Monday, November 10, 2014

Simmons explains the science of NBA watchability (Part 2)

First, your Bill NFL gambling update.  He went 7-6 last week, a nice big healthy step up from the 4-11 mark he posted the previous week.  MNF is still in progress, but Bill took the Eagles and I'll give him that (currently 31-7 in the 2nd quarter).  Thus he has gone 7-6 again this week, meaning that if you had shadowed him for the last 3 weeks (since returning from his suspension) and put $10 on every game, you'd only be down about $60.  Meanwhile, Year of the Dog (tm)?  You bet your swollen nutsack it is.  Dogs went 7-6 last week, and assuming the Eagles hold on and cover, will go 3-10 this week.  That brings them to 69-74 on the season so far.  Year of the Dog.  WHO SAYS NO?

Anyways, when we last left Bill, he was explaining why he considers certain NBA teams fun to watch and others not fun to watch.  This kind of thought exercise is only carried out by people who don't actually like sports, and need to find a way to categorize and rank everything in order to have fun while watching the games which they're only watching while waiting for gossipy non-news things to happen.  (A compulsive need to constantly make up or predict gambling lines is a classic symptom also present in this kind of fuckhead.)  But just wait until you see the hotness of some of the hot takes he drops in this second half of his watchability rankings.  I'm not including the actual rankings/point scores he and Lowe assigned to the teams, because that's stuff only idiots would care about, but just know that the commentary goes in ascending order from "mediocre to watch" to "OMG SO FUN TO WATCH BECAUSE THINK ABOUT THE CELEBS WHO WILL BE SITTING COURTSIDE."  We start with the Rockets, who are a fun team to watch for a lot of reasons, one of which is that they employ one of the game's best shot blockers/defenders/rebounders.

Simmons: I don’t enjoy watching Dwight Howard play basketball. It’s that simple.

OK.  Well that's another way to approach it I suppose.  On one hand, Dwight Howard is an athletic freak who is good at basketball.  On the other hand, maybe you don't like to watch him play basketball, because he's an asshole manchild, or because you're still mad that the 2009 Magic knocked the Celtics out of the playoffs, or something.  Reasons.  That's what Bill has.  Reasons.

Lowe: I still love watching him play defense. He had some “Holy shit!” defensive moments in crunch time of that Portland series.

Yeah but!  When you think about it, Bill really makes a great point here.

Simmons: Great point. I will amend to “I’d rather sit through Season 1 of The Leftovers again 

That's actually shockingly timely for a Bill reference.

than watch Dwight Howard play offense.” 

Only guys who are good at offense are fun to watch!  Bill Russell is a God on Earth!  No one denies this!

But I could see them missing the playoffs for five reasons: 

You're right.  54 win team loses Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin, adds Trevor Ariza and Jason Terry.  Seems like a recipe for failure to me.  After all, the West is as nasty as ever this year.  Let's hear those reasons.

Dwight’s health (you never know), 

Stunningly worthless analysis.  It's not like he's Greg Oden.  He's started 70+ games in every season of his career other than the lockout-shortened one.  Even when he's 75%, like he supposedly was two years ago in LA, he's still a total badass.  But yeah, you never know.  His arms could fall off in his sleep at any point.

Post-Contract Ariza (in this case, we DO know), 

Ariza signed as a free agent with Houston back in 2009, after being a key cog on that 2009 Magic team that went to the Finals.  He went from "very good 6th man" to "OK starter," who was good for 15/6/4 with decent 3 point shooting and good defense, before the Rockets sent him to New Orleans in a trade for Courtney Lee.  WE KNOW EXACTLY WHAT WE'RE GETTING OUT OF ARIZA, AND THAT COULD COST THE ROCKETS A PLAYOFF SPOT.  What?

no proven bench guys whatsoever (aren’t they gonna miss Linsanity, or am I crazy?), 

You're crazy, and dumb, and a lot of other things.  You're certainly right that trusting 2nd year Isaiah Canaan, old as dirt Terry and a couple young Euros to anchor your bench is a little risky.  You're certainly wrong that they're going to miss Lin, who made too much and never gelled with Harden's ball-hogging style.

McHale’s coaching (sorry, no. 32, you know I love you), 

About as worthwhile as "Dwight's health (you never know)."

and Year 2 of the whole “Dwight and James are our leaders” thing (I mean … come on). 


Remember, you could finish 48-34 and miss the playoffs in the West. 

