• The schtick that once established Dwight Howard as a lovable goofball has been exposed over time. The same tired punchlines and repeated impersonations can only get laughs for so long, and as Howard's act was repeated on national TV for years, consistent viewers grew all the wiser and all the less interested.
But even as the regard of Howard's clowning wanes, the performance never stops. Howard has a brighter spotlight now than ever, and after reading Kevin Ding's account of Howard's general tenor at the Orange County Register, one can only surmise that Howard's act won't be gaining in popularity any time soon:
Howard's response to the Lakers' 0-2 start remains all rear ends, rainbows and sunshine.
"It'll all come together at the right time," Howard said late Wednesday night in the locker room after the Lakers got blown off the court in Portland.
Before that, Howard turned on some pleasant music so he could groove in front of his locker while he got dressed, his teammates all already long gone to the bus. Before that, he asked a Lakers staffer if hitting his free throws meant he could have his Halloween candy. Then he asked again. And again.
Before that, Howard mooned a TV cameraman whom he suspected of having his camera on while Howard had his underwear halfway down. Howard responded by sticking his rear end farther out, saying: "I've got a wide shot for you." And he giggled.
Is that an improper reaction to the Lakers' start?
Well, the only proper reaction is one that is true to the individual.
• On a very related note: Howard is in desperate need of a LeBron James-style image overhaul.
• Doug Collins' proclaimed distaste for poring through statistical data nudged Derek Bodner of Liberty Ballers to examine Collins and the entire world of basketball analytics with a wider lens. Ultimately, those who break down the game are largely looking at the same things: who does what well where, when and how. Some cite simple measures -- and "gut instinct" -- in an effort to answer those questions, and others look to the more useful contextual data, only to be met with a confusing backlash:
What gets me is that, even the most old school of thinkers, the guys who live and die by their guts, the guys who "watch the game", will cite box score statistics ... It's a fallacy that gets me every time. If I say "Spencer Hawes pulled down 12 rebounds last night", I still retain my "watch the game" credibility. If I say "Spencer Hawes had an 18.4% rebounding percentage last night", I should stick to my excel spreadsheets and let scouts handle basketball activities.
Yet we're measuring the same thing, and we're both using statistics. I'm just using the one I think is more representative of the skill set we're talking about. I would bet if I sat down and was able to explain it, I could get most "watch the game" guys to realize why rebounding percentage is more indicative of the impact a players rebounding had than rebounds per game is.
And that's all "analytics" are trying to do. They're trying to find stats that are more representative of impact than the basic statistics available in the box scores. Sure, there are some statistics that try to look at the entirety of a player, but that's a very small subset of the advanced statistics field. The vast majority of the stats used every day is simply trying to find the flaws of traditional stats and find ways to make them more representative of impact.
An important development in light of this discussion and Collins' preferences: Bodner also broke the news that the Sixers have hired Aaron Barzilai, who formerly worked as an analyst for the Memphis Grizzlies and operates basketballvalue.com, to head their new analytics initiative.
• Justin Verrier of TrueHoop: "Everything about [Lamar] Odom seems to be at war these days."
• With an NBA Finals appearance and oodles of talent, the Oklahoma City Thunder have disguised the fact that they don't, in the traditional sense of the phrase, play very good "team basketball. Ethan Sherwood Strauss explains the Thunder's perceptual magic trick over at HoopSpeak:
On the face of it, 2010-2012 OKC had congealed into a collective hive mind, because how else do you win, really? In theory, victory occurs from parts complementing one another, from individuals working together.
But the Thunder I knew operated more as a stacked baseball batting order, with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka hitting for power, speed, or average, in compartmentalized chunks.
The Oklahoma City I knew didn’t pass Oklahoma City the ball. The Thunder finished league last in assist rate last season. They were 24th the year before and 25th the year before that. Red Holzman’s Knicks, this wasn’t.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being something other than Holzman’s Knicks. Ends justified actions for Oklahoma City and its second-ranked offense. Pass-happy basketball is not morally purer than what the Thunder did. It’s just that, what Oklahoma City did, was not in on-court accordance to their operational ethos. This was a wildly successful team, all while flouting the stereotype of what a successful team does.
• The incorporation of players into a new basketball system viewed as an exercise in translation.
• The Pacers have made clear in no uncertain terms that their evolution as a team hinges on the development of Paul George. James Herbert of Hardwood Paroxysm wrote about those expectations, in addition to George's own hopes for improvement:
One game into the season is far too early to know what George will add to his repertoire or resume in 2012-2013. It’s too early to know how much of his summer studying will translate on the floor. But while there’s no shortage of players who have talked about improving since last year’s playoffs, George has shown some signs. With him, there has always been plenty of promise. And hearing George talk about his goals and expectations, it seems there’s something he might have in even higher supply: motivation.
• Zach Lowe does his best to find the slim positives of the DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday extensions. • No one expected the Lakers' Princeton-style offense to be NBA-ready from the season opener, and yet many are shocked that it isn't. This is a team expected to perform at a high level, and as Tom Ziller explains in his column at SB Nation, the struggles with the Princeton are both to be expected and utterly non-unique.