Why Players Fail

For all non-specific NBA-related discussion

Postby thehef » Mon Jul 20, 2009 6:36 pm

Keith wrote:
The difference between then & now is the knee-jerk coded-language condemnation of "head cases" that the NBA Cares so desperately to avoid.


That may or may not be a difference, but as it applies to the reaction and punishment, Maxwell-sitch vs Artest/Pacers-Pistons Brawl, I don't think it is the difference. We know that, from a marketing perspective, the NBA of 1980 is nothing like it is now. It's ALL about image, and - as we saw when Horry's cheap-shot on Nash led to leaving-the-bench playoff suspensions for Amare and Boris - Stern runs a tight (maybe, at times, irrationally inflexible) ship. Combine that with the facts that Maxwell's incident - according to the video - did not escalate into anything close to the degree of the Pistons/Pacers brawl (Kevin Loughery says "could've got real nasty out there"), and was not an ESPN/FOX Sports/CNN/Internet staple for days (IOW, media then vs media now), well you get the idea.

Was Artest's suspension longer because of his past and his rep? Probably. In fact I seem to recall that Stern said he took that into consideration. However, I don't think there's much doubt that if it wasn't Artest but was instead some average NBA player, w/o a "problem background," there still would've been a bunch of suspensions and crackdown.

There are plenty of differences between the two incidents, but so much else is different between now and then.
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Postby thehef » Wed Jul 22, 2009 12:05 am

Keith, about nine posts above, I asked several specific questions. And you gave several responses that were a bit like those in a presidential debate, where the panelist asks a specific question, and then the candidate simply uses that question as a starting point for a rant about whatever is he wants to talk about:

Questioner: "Senator Ellis, what specifically would you do to fix the healthcare crisis our nation currently faces?"

Senator Ellis: "Great question, and I'm glad you asked... First of all, the key to fixing the healthcare crisis is restoring our great nation's economy, making it robust once again. And I have a five-point plan to do just that. It all starts with jobs. Jobs are the key. Unemployment is too high, our nations banks are in trouble. Bad mortgages... (blah-blah-blah... blah-blah-blah...) And that, my friends, is why we salute our troops."

Moderator: "Thank you Mr Ellis."

*************
Hef: "Keith, specifically, why was Larry Bird to blame for the Piston/Pacers brawl, and how would things have been different that night had he not been in Europe?"

Keith: "Great question, Rob, and I'm glad you asked. First of all, Naismith called Indiana "then center of basketball." And there was a Promise made to Jermaine O'Neal. In Indiana. Surely Elvin Hayes knows about Indiana's Three championships. Which could be construed as the ABA. A Siren Song, except in Europe. Flying first class in The Deadball Era. Which is clearly how Phil Jackson coached Dennis Rodman, but not Kurt Rambis. So we ask ourselves, would the ABA have called Standardized Stats a Forfeit? To examine that, we must look to MJ never winning without Pip, not country boys drinking beer, or wasting time in Europe, sipping champagne. And, of course, we simply can't deny that there was Bobby Jones, the Shortened Arc, Wilt and the Globetrotters, and probably John Wooden, too. Which leads us to Big Dave DeJernett. But that's another subject... So, there it is, laid out for all to see: Errors, Homeruns, and McHale couldn't board. That's precisely how Larry Bird failed us Hoosiers."

Moderater: "Thank you, Keith."

C'mon, buddy. You can probably make a good case that Bird's done a lousy job as GM. And an even better one that Jasikevicius was a bad move. But connecting Bird to The Brawl? That he was to blame because he was in Europe? Either connect the dots, or just give it up, man! ;-)
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Postby mtamada » Fri Jul 24, 2009 12:52 am

Great find, that Cedric video clip. I'd completely forgotten about that incident, partly because those Celtic-76er games in the early 1980s were so intense that there many such incidents. I remember a brawl on the court, with Billy Cunningham trying to wade in and getting his jacket torn -- in a pre-season game! Bird and Erving getting into a fight. Jack Madden calling five technical fouls on the Celtics for a single play ... I think the first tech was on Bird, and when Fitch and assistant coach Jimmy Rodgers protested too vociferously, Madden T'd and ejected both of them in short order, leaving only the other ass't coach to take over -- but being the Celtics, the assistant in question was KC Jones, so no shortage of coaching experience there.
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Postby Gabe Farkas » Fri Jul 24, 2009 2:34 am

Mike Goodman wrote:My guess is that the fat guy used the N word, and Cedric demonstrated that no man has to turn his back on that. Certainly no warrior does.

