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???
MORE REPEATED PUNCTUATION PLEASE! I LIKE MY SPORTSWRITING TO LOOK LIKE IT WAS DRAFTED BY A 12 YEAR OLD GIRL!!!!!!!
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.
MAY NOT EVEN BE A DESTINATION FRANCHISE ANYMORE.
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 ESPN.com; 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.
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)
I DON'T HATE THE BULLS! I HAVE THREE BULLS FAN FRIENDS!
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.
PRETTY CRAZY. LET'S GET A ROUNDTABLE WITH COUSIN SAL, MALCOLM GLADWELL AND ZACH LOWE GOING AND MAYBE WE CAN FIGURE OUT WHY THIS DEFINITELY EXISTING AND NOT AT ALL RIDICULOUS, POINTLESS AND MADE UP TREND IS HAPPENING.
Six dropped out and five jumped in, not including Rose, who briefly careered into the superstar group in 2011 and 2012.
NO ONE DENIES THIS!
(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).
ESPECIALLY FOR A NON-TRUE SUPERSTAR!
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 basketballreference.com 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.
One sentence paragraphs.
No one does them quite like Bill Plaschke.
Who is a fucking moron.
Monday, July 28, 2014
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
As promised last week, this is a post in which I directly address a Bill supporter's praise of Bill. Is this article fruit that hangs as low as Bill's own work hangs? Of course. Chris Chase writes "For the Win," (I know...) a blog on USA Today's site (I know, I know...), which upon its launch was publicized as follows:
For The Win wants to take a BuzzFeed-style viral media approach to sports media. The new site, which will compete with rivals like Deadspin, will focus on finding “shareable” content that will be appealing even to people who don’t follow sports.
Bill Simmons is the best thing about ESPN's NBA Draft broadcast
By: Chris Chase
Judging by chatter on Twitter, this is going to be an unpopular opinion, but here goes: Bill Simmons was the best thing about ESPN’s NBA draft coverage on Thursday night.
Obviously at this point I have no way of tracking what was said about Bill the night of the draft. There may have been a lot of negative tweeting about him, but I'd be surprised if more than 25% of all fans serious enough about the NBA to watch the draft dislike him. It's more of a vocal minority thing. Or so I'd suppose. I cannot validate this with anything but anecdotes and vague estimates of the number of people I know who like Bill as compared to the number I know who hate him. What do you want me to do, put work into this blog? Get fucking real.
The whole team was great,
but particularly Simmons,
whose NBA fanboy routine plays best during the league’s annual selection show.
His NBA fanboy routine, which is really a Celtics and himself fanboy routine, never plays well. He's awful. Compare him to his closest analogue, Sir Charlies. (Not that they're exactly the same, but they have the same roles on their respective NBA shows: deep "real talk" color commentary.) Now it's tough for anyone to stack up next to Barkley, who is a national treasure, but just look at their respective levels of professionalism. Barkley is occasionally cutting and dark with his commentary, but when he is it's always well-supported with analysis that's not just self-promotion and snarky rhetorical questions. Meanwhile, he never 1) cheerleads for teams he played for or likes or 2) says ridiculous bullshit like whine "DO I GET TO TALK NOW????" when he's not the center of attention or drag his feuds out into the spotlight which then affects whatever broadcast he's on. Bill Simmons doesn't belong on TV any more than I do, and my voice is nearly as annoying as his.
Simmons style, which is hit-or-miss on NBA pre-game and post-game coverage,
Simmons style, which is
Fixed that for you.
is perfectly suited for the draft. He gives a fresh perspective.
Examples? He's not ignorant about basketball. He's also not in any way intelligent or interesting. He doesn't have some kind of smart eye for talent (Jeff Van Gundy), or for X's and O's (Hubie Brown). He's just a guy who likes the sport and thinks he's always right. He should join Wilbon and Kornheiser on PTI and make it a triumvirate of insufferable know-it-all dipshits. Of course, we know what Wilbon thinks about BLOGGERS who write BLOGS. But you get my point.
