The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Sidenote: Media Larry

I should probably add to the below- one of the reasons I think Lawrence Frank will eventually make a great college coach is that he’s also a very skilled media manipulator, as the reactions to his firing should indicate. I am willing to wager that the majority of those defending him, if not all, have not watched 10 Nets games in the last 3 years and could not tell you the relative league performances of his offenses and defenses over the course of his head coaching tenure. There’s a reason people are still citing his first 13 games 5 years ago in his defense. Moreover, I am also willing to bet that the majority of the people defending him simply don’t care about any of those things either- they see a stand-up guy who’s being fired by a salary-dumping penny-pinching ownership, and they feel the need to get their digs in partly because they think it’s the right thing to do, partly because they want to be seen to be doing the right thing. You’ll notice we’re no longer talking about basketball or the specifics of what Frank’s coaching was like.

The thing about it is, by all accounts Frank really is a nice, likable guy; but he’s also at pains to be a very publicly nice and likable guy, and that is not an accident. He’s built a specific image of himself for public consumption, and in one of the most media and personality-driven sports that’s been a canny business practice. In the past it’s served to keep him in his job longer than performances would indicate he should have been on merit alone; now, it’s covering for the fact that he was fired very much for cause and for failing at the two duties a coach of a team like the Nets must succeed at: maintaining motivation and getting the most out of limited talent with an appropriate system. Lost amidst the hand-wringing will be the fact that Larry will not miss one paycheck as a result of this, and that his time up on the cross of the Nets’ awfulness is if anything a great marketing gimmick for him: more people are talking about him than ever before, and instead of being the guy who helped contribute to one of the worst seasons of all time, he’s now the guy who was “unfairly” fired despite trying to stop the rot where he could. The story is total bullshit, but it’s going to get him hired in Oklahoma or Minnesota or somewhere like that when he probably would have been a complete afterthought under other circumstances. That’s the great thing about having discussions untethered to specifics- if you’re into reading everything in the sports world as a morality tale, it makes it a lot easier to do.

For the record, Lawrence Frank’s teams’ rank in offensive and defensive rating, year by year:

Offense: 26th, 25th, 16th, 25th, 16th, and dead last this year when he was fired.

Defense: 7th, 4th, 15th, 21st, 24th and 13th when he was fired, I believe.

No, those numbers aren’t the whole story. But when a coach has produced that over 5 seasons plus and is currently in charge of an 0-16 outfit, I would say the burden of proof is on those saying he should be retained, not those saying it’s time for a change. Especially so when the people who want to keep him manifestly don’t give a fuck about the team in question except insofar as it provides a useful soapbox to mount.


November 30, 2009 Posted by | The Nets | Leave a comment

We all (don’t, sadly) live in a Perry Groves world…

There’s a wonderful Arsenal terrace song that is dedicated to an old midfielder of ours called Perry Groves. I of course never saw him play as he was comfortably before my time, but he was a limited player skill-wise who more than made up for it with determination and grit…he was the type that harried opponents up and down the pitch and become quite the cult figure for it. Anyway, the song goes: “At number 1, it’s Perry Groves…at number 2, it’s Perry Groves, at number 3, it’s Perry Groves” all the way up until 12, with the exception of Liam Brady at number 7 (Twelve because there was only one sub in those days).

My point is, Arsene with his latest quotes must think that Andre Marriner was, besides serving as the match referee, also playing all 11 positions for his side as well.  As mentioned before, his nullification of our goal was disgraceful and absolute shite refereeing. But, Wenger’s bonkers if he thinks that it would have changed anything besides making the final 1-3 instead of 0-3.

I mean, Marriner sure did a poor job of closing down Ashley Cole’s cross, and on the same play did a hideous job of marking Drogba in the penalty area. Marriner is a silly boy who doesn’t learn from his mistakes, as he didn’t close down Cole AGAIN for the second one, and then his clumsy clearing attempt was hooked into our own net. Amazingly, Andre Marriner also did a poor job of setting up his wall, which allowed Drogba to power in the third from a free kick.

The worst thing though was that our front three of Andre Marriner, Andre Marriner and Andre Marriner proved to be as toothless as a nursing-home resident against the Chelsea backline. Seriously, that was fucking awful forward play from the Marriner connection yesterday.


