Open Letter to Adam Silver: Make the NBA Schedule Like Baseball

April 9, 2015

RE: NBA Schedule Proposal

TO: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

Dear Mr. Silver,

I have a proposal to improve the NBA’s regular season scheduling. It seems that the league’s schedule is becoming more of a talking point among the sport’s talking heads and fans. I am sure you are well aware of the variety of issues and corresponding opinions to those issues, so I won’t rehash those. Instead, I will now propose a possible solution that I hope will help the NBA’s owners, players, and fans.


Make the NBA schedule more like Major League Baseball by having “home stands”


  • Two teams play each other 2-3 times in a row over 5-8 days in the same arena
  • If a visiting team plays more than one team on a road trip, they are only to play geographically close teams


This proposal hopes to achieve the following two goals. Don’t worry, each goal has a lot of sub-goals. I just thought it would catch your attention if I only said two.

  1. Increase interest in the regular season
    • Create more rivalries by making these home stands mirror a playoff series
    • More marketing and promotional opportunities
      • The league and individual teams and TV networks can promote road trips
      • Visiting teams, players, and local businesses (What restaurant in Salt Lake City did Russell Westbrook go to last night?) can increase their “brands” (are you rolling your eyes at the use of “brands”, too?) by staying in one place longer
    • Reduce the resting of players who appear to be healthy and able to play
    • Reduce “scheduled losses,” wherein teams know in advance they will struggle in certain games because they are playing 4 games in 5 nights in three cities,  in the second game of back-to-back games, etc.
  2. Reduce the amount of travel for teams and media
    • Cut down travel costs
      • Less use of planes; bus and/or trains would be encouraged.
      • It’s better for the environment, and you can say you’re reducing the league’s carbon footprint
      • Better hotel rates since teams will be staying for longer than one or two nights (Teams will have more leverage in group rate negotiations since they’re staying longer. I could be wrong about this. I have no idea how hotels work.)
    • No back-to-back games in different cities, whether home/away or away/away
    • Media members will stop whining about the schedule, incessantly bringing up Popovich getting fined for resting guys on a TNT game, and rehashing how tough guys were back in their day.

The Traveling Aspect

One of my favorite parts of this “home stand” idea is that travelling for teams will be less hectic. For example, the last five games for the Atlanta Hawks this season are away/home/away/home/away, creating a NYC-Atlanta-DC-Atlanta-Chicago travel schedule over eight days.

By having a home stand against a single team, this allows players to be more rested as the season continues since travel is reduced.

Another wrinkle I propose is that teams playing more than one team on a road trip will only play geographically close teams. For example, in cities/areas with more than one team, the visiting team stays there for two 2-4 game series no matter what. (This would be New York City, Los Angeles, and maybe Chicago/Milwaukee.) You can also group together other areas and market those swings, like Miami/Orlando (could be promoted as the “Florida Series” or something catchier) or Cleveland/Detroit/Toronto (“The Great Lake Series”) or Salt Lake City/Denver (“Can Houston Make It Through The Mountain Pass?”).

Now The Bad Part

With any plan like this, there will be consequences, intended and unintended. Here are a few “cons” I have come up with:

  1. Bad match-ups last more than one night. The Pistons front office won’t be happy with hosting the tanking 76ers for three games when they could have the star-filled Oklahoma City Thunder coming the next night. (This is what happened in December.)
  2. A team with injuries can catch another team at the wrong time. What if Cleveland was playing away at Golden State and the Clippers only once during the season when LeBron took his two week December vacation? That’s a better chance of 2-4 losses in a row than playing those teams at different points during the season.
  3. Would have to reconfigure the current “unbalanced” schedule. Currently teams play their division opponents more than non-divisions teams and play more games against teams in the same conferences than the other conference. The current system of only playing one road game against each team in the other conference wouldn’t cut it.
  4. What is the affect of playing 2-3 weeks of road games? Would teams coming back from a long road trip need extra rest before their home stand?

The current schedule is based on decades of the entrenched economic interests of the owners and TV networks. Implementing a radical overhaul of the schedule affects the TV schedule (TV is the most important revenue source for the NBA, but you know that already) and arena revenue. The conference/division set up would have to be disassembled or altered. There are a lot of moving parts in setting up a home stand schedule.

