Thursday, April 10, 2014

Guess who has some bad ideas and unfunny jokes to share? (Part 1)

Look,Chris W and Bill S agree on most things (including whether Mr. Deeds is the best Adam Sandler movie), but if there's one thing they ESPECIALLY agree on, it's that the NBA playoffs are broken.  I know how Chris would fix them: more off days between games so the teams don't get too tired.  How would Bill fix them?  He's here to tell you, in mailbag format.  (Note added after finishing this post: We don't actually get to Bill's playoff analysis this time around.  You'll have to wait until next time.  I'm sure Chris appreciates the IRONING.)

I didn’t write an NBA Bag on Thursday because I knew David Letterman was stepping down. I wrote an NBA Bag because I’ve been doing mailbags ever since I started writing this column in 1997 … and only because I loved Letterman’s “Viewer Mail” gimmick. 

Good job by Bill of making Letterman's retirement all about Bill.

So thanks for that, and thanks for everything else, David Letterman. 

Thanks for fucking nothing, Letterman.

If you hadn’t passed through my life in my formative years, I’d probably be doing something else for a living. 

And he'd only be annoying the coworkers at his shitty office job, instead of annoying everyone in America who has a brain and likes to follow sports.

And I like doing this. For the record, every NBA Bag has a 5,000-word limit, and you can submit your questions here. As always, these are actual emails from actual readers.

[Several horrible and hopefully fake letters from readers begging Bill to write a mailbag column skipped]

Q: Did you see Mark Cuban fire shots at NFL’s possibly expanding 18-game schedule? Would the NBA would ever go nuclear and attack the NFL over concussions? Ads showing NFL players laying on the field unconscious with tag lines like “The NBA, our players actually remember their careers” and “The NBA, watch the top athletes in the world — guilt free.” They could also go the political attack ad route and flash quotes from former NFL players that blamed the league for their decline in mental health. Pro leagues have playfully disparaged other sports before in promoting their own league, but would the NBA ever go this far?
—Nick, Hamilton, ONT

While this is dumb, it's surprisingly undumb relative to most of the letters Bill publishes.  As I read the first sentence, I thought the guy was going to end up having a question about whether Cuban is a pantheon-level owner or whether the NBA would ever consider going to a 162 game schedule.

SG: Kudos to Nick for coming up with my favorite idea of 2014 


— the NBA spending $25 million on attack ads specifically to wound the NFL’s credibility and give the NBA a competitive advantage. 

While I agree with the line of thinking that sports leagues don't like each other and are competing for the same pool of fans/dollars to be spent, I can't see the rich white guys who own NBA teams wanting to poke the rich white guys who own NFL teams in the eye this aggressively.  I think there's probably a rich white guy gentlemen's agreement among all these owners that while they're in competition, everyone is going to maintain civility and tact while clawing for that extra buck.

/Larry B imagines Jerry Jones and Mark Cuban shaking hands and polishing their monacles after a steak dinner in the International Space Station served by Playboy bunnies

But why stop at concussions and 18-game schedules? I’d throw in stuff like, “The NBA, Where We Don’t Replace Our Refs For 25 Percent Of The Season With Random Dudes Off The Street,” 

I can't believe I'm about to defend the NFL, but fuck it: 1) the NBA let its referees strike during the fucking playoffs in 1977; 2) if you're still complaining about the 2012 NFL referee lockout in April 2014, you're either a piece of shit Packers fan, or just a regular piece of shit, but either way, you're a piece of shit; and 3) the NBA's referees are an absolute joke compared to the NFL's, the NHL's, and MLB's umpires.  

and, “The NBA, Where Our Players Don’t End Up Committing Crimes Every Other Week.”

Only racists actually concern themselves with exact statistics showing the criminal activity of pro athletes, but suffice it to say that pros that play every sport get in plenty of trouble.  To the extent that it's a problem, it's not exactly an NFL-only problem.

