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Sloan Sports Analytics Chat (#SSAChat) Follow-Up

January 24, 2012
2011 SSAC Panel

Opening panel of the 2011 SSAC (from left: Giants DE Justin Tuck, Rockets GM Daryl Morey, Author Malcolm Gladwell, Athletes Performance CEO Mark Verstegen, and ESPN Analyst Jeff Van Gundy)

This afternoon from noon to 1 p.m. EST, the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (SSAC) hosted a Twitter chat featuring several speakers from the upcoming event. The conference, now in its 6th year, takes place from March 2-3 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston (tickets for the event are still available but going fast!). Questions for the chat could be submitted using the #SSAChat hashtag and directed to:

@billbarnwell: Grantland (and formerly Football Outsiders) writer Bill Barnwell, who covered the 2011 NFL season from Las Vegas.

@dmorey: Houston Rockets General Manager and SSAC co-chair Daryl Morey.

@ESPNStatsInfo: The ESPN Stats & Information Twitter feed, with Director of Production Analytics Dean Oliver fielding the questions.

@jeffma: An authority on gambling and predictive analytics, Jeff Ma was a member of the MIT blackjack team that inspired the book Bringing Down the House and the movie 21.

@jluhnow: New Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow, who was formerly VP of Amateur Scouting and Player Development for the St. Louis Cardinals.

@RicBucher: Senior ESPN NBA reporter Ric Bucher.

The panelists all did a great job of fielding the many questions that were thrown at them. They even answered a few of mine:

Me: @ESPNStatsInfo Do you plan to create a Total QBR metric for FBS QBs? Possible to rate top 5 (Luck, RGIII, etc.) pre-April’s draft? #SSAChat
@ESPNStatsInfo: @whimsicalcookie College QBR will be done. Rating QBs for draft is similar but not the same problem. Harder problem.

Commentary: For those not familiar with Total QBR, it’s a comprehensive metric for rating quarterback play that ESPN developed this summer and introduced to fans via an hour-long TV special. Unlike passer rating, it accounts for all of a quarterback’s plays, including runs, sacks taken, and fumbles (regardless of which team recovers). The proprietary metric is derived from film study and attempts to assign credit and blame for good and bad plays more accurately than traditional stats. For instance, a 50-yard touchdown pass that is caught in the end zone would add to a quarterback’s QBR much more than a 50-yard touchdown on a screen pass, where most of the yards come after the catch. Finally, QBR is weighted based on the situation: down, distance, score, and time of the game. So if a QB throws a TD pass on 4th-and-goal from the 15, putting his team ahead as time expires, that would be given much more weight than the “same” 15-yard TD pass on 1st-and-10, early in the game, with his team already comfortably ahead. For more on Total QBR, see this Q&A with its main developer, Dean Oliver.

ESPN has calculated QBR for all NFL quarterbacks going back to 2008, and during the 2011 season they rated each QB’s play within about 12 hours of their game’s end. They have not yet tackled QBR for college quarterbacks, and with 120 teams in the FBS it is admittedly a much bigger undertaking. While Total QBR has been slow to take off, I think it’s an extremely useful stat, and I’m even more interested to see what it has to say about college quarterbacks. With a greater diversity of offenses in the college game, including many option attacks built around mobile quarterbacks, it would be great to see how Total QBR rates dissimilar QBs. Since Total QBR is a rate stat reflecting quality of play, and not a volume measure, it would also be a useful tool for comparing the performance of QBs in balanced, pro-style NCAA offenses, like Stanford’s Andrew Luck (404 pass attempts in 2011), with those from run-and-gun attacks, like Houston’s Case Keenum (who threw it 603 times).

Next question:

Minute Maid Park

New Astros GM Jeff Luhnow and his baseball ops staff look to bring a contender to Minute Maid Park.

Me: @jluhnow are #Astros using systems like FieldF/X and HitF/X? Did #Cardinals?
@jluhnow: Ever hear of Mike Fast? Great work, will help us.
Me: @jluhnow sure, @fastballs, I follow him!

Commentary: This was pretty neat — while I’m sure that some of Mike Fast’s friends and colleagues at Baseball Prospectus had already heard the big news, this tweet from Luhnow served as the official announcement that the well-regarded B.P. analyst had been hired by the Astros. If you’re not familiar with Fast’s work, such as his ground-breaking study on catcher framing, do yourself a favor and read some of it here on B.P. or here in the forums of The Book. You can also follow him on Twitter: @fastballs. With Luhnow at the helm and Fast on board, the Astros are quickly developing one of the more analytically-savvy front offices in baseball.

