The problem with The Process, toward a theory of management

Re: the rebuilding attempts of the Philadelphia 76ers:

[John] Wall shed light on an underrated issue when he said: “The toughest thing you have is two young players that want to be great. Sometimes it might work, and sometimes it might not work.”

Think about that. Here’s what Wall is saying: It’s easier for stars to coexist when there is more separation of age and aspiration and an understanding of the hierarchy. Wall and Beal figured it out. The Sixers have three young potential all-stars trying to mix individual accolades and team success at once.

Wizards center Marcin Gortat cited asymmetric information:

“You know what the hardest thing for the young man is?” Gortat said during a recent interview. “We all enjoy diamonds. We all enjoy women. We all enjoy cars and beautiful houses, trips, the best parties and the life. The hardest thing is to come at 6 o’clock in the morning to the gym when nobody watches you. It’s easy to play when you have 20,000 people in the stands — women, cheerleaders, actresses, models, front-row celebrities — but it’s really hard to wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning and go to the gym and work on your left hand. This is the hardest part, when nobody’s watching.”

Here is the full Jerry Bewer story.  I watched two games with Philadelphia and Milwaukee, to update my knowledge of the NBA a bit, and now I’ll return to my rabbit hole for a while.


Shorter TC: "There's no I in TEAM"?

To a degree, this theory of selflessness is wrong. What draws fans *is* the selfish shooter. Think of Allan Iverson. They fed him the ball, he made something like 35% of his shots (the latter Iverson, not the early Iverson) and the fans loved it. So the 76ers stuck to this sub-optimal game winning strategy since that's what sold tickets. Similar logic about keeping the team quarterback in after the game is already won, risking injury, since the fans come to see Brady, not the backup.

Note: I don't follow the NBA, nor any sports outside of the royal game of chess. But I know a bit about everything. More than a bit.

Michael Jordan's rumored comeback line: "There's an I in WIN."

There's an "I" in "WIN" and a "ME" in "TEAM"

@baconbacon - the team stats say Iverson's 40% is about mediocre. For example, this site: shows Memphis as a team shoots 43.6% while Golden State shoots 49.4% for last season, which means if Iverson shot 40% it's pretty lousy by today's standards. That said, perhaps they had 'better' defense in yesteryear. For example, for 2003, the top team Minnesota shot 45.8% while the worse team Chicago shot 41.4% (

Bonus trivia: in the Philippines they worship basketball despite being short. They have highlight films of NBA games where they cut out all commercials and all missed shots except spectacular defense, and it speeds up the game and is kind of entertaining to watch for a few minutes, even for a non-fan like me.

There is a ME in TEAM, but you have to be creative and manipulate it a bit. Something Michael Jordan totally understood. His success with the Bulls was based on knowing that when he said AT ME they threw the ball to Mike.

You should delete basketball from that list. Iverson never shot less than 38.7% from the floor in a single season, and was over 40% in 12/14 seasons. Philly traded him at 31 coming off what was probably his best individual season. The 76ers were above 0.500 in 6 of his last 8 seasons with the team making it out of the first round 4 times.

I don't care what you say, by current NBA standards A. Iverson couldn't shoot. He actually benefitted from playing for the Sixers because they stunk. They had no viable alternative to him hoisting up too many shots.

Kobe shot career 44% from the field.

Iverson shot career 42% from the field.

But Kobe is said to be a much better shooter.

Let's put it into perspective: For every 100 shots both of them took in their careers, Kobe would hit 44 of them, and Iverson 42 of them.

That's not a huge difference at all if you play much basketball.

The only way you can say "he couldn't shoot", is if you can say "Kobe couldn't shoot either".

But you can't say that can you? It's a lack of understanding basketball on your part.

But there reall is -- and someone even made a t-shirt that shows where it is. Change the "A" to a more rounded/squard font and then just color in the interior space with a color that clashes with the font color. So in addaition to "me" there certainly is an "i" in team.

Yes there is an "i" in TEAM, it's in the a-hole.

That Gortat quote, wow. What a refreshing lack of wokeness.