This is true, and it wouldn't be crazy if the Rockets missed.  But the same can be said for everyone other than the Clippers, Spurs and maybe the Warriors.  Saying "their best player might get hurt, and their bench isn't awesome, and other stuff" is not analysis.  It's just pooping onto a keyboard.

At gunpoint, I’d pick the Rockets or Blazers to fall out if I had to pick anyone from last year’s eight.

You wouldn't pick a Mavs team that was the 8 seed last year, is still old as dirt, and either treaded water in the offseason or got a little worse by losing Jose Calderon, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion and Sam Dalembert and adding Parsons, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton?  Cool.

Lowe: That’s bold. I get the concerns, especially with big-man depth, but it’s hard to see a team with a healthy Howard-Harden combination missing the playoffs. One of Jeff Adrien and Joey Dorsey will emerge as a useful bench big, Trevor Ariza will fit in, and Terrence Jones should take another leap. 

Enough of your common sense, Lowe!  We need more scalding hot takes!

Simmons: Can we at least agree that the Rockets could finish as a top-12 team that still misses the playoffs?

Define "could."

Lowe: I’d say this: They’re a playoff team that is one serious injury from being a lottery team. But you can say that for anyone outside the Thunder-Spurs-Clippers trio atop the West.

And there you go, with the Thunder removed due to injury since the writing of this article, and me adding the Warriors, who I hate, but who are pretty fucking good.

Simmons: For the record, I will always dislike the decision to let Chandler Parsons leave. 

And Asik!  Where will they get minutes from white guys this year????

That three-year offer sheet made him untradable? Fine. Year 1, you’re not dealing him, anyway. Year 2, it’s a fair number with salaries going haywire. And Year 3, the salary cap is going to be roughly $400 million per team. I’m not selling my Dork Elvis Fan Club membership or anything, but I thought he whiffed on that one. Well, unless he knows he’s getting Rondo. (And he might.)


Moving on to the Timberwolves.

Lowe: This is our last certain lottery team, and they’re up this high because of you.

Simmons: Why, thank you. Good news, Minnesota fans … even though you haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years, you’re our highest-ranked League Pass lottery team by far! Pour some skunked champagne over each other’s heads!

Is... is that a reference of some kind?  A terrible joke?  Why do I still read this guy's work?

Lowe: I ranked them 11 spots lower than you, so I’m here to be the buzzkill: This team has some exciting pieces, particularly the young dunkers, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into exciting 48-minute NBA basketball games. Zach LaVine has looked overwhelmed in preseason, and Andrew Wiggins is facing stiff veteran competition for minutes — unless/until Flip Saunders The GM trades one of Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger, or (least likely) Kevin Martin. 

Simmons: LaVine looking overwhelmed in the preseason was a bigger lock than me ranking the T-Wolves too high. Come on, you’re not a wee bit excited to watch the T-Wolves?

Bill is that person who comes up with a completely subjective and ridiculous set of criteria on which to rank something, and then when you disagree with him, he needs validation so badly that he wants to argue with you over something that basically comes down to "You don't have the same favorite color as me?  Aw, come on!!!!"  Also, without Kevin Love, this team is going to be dreadful this year.  They might as well get Wiggins as many minutes as they can, because his development is the only significant positive that team's going to generate this year.

Simmons: I’m excited to start developing a fully formed opinion of Wiggins. (Can he become this generation’s T-Mac? Is he a poor man’s T-Mac? Is he a bankrupt T-Mac?) 

It's entirely possible he's a totally independent entity from T-Mac, who will have his own strengths and weaknesses and not even be named "Tracy McGrady."

I’m excited for Rubio’s contract year. 

Yeah, in order to boost his offseason earnings, he might even step up his game and learn to play D-minus level defense.  (Not that he isn't fun to watch on the other end of the court, of course.)

I’m excited for Shabazz Muhammad and Anthony Bennett being in crazy-good shape. I’m excited for every Gorgui Dieng 20-10-5 game that makes me regret trashing Minnesota’s 2013 draft-day trade, but still. I’m excited for lots and lots and lots of dunks and alley-oops. I’m even excited for the whiff of post–Kevin Love Ewing Theory potential.

What an asshole.


Simmons: Anthony Davis, Anthony Davis, and Anthony Davis. Oh, and Anthony Davis. Did I forget anything?



