Tag Archives: National Basketball Association

What Do You Do When You’re THAT Much Better Than The Competition?

The Miami Heat have won the last two NBA championships and they’ve been to the finals for the last three years (losing in Game 7 of the finals before winning back-to-back championships). So far this year, they’re one of two teams in the Eastern Conference (as of this writing) to have a winning record. The other team being the Indiana Pacers, whom many think will challenge the Heat for the best team in the Eastern Conference this season. If we take a peek at the Western Conference, we see that there are quite a few more teams with winning records. In fact, there are five times as many winning teams in the West than in the East.

I’m not here to talk about the parity in the NBA conferences, even though it’s clear that there is, but instead, about the Heat and their competition. That is, they’ll play most of their games against the Eastern conference, of which there are only two teams with winning records. Given that the Heat have been an elite team for the last three years, it’s not surprising that a they’d have to resort to “games within games” to stay focused.

After reading that article on SB Nation, I thought to myself how difficult it must be for the Miami Heat coach (Erik Spoelstra) to keep his players focused, not only as each season wears on, but as each game wears on and each quarter wears on. The Heat have played 23 games so far this season and have won 17 of them. While they’re not in first place in the conference (that title belongs to the other winning team in the East, the Pacers), they’re well above the 3rd place team in the conference. For a team that plays that much better than its opponents on a nightly basis, one can see how it might be easy for the players to lose focus. Heck, it’s possible that a few of those six losses came as a result of the team losing focus after having outplayed the other team through the first few quarters of the game.

The reason I’ve raised this issue is because I was thinking about the success of a “games within games” strategy. For instance, let’s say that the “game inside the game” for today’s game is that we’re going to try to get the ball to the guy down low. That is, the strategy is to beat this team by using a certain player in a certain way. I wonder what happens when it gets down to near the end of the game and the score is close — do you abandon that strategy? And if you do, how do you get the players who hadn’t been as involved ready to go now that it’s the key time in the game?

A games within games strategy can be successful, but I worry at what cost.

This also reminds me of one of the chapters in Michael Sandel’s book that we reviewed about 6 months ago — the idea of fines and fees. In particular, the idea that parents pay their kids to read. By doing so, parents are incentivizing a certain behaviour. The worry, from some, is that by paying their kids to read, the kids will no longer derive the same joy out of reading if there’s no incentive involved. If we apply that to this situation, I wonder if the strategy of using the one player in that one game might pervert the incentives for the team. And not just in that game, but over the long haul. Maybe the players don’t then have the same incentives as before when there aren’t games within games.

Of course, I’m not an NBA basketball coach (or even a high school basketball coach), but I think it’s still an idea worth considering.


Can There Be Too Much of a Good Thing?

Earlier today, I saw a tweet from Mental Floss about the home run derby. In fact, it wasn’t about the home run derby that happens the day before the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, no, it was about the home run derby TV show from back in the 1960s. After being reminded of the home run derby from the 60s, I wondered, can there be too much of a good thing?

My first thought is, no! I love the home run derby, as do many other baseball fans. It’s a fantastical display of ability by some of the greater sluggers. There’ve been quite a few memorably home run derbies. There was Cal Ripken, Jr. in 1991. He hit 7 more HRs than the second place hitter. This was particularly memorable for me because it took place in Toronto (my hometown). There was also Josh Hamilton from 2008 when he broke the record for most HRs in one round, but went on to lose the home run derby. There was also Ken Griffey, Jr. in the last 90s. He won back-to-back home run derbies in 1998 and 1999. He still has one of the sweetest swings in the history of the game.

Then, as I thought more about it, maybe seeing the home run derby once a week would begin to take some of the shine off of the event. Maybe if the home run derby happened once a week, we wouldn’t have the once a year, mid-summer classic, to look forward to for the display of towering home runs.

Thinking about this also made me think about the slam dunk contest. It’s one of my favorite parts about the NBA all-star game. Watching the creativity of some of the best “slam dunkers” is really entertaining. If there were a slam dunk contest every week, would that be too much?

Other than actually producing the show, there’d be no way to know (for sure). If I had to hazard a guess, my guess is that it would be too much. Part of the fun of the home run derby and the slam dunk contest is that it only happens once a year. The amazing feats of ability are rare (at least in their display in this context). And that rarity also adds to the fun of the event. We know that at the end of the night, we won’t be seeing the feats again for another year.

Tying Up Loose Ends: Food for Thought and Brief Hiatus

Since moving to the new domain (www.JeremiahStanghini.com), this has been the longest time between posts. The last post I wrote was on April 5th. The hiatus from posting will continue for a little while after this post because I’m working on the last requirements for finishing my MBA. There are about 3 weeks left until the end of exam period, so I’ve got a few papers/presentations to finish and a lot of grading of papers/exams.