November 30, 2009 Posted by | The Arsenal | Leave a comment

Lakers 106, Nets 87: How Low Can It Sink? Sky’s The Limit

I believe Michael Ray Richardson was a Knick when he provided our titular quote, but he was a Net too for a while and it’s the Jersey side of the local equation to which his wisdom best applies these days. This loss sucked of course; as an individual game it was the ordinary sort of suck, given importance beyond that only by virtue of being 17th in a line of such games and thus a record-equaling performance in its badness, if not quite unique. In its specifics it stands out only as being the sort of loss which happens to teams which have given up: despite the firing of their long-time coach earlier in the day the Nets came out flat and scored a grand total of 12 points in the first quarter- which ended with them down by 15- and never made a game of it thereafter. The deficit was 30 and change at various points; Adam Morrison, one of the worst players in the league, was on court for the Lakers by the third quarter and the game was more or less a garbage-time joke before halftime. As a contest there’s not much more to say about it on its own.

All I can add is this: Frank had to go, but replacing him with Kiki or a no-name is a major, major risk. With perhaps a few honorable exceptions this Nets team has given up; they have the talent to win, say, 20 games this season, but they do not have the talent to get away with half-assing even one game if they expect to reach even that modest goal. Put another way, if the Nets bring in the coaching equivalent of a substitute teacher who runs the same dysfunctional offense and never builds the rapport with the players to get them to give a real effort, we could be looking at a 15 wins or fewer outfit. This is now, officially, not just a bad team but a historically bad team; and unlike most bad teams where you can pretty much guess the range their final record will fall in, it’s very difficult to determine what the floor is for the 2009-2010 NJ Nets. Having seen the early 90’s Mavericks which I contend were the worst teams to come after the 72-73 Sixers, I can’t say this Nets team is worse; I also can’t definitively say they’re better. If anything they’ve deteriorated as the season has gone along, and the longer this streak continues the more of the season it’s going to chew up with low confidence, sloppy play, bad habits, apathy and other issues which make it hard for the Nets to even give a reasonable effort. This team is looking into the abyss right now, and the longer they gaze the harder it’s going to be to back away from it.

EDIT: Side note on Lawrence Frank-

I’ve never been a fan as a coach at the NBA level, yet it’s unquestionable that the man always gave his best effort and conducted himself with dignity and respect for the team, his players and the game. I wish him well. I fully expect that he’ll be an outstanding college coach at some point. He’s usually been excellent at getting players to play well at the fundamental level, to pay attention to detail, to give forth a solid professional effort. Where he lacks is the tendency of his teams to run atrociously bad offenses in the half court; you get the sense that Frank runs very conventional schemes a lot of the time and doesn’t take advantages of mismatches, the opportunities afforded by extraordinary athleticism, the ins and outs of NBA officiating, or his own players’ idiosyncrasies. Everything is very standard, cookie-cutter, basic; the sort of things which, correctly executed, are winning plays in college but at the pro level are overwhelmed by the speed of the game and the greater skill and experience of the players. This does not make him a bad coach, per se; but it does seem to make him one not ideally suited to the situation in which he’s found himself in recent years. This was the best time to part ways for both parties, I think.

November 30, 2009 Posted by | The Nets | | Leave a comment


“Everyone will look at the game to rate our potential and I have no worries about that”- Arsene Wenger

“I think there is a period for any team to come out and show its strengths. For my team, this moment has come”- Arsene Wenger

“We are not any more a team that has to be considered to be young. I think we have the strengths and we can show that on Sunday that we are strong enough to compete”- Arsene Wenger

“Arsenal 0-3 Chelsea”- Scoreline

“In the first 30 minutes we had plenty of opportunities to score. We have nothing to be ashamed of”- Arsene Wenger

“He scored and the referee cancelled the goal. It was a Cheslea’{sic} player’s foot. That was a big turning point.”- Arsene Wenger

Don’t you feel as though you’ve been reading series of quotes like this forever, now? I recognize that the defense of this approach is that it’s the manager’s responsibility to keep up spirits and minimize the scale of the defeat for the sake of his players’ confidence, but when you build up one game after another as the big test for your squad only to see them collapse, and then pretend you did no such thing and the game itself was a success, it erodes confidence in the team and the manager on all sides. The problem with a game like this isn’t 3 points gone and a loss so much as it is the ever-increasing sense that the club as a whole are out of control, wedded to a failed ideal and unwilling or unable to adjust to results or reality. When games like this happened in year 1 of project youth that was one thing; when they happen in year five and result in Arsenal being 11 points adrift in the title race in November and behind Tottenham in the standings, it’s another. Arsenal have lost their last 3 home games to Chelsea; they’ve won 2 of the last 16 meetings between the clubs. That’s not refereeing, it’s quality telling over time.

