Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Gene Wojceichowski Can Wait

He's just been one-upped by Around the Horn supporting character J.A. Adande. Thanks to reader Peej for the tip.

This is really, really, really bad.

This March, NBA Has the Madness

My editor sent down a list of games for me to cover, and that March 21 Rockets-Warriors assignment didn't bother me at all. Yes, I know the significance of the date. It's the first Friday of the NCAA tournament. One of the best days on the sports-viewing calendar. When I bought my comfy leather theater seats, I envisioned this day, the hours I would spend staring at the screen. Only this time, I don't mind missing that sport's holy day one bit.

I'm not as excited about the road to the Final Four as I am about the final eight weeks of the NBA regular season.

Everyone in this wonderful country of ours is, of course, entitled to their opinion. At the same time: you're wrong. Very wrong. And I'm saying this as a big NBA fan, too. I'm not some kind "football and NASCAR are the only real sports and if you like anything else yer a big pussy" kind of guy. I like the NBA almost as much as I like MLB or the NFL. In my opinion, the NBA's regular season clowns on college basketball's regular season and the NBA playoffs are just a slight step below March Madness. Wire-to-wire, therefore, I think the NBA puts out a much more entertaining product. So with all that said, let me reiterate: J.A. Adande, you are a fucking idiot.

This year the pro game doesn't just offer better players, it offers better games and better story lines.

Such as: how many Eastern Conference playoff teams will actually have winning records? At what point will teams actually start playing like there's something on the line? Why is everyone who plays for the Spurs such a little bitch? Must see TV.

As soon as Tennessee ended Memphis' quest for an undefeated season, this year's festivities became Just Another Tournament. We won't get a chance to see perfection.

Why is just another tournament capitalized? Is there some acronym joke in there that I'm missing out on? And for what it's worth, a team has entered the tournament undefeated exactly once in the last 28 years. (UNLV, 1991.) So if that's your complaint, you're clearly not the March Madness fan you made yourself out to be in that awkward intro.

There's no fully loaded Florida, Duke or UNLV going for a repeat.

Whoop-de-shit. Did anyone besides UF's fans enjoy last year's tournament that much more because of their repeat pursuit?

There are no truly great teams that will be remembered by anyone but their fans a few years from now.

Yeah, but that Suns-76ers matchup on March 28 is guaranteed to be one for the ages! (J.A. specifically names this game as one he's excited about watching in lieu of NCAA games in a sidebar to the article.)

In the NBA, the Rockets are working on the league's longest winning streak since 1972.

True, that is interesting. Probably about 10% as interesting as March Madness, but still, I'll give credit where it's due.

The Lakers are trying to lay the foundation for a new dynasty.

Apparently being bounced out of the playoffs early a couple seasons in a row, then being one of the best teams in league 3/4 of the way through a subsequent regular season now qualifies you for dynasty-foundation-laying status. Man, if only my Nuggets could put together a little win streak and get themselves to the top of the Western Conference heap, they'd be laying the foundation for a new dynasty too.

The Spurs are trying to put a cap on theirs.

Here's my impression of a person watching a Spurs game: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Get it?

The Celtics are trying to do their banners proud.

What? Are they good this year? I hadn't heard.

LeBron James is walking across the bridge from potential to reality.

He's been doing that for like three years, dummy. It's still not more interesting than March Madness.

For a change, none of these stories can simply wait until the playoffs.

Actually, they will have to wait until the playoffs. And 99% of American sports fans will not be bothered by this at all.

There's too much on the line right now, when seeds can be gained or lost, pathways determined. All you need to know about the importance of this month is that Kobe Bryant would rather play with an out-of-whack finger than get surgery and miss any of these games.

That's right, folks. A hyper-competitive, mega type-A superstar who's working on cementing his legacy as an all time great would rather be on the court playing than sitting out to heal. Therefore: the NBA's regular season is better than March Madness.

