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I have some random NBA questions
February 16, 2012 5:36 PM   Subscribe

I watched my first NBA basketball game ever and I have some random questions.

So I watched the NY Knicks vs. Toronto Raptors Valentines' Day game because I was curious about Jeremy Lin and a bunch of random questions came to mind and I was hoping someone might be able to answer them. (Please keep in mind that I am a hockey & MMA fan, so I have a large understanding of how the game works, but no knowledge of the makeup of NBA teams or the general NBA landscape.)

(A) Are the NY Knicks a good team? Are they expected to make the playoffs? Do they tend to?
(B) I am a hockey fan and in that sport, each team can only call one time out. But in basketball, I noticed that they called time out a lot. How many time outs can teams call?
(C) The two Point Guards tended to be "smaller" men. Are they usually?
(D) One of the players wore goggles. Why? How many players in the league wear goggles?
(E) I noticed that thumping music was playing DURING the play. Is that usual? In hockey, the music stops as soon as the puck is dropped. Or, it crossed my mind that maybe only the television audience could hear the music. What is the truth?
(F) The "three-pointer" seems to be a very effective way to score points. Why do teams not just go for three-pointers all the time? Is there a team that consistently just snipes from the edge?
(G) The great hype about Jeremy Lin is what caused me to watch the game. The ensuing game itself seemed to bear that out - but has there been this amount of attention paid to a NBA newcomer in the past who turned out to be a flash in the pan?
posted by Sully to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 


c) Generally speaking, yes.
posted by box at 5:43 PM on February 16, 2012


D) Goggles == glasses.
posted by tomboko at 5:45 PM on February 16, 2012


(A) Are the NY Knicks a good team? Are they expected to make the playoffs? Do they tend to?

The Knicks drive their fans crazy--a relatively well-off team that consistently underperforms.

(C) The two Point Guards tended to be "smaller" men. Are they usually?

Yes. Point guards set up the play--they tend to be smaller, highly mobile players who have excellent ball handling and passing skills.

(D) One of the players wore goggles. Why? How many players in the league wear goggles?

Mostly to prevent eye-injury.

(F) The "three-pointer" seems to be a very effective way to score points. Why do teams not just go for three-pointers all the time? Is there a team that consistently just snipes from the edge?


High risk, high reward.

(G) The great hype about Jeremy Lin is what caused me to watch the game. The ensuing game itself seemed to bear that out - but has there been this amount of attention paid to a NBA newcomer in the past who turned out to be a flash in the pan?

Nate Silver did a nice piece on this at fivethirtyeight.com. The short answer is: very rarely. The vast majority of players who have had streaks like Lin's have gone on to respectable or outstanding careers. On the other hand, Lin's not really shown anything like this in the past, which is also exceptional.
posted by yoink at 5:48 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


A) They are kind of limbo right now. They have a lot of talent, but their two star players (Anthony and Stoudamire) have been injured and they had been playing terribly until Lin came along. The coach, Mike D'Antoni, is known for coaching teams with great offense but terrible defense. I would bet they do well in the regular season, make the playoffs, but exit early because the playoffs favor, defensive, "grind it out" basketball over fast-break styles.

They are a historically strong team but haven't been very good for the last decade or so.

B) I don't remember but quite a few.

C) Yes, the PG is typically the smallest guy on the floor.

D) Either he had an eye injury and is worried about being poked again, or they are prescription for better vision.

E) yes it has become more common.

F) It's not an effective long-term strategy. Teams and players often get hot but this is often labelled "fool's gold" - eventually you start missing and then the long rebounds result in easy points for the other team. Playing "inside out" - throwing the ball inside to bigger players, who either try to score or draw a double team and pass out to an open teammate - is always more effective in the long run.

G) I can't remember anyone offhand, though many players flame out due to injuries or personal issues or whatever. Lin is pretty unique in my memory of the NBA- most players are either highly heralded from day one or improve slowly over months or years.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:48 PM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


f) Three-point shots, statistically speaking, don't go in as often as shots from inside, and they are more likely to result in the other team getting the rebound. While some teams go for the three more than others, nobody really goes for it every single time (just like no (high-level) football team uses running or passing plays exclusively.
posted by box at 5:49 PM on February 16, 2012


I haven't watched the NBA regularly in years, but I'll take a stab at a couple of these:

c) Not only are they usually shorter, but some of them have been very short over the years. #1 on that list--Muggsy Boggs-- is the one that always springs to mind for me, at 5'3".
d) Players (myself included back in high school) wear "goggles" for a couple of reasons. Sometimes they replace prescription glasses (probably unlikely in the NBA). More often they're to protect against injury. Maybe the player is recovering from getting poked in the eye (it happens), or had a back experience and is now gun shy.
e) Music pumps the crowd and in theory the home team up. I'm pretty sure they play it constantly, except during free throws.
f) If you live by the 3 you will die by the 3. It's a low percentage shot. Heck, some games are won and lost at the free throw line, where you only get 1 point per basket.
posted by postel's law at 5:51 PM on February 16, 2012


in re: to F, the Golden State Warriors have probably been the team that most consistently focuses on outside shooting at the expense of inside play and defense. The typical result is exciting play but very limited success, especially in the playoffs.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:51 PM on February 16, 2012


If you're going to talk about the 538 piece on Lin, link to it!
posted by postel's law at 5:52 PM on February 16, 2012


Um, and I meant "had a bad experience." Goggles would do nothing for your back.
posted by postel's law at 5:54 PM on February 16, 2012


As another fallow-up to f), the 3-pointer from the corner is especially risky, because a miss means the shooter is in a very poor position to get back on defense.

