Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What's in a Name?

In our last post, we asked if anyone knew why this blog is called 12 trillion. 

It is not a reference to the national deficit or the bailout total. This blog is about the NBA, not the GDP. 

If you are a true fan, you know that there is a basketball phrase known as "trillion." It is used to describe an empty boxscore line for a player who got in the game. 

Years ago, my job responsibilities included taking dictated long-form NBA  boxscores over the telephone. There was no automatic field population from a courtside computer or an entry system that input the player's entire name after entering the first two or three characters. You had to know how to spell every player's name and enter every stat using a system that tabbed through the columns. 

The box score template was formatted with zeros, so the easiest entries were the deep rotation players who got the least burn. The guy on the other end of the phone would say, "Scott Brooks - two minutes, oh-of-one, one assist, two fouls, zero." You would tab through all the categories he didn't mention - leaving them as zeros - and change the ones he did. 

Sometimes the guy would say, "Rick Carlisle - one minute, all zeros." 

And that, folks, is a "trillion." A "1" in the minutes column, followed by a stream of zeros. 

Now I'm sure a handful of you are going to search the web for a box score PDF to see if it really is a "trillion." It isn't. One trillion in numeric form has 12 zeros. A "trillion" in a boxscore has 15 zeros, which really makes it a quadrillion. 

But that doesn't matter. Box score forms have changed over the years, adding columns. NBA players, by and large, aren't Mensa members. And let's be honest - "trillion" sounds a lot cooler, and the NBA has always been about cool. 

And back in the day of dictated box scores, reading them was often the only way to gain any insight to a game. There was no League Pass or internet access to the local beat reporter or blog-o-rama breaking down the PER of the backup power forward. 

So you scoured the box, looking for changes in starting lineups or playing time, abnormally good or bad shooting, double figures in offensive boards, guys with more steals than turnovers. 

And "trillions." 

OK, so why 12 trillion? 

Because in more than 35 years of scanning box scores when I should have been doing my homework, shoveling snow, writing a term paper, beating a deadline, listening to my wife, playing catch with my son, searching for a job and making something of myself, the biggest trillion I have ever seen is a 12 trillion. 

By a veteran. Who never has to be asked twice to shoot. Who spends plenty of time talking about how good he is. In a Finals game. 

I was at this game and have to confess that I didn't notice how well Damon Jones was impersonating a statue. Neither did anyone else among the media. After all, it was LeBron James' first NBA Finals appearances, and we were all witnessess, right? 

At practice the next day, I asked ESPN's John Hollinger, who has to be one of the top NBA numbers guys, if he had seen Jones' box score line. I was stunned when he said, "No, what was it?" I told him it was the biggest "trillion" I had ever seen, a virtually inconceivable achievement given the player, the setting and the court time. 

I mean, not even a rushed 3-pointer against the shot clock? Not even a foul to fool the assistant coaches into thinking you are playing defense? Hollinger was duly impressed and after we were done laughing, he made it an Insider item. 

That's why trillions are so hard to get. Even negative stats like missed shots, fouls and turnovers break them up. To play even two or three  minutes without denting the box score in some way - a bad shot, a bad pass, something - is almost impossible. 

Although I will say that Michael Cage's box score line in this playoff game is a very gallant effort. 

So for the rest of my life, whenever someone brings up Damon Jones, I will respond in Pavlovian fashion, "12 trillion." 

We promise our future posts will be more contemporary. But they will always be looking for the "12 trillion" angle. 

For now, you can read more of our stuff here.  

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A new NBA home, still needing some work

Have you ever bought a brand new house? 

I did. About 10 years ago, my wife and I were living in Brooklyn and knew we couldn't save enough money in this lifetime to own something. We also knew we had to get a chip in the homeowner game. So we started looking at houses in east Tennessee, where her parents and brother had relocated. 

There was a nearby subdivision where houses were sprouting up faster than dandelions. They were in various stages of construction, and one that we looked at was still just joists, beams and plywood. So when the builder walks you through and says, "This is the master bedroom," it's hard to get the image of a toolshed out of your mind. 

That's what this blog looks like right now. 

But you know what? It's mine, and I can relocate windows, add a deck, pick the carpet and colors and decide where to put the telephone pole, because it's still under construction. 

Hopefully, the finished product is a place that you will visit frequently, especially if you're looking for NBA coverage and analysis with a sarcastic edge. There's a sampling here

Our next post will address the answer to this question: What is the genesis of the name of this blog? If you think you know, write it up in an email to cbernucca@comcast.net, and the best responses - along with the answer - will appear in the post.