Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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Guest post: The competitiveness of a former mathlete named RandBall

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: January 7, 2014 - 3:09 PM

From time to time, our special lady friend/RandBall Better Half has the inspiration to write a guest post. Four years back, she famously penned a ranking of the roles and positions of baseball players, which many of you seemed to enjoy. The obligation to post these is pretty much 100 percent ... which is why it is a good thing we also find them entertaining! In this case, the RBBH has chosen to write about competitiveness and to out me as a once-mathlete! Please do enjoy:

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As many of you know, I have never been a big sports fan.  It took a few years after I started dating RandBall for me to understand baseball play-by-play on the radio, and a decade to understand football — on TV OR the radio.  That is not to say I have had no exposure to sports or competition.  I grew up playing soccer, and as a child I was one of my brother’s number one spectators at his soccer and hockey games.  Seven years my senior, my brother and his teammates took the games seriously — and in my eyes were the true athletes; they suffered injuries, played through rainstorms, and behaved as though the fate of the world hinged on the results of one game.  It was nothing like the level of competition I experienced in RAAA soccer.

While I’ve never been much for sports themed video games, I do like strategy games.  Tetris was a big hit in my household, and when Sega Genesis came out, Columns was my game of choice.  In my adult life, I have not happened upon any other video games that have held my attention as much as those early strategy games, save one:  Bejeweled.

Bejeweled is like columns on steroids.  Not only is there strategy involved, but if you play particularly well— what I call “getting into the zone” — what unfolds is a series of events not unlike the domino effect. The simple goal of matching three gems in a row becomes four or five or SIX gems in a row. A Normal Gem soon becomes a Flame Gem, then a Star Gem — then a Hypercube. Your points add up, the levels fly by, and soon enough, you’ve got your all-time high score. It’s riveting, it’s exciting, it passes time in the waiting room at the dentist, it keeps your mind alert, and it’s fun! 

But that’s the only real goal — surpassing your own previous high score.  This is not the case with Yushino, RandBall’s new obsession. (Don’t even get me started with online Scrabble.) In this numbers strategy game, players get 7 "tiles" at a time (like Scrabble) and compete against each other to make numerical sequences that each add up to the last digit of the next number. For instance, 1-2-3 is a sequence you can play. So is 9-4-3-7.

Each player’s ranking among all players globally is available to see. RandBall was ranked No. 2 for several weeks. Currently, as he has not had enough time to keep his ranking up, he has slipped to No. 28.  Curious, I checked the high scores for Bejeweled. For Classic Bejeweled (one of several modes) of the 3,043,459 registered players, “kamizoom” is in first place, with a high score of 9,223,372,036,854,775,807.  For comparison, my high score is 435,360.

I suppose we all fall somewhere on the spectrum — from non-competitive to super-competitive.  While I like to tell people that I’m not competitive at all, I do make comparisons against my previous efforts.  When marathon training, I pay attention to my pace and set expectations and goals around my previous accomplishments.

RandBall is a different breed: not only does he compare his efforts against those of others, but he can compete at such a level that the best of the best competing head-to-head includes none other than RandBall himself.  Of course, it would be great if his talent were developed in more profitable or notable pastimes. Imagine RandBall as a world class poker player, or a 10 time Olympic gold medalist.

As it is, though, I’m impressed with my once-mathlete husband. He’s no AP, but he will pummel you in a game of Yushino.

Editor's note: You will be pummeled. Seriously.

TFD: Ricky Rubio barely cracks ESPN list of top 25 players under 25

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: December 13, 2013 - 3:57 PM

For a blunt, honest and pretty much spot-on assessment of Ricky Rubio, we point you in the direction of ESPN's annual ranking of the top 25 NBA players under 25. Kevin Love cracked the top 10 last year, but now he's 25 and doesn't qualify.

Rubio is the young star now at age 23. We looked at the list and kept expecting to see his name. We waited, and waited, and waited ... until we finally got to him at No. 23. But once we looked at the list objectively and saw the players listed above Rubio, it was hard to argue.

Here is the whole list (Insider). And here is what was said about Rubio by the three panelists:

Your thoughts, please, in the comments.

Amin Elhassan (scout) starts with a straight scouting report on each player.

David Thorpe (coach) offers what each player must improve.

Kevin Pelton (analytics) provides a three-year projection using wins above replacement player (WARP). He formulated his projections using his own system, SCHOENE.

Elhassan: He hasn't developed into the Jason Kidd-level point guard we thought he'd be, but he's still just 23 and one of the best passers in the league, with incredible vision and the ability to squeeze passes into the tightest spaces. He's developed into a fairly reliable catch-and-shoot option from beyond the arc, but is atrocious scoring the ball anywhere else, in any other fashion. He's an underrated defender with quick hands and sound footwork.

Thorpe: Rubio is close to breaking through into a higher level of play, if only he'd trim the number of bad turnovers. Those are the ones that are high-risk and low-reward, especially early in possessions when he has so many other options. Limit those along with the long 2s he elects to take and his efficient rockets up.

Rubio might never develop into a good outside shooter, but that's not necessary for him to be valuable. More important is improving his finishing around the basket, his real weakness.

Lakers and Kobe Bryant announce his return Sunday ... on Facebook

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: December 6, 2013 - 3:40 PM

Ah, a sign of the times. A two-minute video to make one simple announcement: Kobe Bryant is returning from his injury and is expected to play Sunday against Toronto.

Keep in mind: the Wolves play the Lakers on Dec. 20.

Here is the dramatic video:

 

TFD: LeBron James is making a movie, and it sounds terrible

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: December 5, 2013 - 5:21 PM

Per Deadline.com:

Kevin Hart is signing on to star with LeBron James in Ballers, the basketball comedy for Universal Pictures and Imagine Entertainment. Brian Grazer and Michael Rosenberg are producing.

Hart will first co-write the comedy along with his scripting teammates Joey Wells, Chris Spencer and Harry Ratchford. He’ll then star as a man who lives in the shadow of his NBA superstar brother (James), but gets a chance to prove himself when he and some pals attend a weekend fantasy basketball camp in Miami.  Hart is certainly dominant in the stand-up arena, but posting up against this screen sibling could be dangerous. Hart is under 5’3″ while James is a towering 6’8.” That kind of sibling size differential hasn’t been seen since Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger starred in another Universal comedy, Twins. They’ll sign a director when Hart and his cohorts turn in the script. The plan is to start production next summer when James has time off.

Maybe the Heat will bow out early in the playoffs and give James more time to work on this masterpiece.

TFD: The loss of Derrick Rose will cost Bulls 11 victories

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: November 25, 2013 - 5:35 PM

Per ESPN.com (Insider):

Based on their estimated "true talent" (as described last week), remaining schedule and performance to date and with a healthy Rose factored into more than 1,000 simulations of the season, Chicago averaged just over 52 wins, the third-highest total in the Eastern Conference, after the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat.

Without Rose, that changes in a hurry. My SCHOENE projection systemestimates that over a full season, the Rose-less Bulls would win approximately 37 games. While the oddsmakers disagree -- Jay Kornegay of the Las Vegas Hilton told Insider his line for Chicago would be 48.5 wins if Rose did not play all season -- there's reason to believe in such a pessimistic outlook.

At this stage of the season, they settled on 40.8 wins. Ouch.

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