Category Archives: Background

Background information about myself and myblog

Changes

This is just a quick post to let everyone know that Hickory-High is going to be going through some changes over the next few weeks, as I’m upgrading from the free WordPress format.

This update will hopefully give me the opportunity to improve the look and organization of the site. I’ll also should be able to offer some of my statistical content in a format that’s easier to use, access and manipulate. I’ve never done anything like this before and will be learning on the fly. I hope regular readers will be patient with me as I figure out how to put everything together. I’m also going to asking for help throughout this process. If something changes for the worse, please let me know. If things don’t change enough, please let me know. If something isn’t working, please let me know. I’d like to think that this blog serves more than just my own interests, and hope no one will be shy about letting me know how I can improve it. 

Thanks, and see you all on the other side!

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365 Days Of Basketball

Little birthday cake?

This is a short, self-serving post to mark the first birthday of Hickory High and my one year anniversary writing about basketball. Here’s a quote from my Statement of Purpose, the very first thing I put up on this blog:

Let me begin by saying that I recognize and freely admit the self-indulgent nature of this undertaking. To my knowledge, no one has ever expressed the slightest desire to hear or read any of my opinions about basketball. Despite being a passionate fan, I am utterly unqualified as a basketball analyst. Despite my bachelor’s degree I am a barely proficient writer.

I’ve had some success in the past year but I still feel largely the same way about my qualifications. I started this blog as a way to help myself learn more about the game I love so much, by making myself analyze and support my opinions in a way I never did by just screaming at the television. In that regard it’s been extremely successful. I now understand why Troy Murphy looked terrific by Wins Produced numbers last season and awful according to Adjusted Plus/Minus. (I apologize to everyone I sent emails to a year and a half ago asking them to look into what I thought was a mind-blowing paradox).

Thank you to Bethlehem Shoals, Ken Drews, Dan Filowitz, Zach Harper, Zach Lowe, Henry Abbott, Kelly Dwyer and many others at SBNation, the TrueHoop Network, and other wonderful blogs for reading my work and thinking enough of it to share it with their readers. Thank you to Josh Dhani, Tom Lewis, David Berri, Paul Gotham and Rob Mahoney for giving me an opportunity to contribute to their sites and share my writing with a wider audience. Thanks to my wife for her endless patience, willingness to become a sounding board for my esoteric ideas, and her consistent support. But mostly thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read anything I’ve written here at Hickory High and even leave a comment or two. I’ve learned so much over the past year and a great deal of it is due to the interactions I’ve had with readers and the tremendously talented and gracious NBA blogging community.

It turns out there are a few people who are interested in hearing my opinions on basketball and for that I am extremely grateful. I look forward to continuing to grow both my own skills and this site. My statement of purpose needs an update and so does Hickory-High itself. Stay tuned for some exciting developments over the next year!

Thanks for everything!
Ian

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Hoops Manifesto

This was fun project I’ve been working on for awhile. The idea was to set out some of my personal beliefs about basketball. As I continued to work, it spiraled and morphed into the silly, melodramatic, and self-indulgement mess you see now. I’ve put it up as a post but it will also be a page, accessible from the header at the top if you should ever feel the need to look at it again and giggle about my writing abilities with your friends.

“Prophecy and prescience – How can they be put to the test in the face of unanswered questions? Consider: How much is actual prediction . . . and how much is the prophet shaping the future to fit the prophecy? What of the harmonics inherent in the act of prophecy? Does the prophet see the future or does he see a line of weakness, a fault or cleavage that he may shatter with words or decisions as a diamond-cutter shatters his gem with the blow of a knife?”

You can’t watch, discuss or appreciate today’s NBA without understanding Michael Jordan. I rooted against him in every game I ever watched him play, regardless of the opponent, but he can’t be ignored, forgotten or dismissed. He was the a Jedi Warrior on the court. Remembered for tongue wagging and limitless hangtime, his true gift in my mind, was his seeming ability to make things happen on the court, to bend the course of events with force of will alone.

His fallaway jumper went in because he wanted it to. He defied gravity because it was his will. Nothing he did was instinctual or coincidental, it was all deliberate and decided. He saw the infinite possibilities inherent in each contest and chose the end result and manner of delivery which suited him best.

“To attempt an understanding of Muad’Dib without understanding his mortal enemies , the Harkonnens, is to attempt seeing Truth without knowing Falsehood. It is the attempt to see the Light without knowing Darkness. It cannot be.”

The best basketball is played when every player on the court has something at stake; not some arbitrary or individual goal, but the shared desire of every teammate and fan.

The most common and most effective manifestation is hatred of an opponent; a rivalry, not just in name or by jersey, but in actual dislike of the other team and a desire to not just beat them but thoroughly destroy their desire to ever step on the same court with you again.

“What do you despise? By this you are truly known.”

“Yueh! Yueh! Yueh!” goes the refrain. “A million deaths were not enough for Yueh”

Just like professional wrestling, basketball has its heels, its villains, it’s irredeemable souls. For some the pleasure comes in revelling in the proximity of their demise, for some it comes in the whole hearted desire to see redemption attained. From both perspectives, a tortured soul is reason to watch.

“There is probably no more terrible instant of enlightenment than the one in which you discover your father is a man – with human flesh.”

There are no sure things on the basketball court. What you know will happen may never materialize. All the confidence in the world is no match for reality.

