Rob: Obviously, it doesn’t really behoove you, me, or the team if you tell us explicitly the kind of work that you’re doing with the Mavs, but in terms of generalities, what would you say is your emphasis in your work with the team?
I think one of the problems with a lot of guys doing stats stuff is that they don’t really, fully see the full day-to-day reality of what goes on with the team: the coaching, actually what goes into what happens on the court. It’s really eye-opening for me to get this experience, and I’m getting lots of ideas. But the jury is still out on what I’m going to contribute to the team. You might want to ask me this a few months from now.
There’s a tendency with a lot of stats guys to be very opinionated, very…almost one-dimensional in what they’re looking at, and I think the game is much more complex than people make it out to be. So being here gives me an opportunity to learn all that and see all that and I’m hoping that from that there will be some good things.
According to your statistical “school of thought,” (your “pet” metrics and your own research) are there any Mavs players you consider to be under appreciated?
That’s a tricky one. I think we have really good players, I think the roster is really, really good, we’ve got a lot of depth and yeah, I think a lot of guys in the NBA generally have blind spots, things people don’t see. A guy like Dampier, for example, is really good at setting screens, but you’ll never really hear about that. It’s not like that’s in the public domain, a guy that sets screens that people don’t want to go through.
It’s not going to lead the AP recap or anything.
Right. So I mean a lot of guys have really undervalued qualities and characteristics. I can’t really speak too precisely [as] to [which] guys, but that’s kind of my hope for being here, being able to quantify some of that stuff better, as to the unseen parts of the game right now. Hopefully from that will arise some benefit to the team.
Okay, you’ll have to bear with me, this is kind of a long-winded question. But I dug up a 2004 piece in San Francisco Weekly that featured you, and, oddly enough, our good friend Erick Dampier. At the time, you cited Damp as being somewhat of an offensive burden back with the Warriors, and to an extent that has been true of his time with the Mavs as well. At the time you said that Damp was “one of these guys…who would seemingly be positive players, but for some reason aren’t.” I think that same perception is very applicable to the newly acquired Drew Gooden. Should it worry Mavs fans that their center rotation will primarily consist of these statistical anomalies, these players with solid numbers that don’t necessarily translate to team success?
Well first of all I disavow a lot of what I said in 2004. I really think I’ve learned a lot over the last few years and I still have a lot to learn to get to where I want to be. But as I recall, mainly the thing I remember about Dampier was his plus/minus, his on/off stuff, wasn’t that good with the Warriors, even when he was having what some people said was a career year. Ironically, I think the other piece of that article was about Brian Cardinal, who barely played but actually does have a pretty good plus/minus through the years.
Again, I think that Damp has a lot of real strengths as a player, and is probably a pretty underrated guy nowadays in terms of what he brings as a center. And Drew likewise. You know again, I don’t really believe that guys have a constant value, so if you put them in the right situation, at the right juncture, and the right plan, they can be good. And if you get a good player in the wrong situation, that can hurt them. That’s probably what we’re seeing with Durant’s early years. Y’know, if he had been drafted by the Lakers or something, his plus/minus would not be a problem.
But I think we’re looking solid, and we’re very comfortable with our roster.
How do you think the Mavs measure up with the rest of the Western Conference this year?
It’s a very tough conference, obviously. There are a lot of strong teams. But we think we’re definitely one of the good teams. We’ll see in the next few months where people are stacking up, but yeah, there are some real powerhouse teams in the West. We feel like we’re up there, as a team, with the rest of the top guys.
A huge thanks to Roland for taking the time to talk with me,