Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Three Types of NBA Head Cases

There really is no particular impetus for this post, but it's one of my favorite theories about the NBA, so I've decided to write it out for you, the reading public. Often times, during the NBA draft or during the season, a player will be referred to as a "head case," or will be described as having "poor intangibles." When he plays badly and finds himself on the bench or trading block, the announcers will say "Nobody doubts his talent, but..." You all know what I'm referring to.

However, when we say a player is a "head case," we could be talking about one of any number of things. In my travels, I have found that NBA head cases fall into three broad categories, which I have named after former Golden State Warriors: The Mike Dunleavy head case, The Erick Dampier head case, and the Latrell Sprewell head case. Without further ado, let's break down the differences:

The Mike Dunleavy Head Case:

In 2002, my beloved Golden State Warriors had the worst record in the NBA. The top 2 choices in the draft would have yielded Yao Ming or Jay Williams, the best point guard and center prospects in years. We got the #3 choice, and Mike Dunleavy, Jr. Mike was supposed to be the jack-of-all trades, a worthy consolation prize. He was athletic, had a silky-smooth stroke, was 6-9, and had fantastic "intangibles." (Translation: he played for a successful college program. Also, he was white.) Of course, in the pros, Mike sucked. He had a few horrible years, but managed to flash enough potential to net himself a $55 million dollar contract in 2005. (In a fair world, when Mike Dunleavy came into Mullin's office to sign that contract, Chris Hansen would have shown up.) After 3 and a half years of watching Mike Dunleavy, I will say that he has talent. He has a beautiful shooting stroke, is surprisingly athletic for a guy his size, moves gracefully, and has great court vision.

But, lest we forget, he sucks at basketball. Why? Because he's afraid. He would lose confidence in his shot and go on prolonged shooting slumps. He would often take himself out of games by refusing to go to the hole, finishing with 3 shots in 35 minutes. To succeed in the NBA, confidence is necessary; the Mike Dunleavys of the world don't have enough.

How to spot a Dunleavy:
  • Getting the ball and passing it immediately 9 out of 10 times
  • Only shooting when wide-open, and often missing even then
  • Following up a 30-point game with a 5-point game
  • Eyes down, ashamed body language
  • Missing free throws
Current Dunleavys:
  • Kwame Brown
  • Keith Van Horn
  • Gerald Green
  • Sebastian Telfair
  • Michael Olowakandi
  • Dorell Wright
  • Darko Milicic
  • 90% of all players from Europe
  • Joey Harrington (Not technically a basketball player, but he's a Dunleavy all right.)
The Erick Dampier Head Case:

I'm actually grouping two types of head cases here, but they both fall under the same basic umbrella: players who don't give a crap. Erick Dampier, whose parents apparently couldn't decide if they wanted to spell Eric with a C or a K, is a fantastically talented basketball player. He's a legit 7 feet, athletic, a great rebounder, has soft hands, and a decent shooting touch. He was the #10 overall pick when he was drafted. His first seven years in the league, he disappointed, averaging about 7 points and 7 rebounds a game. Then, in the 02-03 season, he averaged 12.3 points and 12 rebounds per game. That was his contract year. After he got a fat contract from the Mavericks (he got Steve Nash's money-nice call, Mark), his averages promptly dropped to about 8 and 8. Erick Dampier doesn't give a crap-he's just looking to get paid.

There is another group of players I put under the Dampier label-the shooting guard/swingman types who care enough to get themselves involved in the game, but seek only to make themselves look good. These guys shoot lots of 3s rather than drive to the hole, score a lot of points with a low percentage, pass the ball rarely, and cannot be bothered to work on defense-the bane of the stuffy white sportswriter's existence. While these players differ stylistically from the Dampier types, they have the same basic problem: they lack the all-consuming desire to win, or "Jordan Gene" which we believe should be inherent in all athletes. (I don't believe this as strongly as most, but that's a whole other essay.)

