Hang Up and Listen: The John Hollinger Edition

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S1: The following podcast contains explicit language.

S2: Hello, I am Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor and the author of The Queen. This is Slate’s sports podcast. Hang up and listen for the week of November 25th, 2019. Happy Thanksgiving to one and all, including my friend Stefan FATSIS, who is out this week. In his absence, I’m going to ditch the usual hang up format, treat you all to a long conversation with John Hollinger. John left the basketball nerd media to become a high ranking executive with the Memphis Grizzlies. He has now returned to the basketball nerd media, where he is subjected to chit chat by the likes of me. He writes for the athletic. He podcasts. We’ll get to him in a second. But before we get to that one, let you know about our live show in Washington, D.C. next week.

S3: It is at the Hamilton Leive. It’s an amazing venue downtown in D.C. If you’ve never been, you must go. We’re going to be joined by some of our favorite journalists, folks you’ve heard on this program before, Gene DEMBY, Lindsey Gibbs, Dave McKenna. Good to Slate.com slash live. For tickets and information. We would love to see you there. It is December the 3rd, Tuesday night in Washington, D.C. at the Hamilton Slate.com slash life. My guest today is a senior NBA columnist for The Athletic. He also does a weekly podcast with Nate Duncan. It is called the Hollander and Duncan NBA Show. Until earlier this year, he was a senior executive with the Memphis Grizzlies.

S4: And before that, he was one of the first and most prominent basketball sabor patricians launching the website alleyoop, writing the annual pro basketball prospectus books and then joining up with Etsy.com and then ESPN dot com John Hollinger. Thank you for joining me today. Hey, thanks for having me. So I wanted to start out before we get into that long and interesting bio that I just ran through with something newsy and that’s something Slash someone is Lukáš Don Church.

S5: He had 41 points, 10 assists and six rebounds against the Rockets on Sunday night. A few days before that, he scored thirty five points and got a triple double in just twenty five minutes. The students, 20 years old, he’s led the Mavericks to an 11 and five record and he leads the league in player efficiency rating PR. The statistic you invented, Luca Dutch and he’s incredible. It’s been amazing to watch the story for me of the NBA season so far.

S6: Yeah, I mean, it is incredible. You know, at his age, Janki said he’s only 20 and he’s pretty close to averaging a triple double thirty point six points, ten point one rebounds, nine point eight assists. So just a phenomenal start to his season. And what’s so interesting is that in his draft year, when he came out, he was kind of looked at as more of the finished product, whereas some of the other players who were available in the top half of that lottery were seen more as guys four or five years down the road who maybe could possibly have more sealing. And what’s happened instead is he’s made a phenomenal improvement just from his rookie year to a second year, whereas last year he was a pretty good player. He’s now become one of the best players in the league and an MVP candidate for sure. And it’s really vaulted Dallas into an echelon that they didn’t expect to be in this quickly.

S5: He’s a guy who his greatness is not subtle. If you watch him play the ability that he has to do the kind of harden ask step back threes.

S7: And also just to get into the lane and find teammates. He’s obviously very different from LeBron James.

S5: But his ability as a bigger guy to get into the lane, find teammates for three-point shots, is LeBron ask in some ways an extremely rare and he’s just such a fun player to watch to.

S6: Yeah. I mean, he’s a brilliant passer and he’s able to move defenders with his eyes and throw some passes where you kind of rewinding the tape and go, wow. How did he do that? And he’s kind of always had that in his game where I think he’s really refined. His game is his ability to get places off the dribble, which he even though he played, is as a point guard. Even in Spain. He he wasn’t as crafty or as or as nimble getting where he wanted to go off the bounce. And that limited him a little bit. And then just as a finisher in the paint, he’s added a variety of floaters and little head fakes and stuff. And that’s really made him much more lethal as well.

S5: I remember there was I might not get this exactly right, but one of the first times the Warriors played the Mavs and Luca’s rookie year, Draymond Green saying this guy’s gonna be a problem. Actually, he already is a problem like you see at of very quickly gotten the respect of his NBA peers.

S6: Yeah. I mean I think he just has a pretty advanced basketball IQ and so the veterans that he plays against really respect that.

S5: And so you mentioned the draft, the Grizzlies. You are still with them at the time. Yeah. Drafted Jaren Jackson Junior right after Luca doncha. Would you have taken Luka if he was available?

S8: I don’t want to give away too much, or we would have been happy with either of them. And in the position we were in, it wasn’t because we already were down a future first round pick. It wasn’t really plausible for us to trade up. So we were gonna end up taken with the draft, gave us at four. It looked for a while like we were gonna end up with Luca, you know, because it seemed like Atlanta was going to take Jaren Jackson, number three. And then they worked out the trade with Dallas to move down to five and take Trey Young instead. So, I mean, Jared had a really good rookie year. He’s still really young and really young physically to where he’s more growing into his body. And so I think, you know, when he gets into his mid 20s, that’s when you really see the best from him. But we’ll see how it goes there.

S5: These are like really small things that affect the future of NBA franchises, because the Grizzlies obviously would’ve had a different path if Luca dhanraj was on the team rather than Jaren Jackson Junior and now Jamarat. These are the things that determine championships. They determine, you know, how much is determined. They determine so much just who goes through and who goes for. Well, you know, look, advantage might’ve cost us a chomp grant to the trade between the Hawks and the Mavericks. But for Dan, Chechen and Trayvon. Was that something that surprised you? What happened was that I don’t remember was that like a thing that people in the league we’re talking about as a possibility?

S1: I mean, we knew Dallas like dances quite a bit. So I guess it didn’t surprise us that they would try to trade up. It surprises a little that Atlanta traded down just because the perception of that draft was that there were three real super talents and that there were some good players after that, but probably quite not quite on the same level. Now, Trey Young has turned out to be, I think, better than people initially thought. So that’s taking some of the sting off of that. But I I still think you’d rather have Lukáš probably than Trey on plus Cam Redish, who’s the player they eventually got with the pick from Dallas?

S5: I think that is definitely right, even though Trey Young has been really, really good this year. All right. Let’s rewind to how you got your start. Were you a Bill James reader as a kid? Were you a basketball?

S1: By God? Yes. Yeah. I mean, that was what started everything was me reading all the Bill James books when I was a teenager. And I just devoured those things. And eventually I got to the point where I was a big basketball fan and basketball player at the time. So I started messing around with basketball stats to see what could be done on that front, because it felt very primitive to me that we just had kind of points per game and field goal percentage.

