Henry Abbott is the founder of the preeminent NBA blog TrueHoop and a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. I caught up with him to ask about the CBA, small market issues and blogging in sports. You can read more from Henry Abbott here at TrueHoop.
Tim Allen: Let's start by talking a little bit about the CBA. Given 'The Decision' and all of that, do you think that small market teams - like the Timberwolves - need something to change in order to help them keep their star players? Do you think franchise tags could be an answer?
Henry Abbott: I'm totally against franchise tags. I believe that skilled front offices and owners should be rewarded. If Donald Sterling is such a bad owner, but the league hands him Blake Griffin, Sterling should have to work to keep him. He shouldn't be able to keep Griffin just by lucking into him in the draft. We don't necessarily need to have 30 teams and teams that can't win should be out. Miami and Cleveland are the same market size. If Cleveland had done a better job of surrounding LeBron with talent, maybe he doesn't leave for Miami.
Allen: Do you think that players are driving this a little bit more than before, though? Are they starting to run the show in terms of player movement and league balance?
Abbott: Certain players are more valuable to their teams and they drive the value up. There are only a few players running things. Kareem had power, too, but not like Wade, LeBron and a few others. Players are not taking a backseat anymore. It's not a perfect system, but small markets can win and have won. The players will come if the situation is right.
Allen: If Wade had been drafted by Minnesota instead of Miami, do you think he could've conviced Bosh and LeBron to come to the Wolves?
Abbott: Well, Wade has a special relationship with the owner of the Heat [Micky Arison] and with the team. There was a lot of long term planning involved in what happened this summer. But Kevin Garnett got people to come to Minnesota. People mention the weather and all of that, but I think its more important that players are going into a stable situation where they have a chance to win.
Allen: Switching gears a little bit, given that sports blogs are becoming increasing popular vs. traditional journalism, do you see any problems with a lack of accountability? Given that anyone can start a blog or write an article on a blog, without the same credibility concerns as a newspaper beat writer, do you think that is a concern?
Abbott: Everyone is reachable. GMs and other team personnel can still contact a blog writer. I feel like blogs are more accountable. I misspelled Dwyane Wade's name in an article a while back, and I instantly was corrected by several commentors. In the future, with blogs, credibility will be king. You have to be careful what you publish because no one will care what you write if your credibility is gone.
Allen: And how does the use of advanced stats figure into that credibility?
Abbott: It's harder to bull---t. When I first started to write, we were routinely using stats in horrible ways. People were implying correlations that weren't actually there. Everyone used per game stats and actually making decisions based on those stats now is unforgivable. We certainly don't have it all figured out now. But in the early days, it was harder to separate good from bad. By not using new tools, you will be left behind.
Look at someone like Corey Brewer who is a +/- All-Star. He's a great perimeter defender. Even on a bad team, he had a good +/-. But he was traded to New York, let go by the Knicks and then signed by Dallas. If Mike D'Antoni wasn't going to play him, he wasn't going to keep him. It was known, however, that he could be valuable and [Mark Cuban] is trying to take advantage of that.
Allen: What do you think about the opinion of Phil Jackson, among others, who suggest that Kevin Love pads his stats by going after easy rebounds and things like that?
Abbott: Phil is just playing mind games. I think that's a crock.
Allen: What is your reaction to David Kahn's opinion that advanced stats are less valuable for rebuilding teams?
Abbott: I don't know that Kahn's necessarily wrong. It's insecure to make decisions in the NBA. The old rules are no good anymore. GMs are getting beat up badly when they make decisions. Stats make some people nervous, which is why it definitely needs to mean something if you make a move. More information is not necessarily valuable. More good information is useful.
(Big thanks to Mr. Abbott for taking the time for this interview.)