Posted December 3, 2009on:
I wrote this article for my Commerce program magazine at the University of Toronto, nearly a year ago, midway through the Toronto Raptors’ 2008-2009 season. I don’t think this is my best work, but I tried to put a portfolio management spin on basketball, and I think it sorta fits – fantasy sports is practically stock picking, if you think about it.
In light of one the worst losses in the Raptors’ history happening just last night, I took a look at what I had written a year ago, and have decided to put it up here. Some names have changed, but it looks like the Raptors are making the same mistakes I had foolishly hoped they had learned from.
Managing an NBA team is in many ways very much like managing an investment portfolio – only in place of beta, returns and correlations of your stocks and bonds, you deal with the points, rebounds, and assists of your players. NBA general managers are faced with similar investment decisions that fund managers face, too – whether to invest in blue-chip stocks (the Tim Duncans), risky but potentially lucrative junk bonds (the Ron Artests), or even in promising IPO’s (rookies).
With that in mind, this aspiring finance geek and longtime (closet) Toronto Raptors fan will attempt to show, in corporate finance terms, that the undoing of the Raptors, who have been maddeningly inconsistent since the season began, can be explained due to their management’s breaking of simple portfolio management guidelines…
A Dearth of Defensive Stocks
Think of offense and defense as market upswings and downswings, respectively; in this regard, offensive players are like cyclical stocks which perform well on the offensive end. Defensive players, on the other hand, excel on the other unglamorous end of the floor – in the same way defensive stocks (such as utilities) shine in a recession.
Over the trajectory of their recent ascent to relevance, the Raptors giddily dumped their defensive stocks one by one, shunning defensive die-hards such as Joey Graham, Morris Peterson and Kris Humphries in order to give its troupe of flashy 3-point shooters more playing time. By happily over-investing in such “cyclical” offensive players, the Raptors’ utter inability to defend opposing superstars is now jarringly apparent, and a key ingredient to their mediocrity of late.
An Undiversified Portfolio
The best NBA teams are, essentially, extremely well-balanced portfolios of players, and in the same way diversified portfolios minimize risk regardless of market movements, great NBA teams thrive in various situations and can beat you in every which way. The Celtics and Spurs of today both boast a triumvirate of stars (and able supporting casts) which exemplify this balance, being equally comfortable with both run-and-gun and half court offenses, as well as various defensive schemes.
Unfortunately, with the Raptors every personnel move since their modestly successful 2007 run, the team has steadily moved farther and farther away from diversification – and toward an overdependence on outside shooting. Charlie Villanueva, our multifaceted Derrick Coleman-esque rookie, was traded to make room for jump shooter Andrea Bargnani. Morris Peterson, do-it-all face of the Post-Vince era Raptors, fell out of favor – and the Raptors’ reliance on the sharp-shooting of Bargnani, Kapono and Parker grew.
When their snipers hit their mark, all is well in Raptor-land, and rabid exclamations of salami and cheese abound. But when opposing defenses wizen up and man-up against the Raps’ marksmen – an inevitability given the fact that Chris Bosh, our best inside force, is essentially… a mid-range jump shooter – the offense sputters and the Raptors, well, lose.
Brighter Days Ahead
Raptors fans can however remain optimistic about the team. The Bosh-Bargnani-Calderon core has only gotten better this year, and if new coach Jay Triano’s decision to give ne’er-say-die hustler Joey Graham increased playing time tells me anything at all, it’s that he, for one, gets his corporate finance.
This just made my day, a thousand times over. Funny how a simple piece of music can so successfully capture the feel of basketball in the ’90s – of MJ and Pip flat-out dominating everyone else for an entire decade, of GP and Kemp doing their thing, of the timeless Stockton-to-Malone pick and roll, of Patrick proudly standing taller than any skyscraper can in New York, of Reggie hitting all those blood-curdling jumpers, of Grant Hill’s early career, of the tragic what-coulda-been of Penny and Shaq.
And, of me as a teenager a world away and a decade ago, soaking it all in while falling in love with the game of basketball, spending every free moment I had shooting jumpers at the nearby Serangoon Gardens community center and obsessing over the arc of my shot or my layup step footwork.
