Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Suns And Mavericks Are Going To Have A Hard Time Golfing Comfortably With Such Huge Balls

I'm working on a Gregg Easterbrook "WMTMQR" column, but I got sidetracked by the topic you're seconds away from reading about, so the Easterbrook thing will have to become a "TMTMQR." Look for that, of course, on TM. Having just watched the final seconds of the Spurs closing out the Suns, I decided it would be fitting to talk about this guy named Bill Simmons who writes for ESPN.com. He's actually one of their most popular columnists. Who knew? Yeah, that's what I'm saying, too- whatever happened to Hunter S. Thompson?

Anyways, one of Simmons' more well-known columns from the past couple years is this, from February 2007, in which he lambasted nearly every team in the NBA for not making some kind of risky, roster-altering, hype-generating trade before that season's deadline. In his criticism, he very cleverly re-christened the league the "No Balls Association" in a brilliant turn of acronym. Oh, the audacity! His point was basically that although nearly every team in the league was flawed at the time in some obvious way, their GMs were too afraid to make a big deal lest they take the fall or get fired should the move either not produce good postseason results or further delay a rebuilding effort. It was an interesting concept for a column. Certainly gave a lot of fans something to discuss and complain about.

But I didn't at all agree with him at the time. (This blog didn't exist so I could voice that opinion, which is a convenient excuse for me to use revisionist history in my favor now.) Basically, the whole premise seemed less about teams trying to make the best possible decisions and more about teams doing things that Bill found exciting. New faces in new places! New matchups! New columns to write, about potential impacts and ramifications! What's not to like, if you're employed as Bill is? Unfortunately, nearly all of the trades he talked about didn't make sense for at least one of the teams involved. And some didn't make sense for either/any of said teams. Of course, as with anything Simmons writes, it was basically a chance for him to pop off at the mouth and act like his opinion is unadulterated fact. (Yes, you asshole anonymous Simmons-defending commenters, every columnist does this to some extent. But Simmons does it constantly, and with a nearly unparalleled level of abrasiveness.) And just because he gets on his high horse, and cracks wise while acting like he's smarter than at least 20-25 of the 30 GMs in the league, doesn't mean he's right.

So fast forward to February 2008. It's the "No Balls Association" no more. The Mavericks work overtime and jump through several hoops in order to land Jason Kidd, and the Suns surprise a lot of people by rolling the dice on Shaq. Hooray, says Bill. Finally- a group of executives not afraid to go boom or bust! Well, fittingly, tonight both of those moves more or less busted. Neither team even came close to sniffing the second round. Although it's arguable that their results would have been no different had they not made their trades, my point is that big deadline deals rarely happen for a lot of very real (and non-"ball lacking") reasons. For the teams scuttling their season and acting as sellers- unless the star they're probably giving away is in the final year of a deal, there's an incentive to wait until the summer to field offers because that gives them more time to maneuver and often allows them to drum up interest from more potential trade partners. For the teams acting as buyers- there's no other way to put this; the enormous risk such deals usually carry is just flat out debilitating. Laugh all you want, question whether or not people have nuts in their sacks; but the risks often outweigh the rewards. And what happened to the Suns and Mavs speaks to that. Neither team got noticeably better after acquiring their star. (Dallas probably got a little worse, and almost missed the playoffs.) Both, especially the Suns, are financially worse off than they were before the deals.

Now, let me put all the caveats out there to make sure I don't sound like an idiot. Yes, I know the Lakers also traded for Pau Gasol in a "big deal" and that that move is working out swimmingly. Good for LA. But that was an extremely rare case of a team looking to deal a superstar actually not asking nearly what their guy was worth. Opportunities like that don't come along often. The Lakers basically paid the Grizzlies peanuts, so they don't get credit for showing balls. Yes, I know Simmons actually stated that he thought Kidd was a bad fit for the Mavs. But in the column in which he voiced that opinion, he still said he approved of the trade. Why? Among other things, the Mavs "needed a transfusion" and this trade made them "more interesting." He also gushed all over the Shaq trade. Oops. And finally, yes, I know that Simmons has never said that making risky deals guarantees teams success. But he still violently advocates doing so anyways, and that's reason enough for me to make fun of him.

