Thursday, July 24, 2014

7 comments Bill Simmons Has a Friend Who Didn't Want Carmelo Anthony on the Lakers Team, So Obviously Most Lakers Fans Felt That Way

I wasn't going to originally cover Bill Simmons' column about Carmelo Anthony. I do try to limit the amount I write about Bill and I had just written another post written by him. Plus, I didn't take the time to read the Anthony article. It just seemed like another "deep thought" column about an NBA player that Bill seems to be trying to do more and more of lately. It was suggested on Twitter that I read it, so I did, and here we are. It's the typical Bill Simmons columns where he takes an opinion held by one person, extrapolates it to mean the opinion of others and then adds a little bit of his opinion disguised as a fact in order to prove his opinion correct. Few writers are as good as Bill Simmons in using his opinion to prove his own opinion as correct.

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

I didn't even know Bill was a member of this fan club. I can't recall him ever stating he was a member of this fan club either. Oh, and this column is titled "No Escape from New York." Get it? There was a movie called "Escape from New York."

Our man missed the 2014 playoffs in the rancid Eastern Conference, then received a rude comeuppance from his new Knicks boss, Phil Jackson, who lobbied him publicly to stick around at a discount price. The Bulls couldn’t carve out enough cap space for him. The Lakers couldn’t offer a good enough supporting cast. The Rockets never gained momentum, for whatever reason. Carmelo ended up re-signing for $122 million for five years, pretending that was the plan all along … even though it wasn’t.

Yeah, tough year. Carmelo had to walk away with $24.4 million per year and got to stay in one of the largest NBA markets. Fan club members should probably like that.

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

What this translates to mean is, "I know a guy who is a Lakers fan and didn't want Carmelo to sign with the Lakers." Because we all know the opinion of Bill's friends are indicative of the larger population as well. I'm sure there are plenty of Lakers fans who didn't want the team to sign Carmelo, but to pretend the opinion of Bill's friends is representative of Lakers fans everywhere is silly.

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

Very little of this stuff ever makes sense. But I'm sure Lewis is the perfect representation to base an entire premise around and then write an entire column based entirely on this premise. After all, beats working.

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

And I can't wait to hear about Lewis's reaction. I hope Bill provides it word-for-word in text form so I get the full experience of Lewis's reaction. Also, it's obvious Lewis isn't famous because otherwise Bill would use his full name so that his readers knows he is friends with famous people. Jimmy Kimmel isn't "Jimmy," Adam Carolla isn't "Adam," and the examples could go on. As a general rule, Bill uses full names when it is someone the reader knows as a celebrity.

Instead, here’s the email exchange we had.

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


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

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

Putting more question marks at the end of a sentence isn't going to make it suddenly less true or even true when extrapolated to show how Lakers fans feel about Carmelo Anthony as a whole.

I surfed a few Lakers blogs and message boards and found similar ambivalence. Some fans wanted him, others didn’t understand the point.

The two most accurate opinions in order to get valid, well-reasoned opinions on a subject can always be found in two places.

1. The opinion of a friend.

2. The opinion expressed on message boards.

What could go wrong with making an assumption based on the comments from these two sources?

Many felt like the rationally irrational Lewis — they wanted the Lakers to land a top-five lottery pick (if it’s lower than that, it goes to Phoenix), wipe Nash’s expiring contract off their cap, then make a run at the Kevins (Love in 2015, Durant in 2016). That’s a smart plan, except (a) they could easily stink and STILL lose that 2015 lottery pick, (b) Love will probably get traded this season (and might like his new team), (c) nobody knows what Durant wants to do, and (d) nobody knows if the post–Dr. Buss Lakers are still a destination franchise.

I know if the post-Dr. Buss Lakers are still a destination franchise. They are. They are located in California, still have a rich history, have celebrities who go to the games, and will have Kobe (who isn't the same, but he still holds weight) on the roster for the next two years. I have to believe that it's Bill's distaste for the Lakers that causes him to doubt they are still a destination franchise.

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

I mean, if a guy wants to come to Los Angeles that's about all he needs. There is space to sign other players and he can live in Los Angeles.

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

Then when the cap goes up in two years Kobe is gone and the Lakers have a ton of room to make moves. For now, they have a guy who is insanely competitive and draws eyes to the team. And no, I'm not talking about Swaggy P, but Kobe.

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

I don't think there are a lot of Lakers fans who wouldn't want one of the best scoring forwards in NBA history on the team. I think your friend Lewis didn't want him on the team. 

Why weren’t Knicks fans freaking out that they might lose their franchise player for nothing? Why were so many Bulls fans (and I know three of them) saying things like “I’d love to get Melo, but I hate the thought of giving up Taj [Gibson] for him”?

Bill knows three Bulls fans. THREE! I'm not sure he's ever thought that perhaps his friends are stupid and irrational. That could never be true though, could it?

How did Carmelo Anthony, only 30 years old and still in his prime, become the NBA’s most underappreciated and misunderstood player?

Because the media has beaten the "Carmelo Anthony is a great player, but isn't a winner who can lead a team to the NBA title narrative" and many fans can start to think the same way due to the constant onslaught of this narrative. I'm probably slightly guilty of it too. I would like for Anthony to play for the Celtics though. Not sure I would mind that.

Again, the idea that Bill's friends may be irrational and hold a minority opinion simply doesn't occur to him. It couldn't be true. Bill is very smart and so therefore his friends are smart because they are associated with him.

Now comes the part where Bill starts handing out opinions like they are facts and then treats his opinion as fact. He tends to do this often.

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

Oh, okay. I didn't realize this was an official thing. It's always fun how Bill's hand out opinions as facts and then uses those facts to support his argument. It's very stereotypical only-childish of him.

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

The only difference is that Will Smith does completely different movies from Seth Rogen. This is an annoying comparison. It only clouds the issue and tries to cover for the fact Bill is throwing an opinion out there and tries to make it seem like it's a fact. Some people do consider Carmelo Anthony to be a superstar.

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

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

Carmelo Anthony does sell tickets, generate interest locally and nationally, has taken an average supporting cast to 45-50 wins (as Bill will later prove in this column, so how he doesn't understand Carmelo meets this definition is ridiculous), and hasn't had a chance to be in the Finals because the other pieces haven't been in place. What's dumb is Bill will, again, prove in this very article that Anthony hasn't had the supporting cast to be in the Finals. So he has no chance of being a superstar according to Bill's criteria until his supporting cast improves. Carmelo has taken steps this offseason to not put himself in a better situation with better teammates. More importantly, this fourth criteria means a player can't be labeled a superstar based on a factor that is somewhat beyond his control. I don't know if that should reflect negatively on the player or not.

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

Superstars: LeBron, Durant.

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

Again, this is an opinion based on criteria that Bill Simmons has thrown together. Bill is using his opinion (that there is a set criteria a player has to achieve to be named a superstar) and written this opinion in one of his columns as proof that his opinion of Carmelo Anthony as not a superstar is true. Am I the only that sees the insanity of this? Can't Bill see it?

"Oh, no Carmelo Anthony isn't a superstar because I created this criteria stating he isn't a superstar based on subjective measures which were opinion-based. So taking my opinion-created criteria and then matching it up with my current opinion that Carmelo Anthony isn't a superstar, you can see that I am right in believing Carmelo Anthony isn't a superstar. Also, nevermind if criteria #4 means no player who hasn't appeared in the NBA Finals can be a superstar and it's not based on anything the player has or has not done in order to be considered a superstar."

A few semi-stunned notes about that revised list.

You created the list based on your own criteria. How can you be stunned at the results, you ass monkey? HOW? It's your opinion!

"My own opinion, which I have no control over, shocks me!"

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

I give up. I'm not going to argue this shit. Bill is discussing this list like it's not a product of his ego-driven opinion and is instead the results of a 10 year study based on facts.

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

Kevin Love is 25, Paul George is 24. It's not like they are old. Also, way for Bill to plug a "30 for 30" while trying to drop knowledge about high school basketball players he's only seen YouTube clips of.

Our 30 for 30 about Benji is streaming on Netflix

Of course it is, Bill. Your column is one big YouTube link and advertisement for other Grantland content.

Third, we’re in the middle of an under-30 talent boom that’s as loaded as any run since the early ’90s, and yet we dipped from 11 superstars and almost-but-not-quite-superstars in 2010 to 10 of those guys in 2014. Six dropped out and five jumped in, not including Rose, who briefly careered into the superstar group in 2011 and 2012.

Bill is apparently going to keep talking about this list as if it holds anything other than the results of four criteria he created purely through the use of his opinion. It takes a special kind of ego to believe your opinion is a fact and then base a defense of another opinion based on your previous opinion.

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

Yes, he did meet every arbitrary criteria on the list, except for the criteria required which he has only a limited amount of control over. That criteria is the pieces falling together on a Finals team with that player as the best on that Finals team. Outside of choosing a team with a great supporting cast already in place (which Anthony did seem to have the option of doing), he doesn't have a ton of control over his supporting cast once he chooses a team.

Most damning, Carmelo has lost nearly twice as many playoff games as he has won: 23 wins, 44 losses. You can’t even use the whole “Look, Carmelo can drag any mediocre team to 44 wins and the playoffs!” argument anymore — not after last season.

The Knicks weren't mediocre last year. They were worse than that. Raymond Felton was the starting point guard and J.R. Smith was the second-best player on the team. I'm not a big Carmelo Anthony fan, but he dragged them to 37 wins. Take Anthony off that roster and they are contending for the #1 overall pick.