I can’t even write this without getting teary eyed. Some of you may laugh at that, but those of you who get it… understand. Because for me, and for millions of kids out there like me I think, this song will always be the anthem and soundtrack of not just the NBA on NBC, or even of basketball, but of an entire decade of our lives.
Dinner at home with fam – linguine & KFC – not often had, bit too Guy’s Big Bite, but it works. Chicken too salty, feel disgusted. Need to run; 8.25pm already with storm clouds brewing. Nonetheless, summer; sun still out another half hour. Linger on brink of too-late-to-run / it’ll rain anyway / too restless to not run. Decisive for a change – grab shoes, slip on brigade polo tee and nike jersey shorts, run off.
Down the slope, past the construction site. Underneath CN railway and Gardiner; Lakeshore. Cross it, notice parking lot rubbish dumping ground in annoyance / bemusement. Hit the lake, turn east on usual route toward Sunnyside.
Then it hits – the perfect moment. Sky that had been hidden behind me revealed to be warm, honey orange. Tender light envelopes everything – look down at hands outstretched, at uncannily calm lake, at unmoving leaves and trees and amber silhouette of nearby condominiums – all glowing with same light. Keep jogging, silly smile on face, entirely happy and content to just be. Mild drizzle starts – but instead of dampening mood, only makes things more poignant. Yet scent of rain hints at memories.
And then, too quickly, moment ends – drizzle turns into deluge, and that rare feeling leaves, replaced by worry. No lightning yet, but in middle of lakeside park – very bad place to be in thunderstorm. Consider going strong, try to hold on to moment that is already long gone.
Logic prevails, run under shady tree next to woman and daughter. Squat under tree, still get drenched; scent of rain now full blown freshness, memories of countless days and nights spent crouched in camo under rainy trees flood back. Best times.
Downpour fizzles as fast as began, relapses into drizzle. Storm clouds blow by, ephemeral glint of orange glow re-emerges but isn’t the same. Decide to make a break for home as see lightning in distance. Double back, double-quick time. 1 km later, barely panting, semi proud of improving fitness. Yet, once-radiant glow seems a lot more faded, replaced by dark and damp and moody clouds.
It… came and went, and I can’t ever hope to do it justice in words, as… basic and honest and plain and direct as the words I have chosen. But sometimes in life there are these… moments which come, instances where you feel completely at ease and happy and content to just… be. You could be with your loved ones, you could be stuck in a crowd, you could be at a Christmas party… it doesn’t matter what or where or with whom, you just know, I guess, that you’d stop time if you could forever so that you could hold onto it and live forever in it in a moment that’ll last for all time. Yet it doesn’t, and it’s fleeting and over too fast. But you don’t forget, and I won’t either. So thank you for June 28th 2009, 8.40pm for being that moment I’ll never forget.
2009: The (Hallucinatory) Year That Was
Looking back at President Obama’s first year in the Whitehouse
March 27, 2010 – Has it really only been a year since Barack Obama was elected as the 44th US President? On hindsight, nobody could have predicted how things have turned out since last spring. There remains a lot of work to be done before America and the world recovers from The Rather Prodigious Recession of 2009, but for now at least, it seems we’re moving in the right direction.
The economy seems to be on the right track. Inexplicably keeping his cool through the first quarter of 2009 that essentially saw the Dow halve in value while the flock of media vultures condemned his not-two-month-old policies for the collective sins of the past eight years, President Obama somehow managed to make the far-sighted decisions that have only recently started coming to fruition. By channeling Truman’s “The Buck Stops Here” motto in a historic early April speech, a stern President Obama forever put an end to the bickering negative slew of CEO witch hunts and fashionable blame-the-government speeches that wracked early 2009, stalling progress in spite of its dire need. Instead, by refocusing America’s workforce into rebuilding its disintegrating infrastructure, Obama created tens of thousands of jobs while paving the way for a more competitive America – thereby investing in a much more stable global economy which doesn’t hinge on trillion dollar trade imbalances and international vendor financing to fuel both the American Dream and double-digit emerging market growth. Rising literacy levels and the fact that the Ford Fiesta has somehow replaced the Hummer (thanks in no small part to P. Diddy’s “Green or Die” campaign) as the “street-cred” car to drive is just icing on the cake.
