Tricky thing about stats. Some of them, you can get away from. “Well, yeah, he had six turnovers, but most of those were drops by his teammates.” Or “Well, yeah, that one player named after a snake shot 28 times and only hit 11, but the offense was stagnant, he had to keep them afloat.” It’s definitely true that statistics, even advanced metric, must be measured in context and on a curve.
But then there are some things that are hard to get away from. You might consider Metta World Peace shooting 32 percent from the field and 16 percent from three when he’s expected to at least be decent offensively one of those things. But MWP would argue with that assertion. As he does when it’s the assertion of his head coach, who he threw under the bus in an interview with CBSSports.com:
The player formerly known as Artest believes that Brown’s coaching is too dictated by stats, and that his 16.4 percent (9-of-55!) shooting from beyond the 3-point line and 51.4 percent from the free-throw line shouldn’t keep him off the floor in the fourth quarter, when, he said, “I’m gonna make a big stop and I may make a big shot.”
You don’t have to be a stat-head to recognize how damning those numbers are. World Peace suggests that when he was on the floor at the end of the Boston game, the Lakers won. When he was on the bench in Philly and Utah at the end of the fourth, they lost.
“I’m trying to win,” World Peace said. “And right now, coach is a stats guy. His background is video coordinator or whatever. So he’s all stats. But Ron Artest is all feel. He doesn’t understand that. Having me in the game at the end, he was worried about me shooting bad from the free throw line. And I was like, ‘I could care less because I’m gonna get a stop at the end of the game.’ He didn’t understand the rhythm that we had — me, Fish [Derek Fisher], Kobe [Bryant], Pau [Gasol] and Drew [Andrew Bynum]. I’ve been through games where I would have two points, go 1 for 9 and we’d win. That’s what matters. Stats are for people who need stats.”
World Peace cites the Celtics going away from Paul Pierce at the end of regulation Thursday night –- when Pierce had to give up the ball to Mickael Pietrus for a desperate 3-point heave that missed at the buzzer.
“If I could count how many times another team went away from the best player when I was on him, I’ve got to be like No. 1 in the league,” World Peace said. “That’s not a stat, and coach doesn’t … you would have to play basketball to feel that. When Phil Jackson was here, that’s why I was in the game, because he understands that. Philly and Utah, I was on the bench because of stats.
“Stats are for people who need stats.”
Well, fair enough, Ron. I mean, Metta.
But professional basketball players also need outcome-related data. Artest’s defensive metrics by Synergy Sports’ standards are not great either. They’re not horrible. But they’re not good. Is MWP still a top defender in this league? Well, no. But is he a pretty great one? Yes, absolutely. One problem.
The Lakers’ problem is not defense. That team is coached by one of the best defensive teams in the league. They are going to defend well whether MWP is on the floor or not. Defense has become largely systemic in the NBA and the Lakers’ system is strong, and features quality defenders at more positions than just MWP’s. The Lakers need offense. They are desperate for it. It’s why Kobe is shooting 30 times a game. It’s why teams with strong offensive performances are toppling them. It’s why they can’t get separation from bad teams, it’s why they allow comebacks, it’s their biggest issue. They can’t score.
And MWP doesn’t help them there. He’s not throwing hockey assists. He’s not forcing the issue. He’s not dominating the glass. There is process data, like how you played by the eye’s estimation, and there’s outcome data, like stats. The problem is that the Lakers have great process data, and their outcome data has been underwhelming and concerning, short and long-term. It’s hard to blame Mike Brown for looking towards results, and more than just one game against a struggling Boston team.
As usual, the connection between MWP’s publicly-shared perception and reality is tentative, at best.