S8: And you couldn’t really didn’t really get at the essence of who was good and who wasn’t.

S5: Have you thought about as you’ve been doing this now for a long time? Why? I was like why history developed that way, that baseball would have had this sort of statistical revel revolution before basketball and other sports.

S6: Well, I mean, baseball was probably the best setup for it, where it’s just a series of one on one batter pitcher confrontations. And then it just had this history with its own statistics that was so much richer that than bask-. I mean, basketball didn’t even start keeping track of block shots till the 70s. So baseball, you go back to nineteen hundred and you have complete box scores of every single game. I mean there was just a tradition in baseball, it didn’t exist in basketball of record keeping that made it far more ripe for this type of thing.

S5: That’s a weird that they wouldn’t have tracked block shots. It seems very easy to track. I like the numbers get very absolute.

S9: There is just. Yeah. I mean there just wasn’t a lot of thought to put into the statistical record of the game beyond just very basic nuts and bolts.

S5: And so is this unlike the 90s, like when did you start really kind of looking at this stuff seriously and trying to figure out where you could contribute?

S6: Yeah. So this would be as we got into the 90s and as I, you know, became an actual adult. Then I created my own Web site in nineteen ninety five and that probably took it to another level where I really started getting very deep into the weeds on statistical methods with with basketball and ways of raiding players, and that’s where player efficiency rating came from.

S4: So let’s indulge in a little bit of back in my day here, like how would you actually work with the stats and how would you get them back then? Like this was pre basketball reference.

S8: Yeah. What did you there was that now? There was a site that had them though. It was just a random guy posted on the Web site still up there, dug stats dot com. I mean that’s what I used originally.

S10: Can we shout out that guy? His name is Doug. Yeah. His name is Doug. I know that.

S8: So I would take take those stats and I would just dump them into Excel and and start playing.

S5: And who were some of your peers at that point or who did you really look to for guidance or collaboration?

S9: There wasn’t a whole lot of guidance there. Collaboration. Just you and Doug, the silent partner. Yeah. I mean, I know the Doug Stats page. And then, you know, eventually after a couple of years, a couple of other interested people, you know, guys like Dean Ogburn, Kevin Pelton.

S6: I mean, the bulletin board formed called a PBR Metrix, which was essentially basketball statistics discussion group. So a lot of useful things came from that. But that’s probably probably getting five years later, at least by then. That was like early 2000s.

S7: All right. So explain player efficiency rating where it came from and what you were hoping to achieve with it.

S6: What I was hoping to achieve was something similar to Opie s and baseball, where you could look at one number and at least get an idea of how effective somebody was and maybe wouldn’t tell you everything. But we tell you a lot more than points per game or a field goal percentage would. And I wanted it to be immediately accessible in people’s minds. What what a certain number meant. And that’s why I said the league average to fifteen, because I figured if somebody averaged fifteen points a game, you think, oh, yeah, he’s all right. And just the way the scale worked out that the best ratings would end up in the high 20s and low 30s was perfect because that’s where kind of the leaders in scoring would end up. So I just thought I’d mapped out really well to what was already calibrated in people’s heads.

S5: Is it fair to say that around this time? Kind of similar to baseball, how there could be a guy who had 300 but kind of an empty 300 to stall singles might have been overrated, that there were players who would score, you know, 15 or 20 on like a super low field goal percentage volume to the end and in a ton of minutes, I think.

S6: I think people really didn’t understand the impactive of minutes. And looking at things per minute was a much more useful way to evaluate players. And I think that really was probably the biggest thing that that PR really uncovered was that some of these players who were had decent scoring rates but were playing an insane number of minutes probably weren’t as good as you thought. Literals Presa Sprewell would be a perfect example. And on the other hand, you had these players who were coming up at the time. Like I’ll say, Andre Kirilenko was one guy I know came up where it was the opposite, where he wasn’t playing a ton of minutes. But once you realize how much he stuff, the stat sheet in those minutes was like, OK, this guy’s really good. And he obviously eventually became an all star player.

S4: Would people yell at you about Latrell Sprewell and how he was awesome and you were dumb figuratively?

S9: I mean, did they would they would yell at him in their emails.

S5: But that was the guy who you kind of pushed down in the rankings?

S9: Well, yeah. And Antoine Walker was probably the biggest magnet.

S1: Antoine, people made a big deal out of him and he had a good scoring average and he would take a ton of threes and some of them would go in and he would do the shimmy and whatnot.

S5: He was ahead of his time as the volume three point shooter.

S1: Come on. Yeah. Yeah. He like he was and he wasn’t right because he was taking them from everywhere. He just wasn’t making them from a whole lot of spaces. So yeah. Really interesting debate about what Antoine Walker would be in the modern NBA.

S4: Yeah, that’s really interesting because you do actually have to make some of the three pointers that you take.

S10: It isn’t just a vote taker. Yeah. Yeah. It’s not just about getting them up.

S5: But, you know, one thing that’s really, really different now as opposed to in the 90s, it’s not just the teams are more savvy and aware about the value, the mathematical importance of taking threes. It’s the players can train for it. And so if maybe Antoine Walker had come up 20 years later, I don’t know, maybe he would have developed a better, more consistent shot. Who’s to say maybe?

S6: I mean, he was looking at how he shot it. You know, he wasn’t a good free throw shooter either. I guess I have my doubts. I mean, he came through Kentucky and Rick Pitino. So there was always that mindset of shooting a lot of threes that he came in to the league with. And even his first new college coach and her first two NBA coaches. Excuse me, were Pitino and Jim O’BRIEN right?

S10: I didn’t really believe it when I said it. I was just trying to, like, help out Antoine here, because I kind have kind of a soft spot for him.

S5: But I think you’re probably right. Let’s talk through the PR standings right now. Luca, it is at the top thirty three point two A. Why would he if we just like look at his. His numbers be at the top of the PR standings today?

S11: Well, I mean, that things that stand out I mean, a his Triple Crown starts, right? I mean, just scoring, rebounding, assisting at an incredibly high rate. And then the other thing that stands out with him is that he is shooting sixty two percent on two pointers. Well, which is like you only see that from centers. Right. He’s been not only highly productive in terms of just so many possessions, end up with the ball on his hands and him making a play but highly efficient as well, even though it’s three-point percentage, isn’t that high? Draws a lot of foul shoots. Eighty one percent from the line between those things. Even though he doesn’t contribute a lot and like steals and blocks, he’s still just a massively productive player who’s putting up insane stats on the season.

