is just one example, an article about Bob Dandridge.)

I believe that there is a large audience that thirsts for intelligent commentary not just on basketball but on many subjects and that it what I have always tried to provide.

If you or any other readers have any realistic ideas/plans for how I could obtain a larger readership and/or get hired by a media outlet that has the resources (and wisdom) to underwrite what I am doing here please let me know.

 
At Friday, December 17, 2010 9:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

the pacers arent that good. the lakers play there A game its no contest. kobe help develop pau gasol no doubt he has more confidence play with better players but is hell of a player him self. kobe prob the best in game and pau got to be in top 12 great player he is.


when wade leads heat in scoreing they are 13-2 when lebron 7-6 eric spoelstra stuck on stupid approach tried to make lebron scorer when he is a better facilitator wade is the sorer. lebron better player wade leading them in scoreing better for team. the heat are rolling ever since wade has took that command 27ppg 59 percent shooting in dec. well see how the heat will do in playoffs with this apprpoach and the help from miller and haslem as well. they will be tough for anyone.

 
At Saturday, December 18, 2010 2:22:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

Clearly Gasol is a very good player, though it is funny that you rarely heard much about him before he came to L.A. I have said many times that he is one of the top 15 players in the NBA--but he is not an elite player (which I define as top five, i.e. All-NBA First Team caliber).

The stats that you are citing regarding Miami come from a very small sample of games and you are not taking into account the opposition that they faced or how terribly Wade performed in the games when James was the high scorer; the Heat did not lose because James led them in scoring but rather because Wade was awful. James is the best player on the Heat and the ball is going to be in his hands most of the time; who scores the most will depend on matchups/how the opposing team reacts.

I said all along that the Heat will win 60 games, even when they got off to that poor start--but I still have not seen anything that would change my opinion that the Celtics should be favored over the Heat in a seven game series.

 
At Saturday, December 18, 2010 3:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

oh you think so about wade and james. u jus think wade wasnt playing well. maybe so when wade play well and james they tough even for celts. celts is tough defensively got size. i dont know what will happen 5 months for now but that will be a great series and so will a lkers -heat if it happen.

one thing about u u have been consistent saying the heat will win 60 even when they were 9-8 i was a little skeptical because i thought they would break bulls record. wade had no preseason why he was a little rusty to start they small but they play great d and are great transition team.

 
At Saturday, December 18, 2010 5:51:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

I think that LeBron will lead the Heat in scoring, assists and minutes played this season and that he will likely finish second in rebounding (particularly if Haslem can't come back). I don't know how other people define who the best player on a team is but if LeBron does those things it would be hard to not call him the Heat's best player.

I definitely think that LeBron will have to be Miami's best player--and the best player on the court--for the Heat to win playoff series against the Celtics or Lakers. I am not sure what to make of the new look Magic (Carter, Lewis out, Arenas, Richardson, Turkoglu in); I only thought that the Magic were slightly better than the Heat before the deals and I suspect that the Magic have actually taken a slight step backward.

I never doubted that the Heat would win around 60 games, even when they started slowly--but I still am not convinced that they will win the championship this season, either. Until they show that they can consistently beat good teams they will just be a talented team of frontrunners that is blowing out the league's weaker teams.

 
At Sunday, December 19, 2010 1:58:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

Nice article, David.

I still wonder why people think of LeBron as more of a facilitator and Wade as more of a scorer. There's not much to back that up. LeBron has always shot the ball much more than a pass-first point guard or "point forward." I think people are just engaging in a lot of armchair psychology. LeBron's playoff failures are "proof" that he's really not comfortable as a go-to scorer and he was just forced to play that way in Cleveland. That sounds a lot more interesting than what probably is the case: LeBron is a go-to scorer who dominates the ball, but his teams have always com up short, sometimes due to his teammates and sometimes due to LeBron.

 
At Sunday, December 19, 2010 3:07:00 AM, Anonymous Aqzi said...

First off I would like to say I agree with Ilhan's comments and have also wondered why you are limited to such a small readership when it is clear you deserve more than an independent website.

