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.
[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
SG: Kudos to Nick for coming up with my favorite idea of 2014
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 …
“The NBA — Our Games Don’t Take Four Freaking Hours To Play.”
“The NBA — The Sport To Watch If You’re Not A White Guy Over 50 Years Old Who Needs Help Getting An Erection.”
“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.”
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.)
Q: Is Joakim Noah the first “Point Center” in NBA history?
—Ed C., Chicago
SG: This guy (video of Bill Walton) wants a word with you.
(And really, Bill Russell was the first point center —
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?
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
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?
—Connor Harrison, Gainesville, FL
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 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.
From an eye-test standpoint, I thought George exhibited unusual confidence those first two months,
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.
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,
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.
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.
So now you have 25 percent of your team playing for new deals,
Lance Has This (25%) — I’m going mostly eye test here. Admittedly dangerous.
So, this isn’t a media-created story line just because it’s March and we’re bored.