Friday, April 17, 2015

2 comments Murray Chass Is Still Bitching about Integrity and This Year It's the Cubs Who Lack Integrity

What timing that I wrote this post today! Kris Bryant got called up!

Every year Murray Chass accuses MLB teams of lacking integrity for finding reasons to hold players down in the minors in order to not start their service time and get an extra year out of that player before he hits free agency. Murray bitches about it here, here, here, and here. As I've always stated, this isn't an integrity issue to me. This is an issue of a MLB team playing within the rules and getting an extra year out of a player while giving up a month or a few weeks of that player being on the current roster. I bet the Braves wish they had waited another couple months to call Jason Heyward up. Maybe they wouldn't have had to trade him this offseason and could have had more time to work out a long-term deal. Anyway, Murray writes on his non-blog that the Cubs lack integrity for keeping Kris Bryant down in the minors to avoid him becoming a Super Two and this time he has Scott Boras on his side.

It's all about the integrity to Murray. I wonder if he considers accusing a player of using PED's based on bacne as violating his strict integrity guidelines. Probably not.

Theo Epstein, the man who runs the Chicago Cubs’ baseball operations, said this:

In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual.

He also said this:

We have clung to two important ideals during our three years in Chicago. The first is to always be loyal to our mission of building the Cubs into a championship organization that can sustain success. The second is to be transparent with our fans….To our fans: we hope you understand, and we appreciate your continued support of the Cubs.

Epstein should have added, "Unless, you know, if being transparent means that the union can file a grievance on behalf of a player and telling a little white lie will benefit the organization in the long run."

Epstein included both of these comments in a statement he issued when the Cubs fired their manager, Rick Renteria, last October and hired Joe Maddon. If they sound familiar, it’s because I quoted them in last week’s column. I quote them again for this column about a Cubs’ player. Kris Bryant.

Keeping Kris Bryant in the minors fulfills the intent of the first quote and fufills the intent in the first part of the second quote. Two out of three isn't bad. Epstein can't say, "It's in the best interests of the organization long-term to keep Kris Bryant in the minors," even though it's true, because people get their panties in a wad that the Cubs would dare to work within the rules to build a quality team over the long-term.

The last I looked Bryant had hit nine home runs, more than any other player in this spring’s exhibition games. I have long said it doesn’t pay to pay attention to spring statistics, but Bryant has forced the Cubs to pay attention.

Murray has always believed it makes no sense to pay attention to spring statistics, unless those spring statistics go to prove a point that Murray wants to prove. In that case, forget everything else that Murray has ever said and those spring training statistics are vitally important and serve as definitive evidence for what Murray wants to prove. Spring training statistics are of course useless when they serve the need Murray Chass has that point in time.

He has convinced them he is ready to help the Cubs win – a playoff spot, the National League Central title, the N.L. pennant, the World Series. Whatever it is, they’ll take it, though they prefer the World Series, which the Cubs haven’t won since 1908.

And since when have the expectations of fans ever been unrealistic?

Bryant, however, can’t help the Cubs win anything if he’s not on the team, and when last heard on the subject, the Cubs said they plan to have Bryant start the season in the minor leagues. They’re playing a game I have chronicled here for the past several years. It’s the major league service time manipulation game. It’s legal under the labor practice, but it undermines the integrity of the game.

Allowing MLB teams to do something that is legal under the labor practice which helps the team in the long run undermines the integrity of the game? I've never understood this point of view. Maybe it's a bit of a dick move by the Cubs (or Giants or any other MLB team), but it doesn't undermine the integrity of the game because it's not against the rules. It is manipulating service time, which (checks the CBA) isn't against the rules.

If steroids and Pete Rose’s violation of the game’s gambling rule undermines baseball’s integrity, so does the clubs’ manipulation of service time, no matter what an arbitrator said 30 years ago.

Yeah, this is not at all a good parallel. There are rules on the books against gambling and using PED's to gain an advantage. There is no rule that says an MLB team HAS to put their best team on the field, as determined by an old sportswriter-turned-blogger. I recognize there is no help for Murray Chass anyway, but if he can't tell the difference in a player violating a rule that is written in the MLB rule book and a team not violating part of the CBA then there is definitely never going to be help for him.

Boras is Bryant’s agent and could be said to have a vested interest in how the Cubs treat Bryant.

Right, because the more money Kris Bryant makes means that Scott Boras makes more money. Does it undermine the integrity of the game when an agent publicly requests an MLB team makes a personnel move all so that agent can have more money put in his pocket? I guess not. Scott Boras wants more money in his pocket, so he accuses others of wrongdoing so he can get richer.

He and I seldom agree on issues involving his clients, but in this instance I believe he is 100 percent correct.

Just like spring training statistics don't mean anything until Murray needs them to mean something to prove his point, Scott Boras is an evil person until Boras agrees with Murray Chass on an issue. In that case, Boras is just speaking the truth.

The Cubs and the other clubs that behave similarly are hurting Major League Baseball. They are saving money, but they are cheating their fans.

Murray's whole "They are hurting the fans" argument fails every single time. It doesn't hurt Cubs fans that they now get to have Kris Bryant as a part of the Cubs franchise for a longer period of time. The Cubs are not expected to win the World Series this year, so why is it hurting the team to make sure they keep Bryant around for an extra year when they may be able to better compete to win the World Series in the future? The fans aren't being cheated. The player and Scott Boras' pockets are being cheated, which apparently undermines the integrity of the game.

If they are not using their best players, they are not trying to win. That failing goes to the core of integrity.

The Cubs will be using their best players, and using their best players for a longer period of time, if they ensure that Kris Bryant doesn't become a Super Two by holding him down in the minors longer.

If the Cubs open the season with Bryant in the minors and keep him there for at least 12 days, they can ensure his presence with them through the 2021 season instead of the 2020 season, the first seven years of his major league career instead of the first six.

Wow, the Cubs fans are getting screwed. They are trading 12 days of not having Kris Bryant on the roster for an entire year of having Kris Bryant on the roster. I'm surprised there haven't been riots and revolts while fans storm the gates of Wrigley Field. Cubs fans are trading 12 days for 5 more months of Kris Bryant. That sounds pretty good.

For purposes of service time, a season is 172 days so a player can lack 11 days and still receive credit for a full season. If, however, he lacks 12 days and is in the majors the rest of the season, he has 171 days of major league service, one day short of a full year.

So Murray's argument is that because the Cubs are holding down Kris Bryant down in the minors for at least 6.98% of the season, and thereby receiving 100% of another season of Bryant's services, then they are getting screwed? This is a real argument he is furthering? Scott Boras and Kris Bryant may be getting screwed, but it doesn't affect the integrity of the game that Boras is arguing for what is financially beneficial for himself. Of course not.

As a result of clubs’ closely monitoring service time, they have kept major league-ready players in the minors longer than they should,

Which is an opinion and not a fact. These bloggers are always stating opinions as facts.

calling them up usually in late May or early June. The accompanying chart tells a striking story.

Chart - Service Time (2015-03-29)
Since Murray is all about "the fans" and how they are getting screwed, let's look at all these players and see how many of them are still with their original team that called them up. You know, just for shits and giggles to see how screwed these fans are getting.

This list has 25 players on it. Of these 25 players, only 5 of these players are not on their original team. Oscar Taveras is dead, so he doesn't really count. Kris Medlen was released by the Braves mostly for injury reasons and not performance reasons. Jordan Lyles, Joe Kelly and Stephen Pryor were respectively traded for Dexter Fowler, John Lackey, and Kendry Morales in an effort for the team that called them up to improve their team. So of these 25 players, 20 of them are still with the team that called them up, while four of them are not with their current team, but the reason they aren't with the team didn't "screw over the fans."

So Murray has no point. He argues these late call-ups screw over fans, but I don't think this is true. These late call-ups have allowed teams to have control over these players for a longer period of time.

In Bryant’s case, the Cubs care more about free agency because they could never keep him in the minors until late May or early June.

It's unfathomable that the Cubs would want to keep Bryant on their roster for as long as possible. The fans must feel screwed over knowing they get to keep one of the team's best prospects for a longer period of time. 

I had a lot of questions to ask Epstein, but a week’s worth of telephone calls and e-mail did not induce him to respond so the questions remain unasked and unanswered. Oh yes. I also tried reaching Tom Ricketts, the team’s owner, and he didn’t respond. Even the Cubs’ media relations director didn’t call back. I guess they are intent on not answering questions about Bryant.

Or, you know, they don't have to answer questions about Kris Bryant if they care not to or don't want to be accused of lacking integrity by a sportswriter-turned-blogger. 

Epstein, however, did speak with reporters at the Cubs’ camp in Arizona and talked in television interviews, and I frankly find it difficult to believe what he said about why Bryant may start the season in the minors:

Why does Murray find it difficult to believe? Because he wants to find it difficult to believe. It's the same reason that Murray doesn't think spring training statistics mean much, until he needs them to mean a lot in order to prove a point.

“It’s not about business. People are trying to make this about business. There are valid baseball reasons. The process of developing a player, taking them from amateur to Major League player and every step along the way, that’s a baseball process and those are baseball decisions, and that’s what we’re doing here.”

Here are several points I have:

1. It doesn't matter if Murray Chass finds this statement difficult to believe or not. MLB teams are entitled to leave whatever players they choose to leave at whatever minor league level they choose to leave that player until they decide they want to promote him.

2. If Theo Epstein said, "Yeah, we are holding him back so his service time doesn't cause him to become a Super Two" then that could be more honest but it would also cause Bryant to file a grievance. The Cubs don't even have to explain themselves anyway. So explaining themselves is pointless and unnecessary.

3. Bryant had been playing left field occasionally in spring training, so it's possible the Cubs decided they wanted him to practice more in left field (not in game situations) while in the minors.

4. The Cubs and Theo Epstein don't have to explain why they sent Bryant down because it's not against the rules for them to run the organization as they see fit.

Epstein pointed out that he had never had a player make his major league debut at the start of a season:

Murray thinks Theo Epstein REALLY lacks integrity now.

