Had a great time yesterday at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference, which ESPN.com writer Bill Simmons dubbed Dorkapalooza. As a guy who spends hours looking at John Hollinger's PER Ratings, this was the event for me. As some of you may know, I had a brief stint as an ESPN writer, and a longer one covering fantasy football for various e-zines. But I went to this event purely as a fan.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
Meeting the aforementioned Bill Simmons right when we walked into the Stata Center. He seemed pretty disoriented by the ridiculous building design.
Brian Windhorst wrote up one of the best talks of the day where Mark Cuban and John Hollinger ended up in a good back and forth over the Devin Harris/Jason Kidd trade. I really enjoyed hearing Cuban's case for why they made the trade and the thought process makes a lot more sense to me now. I think Harris is still the more valuable asset, but Cuban argued that he believed his team had a limited window with Dirk Nowitzki getting into his 30s and wanted to take a risk similar to what the Celtics did. The Mavericks also had plus/minus type system that rated Kidd as the 2nd best player in the league. Like him or hate him, you have to like an owner who is willing to take risks. His actual quote in the talk was "No balls, no babies!"
Kidd's numbers for the Nets at the time he was trade d(11 ppg, 8 rpg, 10 apg) 51 games through the 2007-2008 season were pretty attractive. I have the feeling that if the Josh Howard played a little bit more defense, and the Mavericks had signed a decent 2 instead of playing Gerald Green, Antoine Wright and Jose Barea, we'd be talking differently about the trade. But as Cuban said, "You get to start over every year in the NBA." The Mavs have Erick Dampier's expiring contract next year and I don't doubt Cuban will make one last run at this thing before Kidd's contract comes up and Nowitzki's decline years set in. At the point, a lot of the Mavs salaries will start coming off the book and the team can rebuild any way they please.
Apparently, Cuban also thought they had the Kevin Garnett trade wrapped up, and that they offered the best package. Mike Zarren from the Celtics refuted that. It sounded like there's a whole detailed back story with KG's agent working teams for an extension.
The best quote of the day was from Daryl Morey. When he asked Shane Battier about whether he should discuss the results of some statistical analysis about how Ron Artest was playing, he said that Battier replied "You can't cage a pitbull!" Morey justified his trade for Artest in a similar manner to Cuban.
Brian Burke, the GM of the Maple Leafs is hilarious. I love his attitude towards hockey. He is constantly thinking about the fan experience. He discussed how he builds teams with stars and wants his team to play a physical exciting style. Burke's argument is that over time, teams tend to average out to be .500. While it's not necessarily the case since there are so many haves and have nots, his point is that as a manager, you still have to get fans in the door during down times.
Yao Ming's agent, John Huizinga, who is also a esteemed University of Chicago professor has totally debunked the hot hand myth with his statistical analysis. Actually, by feeding the hot hand, teams are hurting themselves. Players who think they are hot hands tend to make worse shot selection, hurting their team with lower percentage chances. Huizinga's analysis technique is fantastic - parsing play by play data to estimate shot clock and quality of a "chance" to isolate out variables.
Ray Allen talking about Lebron driving around New York and seeing a hypothetical David Lee billboard. Ray is a classy and funny guy. Pretty smooth guy too, he was buttering up Greg Via from Gillette pretty good. Actually, I think Ray would be a great spokesman for Gillette. Whoever is doing his razor work is doing a great job. My compliments to his tailor as well.
The buzz over Michael Lewis' article on Shane Battier. Finally got me to read the thing. If there's one speaker I wish they'd have at this thing in the future, it would be Lewis.
I'll post a few more links about the conference later on. I think every major media outlet on earth was there, so no need for me to do a big write-up when the best in the business will.
Hollinger's Per Diem on ESPN.com - if you're reading my blog post, you probably already read this.
Brian Windhorst from the Cleveland Plain Dealer - one of my favorite non-local sports writers.
Posted by Ted Chan at 8:45 AM