I come away from a game like this wondering if there’s a breaking point. It was supposed to be when Ivan Gazidis came in, as he was going to be the contract-manager to go get Wenger top players and handle responsibilities which would unleash the manager to get the most out of his team; then it was supposed to be the end of last season, when a late collapse and several humiliating losses in a row produced real questions for the first time; now, if you take the manager at his pre-game word, it was supposed to be this game; next, it will likely be when Stan Kroenke takes over as most suspect he will eventually. But will that change things? Kroenke is not a man to begin his stewardship of a new property with a full clean-out of the old order, especially not in what is to him a foreign country where he’ll inevitably be regarded as a Hunnic interloper by half of his new customers, who he’ll be in the business of winning over for years to come. So what, if anything, is ever going to change this? I’m hard-pressed to come up with an answer. Wenger shows little inclination to change his approach, no one in the management structure of the club appears willing to force his hand, fans appear ready to complain but not to demand real change indefinitely… perhaps the only thing which can really alter things is if the few players at Arsenal who are all of world-class, young, and crucial to the team decide to force their way out to clubs which will surround them with players at their level. I’m not sure that would constitute a positive change, mind you, but it’s hard to find much to celebrate about the current wheel-of-samsara atmosphere at the club.

From this point onward the blogs and boards and pubs are going to be filled with a lot of talk about the issues at the club and the future, and I’m sure there’s some useful general points to be made about height of players, confidence, whether the team really looks better than last year, what it means to play well but still lose, etc. To my mind however that sort of discussion borders on the pointless without a recognition of the basic truth of this club right now: so long as Arsene Wenger calls the shots, the fundamental approach will not change. He may look at different players to fill certain roles, he may tinker with the formation, he may change the curtains and re-paint the walls; but the foundation will remain the same. If you believe that all that separates Arsenal from glory is tinkering and support Wenger on that basis, that to me seems arguable but reasonable. But if you believe (as I do, to be honest) that there’s cracks in the foundation too big to paper over, well…at some point you have to face the reality that Wenger will probably have to go- fired or retired- for real change to come to the club. He’s arguably the greatest manager in the club’s history and no one wants him to leave in disgrace with the job half-done; but if he’s no longer able to do the job, then each passing year only makes the inevitable separation harder.

This team needs a defensive coach in the worst way, to organize the talented defenders they have into some form of a unit that can be at least equal to the sum of its parts and not less than that. They had that in Martin Keown briefly years back; he was let go and never replaced. Now world-class defenders like Sagna, Vermaelen and Gallas look weaker and less confident the longer they remain at the club, and even though the names have changed in recent years in the defense the frailties have not- they still can’t defend a set piece, they still don’t communicate, etc. This team needs to embrace the reality that to consistently compete at the world-class level, world-class players are required. That means money must be spent. It doesn’t mean that Arsenal need to spend like Man City or abandon all pretense of developing youngsters; it does mean that it shouldn’t be impossible to ever see Arsenal signing a player like, say, David Villa to a contract. All great teams have a balance, and right now Arsenal do not. This team needs offensive differentiation; they have few players who can cross the ball and few who can score off of headers, almost none who can shoot from range. The result is that while not all teams have the athletic gifts to stifle them, for those who do the blueprint is readily available on how to go about it. The other issues exacerbate this: you cannot play like Barcelona with players who average 75% of the ability of Barcelona’s and a defense which is largely making it up as they go. You especially can’t do it when you’re carrying passengers, of which Arsenal have more than one.