S6: Now I will say Dallas’s schedule early has been a little soft, so this will probably come down a little bit. But he’s having an historic season either way.

S5: Yeah, that kind of efficiency as a 20 year old. And then you also mentioned his three-point percentage not being that high. You know, we’re we’re talking about ceilings earlier to think that there’s still so much room for growth. For him, it’s kind of terrifying.

S6: Yeah. I mean, what happens if he becomes a 40 percent three point shooter? What do you what do you do with him then, especially in his size? So he’s he’s gonna be a problem for a long time, I think.

S5: Be concerned. Draymond Green, the guy who’s the most surprising is at number four is Mitchell Robinson, maybe a vehicle Zubi number 10 as well. Was a guy his name I wasn’t expecting to see there. These are guys who are are efficient and you know, our minutes.

S12: Yeah. I mean I would say with with Mitchell Ramsey I would say, you know, two and a 45 minutes. So you probably don’t have quite as much to go on there. He’s just been so highly efficient. You know, 74 percent true shooting. I mean, that’s that’s basically the reason he’s ranked as high as he has. And then it is insanely high. BLOCK shot, rate straight a shot blocks in the league by far.

S4: The guy I’m always so delighted to see near the top of the PR rankings as Boban the. King of PR.

S5: And like when a big guy in particular is putting up like mats of efficiency numbers and low minutes, is that all at all suggestive, like, oh, they should give this guy more time? Or is there going to. Are there gonna be diminishing returns if somebody who is efficient and those small number of minutes plays them?

S9: So my research has shown that you’re not going to see diminishing returns in terms of his production. I mean, the reason he doesn’t play more is because just defensively he gives it all back. So one of the areas where PR has a little bit of a blind spot is we know block steals fouls. It’s harder for it to evaluate just generally bad defense.

S12: And I think where the modern NBA has changed things is that you can’t just be a paint big anymore. You have to be able to get out in the perimeter a little bit and do some things in space. And some of these guys are like Bougon is the most glaring example. Just get exposed in those situation. I mean, and Kanter is another guy who really struggles on defense. But if you just look at PR puts up huge, you know, he’s hugely productive player in terms of points and rebounds. So that’s one of the things really for bigs especially is that there’s a defensive component to it that it can’t quite capture in the 2019 version of basketball.

S5: So as fans who are trying to understand how the game works and also, you know, I’m interested in numbers, I’m looking at these stats like what would your suggestion be for a kind of statistical diet for a fan of like public facing numbers, assuming that there’s no just perfect all in one stat like what are you good combo to look at if you want to see what a guy’s contributions are?

S9: Yeah. So aside from PR, I would say like CPM is good because it’s available right on basketball reference.

S6: So it’s it’s easily accessible and it does a pretty good job of kind of mapping things that are important to winning two to a player’s own production. Usually we’ll get a pretty good idea with that. There’s some more complex stuff that’s out there that gets deeper into the weeds is probably a little bit more accurate on some levels. What’s the concept behind BBM?

S13: Basically, they took what what, Matt? They took the stats that map to real plus/minus and extrapolate that from a player’s own box score production. So so that basically they can look at what your what your own statistical production is and say, well, this is what you’re real plus/minus should be. And what’s weird is that it ends up being more stable than actual real plus minus, which which tends to have lots a lots of peaks and valleys from year to year with the same players. So it was it was a really interesting concept. And, you know, it shows a plus minus for for offense and defense for each player. So there’s a pretty good conceptual framework behind it. Now, there’s there’s also something a little more advanced called P.I and invented by this guy named Jacob Goldstein, which takes some of the player tracking data that’s now available and kind of goes goes to town on that. And so he’s able to evaluate things a little bit more deeper level and then come away with ratings for each player. And the other thing that does we just really need is it strips out the lock component. In other words. Looking just so what a lot of people started doing in the 2000s, originally I was just looking at plus/minus like how your team is on the core, Percaya team is off the court. Then they started looking at, well, that depends on who you play with. Actually, so I started looking at who the other nine players were on the court and that as they got deeper into it, they realized the problem was actually even more complicated and that you have to factor out that there is a major love component when you’re when you’re dealing with small samples of minutes, whereas, you know, whether open threes are going in or not or whether the other team is shooting 90 percent from the line or 50 percent from the line while you’re in the game, which you know you can’t defend free throws, that’s just luck.

S9: And that’s the kind of stuff that has tended to even out over time. But when you break this stuff down into smaller minutes, samples to get kind of a five man units or differentiate what this team is, what this player on the floor versus that player on the floor, then you really have to account for it. So it gets to be some pretty complex math and an accounting. They’ve done that with p.I. P.M. So that that’s another really interesting metric.

S5: All right. I just looked up BBM box plus minus on basketball reference and look who’s number one. Look at Dan. Check that guy. He’s good no matter what numbers you look at. No matter what statistic. And somebody maybe who is better in back plus/minus than PR because it counts for defense. Who would that be, John?

S9: Yeah. So you look at guys like and A.B or Patrick Beverley, who are primarily defensive players for their teams and and do a really good job of it.

S13: And so they maybe don’t have the the offensive stats that that would pump up their PR, but they’re good players nonetheless.

S5: You kind of alluded to player tracking data and I wanted to ask you about just what the biggest differences are from when you started to today, that obviously being a big one. There was nothing like that in the 90s. And also just curious about, you know, how when you started there was maybe less stuff available, but it was more publicly available. Stuff was more kind of public facing. And now the trend in all of sports has been to make numbers, data more proprietary. And so I’m curious if you could kind of talk about that trend as well.

S11: Yeah. The NBA has actually done a pretty good job of making it public. And so it’s just a question of a lot of the research now has been taken into private hands because a lot of the best analytics people have been hired by teams.

S6: So that’s been probably the biggest communal loss, I would say. The challenge is completely upside down now, though, because 20 years ago when I was doing this, the biggest challenge was getting any kind of data at all.

S14: And now the challenge is you have so much data that it’s dealing with it and understanding what to do with it and making sense of what what matters and what doesn’t matter.

S5: Let’s move to your tenure with the Grizzlies, you joined up with the team in 2012. You were at ESPN at the time. How did that come about? Were you looking to join a front office?

