Sunday Syncopation # 35

Happy 4th of July everyone (except the British, I guess). Busy weekend means we now get yet another Sssmmunday Syncopation. Enjoy. And help yourself to the burgers.

Lockout!

"The National Basketball Association announced that it will commence a lockout of its players, effective at 12:01 am ET on July 1, until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached with the National Basketball Players Association." – nba@fans.nba.com

That’s from the e-mail I got from the league office on Thursday. I have conflicted feelings about this. Obviously, as a fan, this sucks. I want the best league for my favorite sport to never be locked out. Furthermore, I put so much of my leisure time into this, by locking out it may appear as though I did not pick my leisure time activity that smartly. (Man, I really should have picked up knitting as a hobby, yarn never locks out!) On the flipside, there are some good points to the NBA Lockout. It’s easier to see them when we look beyond our own selfishness.

As a Jazz fan, a long suffering one at that, there were a number of things to be sad about this last NBA season. I think that now with the lock out we have more time to figure out just what happened and examine the team. We had the passing of the torch from Jerry Sloan to Tyrone Corbin. We had the trading of our best player (the capstone to our years as a contender) for the future. We had a number of high draft picks in a row now. And we have a bunch of guys that the team needs to figure out about. Instead of jumping right into the free agency period the team (and us fans) have a little more time to look at what we have and think rationally about it.

The Jazz are in the middle of a youth movement even if they don’t play younger guys that much. That may mean more than just a passing of the torch at the coaching spot, but also a changing of the guard all the way down the line as well. With a lockout at least we have more time to figure this stuff out. Just because the teams can’t make contact with the players, and the owners and players have issues, doesn’t mean the front offices get a long holiday. They are still working daily to make the teams better. There are a lot of stats to input into spread sheets, game film to watch, and talks that are still going on.

Also, for a guy who is way behind on his blog posts, the lock out does have a silver lining for me too. After all, instead of rushing to post 10 free agency articles every week (like I did with the NBA Draft), the lockout means that we have more time to think about our team and our team needs. We have a chance for greater introspection and analysis now – and I intend to make this a productive lockout.

For the players, well, they may not get the professional coaching to get better all year round because of the lockout – but they can and will still work out. I think the Jazz were smart to outsource a lot of their physical development to P3 in San Diego Santa Barbara. This way the Jazz players can still get all the off-season training they need to make their bodies stronger, faster, and more flexible – without breaking any rules. A number of Jazz players *are* working out with them already. A number of guys are also working out on the basketball court as well. Eventually all of the NBA players will start their own camps and training schedules to work out with one another (if it has not already happened by now).

The current NFL labor dispute has some of the players doing this. And during the 1999 Lockout some NBA players did this as well. Furthermore, some NBA players do this every off-season – a number of unofficial camps happen in NY and Cali specifically. There is still going to be basketball being played by the NBA players. It may just not be for the NBA. (And I’m not even going to touch the free agents going to Europe thing – but I probably will later on during the lockout. Former Jazz player Morris Almond has been giving me great insights into this.)

With Jazz players going to P3 (Peak Performance Project), and Jazz players playing against other NBA guys during this lockout I think the players will be doing their part not to let their skills erode. Especially since the players are the limiting reagent here, they have a finite number of peak playing years. A lockout steals a year away.

What about the owners? The owners have to give and take as well. A big problem is that there are fundamental problems that need to be fixed with the NBA system. A lockout at least gives the chance for greater parity in the league between markets. Revenue sharing is a big deal, and for far too long some NBA teams have gotten a chance to be ultra-competitive against their opponents (I’m trying hard to get around saying that the current system puts small market teams at a systematic disadvantage). If there was no lockout then the status quo would continue and down the line the rich will only continue to get richer. A lockout brings this problem to the forefront. And this is definitely a good thing.

Will the lockout fix all of the problems? Or will the lockout only be a temporary band-aid? Realistically I think when this lockout ends both sides of the table will figure out a way to make a reasonably good band-aid that addresses some of the problems in this broken system. It’s not going to be a perfect fix. But it’s going to be a set of changes to the league I root for. And I will watch the guys play when all is set and done. A lockout hurts the fans, yes. But systematic irregularity where it’s only ‘worth it’ to be a fan of a bigmarket team also hurts the fans.

 

What Lockout?

You may have seen my quick post on John Stockton a few days ago. I think that it’s important to remember that just because the lock out makes ‘new’ NBA action a rare prospect does not prevent us from enjoying the years and years of ‘old’ NBA action that continues to exist. I am starting a new section that celebrates this.