So what’s left? Can’t we downgrade him to All-Star and be done with it? 

I don't know, Bill. It's your fucking list so do what you want. Me personally, I'm going to assume most fans of the Bulls, Lakers and Knicks wanted Carmelo Anthony to play for their team and feel good knowing this is probably true in the majority. After all, what if I have four friends that agree with my point of view?

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

The short answer: Yes.

You can.

Bill Simmons' opinion: You can win an NBA title with Carmelo Anthony as the best player on the team.

Bill Simmons' opinion: Carmelo Anthony isn't a superstar because he hasn't made an NBA Finals as the best player on that team.

So Anthony is a superstar once forces outside of his complete control come together. Bill thinks he's a superstar, but the criteria Bill created which he has no control over doesn't necessarily agree with Anthony being a superstar. In conclusion, I have a headache.

If you believe Carmelo can lead a championship team, you’re leaning heavily on that 2011 Mavs playbook — you’d need all the elements we just covered, and you’d need Carmelo to unleash a damned good Dirk impression.

Only one problem: Dirk was better than Carmelo is.

Oh no. What ever shall be done?

Dirk is one of the 20 best basketball players of all time by any calculation.

Absolutely not true. Here are some facts I just created to prove my opinion is correct. The criteria to be one of the 20 best basketball players of all-time are as follows:

1. Have won at least one NBA title.

2. Has either played for the Lakers, Heat or Celtics.

3. Is from the United States.

4. Thinks that English Muffins are the wimpy version of a bagel.

5. That is all.

So you can see that Dirk isn't even close to being one of the best basketball players of all-time because he fails on two criteria and I don't know what Dirk thinks of English Muffins, but I do know he is from Germany, so there's a good chance he doesn't appreciate bagels to the extent he should. As you can see, Dirk isn't one of the 20 best basketball players based on the set of facts I just created.

He won an MVP and a Finals MVP. He made four first-team All-NBA’s and five second-team All-NBA’s. He won 50-plus games for 11 straight years, topped 60 wins three times, made two Finals, beat LeBron and Wade in the Finals, and won a Game 7 in San Antonio during Duncan’s prime.

And we all know, "Having won a Game 7 in San Antonio during Duncan's prime" is the MOST IMPORTANT cherry-picked criteria of all. Not even LeBron James has done this. Michael Jordan didn't do it. Magic Johnson didn't do it.

Amazing but true: Dirk never played with a Hall of Famer in that Hall of Famer’s prime.

See, now this is a fact. See how that works, Bill? It's fine to base an opinion off this fact, because the fact isn't an opinion, but has concrete proof behind it. There is a basketball Hall of Fame and Dirk hasn't played with a Hall of Famer while in his prime. Baby steps...

Bill starts listing Dirk's statistics as he is prone to do in order to kill space. Dirk is great, I'll leave it at that.

That’s why I dislike comparing Carmelo and Dirk. But I keep coming back to these two playoff lines:
2011 Dirk (21 games): 27.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 49-46-94%, 8.9 FTA, 25.2 PER

2009 Melo (16 games): 27.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 4.1 apg, 45-36-83%, 9.0 FTA, 24.3 PER

Bill dislikes comparing Carmelo to Dirk, but he doesn't hate it enough to base his opinion that Carmelo can be the best player on an NBA title team on a direct comparison to Dirk's 2011 Mavs. Then Bill directly compares Carmelo and Dirk's playoff statistics to each other. But yeah, he dislikes that comparison.

The 2009 Nuggets were Carmelo’s best team; they fell to Kobe’s Lakers in Round 3 with a poor man’s version of the 2011 Mavs. George Karl wasn’t Carlisle. Nene and Kenyon Martin couldn’t protect the rim like Chandler. They didn’t have a perimeter defender anywhere close to Marion’s caliber. They couldn’t shoot 3s nearly as well (only 31 percent for that Lakers series). They relied way too heavily on J.R. Smith, who imploded against Kobe and got outscored 204 points to 76 points.

This is the same J.R. Smith who was the second-best player on the 2014 Knicks by the way.

The second-best team? You might remember them self-destructing just 14 months ago — it was the 2013 Knicks squad that won 54 games in a lousy conference with Melo, a past-his-peak Chandler, J.R. Smith, Ray Felton, a washed-up K-Mart, Iman Shumpert, Chris Copeland, Pablo Prigioni, a hobbled Amar’e Stoudemire and the immortal Mike Woodson coaching.

Now take that team, add another year to Chandler, add Andrei Bargnani, add another 15 pounds to Felton, and take away Chris Copeland. That was the 2014 Knicks.

So could Carmelo morph into 2011 Dirk if you gave him the right situation? We don’t know because he’s never been in the right situation.

Which is why it is silly to announce Carmelo isn't a superstar based on criteria where he could only be a superstar by being in the right situation.

As a last gasp, they used the Lakers as negotiating leverage (you better sign-and-trade Melo to Chicago or you’ll lose him for nothing!), only Jackson smartly sniffed it out. That left Carmelo with three choices:

Choice No. 1: Grab $122 million over five years from New York, play with another inferior team, miss the Finals for his 12th straight season, and pin the rest of his prime — which he’s never getting back, by the way — on Jackson’s promise that “We’ll Have Gobs of Cap Space in the Summer of 2015!!!”

This, along with more first round draft picks, is the promise the Celtics have made to the entire fanbase while attempting to trade the only player on the team who could be considered a star. I feel this requires mentioning.

Choice No. 3: Sign a four-year deal in Chicago for less money (starting around $14-15 million), become the crunch-time guy for an absolutely loaded Bulls team, and answer every question anyone ever asked about him.

At the same time, I wanted to know once and for all. I wanted to know how good Carmelo Anthony is. Because, right now, I believe the following things:
1. He’s one of the best natural scorers I’ve ever seen.

2. He’s one of the NBA’s eight or nine best players and has been for some time.

3. He could win you a title on his version of the 2011 Mavs.

Again, those are just opinions.

So far this entire column, including the decision that Carmelo is not a superstar and the idea that Lakers fans didn't want to sign Carmelo, are opinions as well. They are proven correct mostly using more opinions.

But what am I about to present to you? All facts.

1. His best team ever was the 2009 Nuggets. (Covered above.)
2. His best teammates ever: Chauncey Billups (post-Detroit version), Allen Iverson (post-Philly version), Andre Miller, Marcus Camby, Amar’e Stoudemire (post-Phoenix version, right as his knees were going), Tyson Chandler (post-Dallas version), Kenyon Martin (post-Nets version), Nene (never an All-Star — not once) and the one and only J.R. Smith.

I'm not entirely sure Bill understands what an "opinion" is. I feel like Bill believes an opinion is a belief based on a future outcome and not a belief based on a prior outcome. While I can't argue necessarily with #1 and #2 above, they are both most certainly very close to be an opinion. Inarguable opinions, but opinions nonetheless.

4. He had only four teammates make an All-Star Game: Iverson (2007, 2008), Billups (2009, 2010), Amar’e (2011) and Chandler (2013).

That wasn't even the good All-Star version of those players either. Yuck.

5. He had five head coaches in 11 years: Jeff Bzdelik (never coached again),

Well, he was the head coach for the Wake Forest men's basketball team, but it's true he never did coach again. Bzdelik was the head coach, but mostly just managed the constant wave of transfers out of the Wake Forest program during his tenure.
Meanwhile, Dirk had three coaches in 15 years: Don Nelson (Hall of Famer), Avery Johnson (made a Finals and also won 67 games in a season) and Rick Carlisle (future Hall of Famer).

Wait, is this true? Rick Carlisle is a future Hall of Famer? I think he's a great coach, but a future Hall of Famer?

7. He suffered bad luck two different times — when an already loaded Pistons team unbelievably picked Darko over him in 2003, and when his agent didn’t follow LeBron’s and Wade’s lead by putting a three-year out into Melo’s first contract extension (with Denver). In the summer of 2010, Melo could have stolen Bosh’s spot in Miami or jumped to the up-and-coming Bulls, only he couldn’t get out of his deal for another year. Those were his two best chances to find a true contender. 0-for-2.

But alternatively, when he had the chance to take less money this past offseason and join the Bulls, a team that was a true contender, he chose to take the money in New York. Carmelo had a chance to find a true contender and his choice was get more money in New York with the Knicks. Bill can't lose sight of this.

9. Carmelo is averaging 25.3 points for his entire career. Only 13 players averaged at least 25 points, and only 10 have a higher average than Melo: Jordan (30.1), Wilt (30.1), LeBron (27.5), Durant (27.4), Elgin (27.4), West (27.0), Iverson (26.7), Pettit (26.4), Oscar (25.7) and Kobe (25.5). Yes, that’s a list with six Hall of Famers and four future Hall of Famers.

And most of these guys can be considered superstars too, which leads me to the dead horse I won't beat. Carmelo may not be a superstar, but he's got a lot going for him statistically that could lead a person in that direction. What he doesn't do is meet Bill's subjective criteria to be considered a superstar.

Then Bill compares Carmelo favorably to Dominique Wilkins, Paul Pierce, Adrian Dantley, and Bernard King. This, naturally, leads to a brief discussion of the Boston Celtics because Bernard King played well against the Celtics. This impresses Bill to no end.