“I’ve never put a guy on an opening-day roster who hadn’t played in the big leagues previously. In 13 years, I’ve never done it. I’m not saying I’d never do it, but the general rule, the presumption, is to allow those guys to go out, play, get comfortable, get in rhythm, and come up when you handpick just the right moment for them to have success.”

It makes sense from the perspective of a GM. It does.

Unfortunately, neither that interviewer nor any other asked Epstein why, then, didn’t he call up Bryant late last season, as he did with infielder Mike Olt and outfielder Jorge Soler.

Possibly because the Cubs weren't in competition for a playoff spot and it didn't make sense to call up every single prospect the Cubs had. Perhaps because Olt plays third base too and it doesn't make any fucking sense to call up two prospects from the minors who play the exact same position so that one of those prospects ends up sitting the bench on a given day.

“They had Baez and Soler at Triple A,” Boras said. “Bryant performed far better. They get called up to the big leagues and Bryant doesn’t.”

And never forget while reading about Scott Boras whining that he has a financial stake in when Kris Bryant gets called up. Scott Boras gets paid faster when Kris Bryant is one year closer to free agency.

Had they promoted Bryant with the others, he could open this season with the Cubs without violating Epstein’s stated practice. But they weren’t about to recall Bryant then because his service clock would have started ticking, in Epstein’s view like a time bomb.

Mike Olt is older than Bryant and wasn't exactly hitting terrible at AAA last year when he was called up. But no, Murray is right that public opinion on which prospect should be called up to the majors, and not the opinion of the organization, should be what determines when Kris Bryant gets called up to the majors. The Cubs organization has no right to make personnel moves as they see fit.

Is that bad for the fans? A reader responded to a previous column about the manipulation of service time by saying he would rather have the player for a whole extra season than for a few extra games now.

But there are fans who have lived and died with the Cubs for their entire lives without seeing them win a World Series and may not have seven years left in their lives to see if it happens in 2021.

So the people who will die after the 2020 season who never got a chance to see the Cubs win the World Series are the ones getting screwed. So it's not Cubs fans that are getting screwed, but a specific subset of fans who don't currently know they are getting screwed who are getting screwed. These fans may be dead before 2021, so obviously Theo Epstein needs to factor in how many Cubs fans will be dead between the end of the 2020 season and the beginning of the 2021 season when making any decisions on which prospects to call up to the majors.

That makes sense.

“Is this good for the game?” Boras asked. “Fans are aware these players are extraordinary. They have nothing left to prove in the minors. Every year Kris Bryant has separated himself from everyone else. What standards does he have to achieve to deserve promotion?”

I'm sorry, I can't get past the fact Scott Boras is trying to preach about the integrity of the game when he wants Kris Bryant called up because it benefits them both financially.

Bryant is not expected to match his spring production in the early weeks of the season, even if he opens it with Chicago. Players who are torrid in spring exhibition games seldom take their paces into the season.

Well, it seems spring training statistics don't mean anything to Murray again.

Earlier this month the agent created a spring stir when he talked with Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Nightengale is one of the best baseball writers in the country, maybe the best, but even he swallowed Epstein’s excuse for delaying Bryant’s arrival in the majors.

“The Cubs simply believe that Bryant needs more defensive seasoning at Class AAA Iowa,” Nightengale wrote.

Bob Nightengale wasn't swallowing the excuse, he was repeating the reason given by Theo Epstein for Bryant to start the season at AAA.

Epstein was merely repeating the words of many other general managers who have used that excuse. The Pittsburgh Pirates have practically copyrighted that comment the last few years.

Oh, over the last few years the Pirates have copyrighted that excuse? Is this the same last few years when the Pirates have made the playoffs twice when they had not made the playoffs the 20 years prior to that? I bet Pirates fans feel REALLY screwed by the organization choosing to keep the best prospects in the minors in order to keep these prospects on the team longer. I'm surprised Pirates fans haven't revolted yet. The organization is making moves that results in the team making the playoffs and keeping the team's best players longer? It's outrageous!

Addressing the issue a few years ago, Rob Manfred said, “It has been long established that clubs have a right to call up players when they decide the timing is best for the club.”

However, that case was not on point with call-ups as they have developed, and a grievance probably is in order.

Clark, the Executive Director of the union, commented, “I think it’s disappointing that we are having any conversation that there is a question about the best players not to be available for fans to watch. It takes away from the game.”

I don't really care if the rule gets changed, but these are the rules now. The best players are not available for a smaller portion of a season so they can be available to that team for a longer period of time over that player's career with the team. The fans are not getting screwed over for their patience.

Bryant is not the only players whose immediate major league status is in question. Pitchers Jon Gray of Colorado and Carlos Rodon of the Chicago White Sox also have not been assured of spots on major league rosters.

Unfathomable. Rodon made six starts in the minor leagues after he was drafted. How could he NOT be ready for the majors?

If all three players fail to win opening-day jobs in the majors, their absence will very likely encourage the union to seek a solution with a grievance.

Murray means they would file a grievance for players that aren't really a part of the MLBPA? Seeking to file a grievance for players the MLB players have intentionally left out as being represented by their union? I'm sure Murray sees that as a case of having great integrity. Scott Boras just wants more money for Kris Bryant sooner (which is his right as an agent), whether it be with the Cubs or another team, so it's funny how he preaches integrity and pretends the fans are getting screwed. The Cubs organization is preventing Boras from ripping Kris Bryant away from the Cubs team one year earlier than they otherwise could and the fans are supposed to be getting the raw end of the deal?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

4 comments Bill Simmons Writes an NBA Team Lottery Preview Using Quotes from Vin Diesel

Bill Simmons must have made a mistake. It seems he actually wrote a column and posted it on Grantland. I keep waiting for it to be pulled back and Bill to admit it was an accident and he didn't mean to actually write a column that isn't a mailbag. Surprisingly, this column is not a mailbag but it is the same old contrived breakdown that Bill does where he previews/reviews something and uses movie quotes to do it. It's in his bag of four tricks he has used lately in order to churn out a column (YouTube videos, a conversation with another Grantland columnist, and of course a mailbag seem to be the other three). So Bill uses quotes from Vin Diesel's character in the "Fast and the Furious" to write about the NBA lottery teams. Yep, Bill is using quotes from a Vin Diesel character more known for taking action than having actual important things he has to say. It's desperate times in Bill's writing career. But hey, I'm sure the SimmonsClones are just excited to have another column from Bill they can worship and send in questions to him about, thereby allowing Bill to answer the questions in a mailbag and justify the existence of the SimmonsClone asking the question. Plus, Bill gets to pretend he's writing a column and not really simply relying on mailbags as the crutch for his writing career.

The NBA’s final regular-season week usually revolves around playoff seed positioning, MVP conversations, awards ballots, this Spurs picture, some unapologetic mega-tanking by the worst seven to eight teams, the annual “Ricky Rubio might be the worst shooter ever” conversation,

As a reminder, Bill loved Ricky Rubio prior to Rubio being drafted and playing in the NBA. He thought the Thunder should have drafted Rubio over James Harden.

the annual OKC newspaper article that revises Harden trade history,

But Bill got Kevin Durant to notice him on Twitter after Bill commented on this newspaper article. That's really why Bill brings it up.

(That reminds me: Round 1, Celtics vs. Hawks, Brad Stevens back in his old, familiar Butler-against-the-world underdog situation, 5,000 Boston fans at every Atlanta home game, Paul Millsap’s achy shoulder, no Thabo Sefolosha, some off-the-court Hawks drama, at least one Isaiah Thomas Heat Check looming, Brad Stevens a second time … I mean, WHY NOT US?????????)

It always circles back to the Celtics at some point for some reason or another. 

But you know what else always happens in that final week?

You write a column about all the things that "we" were wrong about during the NBA season?

Unless you root for a team with a legitimate chance to make postseason noise, you can’t shake the nagging sense that you wasted your life for six months.

Which, while remembering I blog on a site dedicated to sports, is a pretty sad way to go about living your life. It's sad to feel like you wasted your life over six months simply because your favorite NBA team isn't very good.

Just know that you didn’t waste your life for the past six months. Every NBA season yields positives for the noncontenders, no matter how hopeless or snakebitten or talent-deprived or poorly run your favorite franchise might have been.

The biggest positive being that you don't have to watch your favorite NBA team play again for another six months.

Just for kicks, we’re throwing in a meaningful Dom Toretto quote to capture every noncontender’s state of mind.

"Just for kicks" being defined as Bill saying, "I can't write a column anymore, there has to be some contrivance that the column revolves around."

So Bill writes this column revolving around quotes from "The Fast and the Furious." I have seen the first movie, didn't care to see any of the others, but I feel pretty confident to believe these aren't going to be the best quotes to base a column on the NBA around. But the alternative for Bill is to spend time thinking of other quotes from another movie or (the horror) not having a contrivance the column will revolve around. There MUST be a contrivance.

(By the way, I'm going to leave a lot of the quotes from Diesel's character out, they really don't seem to add to the content of what is written)

I mean, what other Dom quote would you use for Knicks fans? Did their favorite team just spend $85 million last spring on a Derek Fisher mannequin and a 70-year-old tweeter who lives 3,000 miles away? (Yessir.) Are those the two people running the team? (Unfortunately, yes.) Have James Dolan’s last 15 seasons yielded just five playoff appearances, one playoff series victory and 11 under-.500 seasons? (Um, yeah.) So why should Knicks fans be feeling good right now?
THEY HAVE A TOP-FIVE LOTTERY PICK!!!!

A team that has historically managed to screw up personnel moves and has executives Bill doesn't trust to run the team has a chance to draft early and screw up a personnel move? Obviously this is nothing but good news in the mind of Bill.

One problem: They kept dumping lottery picks or future lottery picks for established players like Antonio McDyess, Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry and Carmelo Anthony. Another problem: They kept landing in the wrong top-10 spot … like no. 9 in 2003 (Mike Sweetney), no. 8 in 2005 (Channing Frye), no. 6 in 2008 (Danilo Gallinari), and, most painful of all, no. 8 in 2009 (Jordan Hill, taken one spot after Steph Curry).