That's actually what happened, as far as I know. Cornbread is a guest on the local sports talk radio, and has commented on the incident a few times, basically implying that there were racial slurs involved before, during, and after the fracas.
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Postby Keith Ellis » Fri Jul 24, 2009 3:47 am

Your point is well taken & enjoyed, Rob. Yet Larry Bird's actions ever since the Pistons lost control of their stadium represent mistake after mistake. He appears an aloof father figure often away on business trips: even when back home again in Indiana he seems a Walter Mitty dreaming of where he'd rather be, or maybe a Willy Loman who's out of his league (exec-wise).

So Bird's no Donnie Walsh. That's no sin. Magic Johnson couldn't coach his way out of a ten-game losing streak to dismally abort a non-career on the Laker bench. At least Larry's a better coach than Magic.

Obviously, a leader remote from his charges can't be "blamed" for a fracas that the authorities mishandled. Yet the timing & placement of Bird's being absent, away in Europe for a Pistons game, showed misplaced priorities. True, my analysis is an opinion, but one reflective of ever-growing misgivings statewide about the Pacer personnel moves. The Europe-fling w/ Jasikevicius was part of what's become a pattern of poor (or, OK, unlucky) decisionmaking.
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Postby thehef » Fri Jul 24, 2009 6:24 pm

Keith wrote:
"...Larry Bird's actions ever since the Pistons lost control of their stadium represent mistake after mistake."

I don't think there's any direct relationship between 'the brawl' and the beginning of so-called "mistake after mistake." But perhaps, Keith, you're just using that as a marker. Not sure. Regarldess...

Successful GM-ing, IMO, is made up of a huge helping of luck: Making bold moves and then hoping they pay off. I don't give much credit to guys doing the obvious and then watching it succeed: Pop & Co. drafting Tim Duncan, West signing Shaq are two quick examples of no-brainers. But the bold & risky moves are just that: Risks.

Kevin McHale is generally thought to be a failed GM. However, it's worth noting that - after several seasons of mediocrity - he made bold moves, teaming KG with strong-willed Sam Cassell and mercurial Latrell Sprewell. It worked well - better than expected that season - until Sam was injured for the playoffs... Now that we have the benefit of knowing the subsequent events (Pistons winning a title and contending for several others), we might not give the Wolves a chance in a matchup against Detroit for the 2004 title, but - had Cassell been healthy - why not? It might've been quite a series (their two regular-season games were both one-point squeakers won by Minn.). And why not the 58-win Wolves over the 54-win Pistons in a matchup of first-timers? And then McHale's the bold, risk-taking, brilliant exec. (And Joe D. is faced with the 'reality' that you can't win without a superstar.)

Contrast that with Danny Ainge deciding to bring in Garnett and Allen to go along with Pierce two years ago. Clearly, that worked out well. But if KG's knee had flared in the 2008 playoffs rather than last year's (or if the 'pop' Pierce heard in game one of the finals was a torn ACL), it would've been another one of those "three stars can't win; he shoudla known..." or "the team's too old, one of 'em was bound to break down & now we've lost our future..." It woulda been a bold, riskly maneuver that failed.

Who knows? Bird might be a season or two away from his "Garnett" move. Or a season away from it all imploding into a 15-win season and his exit. Time - and luck - will tell...

Back the Maxwell-in-the-stands thing: The thing I keep coming back to is the immediate aftermath. It didn't get out of hand (in contrast to the Pacers/Pistons/fans brawl), so punishment wasn't warranted. Much like a DUI: Get pulled over for weaving, and the punishment is pretty light in comparison to wiping out a family.
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Postby thehef » Fri Jul 24, 2009 8:06 pm

OK, last tries, Keith ;-):
Keith wrote:
"Yet where was Larry when we needed him most to stand up for the fate of homegrown Hoosier pro bkb? Lost in a crowd ten thousand miles away, beyond Le Mer. Plenty of "scouts" can bring back video from overseas, but only Larry Bird could've stood up to David Stern in the immediate aftermath..."

So which are you saying? That no GM should ever go overseas on a scouting trip, lest they be too far away if something unlikely and outrageous should occur, or that Larry Bird should've had the vision to anticipate such a happening as the brawl and it's supposed anti-Pacer aftermath? (I've tried asking this before, so I don't really expect a direct answer ;-))

Keith wrote:
"...madness & anti-Pacer umbrage (demonstrated vividly by awarding our club a cynical backhanded "W" in a game that never ended)."