And finally…

@RicBucher: Team exec said Dal had best FG% w/6 secs or less on shot clock. By far…
Me: @RicBucher do you attribute this to Roland Beech’s work with the team? Any insider info on players’ reaction to having a stats coach?
@RicBucher: @whimsicalcookie Don’t know who to credit, re: Beech. Head coach is the decider on how stats impact game plan. Players have less sway.

Commentary: For those who don’t know him, Roland Beech is a pioneer in NBA analytics. He founded the website 82games.com and was hired by Mark Cuban prior to the 2010-2011 season as the Dallas Mavericks Director of Basketball Analytics. Beech serves as one of the Mavericks’ assistant coaches, and is to my knowledge the only “coach” in the four major sports whose expertise is in analytics but who is a full-fledged member of the coaching staff, traveling with the team and sitting on the bench during games. Beech spoke on the NBA analytics panel at this fall’s New England Symposium on Statistics in Sports at Harvard, along with Sam Hinkie (from Daryl Morey’s Houston front office), and New York Knicks Assistant Coach Kenny Atkinson. For more on Beech and his contributions to the statistically-enlightened approach that helped the Mavs bring a championship to Dallas, see this column from ESPN.com’s John Hollinger.

If you liked this blog post, go to Twitter and read through the discussion on the #SSAChat hashtag for more. Also be sure to follow the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference Twitter feed at: @SloanSportsConf. Hope to see many of you in Boston in March!

Mike Cook © 2012

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Hot Stove, Cool Speakers: A Recap of SABR Boston’s Winter Meeting

January 19, 2012

As some of you know, this winter I’ve been interning with the Society for American Baseball Research, working with Publications Director Cecilia Tan to launch SABR’s new digital books program. We’re publishing new titles, like Can He Play, a history of scouts and scouting, and re-publishing out-of-print titles like Run, Rabbit, Run, a colorful first-person history of Boston Braves shortstop Walter “Rabbit” Maranville. Upcoming titles will be made available for purchase in the SABR Digital Library, with SABR members getting a discount. Whether you have a Kindle or Nook, or prefer a print-on-demand copy, SABR has you covered.

SABR’s headquarters are in Phoenix but there are local chapters all around the world, including a very active one in Boston. This past Monday I had the opportunity to attend the Boston chapter’s winter meeting, held at The Baseball Tavern, in the shadows of Fenway Park on Boylston Street.

The agenda for Monday’s meeting included a diverse mix of presenters, including several who work in and around baseball, two groups of college students, and a number of SABR members and historians. The subset of presenters who gave historical talks covered an equally broad array of topics, ranging from the Red Sox’s eventful 1912 spring training trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas, to the way fans “heard” baseball games in the pre-radio days in places like Boston’s newspaper row, to the under-appreciated career of the slugging (and slick-fielding) Red Sox first baseman George “Boomer” Scott.

Ron Anderson led off, sharing highlights from his new book, Long Taters: A Baseball Biography of George “Boomer” Scott. Anderson pointed out that Scott was the Red Sox first star position player of African-American descent, and that he excelled as much with the glove (winning eight Gold Gloves, and ably fielding all four infield positions as a minor leaguer) as he did with the bat. Scott hit 271 career home runs, among the most memorable an epic blast he hit off of Whitey Ford as a rookie in 1966, that traveled an estimated 505 feet.

Next, historian Michael Foster told tales from the 1912 Red Sox spring training trip to Hot Springs, which was in some ways an ideal venue (spring waters were thought to have healing powers, and the surrounding hills were perfect for conditioning) but not others. Hot Springs also presented a lot of off-field distractions for the players as a city where gambling and other vices were easy to find. Another distraction that year was a local murder case in which a black man was accused of killing a white man. With the suspect at large, a man hunt ensued and several Red Sox players actually joined in!

Following an excellent lunch provided by the Tavern, we got to meet Pam Ganley, Director of Media Relations for the Boston Red Sox. Pam shared a bit about her background (she earned a Sports Management degree from The Isenberg School of Management at UMass) and initially joined the Sox as an intern, working under the legendary Dick Bresciani. She spoke about the unique aspects of working with the media in Boston, such as the deluge of requests from the Japanese media when Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima joined the team in 2007. At Dice-K’s first press conference that spring, 250 Japanese media members were in attendance. She also commented on new manager Bobby Valentine’s boundless energy, and said she looks forward to the first time ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball comes to town this year, as Terry Francona will conduct his pre-game interview with Valentine in his old Fenway Park office.

