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Off the Glass

Strength in numbers: Sometimes statistic don't lie

Posted: Friday March 22, 2002 5:29 PM
Updated: Saturday March 23, 2002 7:56 PM
  Brent Barry Fantasy owners realize Brent Barry is a huge reason for Seattle's success. Robert Mora/NBAE/Getty Images

By Paul Forrester, Special to CNNSI.com

Is there anything more depressing than the playoffs? All of those pressure-packed games, all of those clutch assists and 3-pointers and not a fantasy point to be gained by any of it.

Such has been the dilemma for OTG for as many years as I've made fantasy reality. Wins and losses mean little, especially if Cuttino Mobley can still pop off for 38 points and six threes in a losing effort. My devotion to team exploits has been replaced by my devotion to individual exploits. What is the 10-game winning streak compared to the 100 rebounds that yields it?

In many ways, the devoted fantasy owner is a better fan of the game. Like that Keanu Reeves dude in The Matrix, he sees beyond the constructed fašade of standings and trophies to the game's true essence -- performance. The box score doesn't lie. A certain player from Philadelphia may be the league's reigning MVP, but with a 39.7 percent shooting mark, he may not be the guy the Sixers want shooting in the clutch.

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Statistics are the game's great magnifying glass, revealing the worth of those hidden behind the league's biggest stars. Any suit in the stands can tell you that Kobe Bryant is a hell of a player, but only the fantasy maven can tell you that Brent Barry is the reason Seattle is going to make the playoffs.

In a way, the fantasy owner develops an almost Zen-like understanding of the game. One understands that a Ron Artest may not impress with 14 points per game but makes Indiana a much better playoff team courtesy of the 2.5 steals he grabs a night.

But Grasshopper, there is a price for such knowledge. Passion, that emotion that initially drew us to the game, is not a number found in agate type. And the more your appreciation becomes tied to those numbers, the more your devotion to a team or player weakens. A loss to the Celtics doesn't quite have the same sting if Latrell Sprewell drops 48 for your roto club in the loss. Similarly, is a Minnesota win all that enjoyable when your Kevin Garnett shoots 3-for-12 from the field? Probably not.

Which is where the playoffs come in. For only in the postseason can the fantasy owner experience the game for the game. Any roto postseason has already passed or awaits in a watered-down form. All that's left is the fanhood you've spent all season suppressing in pursuit of the next free-agent pickup or trade.

And OTG has to be honest; it's difficult to turn that switch on. Granted, a lot of that has to do with the fact that our beloved Cavaliers are as far out of the postseason hunt as OTG is from flapping his arms and flying. But we wonder if even a Lakers fan can gear it up if he or she has spent the majority of the year rooting for players not named O'Neal and Bryant?

Of course, that's the "magic and wonder" of rotisserie hoops isn't it? No matter how little your team draws you into the season, the stats can grab you before you fall into the abyss, where well-adjusted, culturally literate folks live. So until Brad Daugherty and Edgar Jones return to the shores of Lake Erie, OTG will take all the 7-for-24s he can get, at least until the playoffs start.

OTG answers your letters

I have the option of picking up Kurt Thomas off of free agency in a keeper league, but I'd have to give up Jamal Crawford. Should I do it? While Thomas has been on a double-double tear as of late, he is still maddeningly inconsistent, and Camby will undoubtedly steal some of his thunder next season. Crawford is unproven but I like his limitless upside (the fact that he's an athletic 6-5 point) and the fact that Krause loves him. It may seem like a no-brainer now to pick up Thomas and ride him out for the rest of the season, but I'm in this league for another three years.
--Drew, Boston

It all depends on what you're building toward. If you're dying for boards, shooting percentage and 15-20 points a game THIS SEASON, snap up Thomas; he's playing out of his mind.

(Just think of how bad the Knicks must be to be getting this kind of unexpected bounty out of Thomas and still lose to Cleveland and Atlanta in the same week? Perhaps Mr. Sprewell should quit complaining about the team's management and players and start playing? Of course, you have to show up on time to do that, and Sprewell hasn't done that with any consistency this year.)

On the other hand, if the future is where your team has you looking, Crawford might be the play. Chicago's team management is in love with him (and with former coach Tim Floyd gone, Crawford is sure to benefit under the rookie-friendly hand of Bill Cartwright) and he plays at a position -- point -- that isn't as deep as Thomas'.

(OTG is of the opinion that the power forward position is deep enough in the NBA that you can always find someone to score 15 points and pull down 8-12 rebounds a game in the draft.) While Crawford is sure to split time with Travis Best, if the former Wolverine is good enough to make Michael Jordan salivate over him, it may not be too long before he's running the show in Chicago.

Has Nick van Exel's productivity come to an end?
--Casper Andersen, Aarhus, Denmark

Sure looks like it for this season. Contrary to my -- and a lot of others -- opinion, Van Exel has quietly taken to his role off the bench while enjoying a free ride into the playoffs. And while that has been good for the Mavericks, it has been hell on Van Exel owners, who have watched the guard's numbers cut in half -- literally (you can check the math if you doubt me). As to next season, OTG wouldn't be surprised to see the Mavericks ship Van Exel elsewhere. While the contract Van Exel is due might not scare Dallas owner Mark Cuban, the possibility of Nick at Nite not taking to a backup's role so readily next year should. And with Van Exel in a new environment, especially one in which he starts, the 20-plus points and eight assists on 40 percent shooting that we've all come to know and love should return.


 
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