I know Bill is trying to be positive, but the Knicks have a history of bad personnel moves, so why the confidence they will choose a good player in the top-5 of the lottery? Not to rub it in, but the Knicks didn't just fall into bad spots in the top-10, they missed on the picks they made. In 2003 they could have drafted Boris Diaw or David West. Heck, Nick Collison would have been a better pick than Sweetney. In 2005, they did hit on David Lee and could have drafted Danny Granger in that #8 spot. In 2009, instead of drafting Jordan Hill they could have had DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, or Jeff Teague. I don't bring this up to use hindsight, but to acknowledge the Knicks may have been unlucky in those drafts, but they also didn't draft well.

Once that’s settled, they can enjoy multiple Chad Ford mock drafts, dozens of Okafor-or-Towns conversations, the inevitable “Mudiay could own New York, should we just take him?” groundswell, some trade-up/trade-down scenarios,

Then they will draft Stanley Johnson in the #5 spot.

Minnesota T-Wolves (16-62)

If USC asked me to teach a college course called “How To Be An NBA GM,”

Which would be an extraordinarily stupid move considering Bill Simmons has never actually been an NBA GM other than in his head and on ESPN's trade machine, where he usually follows absurd trade ideas with "Who says 'no' to that?" as if the world will bend at his will.

If only the University of Virginia asked me to teach a college course called "How To Be A Rodeo Clown" then I'm sure I'd have great advice to give even though I know nothing about being a rodeo clown.

I’d split up my 12 weeks of seminars into two-hour, subject-specific classes like “Take Everything Billy King Did, Then Do The Exact Opposite,” “Jerry West’s Brilliant Summer of ’96” and “The Lessons of KAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHN!”

Bill would also do a seminar entitled, "I really have no idea what I'm doing because I've never been an NBA GM and my only knowledge on how to be a GM is that I like to criticize moves other GM's make."

Amazingly, “How The Hell Did Flip Saunders Become One Of The NBA’s Five Most Powerful Non-Owners?” wouldn’t be my Flip-related class; I’d much rather break down his amazing Love-for-Wiggins trade — maybe the only time an NBA franchise extracted more than 100 cents on the dollar for a perceived superstar. 

The key to that trade: Flip waited.

You mean sort of like how the Knicks are waiting to trade Carmelo Anthony and you think they should blow the team up now?

Usually, NBA teams want to finish reshaping their rosters in June and July; they fear uncertainty heading into the upcoming season.

Bill Simmons when discussing the Knicks just a few short paragraphs ago when discussing what Knicks fans have to look forward to:

my inevitable “Why wouldn’t the Knicks trade Melo and completely blow this up?” podcast with Zach Lowe, and then the draft telecast itself.

So Bill thinks the key is to wait, except in cases where this isn't good advice and the Knicks should just go ahead and trade Carmelo now? Or is it that sometimes when it ends up working out as a smart move, then an NBA team was smart to wait to trade a star player, but other times when it ends up not working out, that team should have waited? Or is that Bill Simmons is making things up as he goes along and only has an outcome-based opinion? Bill thinks the Knicks should trade Carmelo before the draft in June, but Bill also thinks teams make a mistake wanting to finish reshaping the roster in June and July. Of course he holds both of these opinions.

"Oh yeah, that worked. Other NBA teams should do that, except in cases where I say other NBA teams shouldn't do that."

Flip never wanted Boston’s pupu platter offer (the no. 6 pick in 2014, a Brooklyn pick, expirings and non-All-Stars), even if most teams would have panic-settled for it. He thought Golden State might budge on Klay Thompson and David Lee; they never blinked. So he waited for a miracle …

Wait and hope for a miracle! What could go wrong in just waiting for a miracle to happen? This is great advice from Bill Simmons in his class on how to be an NBA GM.

and then, suddenly, LeBron was thinking about a Cleveland return and the rest was history. Flip sold super-high on Love AND landed a superstar-in-waiting.

It's almost like waiting is a strategy that could go very right or terribly wrong, depending on the circumstances and whether a miracle occurs or not. Nevertheless, waiting seems like a great strategy to Bill, but only in cases where he can fast-forward to see the strategy paid off.

Flip can inhale the fumes of that Wiggins deal for years. Throw in this June’s top-five pick and things are looking up in Minnesota! We’ve almost reached the point when we can stop talking about the T-Wolves drafting two straight point guards directly in front of Stephen Curry. Almost.

But Bill, are we are the point where you were totally on board with the Timberwolves drafting Ricky Rubio but aren't going to mention that because you want to be able to criticize the T-Wolves for drafting him while ignoring your own opinion of Rubio because it might make you look a little bit less like a genius? No, we aren't at the point where you want to be honest with your lemming-like readers? Great, carry on then.

Philadelphia 76ers (18-61)

Then Bill rambles about how the 76ers are essentially running a Ponzi scheme on their fan base, despite the fact just a year or so ago Bill wrote that NBA teams who try to win games while rebuilding only end up drafting in the late lottery or barely making the playoffs, and that's not the way to rebuild a team. He advocated that teams who are going to lose need to try and lose. But since the 76ers are three years into the rebuild and haven't improved yet, Bill seems to be wondering if his own opinion is correct. More likely, he just wants to play both sides. He wants to advocate for a team going all-out to lose games, while also criticizing that team for screwing over the fan base.

It’s exceedingly logical. All of it. But if you’re asking me to find positives, it’s tough. The Sixers just became the first NBA team ever to say, unapologetically, “For two straight years and possibly three, we aren’t going to give a damn about the product we’re putting out … but by all means, please keep spending money on your seats.” Check out their season-ticket page: “THIS STARTS NOW” in all caps. What starts now? Giving a shit? You just stole money from your fans for two straight years. Are your season-ticket holders getting future credit for the two years they just threw away?

While I wouldn't necessarily disagree with Bill to an extent, was he aware of another way to rebuild so as to ensure the team isn't in the late lottery, while not screwing over season-ticket holders and taking money away from fans who bought tickets while the team was bad? The 76ers are avoiding the late lottery and outright stinking to get better draft picks. I can't think of a way this would not steal money from season-ticket holders other than the 76ers simply not charge them for tickets.

I shopped for season tickets on the 76ers website and found that, for the ludicrous price of more than $10,770, I could purchase two seasons in Row 13 of Section 113 (midcourt) for a team that just lost 120-plus games over the past two seasons and is probably headed for another 60 losses next season. No promise that it’s a fixed price for the rest of the decade, no incentive plan, nothing.

STEALING YOUR MONEY FOR A THIRD STRAIGHT YEAR — THIS STARTS NOW.

But again, Bill also writes:

Every move made sense on paper. If you’re gonna stink in the NBA, you might as well S-T-I-N-K. If you’re gonna lose 60-plus games for two straight years, you might as well cheap out. If Jrue Holiday and Michael Carter-Williams could never be one of the best two guys on a title team, you might as well flip them for three lottery picks and improve your odds to find a franchise guy … right?

It's difficult to figure out how a team can tank, make money and not screw over the fan base. It's nearly impossible and NBA teams won't stop trying to make money. The tank strategy equals screwing over a fan base.

Sixers fans need luck with (a) the 2015 and 2016 lotteries, (b) the health of Embiid and Noel, (c) the Lakers pick, and (d) Saric. They need to know whether Embiid and Noel can actually play together. 

Maybe the 76ers should just wait, because apparently that's the key to turning a team around quickly. Then a miracle will happen!

Either your NBA team will be good in two to three years, or this will become one of the five best 30 for 30s ever. There’s no third outcome. This starts now. Shut up and drink your Corona.

See? It all ties back in with the "Fast and the Furious" quote, just like the way Bill shoehorned it to be.

Only two destinations truly matter to NBA players: the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat (we’ll get to them). That’s it.

That's it. All 28 other NBA teams should just ahead and fold up operations now, while the Lakers and Heat play an 82 game schedule against each other. From the word of God/Bill, only two destinations matter to NBA players, the Lakers and the Heat. That explains why Dwight Howard signed with the Rockets instead of the Lakers and why LeBron James went back to Cleveland from Miami. Mike Miller went to Cleveland from Miami this past offseason as well. Only two destinations matter, which again, explains why Bill is certain that Kevin Love will sign in Boston. IT ALL MAKES SENSE!

Bonus positive no. 1: Kobe’s Expiring Contract!
 
Bonus positive no. 2: Cap space!!!!!
 
Bonus positive no. 3: Hollywood! Bel-Air! Beverly Hills! Malibu! 75 degrees! Hot women!

(I repeat: The Lakers will be fine, even if it is nice to see their fans suffer for a couple of years. Welcome to the real NBA world, you guys.)

(Bengoodfella laughs so hard at the irony of a Boston Celtics fan telling the Lakers fan base "Welcome to the real NBA world" and indicating that he knows suffering as a fan of the Celtics)

Maybe one day Lakers fans will know the suffering that Bill has gone through as a Celtics fan. Bill is so cursed! It's been a little over half a decade since the Celtics have won an NBA title, so don't tell Bill he doesn't know about the "real" NBA world.

Orlando Magic (25-53)
 
Tao of Dom: “A real driver knows exactly what’s in his car.”

Now there’s something you never could have said about Jacque Vaughn. 

These quotes really aren't as relevant as Bill wants them to be. As usual, they feel forced.

Here’s what you have: five keepers (Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, Nik Vucevic and Top-Seven Lottery Pick TBD), a buttload of cap space and, of course, the Chance To Follow Jacque Vaughn.

My dream scenario: Orlando nails that coaching hire (Billy Donovan?), 

What year is it? 2008?

drafts Duke’s swingman/stud/beast Justise Winslow (my favorite 2015 lottery pick/team fit, hands down) and finds a free-agent rim protector.

The Magic could do what the Cavs should have done, which is to acquire DeAndre Jordan.

