Saturday, March 18, 2023

#77 / Let's Play Warriors' Ball

Many of those who follow the Golden State Warriors basketball team consider themselves to be "Authentic Fans." A couple of years ago, the Warriors provided those who came to their games with "Authentic Fan" window signs, in the blue and gold colors found on the Warriors' jerseys, so as to allow all their "Authentic Fans," living in the Bay Area and beyond, to demonstrate the depth of their dedication to the team by posting the signs in their windows for the entire world to view.
You don't, probably, have to be an "Authentic" fan to know who is pictured above, but unless you are a fan of some kind, it's quite possible that you won't immediately recognize Andre Iguodala. Iguodala is one of the Warriors' championship players, with his defensive abilities being particularly prized by the team. 
Unfortunately for the Warriors, and for all their "Authentic Fans," Iguodala is going to undergo surgery on his left wrist, after suffering a fracture that occurred during a game on Monday, March 13th. As recently reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, that injury will apparently keep Iguodala out of action for six to eight weeks - which just adds to Iguodala's other health-related problems. Iguodala has actually only played in eight games in the current season because of what the Chronicle calls "injury management." 

Something struck me in that article from the Chronicle - something I didn't really know much about or appreciate. It has to do with statistics. 
Generally, I would expect that most people think (as I have instinctively thought) that statistics are kept on an "individual" basis. For instance, what is Steph Curry's successful free throw percentage? When Clay Thompson shoots from "downtown," from a place where a basket will get the team three points, instead of just two, what percentage of his three-point attempts does Thompson make? How many rebounds does Kevon Looney get each game, on the average? Etc. I have always assumed that statistics are "individual."
If you click this link, you will see a detailed chart of Looney's statistics, and you can click on the chart to see the statistics for other players, too. As I have just said, the statistics found in these charts measure how each individual player does, individually. That, I have always assumed, is how it's done.

That isn't the end of the story, though, as this excerpt from the article in the Chronicle makes clear:

Iguodala, who made his season debut Jan. 7, has played just 113 minutes this season. He has averaged 2.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 46.7% from the field.

Advanced stats reveal Iguodala’s importance to the Warriors beyond per-game averages. Golden State has an offensive rating of 116.7 when Iguodala is on the court, 113.7 when he’s off it. The team’s defensive rating dips from 104.7 to 113.5 with Iguodala off the court.

“Andre has made a big impact since he returned a few weeks ago,” Kerr said. “His on/off numbers are really good. Our defense just gets dramatically better the second he steps on the floor. And then offensively, even though he’s not really a scorer at this point, he just facilitates and understands where everybody needs to be (emphasis added).”
What struck me, when I read this, is that the Warriors pay attention not only to how individuals are doing, with respect to their individual statistics, but also to how much an individual player helps (or doesn't help) the team to do better

In many of my past blog postings (I'm linking one of them, here), I have have noted that we are not only "individuals," but that we are also part of the greater community. We need to understand our lives in just that way. We need to think that way, and to act that way. We are "in this together." 

The Golden State Warriors basketball team obviously "gets" this. Those "Authentic Fans" I mentioned are fond of differentiating the kind of basketball played by the Warriors from basketball played by other teams. They call it "Warriors' Ball." Sports commentators routinely talk in those terms, and highlight the "generosity" of the individual Warriors players. From the Chronicle, I have found out, as I have reported here, that the Warriors are actually trying to "measure" how well each individual member of the team helps to maximize the effectiveness of the team as a whole, as opposed, simply, to doing well individually

I am a lot more concerned about politics than basketball, and I think there is a lesson here. 

Those "on/off" numbers collected by the Warriors' coach reveal the power of taking seriously the idea that we should be evaluating our individual performance not only by our individual success, but by how much we are contributing to the collective success of our community and society. 
In other words, we should start playing "politics" like "Warriors' Ball."
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