In conclusion- (I love using that, because my high school English teachers always discouraged it, and now they're not around to stop me from having my fun and writing poorly) I'm not writing this from the stance of "Haha! Dallas and Phoenix didn't both win four NBA titles each this summer after making big deadline moves, so everything Bill Simmons has ever written is wrong and he should be fired!" Well, he should be fired. But not for this. I'm writing it to point out something a little subtler. Taking an ultra-abrasive stance as a writer, the way Bill did in his original "No Balls" column, can blow up in your face. Even if you feel really passionately about something, you're probably better off writing about it without resorting to too much hyperbole and histrionics. Is that a rule the writers of this site, myself included, ever follow? Absolutely not. Go fuck yourself. It's still a good rule. I know, it's really tempting to act like every GM in every league is a dummy. After all, only a handful of them win championships every year, and only about half of them field teams with winning records. But the vast majority of them are smart enough to run a team. Their moves/non-moves are made for perfectly legitimate reasons. Grading the performance of a group of them at a particular time, and giving three quarters of them Fs, F-minuses, F-minus-minuses, Z-minues, etc., is over the top and stupid. Stop it. You're somehow making yourself look worse. Just go back to writing your dumb mailbag and flaunting the fact that you know a lot about Vegas. Vegas? Really? Wow, cool. Where else could I possibly find information about that place? Do you think they have a tourism board or anything? You know, I'm too lazy to do any actual research about one of the country's top 5 vacation destinations. I guess I'll just take what this prick says as gospel.

Speaking of that mailbag, I checked it out. Not a ton of material I felt like covering. Basically he's become a Boston blogger who has his work published on ESPN. The kind of analysis he gives about the Celtics/Patriots/Red Sox is more or less similar to the type of stuff I read about my favorite teams on their respective SBNation blogs. You want to ask him about anyone else? If it's one of a handful of NBA teams (Suns, Pistons, Lakers, Cavaliers), he might be able to offer something coherent. If it's any other NBA team, he's clueless. If it's an NFL team, he doesn't know it, but he's clueless. If it's the Yankees, he'll just talk more about the Red Sox or make a joke about how A-Rod is actually Choke-Rod. If it's another AL team, he'll mention a player from that team on his fantasy team. If it's an NL team, he'll act like the fact he doesn't follow the NL makes him cool or something. In essence, he's running CeltsCornerSawksTawkPatsPrattle.blogspot.com off of the world's most popular sports site. Sure, I'm bothered by it, but at the same time, it's like... it's so boring that I can't really get that worked up. Oh my God- does this mean I'm losing my edge? Hopefully not. This basement is still as comfy as ever.


Anonymous said...

The whole No Balls Association thing has bothered me since day one. He proposed ridiculous trade ideas then lambasted GMs for not going along with them. Sort of an unbelievable concept when you think about it. The Heat didn't go through with my Haslem for Dalembert trade idea? What a bunch of spineless balls-lackers! I still generally enjoy reading Simmons, but his arrogance is stunning. How a guy can claim that there are only a handful of smart GMs in the league (including Kerr on that list) and then propose that the Raptors should trade for Jamal Crawford is beyond me. Stupid trade proposals are fun, but you can't take them seriously. And you certainly can't consider them as evidence for the argument that GMs do a bad job. I wish the Bucks had hired him so that he could learn that its harder when you don't control both sides of the trade machine.

pnoles said...

btw simmons has pulled even with mariotti on the post count....jay needs to get stupid again, fast.

Bengoodfella said...

I am a little disappointed Larry you are not going to post anything Simmons related. Even if there is nothing objectionable, you need to muster enough fake anger to write a column just for me. I save my Simmons anger for when I am the angriest, like when my mom refuses to bring me my breakfast in the attic.

I am excited though that you posted this commentary. I have always thought it was stupid how Simmons says GM's have no balls for not going along with his trades. I sadly (awesomely?) emailed Simmons one time and told him he should quit writing for ESPN and start his own independent column/magazine with his friends. I told him he would make more money doing this and if he did not do it then he had no balls.

He never responded and I am not sure he got the principle that you can't think of an idea that you think is good, tell someone else to apply that idea to their life and then call them a coward when they don't do it. "Anonymous" is correct when he says it is a lot harder to make a trade when you don't control both sides of the trade machine. Simmon's arrogance is not stunning to me anymore, it is a character trait that I love to mock endlessly.

Bengoodfella said...

Just a side note, but did anyone else notice that FJMorgan put a list of blogs that were as good as newspapers in an article? One of them was Son Of Sam Horn. That gave me an ulcer.

Also, I am going to quit cursing so people will take me seriously as a blogger.

larry b said...


Anonymous said...

I love that the "Z-minus" went to the Cavs... who then made it to the NBA Finals that season. Brilliant Simmons analysis as always.

Anonymous said...

After his latest title "Settting Suns" I am desperately hoping that the Hawks win today. If this happens, Bill "The Homer" Simmons can write one titled "Crumbling Celts"