Monday, July 28, 2014

I'm sorry I've said many times that Bill knows the NBA, I was completely wrong (part 1)

Here's Bill's ode to Carmelo Anthony, penned shortly after Melo re-upped with the Knicks. Full disclosure: I am a Nuggets fan, and definitely hold a small grudge against Carmelo for the way he demanded the trade that sent him out of town. (I say small grudge, because three years later, the anger I initially felt is heavily tempered by the fact that the Nuggets probably won that trade.  At the very least it's quasi-semi-even-ish.)  Anyways, in case you didn't know it, Bill is a big Carmelo fan.  I'm not sure why--maybe he saw Darko and Melo walking down a hallway a few months before the 2003 draft, decided Darko was a sure bust and Melo was a sure 25,000+ point scorer, and is still riding high on that prediction.  If you have a brain, you can look at what Melo has accomplished in the NBA: tons of points, not enough anything else (although to his credit, his assist and rebounding percentages have improved ever so slightly in New York; he's also maintained his true shooting percentage despite an increased usage rate), and probably most importantly, a terrible playoff record.  You can then conclude that Melo is a good player who isn't capable of winning a championship without help from some other stars.  Bill, unsurprisingly, does not take this route.

I'm not trying to spout lava-hot taeks along the lines of WINNING IS ALL THAT MATTERS IN THE NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION JUST ASK MIKEL JORDAN QED.  But moreso than in the NFL, NHL or MLB, a star player needs to prove his worth by doing well in the postseason.  It's up to him to carry his team, because he can carry it, in a way that no other major sport athlete can.  Quarterbacks and goalies CAN have huge impacts, but those don't measure up to the impact an NBA star SHOULD have on nearly every playoff series in which they participate.  Sure, a goalie can steal a couple game or even a series; but no goalie, not even the best of the best, is going to be able to do that year in and year out for the entire playoff stretch.  Same for QBs.  But an NBA superstar who is capable of leading a team to a championship should almost always be "on" in the playoffs.

So how has Melo been in April and May, eleven years into his career?  Well, before looking at that, let's at least give him credit for having BEEN to the playoffs ten of eleven possible times.  And the Knicks missing the party this past season is hardly Melo's fault, after he put up 10.7 win shares and 27/8/3 while shooting 45%/40%/85%.  But that's pretty much where the compliments can stop.  Melo has gotten his teams out of the first round just twice in his ten playoff appearances--to the conference finals on a stacked Denver team in 2009, and to the second round in 2013 on a not particularly stacked Knicks team.  That's not a WINNING WINNER in my book.

Eight out of ten times, it's been one series and done for Melo's teams--and sometimes with him playing like garbage.  Most of his career averages are roughly equivalent in the regular season and in the playoffs, except for one very important one: his FG% drops from 45.5 to 41.7, and his TS% drops from 54.7 to 51.1.  Other stars--both current stars and retired stars he's often compared to, like Bernard King and Alex English--don't have this problem.  As for the good performance/bad performance divide, he was an absolute mess in the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2011 playoffs.  Three of those were tough matchups (top seeded Timberwolves in 2004 while he was a rookie, eventual champ Spurs in 2005, and eventual conference champ Lakers in 2008), but you'd think he would have shown up for ONE of those series, rather than average 19 points while shooting well under 40% and winning just a single game in all three series combined.  Two more of those bad performances came against less tough matchups (the mediocre 2006 Clippers and aging 2011 Celtics) and he couldn't hit the ocean from the beach against either, shooting 33% and 38% respectively.  Put a different way, in ten career playoff appearances, a guy who is a sure thing to finish his career in the league's all time top 25 in points, and has a good shot at the top 10, has shown up and played well during the playoffs in just half of his career appearances.  In just those five good performances, he has won three total series (two in 2009, one in 2013) and has guided his teams to a 20-24 record.  In the GOOD performances.  In the bad performances, his teams are a combined 2-20.

I think that's more than enough prologue.  I wanted to lay that out there because I'll be referencing those numbers throughout this series of posts.  If you tl;dr'ed over those last three paragraphs, which is fine (you short attention span having cretin), all you need to know is this: Melo is an awesome scorer, but he has a shitty playoff record that does not befit his reputation as a star, and Bill thinks you can win a title if Melo is your best player, which is fucking idiotic. No, really, he thinks that.  Here:

This wasn’t one of our happier years at the “You Can Absolutely Win a Title If Carmelo Anthony Is Your Best Player” Fan Club headquarters. 