Bernard doubled as the most frightening non-Jordan scorer I’ve ever seen in my life — he took the 1984 Celts to a Game 7 by himself, for God’s sake. My team threw Kevin McHale (the NBA’s best defender at the time) and Cedric Maxwell at him, with Bird helping and Robert Parish protecting the rim, and it just didn’t matter.

There is the brief discussion. This column wouldn't be complete without a small Celtics remembrance from the 1980's.

Carmelo? He’s 92 percent as frightening as 1984 Playoff Bernard was. 

Not 91% or 93%, but 92% as frightening as 1984 Playoff Bernard was. These are very specific statistics based on whatever number comes out of Bill's brain at the time. You want facts? There's your facts.

14. You realize that Carmelo is better right now than he’s ever been, right?
• Years 1-2: 20.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 43-30-79%, 17.2 PER, 35.7 mpg, 28.8 usage, .094 WS/48

• Years 3-9: 25.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 46-33-81%, 21.4 PER, 36.3 mpg, 32.0 usage, .140 WS/48

• Years 10-11: 28.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 45-39-84%, 24.6 PER, 37.9 mpg, 33.9 usage, .177 WS/48
As his offensive workload has increased, he’s figured out how to become even MORE efficient by expanding his shooting range to 25 feet … only he’s never stopped getting to the free throw line, either.

But again, don't consider him a superstar. He couldn't even take the Knicks to the playoffs this year. You like how Bill talks out of both sides of his mouth a little here? He says Carmelo is great and goes to great lengths to prove it, but he also makes sure he has a mention in this column that maybe Carmelo should be moved down into the All-Star ranking of Bill's arbitrary rankings.

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

So Bill is sort of covered no matter how Carmelo's career pans outs. He has said perhaps Carmelo should be downgraded to All-Star level and then goes on and on about how great of a player Carmelo still is. All bases are covered.

And you know what else? Carmelo never received enough credit for playing efficiently as a hybrid small forward/stretch 4, especially last season,

This from the guy who asks the open-ended question of whether Carmelo isn't even an almost-but-not-quite superstar, but instead is just an All-Star.

Everyone bitched about his “ball-stopping” — something of which he’s definitely been guilty, from time to time, over the past few years — but when your coach is in a basketball coma and your entire offense has degenerated into “throw the ball to Melo and he’ll have to create a shot,” what do you expect? Every opponent went into every Knicks game saying, “As long as we don’t let Carmelo kill us, we’re winning tonight.” And he still threw up 28 a night and played the most efficient basketball of his career. 

As I am prone to doing when reaching near the end of a Bill Simmons column, I have to ask, what was the point of this column? It's shockingly rambling, even for a Bill Simmons column, it doesn't appear to prove anything other than Carmelo Anthony is better than "we" think, and the basic premise (that Carmelo's potential will never be achieved because he chose to go back to New York rather than take a pay cut and go to Chicago) is only mentioned and never actually stated explicitly by Bill. So this column is rather indicative of Bill's worst rambling qualities.

If you think of him like a Hall of Fame wide receiver — say, Larry Fitzgerald — Carmelo’s career makes more sense. 

No, it doesn't. It makes more sense to simply state Carmelo never reached his potential because he never played on a team that allowed him to achieve his potential, rather than start using an overcomplicated analogy that says this same thing, only with more work involved to reach the conclusion.

Fitz tossed up monster stats with Kurt Warner throwing to him. Once the likes of John Skelton and Kevin Kolb started passing through his life, he wasn’t throwing up monster stats anymore. But nobody ever stopped believing Fitz was great.

Fitzgerald had 954 yards with Carson Palmer throwing him the football last year. Does Fitzgerald require a Hall of Fame quarterback to reach his potential or something?

We made excuses for him that weren’t even excuses.

"We" didn't make any excuses for Fitzgerald. Stop using "we" to indicate what "you" believe.

Why didn’t we ever feel sorry for Carmelo? It’s simple — he placed himself in this situation.

Oh, so that's why "we" didn't feel bad for Carmelo. I was wondering why "we" didn't feel bad for him. In this case, I didn't feel bad for Carmelo because he could have left this summer and chose not to. That's a lot of money to give up though and Phil Jackson isn't a tough guy to put some faith in.

There’s a good chance he will play his entire career, then retire, without ever finding the right team. Unless the Knicks miraculously strike oil next summer, his own version of the 2011 Mavericks can’t happen.

Another reference to that 2011 Mavericks team led by Dirk, the same reference and comparison that Bill dislikes so much and has made so often.

There was an alternate universe here — Chicago, for less money, for a chance to become Olympic Melo for nine months per year. He would have been flanked by Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic, Kirk Hinrich and a top-five coach (Tom Thibodeau). He would have found his 2011 Mavs.

The comparison to Dirk the way, that Bulls team is better than the 2011 Mavericks. This is especially true if Derrick Rose comes back healthy.

Thirty years from now, long after he has retired and hopefully spent his more than $300 million nest egg wisely, Carmelo will be sitting on the porch of one of his nine houses, nursing a drink, staring out at an ocean and thinking about the unknown. Should he have picked Chicago? How much money is enough money? What’s the price of peace? What would it have been worth to know — to really, truly know? Was he good enough? Could he have gotten there? Did he have it in him?

Or he will be sitting there thinking about all of the money he made playing basketball professionally and that's nice to have? He can also look at his Olympic Gold medals and know he won an NCAA Championship for Jim Boeheim as well. There are some things he can hang his hat on outside of deep thoughts about the price of peace.

Instead, he’ll have to settle for people like me: the ones maintaining that he WAS good enough, only it’s an opinion and not a fact.

Right. Much of this column was based on an opinion (like how many superstars are in the NBA) that Bill masquerades as facts.

In A Bronx Tale, Sonny famously tells Calogero that “the saddest thing in life is wasted talent.” Well, what happens if you didn’t waste your talent, but it kind of got wasted anyway?

But Anthony did waste his talent according to Bill. Twice Anthony had the chance to join a contending team with a stronger roster and both times he set it up to where he didn't up choosing this path. So Anthony did waste his talent in a way, and Bill even states that in this column. Anyway, speaking of wasted talent, this is the end of another Bill Simmons rambling column. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

7 comments MMQB Review: Peter Comes Back from Vacation Firing on All Socially Aware Cylinders Edition

Two housekeeping notes...first off, Peter King is back and Gregg Easterbrook is back. Summer will be over, which means I will hopefully be able to get the post rate up to 5 per week. Also, I'm still filling spaces in the fantasy football league and will give it a few more days. Otherwise, there may be as many as five spaces open in the league for those that want to join. I will post the information once I make sure those who played last year don't want to participate this year. 

Peter King has returned from his month long hibernation/coffee binge to continue writing MMQB and do a tour of NFL training camps. He did come back for one week during his vacation to do an all-CFL edition of MMQB, which I didn't cover here, mostly because I don't know enough about the CFL to refute anything Peter wrote. It also prevented me from using the "Canadian issues" tag on a post, which is always a sad state of affairs. This week Peter talks about the Buffalo Bills, all this hope NFL teams have, inexplicably ranks the NFL teams before training camp begins and continues to write the Adieu Haiku much to my chagrin. What I find interesting is Peter used the tag "Cam Newton" for this MMQB. Being a Panthers fan I was interested to see what he wrote about Newton thinking it had something to do with his new Drakkar Noir fragrance or anything else of interest. Well, there's really nothing. He has a sentence about how Newton is recovering from surgery and that's pretty much it. Not sure I understand his use of that tag since he doesn't really talk about Newton. Peter also tagged "Chris Snee," and doesn't have much of a discussion on Snee. He has at least more than one sentence about Snee though.

Let's dive back into the world of caffeinated and turkey burger eating world of Peter King!

Sunday night was precisely what the NFL wants out of the preseason. The night of the first practice of the NFL summer simply couldn’t have gone better. Hope was for sale everywhere on the St. John Fisher campus here, the same way it will be in 31 other camps starting with the Giants today in New Jersey, and there were thousands of consumers, happy to buy that hope.

Fools! They are all fools! They will spend their money, waste their time, and lose their voices cheering for a team that will go 6-10. Meanwhile Roger Goodell counts his money.

One guy called me over to show me the Ralph Wilson tattoo he just had etched on his arm this off-season, in tribute to the late Hall of Fame owner of the team.

Oh, so the Ralph Wilson tattoo wasn't a tribute to Joe Montana?

There was the promising quarterback (the Bills hope), Manuel, getting the benefit of the doubt from the adoring crowd. He’d missed six games last year due to injury, and never played as well as the Bills had hoped, and he enters this summer with a giant question mark over his head.

This is as opposed to the vast array of rookie quarterbacks who enter the NFL, get injured for almost half the season, and then still manage to prove there are no questions about their ability.

Speaking of Watkins, he’s the belle of the football here.



And they love GM Doug Whaley for overpaying to move up to get Watkins in the first round last May. To move up five spots in the first round, from nine to four, Whaley paid next year’s first-round and fourth-round picks to Cleveland. 

No, they love Dough Whaley for moving up and getting Watkins. They don't love that Whaley went and overpaid for Sammy Watkins. Besides, who is to say it was an overpay? I don't know that I recall Peter calling the Falcons moving up to get Julio Jones as an overpay. It's certainly worked out pretty well for the Falcons.

The Bills, following the lead of the Super Bowl champion Seahawks, played loud tunes—U2, Macklemore, Eminem, Black Eyed Peas, House of Pain—for more than half the practice. 