Equally promising is America’s improvements in its foreign relations, not just with its enemies but its allies. Obama’s second visit to Ottawa in late 2009 was a significant step forward in US-Canada relations, which had thawed somewhat in the wake of Chrétien’s opposition of the Iraq War, and the seemingly genuine rapport between President Obama and Prime Minister Ignatieff hints at stronger cooperation in the days to come. Downing Street and the White House transcended their initially lukewarm relationship, and have worked hand in hand in stabilizing the global economy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, building on the inadvertently humorous goodwill resulting from her “overcharge” button gaffe with Russia, went on to push the reset button on relations with China. Cuba followed.
In a truly historic move, Barack Obama ran the cleanest, most successful campaign in NBA history – using the internet as a medium to reach All-Star voters in a way the likes of Gilbert Arenas and Chris Bosh could only dream of, the Baller-In-Chief was voted in as a starting guard in the 2010 NBA All-Star Game. Donning a Chicago Bulls jersey, Obama dropped 31 points on a hapless, dejected Kobe Bryant en route to a 122-98 blowout victory over the West. Yes he can.
Disney woke up one day in realization that The Mickey Mouse Club never really was about Britney and Justin and Christina to begin with, found itself shocked at the cultural damage it had wrought over the last decade as a pop tart factory… and resolved to someday make children’s cartoons once more.
Polar bears are still on the endangered species list, and fruit fly research continues unabated.
Will all this come to pass? If he even accomplishes half of what he sets out to do, Barack Obama will already have proven himself to be one of the greatest world leaders in history. More importantly though, does it even matter? The truth is, despite the efforts of frenzied media pundits who will try and convince us otherwise, it isn’t as important that Obama finds the right answers as it is that he asks the right questions. And, by surrounding himself with an intelligent and capable team helmed by Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton and consigliere Rahm Emanuel, one that is unafraid of constructively criticizing their leader’s decisions, Barack Obama is ensuring that he does. Whatever he may or may not actually accomplish, by asking the right questions, Obama is already light years ahead of the detachment, distraction and denial that has permeated the White House for the past decade.
Sitting here on a quiet, unusually cold Sunday night while brushing up on my resume and pondering job prospects, I took a break to youtube around to watch some old boxing clips (Ali, Roy Jones Jr) out of boredom, and chanced upon a David Beckham adidas advertisement from a year or two ago…
I know it’s kind of cheesy to draw inspiration from a commercial, but one little line by Golden Balls from that ad embodies the attitude that we as a… culture, a society and a global economy in such dire need of hope should adopt right now:
“You will go through tough times… it’s about coming through, though.”
Thank you, David. Now… back to updating my resume.
A friend showed this to me earlier this night to “cheer me up”.
Watch and be sickened.
If this proudly vehement me-first attitude is really what people are showing in the midst of the worst recession in a century – when that very same attitude undoubtedly, significantly contributed to this very situation – then we are in dire straits indeed.
“This is America”.
But, as the Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal has written (having beaten me to the punch, not that this humble blogger even has a punch as much as a teeny featherweight jab), this more likely than not is merely Rick Santelli’s get-famous-and-rich-quick scheme of being as audacious and attention grabbing as he can possibly be… and then cashing in on his 15 minutes of fame, either by pitching a book to like-minded Maycomb lynch mob types, or by using his clever little video as a job interview for a Fox News tv slot.
In other words, he’s Britney showing her genitalia to the world right now.
Clap clap clap clap clap.
Have fun with your whored out money, Rick.
With Barack’s recent successful visit to Ottawa this past Thursday marking a major step forward for relations between Canada and our southern brethren – which over the past half-decade had turned lukewarm since former PM Jean Chretien’s ballsy opposition of the Iraq invasion, not to mention driving news agencies like CBC giddy with excitement, and causing a country-wide pilgrimage to Ottawa to herald his arrival… it’s probably an apt time to share this new video by the ridiculously creative (and attractive) Obama girl of her playing Wii Sports with Obama, the Clintons, and of course, W.
The video is surprisingly spot on, making fun of Obama’s uber-competitive nature as well as Bill’s uh, charm.
(as posted on the Compass Underground blog)