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Thread: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

  1. #1
    100 Miles from the B count55's Avatar
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    Default Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Good news from Kevin Pelton (as relayed through Tom Lewis at IndyCornrows).

    Given my discussion of teams hiring APBRmetricians, it is with no shortage of irony that I note that I am now among them. Recently, I have been working with the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers front office has been gracious in allowing me to continue to write for Basketball Prospectus while doing some consulting for them, so for the most part you the reader will not see any impact. The exception is that, for obvious reasons, I want to avoid writing about Indiana. Bradford, who already wrote the Pacers chapter in Pro Basketball Prospectus 2009-10, should help fill in any gaps.
    http://www.indycornrows.com/2010/3/5...21/pacers-news

    Tom (as usual) has a great write up on this.

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    JOB's first order of business: "Make me an advanced plus/minus that makes Troy Murphy look good so I can keep playing him!"

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    This at least indicates that the Pacers have the intention to still exist somewhere next season, otherwise they would not be hiring someone who does this.

    The current decision making seems to frequently be statistically based in various ways. However, either the current utilization of our statistics in our decision making is based on faulty logic, or the wrong metrics are being focused on due to our flawed system that O'B has implemented, or we currently keep proprietary statistics that have limited or no utility.

    What I fear is the quality of projections and decision making early on after the implementation of the new methods using the available data that currently exists that has measured performances generated by our players within a significantly flawed system and therefore shows all of the outputs of that system and those who have played within it. The old GIGO adage "Garbage in, garbage out" comes to mind. Maybe we should go for it on 4th and two late in the game if we have the lead and are playing the Colts instead of punting and at least buying some time before they score!

    For the acquisition of new players, yes, I am sure that there is added value from whatever proprietary metrics would be in use and it will probably increase the overall success rate of the franchise with respect to drafted players, and to a lesser extent those players acquired through free agency during the summer of the great expirings as well as any trades that we might engage in.

    Then, as time goes by, as the current system fades out of the data set after O'B is terminated, whether at the end of this season or his contract simply expires at the end of next season, the rest of the benefits of improved analysis would slowly be realized.

    Obviously, the proprietary methods of these analyses will never be revealed, but it will be intriguing to guess what the focus turns to as a result of the use of whatever these happen to be as a result of our real world observations.

    I hope it helps, obviously.

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    I thought JOB was our statistician already. Sure sounds like it when you listen to him
    rattle off stats that support his system that helps cause the stats in the first place.

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Quote Originally Posted by count55 View Post
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    Good news from Kevin Pelton (as relayed through Tom Lewis at IndyCornrows).



    http://www.indycornrows.com/2010/3/5...21/pacers-news

    Tom (as usual) has a great write up on this.
    Count, I don't know about Tom or his stats methodologies or product... it at first glance seems strange that they don't peg Wayne Winston, who's an hour down SR37. And he's always been a Pacer fan.
    "I mean, you'd walk into our dressing room and run into Mel Daniels holding a .45 -- it makes you wonder."

    Bob Netolicky

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Quote Originally Posted by Drewtone View Post
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    Count, I don't know about Tom or his stats methodologies or product... it at first glance seems strange that they don't peg Wayne Winston, who's an hour down SR37. And he's always been a Pacer fan.
    Wayne Winston works with the Spurs, IIRC.

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    It's not Tom doing the work, he's reporting it. Kevin is doing the stats work.


    I always assume that everyone listens to the Bill Simmons podcasts and then I start talking to people about his content and find out few people do. One thing you miss out on if you don't follow him, or NBAToday podcast with the outstanding Ryen Russillo (dude watches TONS of games and gives detailed opinions rather than just watching stats), is lots of discussion about the state of NBA statistical analysis.

    One of the big stat meetings is the geekfest over at MIT where guys like Morey attend (and Simmons did last year). It's semi-exclusive and involves execs and stat pros from across various sports talking about the methods and theories.

    I noticed that this year Morey told Simmons that our own David Morway will be attending this conference, which I consider a positive sign.


    Now another thing Simmons, Morey and David Thorpe have discussed is some of the pushback on stat analysis as it's gotten really intense. They are hitting a point where the analysis must be constantly justified and proven, and current "standard" stats are typically called into scrutiny and not exactly highly valued.