What specifically demonstrated cynical backhandedness in awarding the "W" to the Pacers? Is that just the way you see it, or is there some evidence? And by 'evidence' I don't mean references to anything other than something that direcly relates to the awarding of the W.

And I'm still wondering what the harm was in awarding the W to Indiana. The fans & viewers got 98.75% (which is about part for the course in a game that isn't close) of their money's worth of basketball, and there's no reasonable basis for thinking it was possible for Detroit to have come back to win the game (had the brawl not ocurred). Cynicism and bitterness aside, what purpose would a forfeit, other result, or forcing the players to dribble out the clock have served?

Finally...
Keith wrote:
"Who presented the face of the Pacers in the crucial post-game spin-doctoring..."

I have absolutely zero evidence, but my hunch is that there are times when Stern absolutely lays down the law, accepts no compromise, and flat-out tells someone how it's going to be and will accept no public complaints to the contrary. For example, when the league first allowed/instituted between-period TV interviews of coaches by sideline reporters, most coaches went along with it. But I recall that Phil Jackson - initially - would make comments to the reporter like "I'm embarrassed for you that you have to do this," and wouldn't even offer the phony insight and cliches that most coaches do. However, it didn't take long for Jax to toe the line and at least be civil, grit his teeth, and serve up the standard interview fare... I suspect that Stern or someone in the league office simply told him - as well as Jerry Buss - that the on-air disrespect/criticism would stop immediately, and there was no alternative other than monumental punishment.

Given the media coverage, uproar & outrage, and possible PR damage of the brawl in Detroit, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Stern & company had similar convo's w the Pacer front-office, heading off any possible complaints, etc. Stern - rightly or wrongly - wanted the league's response to be one of those 'bigger than the game' moments, IMO.
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Postby MCT » Mon Nov 02, 2009 6:45 pm

In several of the posts on this page, there is discussion of an incident involving Cedric Maxwell during a 1980s Celtics-76ers playoff game. I have no recollection of this and was not previously familiar with it. Since I have access to an online Boston Globe archive back to 1979 through my local library, however, I decided to check there to see what I could find:

--This happened on May 1, 1981, during the third period of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. In this series, the Celtics came back from a 3-1 deficit to win games 5, 6 and 7, capturing the series. They would go on to win the NBA Championship.

--As far as I can tell, there wasn't much in the Globe about this incident at all. It doesn't seem to have been thought of as that big of a deal. Essentially, it is mentioned in passing in the game story in the next day's paper, and in a handful of other articles over the next week or so; that's it.

--From what little coverage it did get, it seems that the incident was being blamed primarily on the fan (at least in Boston). Some articles alude to the fan having said something to Maxwell, though there is absolutely no insuation as to what was said. Other articles claim that the fan poked Maxwell with a pencil. Maxwell was ultimately fined $2,500 as punishment for the incident.

Here's a few excerpts:

The game story on May 2 describes the latter stages of the game as having been played "before a hostile crowd of 18,276 that had been inflamed by an impromptu Cedric Maxwell trip into the stands to shove an abusive fan in the third period". This is the only mention of this incident that I could find in the paper from the day after the game.

From two stories on May 3 (which seem like they may have actually been two different versions of the same story used in different editions of that day's paper): "Cunningham was standing this Friday night on a platform in a sweaty dungeon in the Spectrum, a house of thrills where, an hour earlier, some sportsman allegedly stuck a pencil into Cedric Maxwell's side." "The emotion was not confined to the court. A fan jabbed Cedric Maxwell with a pencil when the Celtic player fell into the crowd, and Maxwell leaped on his assailant, precipitating a rather untidy melee near the Celtics' bench."

From May 4: "Cedric Maxwell got the bad news yesterday. His run-in with a Philadelphia fan last Friday night during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at the Spectrum will cost him $2500. The National Basketball Assn. announced the fine yesterday against Maxwell, who charged into the stands and shoved a middle-aged man whose remarks he apparently took exception to. The incident occurred early in the third period of the game at Philadelphia on May 1. Maxwell was trying to get position under the Celtics backboard and was shoved out of bounds by Darryl Dawkins of the 76ers. The momentum of Dawkins' shove carried Maxwell into the lap of a fan who was cheerleading in front of his front-row seat. Maxwell picked himself up and headed back to the court. Suddenly, he stopped and went back to charge the man, who was knocked over his chair. The fan was not identified. "Regardless of the provocation," NBA Comr. Larry O'Brien commented from New York, "players must avoid confrontations with the fans in the stands, and any player engaging in similar conduct in the future will have even more severe penalties." Maxwell was not available for comment.

