The Downbeat #1289: The "Numbers game" Edition

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Looking at new reality TV star, and Jazz CEO Greg Miller, and what really matters; the Sloan Sports Analytics conference; ranking the point guards in the NBA, leadership part 2; and technical fouls!

So, Greg Miller was on Undercover Boss last night. I'm going to be honest. I didn't watch the show and I had never previously heard about the program before. If Larry H. Miller was on that type of show I would have been all over it, but that's just me. Anyway, Undercover Boss was aired first in the US on February 7th, 2010 on CBS. Like most of our programs, the concept came from a British TV show of the same name that started earlier and finished after many fewer episodes. (I see you, The Office.) Like most reality TV shows this thing is completely staged and heavily produced -- but each episode fits some contrived narrative. (If you think Reality TV is real you've obviously never talked to a TV producer before, or watched an episode before.)

This season, season five of Undercover Boss, includes the CEO of Loehmann's, Donatos Pizza, Family Dollar, Dutch Bros. Coffee, "Massage Heights", a few other places, and of course, our Utah Jazz 's own CEO Greg Miller. The story here is that the boss goes undercover and works at his company to see what it's like, interact with the plebs, and have a nice learning moment in 42 minutes of family safe television. The message board of the TV show is fun to read, on IMDB.com. Other "basketball" blogs will give you a review of the show. We'll stick to basketball here though.

Greg Miller was busy doing other things as well. Matt Moore (Hardwood Paroxysm, CBS, everywhere) had a phone interview with him where they talk about things like the luxury tax and other important basketball things. Check out the full interview here, and here's an excerpt:

CBSSports.com: So a quiet trade deadline for you guys overall. Is it safe to say you're happy with the direction of the franchise at this point?

Greg Miller, Utah Jazz CEO: Yeah, I'd say that this has been a very good developmental year. Going into the season, we stated openly our plan is to go young and develop the young guys into a championship contender. I think the development we've seen has been exactly what we've hoped for. And I'm happy with it.

CBSSports.com: It's said a lot that you can't apply business principles from outside sports to running an NBA team. I tend to believe there are certain principles for success that cross boundaries no matter what the field is. Do you agree that pro sports are its own entity that you can't relate other concepts to?

Miller: I'd probably line up more with you on that. The way we run the Jazz, it's all about aggressive asset accumulation. We're trying to build for the long term and have sustainable high performance instead of a short term flash where we're good for a season and then have to start over. we're trying to build methodically. That will allow us to be competitive for a long, long time.

Those principles apply across all kinds of business whether it's car business, insurance business, whatever, it's applicable across those fields.

CBSSports.com: It's been interesting recently to read about players' personal relationships with their owners. Is there anyone particularly on the team you're particularly close to?

Miller: I consider them all friends. I think we're all blessed to have gentlemen on and off the course. They're good for the community they represent the franchise well. I try not to get too close to any of them because it's the nature of the business that it's fairly dynamic in terms of personnel moves. It's tough enough without having that added dimension.

Having said that I feel like I've made an effort to express my appreciation to the guys who are going to be part of my guys in the future. I'd include Derrick Favors, Burke, Burks, Gordon, Enes and others. When I see them at games, I feel comfortable around them and I think they feel comfortable with me.

There's more though, like talking about Adam Silver, David Stern, the CBA, and more. Check it out here. And since we're talking about the Miller family here, Larry H. Miller passed away on February 20th, 2009. The anniversary of his passing was a little over a week ago. I'm sorry we missed it.

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So the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference 2014 is happening right now. Andy Larsen is there, so I can't wait to read what he has to say about it. It started yesterday and finish up today. I don't know how fun math conferences get (like do people go wild and drink there too?), but I can imagine that it must be a lot of fun. The whole list of things you could attend sounds like a lot of fun for nerds like me.

The papers/presentations that look the coolest to me are:

No doubt, and hours are just collections of minutes . . . but hey, some people still don't agree with me on that.

You don't have to be a psychoanalyst to see what's on my mind with these choices. The good news is that the Jazz once again sent someone to take a look at the business research, like trying to do better with social media and SEO and stuff. That's . . . nice.