    The insiders are pulling stats you don't normally get to see for free. Those kind of stats might involve SHOT LOCATION as a gauge of defensive play. You could do 5 man groups and track what type of shots they give up, with a grading or location system.

    The main issue these guys face is quantifying the measure of "good basketball", and my outsider's guess is that much of this stuff is going to fall into a subjective scoring system and wouldn't be that applicable to normal stat reporting.


    Of course I've pointed out many times in the past that even Assists, Rebounds, Blocks and Steals are subjectively tracked, with the when/who of those stats varying by scorekeeper. One man's "rebound" is another man's "uncontrolled loose ball tipout".


    Anyway, the stat world is hardly the fringe in the NBA anymore. They face challenges but the effort and money has been there for years now. Just don't expect to see the top 10 "contesting shot defenders" at NBA.com any time soon.
    Last edited by Naptown_Seth; 03-05-2010 at 12:14 PM.

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    Artificial Intelligence wintermute's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    it feels like the pacers are catching on

    i just wonder how much competitive advantage the pacers can get out of it now that other teams are doing it too. there's value in being in the leading edge, of course (exhibit a: daryl morey), but are the pacers still on the leading edge of statistical analysis? or are we a "me too" team? still, it's better than being left behind i suppose.

    definitely good news for basketball stat geeks who will now have more chances of employment

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Who actually thinks this is going to make a difference unless we get better players and a better coach?
    Grown Man Ball

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    I read the Kevin Pelton article and became excited. I was always worried that Bird simply relied on old school stats and watching the occasional game to make decisions. I also remember an old article that explained how Ainge tried to convince Bird to use some ridiculous psychological test to make decisions (not that this isn't possible, just not with the Myers-Briggs).

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Quote Originally Posted by SMosley21 View Post
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    Who actually thinks this is going to make a difference unless we get better players and a better coach?
    well, the point of this is that hopefully it helps us in picking out good players. whether in the draft, free agency, or trades. if you have a better measuring stick (advanced stats), maybe you could pick out a valuable player that other teams undervalue.

    as to picking coaches, i suppose you could apply some statistical analysis as well, but the raw data is a lot more sparse so the utility of it is doubtful.

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Quote Originally Posted by SMosley21 View Post
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    Who actually thinks this is going to make a difference unless we get better players and a better coach?
    Well, the only thing that would make a difference if we weren't to get better players and a better coach would be systematically killing off all of the other teams.

    I'm fine with that, but I don't think the TPTB have the stomach for it.
    Last edited by count55; 03-05-2010 at 01:21 PM.

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    The Simmons podcast made it seem like Morway was one of the few GM panelists at the Sloan Conference. I actually think that the Pacers are on the front of this, right behind Morey but ahead of most teams.

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Quote Originally Posted by count55 View Post
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    Wayne Winston works with the Spurs, IIRC.
    Is he? I thought that he reached an agreement with Cuban when he left the Mavs that prevents him from working with other NBA teams for a period of time and I recall him writing about the Spurs in his blog and in Spurs related blogs very recently.

    In any case, I'd rather have Pelton working than Prof. Winston. The later comes across as a "true believer" while Pelton sounds more... open-minded? Pragmatic? Receptive? Balanced? Can't really think of the right word. In any case, I think this is a very good signing especially because the Pacers will allow Pelton to keep writing to the public.

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Quote Originally Posted by cordobes View Post
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    Is he? I thought that he reached an agreement with Cuban when he left the Mavs that prevents him from working with other NBA teams for a period of time and I recall him writing about the Spurs in his blog and in Spurs related blogs very recently.

    In any case, I'd rather have Pelton working than Prof. Winston. The later comes across as a "true believer" while Pelton sounds more... open-minded? Pragmatic? Receptive? Balanced? Can't really think of the right word. In any case, I think this is a very good signing especially because the Pacers will allow Pelton to keep writing to the public.
    That is probably where I got confused.

    I would agree with your assessment of Winston, and I even thought of commenting on that. Of course, that could just be a reaction to the Durant silliness from last summer.