Home Stand Alternatives

Given the complicated logistics of a home stand-based NBA schedule. Here are some easier-to-implement alternatives you could use starting next season:

  1. Road trips have to include more than one game.
  2. Home stands have to include more than one game. (These first two alternatives alleviate the hectic travel schedule.)
  3. If the visiting team is in a city with more than one NBA team (or an area with another team within a 2-3 hour drive), they have to play the other team(s) within that city/2-3 hour driving radius. It’ll save money (lower travel costs), lessen the carbon footprint of the NBA, and create marketing opportunities for home and away teams and players.
  4. Have series’ against division opponents only. They play the most games against each other already, so this wouldn’t reorganize the schedule balance.
  5. Combined with Alternative Four, only have the division series’ at the end of the season. Mirror college basketball and put emphasis on the conference/non-conference schedule. This will increase the interest in divisions, the playoff race, and foster rivalries.

I hope you take these ideas under consideration. Enjoy Atlanta during the Eastern Conference and NBA Finals.



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Guts, Glory, RAM: Replacing the Hard Drive in my Old MacBook

macbook a1278

Newly installed hard drive and battery

I opened up my old MacBook and replaced the hard drive last weekend. It was scary. I was nervous, my girlfriend was really nervous, my cat didn’t care.

It was actually very simple. I had come across a Gizmodo article called “Quick and Easy MacBook Repairs That’ll Save You a Small Fortune,” which led me to the site iFixit. iFixit has repair guides for any type of Apple product, including my late 2008 MacBook Unibody Model A1278, whose full name I didn’t know until I went there. As if this web site is trying to make money, it conveniently sells the products that are needing replacement. Crazy, I know!

(In addition to the Gizmodo article, I was inspired by the “March is for Makers” month on CodeNewbie, a great podcast and online community for new programmers like myself.)

I have been thinking about getting a new computer, even though the ol’ Model A1278 works perfectly fine. It is a bit slow, and the battery sucks, but I didn’t think it was worth it to plunk down $1,000+ on a new MacBook. (I was tempted to get a real cheap laptop and maybe try a Linux OS, but I’m not there yet.) The Gizmodo article recommended a new “solid state disk” (SSD), which apparently speeds up the computer by accessing memory more efficiently. I say “apparently” because I’m no hardware expert, so I take this kind of information on face value.

Taking It Apart

Because my computer is so old, opening it up is only pressing down on a latch on the back. The battery, which I replaced only a couple of weeks before, is taken out by pulling on a plastic tab. The hard drive was just a little more complicated: unscrew the bracket, unplug it from a cable (who knew the HD is just plugged in?), unscrew some screws on the HD. To put the new HD in – a Toshiba  500 GB 5400 RPM SATA Hard Drive – you just put the screws back into the new guy, plug it in, and put the bracket, battery, and cover back. Voila, a new hard drive.

Oops, I Forgot

There were a couple steps I didn’t think about until late in the process. One, I had to back up my original hard drive. For that, I needed to buy a new external hard drive and use Apple’s Time Machine program. Time Machine is seriously as easy as the forums and Apple site make it sound.

The second thing I didn’t do was make a “bootable” OS X for when the new hard drive is installed. You can back up your original hard drive using Time Machine, but once the new HD is installed, the operating system has to be on the new HD first. I just thought you just copy and paste your Time Machine onto the new HD (DUMB APPLE USER ALERT). NOT THAT EASY.

I actually replaced my original hard drive TWICE because of this. I put in the new HD, realized I couldn’t just drag and drop the Time Machine (DUMB APPLE USER ALERT), I put the old one back in, and went back and put OS X Mavericks on a USB drive.

This was actually the most complicated thing I had to do. Luckily, a YouTube channel called GeekOutTech made a very easy to follow video that showed me how to do this. Thanks, GeekOutTech!

Once I did that, I put the new HD in again, followed the GeekOutTech instructions in that same video, used my external HD/Time Machine, and breathed new life into my steam-powered MacBook.

Is It Faster?

Yes, my start up and shut down times have sped up. It’s not like I was watching paint dry before when my computer was shutting down or waking up, but it’s nice watching my little guy work like a sorta new machine. Programs like iTunes and Microsoft Office suite don’t struggle to open and close.

It’s not life changing, but replacing the hard drive (and battery) has definitely improved performance.


I spent about $250 to for the new HD, battery (the most expensive of all), cool little screwdrivers that made me feel like I was a lab scientist, and a new external hard drive I bought at Best Buy to back up the original hard drive. A relatively small investment to keep my computer chugging along for another year or two.


