Thursday, March 3, 2011

Even when Bill Simmons knows something about a sport, he still knows absolutely nothing about that sport

Bill knows more about pro basketball than he knows about any other sport. Unfortunately, he still knows a hell of a lot more about anecdotal bullshit, embarrassing self-promotion, irrelevant stories about his kids, dumb unsupported theories that change depending on which way the wind is blowing, being angry at teams for not making dumb trades just for the sake of making trades, etc. And so it is that we happen upon his yearly trade deadline column.

In 2007, Kim Kardashian was leaking a sex tape, Charlie Sheen was still married, Barack Obama was thinking about running for president, Nicole Kidman's face could still move,

He knows about pop culture! I should read everything this guy writes, I bet he references movies and shows and stuff that I know about!

people other than porn stars were using MySpace, and I was calling the NBA "The No Balls Association."

Burnsauce, NBA GMs. Burnsauce.

Nobody wanted to trade. General managers would rather stand pat than make a move and get raked over the coals. Self-preservation trumped everything else.

In other words, making good decisions with regards to which players you have on your team trumped everything else. As things have been during every trade deadline ever. And during all twelve months of the year during every year of the NBA's existence.

Looking back, it was a transition year between the good old days (in which a slew of teams were run by people who made you wonder, "Wait, are they drunk?") and today's era of suffocating 24/7 coverage (in which every move is endlessly dissected by fans, bloggers and media members).

Things that were around to enable suffocating 24/7 coverage of every single thing that happens in the world of sports during 2004-2006: TV, mainstream internet sites, blogs, radio. Things that have been around to enable suffocating 24/7 coverage of every single thing that happens in the world of sports since 2008: TV, mainstream internet sites, blogs, radio, and Twitter.

The National Basketball Association


has changed in a variety of ways this century, but none more than this: February's trade deadline, June's draft and July's free agency frenzy are consumed as voraciously as the playoffs and the Finals.

Brilliant, hard-hitting analysis. People really like sports and pay very close attention to them.

You can't just slip a stupid basketball trade by an entire country anymore. You will be mocked on Twitter, on blogs, on sports radio, on message boards, in columns and articles ... if there was a theme song for this era, it would be Queen's "We Will Rock You," with one letter adjusted.

We will ... we will ... MOCK YOU!
We will ... we will ... MOCK YOU!

Jesus Chirst, is Reilly ghost writing for Simmons now? Who edited that? That's fucking terrible. Thanks Bill, you really brought your point home. Other lines to be used in a Simmons column in the near future:

"Thanks to the towering presence of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, the Bulls have great interior defense... if there was a theme song for those guys, it would be Queen's "We Will Rock You," with one letter adjusted. We will... we will... BLOCK YOU!"

"The owners and players haven't been able to reach a labor agreement... if there was a theme song for this situation, it would be Queen's "We Will Rock You," with one letter adjusted. We will... we will... LOCK YOU (out)!"

Fucking A, man. That's horrific.

So it took a few years to adjust, but now we're here. With a crippling lockout looming, half the league felt obligated to do ... something. You could split the motivations of the 30 franchises into eight groups.

(stupid explanations of these eight groups omitted)

Classic, useless/nonsensical Simmons analysis. "Let me break this down for you by making it more complex than it needs to be so you can tell how much I know about the National Basketball Association. See, there are subtle differences between the ways the Nets and Blazers acted at the deadline.... [something something something Jersey Shore AL-only keeper league email from my dad my kids like to wake up early in the morning and no other kids have ever done this in the history of forever]

I was stunned that my Knicks fan buddies were split over the Carmelo trade. Some loved it, some thought they gave up too much. The dissenters made the same point: "Why give up that much when we could just sign him this summer?"

I'm a pretty intense Nuggets fan. I guarantee you I know more about the Melo trade situation and Melo's game than Simmons does. (Which is kind of like saying I know more about how the world works than a goldfish does, but anyways)

Here's the problem: the Nuggets knew that (A) Carmelo was never signing an extension in New Jersey,

Probably true. He was undoubtedly only interested in going to the Knicks. Which is what makes him in some ways even more obnoxious than LeBron- while LeBron forced teams to audition for him, held the worst-planned TV special of all time, and (probably) quit on his old employer in the middle of his last playoff series there, at least he was open to playing in more than one place when he reached free agency.

and (B) Carmelo wanted a $65 million extension as much as he wanted to play for the Knicks.

Doubtful. Given the way he acted throughout the whole sequence of events, it's very likely he would have taken less money to play for the Knicks. He made it pretty clear that doing so was "a dream come true," a homecoming, the only place he wanted to be, etc.

