Saturday, June 11, 2011

New Website/Blog!


Thanks for reading everyone! I've decided to gravitate my writing more towards basketball and working on my writing portfolio.

As such, you'll find my writing at as well as 

My portfolio can be found at

Feel free to email me at:


Friday, February 18, 2011

My Favourite All-Star Game

Back in 2001, I was a 12 year old kid who was absolutely enamored with the NBA. I would tape everything - from NBA games, to NBA Action Top 10 countdowns (every week no less), to dunk contests and All-Star games. From 1999-2004 I taped literally everything NBA-related - nerd-tastic to say the least. Even now, 24 tapes worth of basketball from that time period are still scattered in my basement.

With All-Star 2011 (the 60th ASG in NBA history) happening this Sunday, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on what is, in my mind, the best All-Star game I've ever watched. The 2003 ASG featuring a would-be MJ game-winner could have taken the cake had Jermaine O'Neal not ruined the game by fouling Kobe Bryant and preventing a storybook ending to Jordan's ASG career.

The 2001 game sticks out in my mind because it embodies an entire generation of players coming into their own, as well as the typical things that make an NBA game exciting. It featured the ascension of players who successfully carried the enormous post-Jordan void (KG, Tim Duncan, Kobe, AI, Jason Kidd, etc), some spectacular dunks courtesy of Kobe and Vince Carter (this is one of the most difficult 360s I've ever seen - Vince in his prime made it look frighteningly easy), strong defense spear-headed by Dikembe Mutumbo, a 21 point comeback led by Allen Iverson in his prime, and possibly the most exciting finish in All-Star game history. The last 2 minutes alone featured heroics from Kobe Bryant (THREE clutch jumpers; yes Henry, Kobe could deliver even 10 years ago - too bad it wasn't with less than 24 seconds left), C-Webb, AI, and, in possibly a career-highlight, Stephon Marbury (!).

The entire game can be watched on Youtube, but I'd suggest you just start watching from the second half, with the West up 61-50.

Looking back at this All-Star game, its crazy how much has changed. The generation of stars in their primes today (the class of 2003) were still yet to be drafted, and guys like KG and Kobe were still youngins with hops trying to establish themselves as individual players.

From that All-Star game, the three top players from the West (KG, TD, KB) still reign supreme to this day - veteran warriors who've experienced everything from MVP seasons, to frustration (minus Timmy D of course), and finally, certified Hall-of-Fame status. Once the pinnacle of youth, these 3 players (and Ray Allen) are the only ones from the entire 2001 All-Star selection to still remain All-Stars, 10 years later. It is obviously no surprise then, that these are the players who have been crowned champions and have endured the test of time to prove themselves over and over again this past decade.

Looking back on games like these makes me think about the fact that much like people lived their childhoods watching Jordan, Bird, and Magic, I lived my childhood through guys like Kobe, Tim Duncan, Shaq, and KG. It is sad to know that those three guys - the last remaining (basketball) pieces of my childhood - only have 2-3 (at most) of these games left before they ride off into the sunset, leaving my youth behind in the process.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Response To Henry Abbott

A week or two ago, the notoriously belittling ESPN writer Henry Abbott decided to post a "earth-shattering" column on dissecting his assertion that Kobe was overrated as a clutch player. As soon as I read the article, I became defensive. Not because of his claims, but rather due to the erroneous evidence he uses to proves his points, as well as a brash ignorance to Bryant's abilities. 

Having had to argue with numerous nimrods who use this article as the basis of their "proof" to fans who think that Kobe is clutch, I've decided to break down the article and prove it for what it really is - a way to get page views to ESPN by taking a controversial position.

The truth is, Kobe is a clutch player. Clutch doesn't mean he makes every single shot - but over time, he has won the game in enough situation that his reputation is justified. However, when you use stats misleadingly to prove your point and readers don't analyze what you're saying, its easy to get bamboozled in the process.


First, let's be clear that Abbot's premise of being clutch is based on 24 seconds or less left in the game, and the team with the ball is either tied or down by 1 to 2 points. 

[Update: If you want a more accurate measure of statistics that determines Kobe's level of clutch, look no further than the feature linked below, which determines clutchness with the definition of "4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points". This criteria is a lot closer to my own of 6 minutes or under, and not surprisingly, Bryant is at the top, or near the top for all the years that it has been documented.