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Quote Originally Posted by kidneypuncher View Post
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    I read the Kevin Pelton article and became excited. I was always worried that Bird simply relied on old school stats and watching the occasional game to make decisions. I also remember an old article that explained how Ainge tried to convince Bird to use some ridiculous psychological test to make decisions (not that this isn't possible, just not with the Myers-Briggs).
    Ah, the brain doctor. Mr. Niednagel. I wonder if he fell out of favour with Ainge, I haven't heard about him for awhile. I know he was working with the Raptors and with some European teams last season. I'm a layman in psychology and I intend to stay that way but I always thought that this brain typing theory is particularly dubious (and kind of useless: Scalabrine shares the much coveted Michael Jordan's brain type...). I attended a conference presented by Mr. Niednagel a couple of years ago (not basketball related) and he sounded like an astrologer an awful lot. It was only a motivational speech but still...

    In any case, I don't mind Ainge's philosophy of trying to collect as much information as possible, even though having too much info may be a problem to the decision making process. But if it wasn't for that he probably wouldn't have hired Morey in the first place and then Mike Zarren, for example.

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    I think JOB's coaching is a prime example of why I put so little stock in +/- stats.

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Quote Originally Posted by Shade View Post
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    I think JOB's coaching is a prime example of why I put so little stock in +/- stats.
    That's like saying you have a doctor who treats everything with antibiotics, they didn't cure your flu, so you'll never take antibiotics again.

    Using a stat wrong doesn't evaluate the stat. Lord knows most statisticians would be out of work if their value depended on how people used the stats once they were finished with them.
    BillS

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    I view this as the Pacers organization trying to get smarter, and I can't see any possible way that could be construed as a bad thing.

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Quote Originally Posted by count55 View Post
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    I view this as the Pacers organization trying to get smarter, and I can't see any possible way that could be construed as a bad thing.
    Oh, just wait, there will be half a dozen conspiracy theories here by morning.
    BillS

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  30. #21

    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Morway being at the Sloan Conference (AKA Dorkapalooza) can only yield positve results for our franchise. As Bill Simmons has said before, the NBA is hard to whittle down to pure stastics, because the players interact too much. Essentially, the squad you put on the floor impact each other in ways that stats currently have a hard time addressing. And that's before we consider how the players on the other team impact those same stats.

    Having said all that, Daryl Morey is a prime example and proof that advanced stats can help your franchise win consistently. I still find it to be depressing that each franchise has its own proprietary stats that they refuse to share with anyone. I'd like to see how teams evaluate players.

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  32. #22
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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    writeup of the sloan conference by jayredd

    absolute required reading for stat fans. fantastic article!

    http://www.hardwoodparoxysm.com/2010...play-the-game/

    It’s Not Whether You Can Find the Perfect Stats, It’s How You Use Them to Play the Game
    Written by Jared Wade on Saturday, March 6, 2010

    At the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, discussion generally surrounds the quant-friendly nuances of how the statistics of the game can be collected, analyzed and adjusted to provide the closest numerical representation of the truth. What are the limitations of Player Efficiency Rating? How valid is adjusted plus-minus? Can any of these advanced numbers ever really show us an objective reality or are they all too biased by the contextual roles that players have within their unique roles on their teams?

    These are all fine debates and ones that will continue to rage on throughout every corner of the Dorkapalooza community.

    What is most relevant to NBA fans today, however, is how front offices across the league are using these numbers to make decisions in a practical sense. Some of these answers became clearer on Saturday as Mavs owner Mark Cuban, Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard and Celtics Assistant GM Mike Zarren gathered to speak on a panel alongside two of the NBA’s statistical pioneers, Dean Oliver, who works with the Nuggets, and John Hollinger, who we all know from ESPN.

    How do team execs really use the numbers?

    “Depends on the time of year,” said Pritchard, noting that different stats mean different things depending on whether he is thinking about the trade deadline, the draft or optimizing lineups to match up with an opponent in a seven-game series. “Overall, it’s on the personnel side.”

    Trade and free agency decisions are increasingly being made with more statistical information, and Oliver broke down how widespread this is all becoming and stated that he knows of eight teams that have actually integrated advanced analytics into their decision-making (Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Oklahoma City, Orlando and Portland). In all, he says that he saw 14 different teams with personnel on the attendee list for Sloan Conference this year — and knew of two other assistant GMs who were not listed. Kevin Pelton also broke down which statisticians are now working in the league, in the process, revealing that he is now consulting with Indiana.

