2.26.2009

Aruba: 90,000 Friends You Haven't Met Yet

I'm sure some of my fellow subway riders out there will have seen these preposterous ads advocating for Aruba. I find it impossible to escape them.

They are all ever so carefully crafted with non-threatening islanders who describe their careers and some of the amazing experiences they have had on their island paradise.

Today as I dragged myself to work I noticed one with a woman talking about the many people she had seen "renew their vows" in Aruba over the years (she's a wedding planner)... Horrible, and patently false.

Luckily, with a little effort, I managed to obtain a few ads that will be appearing in the next round of the campaign. I have faithfully reproduced them below:

Satish
Musician

I live to entertain, and Aruba is the perfect venue for my distinctive brand of Gamelan-Ska. I draw inspiration from all of the beautiful people who come to Aruba, particularly those looking for adventure, because, with Gamelan-Ska, life is always an adventure. You can find me on the weekends performing as an opener for touring acts at local hot-spot Carlos'n Charlie's. Hey, if you're lucky, maybe we can take a late night drive to look for sharks?


Deepak
Mixologist

Everything in Aruba is so beautiful. Especially the ocean, the sun, the sky, and the people; and by people, I mean the guests, the visitors, Americans, Dutch, whoever--we love everyone in Aruba, especially you! My specialty is blending liqueurs and spirits, both literally and figuratively! Come see me at Carlos'n Charlie's where I tend bar most nights; think of me as your magic sandman, the one who will send you into the land of dreams with a sweet and original plethora of cocktails. Remember: in Aruba, we make dreams come true!



Joran
Golf Pro/Romance Consultant

My life in Aruba is charmed; charmed by my job instructing guests in golf, charmed by the pleasure I see in the faces of the happy couples lounging on the beach as I take my morning jog, and charmed most of all by you, beautiful blond woman I see by the bar at Carlos'n Charlie's, slowly letting a fourth jell-o shot slither down your slender gullet, yes you. My father has an amazing house inland we could go to; we have jell-o shots waiting in the fridge. And if you like, in the morning we can go out to the golf course and I could show you a new meaning of the term "sand-wedge." Only in Aruba: we're waiting for you!


Update! Apparently the song found below will serve as the official jingle of the Aruba Campaign:

2.16.2009

Another reason Mo Williams was a terrible pick...

This Kevin Arnovitz post from TrueHoop nicely recapitulates why the East would have been better off with say, Okafor or even David Lee:
The choice of Williams meant the East entered the game with only two legitimate bigs -- Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett, both of whom were starters. As a result, Rashard Lewis was forced to assume the center spot for long stretches of the game. Lewis has always been a bit challenged defending the post at the PF position, and he certainly doesn't have the strength or the ability to absorb a beating against opposing 5s. But that's exactly what he was charged with doing as the backup center on the Eastern squad, and the results were disastrous for the East.

So even the East team suffered from Williams' selection, which I take as a seedpod of poetic justice in this travesty.

2.15.2009

1,000th Post


This is officially the 1,000th post in the nearly 4 year history of this blog. Hurray.

Now that that is out of the way, I want to address an issue I have broached before, namely the internet and the weekend.

I appreciate that many people read blogs mostly as a distraction during work. If I were an employer, I would make this totally impossible, but this is why I am not an employer.

I do not work in a place where I am in front of a computer most of the time.

As a consequence of this work environment, I do most of my Google Reader using/sharing when I am NOT at work. A lot of this time is, naturally, on the weekend.

I am a true rebel, for the rest of the internet virtually shuts down Sat-Sun and one is reduced to reading the new Frank Rich column Sunday morning, supplemented by only a smattering of blogtastic rejoindering.

And it's too bad, because it helps the MSM maintain its stranglehold on information; if Meet the Press, This Week, Face the Nation, plus the major papers' editorial pages dominate the Sunday airwaves/blogosphere (and even if they just cling to that) they will still have their fingers on at least one (and really two) days of the media-news-cycle.

My solution? The blogosphere needs to stop taking weekends off. Instead, take Tuesday off one week, then Thursday the next. Mix it up! We need to stay on top of this!

Bad All-Stars Part II

Just a brief supporting statement I came across today that says what I was saying more concisely:
So we see, how you are perceived - and probably how much money you make - is influenced by the quality of your teammates. With the data the NBA collects -which does a wonderful job of separating a player from his teammates - this shouldn’t be the case. Unfortunately, often it’s true. Good players on bad teams are often discounted (while bad players on good teams are often over-estimated).

Thus we have All-Stars Mo Williams, BJ Armstrong, Antoine Walker, and Jamaal Magloire.