Not that there's anything wrong with the tournament. I love filling out my brackets. I even love it when they get shredded by an out-of-the-blue upset. I love getting off a plane in March and seeing people crowd around the airport bar TV sets, with the sound of high-tops squeaking on the court coming from the speakers.

Good, yes, these are all reasons many people (especially airport employees) like the tournament.

But my first love is the game of basketball, and it's being played at a much higher level in the NBA.

No. Stinking. Way. Shut the front door. Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally. You're telling me... players in the NBA... are better at basketball than college athletes? This is outrageous. Everything I thought I knew has just changed. Down is up. Left is right. Basements are full of natural light. Jay Mariotti is awesome. Carlos Mencia is funny.

Instead of watching Derrick Rose and imagining how good a point guard he might be, I'd rather witness the mastery of the position demonstrated by Chris Paul and Deron Williams right now. Michael Beasley can be. Tim Duncan is.

Compared to 99.9999% of the population, Rose is already an amazing point guard and Beasley already "is." The difference between those guys and Paul/Williams/Duncan is relatively small. If you're going to pick on something, sheesh, pick on NCAA role players compared to their NBA counterparts. The gap between the average NBA 10th man and NCAA 10th man is astronomical compared to differences between the stars. Not that that even matters.

Ultimately it comes down to this: The pros make shots. As intense and competitive as that Memphis-Tennessee game was, neither team shot 40 percent.

Both teams in the one NCAA game Adande watched this year had bad shooting nights. Therefore: fuck March Madness. Bring on the Celtics visiting the Hornets on March 21! (Memphis for the entire year: 46.6% on field goals. Tennessee: 46.1%.)

Normally the tournament compensates for the talent gap with extra passion.

Not this year. Turns out, none of the players, coaches, student bodies, or alums give a shit anymore. Weird timing, huh? Why, it was just last year that the tournament was as exciting as ever. Now people are really just looking forward to getting up and going to work every morning.

Win or else your season and/or career comes to an end.

That's still how it works.

But in this season's NBA, in which no team's playoff seeding is assured, there's something to be gained or lost every night. Add stakes to skills and you get phenomenal ball.

In the West, 8 teams are fighting for 9 playoff spots. Yawn. In the East, everyone outside the top four teams knows that they suck, are extremely lucky to still be in contention, and are getting bounced the fuck out in the first round. Are you really going to call that "something to be gained or lost every night?"

Seeing a college kid dive for old U is one thing. Seeing Shaq hurdle seats because he wants one last ring for his collection is something beyond.

The college kid is playing for nothing more than tuition, and will be selling insurance in a year or two. But he'll always remember that year he led his mid-major team full of nobodies to the Sweet 16 and became a household name for just a few days. Shaq, on the other hand, wants to buy another diamond-encrusted bidet. He knows he can afford to do so with a playoff bonus. You're right- that second storyline is a lot more compelling than the first.

For every day of the tournament until the championship game gets that Monday night to itself, I can point you to an NBA game that could make for better viewing. (Read the table on the right to see what I mean.)

I've already referenced it twice. Click on the story link and check it out yourself in its entirety if you need a good chuckle.

There's no guarantee that all of these matchups will turn out to be great.

But the pro games I promise you won't be subjected to:

Complete and total lack of defense from many teams until the fourth quarter? Hilariously preferential refereeing for superstars? Constant offensive sets consisting of nothing but isolation kick-outs? Oh, wait. You definitely will be subjected to all of those.

Obsessive coaches hogging the attention, forcing their players to stick with systems while mismatches scream to be exploited. This drives me crazy. I almost want to smuggle some Detriot Pistons game DVDs to the kids just to show them it's OK to break from the offense to take advantage of a weak defender.

How often is this an issue? I'm no Phil Jackson, so someone feel free to explain to me the extent to which this is some horrific epidemic at the college level. I'm guessing that it really isn't.

Excessive use of the word "Cinderella." It comes up in the NBA, just not as often. Google search hits for "George Mason Cinderella": 355,000. Google search hits for "Golden State Warriors Cinderella": 70,000. And I dare any writer to go up to Stephen Jackson and compare him to a fairy-tale princess.