  • MacBook
  • External hard drive to back up my original hard drive
  • Time Machine – Apple’s program on OS X to back up the current hard drive on the external HD
  • New solid state drive and cool little screw drivers from iFixit
  • Heart of a lion
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No Middle Class In Major League Soccer Could Be A Problem

Major League Soccer players might go on strike soon over the lack of free agency. This has to do with An MLS being a “single entity,” meaning that:

“[I]nvestors… purchased equity in MLS itself rather than any team. MLS did almost everything for its clubs. It assigned players to MLS clubs, protected intellectual property rights and negotiated broadcasting deals.”

However, individual teams are acting more, well, individually, especially since the Designated Player rules came into affect in 2007 (aka the “Beckham rule”).

(A Designated Player is someone a team can pay over the salary cap/budget slot. The team just has to pay the high salary out of its own pocket. This allowed the LA Galaxy to sign and pay David Beckham for $6.5 million/year in 2007 while the median salary that season was just $50,400.)

At the same time, the player acquisition system is murky in the MLS. It has detailed rules, but then throws them out when it comes to a national team star (Clint Dempsey or Jermaine Jones, for example) or an aging foreign superstar (more recently, Kaka and David Villa). It’s created a league where player salaries are artificially suppressed (like the NBA and NFL) until they aren’t. I’m not saying this is a bad strategy for the league to take, but it’s creating a breaking point for the vast majority of players who are receiving less than average salary.

One of the more interesting parts of MLS finances is that the players union has been publishing the salaries of all of its players since 2007. We can see how they’ve been distributed since Mr. Beckham graced us with his right foot and perfect cheekbones.

Distribution of MLS Salaries from 2007-2014You can see that there isn’t much middle ground between the star players and the rank-and-file. The disparity is even more glaring when looking at how far from the mean each player is. The horizontal axis below is standard deviation.

Distribution of MLS Salaries from 2007-2014 (Standard Deviation)Mr. Beckham earned 16 standard deviations more from the average salary from 2007-2009. Looking at the count of players through the lens of standard deviation…Count of MLS Salaries from 2007-2014… dang. Zooming in on most of the league, within one standard deviation of the average salary…Count of MLS Salaries from 2007-2014, One Standard Deviation… dang. The majority are below the mean (0.0 standard deviation).

How does this affect a single team? Looking at the aforementioned LA Galaxy, the former home of Becks and Landon Donovan (both since retired, Donovan finishing up last fall), you see the designated player in effect. There’s hardly any “upper middle class.” You either top out around $250-300,000 (if you’re lucky) or you’re a millionaire.Distribution of LA Galaxy Salaries from 2007-2014

This is an interesting point in MLS history and American soccer. The MLS has never been stronger, soccer’s popularity in America is growing, but it’s still not close to the same level as the three major sports. The MLS central office’s experiment to grow the league slowly as a single entity has worked, but its growing revenue and focus on stars is creating a lot pressure from the players who make up most of the roster. What will they do?

(MLS salary file and R code here on GitHub.)

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College Of Wooster Basketball Is Atlanta Hawks Good

The College of Wooster’s football is pretty good. Their men’s basketball team, on the other hand, is really good. Like, Atlanta Hawks good.

Since the 2006-07 season, my alma mater has made the NCAA Division III tournament (like the big NCAA tournament, but with amateur players) the last eight years. They’ve made it to the Final Four twice, and they lost in the championship game in 2011.

Year Tournament Result
2007 Final Four
2008 First Round
2009 Second Round
2010 Third Round
2011 Runner Up
2012 Sweet Sixteen
2013 Third Round
2014 Second Round

The Fighting Scots have been beasting their Division III conference – the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) – for years now. Look at their conference winning percentage since the 2006-07 season:

NCAC Conference 2007-2014

In fact, they have the most wins in the 2000s for a Division III school, 387 from 2000-2014. How have they done it? Their coach, Steve Moore, who has been leading the team for 27 years (!), has his team score – a lot. Here’s how Wooster ranks versus the average offensive output in NCAC play. (Note: I started at 2006-07 because thats when the site d3hoops had easily accessible conference statistics. Data is through Friday, January 30.)

NCAC Conference Points Scored 2006-2014

The last three years, the Fighting Scots the highest scoring seasons out of the last full seven in the NCAC (just looking at conference play here). They have 7 of the top 15 conference scoring seasons under their belt.

How’s their defense? Well, not as good as their offense, but slightly better than average. In this case, being below zero is a good thing.

NCAC Conference Points Allowed 2006-2014

Their worst defensive seasons since 2006-07 have actually been the most recent. As they’ve ramped up the scoring, they’ve allowed more points. This hasn’t backfired yet, and they’ve been cruising in the NCAC for decades now.