I also agree with your assessment that the blogosphere is in many ways a "boy's club" led by Abbott and the like.

At the same time, I think you underestimate the resistance to the established bloggers. Sure, there are many casual fans who read Truehoop and mainstream sites like it, but I also believe there is a sizable population of either knowledgeable fans or fans that want to become more knowledgable (such as myself) that recognize the "nature" of the established blogosphere.

The problem as I see it (and I believe Ilhan would agree with me) is that by not being paid for your basketball analysis--this is an assumption, I am not entirely sure of this fact--you are limited to a much smaller number of articles than I, you, and the general public would benefit from.

There are blogs and people within the "establishment" whose goals are not to "blackball" you. Two examples that come to mind are ProBasketballTalk at NBC Sports and Sebastian Pruitti's NBA Playbook. I do not regularly check the CBS Sports basketball blog, but I would not be surprised if they put out quality analysis every once in a while too, and they would like to have a person like you who is not afraid and is extremely capable of having intelligent basketball conversations with intelligent basketball people--Phil Jackson, scouts, etc.

The best solution I can think of would be to look for work in a blog that competes with Truehoop (such as CBS and NBC) as a contributor and then move up the ranks from there. The NBC blog is a combination of interesting basketball news and intelligent basketball analysis. I could see you fitting perfectly as a regular contributor to the analysis component of their site.

 
At Sunday, December 19, 2010 3:39:00 AM, Anonymous Aqzi said...

Addendum:

I just looked around on the sites I consider successful yet out of the established group of blogs.

Some ideas to consider:
Limit your posts to basketball analysis exclusively. I think what turns a lot of people off is your blatant disrespect for many established writers (ie, calling them "yahoos"). While I often agree with your assessments, I come here for the basketball analysis. A related point is that you seem to have certain themes to the blog--that statistics in box scores may not always be accurate, that advanced statistics are not as accurate as their defenders suggest, etc. I do want to hear about these issues, but I wish they were separate posts entirely. For example, when I see a post about the recent Laker game, I want to read about the plays that were effective for both teams and what worked on defense. I would rather read about how Bryant is the true MVP caliber player as opposed to Pau in a separate post as this is old material that seemingly comes up in every mention of the Lakers.

A second point would be to strengthen your blog with pictures and videos (as NBA Playbook does), and maybe a general restructuring of the site. I enjoy reading the articles you have posted to the right but they are organized in a way that makes them difficult to navigate--I suggest creating a link for "Archives" and putting them all there. I am sure that a redesigned site would increase your readership. An easy way to do this would be to model it after another independent blogging site.

Another thing--it is clear that you do not underestimate the thirst for basketball knowledge from fans, I understood this after reading your post again.

 
At Monday, December 20, 2010 3:07:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

I don't think that the scout who I cited regarding LeBron/Wade was engaging in "armchair psychology" regarding LeBron's mentality, though I disagree with his opinion in this instance; I don't think that LeBron is a pass first player and I don't think that the Heat are best suited with Wade as the number one scoring option. LeBron and Wade have similar skill sets but LeBron is much bigger, so I think that the ball needs to be in his hands, with him shooting or passing depending on how the defense sets up. It will be a challenge for most teams to match up with both guys, so if the defense tilts toward one on a given night then the other should get more shots but in general I think that LeBron should bring the ball up the court or at least be the player who initiates the half court offensive set. Neither LeBron nor Wade is going to post up, reliably hit spot up jumpers or move without the ball a la Ray Allen/Rip Hamilton but I'd rather have 6-8 LeBron at the top of the key surveying the defense than 6-4 (but actually closer to 6-2) Wade.

 
At Monday, December 20, 2010 3:43:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Aqzi:

I think that there is a large potential audience for the work that I am doing here but the question/challenge is how to reach that audience; crappy bloggers who are part of what I call the "buddy, buddy" network get linked to all the time by Abbott and his cronies and that is what tends to build long term traffic: not one link (Abbott has linked to me a few times but that only provided one day spikes, not long term increases) but rather repeated links. I am not part of the "buddy, buddy" network so I have to build traffic a different way. I have a decent sized, highly loyal and very intelligent following but I have yet to reach that "tipping point" where this site is considered a major, mainstream player in the national basketball conversation.