If I thought Wenger was a man willing to make these changes, fill the holes and fix the flaws, there would be no better choice in the world for the job; but it’s hard to find evidence that he sees any problems at all with the current team. It’s all a conspiracy, or too soon to judge, or the fault of injuries, or witches and obeah and a wrong conjunction of the moon and Sagittarius or God knows what. If it was post-game rhetoric alone that would be one thing, but his actions in deliberation follow his exclamations in haste. So here we sit, contemplating another God-awful loss at home to Chelsea to bookend the one from last season. Wenger got the one more year he demanded to change things; the results are no different. I’m writing nothing here which I have not written before, albeit in less clear terms, and I’m writing it really only out of frustration, to be honest. Watching your team lose like this sucks; knowing that there’s no plan to change things anytime soon sucks worse.

November 29, 2009 Posted by | The Arsenal | Leave a comment


I’m writing this fairly shortly after the final whistle, so am still more than a bit emotional. Still, I have to get this all out…in bullet point form, as I am way too pissed to write anything lucid.

– Talking about the fixture yesterday, Brendan’s main worry was that with Essien and Lampard starting, we were likely to lose the midfield battle. As it turned out, that wasn’t the case. Despite Denilson’s best efforts to give Chelsea the ball whenever it was on his feet, we actually bossed the possession and had the ball in their end more often than not.

– Speaking of which, DENILSON IS FUCKING MOTHERFUCKING USELESS. I get why Theo Walcott came on at halftime, but WHY THE FUCK DID ARSENE TAKE OFF ALEX SONG? Song was brilliant in the first half, breaking up attacks and serving as the only player besides Cesc to show actual bite and determination in our midfield. The fact that Theo came on for Song is absolutely baffling.

– Also, we’re so lightweight. It’s ridiculous. This team tries…they really do…but our forwards in particular were found out today. They have neither guts nor testicles. Look, I’m sympathetic to Andrei that Russia didn’t make the World Cup. Losing the playoff to Slovenia was a blow, I understand that. That said, MAN…THE…FUCK…UP. This was the perfect opportunity to bounce back and show your mettle, and you bottled it. Eduardo, I can understand more because he suffered that horrific injury. But man, he is nowhere near the same guy he once was. As the match wore on, I seriously wondered who could actually get through the back line and test Petr Cech. The answer was “no one”, as it turned out.

– That said, how a referee as incompetent and inexperienced as Andre Marriner got this fixture is beyond me. At 0-2, we scored a perfectly fucking good goal, and the worthless cunt called it back for a reason that I still can’t work out. You’re allowed to challenge for the ball, fuckstick…that was never a foul on Cech. Please catch swine flu and die.

– In the end though, it was our central defense that failed us. Almunia had a great game…he was abandoned by the clowns in front of him. TV5’s own-goal was fucking clown shoes, as much as I love him. Gallas was at fault for Drogba’s first goal…cannot understand how he was marking him so loosely.

– So yeah…this is indeed Groundhog Day, just as Brendan predicted. I’m willing to settle for the League or FA Cup at this point.

– And the worst thing…the fucking WORST THING, is that for the 4th or 5th time in recent memory, I had to endure the taunts of the plastic-ass Chelski supporters on the way out of Nevada’s. Awesome. I LOVE being subjected to this by people who couldn’t pick Franck Lebeouf or Ed de Goey out of a police lineup. Thanks, Arsene…much appreciated.

November 29, 2009 Posted by | The Arsenal | Leave a comment


I haven’t written much here about Arsenal this season. There’s a few reasons for that, but it boils down to this: Arsenal in the last several seasons have been exactly the same team each year, with minor variations- beautiful in attack, disordered in defense, intensely injury-prone, very young, prone to collapses in confidence, but also able on their day to rip apart any team in the world. They will have days- weeks, months- where they look like the best team in the world; but they never have had, post-Invincibles, full seasons when they look that way. To my mind there’s just not a lot left to be said about this team which breaks any new ground- the tactics are the same, the goals are the same, the frailties are the same; so far the results are the same. When one or more of these things change then there will be new words to write. As it is the team stands on the doorstep of the biggest game of the season and the top three news items are: 1. Van Persie out injured for 5 months, 2. Arshavin doesn’t want to play football now that Russia are out of the World Cup and 3. Arsene Wenger says it’s time for his team to prove themselves. I feel like I’ve been reading at least two of those stories forever, and the spirit of the other is not unfamiliar. If Arsenal can beat Chelsea, then that potentially represents a huge step forward; a loss, and the team is 11 points back with their top striker out until half past forever, looking at another year of hoping for a lucky run in a cup. Either a new story begins or the same one ends the same way. We’ll see.

