Game 6: Jeremy Ball vs The Harden Way

PreGame: It was never my intention since I started this blog to cover the various things that I did such as the media narratives and the red herrings that is surrounding the player Jeremy Lin.  I simply wanted to record some of Jeremy’s off court impact on our cultural narrative perhaps from an economic or business perspective.

However, I cannot escape the urge to discuss what I find discomforting regarding how the Houston Rockets organization are mismanaging their team both on and off the court as discussed in my previous blog posts.  I admit that I tend to have a nose for conspiracy theories and don’t expect most people to take my conclusions seriously.  But, I believe some will come around as more light is shed on this subject.

On the day of the Laker game around lunch time, I lurked over at ESPN to check out what game preview information they posted for the evening’s match up between the Lakers and the Rockets.  And, I found this:

dpchart

I don’t often look at pregame depth charts, so I wasn’t sure whether this makes it official that Beverley is slotted in the starting point guard position rather than Lin.  Usually, to a Rockets fan, this would be big news as the point guard controversy has made lots of headwinds in the media since the Manila game where Beverley started over Lin.  However, I didn’t find a thing on the internet about this news, so I couldn’t confirm whether Beverley really was going to start the game.

jlinostart

I quickly posted what I found on on jeremylin.net (see above) to share what I just found out and wanted to confirm whether Beverley is indeed starting the game against the Lakers.  No one can either confirm or deny this.  Usually, this forum is very up to date with Jeremy Lin related news.  I continued to Google search for news I can find regarding this.  And, it wasn’t about a hour before tip off time that I found a tweet by Jason Friedman, a Rockets affiliated beat reporter, stating Beverley will be starting:

friedman

PostGame: Now, I am going to assume two things about you readers.  First, you either watched the Laker game, read about it and/or have watched highlights of the game.  Second, you blame the lost on James Harden because he was highly inefficient with the basketball by putting up 24 shots to get 35 points while putting in minimal effort on defense.  Well, in terms of efficiency rating, Harden actually came on top followed by Meeks then Lin.  Below are top five efficiency players for the game:

LAEFFSurprisingly for me as I am sure it is for you, Harden’s efficiency rating is virtually double that of Meeks’ and Lin’s who both shot a much higher FG% but with about a third of Harden’s total shot attempts each.

If you take only non-shooting stats into account (rebounds, assists, steals, block shots and turn overs), Harden came on top again:

LALEFFNSIt is very surprising to find that Harden actually is statistically perfect even when only taking non-shooting game perspectives into consideration.  And, I am a bit surprised that Harden leads in the shooting related perspectives because he only scored 21 points on 24 FGAs which is fairly inefficient.  However, his shooting efficiency is boosted because 40% of his total points came off of free throws and because foul calls negated 8 of his 32 FGAs down to 24.

LOLEFFS

The most efficient shot according the efficiency rating calculation would be the free throw.  Through six games this season, Harden is shooting 48% field goal versus 84% from the stripe.So, Harden is almost twice as efficient from the stripe than he is from the perimeter.  So, in order to maximize his scoring efficiency, Harden’s goal is to draw as many shooting fouls as possible.  So, as long as Harden gets his foul calls either earned or induced, Harden will raise his efficiency rating.  Speaking of induced, Harden has already been warned about flopping by the NBA. harden-per

Harden’s efficiency statistics completely defy what were my assumption that his penchant for shooting the ball and not hustling without the ball would lead to a lower efficiency ratomg.  And, I am sure you’d agree that Harden does appear to be an all-star on both ends of the court if you only judge his performance based purely on stats.  Also, notice Harden is the only player to be top 5 in both shooting and non-shooting efficiency categories.

So, is Harden being inefficient on offense and inept on defense is merely a facade?  No and yes.  First of all, I’ve read anecdotal descriptives used that cast Harden as having low basketball IQ and doesn’t know how to play within a team construct.  I disagree with this because what I see now is Harden is playing within an intelligent frame work that optimizes individual efficiency ratings on both ends of the court.

It shouldn’t be surprising to anybody that Harden is not the epitome of team play.  But, people probably haven’t realized just how much premeditation is put into this endeavor of molding himself into the best statistically measured individual basketball player.  Harden has been successful with this endeavor because of his athletic abilities as well as his on the court mental acumen allowing him to act according to what most correlates to improving his personal efficiency rating in real time.

And, with the blessing of his GM who acquired him from OKC a year ago, Harden has been given free reign to maximize his statistical valuation as this not only benefits Harden but also makes the GM appear to look like a genius in the process (reference below).  After only one year in Houston, ESPN has already listed Harden as the fourth best player in the NBA which is about a 20 spot uptick year over year.

I also see him as a shrewd defender who is always calculating how much distance he has to put between himself and the player he’s defending so to not commit personal fouls as that will detract from his non-shooting efficiency stats.

Harden’s defense is not only effortless in that he is shielding himself from committing personal fouls but also positioning himself to quickly transition to the offensive end.  In the gif below, this sequence probably best described as the best defense is an even better offense as Harden is already breaking for the Houston basket while the player he is defending is still in his shooting motion.

Harden D1

And, in case you believe Harden has limited defensive abilities, Harden was able to shut down Kobe Bryant in the Q4 in a Lakers vs OKC game in 2011.