Whenever I open my computer I see the list of posts that I’ve been meaning to write. In an effort to “clear out some mental space,” I thought I’d do what I’ve done a couple of times in the past and flush out my list of posts to write. In this way, the list will be fresh for when I come back (save for the few cognitive biases that I still want to write about). So, without further adieu, here are some of the things that I had planned on expanding upon. I hope you enjoy!

Cars and Transportation — It’d be really cool if they could *feasibly* develop a car that could transform. A car that could be a single-passenger when commuting, but it could expand/transform into 2, 3, or 4 seats when it necessary.

Political Ideology — What if a given political ideology’s thoughts/plans don’t work unless they can be fully implemented? And because there’s a split in Parliament/Congress, it’s worse. But what if when either party had total control, it’d be worse than this middle-ground between the two ideas?

LeBron James vs. Michael Jordan — A few weeks before the conversation about LeBron vs. Jordan started, I’d had it on my to do list to write about it. I was a bit peeved when the conversation started (without me), but there were some interesting (and some not) things written about it. I think it’s extremely difficult to compare players across decades. It’s akin to comparing players across sports! I remember a few years ago when there was talk that Alex Rodriguez would be the greatest baseball player ever. I think it’s safe to say that conversation has died down a little.

Fear of Public Speaking — I was thinking back to one of the first times I had to stand up in front of a group of people and give a speech. I don’t even remember what I spoke about — but I do remember one of the speeches from my classmates who did quite well (it was about the NBA dunk contest). As I watch some folks present in front of rooms, I can empathize with their nervousness. Heck, even I still get a bit nervous sometimes. One thing I’ve learned — it’s really about repetition. The more times I’ve spoke in front of groups of people, the less nervous I get the next time I go up there. (On a slightly related note: I’d say another key factor in minimizing fear of public speaking is the extent to which you’re prepared to speak on the topic. Read: know your stuff!)

Focus on Labor — I’ve never been the CEO or a highly placed Vice President of a company, but from an outsider’s perspective, I always have a hard time understanding the lack of focus on the labor force. At times, it really looks like labor is the key to success. If the labor force is well taken care of, production and profits tend to do well. It reminds me of that post I did about sustainability and pitchers. The relation here is that when management takes care of the labor force, it is with an eye towards long-term sustainability.

Life, Liberty, and Property? — Why is property so valued? What about nomads or North Americans who show us that land isn’t to be owned? What about animals? They don’t seem to own land.

Star Trek: Inheritance — This is an episode from the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The gist of is that Data has to decide whether or not he’s going to tell his mother that she is an android (when she believes she’s a human). In thinking about this episode, I wondered about the ethics of telling someone they aren’t who they think they are. What about an adopted child?

Social EntrepreneurshipGeorge Mason University‘s Center For Social Entrepreneurship has a massive open online course (MOOC) in social entrepreneurship. If you wanna learn about social entrepreneurship, this is a great place to start!

“I AM” — I saw the movie I AM quite some time ago and there were some cool things that stood out to me. I’ll be brief:

  • The HeartMath Institute — check them out! They’re doing some fascinating work.
  • Animals are more likely to cooperate than we may have first thought. There was a reference to a journal article about how a herd of deer decided to go in a given direction after hydrating at a water hole.
  • Rumi poetry is medicine for the soul.
  • I am continually amazed at the kinds of things that are correlated with Random Number Generators.
  • Did you know that the word “Love” appears 95 times in Darwin’s “The Descent of Man?”
  • A great quote that Desmond Tutu read: “God looked at me and said, all I have is you.”

And so that clears off most of my list. Look for a new post sometime in the next month, but probably not for the next 3 weeks. Happy end of April and early May!

The Underhanded Free Throw: An Unnecessary Image Problem

About a month ago, I had a basketball game on in the background while I was working and I heard one of the announcers (Jeff Van Gundy) say something about an underhanded free throw. When I first heard it, I chuckled a little bit and then I thought about it more… why don’t some NBA players should free throws underhanded?

The point of basketball is to score more points than your opponent. If you can be more effective (read: score more) shooting free throws underhanded than you can overhanded, what argument could you possibly make for not shoot underhanded? The only things that come to mind:

1) It’s how we’ve always done it; and

2) It looks “stupid.”

Are there two arguments that are more lacking in substance? “It’s how we’ve always done it,” is the kind of argument that perpetuates a business’s lazy policies on innovation and lead to its eventual demise. “It looks stupid,” is the same kind of defense we can expect from a playground argument.

It turns out, the idea of underhanded free throws is not new. I found this video on YouTube of Rick Barry shooting underhanded free throws and saying how he was once talking to Shaquille O’Neal (one of the better players to play basketball, but one of the “not-so-good” free throw shooters) about shooting free throws underhanded:

So, if Rick Barry, one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history can shoot free throws underhanded, what’s stopping everyone else?