Sure. That doesn't make for especially good TV, though.
He loves the NBA and it comes across on the telecast, which is harder than it sounds.
I don't need my commentators to love the sports they're talking about. I just need them to not be bored, by which I mean I need them to not sound like Joe Buck. Past that "love for the game" threshold, intelligence and insight are about a million times more important than passion.
And, above all, he’s able to convey the importance of picking players for the future while still acknowledging that it’s mostly a crapshoot.
Yeah, that's such a crazy, abstract concept. Most fans have no idea that that's how the draft works. Good thing future Bucks GM and Official Vertical Integration Machine of ESPN/ABC/Disney Bill Simmons is here to explain it to us. Jesus Christ. That sentence might as well say "I really like Bill Simmons, so let me pat him on the back for knowing what the draft is and how professional sports generally work."
Other than some new bells and whistles, draft coverage hasn’t changed much in 20 years. The first round goes something like this: pick, analysis of the pick, highlight reel, interview (if the player is there), more discussion, commercial, preview of upcoming pick, repeat 32 times. Simmons brings something new. He gives real opinions that don’t feel sanitized for mass consumption.
Yeah, Bill's great at #realtalk. Remember all that wacky, subversive, off-the-wall analysis he provided in his most notable analytical moment so far? Who could forget #strongtaeks like "WHOA!" and "I need medical attention!"
One moment summed up all of that. When the Boston Celtics, Simmons’ favorite team, drafted James Young, the cameras caught him doing this.
A certain segment of the Internet hated it. They called Simmons a biased homer without any professionalism.
And they were completely right!
Okay, let’s say that’s true.
It makes for shitty TV. Every fan serious enough about the NBA to watch the draft has a favorite team. Everyone will have an opinion about what their favorite team did during the draft. Who gives a flying cunt about this guy's opinion about his team? How is it any different than what House-O, who was sitting next to you at the bar, had to say about what just happened? Just because this guy was born on third base, and then caught lightning in a bottle at the onset of the sports blogosphere, it's supposed to be entertaining to see him being excited for his team while wearing a suit and sitting with actual professional sports analysts? Go fuck yourself.
Give me an actual opinion from someone with a known bias rather than phony opinions from someone with a hidden bias.
What hidden biases do most commentators have? The fuck are you talking about? This is not politics, where you have to be very careful to understand the backgrounds/motivations of the talking heads on TV. This is sports. I promise you, Jalen Rose and Doug Collins are not coloring their analysis with carefully chosen positive or negative buzzwords for guys that were drafted by teams they like/dislike. It's not hard to remain unbiased as a sports commentator. Sports are fun. Maybe Jalen hates the Bulls for the way they traded him to Toronto. You think that's going to affect what he says about a guy the Bulls drafted? Again, go fuck yourself.
There are conflicts of interest often in sports broadcasting, not just on ESPN. You think Jon Gruden doesn’t pull punches on Monday Night Football so as not to insult a team he might be criticizing?
You fucking IDIOT. Have you ever watched a Gruden MNF broadcast? GRUDEN ADORES EVERY SINGLE PLAYER AND TEAM IN THE LEAGUE! He won't shut the fuck up about how great everyone is. He can make Blaine Gabbert sound like Joe Montana. And this isn't some secret, hidden talent that Gruden spent years honing. It comes naturally to him, because he's not a dipshit. Bill IS a dipshit. That's the whole problem here. Jesus Christ. Of ALL the examples you could have chosen to try to prop up your shitty argument that commentators have biases that cause them to "pull punches" or whatever, none of which would be good examples because basically no national commentator does that, you chose the worst possible one.
Or that recently retired players are easier on former teammates because they’re buddies?