2.14.2009

Kareem dunks on Wilt

Check out this video. It contains footage of a young Lew Alcindor dunking on a seasoned Wilton Norman Chamberlain (fast forward to about 1:30 for the clip in question).

The video is an old NBA video summary of each man's respective scoring record. I would have embedded the video here, but apparently that has been disabled. Alas.

2.13.2009

Number to Devour

That number? 21,541. That is the number of points Michael Jordan scored in his first 9 seasons (which is really only 8.22 seasons because he missed almost 80% of his second year with a foot injury (before returning to set the playoff scoring record against Boston)).



This is his point total before his first totally insane/forced-by-David-Stern retirement.

That video is pretty awesome. This is ridiculous too, from a few years later:



But to put our number in perspective, Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and (one-time-next-Jordan) Vince Carter are all well below that number after 11+ years in the league. That he came back was great, that he retired prematurely again was not.

For the love of goodness, the man could have won more championships! The team could have made more money!

As ill as this last clip I am including is, my Kobe-loving friends are wrong: I knew Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan was a friend of mine. You're no Michael Jordan, Kobe.



But you are pretty sick.

All-Star Thoughts and Memories/Sounds and Visions

The All-Star game is always a cosmic letdown in the NBA, if you ask me. The games are never any fun to watch, and one's disappointment is only amplified by the anti-climax of the 'main event' after the Dunk Contest on Saturday night (though some years the dunk contest is awful).

Part of the reason for this is the coaches who select the reserves do a unusually bad job. The fans, while occasionally totally crazy (see Steve Francis), are generally slightly better than the coaches as a voting group in my mind.

Nowhere in the All-Star criteria does it mention a team's number of wins, and yet every year winning teams are wildly overrepresented on the bench.

This year we have Mo Williams, as I noted in commentary to a share earlier. Take a look at those numbers. Not bad. His per game line is something like 17/4/3 (P/A/R), and his PER is a respectable 17.0 (the league average is 15.0). Good numbers, for sure, but let's investigate a little further in a couple of directions before drawing conclusions.

Initially, when Jameer Nelson got hurt and Ray Allen was named, Cleveland fans were outraged. Nelson is unquestionably having the best year of the three, averaging 17/5/4 per game while shooting above 50% from the field, which (other arcane stats included) is good for an impressive PER of 20.9.

Allen, meanwhile is having a better year than last year (which was a REALLY bad year for him), though he is clearly no longer close to the dominant offensive force he was in Seattle and Milwaukee. He is putting up around 18/3/3 while shooting a career best 49% from the field. His PER is nevertheless well below Nelson's (and Ray's own career average) at 17.6, a meager .6 ahead of Mo Williams.

So, truth be told, neither Allen nor Williams has much of a statistical case for being an All-Star. Rajon Rondo, Allen's teammate, has a PER of 18.8, and is clearly more important to Boston than anybody outside of Pierce and KG. His per game numbers (11/8.5/5) are underwhelming in the scoring department, which probably tipped David Stern's hand against him (also, Stern clearly loves Allen, Mr. Good Citizenship, and wants to reward the 'good guys,').

But Rondo is far from the worst snub. That would be the much maligned (though still sick) Vince Carter, who is having a solid bounce-back year. At one point Vince's highlight reel dunks all but guaranteed his being voted in by the fans, but he has been eclipsed by younger lights (Lebron, Wade, etc) in recent years. Plus New Jersey is in a rebuilding zone. But Carter is playing really well, dropping 21/5/5 while allowing young PG (and first-time All-Star) Devin Harris to blow up along side him in NJ's backcourt. His PER? 20.4, almost three ahead of Allen, and three and a half ahead of Williams.

So Vince should have been the replacement for Jameer, and barring that at the very least he should have replaced Bosh.

But Williams is on a team with a great record (40-11 at the break, pretty sick), as is Allen (44-11), and LeBron has a huge media presence (ie he creates an amplifying effect simply because so many people cover what he thinks/says). So Vince can sit, and it's fine.

In fact, the real reason I wanted to write this post was to bring up some of the worst ever All-Star selections (or at least of the last 20 years or so that I have been watching). There have been some terrible picks. Terrible. Let's highlight a few:

1994 (exactly 15 years ago as I write): BJ Armstrong, Chicago Bulls. This was the year after MJ's first retirment, and the Bulls were doing surprisingly well without him (34-13 at the break), so, surprise surprise, they got three All-Stars. Pippen was great (22/6/9, 23.2), Horace Grant, well, okay, sure (15/3/11, 19.8 PER). But Armstrong? Dig these numbers: 15/4/2, PER of 14.5. That's right, below the league average in PER. No way was this cat an All-Star, that year or any other.

