There's an old episode of "Cheers" in which Sam Malone puts off having to update his bar's financial records with a newfangled personal computer, complaining along the way to Dr. Frasier Crane that he had everything he needed "up here," while pointing toward his head.
"Your head, Sam?"
"No, my hair."
Very funny — joke's on Sam! -- and also over 20 years old. This, of course, didn't stop Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins from taking the same route — without the much-needed laugh track — in a talk a few days before Philly's season opener. From Mike Jensen at the Philadelphia Inquirer:
76ers coach Doug Collins was asked the other day if he was an analytics guy.
"No. If I did that, I'd blow my brains out," Collins said after a practice last week. "There's 20-page printouts after every game - I would kill myself."
"My analytics are here . . ." Collins quickly pointed to his head. ". . . and here." He pointed just above the white waistband of his Sixers sweat suit - to his gut.
Ugh. Burnout is a real thing, and Collins was accused of much in his previous stops in Chicago, Detroit, and Washington. It's very possible, after decades spent in the game and a long 2011-12 playoff run that bled right into Collins calling Team USA's Olympic run, that the dude has had it up to here (points to his head) and here (his gut) with basketball, and doesn't want to know where Thaddeus Young's hot spots are for fear that he'd soon hit his saturation point.
You don't take a peek, though? You can't be bothered to look and want to learn more, just because you've been around for a while?
Here's something even the master needs to learn — the game never stops teaching you new things. Doug Collins, nor Hubie Brown, nor hack dude Kelly Dwyer or smart dude Kevin Pelton nor Bleacher Report list-maker nor All-Star point guard nor jayvee hopeful will never have this game figured out. Every bit of growth, every quirk that doesn't make sense, every player that reminds you of someone else even though he doesn't play anything like that "someone else" will continue to evolve, and grow, and change. And if you don't change with it, you're going to fall behind.
At some point, those nearly 1,300 playoff and regular-season games as a player and coach don't matter, not when you're charged with defending someone new or creating for a player that doesn't remind you of anything you've ever seen before. Stats lie, but so does tape. So does talk, especially from scouts that don't make much sense, and so do players.
Every bit of influence can disrupt and deflect you from getting closer to that truth, and this is why as an observer and student you never stop searching for more input, more light, more hope, more teachable moments and more challenges to the ideals that you think are safe.
The subject of analytics came up because Collins had mentioned he wants to see the Sixers combine for 40 points from the three-point line and the foul line, up about 10 points from what they produced in 2011-12.
"Last year, we averaged about 93 a game," Collins said. "I looked at all the top teams in the NBA. The majority of them had a combination of three-point shooting and the free-throw line that got them up to that 100-point mark.["]
Ah. So you like your stats, but not their stats.
We won't delve too deeply into this, but making up metrics on the fly (as Collins is) without regard to pace is a big swing and a miss from Doug. Putting up raw point totals isn't the key — lest you think the Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings had the fifth and sixth-best offenses in the NBA last year just because they scored the fifth and sixth-most points. It's the efficiency in which you create those points that sets teams apart.
Collins is on the right track, because after years of pushing his teams to go for that pick and pop long 2-pointer, he's encouraging more 3-point attempts and free throws. This is a league-wide trend and a smart one, a trend being pushed extra hard by new Charlotte Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap. From the Charlotte Observer's Rick Bonnell:
But there are team-wide guidelines for shot selection that Dunlap has reinforced from the day he arrived in June:
Any drive to the rim is of high value because it both creates a high-percentage shot and comes with the bonus of potential free throws. A 3-pointer, particularly a corner 3, is a good idea because if you make it, you get a one-point bonus, and if you don't there's a decent chance for an offensive rebound.
"Kill spot'' is a Dunlap-ism that now pervades the vocabulary of the Charlotte Bobcats.
By new coach Mike Dunlap's description, a "kill spot'' is a place — hopefully places — where each of his players is almost certain to make a shot. Obviously that varies from player-to-player: Bismack Biyombo's "kill spot" is within reach of the rim, while Byron Mullens' extends to all along the 3-point line.
Here's the thing — Doug Collins thinks he knows each of his team's "kill spots," and he probably does. To a man, probably, based on all that game tape study. Whether he knows the various "kill spots" of the NBA's other 400-some players isn't the point, because Doug Collins has put in the work. More game tape consumed by eight in the morning than you will take in all week.
What's wrong with a little "kill spot" confirmation, though? What if the eyes lie, after a long day in front of that team DVD player?
And what's better — coming from one hoop junkie writing on a site created for hoop junkies — than learning something new and interesting about the game you've obsessed over for years? There's nothing better than that, and as boring and "I'd blow my brains out" as those analytics printouts might be, that new and exciting realization might come from page 17 of a stat sheet printed out during some otherwise-dreary Wednesday in December. Hell, 20-page stat printouts can't be any more boring than rewinding through Wednesday night's Nuggets/76ers snooze-fest.
It might be a throwaway comment that Collins tossed out there, but as we've seen for years in several sports there is a weird aggression to the "I don't need that crap"-set when it comes to the possibility of considering another influence beyond their well-honed opinions. That glancing through a set of numbers is somehow an admission of weakness or lack of intelligence about the game they work within. That just popping open those pages will change everything in a very unkind way.
What are they afraid that they're going to see?