S8: I wasn’t really looking to do it like I thought I would just be at ESPN for, you know, however long. And that’s just what where my mind was. And. But I had two different opportunities come up actually from two different teams and evaluated that the Grizzlies one was was a little better because it was a little more responsibility, higher up the food chain and wouldn’t necessarily confined me to the analytics ghetto, which is where it seemed like a lot of people were getting hired into. And then they kind of disappeared like they went to the gulag. So I was wary of that. It wasn’t really something I was looking for. But when the opportunity came up, I was really excited by it.

S5: That was actually one of the things I wanted to ask you about is like what the front office titles mean. You’re the vice president of basketball operations. The Grizzlies also had a GM, Chris Wallace. Yep. So what did you do and what what was your level?

S9: I mean, I was the second, second in command, basically, right on on the basketball operations side. And that can involve different responsibilities with different teams, because as much as the league projects that they’re this big conglomerate, it’s really 30 mom and pop shops at the end of the day.

S12: So you end up wearing a lot of different hats regardless of what your role is. But in my case, I was overseeing analytics, obviously, given my background, but I was also out looking at players. I was calling other teams about trades. You’re going to practice, you’re evaluating your own team. And then there’s just kind of the boring stuff that you have to deal with to of managing a staff and health and medical side of things. There’s just some day to day unglamorous stuff that goes into that, too. So it’s not quite like managing a fantasy team.

S7: Love to hear about the boring stuff that people have to do at their jobs was like the big complaint that people had that they’re just like too many meetings, just like any any job or we actually did okay on meetings.

S9: I think I think we actually did not have did not have an overload of meetings.

S12: The travel’s sort of makes it difficult for too many meetings to happen, actually, because there’s the team is on the road half the time. You’re going to be on the road some of the time when you’re out looking at players or doing different things. Even in even in the off season, the players are scattered. The coaches and trainers are out seeing the players. There’s different camps. There’s summer league. So there’s too many meetings thing.

S10: Actually, the schedule kind of solves that on its own. That’s a good thing to know. Maybe I should join the NBA. There you go.

S5: When you’re dealing with other teams for potential trade talks, talking to other executives, did you find that fun? Was that like stress inducing? Did you feel like you were able to develop good relationships or do like you’re always assessing whether people are lying to you?

S6: No, that actually that actually was fun. It’s pretty easy to develop those relationships. And I think they’re obviously there were some guys that I knew from ESPN career, too. So there are some doors that were already kind of open that way. It’s a lot of the trading in the league, though, is a little bit relationship driven where, you know, we’d we’d have people in our front office who had relationships with people in other front offices. So they’d be our contact points for that team or the people that I was closest to. I would be the contact points for those teams. But that bar was kind of fun. The part, though, was more stressful, was dealing with agents and free agency because that was more like, I mean, trade you’re doing back and forth. But at the end of the day, you you didn’t have to do anything. And you also presumably were on the phone with them to get something. So that part was a little easier. Free agency was a little more stressful because the negotiation goes badly. The guy leafs. Right. So there is more more to lose there.

S5: Yeah. And players have more power in the NBA that just because of the smaller rosters and the fact that winning is so driven by a small like class of guys who are just better than everyone else. So did you find that a lot of the job was to portray, not just portray, but to create an environment in Memphis that players wouldn’t want to plan just to to be a kind of player friendly and what every aspect of what that phrase means?

S6: Yeah, I mean, I think that was there in the background. I mean, certainly we made it, you know, a lot of improvements to kind of just things like the players lounge and the you know, the kind of player experience in the time I was there. But I think the biggest thing that still attracts players is winning and playing with other good players. And so that obviously still has to be at the forefront. We were fortunate in Memphis, though. I mean, we had four good players who all wanted to be there and. You know, in a small market, you don’t really take that for granted. So that I think that was kind of a special time because of that.

S5: I was going to ask about that. So you had Marcus on my Connely, obviously, and then Zach Randolph and Tony Allen and those teams. And they were all there when you got there. Right.

S8: They were all there when I got there. Yes. And all four of them, in the time I was there, resigned with us as unrestricted free agents, which without much of a fight.

S1: And so that I mean, I think that goes goes to show you that we I mean, we didn’t deal with some of the stuff that other teams have dealt with in terms of guys trying to push their way out.

S5: Yeah. I was actually wondering, you know, your comment there, just kind of flip this on my on its head, because I was going to say like, well, maybe you didn’t have a chance to really transform that team because you had those guys locked in. And but actually, they could have all left. And so you did have an opportunity to change or or shift what the organization was doing. But there was a mutual decision by the players and the organization to keep everybody together. That was a choice.

S9: Yeah, it was a choice. I mean, it wasn’t it wasn’t much of a choice given our cap situation. I mean, the once once once you’re over the cap, I mean, you might as well resign your own guys, basically. No.

S8: I mean, probably the biggest direction changing move we made was when I first got there, when we traded Rudy Gay, because that took us out of a precarious situation with the luxury tax. But then it also freed up a lot more shots. And just time with the basketball for Marcus on my connely and really allowed them to take a step up.

S5: So I was doing my like reading and refreshing about those years. And there were reports words back then was at Yahoo! Wrote a story about how Lionel Hollins confronted you and 2013. And it seemed like he was pissed about the Rudy Gay trade and that there was this kind of tension and he was a guy who wasn’t so analytically inclined. And could you just like kind of talk about that relationship and that tension?

S9: I mean, that was a weird situation from the get go because Lionel’s contract was expiring and he knew it. And he he still wasn’t happy with the previous extension that he got from them, from the previous owner.

S6: Robert Pear had just bought the team right before I was hired, which is how I ended up there. And our new team president, Jason Levithan, had had to make a decision on what he was going to do there. So it was just I think it was more situational than than anything that’s kind of where where that was.

S5: So under different circumstances, you and Lionel Hollins could have been b.f f.’s.

S9: Right? Right. Right.

S15: But I mean, we walked into a situation where it was just going to be really difficult no matter what happened. And, you know, and then it looked like he was going to kind of leave as a free agent, go to another team, and then especially in the Clippers job went away. There was more tension because then he still wanted to stay in Memphis. But I think our management kind of moved on a little bit.

S9: And so that just created odd situation all around.

S12: But, you know, also at the time of that move, especially, I think he was he was probably evaluating it as these moves that are made to the roster are going to affect by sort of coach free agency. Right. So there was there was obviously a tension there that we were going to we knew coming in and we had to trade somebody because the team was way into the luxury tax and was going to be the next year as well. And so there was almost instant tension because of that.

