A hallowed D-League record fell last week. And then it fell again.
Sioux Falls Skyforce center Greg Stiemsma and Maine Red Claws center Kurt Looby each surpassed the D-League’s single-season record for shots blocked at some point in the last seven days. Depending on what you read, that record may be 133 (as per the blocked shots record tracker in the Skyforce site) or 137 (as per the player page for the former record holder). Still, with both men in the middle having broken 140 rejections, we know this much for sure: There will be a new chief single-season swatter in the D-League’s book of records once all is said and done in 2009-10.
But before we parse his name from said literature, we owe one homage to Keith Closs and the remarkable shot-blocking proficiency he displayed in 2007-08.
As far as this year’s race is concerned, Stiemsma earns some extra love. An injury held him out of five games around the turn of the calendar, and he has managed to break the record while playing in just 40 games thus far this season, and he will not finish with more than 45. It’s no shock then that he has a lead in blocks per game over the twice-traded Looby (who stands to play 50 games if he suits up the rest of the way in Maine) at 3.5 to 3.2. Without question, however, both men deserve plenty of credit for their work at making habit of dismissing would-be scorers, Stiemsma for making up easily for lost time and Looby for the mere fact that the next game he plays without getting a hand on a shot will be the first such game in the 2010 calendar year.
But in the realm of blocks in time allotted, neither of this year’s candidates for record-holder-to-be hold a candle to predecessor Keith Closs. Though Closs appeared in 49 games for Tulsa in 2007-08, he made just 12 starts and averaged 19.2 minutes per game. While Stiemsma will not post the games played total that Closs did, he has already played more total minutes than Closs did over the breadth of his record-setting campaign. Though Stiemsma and Looby are fairly close in per-minute production at 4.60 and 4.53 blocks per 36 minutes respectively, Closs blows them both away at an astounding 5.25 blocks per 36 minutes.
Alas, I didn’t watch a ton of the 7-2 Closs back in the day, and you’ll be shocked to know that there isn’t a whole lot of game film available of his work. Perhaps he sat behind a major prospect I’m not remembering at the center position. Maybe his scoring and rebounding (12 points and 8.8 boards per 36 minutes) production wasn’t significant enough. Or perhaps, his shot-blocking affinities came at the expense of his overall defensive contribution. It’s been known to happen. Wouldn’t be shocked to learn his 7-2, 215-pound frame made him a bit too much of a string bean. But he certainly didn’t have the classic big man foul trouble issues (just 1.87 fouls per 36), and he cleared his share of shots away (and continued to do so thereafter, as Wikipedia reports he blocked nearly six shots per game the next season in China).
So here’s to you, Keith Closs, former single-season D-League shot-blocking champ and per-minute beast to boot.
Just in case some measure of tongue-in-cheekiness didn’t come through above, consider this the requisite disclaimer about over-valuing the importance of blocked shots. Those familiar with my work likely need not be reminded (though a refresher never hurts) that I’m as big a believer as any in the danger of using steals and blocked shots as definitive evaluators of a player’s defensive contribution. While they usually say good things, as referenced above, there are some cases in which player’s propensities to gamble for steals or leave their feet time and again for blocks actually hurt their overall performance at that end of the floor. Not necessarily the case for Stiemsma, Looby or Closs, but just wanted to make sure we’re clear that, yes, I think the single-season blocks record is kind of cool and felt like goofing around with the figures a bit this morning, but no, I don’t think it qualifies for much more than “cool” on its own.
But I would recommend watching Greg Stiemsma and Kurt Looby play basketball. They’re not half-bad at that game.