Can all the Talented Weirdos Who Make Elaborately Weird YouTube Clips make attack ads and put “GRANTLAND NBA/NFL ATTACK ADS” in the subject heading so we can binge-watch them? Also, even if it’s beefing down, why can’t we go after baseball, too? What about ads pushing the NBA as America’s new pastime with messages like …

If you've ever spent time creating something because Bill Simmons asked you to, you're a sad human being.

“The NBA — Our Games Don’t Take Four Freaking Hours To Play.”

Last year, the average MLB game lasted 2:58.  The average NFL game is basically right there.  The average NBA game is somewhere between 2:20 and 2:30; same for the NHL.  The real offender in this area is college football, which is getting out of fucking hand these days.  But don't expect Bill to know how long the average MLB game takes--the four games per year he watches before the playoffs (when, yes, games get longer, as they do in every sport) are Sunday Night Baseball telecasts of Red Sox Yankees.  BOY THESE COMMERCIAL BREAKS SURE DO SEEM LONG!  What a diptard.

“The NBA — The Sport To Watch If You’re Not A White Guy Over 50 Years Old Who Needs Help Getting An Erection.”

LOL BONER PILLS ONLY OLD PEOPLE LIKE BASEBALL.  That's A+ material right there.  Bill Simmons should be kicked in the back by a horse.

“The NBA — Our Best Players Don’t Get Suspended For Using PEDs … Because We Give Them A Crazy Amount Of Heads-Up For Every Drug Test, But Still.”

That was silly!

Q: Something we’re not talking about with Miggy Cabrera’s contract extension: Mike Ilitch is 85 years old. What does he care? He’s going to be dead by the time this goes bad. So what’s the age limit for owners, so we can’t have some octogenerian shouting “YOLO” and signing another Anna Nicole Smith contract?
—Ian, New York

SG: (Cut to the 89 remaining Milwaukee Bucks fans nodding glumly.)

Herb Kohl is only 79, and was an active Congressman until 15 months ago.  I'm pretty sure he's still going strong.  But anything to let Bill remind people that he would totally make a really awesome GM who would never make any of these dumb mistakes other GMs make.

Q: Is Joakim Noah the first “Point Center” in NBA history?
—Ed C., Chicago

Fuck no he's not, you idiot.  Jesus, I bet even Bill knows that.

SG: This guy (video of Bill Walton) wants a word with you.

(And really, Bill Russell was the first point center — 

"Do you like the Red Sox like I do?  Let me tell you about Bill Russell!"

Q: On the list of fake injuries that helped a team lose games over the final stretch of the season for lottery purposes, where does Pau Gasol’s vertigo rank?
—Ethan, Goleta

The Lakers are so irrelevant this year I actually hadn't heard about this yet.  After some brief research, I see that he took an ambulance to the hospital during halftime of a game in Orlando a couple weeks back.  That's scary stuff, and make it 99% likely that the injury, at least initially, was anything but fake.  Maybe the Lakers are now playing it up to keep Gasol out, but it's not like they were doing that great with him in the lineup anyways.  But Bill is one of these mouthbreathers who thinks that every team that isn't in a playoff spot is obviously tanking, or should be, or something dumb like that, so let's get his #hottaek on it.

SG: Come on, that’s a real injury! Who would ever make up “vertigo” as a reason to sit your best player? Even Sam Hinkie wouldn’t have thought of that. You should look at this another way:  It’s a fact that Kobe Bryant 

Shot 6 for 24 in a game 7!  And his team won!  You believe that shit?????

could have returned five or six weeks ago, only the Lakers decided they’d be better off holding him out until next season — even if it meant costing him about 600 points that he needs toward Kareem’s scoring record. 

That is a "fact," if your definition of fact is "something Bill Simmons made up because it helps him drive an inane narrative."