It's also a moot point because:

You can't complete on the side dishes (like trying to maximize web profit) unless you are a good product first. I don't think playing guys like Raja Bell, Josh Howard, DeMarre Carroll, and Richard Jefferson 1,000-2,000 minutes per season helps achieve that. But then again, I'm not at Sloan so I could be wrong here.

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Let's be honest here, there's one league, the NBA. In that league there are two conference, the Eastern and Western Conference. You further break that down into six division: (from East to West) the Atlantic, Central, South East, South West, North West, and Pacific. And there are 30 teams. We all know this, And we all know that if you are a good player you at least have a chance to start because there are so many freaking teams. If you can start on a team you can then go into free agency (or whatever) and command something close to the average starters salary.

Moving away from money you get a chance to look at yourself as a player. If you aren't at least second string then you have a lot of work to do. Using this theory as a guide here are the Top 60 point guards in the NBA today. Broken down by division. (Listed alphabetically)

Pacific North West South West South East Central Atlantic
1 Golden State Warriors Denver Nuggets Dallas Mavericks Atlanta Hawks Chicago Bulls Boston Celtics
2 Los Angeles Clippers Minnesota Timberwolves Houston Rockets Charlotte Bobcats Cleveland Cavaliers New Jersey Nets
3 Los Angeles Lakers Oklahoma City Thunder Memphis Grizzlies Miami Heat Detroit Pistons New York Knicks
4 Phoenix Suns Portland Trail Blazers New Orleans Pelicans Orlando Magic Indiana Pacers Philadelphia 76ers
5 Sacramento Kings Utah Jazz San Antonio Spurs Washington Wizards Milwaukee Bucks Toronto Raptors
1 Chris Paul Aaron Brooks Beno Udrih Andre Miller Brandon Jennings Avery Bradley
2 Darren Collison Damian Lillard Devin Harris Jameer Nelson Brandon Knight Deron Williams
3 Eric Bledsoe Derek Fisher Jeremy Lin Jeff Teague C.J. Watson Eric Maynor
4 Goran Dragic Diante Garrett Jose Calderon John Wall Derrick Rose Greivis Vasquez
5 Isaiah Thomas J.J. Barea Jrue Holiday Kemba Walker George Hill Kyle Lowry
6 Kendall Marshall Mo Williams Mike Conley Luke Ridnour Jarrett Jack Michael Carter-Williams
7 Ray McCallum Ricky Rubio Patrick Beverley Mario Chalmers Kirk Hinrich Pablo Prigioni
8 Stephen Curry Russell Westbrook Patty Mills Norris Cole Kyrie Irving Rajon Rondo
9 Steve Blake Trey Burke Tony Parker Ronnie Price Ramon Sessions Raymond Felton
10 Steve Nash Ty Lawson Tyreke Evans Shelvin Mack Rodney Stuckey Shaun Livingston

Where do you put Trey? He's automatically in the Top 60, and we hope he's in the Top 30 as well. Is he Top 20? Top 15? I want to know what you think because tomorrow I'm breaking all of this down. Of course, ranking players is just a numbers game.

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Did you read this FanPost by on Feb 28 2014, 2:32p? It's called "LEADERSHIP: Is Ty a Captain or a wayward Corporal?". I suggest that you read it. It builds off of the question Diana presented yesterday in her Downbeat. I have some understand of organizational structure from being a part of a lot of things in my life (from Student Government in undergrad to working with a team at my job), but I haven't been a Masters student for these types of things, nor have I been part of the military. Hestari has been both. And he takes a good look at the qualities you need to be able to lead from the viewpoint of the American military. Here's an excerpt:

Some are born to lead, some are not. Most everyone though has the ability to develop at least some level of leadership. It was ingrained in my head that leaders possessed and consistently strive to develop the following 14 leadership traits:

  • Justice
  • Judgement
  • Dependability
  • Integrity
  • Decisiveness
  • Tact
  • Initiative
  • Endurance
  • Bearing
  • Unselfishness
  • Courage
  • Knowledge
  • Loyalty
  • Enthusiasm
As officer "candidates" we were required to memorize these traits and know them by heart, receiving "encouragement" and "instruction" if we forgot. It takes years on average to even come close to check marking each and everyone of these traits, but it is usually pretty obvious who's trying and who his not.

