Learning to Fly

Published: September 30, 2013

I’m learning to fly around the clouds
But what goes up must come down

I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

— Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, Learning to Fly

New Orleans Pelicans News

Media Day for the New Orleans Pelicans is today, and training camp starts for team on Tuesday. Their first preseason game is this Saturday against the Houston Rockets.

Camp will involve a complete reinstallation of the system because of the roster turnover and due to the need for reteaching last season when it was assumed veterans had knowledge they did not. Davis already showing increased strength and leadership. Fellow big-man Jeff Withey is also trying to bulk up while adjusting to New Orleans and to professional basketball. Meanwhile, Arinze Onuaku is just trying to re-adjust to basketball three years after going undrafted due to an injury to his quadriceps.

Coincidentally paired with the arrivals are departures. Long-time PR man Harold Kaufman left the team Friday. The team’s second-round pick Pierre Jackson left his French team, ASVEL, this past week (original).

Around Bourbon Street Shots

In back-to-back practice facility stories, there is a tour of the facility and remarks and more about one of its more remarkable features.

Also, Michael returns to action by looking at some of the If’s facing the Pelicans in their inaugural season.

The return of In the NO was this week with guest Kevin Pelton. Look for another one with another special guest in the next couple of days.

Lastly, Jason Smith has a chance to carve out a special place in the local basketball history.

`Voices’ of the People

You know, I am really excited to see all the experiments we have going in action. I’m looking mostly at the Anderson-Davis pairing and the Tyreke Evans mystery of a role. However, I completely understand that if the pairing doesn’t work, a solution needs to be found. Which is why I have been warming up to an Anderson-Asik deal, especially if we can get another piece out of it and/or obtain a player like Ersan Illyasova. In a perfect world, Withey comes along nicely and give us the post presence we need, but I know thinks don’t work out like that often. Either way, I have never been this excited for a season to start


While I agree with your assessment of Robin Lopez being a space eater thus enabling others to be better rebounders, I believe Steimsma will be an even better space eater. He seems to be less robotic with a higher basketball IQ.


Great article Michael, nice to read from you again,

I said some time ago that I don t think we can pay over 36 millions a year to 3 players just for the guard positions. It would be a problem long term.

That s why I think that, beside all the other factors, the development of Rivers is very important to the plan that Dell and Monty have on mind. If he can develop to a point that he can contribute 20 to 25 quality minutes as a starter then they can retain Evans as a sixth man taking the bulk of minutes, trade Gordon and use the money to upgrade the SF and C position in order to have a more balance roster.


42 Sense

SportVU is finally in all 29 NBA Arenas, and the NBA is going to make the information available to the public in a variety of fashions. The deal will likely lead to an increase the understanding and popularity of the game among fans, and is touted as potentially revolutionizing the game when those tools are places in the hands of those few who both know the game and have the potential to influence it.

Like any new tool, the reality will not live up to the hype in the short term, as humans and large capital systems all have huge inertia that just tends to be ignored by the excited, but SportVU does indeed have the realistic potential to lead to real changes. My basis for this claim is that right now the state of basketball analysis is hobbled because of the obsession with the box score.

As long as the box score is viewed, quite arbitrarily, as the be-all and end-all of the information from the game, analysis will suffer. A significantly detailed game log can never replace the box score, as it likely contains many distracting and misleading pieces of information. Providing more of the same does not provide meaningful change except perhaps in signal and noise.

What is needed is a complete upsetting of the statistical applecart. The desire is to see the few most informative pieces of information along with key outcomes to provide both a helpful description of events that also helps contribute to meaningful predictions of future events. Those key events are likely wins and points, and that is fine. The other box score elements, however, are just easy to observe and quantify. Other than that, there’s no clear indicator that rebounding, steals, etc. are really that important, or how important they really are. The listed examples are really just about ending or starting possessions, which removes or provides a chance to score, but which is more important? Does it depend on location? What about alternatives?

When it comes to assists and block, what about attempted assists? Attempted blocks? Are those important? What about passes that aren’t stolen?

Do we even need to list the issues with quantifying defense?

The basic vocabulary of the game needs to change, and SportVU has the chance to catalyze that. Once we find the really important things to discuss, things will get really interesting as a Hegelian dialectic will start to play out as those who learn the new trick spur others to learn to subvert them while others synthesize the two.

Yes, things might really be interesting in 10 years or so. Before then, SportVU may just appear to be pretty pictures. I’m fine with that.


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