The league’s history is rife with examples that contradict Wall’s point (or rather Bewer’s interpretation): clear differences in age and stature didn’t help co-stars coexist (Shaq & Kobe, Lebron & Kyrie, Barkley’s Phoenix), and there are multiple examples when a core of young players with similar stardom levels enjoyed tremendous success (Sampson & Olajuwan, Nash & Nowitzky, early OKC with Harden coming off the bench, T-Mac and Yao, Shaq & Penny, many others).

If the broader point is that chemistry and hierarchies are important, and that “sometimes it might work, and sometimes it might not work”, then sure; but ego hardly seems to matter less the older players get, evidenced by 35-years-old Dwane Wade's insistence to open games or Kobe's nightmarish 20-shots-a-night farewell tour.

Also if Gortat would use some of those early morning gym sessions to maybe shoot a three and join the modern NBA I'm sure his teammates would be thankful

YIkes this comment is terrible. None of those young core teams won championships hilariously if you wanted to use Hakeem as a counter example you could have used him and Clyde Drexler. Even more ineptly off point Nowitzski didn't win a championship until Nash left.Meanwhile two of the three examples of teams that supposedly had trouble co-existing won championships.

I really hope this is a straussian take.

The discussion isn't about rings, Shaq, but team success - all of these teams had great runs, and breaking up when a star demands a trade is definitely failure on that end even if you've won a championship. I wasn't trying to craft an all-encompassing theory that explains all championships in the league's history, just to point out many teams that were successful despite being built around young stars with similar status.
Oh and Drexler was 33 and Hakeem was 32 when they won a ring, probably not the best example of a successful young core. And are you seriously suggesting that there was a chemistry/ego issue between Dirk and Nash?

Dwayne Wade has now asked to come off the bench instead of starting.

He probably reads the comments here

Re: the Gortat quote, is that really an example of asymmetric information? In what sense?

Iverson got to the finals with Eric Snow as point guard. Eric Snow! The man was sent to jail simply to show white people that the criminal justice system is broken. Examples must be made. Spanks are retribution for musses gone wrong, for Sebastian Telfair's failure, for smut in spam cans.

>> It’s easier for stars to coexist when there is more separation of age and aspiration and an understanding of the hierarchy.

This is true. Rene Girard was the master of human anthropology.

Girard: "The marvelous paradox is that the closer you are, the more your goals will be the same, and this will be true at the highest level, at the intellectual level. If we are really close intellectually, we’re going to look for the same things, and there will be moments when we will feel that the other is more successful than we are. As a matter of fact, it is everybody’s tendency, to feel that the other is more successful. It’s also everybody’s tendency to feel I should be more successful. But anyway the problem will be there, because man is essentially a dynamic individual, you know, who wants to occupy the whole ground, and this is going to lead us into competition with the people who are closest to us. You know, people don’t think enough about the formula of Aristotle. What is tragedy? Tragedy is conflict to the death between people closest to each other. The closer you are to someone, there is going to be the possibility of conflict given what man is and his goals and his imperialism, his individual imperialism."

"The closer we are, Girard says, the more we will want the same things, and the more we want the same things, the more we will tend to compete. This for him is one of the unspoken truths of social existence. A truth hidden by the “romantic lie”, but revealed in the greatest works of literature. …"

Girard: "Any master and disciple are in a double-bind situation with each other. The master wants his pupil to imitate him as diligently and effectively as possible. But if the pupil is too effective, he will suddenly overshadow, become better, than the master. And the master will see the contradiction and will not dare say “you imitate me too well”, he will not even think that, he will try to find something wrong with his disciple. … There is a tendency never to express it because if you express it you express the essential contradiction of living together, which is competition. … So we keep quiet about it, and it’s one of the most fascinating things. We tell children, for instance, either that they should imitate or they should not imitate, but never that they should imitate sometimes and not too effectively, which is the essential existential contradiction, you might say. And this essential contradiction … is very visible in our actions, you know. It’s the essence of competition."

René Girard, CBC interview part 1 of 5 (, 9:15 - 18:45.

Phil Jackson's vast success as an NBA coach came from mastering a role similar to that of an opera impresario whose primary job is to get touchy divas to cooperate for a few hours per night.

