A shout out to the Anonymous commenter from last post who mentioned the epidemic of "[X] SENT ME HERE" YouTube comments. Holy balls those are annoying. People who leave those should be sealed inside barrels and thrown over Niagara Falls.
GROUP C: "Only If They Asked to Leave"
13. Tim Duncan
The one perpetual flaw with the Trade Value concept:
San Antonio would never trade Duncan … but it also wouldn't make any sense for, say, Portland to trade LaMarcus Aldridge for him.
If the Spurs lose to the Warriors and the Blazers make that offer, I think the Spurs might take it. How many Knicks fans thought Ewing would never be traded? How many Rockets fans thought Olajuwon would never be traded? The Spurs might want to shake things up and try to extend their window while Parker is still relatively young. Before last year they hadn't been to the conference finals since 2008. They've been awesome with this core for a long time, for sure, but 37 year old Duncan for 27 year old Aldridge sounds doable to me if there's no title this June. (Of course the Blazers would never do this.)
We're splitting the difference and sticking Duncan here. I still have Duncan ranked ahead of Kobe as the greatest player of their generation,
No bias there.
if only because everyone forgets just how difficult Kobe was from 2002 through 2007
Ooh, he was so "difficult." Chris W pointed out a bunch of racially loaded language Bill used in describing Serge Ibaka ("a freak athlete with a little 'dark alley' in him" ... "a starter on the 'Guys Who Make You Look Over Your Shoulder At All Times' All-Stars"). If I were more of a race-baiter I'd say this Kobe comment is more of the same. Not sure if Bill meant to walk down that road, but I will happily point out that generally, to the media, when a black player is an asshole it's because he's an asshole but when a white player is an asshole it's because he wants to win too much. Except for me (spoiler alert, I'm white) when I played basketball and baseball growing up. I was an asshole then because I was mad about not being good, and because I was an asshole.
(an easy-to-forget story line that gets revived in Phil Jackson's insightful memoir, Eleven Rings).
Jackson's ability to deal with huge egos is well documented, and also really funny given his own continent-sized ego.
Even if I've sung Duncan's praises a kajillion times, most notably in this 2007 column
Link: removed. Thanks, Blogger.
and in my basketball book, please remember the following things:
• He's the greatest power forward of all time. He's also one of the greatest teammates ever. That's why the Spurs never would have discussed trading him, not even internally after about 20 drinks, at any point since 1997.
I maintain that it wouldn't be that shocking to see them trade him for someone as good as Aldridge this offseason, if they lose to the Warriors. Just because I know you care, this Nuggets fan is rooting for the meteor in that series.
• He won four titles, two when he was the only All-Star. He's been the best player on every title team.
Howard Bryant reminds you that Thurman Munson was NOT the leader of or best player on the '77 and '78 Yankees WS-winning teams, because that would diminish Jeter's legacy by 0.0000000001%.
• Kareem won the Finals MVP award in 1971 and 1985. I always thought that was incredible. Fourteen years apart? Well, Duncan has a chance to do it this spring — even if he hasn't exactly seized control of the Warriors series so far. He won the 1999 Finals MVP, but a 2013 Finals MVP would complete "The Kareem." And if it happens, I can promise you one thing — in 2038, he won't be belly-flopping into a pool on a reality-TV show.
Take that, guy who is still famous and on TV at age 66! I know Diving With The Stars or whatever it's called is a corny show, but should Kareem be embarrassed about being on it? He's a world class athlete, he probably loved learning a new sport.
Last note: I don't think San Antonio will get past this suddenly petrifying Warriors team unless Duncan kicks it up a notch and becomes the best player in the series. The Spurs can't win with 20-and-10 Duncan; they need 27-and-15 Duncan. After all these years, does Tim Duncan have one last old-school throwback playoff performance lurking inside him?
Like I said, go meteor.
12. Dirk Nowitzki
One of my favorite NBA lists …
That's the 15-Year Club — the only seven NBA players who spent their entire careers with the same franchise, played at least 15 seasons AND won at least one title.
Why isn't Hakeem on that list? He'll never be traded!
You don't just stumble onto that list — all seven are Hall of Famers, with 21 rings among them. Think about what the list means: excellence, durability, longevity, loyalty, championships … it's your best-case scenario for a basketball career, basically.
Thank you for spoon-feeding that to us.
And you need a little luck along the way. I don't know how Schayes and Greer played that long with all the bad sneakers, bad food, bad medical care, scary travel, second-hand smoke and everything else that should have stopped them back then. Havlicek had a Secretariat-size heart
Isn't that usually an extremely dangerous condition? Good for him for overcoming it.
and superhuman stamina. Duncan nearly signed with Orlando.
And then they ended up with T-Mac that offseason instead, and would end up unloading his contract in exchange for Stevie Franchise as he was in the middle of his meltdown. Roll the laugh track.
Kobe's Lakers career nearly fell apart twice.
