The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Kidd Derangement

An addendum to why I want no part of Jason Kidd anymore: he may be the most overrated player of his era despite also being a hall of famer, and a huge chunk of that is due to the quasi-inexplicable media lovefest he tends to engender, especially from national columnists who don’t deal with him regularly. Today’s example: Ric Bucher writes that “But when all was said and done, Harris was at home watching the playoffs, while Kidd led the Mavs, not considered one of the West’s top eight in talent, into the postseason with 50 wins.”

Two problems with that: one, it’s a mindless dig at Devin Harris because it doesn’t take teammates into account. You might have said the same thing with the roles reversed when Kidd was going nowhere serious with the Nets and Harris was in the finals with Dallas. More importantly for Bucher’s point, let’s take a look back at ESPN.com’s consensus NBA predictions for last year. Yep, there’s Dallas, projected at 45 wins and…7th place, a prediction only 5 wins and one standings spot away from the actual results. Hmm, not top 8, you say? Misrepresenting something fairly easy to check, I’d say. Keep in mind, the consensus picks include both people who’ve ragged on the Mavs and Kidd for years like John Hollinger, and Kidd apologists like Bucher. I’m guessing his individual predictions for the Mavs were even higher, and I’d love to show them to you but ESPN.com’s search engine is totally useless.

What does this tell us? It’s a specific example of the general mode of argument for Kidd apologists, which usually consists of about 80% gauzy, hazy, non-specific and unverifiable “intangibles” claims, mixed with some convenient forgetting of relevant facts. You can see this with some of the other claims in Bucher’s article: Terry had his best scoring year as a Mav! Well, yeah- he played a lot more with a guard who never shot the ball, and his actual shooting percentages were essentially identical (57.4/57.1 TS%, a slight decline.) Dirk was more aggressive in the post! Maybe he was, maybe he wasn’t- it’s totally unverifiable, if you wanted to try and research it you’d have trouble (82 games only has shooting range data for this last season), and there’s no particularly obvious reason why Kidd should affect post aggression- and in any case, aggression isn’t effectiveness. It’s a claim without meaning. Dampier shot his best ever! Sounds very impressive and is actually true…except that it represented the third straight year of a major increase (.626/.643/.650 over a career mark of .492) which started before Kidd got there, and was a grand total of .007 higher than the year before. Sadly this did not actually transform Dampier into James Bond, which would be a pretty impressive intangible for Kidd to bring to the table.

All of this, in the end, is basically a fine example of the logical fallacy of special pleading, executed on behalf of a player who many in the media seem to want to lionize because of his supposedly fine on-court “character”- for the triple doubles (which remain overrated and ignoring the suspicion that Kidd selfishly overpursues rebounds to get them), the pass-first point guard mentality which brings out the wistful things-were-better-in-the-old-days quality in many writers, the supposed winner’s mentality (of a player without a ring), the leadership qualities (of a teammate who forced his way out of a team three times in his career), and so on and so forth. The reality is that Kidd doesn’t need it: he’s one of the best players at his position of his era, he’ll be remembered as a man who could in his prime single-handedly transform the fortunes of an entire franchise, and he’s still in fact a pretty good player- his defense has slipped but isn’t the worst for this position, and his PER is still over 16 where 15 is average. At age 36 that’s impressive enough, and while he’s obviously in the middle of his decline phase, he’s also having a more gentle and drawn-out decline than the vast majority of point guards and even of players in general. For my money all of this is impressive enough; I’ll never quite understand why it’s not enough for some people. Like most players and most people he’s had his good and his bad, and he only works as an unsullied symbol so long as half the story goes ignored.

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July 7, 2009 - Posted by | Other NBA | , ,

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