A May 7 article, discussing Celtic radio announcer Johnny Most's description of the crowd in Philadelphia towards the end of Game 6: "They're a bunch of idiots," he shouted during the late stages of the sixth game at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. A moment later, he warned that fans in the stands - after being involved in an earlier altercation with Cedric Maxwell - were edging toward the Boston bench, perhaps towards him."

On May 10, the Globe ran an article entitled, "What Precipitates Fan Abuse?". Note that the title of this article is not referring to athletes abusing fans, but the other way around. The article discusses a number of incidents in which fans had been involved in incidents with athletes (e.g., fans throwing objects at baseball players during games). "The NBA has fined a few players for going after abusive fans, the latest being Cedric Maxwell of the Celtics, who was told to pay $2500 after charging a fan in Philadelphia during a game with the 76ers. The fan apparently said something Maxwell didn't like after the forward landed in the fan's lap following a rebounding tussle."
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Postby meej » Tue Nov 03, 2009 10:11 am

I seem to recall Vernon Maxwell also went into the stands to punch a fan in 1995 as a member of the Houston Rockets.

He was suspended for several games, although I think that a full season suspension would be most appropriate for any player that hits a fan. I don't care about excuses or provocations, you hit a paying customer you're out.
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Postby Mike Goodman » Tue Nov 03, 2009 11:26 am

Vernon was already "Mad Max" before the incident, and his suspension was, IIRC, the biggest ever handed down since the Kermit-RudyT mess.

McHale clotheslined Rambis, and it was just a foul. Parish pummeled Laimbeer (from behind) and was only ejected one game. Cedric pounced on a fan and went right on playing. Penalties have definitely gotten more severe since the '80s, by orders of magnitude.

Suspension for 'the rest of the season' might be for 80 games or for one game. There's provocation to be taken into account, as well as 'the good of the game'. If a 'paying customer' sticks me with a pencil, a knife, or a gun, I might react accordingly. What's appropriate?

In the Cedric Maxwell incident, the replay shows that the refs have let the game get completely out of hand, at least by modern standards. Guys are blatantly grabbing and pushing. Dawkins puts a 'football move' on Ced to put him in the seats. Some fans will take this as an invitation to participate.
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Postby meej » Tue Nov 03, 2009 11:44 am

I can tell you right away that physically assaulting a fan is not appropriate. I am definitely in favour of having security escort abusive fans out of the building, and in no way should inappropriate behaviour be countenanced.

But it is not the players' place to take justice into their own hands. Fans should be treated as customers at all times (even when hauling them away) and also there are other fans around who have done nothing wrong and don't deserve to find themselves in the middle of a WWF match.
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Postby Robert Bradley » Tue Nov 03, 2009 2:32 pm

i don't think you'll find many people who disagree with you about fan (mis)behavior.

buying a ticket doesn't give you the right to be abusive, but when you add the feeling of entitlement buying a ticket gives some people with excessive alcohol consumption and can lead to a some hairy incidents.
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Postby meej » Tue Nov 03, 2009 9:36 pm

I agree that buying a ticket does not give you the right to be abusive, and many fans seem to forget that. Still, I think that having players assault fans is not the kind of behaviour that should be promoted. Even though I sometimes feel a guilty pleasure watching moronic fans discover they cannot insult athletes with impunity, the voice of reason inside of me insists that you just can't let it happen. They are paying customers, and if they misbehave they should be expelled, nothing more.
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Postby Mike Goodman » Tue Nov 03, 2009 10:28 pm

A thug posing as a fan once stabbed a tennis player with a knife.
Another thug cracked an ice skater's knees with a lead pipe.

The victims were women, probably not able to adequately defend themselves against their assailants.

That they were 'athletes' should not disqualify them from being permitted to defend themselves as best they could. But they never saw it coming.

It's irrelevant whether their attackers paid for a ticket in order to get close enough to make the assault.
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Postby meej » Tue Nov 03, 2009 11:50 pm

I am not sure that's the discussion.
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Postby meej » Wed Nov 04, 2009 7:45 am

Well, if memory serves me right, the Tanya Harding thing was (a) the work of a rival not a fan and (b) not in the public eye or during a competition. It makes as much sense as fans wearing bulletproof vests to Nets home games "just in case".