First of all, that doesn't apply during the draft. Second of all, when it does apply (like if the ESPN Sunday Countdown crew is discussing the Ravens with Ray Lewis on the set or something), nearly always the other analysts will go out of their way to make the situation as unawkward as possible by not forcing the recently retired guy to give an opinion, or by prefacing whatever he's about to say with "Now I know you have some friends on the team." And even after all that happens, you know what? Often, the player will give a pretty reasonable and insightful opinion (as much as you can have insightful opinions on telecasts like NFL pregame shows, which is not at all) on the team/player in question. It's just not that hard to do. Bill Simmons is not a shining beacon of objectivity in a sea of bullshit. TV sports analysis is actually pretty much a sea of bullshit, but Simmons isn't just a part of it. He makes it worse by not even managing to act like an adult on set. Fuck him and fuck his fans.
Simmons made his career partially built on his ability to be a fan whose passion was relatable.
That was pretty novel in 1998. It's not novel anymore, and he's gone from a self-deprecating "aw shucks, Boston sports break my heart all the time" guy to a pompous, self-obsessed twat. Let's stop giving him credit for the original Boston Sports Guy shit he wrote during the Clinton administration.
Simmons loving Larry Bird hardly measures up to that.
Actually, I'm glad you brought up that point to undermine your own point, because you know what? Simmons and his love for Bird absolutely DO measure up to the idea (again, not applicable during the NBA draft) that maybe sometimes Bill Cowher goes easy on the Steelers or whatever.
This is sports. People are supposed to be biased homers. As long as you wear that opinion proudly, who’s it harming?
Here's a better question: who's it helping? Who's enjoying it, other than unoriginal waterheads who think Simmons is fantastic?
Wouldn’t you rather hear that diehard Celtics fan Bill Simmons like the James Young pick rather than the usual bland analysis about how James Young could possibly fit into Brad Stevens’ system?
Not at all! Not even a little bit!
That fist pump told you more about the Young pick than any commentary could.
It doesn’t mean Simmons is right, but at least we know where he actually stands and can form our own opinion based on that.
No we can't. No we fucking can't. We can't form shit based on that, unless for some reason we're dumb enough to think Bill has a better grasp on NBA prospects than actual analysts like Chad Ford. Who gives a bloody, runny shit about what Bill Simmons thinks? Again, I mean, other than his fanboys.
Sometimes that may lead to arguments with Doc Rivers, like on last year’s telecast. Again, isn’t that more interesting than the alternative?
That was better than if Simmons gladhanded Rivers, I suppose, but read the Bleacher Report article I linked above--the way Simmons beat up on Rivers for years, and more or less baited him with a series of tweets prior to the draft, was pathetic. It was more car-crash-can't-look-away interesting than oh-cool-something-real-and-fun interesting.
There are problems, of course. His rants can quickly devolve into whininess, he interrupts way too much and you always get the sense he doesn’t know as much about the college players as he lets on.
Haha, no way, don't be silly! You sound like someone who has maybe actually paid attention to stuff Bill has been saying throughout his career and have thus reached the inevitable conclusion that he shouldn't be paid for his opinions or analysis, much less be paid to talk about them on TV.
The last part isn’t his fault.
Simmons was paying attention to the NBA from October to June. That’s his job.
Yeah! Who has time to, like, KNOW stuff about college basketball when they're busy doing a few hours of TV and a couple podcasts a week? HE'S NOT SUPERMAN, PEOPLE!!! WHAT DO YOU WANT OUT OF HIM??? Well, for one, I'd rather he didn't just make shit up. But I suppose that's asking a lot from the guy who has successfully completed over 1,000 WHO SAYS NO? trades on the ESPN Trade Machine (TM)(Patent pending).
Even if he locked himself in a room and watched game tape for the 11 days in between the end of the NBA Finals and the start of the NBA draft, he wouldn’t know nearly enough about the draftees.
Actually, that's not true. If he did that for 11 days straight, he'd definitely know enough about them to not sound like a diptard on TV. HOWEVA: there is a prerequisite to that hypothetical coming to pass. In order for any of this to happen, he'd have to be capable of gleaning knowledge about players by watching tape, something I'm 100% sure he is not able to do. So this is all ifs and buts and candies and nuts.
But that’s why Jay Bilas is on the set.