Simmons: Infinitely more fun on the Trade Machine than League Pass. Do you realize they have $28 million worth of Johnson/Fields/Hayes/Williams/Hansbrough expirings? My God. I need to take a long shower and regroup.

NERDGASM!  ZOMG!  The Trade Machine is certainly a useful tool, considering how complex the NBA's cap rules are.  It's also just a calculator with some faces next to the numbers.  You don't need to bring it up in every fucking column.  We're not talking about Orville and Wilbur at Kitty Hawk here.  Get the fuck over it.


Lowe: I do endorse John Wall fast breaks, Bradley Beal stretching his game, Nene’s passing and angry dunks, everything about Marcin Gortat, and Paul Pierce already getting four guys suspended and nearly smushing poor Tom Thibodeau in a Pierce–Joakim Noah sandwich. DeJuan Blair and Kris Humphries were sneaky good signings, and Professor Miller, PhD, is still holding office hours down in the low post for all you suckas. Maybe this team should be higher?

Guys.  It's your fucking rankings.  You invented them.  It's not the periodic table of the elements.  For fucking fuck's sake, just rank the teams however you see fit.

Simmons: I think you’re right. 

Of course you do.

We did our rankings before we found out that America’s Team wants to thug it up and embrace the spirit of the Bad Boy Pistons. It’s a great idea. Maybe they can’t beat Cleveland in a talent show, but they can beat them up inside, use their depth to wear them down, and maybe rattle them with the whole hard fouls/trash-talking/eyeballing routine. 

Great idea in 1990.  Not such a great idea in 2014 given the 500 rules changes that have happened in the meantime, although I will admit I kind of like the team the Wizards have put together and wouldn't mind seeing them go deep in the postseason.

It just can’t be forgotten how many key Cavs have never been in a seven-game war. That’s their biggest issue in my opinion.

Well, their best player has been in like ten 7 game wars.  I'm pretty sure that will even out with the fact that none of Washington's most important players had been in the playoffs before last year, when they participated in zero 7 game wars.  Among Wizards who are likely to play at least 10 minutes per game, only Pierce, Gortat, Gooden and Miller (who somehow has played only one game 7 in his million year career) have played in one.  But good attempt at starting a totally worthless narrative there.

Lowe: I was just having this conversation with a front-office guy the other day. Sometimes you get so deep in the weeds, you forget about the obvious stuff: Cleveland’s second- and third-best players have never been to the playoffs.

Their best player is one of the best players ever, and he has two rings and three additional Finals appearances.  I think they'll probably be fine.


Simmons: I never expected them to score this highly, 

And they shouldn't, because holy shit are they unwatchable.  Don't worry though, they'll only be on TNT/ESPN like 35 times this year.

but man … MSG, Carmelo (our most divisive NBA star), Phil Jackson is-he-awake-or-napping shots, Earl Smith III, Jose Calderon’s offense (perpetually underrated), Jose Calderon’s ghastly defense (properly rated), Derek Fisher’s expensive suits, the goofy celeb shots, 


the Spike-Phil feud, the classic uniforms, the storied history (a history of six Finals appearances in 68 years, but still), 

So, the non-storied history.  Got it.

the first-class TV production, 

Holy shit dude, it's 2014.  Every single NBA team has first class TV production.  You may have heard, but there's a considerable amount of money flowing through this business.

Clyde’s outfits, 

Somehow sadder than "the Spike-Phil feud."

the MSG crowd during a big game, 

So much different on TV than a non-famous arena crowd!

and, of course, the comedy of Amar’e’s Expiring and Bargnani’s Expiring bouncing around and roping me into yet another Trade Machine session.


Lowe: You nailed it. This team isn’t very good

And not only that, they play a slow pace (29th in the league last season; 30th so far this season) and get like 60% of their scoring from Melo isolating, starting to drive, and then shooting 15 foot pullup jumpers, or isolating, starting to drive, and getting fouled.  It's ridiculous.  I'd rather watch college basketball than the shitty offbrand NBA ball the Knicks play.

Simmons: And if that’s not enough, Rondo might be a Knick in three months. I factored in a possible Rondo trade for my ranking:


I hope Rondo stays in Boston this whole season and then signs somewhere else next summer.  That would be satisfying.  Not as satisfying as when the Celtics got nowhere in the 2014 draft lottery, but still.  Very satisfying.