God, I love the thought of Winslow on this team. That reminds me, is there a support group for sports fans who despised Duke for the past 20-plus years with a passion normally reserved for meter maids and traffic jams, only they thoroughly enjoyed watching the Blue Devils’ collection of 2015 players and even found themselves rooting for them a couple of times?

Not really, Bill. People still hate Duke even though you personally claim that you didn't dislike their 2015 version of the Duke Blue Devils team. Believe it or not, you don't speak for all college basketball fans. I know, it's a shock to hear, but it's true. Having a bunch of one-and-done players on the team doesn't mean Duke is now likeable.

Sacramento Kings (27-51)

I don’t mind the nucleus here: Boogie Cousins (a borderline first-team All-NBA center who couldn’t get it because his team stunk), Ben McLemore (blossomed in Year 2), Rudy Gay (shockingly solid this season), great and loyal fans, a top-eight lottery pick coming, Boogie a second time, and Boogie a third time.

Bill doesn't mind the nucleus the Kings have. I'm sure his blessing means a lot to the organization. and yes, Rudy Gay was shockingly solid this year. He's never not been solid, he's just not a superstar like he was being paid to be and was expected to be.

Still, there’s a certain honor in rooting for the strangest, goofiest, most inexplicably incompetent franchise in basketball. When everything turns around, it makes the whole thing feel even sweeter. Trust me, I’m a Patriots fan. We stunk for the first 30-plus years of my life, then, all of a sudden, we didn’t.

Bill is still trying to get mileage out of the whole "The Patriots only made two Super Bowls during the first 30 years of my life, so feel sorry for me" bullshit he dealt for so long. I feel so much sympathy for him. If anyone knows something about incompetent franchises then it has to be the guy whose favorite NFL team has gone to 8 Super bowls during the first 40+ years of his life with his team winning four of those Super Bowls. Sure, Bill is a fan of a team that stunk for a while, but as long as you ignore the fact the Patriots have been very, very good for the past 15 years then you know he understands how a team that hasn't made the NBA Finals since 1951 when they played in Rochester feels. But no Kings fans, BILL KNOWS EXACTLY HOW YOU FEEL! HERE, DROWN YOUR SORROWS BY DRINKING SOME WINE OUT OF THE FOUR SUPER BOWL TROPHIES THE PATRIOTS HAVE WON!

Bill is so far removed from the days when his favorite sports teams were terrible that it's always hilarious when he tries to relate to other fan bases. It's actually sort of sad that Bill wants to remember those times when his teams were so bad that he almost seems to cling to them. Bill wants to be the fan of underdog teams so he can pretend to relate, but that's just not true anymore.

There’s a really fun Ty Lawson summer deal coming. Maybe a three-way that sends Lawson and a second-rounder to Utah, Jrue Holiday and Utah’s 2015 lottery pick to Denver, and Rodney Hood and Trey Burke to New Orleans?

Who says "no" to this? All three teams would surely jump at this deal. Sometimes I wish Bill were a GM so I could listen to his conversations and hear other GM's tell him "no."

Maybe Lawson for Darren Collison, Sauce Castillo and the rights to Sacramento’s top-eight pick? Or Lawson back to Charlotte for Kemba Walker, Charlotte’s top-12 pick and one pick swap before 2020? 

I can't figure out why the Horncats would trade Walker and their draft pick for Ty Lawson when they seem perfectly happy with Walker on the roster and this seems like a high price to pay for Lawson. I love Lawson, but this isn't a trade I would make if I'm the Horncats.

The best thing the Nuggets have going for them other than that Lawson trade and 2015’s lottery pick: They have Portland’s 2016 pick (lottery-protected) and a juicy future Memphis pick (protected 1-5 and 15-30 in 2016, top-five protected in 2017 and 2018, unprotected in 2019), and they can swap first-rounders with the 2016 Knicks. Which raises an interesting dilemma.

Door A: Deal Kenneth Faried for a pick (he’s a classic buy-low candidate right now for any smart playoff team), deal the Gallinari and Wilson Chandler expirings before next February’s trade deadline, detonate their 10-minute car completely, then rebuild around their picks, buttloads of cap space and the future star of Taken 5, Jusuf Nurkic.

Yeah, but then what would the season ticket holders of the Nuggets think about these moves? Bill doesn't want Denver Nuggets fans to be cheering for a team that isn't very good over a couple of years does he? Because then the fans are getting screwed over. Is there a way to rebuild without actually rebuilding? The Celtics do it all the time. I'm sure Bill would use this as an example.

(Spoiler alert: He does.)

Door B: Turn Lawson into pieces that keep them competitive (the Holiday/Utah pick three-teamer is perfect), keep everyone else, make a run at a no. 7 seed and bank on that 2016 Knicks pick swap paying real dividends. 

And again, Bill has previously stated the worst position for NBA teams to be in is they are good enough to make the playoffs and get a pick from 13-18 in the NBA draft, but not be good enough to actually win a playoff series. I guess as long as NBA teams have permission from Bill to be good enough to make the playoffs or just miss the playoffs then it's okay.

Can you think of a better 21st-century asset than the sentence, “Next year, we get to swap first-round picks with the Knicks”? It’s neck-and-neck with Apple stock. I vote for Door B.

Even though Bill has previously said this is a shitty position for an NBA team to be in when they want to win a title, I guess it's better to just forget he said that and assume Bill always knows what he is talking about...even when he contradicts his old opinions (and of course I can't find the article where Bill states NBA teams shouldn't be stuck in that spot between barely making the playoffs and having a high lottery pick...trust me, it exists).

Detroit Pistons (30-48)

The SVG plan: Dump Josh Smith (done); let someone else overpay Greg Monroe (imminent); pay Reggie Jackson (just don’t overpay him, for god’s sake); build around Andre Drummond, Jackson and a Top-10 Lottery Pick X (in motion); spend smartly this summer on a stretch 4 and one more 3-point shooter (doable) … I mean, there hasn’t been a safer time to buy Pistons season tickets since Obama got elected.

Bill shows his GM skills by telling the Pistons to pay Reggie Jackson but don't overpay him. Find a number that the Pistons want to pay Jackson and tell him to sign the document or his brains will be on the paper instead of his signature. Because it's entirely possible to set the market for Jackson by simply wanting to resign him and this ensures the Pistons won't overpay. It's all possible in Bill's head.

Quick Pistons tangent: I graduated from college in 1992, the same year Chuck Daly left the Pistons. Do you know how many head coaches they’ve had since then? Fourteen! 

Not that the world revolves around Bill Simmons or anything of course.

Daly lasted for an entire decade (1983 through 1992); no other Pistons coach made it to the end of his fourth year. The Pistons have employed THIRTY-FIVE head coaches in all, compared to 27 for the Royals/Kings, 26 for the Knicks, 25 for the Lakers, 25 for the Warriors, 23 for the Bullets/Wizards and 17 for the Celtics. Just having a competent head coach is a huge, huge, huge victory for Pistons fans right now.

So what Bill is informing his readers is that, in fact, an NBA franchise that has stability and competency in head coaching will generally be a team that is better built for success? Is he sure about this? The next thing I know, Bill will be telling his readers that it's a huge victory for teams to have competent basketball players on the roster.

Charlotte Horbobnetcats (33-45)

It's the Horncats, not the Horbobnetcats.

Tao of Dom: “You’re gonna need more than that crotch rocket.”

We might have to rename that 35-40 wins/borderline no. 8-spot/late-lottery area “Charlotteland.”

It's catchy, but I doubt it will catch on because it's also stupid.

The poor Horbobnetcats never intended to land there again, 

You mean the Hornets didn't intend to be the 8th seed in the East or get a late lottery pick? This wasn't the long-term plan, to sign players good enough to barely make the playoffs or barely miss the playoffs? I don't believe it. I learn so much reading Bill's columns. He's such an NBA expert that it's nearly impossible not to learn something. Apparently the Charlotte Hornets weren't attempting to do better than the 8th seed in the East. I had no idea. What wonderful insight Bill provides to his readers. I wonder if the Hawks were intending on trying to have the best record in the East or not?

That would be fine except they’ve had a whopping 15 first-rounders since 2004. FIFTEEN! Do you realize they picked second in ’04; then fifth and 13th; third; eighth and 22nd; ninth and 20th; 12th; ninth and 19th; second; fourth; and ninth and 24th? Some sweet picks, right? Not if you took Brandan Wright, D.J. Augustin and Noah Vonleh one spot before Joakim Noah, Brook Lopez, and Elfrid Payton. Not if you were one spot away from Dwight Howard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Anthony Davis … and ended up with Emeka Okafor, Adam Morrison and Kidd-Gilchrist instead.

The Knicks kept landing in the wrong spot of the draft to get the players they wanted, while the Bobcats/Hornets blew the picks they had. Got it. The Knicks could have drafted Brook Lopez too and chose not to. I guess Bill's opinion on whether a team landed in the wrong spot in the lottery or chose poorly depends entirely on what point he is looking to prove at that moment.

Since the first incarnation of the franchise launched in 1988, Charlotte missed the playoffs 16 of 25 times, won just four playoff series and never advanced past Round 2. So what’s positive about any of this? If you look at the NBA’s 2014-15 attendance numbers, Charlotte ranked 19th at 17,227 fans per game — just behind the Hawks and Grizzlies and ahead of the Pelicans and Suns. They even raised ticket prices by 5 percent for next season! So that’s my positive for Charlotte: It’s a franchise blessed with loyal NBA fans who aren’t ashamed to admit that they love mediocre basketball and poor decision-making.

I guess the other positive could be that Bill thinks the Horncats could acquire Ty Lawson this offseason? Maybe not. Maybe that is just one of those one-sided "Who says 'no'?" trades that Bill believes would actually work in the NBA. Bill does have a tendency to do this type of thing. Earlier, Bill suggested the Horncats trade for Lawson, and yet, that's not one of his positives about the team. Weird.

Miami Heat (35-44)

You know how Knicks fans think their team will be fine because everyone always wants to play for a big market?

