Monday, April 21, 2008

Why I Can't Stand Bill Plaschke

It's because of lines like this, in his latest column, about the Lakers game 1 win and, more specifically, Pau Gasol.

With his frumpy hair and delicate gait, sometimes he looked like a bird. With his long thin arms spread wide, other times he looked like a plane.

In the end, though, he looked like Super You-Know-Who, scoring 36 points with 16 rebounds to lead the Lakers to a 128-114 victory over the Nuggets in their first-round playoff opener.

Gee I didn't see where that was going.

It was a day of class, with Rick Fox bringing out the ball to start the game.

It was a day of crass, with some Lakers fans chanting, "D-U-I" when Carmelo Anthony shot his first free throws.

It was a day of sass, with Coach Phil Jackson, during pregame interviews, impulsively calling out Shaquille O'Neal for never getting his proper sleep during the playoffs.

But mostly, it was a day of Gas.

Hey! I get it! You RHYMED! How clever!!!!

I hate you.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jemele Hill Can Not Be Taken Seriously

Here is Jemele, on April 4th:, on the subject of the NBA MVP:

I'm sorry, but that's absurd. No question, Kobe has put up some unbelievable numbers this season. But if New Orleans finishes first in the West and Chris Paul doesn't win the MVP, this award officially can't be taken seriously.

Here are Jemele's top 5 MVP picks, in order:

Kobe Bryant: I know I recently wrote that Chris Paul deserves the MVP, but the Hornets appear to be slipping a bit while the Lakers are still surging. Besides, if Kobe doesn't win it this year, he may go down as the greatest player to never win an MVP. That's as bad as giving Steve Nash two MVPs.

Oh i see, the Hornets have won tonight and are now tied for first with the Lakers (pending the Lakers game that is in the first quarter). Since they fell like .5 games behind the Lakers as of the time this was posted on, Kobe Bryant is the MVP?

Hmmm, doesn't the paragraph above sort of sound a bit like she's even saying that Kobe should win because it's "his time". This is what Jemele said last week:

But giving Kobe the MVP just because "it's his time" or "he's learned to be a team player" is a disservice.

Is she serious? Is she? That was 11 days ago?

Chris Paul: Paul is having one of the finest seasons a point guard has ever had. He made the Hornets a contender in the West, a feat that absolutely no one expected. If CP3 had won in L.A. last Friday, I may have reversed field. Honestly, this MVP race is so close, so that's still a possibility.

1 regular season game decides the MVP now?

In case you gave her a shred of credibility at this point, her number 5 is Hedo Turkoglu - who is not the most valuable player on his team.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Jemele Hill Creates Another Argument to Refute, Volume 10

I imagine it’s difficult in many respects to be a columnist (especially for a magazine or newspaper – harder deadlines), but it can’t be that hard to come up with topics right? Right now, the NBA MVP is a good topic of conversation, as it’s been an intriguing and outstanding NBA season and there are a few names to talk about. But Jemele Hill doesn’t tend to write pieces with the mindset of, say, “Chris Paul should be the MVP”. She apparently doesn’t think that this is interesting enough. She instead positions her column “EVERYONE is saying Kobe Bryant should be the MVP, and that’s wrong”. The problem? It’s not true. I’ve heard/read MVP support for Paul, Bryant, Lebron James, Kevin Garnett and I've even seen Tim Duncan's name mentioned. I just don’t have the impression that it’s a slam dunk for everyone. In fact, I think I’ve heard the most support for Jemele’s pick, Chris Paul.

In her latest column, Jemele acts like it’s a foregone conclusion that Kobe is the MVP in the eyes of most basketball media. I think Kobe’s getting plenty of press, but so are the other candidates.

This is nothing new for Jemele. In this column she argued that the negativity that you were putting on Randy Moss late last year by criticizing his success was unfounded! In this column she argued that Barry Bonds should be in the all-star game, despite his performance during the season, because he’s breaking an all-time record. She glosses over the fact that Bonds was playing at an all-star level and clearly should have been the Giants’ All-Star representative.

Anyway, let’s get to the newest work.

What movie did Al Pacino win Best Actor for?

(a) "Scarface"(b) "Dog Day Afternoon"(c) "The Godfather"(d) "The Godfather: Part II"(e) None of the above, because Academy Award voters are stupid

Hmmm, well Brando won for the Godfather. Nicholson won for Cuckoo’s Nest the year Al Pacino was up for Dog Day Afternoon. He didn’t get nominated for Scarface. I didn’t see any of the movies that had an actor nominated that year so I can’t comment. Pacino not winning for Godfather Part II would seem to be a terrible miss. I didn’t see Art Carney in Harry and Tonto but he better have been damn good.

