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Posted: Monday March 9, 2009 4:37PM; Updated: Monday March 9, 2009 6:54PM
Paul Forrester Paul Forrester >
INSIDE THE NBA

Jazz putting their pieces together (cont.)

Scout's take

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Delonte West has been solid at shooting guard for the Cavs this season.
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An NBA scout assesses how starting shooting guard Delonte West (12.2 points, 41.2 percent from three-point range) has helped the Cavaliers this season.

"He's a jump shooter who he still has the ability to create his own shot, although he's not a guy they want probing and dribbling the ball all over the floor. With West, Mo Williams and LeBron James, Cleveland always has an opportunity to exploit a guy they feel struggles at guarding pick-and-rolls. And because West is such a sound team guy, he doesn't try to do too much. He comes off the pick and if he's got a shot, he'll take it; if he doesn't, he'll move it and space the floor.

"Defensively, you feel for him [as a 6-foot-3, 180-pound player defending shooting guards]. He can guard on the ball and he's active away from the ball, which allows him to come up with steals and force bad passes. He reads the floor very well and takes advantage of guys who get careless with the basketball. He's able to rip at guys and grab guys and make big men who aren't strong with the basketball uncomfortable. He isn't afraid to battle a bigger player or harass him or make him work to get a spot. That will be important in the playoffs, when there's no question teams will look to try to take advantage if Cleveland goes with the [small] two-guard combination of Williams and West."

They said it

• "Getting up in the morning kind of stinks."
-- Jazz guard Kyle Korver bemoans the 12:30 p.m. ET start time to the Jazz's game in Toronto on Sunday after losing an hour through Daylight Savings Time.

• "The hugging that goes on beyond the game makes me want to puke."
-- ABC/ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, at the MIT Sports Analytics Conference on Saturday (more below), decries how the open camaraderie between opposing players has prevented the rise of intriguing rivalries.

• "With Boris, it's always a cat-and-mouse game. He knows a lot, so you have to find ways to motivate him, almost trick him into what you want him to do sometimes."
-- Bobcats guard Raja Bell describes to the Charlotte Observer how best to squeeze more offense out of his longtime teammate Boris Diaw, who has drawn some light criticism for passing too much.

Required reading

Arizona Republic: It might take a book to capture all of the ins and outs of Shaq's war of words with the Magic and coach Stan Van Gundy. Or you could just get the blow-by-blow here.

The On Deck Circle: Could the NBA be rife with HGH?

Beyond the Beat: Former Nuggets beat writers Chris Tomasson and Aaron Lopez reveal how they discovered their newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, was going out of business and detail what it was like to cover a team for a publication that was about to shut down.

Basketball-Reference.com: A look at some of the more interesting facts about an array of past MVP winners.

SLAM: Are plus-minus stats an accurate reflection of a player's value, or do they not account for great players on bad teams?

3 points

MIT hosted the third Sports Analytics Conference on Saturday, a confab organized in large part by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. Statheads, GMs, coaches, league officials and business leaders gathered to discuss the latest and future methodologies for building teams and sports pitchmen. Here are three of the more interesting tidbits (and one additional note) we picked up:

1. There is no such thing as a hot hand in the NBA. According to two researchers from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, a player's likelihood of making a shot drops by 3.5 percent if he hits his previous shot. Why? Probably because the player is taking a harder shot, argue the authors of the study, John Huizinga and Sandy Weil. That doesn't stop players from like acting like they have a hot hand, though, as a player will shoot 16 percent quicker after a made jumper than a miss.

2. The biggest obstacle to using advanced statistics (optimal shooting spots, when to push a possession in the closing seconds of a quarter, etc.) is communicating their potential benefit to the players. Players generally are trained to listen only to coaches, who aren't necessarily receptive to a possibly unorthodox approach unless they can be convinced it will help them win. And finding the right words to persuade a coach to try something new isn't easy when practice plans and game strategies often are already in place. On top of that, even if a coach does incorporate the new ideas, there's a good chance players won't remember the concept in the heat of a game. "Communication skills are almost more important then the numbers," said Mike Zarren, the Celtics' numbers guru and assistant director of basketball operations.

3. Hiring a coach is the hardest job in the NBA. So said Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who told the conference that Dallas hired Rick Carlisle in part because of a study the team did that found Carlisle made the biggest impact on players who changed teams, a la Jason Kidd. Morey added that teams are betting on that person as an executive, leader and teacher. Identifying those guys isn't easy in the first place, as a search can be made more difficult because of proven head coaches' tendency to drag their staffs from stop to stop. "It can make good coaches meek," Cuban said.

4. Permit us this four-point play ... Cuban offered that teams are most profitable when they are rebuilding. Why? They can maneuver their payroll toward the league minimum while still reaping the benefits of the NBA's national TV deal, revenue sharing and a fan base buying tickets to see a team viewed as hopeful, not hopeless.

 
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