Actually Bill, I think it's more New York sportswriters who think the team can draw big stars because the Knicks play in a big market. Who am I to question Bill's ability to speak for the Knicks fan base though?

Actually, Miami is the Eastern Conference team with a 20-year track record of landing marquee players — Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway (mid-1990s), then Juwan Howard (1996 for about 10 seconds before the NBA voided that deal), then Eddie Jones and Brian Grant (2000), then Shaquille O’Neal (2004), then LeBron and Bosh (2010), then Dragic (2015).

How many of those players were free agents again? Not Mourning, Hardaway, not Jones, not Shaq and not Dragic. So Bill has a point, but half of these players didn't choose to sign with the Heat. Instead, they were traded to the Heat.

Again, it’s the franchise that convinced LeBron to leave Ohio in his prime.

Yeah, but then LeBron left the Heat for Ohio in his prime just a few years later. So I'm not sure this is as good of a point as Bill thinks it is. 

For that and many other reasons, here’s your stealth Durant/2016 destination. Not Washington, not New York, not Los Angeles. Here. South Beach. They’ve done it before; they’ll do it again. Miami will ALWAYS be fine. That’s why Riley doesn’t care about giving up those future first-rounders. Ride or die — remember?

Yes, the stupid "Fast the Furious" quote tied right into what Bill was saying about the Heat. Now I'm completely convinced using quotes from these movies is not a contrivance. I am lying.

Utah Jazz (36-42)


Tao of Dom: “It starts with the eyes. She’s gotta have those kind of eyes that can look right through the bullshit, to the good in someone. Twenty percent angel, 80 percent devil. Down to earth. Ain’t afraid to get a little engine grease under her fingernails.”

I included this quote because it has absolutely nothing to do with the Utah Jazz. Nothing at all. I will print what Bill wrote about the Jazz and you can see how flimsy Bill's attempt at using quotes from the "Fast and the Furious" really is.

One of my favorite Dom quotes goes to my favorite NBA renaissance: In less than 12 months, the Jazz found a real coach (Quin Snyder), stumbled into a 22-year-old shot-blocker/rebounder (the Stifle Tower), watched Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors blossom into legit pieces, created a genuine wrestling heel for their fans (Enes Kanter, Utah’s no. 1 enemy for the next 10 years)

So the Jazz are able to look through the bullshit and see the good in their players? (I actually could make a solid argument for this based on Snyder's coaching history and Favors' reputation in college for pouting when things get tough, but again, this isn't an argument Bill is making so it doesn't fit the quote he's using)

and struck oil with the best 18-year-old in the history of the NBA draft (Dante Exum). Fine, I made up the Exum part. But everything else happened. This summer, the Jazz need to either (a) sign an impact point guard,

Bill Simmons the GM says "sign an impact point guard" this summer, BUT DON'T OVERPAY! Sign one of the best point guards you can find on the market in a market not full of impact point guards, but don't offer him too much money. It sounds simple enough to a couch rosterbator like Bill.

or (b) turn their top-12 pick, Burke, Hood and/or one of their future first-rounders from G-State and OKC into an impact point guard like Lawson (as described above). 

Or just do that. Just do it. How hard can it be to force another NBA team to take these players and give up an impact point guard in return? You just make the offer and then smugly ask, "Who says 'no'?"

Whatever it takes. And yes, these guys would have stolen 2015’s hypothetical Entertaining As Hell Tournament and grabbed one of the no. 8 seeds.

So why are the Jazz twenty percent angel and eighty percent devil again? How are they afraid to get a little engine grease under their fingernails? I guess Bill couldn't find a better quote on IMDB from the "Fast the Furious" for the Jazz.

Brooklyn Nets (36-42)

Now Bill includes a fake quote from Dom in the "Fast and the Furious," which is typical Bill Simmons. He can't even see his contrivance all the way to the end. If it doesn't fit, he'll throw a little humor in there so his lemming readers won't figure out how out of original ideas he is at this point. He shoehorns in quotes that don't make sense in the context of what he's talking about for each NBA team and then he makes up quotes when he can't even shoehorn in a real quote.

Boston Celtics (36-42)

Dom’s greatest quote goes to the greatest on-the-fly rebuilding job in recent NBA history:

YOUR TEAM'S REBUILDING JOB ISN'T AS GOOD AS THE CELTICS REBUILDING JOB! IT'S BECAUSE THE CELTICS FANS CARE SO MUCH MORE ABOUT THE TEAM THAN YOUR TEAM'S FANS CARE ABOUT THE TEAM! DANNY AINGE DOESN'T WANT TO LET THE GREATEST FANS THAT HAVE EVER EXISTED (16th in the NBA in attendance) DOWN!

The Celtics have the greatest on-the-fly rebuilding job in recent NBA history. They got the 7th seed with a losing record in a weak Eastern Conference. It's historic brilliance at work.

I would be more shocked if Bill didn't call the rebuilding job by the Celtics the best in recent history.

2016 President-Elect Brad Stevens, a coach who’s so ridiculously good that the Celtics might grab a no. 7 seed during the same season in which they dealt their two best players and suited up 22 different players. I’ve never felt better/prouder/happier/giddier about a team that’s six games below .500. What a season.

Yes, Brad Stevens has done a great job in a weak conference to secure a playoff spot. There's no doubt about that. Perhaps just cool down on the hyperbole for a little bit though.

So, what happens going forward? Get a taste of the playoffs, show the rest of the NBA (and every free agent, as well as the agents of those free agents) that you happen to employ a coach who’s a freaking Jedi, keep mastering that pace-and-space/balls-to-the-wall style, and eventually, the Celts can land one or two difference-makers (either with their picks or with a package that comes for those picks).

Go find some difference makers! Go do it! This despite the fact Bill previously stated only two cities (Miami and Los Angeles) really matter to free agents, so why would difference makers come to Boston when they could play for the Lakers in one of the two cities that matter to them as free agents?

They just need (gulp) the franchise player. It’s like watching someone serve an absolutely perfect four-course dinner that doesn’t have an actual entrée yet. Well, that entrée is coming. One quarter-mile at a time, baby.

They could trade up in the draft using some of those picks they have and draft Jahlil Okafor, but watching him, Olynyk, and Zeller fail to protect the rim would murder me dead.

Milwaukee Bucks (38-40)

Allow me a quick Giannis Antetokounmpo tangent: 

You are writing the column. There is no way to stop you from going on this tangent. If I could stop you from going on tangents then I would have attempted to do so many years ago.

He’s been celebrated on the Internet for months if only because few things are more fun in 2015 than a freak NBA athlete with (a) a great nickname, (b) a ton of promise, and (c) a style that translates easily to Twitter, Vine and YouTube. Nobody knows where this is going. He’s only 20. But I’ve seen enough “Milwaukee clears out for Giannis because he’s feeling it” quarters to justify making the following comparison without feeling like a maniac:

Bill, the world's resident NBA expert, is making an official comparison. This is official and not a test, people. So consider it fact until Bill decides he wants you to forget he wrote this.

I attended a slew of Celtics games in the late 1990s because my father (who paid for our tickets) hated watching Rick Pitino and Antoine Walker and never wanted to go. I watched Young T-Mac on Toronto in person probably six or seven times. As a rookie, he looked totally lost. During Year 2 and the first half of Year 3, he looked like a safe bet to be the Robin to Vince’s Batman — the second banana, the defensive stopper, the guy who could carry your offense when Batman was out, Vince’s own personal Pippen.

Holy crap, I watched McGrady on television too and I remember these things too! It's weird how my experience of watching T-Mac on television translates to having as much experience to understand his development as Bill Simmons does by watching T-Mac in person.

But I remember leaving it thinking, Holy crap, T-Mac is gonna be ridiculously good. Suddenly he could handle the ball, shoot 3s, bounce off people in traffic, quick-jump over people for rebounds, defend anyone he wanted … I mean, you could just SEE it.

And other people, outside of you, did SEE it. You are not special in being one of the few who saw T-Mac's development. Sorry.

Here’s the point: T-Mac averaged only 15.4 points with 45-28-71 percent splits that season. His points-per-game for his next three years in Orlando: 26.8, 25.6, 32.1. Everyone knew we were headed for good things with T-Mac in Boston that night, but nobody knew we were headed for THAT.

This is another type of thing Bill likes to do in his columns. He makes a comparison and uses his experience as a Celtics fan watching something great occur, an experience that he thinks no one else saw because they weren't a Celtics fan in the arena watching this great thing occur, as proof this comparison is true. Bill saw T-Mac become great, so he alone has the ability to know when a player is becoming great, and now he'll compare T-Mac to Giannis.

I’m telling you, real stuff is happening here — glimpses, pieces, flashes, but real stuff. In his second year, Giannis isn’t even scoring 13 points a game. I bet that doubles within three years. I know they don’t sell Bucks stock, but buy it anyway.

So a young player is continuously improving and Bill thinks this player will continue to improve as he gets older and more experienced? I don't know, that seems like a risky opinion.

Phoenix Suns (39-40)

They turned Eric Bledsoe into a borderline max guy. They antagonized Goran Dragic by bringing in a third point guard, played him out of position for three months, took it personally when he bitched to the press, then panic-downgraded from Dragic (I voted him second-team All-NBA last season)

This is your yearly reminder from Bill's ego that he has an All-NBA vote. Bill has to swing his dick around a little bit to remind you of how important he is.

Oklahoma City Thunder (42-36)

Tao of Dom: “You’ve got the best crew in the world standing right in front of you. Give them a reason to stay.”

Very, very subtle. I should just feel lucky that Bill doesn't go into a "Why did the Thunder trade James Harden" rant again.

They made the Finals in 2012.

They lost in Round 2 in 2013.

They lost in Round 3 in 2014.

They probably aren’t making the playoffs in 2015.

Harden plays for Houston.

Durant’s contract expires in 2016.

Westbrook’s contract expires in 2017.

