Small Sample Sizes Make the Best NBA Stats (2020-21 Edition!)

Last year, early in the season when most teams had only played two or three games, I took a look at the insane NBA records that would not only fall but be shattered if the players who had wild openings to the season kept up that pace for 82 games. After Trae Young went for 37 points on just 12 shots and for one game had an absolutely bonkers PER of 59, it was clear that a sequel was in order. So welcome to the Second Annual Small Sample Sizes Make the Best NBA Statistics column! Rather than get caught …

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Pacers Win! A Massive One-Game Overreaction to Nate Bjorkgren’s Glory

The Indiana Pacers won their season opener 121-107 over the New York Knicks Wednesday night, giving all of Pacer Nation a Christmas present to savor while simultaneously reinforcing just how wonderful it is that Nate McMillan is not the coach anymore. The team was behind at halftime. They pulled it together in the third quarter, gave up just 16 points while scoring 27, and took control of the game. What’s more, the team was up nine points with seven minutes to play and, unlike during the McMillan years, there was not the imminent sense of doom that accompanies clock-watching and …

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Happy 129th Birthday, Basketball

On December 21, 1891, in a gym in Springfield, Massachusetts, a Canadian physical education instructor by the name of James Naismith nailed a couple of peach baskets to the walls, rolled out a soccer ball, and created the most “I probably don’t need to tell you what you’re supposed to do” simplicity-itself moment in the history of sports. Indeed, other than soccer itself—a ball, two goals at opposite ends of a pitch, and a self-evident implied instruction as to what one is supposed to do that is so simple that a five-year-old child can easily play the ensuing game—there is …

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The Rise and Fall of LiAngelo Ball

LiAngelo Ball got a training-camp roster invite from the Detroit Pistons and managed to rack up one DNP-CD in a preseason game before the Pistons sent him packing Monday morning. Unlike his established older brother Lonzo Ball and his highly-touted Charlotte Hornets third-overall draft pick LaMelo Ball, “Gelo” never quite had the talent or the chops necessary to stick in the NBA. Which…let’s face it, inviting him to camp in the first place was a publicity stunt. How big would an NBA roster have to be in order for Gelo to make it? Would it be the 40-man roster of …

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Should the NBA Learn About Coaching from the NFL?

When the Brooklyn Nets hired Steve Nash, there were questions about what kind of system Nash would bring in to make the best use of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and the rest of the talent on that team as they worked their way back from a disappointing 2020 campaign riddled with injury. The Nets then brought in Mike D’Antoni after MDA’s departure from the Houston Rockets, and Nash immediately declared that D’Antoni would be the architect of Brooklyn’s offense. Then Nash went a step further, describing lead assistant Jacque Vaughn explicitly as his “defensive coordinator.” If this sounds familiar, it …

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COVID-19 and the Memory of Reggie Lewis

In 1993, Celtics star Reggie Lewis, the inheritor of the mantle of Boston’s Big Three days, the franchise cornerstone who was going to lead the Celtics into a new era after Larry Bird and Kevin McHale retired and Robert Parish went on his farewell tour, passed away from a heart condition that first manifested itself in an on-court collapse in the playoffs and finally claimed his life in a practice session on July 27. In 2015, your intrepid basketball columnist checked into the emergency room at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland with a rapid heartbeat of 240 beats …

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What Could Michael Jordan’s Career Stats Have Been?

Michael Jordan stands fifth all-time in scoring in NBA history, third in steals, fifth in Win Shares, and second in VORP. By any account, the argument for the greatest player ever to play professional basketball is a two-horse race between Jordan and LeBron James. But what if Jordan—who played in 1,072 career NBA games, 90th all-time—didn’t spend two seasons of his prime trying to play baseball? What if he hadn’t taken three years off before an ill-fated comeback attempt in Washington in 2001 that nearly knocked him out of the top spot for points per game, leaving him in a …

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Doc Rivers: Worst Coach to Ever Win an NBA Title

Sometimes, a great coach takes a team to the next level and leads them to a championship, bringing the talent together and leaving open questions of just how bad the last guy was that he couldn’t figure it out. Steve Kerr taking over for Mark Jackson and leading the Golden State Warriors to glory in 2015 comes to mind. So does Larry Brown working his magic on the Detroit Pistons to get them to two straight NBA Finals and that 2004 title over a Lakers team that was about to implode. Heck, if you’re old enough to remember it, Dick …

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A Study In Glorious Failure Part 2: Mike D’Antoni

Yesterday, we did a deep dive into the legacy of Don Nelson, Hall of Famer, legendary coach…and one-time conference finalist without so much as an NBA Finals appearance, never mind a ring. But no discussion of the Marty Schottenheimers of the NBA is complete without the recently-sacked maven of Houston Rockets playoff disappointment, good ol’ Mike D’Antoni. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love MDA and campaigned for him to be the new head coach of my beloved Indiana Pacers. But nobody in the history of basketball coaching embodied “live by the sword, die by the sword” like Mr. Seven …

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A Study In Glorious Failure Part 1: Don Nelson

There have, in the annals of NBA history, been great players who never won a title. The mere mention of the concept immediately brings to mind a slew of guys who, because they came through the league during the reign of a team they weren’t on, retired without that elusive ring. Like “every star in the league who wasn’t on the Celtics in the 1960s.” Or “Every star in the league who was in his prime between 1991 and 1998 and wasn’t on the Bulls or Rockets.” Or the stars of the Dark Ages who weren’t on the Lakers or …

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