You gotta love the NBA, a league with a lottery system so screwed up that even Kobe — the most maniacally competitive player since Jordan — looks at the big picture and says, “You’re right, I shouldn’t play.” Hold this thought for later.

Oh I will, you dumbfuck.  I will.

Q: Have we ever seen a “superstar” player have his on-court production affected by his off-court antics more negatively than Paul George, at least in this era? 


Ever since the stripper story (in February) and the recent “catfish” incident (in March) became public stories, his numbers and impact for Indiana dipped drastically. 

George before the stripper story broke on February 7: 22.6 points on 44% FGs, 6.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 steals, 2.8 turnovers.  Since February 7: 20.3 points on 40% FGs, 7.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 2.0 steals, 2.8 turnovers.  HOLY SHIT HE'S COMPLETELY GONE OFF THE RAILS.  BILL PUBLISH MY LETTER PLEASE.

It’s not the Paul George we saw in the first half of the season, not the top 3 MVP candidate. I know this stuff is sensitive, but we can’t ignore it when evaluating a slumping Indiana.
—Connor Harrison, Gainesville, FL

Connor: you are a douchenozzle.

SG: I’m answering only because my readers keep asking if the off-court stuff affected George (and, by extension, the Pacers). He’s also acknowledged this stuff publicly, which makes it fair game. But you know what really happened? I think he just regressed back to being a slightly less efficient version of Paul George.
Wow.  What?  How am I supposed to respond to that?  He's totally right.  Of course, now he'll spend like 1000 words being a huge asshole about it, and drawing a bunch of incorrect intermediate conclusions, so we still have plenty to go over here.

George’s 19 playoff games last spring: 19.2 PPG, 43% FG, 33% 3FG, 73% FT, 14.6 FGA, 5.5 3FGA, and 6.7 FTA . Slightly fewer 3s, got to the line twice as much, everything else was on brand.
George’s 2013 hot streak (October 29 through December 31, 30 games): 23.8 PPG, 47% FG, 40% 3FG, 86% FT, 17.3 FGA, 6.6 3FGA, 5.8 FTA. And it happened: We thought, PAUL GEORGE IS MAKING THE LEAP!!!!!!

George’s shooting slump (January 25 through March 31, 33 games): 19.2 PPG, 37% FG, 32% 3FG, 87% FT, 16.5 FGA, 5.8 3FGA, 5.8 FTA. Even after you make the “extra shots” and “once he made the leap, every defense concentrated on stopping him” excuses, that’s a pretty dramatic dip from a two-month hot streak. Maybe he caught fire, drifted away from who he was and is, predictably cooled off … and now he doesn’t know what he is. If you’re not consistent enough to carry a superstar’s burden offensively, but you’re eminently overqualified to be a role player, then what are you? How do you handle it? He seems trapped between those two worlds right now.

I am OK with all of this.  I think what happened was he shot lights out for half a season, and now he's shooting much worse.  This happens even with the best basketball players in the world.  It's fucking hard to score with another world class athlete who's the same size as you waiving his hands in your face and bumping you in the ribs with his elbows.

From an eye-test standpoint, I thought George exhibited unusual confidence those first two months, 

Here comes Dr. Internet, ready to make a diagnosis.

taking and making hands-in-the-face, off-balance 3s right out of the Durant/Carmelo/T-Mac/Old-School Vince superstar playbook. But are we sure that’s who he is? What if he’s just an incredible athlete, an elite defender, an above-average 3-point shooter, an elite competitor, someone who isn’t remotely afraid of LeBron … and a streaky shooter who has his good stretches and his bad ones? 

This is not a 30 For 30 intro, no matter how much Bill wishes every aspect of his career could be as heralded as (his minimal contribution to) that one.

What if there’s still another offensive leap for the 23-year-old George to make, only he’s one or two seasons away from making it? What does that mean for the Pacers in the short term?


Remember, he’s also playing without a slash-and-kick creator, and he’s playing for a contender that deliberately slows games down, limits possessions and relies on defense. Do I wish he went to the rack more over settling for jumpers? Absolutely. 


