Tuesday, June 19, 2012
In general, new-fangled sports statistics rank right down there with sore throats, airplane seats next to compulsive talkers, extremely deliberate amblers negotiating crosswalks, golfers who take more than one practice swing, snakes, spiders and litterbugs.
The migration of the hockey plus-minus statistic to the NBA seven years ago qualifies as a delightful exception.
The statistic reflects how well a team performs when an individual is on the court. Interestingly, a player who seems to get chewed out by teammates more often than anybody in the NBA Finals had the third-best plus-minus ranking in the league during the regular season.
It’s been quite a year for Mario Chalmers. Not only did he hire an image consultant, his older sister, Roneka, according to an ESPN the Magazine story on him, but he also ranked behind only Miami Heat teammate LeBron James and San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker in the plus-minus stat available on NBA.com.
Oklahoma City Thunder reserve forward Nick Collison, ranked 25th in the league, is the only other former Jayhawk to make the top 50, although Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics just missed.
That doesn’t make Chalmers the league’s third-best player, but it does demonstrate he’s on the perfect team for him. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade drive and collapse the defense, leaving Chalmers open. His skill at stealing the ball and pitching it ahead to the game’s best finishers comes in handy, too.
So why is everybody always yelling at him on TV during the most compelling NBA Finals in decades, and is there anything his image consultant can do about it?
First it was Chris Bosh repeatedly getting in his face. Then the camera and its microphone picked up Wade, who looked perplexed and even a little hurt when he crinkled his face, cocked his head and told Chalmers, “I’m not like that. Come on, now.”
And then there’s Collison, who plays like a robot programmed to appear in the right place at the perfect time. He takes charges, sets hard picks and rolls efficiently to the hoop on the NBA’s No. 1 bread-and-butter play. His help defense arrives consistently on time.
Jeff Van Gundy, the best NBA color commentator ever because of his candor, humor, knowledge and disdain for the whole concept of image consultants, seems to like the way Chalmers and Collison play.
A look at how KU players — injured Darrell Arthur missed all season — fared in plus-minus points, keeping in mind that it’s easier to be on the plus side when playing for a good team: 1. Chalmers (+390), 2. Collison (+267), 3. Pierce (+191), 4. Kirk Hinrich (+55), 5. Marcus Morris (-29), 6. Xavier Henry (-31), 7. Cole Aldrich (-33), 8. Josh Selby (-39), 9. Markieff Morris (-73), 10. Brandon Rush (-78), 11. Drew Gooden (-151).