S7: Yeah. And I don’t think, you know, you guys traded the the wrong guy. That was a smart move. And in 2013, you made the Western Conference finals, got a little help from Patrick Beverley injured having.

S5: Yeah, entering Russell Westbrook and a move that started there years long feud and then ran into the Spurs in the Western Conference finals, which which ended up as a sweep. What are what are your kind of memories of that 2013 playoff run? Getting to those Western Conference finals was the kind of pinnacle achievement of that era for the team.

S16: Well, I mean, it was the farthest they advance. But I mean, I think I think our team in 2015 was our best team. Yeah, the team that was up to 1 on Golden State. We just happened to be playing Golden State in the second round. You know, that first year was all such a whirlwind. I came in in the middle of the season and we just you know, after all the trade stuff happened, we just kind of got every everything together and and things kind of clicked.

S15: And LANL, to his credit, put it past him and really got the best out of that team in the playoffs. And we were fortunate that Russell Westbrook was out in the second round, certainly because we could just throw everything we had at Kevin Durant and put Tony Allen on. A man have helped defenders in the right spots because their their secondary guys weren’t weren’t as threatening.

S6: And that made our our lives easier. But that was a fun. Run the ad.. The one thing I wonder about with that team, we had all that team and always done really well against Miami. They just matched up well against them. They know we could post up against them if they didn’t have a lot of good post defenders and we could put Tony Allen on LeBron James and at least prevent him from going totally nuts. And so we had always done well against them. We would have played them. We got to the finals, but we just had no answer over San Antonio.

S7: So this kind of, I think, speaks to the fact that, quote unquote, analytics people get pigeonholed. And like a really simplistic take on it is like, oh, like analytics says you should shoot a lot of threes. Like this is a team that did not shoot very many threes, had just the biggest lineup in the league and was really successful.

S5: Was that something that you kind of knew going in that there were just like a bunch of different ways that you could win an NBA? Or was that actually a lesson for you that, you know, flexibility and you know that there is not just one smart strategy for success?

S16: Yeah, I mean, we we were a bad shooting team, so like shooting a ton of threes didn’t make great sense. I still wish we had we’d gotten Marcus all out to the three point line earlier than we did because he he was a good three point shooter and he could have really spaced things out and made things more complicated for other teams. But that just wasn’t a thing. Teams would did with their centers. You know, and sit. So I mean, debt, definitely the way we played was was the way to play with that with that roster. But I still wonder if we left a little bit of money on the table not having one or two guys out beyond the three point line more often.

S7: That’s interesting. So it wasn’t even discussed. Just because I wasn’t done like that is not a thing that teams do. So we will not do that.

S6: No, I mean, it it came up with Mark, but not in that first season. It was more a little bit, I want to say, a year, two years later that it really came up that that was really starting to become more of a trend. And we really started discussing it more earnestly.

S5: So you mentioned being to one up on the Warriors that first year that the Warriors won the title, that 2 1 deficit for them has kind of become a part of their lore, that that was a moment when they kind of came together and, you know, they had to be tough and and come back and and beat you guys. And I was Draymond Green comes up again like he went out for barbecue in Memphis with Steph Curry, like Memphis barbecue worked against you. That that was that was a bonding moment.

S10: Yeah.

S6: Well it’s I think injuries worked against us too, unfortunately. Tony Allen couldn’t couldn’t move the way he had at the beginning of the series because of his hamstring. And that really hurt us just because he had done such an amazing job on Klay Thompson. And then the other part people forget is that Mike Conley broke his face the previous round and Beno sprained his ankle the previous round. So Game 1, we actually played without either of them. We played with at this at are point guard for us. And once they played like 40 minutes and we and we lost Game 1 and then we won Games 2 and 3 with Mike and Beno back in the lineup, it’s still not 100 percent.

S15: So if they had been full strength, I just wonder how that series would’ve would have gone.

S7: Do you feel like that was some kind of turning point for the franchise? I mean, you’re not you’re kind of in it at the time and you obviously have no idea how things are gonna play out in the future. And you’re not thinking this is our there’s our one chance.

S6: But in retrospect, was that kind of the the chance we we all knew at the time that there was a good chance that this was the best team we would have and that we wanted to maximize that.

S17: So you guys did not tank. I don’t think it’s fair to say there was there was not any there is not any intentional tanking in Memphis.

S9: Well, we were the you talking about the I mean, the seventeen eighteen season.

S3: Well, that’s because Connelly got hurt. And like I don’t I don’t know if that was the intention going into that that season to be bad.

S9: No, no, no. We were trying to win. But then once once that stopped being possible, we had a a four and twenty nine blitz to the finish line.

S10: Well, there you go. I was just I was I was contrasting it with teams that go in to a full season with no intensity when we never went very never went into a season with with the notion of tanking.

S3: Now it seems very different and that seems problematic to me. Whereas if circumstances come up as they as they did in 2017, 2018, and you realistically don’t have a chance till I kind of lean into that like that, that does not seem to be an issue for me.

S16: Yeah. Well, you know, the other part of it that people forget is that even if there was no draft take incentive at all, that. To use your best veteran players who are under contract for future seasons at a high rate in games that don’t matter still isn’t very smart. Yeah, that’s a good point, right?

S6: Because the only thing that can happen is bad, basically that they get injured and then are messed up for the next year. So because we got we we got flak for some people about what we were doing with Mark Esaw at the end of that year. But the fact was that he had you know, he was in his thirties. He’d already had a serious foot injury. We just didn’t want to take on more more risk than than we felt was appropriate.

S7: Do you feel like there needs to be there need to be a rule changes to make tanking less of an issue in the league? Or do you feel like it’s overblown and it’s it’s fine the way it is now?

S9: I think the issue is less tanking than there are so many games in March that teams just know the game doesn’t matter.

S16: So whether you say they’re tanking or not, they’re still disincentivized from really sending out their best players and and then going all out for it.

S6: So you’ll see, you know, you’ll see the same kind of situation where maybe it’s maybe it’s not draft considerations, but they’re going to play their younger guys and they’re going to they’re going to sit guys extra long who have any kind of injury to make sure they’re OK, especially if it’s a veteran player is under contract for the next season. And so I think I think that’s the more insidious level of it, rather than just abject like losing on purpose, which I don’t. I mean, even know that no matter what front offices do, the coaches and players try to win every single game. And that’s true for every team in the league. So I don’t think it exists at that level.