Wait, what’s going on, I’m on right?

Actually, this is the same analogy she lead her column off with last year.

When I hear people say that Dirk has the MVP wrapped up, it makes me think the race has become just as political and illogical as the Academy Awards.

She’ll either borrow from or contradict that column a few times here.

Pacino, a seven-time Oscar nominee, finally won Best Actor in 1992 for "Scent of a Woman." To date, it's Pacino's only Oscar, and any Pacino fan will tell you that seeing him win for "Scent of a Woman" was like seeing Ice Cube for the first time without his jheri curl. It just wasn't right. It didn't make sense. And you felt cheated.

This is why I don’t read Jemele Hill much. She makes little sense. Wouldn’t you have felt more cheated if you saw him lose for Scent of a Woman, if you felt he had been cheated in the past?

Sadly, the NBA MVP race has become just as warped and backwards as the Academy Awards. The definition of MVP seems to change every year, and all too often players are rewarded for sentimental reasons and discredited using other ludicrous rationales.

Almost every sport’s MVP race is as warped and backwards as the Academy Awards. That’s because it’s an award voted on by tons of people with conflicting views and interests. The NBA is no different.

It's no different this season, which somehow universally came to be known as "Kobe's year," even if the Lakers don't finish with the top seed in the Western Conference.

Classic Jemele Hill bullshit. It’s UNIVERSALLY “Kobe’s Year”. She’s right! I haven’t heard any support for Chris Paul, Kevin Garnett or Lebron James! No, no that’s not right. Not at all. Jemele Hill is about to create another argument to disagree with. The “only Kobe Bryant is getting MVP attention, and that’s wrong!” argument.

Next week from Jemele Hill – “No one is paying attention to Barack Obama for the Democratic Nomination.” Or, “Why didn’t No Country for Old Men get any Oscar buzz!”

I'm sorry, but that's absurd. No question, Kobe has put up some unbelievable numbers this season. But if New Orleans finishes first in the West and Chris Paul doesn't win the MVP, this award officially can't be taken seriously.

This award officially couldn’t be taken seriously in 1962 when Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 points and 26 rebounds and lost to Bill Russell (19/24), presumably because Russell had much better teammates. It’s had off years since then too.

Also, "unbelievable" is now the most overused term of exaggeration on the planet. If you told me in October that Kobe Bryant's numbers would be 28.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists while shooting 46% from the field...the last thought I would have is "that's unbelievable!" I probably would have said....."um, yeah.....that's pretty much what he does every year, minus a few points."

It would be criminal to overlook one of the most brilliant seasons a point guard has ever had. Paul averaged 24 points, 13 assists and nearly 3 steals per game in March. In fact, he's on the verge of becoming the first point guard since John Stockton to lead the league in both assists and steals in the same season. Nobody expected anything from the Hornets, and they're poised to win perhaps the most competitive conference we've ever seen in the NBA.

Paul’s been great and is a worthy MVP pick, so I’m not griping about that, but I don’t follow her last sentence. The conference is awesome, but it’s without a true all-time powerhouse regular season team. It’s good 1-9, but that doesn’t mean it’s harder to win than say, the Eastern Conference in 1996 if you’re a team that’s not the Chicago Bulls. Good luck winning 73 games to win the top seed.

I like how she cherry picks March stats too. Lebron James in March? 31 points, 8 boards, 7 assists, 48% shooting. Actually, that's basically his line for the year as well.

That's the very definition of MVP -- individual brilliance coinciding with team success. I'm a Kobe supporter, and I still stand by my assertion that Kobe is a more skilled player than Michael Jordan was.

I stand by my assertion that your column on Kobe being more skilled than Michael Jordan was about as well argued as Britney Spears’ child custody case. (Get it? She like never showed up for court? It was all over the entertainment news sources – so it’s pretty topical. Aww fuck you.)

The fact that Jemele thinks she has to remind readers how much she likes Kobe Bryant is laughable. She defends/supports him all the time. Remember this mess comparing Bryant to Alex Rodriguez? I'm actually a Kobe fan but she backs him nonstop.

But giving Kobe the MVP just because "it's his time" or "he's learned to be a team player" is a disservice.

No shit. Who are you arguing with? Oh that’s right, yourself.