Furthermore, I’m going to use the new computer simulations to generate the next season, if we don’t get one in real life. I’m tweaking the factors here and there and I think that the results will give us a little to live off of – until the servers at 2K get messed up with the volume of other people doing the same thing.

 

Stats Class:

For as long as I can tell, we’ve been very bad (as a franchise) when it comes to the center spot. Two of the top 3 franchise centers averaged 6.0 ppg / 7.9 rpg and 4.6 ppg / 5.5 rpg. Compare that to the NBA franchises that actually win titles (Spurs had David Robinson and Tim Duncan; Lakers had Wilt, Kareem, Mikan, and Shaq; Celtics had Bill Russell, Robert Parish, etc) and you see that our guys haven’t been getting it done. When we were a serious contender that got to the Western Conference Finals 5 times in 7 years we had a lot of good players, had veteran guys, and a tough coach. We also had Greg Ostertag in the middle. (He was the 4.6 / 5.5 rpg guy, btw) Greg had the unenviable task of checking guys like Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, and Hakeem Olajuwon. He had to be a defense first guy – but I think his lack of improvement over the years (especially on offense) eventually hurt him and the teams he played for.

Ostertag didn’t have much upside, and despite playing with some of the best passers at their position ever (John Stockton, Karl Malone, Jeff Hornacek), he was still unable to make teams pay on offense. I do think that to be a difference making big in this league you have to be a two-way player. Dwight Howard may never average 25 ppg, but he plays great defense and has a career 57.8 fg%. Similarly, Tyson Chandler may never make an All-Star team, but he can at least rebound and dunk the ball when he gets it in the paint. Ostertag? Well, he couldn’t put it all together like some other guys.

In the lockout shortened year the Jazz played only 50 games. That team, if you adjust their winning percentage for an 82 game schedule, would have won 61 games that year. That would have been three 60 win campaigns in a row. We were also thinking that it would have been another trip to the NBA finals. However, the Portland Trail Blazers got in the way and bounced us in the 2nd round.

Let’s take a deeper look at Greg Ostertag during that lockout year and that Blazers series particularly. Greg played in 48 of a total 50 games that season. It was his 4th year in the league, and his 3rd as the starting center for the Jazz. He was 25 years old. Greg was getting better. The previous season he averaged 4.7 ppg (48.1 fg% / 47.9 ft%), 5.9 rpg, and 2.1 bpg in 20.4 minutes per game. In the lockout shortened season he boosted that to 5.7 ppg (47.5 fg% / 60.0 ft%), 7.3 rpg, and 2.7 bpg in 27.9 minutes per game. Humble as these are, these were his best years in his career.

He was getting better, but he failed to continue getting better, despite the weight of his $39 million dollar contract. A big reason he got that huge contract was because of his playoff performance. He stepped up big against Hakeem the last season before the lockout, and the Jazz brass were expecting a lot from him. (He did post a 16 / 14 / 3 game in Game 6 in Houston, that knocked them out)

What the Jazz got from Ostertag was, well, look for yourself.

The baseline Ostertag was a guy who played 20 mpg and shot it slightly above average (on points per shot, pps). His offensive rebounding percentage was also above average. His blocks to fouls ratio was about average for a Jazz center. In the playoffs Ostertag shrunk on offense, but still managed to be effective on defense.

How about against the Blazers? Well, against the Blazers in the playoffs Ostertag continued to be less useful on offense (40.04 fg%? For a guy 7’2?) but still doing his work on the offensive glass, and upped his blocks per game average. What about the crucial 1999 series against Portland? He played nearly 26 minutes a game, which is up across the board. He ended up averaging 7.2 rpg, but his offensive rebound rate decreased significantly. He didn’t block more shots per game, but his ratio increased significantly. You got the good and you got the bad with Greg in that pivotal series. What you didn’t get was ANYTHING on offense from him. He shot 20.0 fg%, and got 0.95 points per shot. The Jazz didn’t get anything from him, and the Trail Blazers didn’t have to guard him at all.

No wonder we had trouble in that 6 game series.

Oh course we didn’t lose that series because Ostertag wasn’t making shots. It’s not like the Jazz finished off the Seattle Super Sonics off of Greg shooting 60 fg%. I definitely remember Portland exploiting a super injured and immobile Jeff Hornacek on defense by posting Bonzi Wells up on him. I remember Brian Grant scoring inside on Karl Malone. There were a lot of problems. But I think a fundamental problem was getting nothing on offense from a starter.

Reviewing Ostertag’s numbers makes me appreciate Memo all that more. Yeah, Memo didn’t block 4 shots a game, but his 15/7 > than anything Mark Eaton and Greg Ostertag brought to the table. Time will tell if the Jazz get anything of worth down the line in the playoffs from Al Jefferson and Enes Kanter.

