Magic Johnson laughs at LeBron James

Following his meltdown in last year’s Finals, LeBron James is going to take a lot of heat from critics, and Magic Johnson is happy to pile on.

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Isiah Thomas believes that inch-for-inch, he was better than Jordan, Magic and Bird

In an interview with FoxSports Bill Reiter, Isiah Thomas spoke about how his game compared to those of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. His comments are surprising, to say the least.

“I have no problem saying this at all,” he says. “[Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are] all 6-(feet)-9 and Jordan was 6-6 and a half. If they were all 6-1, it wouldn’t even be a question. They wouldn’t even f—ing rate. If they were all my size, s—, they wouldn’t even be talked about.

“I beat the s— out of them when they were that big. If we were all the same size, f—.” He stops to laugh good-naturedly. “Make them 6-1 and let’s go on the court.”

In basketball, there’s an obvious advantage to being tall, but if it were the only (or even driving) quality necessary to be great, Gheorghe Mureşan would have been a Hall of Famer.

Little guys have an advantage in quickness and bigger guys are closer to the rim. Isiah used his quickness to get by bigger defenders, while Jordan, Magic and Bird used their size to dominate smaller players.

Had MJ, Magic or Bird been 6-1 or 6-2, they still would have been great players. They wouldn’t have been as big, but that wouldn’t affect their ability to shoot the ball or find the open man. Isiah complaining about their height no different than if they complained about Isiah’s quickness. If you’re in the NBA, you’re gifted one way or another.

Thomas says in the piece that he’s terrible at public relations, and this is another example. But the guy can evaluate talent. The Knicks drafted pretty well under his tenure — David Lee, Wilson Chandler, Trevor Ariza, Channing Frye — and he helped the Raptors settle on Marcus Camby, Damon Stoudemire and Tracy McGrady. I doubt he would accept such a role, but Thomas would make a great VP of player personnel.

The article is really about Isiah’s exile, and Reiter mentions Thomas’ abilities in the area of player evaluation as a possible way back into the league:

In 2009, ESPN used the Estimated Wins Added stat, developed by respected basketball mind John Hollinger, to judge 20 years worth of general managers. Isiah was ranked the second-best evaluator of talent…

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for Isiah, who can’t seem to stay out of his own way, PR-wise. He has talents that could be useful to NBA teams, but there is so much baggage and ego that goes along with him that it just makes it easier for teams to go another direction. However, Knicks owner James Dolan does like him, so there’s always a chance that he could end up in New York again.

Just don’t let him participate in any trade discussions.

What kind of point guard WAS he?

My post from a few days ago was relatively well-received at reddit, and one of the readers there said that he’d like to see the same graph for some of the all-time great point guards.

So with a little help from Basketball-Reference.com, I compiled a list of (all?) the Hall of Fame point guards: Oscar Robertson, Lenny Wilkens, Bob Cousy, Jerry West, John Stockton, Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson, Dennis Johnson, Tiny Archibald, Calvin Murphy, Pete Maravich and Walt Frazier. Unfortunately, the NBA didn’t start keeping track of turnovers until the 1977-78 season, so there’s no assist-to-turnover data for the first four (Robertson, Wilkens, Cousy, West) and the data for Archibald, Murphy, Maravich and Frazier is incomplete, so I could only use their post-1977 numbers.

I also compiled a list of the top non-HOF point guards who are both retired and still active: Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson, Steve Nash, Gary Payton, Rod Strickland, Maurice Cheeks, Terry Porter, Tim Hardaway, Andre Miller, Muggsy Bogues, Kevin Johnson, Derek Harper, Stephon Marbury (yes, Stephon Marbury), John Lucas, Norm Nixon, Mookie Blaylock, Sam Cassell, Avery Johnson, Baron Davis, Nick Van Exel, Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups and Mike Bibby. All of these players have at least 5,400 career assists, which seemed to be the cutoff for players I was interested in using for this study.

