The NBA and the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness

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Perhaps you’re familiar with NBC’s hit comedy “Parks and Recreation” (9:30 p.m. EST Thursdays on NBC- MEGA-PLUG). Perhaps you’re familiar with the season premier last week in which the Parks Department was forced to operate a youth basketball league on a shoestring budget. And perhaps you’re familiar with head coach Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness. But if not, check it out:

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And that my friends, is awesomeness.

Which got me thinking. What could NBA teams take from the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness? And who best fits the model of Swanson greatness? Let’s go to the tape, Bill! (You can be called Bill for this exercise. Or if you’d prefer, Duke Silver.)

“Body Grooming: Only women shave beneath the neck.” Carlos Boozer approves.

“Handshakes: Firm. Dry. Solid. 3 Seconds.”  Gary Neal needs to work on this.

“Poise. Sting like a bee. Do not float like a butterfly. That’s ridiculous.” Dwight Howard should pretty much have this tattooed on his forehead. Between the technicals and his penchant for floating like a butterfly in the post, maybe big block letters. Nice strong font.

“Rage. One rage every three months is permitted. Try not to hurt anyone who doesn’t deserve it.” By this value, Kevin Garnett has violated the pyramid… approximately 7,458,082 times.

“Facial Hair. Full, thick, and square. Nothing sculpted. If you have to sculpt it, that probably means you can’t grow it.”  Good on this measure: Baron Davis, James Harden, DeShawn Stevenson. Bad on this measure: Pau Gasol, Reggie Evans, Brian Skinner.

“Capitalism. God’s way of determining who is smart, and who is poor.” In the NBA, this translates as “Stern’s way of determining who are the Lakers and who is the Grizzlies.”

“You. You are your biggest ally.” Kobe.

“Perspiration. Only sweat during physical activity or love making. No emotional sweating.”  Also Kobe. Dude is cool as a cucumber. Probably smells like fresh laundry after the Finals. Conversely, Shaq seems to sweat more in conjunction with how upset he gets at calls. You’d think he’d sweat the weight off. You’d be wrong.

“Masonry. Building walls makes you stronger. Defending them makes you even stronger.” Danny Granger. Nothing stronger than the Bat Cave, right? On the other hand, the Warriors should pay more attention to this. Maybe hire some masons. Can’t defend any worse.

“Friends. One to three is sufficient.” C’mon. Do I have to spell out L-E-B-R-O-N for you?

“Stillness. Don’t wast energy moving unless necessary.” Have you ever seen Sasha Vujacic try and defend? It’s like watching an epileptic watch “Tron.”

“Old Wooden Sailing Ships. They’re beautiful.” Admit it. You can imagine Ron Artest saying this.

“Torso. Should be thick and impenetrable. ” Perhaps if Bosh adhered to this principle he’d be able to guard actual frontcourt players. On the other hand, Kevin Garnett once described defending Tim Duncan as “trying to guard a tree.”

“Intensity. Give 100%. 110% is impossible. Only idiots recommend that.” That’s a very Phil Jackson thing to say. And his Lakers give 100% nearly 80% of the time. Conversely, maybe if the aforementioned Kevin Garnett adhered to this principle, not as many people would think he’s a jerk.

“Deer Protein.” Brad Miller. Obviously.

“Suspicion. Do not trust anyone else.” Stan Van Gundy has a giant poster of this on his office wall.

“Self-Reliance. Trust yourself.” Ironically, this is Vince Carter’s favorite element.

“Attire. Shorts over 6” are capri pants. Shorts under 6” are European.” John Stockton is offended, sir. Meanwhile, Allen Iverson asks what a capri is.

“Discipline. The ability to repeat a boring thing over and over.” UBUNTU.

“Greatness Itself. The best revenge.” Derek Fisher invites all you point guard aficionados to check his bling.

“Selfishness. Take what’s yours.” This will be J.R. Smith’s 900th tattoo.

“Teamwork. Work together as if your life depended on it… IT DOES!” This is actually from the Utah Jazz handbook under Jerry Sloan.

“Wood Working.” Kevin Love believes strongly in this. You know, since all he does is get boards. Wocka-wocka-wocka!

“Weapons.” I bet you’re thinking I’m going to make a Gilbert Arenas joke here. … Okay, yeah, I was.

“Buffets. Whenever available. Choose quantity over quality.”  Glen Davis liked this so much he tried to suck on it like a hard candy. Then he spilled drool all over the rest of the pyramid. It was awkward.

“Honor. If you need it defined, then you don’t have it.”  This should replace the logo at center court.

“Parks and Recreation” stars on NBC every Thursday at 9:30 p.m EST right after “The Office.”

Report: Cavaliers GM David Griffin ‘the top candidate’ in Magic’s front-office search

David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images
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A week ago, David Griffin was just someone the Magic were researching to run their front office.

It seems the Cavaliers general manager has since moved up in the search.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

For now, Cleveland Cavaliers GM David Griffin remains the top candidate in the Magic’s search, but Orlando hasn’t yet asked for permission to speak with Griffin, largely because of the Cavaliers’ playoff status, sources said.

This could end a couple ways.

Here’s betting Griffin – who has LeBron James‘ endorsement – leverages the Orlando interest into a bigger offer from Cleveland. Griffin was just too integral to the Cavs’ first championship to discard him.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has shown much more willingness to spend than The Devos Family, which owns the Magic. If this is a bidding war, I’ll take Cleveland. If it isn’t a bidding war, the Cavs have a far more attractive roster than Orlando.