Fuck, that doesn't prove anything. I dare you to make eye contact with Stephen Jackson from less than 15 feet away. It doesn't really matter what you say to the guy, he's probably going to rip off your arms and beat you with them regardless. And really, who is complaining about "Cinderella?" Anybody? Anybody besides J.A., and maybe people like Dennis Miller or Larry David who complain about everything?

Any of that Duke floor-slapping stuff. Although I have to say, the most satisfying college basketball moment I've seen in a while came during Saturday's Duke-North Carolina game, shortly after Greg Paulus did a floor slap. Danny Green threw down a Lipton's special dunk on him that said, "Slap this." That was so next level. I hit the rewind button on my DVR so much I nearly drained the battery. That enriched my life immensely. Thank you, Mr. Green.

What the hell are you talking about? Stop. Acting like anyone really gives a shit about Duke's celebration tactics is like saying "much has been made" of the Celtics' African mantra/motto thingy this year.

The problem with the NCAA tournament is that it doesn't deliver Duke vs. North Carolina. The committee is required to spread conference teams as far as possible, to put off a potential meeting until the later rounds -- so we get a bunch of matchups with no history.

I don't even need to explain how dumb that is. If you can't figure out why, let me give you two hints from two different angles, phrased as questions:

1. Do you think the point of the NCAA tourney is to determine a champion, or recreate historic conference matchups that already happen twice a season?
2. Remember all those great Nuggets/Mavericks games from back in the day? Or how about all the times the Cavaliers and Magic have gone toe to toe? Woo hooo!

J.A. is evidently one of those people who thinks that every year, the World Series should be the Yankees vs. Red Sox, the Super Bowl should be Cowboys vs. Steelers, and the Olympic hockey final should be USA vs. USSR.

Because the players turn over so often and the scheduling is inconsistent, it's hard to develop good national rivalries in college hoops.

Yet somehow, it's still easy to effectively shut down productivity in most places of work that employ sports fans for two Thursdays and two Fridays each March. How does the NCAA manage to pull it off? My theory: steroids.

The NBA loads up on the conference and divisional matchups as the schedule winds down. This season promises to be a slugfest all the way through.

Sure, I'll be watching the NCAAs during the off hours. But when NBA duty calls, I won't feel I'm missing out. I'll be where the real action is.

You will be alone. Everyone else will be where the allegedly fake action is, which we find to be about 1,000 times more compelling. Pretty strange- I guess you're just that much smarter than the rest of us.

Seriously, what a dipshit.


Tonus said...

I think what J.A. meant to say was "Seeing Shaq hustle for a playoff contender after spending months being a $20 million slack-ass for a last placed team is what the NBA is all about!"

Or maybe he could make a slight re-write using Kobe Bryant instead...

Chris W said...

the nba has more dipsy doo dunkaroos therefore go pistons

Archie Micklewhite said...

LeBron James is walking across the bridge from potential to reality.

I would have thought this happened when he, you know, made the Finals last year...

Bengoodfella said...

I greatly dislike J.A. Adande. Fuck him. I can only watch so many NBA games where there are three guys standing around the perimeter mildly interested in what is going on. I agree the playoffs are a little better than the regular season, but still...

Fuck him. He proved my entire point when he said, "forcing their players to stick with systems while mismatches scream to be exploited. This drives me crazy. I almost want to smuggle some Detriot Pistons game DVDs to the kids just to show them it's OK to break from the offense to take advantage of a weak defender."

What the fuck is he talking about "obsessive coaches talking" and all that shit? He can't name one time when a player has been forced to stick with a system that did not work for him. That is what I hate about the NBA. The inherent selfishness where a player believes he is bigger than the team and holds the team hostage. I will be unlike Adande and give examples (Shaq, Marbury, Vince Carter, Steve Francis, Danny Ferry, and Kobe Bryant). Granted Michael Jordan was held back by his system but he does have a National Championship to show for it. His attitude and comment about "going outside the system" annoys the hell out of me. The coach is the coach for a reason and he has a system for a reason.