 

Video of the Week:

Here we see Head Coach Tyrone Corbin explain the Jazz draft strategy for this past 2011 NBA Draft. He goes into a little bit of personal detail about Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. I think he’s seen a lot more game film than I have, and suggests that Kanter is a tough defender and Burks is a very heady guy when he puts the ball on the floor. It’s mostly a fluff interview, but Corbin suggests that these guys will both compete hard and improve the team. The Jazz will move forward with these guys on the roster. Anyway, enjoy the video from ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in LakersYankeesCowboysTigerWoodsLeBronBrettFavre:

 

Hope you didn’t miss . . . .

  • Spencer Campbell (@theutahjazzblog), from TheUtahJazzBlog / Podcast, wrote about everyone’s favorite, recently signed Jazz wing player C.J. Miles. (4th year option picked up by the Jazz) Spence looks into the shifting role and demands that are now placed on CJ as he assumes the role of being a veteran. Check it out.
  • Sebastian Pruiti (@SebastianPruiti ), all-around NBA blogging superstar and X’s and O’s maestro, takes a look at Baseline: Out of Bounds (BLOB) sets at The Basketball Jones at thescore.ca. You know Pruiti’s work at NBAPlaybook.com and a billion other places. You see one play for Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry and Denver Nuggets forward (free agent?) Kenyon Martin. Well worth the looks.
  • Scott Schroeder (@ScottSchroeder – and yes, his avatar is the Macho Man), of Ridiculous Upside, takes a look at the potential affect of the NBA Lockout upon incoming rookies and players in the NBA D-League. It is a good rundown on the issues presented, and it’s something I’m going to keep worrying about myself.
  • Have you looked at the guys who are free agents this off-season? It kind of sucks to be them as they are the ‘test class’ for free agency when the new CBA comes into effect. Are any of them worth it? The only place we don’t currently have a log-jam is at Point Guard. Last year we had Ronnie Price and Earl Watson running things, and both cost $2.5 million combined. Is Ronnie Price worth more now? Less? Is Earl Watson worth more now? Less? Is Earl worth more to the Jazz than he is to other teams? Why isn’t Earl Watson just going to go to the Miami Heat? I don’t know . .. but it’s slim pickings at the PG spot according to this list of Free Agents at Hoopsworld.com by Jason Fleming (@jfleminghoops). Not many of them are pass-first PGs. If I had to pick ONE guy to add to the team . . . it would probably be Earl Watson. I don’t think we could afford Aaron Brooks or JJ Barea.
  • Invariably, I guess, we need to solve our PG problems with a look at the NBA Draft next season. Kristofer Habbas ( @NBADraftInsider) suggests at NBA Draft Insider that the top PGs next year are Marques Teague, Maalik Wayns, Myck Kabongo, Antohny Wroten, and Kendall Marshall. All I know is that I really wish we still had Hot Rod announcing if we ever drafted one of these guys.

 

Did you know . . . ?:

Greg Ostertag made $48,251,390 during his NBA career (before taxes, and before fines). He played in 845 career games (regular season and playoffs combined). He also played a total of 16,521 career minutes (regular season and playoffs combined). I know you want to know, so I did all the math to further break this down. He made $57,102.24 / game. That’s a lot of money. Especially for a guy who has career averages of 19.6 MPG. Wanna make the numbers look worse? One hour is actually 3.07 Ostertag-Games. How much did Greg make per hour? Do you really want to know? Ostertag made only $175,236.57 / hour over his playing career. Of course, this is unfair because Greg’s professional work is more than just his minutes played in a game. He’s effectively on the clock for all travel time (planes, busses), practices, non-game Jazz promotional events, and so forth. If you add all of that up it becomes a smaller number, but it’s still obscenely high. I hope that doesn’t make you feel bad. Greg Ostertag played hard (sometimes) and helped us get by the Houston Rockets

Greg Oden, on the other hand, makes $683,957.45 / hour and hasn’t done anything in his career.

 

Thanks to everyone who voted last week. I really appreciated it, and want to work to make this what you guys want to read. This isn’t supposed to be just a list of things Amar wants to read, after all. Ten people liked the "Old" way better, or Syncopation Classic. I’m not going to mine twitter for player comments, so you don’t have to worry about that. The rest did not really state their concerns (or I missed them). Anyway, time to try to make room in my stomach for more BBQ . . . it’s been a rough couple of days for whatever vestiges of the ‘Vegetarian Amar’ that still exists.

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