The Zen Master schtick was for the rubes, Jackson was more of a Zero Mostel. That was Chicago back then. Of the major sports, basketball coaches are the only ones to spend most nice days inside. It warps you. Jackson can be proud of his legacy as a player, but, as a coach - well, somebody has to win. Ozymandias and all that. Somebody has to write the self-help books, but the question is - is that any way to spend your life? He could have been an Arctic explorer or the greatest ornithologist of his home state (tall people have an advantage in ornithology - has to do with the angle from the binoculars to the birds - true! I wouldn't lie! 0r one of those guys who hikes the Appalachian trail 4 times a year, or a legendary "beach bum" beloved by all the crew down in the Keys, with an assurance that the would be a local legend and feature in colorful local stories long after he is gone. Instead he "coached" his way to a few "NBA" victories. Well, if Dennis Rodman achieves peace with North Korea, Jackson will be remembered. I'd rather be a baseball umpire than a basketball coach (for the same pay, that is). Think about it, almost anybody would. They can say what they want.

Does the NBA have more divas than other sports? Or because there are only 5 players per side who actually play big minutes (hockey 5 plus goalie but of course there are 3-4 lines; baseball 9; football 11; soccer 10 plus goalie), maybe they are just more visible.

Or maybe stars are more important in basketball — without one bona fide star you have no hope — thus creating the conditions for diva-ness.

"Or maybe stars are more important in basketball — without one bona fide star you have no hope — thus creating the conditions for diva-ness."

For what it's worth, coaches are much more important in football than in other sports, and football seems to have a lot more diva coaches than other sports (Chip Kelly, John Harbaugh, etc.)

JIM Harbaugh, not John Harbaugh. My mistake.

Agreed. Football coaches, as you say - and defensive coordinators, and to a lesser degree offensive coordinators - have lots of influence on making teams better. Baseball managers are in the middle, some years they are really important to the WS championship team, other years they are only important because they knew how to get out of the way. (I am a Mets fan, though, and both Gil Hodges and Davey Johnson were in the subset of managers who are really important). BTW, if the Astros win this year it will be because they have a genius hitting coach. Just saying.

Basketball success at the team level is almost entirely controlled by the officials. Examine the statistics of any number of games, the team that shoots the most free throws almost always wins.

Sunday games: T-wolves win by 2, are 19 of 23 from the charity stripe, loser OKC is 10 of 16. That scenario didn't occur in the Hawks-Nets battle but it was an exciting two hours and 24 minutes of basketball that included a total of 70 free throws. Since a game is 48 minutes long that means 96 minutes were spent in time-outs and breath-taking free throws. Did somebody say cricket moves too slowly? The Pelicans humiliated the Lakers by seven but both teams made the same number of free throws with a single difference in attempts. Currently sports are deluged with generally meaningless statistics but free throws attempted and made aren't talked about much.

Poor officiating can affect the outcome of the game but it's not the total number of fouls conceded alone that will prove your point. One team can actually make more fouls than the other, making fouls is sometimes a defensive strategy if the opposing team is loaded with poor shooter from the foul line, or a team exploiting the paint with drives will likely get more fouls than a team favoring outside shooting.

correlation =/= causation

the team in the lead late in the game often gets fouled to stop the clock

even in non end of the game scenarios, going to the free throw line a lot tends to be an earned thing by the better team, a lot of fouls tend to come from defensive player being in poor position

an offense that creates more scenarios where the defense is in poor position, will both tend to shoot more free throws, and win more games

The problem is never the center or the point guard..... The problem is that the center is never (well almost never) the diva. And point guards are more or less dropped in from other sports, and are generally on the coach's side
(generally, the only people on a basketball floor who could make it in any other popular sport, without the atrocious NBA preference for circus level height, are the point guards). Very few good point guard divas, that I know about (at least during the game).... So that leaves 3 guys, all of whom realize that they are not really "all-around athletes", just "all-around weirdly tall athletes", who would probably be driving a forklift at Home Depot, if they were six inches shorter. (Several of the non-center non-point-guard guys in the Hall of Fame are exceptions to that rule, but only several: not many, just several.).