Simmons: In general, I’d boycott the Thunder if I didn’t love watching Durant and Westbrook so much. We just watched the Thunder miss the Finals because OKC had to play a washed-up Derek Fisher, in crunch time, in its biggest playoff games. What happened this summer? They turned two 2014 first-rounders, some cap space and Kendrick Perkins’s Expiring Contract into Mitch McGary, Anthony Morrow, a D-Leaguer, and Kendrick Perkins’s Expiring Contract. Anthony Morrow. That was your big move, OKC????

Big ups to Bill for not bringing up Harden!  Lowe did near the end of the section (not pictured here), but somehow Bill didn't.  Maybe he finally let himself be edited.


Simmons: Here’s another Eastern team that can knock the young Cavs around and get into their heads. 

I like how the Cavs top eight this season (so far, anyways) includes LeBron (30), Love (26), Anderson Varejao (32), Shawn Marion (36) and Mike Miller (34).  They are "the young Cavs" if you are a ballgargler who likes to create narratives, I guess.

But they also have more unanswered questions than any other contender. 

Do they?  Are you going to "prove" this by listing questions about the Bulls, which essentially all boil down to "This team isn't the dynastic Celtics of the 60s or the Showtime Lakers--HOW WILL THEY COPE?"  Of course you are.

Can Taj Gibson jump a level? Can McDermott and Mirotic guard ANYONE? What are they getting from Rose? Was Pau on cruise control during the Lakers/D’Antoni era, or is Pau more washed-up than we realize? Can you play Pau and Noah at the same time? Intriguing — all of it. 

You can do this for literally every team, from the best to the worst.   You can do it for the Spurs.  You can do it for the 76ers.  You have proved exactly nothing.

We should have ranked these guys higher.


Simmons: And don’t tell anyone, but I’m secretly pumped to watch McDermott. 

I wonder why.

I love anyone and everyone with 25-foot range. It’s why I loved Curry so much before the 2009 draft. 

Only me!  Me me me me!  Only I was excited about this 2nd team All-American with a NBA-playing father who averaged almost 30 points per game the season before and carried his team on an very memorable March Madness run in 2008!  I AM AT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE! ME ME ME ME MEMEMEMEMEMEMEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

It’s also why I got stuck holding all this Jimmer stock. You want any?

OK, that's actually mildly funny.


Lowe: We both had them in the same spot. 


It feels right. 


Simmons: If Carlisle could figure out how to use Monta Freaking Ellis, he’s DEFINITELY figuring out the perfect way to use Chandler Parsons. Because Houston never totally figured it out. By the way, I love that Chandler’s weight goes up and down just like Chandler Bing’s weight did on Friends.

See, that's the kind of reference I know and expect from Bill.


Simmons: And maybe our final season for Parker as an elite playmaker (very quietly, it’s Year 14 for him!!!) 


and Boris Diaw playing at the right weight. 

File this and similar comments under "things people who aren't actually sports fans care about."  Which of course is why this was written in the first place.

My biggest question: How will they remain motivated after last season? 

Good point--what about their coach or best players indicates they're interested in being more than a flash in the pan?  YOU'RE GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT, SPURS.  LET'S SEE SOME EFFORT OUT THERE.

How do you top redeeming one of the worst sports defeats ever, winning the NBA title at home AND murdering the LeBron era in Miami? 

I don't know, let's ask Popovich and Duncan, which I can totally do telepathically because I know exactly how they'd respond to that kind of drivel.  "By winning another championship this summer," they both said.  Good to know.

There’s some decent letdown potential hanging over this season. 

You're a fucking idiot.


Simmons: Plus, I sit right across from Ballmer’s seats, so I can gawk at him as he’s behaving like a heavier, balder Bob Sacre in real time. 

Now we're combining caring about people at the arena who aren't on the team with analyzing someone's weight!  NBA US Weekly editor Bill Simmons is here to dish, everyone.

I put the Clips over the Warriors for three reasons. First, they feature more day-to-day dunks, alley-oops and general WHOA moments. 

But which team is more NOW?

Second, I think they’re making the 2015 Finals. 

God, I hope not.  Imagine the articles Bill would write.

And third, give me in-the-moment Ballmer reactions over in-the-moment Joe Lacob reactions every day of the week and twice on Sunday.



Simmons: In 11 years, LeBron played with only one elite player who made him better: Dwyane Wade in 2011 and most of 2012 before he slowly turned into Heavier, 

And again.

Moodier, Not-As-Good Dwyane Wade. 