Their savviest play was to keep him past the deadline and play the odds: something like a 90 percent chance that Carmelo would have grabbed the $65 million and a 10 percent chance that he would have been stupidly stubborn enough to say, "I'm out of here, I don't care if it costs me $20 million, I'm gone."

Hilarious. I really love Bill's handicapping skills. The guy who correctly picks NFL games against the spread about 40% of the time knows that there was a 90% chance that Melo wouldn't bail out on a team he didn't want to play for anymore to go to one that wanted him as much as he wanted it. As if they wouldn't have been able to find a way (endorsements, short term FA deal leading to a bigger extension a year later) to make the money work. How does it feel, T-Wolves fans? How does it feel that Bill isn't your GM yet? Or was it the Bucks? Either way, count your blessings.

Few NBA players would ever do that, and no self-respecting agent would ever allow that. It just wouldn't happen. Their move would be to sign the extension, play hard for the rest of the season, then push for a trade that summer. At that point, Denver could have had 29 teams bidding for him instead of one. Everyone wins.

Well at least he's consistent. But he's still wrong. Melo had no interest in playing for 29 of the 30 teams in the league. He only wanted to play for one. It's located in the city (and borough) where his boy Amare plays, and where his boy CP3 might play soon, and where his bitch of an F-list celebrity wife wants to live. That was his #1 concern all along. Obviously there was a chance that he'd sign an extension with the Nuggets before the end of the season rather than risk losing money if he wanted to go to the Knicks in the offseason as a UFA. To say it was 90% likely is insanity given how Melo acted towards NY before and since being traded as well. I'd say the percentage of likelihood was a lot closer to 10 than 90. In any case, sure, if the Nuggets were able to ink him to an extension, they probably could have gotten more than the Knicks gave. But not substantially more. And in the meantime, they'd continue to be a 45 win team at its absolute ceiling, employing a bona fide sulkosaurus, heading for a first round playoff exit. Now they're a 45 win team with a much brighter future, much happier players, and much more potential to do damage in the playoffs since they're deeper and have more frontcourt size.

That's what terrified the Knicks: Seven months of foreplay going up in smoke because Denver played those 90 percent odds


and said, "Screw it, let's keep him." So why didn't the Nuggets do that? Because they're being run by a rookie general manager (Masai Ujiri) and a rookie figurehead (Josh Kroenke, the 30-year-old son of owner Stan Kroenke), neither of whom wanted to kick off their Nuggets reign by becoming the two bumbling idiots who rolled the dice on a Carmelo extension, then watched him skip off to New York for nothing.

And watched him quasi-ruin the entire 2010-2011 season instead of just half of it.

Denver needed to save face with a decent deal, which it did: Danilo Gallinari, a future No. 1 pick, a year and a half of Wilson Chandler, a giant trade exception and a severe payroll slash.

Pretty incredible, really. Knowing that Melo would only go to one team, they still got a B/B+ of a deal from that team. Thank you Mikhail Prokhorov.


One of the strangest subplots this week: Everyone rushing to pick Carmelo's game apart, especially people who rely on advanced metrics and ended up getting caught up in small-picture stuff.

Also known as people who like to use more information rather than less when evaluating something.

Carmelo has one elite skill (he rebounds extremely well for a small forward)

BWAH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. OH GOD GIVE ME A MINUTE TO CATCH MY BREATH. *pause* BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA. Oh man, you're killing me, Billy. If Carmelo has "elite" rebounding skills for a SF (which he really isn't, he's more of a combo 3/4), I'd hate to see what a guy with "average" rebounding skills plays like. Take it from any Nuggets fan- Melo's rebounding skills are somewhere between "above average" and "pretty good." It's not that he's a bad rebounder, but in Simmons' attempt to compliment Melo he's tossed out some lofty hyperbole. That's good stuff. I have no idea what the advanced metrics have to say about it but I'd be surprised if they didn't back me up.

and one transcendent skill (he's as good as anyone in the league at scoring and/or getting to the line, especially in crunch time).

On a much calmer note, I agree with this assessment.

You can absolutely, positively, unquestionably win a championship if Carmelo Anthony is your creator at the end of a basketball game.

On a basketball court played by basketball players. But here's the thing: as the Nuggets learned between 2004 and 2010, you absolutely, positively, unquestionably cannot win a championship if Carmelo Anthony is your best player. Dude took them to two playoff series wins in seven playoff appearances. Am I saying Melo sucks? Of course not. Without him, the 2004-2010 Nuggets probably only make the playoffs a couple of times (if any). And it's not like they made the conference finals in 2009 in spite of him. He was the best player on that team. But that year, that run- with a bunch of complimentary pieces playing out of their minds (Billups, a healthy Kenyon Martin, Dante fucking Jones of all people, and a healthy Chris Andersen)- was as good as they could do. And that was get within six wins of a championship. So let's not trip over ourselves trying to blow Melo. He's not a guy who's going to take you to a title. Him, plus Amare, plus a healthy CP3? Sure. But that's not what Bill is trying to say. The above sentence should say something like "You can unquestionably win a championship if Melo is your late game scoring threat and you have another superstar and some awesome glue guys positioned around him."