Were the Seahawks the first team to play practice with loud music or something? I feel like I recall other NFL teams practicing with loud music, but Peter is obsessed with the fact Pete Carroll plays loud music while his Seahawks team practices. Peter seems to think this is some magic elixir that helped the Seahawks win the Super Bowl. And quite frankly, I would be very de-motivated to practice hard if I heard some U2 or Black Eyed Peas coming from the sound system. Still, I remember other teams practicing with loud music prior to the Seahawks. I feel like Peter is trying to tie the loud music into winning football games.

There were other reasons to be excited. Running back Bryce Brown, supposedly a spare part acquired in a trade with Philadelphia, ran like he had rockets in his shoes.

Who the hell said that Bryce Brown was a spare part? Peter is doing a lot of editorializing early in his return to writing MMQB. Bryce Brown has played pretty well in the games where he was actually given a shot to get more than five carries. It's not easy backing up LeSean McCoy. Where does the idea Brown was a spare part come from?

The Bills haven’t made the playoffs in this century. They’ve had nine straight losing seasons. Imagine not winning 10 games in the past 14 years. Fourteen!

They never should have fired Wade Phillips. Huge mistake. 

This is a better team than most if not all of the teams the Bills have fielded since their last playoff season, 1999. It’s a group that can win now if the quarterback plays at a B-plus level.

Considering Peter just got done telling us that the Bills haven't won 10 games in 14 years, (Fourteen!) it may not be saying much that this is the best Bills team since 1999. It just may mean this team could win 9 games this season.

In other words, Dareus is a total mess.

Asked how troubling it is that Dareus didn’t report to camp in shape given how many strikes he already has against him, Marrone would say only: “He’ll be in shape, ready to play.”

Got that rookie contract coming up soon. Gotta pull a Trevor Ariza and bust your ass for a season to get a long-term deal, then Operation Shutdown/Smokey and the Dareus Bandit can continue.

Manuel feels it.

“At Florida State, we were so used to winning, it was customary. When I got here, you could just feel it, how much they want it. First day of camp, a Sunday night, you see the stands packed, you hear them for over two hours … People say Buffalo’s this, Buffalo’s that, Buffalo’s cold. To me, if you win, it’s the best place on earth. Like Tallahassee. It’s a college-town atmosphere here.

I think Peter King would say that the Bills have been playing as an NFL team at a college football-level over the past 14 years.

All you have here is the Bills.

Well, and the Buffalo Sabres.

Obviously the Sabres too.

You just said (looks back at transcript), "All you have here is the Bills" and then said "obviously" there are the Sabres too. It must be not that obvious the Sabres are there too, because you just completely forgot about them. That's like saying all the Broncos have his Peyton Manning, then saying obviously there is Demaryius Thomas and Von Miller too. It makes not of sense.

But if the Bills win, it’s a whole different city.’’

Football is more popular than hockey. Got it. I'm going to need to move on before I make an FSU joke.

So we’ll see if Manuel and Watkins can hit the ground running together. The first team period was a start. Said Manuel:...So on draft day, I’m out at a restaurant with my father in south Florida, and when I saw on TV that we made that trade and drafted him, I jumped out of my chair. C.J. Spiller calls me right away and says, ‘We got our boy! We got our boy!’ Because we’d been talking about it since January. My phone went almost dead, because 18,000 people called me at one time.

That must be a hell of a call waiting backup. I get irritated when one person tries to call me and I'm already on the phone.

(Note: This hasn't happened since approximately 2003)

It’s going to be great to watch him grow.”

And he is going to need to grow, because the history of sub-6'2" wide receivers drafted in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft isn't illustrious.

Standing in the end zone, Whaley smiled. “They love me now,” he said.

And tomorrow? They’ll still love him. It’s hope season for seven more weeks, for 31 other franchises. Just the way the NFL wants it.

(Roger Goodell rubs his hands together excitedly, then doesn't suspend an NFL owner after he confesses to stabbing a woman to death while drunk because "we will wait for all the facts to come out"...then Goodell hands out a one game suspension to a player for repeatedly violating the dress code)

The Fine 15, Pre-Camp Edition

Now this is odd. A Fine 15 some 46 days before the season starts. But there’s nothing like a little controversy to sell papers.

I guess it's nice to see Peter is at least being upfront about putting a pre-Camp Edition of the Fine 15 (and is it "Fine 15" this year and not "Fine Fifteen"?...I ask because "Fine 15" sounds like a movie Marvel will make in 2025 with every single one of their licensed superheroes in it) in MMQB to get some feedback, positive or negative, and get eyes to read MMQB. I can imagine the dip in readership from when Peter writes MMQB to when he has guest writers is pretty vast.

1. Seattle.  I like the approach of the coach and the defense

Well, that and they just won the Super Bowl with an absolutely stifling defense and lost almost zero key players on that defense.

3. San Francisco. If I trusted Colin Kaepernick as much as I trust Russell Wilson, 1 and 3 would be reversed.

It's the backwards hat and tattoos isn't it? Hey, Russell Wilson is getting divorced. That shows he makes commitments that he won't work hard to uphold and once he's achieved something he takes it for granted. I mean, doesn't that sound like a sentence that is going to be in an article written later in the Fall if the Seahawks start out 2-4?

4. New Orleans. The rich get obscenely richer, and Brandin Cooks wins offensive rookie of the year, and the defense stays stout.

Hey, maybe they will even manage to win their division this year or will eventually earn this #4 ranking as opposed to having it handed to them! Welp, guess there's a bounty on my head now.

(There is a statute of limitations on bounty jokes. I think we are about at that point. Just wanted to check though.)

5. Indianapolis. I’m buying the Luck hype,

No fucking way, Peter! YOU? You buy the Luck hype? I can't believe it. It's not like you have been up his ass since he was drafted in the NFL. You know what, it's not even hype. He's the real thing. My snark aside, it's unfair to call it hype at this point.

plus he gets back one of the great young tight ends in the game—Dwayne Allen. 

Let's slow the roll here. Luck has hype, but Dwayne Allen is one of the best tight ends in the game? Let's see how he does after missing nearly the entire last season before going back to his 2012 season (his only season in the NFL) to issue "great, young" proclamations.

6. Denver. Having a hard time getting That Game out of my head.

Don't worry, it will be out of Peter's head when the Broncos are 10-1 and Peter writes a story about how Peyton Manning feels even better than he did last year and the sky is the limit for this Broncos team.

9. Chicago.  Marc Trestman’s acing chemistry class. He’s got Jay Cutler kumbaya-ing in the cafeteria at Halas Hall. And who’s covering those Olajuwon-sized receivers and tight end Martellus Bennett?

Hey! Only Joel Embiid can be compared to Hakeem Olajuwon these days. I'm sure there is a copyright somewhere regarding this.

10. St. Louis.

Presented without comment. I'M JUST KIDDING!

#10, huh? I'm not saying it won't happen, but these writers have been drinking this Jeff "8-8" Fisher Juice for so long I'm not sure they even know how to stop. The Rams are fantastic on defense and they have an offense that could be very good if Bradford is healthy. Maybe they are the #10th best team in the NFL, but they are in a very tough division.

Might not show up in the record, but the Rams are going to be hell to play, and they’ll be a playoff team if Sam Bradford plays the way he was drafted to play.

Read that sentence and try to tell me Peter's relationship with Marvin Demoff doesn't come into play when he discusses the Rams. "It may not show in the record." He's already making excuses even if Fisher doesn't make the playoffs this year. For what Jeff "8-8" Fisher gets paid to coach the Rams, the team's talent sure as shit better show up in the record. Fisher gets paid enough for that to happen.

I don't dislike Sam Bradford, but as many times as Peter has bashed QB's like Andy Dalton, E.J. Manuel, and Geno Smith (and they weren't even #1 overall picks), how many years has the "IF Bradford can play well" dance been written? It's been since he's been in the league. Yes, he could play great, or he may not. At what point will it be known if Bradford is going to play like a #1 overall pick? I can see the Rams making the playoffs, but I don't believe they will make it in 2015. That's not what Jeff Fisher does as a coach, despite the media's constant talking him up. He's simply not the coach that his reputation and salary claims him to be. It drives me crazy and my distaste for how Peter talks about the Rams over the past three years as a sleeping juggernaut frustrates me. I don't hate the Rams, but Jeff Fisher is a more dressed-up Wade Phillips when it comes to making the playoffs.

11. Arizona. Might not show up in the record, but the Cards are going to be hell to play,

(Looks back up at his previous rant) point still stands about Marvin Demoff and Peter King though.

and they’ll be a playoff team if Carson Palmer plays close to the way he played in his prime.

And when will that be again?

13. Cincinnati.  Deep and talented, but let me be the 4,672nd guru to say in the last six months, “It all comes down to Dalton.”

Everyone who reads this blog knows I understand a team wins games and it can't be thrown on the shoulders (positively or negatively) of the quarterback. I do think it's important to know Andy Dalton has more playoff appearances than Sam Bradford and Carson Palmer combined and he's only been in the NFL for three years. I think it's important to think about this while reading Peter's unbridled hope for the Cardinals and Rams, while throwing the Bengals season entirely on Dalton's shoulders and ranking the Bengals lower than Palmer and Bradford's team.

Speaking of media about some Chris Kluwe discussion? I agree with Kluwe's crusade while also finding some hypocrisy in his actions and justification for his actions. They don't make him a bad person, but it does make me question the messenger a bit.

