Saturday, June 30, 2007

Jemele Hill: 1 + 2 Should Equal 3!

In my last Jemele Hill related post, I said this:

“I HATE when writers make arguments for themselves to counter like this. Jemele is the queen of that.”

Jemele’s latest cause: Barry Bonds belongs in the all-star game. Real quick, Barry Bonds is second in all of baseball in OPS. He’s hitting .298 w/ 16 homeruns. He’d have more runs and RBIs but his team sucks and he’s getting walked at an insanely high rate (hurts RBI chances, hurts Runs when teammates can't drive him in). He’s also clearly the best player on the Giants, who would need to have a representative. So who is she trying to convince? I have no idea.

I know this is being fairly heavily debated among writers and the BBTN crowd, but Jemele's story captures the crux of all the wrong sides of the argument.

He is getting on base over 50% of the time. Only Bonds, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams have done that since 1950. So I'm sorry, yes, another Jemele Hill post. As usual though, her logic is totally backwards. She believes Barry Bonds belongs in the All-Star game, in spite of his non-all star stats, because his chasing the all-time home run record is the biggest story in baseball. She believes that the fans are sending him a message with the voting, because he's 4th.

All-Star Game loses relevance without Bonds

I have about as much love for Barry Bonds as Pacman Jones has for district attorneys.

Ha ha ha, those guys DO hate district attorneys!

Yet even I would be hugely disappointed if Bonds wasn't an All-Star.

Because he’s second on the majors in OPS and he's getting on base over 50% of the time?

This is not about statistics.

Huh? Why not? Shouldn’t it be about his performance in the first half of the year?

This isn't about what the fans want, because in this case, they have no idea what that is. This isn't about steroids, either, because the federal government has been unable to nail Bonds. Certainly baseball's farce of a steroids investigation is unlikely to discover anything that will stop Bonds from piling up home runs.

Then what is it about? Isn’t the selection system set up to be A) What the fans want and B) The best players (theoretically) as picked by the players and coaches?

Just to get this out of the way, I believe Bonds knowingly took steroids. It just doesn't change anything. He's going to be the home run king.

It doesn’t change the number of home runs he hit, but to many it changes the perception that it was Bonds and his hard work/talent that did all the work. So yeah, it changes the perception of the validity of the record. That’s something.

And as the soon-to-be home run king, Bonds has a place in the All-Star Game. Baseball, if anything, is a sport infatuated with tradition. If the player about to break the game's most important record isn't apart of a celebration of the sport's best, something just wouldn't feel right.

He deserves to be in the game because he’s played baseball at an All-Star level this year, not because he’s breaking the record. What if he started the season with 754 and had hit only 1 HR so far, does he deserve to be in then?

The fans are trying to make a point, which is why Bonds is currently fourth in the voting among National League outfielders.

Right, he’s fourth in the voting, that means he’s getting a lot of votes and a lot of fans want him in.

A fine ideal, just not the entire truth. If the fans really wanted to make statement, they wouldn't pay extra to see him play at parks across the country.

Huh? So you’re saying the fans are making a statement AGAINST Bonds by having him fourth, and if they really wanted to make a statement, they wouldn’t go watch games that he’s playing in? What are the fans saying to Matt Holliday, who has been great but has 400,000 less votes than Bonds?

No story in baseball is bigger than Bonds. He's bigger than any superficial comeback Roger Clemens can muster. Bigger than the Yankees' nosedive. Bigger than any Dice-K start. Bigger than any A-Rod infidelity caper.

Right, because he’s breaking the all-time home run record. I agree.

So how would it look if the biggest story in the sport is absent from the league's marquee showcase? A marquee event, by the way, that's held in San Francisco -- the one place in the solar system where Bonds has unwavering support.

How would it look if the guy who is second in the entire major leagues in OPS and is his team’s MVP was not in the all-star game? Pretty crazy! You’re right for all the wrong reasons.

Aren't All-Star games supposed to be entertainment for the fans?

Yes, partially, that’s why the fans vote. They have him 4th so far, pretty good.

Despite Bonds' transgressions -- both real and imagined -- he is a transcendent figure in sports. He's a star. And last time I checked, that's the defining characteristic in an All-Star Game.

What is the defining characteristic in an All-Star Game? Transcendence? Being a star? Huh? Like Mark Redman last year?

You can use Bonds' stats (.293 batting average, 15 homers, 35 RBIs, through Sunday) and dwindling defensive ability as an argument against him earning his 14th All-Star selection, but Bonds wouldn't be the first declining player to get a free pass into the All-Star Game.

What? He’s 2nd in the majors in OPS! He has a .505 on base %! What is wrong with 15 homers (now 16, good for 7th in the NL)? He doesn’t get RBIs/Runs this year because of his teammates and the fact that he’s walked so much hurts his RBI chances. His numbers compare quite favorably to Beltran, Griffey Jr. and Soriano who are all in front of him.

Also, you just implied that his stats may not be all-star worthy, but earlier you said that the fans were making a “statement” by having him 4th in the voting. You implied that the statement was negative. If you don’t think his stats are all-star worthy, then wouldn’t it be surprising that he’s 4th in the voting? Wouldn’t it be a positive statement by the fans?

It happens all the time in other sports. Magic Johnson was voted to the 1992 NBA All-Star team after his HIV announcement because people were inspired and sympathetic. And let's not forget Cal Ripken received his share of gimme All-Star appearances, too.

These examples have nothing to do with Bonds getting into the all-star game this year.

Deleted: Blah blah blah steroids, Selig, McGwire….stuff irrelevant to the all-star game…blah blah blah…

Bonds is part of the ugly, historical incident that baseball should acknowledge, accept and remember. His All-Star selection wouldn't be a reward. It's a reminder of the long-lasting damage that is done when principles are abandoned.

His All-Star selection would be justified based on his performance on the field so far this year, and any other attention brought upon it by columnists like you is just noise.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Jalen Rose Speaks the Truth

Jalen Rose, from today's chat on

Jalen Rose: Enjoy tonight's draft! But remember, you will not see an outfit that looks better than Jalen Rose's suit in 1994!

Word, Jalen.

Stuff Only I Find Funny, Volume 1

I happened to catch some of Stuart Scott's chat last week on I went on and submitted a comment, which he posted but didn't address.

First, he said this:

Greg (Long Beach, CA): Do you think Prince Fielder will hit 60 HR's this year? It's good to see that he's doing it the right way (beer and hot dogs). Is he the best young power hitter in the game right now?

Stuart Scott: Yes, Prince and A Rod will

How do you know he's not eating salads, by the way?

He's not eating salads because he's fat. Unless he's eating "hotdog salads". Anyway, I thought this was a bit of a stretch considering they are both on a pace to hit between 56-60 and had some seriously hot stretches that they aren't likely to duplicate, and no one since 1961 who wasn't a roided out monster has hit 60. But anyway, that led me to post this:

Sweet Sassy Molassy!: Prince AND A-Rod are hitting 60? No way.

Now, everyone knows that "Sweet Sassy Molassy" is a reference to an old SNL skit with Ray Romano and Tim Meadows playing sports anchors. No one remembers that? Shit.

Tim Meadows is supposed to be Stuart Scott and is yelling Booyah! after just about every play. Ray is simply the white sidekick with a corny catch phrase - Sweet Sassy Molassy! that he keeps repeating.

Anyway I bet Stuart Scott felt pretty stupid later on that night when he realized how bad I had punk'd him. Right? Right?

Never mind.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Kobe Better Player Than Jordan, But Jordan Best Player Ever

If that title doesn’t make sense to you, then we are in for a long journey my friend.

This is a column written by Jemele Hill in late March about Kobe Bryant being the best player in the NBA, and being better than Michael Jordan (titled "Putting Kobe in perspective"). It’s old, but it pre-dated this site so I get to include it now because I was recently reminded of it. I’ve excluded her points about Kobe being the best player in the NBA because it was not interesting or relevant to the Jordan discussion. Her column generated a fair amount of mail for Jemele and I’ve included her general responses to some of that mail (her next column was a mailbag). I believe Bill Simmons commented on it as well in a chat or mailbag but I’m not going to dig that up.

The best description I could give to the column would be to call it unfortunate. Comparisons of NBA greats are supposed to be a fun thing, with discussions of accomplishments, great moments and mind boggling stats. Jemele instead gives us a truck load of excuses for Kobe not getting the respect he deserves and statements about all things concerning MJ except his game. The first statement is an attention getter:

Kobe Bryant is better than Michael Jordan.

Interesting, let’s hear you back it up with basketball related evidence. Should be fun!

Not more successful.

At basketball? Well that seems like it would hurt your argument. 1 point Jordan! Go on.

Hasn't had a bigger economic impact.

Irrelevant. Let’s talk hoops.

Hasn't won more MVPs.

That’s a fact. If you want to argue that Kobe should have won a couple by now I’ll argue that Jordan should have also won MVP’s in ‘90, ‘93 and ‘97. Let's stop this one sentence crap and get the ball rolling here!

Hasn't won more titles.

I have a feeling your argument is going to be based on a lot of non-results based things.

But he's a better player.

Kobe can do everything Michael did, and even a few things Michael couldn't do.