    Cuban has been bullish on gathering data since he first bought the team, and early on began consulting with noted statistician Wayne Winston, who he had as a professor for a statistics course while attending Indiana University and had lost touch with until he got to the NBA. “I hadn’t seen him until three weeks before I bought the team. I saw him on Jeopardy, and thought, ‘Hey, I should give that guy a call.’”

    In his early days, he admittedly made some mistakes. At least twice during the day, Cuban mentioned Evan Eschmeyer as a guy who he overvalued — and badly overpaid — based largely on some plus-minus data that, in retrospect, he realizes was based on too small of a sample size to translate to the future.

    That was something Cuban learned from, but it didn’t deter his reliance on plus-minus, which he not only used recently to make a perhaps sea-changing trade for the Western Conference, but to help decide to hire Rick Carlisle before the 2008-09 season. He ran the numbers, and found that Carlisle was the NBA coach who had the greatest positive affect on the plus-minus rankings of those players who joined new teams. “It was Rick by a long shot,” said Cuban earlier in the day.

    A big challenge to all this, however, is just gathering the data. “[Only] 20% or maybe a quarter of defense shows up in a box score,” said Hollinger. Steals, blocks and personal fouls are there, but what happens on all the other plays is not. Who forced a shooter to miss? Who blew a rotation? The box score will never tell you that.

    “The box score is an incomplete story,” said Pritchard. “And more than that, it can be misleading.”

    Still, unless you have the time to watch, chart and analyze every play qualitatively, the numbers — many of which can now be instantaneously collected automatically from play-by-play data — provide an invaluable base level of evidence on which to make better decisions. Oliver summed it up perfectly. “Individuals see a game better than the numbers,” he said. “But the numbers see all the games.”

    Cuban and Rockets GM Daryl Morey, who run the Sloan Conference in partnership with MIT, have devoted a ton of money and organizational resources to mining all the games to find the data that goes beyond the box score. But they have both expressed their desire to see more of this being done by the league.

    “Evaluating players, you have to do a lot more work and that’s what’s frustrating to us,” said Cuban. “You have to have someone charting every play. And there is no more inefficient use of someone’s time.”

    Zarren understands the frustration and knows that Boston and the other major teams embracing data mining are probably wasting resources just to come up with the same data that other teams are unveiling. “There has to be a lot of duplication of work going on.”

    Some have suggested that if the league — or some third party provider — does the work and makes it available to all the teams, it would take away some of the competitive edge for those on the cutting-edge. Cuban doesn’t seem worried about that and feels like it is what you do with the general data that really matters. “We all have our own special sauce,” he said. “We’re only talking about the data gathering … All of the teams are going to catch on, we may as well nip it in the bud.”

    Hollinger, whose PER metric is all-too-often proselytized as a Holy Grail player ranking despite his insistence that that is not its utility, similarly seems to believe that most advanced numbers are more important within the context of individual front offices than they are when used as some monolithic, numerical judge of every player in the league. He says that he “wouldn’t want to pick the All-Star teams” based on league-wide advanced statistical measures alone, but, within the operating philosophy of each front office, almost all of these numbers — when put into proper context — can be used to help make better decisions.

    Getting the numbers from the stat heads to the people coaching the team is the next hurdle. “As important as the work you do is how you communicate it,” said Zarren. In Boston, it took him and Doc Rivers a while to understand each other and the vocabulary barrier is something that will always be difficult to overcome.

    Dean Oliver has had similar experiences working with the Nuggets, but has learned a lot in his time there and the whole organization has continued to improve its ability to talk the same language. “These communication skills are not trivial,” he said. “And improving these skill may be more important than improving how you calculate adjusted plus-minus.”

    Once everyone is one the same page, teams can start seeing some real results. Coaches can tailor their systems to the overall organizational philosophy and get the players to do those things they were brought in by the GMs to do. And while a guy like Shane Battier has famously embraced this from the player side, a lot of this stuff can stop with the coaches. It may not be necessary to have the players in on the math.