Now, Kluwe has written for the site in the past, and he is a smart and engaging person, and he fiercely defends the rights of the oppressed. But I do not see how he justifies poking fun at strength coach Tom Kanavy, who formerly worked at Penn State, by cutting out the seat of his pants and, in an apparent joking way, saying he was a Penn State victim and telling Kanavy to stay away from him while his buttocks were exposed. Kluwe said on Twitter, in justification, that “over half the team” chided Kanavy about the Jerry Sandusky pedophilia, some of them cruelly. That makes no sense to me. It’s justifying what you did the same way gang members do—everybody else was doing it, so why single me out?

(Vomits into a trash can) Peter is 100% correct about this. Kluwe is suing the Vikings because of comments he disagreed with that his special teams coach made and he thinks his opposition to the special teams coach's position meant Kluwe was released by the Vikings. The same mob mentality that he is accusing the Vikings of participating in is being used by him as an excuse for why he made a fairly inappropriate joke in the locker room. The whole "everyone was doing it" mentality is a justification for homophobia in the locker room. Yet this is the same excuse Kluwe used to explain why he pretended he was a Penn State victim with his butt exposed. And no, this isn't highlighting the Penn State programs for their failures, this is pretending to be a victim of pedophilia. Everyone has said/done things they regret or can be taken in the wrong context. It's just if you are going to throw stones, be sure you don't use the same justification explaining your actions those you are throwing stones at are using as well.

Kluwe so stridently fought for the right side on other issues, like gay marriage, and it’s just so sordid to join the crowd in making fun of a pedophile.

Peter King with this fucking editorializing. There is no "right side" of gay marriage. The "right side" is a complete opinion and I don't like it's being classified as "right" or "wrong." That's Peter though. Once a tidal wave of momentum arrives on a social issue he's willing to catch that wave and ride it in like he's been there all along. He did it with the Redskins name too. Once there was a backlash, then he made his stand and stop using the Redskins name. I hate the use of "right" or "wrong" on social issues. Peter needs to stop it and talk football. This discussion can be had without using such subjective terms.

In 2012, Kluwe had the best net punting average (39.7 yards per punt) in his eight-year Viking career, and his third-best gross average, at 45.0 yards. He wasn’t a bad outdoor punter, as the investigation suggested. In fact, over his last two seasons, he had a better punting average—45.83 yards per punt—than when he punted indoors (45.30). So, at the end of the day, this is a story that’s not going to paint anyone with a glory brush.

But Kluwe was expensive and he was a punter. NFL players get released for money reasons all the time, especially when they play a position like punter where a replacement making 50% of the previous player's money with 85% of the production can be found. Kluwe very well could have been cut for valid, football-related reasons. 

“They need to change the name. In this day and age, it’s just not right.”

—Jordan Wright, the granddaughter of the late Washington owner George Preston Marshall, who named the team the “Redskins” when he moved the franchise from Boston to Washington in 1937, to longtime football writer Len Shapiro, in a piece he wrote for Leesburg (Va.) Today. Thanks to Pro Football Talk for pointing out this piece by Shapiro.

Again, more of Peter presenting points of view that he agrees with in an effort to make a social change related to football. It's not the end of the world he does this, but two years ago (one year ago) Peter didn't seem to have a strong opinion on the Redskins name that he spoke about in print. Now, he's fervently against the use of the Redskins name. "Leading from behind" is what they call it I believe.

Tony Gwynn died while I was away.

Peter wasn't away when Tony Gwynn died. No, not at all. Tony Gwynn died while Peter was away. Gwynn's death must be framed around Peter's absence in writing MMQB.

My favorite Gwynn stat:

Lifetime at-bats versus Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez: 143.
Strikeouts versus Maddux and Martinez: 0.
Batting average versus Maddux and Martinez: .350.

And yes, I know Maddux wasn’t a feared strikeout pitcher. But the man is 10th on the all-time strikeout list and averaged 6.1 K’s per nine innings.

I love Peter King. He looks at a stat that shows Gwynn hit .350 against two Hall of Fame pitchers and he focuses on the fact Gwynn didn't strike out against either pitcher during his entire career. Sure, that's impressive, but why waste time defending Maddux as a strikeout pitcher rather than focus on the fact Gwynn hit .350 against Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux? That's the impressive statistic.

I saw the Pirates play in Pittsburgh, with my wife and my brother-in-law and his boys, at beautiful PNC Park (“beautiful” or “breathtaking” should be the mandatory adjective every time PNC Park is discussed) in June. The day of the game, I was in line at a Starbucks in downtown Pittsburgh,

There's a shock. I wonder how Peter's sort-of-nutritionist feels about his drinking habits at Starbucks these days?

And who do you think is in front of me in line?

Well, there are billions of people in the world, so I should get this one...was it Carrot Top?

Andrew McCutchen. With his fiancé, Maria Hanslovan, in line with him, McCutchen ordered his drink. I didn’t hear what it was.


I can picture Peter rubbernecking around in line trying in vain to hear what Andrew McCutchen ordered.

"Name for the cup?” the man on the register said.

“Andrew,” McCutchen said.

What? McCutchen didn't say, "Don't you know who I am?" to the man on the register? Peter finds that is an excellent way to get a free cup of coffee.

We ordered, then went to wait for ours next to the reigning National League Most Valuable Player. In cases like this, I always think the famous person should be left alone, because the famous person I assume gets so few chances to be left alone. Thirty, 40, 50 seconds pass.

You know the whole time Peter is standing there he's thinking, "Man, I hope McCutchen recognizes who I am so we can start up a conversation that I can brag about in MMQB."

“Andrew,” the barista called. His drink was ready. He claimed it, and his fiancé claimed hers, and they went over to sit down on a couch in the store. One fellow came over and said hi and shook his hand, and McCutchen was pleasant enough, and that was that, and the MVP of the National League went to sit down and enjoy some private time—

Oh, so that's it? So the summary of these five paragraphs could be thus, "I saw Andrew McCutchen at Starbucks where he ordered a coffee and wasn't bothered by but one man the entire time." I guess that would seem a lot less interesting of a story. I thought this story was going somewhere a little more...umm...colorful, maybe? That's as opposed to "He ordered coffee and then drank it." 

1. I think I’d like my four Guest MMQB writers to take a collective bow. Thanks, Marc Trestman, for education us heathens about the CFL. Thanks, Vernon Davis, for taking us into the world of a holdout. Thanks, Khalil Mack, for telling us how you got from unknown high school player to being a high first-round pick. And thank you, Rich Eisen, for educating us about the Silly Season. I couldn’t have said it better, because there is so, so, so much wasted time and energy spent on the month off from football, which should be a month off from football because nothing at all happens in the month before camps open.

Of course, while talking about how nothing happens during the month off from football, Peter still takes the time to have NFL-related content posted to THE MMQB and still wants visitors to read his site everyday. So he wants there to be a break from football, but also wants there to not be a break from football so his advertisers stay content during the NFL offseason. Nothing happens, but read THE MMQB everyday about this nothing.

4. I think one of the most interesting teams this preseason will be Carolina. Lots of moving pieces there.

This is as opposed to the other NFL teams who didn't have a lot of changes to their roster in the offseason.

A grab-bag of discarded vets (Jerricho Cotchery, Tiquan Underwood, Jason Avant) plus rookie Kelvin Benjamin forming an all-new receiving corps.


The team is in salary cap hell and are actively trying to get out of salary cap hell because in the next 2-3 years they have to re-sign Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, and Star Lotulelei. It's a tough process right now. So there's no money to spend on long-term contracts for free agent receivers who want long-term contracts.

Cam Newton trying to do two important things in the next seven weeks: get his surgically repaired ankle in football shape and bonding with a bunch of guys not names Steve Smith. And finding a new left tackle.

It's funny how the whole "new left tackle" thing gets constantly thrown into the end of any evaluation of the Panthers team as a sort of afterthought. The wide receivers aren't a problem. The fact 4 of the 5 offensive linemen who started in the playoff game last year will either be retired or playing new positions on the line is by far the team's biggest issue. Cam Newton is going to die. The projected right/left tackle is a guy who was playing defensive tackle two years ago. Carolina Medical Center already has a room on standby from September to December with surgeons waiting for Newton's eventual arrival.

7. I think the Washington franchise will have a new team name by 2016.

That name? Daniel Snyder will choose to name them the Washington Indians just to put the onus on the Cleveland Indians to change their team name. Once this backlash died down, then Daniel Snyder will name George W. Bush as the General Manager and talk about changing the team name to the Conservatives, at which point Peter will still refuse to call the franchise by it's team name.

9. I think Jay Glazer will be great at introducing Michael Strahan for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in two weeks, because no one on this earth knows Strahan better than Glazer. It’s cool to see a media person named for this honor.

Is it though? Maybe. Jay Glazer's business relationships with the players he has covered has consistently vexed me. I would say it doesn't affect his coverage, but given his Richie Incognito interview last year I'm not entirely sure that's true. The guy can break NFL news though. I just don't know if it's "cool" to see a media person named for this honor. Granted, he knows Strahan well, but his job is also to be an impartial observer and reporter.

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

b. The World Cup should happen every two years, not four.
c. I agree with Rich Eisen: Ian Darke needs to do an NFL game on TV, for somebody.

Skills at calling one sport doesn't always translate to another sport. There are plenty of examples of this being true.

j. Hey Ed Bouchette: Congrats on winning the McCann Award, emblematic of great writing and great contributions to football journalism, given by the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You are one of the best people in our business, and I know scores echo my sentiments. So pleased for you, and I hope all who have learned so much about the Steelers from your writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette take a moment to thank you in the coming weeks.