S5: Mark Cuban was once fined $600000 for talking about tanking on a podcast. But I think you’re safe because you no longer would.

S9: I think I’m. You aren’t there their reach at this point?

S5: Yes. That’s the thing that just feels kind of galling. As an observer and a fan of the league, it’s just the police saying the enforcement so that you can’t even have an honest conversation about it, that we all have to pretend that’s something that we all see with our eyes is happening, isn’t happening. And I think that our roads trust from fans. I don’t have like huge a deal.

S4: It is. But I think that these are like small things that kind of degrade our belief. And when we’re watching. If the league just isn’t being honest about what the incentives and disincentives are here.

S6: Yeah. I mean, the teams have an incentive to not be totally honest either because they’re still trying to sell tickets to the games.

S5: That makes sense, certainly. And you know, with the Grizzlies now like I think are in an ideal situation for a team that’s rebuilding and some of this is by design and some happenstance. But having, John, the number two pick from this this past year, having Jaren Jackson Junior, having Brandon Clarke, who’s another exciting young player like this, is a team that’s not going to have. It’s not going to make the playoffs this year. But fans will happily go and and watch watch a losing team because there’s promise there and there’s exciting talent. And you can enjoy them now and also kind of enjoy imagining them being great in a few years.

S16: Yeah. I mean, you can sell hope now because there they had the two good young players and they have the cap sheet is clean going forward. So they have a lot of options. You go in different directions and they’ll you know, they’ll seems like there’s a decent chance of a high pick, next year’s top six protected. So there’s there’s a lot of pieces there to be happy with that. The future pick from Golden State now, too, which is looking like it might, you know, be fairly juicy, at least depend on what happens there in the next few years. So they’re in a good spot.

S5: Makes me sad, though, and fans are savvy enough to be like happy about a team’s clean cap sheet like that. That shouldn’t be something that fans are excited about. Knows, like when the Knicks traded Kristaps. And, you know, you’re like, oh, the only good player. And like the last 10 years for this franchise is gone. But we have like all these picks and a clean capture, like you’re trying to sell that to fans. Like we should be excited and happy as fans to watch good players. Not not for cap space.

S9: Yeah, well, especially I mean, Knicks fans also thought they were getting Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving out of it. And instead they went to Brooklyn. So there was a little bit of a disappointment on July 1st. I think.

S18: So we’ve bounced around chronologically a little bit here, but I wanted to circle back to the Gasol and Connelly deals that ended up breaking up the Grizzlies core.

S5: And you were there. And a huge part of the discussions that ended up with Marcus all going to Toronto. And I think Memphis got a lot of credit for sending him to, you know, a contending team, a good team that ended up winning the title. But you were also kind of wanted to name no. Charlotte. Right.

S6: Yeah. I mean, we we were talking with Charlotte first. Our offer with Toronto was not as strong as the as the final deal. And then Charlotte, we we thought we were going to end up with a pretty good deal with them. And it did not get completed for a variety of reasons, I guess. But that, you know, that’s how it goes. I mean, you talk about deals and talk about deals, and 95 percent of the work you do in the front office ends up not mattering because there’s no result, because it ends up being a non deal.

S19: So it is just part of the business. And so the deal with deal with Toronto, once it was sweetened appropriately for us, that became more appealing to be able to get Valanciunas, to be able to get Delon Wright, who they eventually signed and traded to God.

S16: Draft picks out of and then still were able to use his money on Tyas Jones. And then Valanciunas, you know, gives you a starting center who’s ten years younger. So that became the most appealing deal at the time. I mean, that’s the easiest way to say it. And we just knew we were at the point. I mean, there was no point fighting it anymore. I mean, arguably, we should probably should have done it two years earlier, just after that after that series against San Antonio in would’ve been 17 like that. That was the point that that was kind of the last stand of grit and grind. And, you know, Zach and Tony were to a point where they were they were starting to fade because of their age. And that that was probably the point where we should have just had hit the dynamite. But we ended up hanging on for another two years and still trying to win. And so that we took it to the trade deadline last year and then that’s when the situation came up.

S5: So what I’m hearing is grizzlies going a little too much credit for being nice and sending Marcus all to Toronto because happily would have said Charlotte, if the trade had been a little bit better.

S6: Well, yeah, but I mean, the other thing is, I mean, if that deal had gotten done, then Charlotte makes the playoffs probably and is a little bit better situation. And so, you know, it’s not the Charlotte that we’re seeing on the floor this year. It’s a Charlotte with Kemba Walker and Marcus all in. Who knows what else?

S7: So Conley gets traded in July to the Utah Jazz and he was kind of Mr. Grizzly. And the thing that’s been kind of sweet is that both Gasol and Conley have talked about their friendship and it seems like really genuine and not just a teammate thing like a friends for life thing they had said to each other on the plane. And that’s like a thing that’s rare. And then to have guys, they played together from 2008 to 2019. Could you just say a little bit about them kind of as as friends in that relationship and how it defined the organization?

S9: Yeah. I mean, I think they you know, it really sprung from this is before I got there. But when there were trade rumors about Mike being traded, I think in his second season two to Milwaukee, Mark kind of sprung into action and started telling all the reporters and everything like, oh, my God, I can’t do this. Like, how do I stop this?

S6: And I think from that point forward, that kind of always had each other’s back. And, you know, it just a lot of mutual respect that that they were playing the right way and for the right reasons. And it wasn’t just about themselves. They were always just so much about the team. And that’s what made it so easy for us to have a winning team in Memphis was because of those two guys.

S4: All right. The other trade that I have to ask you about was the one that was not consummated, which is the great, great story of the 2019 trade deadline, which as the confusion over which Brooks was going to be traded.

S12: Oh, yeah. Yeah. So that was actually that was not at the trade deadline. That was in December.

S4: I want to say, OK, my bad. But the idea was that the Grizzlies were going to trade either Marshawn Brooks or Dillon Brooks. And there was some game of telephone where there was confusion about who like. So what happened and whose fault was it?

S9: Sure. So it’s common in a three team trade to have the team in the middle kind of handle both sides of it. And so we were dealing with Washington and Phoenix was dealing with Washington. And I think the name Brooks came up and I’m not sure Washington realized we had to Brooks’s. And so as we had Washington gridlock, which I mean, it would all come out in the laundry except that Phoenix leaked it leaked the trade while the two of us were still playing a game.