Oh Bill, why must you leave out relevant information as to why the Thunder lost in Round 2, lost in Round 3 and aren't making the playoffs this season? Very few other contending teams have faced the type of injuries over the last three years that the Thunder have faced. The Thunder have lost all three of their stars at some point for the playoffs over the last three years. They lost Westbrook in 2013, lost Ibaka in 2014 and now they don't have Kevin Durant in 2015. I would think the loss of Durant during the 2015 season may have a little to do with why the Thunder won't be making the playoffs.

I ask why Bill leaves this out and the answer is simple. Bill has a point he is looking to prove and he'll be damned if he is providing information that may topple his point in any way. Yes, Durant and Westbrook have expiring contracts in a few years, but the team isn't on the decline because they haven't made it back to the NBA Finals since 2012. Injuries (and yes, the trade of Harden) have a lot do with this as well.

(So, um … )

(Let’s just wrap the column up … )

(Thanks for reading … )

Yep, there's no hope for the Thunder. Bill has that right. I wonder if there is a Dom quote for being incredibly in love with yourself and believing your assertions are indeed facts?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

6 comments MMQB Review: Troy Polamalu Was a Pure Safety, Except When He Wasn't Edition

Peter King asked a veteran last week in MMQB how many people he had killed, which was shockingly insensitive, and he revealed that he was always dubious going to rehab was Johnny Manziel's idea. Peter just forgot to mention that going to rehab was not Manziel's idea until he found out the Browns have moved on from Manziel as their quarterback. This week evaluates Troy Polamalu's Hall of Fame chances (Peter spends 25% of MMQB talking about Polamalu...which is a lot of space...but he played for the Steelers so it's space well-spent obviously), talks about the impact of a female official (she might better be able to fit in if sportswriters didn't make such a big deal of her inclusion as an NFL official), and apparently Gary Myers is writing a book about the Brady-Manning rivalry which sounds like a book I'm 100% guaranteed not to read. I get enough of the "IT'S BRADY VERSUS MANNING" during the NFL season. I don't need a whole book about it. The book has "untold" stories, which I wish had stayed that way for a little while longer. Apparently their rivalry changed the NFL. Who knew?

This is for all of you, in the wake of Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu retiring the other day after 12 seasons, wondering if he’ll be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, or whether it’ll be he or Ed Reed who gets into Canton first, or whether they might go in together:

This is for all of us? I don't really give a shit if Troy Polamalu makes the Hall of Fame or not. The NFL Hall of Fame vote for Polamalu is five seasons away and even then I probably don't care if he makes it or not. I don't see the need to have a discussion about his candidacy right now. I think it can wait, no?

Over the past 26 years, covering 147 enshrinees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one of the 147 has been a safety. I’m talking a player who played safety his entire career, not one (such as Ronnie Lott or Rod Woodson, both of whom played significant portions of their careers at cornerback) who split time between corner and safety. The one: Minnesota’s Paul Krause, the league’s all-time interceptions leader.

Peter I'm one of your readers, which means you need to treat me like I am stupid. Explain it in terms that someone who has the IQ of 85 can understand please. TALK DOWN TO ME!

Put another damning way: No safety who has played in an NFL game in the past 35 seasons is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Thank you for making that easy for me to understand. I was so confused previously when you used big words like "significant" and talked about players splitting time between two positions.

Three things really struck me about Polamalu’s retirement:

1. He was good at football.

2. He played for the Steelers his whole career.

3. His hair looked like a huge mane of pubic hair, which sort of disgusted me at times.

1. He’s a unique player in NFL history, a safety/linebacker/cover guy who blew up people, was as instinctive as they come, and played with the kind of dignity so few men have consistently shown over long careers.

Wait, what? Polamalu was a safety/linebacker/cover guy? So while Polamalu didn't play another position outside of safety, he was used in a variety of roles? Interesting since Peter just wrote the following as a reason why Polamalu was a pure safety:

Over the past 26 years, covering 147 enshrinees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, one of the 147 has been a safety. I’m talking a player who played safety his entire career, not one (such as Ronnie Lott or Rod Woodson, both of whom played significant portions of their careers at cornerback) who split time between corner and safety.

I realize Polamalu played safety his entire career, but isn't it possible that some of the other Hall of Fame voters will see Polamalu in the same way Peter does and not consider him a pure safety due to the variety of roles he played for the Steelers over the years? Peter sees Polamalu as a hybrid defensive player and he is a Hall of Fame voter. Couldn't other Hall of Fame voters see it that way too?

2. I feel we might be in the midst of a golden age for safeties, with the recently retired Brian Dawkins, Ed Reed and Polamalu leading the way, and so many top-notch ones in their prime now. Earl Thomas, Eric Weddle, Kam Chancellor, Devin McCourty to start with … then the group of new guys who spend part-time doubling as inside linebackers, the way Arizona did last year with much success. Is that a trend that will continue?

Probably, as long as NFL teams want safeties that can play in the box and cover tight ends.

the versatility of so many safeties says to me that more and more coordinators are trying to find their own Polamalus.

While understanding that Polamalu was great, let's also not forget that he was allowed to freelance in the Steelers defense at times and as he got older he was out of position more and more often. I feel like this is important to know.

3. Regarding the Hall conundrum: Dawkins will be eligible for election in 2017, Reed in 2019, Polamalu in 2020. John Lynch has been a consistent finalist for election recently, but he hasn’t been close yet.

It sounds like John Lynch should have been drafted by a team from the Northeast. If he were a safety with the Jets then I wonder if that would do anything for his candidacy?

The voters for the Hall of Fame—I am one of 46—

What? Peter is a Hall of Fame voter? I had no idea because it has been a few weeks since he mentioned it.

stink at electing safeties. We do. Seven pure safeties have been elected in 53 years. It took the voters until Krause’s 14th year of eligibility to elect the man with the most interceptions in history. Ten NFL all-decade safeties have not been put in, including four of the five on the all-decade first or second teams from the 1980s. “We have completely disregarded the safety position,” said one of the veteran voters, Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning NewsHe is fed up with the voting at safety and has a couple ideas how to fix it, which I’ll get to in a few moments.

The Hall of Fame voters are going to rectify this issue by pushing through any and every reasonably qualified safety for the next 5-10 years. That will fix this issue and balance out the number of safeties in the Hall of Fame, because there HAS to be balance for each NFL position of course.

I bring this up because so many of you, and so many around the league, nodded when Polamalu called it quits Thursday and said or thought, “Hall of Famer. Easy call.” 

Oh, we did? I didn't know about this.

You can say he and Reed, and maybe Dawkins, will make it, but now that you know the history, you have to feel a little shaky.

Oh, I do have to feel a little shaky? I wasn't sure how I would feel knowing that a pure safety hasn't elected into the Hall of Fame for the past 35 years. But now I do know that I feel a little shaky. Of course, I also know the Hall of Fame voters are going to try and fix this issue, so I should feel a little bit less shaky, right?

Gosselin’s idea about solving the Canton logjam is an interesting one: When the NFL has its 100th season in 2019, Gosselin suggests the Hall should have an amnesty year, in effect. Elect 10 players from the pool of Senior candidates, the old timers whose cases have been drydocked for years. And elect 10 players from the modern pool. The one-time 20-man class would clear up a growing logjam. It certainly would.

I really doubt something like this would happen. The Hall of Fame elect 20 players into a class at one time? I'm all about increasing the amount of players who can get into the Hall in one year, but 20 players in one class seems extreme to me.

I’m not sure it’s the best idea, but I am in favor of getting a slew of Mick Tingelhoffs considered rather than have them needlessly wait to hear their names called for years, or decades. Twenty sounds like too many to me, but the concept Gossellin suggests has merit.

How about the Pro Football Hall of Fame just decides they will elect more than a few players into the Hall on a yearly basis? That way there is no cap and players who the committee thinks are deserving get in during the regular elective process?

Flacco on Polamalu.

That postseason, Flacco and the Ravens went to Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship Game, and that point got hammered home—brutally, as it turned out for Flacco—in a piece of education Flacco will never forget. With less than five minutes left and the Steelers leading 16-14 in as physical and punishing a game as I’ve covered, Baltimore had a third-and-13. Flacco knew this could be their last chance. The call was for a two-man route—one on a deep route across the middle to, hopefully, clear out Polamalu and one corner; and one on a 15-yard corner stop, as the Ravens called it, with Derrick Mason running 15 yards and juking the corner on a timing route, knowing the ball could be coming to a small window when he turned and looked for it.

One problem: The Steelers were playing Polamalu at linebacker on the play.

He's a pure safety, remember. Will he make it into the Hall of Fame as a pure safety? That's Peter's question as he explains what a hybrid defensive player Polamalu was.

Flacco threw to Mason, and if Polamalu hadn’t been there, the YouTube video six years later makes it look like the ball might have been good enough for a conversion.

In a fantasy world, yes, that would have been a conversion. It seems Peter is trying so hard to tell fictional tales of Troy Polamalu's greatness that he ignores the Steelers cornerback that could easily have stepped in front of the pass and intercepted it if Polamalu had not. The Steelers' corner was right there, ready to pick the pass off. It doesn't mean Polamalu didn't make a great play, it's just an example of how sportswriters like to exaggerate a little bit in order to create legends about athletes. Polamalu's play simply can't stand on it's own, there has to be some sort of exaggeration. I think that Steelers defender was Ike Taylor and he was right there on the play to break it up or intercept the pass.

Flacco said he’ll have great memories of playing against Polamalu. “Now [that he retired], I’ve got to take a step back and appreciate the games we played against him and the Steelers. I am a man of few words, and so is Troy, but I do know I’ll tell my children and grandchildren I was lucky enough to play in these games, and lucky enough to play against Troy so many times. Troy’s an example of the right way to do things, on the field and off the field. Such a great competitor on every play, and he treats everyone the right way. That’s the right way to handle yourself. The image he had, the example he set … he just did it right.”

BUT JOE, DID POLAMALU PLAY THE GAME THE RIGHT WAY? YOU WEREN'T CLEAR ENOUGH ABOUT THIS ISSUE!

