The sour, dour reactions to a meeting without publicized progress on Thursday left everyone feeling as if the NBA lockout would never end. David Stern and Derek Fisher were in the room again, this time for four hours, and neither reported anything upon briefly commenting to media. Worse, the reporters at the scene painted pictures of a downtrodden commissioner and an exhausted labor leader, making body language experts of us all. (We should feel comfortable in that role, given how many of us judge a team's chemistry by how pitched the star player's frown is.)
And, of course, hours after the meeting ended, a reporter -- Ken Berger of CBSSports.com -- relayed that progress was actually made, sort of. Berger reported that the owners produced a new financial proposal that moved the league closer to the players' union on the revenue split. Berger implies that resolution on that issue could come next week when the sides meet again.
It's not clear where that split is. The league had reportedly wanted it at 50-50 in recent proposals; the union got down to 53-47 last week. But as Berger notes, at this point, the gap in real dollars is relatively miniscule. Players are not going to concede $2 billion in salary next season to quibble over $75 million. Owners are not going to concede $4 billion in revenue next season to quibble over $75 million.
But that doesn't mean that they'll split the baby and get back on the court right now. This thing is going all the way down to the wire; it's actually fun to see reporters continue to push the "drop-dead" date for the season to be preserved. We'd though Oct. 1 would mark a real deadline to save the season start, but Berger offers up Oct. 14 as a date that would delay the season start but get us 82 games. So sometime in the next three weeks, we'll actually have a drop-dead date.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the way this lockout has evolved is that even the best NBA reporters alive don't unanimously agree as to what will happen. Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski has written several times that there's no way the season starts on time. Former ESPN scribe Chris Sheridan thinks the 82-game schedule will be preserved, and Berger seems to share some of his optimism. Someone's going to be wrong: either the reporter who fears the worst about the way things have gone, or those who gave the parties involved too much credit. We'll see ... eventually. In the meantime, try not to get so upset over the zigs and zags in the negotiations. Things aren't always what they seem.
Daryl Morey and Sam Hinkie, the "stathead GMs" of the Houston Rockets, hit the perfect pitch in their Grantland column on the impact of and misunderstandings stemming from Moneyball, which was once just a good narrative on market inefficiencies written by Michael Lewis and is now a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt and I think Marco Scuttaro. Basically, Morey and Hinkie argue that stats work in concert with scouting, and that the us vs. them attitude taken by some traditionalists is unnecessary.
I have no problems with fans ignoring the statistical revolution in basketball. You don't need to understand the concepts of per-possession rates, efficiency or anything else to enjoy the game. You ought to enjoy it with whatever level of analytic sophistication you'd like. But analysts, writers, decision-makers, coaches? It's irresponsible and a disservice to your audience or team to ignore this stuff.
When you're covering basketball and trying to paint that picture for your readers, you need to have some level of sophistication to truly elucidate your audience. When you're a color analyst on TV, it's irresponsible to not proffer the stats you will assuredly proffer without doing it in the most accurate way possible. (It's amazing how few times I've heard offensive and defensive efficiency referenced on TV compared to how frequently team points per game is mentioned. This stuff has been widely publicly available for a decade now.)
If you're a GM or coach and you have no interest in the stats movement, you're not doing your job. You're putting your team at a disadvantage. Every skeptic will argue that basketball isn't the same, that there are too many moving parts and that it's impossible to distill what makes players great without watching them do it. I'm a full supporter of watching as many games as possible. I've watched NBA rookies play an exhibition game twice in the last 12 hours, for Jimmer's sake. But a robust statistical analysis must be involved when the fate of a basketball team rests in your hands. Even if, in basketball, stats only get you 50 percent of the way, that's 50 percent of the way.
Hostility towards advanced stats by writers, analysts, front offices and coaching staffs is destructive and irresponsible. Folks in those positions who don't take it seriously are half-assing their jobs, plain and simple.
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