November 29, 2009 Posted by | The Arsenal | 2 Comments

Kings 109, Nets 96

This one hurts it’s so frustrating. Take a look at the box score; the Nets lost by 13 points overall, and 13 points in the first quarter. In other words, they played the Kings (their best chance to avoid history at 0-18) equal for the vast majority of the game; but they came out flat and unprepared and essentially gave the game away in the first 12 minutes. It is very, very difficult to not attribute this to coaching as much as to the players- it’s a coach’s job to help keep the team motivated and ready to go, it’s probably the most crucial aspect of his job when a team is on a bad streak like this, and that was completely absent tonight. Throw in the ridiculous stunt in the 4th with deliberate off-ball fouling of Omri Casspi which managed to lose the Nets their dignity along with the game, and it becomes increasingly hard to justify Frank staying on. All things run their course, and after more than 5 years it’s pretty clear that his time with this team is up. The counter-argument is that it would be somehow scape-goating the coach; I’d prefer to think of it as starting the fix at the easiest-to-reach point.

As a technical matter the Nets’ offense still stinks; they can’t space the floor, they don’t really move off the ball, they play tight and force bad shots, they lose their concentration continually (see: having two inbounds passes picked off), etc. etc. To be honest it’s not an offense with problems so much as one which is poor in every phase of the game. Some of that is injury issues as Yi Jianlian for instance, with all his flaws, would still be helpful now for the range he can add to the offense; some of it however, maybe most of it, is not. Devin Harris was available for this game, started, and played 38 minutes; Brook Lopez started and played 45. These are talented players, and in CDR they in theory have a competent third option out there. Yet once again they managed collectively to shoot below 40%, and it’s impossible to say exactly what it is that the team is trying to do on offense. It looks for all the world like 5 guys just running around, a glorified pickup game. And as has been the case, that’s still the issue; Sacramento is actually an above-average offensive team (11th), and the Nets did not turn in a shameful performance against them at all. But with an offense like this there’s only so far that will go. There was a signal play in the 3rd I believe tonight which to me said a great deal: Devin Harris stole the ball down 7 or 8 points, broke in alone towards the net and then deliberately slowed in order to allow a defender to catch up to him, hoping to draw a foul. Instead the defender did a nice job of harassing him without fouling and forced a miss. I wouldn’t criticize Harris on the play; to me it didn’t appear a miscue so much as a player who has no confidence in the offense or most of his teammates trying to use his smarts to steal an extra point in transition. It’s not a high-percentage play, and the fact that Harris was even attempting it says a lot about what he thinks of the situation. It’s desperation time.

The worst thing about this game is that I really don’t know when this streak is going to end now. The Lakers and Dallas are the next two teams up and those are near-certain losses. Charlotte follows and could be a win, but they’ve just had a team shakeup with the Jacko trade, have won 3 in a row, and will be well-rested with three days off between games. After them it’s the Knicks in one of those derby games which take place in a world unto themselves, away to Chicago, and then home to Golden State. The not-particularly-Ultimate Warriors look to be the best bet to end this streak, which would have risen to an ungodly 21 straight by that point- over a quarter of a season. If that game is lost… well, we get another shot at Minnesota on the 23rd of next month. God help us if that becomes relevant. It’s not worth dwelling on but this has the potential to be one of the all-time bad teams; they can make history in two games obviously, but beyond that- for large chunks of these games, the Nets are really trying. And they’re STILL getting pasted. If Frank is kept around for money reasons or management blindness reasons and the team thoroughly quits on him it’s really anyone’s guess how bad this could be. It’s going to be an utterly wretched season regardless, but it would be nice to get at least 20 wins for respectability purposes.

November 28, 2009 Posted by | The Nets | | Leave a comment


March UFC is supposed to be in Newark. Behold, one of the few things that will actually get me to go to that city. Hopefully it’s a better match on top than Bisping/Evans….

EDIT: Hmm. Apparently GSP vs. Hardy is the rumor. Is that better?