“Can do” is different than “does”. It’s much different actually. Kobe can do pretty much anything on a basketball court, but shouldn’t this argument be based on what these men actually do/have done on the court? Like, with stats and big games and clutch shots and nuances that only a keen ESPN Page 2 eye could uncover? No? Just nebulous unsupported, terrible arguments? This is going to suck.

Kobe is just as good a defender. His killer instinct is just as pronounced. He can shoot, finish and explode. And just like Jordan, the more he's pissed off, the more unstoppable he is.

Look, I’d take Jordan but Kobe is a great defender, so I’ll give you this one – that they are equal on defense. I mean, there’s no objective evidence that would ever lead you there, based on statistics and awards, but Kobe is a great defender. I think Kobe goes through more lapses than Jordan, and Jordan was more prolific and getting steals and blocks.

Of course, the idea that Kobe is better than Jordan -- or even the best player in this league -- is as repugnant to some folks as a rectal exam. Even though Kobe has proven himself under pressure countless times, he gets the A-Rod treatment.

Please explain this. Is anyone saying Kobe isn’t good under pressure? I mean, he faded in the second half of the Pistons Finals in ’04 and he didn’t set the world on fire in the second half of game 7 against the Suns in ’06, but he’s come through far to often for anyone to think he’s not clutch.

Kobe can't please anyone. And it doesn't help that most people suffer from revisionist history when it comes to Jordan, forgetting that he was just as poor a teammate and a ball hog and that he ran off coach Doug Collins like Kobe ran off Phil Jackson the first time.

So Jordan ran off a bad coach which lead to an awesome coach taking over and the team winning 6 championships in 8 years. Bryant ran off an awesome coach (by that time, historically great) after winning 3 championships for a lesser coach which lead to disappointing results for the Lakers. You're including this?

And really, what is this poor teammate business? He was a hard ass. So was Bird, so was Magic. There’s nothing wrong with a superstar pushing his teammates to come up to his level. Say whatever you want about how “fun” it may not have been to play with Jordan, but he made his teammates better. This is a stupid direction to take this argument. If Michael Jordan had the temperament of Tracy McGrady, then he doesn’t win 6 rings. Jordan was a “ball hog” to the extent that he needed to be to give his team the best chance to win.

In fact, you could argue that Jordan was even worse. Far as we know, Kobe hasn't jacked up any of his teammates the way Jordan punched out Steve Kerr and Will Perdue at practice.

Worse what? As a teammate? This is so subjective it’s pointless, and I could argue that a guy who takes a leak in his teammate’s lockers every day could still be the best player ever. This is stupid.

Kobe will never be forgiven for Shaq's departure, but you're delusional if you think Jordan wouldn't have had any ego issues playing alongside a player with Shaq's star power.

So Kobe is better because (you hypothesize) that Jordan wouldn’t have liked playing with Shaq either? This is not a good argument, Jemelle. I personally think they would have worked pretty well together and gotten along fine, because they would have gone like 79-3. But the whole thing is just pointless to discuss.

The best-player argument shouldn't be determined by personal dislike.

I agree, let's keep it to the basketball court! We are on the same page.

But if you want to take it there, fine.

Oh, never mind. You are a hypocrite.

Jordan was hardly the ideal husband, but only the tabloids were brave enough to venture into his personal life. And what about those gambling issues? If Jordan's life had been covered like Kobe's, we would have an entirely different opinion of His Airness.

To paraphrase: The best player argument should be based on on-court results….but…but...but look at Michael Jordan off the court! I bet he wouldn’t have liked Shaq! He was horribly competitive in practice! He gambled!!! Look at that stuff!!!

The gambling issues were debated, all the time, during Jordan’s playing days. Seriously, it was non-stop. Where were you? Bill Simmons thinks he was forced to take a break from the NBA in '93 because of gambling. It got a fair amount of attention.

Besides a different level of media scrutiny,

I totally disagree. His gambling was covered non-stop. Also, a very rich man gambling is not the same as a rape allegation, if you want to go there. Pointless to bring this stuff up. Jordan got about the same attention for a gambling venture in Atlantic City the night before a playoff game as Kobe did for flying in from Colorado from his rape trial during the playoffs. “Michael Jordan” and “Gambling” get about the same number of google hits (more than) as “Kobe Bryant” and “Rape”, and that was like 14 years ago, and he’s retired, and it’s rape! Crude I know, but just trying to drill it into Jemele’s noggin.

there was definitely a difference in the level of competition during Jordan's heyday compared to now.

Possibly a fair point, let’s hear you defend it.

Yesterday's NBA player certainly was more fundamentally sound, but there's no question that today's player is bigger, stronger and faster. When Jordan played, he was a singular force that could not be equaled. Jordan was guarded by the likes of John Starks and Joe Dumars, who were fine players but weren't nearly as skilled or physically imposing as LeBron, D-Wade, Tracy McGrady or even Vince Carter.

The NBA is tougher now.

Sooo….guys are more athletic. That’s a given. Does that automatically make them better defenders? Are any of those guys great defenders? Single guys didn’t guard Jordan, teams did. The Pistons and the Knicks (Dumars and Starks) guarded Jordan, with great team defense. You can’t make arguments thinking this narrowly. It’s retarded. Is team defense in the NBA now where it was in the early-mid 90’s? Maybe, maybe not, but you’re not even thinking this way. Hand checking was rampant and it was an era of much harder fouls that didn’t carry the same consequences. Has anyone ever really beat up on Kobe and went after him like the Pistons and Knicks did with Jordan? No, because they’d foul out in 5 minutes and end up with suspensions.

Kobe, like Michael, is surrounded with mediocre to below-average talent, and Phoenix, Dallas and San Antonio are all better than the Utah, Portland and the Charles Barkley-led Phoenix team that Michael met in the NBA Finals.

Based on what? That’s just bullshit speculation passed off as fact. This looks pretty stupid now with Dallas losing in round 1. San Antonio I’ll give you, but the other two? No, I don’t think so. Those Utah teams were real good. Same with Portland. You can have a healthy debate, but this is not fact and I wouldn’t waste my time on it if I were you.

Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson and Patrick Ewing will be among the best centers ever, but none of them affected the league the way Shaq and Tim Duncan have.

This is a piss-poor way to argue that Kobe’s competition is better, especially since Shaq is much better classified as Kobe’s teammate than his competition in the context of Kobe’s career. You know who else was around when Jordan was winning MVPs and championships? Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq was in the league for 4 of Jordan’s championships. Shaq was Jordan’s competition a lot more than he’s been Kobe’s. What about Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, and Charles Barkley? Did they affect the league? They were Jordan's contemporaries, too.

There are two two-time MVPs in Kobe's own conference (Duncan, Nash), which is a problem Jordan never faced during his championship runs.

That’s because Jordan won most of the MVP’s. You keep setting ‘em up, and I’ll keep spiking ‘em down.

Seven-footers weren't launching 3s back then. Magic Johnson and the Lakers were on a downward spiral, and the Pistons were on their last legs. It was Michael and everyone else. That's not the case for Kobe.

Bill Laimbeer was launching 3s. Anyway, watch me turn this around into a classic Jemele non-point.

Today 7 footers are launching 3s, back then they ruled the paint. Back then there were dominating the post, blocking shots, and weren’t jacking up 3’s like now. Back then big men made it more difficult to finish around the rim, they knew their place was in the paint, to clog the lanes, and challenge shots. Some of the best shotblockers ever such as Hakeem, Mutumbo, Ewing, Mourning, Shaq, Robinson, Eaton etc. were in their shot blocking prime and roaming the paint when Jordan played.

Does that make sense? Is it accurate? Does it further a point? Does it directly relate to this column? Maybe no on all counts. But it has the same impact as “seven footers weren’t launching 3s back then”, yet it’s the exact opposite point.

The Pistons period of greatness was ’87-’90. Jordan didn’t face those teams? Of course he did, but Pippen and Grant were still maturing, and they were strengthening as a team because they were playing the Pistons so much. Jordan put up ridiculous seasons from ’87 – ’90, the Pistons period of dominance. They were his best statistical seasons. There were a lot of great players and teams during Jordan's tenure in the NBA. You can't just disregard them as "everyone else".

The shame of it is that Kobe might finish his career without a MVP, even though his ability can be compared only to that of Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.

Wilt Chamberlain? I’m pretty sure that Wilt and Kobe have entirely different ability, both in skills, athletic strengths, and the mental aspects (Wilt was said to lack a killer instinct). Do you mean in terms of the size of their ability? Sure, those three have the most ability in history, whatever the fuck that means.

All this time we've been looking for a player who is better than Jordan, but most of us can't get beyond whether we like or dislike Kobe as a person to recognize his contributions to the game.

Maybe you, Jemele. Most everyone I hear calls him the best player in the NBA. I HATE when writers make arguments for themselves to counter like this. Jemele is the queen of that.

Kobe Mailbag responses

Jemele then got a lot of mail on the subject, and had more to add. It gets real confusing here, folks. I have to cut extraneous stuff out to keep you awake. This is actually worse than the original column she wrote, a difficult feat to pull off.

(1) I do not believe the NBA is better now than it was then. It's my fault for not explaining this better. At least a third of you who e-mailed thought I was on crack -- and seriously at least 400-500 e-mails had, "Are you on crack?" in the subject line -- for even entertaining the possibility the NBA is a better product now.