Metta World Peace (nee Ron Artest) of the Lakers is notorious for missing these shots and starting fast breaks for the other team. Opponents now almost dare him to shoot.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:56 PM on February 16, 2012


(F) The "three-pointer" seems to be a very effective way to score points. Why do teams not just go for three-pointers all the time? Is there a team that consistently just snipes from the edge?

A good offense is a varied offense. The best 3-point shooters in the league can probably make 60-70% of their shots if no one is guarding them. But if everyone knows you're going to shoot it's easy to guard you. So you need to attack from different parts of the floor and take the 3-pointers when they're open. Forcing a 3 when you're covered is considered irresponsible.

(G) The great hype about Jeremy Lin is what caused me to watch the game. The ensuing game itself seemed to bear that out - but has there been this amount of attention paid to a NBA newcomer in the past who turned out to be a flash in the pan?

Flip Murray was the last scrub to come out of nowhere and go on a weeks long hot streak. He's stayed on teams in the years since, but couldn't keep up that level of play after a couple months. Some people think Lin has a better chance to keep it up because his skill-set (running pick and rolls, getting to the basket, drawing fouls, making assists) are easier to keep up than hot shooting.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 7:07 PM on February 16, 2012


(A) The Knicks are a decent team that has some fantastic pieces in place. But they never seem to be able to put anything together for a eep playoff run. At this point they are a fringe playoff team; my guess is that they will end up as a five or six seed.

(B) NBA teams have multiple timeouts. In hockey, there's not much benefit to stopping the clock, but in basketball, clock management is important. If you're behind and trying to catch up at the end of the game, you want to stop the clock as much as possible for more chances at possessions.

(C) Point guards have been known to be as short as 5'3" (Muggsy Bogues) and are typically quicker players who move around a lot. They tend to be the team's best outside shooters, but their primary job is to a) pass the ball to the open man and b) be the floor general on offense. There can be exceptions as far as size goes - Magic Johnson, who is considered by many to be the best point guard ever, is 6'9" (Look up some of his highlights - he was an absolutely electric player.)

(D) Not many wear goggles, but players who have had eye injuries in the past will wear them sometimes. Probably the most famous goggle-wearer was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. (Another guy worth looking up to see the skyhook shot that made him famous, as well as the NBA's all time leading scorer.)

(E) The NBA is odd in this regard. I don't know of any college or pro major sport team in the US that plays music during play. But it's part of the entertainment aspect of the league that the NBA has marketed so well.

(F) The three pointer is a low-percentage shot. You can score a lot of points in a hurry with it. However, if you rely on it, it only takes a couple of missed possessions before you're staring down a pretty deep deficit. You need guys that can score under the basket, from mid-range, and from long-range to keep other teams honest. However, it acts as an equalizer when you're at a size disadvantage at center and forward. (The three point shot, already a long-time NBA staple, was introduced in the NCAA in 1986, and completely transformed the game. Smaller colleges that couldn't attract big man recruits like the bigger schools could finally had a weapon to neutralize the advantage that big teams had under the basket.)

(G) There are flashes in the pan in any sport. I don't think Lin is one of them, though. He's not getting lucky out there; he's not only getting to the basket in heavy traffic, but he's finishing those drives with scores. More importantly, he has shown an excellent knack for finding open shooters, which means teams defending him have a big problem.
posted by azpenguin at 9:07 PM on February 16, 2012