“Greatness is a transitory experience. It is never consistent. It depends on the myth-making imagination of humankind. The person who experiences greatness must have a feeling for the myth he is in. He must reflect what is projected upon him. And he must have a strong sense of the sardonic. This is what uncouples him from a belief in his own pretensions. The sardonic is all that permits him to move within himself. Without this quality, even occasional greatness will destroy a man.” 

Each player participates in perpetuating their myth to various degrees at different times, but the myth-making is largely out of their control. Like the stories of Robert Bly and Sam Keen, a mythical template has been applied to a modern human being.

An awareness of both their mythical template and the source of their mythical template, that this myth was a construction of the people around him, is crucial. The myth represents our projections and is not a reflection of an actual human being. Only with this understanding can a player move freely through fleeting moments of greatness to find a permanent home, residing alongside greatness in our memories.

“There should be a science of discontent. People need hard times and oppression to build psychic muscles.”

For every champion there are scores of the disappointed, defeated and discouraged. Only one fan base celebrates at the end of the season, while everyone else chokes down the hopes of next year from half-empty goblets. Every disappointment makes that one magical season taste even sweeter; at least that’s what I’ve been told. If the Pacers ever win a championship I’ll let you know.

“Deep in the human unconscious is a pervasive need for a logical universe that makes sense. But the real universe is always one step beyond logic.”

The regularity of improbabilities in basketball is intoxicating. Each game is a chance to see something you’ve never seen before. Something beyond logic and reason. Something for which you have no schema, no context, no rational structure for understanding.

“There is in all things a pattern that is part of our universe. It has symmetry, elegance, grace – those qualities you find always in what the true artist captures. You can find it in the turning of the seasons, in the way sand trails along a ridge, in the branch clusters of the creosote bush or the pattern of its leaves. We try to copy these patterns in our lives and our society, seeking the rhythms, the dances, the forms that comfort. Yet it is possible to see peril in the finding of ultimate perfection. It is clear that the ultimate pattern contains its own fixity. In such perfection, all things move towards death.”

There is basketball as competition and then there is basketball as exhibition. The two often have an inverse relationship despite sharing mutual time and space. The seeking of perfection in either is a narrow precipice with failure spiraling away on either side and immortality atop the highest pinnacle. Different players seek different goals; perfection in motion, perfection in results, but each is a dangerous goal and the path is littered with the legends of those who have failed.

“And that day dawned when Arrakis lay at the hub of the universe with the wheel poised to spin.”

 All quotes were taken from the science fiction epic, Dune, by Frank Herbert.

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Site Update – 11/15/10

The WordPress theme I have been using for the last 8 months or so is apparently being retired. The new (obviously very similar) theme I have switched over to had the option of changing the color scheme. For the sake of mixing things up I’m trying the brown for a little while. If it’s too visually unappealing, please let me know in the comments or by email or twitter and I can easily change it back to the plain old white.

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Site Update 10/17/10

Just a quick site update for this afternoon. Things have been taking off with my Expected Points work, so I decided to create a single page with links to all the various posts I’ve done working with this information. The page, Expected Scoring – Statistics and Analysis, can be be found through the link on the front page header. This page contains links to my 2009-2010 individual and team analysis using Expected Points. It also has links to the individual Expected Scoring Player Profiles I’ve been working on. Finally, there are links to the raw Expected Points data for the entire league. Currently the 2009-2010 data is up. Once the season begins I am hoping to be able to keep the raw data for 2010-2011 available, with weekly updates.

New Stats Glossary pages for Free Throw Rate and Usage Rate are now up. As always comments and feedback are appreciated.

You can follow me on twitter, @HickoryHigh. In addition, I’ve added my email address to the sidebar for any questions or comments to long to be added on a specific post. There’s lots more good stuff coming as the season draws closer, so stay tuned!

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Statement of Purpose

Introduction

        Let me begin by saying that I recognize and freely admit the self-indulgent nature of this undertaking. To my knowledge, no one has ever expressed the slightest desire to hear or read any of my opinions about basketball. Despite being a passionate fan, I am utterly unqualified as a basketball analyst. Despite my bachelor’s degree I am a barely proficient writer.

          Now that my shortcomings are out of the way, let me talk briefly about my strengths. I love basketball. I watch as much as I can, while balancing the commitments of being a husband and 3rd grade teacher. I read as much as I can about basketball. I actively work to deepen my understanding of the many aspects of this wonderful game. I have many thoughts and opinions. I have a burgeoning desire to put those thoughts and opinions into writing.

Vision

         This blog will be a place for me to add my own thoughts, admittedly simple and unqualified, about the world of basketball to the vast cacophany of opinions expressed over the internet and other media forms. In all likelihood, I will be the only person reading or discussing these opinions for the forseeable future. As I don’t anticipate having much in the way of readership, this blog will serve first and foremost as a vehicle for me to analyze, codify and expand my own opinions and understandings of the world of basketball, through the use of the written word.

(I am from Upstate New York, but am a huge Indiana Pacers fan. I would like to be upfront about my personal biases as they will have a large effect on my opinions and choice of topics. )

Practices

          To begin, I am setting a modest goal of at least one post per week. At first these posts may take a myriad number of forms. I hope that as I become more proficient as a blogger and a basketball thinker, a structure to my opinions and discussions will emerge, which will guide the nature of future posts.

*All aspects are subject to revision!

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