How to Spot a Dampier:
  • Low rebound totals
  • Lack of hustle
  • Showing up to camp fat
  • Unwillingness to go to the hole
  • Too many 3s
  • Poor defense
  • General disinterest
Current Dampiers:
  • Michael Pietrus
  • Ricky Davis
  • Darius Miles
  • Steve Francis
  • Stephon Marbury
  • Eddie Curry
  • Now that I think about it, pretty much everyone on the Knicks not named Renaldo
  • Boris Diaw
  • Vince Carter
  • Stromile Swift
The Latrell Sprewell Head Case:

Ahh, Latrell. We loved Latrell. He went all-out every night. He drove to the hole with reckless abandon. He could D up with the best of them. He could shoot 3s. He was the bright spot of a very poor Warrior team. Of course, he was completely insane, and one day he choked P.J. Carlesimo, leading to him having to leave the team and be suspended from the NBA for a year. The sad fact is this: the drive that makes NBA players great on the court often renders them insane off of it. Although the Sprewell head case will play as well, if not better than, a player with no "character issues", GMs are scared to death of them, because when things go wrong with a Sprewell, they simply can't stay on the team.

How to Spot a Sprewell:

  • All-consuming desire to win
  • Maximum defensive effort
  • Takes an inordinate amount of shots(not out of a desire to pad stats, but out of the belief that he alone has the power to decide the game for his team; head-casery is a subtle science.)
  • Speaks out against the coach
  • Demands trades
  • "Off-court incidents"
Current Sprewells:
  • Ron Artest
  • Carmelo Anthony
  • Allen Iverson
  • Stephen Jackson
  • Gilbert Arenas (Left the Warriors because he believed having Earl Boykins play 4th quarters was an insult to his abilities, and because the Warriors picked him with the 31st pick instead of the 16th. Trust me, he's nuts.)
  • Bonzi Wells
  • Rasheed Wallace
My Final Thoughts on Head-Cases:
My thoughts differ from most on head-cases. Most would tell you that of these three, the Dunleavy is the least dangerous, the Dampier is the 2nd-worst, and the Sprewell is unbearable. I flip it around-I'd rather have a Sprewell than a Dampier or a Dunleavy, and a Dampier more than a Dunleavy. Call me short-sighted, but I believe in putting the best basketball players on the floor and letting everything else work itself out; for this reason, I do not fear the Sprewells. Dampiers often find passion at some point in their careers, but once a player's confidence is gone, it will probably never come back.

Consider my beloved Warriors. The bane of our existance, Adonal Foyle, is one of the nicest, most intelligent men in the NBA, if not the planet. At the middle of the season, we traded Mike Dunleavy himself for a bona fide Sprewell: Stephen Jackson. What happened? Baron Davis, who had been one of the league's biggest Dampiers, found his passion. We started playing defense. We started pushing the pace. We started drawing fouls and scrapping. And during that Mavericks series, whenever we needed a 3, Stephen Jackson would step up and drill a 3 with a hand in his face. Why? Because Stephen Jackson has WATERMELON BALLS. Dunleavy would have passed 10 times out of 10 in that situation. To be the Mavericks, we needed confidence. We needed someone who had no fear. That someone turned out to be Stephen Jackson. To succeed in the NBA, sometimes you need to be a little crazy.


Anonymous said...

I know the names "Larry Hughes" and "Erick Dampier" are very similar, but a simple proof read should have caught the mistake.

Additionally, go Bruins.

Anonymous said...

Let it be known that the 2002-03 Portland Trail Blazers had four Latrell Sprewells on the roster: Rasheed Wallace, Bonzi Wells, Ruben Patterson, and Zach Randolph.

Slobodan Chutzpah said...

A huge thank you for not spelling the plurals of the "types" with an apostrophe - you know, "Dampier's" and so on. I swear, 8 out of 10 NBA bloggers would have done this.

DailyDub said...

That was a pretty decent post. You could also throw in Mookie Blaylock into the category former Dubs players who don't give a fu*k.
Anyway, goodluck with the blog. If Henry is linking you, that is a really good start.
Go Dubs,
Go Ducks

ArC said...

You sure Diaw isn't more of a Dunleavy?

Anonymous said...

Are you sure that Rasheed Wallace isn't more of a "Dampier"?

