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Stats vs. sanity

Generational gaps have always existed in our society and are quite natural.

Modern generational gaps, however, seem far larger as rapid cultural changes in music, fashion and politics spearhead the ever widening breaches from the young to the old.

And don't kid yourself, sports is far from immune. The new breed has turned statistics into a religion, most notably in baseball. So much so that Hollywood jumped on the bandwagon and released "Moneyball" starring Brad Pitt, a biographical film based on Michael Lewis' 2003 book of the same name that was the true story of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A's.

Moneyball mainly focuses on Beane's attempts to assemble a competitive team despite the franchise's untenable financial situation by relying on a far more "sophisticated" statistical analyses of players.

Some in the NBA have followed suit and worship at the altar of "player efficiency rating" like its the Bible or Qur'an.

It's simple old school vs. new school.

Tell a scout you need a shooter and he hits the gym, looking for a player that is comfortable running through a thicket of screens and raising up for a jumper while opening up the wings for others. Tell a stats disciple the same thing and he hits his I-Pad, culling through every number imaginable.

Both sides have their merits but full disclosure forces me to admit I'm old school, the type of person that wants to see a player perform. At the same time, I'll admit statistics are very useful. Anyone denying that is truly behind the times.

My problem with the new school guys is their black and white view of the world. To them it's tools vs. production. To them, the old school is defined by a lack of education with ludicrous stories thrown about as evidence.

You know, general managers who can't work the "Google machine" on the "internets" or scouts that think a player can rebound because he's 6-foot-10 and built like brick wall but fails to notice he's in the lower half of the league in boards per minute.

Problem is those caricatures simply don't exist. Yeah, some might leave the dirty work to their underlings but let's understand all personnel executives are judged by the one criteria that Charlie Sheen embraces -- winning.

It's the ultimate grading system. You can't hide in the NBA no matter your belief system. Misfire enough and your out on the ass.

"'Moneyball' did remind me of one of my first meetings with then-Blazers GM John Nash," Jeffrey Ma, author of "The House Advantage" told ESPN's Henry Abbott recently. "We started talking about Sebastian Telfair and he was so proud of how fast Telfair was at dribbling end to end in a controlled environment. He kept saying that Telfair was the fastest he'd ever seen do that drill.

"And I kept thinking, 'Is that really a useful measure of anything?'"

Nothing like hindsight to bring out the condescension and hubris among the statistical elite. Anyone think Jeffrey Ma has missed on a player somewhere in his illustrious history of judging NBA talent?

Let's forget that Nash was an average GM in stops with Philadelphia, Washington and the Pacific Northwest. He was far from the only talent evaluator who was enamored with Telfair's speed with the ball.

And maybe, just maybe Telfair's ultimate failure as an NBA player had nothing to do with his abilities. Maybe it had to do with his immaturity as a man. After all, this is a undersized guy who passed on college and was arrested twice for criminal possession of a firearm.

Can someone point to the button on my TI scientific calculator that measures a player's maturity, heart or work ethic?

That's the thing about stat junkies, they interpret data and ignore real world uncertainties.

Does LeBron James have the flu on a particular night?

Is Kobe fighting with his wife?

Did Steve Nash get a speeding ticket on the way to the arena?

Over 82 games those types of things will even out but understand sports has always been about the moment.

James and Dwyane Wade both had better PER's than Dirk Nowitzki last season but the German star was the best player in the NBA Finals and the Dallas Mavericks are the world champions. Probability failed as the noose tightened on "The King" in the fourth quarter. You can't measure that.

The NBA is all about Game 7 in front of a raucous crowd doing its best to imitate the roar of a jet engine. It's about Michael Jordan sticking the jumper over Bryon Russell. It's about Julius Erving gliding up, over and around Mark Landsberger.

It's about individuals excelling in a given moment.

It's never been about a laptop, I-Pad or calculator...And it never will be.