On September 25th , 2000 Paul Pierce was stabbed eleven times in the face, back, and neck while attempting to break up a fight inside a Boston dance club. That evening he underwent emergency lung surgery. Things obviously looked bleak for Pierce. Here he was, a young athlete, in the prime of career, cut down by a senseless act of violence that imperiled not just the only dream he’d ever had, but his life. Everything hung in the balance.
Pierce persevered though; made a recovery so complete, so miraculous, that he went on to start all 82 games for the Celtics the following season. This happened because he worked hard and never stopped believing in himself. It also happened because Tony Battie, his friend and teammate, got him to the hospital so quickly that night.
Battie also was the No. 5 pick in the 1997 NBA Draft.
These are two very impressive facts about Tony Battie. Especially the first one. I wasn’t able to find a third though, because one doesn’t exist.
Fortunately (because I have a column to fill) there are plenty of unimpressive facts about Tony Battie that we can catalogue. Here they are…
Tony Battie is not a very good NBA player.
- Bear withme for a moment here. WP48 is a performance metric that explains an NBA player’s per-minute productivity. An average team produces .5 wins per 48 minutes, and has five players on the court at a time. S o the average player produces .1 wins per 48 minutes, or has a WP48 of .1. A player witha WP48 of .11 is above average, a player with a WP48 of .09 is below average. And so on. In 05-06 TB (excellent nickname possibility) had a WP48 of .031. In 06-07 it was .025. He didn’t play in 07-08. In 08-09 he put up a .067. In 09-10 he only played 15 games. So the past five years the answer to our frontcourt problems was 31, 25, and 67 percent as productive as the average center, with two seasons lost to injuries. Yeehaw.
- When the season starts it will have been four years since he averaged more than 20 minutes a game.
Even when he was at his best, he wasn’t that good.
- His rookie year he averaged 8.4 ppg. This was his highest single-season scoring total. He also shot under 45 percent from the floor that season. And no, he wasn’t shooting 3’s.
In all likelihood he will be worse in the future.
- The average NBA player peaks at 24.4 years of age. They more or less stay at this plateau until they hit thirty. Then they take a dive. At age 31 they are 59 percent as productive as at their peak. By the time they reach 34 they are 13 percent as productive. By the time they reach 35 the average player is worse than worthless; average productivity dips into the negative range (-.006 WP48).* Which reminds me, somebody I know turns 35 this February. Karen…no…John…don’t think so….Lenny…that was last February…Oh, yeah. Tony Battie. Who we just signed.
(* Berri, David J., and Martin B. Schmidt. Stumbling on Wins: Two Economists Expose the Pitfalls on the Road to Victory in Professional Sports. Pg. 129)
But what the heck, who are we to question Ed Stefanski and his long track record of shrewd and successful free agent signings. The guy knows winning basketball, that’s a fact. I mean, what better way to bolster your frontcourt than to sign the backup center from the team with the fifth worst record in NBA history? How often do you get a chance to pick up a 34-year-old journeyman who averaged 2.4 ppg and had almost as many personal fouls as rebounds? We’re talking about a guy who could barely get on the floor for the team with the 4th worst rebounding differential in the NBA. You gotta pull the trigger.
“I’m looking forward to bringing what I can and showing my tricks of the trade. I’ve never been a guy to fill in the stat sheet. I’m a team guy. I like to be a defensive presence, a hard-nosed rebounder, a guy who loves to do the dirty work,” he told a reporter.
Let’s take a closer look at this statement. Hold on for a moment while I put on my sparing gloves. Ok.
“I’m looking forward to bringing what I can and showing my tricks of the trade.”
- These tricks involve shooting for a relatively low percentage for a post player, missing time with groin injuries, and coaxing overwhelmed GMs into offering him contracts.
“I’ve never been a guy to fill in the stat sheet. I’m a team guy.”
- It’s true that this past season notwithstanding he has consistently been one of the least productive players on a good team. Say what you will about Tony Battie, he doesn’t lack self-awareness.
“I like to be a defensive presence, a hard-nosed rebounder, a guy who loves to do the dirty work.”
- An average center gets 12.4 rebounds per 48 minutes. For his career, TB has averaged 11.5. The past four seasons he has averaged 9.6, 10.4, 14.8, and 8.6. While this is not very many rebounds, I trust that each one of them was very hard-nosed.
- If by “dirty work” he means carrying bloodied teammates to the ER, then this is true, and admirable.
Another “interesting” (And by “interesting” I mean unconscionable.) thing about the Battie signing is that his presence robs our developing big men (Speights, Hawes, Smith and whoever else we bring aboard. We are bringing someone else aboard… right?) of the minutes necessary to develop. This is doubly “interesting” (See previous notation.) because the logic behind bringing Battie aboard (as far as I understand it and the thing I think understand can be called “logic”) is that he will teach the young guys “tricks” that will presumably speed their development.
That’s a stretch. He’s a veteran. Grizzled. A steady hand. An old seamen out for one final well paid voyage.
And in the Sixers defense, it’s not like there were lots of better “bigs” available.
Oh,wait. There were.