This is what has become most frustrating about the evolution of the MVP race. Over time, merit has become less of a factor.

Not entirely accurate. So when Steve Nash won ’05 and ’06, it was because he was “due”. Oh…..I don’t think so. Iverson, Garnett, Duncan...these guys didn't win because of merit? In fact, I challenge you Jemele Hill to point to this happening in a recent year.

In the 1996-97 season, the MVP was thrown in Karl Malone's lap strictly because voters seemed sick of giving it to Michael Jordan, who won the MVP five times.

So the MVP has evolved into a race where merit is less of a factor, and it’s more of a lifetime achievement deal, and the last example of this is over 10 years ago? See, I think the voters have been trying to give it to the most deserving player each year (for their performance in the year) and that’s why you’re reaching back 10 years. Jordan not winning in ’97 was a little nutty, the Bulls won 69 games and Jordan was the best player in the league.

Before that, the benefactor of ABJ (Anybody But Jordan) was Charles Barkley, who was named the MVP for the 1992-93 season even though Jordan averaged 32 points, 6.7 assists and 5.5 rebounds.

Okay, but Barkley averaged 26 points, 12 boards and 5 assists to lead the Suns to the best record in the NBA. See, it’s more interesting when you don’t just spout out half the story. I would have given it to Jordan but Barkley was an entirely defensible, worthy winner.

LeBron James probably didn't get the consideration he deserved last season because of the "he has plenty of time to win an MVP" argument.

Dirk Nowitzki – 29/9/3 leading the Mavs to the best record in the NBA. Should he have won MVP? No, I don’t think so. Did Lebron (27/7/6) lose because he is young and has plenty of time……naw…. He didn’t get the same voting consideration because Dirk’s team won 17 more games. Flip the records around and Dirk isn’t in the top 5 in voting and Lebron walks away with the thing. Writer’s always put a premium on team success in their MVP voting. This is not a mystery.

Two-time MVP winner Tim Duncan should have gotten stronger consideration last season, too. But Duncan is the NBA's version of Russell Crowe.

Tim Duncan throws phones at people?

After Crowe won Best Actor for "Gladiator," the Academy overlooked him for both "The Insider" and "A "Beautiful Mind." Crowe won't win another one because he's too consistently good. Same goes for Duncan.

Um….hmmmm… Crowe was nominated for The Insider in 1999. He won for Gladiator in 2000. So you’re theory both sucks and is inaccurate. Saying he won’t win another one because he’s consistently good is beyond moronic. He might not win another won because it’s very very hard to win multiple best Actor Oscars. The most anyone has won is 2! There are a lot of NBA players with more than 2 awards (with less history). Katharine Hepburn did win 4 in the female category though I guess. Why the fuck am I looking this up again? Ohhhh right….because Jemele’s telling me the MVP is like the Oscar. This sounds familiar. Hmmm….oh right, she told me this last year:

Sounds just like when people were arguing that Russell Crowe shouldn't win an Oscar for "A Beautiful Mind" since (a) he'd already won one for "Gladiator"…

Boring. Also, were people even saying that? She has used the same example two friggin years in a row and I don't remember that being some sort of hot issue back then. Didn't Hanks win two in a row in the early 90's?

What really makes no sense about this argument, is that she's saying that the MVP voters are reluctant to reward players who are consistently good, therefore Duncan doesn't get enough MVP attention. Um...hmm....Jordan won 5. Bird won 3. Magic won 3. Kareem won 6. Nash won two in a row. Very recently! This goes against the premise of your argument.

And only in the NBA could Shaq, the most dominant center of all time, have one MVP while Steve Nash, who has never gotten his team to the NBA Finals, has two.

Playoff performance means jack shit in NBA voting. It’s a regular season award. Also, your pick, Chris Paul, has never led his team to an NBA finals. See how that’s unfair?

Also, Jemele knows this, as this is what she wrote last year:

Winning a championship is not a requirement for a MVP. Yeah, I know I just killed Malone above, but he won two MVPs and didn't win a title. Allen Iverson and Kevin Garnett also have MVPs, but no titles. Sure, Iverson and Malone made it to the NBA Finals, but this is a REGULAR-SEASON award.

Not only does she create arguments to counter, she counters her own arguments – she just trusts that you’re too dumb to remember.

That's why it's difficult to argue against Kobe, knowing he was cheated out of at least one MVP -- the one Dirk Nowitzki shamelessly won last season.