(Note: R code for scraping d3hoops and making the plots is here.)

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How Slow Am I

A few things are certain in life: death, taxes, and finishing in the bottom half of running events. I’m really slow. I love to run, but it takes me a while to get from here to there and back to here. By the time I finish a local road race, the fastest runners have already had a chance to eat some bananas and shower salty kisses on their loved ones.

After taking a running hiatus last winter and most of the spring (knees, y’all), I’ve been hitting the pavement about once a week the last 4-5 months. On Thanksgiving morning, I “competed” in my first race since last fall’s 4 Bridges Half Marathon, the Gobble Jog at Marietta Square in Marietta, Georgia. It was a nice run that started at the Strand, made it’s way north up Cherokee, wound past some nice houses and a school, then back south down Church. It was unremarkable because of my finish, 916th place out of 1326, and my girlfriend and her sister, both of whom ran, waiting for me for about ten minutes.

I’ve tried to find the results of each race I’ve done since 2011 to show just how unremarkable my mediocre finishes are. I couldn’t find the results for two of the events, but I have eight: four half-marathons, one marathon, one 10k, a 15K-er, and a smidge-more-than-15K-er. First up, the results of each of these races by time and place.

Race Results

My times and places in these races are the large points. I’m not exactly the worst, but I am decidedly mediocre. Also interesting, the shorter races (the 10k Gobble Jog and the half marathons), barring Olde Rope and Red Top (the blue and teal colors, both tough trail events), have little variation in their times, up to a certain point. The full marathon times, however, climb slowly and steadily.

To better show my mediocrity no matter the distance, below is a chart that compares my finishes using percentiles from 2011-2014. I’ve also showed how I compare to my fellow racers aged 50 and older.

percentile finish

Well, I wish I could say I finished better than those AARP members, especially in 2012. I really owned 30% of those old farts in 2011 and 2013-14. (One race in 2013, the 4 Bridges Half Marathon, didn’t have age data as part of their results, so that’s why it’s missing from Ages 50+.) I will say, though, that my performances have improved since I really started running in earnest a few years ago. That I’m still only better than a third of participants is neither here nor there. I’ve been enjoying my time getting back into it and traipsing through the mean streets of Hillsboro Village and Sylvan Park.

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Legislative Effectiveness, Part II: The South

This is a second post about legislative effectiveness. The first post is here.

After looking at the difference in legislative effectiveness between the majority and minority parties using new research from the book The Lawmakers, this is a more in-depth analysis of their data for the region of the country that I live in and call home: the South. (The researchers themselves examine the role of Southern Democrats.)

In this analysis, I want to see, using their legislative effectiveness scores (LES):

  1. If the effectiveness of Southern representatives have increased with the growth in Southern population (Southern states should have gained House members)
  2. Where in the South the effectiveness has increased or decreased

To get the regions, I used the US Census Bureau’s designation of regions and divisions. The Census has a loose definition of the South. Most egregiously, in my opinion, is that they not only include Delaware, the District of Columbia, and Maryland in the South, but also smush it in with Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas within the same sub-division, the “South Atlantic.” I can handle DC & Maryland being considered Southern only because of the Mason-Dixon line , but Delaware? Well, they were a slave state, so… Delaware, I thought I knew you (as a corporate tax haven)? Southern by the grace of God enslaving people.

Still, I need to split up the Census’ South Atlantic division, if only because it has eight states, while the other two southern divisions only have four each. It will make for easier comparing between the divisions. Delaware, DC, and Maryland will be paired with Virginia and West Virginia as “Middle South Atlantic,” while Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas will be “East South Atlantic.” The rest of the Census divisions are here. (My head is still spinning about Delaware, so I don’t have the energy to scoff at Texas and Oklahoma being Southern, especially the Okies. ANYWAY.)

Test 1: Southern Effectiveness Growth 

To test if Southern effectiveness has increased, we first have to see if the number of members in the South has increased. I am assuming Southern membership will have grown because of the region’s population growth. (On a side note, the West should probably increase, too.)

Southern House Membership

Southern and Western membership in the House has been steadily increasing, while the Northeast and Midwest have been declining. This isn’t too surprising. But what about effectiveness?

Effectiveness by Region

This gets more interesting. Despite more Southern members, the average effectiveness of Southerners didn’t jump until the Republicans took over the House again in 2011. At the same time, Northeastern reps’ effectiveness jumped when the Dems took over in 2007 and then plummeted when Boehner and company got their mojo back.