By this category, Kobe comes #2 in 2010, #2 in 2008, and #1 in 2009. I couldn't find the numbers for years prior to this on the website, but the list of players included in these lists resemble who is generally defined as "clutch" in the NBA, and is a lot more accurate than the list Abbott uses. The likely candidates (James, Wade, Ginobili, Roy, Paul) are on the list, when most of these players were missing from Abott's list or were not in the Top 5]

Right off the bat, the argument is a VERY inaccurate window of time to judge clutchness by. To me, clutchness is not just in the last 24 seconds; it is when the momentum is swinging to the other team in the last 5 or less minutes of the 4th quarter, and you make baskets that either give you further cushions on your lead, or leave you fighting for chances to win, putting pressure on the other team to execute. By Henry's definition of clutch, if Kobe Bryant makes a 3 pointer with 10 seconds left and his team down 3, its not clutch because it doesn't fit the criteria of "1 or 2 points". Nor does it account for times when Bryant (or any player) stretches his team's lead from one to three, and gives them further cushion in the last 24 seconds. Stupid, no?

Bryant makes crunch-time defense easy for opponents by shooting just about every time he touches the ball (over a five-year period, he mustered 56 clutch shots, to go with one assist).

In regards to the "one" assist section, I personally have seen Bryant pass on "clutch" plays numerous times. Off the top of my head, the alley-oop to Shaq to seal Game 7 of the 2000 WCF (with 43 seconds left in the game), the game-clinching pass to Derek Fisher in OT of Game 4 of the 2009 Finals (with 31 seconds left), and a series of clutch plays in Game 3 of the 2010 series to the Jazz, including a clutch pass to Derek Fisher (at 2:47 of the video, with 31 seconds left in the game). But of course, these did not come with less than 24 and down 1-2, so no, Kobe is not clutch.

In 1997, he famously air-balled two shots that could have beat the Jazz; instead, the Jazz won the series

Notice the year that Abbot decides to begin derailing Kobe. What annoys me about this is that the context of these situations are never explained to the uninformed readers that base their opinion off these pieces.

1997 was a rookie Kobe Bryant, clearly trying to prove he belonged. Should he have forced those shots? Of course not. But using his rookie year as a conclusive point to prove that he is not clutch is ignorant nit-picking at its finest.

No matter how you define crunch time -- from the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime to the last 24 seconds -- and no matter how you define production -- field goal percentage, offensive efficiency, David Berri's Wins Produced, the results tell the same story: Bryant is about as likely to hit the big shot as any player.

Uh, except the stats that he presents to prove Bryant  is not clutch is ENTIRELY based on the last 24 seconds and not in the last 3-5 minutes, as it should be. Why even say "no matter how you define it", when the entire basis of the article is that Kobe can't make shots with 24 seconds left? Misleading to say the least.

Bryant shoots more than most, passes less and racks up misses at an all-time rate. There is no measure, other than YouTube highlights and folklore, by which he's the best scorer in crunch time.

The point that he is missing is that Bryant is the reason the Lakers are in that position in the first place. By discounting the possessions preceding the last 24 seconds, Abbott completely ignores any clutch plays Kobe makes to swing the momentum before there is 24 seconds left on the clock, which is a severely flawed logic.

Watch this video from the 2:10 mark, which is when the real crunch time begins. It is Game 3 of the 2010 playoffs, and the Lakers are in Salt Lake City (one of the most hostile arenas), looking to go up 3-0 in the series. The Lakers are down 5 points with 6 minutes remaining. Kobe does the following in the next 6 minutes, ultimately leading to the Lakers winning the game: fadeaway jumper with 1:45 left to take a one point lead, a three pointer while being down three with 54 seconds left, and a clutch pass to Derek Fisher with 30 seconds left. And that is from ONE game - Bryant has had numerous games like these throughout his career, which is how his reputation began to develop.

According to Abbott, this is not clutch because it doesn't meet the criteria.

In basketball, entrusting the ball to the open teammate really does benefit the team. Remember when Jordan passed to a wide-open Bill Wennington in the lane? Or to Steve Kerr or John Paxson in the Finals? 