S6: So that that’s what made it super awkward because we had to tackle the situation. Right away, while our players are still coming back to the locker room, you know, Marshawn Brooks is on the floor as moms in the crowd trying to tell him he’s been traded like it was, it was just weird and that so it was a unfortunate situation that way.

S16: But like I said, if it hadn’t leaked during the game and because we had sort of agreed to what we were going to do with Washington and then we kind of said, OK, well, let’s you know, let’s wrap this up tomorrow morning and we’ll all get on the phone together. And so because we. Because we knew we were about both about to play games and it never got to the to the next morning, if it had, you know, we would have we would have realized that on our own that that there there was the confusion over the names and it all would have died and nothing would come of it.

S8: So it was that the trade leaking well, we’re both playing games. It was really the thing that made it such a mess.

S4: Were the Brooks’s able to see the humor in it or were they just kind of both pissed?

S9: I think probably Dylan saw more of the humor in it than Marshawn because Marshawn was the one who was being traded. And the deal that we wanted to do that makes sense.

S4: All right. John Hollinger now at the Athletic, also does a podcast with Nate Duncan. Everybody should check that out. If you want to hear the perspective of one of the great analytical minds in basketball who also has front office experience. We benefited from hearing of that today. John, thank you so much for taking the time.

S9: All right. Thanks for having me.

S3: And now it is time for after ball, a solo after ball. Do not want to deprive you of after ball. Despite my inability to pluralized this week, the after ball this week will honor Roger Ayres. This is a college basketball referee whose existence I did not know of until Sunday, when over the weekend, Jeff Goodman, the basketball writer, tweeted the streak. Now at 19 and counting for Roger Ηere’s, the streak being the number of consecutive calendar days in which Roger Ayres had reffed a college basketball game. And this is an impressive itinerary. My dude isn’t just like reffing games, you know, in the same state. This is according to Ken Palm Akam. He was in New York at Madison Square Garden. Then he went to Chapel Hill, West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania. Virginia, Virginia. Massachusetts, Massachusetts. Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia. And then finally, Roger Rogers was doing the T.S.A. Clemson game on Sunday, and that was in Las Vegas. So hopefully he gets some answers soon. Roger Ayres, congratulations on your diehard streak of reffing and the Roger Ayres. This week, the solo Roger Ayres is about an NFL kicker. So I wanted to give you a little taste of FATSIS, even though FATSIS is not here with us. Former NFL kicker Fred Cox died at the age of 80 in Minnesota last week. Cox booted footballs for the Minnesota Vikings for a long time. 1963 to 1977, never for any other NFL team. He played in all four of the Vikings Super Bowl losses in the 70s, though those losses were not his fault. He stole thirty fourth all time in the NFL in points, scored thirty fourth and field goals made in his playing days. He was known as Fat Freddie, which is rude as a nickname. He’s also known as Freddie the Toe, which is not rude but is a metronome. But what Cox is best known for is not either of those nicknames. It is the role he played in inventing a toy, as Richard sandomir accounts and Cox’s New York Times obituary. The kicker was approached by a Minnesota entrepreneur who wanted to develop a kid’s field goal kicking game for the young fatsos out there. sandomir writes Cox suggested that they use a late material like foam rubber. They hired an injection molding company to create a prototype football, which met their expectations. It was late, safe and squeezable an aerodynamic when Tostan kicked the kids field goal kicking game never took off. Not enough young FATSIS is out there. The football was a hit, though. Parker Brothers ended up making a licensing deal for it, which they marketed under the Nerf brand starting in 1972. This was the Nerf football in a nineteen eighty nine story in the Pittsburgh press. Cox said that he, his partner and their agent got 5 percent of the wholesale price of each Nerf football sold. That story said sales peaked at eight and a half million in 1879, which means that Fred Cox had a nice little nest egg for himself for a Nerf bag or a nerf nest. We’ll leave that naming as an exercise for for further study. But where I’m going with this naturally is a story that I found on the urban legend aggregator Snopes.com, which reported on the existence of a 2013 Facebook post about an hour football. That post reads as follows. Last night, my sister’s dog Jake was at the community dog park. He was playing and running and having a blast. He picked up a Nerf football that was just laying around. He immediately dropped it and shook his head. He got a drink and played a bit longer. Then all of a sudden, he wanted to go home. When he got home a few moments later, he laid down, and in minutes he was dead. Snopes is short-form version of this claim. A dog died after picking up a poisoned Nerf football in a dog park. Snopes is assessment of the truth value of this claim undetermined. They traced the report to an actual dog owner who did a more extensive interview with the Web site PET 360 dot com, saying that, Jake, the dog picked up a small plastic coated pink football and was foaming at the mouth. Snopes then writes, Although it is possible that Jake died because the Nerf football he picked up was suffused with some form of poison, either deliberately or accidentally. That claim remains an unproven hypothesis. No necropsy or toxicology tests were performed on Jake because his body had already been frozen. Nor was the Nerf football analyzed for traces of poison. Jake’s sudden and unexpected death might have been due to one of a number of alternative explanations, including a heart attack or a beasting no matter what. This is a tragedy. Rest in peace, Jake.

S5: Rest in peace. Fred Cox also.

S20: And everyone, out of an abundance of caution, do not ingest strange Nerf footballs. That is our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan. Listener pashas and subscribe or just reach out. Go to Slate dot com slash hang up. You can email us at Hang-Up at Slate.com. Also buy tickets to our live show in D.C. We would love to see you there, December 3rd at the Hamilton Slate dot com slash line for tickets and information. If you’re still here, you also might want even more of this week’s hang up. And listen, we have a bonus segment for you. And in our bonus segment this week, I talked to John Hollinger about some interesting, possibly wacky new NBA proposals.

S9: I think for teams that have real championship aspirations, they probably won’t take the cup as seriously. But I do. I do think also for kind of that second tier teams that that might be something they shoot for it to say, hey, we’re you know, we’re decent. We’ve done something here.

S20: That conversation jointly. Plus it’s just $35 for the first year. A great deal. You can sign up at slate.com, flushing a plus. I’m Josh Levine, remembers Olmo Baity. And thanks for listening.

S4: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members John Hollinger. You’re still here. Thank you for being with us. Thanks for having me. All right. I wanted to ask you about this proposal for an in-season tournaments reseeding the conference finalists and also plan for the postseason. And this was reported by Adrian, what you’re asking and Zach Lowe on ESPN last week. Which of those do you find kind of most appealing and maybe most realistic?