November 26, 2009 Posted by | MMA | 1 Comment

It Still A Gwaan, Just Like An Ongoing Story

I have not written much on the Nets this season; after all, how often and in how many ways can you write “the team sucks, they lost, this season hurts like an angry beard of bees”? Well, actually, let’s find out:

Nets scoring average this season in 14 games: 85.1 per game.
Opponents’ average: 95.5.
Average margin of loss: 10.4

Smallest margin of Nets loss: 1 point (against Miami, Nov. 14)
Largest margin of Nets loss: 28 (against Denver, Nov. 4)

Best record of a Nets victor, as of now: Orlando, 11-3
Worst record of a Nets victor, as of now: Minnesota, 1-13 (yes, they could only beat the Nets… by 2 points)

Rank of the Nets’ leading scorer in PPG, in the league: 31st (Brook Lopez)
Rank of the Nets’ leading rebounder, in rebound rate: 33rd (Josh Boone)
Rank of the Nets’ leading assister, in assist ratio: 30th (Devin Harris)
Rank of the Nets’ leading shooter, in TS%: 103rd (Chris Douglas-Roberts)
Rank of the Nets’ leading PER producer: 66th (Chris Douglas-Roberts)
Number of teams in the league: 30

Games where Nets’ leading scorer had <20 points: 5

Nets team offensive rating: 89.8
League rank: 30
League leader: Phoenix, 112.2

Nets team defensive rating: 101.8
League rank: 13th
League leaders: Boston, 94.4
Sidenote: Defense wins championships, amirite?

Nets team TS%: 47.5
League rank: 30th
League leaders: Phoenix, 58.8
Sidenote: same position, leader and rank for eFG%

Nets team rebound rate: 48.8
League rank: 23rd
League leaders: Portland, 54.0

Nets team turnover rate: 26.9
League rank: 27th
League leaders: Atlanta, 20.6

Nets team assist ratio: 11.2
League rank: 30th
League leaders: Boston, 17.3

Nets team pace: 22nd in league

…And there you have it, really: an average defensive team with a slow, turgid, worst-in-the-league offense holding them down and losing them game after game in horrifically boring fashion. There's fewer blowouts here than you might expect, and given that defense is often a proxy for effort it's pretty clear the team hasn't given up. That's heartening so far as it goes, especially since when young teams get beaten down like this it often escalates into full-blown chaos and self-destruction. Their trouble is, well, at the NBA level they're a pretty terrible collection of offensive players once you factor in the injuries and such. Is it Larry Frank's fault? Depends how you look at it. Keeping a team playing hard and well at 0-14 is difficult to do and impressive for a coach. On the other hand, in Frank's full seasons in charge of the team the Nets' offensive rating has placed 26th, 25th, 16th, 25th, and 16th. That's not so good. Their defensive ratings in that time span have gone 7th, 4th, 15th, 21st, and 24th as well. Much of the defensive decline you can likely ascribe to changes of personnel, but given that Frank consistently produced below-average offensive teams with Vince Carter, Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson on them, it's more than fair to question exactly what he's contributing (or not) to the current state of affairs.

Should he go? Ironically, Frank would to my mind be the exact kind of coach you'd like to bring into a situation like this as a caretaker- good motivator, professional demeanor and demands such of his players, tends to maintain emotional balance in rough times; a steady hand at the wheel. And yet, for all of that, the blight on this season continues unabated by anything he's said or done. Sometimes a team just needs a new voice, and someone can be a good or even great coach who just doesn't fit anymore. I don't know if the team has tuned him out precisely, but if RodandKiki get that sense… well, yes, he should probably go. For many reasons he's not the kind of coach who would be likely to lead the next serious Nets team (small reputation, too defensive, too slow-paced in his offense, etc.), which means he's going to go sooner or later. If a reasonable caretaker can be found to keep the team motivated, tweak the offense and generally mind the store until a long-term solution can be brought over for the Brooklyn move, then this is the time to do it, before this becomes an all-time awful season. I honestly think money and the desire to not pay two coaches at once is part of what's kept Frank in his job so long, and now that it looks like the Nets are officially going to be owned by a crazy Russian billionaire, it's probably worth some money to him to ensure that his team doesn't enter a crucial free-agency summer as a league-wide laughing stock which has just set records for futility.

November 25, 2009 Posted by | The Nets | | Leave a comment

Great moments in prognostication

Liverpool are out of the Champions’ League.


November 24, 2009 Posted by | Other Soccer | Leave a comment