(Bengoodfella opens up his Yahoo email account, copies and pastes this text into a blank email and then confirms these words would indeed fit into the format of an email to Bouchette rather than being placed in a national column where they are less personal and slightly more pretentious)

l. Dustin Pedroia’s just not the same as he was. Either he overachieved when he first came up (I am not a big “overachieving’’ and “underachieving’’ person, because how are you significantly better or worse than the norm over 1,000 at-bats) but, really, the numbers don’t lie. He’s an excellent fielder and absolutely average hitter.

What the hell? So much to discuss here.

1. Dustin Pedroia had 4,029 at-bats in the majors prior to this year. He has been very, very good during the time he had those at-bats.

2. This is the first season during his entire career that Pedroia could be known as a player who "underachieved." He was 7th in the MVP race last year and had a really good season.

3. Peter writes "Either..." but doesn't name another option outside of Pedroia overachieving when he first came up.

4. What is this "first came up" crap? Dustin Pedroia has been great for seven full MLB seasons now. He's 30 and can't be expected to be great every single season. This is some epic writing-off that Peter has done to Pedroia. It's not like Pedroia has been terrible this season, he's just not up to his own standard, which is pretty high.

5. Quit being a drama queen about this. Pedroia isn't having a great year. This happens and it's never happened to him on this level. Don't act like his entire career has been a facade because he's having one season that isn't up to his usual standard.

m. And after watching the World Series last year, in which David Ortiz was un-retireable, how is he hitting .250-ish and getting waylaid by the Danny Duffys of the world?

Well, he is 38 years old. He is getting on-base at a near .350 clip and has 20 home runs. Sure, Danny Duffy maybe struck him out, but he's just not hitting for a high average. Let's calm the sadness down just a little bit.

o. Coffeenerdness: I’m not very good at keeping my Macchiato agreement, drinking three a week. Now that I’m going on this camp trip, I see more Macchiatos and fewer iced coffees in my next month.

Oh no, Peter's sort-of nutritionist is going to be pissed off.

p. Beernerdness: My three favorite beers from vacation: Starr Hill Brewery (Charlottesville, Va.) Northern Lights IPA, one of the most flavorful IPAs I have ever tasted. Had it with a turkey burger at Boylan’s in Charlottesville, Va., on a warm June day, my first-ever trip to the Virginia campus …

This is a really good beer. I'm not sure I would have it with a turkey burger though. I'm not sure how it pairs with a turkey burger. That's like having a darker beer while eating a salad. Seems wrong to me.

q. If we don’t act against the Russian separatists for the downing of the Malaysian airliner full of innocents, when exactly would we act against anyone for anything?

Peter is very socially aware this week. He's like an 18 year old during his first semester of college. If Peter continues along this track he'll be protesting the treatment of cattle and boycotting big companies (except Starbucks of course) because they turn the American public into mindless idiots who only want to purchase products that show just how addicted to our comforts we are.

t. Good to be back. You’ll have me for the next 47 weeks, and I hope I can give you more than 10 things to think about this season.

Every single week you give me more than 10 things that I think about. Granted, probably not in the way that you think you intend, but I do think about a lot of what you write and it makes me wonder.

The Adieu Haiku
NFL camp time.
So optimistic out here.
League of hopes and dreams.

I'm still waiting newly socially aware Peter King's response to his BFF Tony Dungy's comment that he wouldn't have taken Michael Sam in the draft because "...things will happen." It's a test of Peter's new social awareness against his love of treating his friends kindly whether they deserve it or not.

I still don't see the purpose of the "Adieu Haiku" but at least Peter didn't link the Bruce Springsteen song "Land of Hopes and Dreams."

Monday, July 21, 2014

5 comments Ross Tucker Disagrees with Co-Worker David Steele's NFL Coach Rankings, Also Disagrees with Himself About Why

Ross Tucker is showing us all how corporate synergy can work. Both he and David Steele work for The Sporting News and Steele put up a slideshow ranking the best NFL head coaches recently. Taking a page from ESPN, Tucker spits out a short column in response to David Steele's slideshow. Nothing like creating the news and then reacting to the news your company has created. I did have a few issues with David Steele's slideshow of the best NFL head coaches. He puts Andy Reid at #6, ranks John Harbaugh over Jim Harbaugh but then puts Pete Carroll at #2 (given the track record of Jim in consistently getting the 49ers to NFC Championship Game it seems he should be higher than his brother, even with no Super Bowl victory), and puts Jeff Fisher at #13. I'm sure most of you can guess my feelings about Jeff Fisher and Steele wrote this:

It’s hard to find anyone to knock Fisher’s coaching ability, some of the great teams he put together in Tennessee, the identity they forged, or even the early results of the current reclamation project in St. Louis. It’s harder to explain how he only made the playoffs six times, and had six winning seasons, in 17 years with the Oilers/Titans. The record needs to catch up with the reputation at some point.


"At some point" Fisher's record needs to catch up with his reputation? When will this happen? After Fisher has coached in the NFL for 25 years? Naturally, after writing this David Steele ranks Fisher above Rex Ryan, Lovie Smith, and Chip Kelly despite the fact Fisher's teams have made the playoffs twice in the last nine years and haven't won a playoff game since 2003. So while Steele talks about Fisher's record catching up with his reputation, he doesn't back his words up with actions.

Jim Caldwell is #16 on the list, which shouldn't surprise me since that is David Steele's boy. I think if you gave NFL teams a choice between Rex Ryan and Marvin Lewis then I think the vast majority would choose them over Jim Caldwell. Apparently Dennis Allen is the worst coach in the NFL, though he also so happens to coach in quite possibly in one of the worst organizations in the NFL.

Ross Tucker's issue wasn't with the majority of Steele's rankings, but that Steele had Bill Belichick ranked above Tom Coughlin. Belichick was #1 on the list, while Coughlin was #3. See, Ross Tucker believes that Tom Coughlin has done more with less (while only discussing offense and not acknowledging defense), as well as has won games with more than one quarterback. Unfortunately, Tucker contradicts himself on this issue when saying Tom Coughlin's track record is more impressive than Bill Belichick and why.

Not so fast, David Steele.

This is a written version of a "First Take" debate. Ross Tucker is responding directly to something David Steele has written. Synergy is great.

My Sporting News colleague recently ranked all 32 NFL head coaches and started with the following line:

"One fairly reliable rule of thumb: Start with Bill Belichick and work your way down."

And then this:

"It's going to be a long time before any coach is able to dislodge him from the top."

Crazy. Insane. Just madness for David Steele to put one of the longest tenured NFL coaches (the longest tenured I believe) with the best track record #1 in his NFL head coaching rankings. How is that supposed to get pageviews and cause a controversy? It's bad enough Steele had to resort to a slideshow to get pageviews, but now he is going with conventional thinking and making the best coach in the NFL #1 in his coaches rankings? Unconceivable.

Belichick is an extraordinary football coach. The argument for him being the best head coach in the NFL is an easy one and it starts and probably ends with the incredible sustained success that his New England Patriots have enjoyed since 2001.

Yeah, but this isn't a contrarian position that Ross Tucker could take when he can't think of anything else to write about. So he will say that Tom Coughlin is the best head coach in the NFL for the sake of debate and to remind his readers that Belichick should be knocked down in the rankings because he's had Tom Brady as his quarterback.

The numbers are staggering. Eleven Division Titles.Eight Conference Championship Game appearances. Five Super Bowls. Three World Championships.

Yeah, but what have you done for me lately? Only two Super Bowls and four Conference Championship Game appearances.

Almost as impressive to me as all of those accomplishments was the 11-5 season the Patriots had in 2008 with first-time starter Matt Cassel under center after Tom Brady was lost for the season with a torn ACL in the opener.

Remember that Belichick had success with another quarterback under center. It will be important here in a few lines. Belichick went 11-5 with a quarterback not named "Tom Brady" starting for the majority of the season. Therefore, he had success with multiple quarterbacks.

Despite all of that, I'm still not 100 percent certain that Belichick is the best coach in the NFL.  It’s certainly not a slam dunk.

And because it's not a "slam dunk" this means that Belichick definitely isn't the best coach in the NFL? I think I understand it now. Ross Tucker wants to be a contrarian.

Allow me to make an argument for the one coach whose resume I believe can go toe to toe with Belichick: Tom Coughlin.

I like Tom Coughlin a lot. His numbers of five division titles, four conference championship game appearances, two Super Bowls, and two world championships do not go toe to toe with eleven division titles, eight conference championship game appearances, five Super Bowls, and three world championships. Yes, Coughlin has beaten Belichick twice for Super Bowl victories, but toe to toe Belichick's numbers are better.

I give special credit when evaluating coaches to those who have shown the ability to have success with multiple franchises and/or multiple quarterbacks. 

Well, then Belichick should be considered as good as Coughlin because when given a chance to have a quarterback who isn't Tom Brady the Patriots went 11-5. Belichick didn't have success with the Browns, but he went 36-44 as the head coach of the Browns and won 11 games in 1994, as well as had two 7-win seasons. The Browns have had zero seasons of 11 wins and three seasons where they won 7 games since Belichick left. So in terms of relative success with a team, Belichick had relative success in Cleveland.

That's why I've always respected Joe Gibbs' accomplishments so much.