Ganley handed off to a professional colleague whom she works with closely, Red Sox beat writer for The Boston Globe, Peter Abraham. Pete, a New Bedford native and fellow UMass alum, grew up a die-hard Sox fan but broke into the business covering mostly New York teams. He wrote for the Norwich Bulletin from 1986-99, covering UConn Men’s Basketball and later the Yankees’ AA affiliate, the Norwich Navigators. In 2002 he made the move to Westchester County, New York, where he began covering the Mets, later switching to the Yankees’ beat (which he likened to traveling with a rock band) in 2006. At The Journal News he launched a Yankees blog, something few if any newspapers were doing at the time. Initially it was slow to take off, but the blog steadily gathered momentum, to the point where it was receiving 75,000 page views a day by the time Abraham left to join the Globe in 2009. He now maintains the Globe’s Extra Bases Blog and is also quite active on Twitter, a platform he uses to break news, interact with fans, and direct them to new blog posts and columns.

Abraham, who is among the more stat-savvy baseball beat writers, noted that he’s aware that the blog and the newspaper have different audiences, with the blog’s audience skewing younger and more sabermetrically-inclined. Advanced stats that he uses there might not make it into a printed Globe article, which would stick to the traditional stats and more mainstream sabermetric ones like WHIP and OPS. A highlight of Abraham’s talk were the many colorful anecdotes he shared, which I couldn’t do justice to here. But if you ever get to meet him in person, be sure to ask him about convincing Sandy Koufax to get off the back of Fred Wilpon’s golf cart and avoiding green cabs at the Mexico City airport.

Next up we got a look inside the Red Sox Baseball Operations department from the team’s new Director of Player Development, Ben Crockett. After joining the organization as an intern in 2007, Crockett served as Advance Scouting Coordinator from 2008-09. Crockett, a former pitcher, spent five seasons in the Colorado Rockies minor league system (and was first drafted, but not signed, by the Red Sox), so he brings a former player’s perspective to bear on his work in player development. His talking points should be familiar to anyone who knows the Red Sox’s player development philosophy, and he echoed some similar themes as then-farm director Mike Hazen did at last winter’s Hot Stove event at Fenway. Crockett emphasized the importance of continuity throughout the organization as well as the team’s emphasis on developing the whole player, including their confidence and mental make-up. He pointed out that several of the Red Sox’s affiliates were the youngest teams at their level in 2011, mentioning players like 19-year-old Greenville shortstop Xander Bogaerts as an example of the system’s youth and potential. He fielded a number of questions from the crowd, commenting on things like how the team selects which prospects it sends to the Arizona Fall League.

Donna Halper, a Professor of Communications at Lesley University and social historian, followed with an engaging presentation on following baseball in the pre-radio days. Through her lecture and props she did a fantastic job of painting the scene of a bustling newspaper row on Boston’s lower Washington Street, which became the gathering spot for Red Sox fans young and old, male and female. There, in the years after the telegraph’s invention but before the radio’s, fans would gather with anticipation to see and hear the game updates come in, batter by batter, as they were posted on large bulletin boards and announced over megaphone to the surrounding crowd. Her talk was interspersed with some of the colorful language of the time, when fans were “cranks” and your favorite ballclub were your “pets” or “beauties.” She also taught us about the Phillips Code, a system for telegraphers that was quicker than the Morse Code, and which gave us several abbreviations that exist to this day, such as K and BB in baseball, and POTUS in news and politics.

From 1912 we jumped ahead to the cutting-edge of baseball research, with a presentation from three Tufts University undergraduates, Kimberly Minor, Lisa Lebovici, and Matt McGrath, who are past students in professor Andy Andres‘ popular course, Sabermetrics 101. Their research, “Pitching Up a Storm: The Impact of Temperature and Humidity on Pitch Effectiveness” used the statistical program STATA to examine PITCHf/x data for 14 starting pitchers over a three-year span (2008-2010). They found that 70-80 degrees is the optimal temperature range for fastball velocity but that the effect of humidity on a ball’s horizontal break is even more pronounced (higher humidity = more break). The students all seemed energized by the class and they have many ideas for further research they’d like to pursue. Matt will be interning with Baseball Info Solutions this summer, while Kim is a Fenway Park Ambassador and Red Sox Ball Girl.