That’s awesome. When you write a column which results in 1/3rd of the readers asking if you’re on crack, you have not put together a good argument (assuming the readers who wrote in were a representative sample of all her readers).

No, it's not. That's not what I'm saying. I believe today's player is more athletic, stronger and has more raw ability than players in the '80s and early '90s. Clearly those players in the Magic, Bird and Isiah era were more polished, tougher and had unbelievable basketball acumen. It was a better game because the players were more skilled. Today, we see guys with extraordinary physical gifts and no fundamentals. So, to sum up: Today's player has more talent, but yesterday's player was a better basketball player.

Then why is it to Kobe’s credit that he excels against players that you yourself admit are inferior basketball players (I disagree, but I don’t want to confuse the situation more)? This makes zero sense.

(2) That being said, there are teams in the league right now that were better than at least three of the teams Jordan beat in the Finals. The Mavericks, Suns and Spurs are better than Clyde Drexler's Trail Blazers, Gary Payton's Sonics and Charles Barkley's Suns. The coaches: Avery Johnson, Mike D'Antoni and Gregg Popovich versus Rick Adelman, George Karl and Paul Westphal. Not even a debate there. Drexler was horribly overrated -- a slasher, terrific shot-blocker and rebounder for a 6-foot-7 guy, but he was a subpar shooter and mediocre ballhandler. You play the who-would-you-rather-have game with the rosters and you would favor most of the 2007 players. Nash or KJ? Duncan or Kemp? Stoudemire or Kemp? Shawn Marion or Buck Williams? The only untouchables are Payton and Barkley. And by the way, I'm not entirely convinced Jordan's Bulls could have beaten the Rockets in '94 or '95 when Hakeem Olajuwon was at the height of his filthiness (I mean that in a good way).

Sorry, this is stupid. You can’t say that team X was better than team Y because you like team X’s coach or superstar more. There’s much more to a team than that. Those Blazers teams were very good, same with the Jazz, Sonics and Suns. But we think back to those teams and the flaws in their superstars and immediately discredit the entire team. You can’t do this “KJ or Nash” game – it really proves no point. When you were watching all those finals, you never said, “man….this team sucks.” But what you are doing now is what you accuse the fans of….revisionist history. I seriously don’t know who would come out of the west with the '07 Mavs, Suns, Spurs, '93 Suns, '92 Blazers, '96 Sonics, and '97 Jazz in the mix. But I certainly don’t think it’s a slam dunk for the Spurs, and I think the '07 Mavs and Suns are probably the 2 worst teams in that group. Debatable of course, but the general point is that we’re not looking at two classes of teams here. Certainly nothing I’m hanging my hat on in a Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan argument.

I mean, did you really just compare Shawn Marion and Buck Williams in a column about Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant?

(3) I'm not totally certifiable. I know T-Mac or Vince Carter couldn't stop an 8-year-old on a PAL team. Dwyane Wade's defense also is suspect. My argument wasn't about their defense, but their offense.

So they are bad defenders, but you were arguing about their offense….let’s reprint your original point.

“Jordan was guarded by the likes of John Starks and Joe Dumars, who were fine players but weren't nearly as skilled or physically imposing as LeBron, D-Wade, Tracy McGrady or even Vince Carter. The NBA is tougher now.”

Nope, sounds like you’re saying that Kobe is defended by better players than Jordan was.

The evolution of size and skill from the '80s until now is obvious. This is a league filled with very tall, very big, athletic people who can shoot and do ridiculously dumb things above the rim. When Jordan played, some could match his athleticism, but not many. These days, 40-inch verticals are a dime a dozen. Jordan's killer instinct will always set him apart, but if he played today, his athleticism would not be the distinguishing factor it was before. I concede, though, he would have nearly 40 a game.

So to summarize:

- Jordan’s athleticism wouldn’t stand out as much.

- After all this shit about competition you say that Jordan would average nearly 40 a game right now. Like 25% more than Kobe Bryant.

You are terrible at making arguments and supporting them. You say some bold things and then never back them up, not even close. Usually you back up the opposite point, which is unique.

(4) I'll say it again: Kobe is just as good or better than MJ on the defensive end. Jordan was an unbelievable defender, but some of you seemed to forget he was playing alongside a defender who was just as capable -- Scottie Pippen. If you think that didn't help Jordan beef up his defensive stats, you are delusional.

I’m delusional?

So you think playing with Pippen helped Jordan “beef up his defensive stats?”

Okay well now this just happened:

Jordan steals/blocks per game in his Chicago years, pre-Scottie Pippen (84/85-87), and I’ll even throw in the Washington years at age 38 and 39:

Steals per game: 2.09 / Blocks per game: 0.86

Kobe Bryant: Career

Steals per game: 1.50 / Blocks per game: 0.60

Jordan in his ’87 year, last year before Pippen:

Steals per game: 2.88 / Blocks per game: 1.52

And get this (since you brought up defensive stats):

In 1987 (pre-Pippen), Jordan was the first player in the NBA (since they tracked these stats) to record 200 steals and 100 blocks in a season (he had 236 steals and 125 blocks). In 1988 he duplicated this with 259/131. Kobe Bryant has never really come close to doing either of these things (most steals = 181, most blocks = 67), never mind doing both at the same time while averaging 37 and 35 on the other end.

Really, as I said before, you can’t use any numbers to support Kobe being a better defender, even when you solve for Scottie Pippen’s impact (is there one?). Seriously, how dumb do you feel? Oh right, you’re not reading this. Like 3 people are.

Kobe Bryant’s best steals season: 2.2/game.

Michael Jordan exceeded this 9 times, and averaged 2.35 for his career.

Kobe Bryant’s best blocks season: 1.0/game in a lockout shortened season.

Jordan exceeded 4 times.

The value of these numbers can certainly be debated, but you’re the one who wanted to talk defensive stats and imply they’d be equal if not for Pippen. Jordan never averaged less steals per game, for a season, than Kobe Bryant’s career average.

You are delusional.

The reason I give Kobe even more credit is (A) he's the only player in the league even remotely interested in being a good defender and (B) he's been named to the All-Defensive first team four times during an age when every rule is geared to create more offense.

So doesn’t point A make it easier to accomplish point B? How does the fact that the league is geared to create more offense make it harder to make the all-NBA defense first team? They are still naming 5 players to the team, right? Wouldn’t it be easier to make it, if the other players aren’t playing defense? Are you twelve?

And what’s with the freakin’ absolutes (“only player”)? Bruce Bowen, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, etc. aren’t “remotely interested in being a good defender?” You want to back that up? You’re terrible.

Will Kobe ever win Defensive Player of the Year? Probably not. But then again, he probably won't win a lot of the awards Jordan received because people really, really hate Kobe. The wall of hate that Kobe faces is why he remains underappreciated. No matter how much surgery he performs on his image, most people always will view him as an egotistical ball hog who got away with a major sexual assault even though he was never convicted. Hey, people just prefer to show blind loyalty to a player some people believe is a degenerate, philandering gambler whose teammates would have killed him if they didn't fear prison.

I can’t even address all the non-basketball related crap thrown in here, so I’ll just leave it in to show how batshit nuts she is. Her support that Kobe is better is that people don’t like him as much as Jordan, so he gets a raw deal when actual basketball comparisons are performed. But then she then fails to do a good comparison. At all. All she has are gripes about Jordan off the court, an incorrect statement about his defense, and she’d take ’07 Amare Stoudamire over ’96 Kemp. These are not good arguments, folks. I never heard his teammates say, even well after playing with him, that they’d have killed him if they didn’t fear prison. Seriously, you’re reaching.

Plus Jordan won defensive player of the year for the aforementioned 1988 season where he had 259 steals and 131 blocks. He earned it. Do you know how nuts that is, for a guard, who’s also averaging 35 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds a game? No active player has had more than 259 steals in a season. Only Gary Payton and Allen Iverson have had at least 200, for a total of 3 different seasons. Jordan did it 6 times, and he lead the league in scoring every time he did it. Jordan blocked more shots that year than a lot of starting centers, including Kareem and Robert Parish.

(5) And yes, I still believe Kobe is a better player. This is an eyeball argument. Kobe will never be the best player who played the game. That achievement belongs to MJ alone. He'll never impact the world the way MJ did. But from a skill perspective, Kobe has MJ beat.

Man I’m confused.

Me: “Jemele, who’s better, Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan?”

Jemele: “Kobe Bryant is better than Michael Jordan” – (that was the first line of her column). “Kobe is a better player” (directly above).

Me: “So you think Kobe Bryant is the best player who ever played the game, or will be by the time he’s done?”

Jemele: “Kobe will never be the best player who played the game. That achievement belongs to MJ alone.”


To sum up her point:

You hate on Kobe because of off the court stuff but Jordan had off court stuff too and Kobe’s competition is tougher, even though the defense is worse and Jordan would average 40 PPG now and it’s easier to score and hey Jordan may not have played with Shaq that well either and Jordan’s defensive stats were because he had Pippen so stop hating on Kobe Bryant. He's a better player than Michael Jordan, except he’s not the best, Jordan is.