Jay Bilas is on the set to know things. Bill is on the set to pump his fist for the Celtics and pretend to know things. I wonder which one of them has a higher salary?
Speaking of Bilas, he’s part of a team that helps Simmons thrive.
I'm so, so, so sorry Jay. Years and years of hard work, pounding pavement, attending hundreds of NCAA games--all so you could one day serve as Bill's caddy. Holy dog balls, that's depressing.
You can’t have a bunch of me-first guys on the floor,
You really shouldn't have ANY me-first guys on the floor. This is why Shaq doesn't quite fit with Ernie, Kenny and Charles. Shaq still needs that attention. The other three don't (nor does Chris Webber for that matter).
so it helps that the always-underrated Rece Davis is there to keep Simmons in check.
I like Rece Davis. This blog is often so virulently negative that I felt like throwing that it, with no caveats. Rece Davis is damn good at his job. There, I said it.
Bilas is great too; he shows you can combine perspective, a sense of humor and keen knowledge of players.
Three things Simmons doesn't have!
Jalen Rose is the weak link on the panel. He’s still trying to find his schtick, but he has a good rapport with Simmons and doesn’t immediately make you want to change the channel like half of ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown crew.
NFL Sunday Countdown is terrible. Rose is pretty OK. Simmons is terrible.
Richard Deistch of Sports Illustrated says the NBA Countdown team is in flux for next year. Here’s hoping Simmons stays around and continues to breathe some life into a format that desperately needs it.
I'd rather watch the WNBA draft than watch another NBA draft with Simmons on the set. He sucks. In conclusion, Chris Chase is a dummy.
Monday, July 14, 2014
Monday, July 7, 2014
When the Spurs made the 2014 Finals last weekend, Popovich couldn’t hide his appreciation for his players, marveling at their ability to bury such a catastrophic defeat.
The Spurs are favored, barely, thanks to their home-court advantage and a season spent mastering small ball. With Marco Belinelli and a rejuvenated Ginobili, the Spurs are deeper and craftier than ever. And a now-healthy Leonard has blossomed into a fantastic two-way player and a worthy foil for LeBron. The 2014 Spurs are definitely better than the 2013 Spurs. Also helping: The 2014 Heat are slightly worse than last year’s team — Wade isn’t the same anymore, their role players have been increasingly unreliable, and there’s a decent chance that the Eastern Conference was more dreadful than we thought. If you’re picking Miami this series, it’s because of LeBron and LeBron only. He’s at the peak of his powers. That’s an excellent reason, by the way.
But there’s a karmic element that normal NBA Finals just don’t have.
You might remember that sadness drifting into the final minute of Game 7, right after Duncan missed what would have been a game-tying bunny over Shane Battier that he’s probably made 24,326 times in his life. Duncan jogged back downcourt in abject disbelief, like someone staggering away from an accident.
Everyone in the arena could read Duncan’s mind. How did we blow this? How? How did that happen? The great Tim Duncan thought he had squandered his last chance.
And here’s how fast things can flip. Back in October 2003, the Red Sox choked away Game 7 in Yankee Stadium,
If the Spurs beat Miami, Allen’s 3 stops haunting them — and if that’s not enough, we’ll remember San Antonio as the greatest franchise of the post-Jordan era.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
The World Wide Leader in sports, everyone.
Edit made ten minutes after the original post: just to be clear about something that shouldn't need clarification, this isn't just a story about ESPN being shitty. It's also a story about Salisbury and Mariotti being total fuckfaces. My original comment above was not intended to make it sound like I was sparing them from criticism. But you probably knew that.
Thursday, June 26, 2014
I would have wagered anything. Even with a 102-degree temperature, even with dried contacts, even with a lump of phlegm wedged in my throat, even with everything feeling vaguely white and hazy —
They started reviewing the play. We whirled around and studied replays on our undersized monitor. Unbelievable. Never touched either line. You could compare it to only one other NBA shot: Kareem’s walk-off sky hook in Game 6 of the 1974 Finals, which saved Milwaukee at the buzzer in double overtime. If Kareem missed it, Boston took the title. If he made it, Milwaukee hosted Game 7. He made it. One problem: The Celtics flew to Milwaukee and won the title there, anyway.
