NBA@2: Ibaka Clarifies Comments On LeBron James
The first time you read or heard that Serge Ibaka said LeBron James is not a great defender, you had to know it was a mistake. Even if you didn’t know that English is not Ibaka’s native tongue, you had to know that something somewhere was lost in translation.
Sure enough, that was exactly the case.
Ibaka didn’t mean to say that LeBron is not a good defender, as he tells HOOPSWORLD.
“People just interpreted bad and they didn’t really understand what I mean – what I really mean – and what I was really trying to say,” Ibaka said.
What Ibaka was trying to do was to point out that James isn’t the only one defending Kevin Durant. What the reporter heard, and what caused so much fuss, was Ibaka saying he didn’t think James was doing a good job defending Durant.
“The guy ask me if LeBron is doing a good job stopping Kevin and I said he’s not, really, because he’s not really doing it by himself,” Ibaka said. “They’re doing a great job like a team and they’re going to help him a lot when he’s on Kevin. I wanted to say it kind of like that, and the guy interpreted like he did thinking like whatever.”
The funny thing was that Ibaka didn’t even know the stir his misinterpreted words had caused until game time.
“No, no. I just heard about it. Normally on game day I don’t watch TV – nothing so can just focus. I didn’t really know about it,” Ibaka said.
With all of that unnecessary drama behind him, Ibaka is now squarely focused on the task at hand. No team has ever come back from 1-3 to win the NBA Finals in its current format, but the key for the Thunder will be to focus solely on the task at hand: winning Game 5.
“It’s hard after a lost game like (Game 4),” said Ibaka. “It’s hard. It’s very hard, but it’s something we can’t change right now. Only thing we can change is our mind to be thinking about the game (tonight) and be ready to play.”
Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals begins at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.
LeBron James Turns the Page?
This is what we’ve been waiting for.
Over the first eight years of LeBron James’ career, it was easy to find reasons not to like him. Sure, he has been a stats machine, but for all of his great numbers, he lacked a certain respect for the game that came through any time I had a conversation with the guy.
For example, right after then-Cleveland Cavaliers GM Danny Ferry delivered LeBron the player he asked for – Shaquille O’Neal – I asked LeBron what he thought he could learn from the decorated All-Star and NBA champion. LeBron raised his eyebrows, kind of snickered and told me he had nothing to learn from “that old man.” Thinking he was surely joking, I asked again, only to be told that Shaq had a lot to learn from LeBron, not the other way around. (cough, cough)
Then there was the John Lucas charity game, held in December while the NBA lockout was still going on. Lucas changed the date of the game, which featured a locker room full of NBA stars including Derrick Rose and Zach Randolph, three times to accommodate LeBron’s schedule, only to be told at the last minute that LeBron wouldn’t show up if he didn’t get $20,000 for the effort. When Lucas pointed out that the game was a charity event for a non-profit benefiting homeless children in Houston and that no one was getting paid, LeBron bailed.
And of course, America watched as LeBron made a complete um, jerk, of himself during the Finals last season. Whether he was punking Dirk Nowitzki for playing with a 102 fever or prematurely celebrating time after time and often right in front of the Dallas Mavericks’ bench, it really became even easier to dislike LeBron.
Ever an optimist, I kept thinking that sooner or later LeBron would get over himself and realize that being an NBA champion was about more than just making as much money as possible and scoring 40 points in three quarters. It didn’t hurt that he sought out Hakeem Olajuwon, one of the humblest Hall of Famers you’ll find, over the offseason. Dream gave him lessons on the court, sure, but also spent time talking to LeBron about what it means to be a champion.
Somewhere along the way, it seems something sank in.
“Last year after Game 6, after losing, I was very frustrated,” James said after his HEAT won Game 5 of the Finals on Tuesday night. “I was very hurt that I let my teammates down, and I was very immature. Last year, I played to prove people wrong instead of just playing my game, instead of just going out and having fun and playing a game that I grew up loving. So I was very immature last year after Game 6 toward (the media) and toward everyone that was watching.”
While that’s not a stunning admission coming from LeBron – immaturity had become LeBron’s defining characteristic in media circles – the fact that he made it indicates something has changed.
Maybe he has finally gotten it!
There is still one more hurdle for James to overcome in his quest to prove he has grown as a player, and that is to lock in his first NBA championship. Given that the Oklahoma City Thunder – who have lacked maturity on the basketball court in this Finals series – are now down 1-3, a deficit from which no team has ever come back, it seems extremely likely that LeBron’s quest to become the player his fans believe him to already be will take a huge step forward in the coming days.
Stranger Than Fiction
Just when you think you’ve seen it all in stats tracking, someone comes up with something so far outside the box it’s hard to imagine what could possibly be next. In a move that seems almost Orwellian, with Big Brother watching every move being made, SportVU has cameras placed on catwalks across the NBA and they’re tracking literally every move NBA players are making on the basketball court.
The technology was originally developed to track missiles. Now, SportVU systems hang from the catwalks of 10 NBA arenas, tiny webcams that silently track each player as they shoot, pass, and run across the court, recording each and every move 25 times a second. SportVU can tell you not just Kevin Durant’s shooting average, but his shooting average after dribbling one vs. two times, or his shooting average with a defender three feet away vs. five feet away. SportVU can actually consider both factors at once, plus take into account who passed him the ball, how many minutes he’d been on the court, and how many miles he’d run that game already.
You could call SportVU the new Moneyball, but that would probably sell SportVU short. “What’s interesting about the Moneyball analogy is that they were using data everybody else had and putting a new twist on it,” says Brian Kopp, a vice president at Stats, the company that owns SportVU. “We’re doing that, but also entering into the equation data no one had before. It’s almost Moneyball Plus.” Stats pretty much owns the IP on player stats across sports. Whether it’s the NBA or the NFL that you’re reading about on ESPN or CBS, all those player metrics are being provided by Stats (which is oddly enough, half owned by News Corp and AP). And what they don’t track themselves, they license exclusively from the pro sports themselves.
The fact that only 10 out of 30 NBA teams currently participate is hugely limiting to the product, even if those 10 teams technically record some information on the other 20 teams at all of their home games, and even if SportVU can see things that humans can’t.
For Kopp and Stats, selling the system to the remaining two-thirds of the NBA is the challenge for the foreseeable future. On one hand, deeper data seems inevitable–and no one is disagreeing that SportVU has incredible potential with deep data–on the other, with no teams all that interested in sharing how they’re potentially innovating with that data, it’s making his job no easier. “I know for a fact some of those teams are using it quite a bit. They don’t tell me exactly what they’re doing with it. Some teams are fairly open and they ask for our help. Others are very secretive,” Kopp says. “Because, for a while, it is all about how you’re using it. Once they figure out something they think is meaningful, they don’t want anyone to get a whiff of it.” Move along, nothing to see here! Except, maybe, everything.
Be sure and follow the link to the article, check out the video that’s been captured by the special cameras and read about how that video can be used to more accurately record stats, as well as help teams better understand their own players and prepare for opposing players, as well. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tells HOOPSWORLD he was the first one on board among NBA teams.
The possibilities seem limitless.
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