Let's see:
- Low rebounding totals: Check
- Too many threes: Check
- General Disinterest / Lack of hustle: By not rebounding enough for his size and not spending enough time in the low block? Check

I've never heard of him having an "all-consuming desire to win." Nor does he "take an inordinate amount of shots", "demand trades", or have any "off court incidents."

His defense is really good, I'll give you that.

Krolik1157 said...

Thanks a bundle for your support-I love the debate on this. While you make good points about Rasheed, here's what it boils down to for me-does he appear to not care, or care to the point of insanity? I would say the latter; thus, he is a Sprewell.

Krolik1157 said...

And the Larry Hughes thing has been fixed. Thank you for being an extra pair of eyes, and let me know the next time UCLA beats USC.

GaryHarper363 said...

Some idiot above wrote "that was a pretty decent post." PRETT DECENT?? That was the best damn thing ever! It's about time someone called out the soft, overrated Euros!

Amen, brother. Amen.

Simon said...

antoine walker anyone?

Anonymous said...

As this is a basketball related topic the only UCLA vs USC talk that will be accepted will be basketball related.

With that in mind, last season. Twice. (Admittedly they were sick nailbiters, thank god you kids are contributing to the overall excellence of Pac 10 hoops.)

By the way, I'm terrified of one of your new recruits over there. I heard we are desperately trying to get Bow Wow into yellow and blue just to counter what we are calling the "Li'l Romeo threat".

Anonymous said...

"Now that I think about it, pretty much everyone on the Knicks not named Renaldo"
Did you forget about the "Double Double From the Bench" named David?

Krolik1157 said...

I did, in fact, forget about David Lee-he gives it his all. My favorite nickname for him is "Da-White Howard." And we'll see if USC goes down on O.J.'s watch.

Anonymous said...

antoine walker really needs to be added to the dampier category.

plus ronny artest needs a category of his own.
If stephen jackson has watermelon balls, ronny would need to chauffeurs to drive each of his around

lee3022 said...

Nice work here. The name most glaring that is missing from the top of your Sprewell list is Kobe Bryant. Also for the Rasheed comment that hew does not have any off-court issues how about nailing an unsuspecting teammate in the balls with a basketball thrown like a baseball and then laughing hysterically at \his pain? Or how about being suspended for 7 games by the NBA for threatening to kill a referee on the loading dock after the game ? (Ok - the referee was Tim Donaghy so in hindsight maybe not an off-court issue).

Anonymous said...

I am pals with one of the Lakers and have talked with him about Kobe quite a bit. Let me tell you, Kobe is a certified head case. But he is a head-case in a way that benefits his game. He is the "genius" head case who uses the media to manipulate his teamates. This type of head case posseses compulsive drive, ultra-high standards, stand-offishness with his teamates, self imposed locker room isolation. Generally thought of as an ass by all but one or two teammates-- those two will love the head case like rescued puppies.

But the most important thing to note is that these types of head cases win rings:


Add a new category called: THE CHAMPION HEADCASE

ken said...

Somewhere in Greece, Peja Stojakovic is pissed off that Dunleavy got naming rights.

And what is Chris Webber? I'd say he's a Dunleavy.

Anonymous said...

kobe was the reason the lakers won a ring? the general consenus is that shaq was the reason

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a lot of the new look Timberwolves team in there... nice recipe.

L'Impitoyable said...

How come Diaw and Pietrus fall in the Dampier category? I'm French by the way, but what nba fan is completely objective when it comes to players he roots for.Boris did show up fat at the beginning of the season, but it wasn't because he did not give a crap, it was because he mistakenly thought it would help him guard the bigger 4s of the league. Yeah he's not aggressive enough but more in a unselfish way that's why is such a good passer. Just look at his line from the O6 postseason (18,7-6,7-5,2) does this look like someone who doesn't care?And can you even imagine Dunleavy replicating these stats in the playoffs? I don't think so. I know he did not live up to these numbers this season but then again a bad back and Stoudemire's comeback made that sure. Additionnaly he plays for free every summer on the french national team, it's rare enough in the NBA (americans and euros considered) to view him as someone who genuinely care for the game.