None of the instances discussed involve putting the players at risk. In fact, I think that the worst thing you could do to a fan carrying a concealed weapon is rush him blindly, a melee in the stands would just be the perfect opportunity to use the weapon. Please note that even after the attack on Capriati, tennis players very rarely go up the stands to punch out unruly fans - in fact, security was reinforced to keep players and fans apart.

There have been instances in South America, Greece and Turkey of basketball players being attacked by fans with an intent to kill or maim, but none in the NBA that I can recall, and I think they go beyond this discussion. It would be a matter for the police not the NBA central office, for a start. In any case, I am fully in support of Richie Powers during the 1976 finals: if a fan comes into the court to attack you, by all means be as aggresive as you like to defend yourself. But that's not what these players did, they felt offended (not threatened) and went into the stands for retribution.
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Postby Mike Goodman » Wed Nov 04, 2009 12:07 pm

Jermaine O'Neal's sentence was reduced, apparently based on the fact that the fan he decked was on the court and not in his seat.

I was referring to extreme and hypothetical examples which, as noted, have not happened in the NBA, at least in memory. I just thought that blanket statements, like:
- They are paying customers, and if they misbehave they should be expelled, nothing more.
and
- physically assaulting a fan is not appropriate. ... it is not the players' place to take justice into their own hands. Fans should be treated as customers at all times

... may not always suffice. You don't expect to have to hit/tackle anyone on a given day, but it could be necessary of a sudden.
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Postby kjb » Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:53 pm

Despite what the old nostrum says, the customer is NOT always right. If you believe this, try buying a pack of gum, then going to the wine section and smashing some bottles.

The paying customer should be expelled and nothing more, right?

Or, buy that same pack of gum, then punch the cashier in the nose. Or throw a battery at him. Or a beer bottle. Hey, paying customer, right?






PS -- meej: I'm not saying that's what you're advocating. Just taking your thought to its logical end point.
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Postby meej » Fri Nov 13, 2009 9:29 pm

That's not the logical next point, that's reductio ad absurdum. I could counter suggesting that players pack heat at all times just in case they come under fire from the stands, but it would not make much sense either.
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Postby kjb » Mon Nov 16, 2009 2:47 pm

meej wrote:That's not the logical next point, that's reductio ad absurdum. I could counter suggesting that players pack heat at all times just in case they come under fire from the stands, but it would not make much sense either.


I apologize for getting my terminology wrong. The point still stands.
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Postby MCT » Fri Feb 05, 2010 8:05 pm

Mike Goodman wrote:Rather than rattling off lists of names of players who were once good (or 'should have been' good) but had short careers, in one era or another, I wondered if it could be quantified.

Using pages like this one -
http://www.basketball-reference.com/fc/ ... i?id=1AwOj

... I looked for careers of no more than 400 games, most rebounds in these short careers, and sorted by first season. Visually scanning the list, I counted the number of players in each time-frame: Entirely in the '50s; start in the '50s, end in the '60s; etc.

I repeated this using most points by players with careers less than 400 games. These are crude estimators of 'potential', but that's what I could think of.

[snipped]

If we exclude the ABA (on account of there were lots of stopgap players in the first 2-3 years), it will break down differently. But then there's the problem of guys who only had short NBA portions (on top of ABA) of careers. I'll try to pick these out of the mix.
NBA only:
Code: Select all
years    Reb  Pts
1950s     12   10
50s-60s    6    4
1960s      7    3
60s-70s    5    3
1970s     13   11
70s-80s   13   14
1980s      7    9
80s-90s    9   11
1990s      3    5
90s-00s   12   10
2000s      5    5

Without the early-ABA guys, it's clearly the '70s and early '80s that dominate. Even with more teams and players today, there seem to be fewer such short careers.

I've commented on this before, but I think the late '70s and early '80s was the most difficult time to stick in the NBA anytime after the league began to expand rapidly in the mid 1960s (and the rest of the '80s, up until the 1988-89 expansions, weren't that much easier). This undoubtedly contributed to some of the short careers in that era. The demise of the ABA resulted in a contraction in the number of major-league basketball franchises. NBA active rosters were reduced from 12 to 11 early in the 1977-78 season, and teams in those days rarely stashed extra players on the injured list as a matter of standard operating procedure.

A new team was added in 1980, and active rosters were raised back up to 12 in 1981. But it probably wasn't until the late '80s that the number of players employed by the NBA at any given time during the regular season reached the levels of the NBA and ABA combined in 1975.
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