Polamalu would have made a great baseball player. It seems he played the game the right way, which as we all know is the sole goal of a baseball player, as described by baseball sportswriters.

“What were your conversations like?” I asked. “You get to know him very well?”

Peter always with the hard-hitting questions that readers probably don't care about.

"Did you eat lunch with him? What did he order for lunch? Tell me what you talked about."

It must be the cornball in me. I’ve seen so many of those Steelers-Ravens games, and seen the intensity and the on-field hatred, and it appeals to me that the triggerman of the Baltimore offense is so genuinely respectful of the best man on the other side of the field. 

It's almost like they both played in the age of free agency where the guy Flacco hated for the past decade could end up being his teammate the very next year. 

Dick LeBeau has played and coached in the NFL for the past 56 years. He entered the NFL in 1959 as a defensive back for Detroit, playing opposite Hall of Fame cornerback Night Train Lane, and transitioned to coaching when his playing career was done. He was Polamalu’s defensive coordinator with the Steelers for 11 of his 12 seasons.
 
This, then, is the money quote from LeBeau when I reached him Sunday:

“Troy is a once-in-a-lifetime player. I have never seen an athlete in the secondary, at any level, do as many things at the absolute highest level as Troy did. He could play linebacker; he played linebacker more than people know.

"WILL A PURE SAFETY LIKE TROY POLAMALU MAKE IT INTO THE HALL OF FAME?" PETER KING MUST KNOW THE ANSWER TO THIS QUESTION.

I do like how Peter insists Polamalu was a pure safety, but this is the third time it is mentioned that Polamalu essentially played linebacker at certain points too. Dick LeBeau has referred to Polamalu as playing linebacker a lot, yet Peter continues with the "pure safety" line of thought while putting Polamalu in the same conversation as Dawkins, Lynch and Ed Reed.

He was an excellent run player. All the raw material you’d want in a defensive back, he had the best.”

“Are you including all the DBs you’ve seen in your life, going back to your playing days?” I asked.

No Peter, he's a crazy person like you who says a player is the "best" of his lifetime but only means the past 20-25 years. If you recall, a few years ago Peter said Derek Jeter was the best baseball player of his lifetime, then clarified he only meant the last 20-25 years after MMQB readers wrote in astounded at this idiotic comment.

“I do mean to say that,’’ LeBeau said. “Yes I do. I mean to say he has every skill a defensive back would need to play at the highest level, all over the defensive backfield.”

Polamalu is the best defensive back of Peter's generation. What Peter means by this is Polamalu is the best safety over the last five years. 

It’s not like Sarah Thomas, hired by the NFL last week as a line judge for one of the league’s 17 officiating crews, is immune to some boos and some coach-screaming after a call she made that people didn’t like. But even the biggest crowd for a college game—she said last week she thinks it was probably 55,000 or so for Utah State-Brigham Young—won’t compare to the intensity and the spotlight Thomas will face this season when she becomes the first full-time female official in the 96-year history of the NFL.

This is the second week that Peter has brought up Sarah Thomas as a new official and discussed how she will fit in with the rest of NFL officiating crews. Maybe she'll fit in better if Peter stops talking about and wondering how she will fit in? Has Peter ever wondered how other NFL officials would be able to stand scorn from large crowds at NFL games? This isn't exclusive to Sarah Thomas, but is an issue any official who is making the jump to the NFL would have to face. So I'm not sure what her sex has to do with having to deal with large crowds who will boo and coaches that will scream at her.

I can see it now: a dedicated camera on Thomas for her first game of the regular season, by whichever network has the game. It’s history. A good history—assuming Thomas can handle it.

Which is a huge assumption given that she is a female, will have her period at some point during the season and probably will be over-emotional like all women are during their time of the month. Great point, Peter. Can Sarah Thomas and her girl feelings handle being yelled at?

But this is not North Texas at Middle Tennessee she’ll be reffing. I want to see Thomas’ reaction the first time Bill Belichick or Bruce Arians or John Fox screams, “What the %&*# was THAT call?” I used Belichick’s name the other day in just such a scenario.

Again, why hasn't this been an issue for any of the other NFL officials who have gotten promoted from officiating college football games to officiating NFL games? Not that Peter is a raging sexist, but I've never read anything he has written before about a concern that a male official may not be able to handle being yelled at by NFL head coaches. It sounds kind of sexist is my point.

“I really have not thought of it,” Thomas said.

Oh okay, so Peter really asked Sarah Thomas, "How are you going to handle being yelled at by grown men in a football setting?"

If this is a question based on Thomas officiating at a lower level in college, that's fine, but I don't recall Peter ever bringing this question up to any male officials who have made a similar leap to the NFL. So if the question is being asked because she's a woman, well, that's a little bit sexist. Of course Peter can't be sexist because he has two daughters, much in the same way someone can't be racist because he/she has two black friends.

That’s by far the best answer she could have given. Think about it: If she says, Well, I have tremendous respect for Coach Belichick, and it would be tough, but I have worked long and hard to be sure I’m ready for this chance, then she’s messed up. Why? Because Bill Belichick, to her, now has to be the same as the coach at North Texas or Middle Tennessee. He’s a coach. Coaches scream sometimes. You explain, and if they don’t shut up, you turn away and the game goes on.

Right, which is why the question could have probably survived as being not asked if Peter wouldn't ask the same question to another official.

For now, Thomas must get used to being a symbol as well as an official. Like it or not, she’s going to be a beacon for women and girls, and not just in women and girls interested in football or interested in following her to the NFL. School kids are going to write reports on her. In fact, they already are. And she is into it.

But if these school kids that are girls don't get a good grade on these reports they write about Sarah Thomas, how will it affect their self esteem? Will a middle school kid that is a female be able to handle the rejection of not receiving a good grade on a report? It's different being a female writing a report in elementary school as compared to being a female writing a report in middle school.

No word yet which referee and crew Thomas will be paired with—my money is on the terminally patient Peter Morelli’s crew—but in whatever crew, the ref won’t be the focus, at least in 2015. Sarah Thomas will be.

I hope the NFL is able to pair her with a crew that can support her emotionally when she's on the rag or a head coach has hurt her feelings and she spends most of halftime in the locker room crying. What if she's having a bad hair day or can't get her makeup just right? This is a disaster waiting to happen for sure.

Sarah Thomas will be the focus as long as further attention is drawn to the fact she is officiating NFL games AND she's a woman person.

Two teams will work out Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota this week in Eugene. St. Louis and San Diego travel to Oregon (on different days) to put Mariota to work on the field and in the classroom. I absolutely do not expect the Rams to trade up for Mariota, but in the unlikely event that Mariota falls to No. 10, I believe the Rams seriously would consider drafting him. The Chargers’ workout might be a story. It might not be.

Thanks for the reporting. This may or may not mean something. Only time will tell. Once Peter finds out whether it means something or not, he will be sure to tell his readers what it means and how he knew previously that's probably what it meant.
 
Too early for speculative stuff like this to be anything to take to Vegas. 

Here is some speculation that Peter wants you to take seriously if it turns out to be correct, but ignore entirely if it turns out not to be correct because it's just speculation you know.

Jon Gruden favors Mariota over Winston

I'm not sure how Gruden became a QB expert. Maybe he's an expert as long as his track record in the NFL of being a QB expert is ignored. I think this means I'll favor Winston over Mariota.

Melvin Gordon will not get past Baltimore at No. 26

But again, this is just speculation. So just forget Peter wrote this, unless it happens, in which case remember that Peter said Gordon wouldn't get past Baltimore at No. 26.

Randy Gregory’s positive pot test and weighing 235 at the combine scared off many teams near the top of the draft off—but some of those teams, after due diligence, are feeling more comfortable with Gregory early in the round. I get the feeling Gregory’s going to be this draft’s boom or bust guy

Until it comes time for Peter to talk about Jameis Winston, who will then become the draft's biggest boom or bust guy.

Not that anything’s going to hurt where the Florida State quarterback will get drafted—he’s still the overwhelming favorite to go number one—but I would file away this line from attorney David Cornwell: “He’s ready to be an NFL player on the field. But he’s not ready to be an NFL player off the field.”...But here’s the thing: If you’re drafting a quarterback number one overall, you want that player to make it or not based on his ability as a player, not on some off-field problems. Twelve quarterbacks have been picked first overall in the past 20 years: Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford, JaMarcus Russell, Alex Smith, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, David Carr, Michael Vick, Tim Couch, Peyton Manning. Russell was the only real star-crossed guy entering the draft; Al Davis was in love with his arm strength and overlooked his lack of maturity. I don’t think any of the 11 others had much that concerned teams off the field before being drafted—though there was some question about Newton playing at three schools in college.

Part of the reason Newton transferred from the University of Florida is because he had Tim Tebow in front him on the depth chart, then he went to a community college and was able to transfer to Auburn after that. I remember one big question off the field about Newton were the accusations that he stole a computer during his time at Florida and there were other academic issues brought up. I don't recall the maturity issues surrounding JaMarcus Russell, but I also may not be remembering very well.

What is going on with Ted Wells? This is day 80 of his investigation into the Patriots and the deflated-footballs allegations. The AFC title game was 12 weeks ago. I respect the work of Wells and his staff, but this is getting ridiculous. The marathon bombing trial took five weeks. The Patriots’ investigation is in its 12th.

Maybe Ted Wells stopped investigating the deflated ball allegations for a while to help O.J. look for the real killers. Or maybe Roger Goodell is more interested in pretending like he cares long enough for the public to not care as much anymore (though I never really cared that much in the first place). I'd say the second line of thought may be more accurate.

“It’s about time.”
 
—Baltimore coach John Harbaugh, on the NFL, preparing for its 96th season, finally hiring its first full-time female official, line judge Sarah Thomas.