    “It’s really important for the coaches to design schemes around the data,” said Zarren. “But it’s not important for the players to know everything that went into designing it.”

    The goal should be to integrate the analysis into the overall coaching philosophy, but for many players — some of which can’t even remember the plays they are supposed to run — advanced stats are not something that can be used to change the way they play.

    “We had Gerald Green,” said Cuban, with a glance over towards Zarren. “You had Green. He does stuff [athletically] that makes you say ‘Oh my God!’ … He just doesn’t understand the game of basketball.”

    Offering further evidence of the difficulty in putting any of this into the players hands, Cuban talked about the logistical problems presented by the arduous schedule of the NBA season. “We haven’t had a practice since the trade,” he said in reference to the deal that brought Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood to the Mavs.

    “We’ve had two since then,” said Zarren.

    But while the numbers are not something Cuban will be using immediately to help Haywood play better individual defense as the Mavs make a run at an NBA title, they are a big reason he is now in Dallas. “Defensive numbers absolutely had a large part in the trade for Brendan Haywood,” he said. “And we wouldn’t have done the trade without him.”

    Still, when it comes to the actual game, there is a lot that this can do.

    Much to the chagrin of Cuban, Pritchard recounted a late-game play between his Blazers and Cuban’s Mavs in an earlier match up this year that showed how these things can affect the games on a day-to-day basis. With Portland needing a big hoop with seconds left, Juwan Howard hit a 15-footer that sealed the win. Knowing Howard’s shooting percentages and tendencies from different locations on the floor, Cuban couldn’t believe that Juwan hit that shot. That was shot he never makes, and it was a shot Cuban would love to see Howard take all game long.

    Pritchard told Cuban that the look on his face after it went in was priceless. “That’s the only 15-footer he’s hit this year,” said Cuban.

    “He’s hit two,” said Pritchard.

    And whether or not that number is an exact figure that Pritchard can pull off the top of his head or just a quant-centric joke, I think it’s safe to say that Dorkapalooza isn’t just for dorks anymore.

    (Giant hat tip to Kevin Arnovitz for some additional reporting.)

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  34. #23

    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Boy. I wish the national economy and the labor market were managed as intelligently as these NBA teams are.

    The data and statistical measures they are talking about here are imperfect and incomplete. But the mere fact that they are using them shows that they understand and embrace the complexity of reality.
    And I won't be here to see the day
    It all dries up and blows away
    I'd hang around just to see
    But they never had much use for me
    In Levelland. (James McMurtry)

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    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Quote Originally Posted by Putnam View Post
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    Boy. I wish the national economy and the labor market were managed as intelligently as these NBA teams are.

    The data and statistical measures they are talking about here are imperfect and incomplete. But the mere fact that they are using them shows that they understand and embrace the complexity of reality.
    And at least the teams attempt to collect a mostly complete data set, as opposed to willfully choosing what data set to track and manipulating both the tracking methods and the data set collected to show the desired conclusion on virtually any issue. This applies to all levels of government and both sides of the aisle, BTW.

  36. #25

    Default Re: Pacers Moving Forward with Advanced Stats

    Stats are great...to a point.

    They can help you improve in some areas and identify problem areas, but at the end of the day it's how well you performed and if that performance translated into a win that really matters. You can have all the statistics in the world and it won't mean a hill of beans if you don't win ball games at a higher level than the next team.

    Case and Point 1: You can be the best offensive rebounding team in the NBA, but if you're not getting very many points off 2nd-shot attempts but instead are constantly turning the ball over or clanking off the rim those rebounds really don't matter.

    Case and Point 2: You can be the highest scoring team in the league, but if you're not defending at a high level also, all you're really doing is trying to put up a few more points than your opponent. And so with the game on the line and your team leading 127-125 w/0.10 tics remaining and your opponent has the ball...

    You better not foul or give up that 3-pt shot!!! Oooops! too late!

    Stats are good tools to use, but I'd never trade numbers in a spreadsheet for what my eyes see and my guts instincts tell me. This, I think, is JOB's biggest problem; IMO, he relies too much on stats and doesn't go with what his eyes see or what his instincts tell him is right or wrong.

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