In elite women's college basketball, however, the point guards are generally the most arrogant - different supply and demand factors. Well, to the extent there is such a thing as elite women's basketball (or men's, by the way: and there isn't, in either case). The only equilibrium on this subject you will find is in the memories of people who played street basketball, with , as our friends at wikipedia inform us :::significantly less formal structure and enforcement of the game's rules;;; ( a propos of which I need to make it clear I am no expert, I had a few good days playing Horse and helped a friend out with his jump shot once .... and my friend's friend had a kid who made a few good shots in a championship season - but that is long ago, and far away, and even if it happened, it might as well not have happened. I wouldn't care - after the age of 11 or so, I just could not find it in my heart to be a "sports fan": in any event, the world would be the same and just as well peopled as it would have been otherwise: a few less good memories means nothing when there is today and tomorrow and all the other tomorrows - poor little Eminem will figure that out one day. Word.

What sport do you think have the best all around athletes if not the NBA? Lebron James would be the greatest tight end the NFL has ever seen and I'm sure could smash Aaron Judge to a pulp as well. By far the biggest NBA diva in the last 20 years was a center (Shaq), and he had plenty of company. What sport has 6'5"+ monsters going full blast for 40 minutes a game? No other sport requires nearly as much agility, touch, and power.

" in the Hawks-Nets battle but it was an exciting two hours and 24 minutes of basketball that included a total of 70 free throws. Since a game is 48 minutes long that means 96 minutes were spent in time-outs and breath-taking free throws."

Additionally, the players are not required to skate. A coach can make a tall, somewhat coordinated adult into an effective basketball player. Pro hockey players must start at age 3. Many are over 6' tall. Basketballs aren't made of hard rubber and don't travel over 100 mph.

Andre - I can't argue that someone who gets picked in the first year for the Hall of Fame for basketball would not be great - maybe even greater - in another sport. But we are not talking about the 2 or 3 best NBA players of any given decade, I think: at least I wasn't - I was referencing the 99.99 percent of NBA players below that super-elite NBA level. Anyway my best guess is that there is no one sport with the greatest athleticism, because kids pretty randomly decide on a sport (what their dad likes, mostly - most Hall of Famers had athletic dads with strong preferences for what sport their kid would play). And, nowadays, almost nobody is good at any sport they did not start when they were elementary school age.

When Michael Jordan, considered the greatest athlete in America at the time, went to the Birmingham Barons of the AA Southern League in 1994, he played the same position as the worst player on a neighborhood pick-up team, right field. Not shortstop or catcher or pitcher or center field, right field, a spot reserved for a defensive liability. In 127 games with 436 plate appearances he hit .202. Jordan was a tall, skinny guy with a weak throwing arm that couldn't hit.

true, Jordan was a joke as a baseball player. Jordan would have been really good at volleyball, though, and I can see him being - for the US, at least - a competent World Cup soccer goalie. If he were lucky, and worked very very hard at it. Well, not that anyone was paying for my opinion back in the day, I did not consider him the greatest athlete at the time. Like Phelps at swimming or Katarina Witt at ice skating, or Kathy Rigby at gymnastics, Jordan was clearly designed for just one major sport. But the earlier poster was right - Lebron James would have been a good fit for one of the more limited positions in football. That being said, his obvious lack of common sense would probably have led to nobody really wanting him on their team. His odds at winning even one Super Bowl would have been dependent on how good the coach, the QB, and the O-Line were. Had he gone into football he would be about as famous as, say, Clinton Portis or Joseph Addai. That's my best guess, anyway.

Judging from your revealed preference, you are a basketball hipster. In that case I'd recommend watching Denver, Portland, and Minnesota games this year.

I'd also recommend reading Ben Falk at cleaning the glass. Here's an article I particularly enjoyed from last year (note: am a Spurs fan)

Yes tanking doesn't work. Unless you are the Houston Astros.

Washington is better than the Sixers right now, but if I had to bet on one of these teams eventually winning an NBA championship with at least 3 of the current players on the eventual championship roster, I would easily bet on the Sixers.

Yet again, by omission shows how the Spurs do it right. Always have multiple stars, but with a clearly defined pecking order agreed to up-front

but it’s really hard to wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning and go to the gym and work on your left hand. This is the hardest part, when nobody’s watching.

Which is why Tom Brady is perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time.

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