Gibbs only had success with the Redskins, not another NFL team. He did have success with multiple quarterbacks, that's for sure. I'm not sure why Gibbs' accomplishments mean more than Belichick's (or maybe they don't?) in the mind of Ross Tucker simply because Belichick has consistently had a great quarterback. Plus, while Coughlin has had success with two quarterbacks, Belichick has had success with two quarterbacks as well. He had Matt Cassel lead the Patriots to a 11-5 season when Tom Brady got injured.

Coughlin started an expansion franchise from scratch with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1996 and took them to the postseason four times in his first five years, including two berths in AFC Championship games. That's amazing and unprecedented for a fledgling franchise.

Coughlin is a great coach. There is no doubt about that. Still, his accomplishments can't go toe to toe with Bill Belichick's in terms of conference titles, division titles and Super Bowl titles. If Ross Tucker wants to talk relativity, then that's fine, but just be sure Belichick's relative success with Cleveland over a five year period the Browns have not had since he left should be considered in this discussion as well.

Belichick, on the other hand, only made the playoffs one time during his five-year stint as head coach of the Cleveland Browns in the 90s. That obviously pales in comparison to what Coughlin accomplished in Jacksonville.

It does, that's true. I think it's important to note that Belichick had success in Cleveland during his five years they haven't matched since and Belichick's success in New England eclipses Coughlin's success both in Jacksonville and with the New York Giants. No matter how Ross Tucker wants to slice it, Belichick's numbers overall are better. Of course Tucker wants to throw in cherry-picked reasons Coughlin is better, like his success with two franchises and his success with two quarterbacks, but this doesn't mean he's a better coach than Bill Belichick.

Now let's look more recently. Over the last nine years since Eli Manning's first full season as the starting quarterback in 2005, Coughlin has won two Super Bowl championships. Belichick has none

Funny how that cut-off time is 2005 when Coughlin coached the Giants in 2004. Why could that be? Perhaps because the Patriots won the Super Bowl that year? Don't you like how Ross Tucker is all, "It's what a coach does with two quarterbacks that makes him great," yet only wants to compare Coughlin as the Giants coach with Eli Manning as the starting quarterback. He doesn't want to talk about that 6-10 year with Kurt Warner because it's not convenient. And yes, that same Kurt Warner who had success in the NFL and is a possible Hall of Famer. A coach should be judged on what he does with multiple quarterbacks unless that's not a convenient metric for Ross Tucker to use.

Even since 2005, Coughlin has three division titles, two conference championships, and two Super Bowl wins. Belichick has had eight division titles, five conference championships, and zero Super Bowl wins. So Coughlin has reached greater heights, but Belichick has still made more conference championship appearances and won more division titles since 2005.

Maybe even more importantly, Coughlin has beaten Belichick head to head in both of those Super Bowls. That's a tremendous feather in his cap, especially when you consider the 2007 Patriots were clearly the more talented team in that game.

Yes, that was an impressive win. The Giants did have a pretty good defense during the playoff run though and it's important to note that Belichick has had consistent, sustained success with the Patriots while Coughlin hasn't quite met that standard of consistent, sustained success since 2005.

Have the Giants been as consistent as the Patriots in the non-championship years? Absolutely not, but then again, Manning isn't as consistent as Brady. Not even close.

Oh okay, now I get it. Belichick isn't a better coach because he has the better quarterback. It's sort of like how Tom Brady isn't the better quarterback as compared to Peyton Manning because Brady has Belichick as his head coach. Neither Brady or Belichick will get credit for their success at times due to their affiliation with each other.

I believe Brady is the best quarterback in NFL history. Even if you disagree, there has to be an acknowledgment that you can make a very compelling argument in Brady's favor in that regard.

So Coughlin would have done much better if he had a chance to coach a potential Hall of Fame quarterback. If only there were a quarterback he could have coached early in his career as the Giants head coach...

Manning? I'm not sure he's a top 10 QB in the NFL right now. He certainly wasn't last year.

I think Tucker isn't exactly looking at the defensive side of the ball and weighting Manning's performance last year too much. I would argue the Giants have had better defenses over the past few years than the Patriots have had. I'm sure that's Belichick's fault though and when comparing Manning to Brady defense shouldn't be taken into account at all. The only pertinent discussion as to whether Coughlin or Belichick is the better coach is a discussion that revolves around which coach has the better quarterback. Nothing else matters when comparing the two coaches.

So Coughlin did far better than Belichick with a different team and different group of men in their respective first opportunities as head coaches and has won two more Super Bowls over the last seven years,

But Belichick has done better when comparing both coaches side-by-side over the lifetime of their coaching careers. While Coughlin has been better in terms of winning the Super Bowl over the last few years, Belichick has still consistently accomplished more as a head coach during that time than Coughlin has. So the question becomes whether Tucker wants a coach who is consistently great, but can't win the Super Bowl, or a coach who won the Super Bowl a couple of times but has missed the playoffs four of the last five seasons.

beating Belichick head to head both times when everything was at stake with a lesser quarterback.

Well, Belichick did beat Coughlin to secure a perfect regular season record in 2007, but that was a regular season game so it clearly doesn't count in this discussion.

Are we still so sure that Belichick is the best coach in the NFL?

In terms of the coach that has accomplished the most over a long span of time, I would consider Belichick to be the best coach. That's just me, but Ross Tucker is incorrect by acknowledging and then forgetting Belichick has won games without Brady as his quarterback. He also focuses really hard on the two Super Bowl victories Coughlin has while ignoring that Belichick has accomplished more on a consistent basis during the time span of Coughlin's two Super Bowl victories.

No matter the reason, Ross Tucker's best coach in the NFL hasn't even made the playoffs four of the last five seasons. Is he sure that Coughlin is the best coach in the NFL? 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

3 comments The New York Media Loves Discussing Alex Rodriguez at Any Given Opportunity

You can't give the New York media any daylight to talk about Alex Rodriguez. Any conversation can suddenly take a sharp turn towards a discussion of A-Rod. It gets pageviews, comments, and a discussion going. Any conversation or topic can be taken down the A-Rod road by a New York writer.

Kate Upton is on the cover of Sports Illustrated?

"I bet A-Rod has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated more than she has!"

It's raining outside?

"A-Rod never played well in the rain because he was always worried about his appearance more than he was worried about playing well!"

Tom Hanks said 'Captain Phillips' was his all-time favorite movie to make?

"A-Rod will never be the captain of the Yankees because he isn't a selfless winner like Derek Jeter!"

Don Zimmer has died?

"A-Rod is probably too focused on himself to concern himself on whether Zimmer died or not. I bet Don Zimmer didn't even like A-Rod!"

Manny Ramirez got a player/coach position in the Cubs organization?

"I wonder if a team would give A-Rod a player/coach position in their organization?"

Well done, Joel Sherman, well done. You have managed to bring a non- Alex Rodriguez story around to another discussion about Alex Rodriguez. After all, everything has to come back to A-Rod and what a pariah he is doesn't it?

Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein had a tough sell in explaining why he hired Manny Ramirez as a player-coach for his Triple-A squad and offered this in a statement:

"I fucking wanted to do it. I'm the president of baseball operations and if I want to name Carrot Top the new head athletic trainer I can do it"?

“Manny is not only one of the best hitters of all time, he is also a dedicated student of hitting and has proven to be a gifted teacher with younger teammates who have worked with him in the batting cage. Behind the scenes he has always been a tireless worker who is very serious about the craft of hitting. Manny has made real mistakes in the past but he has owned up to them and moved his life in a positive direction the last couple of years. He is in a really great place right now and wants to share the lessons he’s learned along the way. We think he deserves another chance and that our young hitters will benefit from it.”

Now re-read that statement and replace the name “Manny” with “Alex.”

Now re-read that statement and replace the name "Manny" with "This story isn't about Alex Rodriguez and so stop making it about him." It doesn't flow as well, but it certainly makes me feel better.

Now re-read that statement and replace the name "Manny" with "Cockgoblin McShitfits." I think it gives the quote a real levity that was missing originally.

It works doesn’t it? Alex Rodriguez is one of the best hitters of all-time, a dedicated student of hitting, a tireless worker, a proven gifted teacher who loved to share his knowledge with youngsters and a player who has made real mistakes in the past.

And Joel Sherman is desperately tying these two players together as hard as possible.

"See, both athletes play baseball and were two of the best hitters in baseball, as well as have made mistakes in their life. They are pretty much the same person."

Stop there.

You can't make me. I'm down the road already. Would A-Rod be too busy prancing around and making pouty faces in the mirror while checking out his butt to show his teammates/students hitting tips? Most likely. Would A-Rod teach his teammates/students how to properly inject steroids? Very, very likely. If A-Rod became a player/coach then it would open a whole new Pandora's box of criticism for him. I mean, the New York media could then blame him for the performance of his teammates and do so with a more straight face.

Rodriguez’s latest contrition tour is certainly nearing. Will he own up to his mistakes? Will he convince people that he really has moved into a positive place?

More importantly, will he try to grow some dreadlocks to be like Manny Ramirez? Obviously the dreads were the key to Manny's redemption.

My guess is he will try.

My guess is your guess is simply a guess and therefore is just speculation. Of course if Joel Sherman's guess was that A-Rod would not try to rehab his image then there isn't much of a point in this column. 

After all, he sold it once after his 2009 steroid outing and generally received the best coverage and fan support of his Yankees tenure. Of course, he ended up betraying all of that.