HE WAS SO UPPITY
Pierce was nearly traded 935 times. Dirk lucked out with a wealthy owner who always spent enough money to compete (so he never had to pull a KG), as well as one sizable break: During the summer of '04, Dallas was the consensus favorite in the Shaq Sweepstakes when Kobe forced the Lakers to trade Shaq the Lakers decided to trade Shaq, only Mark Cuban (astutely, as it turned out) made Dirk untouchable. At the time, that decision was a much bigger deal than anyone remembers now.
ONLY A BASKETBALL VP OF COMMON BASKETBALL SENSE LIKE ME REMEMBERS CORRECTLY.
A rejuvenated, pissed-off Shaq guaranteed you one title, maybe even two.
Good thing the Mavs stumbled into that title as the fifth or sixth best team in the league seven seasons down the line, or that decision would have been really fucking dumb.
We all knew it. (As it turned out, Miami won in 2006, and probably would have won the previous year had Dwyane Wade not gotten injured.) When the Lakers could only get Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant's contract for him, I ended up creating the Vengeance Scale to figure out exactly where Angry Shaq ranked among the most vengeful people ever, ultimately assigning him an 8.7
Who or what else is he going to place on this dumb scale as a reference point? I hope you guessed "long-dead actor."
(just behind Charles Bronson in every Death Wishmovie).
Sports = movies!
And yeah, I ridiculed the Mavericks for keeping Dirk over dealing him for Shaq, too, even calling Dirk "the German Bob McAdoo" (not a compliment). I never thought you could build a championship team around Dirk's offense.
And as it turns out, you almost couldn't.
A lot of people felt that way. Looking back, resisting that enticing Shaq trade was probably Cuban's third-greatest NBA moment,
Passing up winning titles with Shaq? In the sense that it vindicated his decision to stick with a career Maverick, I suppose it was pretty great in hindsight as of July 2011. Prior to that, he probably considered it one of his dumbest moments. Bill is probably just fawning over Cuban for turning down the trade because a Dirk/Kobe Lakers team would have won 5+ titles in the last decade.
trailing the time he stared down David Stern after Game 5 of the 2006 Finals, and, of course, this picture.
I almost always delete Bill's embedded videos/pictures. But not that one. Pretty fantastic.
What happens with Dirk going forward?
HOW WILL WE LOOK BACK ON THIS MOMENT IN TEN YEARS?
Kobe, Pierce and Dirk have one thing in common: They don't have to chase a title like Karl Malone did. Dirk controls his own destiny; if he wants to retire in Dallas, Cuban would be delighted. Kobe probably controls his own destiny, even if there's increasing buzz (no, really) that the Lakers would amnesty him if it guaranteed them Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.
Bill was probably one of those people who, back in 2004, was like KOBE TO THE CLIPPERS. IT'S A DONE DEAL.
11. Blake Griffin
After winning three NCAA titles at UCLA, Sidney Wicks became memorable as an NBA player for four reasons: Portland drafted him no. 2 overall, then Wicks slowly morphed into the first we-used-to-love-him-now-we-hate-him Blazer (the first of many); along with Curtis Rowe and John Y. Brown, he's widely credited in Boston for briefly murdering Celtic Pride and nearly causing Red Auerbach to jump to the Knicks;
HOW DAY-UH HE ONLY AVERAGE 15 AND 10 FO-AH A TEAM THAT DIDN'T WIN A TITLE! RUINING CELTIC PRIDE IS HIS GREATEST CRIME! HE IS NAWT LIKE HAVLICEK OR BIRD OR COUSY OR MCHALE! BOOOOOO! I've said this recently, but I'll say it again: Boston fans react to spurnings, real (Ray Allen) or perceived (Wicks) like 15 year old girls react to being dumped.
and he had his butt famously kicked by Calvin Murphy, a legendary NBA fight because Wicks was ONE FOOT TALLER than him.
NAWT SOUTHIE TOUGH!
I left this reason out: My mom thought Wicks was incredibly handsome and gushed that he looked like a black Omar Sharif. That I remember this all these years later tells you exactly how frightened I was that my least-favorite Celtic might become my stepfather someday.
I'm not touching that one.
But here's why Sidney Wicks stands out for NBA/history reasons …
He averaged 24.5 points as a rookie, then saw his scoring average drop every year for the next nine years until he retired. Do you realize how hard that is? You have to willingly become 7 percent worse every year for your entire career — it's like intentional atrophy.
I'm sure it was 100% a conscious decision on his part. He absolutely did it on purpose.
I don't know whether he's the Dave Stapleton of basketball, or Dave Stapleton was the Sidney Wicks of baseball. But that brings us to Blake Griffin … 24 years old, marketable, likable, wildly entertaining, one of the best five forwards in basketball, and one of the best in-game dunkers who ever lived. Should we be concerned by this Wicksian career arc?