Now throw this in: The other players know. They know who's good. They know who's worth a damn. They know who they'd go to war with. So you can't discount (A) how well Carmelo played on the 2008 Olympic team;

Right, he stepped up on that big stage. Makes you wonder why he rarely played like that in Denver. He developed a reputation for coming up big in games on national TV (wish I had the numbers, but I know almost all his averages are up in such games over the course of his career) and in big venues (especially MSG, but also in the United Center and Staples Center as well). There are two possible explanations there: the guy just happens to find a 6th gear in big games, or, the guy only plays at 95% the rest of the time. I know which one of those I think is the case.

(B) how much the other guys respected him; and (C) how the key guys on that team were Kobe, LeBron, Wade and Carmelo. It can't be forgotten. It just can't.

Although it's probably true, I'm pretty sure most fans have forgotten that.

Neither can the fact that he nearly carried a limited Nuggets team to the Finals two years ago.

In his five previous playoff appearances before 2009, the Nuggets won seven total games. Before the 2009 playoffs the Nuggets acquired Chauncey Billups. I'm just saying.

Now throw this in: If there was ever a player who could be ignited by a great basketball city and a consistently fantastic crowd, it's Carmelo Anthony.

See above. That might mean he's a good fit for the Knicks, but it also might mean he's kind of a self-absorbed asshole.

He's been stuck in a relatively icy cruise control for two solid years, playing in a city he didn't totally love, being professional about it,


trying hard every game




... and yet, there was something detached about him.

True, and that something often resulted in him not playing hard for quarters or games at a time. I'm not trying to turn this into an "I hate Melo" post. I'm not like a bitter and scorned Cavaliers fan here. I'm just saying, the guy has some pretty big shortcomings. You can't sweep them under the rug. YOU JUST CAN'T.

No longer. I hate how he weaseled his way to the Knicks and pissed on Denver fans, but that's over. Let's look at this thing objectively: He's going to kill it with the Knicks. I'd bet anything. They haven't had someone like this since Bernard King, which is funny because I always thought Melo was Bernard 2.0.


Playing in New York isn't for everyone, but in this case, it will be the best thing that ever happened to Carmelo Anthony.

That's probably true. I'm OK with that statement. He's still a long ways from being as perfect and angelic as you're making him out to be.

I keep hearing that you can't win a title with Melo and Amare. Agreed. But you can win the title with Carmelo, Amare and Chris Paul (or Dwight Howard, or Deron Williams). In the short term, you can make some noise, rock the building and make Knicks fans forget about the 10 excruciating years they just endured. And you can scare the living hell out of the fans from the other Eastern contenders. Believe me, as a Celtics fan, I want no part of the Knicks this spring for one reason: You never want to play a playoff series in which the other team has the best guy. There's a decent chance Carmelo could just go off 1984 Bernard-style in Round 1 or Round 2.

Yeah, after all, he did it a whole one times between 2004 and 2010! He's a volcano, just ready to erupt at a moment's notice every five years or so!

What a lazy argument.

He's referring to people complaining about groups of superstars forcing their way to chosen teams, leaving the rest of the league pretty diluted. (For the record I'm not one of those people, although I kind of see where they're coming from.)

Over the past six decades, the following players pushed their way from a worse situation to a (seemingly) better one either by trade or free agency: Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson, Shaquille O'Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Rick Barry, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Bill Walton, Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, Gary Payton, Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, Clyde Drexler ... should I keep going? Now this "phenomenon" is endangering the game???

To a name, those guys pretty much acted on their own. The Miami "Big 3" obviously acted in concert. Amare, Melo, and Paul are in the process of doing so. There's nothing THAT wrong with it... but it's kind of a bitch move. And if the new CBA allows teams more flexibility to accomplish these kinds of moves, you'll probably see groups of 4 or 5 guys working together in the future. I think that's a little bit different than Shaq telling the Magic to trade him.

As Kenny Smith said last night, "If [a small-market team] builds the right pieces around the right guy, he will stay." Period. Duncan stayed in San Antonio because it built the right team around him.