But you and I, as her readers, are delusional. She said this twice.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Simmons v. Cowherd part II

On today's Bill Simmons chat:

Mason: (SC): You should bring Cowherd on the BS report so he can show you how to do interesting radio.

Bill Simmons: (4:50 PM ET ) Does "interesting" mean "skim somebody's column over a 2-minute break, then pick it apart on live radio with no facts to back it up?"

I'm asking this with all honesty......Do people like Colin Cowherd? I thought he was one of those guys that you just listen to because he's so terrible, yet so smug that you just listen to get mad. Just me? Sweet.

By the way Round 1 was covered by awfulannouncing and a few other outlets/blogs.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bill Simmons: Only I May Steal Other People’s Nicknames

Bill Simmons has decided to do a hardcore comparison of Kevin Durant and Greg Oden to determine who is the better number 1 pick (here). He compared offense, defense, rebounding….just kidding…he mostly compared a bunch of stupid shit. One of the items Simmons’ “analyzed” was nickname. Or nickname potential, I guess. This is what he had to say:

NICKNAMES: Thankfully, there will be no T-Mac-ing either guy;

(that sounds gross)

not even Linda Cohn would be okay with G-Ode or K-Dur. Still, I don't see Oden ending up with a better alternative. He's trapped in that vaguely bland Sampras/Duncan/Ewing zone, where it makes the most sense to call him Greg. There is Robert Parish's nickname, The Chief, because Oden is similarly stoic and regal, but I'm morally opposed to recycled nicknames. I believe LaDainian Tomlinson should do time for stealing LT from LT. Plus, others might be morally opposed on PC grounds. So The Chief is out, and Greg it is.

Let’s summarize the first paragraph real quick and in his words: “I’m morally opposed to recycling nicknames.”

Meanwhile, despite some recent KD momentum -- color me lukewarm -- Durant is a natural for a supercool alias. Not something forced like King James, either. I nominate Plastic Man, after the cartoon superhero who always had a smoking-hot girlfriend (for obvious reasons). We never should have wasted such a great nickname on Stacey Augmon. I'm calling a mulligan. EDGE: Durant

The second paragraph (paraphrased): I have a great idea for a nickname! Stacey Augmon’s nickname! Plastic Man!

I know he’s saying that Augmon wasn’t worthy of the nickname (is it that good, really?), but really he’s just being lazy and contradicting himself. By the way, Augmon got that nickname due to some especially sick dunks he threw down early in his career where he had great extension with his left (dunking) hand. Sooo….no mulligan, sorry.

I think we should call him Air, Broadway, Yankee Clipper, Smokin’, or Magic. Are those taken?

Also, I think the last name "James" lends itself to the nickname of "King", so I disagree that it sounds forced. I did like the jab at Linda Cohn.

Nobody At SI Reads Jack McCallum

If you remember last week, Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated said that the Spurs were not a dynasty (column titled "Hold Off on the "D" Word"). He had some reasons for this that were not very good, and he had a definition for dynasty that I thought the 1980's Lakers met, and he disagreed. You can read our friendly banter here.

So I was surprised when I received my SI yesterday to find the cover looking like this:

The article doesn't mention the D-word that I could I can only conclude one of the following:

  • Whoever writes the cover does not read Jack's online work, otherwise they'd realize it looks silly to contradict your senior writer, who also wrote the cover story.
  • Whoever writes the cover does not like Jack McCallum
  • Jack wrote it and he's senile

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Keith Law Does Not Like his Coworkers

Who can blame him? This is actually a positive post (about Keith) for a few chat answers he had on today’s ESPN chat. Keith is usually to the point, but I thought these were worth sharing with all 2 readers of this site.

Andy (Houston): Biggio is not getting any press because he is one of the most stand up players in all of sports. maybe he he bad mouthed his teamates (Owens), demanded trades (Kobe), or whined non stop (Owens again) he would be on sports center more often. It's sad that a future HOF isn't getting any press for this great milestone.

Keith Law: Seriously, you're making me want to write an article on how one player's selfish pursuit of a rather meaningless milestone is helping to sink his team's playoff hopes. Isn't that a story? If his initials were B.B., don't you think this would be a regular rant in sports sections everywhere? What if Biggio was African-American, or Latino? He's getting a free pass. Just be happy with that.

A fair point to pretty much beat down the Biggio fans. Biggio came up a few times in the chat, as to why he’s not getting as much attention for approaching 3,000 hits as some past players have received. It’s because he sucks, and it seems to be to the detriment of his team. Rather simple. He’s lucky he’s not getting negative attention, as Keith points out.

Also, how ludicrous is this guy's point, that Biggio doesn't get comparable attention because he's a "stand up player"? Like the most recent inductees into the 3,000 hit club were a bunch of hated guys (Gwynn, Ripken, Boggs, etc.). Well I hated Boggs but that's beside the point.

Bill "Sports Guy" Simmons (ESPN Studios) : Can't we talk Celtics basketball in your baseball chat?

Keith Law: Go away. And stop talking about Ronald Jenkees. Every time you mention him I think of Leroy Jenkins, and hear him shouting his own name over and over...

I would not have expected him to take this question, since they get thousands in these chats and given that they are employed by the same company, but then he also seems to let out some animosity towards Simmons. Simmons and Law would be exact opposites really. Simmons likes to talk about MTV crap and the NBA; Law is MLB with a focus on scouting, and literature. For the record I find them both somewhat entertaining, but for different reasons.

Fran (Helsinki, Finland): I hate this whole trend of glorifying scrappers. I like the workingman's hero as much as the next guy, but enough is enough. Biggio isn't good enough to play everyday anymore and he is sinking his team by chasing a milestone that does nothing for himself or the sport.

Keith Law: Couldn't agree more. The David Eckstein Fetish still baffles me. That's great that he plays hard. It's nice that he's succeeded against all odds. Why he gets more love than, say, Jimmy Rollins (or this year JJ Hardy) is beyond me.

Firejoemorgan does a good job of beating the hell out of the Eckstein/Erstad love thrown around, but you can't disagree with Keith here as well.

Dusty Baker (Egoville, Wisconsin_: Why won't the Orioles consider me for their coaching vacancy?

Keith Law: Maybe they're familiar with your work.

Just good, honest, accurate, short answers. The Dusty answer is outstanding when you consider they share an employer.

As a couple of readers pointed out, there is also this gem:

Richie (Seattle): What's your take on the new ESPN player ratings? I haven't heard you or Neyer mention them.

Keith Law: Just a toy. No analytical value.

Brad Evans Would Work a Dozen Puns into a Eulogy

Brad Evans, who ostensibly is a fantasy baseball analyst for yahoo fantasy sports, mostly just writes a somewhat painful to read column every week where he thinks he’s required to work everyone’s name into a strained pun and as many pop culture references as he can. Following is every player he profiles in detail this week (entire column is here) along with a sentence he felt the need to include about the player. To make it fun for both of us, I’ll take a guess at a few of the puns. Okay, to make it fun for me.

Scott Hatteberg:
My guess: The fact that he’s been doing the hit "Safely Dance” as often as he has lately has made fantasy Men without Hatteberg feel at a loss lately. Kind of a stretch huh? Just to warn, I'm a shitty punsmith. Let’s see what he came up with.

To his credit, “The Mad Hatter” has gone Wonder-wild slapping 13 hits in 34 at-bats.

Fuck, it was Alice in Wonderland. I did NOT see that coming.

Jonny Gomes:
My guess: Morticia Adams approves of Gomes hitting of late, even if “It” hasn’t been a “Thing” of beauty…but he did have people asking “You Rang?” after last week. Wow that’s pretty busy, plus I realize it’s not pronounced “Gomez”. But I don’t get paid for this.

The garden Gomes has finally crawled out of his subterranean cave.

I guess now I’m trying too hard.

Esteban German:
My guess: Something to do with Germany, perhaps?

Along with David Hasselhoff and the Milwaukee Brewers costumed Bratwurst, German would be huge in Deutschland – and huge for owners with a need for MI speed.


Mike Lamb:
My guess: I don’t know, maybe something about lamb?

Many NL-only leaguers sent Lamb to the butchers after a .233 BA in May, but the switch-hitting infielder has not fleeced those who remained loyal.

Two in a row!

Adam Wainwright:
My guess: Adam’s performance of late has been “wright” on target.

With a 2.89 June ERA, the price could be 'Wright for those owners vying for the Showcase Showdown.

What’s the Showcase Showdown tie-in to fantasy baseball? I’m confused. Oh, there isn’t one. Good to know.

Tim Lincecum:
My guess: Just that he sticks to Tim’s first name.

The Yahoo! fantasy office beefcake has suddenly taken on the appearance of a topless David Wells. Tiny Tim was beaten over the head with his own crutch for the fourth straight outing Tuesday night in Milwaukee….

The pun is in the second sentence but I couldn’t let that first sentence go. Why is it in there?

Brad Evans: It’s a joke
Me: …
Brad Evans: Because David Wells is fat.
Me: …
Brad Evans: ….and you don’t want to see a fat guy with his shirt off.
Me: Oh I get it, I get jokes.
Me: Um….ha ha ha?....
Me: fantasy office beefcake?

So Tim Lincecum was “fantasy hot”, now he’s “fantasy ugly”. I know his point is more obvious than I’m making it, but it’s still pretty painful to parse out, because it’s not funny and it serves no purpose.