Lastly, I added seven of the top current point guards who have yet to break the 5,400-assist barrier: Tony Parker, Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams and of course, Chris Paul.

I first tackled this subject two years ago, and settled on the shot-to-assist ratio to determine whether a player is “pass-first” or “shoot-first.” The higher the number, the more of a “shoot-first” player he is. To determine whether or not a player is “turnover-prone,” I calculated each player’s assist-to-turnover ratio. The higher the number, the better the player is at taking care of the ball, relative to what he’s asked to do as a playmaker for his team. The graph takes a gentle downward slope because assists are part of both calculations. (Note: While I do like FGA/A as the criteria for shoot-first/pass-first, I am not completely sold on A/TO as the criteria for turnover-prone. Perhaps (A+FGA)/TO would show shoot-first guards in a better light? Maybe I’ll try that next year.)

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Forget the triple-double. The triple-dozen is where it’s at.

Since the 1986-87 season (which is the cutoff since that is as far back as Basketball Reference’s data goes), 201 different players have successfully posted a triple double, 1,042 games in all. That’s an average of 41.7 triple-doubles a season, including playoffs. It’s a nice feat, but it’s just too common of an occurrence to be amazing. (By the way, Jason Kidd leads the way with 107 triple-doubles during that span, though the first part of Magic Johnson’s career isn’t included. He had 66 during that span, but 138 overall. That’s second all-time to Oscar Robertson, who had 181 back in the day when nobody played any defense at all.)

So I submit for your approval…the triple-dozen. It’s just like a triple-double, but a player needs to record at least 12 in three of the following categories: points, rebounds, assists, blocks and/or steals.

In the last 25 years, 60 players have accomplished this feat a total of 155 times, or 6.2 times a season. Jason Kidd leads the way with 22, while Magic Johnson and Fat Lever trail (over that span) with 19 and 12 respectively. LeBron James is fourth with nine. Here’s the list of the 23 players who have posted a triple-dozen at least twice.

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DVD Review: “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals”

For years, the passion they shared for winning made Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Larry Bird the most bitter of rivals. It also made theirs the most compelling rivalry in sports, driving the NBA to new heights of popularity in the 1980s. Narrated by Liev Schreiber, this all-new documentary tells the riveting story of two superstars who couldn’t have been more different — until they forged an unlikely friendship from the superheated rivalry that had always kept them apart.

And that’s how “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals” is described on its back cover. HBO Entertainment did a nice job outlining the duo’s relationship starting with their joint appearance as part of Team USA’s warmup to the 1976 Olympics and their clash in the 1979 NCAA championship game all the way through their respective retirements.

By now, most basketball fans are aware of the rivalry/friendship that Magic and Larry developed over the years, but this 90-minute documentary digs deeper into each man’s personality and puts their relationship into context based on what was going on in the country at that particular time. Bird was extremely introverted and for much of his career it wasn’t his style to be friends with an opponent. Meanwhile, Magic was an extrovert and loved being loved, so when Bird snubbed Magic before the NCAA title game, the relationship was purely adversarial for several years. That loss bothered Bird for years, and it wasn’t until Converse convinced the two players to shoot a commercial (in French Lick, Indiana, on Bird’s request) did the two men actually become friends.

The documentary also covers each player’s childhood, Larry’s first day with the Celtics, how their rivalry became fodder for racists in Boston and around the country, Larry’s reaction to Magic’s HIV revelation, and how their unselfish style of play effectively saved the NBA. The film relies heavily on interviews with the two players, and it’s refreshing to hear them describe the different milestones in their relationship in their own words. It’s funny, emotional and for those of us that grew up watching the two superstars battle in the Finals — plenty of nostalgia.

The only knock is the complete lack of bonus features on the DVD, so for viewers who have already seen the film on HBO, there isn’t any extra content to dig into. But that’s just a small gripe — on the whole, “Magic & Bird” is an outstanding production.

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