Like I said.  With just two exceptions (the 2004 Pistons and the 2011 Mavericks), in order to win a title in the past 20ish (actually 23) years, you've needed to have one of these guys on your team: Jordan, Olajuwon, Duncan, Kobe, Shaq, KG, LeBron.  If you didn't have one of those guys, your title chances were sparse.  They've been hogging all the titles since before the internet existed.  Look at the names who aren't on that list--Malone, Stockton, Ewing, Durant.  But at least each of those I just named have played for a title.  Melo hasn't even done that.  And somehow you "absolutely" can win a title with him as your best player?  Particularly now that he's on the wrong side of 30?  Go fuck yourself.

Our man missed the 2014 playoffs in the rancid Eastern Conference, 

All it took to make the playoffs in the east last season was going 38-44.  In a division where the other four teams besides the Knicks were a combined 76 games below .500, the Knicks couldn't pull that off.

then received a rude comeuppance from his new Knicks boss, Phil Jackson, who lobbied him publicly to stick around at a discount price. 

What does Phil Jackson know about putting together a winning team?  Obviously giving Melo a max extension and continuing to surround him with mediocre teammates is the fast track to titletown.

The Bulls couldn’t carve out enough cap space for him. 

Slash didn't want to.

The Lakers couldn’t offer a good enough supporting cast. 

Fortunately he'll still have Andrea Bargnani and Iman Shumpert around next year!

The Rockets never gained momentum, for whatever reason. 

Because they already have James Harden filling the "scores a lot, not great at anything else, you probably don't want him to be your best player" role, and filling it better than Anthony does in New York.

Carmelo ended up re-signing for $122 million for five years, pretending that was the plan all along … even though it wasn’t.

Based on the circumstances that brought him to NYC, i.e., he demanded a trade there because his wife told him to demand a trade there, I wouldn't be too surprised if that was the plan all along.

You know what really shocked me? Hearing Knicks fans and Lakers fans wonder whether it was a smart idea to splurge on Carmelo at all. Where are you REALLY going if he’s your best player?, they kept asking. 

The answer is in those three paragraphs at the top of the post.  You're going to the second round, if you're really lucky and everything comes together, and otherwise you're going to the golf course.

Take my friend Lewis, a lifelong Southern California guy, one of those complicated superfans who’s nutty enough to grow a beard for the entire NHL playoffs, only he’s rational enough to freak out over Kobe’s cap-crippling two-year extension, but he’s also irrational enough to still believe the Lakers could eventually sign Kevin Love AND Kevin Durant. You can always count on him for a rationally irrational reaction, if that makes sense.

It doesn't, because you're a god-fucking-awful writer who learned from another mostly god-fucking-awful writer (Klosterman) that it's useful to readers to describe people/things with contradicting terms and then just say "if that makes sense" and move on.  Sounds to me like Lewis is a non-complicated fan.  He likes his teams and is optimistic about them, but also acknowledges when they do stupid stuff.

When news broke two weekends ago that the Lakers had become serious Carmelo contenders, I couldn’t wait for Lewis’s reaction. 

We're all just as fascinated by your friends as you are, definitely.

After all, he reacted to last March’s Marian Gaborik trade as if his Kings had just acquired Gretzky again — I figured Carmelo would rank highly on the Gaborik Reaction Scale. 

Turns out, Lewis isn't a fucking dunce.

Instead, here’s the email exchange we had.


Me: Are u officially in Carmelo mode?
Lewis: God no. Hope he goes to the Knicks.

Isn't this what you want from your sportswriters, everyone?  Word for word transcriptions of completely unremarkable emails containing no original or entertaining ideas about stuff happening in the world of sports?

Wait a second … my rationally irrational Lakers buddy didn’t want Carmelo?

SURE LOOKS THAT WAY.  Holy shit, this is horrendous and we're not even halfway through my first post about it, which will probably be one of four or five by the time I'm done.

Me: You don’t mean that.
Lewis: It’s a bandaid on a broken arm. It locks them up with no flexibility for two years until Kobe goes.

Why is Lewis friends with Bill?  He's too smart for that.

He didn’t want Carmelo Anthony??? On the Lakers???


I surfed a few Lakers blogs and message boards and found similar ambivalence. Some fans wanted him, others didn’t understand the point. Many felt like the rationally irrational Lewis — they wanted the Lakers to land a top-five lottery pick (if it’s lower than that, it goes to Phoenix), wipe Nash’s expiring contract off their cap, then make a run at the Kevins (Love in 2015, Durant in 2016). 

They'd rather take that very sensible path, than sign a guy who hasn't won shit in his career, plays the same kind of game Kobe does, and is on the wrong side of 30?  Those lunatics!