Curiously, 1994 was overall one of the worst years for this "good teams get overrepresented in All-Star Games meme." And especially in the East. Check out this roster: 3 Knicks, 3 Bulls, 2 Hawks, 2 Nets, Shaq and Mark Price. The division leaders at that point? Atlanta, New York, Chicago. While we're at it John Starks, Charles Oakley, much as I love you both, you in no way deserved your All-Star nods this season. I would have replaced these three (Starks, Oakley, Armstrong) with Rik Smits, Reggie Miller, and Zo Mourning, but that's just me...

2004 Jamaal Magloire, New Orleans Hornets
. This is the case most frequently raised when people are complaining about the position rules, which say (as a coach selecting reserves) you must have 1 Center, 2 forwards, 2 guards and 2 wild cards in your list. Thus a totally mediocre player like Magloire gets on the team because of his position, not his overall "star" qualities. Nevertheless, Magloire was only slightly less statistically aberrant than Mo Williams. Magloire's numbers, (14/1/10, 16.5 PER), are okay. Definitely not star worthy, but also not horrible for a center in a weak era for centers. Still a terrible All-Star, but not Armstrong level bad.

Can anyone think of any egregious All-Star selections? I'm going to keep researching this, so expect some Greenwald-style updates soon.

Update

Just found this:

2003
Antoine Walker, Boston Celtics: 20/5/7, 38% on FGs, 32% on 3s (only 586 attempted)... All good for a PER of 14.6. Horrible. Not an All-Star.

2.12.2009

College vs. Pros--A Dissipation of Hatred

Back when I was an avid College Hoop fan there were always certain players I despised, and these were generally obvious. Think JJ Redick, Mike Dunleavy Jr, Adam Morrison, Steve Wojciechowski, Kirk Hinrich--you get the idea.

Why is it that once some of these guys turned pro my hatred continued unabated (Morrison, Redick, Wojo (as a Duke assistant coach)), while with others the hatred dissipated totally, and I am now able to regard the player as just another numerical cog in the wheel of my life?

Honestly, I no longer hate Mike Dunleavy or Kirk Hinrich. First, what is wrong with me? And second, how is this even possible? Both are totally mediocre in the pros, so it's not like they have won me over through success or anything.

I hated Dunleavy as recently as last year, but now? Nothing. Not even a glimmer of ill-will, which is sadder than anything else.

What is it that has liberated them? Why them and not the others?

Another of life's great mysteries.

Amazing Numbers

I think about NBA statistics a lot. I love to think about them, and have since I was about 12.

The stock market? Forget it. My taxes? I'm hopeless. But NBA statistics? It's on.

Why this particular set of numbers should be the only one that appeals to me I do not know (aside from a love of basketball). Nonetheless, the number five search engine in my Firefox search window (after Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Amazon (which is also useful for identifying editions, etc, and not just buying books, though I do that too) is Basketball-Reference.com, which along with its sister sites, is wonderfully comprehensive (for recent stats. Many of their records only go back to the 80's, so for the truly insane stuff (see Wilt's 55 rebound game) you have to look elsewhere).

Take for instance, the career of Michael Jordan. Yes, his scoring was amazing; he was a well above-average passer and rebounder; he also developed new skills, like three-point shooting, later in his career. All of this is de rigeur for even the casual NBA fan, as is the fact that his most remarkable season might have been in 1987-88, when he won not only MVP but Defensive Player of the Year as well.

But one number from that year totally hypes me up, and that is 131. Not 35.0 (Jordan's PPG), nor .535 (his unreal field-goal percentage), nor even 259 (his league leading steals total).

No, 131 is the number of BLOCKS a 6'6" Michael Jordan had that year, working out to an average of about 1.6 per game. Close to two blocks a game from your shooting guard (who also happens to be the best scorer/player in the league otherwise).

Unreal.

That is a revealing number, and those blocks are a big part of why Jordan has the Modern-PER record for that particular season at 31.7 (a number Lebron James is equaling through 51 games this year).

2.06.2009

Huffington Post Radio: Pre-Interview

We have obtained some crucial audio from Arianna's recent pre-interview with Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic:


Arianna Pre-Interview with Krist Novoselic - Huffington Post Radio Hour

2.05.2009

Karl Malone on TNT


Karl Malone has signed on as a studio host for TNT. I am thrilled. While Barkley is out we need the anti-Barkley, Malone. NRA, Utah, Louisiana, all of it. I love it.

And after the first segment, I am no less thrilled. This is a potentially great development. As much as I hated Malone as a person and player during his career, I am somehow touched by his reemergence. I wish him well.

PS Thanks to Nosferatu for so many incisive and interesting music posts lately. I hope he continues to examine "The Problem of Animal Collective."