Again, that's two examples he uses for Jordan, while completely ignoring instances where Kobe has done the same thing, including passing to Derek fisher (Game 4 of the 2009 Finals, Game 3 of the Jazz series, to name two examples) and Shaq (the aforementioned alley-oop). In fact, a week or so after Henry's article picked up steam, Kobe had a clutch pass to Lamar Odom for a three pointer. To suggest that Kobe doesn't pass during crunch is time is one of the most ridiculous arguments I've ever heard cause there is a lot of evidence to the contrary. 

John Wall was a heavy favorite to beat Blake Griffin for rookie of the year. Kevin Durant was a slam dunk to win this year's MVP

Abbott uses this point to illustrate that GMs are sometimes dumb, and can be quite wrong; he uses this to conclude that is why they pick Bryant as the king of clutchness. Except, the examples he gives aren't really that bad. Wall is widely considered the second best rookie from last year's rookie class, and KD and the Thunder are still doing well enough for him to be Top 10 in the MVP conversation. Its a moot point.

Jackson published that book in the interlude when he was not coaching the Lakers. That he doesn't talk that way is hardly bizarre -- it's admirable for a coach to keep his criticism of a colleague "in the family." 

This is where Henry's clear bias towards Kobe starts being evident.

Never mind the fact that Phil Jackson came back on the Lakers to coach Kobe even when he had quit the year before and published this book; never mind the fact that they've played SIX seasons together since that book with no outward signs of discontent; never mind the fact that they have won 2 championships in 3 Finals trips since then, or the fact that Kobe has greatly evolved as a player and as a public figure since the 2004 season; OF COURSE a seven year old book written by Phil Jackson is the definitive place to go for conclusive evidence.

There are a lot of misleading things in this world.

Like your usage of statistics.

As long as your mind is open to all that, it has to be closed to the idea that Kobe Bryant is the king of crunch time.

Unless you want your team to be lead to 3 NBA Finals in the last 3 years, and want to win championships in the process. If you don't want to win championships and rely solely on statistics and biased reporting, then of course, trust guys like Shawn Marion (#3 on the list), Rashard Lewis, Ben Gordon, Raymond Felton (?), and Steve Francis to take shots over KB24. Tell that to the coaches in this league.

By the way, if you want a barometer to see who the supreme clutch alpha-dogs are in the league right now, look no further than the 2008 Olympics Gold Medal game featuring the Redeem Team and Spain. On a team featuring plenty of future Hall of Famers, there was only two guys who repeatedly sealed the game for Team USA. One was Dwayne Wade (who made numerous baskets), and the other was Kobe Bean. When Team USA needed baskets, Kobe delivered. When the team needed him to be playmaker, he passed to Deron Williams for a game-changing 3, converted on a 4 point play and made mid lane floaters and threes in timely fashion. He made passes which lead to fouls, which lead to cushions. 

None of these occurred in the last 24 seconds, but if you WATCHED the game (which I don't think Abott does a lot of), it was clear that the two best players down the stretch were Wade and Bryant because they were the players who always made things happen for their teams down the stretch of the game. 

None of this is captured in statistics.

Ultimately, my point is that clutchness isn’t just the final possession, its putting your team in a position to win as the game winds down. I realize that Kobe is getting older, and is declining in ability with each passing year. It is easy to start picking on him now when he is closer to the twilight of his career, but if you look at his playing career objectively, it is very easy to conclude that the man has repeatedly proved that he is worth being the primary option in the clutch. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What's Wrong With the Lakers?

Of late, it seems that everyone has an opinion on the Lakers and how their season has been an up-and-down and inconsistent grind. They beat the Celtics in Boston, but lost by blowouts to the Magic and the Bobcats, managing to somehow make Paul Silias look like a genius NBA coach. Rarely does Phil Jackson get so incensed after games that he refuses to speak to reporters, but after this game, he simply said three sentences ("We're very upset about our performance tonight. We're embarrassed about what we did. That's it." for those wondering) and left, while Kobe ducked out from meeting the media, likely cause he would have gone on a murderous rampage otherwise.

As of today, the Lakers having a dismal record against winning teams, especially elite ones. They beat the Celtics, but have been blown out by them, as well as the Spurs and the Heat, on national television. While pundits panic, and people like Henry Abbott and John Hollinger use it as a means of proving their own flawed logic (i.e - Kobe's not very clutch), what I see from this scenario is simply complacency.

I know it seems like an easy cop-out, but let's look at it from a historical perspective and compare it to previous  champions lucky enough to be in this position. Going for a three peat is taxing stuff. It takes a toll on the team physically and mentally, and it creates a lackadaisical approach to playing basketball.