This time around, Ray Allen saved Miami’s season and swung the title.
I love so many things about the NBA, but over everything else, it’s those moments when you know you’re seeing something special — something that will get replayed forever, something that lets you say, “Yeah, I was there,”
And here’s what happens when you’re there: You’re crammed around a basketball court watching these physical freaks bring out the best in each other, and occasionally, something unbelievable happens, and it creates this sound that can’t even really be described. It’s the single best sound, actually.
You know what happened next.
Instead, I returned to my hotel room, cranked the thermostat to 80 and crashed. I stayed in bed for the next 36 hours. I lost six pounds. I finished the first half of Season 5 of Breaking Bad.
Around 4 p.m. the following afternoon, the TV adrenaline started kicking in. We were five hours away from Game 7. I took another hot shower, shaved my face, slipped on a wrinkled suit, knotted a colorful tie,
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
But the fourth quarter? I remember a bunch of things.
During that now-fateful timeout with San Antonio up five,
After Miller fouled Leonard with 19.4 seconds left, he strolled impassively to the free throw line, with Miami’s rejuvenated crowd suffocating him with boos and screams. I remember thinking, Forget about making these free throws — I wonder if this kid is hitting the rim.
After Miami’s timeout, we watched in disbelief as Pop removed Duncan for the ensuing defensive possession. How can you keep the power forward GOAT off the floor twice? Jalen and I were flipping out. What was Pop thinking?
I watched Ray Allen play for my favorite team for five years.
With seven seconds left in Game 6, suddenly, we were in one of those situations. And I knew just from watching him backpedal those first two steps.
True story: When Ray practices 3s from different parts of the court, sometimes he blindfolds himself so he can’t see the 3-point line. His complicated shooting routine unfolds hours before games — like, HOURS before games — sometimes with cheerleaders practicing and arena employees turning the lights on and off. He practices footwork as diligently as a ballerina, partly because he’s a perfectionist, partly out of basketball OCD, and partly because he always wants to be prepared for anything. And you know what’s really crazy? Ray Allen is enough of a lovable weirdo that he practiced this specific shot. In fact, he’s been practicing it since his Milwaukee days.
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Don't let the door hit you in the lazy, self-plagiarizing ass on your way out. May your next job, if there is one, be for a much less prominent company than ESPN.
One last time, Rick's proudest moment at the World Wide Leader. His shittiness and ESPN's shittiness couldn't possibly be better distilled into a five second moment than they are here.
Fuck Rick Reilly. That is all.
Monday, June 9, 2014
Monday, June 2, 2014
This article was originally published in ESPN the Mag in late March. It's an amazing conglomeration of foolishness. It was written by Jeff Phillips, a principal at The Parthenon Group, which is some kind of business consulting firm, so perhaps this isn't exactly sportswriting. But if ESPN the Mag is going to publish it, it qualifies.
FOR 150 YEARS, "clubhouse chemistry" has been impossible to quantify.
Have people been trying to quantify it for 150 years? I don't think there was anyone back in the early days of the American League trying to figure out some way to quantify the clubhouse chemistry. Plus, it would've been totally different back then. All the players were white guys from the good old USA, so the model would probably have to measure things like "willingness to pound moonshine or "ability to cover for me when I need an alibi for the manager's bed checks" or "sleeping ability on a train". I imagine that old time GMs probably had different models for chemistry than their current counterparts.
It's a good thing all the other baseball teams have the RED SOX around to show them examples of good chemistry. God knows the RED SOX are the most charismatic organization playing America's most charismatic sport. This is what makes everyone hate Boston's sports team.
I also find it interesting that the authors don't present the scores of the '04 or '13 Red Sox on their scale. This would've been a really good place to show that their super-duper chemistry metric matches the eye test of the obviously chemically superb Red Sox. But there's no mention.