Year 1: DNP (knee surgery)
Year 2: 22.5 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 3.8 APG, 51% FG, 64% FT, 16.8 FGA, 8.5 FTA, 1.3 stocks, 21.9 PER
Year 3: 20.7 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 3.2 APG, 55% FG, 52% FT, 15.5 FGA, 7.1 FTA, 1.5 stocks, 23.4 PER
Year 4: 18.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 3.7 APG, 54% FG, 66% FT, 13.4 FGA, 5.3 FTA, 1.8 stocks, 22.4 PER
Yeeeeesh. What happened to his rebounding? (Great question.)
Conveniently omitted from those stat lines: minutes per game. Year 2: 38.0; Year 3: 36.2; Year 4: 32.5.
Why isn't he getting to the line as much? (No clear answer.)
Conveniently omitted from those stat lines: minutes per game.
Is he shooting more jumpers? (Quick look at HoopData says … nope.)
Probably not, considering his FG% is holding steady. Also, conveniently omitted from those stat lines: minutes per game.
Did he lose shots to Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford these past two years? (Probably.)
And should we be worried that bigger power forwards can bully him down low, the way his archnemesis Z-Bo did in Round 1? (In all caps: YES.)
Z-Bo is really, really good. Griffin's defense kind of sucks, but I'm not sure how much we're supposed to "worry about it." He's really good. He's not perfect.
What about Kirk Goldsberry breaking down Blake's offensive game by saying, "He's obviously great near the basket, but he's below-average everywhere else"? (A big fat YES.)
MY GOD LOOK AT HIS POINTS PER GAME, THEY'RE DOWN 20% SINCE 2010-2011. IT'S ALMOST LIKE HIS MINUTES PER GAME AND FIELD GOAL ATTEMPTS PER GAME HAVE DECLINED A ROUGHLY EQUIVALENT AMOUNT SINCE THEN.
On the flip side — that's what we love about the guy. I have probably watched him in person 55 times at this point; he's the most fearless basketball player I've ever seen.
You watch Blake Griffin the same way parents watch their 9-month-old child crawling around a house that hasn't been childproofed; you never feel safe, not for a second. Nobody wants anything to happen to Blake. That feeling lingers over the air in every Clippers game, especially because it's the Clippers, the most jinxed franchise in sports (see my 2009 "Curse of the Sacred Buffalo").
We went over this last post.
Stripping aside all the fanboy stuff,
Something Bill excels at.
you're getting an 18-8 every night from someone who plays one end of the floor and treats every game like he's an X Games contestant. That's not a superstar. That's a star. Big difference.
I agree-why is he #11 on this list? Why is he ahead of Kevin Love, Chris Bosh and Al Horford? Because DUNKZ?
We always judged Blake on his preposterous potential — well, what happens if he already reached it?
I think he probably has, other than getting a little better at hitting midrange jumpers. He's still very good, and I don't want to talk out of both sides of my mouth and defend Griffin while also tearing him down, but that's the position Bill and his inability to be anything but hyperbolic (EVERYTHING IS EITHER SEVERELY OVERRATED OR SEVERELY UNDERRATED OR ON THE WAY TO BEING ONE OR THE OTHER) have put me in.
His outside shot hasn't improved in three years; opponents beg him to shoot it (especially in the playoffs). He can't affect games defensively with his athleticism like, say, Shawn Kemp in the mid-'90s. He isn't a good enough rebounder right now. He isn't big enough to be your small-ball 5, and he's not strong enough to handle bigger power forwards like Duncan and Z-Bo. He thrives in up-and-down, ABA-type games, but as soon as those games slow down (especially late), so does his effectiveness. And he's a never-ending injury risk because he plays so recklessly.
Which is the biggest knock on Love (not the recklessness, but the fragility), and in my moderately informed opinion Love is a better player. But I guess Griffin goes this high because of.... again, DUNKZ? Wait, no, just figured it out. It's because Bill is a Clippers STH, and sees Griffin in person all the time. Since we're talking about a non-Celtic, I almost forgot about how staggeringly bad bill is at objectivity for a second there.
And look, we're edging into the top 10 here. We're putting up the Superstar Rope in front of the Trade Value nightclub right now. Blake Griffin isn't good enough yet. You could rank him higher because he's the most popular Clipper ever,
Watch out, Danny Manning!
someone who earns his max contract from a popularity/interest/star power standpoint. And you could rank him lower because he's just not that valuable yet, and because his icy relationship with Chris Paul — if any coach who's even remotely competent the next coach can't heal it —
Second typo that could have been fixed by rudimentary editing in this segment (I deleted the other one, in the Duncan section). STET AWL CHANGES. STET AWL CHANGES.
is straying into "Him or Me" territory. We're getting there (as covered in Part 2 of last Friday's column). So we're splitting the difference and sticking him here.
Chris Paul is a crybaby, a serial flopper and a shithead. I hope the Lakers sign him and re-sign Howard. Watching those two fall short of impossibly high expectations every season through 2018 would be a delight.