Monday, March 2, 2009

Did Holdsclaw Help Her Teams...or Hurt Them?

Since someone stated at that Holdsclaw's injuries hindered her teams, I decided to take a look at Holdsclaw's injury history.

The line of figures following the team name are
- games played
- games started
- percentage of regular season games played

Chamique Holdsclaw 1999 WAS 31 30 96.9
Chamique Holdsclaw 2000 WAS 32 32 100.0
Chamique Holdsclaw 2001 WAS 29 29 90.6
Chamique Holdsclaw 2002 WAS 20 20 62.5 ** grandmother dies, missed two games, severe ankle sprain injury - missed nine games**
Chamique Holdsclaw 2003 WAS 27 27 79.4 ** hamstring injury, missed six games **
Chamique Holdsclaw 2004 WAS 23 22 67.6 ** depression issues **
Chamique Holdsclaw 2005 LAS 33 33 97.0
Chamique Holdsclaw 2006 LAS 25 0 73.5 ** left plantar fasciitis **
Chamique Holdsclaw 2007 LAS 5 5 ** first (?) retirement **

All in all, Holdsclaw has missed about 25 games to injury and approximately 9-11 games due to depression issues. That's almost an entire season.

Now, let's look at how well her teams did.

1999 Mystics 12-20
2000 Mystics 14-18, made playoffs, lost first round 0-2
2001 Mystics 10-22
2002 Mystics 17-15, made playoffs, won first round 2-0, lost conference finals 1-2
2003 Mystics 9-25
2004 Mystics 17-17, won five of last six to make playoffs, lost first round 1-2
2005 Sparks 17-17, made playoffs, lost first round 0-2
2006 Sparks 25-9, made playoffs, won first round 2-1, lost conference finals 0-2

And now, let's look at the best player on all of Holdsclaw's teams by Win Shares, which come from

1999: Murriel Page (Holdsclaw second)
2000: Holdsclaw
2001: Vicki Bullett (Holdsclaw second)
2002: Holdsclaw
2003: Holdsclaw (in Top 10 in Win Shares)
2004: Alana Beard (Holdsclaw second)
2005: Holdsclaw (in Top 10 in Win Shares)
2006: Lisa Leslie (Holdsclaw second)

I think it's hard to make the argument that somehow Holdsclaw failed to hold up her end of the bargain and that her teammates had to do all of the lifting for her. Four conclusions:

1) Holdsclaw played on some very bad teams in her career. In some cases, no one could have made those teams better. She only played on two teams with a record above .500. During her time with the Mystics, the Mystics were never very good. (They still aren't good.) That's not the fault of Holdsclaw, that's the fault of Mystics management.

2) Even when she played with the Sparks, they weren't a transcendent team. The first Sparks team she played on was mediocre, and the second case was just a case of bad luck.

3) Most of the time, Holdsclaw was the best player on her teams. In her earlier career, she misses the mark just barely, and look who she's playing with - Murriel Page and Vicki Bullett. When Alana Beard beat her out for best player, it took Beard all 34 games to earn more Win Shares than Holdsclaw did, and she barely finishes ahead of her.

In 2005, Holdsclaw actually outperformed Leslie. In 2006, Leslie had a fantastic season, finishing fifth win Win Shares across the league.

I found this interesting excerpt from an ESPN article in 2004, discussing an altercation between Holdsclaw and a Mystics fan:

One Mystics fan confronted her in public about her absence, she said.

A passing motorist rolled down his window and began berating her, telling her, "You need to get it together! You need to get back on the court!"

Holdsclaw responded angrily.

"Do you know me?" she shouted "You don't know me!"

My suspicion is that:

4) Mystics fans simply had expectations that were ridiculously high, that Holdsclaw was just going to be able to put the team on her back and lead it to a championship every year. Even Michael Jordan was unable to do that, until he got a supporting cast and a good offensive scheme that he was willing to buy into. Holdsclaw, however, never had that opportunity.

Someone had to be blamed for the Mystics mediocrity, and the finger could be easily pointed at Holdsclaw. "It was that crazy, fucked-up Holdsclaw that caused the Mystics to be so awful. It's all her fault!"

In 2006, the Sparks lost the conference finals. Now, the Sparks could blame Holdsclaw and a consensus could be formed - "Holdsclaw causes your team to lose - it was clearly Claw's abandonment of the team that hurt the Sparks." Of course, if the Sparks had beaten the Monarchs and then beaten the Shock, you would have heard the argument, "See? We won the finals. It just proves that Claw isn't all that and we won because we were lucky and got rid of the weakest link." Once a consensus is formed, you can't win for losing.

So to Atlanta Dream fans, a cautionary tale - let's not put it all on Holdsclaw's back. This is a very young team, and if we don't make the playoffs, it will most likely not be Holdsclaw's fault. A team is not just one person, no matter how good she is.

Furthermore, depression is a weird disease, a disease for which it's easy to blame the victim. It still carries a social stigma, and for athletes, all the more so. Once again, I hope that Holdsclaw comes back and proves her naysayers wrong. As they said at the end of that awful movie with Robin Williams playing a football player, "Half of the people here today came to see you succeed. The other half came to see you fail."

I suspect that WNBA fans are similarly split, with half hoping that Holdsclaw will fail in order to confirm their own biases. But the other half hopes that she will prove her naysayers wrong.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

we gotta receive her with open arms...ticket sales definitely wont hurt