Duncan stayed in San Antonio because he doesn't give a shit about endorsements or being a "global icon" or whateverthefuck. But most pro athletes do. And some of them, like Melo, also have shrill F-list celebrity wives who can't stomach the thought of living anywhere besides NYC or LA.

Stockton and Malone stayed in Utah because they had each other.

See: Duncan.

Durant will stay in Oklahoma City because of Westbrook and everyone else.

We'll see.

LeBron left Cleveland mainly because it made bad trades and signed the wrong guys.

Most oversimplified and stupid analysis of that situation I've ever read.

And Utah never would have thought it might lose Deron Williams if it hadn't screwed up the roster around him.

That's partially true, which still puts small market teams at a disadvantage. Hey, Knicks: go ahead and make 50 horrendously bad moves over the course of a decade. Eventually, a few superstars will still find their way to you and you'll be relevant again. Hey, Jazz: don't fuck up! Better not make any big mistakes (Kirilenko's contract and Okur's contract are the only two big ones that come to mind) or no more superstars for you! It's not exactly an ideal system.

Besides, why is it such a bad thing to have six or seven loaded teams and six or seven terrible ones? Oh crap, I hate seeing the Finals with all these elite players! Give me a break.

That's what fans want to see! Superteams! Let's contract 22 of them and just leave the Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Knicks, Bulls, Mavericks, ZOMBIE SONICS (best nickname ever; they can stay because of Durant), and Clippers (BILL IS A SEASON TICKET HOLDER DID YOU KNOW THAT?)! Fans in general don't care about parity, and the fans that live outside of NYC, Boston, LA, Dallas, and Chicago certainly don't care about teams in their market playing well!



Adam said...

Bill's oddsmaking is great. He says the Nuggets have a 90% chance to resign Carmelo, but in the same article acknowledges that he has been on cruise control for two years and hates Denver.

Bill likes to pretend he is so much smarter than every NBA GM by making things overly simplistic. "It's obvious guys! The Nuggets had a 90% chance to resign their best player. The NBA Common Sense GM (me) should have made them hold onto Melo. Those odds are so great even Charlie Sheen on a three day bender would have made the right call. It's like that drunk guy at the blackjack table in Vegas who takes one too many cards and screws up everybody else's hand! Even a coked out Lindsay Lohan wouldn't hit on a hard 18 when the dealer is showing a 9!!!"

Jack M said...

When I first saw the article on ESPN, I was sure that I had misread the 90%/10% thing. I'll be the first to admit that I barely follow the NBA, but even from cursory watching of SportsCenter, I don't understand how anyone could come to the conclusion that the Nuggets even had a snowball's chance at a sign-and-trade.

Bengoodfella said...

Jack, agreed. I don't think Denver had much of a chance at a sign and trade. Of course I am not as smart as Bill Simmons, because I lack the ability to completely make shit up to make myself smarter, so what do I know?

Bill's columns are now a parody of themselves. I barely even read him anymore.

Anonymous said...

Let's not pull a Rick Reilly here: Kevin Durant signed a five year extension with no opt-out which starts next season.

Jacques Strappe said...

as the Nuggets learned between 2004 and 2010, you absolutely, positively, unquestionably cannot win a championship if Carmelo Anthony is your best player. Dude took them to two playoff series wins in seven playoff appearances.

Right, exactly what the Timberwolves learned about Kevin Garnett.

So you can't discount (A) how well Carmelo played on the 2008 Olympic team

The fuck? Carmelo played terrible in the Olympics.

Well okay, maybe "terrible" would be harsh, but by his standards he wasn't that good. In '06 he played arguably the best ball on Team USA, and in '07 he was really good. The Olympics? His shooting percentage was 11th on the team(only "sharpshooter" Michael Redd was worse, and he only played garbage minutes), and he had 3 assists in 153 minutes played. His major contribution was free throw shooting. Anyone who watches the games again will see I'm right--Melo just never got it going in Beijing.

I know nobody bothers to give a damn about national team basketball, but I can't stand how often I see this crap. We're talking about a sample size of 8 games, yet NBA writers still can't be arsed to get the information correct about them. It's a pet peeve because I'm one of the few who actually follows national teams and remembers how the games went down, but because of clowns like Simmons and Kelly Dwyer at Yahoo! Sports I'm having to correct misconceptions like this all the time. It'd be better for everyone if they just refrained from saying anything about a subject when they won't put in the minimal effort to make sure they know what they're talking about.

It also exposes that these guys might never know what they're talking about if they're so blithely posting incorrect information. In the above example Simmons is even claiming authoritatively that this statement cannot be denied. Well I just denied it, ass.

Chris W said...

Look--can we all agree that Larry is just jealous because Simmons has a sweet job and Larry sells mattresses out of his basement?