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Jason Quick "Rants" on Charting Greg Oden's Touches

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In yesterday's Oregonlive.com podcast with Sean Meagher, Jason Quick of The Oregonian took up the discussion of charting Greg Oden's touches during Tuesday night's season opener against the Houston Rockets.  Quick spoke on the topic for nearly 7 minutes in what he calls, at the end, a "rant."

It's not entirely clear what prompted this: my charting of Greg Oden's touches Tuesday, a post from Dwight Jaynes in response to the charting, or other reactions to the results of the charting.

If you haven't read my initial piece in full, please do so first.

Here's Quick's entire statement, transcribed meticulously by Blazersedge superstar reader/commenter Cablinasian. The paragraph breaks were added by me to increase ease of reading.  If you're listening along, this statement begins at the 14:36 mark of the podcast.

Well, first of all... I mean, I see that some people are making quite a big beef that Greg only got so many touches in the opener, and whatnot. And, I mean, it's so ludicrous on so many different fronts.

And at shootaround today, Nate and I were talking about it, and Nate basically was like ‘these people have no clue.' And that's a direct quote. I don't even know where to start with this.

First of all, it's the first game, so... I can't believe that people are making a big deal of out of charting, and all that kind of stuff. I mean, that's ludicrous.

Second of all, if you really want to go into charting the possessions when Greg was in there, I mean let's take the first half for example. You know, he had, they had nineteen possessions when he was in there, and he touched them on five. Well, during those nineteen possessions, and he got five plays called for him, that was the most of any other Trailblazer. Brandon had four, LaMarcus had three, granted LaMarcus only played, I believe eight or nine minutes, something like that, because of foul trouble. You know, Blake had one, Webster had one, Outlaw had one, and then five other plays were kind of in transition where there's no play called. So Greg was, more so than anybody, getting his number called. The problem was, he was turning it over.

He missed one shot, had one nice pass to Andre, and then had three turnovers out of those, uh, five possessions. But, you know, let's not forget, this is still Brandon Roy's and LaMarcus Aldridge's team. The majority of the plays are gonna be called for them, and should be called for them. Greg has done nothing in this league, so far, to show that he should be the go-to offensive guy. I mean, I don't know what these people who are charting and making all this big deal about Greg not touching the ball enough... I don't know what they expect. I mean, do they really he should be the sole offensive focus? He shouldn't. He's the number three option out of those guys.  

And, you know, they started off the game, three of the first four possessions went to LaMarcus. That's very common for the Blazers, they try to establish LaMarcus early. Greg Oden had a play called for him before Brandon Roy did. So it's just... it's amazing.

And... Another thing is that this team is still handling Greg very carefully. They don't want to put too much pressure on him. They don't want to say okay, we're going to run the offense through you. They're bringing him along slowly, and they want him to do what he did Thursday night. He impacted the game on the defensive end. He's a defensive player before he is an offensive player.

Now, do I think, and does the organization think he can be a great offensive player? Yes, and I think he will. But the first game of the year you don't need to go out there and force feed him the ball twenty times. Especially when, Houston was anticipating, or acknowledging that there was a huge size mismatch there, with 6'6'' Chuck Hayes on him. So naturally they were prepared to send an early double team every time. Well, the Blazers aren't going to run into the teeth of the defense every time. It's just going to clog things down, it's going to play into Houston's hands. So, you know, I think people just need to relax.

And It's amazing after one game, this type of, you know, scrutiny is being put on Greg. And on the coaching staff, and on everything. I mean, I don't know, I guess I come from a different view of... of this whole thing, of how to view the Blazers. I guess, in a part, I still have some fan in me and I like to look at the entertainment of the game... instead of, there's so many people out there who just want to, all they want to do is nitpick at every little thing that's going wrong in a basketball game. You know what, there's a million things going wrong with every team in every game. The team could be 20-2, have a 20-2 record, and there's still things going wrong. And, boy, I don't... that just doesn't sound very fun to me... or what kind of outlook do you have on life if you're sitting there going ‘nitpick, nitpick, nitpick, nitpick.' I don't know, that's not very fun to me. Yeah, there are things wrong with the Blazers. And, you know, eventually to win a playoff series, are they gonna have to have a better inside presence? Yeah, but guess what, it's game 1 right now. Relax, they'll work on it, it'll happen.

So, I don't know, that's my little rant for today. I just think Greg's going to be fine, offensively, he'll get his touches... and, you know, Greg, I talked to Greg today about it. And he said, I asked him if he was disturbed by his touches. And he said ‘no, I was losing the ball so it was understandable. I've gotta take care of the ball for them to trust me with the ball." And then also he acknowledged that he has to work better at getting post position. He didn't... he didn't work that hard.

If you look, I mean, he was setting a lot of screens up high, which was a byproduct of the plays being called. But when he was designated to get the ball, there were times where, you know, his teammates were pointing, like ‘Get deeper, get... you know, establish that position now.'

And that's another thing too, is that there were at least two plays where Greg forgot the play... And missed a screen, missed a ... a post up assignment. So a lot of that, okay yeah, the play didn't go to him or he didn't get his touch. Well maybe he was supposed to but he didn't quite follow through with the play or recognize early enough that it was his play. So, you know, there's a lot of things going on in a game that don't really get uncovered. And you can't just say, ‘Well, God, he only touched the ball five times in the first half.  That's, that's brutal.' You know, put it into the whole perspective.

And... I don't know, that's all I'm going to rant about it, Sean.

Reading through all of that, the actual results of my charting don't seem to be questioned.  And many of the factors that I pointed out -- Oden's turnovers, Hayes' ability to push Oden out, the need to bring Oden along slowly, Oden's success on defense, the coaching staff's happiness with his overall play -- were reiterated.  Many of Quick's conclusions -- that it's very early in the season, that Oden is at best the team's third option, that Oden is bound to get more touches as the year continues -- have never been disputed here.   

It doesn't appear that my reason for charting -- to shed light on a subject many people were discussing -- was understood.  Painting the act of shot/touch charting as "scrutiny" of a player or of the coaching staff injects a perspective or motive into a simple data collection process.  A process that is conducted by scouts for every team in the NBA and by services like Synergy to provide objective information regarding player and team tendencies.  

The true motive for charting is simply to provide data.  To point out anomalies and to raise questions and to attempt conclusions based on objective data rather than subjective observations.  To inform the next 81 games and, in this case, to promote discussion of a specific, hot topic.

The Blazers have spoken at length and repeatedly about their use of statistical analysis of players, lineups and teams. Did charting Oden's touches on Tuesday night mimic or reflect what the team might use internally?  Absolutely not, and it didn't try to.  

It did provide a simple measurement of what happened over the course of 48 minutes with regard to one player.  A measurement that was positively received and/or linked to by Hoops Hype, True Hoop, Kelly Dwyer, Kevin Pelton, Marcel Mutoni, Wendell Maxey, Dwight Jaynes, and Ben Q. Rock, among other respected basketball voices (and many of you).

In the end, it's just data. If it's truly not useful, it's not worth shouting about, just dump it.  If it is useful, or potentially useful, then consider it reasonably and decide whether or not adjustments should be made.

Data is just one piece of the puzzle. But it's a piece that's absolutely worth considering.

-- Ben Golliver | (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com) | Twitter