More on The Exuberance

Hey Y'all.

I know I can be irrational sometimes, and I may be prone to saying thinks like


But I want to explain why I look at things this way and perhaps it will help you enjoy the game and the season a little bit more.

Every year, fans look at their team, at the collection of players, and they can't help but predict how the season will go based on the players' stats and on their perception of those players' abilities. Every year, some fans are satisfied with the offseason moves their team makes, but most are unsatisfied and feel like the team should have been able to collect more great players.

But I've been following basketball, watching basketball, playing basketball, for like, 40 years now. I can tell you for sure that it's a subtle game, it's a team game, and peoples' perceptions (mine too) of a player's value are often wrong. There are guys who don't look like they're very good, guys who don't pile up a bunch of stats, guys that look too short, too slow, or too ugly .... yet they help their team win basketball games. Every year, some team discovers someone like this on their team, gives them major minutes, and wins result.

Every year, teams draft 60 guys, but the order of value of those guys ends up being nothing like the order in which they were drafted. This happens every year.

There are also guys who do amazing things on the court - feats of unbelievable athleticism, crazy shots, insane dribbling that makes their defender fall down. But a lot of times, guys like this don't actually help a team win because they do other bad things on the regular. Sometimes they waste possessions, sometimes they get intimidated by physical play, sometimes they get the jitters in the crunch. Every season, some team will get rid of a guy like this, or sit a guy like this, or a guy like this will get injured, and again, wins result.

There are also guys, every year, who have had bad injury luck for a while, and the general perception of them tends to change into 'has been injured guy'. But every year, a few of these guys stop being injured and start being incredibly productive. On the other end, a great player one year can be saddled with injuries the next.

Lots of people have the perception that a bunch of great players makes a great team. This is somewhat true, but the opposite is also often true - a great team creates great players. Some players are going to be great and help a team win, no matter what situation they're in. But most players are going to look better or worse depending on the situation they're in. All the NBA players - every single one of them - is tremendously talented and athletic. I believe, and have observed, that a given player can look very good with the right kind of chemistry and complementary talents around him, and can look very ordinary without.

For example, look at Jose Calderon. He's perceived as a very good floor leader and 3 point shooter. He's also perceived as the world's most awful defender. But last year, he shared the backcourt with Monta Ellis, who's also a pretty terrible defender. Put a guy like Calderon with someone who's a decent perimeter defender, and he's not going to look as bad because he's not going to be stuck as much on guys he can't defend. So that's why I think putting Shump in the backcourt with him can lead to success.

Speaking of Shump, his 3 point shooting percentage has wavered up and down a bit. If it goes down to 30 percent, he's perceived as awful. If it goes up to 40 percent, he's a serious weapon. That's one more shot made for every 10. In a disfunctional, frustrating, losing atmosphere last year, he didn't shoot 40 percent from 3. However, I know... because I've seen this happen lots of times.... better team chemistry leads to better looks, which leads to more shots made, which leads to more confidence and less frustration, which leads to more shots made, which leads to defenses scrambling, which leads to better shots for other guys.

In terms of Stoudemire, there's this big perception that he's going to be injured and that his knees are going to blow out. But I look at guys the Knicks have had in the past, like Camby and McDyess, who also had a lot of injury problems, yet had very productive, relatively injury free years in their 30's, including great playoff runs. So I know this can be the case for Amar'e too. I also saw Patrick Ewing's knees deteriorate, and I saw him adjust his game and continue to be a productive player. So I know this shit can happen. Stoudemire hits shots at a phenomenal rate. Though his rebounding is ordinary and his team defense can be embarassing, with the right complementary guys around him, I know he can be part of a team that can win it all. Those Phoenix teams were very close to doing that.

As far as other teams go, teams are falling apart all the time. Bad shit happens to other teams. LeBron's off the Heat. Can he carry a bunch of inexperienced Cavs across the finish line? Not necessarily. Is Noah going to be injured for the playoffs again? Likely. Have the Pacers lost their momentum and their magic? Quite possibly.

Anything can happen. The Knicks have a bunch of talented guys. Can they put together enough defense, rebounding, and offensive chemistry and shot making 48 minutes a game to get into the playoffs and win 16 games? The answer is maybe. How awesome is that?

Another thing about me, is that I never concede defeat in a game, or in any play within that game, until it's actually truly over. I mean, a guy is streaking down the court and has a 20 foot head start on me, and he's faster than me, I'm still going to chase him down, because you never know what's going to happen.

I CONCEDE NOTHING. That's why I'm not looking ahead to free agency or signing Gasol or Durant, or whomever. I'm choosing to believe in this team. Sure, a bunch of things have to fall just right. But I've seen Mason and Starks go from the scrap heap to being awesome players... I've seen Jeremy Lin become a starting point guard in the NBA. I've seen a relatively minor trade of Cartwright for Oakley turn two teams into perennial powerhouses. I've seen the written-off Mavs win a championship, I've seen the too-old Spurs reach the finals, lose, and then reach the finals again and win.

So yeah, let's get this party started. We can do this.

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