Yeah, but when Harbaugh starts yelling at Thomas is she going to go into a little ball and start crying about how he was so mean to her? If Thomas is married, will her husband come on the field and get angry at Harbaugh for yelling at her? I just hope John Harbaugh understands that Sarah Thomas will tuck her hair under her hat so that nobody gets distracted by the fact she's a girl and is officiating a man's sport. She'll look like a guy without a ponytail hanging out, but treat her with kid gloves because she is in fact a woman.

“Money wasn’t the first reason to make me want to come here. Even when I knew [about the contract offer], I was like, ‘I’m not going there. I don’t give a freak what they give me, I’m not going.’ And then I realized it was the best for me. This is a team that wants me. Coach [Rex] Ryan is a winner and he wants to run the ball.
 
—Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy, recalling his stunning March trade from Philadelphia to the Bills to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

This is something Bills fans are probably incredibly eager to read about. LeSean McCoy in no way wanted to be a Buffalo Bill, but then he realized he was on the team anyway and they seemed to want him, so why not? Without other options, outside of holding out, why not be a Buffalo Bill?

“I don’t project trades. But in talking to people, my sense is Mariota is likely to be taken [number two overall.]”
 
—ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, the well-coiffed one, on what he’s hearing about where Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota will be chosen on April 30.

So Kiper is saying the Titans wouldn't draft Mariota and a team would trade up for him? Maybe the Titans don't like Mariota, but it seems to me like the Titans could draft Mariota #2 and then Mel wouldn't have to project any trades. 

Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me

In the matter of great safeties not playing anymore:

Washington strong safety Sean Taylor played his last football game at 24.

This is an interesting factoid from Peter simply because his history of discussing Sean Taylor is another example of Peter saying stupid shit and then trying to defend it. Peter essentially called Taylor "a disappointment" for the Redskins because he didn't live up to being a franchise safety. Taylor mostly didn't live up to this billing because he was murdered. It had something to do with it. So now Peter is hoping his readers forget that and calls Taylor a "great safety." But just a few short years ago he wrote: 

Berry looks like a top-10 pick, but the team that takes him is going to be picking against history. Of the five top-10 safeties this decade, none has had franchise-player impact: Roy Williams (Dallas, eighth overall, 2002), Sean Taylor (Washington, fifth overall, 2004), Michael Huff (Oakland, seventh, 2006), Donte Whitner (Buffalo, eighth, 2006), LaRon Landry (Washington, sixth, 2007). 

But I don't know if Taylor, who was out with a knee injury at the time of his death, would have been the kind of franchise safety Ed Reed is, because to do so, you've got to stand the test of time.

The point of the item is that even the great safeties, the highly regarded ones, are such physical forces on the field that they often don't have long and impactful careers.

Except that wasn't Peter's point. He was hiding behind the whole "great safeties get injured" reasoning for why Taylor didn't make an impact on the Redskins franchise. Nevermind being killed isn't exactly an example of Taylor getting injured. Peter calls Taylor a "great safety" now, but he was a little dubious about Taylor's impact a few years ago.

Then Peter includes a Tweet from Steve Politi (a Tweet that would not embed on this blog for some reason) that says:

This event is my favorite of the year, but so far, it’s been the Masterzzzz.

I'm sorry, CBS can't hear your complaining over the 26% increase in ratings. Boring, but lucrative.

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think, with the Masters fresh on your minds, there’s this anecdote from Gary Myers of the New York Daily News, which he unearthed researching his book on the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning rivalry (“Brady Vs. Manning: The Untold Story of the Rivalry That Transformed the NFL,” by Crown Archetype, due out Sept. 22):

There is definitely a market for a book such as this, but I am not that market. Can't we wait until Brady and Manning have been retired for a few years before writing "untold" stories about their rivalry? Maybe a few years from now, perhaps 3-4 years after they have retired, this book should be written so Manning and Brady can be appreciated. For now though, why must there be such immediacy to write a book on how the Brady-Manning rivalry transformed the NFL (I'm not going to argue this point because I haven't read the book, but I'm skeptical of statements like this) when they are both still active players? It sounds like Gary Myers wants to sell some books and appeal to Brady-Manning fans while the iron is still hot and fans are eager to purchase this book while both players are still active. This is as opposed to writing the book 3-4 years after Brady and Manning retire when more perspective could be given on their impact on the NFL. If Myers waited a few years then a better narrative could be written once both players are retired. But I guess writing a better book with perspective isn't necessarily the goal is it?

Tom Brady and Tom Brady Sr. and Rory McIlroy and McIlroy’s father have a mutual friend. Through the mutual friend, they set up to play golf together at Augusta National Golf Club the second week in March. The Bradys and McIlroys, the mutual friend and his father and another friend and his father played their own father-son tournament on the Masters course. The night before they played, the Brady/McIlroy group walked into the restaurant at Augusta National to have dinner. Seated at another table were Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Cooper Manning, Jacob Tamme and John Lynch. Brady and Manning, who have played many rounds of golf together, chatted for a few minutes before Brady rejoined his group for dinner. Brady did not know Manning was going to be there. Brady and Manning were on the course the next day, but didn’t play together. Brady’s group played three rounds in two days. Tom went off the first tee with Rory. Not a bad scene.

This story is interesting in that it shows wealthy athletes tend to hang out with each other and in the same places. Also, the Masters is a fun course to play. Otherwise, I'm sure there are better anecdotes in this book about Brady and Manning. There better be. 

4. I think there is no more trusted player inside the Cleveland Browns than Joe Thomas, and no one more team-oriented in all ways. And when he says (as he did to ESPN Cleveland last week) that Johnny Manziel is “going to have to prove to the team football is important,” it’s a damning indictment of the impression Manziel left on the locker room last season.

(checks watch) Yep, I guess it's the time where Peter King will start to bash Johnny Manziel in as many MMQB's as possible. Why not? It's not like Peter sat down with Manziel and got a chance to judge him for himself prior to the draft, except, you know, he did. At the time, I thought it was a very good performance by Manziel. People don't change their behavior simply because they now have the chance to get paid handsomely for doing what they once did for free. But anyway, it's time to bash Manziel because he's essentially been the same person he was in college and the media wanted to believe he had made this huge change. Bash Manziel for not changing when writers like Peter King wanted him to have changed so badly.

Peter KNEW that going to rehab was not Johnny Manziel's idea. Sure, he never mentioned that prior to last week once rumors of the Browns being unhappy with Manziel started to leak out, but Peter was totally thinking it prior to this.

7. I think I love when guys say dumb things on social media and immediately claim their account was hacked. That’s what Darrelle Revis said Sunday after he or the hacker got into some ugly back-and-forths with fans unhappy with his decision to leave the Patriots for the Jets. Must be a lot of people out there who know Revis’ social media passwords. Or not.

Well Peter, not everyone can write something stupid on Twitter and then get away with very little criticism from anyone outside of the fans. When Darrelle Revis says something dumb on Twitter, it gets mentioned by the media (like how Peter just did), but when Peter King says something dumb on Twitter or in MMQB then there is only the fans to mention it and discuss it because Peter's friends in the media certainly will just blow it off as Peter not meaning what he wrote. 

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. Thanks for the invitation, Sports Business Journal, to be a part of Thursday’s future-of-the-media panel in Los Angeles, with ESPN heavyweight John Walsh, Jason Whitlock of the new site The Undefeated, Pam Oliver of FOX Sports, and SBJ’s John Ourand. 

Isn't it interesting how Grantland was announced and got off the ground within a month and a half, but Jason Whitlock was hired to run his own Grantland-type site almost a year and a half ago, yet the site hasn't debuted yet?

I like the idea of a site dedicated to shine the light on racial issues, inside and outside of sports, because of how much societal issues affect the people we write about and you watch. That showed up big last fall with the Rams players’ personal statements of empathy for those affected by the strife in Ferguson.

And Peter King knows how those citizens of Ferguson felt, because one time he was pulled over by the police and they thought he was Peter King the Republican Congressman from New York. It was pretty hostile there for a few minutes, but Peter and the cop had a good laugh about it later. Peter got off with a warning for a broken tail light and gained a new reader of MMQB. But for a few minutes, Peter felt he was being discriminated against because he was a Congressman.

d. Maybe I should get into “Game of Thrones.”

Oh no, you should not. You will be very, very confused. 

i. It’s hard to believe a modern athlete, such as Mets closer Jennry Mejia, would use a steroid (Stanazolol, the same one Ben Johnson used to prep for the Seoul Olympics nearly two decades ago) to get better, knowing baseball tests for it. It’s an intelligence test, to some degree, because Mejia knows he’ll be tested. And he obviously flunked the test.

I'm sure Mejia also thought he had used a masking agent or he wouldn't be tested again for some time. Maybe he is just stupid, but I can't imagine how a human would know something is wrong, know he/she could get caught and then do that stupid thing anyway. It's almost like it's human nature.

m. Coffeenerdness: Java Question of the Week, from the Peet’s barista in the JFK Airport Terminal 4 coffee shop, after I’d ordered a medium latte with an extra shot of espresso, paid, and was waiting near the espresso machine for my drink to come out. “You know this already comes with two shots, so you’re sure you want a third?” Yes. Quite sure.

Peter probably really said something in response like, "I know how many shots I want. Just give me the third shot and do your job" and then got back to texting Mitch Albom about how service industry workers are morons and continued holding up the rest of the line by not looking up when the barista was trying to hand him the drink.

o. Apropos of nothing: I was waiting for a plane at LAX the other night, and heard “That Smell” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. One of the worst songs ever created. Why did it become popular?

Whaaaaaaaaat? I wouldn't expect a fan of U2 to really appreciate "That Smell." It's not poppy and haughty-sounding enough. Sounds about drug and alcohol addiction don't always have a soaring chorus where fans can raise their arms in the air as a douchebag lead singer smiles knowing each of these morons paid $110 to watch his band perform. "That Smell" is about drug and alcohol addiction, it's not supposed to be a pretty song.

The Adieu Haiku

Troy Polamalu.  
His name’s not good for haiku.
I doubt he cares, though.


It gets worse every week. This is one of the worst haikus ever created. Please stop writing these haikus. Do it for the sake of our children's children.