That’s a smart plan, except (a) they could easily stink and STILL lose that 2015 lottery pick, 

Definitely a reason not to tank.  Like Bill always says: you never want to tank in the NBA, you always want to be mediocre.  Definitely don't do what you can to win the lottery, because it's way too risky to try that.

(b) Love will probably get traded this season (and might like his new team), 

I "love" (lol!) the spin here.  Love is a free agent after this season, which is why Laker fans are hoping their team can sign him.  Bill's counterargument: 1) Love will probably get traded this season, which has nearly fuck-all to do with his impending offseason, and 2) assuming he does get traded, which isn't a certainty, he might want to sign an extension with his new team.  GAME, SET, MATCH.  NICE TRY, DUMMIES.  YOUR PLAN HAS BEEN POTENTIALLY MAYBE RUINED.

(c) nobody knows what Durant wants to do, 

Somehow dumber than the Love analysis.

and (d) nobody knows if the post–Dr. Buss Lakers are still a destination franchise.

Yeah, who would want to go play for the Lakers anymore?  Now that they've moved to Fargo, forfeited all their championships and history, and are owned by a mill worker who is forced to pay them their salaries in grain rather than dollars, let's face facts: it's over for that so-called "franchise."

What a fucking diptard.

And it’s not like the Lakers are loaded with assets; they have Julius Randle, the promise of future cap space, the allure of Los Angeles and that’s about it. 


They’re owned by Jimmy Boy Buss. They owe Kobe $23.5 million this season and $25 million next season — nearly 40 percent of their cap — without even knowing if he can play at a high level anymore. 

Say he can't.  What's the consequence to a 2015 free agent?  You spend one season on a team that features an HOFer in his final season, and then you free up some cap room to go after more good players in the summer of 2016.  What a frightening prospect.  Clearly, signing 30 year old Carmelo is a much better idea.

The best asset on that side of Staples Center is probably Ramona Shelburne’s reporting for; she’s better than anyone on their actual team. The Lakers may have switched bodies with the Clippers two years ago and we just haven’t realized it yet.

Seems unlikely.

Knowing that, how could any Lakers fan not want one of the best scoring forwards in NBA history? 

For all the fifty reasons we've been over so far?

Why weren’t Knicks fans freaking out that they might lose their franchise player for nothing? 

Because they've watched him do a whole lot of scoring and a whole lot of nothing else in three seasons, including going 7-14 in the playoffs in the much weaker of the two conferences?

Why were so many Bulls fans (and I know three of them) 


saying things like “I’d love to get Melo, but I hate the thought of giving up Taj [Gibson] for him”?

Because Gibson is 3/4ths the player Melo is for 1/3rd the price, and the Bulls already added a scorer in Paul Gasol?

How did Carmelo Anthony, only 30 years old and still in his prime, 

We don't need to split hairs here, but at best, I would argue that he's "very late" in his prime.

become the NBA’s most underappreciated and misunderstood player?

Probably by being an incomplete player who has won three playoff series in eleven years.

The problems start here: Carmelo Anthony is definitely better than your typical All-Star, but he’s not quite a superstar. You know what that makes him? 

What direction do you think Bill is going to take this?  If you had to guess, what kind of analogy is he going to construct?

An almost-but-not-quite-superstar. He’s not Leo DiCaprio or Will Smith — he can’t open a movie by himself. He’s more like Seth Rogen or Channing Tatum — he can open the right movie by himself. There’s a big difference.

Please stop banging your head on your keyboard/tablet.  I'm just as embarrassed for Bill as you are, but we need to finish this.

Here’s something I wrote on July 8, 2010, the day that LeBron took his talents to South Beach.

I need my NBA superstar to sell tickets, generate interest locally and nationally, single-handedly guarantee an average supporting cast 45-50 wins, and potentially be the best player on a Finals team if the other pieces are in place, which means only LeBron, Wade, Howard, Durant and Kobe qualify. There’s a level just a shade below (the Almost-But-Not-Quite-Superstar) with Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Roy, Chris Paul and Deron Williams. (Note: I think Derrick Rose gets there next season.) Then you have elite guys like Bosh, Pau Gasol and Amar’e Stoudemire who need good teammates to help them thrive … and if they don’t have them, you’re heading to the lottery. You know what we call these people? All-Stars.

Sorry, Portland fans — I made a mistake not telling you to take a deep breath before you read that paragraph. My bad. 

Oh man, the guy who was their team's best player back then ended up getting hurt and retiring!  I bet that was really hard for them to read about!