Test 1 Result: Southern effectiveness didn’t actually increase until the Republicans took over the House after the 2010 midterm election. This seems to reflect the South as the heart of the Republican party, especially considering that Southern Democrats were losing effectiveness in the 70s and 80s.

Test 2: Where In The South?

Within the South, we can see exactly where House membership has grown.

Number of Southern House Members by Census Division, 1973-2011


While the “West South Central” (the green line: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas) has been increasing, my newly crowned division, the “East South Atlantic” (the purple line: Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas), took off in the 1990s. The rest of the South, House memership-wise (and thusly population-wise), remains stagnant. But how does that transfer over to legislative effectiveness?

Average Effectiveness of Southern House Members by Census Division

The mid-1980s, like in the second chart in this post, weren’t good for the South. Their influence was dipping in all divisions. However, once we get into the 1990s, the divisions are, well, divided. States like Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee (the red line) can’t find traction. It wasn’t until the GOP takeover of Congress in 2011 do we see each Southern division’s effectiveness ratchet up.

Test 2 Result: In the 1990s and 2000s, the South Atlantic states (Southern states that touch the Atlantic Ocean) were much more effective. The differences in effectiveness were also more pronounced. The split between the divisions is starkest in the Congressional sessions starting in 2007 and 2009, both Democratic majorities, when the Mid-Atlantic states’ effectiveness shoots up and the other three divisions are at or near their nadir. When that tanned Ohioan became Speaker, those three shot up while the Mid-Atlantic came down, showing exactly which parts of the South are dominated by Republicans.

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Legislative Effectiveness, Part I: Pelosi vs. Boehner

Two political science professors, Craig Volden and Alan Wiseman, have come up with a way to measure the effectiveness of individual House representatives in their new book. They’ve created a “legislative effectiveness score” (LES) that compares each individual member’s legislative productivity during one two-year session relative to other members of that Congressional session. (Each two-year term has 450 points – equal to the number of members – available.) In their words:

“As concisely defined, legislative effectiveness is the proven ability to advance a member’s agenda items through the legislative process and into law.”

They try to show how successful a member of the House is able to move their bill through the committee process, onto the floor, have it pass, and eventually be signed into law. (Within each of these steps there are more finely grained indicators of effectiveness.) Effectiveness is only related to bills – not deal-making skills, constituent services, media appearances, or eating corn dogs at state fairs. “Significant” and “substantive” bills are weighted more than, say, a new name for a post office. They examined the 93rd through 112nd House sessions, which span from 1973-2012.

Volden and Wiseman look at a host of indicators for each member to try and find what criteria, if any, lead to more effectiveness: committee chairmanship, majority or minority party, women, African-American, and more. In addition to all the richness of variables they examine, I’m also interested in how different regions, the South especially, have fared in this research.

But before getting to regional differences, let’s get a sense of what the LES looks like in general. I took their data set and played around with it in R. Here’s a chart showing the effectiveness of the average majority and minority party member. Remember, there’s 450 points available – an average of 1 per member – for each Congress:


As you’d might expect, a representative in the majority party is going to be more effective than a minority party colleague. That doesn’t necessarily mean that an individual Democrat in, say, the 99th Congress (1985-1987) is more or less effective than a Republican, but as a whole, the lefty is more likely to push their bill through than the righty.


In the above chart, we see the LES score of each representative split up between majority and minority party members. The minority members  are concentrated near the bottom – joined by most of the majority, by the way – while the most effective members are almost always in the majority. And guess who is the most effective lawmaker based on their data? Why, it’s controversial New York Democrat Charlie Rangel, who was chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee from 2007-2010 until he had to step down from the committee because of ethics violations. Despite being 84 and “disgraced” (in the eyes of some), he was reelected a couple weeks ago.

Last but not least, let’s look at a couple of lightning rods, House Majority Leader John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.


Speaker Boehner, using Volden and Wiseman’s calculation, is the much more effective legislator. He was a committee chair during the Bush presidency when the Republicans held the House. Pelosi never held a committee chair (she was on Appropriations and the senior Democrat on the Intelligence committee), just party leadership positions. This isn’t to say she wasn’t “effective,” just that the tangible data points used don’t translate well for her. Her prodigious fundraising for other Democrats isn’t incorporated.

Stay tuned for my look at the South through the lens of legislative effectiveness later this week.

(Code and data here on Github. Warning, the code is still a work in progress.)

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