Anonymous said...

Diaw is definitely a Dunleavy...

Howard U said...

I think Nick Van Exel is another good example of a Sprewell.

And of course, the ultimate Dampier is Tim Thomas.

100 bucks says that A-Rod is a total Dunleavy when playing pickup basketball...

Also, regarding the anonymous comment about Champion headcases, I think they ofen cause normal players to become Dunleavys out of fear of disappointing the champion headcase... Case in point: Kwame Brown (MJ AND Kobe? There's no way he'll ever recover from that...)

rocknroel said...

Gilbert Arenas as a Sprewell? I suppose you could sub divide Sprewells into Dangerous-to-society and not-yet-Dangerous, with Gilbert in the later. Anyone who leaves cuz Boykins gets starter's minutes is not a head-case, just aware of an obvious travesty.

L'Impitoyable said...

Diaw's not a Dunleavy. I mean come on!!!Let's check Krolik's list.

"Getting the ball and passing it immediately 9 out of 10 times".Yeah he passes a lot of times but on a team loaded with guys who can score (STAT, Marion, Bell, Barbosa, heck even Nash), another creator is welcome I guess. Too much passes, i don't think so.

"Only shooting when wide-open, and often missing even then". Diaw's shot 54% and 52% the last two seasons, so I guess he doesn't crap himself when faced with an open look.

"Following up a 30-point game with a 5-point game" To be honest I can't find anything tangible to prove this point wrong..or right for that matter!

"Eyes down, ashamed body language". Of course that's the look of a player who's just spent two seasons feeding high flying dunkers and deadly shooters. Playing 30 minutes a night for a 60 win Phoenix team can really take away your joy.

"Missing free throws" well 70% percent carreer FT% is not great but 75% in the postseason means that he was NOT in over his head when the games mattered.

So, basically, Diaw does not fit the Dunleavy headcase description by any means. Just give him a break and recognize that is a good player. It's just unfair to throw his name around, among those of a bunch of underachieving lottery picks. I mean, Dunleavy, like half the guys on the list, has never even played in a playoff game. Milicic and Brown were afterthoughts when they did. For christ sake the man played a key role for a team that reached the Western Conference Finals in 2006 )and won MIP this year) whereas the others were just sucky players on terrible teams. Beside Van Horn and Diaw, what you have there is a genuine list of greatest draft busts of the 21st century. Boris does not belong there, plain and simple.

Krolik1157 said...

Michael Pietrus' coach on Pietrus: "He's a great talent, but you look over with two minutes left in a tie game and he could be talking to the peanut guy." As someone who's watched Pietrus for the last couple of years, take my word for it: He doesn't give a crap.

As for Diaw, he is definitely NOT a Dunleavy, but I stand by my assertion that he's a Dampier; here are some quotes from the Suns' coaching staff about Boris: "He just doesn't seem to want to learn." "You try to get Boris to do anything in practice he doesn't want to do, and it's tough." "You have to have discussions with Boris." Add that to when he showed up fat(not buff), and you've got a Dampier. All the Suns quotes were courtesy of the McCallum book.

Anonymous said...

Might as well add Big Shot Rob to the list of championship head cases.

Chuck said...

sheed hasn't had any offcourt problems lately, as in since he became a piston, but he definitely had a few when he was in portland

Bryan Gamroth said...

I didn't realize how many crazy players the GS Warriors have employed throughout the years. Probably entertaining/demoralizing/frustrating to be a fan.

Well I'm a Blazer fan so I'm the same way.


Anonymous said...

i don't recall,,as a laker fan,,,shaq havin anywhere near the kind of dedication to honing his basketball skill that kobe does,,,also when the laker's won it all,,,it was number 8 with the ball in his hands at the end of all those big games!!!
hack a shaq,,,anyone

EDub said...

Erick Dampier has soft hands and a a good shooting touch? What? Perhaps compared to Adonal Foyle but, c'mon.

He's a stone-handed rebounder and shot blocking enforcer at best. He fumbles away wide open fast breaks and shoots airballs from 5 feet. I watch every game. Kill him if you want, but watch him play first.

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