It would be incorrect to say that I am not getting paid but more accurate to say that I am not being paid an amount that is commensurate with the quality of my work. In the past I posted much more frequently but frequency of posts alone is not enough to reach that "tipping point."

You will note that the right hand sidebar contains links to many articles that I wrote for NBCSports.com back in the 2006-07 season. Unfortunately, without any warning NBC terminated the editor I was working with and discontinued covering the NBA for a period of time; their newly resurrected site is run by Abbott disciples and I doubt that any editor who believes that John Krolik is a quality writer would have much interest in my work. Pruitti's blog is a member of the True Hoop network.

The larger point, as I alluded to in my response to Ilhan, is that regardless of who someone's nominal employer is in this business the reality is the editors/publishers are part of a "buddy, buddy" network that is largely hiring people from the same talent (or lack of talent) pool. That is why Abbott brags that everyone who got a full-time NBA writing gig recently has come out of his True Hoop Network (I don't know if that is true or even how to verify that but the fact that he brags about this speaks volumes, though not in the way that he probably intended).

I am sure that some readers don't like my criticism of other writers, while other readers applaud me for speaking the truth, just like some readers liked it when I said that Kobe should be the MVP (2006-2008) and other people liked it when I said that LeBron should be the MVP (2009-2010). There is no way to please everyone but the most important thing is that the quality of the writing here has been consistently high. It is also very important to understand that the members of the "buddy, buddy" network never embraced my work, a situation that predates any public criticism that I have made of their work--and it should be emphasized that I have criticized them not for that reason but rather because their work is indeed slipshod (any objective person reading my posts about Abbott, Hoop, Krolik, etc. realizes that my critiques are valid).

 
At Monday, December 20, 2010 3:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Aqzi (continued):

I originally planned to make this post an analysis of the Lakers-Pacers game but the game turned out to be completely noncompetitive and I had a conversation with a scout that turned out to be very interesting. While many writers predetermine what their game stories will be like, I prefer to have an open mind and simply write what I see/hear.

Although pictures/videos can certainly provide another dimension when used correctly that is simply not part of my repertoire for the most part; I am an "old school" journalist--a vanishing breed, kind of like the Jedi after Order 66--and I focus on producing classic long form journalism even though I use a blogging template to publish my work.

I know that some people do not like the site's layout but I rarely hear specific critiques or, more importantly, specific recommendations. When it came to my attention that some people thought that I had intentionally and egotistically made the "About me" section the dominant part of the main page I adjusted the template so that the current post portion of the page (on the left hand side) would be larger and the archive portion would be smaller. I never made a conscious decision to emphasize "About me"; I just went with the blogger template in its original form.

Regarding your critique of the Archives, I understand what you are saying but here is why I organized it this way: I have produced a ton of work for a variety of publications and I think that it is important to use this site as a one stop resource for all of these articles (not just to promote myself, though obviously that would be nice, but also because many of these articles are significant historically and/or analytically). I organized the right hand sidebar thematically and then within each category the articles are generally listed chronologically. I picked the categories based on my own interests (Erving, Pippen, ABA) but also on what I think would most interest intelligent basketball fans (Kobe and LeBron are the two best players of the past five years or so, Team USA is followed closely by many readers, All-Star Weekend is surely interesting to people who have never had a chance to go there in person, etc.). I am not sure that it would be beneficial to just create one big archive; all that does is make the reader click on one more link to get to a page that still would have the various categories that currently exist in the right hand sidebar.

The way the right hand sidebar currently exists enables both new readers and long time readers to instantly get a sense of just how much NBA information is contained within this site. I don't know of any other site that has such a treasure trove of current and historical articles about so many great players, coaches and teams.

 

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