Mark Kanter stepped to the plate next with a presentation on all the instances when games were canceled for reasons other than weather. These included wars, such as the invasion of Normandy during World War II, deaths of presidents or important baseball figures (like Brooklyn Dodgers owner Charles Ebbets), and disasters such as the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the terror attacks of 9/11/01. The salient point from Mark’s presentation was that the decision to cancel games did not always come from the commissioner’s office as it does today, putting owners in the difficult position of deciding between what might be best for the nation versus what was best for their bottom line.

Another group of enthusiastic college students, this time from Emerson College, came on next to describe their film project, a fan’s history of Fenway Park. Their team, Red Seat Productions, consists of Executive Producers Luke Frasier and Jacob Ouellette, Director of Marketing Kelsey Doherty, and Director of Baseball Research Kyle Brasseur. The documentary, slated for a September 2012 release, will consist of interviews with dozens of fans, employees, and reporters to “depict the unique, strong emotional attachment” to the 100-year-old ballpark. They are looking for interview subjects and seeking funding, so if you’d like to support the project please contact them via email (redseatnation@gmail.com), Facebook, Twitter, or Kickstarter.

The timing for the next presentation was superb, coming as it did just a week after this year’s Hall of Fame voting took place. Patrick Languzzi made a very compelling case for Dwight Evans‘ inclusion in the Hall of Fame, citing his impressive overall accomplishments as a hitter and right fielder, while also addressing the arguments some have made against Dewey’s place in Cooperstown. For example, Evans is the only player in Major League history to have won eight Gold Gloves while also leading all of MLB for a decade (the 1980s) in extra-base hits and runs created, while leading the American League in home runs over that span as well. Since 1900, Evans is in elite company among the hitters who led their decade in XBH, and all the others have been enshrined in Cooperstown. The group includes Honus Wagner, Tris Speaker, Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Stan Musial (twice! 1940s and ’50s), Hank Aaron, and Reggie Jackson. Languzzi feels that Evans’ omission from Cooperstown owes to the fact that he fell just short of the 400  HR benchmark (finishing his career with 385), and that he played in a time when defensive contributions were not sufficiently appreciated. Evans is not one to promote himself and that may have worked against him, too. Players who have a more public persona in retirement, like Barry Larkin or  Curt Schilling, may get a boost in HOF voting thanks to their media exposure and the frequent reminders of their career achievements that platforms like an ESPN analyst gig afford them.

As afternoon turned to evening, the SABR Boston crowd wrapped up the day with some trivia from Bill Nowlin‘s new book, Fenway Park Trivia: Fact and Fancy From the First 100 Years. I won’t spoil any of the answers here, but go pick up a copy of the book; it’s filled with fun anecdotes to regale your friends with during the next pitching change or rain delay.

Looking ahead, SABR Day is Saturday, January 28, and the Boston chapter is planning a fun walking tour (or Pub & Fried Chicken Crawl) to sites of Red Sox infamy. On the docket are the Boston Hotel Buckminster where the fix was put in for the 1919 Series, the adjoining Popeye’s restaurant (where you can just say “John” and they know which clubhouse to deliver to), and The Dugout Bar where Sox manager Pinky Higgins was known to have a few too many during those lean years in the 1950s. Let’s hope for nice weather for what should be a really fun outing!

Mike Cook © 2012

NBA Box Score Breakdown for January 10

January 11, 2012

Notable performances from around the NBA on Tuesday, January 10, 2012:

Suns 83 at Lakers 99

Kobe Bryant (48 pts, 18-31 FG, 12-13 FT, 3 stl) — Kobe poured in an NBA season-high 48 points (he also held the previous high with 39 on January 6 vs GSW) in leading the Lakers to a 99-83 win over Phoenix. Bryant has 26+ points in each of his last five games and is averaging 36.0 PPG over that span. As ESPN Stats & Info points out,”Kobe Bryant got his 108th career 40-pt game, more than twice as many as LeBron James, 2nd on the active list.”

Lakers team note: Since their opening day loss to the Bulls at home, the Lakers are a perfect 7-0 at Staples Center, but also 0-3 on the road. The second unit performed very well for the Lakers as Steve Blake (+33) and Luke Walton (+32) led the way in plus/minus, while starters Andrew Bynum (-18) and Derek Fisher (-17) struggled.

