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Thread: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

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    Pacer Junky Will Galen's Avatar
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    Default Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    http://blogs.indystar.com/pacersinsider/

    December 30, 2006
    How to spot the genius GMs
    Posted by Mark Montieth

    Sad, isnít it, that Jerry West lost his genius?

    He must have forgotten to pack it when he moved from Los Angeles to Memphis in 2002, after he took over as president of the Grizzlies. Maybe it was left behind when he switched planes in Denver.

    Sure seemed like he had it when he built a roster that won consecutive NBA championships from 2000-02 didnít it? In the summer of í96 he signed Shaquille OíNeal as a free agent and worked a draft day trade for Kobe Bryant that set up the franchise for guaranteed success, then added pieces around them.

    Best general manager in the league, everybody said.

    Now look at him. Just fired Mike Fratello, the coach he hired to replace Hubie Brown, who quit after replacing Sidney Lowe, the coach West inherited and then fired. The Grizzlies won 28 games Westís first season, improved to 50 the following year, but have slipped since. They currently have all of six victories, the worst record in the league thank you very much. Their only star is Pau Gasol, and he's injured.

    This isnít to criticize West, itís to point out the slippery business of evaluating general managers, presidents or whatever you want to call the men who fill the swiveling chairs in the NBAís executive offices.

    If West was great in L.A., how could he be struggling so badly in Memphis?

    Thatís easy.

    Fate. And circumstance.

    The practice of building teams that win and contend for championships is more often than not left to the whims of forces beyond the control of executives. Which isnít to say they arenít important, and that some arenít better than others. Over the long run, a teamís history of drafts and trades will determine a teamís success, and someone has to be in charge of drafting and trading.

    Still, the record shows that good timing and dumb luck have more to do with winning big than smart people.

    West is the best example. He got Kobe because Kobe had made it clear when he entered the draft out of high school that he wanted to play for the Lakers, which forced Charlotteís hand when it drafted him. Next thing you know the Hornets were trading Kobe for Vlade Divac.
    Then Shaq fell out with Orlandoís front office when he was a free agent and signed with the Lakers. He wanted to live in L.A., where he could make movies and CDs, and the Lakers needed a center. Perfect.

    Problem is, the Kobes and Shaqs of the world arenít so eager to live in Memphis. Or Indianapolis or Milwaukee or Portland for that matter.

    Make no mistake, West made some good moves to put talent around Kobe and Shaq. But that task was made easier with Kobe and Shaq on board, and a lot of executives can make moves that get good players. Getting the great ones is the key to winning championships, and that option isnít available to most.

    Look at the teams that win championships and itís easy to recognize the formula. For most teams, itís simply a matter of having a high draft pick _ very high _ in a year when a landmark player happens to be available in the draft.

    Gregg Popovich has proven himself a skilled coach and general manager in San Antonio, but the Spurs have won titles because they happened to be really bad at the right times. In 1987, they found themselves holding the No. 1 pick when David Robinson was available. Ten years later Robinson was injured six games into the season so the Spurs became really bad again. And who happened to be available that year with the No. 1 pick? Tim Duncan.

    The Spurs went on to make savvy calls on players such as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, but theyíve won their championships because of Robinson and Duncan.

    Chicago happened to have the third pick when Michael Jordan was available. Houston happened to have the first pick when Hakeem Olajuwon was available. Detroit happened to have the second pick when Isiah Thomas was available.

    The Pistonsí championship team of 2004 is the closest the league has to an exception to this rule. They drafted just one of their starters, Tayshaun Prince, and he came with the 23rd pick.
    Joe Dumars was justifiably praised for assembling a great team, but even he had to admit his dumb luck. He had no way of knowing how good Ben Wallace would turn out to be when he got him as a consolation prize for the departing Grant Hill. He fell into Rasheed Wallace at the trade deadline, with help from Atlanta GM Billy Knight.

    Dumars had tried to build a very different team than the one that won a title, but failed. He once agreed to a trade that would have brought Allen Iverson from Philadelphia, but Sixers forward Matt Geiger torpedoed it by refusing to waive the clause that gave him a raise whenever traded. Dumars also had tried to sign Chris Webber as a free agent, but Webber re-signed with Sacramento, where the money was better.

    Know what kind of team Detroit would have had if Dumars had gotten his way? Probably a lot like the one Philadelphia recently gave up on when it traded Iverson.

    All this might seem an endorsement for the argument teams should purposely get into the lottery to get the high picks that bring the great players who can bring championships. The problem is, it doesnít always work. The Pacers had four top-four picks within a six-year period in the 1980s. They wound up with Steve Stipanovich, Wayman Tisdale, Chuck Person and Rik Smits. All were good players, but none of them were capable of carrying a team to a title. And none of them were bad picks taken ahead of players who turned out to have far better careers.

    Some years you get Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Tim Duncan or LeBron James with the first pick. Some years you get Pervis Ellison, Joe Smith or Kenyon Martin.

