Sports Outside the Beltway

NBA suspends training camps indefinitely

File this under not surprising news-

NEW YORK — The lockout has started doing real damage to the NBA’s calendar.

Players won’t report at the usual time. The preseason won’t start as scheduled.

And more cancellations could be necessary without a new labor deal soon.

Out of time to keep everything intact, the NBA postponed training camps indefinitely and canceled 43 preseason games Friday because it has not reached an agreement with players.

All games from Oct. 9-15 are off, the league said. Camps were expected to open Oct. 3.

“We have regretfully reached the point on the calendar where we are not able to open training camps on time and need to cancel the first week of preseason games,” deputy commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “We will make further decisions as warranted.”

The players’ association did not comment.

I don’t expect their to be another NBA game this year. This kind of labor conflict is usually protracted and nothing will get done till the season is on the verge of being lost. As NHL fans know from 2004-2005, even then the dispute can go over the cliff taking a whole season with it.

I have no sympathy for either owners or players. The players are rich and overindulged, the owners of small market NBA teams had to know when going in that they had little chance of making the franchise they were purchasing into NBA Championship contenders/moneymakers.


Denver Nuggets Coach George Karl has cancer

He was already a prostate cancer survivor. From ESPN-

Denver Nuggets coach George Karl informed his team Tuesday afternoon that he is in another fight for his life with cancer.

Karl, who had been cancer-free since prostate surgery in July 2005, discovered a worrisome lump on his neck about six weeks ago. A biopsy determined that it was “very treatable and curable” form of neck and throat cancer, Karl said, but it will still require an intense program of radiation and chemotherapy that will probably force him to miss some regular-season games.

“Cancer is a vicious opponent,” he said. “Even the ones that are treatable, you never get a 100-percent guaranteed contract.”

Treatment will consist of 35 sessions over the next six weeks, for what the Nuggets Web site called squamous cell head/neck cancer. The sessions are expected to leave his throat extremely raw, requiring him to be fed through his stomach in the final weeks. “Keeping up your nutrition is a big part of the challenge,” he said.

While the condition is treatable, his doctor, Jacques Saari, said Karl faces a taxing treatment regimen.

I’m a cancer survivor also. If the above account is true, I’d be surprised if Karl coaches at the same time he gets treatments. No matter I wish him success in his latest cancer battle.


Why Hasn’t Free Throw Shooting Improved?

Tyson Chandler of the New Orleans Hornets took a free throw against the San Antonio Spurs in 2008. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Tyson Chandler of the New Orleans Hornets took a free throw against the San Antonio Spurs in 2008. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

I’m at best a casual fan of basketball but this is an interesting fact: Whereas just about every aspect of athletic performance in just about every sport has improved over the years, “one thing has remained remarkably constant: the rate at which players make free throws.”

Since the mid-1960s, college men’s players have made about 69 percent of free throws, the unguarded 15-foot, 1-point shot awarded after a foul. In 1965, the rate was 69 percent. This season, as teams scramble for bids to the N.C.A.A. tournament, it was 68.8. It has dropped as low as 67.1 but never topped 70.

In the National Basketball Association, the average has been roughly 75 percent for more than 50 years. Players in college women’s basketball and the W.N.B.A. reached similar plateaus — about equal to the men — and stuck there.

The explantion for why it hasn’t changed? Well, nothing has changed:

Ray Stefani, a professor emeritus at California State University, Long Beach, is an expert in the statistical analysis of sports. Widespread improvement over time in any sport, he said, depends on a combination of four factors: physiology (the size and fitness of athletes, perhaps aided by performance-enhancing drugs), technology or innovation (things like the advent of rowing machines to train rowers, and the Fosbury Flop in high jumping), coaching (changes in strategy) and equipment (like the clap skate in speedskating or fiberglass poles in pole vaulting).

The ball’s the same, the rim’s the same, the distance is the same. The athletes are stronger but it has little bearing on this aspect of the game. And coaching? Well, coaches spend about as much time on it as they always did. Why?

There is little correlation between free-throw percentages and winning percentages. Only one of the 25 best shooting teams, No. 2 North Carolina, is also in the latest Associated Press top 25 rankings. Southern Utah [ranked No. 1 at 80.5 percent] has a losing record.

Perhaps that’s because it’s one aspect of your game that the opponent can control. If you’re a good free throw shooting team, they’ll foul less.

Moreover, there would seem to be diminishing returns. If the best team is at 80.5 percent and the average is 70 percent, how much practice time do you want to devote at the expense of other skills?

via Tyler Cowen


Phoenix Suns fire coach Terry Porter after 4 months on the job

He had a record of 28-23 before getting the axe. From AP-

The Phoenix Suns have fired coach Terry Porter, just four months into his first season with the club and the sputtering team barely in playoff contention. Assistant Alvin Gentry was appointed interim coach.

Phoenix (28-23) lost five of eight going into the All-Star break and trails Utah by one game for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Gentry promised a return to the fast-paced style that best utilizes the team’s talent, particularly the skills of playmaker Steve Nash.

“We are who we are and I think we have to go back to trying to establish a breakneck pace like we’ve had in the past,” Gentry said at a news conference announcing his promotion.

The Suns are the eighth team to fire a coach this season, meaning more than one-quarter of the league’s coaches are gone at the All-Star break.

Most of the eight coaches who lost their jobs were with bad teams and you say their earned the pink slip. The firing of Porter and Maurice Cheeks in Philadelphia look shaky to me. Is four months as head coach with an organization enough time to prove yourself?


New Orleans Hornet Chris Paul sets new NBA steal record

He did so at the same time scoring 19 pts to help his team defeat the San Antonio Spurs. From AP-

After his history-making swipe, Chris Paul helped the Hornets steal a victory from the San Antonio Spurs.

Paul set an NBA record with a steal in his 106th straight regular-season game and had 19 points and 12 assists to lead New Orleans to a 90-83 comeback victory Wednesday night.

Paul broke Alvin Robertson’s NBA mark — which stood since 1986 — when he deflected and quickly corralled an attempted pass by Tony Parker late in the second quarter.

Congratulations Chris Paul and way to go.


76ers fire coach Maurice Cheeks

Another NBA case of blame the coach.

The slumping Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday became the fifth NBA team to make a coaching change before Christmas this season, deciding they had to fire Maurice Cheeks despite extending his contract twice in the past year.

As reported by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, citing sources close to the situation, Cheeks was informed of his dismissal Saturday morning after the Sixers suffered their eighth loss in 10 games Friday night at Cleveland and dropped to 9-14.

The move was officially announced by the Sixers later Saturday. Assistant general manager Tony DiLeo will replace Cheeks on an interim basis. Philadelphia defeated the Washington Wizards behind Elton Brand’s season-high 27 points on Saturday night in DiLeo’s first game.

Philadelphia who isn’t a very good shooting team, has to contend on a regular basis with teams like Boston and Cleveland who are tearing up the league at present. When someone is 22-2, that makes it difficult for other teams to play .500 ball.

The firing of Cheeks is dumb in light of this.

NBA coaching sources told the Sixers were determined to give Cheeks every chance to halt Philadelphia’s slide after picking up his option for this season in February, extending his contract again in September and spending big money in the offseason to sign Brand away from the Los Angeles Clippers and re-sign Andre Iguodala.

No matter how often I see it done, I remain dumbfounded by pro sports franchises and universities to fire coaches with time remaining on their contracts. You pay for someone not to coach.

In light of the way the NBA recycles coaches, I expect Cheeks to pop up somewhere else in league. After all didn’t half the NBA keep rehiring Kevin Loughery in spite of his mediocre track record.


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