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.

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