To put it in perspective, here is a relevant analogy. If your goal is to climb Mount Everest, and for 3 straight years you made it either very close to the top, or the top itself, by the time you made your fourth trip, wouldn't you carry yourself with a "been here, done that" approach since you already know what it takes to get to the top? Its human nature. They maybe be "finely tuned athletic machines", but they still bleed and feel the same lack of motivation that plague you and I sometimes.

While that may seem like an oversimplification, it holds true for most champions. While teams like the 1998 Bulls had strong veteran leaders who were ultra competitive in Jordan and Pippen, these Lakers have only one player who literally wants to win every game, and that is Kobe. The other players, from Gasol, Bynum, to even D-Fish, have actually subtly acknowledged that they take certain teams less seriously, and that they don't hype themselves up for certain games as much as they should. Realize that these Lakers have perhaps the biggest bulls-eye on their backs in the league. Every team is gunning to beat them and circling their match up on the calendar.

I remember watching a video where Bill Wennington (of the 96-98 Bulls) said that there were games the 3-peat Bulls teams would take games off, and they only won because Jordan single-handedly would bring them back and force his will over the opposition. Sadly, I don't think Kobe is capable of doing this all by himself at his age if the other Lakers don't show him support and be the "unbelievable" supporting cast they are made out to be. In his prime, I've seen Kobe single-handedly win games, but with his athleticism slowing down, and his reliance on wits and his (erratic) jumper, Kobe is less and less likely to dominate games unless its leaving his mark as a closer to finish off a team. That approach works a lot less when your team is trailing by 15 points in the second quarter.

The point is, the Lakers as a unit are not motivated, and it shows in losses to teams like the Bucks and Bobcats. However, as Rudy T. once said, you can't underestimate the heart of a champion. So I'll go out on a limb and declare that by the time April comes around, those same "What happened to the Lakers?" questions will be rephrased to "Why did we doubt the Lakers in the first place?".

Don't say I didn't warn ya.

Off The Backboard

 This will be a basketball blog for the die-hard NBA fans who have actual knowledge of the game and are passionate about the sport year round. I will try to update the blog 3-4 times a week and provide some analysis on games that I found particularly interesting. For a point of reference, my writing style will be somewhat like that of Bill Simmons so it might take some time to get used to, but hopefully it is enjoyable. Reader feedback is always welcome, so please drop a comment or leave some criticism if that's what is necessary to improve my writing.

I try to be as impartial and unbiased as possible when I write and analyze the league, but a couple of themes should reoccur throughout my writings:

  • Kobe Bryant is my favorite player - though I can be quite critical of him when he goes into Black Mamba mode. I am not one of those fans who will constantly praise him at all times, and will likely criticize him more as he gets older and his game declines, but his mentality remains the same.
  • I think Lebron James is slightly -  if not grossly - overrated. While I do think he is a once-in-a-generation talent, I believe that his game is still flawed in a lot of ways, and given the talent that surrounds him now, he should never be in contention for the MVP award. But that is a topic for another day, which I will of course cover.
  • Steve Nash should not have won back-to-back MVPs.
  • Shaq should have more than one MVP.
  • Tim Duncan is one of the most underrated players of all time.
  • Dennis Rodman should be in the HOF.
  • Though I live in Toronto, I haven't consistently cheered for the Raptors actively since Vince left, since management has screwed up in the draft almost every year. I don't know what that makes me, but I can't rally behind a management that consistently fails to deliver. If the Raptors get someone that is a talent good enough to build around (Bosh was not), I'll be rooting for them more.
  • People forget how good Vince Carter and Tracy Mcgrady once were. I think T-Mac's decision to leave Toronto was one of the most profound decisions in the 2000s NBA and would have drastically changed the trajectory of the Eastern conference.
  • Of the new generation of superstars, I think Derrick Rose will be one of the greatest PGs of all time.
  • My favorite NBA writers are Charley Rosen and Bill Simmons

Since I am just starting out with this blog, there will obviously be a period of adjustment where the blog might go through some changes, both aesthetically and in terms of how I write. Regardless, I will try to make sure it doesn't affect the quality of my work. But if you like the posts and enjoy reading the analysis, then feel free to share the links and inspire me to write some more.