The Spurs are not playing that fast – but teams try to against them

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Much has been made of how much faster the San Antonio Spurs are playing this season — they are playing more than a possession a game faster than last season, and that number has come down over the last month or so. At the start of the season, the Spurs were surprisingly fast.

Except that they are not. Sort of. It’s that teams are playing faster against them, a fascinating bit of research shows.

But first, some explanation. A lot of the analysis of the new basketball statistics is based around per-possession data. Meaning what matters is not how many points you score per game but how many per possession, because at the end of the game both teams will have the same number of possessions (give or take a couple). Whichever team uses their possessions most efficiently will win. (If you think this is all that new, know that Dean Smith broke down his stats that way at North Carolina.)

A possession is defined as when one team takes control of the ball until the other team takes control of the ball. So, it’s your possession until you make a basket or the other team makes a steal or gets a rebound (usually). But the flaw with this definition of possession is that if your team gets an offensive rebound (or two) it counts as one possession. That means teams that don’t turn the ball over or get a lot of offensive rebounds show up as playing slower than they really do (see the Portland Trail Blazers, as Henry Abbott will be more than happy to tell you).

With brings us back to Rohan Cruyff’s work at SB Nation Monday. He went back and looked at how teams shoot in relation to the shot clock. Do they shoot early in the shot clock or late on average? He used the data at 82games on shots within the shot class and came up with a Speed Index graph.

What he found is not that Spurs are playing any faster — they are 19th in the league in how fast they shoot against the clock, so basically middle of the pack.

But teams shoot faster against the Spurs than any team in the league. Golden State is second, then the Lakers are third. The Lakers also are not the fastest team in the leauge.

I have a theory as to why teams shoot so fast against the Lakers and Spurs — those are two good defensive teams once they get set. Both teams are disciplined about positioning and forcing penetration to help. So it benefits teams to push the pace on them and try to get early offense before they get set. You don’t want Manu Ginobili up in you guiding you to a waiting Tim Duncan, or Ron Artest in your face pushing you to the long arms of Andrew Bynum. But that is what those teams do well if you let them get set.

As for who shoots fastest in the clock? The Suns, who did you expect? Go check out the post for a lot more detail, including how the Magic are the most defensively driven team in the Association.

Glen “Big Baby” Davis denies drug charges while eating Popeyes on a charter plane

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Best. Denial. Ever.

Last month, former NBA player Glen “Big Baby” Davis was arrested last month at a hotel in a suburb of Baltimore by Jimmy McNulty and Lt. Daniels with 126 grams of marijuana and more than $96,000 in cash, according to a police report. He has been charged with possession and intent to distribute.

Davis has declared his innocence in the best denial video ever — eating Popeyes chicken and flashing cash and a championship ring.

I have no idea whether Davis is guilty or not, I was not at a Hampton’s Inn outside Baltimore last month. The court system will sort that out, that is what it’s there for.

But I know a brilliant video when I see one. This is it.

Report: Michele Roberts to seek second contract as players’ union head

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Michele Roberts entered the NBA’s player union in a tumultuous time — long-time union president Billy Hunter had been ousted in a rancorous fight, the union felt adrift, and negotiations with the NBA on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement were looming (and players felt they had been screwed in the last CBA, following the lockout).

Roberts, the first female head of a professional sports labor union, settled things down. She cleaned up the union finances and made them more transparent to players, she worked hard to establish relationships with the players, and while she rattled some sabers with the NBA in negotiations, she also worked in a non-combative way with Adam Silver and team (unlike the Billy Hunter/David Stern relationship) and got a deal done the players liked without a lockout or labor mess.

Roberts’ contract with the union is up, but she is going to ask for a new deal — one she likely gets — reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

With an original four-year agreement set to expire in September, Michele Roberts plans to seek a new contract as the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, sources tell ESPN…

Roberts had strongly considered staying in the NBPA’s executive director role for only the length of her original contract — and expressed that to the union’s senior membership — but has recently decided to pursue a longer tenure, sources said.

NBPA president Chris Paul played a significant part in Roberts’ hiring in July 2014 and he has built a strong working relationship with Roberts.

Roberts also has a good relationship with the star-heavy executive committee of the union — CP3, LeBron James, Stephen Curry and others — making it likely she gets a new deal.

As for what’s next, at the front of that list Roberts is working with Silver and others on reforming the NBA’s one-and-done rule (it was supposed to be part of the CBA negotiations but was too big and complex an issue to fold into that timeline).

Neither the owners or players can opt out of the CBA for four more years (and if neither side does it runs a couple more beyond that) so labor peace will continue in the NBA for a while.

Isaiah Thomas rewarded on epic flop with offensive foul call vs. Heat

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Why do NBA players flop on defense? Because it works.

While there is less of it than there was a couple of years back — when the NBA made a big show about calling more flops and warning (then eventually fining players a pittance) for the move — it still exists. Case in point, this impressive one from Isaiah Thomas of the Lakers on Tyler Johnson of the Heat Friday night (hat tip AminElHassavag at NBA Reddit).

Was there a little contact, sure, but Thomas fell back like he was shot by the second gunman on the grassy knoll. He exaggerated the contact, which is the definition of flopping. Thing is, he got the call (the ref who made the call, from his position, might only have seen the contact and not necessarily the extent of exaggeration, but that’s where the other officials need to step in).

Not that everything went Thomas’ way Friday night.

Suns’ Marquese Chriss, Jared Dudley fined $25,000 each for knocking down Ricky Rubio


Marquese Chriss and Jared Dudley got off light.

There should have been suspensions involved for the cheap shots leveled on Ricky Rubio by the pair during Thursday night’s blowout Jazz win. Instead, the pair were fined $25,000 a piece by the league Saturday for this incident.

Rubio has a knee contusion from the incident Jazz coach Quin Snyder confirmed, however, Rubio is available to play Saturday vs. the Kings.

Dudley was given a flagrant 2 and ejected at the time, Chriss was handed just a flagrant 1 for his escalation. I don’t completely buy Dudley’s explanation here either — I think they were pissed Rubio stepped over a down Chriss to inbound the ball and made him pay for it — but he did own up to it being excessive.

So to be clear, if you throw a haymaker and miss — as Aaron Afflalo did recently — that’s a two-game suspension. But if you throw or body check a player to the ground, that’s just 25 large, no time missed. Players wanting retaliation will take note of that.

Roulette tables are less random than the NBA’s enforcement policies.