Harden is fully capable of implementing lock down defense against ANY guard in the NBA.  Though he has been torched by just about every guard Houston has played against thus far, it was all done intentionally.  And, this is fully supported by top management within the organization.  I support the latter hypothesis purely by the fact that no Houston player or personnel has publicly called out Harden’s lack of hustle on defense despite him having the ability to do so.

Any competitive player would immediately call out their teammate if they are not hustling.  Knowing Jeremy’s personality, he would never show up any of his teammates in public, but he must has expressed his dismay with Harden’s unwillingness to play defense with both the players and management.  However, the GM has stake in maximizing Harden’s statistical performance, so he must be putting his full support behind James Harden. Jeremy’s demotion is probably resulting from him complaining about Harden’s unwillingness to play team ball.

Hence, by benching Jeremy Lin instead of starting him, Morey is essentially achieving three goals:

1) This sends a chilling message to all the other players who are fighting for playing time that whoever is going to go against the grain will also be demoted like Jeremy has been.  And I hypothesize that Pattrick Patterson was shipped out because he has called out Harden in the past.

2) Forcing Jeremy to play off ball has already allowed Harden to improve his statistical rating. Demoting Jeremy to the bench will further increase Harden’s on ball usage rating which can further improve Harden’s scoring volume.

3) And, Beverley is more of a man to man defensive player while Jeremy is a team oriented defensive player, Harden’s lackadaisical effort on defense is further exposed when Jeremy steers his man towards another defender which will increase Harden’s chance of committing personal fouls which will result in lowering Harden’s efficiency rating.

Jeremy was a bench player subbing in for Beverley as he started game 6 against the Lakers.  He had very little touches as no one was willing to pass the ball to Jeremy except for Asik.  It seemed like Jeremy took matters into his own hands by simply driving to the basket every single time he got the ball until he fell to the ground hard on a drive against Jordan Farmar.  Although Jeremy could have made an easy assist by simply dumping the ball off to Harden on the drive, Jeremy was determined to finish the drive on his own.

My interpretation of this act by Jeremy is one of defiance against both Houston and Harden who are in collusion to protect Harden’s value as a player.  Harden definitely felt the sting of Jeremy’s insubordination because he thought Jeremy should’ve given those two easy points and possible free throws to Harden had Jeremy simply dumped the ball off to him.  Notice Harden made minimal gesture to Jeremy after his fall before walking towards the Houston basket and only Beverley and a sea of purple and gold jerseys were surrounding Jeremy to make sure he was OK.

I believe this is the play that led to the Q4 play with about 1:30 left in the game and with Houston up 98 to 96.  This is play that is now famous across the internet.  Beverly brings the ball up court then dumps it off to Lin with 16 on the shot clock, Lin gestures with his hands to direct traffic and called what looks like a horn play.  Lakers defense swarmed the paint to prevent Lin from driving.

Howard was mostly just standing at the free throw line not attracting Gasol away from the paint neither was he forcing Gasol to guard him at the post, so Gasol was free to stop Jeremy from driving into the paint.  Harden and Beverley both waited for shots at the wing.  Beverley ran towards the ball looking for a pass as the shot clock was winding down while Harden never moved from his spot.  And, Chandler was cutting in and out of the paint.  With 3 seconds left on the shot clock, Chandler tries to drive but didn’t have a lane, so he threw it out to Lin.  Lin could only force up a running bank shot from the 3-point line, and it bricked.

Immediately after the play stopped after the Lakers had already brought the ball down to their half of the court, Harden started to give Jeremy the business.  I don’t know what was said.  But, I am sure Harden was still angry about both 1) Lin not passing the ball to him on the play where he fell to the ground and 2) at Lin given the opportunity to run a set play because this takes away from Harden’s opportunities to pad his stats.

Jeremy has been fighting lots of battles on the court since his college days, and he is now fighting a battle against the “genius” GM and the “#1 PG in the league”.  Harden and Morey are a pair made in heaven.  One is the prototypical fantasy basketball pick.  The other is a stat driven manager who views himself as transformative in the NBA as Billy Beane is in the MLB.  The only problem is Moneyball worked because individual stats directly correlated with team stats in baseball.  Whereas, that is not necessarily the case in basketball. Finally, Houston can try to withhold from the fans regarding who the starting point guard is until one hour before tip off to stave off bad PR.  But, more and more irregularities are coming to light regardless of what efforts the Houston organization is trying to halt in terms of PR by manipulating the media and controlling the media narrative.  And, as for the Rocket’s organization, they are simply picking on the wrong player to fight against.

As to Morey’s motive to want to collude with Harden other than their mutual penchants for being stat driven, here is a copy of what I wrote in the red herring post:

Harden is a big investment that Morey has to make sure that he will get his returns on. And, Morey will make sure he gets his returns at ALL costs.  Semantically, Jeremy’s Les Alexander’s investment not Morey’s investment. Also, $25m vs $80m. Morey is willing to lose $25m if it means peers will perceive the $80m to be a bargain.  And paying Harden $80m was a big risk for a 6th man with limited starter sample size. Morey has to protect his investment at all cost. It’s his reputation and career at stake.

  • JK

    Amazing.

    Didn’t know about the efficiency ranking in that game. Ridiculous. Will expound later.

    • alcsd

      Agreed. Very detailed analysis.

  • THIS_GIRL

    Great work etane! Well written :) This is why I’m such a fan of Jeremy because of his fans! I look forward to read more as this drama unfolds