Judging Happy

Posted by David Hopkins on January 29, 2013 under Commentary | 3 Comments to Read

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“I am displeased, Morg. You have destroyed one of my creations. Such an act is my decision, not yours. You have overstepped your bounds.” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

I’m not usually one to quote Spurs coach Greg Popovich, but I love his response to David Aldridge during a sideline interview. Coach, how happy were you with the shot selection? Popovich quipped, “Happy? Happy? ‘Happy’ is not a word we think about in the game. Think of something different. Happy? I don’t know how to judge happy.”

Popovich makes a good point. How do you “judge happy?” Is it one of Hollinger’s advanced statistics that I haven’t heard of yet? But sports analysts do treat “happy” like a stat. We measure “ happy” and consider its weight and effect on the game.

I’ve found myself wondering if Chris Kaman is happy right now—according to this report from ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, not very. I contemplate how his unhappiness will affect the team. Will his “lack of happy” cause him to get traded? Does Rick Carlisle even care about Kaman’s happiness? The correct answer is probably not, and nor should he care. The Mavs are trying to win games, not maintain the happiest franchise in professional basketball. (Tangent: Which franchise do you think is the happiest right now? My guess is the Clippers. They seem like a happy bunch.)

We get so worried about “ not happy,” because we associate it with players not performing to their potential. Unhappy players become a nuisance in the locker room. Unhappy players start fights, get coaches fired, and leave the franchise in a lurch. Unhappy players look like Lamar Odom in a Mavs uniform. No one wants that.

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A Thesis on Being Thankful

Posted by David Hopkins on November 20, 2012 under Commentary | 4 Comments to Read

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“Who is the greater evil, Starchilde… I, the devourer of life that has run its course… or you, who denies existence to generations of the future?” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

I went to the library a few days ago. A little bit of a confession: I went to find a book on sports writing, preferably something that could teach me how to better use stats in my weekly column. I’m not really a “stats guy.” I could tell you that the Mavs were out-rebounded last night, 62-43, and I know that’s bad. That is bad, right? Kidding. I can handle the most basic box score stats. However, once the numbers start flying, calculating efficiency ratings over a ten-game spread for when so-and-so is only playing 20 minutes or less, I get confused. For the benefit of The Two Man Game reader, you have other well-qualified contributors on that masthead. For my Tuesday column, you’ll get something a little more of whatever it is that I bring to the table — wild predictions and haphazard insight into a player’s psyche? (Side note to my side note: I have created “The Galactus Bump.” Whenever I write about a player, the next week, they play better. I offer Dominique Jones as exhibit A.)

So, I’m at the library. I couldn’t find a magical “understanding stats” book. I’m sure it exists. Share your suggestions in the comments section. However, I did find this gem called The Encyclopedia of Pro Basketball Team Histories, written by Peter C. Bjarkman, Ph.D. (who refers to himself as “Doctor Basketball”), which was published in 1994. In this book, Doctor Basketball devotes a chapter to each NBA team and explains why they are terrible, except the Celtics and Lakers. Then, he includes an epilogue on a dozen of basketball’s greatest heroes. I like how he refers to Magic Johnson as “Magic” Johnson. And he must remind readers that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is also known as Lew Alcindor. Because apparently, most people remember him as Lew?

I skipped all the other chapters to the one about the Mavs (page 387). Oh, how things have changed in Dallas. With Thanksgiving two days away, find this book, read this chapter and give thanks that Doctor Basketball did not write the final chapter on the Dallas Mavericks. I’d like to share a few of my favorite moments from this dreadful accounting.

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