I wrote recently about how a former “crooked” stat keeper named Alex confessed to some of the stat manipulation that goes on at home games. In an article on Deadspin he expanded on those comments. The biggest, saddest, most relevant part to this site is that all teams seem to boost their stats at home… except for one team that may have actually tried to make their players look worse:
Everyone cooked the books, and the tendency, by and large, was to overcount — with a few notable exceptions. “Why would you underrerport? The only reason is to make your players look bad,” Alex says. “Normally, you wouldn’t want to do that. If the players look good, they’re more likely to be All-Stars and generate trade value. You don’t want to undervalue your own assets. But if you’re a stupid franchise, and you don’t intend to make deals, and you want to depress your own players’ signability — well, which franchise is stupid enough to do that?”
In the latter half of the 1990s, the Clippers held down their own players’ assists with an almost suspicious regularity. Between 1987 and 2009, [the average NBA] home teams assisted on 61.8 percent of their field goals; away teams, 58.3 percent — a gap of 3.5 percentage points in favor of the home squads. Year after year, the Clippers reversed the trend. In 1996, the Clips’ scorekeepers credited the team with assists on 47 percent of its field goals (with only Pooh Richardson averaging more than five assists per game); in other arenas, the same Clippers team assisted on 60 percent of its field goals, a difference of 13 percentage points. No team since 1987 has underreported its own assists by a larger margin. Second-largest: The Clippers in 1999, with a difference of 12.2 percentage points. Third-largest: The Clippers in 1998, at 12.1 points. Fifth-largest: The Clippers in 1997, at 9.1 points.
“The numbers are huge,” Alex says. “It’s pretty amazing. This is total conjecture. But do I think someone from management went to them and said, ‘You need to underrerport stats’? There’s no way — even with an organization as dysfunctional as the Clippers. That would expose them to civil liability, if they’re intentionally diminishing the market for a player — that’s almost criminal.”