    Fate. In the NBA, the geniuses are usually the lucky executives who happen to make friends with it.
    ----------------------

    Good article! The good GM's usually have teams that stay around the top of the league. There's a handful of them. Then there's the GM's that have dumb luck on their side. Those guys can be good or bad GM's.

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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    I agree with Montieth about luck playing a huge role. It's like how I've come to feel about analyzing a team, you can pick it apart until there's nothing pretty to look at, and you still won't find the magic formula that promises success. The best any man in a position to do something about can attempt is to put the team in a position to win, be it with assembling supporting players for a star, or not keeping yourself afloat as a .500 team when it's your time to sink and get into the lottery.

    Unfortunately for the Pacers, Walsh can't really do that last part because the fan support would sink like a rock and it would jeopardize the franchise's stability.

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    White and Nerdy Anthem's Avatar
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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    I knew about Webber, but I'd forgotten about Iverson. Man, wouldn't that have been a trip. Iverson and Cwebb in Motown.

    But did we ever get an answer to the question? How do you spot a genius GM?
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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    Quote Originally Posted by Bunny
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    This isn’t to criticize West, it’s to point out the slippery business of evaluating general managers, presidents or whatever you want to call the men who fill the swiveling chairs in the NBA’s executive offices.
    Obviously doesn't read the board. Otherwise, he'd know you call them 'TPTB'.
    Come to the Dark Side -- There's cookies!

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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    Actually if he had managed that Iverson C-Webb deal back when he tried it they would have been a great combo. The Sixers just got there very very late.

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    Jimmy did what Jimmy did Bball's Avatar
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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    And the Pacers happened to have the 5th pick when Jonathon Bender was available.

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    Is this a puff piece designed to deflect some recent or coming Walsh criticism? It probably is....

    -Bball
    Nuntius was right. I was wrong. Frank Vogel has retained his job.

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    "A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player. Losing yourself in the group, for the good of the group, thatís teamwork."

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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    Quote Originally Posted by Bball View Post
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    And the Pacers happened to have the 5th pick when Jonathon Bender was available.

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    Is this a puff piece designed to deflect some recent or coming Walsh criticism? It probably is....

    -Bball
    Dont take this the wrong way Bball, but is it a requirement every comment you make be a conspiracy theory?

    To answer your question, no, I do not think this was a puff piece at all.

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    Pacer Junky Will Galen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    Quote Originally Posted by Bball View Post
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    And the Pacers happened to have the 5th pick when Jonathon Bender was available.

    ---------------------------------------------------------

    Is this a puff piece designed to deflect some recent or coming Walsh criticism? It probably is....

    -Bball
    You have to be the most consistent poster I know. Every time management is even mentioned you take it as an opportunity to criticize Pacer management.

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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    Quote Originally Posted by Will Galen View Post
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    You (referring to BBall) have to be the most consistent poster I know. Every time management is even mentioned you take it as an opportunity to criticize Pacer management.

    He's even more consistent than that. Every time players are mentioned, he takes it as an opportunity to criticize them, too.

    (Which IMO is a reasonable position, considering the way they play.)
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    Member Brian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    Quote Originally Posted by Will Galen View Post
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    http://blogs.indystar.com/pacersinsider/


    West is the best example. He got Kobe because Kobe had made it clear when he entered the draft out of high school that he wanted to play for the Lakers, which forced Charlotteís hand when it drafted him. Next thing you know the Hornets were trading Kobe for Vlade Divac.
    Then Shaq fell out with Orlandoís front office when he was a free agent and signed with the Lakers. He wanted to live in L.A., where he could make movies and CDs, and the Lakers needed a center. Perfect.

    Problem is, the Kobes and Shaqs of the world arenít so eager to live in Memphis. Or Indianapolis or Milwaukee or Portland for that matter.


    Hmm..I seem to remember saying the same thing and people telling me that it had nothing to do with where NBA players live,but the money....
    LoneGranger33 said
    Agreed. As the members of Guns and Roses once said, "every rose has its thorn".

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    Jimmy did what Jimmy did Bball's Avatar
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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    Quote Originally Posted by Will Galen View Post
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    You have to be the most consistent poster I know. Every time management is even mentioned you take it as an opportunity to criticize Pacer management.
    Would you rather I mention management in a thread about the new basketball?

    Where would be a good place to mention management?

    Besides... I only pointed out something that Monteith must've forgotten.... since he didn't mention the Pacers at all. Their exclusion seems odd to me. That's all.

    -Bball
    Nuntius was right. I was wrong. Frank Vogel has retained his job.

    ------

    "A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player. Losing yourself in the group, for the good of the group, thatís teamwork."

    -John Wooden

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    Pacer Junky Will Galen's Avatar
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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian View Post
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    Hmm..I seem to remember saying the same thing and people telling me that it had nothing to do with where NBA players live,but the money....
    Some people may have said that, but anyone with a brain knows it matters to people where they live. HOWEVER, money usually matters more.