EMPHATIC SENTENCE. Jeff Phillips is following the advice of his 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Higgenbotham, who reminded him to use syntax to reflect meaning. Way to go, Mrs. Higgenbotham!
Working with group dynamics experts Katerina Bezrukova, an assistant professor at Santa Clara, and Chester Spell, an associate professor at Rutgers, we built a proprietary team-chemistry regression model.
Jeff Phillips probably pitched his article something like this:
Jeff Phillips: We've got an educated baseball audience hungry for some new insights on baseball, and they seem to love statistics. But we also need to appeal to the good old boys who understand clubhouse chemistry. So we're trying to figure out how to quantify this. This is gonna be a killer article!
Katerina Berzrukova: Listen, I'm busy working on getting tenure, and working with you clowns isn't exactly going to boost my academic resume. Plus I am Russian. Call me if you want to quantify the chemistry on your gymnastics team.
Chester Spell: Yeah, publishing in ESPN the Mag is not exactly a peer-reviewed journal. If I'm trying to build my resume, I probably don't want to get published by the same organization that has employed both John Kruk and Joe Morgan as a baseball analyst.
JP: Wait, did I mention I'm writing an article for the World Wide Leader in Sports? The Biggest Sports Journalism Outlet around? You can get a lot of hits on our website.
[KB looks at CS]
KB: Yeah, so? Nobody reads it in Russia.
JP: Also we can pay you handsomely because our coffers are overflowing with money. I'll just grab a few grand from the Bristol Money Bin, where Simmons and the ESPN execs just swim in cash like Uncle Scrooge.
KB: Now that you mention it, I've got a PhD from Moscow State University, where I helped the vaunted Moscow State Dragoons hockey team run off a four-year undefeated streak by concocting a clubhouse chemistry model based on their loyalty to the motherland and their vodka tolerance. So this stuff is my wheelhouse.
CS: Well, I do a lot of research about organizations and businesses, and Major League Baseball is an organization and a business!
JP: Great! I'll throw some bills at you, you throw some random numbers and regressionspeak back at me, we bang out a few thousand words for the Mag, and we call it a day. Whew! I'm gonna hit the pool.
Plus the model is proprietary. Which basically means that article could've been random numbers thrown out of nowhere. That might work if I thought ESPN had the ethos of being honest and trustworthy and devoted to making a contribution to how we understand the complex game of baseball... hahaha, I kill me.
Our algorithm combines three factors -- clubhouse demographics, trait isolation and stratification of performance to pay -- to discover how well MLB teams concoct positive chemistry.
It's a good thing that human relationships in the complex world of a baseball clubhouse can be reduced to three indicators. And it I'm still not buying the premise that MLB teams are trying to "concoct" positive chemistry. Sure, I bet now and again a team makes a decision perhaps not entirely based on baseball performance (the Reds did spend a fair amount of coin for an aging Scott Rolen in 2009 probably in part because of his clubhouse presence), but that particular acquisition wouldn't have done much at all for these threefactors.
Also, the word choice here is putrid. "Algorithm"? "Concoct"? C'mon, Mrs. Higgenbotham! I know you wanted to teach Jeff as much vocabulary as you possibly could, but you have to also teach him how to use it appropriately!
According to the regression model, teams that maximize these factors can produce a four-win swing during a season.
So by overhauling their entire 25-man roster in order to manipulate the overall chemistry of the team, they might be able to get four wins out of it. Sounds like a plan! Actually, maybe they should manipulate the overall quality of their baseball players instead.
According to our projections, such bonding will clinch this year's World Series: The Rays (third in chem) will prevail over the Cardinals (28th) in six games for Tampa Bay's first Series title. Happy players, happy fans.
At least the Cardinals suck at chemistry. I've heard all sorts of bullshit about the Cardinal Way over the years, so I'm glad to see that the BFIB won't latch on to this as evidence of their moral and personal superiority to the rest of the National League. But this model is still stupid. And if chemistry accounts for 4 wins over 162 games, its effect in a 7 game series must be miniscule. So I don't think it makes any sense at all to over-reach and use it to predict the winners of the World Series.