Vernon Wells:
My guess: Something about a well?

Mired in a two-month drought, contaminated Wells is on the verge of purification.

This is too easy.

Michael Barrett:

The former North-Side ball-botcher will never garner a roster spot on my fantasy egg-tossing team.

Hey no pun! Just a “joke”.

Carlos Delgado

It's a good thing Paul Rudd's cynical character "Pete" in "Knocked Up" drafted Hideki Matsui and not Delgado.

Why is it a good thing he drafted Matsui? Am I supposed to know this? Are “Knocked Up” references going to be heavily in-play? See, me and 290 million or so other Americans haven’t seen that movie yet.

Further advice on Delgado: Offer up a pack of Twizzlers.

Oh thanks, that will work in my fantasy league with 7 year-olds. Seriously, I know you’re trying to be cute and all but can you give me a good sell high candidate to pick up Delgado with, not a fucking pack of Twizzlers?

Chris B. Young

As another Young (MC) would say, the Arizona centerfielder has failed to "Bust a Move" in June.

Other possibilities, off the top of my head – pick your favorite:

A. Chris B. Young, was a little Chris Kross’d in June, and his performance didn’t make fantasy owners want to “jump, jump”, except off a cliff, cliff.

B. In June, Chris B’s bat wasn’t “killer” enough to get him a spot on the 1987 WWF tag-team “The Killer B’s” with B. Brian Blair and "Jumpin" Jim Brunzell.

C. Young didn’t exactly “Warm it up, Chris” in June, so it’s yet to really be seen if he’s either about to, or even if it is what he was born to do.

D. Billy the Kidd, Chavez and the other “Young” Guns wouldn’t have wanted Chris’ June firepower in their cavalry.

E. Brad’s: As another Young (MC) would say, the Arizona centerfielder has failed to "Bust a Move" in June.

For the record I like a few pop culture references and I use them myself, with more subtlety I hope (the puns should go though). But I’ve only read him a couple times and he does this in almost every paragraph. He does provide a decent amount of analysis as well, and that seems pretty sound from what I can tell.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Jemele Hill Would Like You To Leave the Cannoli, and Take the Gun

I think Jemele is a little confused, from the looks of this piece about things “jumping the shark”. I’d say that the phrase jump the shark has jumped the shark, but even pointing that out is dated.

Larry Brown: Just three years removed from becoming the first coach to win both an NCAA and NBA title, Brown has gone to the mattresses.

He's still one of the best NBA coaches in history, but his fall from grace is as distinctive as his place in basketball history. Don't feel too sorry for Brown, though. Between the 76ers, Pistons and Knicks, he's hauled in enough cash to make Roger Clemens jealous.

I left the second paragraph in there just to show that it does not clarify the "gone to the mattresses" comment. Now, I’m not Mr. Pop culture or anything, but doesn’t “gone to the mattresses” effectively mean to go to battle? Doesn’t it seem like she’s implying it means to figuratively “go to sleep”, or just go away? I’m confused.

I don’t watch the Sopranos, but I’ve seen The Godfather a dozen times and Clemenza would not endorse this use of the phrase unless Brown was planning a hit on Isiah Thomas.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Imagine Jemele Hill Having a Good Point

Jemele Hill of ESPN Page 2 has jumped on the Spurs get no respect bandwagon that really took off in about 2003. She wants to take you for a ride on that bandwagon, to a place full of imagination and Michael Jackson jackets and Fo Fo Fo’s and Atari’s. In other words, a place that exists solely in her brain, so be prepared to be confused. If you like a lot of imagination in your hoops analysis, go here.

CLEVELAND -- Put the Spurs in Doc's DeLorean. Turn the dial to the 1980s, or early-to-mid 1990s. Just put them in a time when basketball fans weren't huge hypocrites.

I can’t wait to find out how basketball fans, like myself, are hypocrites. She’ll probably have a really good basketball explanation for this.

You know how they say some people are before their time? Well, the Spurs are behind their time. In today's Paris Hilton-obsessin', 360-degree-dunkin'-lovin,' sexy-soundbite-wantin', entertain-me-me-me culture, the Spurs are an Atari in a land full of Wiis.

I get the old/new analogy but it's still kind of weird, since Atari sucks and the Wii is awesome. I think Memphis is an Atari in a land of a variety of game playing consoles, personally. Aren't you trying to say that the Spurs are something great from the past that has withstood the test of time? Anyway, move on.

These millennium Spurs, now winners of four titles in nine years, were born at the wrong time. That's why they are, by far, the most underappreciated, disrespected champion in NBA history.

This is based on what, exactly? She will sort of attempt to tell us, but be prepared to use your imagination. Like crazy.

But imagine them in the '80s with Bird, Kareem, Magic and Zeke. Imagine their execution facing the Pistons' toughness. Imagine Duncan against McHale. Imagine Rodman and Bowen competing for most irritating. Bet we wouldn't call the Spurs unwatchable then.

Imagine Bird vs. Elgin Baylor

Imagine Oscar vs. Magic

Imagine Wilt vs. Shaq

Imagine this had a point.

"I'm going to go on record and say, yeah, we would beat them," said Robert Horry, when asked if these Spurs could beat some of the great Boston teams in the '80s.

Well there’s your unbiased, easy to support opinion. On the record.

Imagine the Spurs in the early-to-mid '90s playing Jordan. Imagine Duncan versus Malone. Imagine Duncan versus Barkley. Imagine Popovich versus Sloan. Imagine the Spurs' big three rolling to Chicago trying to take the crown from Mike. Bet the television ratings wouldn't be so bad then.

The ratings would be great, because people enjoyed watching Michael Jordan.

Did Tim Duncan never match up against Karl Malone or Charles Barkley? Can someone at ESPN pull some video so Jemele’s imagination can take a break? Same with Popovich vs. Sloan. Is that interesting? Haven't they coached against eachother like 9 thousand times? Why do I need to imagine it, should it be giving me a warm feeling?

Also, imagine the ’72 Lakers against the ’01 Lakers. Imagine the ’86 Celtics against the ’96 Bulls. Is this exciting?

Imagine the Spurs against the '82-83 Sixers. Imagine Moses Malone's "fo', fo', fo'" prediction contrasting with Tony Parker's French accent. Bet we wouldn't call the Spurs boring then. We would have just waved our "Beat It" jackets in the air and cheered for the Spurs.

I don’t understand how the first two sentences would result in some Spurs-hater not thinking the Spurs are boring.

“Well I think the Spurs are a giant, boring pile of shit…..wait a minute.….FO’ FO’ FO’!……French accent!….looks like I’m not going anywhere for a while!”….leans back, folds arms behind head…orders a pizza.

"Back then, it was more blue-collar," Horry said. "We're a blue-collar team and guys work hard and they appreciated it a little bit more than they do nowadays. They like flash."

Yes, we do. We talk a good game about wanting to see players with fundamentals, about wanting to see solid defense, about wanting to root for players who are anti-thug, about wanting to see execution, about appreciating good coaching, about wanting guys to just play and not mouth off.

Okay, here’s what that big buildup was for. Lay it on us Jemele, tell us how we’re hypocrites!

And then we predictably tune in for more T.O.

So to paraphrase Jemele: You say you want good basketball, but then you choose to watch an NFL wide receiver that has an attitude problem. Also, I would argue that it's the writers who perpetuate the non-stop analysis on extraneous crap like Terrell Owens. Most people I talk to could care less and would opt for more original, unique sports coverage.

Those asshole Suns that so many people rooted for? The jerk-ass Mavs? The Warriors? Pistons? Heat? Who are the "thugs" on these teams?

Ask yourself: When was the last time one of the Spurs was arrested? When was the last time one of the Spurs whined about playing time? More money? Demanded a trade? Think about that the next time you groan because the Spurs were in the Finals.

After you ask yourself that question, replace the name “Spurs” with all of the other contenders this year. See how many you eliminate. Not many. Robert Horry once threw a towel in his coach’s face when he was with Phoenix. Just sayin’.

We treat the Spurs like they're a punishment.

She’s right. Last night I was sent to my room and ordered to watch highlights of the Spurs and “think about what I’d done.” (I had fed the cat lighter fluid).

It's not the Spurs' fault they still do things the '80s way.

What is the 80’s way? They scored 95 PPG in the regular season. That’s very un-80’s. Oh but they are blue collar, very un-90’s, when no one worked hard for 10 years.

It's not the Spurs' fault that most teams in the NBA aren't committed to defense.

I don’t understand what your point is! The NBA would be more exciting with more defense? Or more exciting teams would be able to beat the Spurs? I'm lost in your imagination land.

It's not the Spurs' fault all the worst general managers are in the league's biggest markets (Isiah Thomas, Mitch Kupchak, Danny Ainge).

I agree, not the Spurs fault and those GM’s suck. SO WHAT? No one outside of those markets wants those teams to be good anyway.

It's not the Spurs' fault the Eastern Conference is the professional version of the NCAA's Patriot League.

Is anyone blaming the Spurs for any of the NBA’s problems? Then what is the point of this? To remind us they’re good? They just won their 4th title. We know they’re good.

It's not the Spurs' fault they're the best-run organization in the NBA.

