Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Midrange Game

Analysts have long lamented the wilting of the midrange game, and here's some pretty definitive proof. The chart shows data from 340,000 shots over the past 5 years of college basketball. Things might look a bit different if Joe Forte's 1,055 career attempts had been included...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Junior Varsity

Junior Proust's madeleine, the words bring back memories. Mostly bad memories. Like having to guard Harry Beresford, who: a) was a varsity lineman on the football team; b) was determined to put the ball in the hoop without regard for maintaining an appropriate distance between one's elbow (or armpit) and the defender's face; and c) would sweat profusely (and malodorously). Or having to maintain a squat position while holding bricks above my head. But these are trivialities, with little consequence for my subsequent basketball career.

A lot of things happened between 1988 and 1989. Regan became an Ex-President. The Berlin Wall fell. Jack Nicholson terrorized us as the first artist to work in the medium of homicide. The world was introduced to the musical genius of Milli Vanilli, with the release of "Blame It On The Rain." Things were clearly changing for the better.

Yet basketball shorts lagged tragically behind the times, with dire consequences for my basketball career. During the 1988-1989 school year, I, due to a lifetime of maternal oppression in the realms of candy, sugar cereals, and miscellaneous junk food, made a habit of saving my lunch money and using it to purchase a Hostess apple pie (480 calories, 22 grams fat), a package of ding dongs (368 calories, 19 grams fat), and a box of Gobstoppers (400 calories). Instead of the corndog.

So, naturally or unnaturally, my thighs became Clintonesque. And, proud as I was to have made the JV squad (it should go without saying that this was based on my height alone), I was mortified about the prospect of my pasty, broad thighs being appraised by a female audience. I found that the best way to avoid exposure was to maintain a more or less seated position. My coach was happy to oblige me in this regard.

When the exigencies of the game (or, more likely, a democratic impulse) demanded my participation, I was forever tugging at my shorts instead of keeping my hands up on defense. I picked up a lot of offensive fouls and led the team (perhaps the league) in three second violations (to go along with my 0.5 ppg). All because of my shorts.

Eventually, I left the team, never to return to organized basketball. But then! Later that year, the hemline on the Fighting Illini final four uniforms made a noticeable advance toward the knee. There were subsequent (cough! Dook cough!) retreats waistward, but this territorial acquisition was finally solidified by Michigan's Fab 5 two years later.

Sadly, it was too late for me. I was the basketball version of the East Berliner who was caught attempting to escape days before the wall came down.

On the other hand, these guys are certain to come away with better memories of their JV experience.

But then, they don't have to wear nuthuggers, do they?

*Still, things might have been worse if the Edmonds Tigers had gone with what NC State was wearing at the time.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Girls ain't nothing but trouble, part 2

One of our first posts was about the effect of girlfriends and wives on (male) player performance. The Setshot community felt that, in general, the presence of female spectators caused guys to try too hard and impress too much--to the detriment of their overall play.

Lately I've had another girl problem. There's a 17 year-old girl who plays in one of my regular pick-up games and SHE IS A BALLER. She's only about 5'5" and maybe 110 pounds, but she is fast like the wind and never runs out of gas on the court. She literally goes full speed on every single possession. She's also got a sweet jumper that she does not hesitate to stick. I'm guessing that she is a star on her high school team but I've never actually asked. Now don't get me wrong, she's not better than me, but I'm twice her age, bigger and stronger, and have been playing ball for 20 years. While she's not a dominant player, she's smart and hardworking, so she gets her share of open looks and invariably drops a few points in every game.

Guys who play with talented women will be familiar with my dilemma. And as one of the quicker, smaller guards in the game, I am often called on to check her. In principle, I don't mind this, as she's a good player and I respect her game. She is not the problem. The other guys in the gym are the problem. If she scores or makes a nice play, a chorus of ignoramuses will let loose with something along the lines of "Oooooooh, she DID you. Ooooooooooh." And if I actually step up, play defense and steal the ball or block her shot, I get this: "You're a bully." Of course, when it's time to match up, none of those guys want to guard her. I think they rightly see the situation as no-win and act accordingly.

Anyone else recognize this Catch-22? It bothers the hell out of me. I mean, a good player is a good player, right? The girl I'm talking about is better than many of the male players in the gym, but if one of the less-talented male players schools me, it's not an issue. If the girl scores on me though, dudes act like my penis just fell off.

In my experience, this problem goes away after a talented female player becomes a regular in the game and the regular male players begin to ignore gender and focus on ability. It definitely helps if the talented woman has humiliated multiple male regulars, as this normalizes the general impression of her skill level. In other words, she becomes one of the guys. One of the best pick-up players at NYU was the star of the women's basketball team, a fantastic scoring forward who went on to play professionally in Europe. She was the quintessential normalized female pick-up player because she was so talented that no one could really be blamed when she did something great (which was often). But even in this case, where pretty much everyone knew about her killer game, I would often hear some snickering from the peanut gallery when she scored.

What's up with this?