We’ve already offered up our summer NBA thoughts (East, West), and now others are weighing in on the winners and losers. One alleged “loser” stuck out to us this week – the Los Angeles Lakers. ESPN’s John Hollinger is the one who is claiming such lunacy: “Had James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh aligned themselves in any other combination with any other team, that wouldn’t be the case. Thus, L.A. lost ground this summer, even though, in narrower terms, it won with the additions of Barnes and Blake.” That’s some twisted logic. But you must consider the source. Remember, John Hollinger was once Jackie Butler’s biggest fan.
The San Antonio Express-News published an article on February 27, 2007 that has stuck with us to this day. It was about Hollinger, the San Antonio Spurs, and Jackie Butler.
Those unaware of the magic of numbers may not understand this. The Spurs impressed against Toronto by pumping up their point differential, and this is the kind of stuff that prompted an ESPN.com writer to declare Monday the Spurs are the NBA’s best team.
San Antonio should be giddy about the news — if not for one problem. These same formulas projected Jackie Butler, not Francisco Elson, would be the starter this season. Better yet, these same formulas also had something to do with the Spurs signing Butler.
This is the work of ESPN.com’s John Hollinger. He is one of several who have tried to do with basketball what Bill James did with baseball. Hollinger has searched for answers through numbers, and sometimes his data has impressed; Mark Cuban once announced Hollinger was his favorite writer …
Hollinger’s work has been in the public domain, but he’s taken it further. To use his words Monday, he said he has pointed teams “in the right direction.”
Among those he’s helped are the Spurs. Asked if they paid him, Hollinger said, “I’d prefer not to disclose that.”
It’s the blurry dot.com world, where columnists sometimes act like fans, and everyone poses as journalists. And last summer, when the Spurs signed Butler with advice from Hollinger, the move was later hailed by, well, Hollinger.
“For the Spurs to get a young player of this quality this cheaply was highway robbery,” Hollinger wrote in his preseason projection story. “All they were missing were the ski masks.”
Jackie Butler spent three unimpressive years in the NBA. Makes you wonder … did Hollinger point any teams in the right direction this summer? [photo: Getty]
*UPDATE: It should be pointed out that Hollinger was correct on the Spurs – they won the title in 2007. The Mavericks were eliminated in the first round by Golden State.