AI, Winning and Communication

Jerry RContributor INovember 7, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 06:  Allen Iverson #3 of the Memphis Grizzlies throws a pass against the Los Angeles Lakers on November 6, 2009 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 114-98.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

I’ve now been on this site for a few months, and I’ve not seen any topic that generates so much debate quite like the whole Allen Iverson situation.  This made me ask exactly what is it about this character that incites people to bitch at each other like no other.

I suppose that one could argue that the situation was pre-selected, meaning, that people who follow AI are naturally inclined to argue.  Given the thuggish persona that has always followed AI from the start of his recognized career, this seemed like an ostensible explanation.  Yet, this just seems WRONG for so many reasons I won’t get into. 

What I would like to talk about in this article is the importance of communication for winning.  “Winning” is clearly a loaded word and needs to be explained in more detail.  I will use it in a most basic manner, which is to come out ahead at the end of some previously agreed-upon time limit.  The measure would also be agreed upon.  So, I win if I have more points at the end of a 48 minute match.  However, within this time frame, there are smaller matchups one can win, such as the stuff that fantasy owners care about.  For instance, how many of you watch a game rooting for both sides because you have Deron Williams and Chris Paul on your fantasy team?  Also to state the obvious, trying to achieve short-term winning is often detrimental for long-term winning, to which the current economic wreckage can attest (eg., let’s keep flipping houses and we can make mo money mo money mo money!!). 

The point is, all these competitions are happening at the same time (in the same game), and so calling everything “winning” almost loses meaning because it all depends on what you’re talking about and the time-frame. 

I read a report today on ESPN that presented some AI soundbytes related to the current volatile situation. 

"Do I say all the right things all the time? I doubt it," Iverson said. "But the ultimate goal is to win games. That's the only thing it's about."

Now, even the hater-haters (the AI support group on Bleacher Report as I like to call them) will agree that this means a particular thing, but how true is this and what does he mean by this?  Filling seats, making money, keeping fans, players, owners happy, etc, could all be achieved by winning a championship but it doesn’t have to. 

For example, let’s say this works out and all the basketball brains who support the Grizzlies got together and were somehow able to achieve with a 34 year-old Iverson something a much younger and better player with the Sixers couldn’t- win a championship.  Given AI’s formula for winning, namely, “give me the ball, let me start and I will fill it up”, will this mean that all the players will be happy?  Not sure.  Depends on how selfless guys like Rudy Gay, who is fighting for a contract and the currently indoctrinated next coming Mayo feels about placing his development on the backburner.   (I must admit, I think Z-bo is actually helping the team this year, much to my surprise). 

Again, my argument is that there are many interactions operating at the same time and they tug and pull in opposite directions, even though the stated goal is to win games. 

So, what’s the best way to achieve the best solution?

Experts are now looking towards nature to figure out solutions to optimization problems.  Such complex questions are solved through minimization of energy loss.  Simply put, Evolution works out A best possible solution given 10 different things it has to balance.  For this to work REQUIRES communication and adaptability.  I don’t want to get into examples because this isn’t the place for it.  I will simply take advantage of the rules of the blogosphere, which basically places a huge burden on my reputation for accuracy and merit.  

With respect to communication and adaptability, here are a few things that were said in the same column:

On Communication: "I think that's probably the worst part of all this," Iverson said Friday. "That while all this is going on, we have never talked to each other. That's probably why it's at this point right now. We've just never had a conversation, so it's probably going to always be hard for me and him to see eye-to-eye, because we've never even talked to each other. Obviously that's what you do if you're trying to accomplish the same goal."

Hollins refused to speak about Iverson earlier in the week, but said Friday he has no problem with Iverson's pointed words. He also doesn't intend to have a special chat with Iverson.

"Every player has his opinion of his self-worth and what he expects, but I have to coach the whole team," Hollins said. "There's no need to talk to A.I. He's a competitor, and we're going to be fine. ... He has a right to say what he wants to say, and I have a right to say what I want."

Clearly, egos are getting in the way and who says adults don’t act like children?

On Adaptability: "I'm not trying to figure out how to contribute to no team," Iverson said. "I contribute to a team by just playing. That's it. I don't have to figure it out. Obviously, they signed me for a reason. They've been watching me play this game for 13 years, and they know what I do on the basketball court, so I don't have to figure out how I'm going to play or anything like that. I just go out and play basketball."

What’s shocking is that Hollins recognizes the problem but for some reason, he’s above the idea of treating a man like a child and teaching him a basic lesson for the good of the team: "Roles change, positions change," Hollins said. "He's a prideful person that believes in himself. Every player wants to play a starting role, and a player of his caliber especially."

Dare I say it?  Maybe AI should take lessons from Z-bo or he can continue to buy the hater-haters argument that AI at 34 is better than the 24 year-old AI who embarrassed Jordan but still couldn’t win a championship.