The Confessions of an NBA Scorekeeper
December 11, 2009 8:33 AM   Subscribe

The Confessions of an NBA Scorekeeper Gawker's Tommy Craggs talks with an ex-scorekeeper for the Vancouver Grizzlies, and reveals the subjectivity of stat keeping in the NBA. This guy once gave Nick Van Exel 23 assists just because he felt like it.
posted by reenum (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This could be interesting when the players union uses it.
posted by srboisvert at 8:41 AM on December 11, 2009

posted by Doohickie at 8:45 AM on December 11, 2009

First the refs and now the scorekeepers?
posted by caddis at 8:51 AM on December 11, 2009

Perhaps the NBA should have an independent scorekeeping association of some sort, or multiple teams of scorekeepers and average the results?

Or, maybe not put so much importance on stats that are so highly based on judgment calls.
posted by graventy at 9:17 AM on December 11, 2009

What the hell is the definition of an "assist" in the NBA anyway? You pass the ball to someone and they score? Is that always an assist?
posted by Rumple at 10:04 AM on December 11, 2009

wow, this is really interesting, back when Chris Webber was young and still good, I used to follow the Bullets/Wizards games very closely. Whenever he got anywhere close to a triple-double, my buddies and I would always joke about how arbitrary the assist stat seemed to be, I couldn't accurately predict what passes would be counted as assists and what wouldn't.
posted by bluejayk at 10:33 AM on December 11, 2009

This was a big topic of conversation when the story came out at the start of the season. A lot of people didn't really know what to do with it because there's always been this massive subjectivity in assist scoring and everyone knew it. Someone who did it for a living just finally admitted it.

NBA statistics are pretty difficult to gauge, in older times (russell/wilt era) you couldn't an assist if the receiving guy DRIBBLED.

What the hell is the definition of an "assist" in the NBA anyway? You pass the ball to someone and they score? Is that always an assist?
posted by Rumple at 10:04 AM on December 11 [+] [!]

It's sort of vague on purpose. An assist is any pass that directly leads to an opposing player scoring a basket. Say a guy drives to the basket, another defender comes over to defend and the guy throws a pass to his teammate under the hoop for an easy basket... that's an assist. Say you pass to a guy who takes the ball dribbles around the perimeter, takes on 3 guys, and makes an incredible off-balance shot. That's not an assist.

And basically it's just the gray area between those two scenarios.

One interesting wrinkle: I judge it by passes leading to low-percentage or high-percentage shots. For example a nice pass to ray allen for a 3 counts more cause ray allen is an automatic 3 pt shooter even tho it's a more difficult shot. A pg should get less credit (re: assists) for just dishing out to a guy who would shoot that as a long shot willy nilly. Basically you reward a player for making the smart play.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 10:34 AM on December 11, 2009

Since the only really egregious examples are related the assists (and maybe blocks, in one case), it seems like the natural result is that this statistic eventually just won't get viewed with a lot of respect by those in the know. Maybe it already isn't; I don't know. Does anyone really care about how many assists a player has, or how many triple-doubles, etc.? I don't think it's an indictment of the whole business of scorekeeping, though, since pretty much every other category can be measured without much ambiguity--either the ball goes in or it doesn't, either the guy gets the rebound or doesn't, etc. Officiating is obviously a much more complicated story, because there you're dealing all the time with the subjective decision of whether somebody committed a foul.
posted by albrecht at 11:16 AM on December 11, 2009

I think assists are given respect as a stat in the NBA. Back when John Stockton was playing, he had a 10 year streak where he averaged 10 assists or more a game. I'd hear the anchors on ESPN and other NBA writers harp on about it constantly.

Assists are also part of the equation when teams are trying to gauge a point guard's value. I hear the analysts during the NBA draft talk about how many assists a game a certain player averaged.

As for triple doubles, this is also a momentous occasion. If a player gets one, it is usually mentioned on SportsCenter and the crawl at the bottom of the screen on ESPN.
posted by reenum at 11:29 AM on December 11, 2009

This manipulation is sort of expected from me, as a bitter basketball fan.

When I first heard about this in August, I did some research to see if any statistical disparities existing for my hometown team, the cavs.

And there is:

Daniel Gibson's 2007-08 Total Blocks at home: 10 vs. 4 blocks away.

And he only played 60 minutes less at home in 07-08.
This trend continued in 08-09, when he had 14 blocks @ home games and only 2 in away games.
(although he play 70 more minutes at home in 08-09).

Players are valued by their statistics and a manipulation in his blocks, how negligible they may appear to an uninformed eye, can alter the player's perceived value and consequently, how much a team is willing to pay a player).

The APBRmetrics forum discusses this issue in depth [warning: stat geekery ahead].

some discussion on John Stockton's stats
posted by fizzix at 12:35 PM on December 11, 2009

An assist is any pass that directly leads to an opposing player scoring a basket.

See, that is pretty much the opposite of what I thought it was...

They took away the "hits" stat in hockey for, I think, the reason it was so variably applied across the league. Like in Calgary (not surprisingy) a little "hey luvvie let me powder your nose" got you credited with a "hit".
posted by Rumple at 12:50 PM on December 11, 2009

People will take advantage of loose rules. The one that aggravates me most is when players flop.
posted by pracowity at 1:49 PM on December 11, 2009

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