Thunder’s Andre Roberson entering free agency after impactful playoff series

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The Rockets were starting to pull away from the Thunder in Game 5 of their first-round series, and the Houston crowd was looking for a reason to erupt. The Rockets provided one by intentionally fouling Roberson despite holding Oklahoma City without a basket for the previous five minutes. The Thunder wing stepped to the line in the loudening arena and, of course, missed both free throws.

But Roberson didn’t go down quietly.

On the ensuing defensive possession, he picked up James Harden in the backcourt and hounded the Rockets star on the perimeter. Harden passed to Nene, and Roberson doubled the center in the post and stole the ball. Roberson passed to Russell Westbrook then laid out Patrick Beverley with an open-court screen, freeing Westbrook to score.

Of course, that wasn’t enough. Oklahoma City fell in five games, Westbrook’s supporting cast unable to keep up enough with its MVP candidate.

“That’ll definitely be one thing that haunt me, Roberson said of his free-throw shooting against Houston, “and something I’ll work on extremely hard this summer.”

Roberson’s postseason confirmed everything we thought we knew about him: He’s a defensive dynamo, and he can’t shoot.

But understanding Roberson’s skill set is only a small step in evaluating him. Teams are better than ever at exposing perimeter players who can’t shoot, and that makes Roberson’s price point difficult to read as he enters restricted free agency. The Thunder delayed the decision – extending Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo last year while allowing Roberson to complete his rookie-scale contract without an extension – but time is practically up.

For better or worse, it was all there in the playoffs.

Roberson made just 3-of-21 free throws (14%), the worst percentage by anyone with so many attempts in a postseason series (since 1964, as far as Basketball-Reference go back). Here are the worst free-throw percentages in a series since 1964 (minimum: 100 attempts):

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This was hardly out of the norm for Roberson, who made just 42% of his free throws during the regular season.

His postseason 3-point percentage (41%) was way better than his regular-season baseline (25%), but he attempted just 17 3-pointers in 185 playoff minutes. Not only is that a small sample, it speaks to another problem. The Rockets typically left him open, and he was reluctant to shoot. That allowed Houston to defend 5-on-4 elsewhere with only minimal repercussions. Despite playing more than 90% of his minutes with Westbrook, the Thunder still scored worse with Roberson on the court.

So why did Roberson receive such a prominent role in the series?

He’s a defensive stud. Roberson ranks fourth among players who regularly defend opposing guards in defensive real plus-minus:

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Roberson shadowed Harden for too much of the series to gauge on-off splits, but adding regular-season Thunder-Rockets games reveals a clearer (though still limited) picture:

James Harden Roberson on Roberson off
Minutes 320 16
Points per 36 minutes 25.3 51.8
Turnovers per 36 minutes 6.0 0.0
Free-throw attempts per 36 minutes 10.9 22.5
2-point percentage 50.5% 60.0%
3-point percentage 21.1% 60.0%
Effective field-goal percentage 41.9% 75.0%

Harden, arguably the NBA’s best offensive player, was held in relative check with Roberson on the floor. When Roberson sat, Harden went wild.

There has to be a place for a defender like Roberson in this league.

Is it in Oklahoma City?

Roberson was effective in last year’s playoffs as a small-ball big. He cut and crashed the offensive glass. That got harder with two of Adams, Taj Gibson and Enes Kanter occupying the paint. The Thunder maximizing Roberson’s production might mean losing a big man or two. Gibson will be a free agent and said he wants to return. Adams and Kanter are locked into lucrative long-term deals.

When it comes to Roberson, it’s always complicated.

Report: Magic’s search firm inquiring about Larry Bird

AP Photo/Michael Conroy
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Larry Bird resigned as Pacers president.

Not just today, but also in 2012. A year later, he was again running a front office (Indiana’s).

Could he make an even quicker leap back into NBA team presidency – with the Magic?

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This strikes me as more as Orlando’s search firm trying to prove its usefulness than a viable option.

Whether they’re trying to generate excitement, getting used for leverage or actually serious, the Magic keep getting linked to big-name replacements for the fired Rob HenniganDoc Rivers, David Griffin and now Bird. If the Magic are willing to pay major money for name recognition, they could get plenty of people to at least listen. But I’m unconvinced about that spending.

It’d be a little weird for Bird to inherit Frank Vogel, whom Bird fired as the Pacers’ coach. But Bird did everything he could to show that was more about seeking change than losing faith in Vogel.

Report: Larry Bird stepping down as Pacers president

AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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Larry Bird put his stamp on the Pacers in the last year –  firing Frank Vogel and trading for Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young to join hand-picked Monta Ellis and Myles Turner as Paul George‘s supporting cast on an up-tempo, offensively dynamic team.

The plan fell flat.

Indiana played at a below-average pace and produced a middling offense. The Pacers got swept by the Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs.

Now, Indiana’s uncertain future – with Paul George a year from free agency and the Lakers courting – gets even more chaotic.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Bird had already resigned once as Pacers president, in 2012. He returned the following year.

Bird’s patience and pain tolerance for the job due to lingering back issues from his playing days has long seemed to waver. I wouldn’t write him off for good.

Indiana promoted Kevin Pritchard in 2012, when Bird previously stepped down. Pritchard previously worked as the Trail Blazers’ general manager, and he’s a qualified replacement.

The work begins immediately with a decision on George. If he doesn’t make an All-NBA team, the Pacers won’t gain as much financial advantage in his contract offer. That could open the door to a trade and rebuilding around Turner — or making a last-ditch push to convince George he can win in Indiana.