Young LeBron went to the line 10-plus times a game. Same for Young Wade, In-His-Prime Kobe, Young T-Mac (9.7 FGA in 2003) and Durant right now. George’s closest style dopplegänger is T-Mac, also a streaky scorer, but a more talented offensive player who got to the line whenever he wanted. George isn’t there yet. 

Yeah, I like George just fine, but he doesn't stack up to T-Mac yet.  

He’s a work in progress. And lately, he’s fallen into some bad habits — see Zach Lowe’s Indiana piece today — 

See the thing written by the guy on my staff whose head isn't in his ass--

that have undeniably stilted his progress. The problem for Indiana is that Paul George is the guy from 10/29/13 to 12/31/13, but he’s also the guy from 1/25/14 to 3/31/14. 

That's deep, man.  That's really insightful.  Thank you.

They’re living in the same body. He’s not a finished product yet.

You already said that.  But congratulations on not being too offensively wrong about any of that.

Q: Remember when the Celts were humming along towards a 2011 title run until a trade deadline deal sent Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and a pair of underwear? And how it made sense on paper but destroyed Boston’s team chemistry, killed Ubuntu, 

MUCH HAD BEEN MADE of Ubuntu at that point.  I agree.  Much had been made.

and shipped Rondo’s best friend all at the same time? Well remember when the Pacers were humming along towards a 2011 title run until a trade deadline deal sent Danny Granger to the Philadelphia 76ers for Evan Turner and a pair of underwear? What say you Sports Czar and King of body language?
—Mike, Chicago

SG: If I could create a pie chart of percentages explaining Indy’s pseudo-collapse, here’s what it would look like.


The Collective Slump (10%) — When’s the last time you watched anyone on the Pacers and said, “That guy’s playing great!” They’ve looked broken offensively for two solid months, for all the nuts-and-bolts reasons that Zach laid out today. 

Again, I direct you to the work of my colleague, who unlike me, is not a fucking moron.

Identity Loss (25%) — Their play tailed off because they stopped pounding the ball inside, their defense slipped, their ball movement effectively disappeared, and they don’t get nearly enough easy baskets. 

Here come the anecdotes and comically poor analytical skills!

And also — the concept of “handling success and being out front the right way” is a great one. Wasn’t that what derailed the mid-2000s Pistons? 


They won in 2004 and made the 2005 Finals because of defense, teamwork and consistency. When the ’06 Pistons ripped off that 37-5 start and sent four players to the All-Star Game, it was the worst thing that happened to them. 


They arrogantly developed an on/off switch that doomed them. 

That did not happen.  They won 64 games (a piddling 27-13 after that 37-5 start) and lost in 6 in the conference finals to a Miami team with one of the 20 best SGs of all time entering his prime, and one of the 5 best Cs of all time on the tail end of his.  The best player the Pistons had to counteract Wade and Shaq was, geez, I don't know, Rip Hamilton, one of the 30 best SGs of the 2000s?  Chauncey Billups, one of the 20 best PGs of the 2000s?  The 2005-06 Pistons were awesome.  The 2005-06 Heat had two players way better than anyone Detroit had, and outlasted them in a series.  That's all there is to it.  If you believe that the fact that four Pistons went to the ASG had anything to do with that outcome, please stick your head in the nearest oven and turn on the gas.

Could that be happening here?

No.  Nice tabloid-style phrasing, though.  "IS OBAMA A SPACE ALIEN FROM KENYA?????"  It's not libel if you use a question mark!  (Note: I understand that talking about a team developing a figurative on-off switch would not be libelous.  Just let me me make my bad jokes in peace.)

The Chemistry Thing (40%) — I’m the same guy who wrote a 700-page NBA book about the secret of basketball not having anything to do with basketball. 