Demographic factor: The impact from diversity, measured by age, tenure with the team, nationality, race and position. Teams with the highest scores have several overlapping groups based on shared traits and experiences.
Does this mean teams should try to avoid racial integration? Or including foreigners? Or only bring them in if they're in groups? This is such an awful way to look at any kind of group construction - instead of actually working with your players, teaching them not to be assholes to people from other races and countries, and generally working to improve the clubhouse chemistry of the best players they can assemble, it suggests instead that GMs should view their human resources as fixed identities. What a terrible way to view human beings, and what a terrible way to generate organizational culture.
Also, why the hell is position in this factor? Are we really looking at the chemistry impact of the few positional decisions a team makes? OH SHIT IF WE CARRY A THIRD CATCHER THAT TIPS OUR CHEMISTRY FACTOR. CMON UP CORKY!
Isolation factor: The impact from players who are isolated because of a lack of subgroups from these shared demographic traits. Too much diversity can, in fact, produce clubhouse isolation for players who don't have teammates with similar backgrounds or experiences.
If they're assholes, yes, then you'll have a team full of players who don't want to talk to their teammates because they have different backgrounds. God forbid we have TOO MUCH DIVERSITY. I guess that's why the 1927 Yankees were so awesome. They didn't have too much diversity.
Maybe they're thinking of a team like the 1975 Reds - three Latinos, three black guys and too white guys - as their ideal team. That way, every player has his own buddy within his own racial group. I'd be interested to see how they treat race, for example. Perez was Cuban, Concepcion Venezuelan, and Geronimo Dominican; would they they have meaningful shared traits? As a Reds fan I am ashamed that I don't know the answer to that question. As a baseball fan I'm interested to see how they actually categorize demographic traits. Oh wait, this is an article written to appeal to the hordes of fans who just want to throw numbers around without actually thinking about how they were constructed. Shame.
Ego factor: The impact from individuals' differences in performance and monetary status. Too few All-Stars and highly paid players signal a lack of leadership; too many, however, creates conflict. The ideal level falls in the middle.
Actually, too few All-Stars signals a lack of good players. Too many All-Stars signals, generally, a good team. Leaving out the obvious point about All-Star selection being a popularity contest, it's still a stupid-ass thing to say that the IDEAL LEVEL of All Stars is "in the middle". Maybe in Russia an All-Star means something else.
Chris W. once reminded me that Bill James once said that if you find a stat that says some nobody was a better hitter than Babe Ruth, you should probably find a different stat. In this case, if you find a model that says a team should not try to have a maximum number of all star players, you should probably find a different model. Or at least a different proxy variable for "performance". All-Star appearances is a a terrible variable proxy for performance. The current leader in the AL shortstop voting is Derek Jeter, who has the 12th best WAR among AL shortstops.You'd think that with the tons of possible ways to quantify performance , the professors would pick something sensible.
Their point about the possible chemistry effects of income inequality in the clubhouse seems relevant. I can see how that might cause problems in a clubhouse. I'd actually like to see the information on that. BUT NO: the model is proprietary.
The article goes on to discuss every division and how chemistry will affect the standings. I'm not going to go through every division because it's boring, but here's a sample:
The Tigers' clubhouse diversity contributes 0.9 of a win by itself, but the strength of its subgroups is weak due to differences in age and years with the team, leading to an Isolation score of minus-1.6 wins. The Royals' Isolation score, on the other hand, is 4.7 wins higher, boosted by a pitching staff that includes eight Americans among the team's 10 core pitchers.
This is pure junk. We're supposed to draw a meaningful conclusion from the fact that the Royals, are doing their best to keep American jobs at home instead of outsourcing them like those anti-American Pirates? Or that Dave Dombrowski's careful assembling of Tigers' 25-man clubhouse diversity is almost worth one win? It's just so stupid.
Man, that article was bad. Faux academic knowledge? Statistics misused? Terrible writing? Subtly promoting racial stereotyping? Nice work, ESPN The Mag.