Stack’s Stats: Tired Refs, Fewer Points
The schedule grind for refs, teams scoring less and Kobe being Kobe.
by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack
We’re nearly at the three-week mark in this NBA season, which brings the obvious questions. Who’s healthy? Who’s tired? Who’s scoring is up or down? How much more interesting could this season be with Rasheed Wallace?
A couple of those questions are tackled here in this week’s Stack’s Stats. Referee’s schedules, lower scoring and a new scoring milestone from a future Hall of Famer are discussed. And if you flip it to the second page, you’ll find an interview with Roland Beech, the Dallas Mavericks’ director of basketball analytics. The founder of 82games.com, Beech consulted with the Mavericks for several years before joining them full-time for the 2009-10 season. In a phone interview from his hotel room in Detroit, one day after the team visited the White House to be honored for their 2011 Finals championship, Beech discusses his role on the Mavs and his philosophy in what types of statistics he values.
The Main Dish
The Referees’ Schedules
When I spoke with Reggie Miller earlier this week, we discussed what effect this NBA schedule could have on the referees. Yes, the refs, not the players. Refs also have to travel from game to game.
As Miller suggested after I posed a question addressing it, players should accept the fact that refs may have off-nights given their schedule demands, just as coaches should accept that players will have off-nights.
To figure out what it’s been like for refs, I charted each game every ref has done, from Opening Day through January 12. And it’s Ron Garretson who wins the award (for better or worse) for Most Games Refereed In The First Two Weeks. He was the lone ref to do eight games in the season’s first 14 days.
Garretson began the season with four games in five nights – at Oakland and San Antonio back-to-back, a day off, then at Denver and Houston. He earned three days off before working at New Jersey, a day off, at Toronto, a day off then a back-to-back at Philadelphia and at Atlanta.
No refs have had to pull the dreaded back-to-back-to-back; nobody else has done four in five days except for Garretson. By and large, the ref’s schedules seem as reasonable as can be under the circumstances. The NBA keeps at least two refs from many different crews together, so that they have similar schedules. (Other factors such as chemistry are surely at work here.) Refs typically stay in the same geographical region for a period of time. For example, a ref may travel between Los Angeles, Portland and Denver for a slate of games over five or six days. For anyone who wants to check out the chart, just click on the PDF link below:
Points Harder To Come By
Oh yes, scoring is certainly down. Which is to be expected given the schedule. (Yes, yes, a continuing theme from the previous note.)
Here is the statistical proof: In just under three weeks, there have been 13 games in which a team has scored 75 or fewer points and seven contests in which a squad put up 70 or less.
During the 2010-11 season, it took roughly six weeks for the collective 75-and-under point games to reach 13 – a time period spanning October 26 to December 12. At that time, there had been just two teams which had scored 70-or-under. That’s not all.
Five teams this season are averaging 100 points or more per game. Compare that to last season, when 11 teams clocked 100-or-more on the scoreboard during the entire ’10-11 campaign. Four of the teams that put up at least 100 per night last season are doing it this season: Miami, Denver, San Antonio and Oklahoma City. (A fifth team averaging 100 this season, Portland, scored only 96.3 during ’10-11.)
Of the seven teams which averaged 100 last season that aren’t this season, only two have a higher Pace Factor this season (number of team possessions per 48 minutes): the Lakers (91.0 in ’11-12 compared to 90.7 in ’10-11) and Dallas (92.8 for ’11-12 versus 91.3 in ’10-11).
There were 22 teams last season that shot 45 percent or better from the field; just 10 squads are meeting that same percentage this season. The lowest team field goal percentage last year was 43, achieved by Milwaukee. Well, eight teams are shooting a worse percentage than that in ’11-12, including Washington, which is in the basement at 39.7 percent, the only team to go sub-40.
Larger sample sizes may produce points-per-game, Pace Factors and shooting percentages higher than what they are now. But the numbers aren’t likely to reach ’10-11 levels, meaning scoring should likely decline in this truncated campaign.
Kobe Being Kobe
Kobe Bryant dropped 48 points on Phoenix January 10 – without making a three-pointer. Indeed, Black Mamba went 18-for-31 from the field, including an O-fer in three attempts from downtown.
Now, Kobe has scored 40 or more points 120 times in his career, including the playoffs. There have been 12 other instances in which he’s put up 40 without making a three-pointer, although the 48 versus Phoenix amounted to the most points he’s scored without hitting from long distance. His next highest: 47 against Cleveland December 6, 2000, when he went 12-for-26 from the field with only one attempt from long range.
Fast Break Points
–Kevin Love shot 3-for-16 and 5-for-18 from the field on consecutive nights January 9-10 versus Toronto and Chicago, respectively. In his previous 222 NBA games, only once did Love make five or fewer field goals in a game in which he had at least 16 attempts. That occurred March 6, 2009, his rookie season, when he shot 5-for-17 from the field against the Lakers.
–Think J.J. Hickson’s 14-point, 11-rebound double-double January 8 against Orlando was a random act? Hickson, who has one other double-double this season, produced four of them in 2009-10 for Cleveland and 28 in ’10-11, also with the Cavs.
–Vladimir Radmanovic attempted 11 three-pointers, making four of them, January 9 versus New Jersey. That represented all of his field goal attempts for that contest. Despite 10 previous games during his career in which he attempted 10-plus 3′s, the New Jersey game was the first time double-digit three-point attempts accounted for all his shots in one contest.
I couldn’t find the record for the most three-point attempts that represented all of one player’s shots in a night, but here’s one that comes close: Joe Dumars went 10-for-19 from the field, including 10-for-18 from downtown, in a November 8, 1994 matchup against Minnesota.
–Shannon Brown went 10-for-12 from the foul line January 9 against Milwaukee. That was the first time in Brown’s career that he attempted more than eight free throws, and made more than seven of them, in a game.
–Dwight Howard accumulated five points and four rebounds in 19:34 January 8 against Sacramento. The last time Howard had five or fewer points and rebounds, each, in a game was December 11, 2006. He scored four and ‘boarded three against Phoenix in 19:15.
–More Howard: He set an NBA single-game record January 12 with 39 free throw attempts. His previous single-game high was 24, which occurred four times.
The 45 points and 23 ‘boards he allotted represented his first career 40/20 game. However, Howard had a 46/19 in Game 1 of Orlando’s 2011 first-round matchup against Atlanta, and he had a 45/19 February 17, 2009 versus Charlotte.
For what it’s worth, Shaquille O’Neal achieved four 40/20 games by the time he played the 635 combined regular season and postseason games that it took Howard to collect his first.
–Chris Paul’s 27 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and three steals (with only one turnover) in 45 minutes spurred the Clippers to a 95-89 win over Miami January 11. Said a Western Conference Director of Basketball Operations of Paul when asked what his effect has been on the Clippers: “He changes the whole culture of that organization. Frankly, he’s more of a coach than their coaching staff.”
The exec also praised CP3 for his ability to motivate teammates even when he yells at them. “I don’t think that he’s ever negative,” the exec said. “It’s like constructive criticism. When he gets on a guy, he’s not just ripping him. He’s yelling but he yells with a purpose. That’s what the best coaches do, too.”
–Since getting back into the starting lineup January 5 after a reported trade demand, Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins has dropped four double-doubles in four starts, averaging 18.3 points and 13.5 rebounds during that time frame.
A Pacific Division front office executive, not with the Kings, isn’t a fan of how Sacramento handled the Cousins decision, in which head coach Paul Westphal was ultimately fired for various reasons, including going public with his sour relationship with Cousins.
“I think the best way to deal with it is to get veteran guys in there. That’s not easy to do,” the front office exec said. “Sacramento’s not in the position where they can just get a couple guys. From a coaching standpoint, I think the worst way to deal with it is how they dealt with it – by getting rid of the coach. From the outside looking in, it looked like the coach was trying to discipline the kid and give him some guidance.”
However, the exec who commented on Chris Paul had a different thought on the matter. “I don’t think you have to have veteran players – maybe I think of a veteran different. You have to have good guy, number one, and you have to have strong personalities. If Chris Paul, in his second year in the League, was with DeMarcus Cousins, I think he’d be fine. A no-nonsense, hard-working guy who sets a standard. And with guys like that, you have to have a player they respect as being better than them.”
NBA Schedule Quirk of the Week
(The team arguably most screwed for the next week)
New Orleans Hornets – Five games in seven days
The Hornets win this week’s award simply because they don’t get a game off during the next week. The host Minnesota January 13 then travel to Memphis the following day. By January 16, they’re back hosting Portland, host Memphis January 18 then travel to Houston to complete their second back-to-back in a week.
Honorable mention: Toronto Raptors. Over the course of six days, Toronto hosts Indiana, travels to Chicago to complete a back-to-back, then also plays at Atlanta and at Boston.
Insightful NBA Player Tweets of the Week
(Tweets unedited from how they were originally written)
Byron Mullens @byron22james
“Funny how ppl hate on me about leaving school early. But don’t you go to college to find a career? Sorry I only had to go 1 year. #haters”
Tyrus Thomas @TyrusThomas
“#RANDOMFACT in the 5th grade I had infections in both knees. The doctors told my mom I’d probably never walk straight again! #StayPrayedUp”
JJ Redick @JJRedick47
“So far in Portland, I have eaten at Clyde Common, Cassidy’s, Urban Farmer, and Higgins. Luckily, #istillhaveafewmealsleftinripcity.”