Quasi-semi-Klosterman-esque.  Good decision, Bill.  Try to confuse everyone into thinking you're smart.  It's your best bet.

So, yeah, I can’t help overanalyzing Indiana’s chemistry meltdown. 

Because I actually know exactly fuckall about sports, and it's more fun to come up with bizarre, worthless and unproveable theories than to do all that messy "work" that people like Zach Lowe do!

Heading into the 2013-14 season, the Pacers were calibrated a certain way — grit and grind, defense first, stats don’t matter, the team is bigger than one person. 

Take it one game at a time.  Play Pacer basketball.  Practice like you play, play like you practice.  All of these are very meaningful things.

Then they ripped off that early hot streak. Then George got some early MVP buzz. Then all the “THEY CAN BEAT MIAMI!” stuff started. Then the media started preaching the genius of Roy Hibbert’s verticality and pushing for Lance Stephenson to make the All-Star team. Then they signed Andrew Bynum (not exactly Gandhi in the clubhouse) and flipped Danny Granger (a beloved teammate) for Evan Turner (a 2014 free agent who hasn’t fit in).

They added a good player and a guy who has in the past been a great player, giving up only a guy who isn't a good player right now.  Can you prove that that's NOT the cause of their slump?

So now you have 25 percent of your team playing for new deals, 

Funny how this is only potentially problematic when the team is losing.  When the team is winning, it's a brilliant idea to have expiring contract guys around, because they play their hearts out.  Funny that.  Funny funny that.

a star who’s getting prematurely compared to LeBron and Durant, a defensive anchor who thinks he’s Bill Russell, Lance thinking he’s an All-Star headed for a meaty extension, and a subtle behind-the-scenes chemistry downgrade from Granger to Turner/Bynum. 

Sure, their best player is playing much worse, as are their role players.  But can't we blame this on Evan Turner and Andrew Bynum (who is, of course, hurt and has been for several weeks)?  WE SURE CAN!

And as soon as things started going south a little, shit drifted out into the public. Larry Bird calling out Frank Vogel. Hibbert and George arguing in front of reporters. All of Hibbert’s quotes. Teammates arguing on the bench during games. West saying what he said. That’s the sign of real dysfunction.

Until they start winning, and then all those things are just great ways of everyone keeping everyone else accountable, and keeping the focus on the team.  Sportswriters are the stupidest fucking people alive.

Lance Has This (25%) — I’m going mostly eye test here. Admittedly dangerous. 

I deleted about five paragraphs that were just too fucking dumb to subject anyone else to.  You're welcome.

So, this isn’t a media-created story line just because it’s March and we’re bored. 

First of all, it's April.  Second of all, even allowing for that error, yes, that is exactly what this is.  You could not have been more incorrect about what this is not.  

Two months ago, I couldn’t imagine there not being a Round 3 Miami-Indiana slugfest without a major injury intervening. Now? I could absolutely see Brooklyn or Chicago toppling Indy in a Round 2 rock fight. It’s in play. Stay tuned.

This is a guy who has diligently honed a system for gambling on NFL games for the past 10 years, and who updates said system with all the new information he acquires every single year.  He loves football, loves gambling, and has enough free time on his hands to study both extensively.  And yet, he's still significantly worse at picking against the spread than a coin.  Be sure to keep that in mind anytime you're reading any prediction he's written about anything.

More next week.


Chris W said...

I would say something mean spirited in response to your unprovoked attack but I will turn the other cheek because--like the Colorado Rockies's entire organization--I am ultra-ultra christian and that is the single defining characteristic about me

Anon said...

It's Masters week. How I hate Masters week. Every year I force myself to hate read the annual "The Adventures of Rick 'The Inexplicably Fucking Famous' Reilly at the Masters" column. This year we learn that apparently gatherings of the rich and famous feature bathroom attendants who practically wipe your ass for you.

Fuck the Masters. Fuck Rick Reilly. Fuck his stupid alliterative name.

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