This is also known as "being a pro athlete in your early 30s."  Not that Bill would argue that, but even though I hate Wade, this is kind of an unnecessary driveby attack on him.

Kevin Love will make LeBron better every single game. Remember, LeBron has never — not in his entire life — played with a great rebounder, a great outlet passer, or a great pick-and-roll forward. 

OK, this is splitting hairs a bit, because the "LeBron has never had great teammates" thing is sort of kind of right, but Zydrunas Ilgauskas was an elite rebounder for much of LeBron's time in Cleveland.  Just saying.  That dude was a monster on the offensive glass.

Never. Not ever. 

NEVER EXCEPT FOR THOSE FOUR OR FIVE SEASONS.  Also, let's not shed a tear for LeBron re: the quality of his teammates.  Wade, even FLABBY Wade, is awesome, and Bosh is also pretty damn good.  It's not like it was all LeBron going to the Finals four straight years in Miami.

I can’t wait to watch them. I want to upgrade my score to a perfect 50. Is it too late?

Yes, but it's not too late for you to strap yourself to a rocket and launch yourself into deep space.

Lowe: You’re short-changing Bosh as a pick-and-pop guy who gave LeBron space to work and defended his tail off in Miami.

Fair point.  Bill, your counter?

Simmons: Bosh was a very good pick-and-pop partner for LeBron. Love could be a GREAT pick-and-pop partner for LeBron. That’s my defense.


Simmons: And what happens when Varejao gets hurt? If anyone out there thinks the Cavs are getting 100 games out of Anderson Varejao over the next eight months, I have some stock to sell you. 

Wow, SUPER timely.  He must have realized the Jimmer joke was good, and decided to go back to the "worthless stock" well.  And then for some reason he didn't pick a company that's falling apart now (Zynga) or something that fell apart during the 2009 recession (Bear Stearns).  Nope.  He went right to the 90s, where he's most comfortable.  Good for him.  Change is scary.

Lowe: They get the top spot in spite of the ugliest uniform/court design combination in the league. 

These are things that definitely matter to you if you're a basketball fan!  (Pretty sad to see Lowe get in on this line of analysis.)

Simmons: One other thing — every 2015 Cavs home game is going to be appointment viewing. Even the ones against Philly and Utah. Everyone forgets how fantastic their home games were in 2009 and 2010, 

I don't think anyone who cares about the NBA forgets that.  I know you invented the concept of fandom, Bill, but it's maybe just maybe possible that there are other people just as enlightened about sports as you are.  Hard to believe, I'm sure.

how much energy ripped through that building every night, and how LeBron always seemed to feed off his hometown peeps. 

Yo!  Bill is hip to the youth culture, homies!

They went 39-2 at home in 2009 with inferior talent, a clueless coach and a roster that couldn’t do 40 percent of the stuff that this 2015 Cavs team can do. These LeBron 2.0 home games are going to be a borderline religious experience. I really believe that.

Such a bold and daring take.  It shows real guts to hold an opinion like "The team that employs the best player in a generation and two other very solid supporting cast members will be exciting to watch," but Bill is here to put his reputation on the line.

Christ, I hate this guy.  Maybe I'll go back to focusing on his terrible NFL gambling tips next week.


Anonymous said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa

Lowe: They get the top spot in spite of the ugliest uniform/court design combination in the league.

These are things that definitely matter to you if you're a basketball fan! (Pretty sad to see Lowe get in on this line of analysis.)

The only thing I know about "Zach Lowe" is that he wrote that preposterous column a year or two ago ranking, in great detail, the different NBA logos, home courts, etc. "Get in on this line of analysis?" That's his motherfucking thing. No free passes here.

Anonymous said...

can blah do blablah? can the blah do the blah every night? is blah more washed up than "we" realize?
intriguing. all of it. to "us".


Only Simmons could take a normal and valid point about LeBron/Love being a potentially deadly offensive combo and make it into complete tardery. Bosh is murder on the pick 'n pop, probably top 5 in the league.

Also, I don't see how anyone who watches the NBA could push the meme that Howard is banged up or isn't the same force of nature he was in Orlando. Just mystifying.

Anonymous said...

To be fair to Lowe, he does amazing analysis otherwise, he's just really into mascots and courts. I can't think of a single smart basketball person who doesn't really respect him.

You're also way off on Rubio's defense. He's actually a good defender. His only real hiccup as a player is that he can't shoot at all; the problem is that that's a huge dang hiccup for a point guard. Borderline "other than that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln."