Your Annotated Smartphone Bathroom Reader for Sunday, September 23, 2012.

No one at The Diss is really in love with J.R. Smith (yet), but this edition of the Reader belongs to him.

Dan Devine
Ball Don’t Lie
It’s a really long title, so it must be a Ball Don’t Lie post.  In this piece, Dan Devine looks into a recent quote from Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith where he claims the Knicks are getting a bargain because he works hard, whether he’s playing for “one dollar” or “$20 million dollars”.  Devine skillfully agrees and disagrees, and uses some nifty advanced stats to prove his argument.  While Smith is a bargain if you believe in Win Shares, a stat that assess a player’s individual contribution to a winning effort, and divides total paid salary by the number of available wins in a given season, he is not a bargain if you go by his defnition of a bargain, which doesn’t account for salary.  Indeed, it makes a difference whether a player is being paid a dollar or twenty million of them.  A bit nitpicky, but good weaving of advanced stats and writing by Mr. Devine.

- JG
Benjamin Polk
A Wolf Among Wolves
Author Benjamin Polk says it best: “almost nobody has failed to notice and remark upon the Wolves unconventional racial make-up” this coming season.  He’s right; it’s somewhat unique that of the twelve players slated to get meaningful time on the 2012-2013 Timberwolves, nine of them are white.  He’s also correct that this, for some reason, is a big deal, but we’re not really sure why.  Polk asserts that the reasons people (meaning: Wolves fans, which I would consider myself to be a liberated member) are self-conscious about the whitewashed Wolves are two-fold.  Firstly, we, as purveyors of the sport, have not come up with a unified definition of what a “White” player actually is in the modern NBA.  Secondly, because NBA teams have become a “locus of black expression”, it is discomforting that this NBA team, at least for this year, will not be one.  As such, there are persisting feelings of anxiety and angst regarding a team that fails to fit neatly into what we conceive as “white” — indeed, there are elite white scorers (Love) defenders (Kirilenko) and dunkers (Budinger) on the team — as well as what “not black” in today’s NBA.  Polk does a good job looking back into American history, and identifying groups that were not always considered to be white (Slavs, Jews, etc), to show how this confounds us, and our stereotypes, today.  This is one of the smartest articles written this year, and a must-read for those who are interested in the way race and our “cultural imaginations” work to categorize players and styles in the modern NBA.

- JG

Maybe David Stern Isn’t That Bad After All

Tom Ziller
A year ago, Tom Ziller (like just everyone else) was spewing vitriol at David Stern, who at the time, was doing the owners’ bidding and locking out players (and team and arena employees) until a new collective bargaining agreement was reached between the league and the player’s union.  But in September 2012, with the NFL referee lockout showing no sign of resolution, and the NHL staring down another lost season, Ziller is beginning to wonder if The Commish is so bad after all.  Ziller asserts that the chief difference between Stern and Roger Goodell and Gary Bettman (his counterparts in the NFL and the NHL, respectively) is that while Stern acts like he doesn’t care about the players and fans, but actually does, Bettman and Goodell actually don’t care at all.  He may have a point, considering the Bettman seems ready to lose another full season in order to bust the NHLPA, and Goodell is perfectly willing to use replacement refs for the long haul in order to save some money.  Ziller is correct: for all of his shortcomings, Stern has done his best to do damage control in the face of labor stoppages, and get everyone back to work as soon as possible.  We’ll see if this general feeling of goodwill persists into next season.

- JG

Jonathan Abrams
A few years ago, while sitting in an auto body shop waiting for my car to get repaired, I read in a Sports Illustrated article that the player other NBA players would pay to see play was J.R. Smith, who at the time, was coming off the bench for the Denver Nuggets.  That struck me, since, at the time, I hadn’t really heard of J.R. Smith.  Since then, he’s become a cause celebre for journalists and bloggers to rally behind when crafting retrospectives about the “Prep to Pro” era that produced more Robert Swifts and Qyntel Woods than it did Kobe Bryants and Kevin Garnetts.  The general consensus is that J.R. Smith has all the potential to be an All Star-type player, but has not reached this said potential.  The question is: why?  Jonathan Abrams investigates this question, and attacks the enigma that is Earl “J.R.” Smith III from multiple angles.  Using perspectives from a number of people who have worked directly with Smith, including his father, a number of his high school and professional coaches, and J.R. himself, we are given a narrative of Smith that explores his carefree, frustrating personality traits, while at the same time, assesses how his gifts have been used, and how effective they have been over his career.  This is an excellent biopic into one of the league’s most compelling players.

- JG 
Steven Greenhouse
The New York Times

Is it possible that smaller businesses and corporations are learning new union-busting tricks from professional sports leagues?  Steven Greenhouse argues that they are, and reports extensively about a management practice that, once unheard of, has now become a popular tool to gain an advantage at the bargaining table, and marginalize the power of worker’s unions.  According to Bloomberg BNA, lockouts have provided a record number of labor stoppages, with 17 employers (and perhaps more) who locked out their regular employees and told them not show up at work until they agreed to concessions at the bargaining table.  Strikes, meanwhile, are falling out of practice as a labor practice, due to declining memberships in unions, and fear of lost positions and wages to replacement workers if regular workers walk out on their jobs.  With unions facing serious challenges to their organizing and bargaining power, it will be interest to see if lockouts become a widespread union-busting technique from employers who want to wrest more bargaining power from workers.

- JG
This entry was posted in General and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

HTML tags are not allowed.