Clippers 97 at Trail Blazers 105

Chris Paul (11 pts, 3 ast, 31 min) — Despite playing over 30 minutes, Paul recorded his lowest assist total as a Clipper and failed to score at least 12 points for the third time since coming to LA. He’s averaging just 12.8 PPG after averaging 15.8 last year in New Orleans. Since the ’08-’09 campaign when he averaged 22.8 PPG, Paul’s scoring average (and FG attempts per game) has declined each season. Paul’s last game with such a low assist total was on December 12, 2010 against the 76ers, when he totaled just 3 assists but scored 25 points in a losing effort. Tuesday night was the first time in Paul’s seven-year career that he was held to 11 points or less and 3 assists or less in a game in which he played at least 30 minutes.

Trail Blazers team note: All five Blazers’ starters scored in double digits (led by Gerald Wallace with 20) and all finished in the positive in plus/minus (led by Wesley Matthews +16).

Cavaliers 105 at Jazz 113

Kyrie Irving (20 pts, 5 ast) — The Cavs’ rookie point guard and #1 overall pick scored 20+ points for the fourth time in nine games. He continues to be a steady source of assists, having posted between 4 and 7 in every game thus far.

Anderson Varejao (12 pts, 11 reb (7 offensive), 0 stl) — Varejao was a force on the offensive glass and finished the night as the Cavs’ plus/minus leader at +3. For only the second time this season he failed to record a steal, but is still averaging a healthy 1.7 SPG.

Al Jefferson (30 pts, 12 reb, 2 blk, 13-17 FG) — The eight-year veteran center posted his best game of the young season in terms of points, rebounds, and FG%. In his first season in Utah a year ago, Jefferson scored 30+ on nine occasions, including a stretch from February 15 – March 23 when he did so eight times in 17 games.

Thunder 100 at Grizzlies 95

Marc Gasol (20 pts, 14 reb, 4 blk) — Gasol has now grabbed double digit rebounds in all six contests in the month of January. He’s been a shot blocking force lately as well, recording 13 in his last three games. Gasol has improved his BPG each season as a pro, from 1.1 as a rookie in ’08-’09 to 2.6 through the first nine games of ’11-’12. His current rebounding rate of 10.8 per game will also be a career best if he can maintain it.

Team note: A big part of Oklahoma City’s edge in this game came at the free throw line, where OKC (26-32, 81.3%) attempted 12 more free throws and converted on a higher percentage than MEM (12-20, 60%). Rudy Gay (1-5 FT) was the primary culprit in pulling down Memphis’ percentage.

Spurs 103 at Bucks 106

Tim Duncan (20 pts, 8 reb, 7 ast, 3 blk, 9-12 FG) — Duncan provided the Spurs with a vintage performance in his team-leading 36 minutes of action. He set or tied season highs in points, assists, blocks, and minutes. The last time Duncan went for at least 20/8/7/3 was January 21, 2011 vs the Knicks, when he had a monster line of 21 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists, and 5 blocks.

Stephen Jackson (34 pts, 8 ast, 3 3PM, 12-17 FG) — Clearly it was turn-back-the-clock night at the Bradley Center on Tuesday. The 12th-year swingman blew past his previous season highs in points (18) and assists (5) while shooting better than 50% from the floor for the first time as a Buck. Jackson, who hasn’t been a big assist contributor in some time, last went for 34+ & 8+ as a member of the run and gun Warriors on February 10, 2009. In that game, a 144-127 shootout win over the Knicks, he totaled 35 & 10.

Brandon Jennings (15 pts, 11 ast, 1 3PM, 1 TO, 7-13 FG) —  Jennings’ performance against the Spurs was uncharacteristically polished and mistake-free. He shot .371 and .390 from the field in his first two pro seasons, but made more than half his shots last night while attempting (and making) just one three pointer (he averaged 6.4 3PA in the Bucks’ first seven games this year). Jennings’ 11 assists were also easily a season high and exceeded his high from 2010-11 (10, achieved four times). It was just the eighth time in 154 career games that Jennings has dished out double digit assists.

Rockets 82 at Bobcats 70

Kyle Lowry (6 pts, 11 reb, 8 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk) — Lowry, who missed two games with a minor foot injury, saw 41 minutes of action and continued to fill the box score, despite an off night scoring the ball. Houston won the battle of the boards 57-44, and Lowry was one of three Rockets to record double figure rebounds (Jordan Hill with 12 and Samuel Dalembert with 10 were the others). Lowry has now pulled down 6 or more rebounds in five of the seven games he’s played and is averaging 6.9 RPG, an unexpected source of fantasy goodness coming from a point guard.

Mavericks 100 at Pistons 86

Delonte West (6 pts, 10 ast, 5 stl) — West, who started in place of an injured Jason Kidd (DTD, back), made the most of the opportunity. Always a good per minute producer in steals, West came up with 5, while also contributing 10 assists, his best total since April 9, 2010 as a member of the Cavs. He should be a very useful plug-in in daily leagues as long as Kidd is out.

Mavericks team note: Dallas, which led by 21 points after 3 quarters, had one of the most extreme ranges of player plus/minus figures you’ll come across. Dirk Nowitski led the way at +42, while Brian Cardinal somehow managed a -28 in just 20 minutes of action, in a game his team won by 14 points.

Raptors 78 at Wizards 93

John Wall (8 pts, 9 ast, 3 blk, 2 TO) — Wall continued to struggle shooting the ball (3-12 FG), but cleaned up his ball handling, dishing 9 assists against just 2 turnovers (he entered the night averaging 3.9 TO per game). Wall blocked 3 shots and his defensive stats (1.6 SPG, 1.2 BPG) have been a bright spot for what’s otherwise been a very disappointing start to his sophomore campaign.

Wizards team note: Washington finally got their first win behind a very balanced scoring effort, as all five starters, and eight players overall, scored between 8 and 15 points. They were beneficiaries of a sloppy Toronto performance, as the Raptors shot less than 40% from the field (30-76), just 20% (4-20) from three point land, and turned the ball over 22 times.

Looking for the other three games from last night? They were covered here:

Heat at Warriors

Bulls at Timberwolves

Kings at 76ers

Box Score Bits for January 10 – Bulls/Timberwolves

January 11, 2012

January 10, 2012

Bulls 111 at Timberwolves 100

Derrick Rose (31 pts, 11 ast, 4 3PM, 2 blk) — While it’s hard to distinguish one excellent Derrick Rose performance from the next, tonight he came up big in a closer than expected contest with the Wolves. His 31 points were a season high and his 4 three-pointers equaled his performance on Christmas day against the Lakers. He shot better than 50% from the field (12-22), added 11 assists, and logged 42 minutes of game action, but this is what we’ve come to expect from the reigning MVP.

Ricky Rubio (13 pts, 12 ast, 4 stl, 36 min) — Rubio continues to log heavy minutes (36 was a career high) and to do an excellent job feeding his teammates. He’s now recorded double digit assists in three of his last five contests, averaging 9.4 APG and a 2.5 A/TO over that span. He’s been a selective shooter thus far, shooting 50% or better from the field in seven of his first 10 contests. While the 4 steals were another career high he’s been a consistent producer in the category all year and has 12 in his last five games.

Luke Ridnour (22 pts, 3 3PM, 3 stl, 8-11 FG) — Ridnour and Rubio are coexisting nicely in the Minny backcourt, while for now J.J. Barea seems to be the odd man out (just 18 minutes tonight, 0 assists, and a team-worst -15 plus/minus). Ridnour, who’s been scoring steadily in the low teens, poured in an incredibly efficient 22 tonight, going 8-11 from the field while knocking down all three three-pointers and all three free throws. He added 3 steals and now has at least one steal in nine of the Wolves’ first 10 games. Surprisingly his ownership percentage stands at just 17% in ESPN leagues.

Anthony Randolph (18 pts, 2 reb, stl, blk, 29 min) — A playing time beneficiary of Michael Beasley’s absence, the enigmatic Randolph posted season highs in points and minutes tonight. His rebound total was quite low given his skill set and playing time, but he was sharing the court with Kevin Love (13 boards) for much of the night and no Timberwolf grabbed more than 4. After being acquired by Minnesota in February last year, Randolph produced when given the opportunity, going for 19+ points on seven occasions in March and April, including four of the T-wolves’ final five games.