The frustrating thing here is that it doesn't matter what side of the Tyrone Corbin divide you are on, you want the Jazz to have a great coach who can lead, encourage, teach, and inspire. Sometimes observations are altogether too subjective. When I see Ty I see a guy who has a team that runs really poor plays out of time outs, a guy who doesn't make quick enough in-game adjustments, someone who displays difficulty dealing with the media, or is secretive about communicating his strategy, and is someone the players never mention as their 'favorite' coach, save for Kyrylo Fesenko. He also seems to be very selective with who he gives praise to, and who to blame, and does not treat all players equally. (I'd really love to know what Brandon Rush is doing to earn his minutes over Ian Clark.)

But Ty doesn't have to be the things I want him to be. And he can be good at things and not change / improve on what I think his flaws are. I do honestly think that he's not the perfect coach. I do see flaws in him. But I really hope that his supporters also see that there are flaws too. I know I saw flaws in Jerry Sloan and Frank Layden but supported both of them. So I can imagine that some of Corbin's champions could also see imperfections.

The big question for the Jazz front office is to see if his flaws are not bigger than his talents. Objectively I don't think someone who reduces quantitative data as a "numbers game" is ready to embrace all of the available information out there, information that could help him make a more successful and tactical game plan. You have to be more than just a former player to be eligible to be a head coach. Hestari takes a good look at what is important to the military. We all have our own way of evaluating people. If we try to be objective I think it's not out of the question to see that Corbin is both not without flaws, but also not without his own traits that could be successful.

Perhaps at the end of the day he is just someone who can be a great assistant coach, and a mediocre head coach. There is no shame in being great at a supportive position.

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Five. Do you know what that it? That's the number of technical fouls the 2013-2014 Utah Jazz have been penalized with this season. Four by players, and one by head coach Tyrone Corbin. Richard Jefferson has 2, Enes Kanter has 1, and Jamaal Tinsley has 1. You really need to dig deep to get these stats, but they are on ESPN. This season Kevin Durant, a guy who is going to get a number of MVP votes, has 10 all by himself. That's twice as many as our entire team. If you look at the list obviously the most expressive guys are on there. Some because they are idiots like DeMarcus Cousins (15), but others because of their intensity for the game and because of how much emotion they put into their work, like Joakim Noah (9), and Kevin Garnett (8). It's no surprise that the expressive leaders of their teams make it here. It doesn't mean you are a bad guy, it just means that you care very much about winning. In 2000-2001 Karl Malone had 21 techs, the next year had 20. I'm sure if I had access to more historical data it would show that Karl was a guy who racked up a lot of techs.

This season, though, well, we seem to have found the greatest collection of people who are willing to just lay back and take it (it, I guess, being their pay check to the bank). I've never seen so many pussy cats outside of the YouTube before. So is this a smart team that doesn't complain when the going is rough? Or is this a team with little passion for the games they are playing in right now? I know that Gordon Hayward practices Buddhism or something, because the glimmer man doesn't fight. Even when he should. But we can't just have a group of pansies out there. This is the NBA, after all, and not your daughter's ballet recital.

Remember a few seasons ago when Earl Watson got a tech (a non-game situation at that) for slapping the ball out of Dirk Nowitzki's hands when he was bullying Derrick Favors? Earl cares about the game, and knew that the ref made a ball call. He fought, even if no points were at stake. I think that many Jazz fans have been disgusted by the lack of fight we've seen over the last few seasons. This season guys just sleepwalk. I presume this is what happens when it's the third year in a row where guys in contract years just float into your team and float off of it in free agency.

Five whole techs doesn't show me discipline (that's invalidated by all the bad passes on offense, selectively boxing out on defense, and closing out poorly on spot up shooters -- there's more to discipline than just not getting T'd up). It shows me people who may not care enough in the games they are playing in. Maybe the stakes are too low, and there's nothing to fight for in the big picture? Or maybe these guys need an attitude adjustment? Or maybe they are just reflections of the stable and 'keep it cool' coaching staff? I wish I knew. I also wish that this team played with the passion of a guy like Jo Noah. He's not stealing checks every two weeks, he's going out there and playing with passion.

I couldn't do a job I wasn't passionate about.

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