Shame on you, Dirk Nowitzki. How dare you be voted as MVP by a bunch of random writers! Go back to Germania! (sorry, I had to)

But while Kobe's renewed commitment to team ball makes for a cute catchphrase, it's a misnomer. Obviously Kobe has matured, but he's a better teammate primarily because he's got a fellow All-Star in Pau Gasol, a deeper, more skilled bench, and an emerging star in Andrew Bynum. Teamwork becomes much easier when your teammates can actually do something with the ball.

Which brings me to another frustrating element of the MVP race. Why are good players considered stronger MVP candidates when they have more help? (See: Kevin Garnett, the 2003-04 MVP.) Isn't the concept of "value" based on doing more with less?

I hate trying to confine the MVP award this way, it drives me nuts. It should be about who played the best fucking basketball. Anyway, no, value is about playing basketball very well while doing the most in proportion with what you have – be it a lot or a little. This is getting a little too esoteric for me, back to the column…

That should be the only criteria. And if it is, Paul is the MVP over Kobe, LeBron and KG. LeBron has had a fine season, and he certainly ranks high in the value department, but Cleveland's team success isn't significant enough to warrant LeBron winning. KG's presence transformed the Celtics, but it certainly helps that he has All-Star security blankets Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

No, no no I will not let you get away with this. You just said that Kobe Bryant was cheated out of the MVP last year. Then you said Lebron James shouldn’t win because his team’s success is not significant enough. Kobe’s Lakers were 42-40 last year. Lebron’s Cavs are 42-34, on pace for about 45-46 wins – with some shit-ass teammates I’ll add. Yes, the West was better last year, but this is really just you making up qualifiers as you go along to conveniently support your arguments.

This is what Jemele wrote last year supporting Bryant:

But at the same time, it's not fair to eliminate Kobe Bryant because the Lakers are only a 6 or 7 seed. Kobe has the least talented teammates to work with of the MVP candidates and that his team is even in the playoff hunt is a miracle. Besides, most NBA players regard Kobe as the best player in the league and that should mean something, too. Team success is an important component, but it can't be the entire equation.

Given that those were here sentiments supporting Kobe last year, how does she eliminate Lebron James so easily this year?

Cleveland's team success isn't significant enough to warrant LeBron winning.


But, if recent MVP races are any indication, politics will win again.

So congrats, Kobe.

I was watching Sports Reporters as I began writing this, and John Saunders started his final point. He said, “I know I’m not the first one to push for Chris Paul to win the MVP…”.

Tell that to Jemele Hill.

Jemele’s next column…. "will someone please talk about the rise of oil prices!”

Friday, April 4, 2008

Chronic Injuries are No Excuse!

I haven't been reading much lately, but I received the following point from Reader Matt - who is also Commissioner of my fantasy league and who I suspect is also a local Grand Wizard of the Dungeons and Dragons Dress Up Group that just skips the board game (or whatever D&D is) and acts everything out in real costume. Maybe I made that up, but I don't know what he does with his Saturday nights so we'll go with that.

Bill Simmons recently wrote a little summary of Chris Webber's career. It included a classic Simmonsian turn where he wrote something faux-poignant that conflicted something else in the column.

Since I'm lazy I'll just copy and paste Matt's e-mail here:
Early in Simmon’s recent piece on Chris Webber, he states:

Of all the great players who passed through the NBA and never fulfilled their promise, Webber was the only one without a legitimate excuse.

Then he almost immediately follows it up with:

During his "prime" (1994 to 2004), he played 70 games or less in nine different seasons, missed 283 of a possible 870 games and battled a never-ending assortment of freak injuries, culminating with a knee tear in Sacramento that robbed him of his explosiveness and forced him to change his style on the fly (although he somehow remained effective for a few more years).

So to summarize: Webber had no legitimate excuse for never fulfilling his promise of greatness. Unless you count that rash of injuries that hit him during his prime, including a knee injury that forced him to change his fundamental style of play.

Last I checked injuries could be a drag on performance, particularly if you're not able to physically be on the court. He also notes that Bernard King and David Thompson did have an excuse....drug use and knee problems. Perhaps if Chris had developed a coke habit to go with his chronic injuries, Bill would give him a pass for not living up to his potential. Last I'll just point out how insane the definitiveness of Simmons' first statement above is. Of all the great players who didn't hit their potential, he was the only one without an excuse. Doesn't C-Webb have more an excuse than Derrick Coleman, Shawn Kemp and Vince Carter? At his best, he was more effective than any of those guys.