I'm really lost on this one. So it's luck? I think it’s absolutely the Spurs “fault” (I’d say “to their credit”) that they are the best-run organization in the NBA.

It's not the Spurs' fault that Tim Duncan, the most accomplished player in the post-Jordan era, doesn't fit the stereotype of black male athletes and therefore won't garner widespread, national attention until he holds up a 7-Eleven.

True, Michael Jordan was nothing until he held up a Quik-e-Mart with a machete. Remember when Mitch Richmond stabbed that guy in the eye? You don’t remember Mitch Richmond all that well, do you? Because he never stabbed anyone in the eye, that’s why.

Okay okay that wasn’t her point. Tim Duncan is not as popular as Jordan, Shaq, Kobe, etc. with the mainstream, apparel buying fans because he’s not exciting to watch play basketball. He plays awesome basketball, but he simply isn’t as fun to watch. Sorry.

Besides, how much attention do you want Tim Duncan to get. EVERYONE KNOWS HE’S GREAT. Just because he’s quiet, writers think they need to defend his greatness at length. Like everyone out there is saying, “Tim Duncan, that real quiet guy? That guy SUCKS at basketball! Because he’s sooooo lame!” Well, we’re not.

There are not enough great teams, and somehow this became the Spurs' problem instead of the league's problem. The Spurs should remind us how basketball used to be played in the NBA, but we've turned on them and sent the message that outside San Antonio it's ABS -- Anybody But the Spurs.

I guess I would sum up her point like this: All of you basketball fans are hypocrites who don’t see that the Spurs greatness is not their fault and imagine if they played the ’83 Sixers!

We're always quick to lament how much today's athlete has changed, but the truth is our fan values have changed just as much. It was once a no-brainer to embrace a team like the Spurs. Wish we could transport them back to a time when we cared more about what they stand for.

I’ll quickly bullet out some reasons why people generally aren't treating this team (or appreciating them) like the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, etc. that you seem to want them treated like….because they’re old school or something.

  • As great as Duncan is, he doesn’t have an exciting game. That’s his fault. I have watched hundreds of hours of highlights of Jordan, Magic, Bird, Isiah, Shaq, Kobe, etc. over and over again. I would probably not be able to sit through a 1 hour Tim Duncan highlight real. Not a knock on Duncan, but it’s part of the reason why he’s not captivating the country.

  • They’ve been unlucky in Finals matchups. ’07 Cleveland, ’03 New Jersey, and the ’99 Knicks are terrible finals teams. They had their chance last year, but lost to the Mavs before they could match up with Miami. That was their fault.

  • Many people believe Phoenix got shafted in the playoffs.

  • The last time they had a real rival in the West (Lakers), the Spurs were on the losing end consistently. They gave up a 2-0 lead in ’04 by losing 4 in a row, and the ’01 and ’02 series were jokes. That was their fault.

  • They haven’t repeated, or even made the finals in consecutive years. It’s hard to get the credit you deserve for being a great team when someone in your conference beats you every other year in the playoffs. That’s their fault.
To pause on that last point; they haven’t repeated….as conference champs. In fact, they haven’t even made the conference finals two years in a row. Think about that one. I’m not going to theorize about whether or not they are a dynasty, that’s for columnists to do and for me to be a jerk to them about, but not making two straight conference finals is pretty weak.

To be fair to Jemele, she wasn’t arguing their dynasty-dom, just that (I guess) we would like the Spurs more if it was the 1980’s and they were getting whooped by the Lakers every year.

* update: FireJayMariotti had a good write-up on this, as well.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Orlando Hernandez is Really Happy To Be On the Cover of SI.

Why do you think El Duque was smiling so big?

A. The Mets program says he's 41, and he's really 53. Jokes on them!

B. A decade ago he was on a raft from Cuba, now he makes $6 million a year

C. John Maine farted

D. That's just his smile, jerk, back off.

(click for slightly larger view)

Greg Oden is Lucky He's Tall

Greg Oden, as quoted in the latest Sports Illustrated (June 18th, 2007) “They Said It” on the topic of playing in Portland next year:

“I know it rains a lot. I know it’s close to LA., and I love that. I want to go to L.A. and go to the beach.”

You can tell he said this thinking, "yeah chicks in bikinis man, that's what I'm all about."

Per Mapquest:
- Distance from Portland to LA: 964 miles.
- Distance from Columbus, Ohio to Daytona Beach, FL: 897 miles.

For all of our European readers, that's further than the distance from Paris to Rome!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Spurs Not a Dynasty Because They Never Stopped That Tsunami

Jack McCallum is holding all sorts of things outside of the Spurs control against them to determine that they do not meet his arbitrary meaning of the word “dynasty”. It’s all in his column, “Hold off on the 'D' word.”

All right, let's get all the reasons we would not consider the San Antonio Spurs one of history's most successful franchises out of the way immediately.

• They never had to win a championship against Michael Jordan, a notorious spoiler of the Clyde Drexler Trail Blazers, the Charles Barkley Suns, the Gary Payton SuperSonics and the John Stockton-Karl Malone Jazz.

Just so I’m clear, we’re penalizing the Spurs for not beating a Bulls team that they never really played? Duncan was in the NBA for 1 year during that stretch, and he was a rookie. I mean, those were pretty much different Spurs teams with different players. Tim Duncan was in high school when that run started in 1991. Tony Parker was like 9. Eva Longoria was like 16, if that helps. Just to beat this point to death, you’re not allowed to play in the NBA when you’re 9.

Also, Michael Jordan played 5 complete seasons (excluding Wizards years, which didn’t happen, his injury filled ’86 year, and the ’95 half year) that a team other than his won the championship. The only year he had a team at all equipped to make a run, was 1990. So I thinks it’s fair to say that effectively 1 team in NBA history meets this criteria. The 1990 Pistons.

• They play in a league diluted by expansion.

This could be said of a lot of teams. I disagree with it, generally, being a good point. They also play in a league with a ton of foreign players, unlike your old-timey teams can say. Or even 80’s teams. Foreign players are also good now. There was expansion a couple years before and during the Bulls run too, if you want to go there.

• Their first title, in 1999, occurred in a lockout-shortened season.

So? It’s not like they handed the title to the regular season wins leader. They played the good half of the season, with the playoffs. Shouldn’t we penalize the team for things that they can remotely control. Obviously it wasn’t a fluke, since they won 3 more.

• Their most recent championship came against what was surely one of the worst Finals teams ever, LeBron James' individual brilliance notwithstanding.

True, but does that mean that they weren’t good enough to beat another great team? Didn't they come out of a strong conference? How is any of this their fault?

That’s all of Jack’s reasons. Those reasons sucked.

Let's just not bring up the "D" word. The Spurs are not a dynasty. They haven't suggested that about themselves. To me, a dynasty means this: A team must win more than half the championships over a decade and be considered the clear favorite in most of those seasons. A decade is a random measure, of course, but dynasty-dom has to be demonstrated over an extended period of time; the Mings, after all, lasted from 1368 to 1644.

The Yao Mings? Ha!

(Not the Yao Mings.)


In my view, only two franchises truly qualify as a dynasty -- the Boston Celtics, who, absurdly, won 11 championships in 13 seasons from 1957 to 1969 during the Bill Russell days, and Jordan's Chicago Bulls, who won six titles in eight years (the franchise's only championships) from '91 to '98.

So why wouldn’t the 1980-1989 Lakers be a dynasty? 10 years, 5 championships (in the first 9 years), and they made the finals 8 times in those 10 years.

Overall, the Celtics have won 16 titles (though a contemporary cynic would have to note that not a single one has come since '86). That career record is challenged only by the Lakers, who have 14 championships, five of them when the team was in Minneapolis, which was the dominant franchise in the NBA's first decade. But the Lakers have never had a true dynasty. They won five titles from '80 to '88, a tremendous achievement to be sure, but they clearly shared the decade with the Celtics, who won three titles in seven seasons.

Okay no dice for the 80’s Lakers I guess. Then by that measure, didn’t the Bulls “share” the period of 1991-1998 with the Rockets? Because Jordan was retired? Or is 3 titles your arbitrary "sharing" minimum? Wouldn’t you say then that Bulls were not a dynasty (shared with Houston), but Jordan was in some way? Who cares, this is stupid.

Also, you do realize that you just penalized the 1980's Lakers, despite meeting your criteria, because they had really good adversary in the other conference . However, you penalized the Spurs above for not playing a good enough opponent this year. So to be a dynasty you need to win 5 championships in 10 years to satisfy Jack McCallum (and be what he considers to be a "clear favorite"), but there better not be a good team that wins a few championships in the 5 that he's allowing you to lose to still qualify for dynasty status....make sense? Those teams he's okay with winning during your dynasty better not be favorites too often! I mean, isn't it better if you lose a few championships to a great team, like Boston, than if there was no Boston in the East and they still won 5 of 9? Also, they were 2 for 3 against Boston in the finals! My head hurts.

What if the Spurs win next year, to make your 5 in 10 mark? Do the '07 Cavs diminish that? Or did they "share" too much of the 10 years with the Lakers, because they won 3 (like the 80's Celtics). I'll be watching you McCallum! To be clear, I'm not arguing for or against the Spurs, specifically, I just hate Jack's reasoning here. I guess I am arguing for the 1980's Lakers.