S6: Yeah. No, I think I think the the proposal generally pretty good because it’s a way for the league to dip their tell in the water of shorting the schedule and having fewer games that mean more. And it’s a little bit of a proof of concept before you go whole hog and try to go to like a 66 game season or something.

S4: So the idea of just doing kind of an in season cop like they do in soccer, I guess the question there is if the teams would really buy into it doing a mid-season tournament, investing it with importance, not sitting out players and actually caring about the outcome. That would be amazing. And I think fans would would buy into it. The question is, in a league that’s like really a championship or bust mentality where load management is getting more pervasive, would that actually happen? And I kind of have my doubts.

S9: Yeah, well, this turned into a glorified G League showcase. I think everyone wonders about it. And I think it’s going to be different on a team by team basis. I think there are teams that would value a cup championship or whatever you want to call it. You know, the in-season tournament I’m going at the Cup based on current European soccer calls it. But I think for teams that have a real championship aspirations, they probably won’t take the cup as seriously. But I do I do think also for kind of that second tier teams that that might be something they shoot forward to say, hey, we’re you know, we’re decent, we’ve done something. You know, you can hang a banner for that, which in some places where they don’t have any banners at all, they have be something, right?

S4: Yeah, that would be that would be nice. But yeah, I think you would just get into this like teams. I think what would maybe even take a perverse pride and not caring would be like were the you know, were the Lakers. We don’t care about this. We only hang banners for championships which would just be kind of annoying like it if if only certain teams bought in, it would obviously make it less prestigious to win. I guess maybe it could still be entertaining and people would want to watch, but it just wouldn’t necessarily mean anything in a in a larger sense.

S19: Yeah. You know, and I think it’s just one of those things that over time, too, we’re going to develop our own standard for how much it means and how important it is and whether it’s worth playing your best players in it. And and for which teams.

S6: So I I just think it’s one of those things that it will take five or 10 years before we really know.

S4: And the idea of reseeding the conference finalists would be a major change that would have profound implications on who wins NBA titles. And so obviously everybody cares about that. And it kind of seems overdue. But at the same time, you know, sports leagues tend to be conservative about things like this. And so it’s interesting that while we’ll have to see if it if it actually happens, but this idea that we’re not going to do. East versus west necessarily anymore, that’s like a major, major deal.

S9: Yeah. I think, you know, there’s a decent chance. Fifteen Eastern teams vote against head. My only my only worry with that. I went back and looked six of the last 10 conference finals would have changed just on this. So you could see the motivation for the league. That like that Golden State Euston series from two years ago, you’d want that to be your finals, not your semifinals.

S13: And you want to make sure you’re getting the two best teams in the finals, if you can, because that’s one of the league’s landmark events that drives a lot of revenue. So you can see where they’re coming from. I just. If there wasn’t such a large East-West disparity, I don’t think this would have come up, I guess.

S4: Yeah, in the east west disparity. You know, it was talked about, I feel like for a time as just like an accident of history or a thing that would, you know, even itself out or sort itself out. But it is never dead. And so when something starts to seem like more of a permanent condition than it seems like a permanent solution and it’s bad.

S13: It’s been 20 years now.

S4: I mean, it’s just like if if it’s not going to sort itself out, then maybe we need to sort it out. The thing about looking back and saying six of the 10 common titles would have changed. It’s like in in a world in which those rules were in place, maybe like LeBron James wouldn’t have stayed in the east as long as he did. Who knows? I mean, players could have moved to. Around given the different rules.

S13: Well, that’s true, and then, you know, a couple of championships might have changed two or championships in finals series, and that would have had some interesting implications as well.

S4: Yeah, that’s for sure. All right. I want to give you a chance to rail against three short fouls because you read that you wrote about this recently for the athletic. And this is the thing that annoys me to no end as well. So you have the stage now. Explain why the three shot foul needs to go.

S9: Yeah, the three shot foul is ridiculous because the penalty for it does not fit the crime. In other words, you’re expected return on a three shot. A three point shot is roughly the same as on a two point shot. Right. It’s worth three points, not two. But in the league we only make 35 percent, not 52 as we do on two. But you get three shots instead of two if you foul somebody on a three three shot foul, which is a massive difference in return. It’s actually the marginal value of the possession is four times greater on it. If there’s a three shot foul rather two shot foul, it’s basically makes the three shot foul equivalent to a flagrant. If you look, the expected return is almost exactly the same. So that seems to me a hugely outsized penalty, especially given the fact that the officials have so much trouble calling it, which is the other part I mentioned in my story, looking at examples, how they’re trying to look at hands and feet at the same time and protect the landing zone. And you end up with a lot of missed calls where guys kick out their legs. And the third part of it is the players know how rich the reward is. And so they’re playing against the rule rather than the opponent. And they’re just trying to lunge themselves into these three shot fouls or kick their legs out and get themselves three shots. That way you see them do things that they would never do for a two shot foul just because they know the reward is so much greater. So I think those three things really argue that that the three shot fouls a poor rule. And we should just go back to two shots in the first 46 minutes of the game. The last two minutes, you can go back to giving it, given three shots were three shot foul. And the reasoning for that is to prevent intentional fouling with three-point deficits.

S4: Huh? That didn’t occur to me. I was going to lambaste you for not having the courage of your convictions to have the rule process to the whole 48 minutes of the game. But maybe that makes sense. That’s just I think that the NBA is the the greatest league in the world. I love watching pro basketball. And the real issue with the game, the thing that prevents it from being even greater is this kind of reliance on unofficial dating and the fact that players, as you said, are incentivized to draw fouls and anything that we can do to decrease that incentive to make players not try to simulate contact, not be encouraged to kick their legs out. I think this might be a small thing changing this one rule, but I think anything that we can do directionally to move that way would be really, really good.

S9: Yeah, I agree entirely. Just make it make it more about the competition and less about beating the refs and and gaming the system with the rules.

S4: What do you think about just doing one free throw on two shot fouls? And if you make it, it’s two points.

S9: And if you miss it, I don’t mind that at all because I think the game needs to speed up.

S4: All right. So now that we’ve fixed all of the rules, I will let you go now.

S9: That sounds great. Where our work is done here.

S4: John Hollinger, thanks again. And everybody, check out John’s columns for the athletic. Your work has been hugely important and influential. It’s great to have you back in the media again. Thank you. And Slate Plus members, thank you for your membership. You’re also hugely important and influential. We’ll be back with more for you next week.