Box Score Bits for January 10 – Heat/Warriors

January 11, 2012

January 10, 2012

Heat 106 at Warriors 111

Dorell Wright (20 pts, 10 reb, 6 3PM) — Wright broke out of his 2011-12 slump in a major way, recording a season high 20 points on blistering 6-of-11 shooting from beyond the arc. Coming in he had made just 5 three-pointers in eight games. The Warriors, lacking scoring punch with Steph Curry sidelined indefinitely, will need Wright to continue to aggressively look for his shot in the games to come. As we saw a year ago, nights like this aren’t uncommon for Wright: in 2010-11 he actually made 6 or more three-pointers in a game on five occasions, and had 20 games where he sunk at least 4.

Nate Robinson (24 pts, 14-14 FT, 5 ast, 4 stl) — In just his third game as a member of the Warriors, Robinson keyed tonight’s victory, leading the team in scoring, going a perfect 14-for-14 from the charity stripe, and collecting 4 steals. The last one came in overtime and led to a Dorell Wright breakaway dunk, giving the Warriors a 3-point lead they would never relinquish. Robinson’s 24 points were his most since February 6, 2010 as a member of the Knicks, nearly two years and three teams ago. Coincidentally that game was also against LeBron James, then a Cleveland Cavalier (LBJ went off for 47 points himself at Madison Square Garden that night).

David Lee (20 pts, 14 reb (8 offensive), 3 ast, 4 stl, 48 minutes) — Lee paced the Warriors with a very complete game, playing 48 of a possible 53 minutes. It was his fourth straight double-double but his first 20-point game since December 26. His 4 steals were a nice bonus coming from a player who usually averages only about one per game.

Heat team notes: Surprisingly, the Heat’s plus/minus leader for the night was Joel Anthony at +14, with Mario Chalmers next best at +6. The big three were all in the negative as was newly acquired Shane Battier who posted the worst figure at -15, while contributing almost nothing offensively (1 point in 29 minutes). The Heat got 72% of their scoring (76 of 106 points) from the big three of Wade (34), James (26), and Bosh (16).

 

Box Score Bits for January 10 – Kings/76ers

January 11, 2012

January 10, 2012

Kings 85 at 76ers 112

DeMarcus Cousins (17 pts, 10 reb, 2 blk) — Cousins posted his third straight double-double, and in those three games since the ouster of coach Paul Westphal on January 5, he is averaging an impressive 17.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks. The blocks are a particularly exciting development over his rookie-year rate of just 0.8 per game.

Elton Brand (21 pts, 10 reb, 3 blk, 10-14 FG) — A vintage performance from Brand who easily surpassed his previous season high of 12 points. Spencer Hawes, who has been cutting into Brand’s production, left the game after just 11 minutes with a lower back strain and did not return. Brand still didn’t play huge minutes, however, giving the Sixers a ton of production in just 25:11 of court time. The veteran power forward had five 20-and-10 games last season.

Evan Turner (16 pts, 10 reb, 8 ast) — This was easily Turner’s most complete game of the young season (and of his career) as he posted season highs in rebounds and assists while seeing nearly 34 minutes of action. It was only the 4th double-digit rebound game of his career and his 8 assists were a career high.

Team note: The 76ers shot 56.6% (47-83) from the field and six players scored in double digits. Philadelphia improved to 7-2 and has won six straight dating back to December 31.

 

Quick hit thoughts on the Celtics’ 2011-12 Schedule

December 8, 2011

The #Celtics play back-to-back 19 times this season and back-to-back-to-back once (April 13-15 @ TOR, @ NJ, @ CHA).

41 of the #Celtics 66 games in the coming season are part of either a back-to-back or a back-to-back-to-back.

From March 11-17 the #Celtics will play 5 games in the Pacific time zone. It’ll be their only trip farther west than DAL/OKC this season.

The #Celtics will play just 5 games with a tip-off time later than 8:00 p.m. EST this season, with 4 of these coming between March 12-17.

And on the 7th day, they played: The upcoming #NBA season includes 18 Sundays. The #Celtics play on 13 of them; the ASG is on a Sunday, too.

The #Celtics play on 14 out of 17 Fridays this season, including home games on the first 6 Friday nights, from 12/30/11 – 2/3/12.

The #Celtics better be in good shape heading into April. From April 4-18 they play 11 games in 15 days with seven of those on the road.

The #Celtics and #Heat will be very familiar with each other should they meet in the playoffs. Three of their four meetings are in April.

For the Celtics’ full 2011-2012 schedule, click here.