(A) The Knicks current roster was considered playoff-caliber on paper before the season started. The team was seen as either underachieving or overrated based on their play prior to Lin's arrival. They are certainly in contention for the playoffs, but its not a lock. There are still questions regarding how the team will react once Carmelo Anthony rejoins the team. Historically the Knicks have been pretty successful, in the 00's they made the playoffs only twice (03, 10) but they had made the playoffs all through the 90s.
(B) Each team receives 2 Twenty second time-outs (one per half). And 6 Full (100 second) time-outs. Each team is limited to no more than three (3) timeouts in the fourth period and no more than two (2) timeouts in the last two minutes of regulation play.
(C) Yes, point guards have typically been the smallest players on the court. It is easier for a smaller athlete to dribble a basketball. Taller players tend to be slightly less coordinated, and their height sometimes makes keeping possession of the ball more difficult.
(D) Players usually wear goggles because they have had eye injuries, usually from opposing players trying to stip the ball and inadvertently poking their opposition in the eye. In any given season there would be less than 5 players who wear goggles. And of that number, only 1-2 players who wear the goggles for a full season.
(E) The music you hear is played in the arena, sometimes they play certain tunes to get fans to cheer, and sometimes they do it to foster a "festive" atmosphere for those who are less engaged with the actual game.
(F) The 3 point shot has a lower statistical probability for going in. High risk, high reward. This is akin to shooting consistently from beyond the blue line. Over time, the three point shot has developed from being a tool that coaches gambled on if they had a large deficit, to becoming a common part of the game. Every team uses the three point shot as part of their offensive arsenal, but there are certain coaches who have a preference for how the shot is used (which can lead to a larger number of attempts), and their are certain players whose proficiency will make a typically more conservative coach allow for a higher volume of such shots. So it varies from year to year.
(G) Every few years or so there is a player who exceeds expectations, and a good number of players every season who flame out, but nothing to this scale. Flip Murray is a good example. Flip was drafted in the 2nd round by the Bucks in 2002, played half the 03 season in Milwaukee before being packaged in a trade to the Sonics mostly as an afterthought to make the salaries work. In 04 Ray Allen got injured and Murray got to fill in and show that he could play. The main difference here is that Flip was a known quantity to the NBA while he was never going to be any great shakes, he was evaluated to being (at best) a rotation player. Which he was. Hell, he had an 8 year career! In any event, he was on General Manager's, and scout's radar. Jeremy Lin is an anomaly in that he was an unknown quantity to NBA front offices. If you go back and read sports columns about Lin's rookie season in Golden State they come off as a "local boy makes good" stories. He's Rudy to the larger sports community at that point. Most fans saw his being on a roster as his reward. To go from that level of obscurity to where he is now is unprecedented.
posted by lilnemo at 9:15 PM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


(D) Amare wears goggles because of a previous eye injury. He also has had surgery on his knee that makes him not insurable. Almost every guaranteed player contract in the NBA is insured against injury. For example, using hockey as an example, if a player such as Sidney Crosby has a guaranteed contract and never comes back from his concussions, the Penguins have to pay Sid, but they will have insured the contract and will collect from Lloyds for some percentage on the dollar. Amare, the guy with the goggles on the Knicks, the Knicks have been unable to insure his contract.

(F) I disagree with the generalities about 3 pointers being low probability or high risk. Teams now chart probability from different parts of the floor behind the 3 point arc. Short of a dunk or a layup, the three pointer from the corner has one of the highest expected returns in terms of points per attempt. It is the shortest 3 pointer. If you watch a few more games, you will see a lot of passes from closer in out to a man who is waiting for the ball on the side in 3 point territory. One issue is that if you rely on only 3 pointers or only drive to the basket, you become easier to defend. It helps to stretch a defense which gives you open "looks" at shots. So teams that can shoot 3's and have an inside game tend to be able to do better than one dimensional teams.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:47 PM on February 16, 2012


What Lin did at the end of the game there with the 3 was very unexpected and ballsy.
posted by victory_laser at 11:23 PM on February 16, 2012


There is a lot more to the three-pointer thing than just simple statistics.

Throwing the ball inside can have many positive results:

A miss near the rim has a high probability of your team getting an offensive rebound and putting it right back in. You also draw fouls on opponents. The three-pointer has none of these upsides unless it goes in.

Most important, play near the basket is consistent. Most outside shooters will get tired legs as the game goes on, and their shot will suffer. Also, unlike in college basketball, every NBA playoff series is a best-of-7. You may have one hot shooting game where threes carry the day, but when you need to beat the other team four times to move on, that's not that relevant.

Inside play, rebounding, and defense are the aspects of the game that can be done consistently well every night, which is why they are critical to winning, especially in the playoffs.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:16 AM on February 17, 2012


The best 3-point shooters in the league shoot in the low 40 percents, which does make them very very effective weapons. but

a) There are not that many guys who can shoot that well and not also be a liability in other parts of the game

and

b) They shoot that well precisely because other guys on their team play "inside out" or draw double teams in order to pass to them for open shots. If the three point specialists simply chucked the ball every time while being closely guarded, their percentage which probably plummet into the 20s.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:19 AM on February 17, 2012


I noticed that thumping music was playing DURING the play. Is that usual? In hockey, the music stops as soon as the puck is dropped.

It is usual in the NBA. If you go see a live NBA game, you'll get a sense of how much smaller the basketball court is compared to a hockey rink. In hockey, if you played music, it'd be difficult to hear the refs' whistles, the coaches and other players. The helmet probably makes it worse too. But in basketball this isn't as much of a problem.
posted by mullacc at 1:41 AM on February 17, 2012


Knicks fan here. Going to a game at the Garden is a blast because they really put on a show. As other replies have mentioned, a basketball court isn't that big, so during long delays in play, like commercials, they actually bring out other entertainment onto the court. My personal favorite are these guys who tumble - hard to explain, but pretty cool to watch.

The music during play is certainly loud enough to be heard all over the arena, but not loud enough that you'd have to raise your voice significantly to talk to the person next to you. Also, the speakers are all pointed away from the court, so I suspect its not as distracting for the players as it might otherwise be.
posted by ben242 at 1:52 AM on February 18, 2012


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