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    Jimmy did what Jimmy did Bball's Avatar
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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    Quote Originally Posted by vapacersfan View Post
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    Dont take this the wrong way Bball, but is it a requirement every comment you make be a conspiracy theory?
    No, it was speculation. I don't think Monteith teamed up with anyone and conspired to write this article.

    I do question his motives tho... because he left the Pacers out entirely while bringing down opposing GM's/teams a notch or two.

    And he managed to toss us the tired small market/cold weather inferiority complex angle too. While Iverson wasn't a FA he certainly could've balked at going to Denver but he didn't. Was that 'sunshine' I saw falling at the Denver airport the other day? Looked like snow to me.

    Monteith is IMHO the official Walsh apologist and when I read something like this that is always my first thought. I think he likes and respects Walsh to the point it interferes with his ability to be an impartial observer and reporter.

    I could be wrong...

    -Bball
    Nuntius was right. I was wrong. Frank Vogel has retained his job.

    ------

    "A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player. Losing yourself in the group, for the good of the group, thatís teamwork."

    -John Wooden

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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    In Denver's defense,

    Denver's Convention and Visitor Bureau claims Denver receives over 300 sunny days a year, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says Denver receives about 250 days of sunshine a year.
    Why do the things that we treasure most, slip away in time
    Till to the music we grow deaf, to God's beauty blind
    Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart?
    Till we fall away in our own darkness, a stranger to our own hearts
    And life itself, rushing over me
    Life itself, the wind in black elms,
    Life itself in your heart and in your eyes, I can't make it without you


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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    Quote Originally Posted by Bball View Post
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    No, it was speculation. I don't think Monteith teamed up with anyone and conspired to write this article.

    I do question his motives tho... because he left the Pacers out entirely while bringing down opposing GM's/teams a notch or two.

    And he managed to toss us the tired small market/cold weather inferiority complex angle too. While Iverson wasn't a FA he certainly could've balked at going to Denver but he didn't. Was that 'sunshine' I saw falling at the Denver airport the other day? Looked like snow to me.

    Monteith is IMHO the official Walsh apologist and when I read something like this that is always my first thought. I think he likes and respects Walsh to the point it interferes with his ability to be an impartial observer and reporter.

    I could be wrong...

    -Bball
    I was going to use the word "cynical", but Toad has that word reserved for him for life (Does he still post here?)

    I agree with you for the most part, although I dont think he left the Pacers intentionally.

    I did laugh when I read that cold weather comment.

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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    It takes a real genius to sign and get the best player in the league (Shaq) who declared it is his dream to be a Laker. I'll admit it took some salry unloading and he ggot Kobe during those salry dumps so that was fairly coy of him. If Memphis lands Greg Oden with that bad record next summer, west might look like genius again.

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    Headband and Rec Specs rexnom's Avatar
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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    A inch of a luckier bounce of the ping-pong balls (1st pick and not 2nd pick) and Jerry West has LeBron James in Memphis. Then we'd be calling him a genius for sure. Which of course makes little sense since all it is is luck, which is the exact point of this article.

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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    Getting the superstar is the lucky part. Building a team that suits the superstar is the genius part. If drafting a superstar is all it took, Minnesota would have a title with Garnett, Toronto would have a title with Carter and McGrady, Dallas would have a title with Nash and Nowitzki (although there is still time for Dallas).

    This is a dumb analogy, but:

    It's like becoming the world's greatest doctor. You can't be a doctor without an MD, but having an MD doesn't make you the world's greatest doctor. It's not having a degree, it's what you do with it.

    It's not having a superstar, it's what you do with him.

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    NaptownSeth is all feel Naptown_Seth's Avatar
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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    Quote Originally Posted by rexnom View Post
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    A inch of a luckier bounce of the ping-pong balls (1st pick and not 2nd pick) and Jerry West has LeBron James in Memphis. Then we'd be calling him a genius for sure. Which of course makes little sense since all it is is luck, which is the exact point of this article.
    I agree. That was the point of the DW thread after the Pacers party. Over the long haul a good GM/manager/player/whatever makes the most of the good luck and dampens as much of the bad luck as possible which gives them an overall decent string of winning.

    No coach or GM has ever avoided at least some losing and letdowns. That proves that luck is a serious factor. You have to keep yourself in the mix for luck to be able to help you along, and you have to be smart enough to know what to do when luck goes your way. That's it, that's the limit of control.

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    Default Re: Star}How to spot the genius GMs

    Quote Originally Posted by FlavaDave View Post
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    Getting the superstar is the lucky part. Building a team that suits the superstar is the genius part.
    Good call.

    MM sort of drifted over SA acquiring Manu and Parker, but those were incredible picks late in the draft. He focuses on the Shaq and Kobe pairing so much that he makes getting a championshi-quality supporting cast seem like an almost easy thing, but on teams that only have one true superstar it takes lots of skill on the part of the GM to put the right team together.
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