I can watch the NBA, but college basketball is just so much more exciting overall in my opinion. In conclusion, fuck J.A. Adande. I could vomit on my keyboard and put together a more coherent article than he can. I am going to go take some Ritalin and fill out my NBA Playoffs bracket now.

Michael said...

His point about the NCAA tournament matchups lacking history is complete bullshit. How about the UK-Marquette matchup in round 1. UK lost to Marquette in the elite eight in 2003, when Dwayne Wade had the second (I believe) triple-double ever in that round. That was pretty historic. UK also beat Marquette in the 1978 championship game, that was pretty historic. Also, UK lost to Marquette in the second round of the 1994 tournament; there's more history. I think what JA means is he can't remember any of the histroy. What an ass-wipe.

cs said...

Ubuntu baby!

Seriously, what a bunch of shit. I def agree this year's NBA has a lot more widesprerad drama in the West. Agreed it'll be cool like on Mon-Wed when the NCAA isn't going on the next two weeks, to catch an NBA game.

But complaining that the level of skill isn't the same on the college and pro level is ridiculous. Why is the Little Leagur WS so popular? The Colege WS? College Football? Because they represent different aspects of the sport that the pro level either fails to highlight or just can't.

And really, Spurs at Mavs? Over games that admit the winner to the Sweet 16? I don't know...

By the way, your link is to the Vols, not to the article.

Bengoodfella said...

I guess I just like seeing future stars playing at the collegiate level when they still pass and give a shit about the game. Also, before they go to the NBA and get jaded by all that goes with it, like being interviewed by Stephen A. Smith on his My Blog.

Nothing matches the opening couple rounds of March Madness for me personally. Maybe it is filling out a bracket and feeling like the players care.

larry b said...

Fixed the link. You picky bastards. Actually, I'd like to thank CS for pointing that out, because that sidebar I referenced a couple of times is downright hilarious.

Good to see Tonus back in the comments after (what seems to me like) a few weeks away. Did you get kicked out of your basement or something?

Anonymous said...

while we're bitching about nitpicky stuff, "In the West, 8 teams are fighting for 9 playoff spots." should be 9 teams for 8 spots.

also fuck adande - he was shitty with the times, and he's worse now that he thinks he's all that because he's writing for espn.

Martin said...

When he wasn't writing Kobe apologist columns for the Times, I liked Adande. Since he's gone to ESPN, his writing has become craptacular.

The Pros make shots? These guys couldn't throw a brick in an oven the last 15 years, whereas we see all sorts of non-leaping, average game, kids in the tourney who can absolutly shoot the lights out.

Sure the college coaches can get annoying, but....Riley, Jackson, Skiles, Brown, and the rest don't? The kids in college try to play to the system, instead of the pro style of "toss it to someone, iso on the wing, take him off the dribble or shot a bad three".

NBA players are the best in the world. It doesn't mean the games are.

Tonus said...

larry I've been around! It's just that my comments have been more forgettable than usual and they just blend into the background.

Anonymous said...

Who cares about the college WS?

The NCAA is cool. I love watching a joke 3 pt line, gimmicky defenses, and 15 teams that have no business playing for a title. Oh yeah, and the 35 second shot clock. Really, the NBA has 3 guys standing around? What about the 2 guards at the top of the key who reverse the ball to themselves for 27 seconds of every possession. Feel the excitement!!

Martin said...

15 teams that have no business playing for a title...as oppossed to the 18 in the NBA?

35 second shot clock vs 24 is an issue why? Lord knows that 8second back court rule has really kicked in the offense for the NBA.

And for a joke 3 pnt line...at least the tourney kidds can hit a 20 footer, no matter how many points it's worth.....

AFter the first weekend of the tourney, and that fantabulous Spurs - Mavs game, I wonder where J.A. would have rather been?