Dynasty? Depends how you feel like defining it. Then once you define it, it depends on other things you feel like qualifying it with.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

1996 Chicago Bulls - 72-10

But Bill Simmons wants more, he wants them to beat the 1986 Celtics at some point in that season, along with the '87 Lakers, the '85 Bears and the '27 Yankees. I don’t know what Bill Simmons has against the ’96 Bulls, but whatever it is I have to disagree. In his latest chat he devotes a lot of time to fielding questions related to the Bulls (and the Sopranos). I know he’s reacting more to the questions and an analysis done by John Hollinger that has the Bulls as the best team ever, but he says some things here that are nutty and difficult to ignore. You can tell that the chatters were getting frustrated with him as well. I like Bill’s work and he knows a ton about the NBA, a lot more than me, but this was not impressive.

It starts with a discrete question about Karl Malone being allowed in the discussion of the greatest PF ever, with Tim Duncan. I agree with Simmons that Duncan takes that, hands down. Simmons follows with three paragraphs, the last one is below.

Bill Simmons: Here's the point: You always have to factor in "quality of the league" for any of this historical stuff. Malone's resume is "helped" by how they made the Finals for 2 straight years, but what about all the years when they didn't make it with stronger teams? All right, I'm done venting. But I want Hollinger to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better scoring system. Any system that makes the '96 Bulls better than the '92 Bulls (the single best MJ team) and doesn't make the 2001 Lakers a top-7 team of the past 30 years needs to be refined.

There is no measure or system that could be compiled that would result in a conclusion that the ‘92 Bulls were better than the ’96 Bulls. The ’96 Bulls win this argument based on record, playoff record, point differential, and points scored per game and allowed per game (relative to the league). They were a deeper team, with better numbers, and they went 72-10. They also came back the next year and won 69 games. No numbers based system will have the '92 team coming out on top.

Here is Hollinger's analysis. It has a lot of flaws, and I agree with Simmons' overall point that it's weighted towards teams with inferior competition.

Brian (Worchester): WOAH WOAH WOAH! Are you saying the 1996 Bulls aren't the best team ever? I HATE the Bulls but I still have to respect their alltime greatness!

Bill Simmons: Yes. Emphatically. I think they won the most games ever. I would not have them in the top-10. You're telling me they could have beaten the 2001 Lakers in a series? Or the '86 Celtics? Or the '85 Lakers? or the '83 Sixers?

Gimme a break. Bill Simmons doesn’t have the ’96 Bulls in his top 10 NBA teams ever. I don’t know where to start, so I won’t. But that’s fucking crazy-talk. Pontificating on who would win a 7 game series is a lot of fun, but there’s no way he can name 10 teams that would take the ’96 Bulls in a 7 game series.

Mac (Tuscaloosa AL): I think that Hollinger is making the assumption (which you have to in an "objective" system) that the quality of play is constant. Otherwise, it devolves into argument about the level of play, which can't be proved, and you wind up with (as I saw on a blog this weekend, referring to the statements you made in a column) someone saying that the Celtics and Lakers of the eighties can't be among the greatest ever because Bird and Magic weren't "athletic" by today's standards -- like they were considered athletic then.

Bill Simmons: Then that's the wrong assumption. You cannot evaluate the last 60 Finals teams without coming up with some method to figure out A) quality of the league for that season, and B) quality of each conference. For instance, if the Spurs destroy the Cavs (which they should), does that make them one of the best teams ever? Hell, no! I think they're the 2nd best team of the past 10 years, but again, they shouldn't get extra credit because they happened to beat a subpar Eastern rep four teams in the Finals.


Bill Simmons: The fix for Hollinger is easy - include a variable where he awards points for each season for strength/weakness of the league and strength/weakness of the Finals opponent. For instance, the '85 Lakers beat a really good Celtics team. Isn't that between 10-15 times more impressive than the '96 Bulls rolling through a terrible conference and beating a young Seattle team that was about 2 years away from peaking (and never did because Kemp went nuts)?

This is where I lose Bill. The fact that the ’85 Lakers beat a great team in the finals helps to substantiate their greatness. But the fact that the ’96 Bulls did not beat a team of the same caliber should not discount their greatness. It makes it more difficult to support, but it does not mean that they wouldn’t have beat the crap out of much much better team in that same position. Their greatness is not limited by that of their opponents, it just becomes more difficult to support (if that makes sense). That’s what Simmons viewpoint seems to be. I fail to see how the Lakers going through the Suns, Blazers and Nuggets before facing the Celtics in 1985 makes them world beaters (this is in response to the terrible conference comment). Was that great competition in the Western Conference? Simmons loves to just hide under the blanket statement of “everyone was good back then”. How historically great were the ’86 Rockets? Better than the '96 Sonics?

Does anyone ever say, "well the '85 Bears were good but they can't be considered one of the best teams because they beat a crappy Patriots team in the Super Bowl?" Of course not. It is fair to say the fact that they were not really tested on the biggest stage makes it difficult to gauge the team's ceiling.

Also the fix for Hollinger is the “Bill Simmons patented ‘what my gut says’ variable”.

Barrett (Nashville): Hey Bill, I understand your point about Hollinger's rating system, but yours is flawed as well. How do you define a "really good Celtics team" objectively? Sure, it's a fair assumption that they were better than the '96 Heat or Knicks, but how do you compare on a standardized basis? You can't, because if the entire league is subpar one year, you can only statistically compare it to itself.

Bill Simmons: You just described my problem with NBA stats in a nutshell: You cannot interprete the NBA solely through stats. It's inane. Too much depends on situations, talent levels from year to year, quality of teammates, circumstance and everything else. Stats are incredibly helpful, but at a certain point, you have to incorporate analysis, homework and opinion as well. The 2001 Lakers didn't peak until the playoffs, but they decimated a really good conference (an especially strong year for the West), crushed the Sixers in the Finals and trotted out a team with an unstoppable center at his absolute peak, as well as Kobe during a point in his career where he may have been his most valuable because he was still OK with being Robin to Shaq's Batman (and was still awesome by himself, as witnessed by the way he destroyed the Kings with the 48-point game in the playoffs).

I agree with Bill’s general point of NBA stats. It’s not like baseball.

If the 2001 Lakers didn’t peak until the playoffs started, shouldn’t that be a little bit of a knock on their greatness? I get that the stats from the 2001 season may not be the best representation of their ability, but it is a record of their performance, in many ways. I agree, those Lakers teams were great. Among the best ever. I just can’t unequivocally throw out that they are better than the ’96 Bulls.

Bill Simmons: Anyway, any scoring system that A) overvalues the '986 Bulls, and B) undervalues the 2001 Lakers needs to be tinkered with... that was my only point. I am confident that Hollinger will figure this out.

No backtracking, your point is clearly broader than that. Any scoring system that has the ’96 Bulls in the top 10 teams of all time, in your opinion, needs to be tinkered with. The problem is that if you polled all the players, coaches, writers, and used every statistical analysis, the overwhelming conclusion would be that they are in the top 5.

Messiah (NY): I don't understand one thing about your Malone argument. You said that he made it to the finals by default because the rest of the teams had finally declined, but you say the Bulls played in a horrible year for basketball in 96. How can both of those be true?

Bill Simmons: '96 thru '99 was the weakest stretch in the history of the league. the Jazz were heavily favored to come out of the West in '96, they choked against the Sonics.

Those Jazz teams (’97 and ’98) were good. You can’t decide now that they weren’t good teams. I have every confidence that if Jordan doesn’t un-retire those Jazz teams win back to back championships. Just like if Jordan doesn’t retire, the Houston Rockets probably don’t win any championships.

Also, they did not choke against the Sonics. The Sonics were good! They won 64 games! 9 more than the Jazz! How’s that a choke? You can’t just say that the ’96 through ’99 period was the weakest stretch in the history of the game. That’s crap. That’s just a convenient canvas to use to set up your anti-Bulls arguments. What was the strongest? Oh right, the period where your favorite player and favorite teams were good.

Vernon (Indianapolis): Sorry to keep harping on this issue, but you're way off on the '96 Bulls. Rodman was still very good (a hall-of-famer if he wasn't nuts), Ron Harper was solid, Kukoc was making the mold for Eastern Europeans everywhere and they still had the dynamic duo. And if you think p-o'ed Jordan in 1996 loses to anyone ever you haven't watched an NBA game in your life.

Vern-dog, I agree with you completely.

Bill Simmons: Congrats, but who's guarding Shaq on that team? Who's guarding McHale? Who's guarding Kareem? Shawn Kemp destroyed them in the Finals, what do you think those guys would have done?

Luc Longley is guarding Shaq, like he did in ’96 when they played the Magic in the playoffs. Dennis Rodman is guarding McHale, he was a good defender. I mean, Mchale will get his points but it's not like Rodman's any slouch there. Who the hell is guarding Jordan? The best scorer of all-time? Huh? I mean, no one could handle Mchale, but the Celtics lost games right? Oh right, there were a lot of Mchale stoppers in the 80's.