But exactly four years later, those levels look like this.

Superstars: LeBron, Durant.

Almost-But-Not-Quite-Superstars: Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Paul George.

Watch out: super hot Paul George taeks can be read here.  REALLY, HE'S MORE LIKE JEREMY RENNER THAN CHANNING TATUM.  I'M SURE WE CAN AGREE ON THAT.

All-Stars: Stephen Curry, James Harden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Joakim Noah, Chris Bosh, Derrick Rose (if healthy), Rajon Rondo (if healthy), Kobe Bryant (???).

A few semi-stunned notes about that revised list. 


First, two true superstars 

Are those like True Yankees?

is the NBA’s lowest number since 1979, the season before Bird and Magic showed up. 

That bullshit list, and Bill's serious analysis of the bullshit list that he just bullshitted out, is even more bullshitty than bullshit.  Anyone who dares repeat this analysis in conversation with you ("Hey, did you know the NBA only has two True Superstars right now, its lowest number since 1979?") should be immediately kicked in the balls.

Second, Anthony Davis is our only superstar in waiting right now … well, unless you feel like bending the rules and counting Joel Embiid If He Stays Healthy or my illegitimate Australian son, Ben Simmons (a frighteningly gifted high schooler who looks likeBenji Wilson 2.0).

You like Anthony Davis.  We get it.  I hope you (the readers this time, not Bill) realize that if Davis continues to get better and becomes an All Star for years to come, which seems pretty likely at this point, Bill is going to talk about how he knew Davis would be good in every fucking column for the next decade?  So fun.  I'm really looking forward to it.  Only a basketball savant like Bill could tell that a five star recruit, turned NCAA tournament Most Outstanding Player, turned #1 overall draft pick would be a star.  Good for Bill.  Someone give him a condescending pat on the head for me.

Third, we’re in the middle of an under-30 talent boom that’s as loaded as any run since the early ’90s, and yet we dipped from 11 superstars and almost-but-not-quite-superstars in 2010 to 10 of those guys in 2014.


Six dropped out and five jumped in, not including Rose, who briefly careered into the superstar group in 2011 and 2012. 


(You also could have talked me into putting Curry, Harden and Aldridge on the Almost-But-Not-Quite-Superstar list after enough drinks.) 

But only then!  Unless you pump him full of Mike's Hard Lemonade, Bill's analysis of the True Superstar tiers remains solid and unimpeachable.

I didn’t expect that much turnover. 

Neither did anyone, because no one gives a flying donkey cunt about your list.

Four years doesn’t seem like that long of a time, right?

In the context of writing this blog and watching bad sportswriting stay bad sportswriting, let me assure you: it feels like fucking eons.

And fourth, Carmelo’s 2014 level was a tougher call than everyone else’s combined. After all, he’s made one conference finals and zero Finals. He’s never won more than 54 regular-season games or made an All-NBA first team, although he did finish third in 2013’s MVP voting (no small feat). 


He’s made only seven All-Star teams in 11 years (two fewer than Chris Bosh). Most damning, Carmelo has lost nearly twice as many playoff games as he has won: 23 wins, 44 losses. 

It's 22 wins, 44 losses.  Really not that hard to check the "GP" column on and see whether your numbers add up.

You can’t even use the whole “Look, Carmelo can drag any mediocre team to 44 wins and the playoffs!” argument anymore — not after last season.

Exactly.  Although he was very awesome last year, it wasn't even enough to MAKE the playoffs in a putrid division in a putrid conference--and you think that with the right team, that includes no one who's better than him, you're winning a title?  Keep fucking dreaming.

So what’s left? Can’t we downgrade him to All-Star and be done with it? Isn’t 11 years enough time to know — to truly, unequivocally know — whether it’s with television shows, music groups, girlfriends, quarterbacks or basketball players?

The first two: who the fuck knows, and why are we talking about them?  The third: I certainly hope so.  The fourth: eh, probably, although there is Kurt Warner.  The fifth: fucking DEFINITELY.

For me, it keeps coming back to one question: Can you win the NBA championship if Carmelo Anthony is your best player?

The short answer: Yes.

You can.

One sentence paragraphs.

No one does them quite like Bill Plaschke.

Who is a fucking moron.

Like Bill.

More later.

1 comment:

Moroni said...

An almost-but-not-quite-superstar. He’s not Leo DiCaprio or Will Smith — he can’t open a movie by himself. He’s more like Seth Rogen or Channing Tatum — he can open the right movie by himself. There’s a big difference.

I can't believe he failed as a comedy writer.