I mean, who’s guarding Shaq on the ’96 Bulls? This isn't THAT hypothetical! This happened. It can’t be the guy that actually guarded Shaq when they destroyed Shaq’s 60 win team can it? Shaq would eat up that guy! Yes, I know Shaq was better in '01, but I just found that amusing. That Bulls team had 3 lock-down defenders and outstanding team defense. They went through Mourning, Ewing and Shaq in those playoffs. I think that hurts your argument of them not being able to handle big men on defense.

I also love the revisionist history on Kemp. Kemp averaged about 20 and 11 during the regular season that year, shooting 56% from the floor. He was a very good player before he decided to focus on eating and making babies. He destroyed the Bulls to the tune of 24 and 10 on 55% shooting. This equals…..TOTAL DESTRUCTION!

Mike (Hartford): Who guards Shaq? Who guards Kareem? Who guards McHale? For crying out loud, who guards Jordan! I think you are grossly underestimaing the ability of a hungry Jordan (which is pretty much the only Jordan there is). I think Jordan was too mentally strong and the supporting cast was too competent to ever be defeated by anyone. Too much fire, too much willpower, too much Jordan that year.

Thanks, Mike.

Bill Simmons: Hey, I loved MJ, thought he was the best basketball player ever. But his career was unbelievably fortunate - he never faced Hakeem in his prime, or Shaq, or Duncan, or Moses... that team was constructed in a way that any big man and true point guard gave them trouble, but they never faced both at the same time.

This is just retarded. Can’t you flip that around and point out that virtually no one except Isiah’s Pistons succeeded against Jordan after he had 3 seasons under his belt? Oh right, there were no good players for 10 years. Or Bird was fortunate he didn’t have to face Shaq, Jerry West, Kobe Bryant, Duncan and Jordan (in his prime)? What is the point? Ask Barkley, Ewing, Stockton, Malone, and Drexler, all all-time greats, how they feel about playing in the Jordan era. I’m sure Hakeem would rather Jordan been out of the league (or mostly in ’95) than in it in ’94 and ’95 or he may not have those rings.

I've already discussed this problem with big men that you just made up. Gary Payton, John Stockton, and Jason Kidd are all-time great "true point guards" and I don't remember them giving the Bulls any real headaches. The 96-98 Bulls did not have problems with "true point guards", but you could argue they had some problems with really quick, smaller guards like Damon Stoudamire and Allen Iverson. I don't think this translates into Dennis Johnson and Magic. I think they are much better equipped to handle bigger guards that are not lightening quick penetrators.

Todd (Tucson): If the 2001 Lakers played the 1996 Bulls, would Ron Harper guard himself?

Bill Simmons: That would be fantastic.

The 2001 Harper would win though, because the Western Conference was THAT strong!

Cory-AZ: yea, the 1991 Lakers didn't have a great point guard in Magic, and a good enough center in a young Divac + Sam Perkins Combo...Also, Ewing and Starks werent good. I think Ewing is underrated reason being Jordan always destroyed him in his prime

Bill Simmons: Not a good example - the Lakers got killed by injuries in that series.

What?????? I’m not going to look anything up here, but I know that finals well. The Lakers were lucky to win game 1 (Perkins hit the three, Jordan’s 18 footer rimmed out). To my knowledge the Lakers got killed by injuries to the tune of James Worthy and Byron Scott having to sit out game 5. The Lakers were down 3-1. That series was done. That’s just nuts. They were both good players at the time but the Lakers had zero chance of winning games 5, 6 and 7.

Adam (chandler, az): Was watching the replay of game 4 87 finals (magic's skyhook), and heard this stat....the Lakers had won in the garden in 85, and since that point the C's were a ridiculous 94-3! I'm pretty sure either of those 2 teams would've handled the '96 Bulls

Bill Simmons: Me, too.

Look, those teams were great, but Bill has offered us nothing here. Who’s the greatest of all-time? I have no idea, but the ’96 Bulls are top 5, and much of what Bill’s saying is terribly misleading. If the ’86 Celtics played in Chicago and the ’96 Bulls played in Boston, who wants to guess how differently this line of questioning would have gone? He’d be talking about how he and J-bug were discussing that Jordan was to the NBA was Alton was to the Real World/Road Rules challenges or something.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Scoop Jackson Says Lebron is the New He!

Can you believe it? We finally have a new HE?? I've been waiting for so long. If this doesn't make any sense to you, I'll let Scoop take it away.

LeBron has made the NBA Finals. What does that mean?

That he had a great conference finals and he has shown us a glimpse of how dominant he can be? No....much much much much more??

It means the city of Cleveland can breathe. Breathe in a way it's never breathed before. It means Art Modell, Earnest Byner, Craig Ehlo and every member of the '97 Indians can breathe.

What the hell did Craig Ehlo do wrong? Are people in Cleveland cursing him out because he didn't block Jordan's ‘jump in the air, going left, pump game winner jumper' in 1989? Those are some hard-ass fans. More likely, though, is that Scoop just threw that in there without thinking about it. In fact, Ehlo hit a tough layup with 3 seconds left to give the Cavs the lead in that game. Jordan had hit a jumper with 8 or 9 seconds left to put Chicago up one.

It means tanking games works. Sometimes.

It works when you get a historically good number 1 pick. You didn’t know this already? No one was tanking to take Michael Olowokandi.

It means so many of us were so right for so long, and so wrong at the same time.

We were all right that he was good, what were we wrong about? Just because you are being abstract, it doesn't mean you're being smart.

It means he made us look like fools for doubting him after Game 1.

Game 1 of the NBA finals made me look smart for saying after game 1 of the Eastern finals that he is great but not ready to carry his team to a title, and his team isn’t good enough.

It means we can't doubt him again until he fails. It means Game 5 is bigger now than it was last week. It means the haters have been silenced. For now.

What haters? Who has been disrespecting Lebron James unfairly? Maybe I'm missing all this Lebron hate.

It means he might be He.

ABSTRACT DOES NOT EQUAL SMART!!!! "He might be He".... is a terrible attempt at sounding profound. It also means….nothing. It also means.....everything! See how that's dumb?

It means he's grown up. He is no longer a kid, and we can no longer mention his age when we talk about him.

In today’s NBA filled with high schoolers who jumped to the NBA, no one really does mention the age after like 4 years.

It means he can say to Dwyane Wade, "I got there without Shaq."

Sure. He can say it to Kobe too.

It means the league has the savior it's been looking for since … the original He retired.

Ohhhh….Michael Jordan is “he”. Or was “he”. But Lebron is the new “he”. This makes total sense. In the sense that it would only makes sense to Scoop Jackson. It would be a real mindfuck if, say, Bob Pettit was the "original He" that he's talking about. Or Connor HEnry.

It means -- as great as LeBron is -- he won't be the best player on the court in these Finals. There will be nights in this series when the world will see how great Tim Duncan really is. That will push LeBron not to settle. It will remind him that, although he is the league, he is not yet the game.

-----Me: “Scoop is Lebron pretty much ‘The League’”
-----Scoop: “Yes, but he’s not ‘The Game’, but he may be ‘The He’”
-----Me: Nods slowly, begins backing away.

Also, are people really still discovering Tim Duncan and his greatness? Didn’t I hear how great he was in 1997, when he was the number 1 pick in the draft? Or when he won the league MVP in 2002 and 2003? Or when he won championships in 1999, 2003, and 2005 and was named the freakin MVP of the Finals in which his teams won those championships? Or when he won the Rookie of the Year award? Or when he started at Center for Team USA in the Olympics in 2004? Does the world watch the Olympics? Tim Duncan has played 10 years, and has been All-NBA first team and All NBA first team Defense 9 and 7 times. The one ommission from the All-NBA first team and 3 from All NBA first team on defense, he was on the second team. I’m pretty sure the basketball fans of the world knew of this Duncan character a while ago.

It means the East is that bad. (But we can't blame the Cavs for that.) It means, years from now, we might look back at LeBron's first trip to the Finals as being more about how bad the East was -- like when Iverson took Philly to the Finals six years ago.

Please reconcile this statement with this entire column about how making the finals means something fucking grandtastic for Lebron. It means so much that you’ve written “it means” like 50 times followed by some nonsense. Then you point out that he got there in a historically crappy conference, so it shouldn’t be blown out of proportion.

It means he will further ascend, beyond basketball, into that area of pop culture reserved for the chosen few. It means LeBron-mania is here, and bootleggers will have his face on more shirts, songs will be sung in caf├ęs, lyrics will be dropped on freestyles, poems will be written by fans and sent to columnists, to further our belief in him.

Songs will not be sung in cafes, lyrics have been dropped in freestyles about tons of players anyway (Public Enemy – Chris Webber / Redman – Marbury / Method Man & Redman – Pippen…. plus lots of Shaq and Jordan references and like a thousand others), and there will be no poem writing. Thanks.

It means Skip Bayless will have to stop calling him Prince James, and Peter Vecsey will have to stop calling him LeBrat.

Skip Bayless is a tool who jerks off every time he makes a pun or writes a play on words he finds clever. Skip Bay-less, more like “Skip WAY-Less….talent than the average writer!” That’s Skip Bayless’ style. You really can’t get too riled up by what he says.

It means the Spurs might not be the underdog in this series, but the nation will consider them the enemy. It means (more) millions will fall deeper in love with him.

Only you Scoop. “Fall deeper in love with him” is a tad dramatic for me.