This may have had something to do with the Yankees having won the World Series and A-Rod actually contributing to the World Series. I also like the idea that Sherman "betrayed" the fan support and coverage provided by the reporters. The fans probably care less about A-Rod's PED use than Joel Sherman probably knows, especially Yankees fans who have seen a truckload of suspected and PED users on the roster. And if Sherman really believes the Yankees reporters were betrayed by A-Rod's PED use then he needs to realize he and his colleagues are not a part of the story. They cover the story and can not be betrayed. 

Plus, when it comes to Rodriguez will anyone ever believe he is sincere — or simply putting on yet another act?

I don't really care if he's being sincere or putting on an act. Don't you like how this column started off with Manny Ramirez becoming a player/coach for the Cubs and has turned into the textbook by-the-number A-Rod bashing column? It's like these New York area writers can't help themselves. 

I actually think you can make a case Ramirez is the more offensive of the two.

I think you can actually make a case neither player is really offensive. Comparing which player is more offensive is silly anyway. What's most offensive is Joel Sherman has to use any excuse possible to write about Alex Rodriguez. 

But no one ever questioned if A-Rod — like with Manny — had stopped trying on the field as a protest about future salaries or treated defense as a necessary evil needed to hit. He never attacked an aged traveling secretary. Ramirez did that.

Really, who hasn't attacked an aged traveling secretary? Especially if that aged traveling secretary has a service dog she may or may not actually need who takes multiple craps while traveling on a plane.

Yet, Ramirez benefitted from a perception of zaniness rather than cruelty — “Manny being Manny” became shorthand for poor behavior. No one sees A-Rod as zany. Calculating, yes. Fraudulent, definitely. Self-absorbed, you bet.

Actually, "Manny being Manny" was shorthand for bizarre behavior more than it was shorthand for his poor behavior. If an MLB team wants to hire A-Rod as a player/coach then whether he is more offensive or fraudulent won't really matter. Mark McGwire has been a hitting coach, Barry Bonds has been a special assistant in spring training and Jason Giambi is considered a managerial candidate once he finally retires. If a team wants to hire A-Rod, no matter what Joel Sherman thinks of him, he will be hired and very well could succeed. 

Because the Yankees owe him $61 million for 2015-17, they may bring A-Rod back after his yearlong suspension...But once that drama concludes, A-Rod will be a man without a team. I can’t imagine any of the three clubs that employed him — Mariners, Rangers or Yankees — wanting anything to do with a man who I believe loves baseball, hates irrelevancy and would want to stay involved in some fashion.

Joel Sherman says it could very well happen that A-Rod tries to become a player/coach, then says none of the teams that A-Rod played for will probably employ him. So will A-Rod have to go to wherever Brian Cashman may end up in the future? Most likely not given their history. Since Joel is so sure that A-Rod could take the same road as Manny Ramirez, then who the hell would hire A-Rod? 

Of course, I never thought any former employer of Ramirez would dance with him again.

How shocking that Theo Epstein would hire a guy who was a fantastic hitter to teach young players how to be a fantastic hitter. Unforeseen.

Perhaps, this could happen for Rodriguez — someone such as Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria thinking there is upside PR value in employing A-Rod in his Miami hometown. But keep in mind Rodriguez disenchanted fellow players in a way Ramirez never did by essentially suing them all when he sued the players association.

I know the players don't care about this, but the way MLB went about suspending A-Rod without a positive test and after they had essentially bought the witness against A-Rod was a little shady. I'm not an A-Rod fan, but he got railroaded in some ways. MLB bent the rules a little bit to bust him. They went a little Vic Mackey on A-Rod. Sure, the guys Vic Mackey bent the rules to arrest were probably guilty in some way, but he went outside of what he should be able to do in order to get the arrest. The same thing goes for A-Rod. MLB bought the witness against A-Rod and then suspended him on potentially stolen documents. 

Ramirez never publicly took on the commissioner and the whole sport in what for months was a scorched-earth legal and media assault. Finding an A-Rod ally within the confines of the game is difficult, and unearthing someone in power who will put his name to employing him (beyond the Yankees in the short-term) is akin to hunting unicorns.

But remember, this entire article is written around the premise that A-Rod could easily want to be a player/coach like Manny Ramirez. So basically Joel Sherman has written a JemeHill article. He has introduced a premise as a potential reality that others may believe to be true and then disproved that reality in his column. 

My suspicion, though, is all that has led to this moment will not go away, and there will be a lifetime penalty for A-Rod being A-Rod.

So basically this whole column was just an excuse for Joel Sherman to re-hash everything A-Rod has done wrong and then state that nobody likes A-Rod so the hypothetical coach/player job that Joel Sherman thinks A-Rod will want despite A-Rod never actually saying he would want this job will not be available to him. It sounds like Sherman just wanted an excuse to write about how nobody likes Alex Rodriguez and get a few pageviews by putting "A-Rod" in the title of a column while his clickbait subject is serving his yearlong suspension.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

14 comments Bill Simmons Confirms that God Does Indeed Love Cleveland

Remember when Bill Simmons threw a very minor hissy fit on the NBA Countdown set about the Cleveland Cavaliers getting their third #1 overall draft pick in four years? Bill didn't think the Cavaliers deserved another #1 overall pick for mismanaging their team. It turns out he doesn't like that Cleveland gets the #1 overall pick again, but he's perfectly fine with the Cavs signing the NBA's best player. Because after all, he needs to be liked and he can only rail against the Cavs so much before he could start alienating and losing the audience he used to work so hard to get. So while Bill manages to think the Cavs don't deserve another #1 overall pick, he's fine with the team getting LeBron James. Why? Because Bill issues the final proclamation that God loves Cleveland. Bill uses the word "God" loosely because he doesn't want to offend anyone or contradict many of his Simmonsites' idea that he himself is indeed God.

Yeah, I read LeBron James’s classy letter in Sports Illustrated. I believe him.

Rest easy now, LeBron! Bill Simmons believes you. I know this is a load off your conscience.

In the summer of 2010, LeBron handled everything wrong. He knows that now. His hometown turned on him. His former owner excoriated him. Everyone else hated what he did.

No, "everyone" didn't hate what he did. I didn't hate what he did. He chose his team and did it in a poor fashion, but I'm pretty sure Miami Heat fans didn't hate it.

We turned him into a wrestling heel, pushed him to a dark place, affected his personality, planted seeds of doubt that blossomed like a black rose during the 2011 Finals. 

"WE" did this. Not the media, not Bill, but "WE" did this. I hope we are proud of ourselves.

But he never forgot what happened, and deep down, he probably always wanted to atone. When the time arrived this summer, he flipped the script on us.

"US" got the script flipped on us. We did. Consider the script to have been flipped. Hope you can read backwards, planet Earth!

Those four Miami seasons made me sure of one thing: He’s one of the greatest NBA players ever.

Write it down on a tablet, because it's now official. Congratulations on getting your very own chapter in the "Book of Basketball Part 2," LeBron James. You have moved up in Bill's arbitrary rankings.

Add everything up and it’s the best possible story. He’s the conquering hero who came home, and, hopefully, will conquer again.

It’s also not entirely accurate. I think LeBron would have stayed in Miami — for at least one or two more years — if he truly believed he had a chance to keep winning there.

So what about the story isn't accurate? LeBron came home, he stated he wanted to come home and so he did. In fact, Bill said this a couple of paragraphs earlier in this column:

I think he wanted to come home. I think he always wanted to come home.

It turns out now that Bill's own statement isn't entirely accurate. You know what that means, right? WE are wrong about LeBron wanting to come home.

If you think of him like a genius, it makes more sense.

Here's the part where Bill Simmons writes thousands of more words than he has to in order to push out a column and overcomplicate an issue. Simply stating that LeBron chose where he thought he could win doesn't make for a great column, so Bill has to go off on a long tangent about how LeBron is a genius and that's why he chose the Cavaliers over the Heat. Sure, this whole part of the column could be summed up by writing, "LeBron didn't think he had a chance to win long-term in Miami, so he chose to go back to Cleveland," but that doesn't make Bill feel like he's smart and overcomplicate an issue in order to kill space.

He’s smarter about basketball than you and me, and, really, anyone else. He sees things that we can’t see. During that last Miami season, I don’t think he liked what he saw from his teammates. LeBron James wanted to come back to Cleveland, but he also wanted to flee Miami.

I think anyone who saw the NBA Finals understood Wade wasn't exactly at the peak of his career and Bosh is still a very good NBA player, but the Heat had to do better at putting a supporting cast around LeBron. It didn't take a genius to see this. So LeBron is much smarter about basketball than Bill and me, but what I saw from LeBron's teammates were that he had to work hard to carry the team at times. Anyone watching the games could see it wasn't sustainable.

And his brain works like very few brains — not just now, but ever.

Bill is really, really overcomplicating things here. Cleveland had a good, young core on their rookie contracts, while Miami was getting older. LeBron chose to take a step back rather than ride out his time in Miami and hope they could put a good team around him. 

Do you think Michael Jordan was a genius?”

I asked Doug Collins that question during the 2014 NBA Finals, on the afternoon of Game 3, hours before San Antonio transformed into some crazy hybrid of Russell’s Celtics, Walton’s Blazers and Bradley’s Knicks. We were eating lunch at our hotel’s pool, flanked by the radiantly blue ocean off Brickell Key, talking hoops, because that’s what you do when you’re around Doug.

Ah yes, it is the "Stories about the NBA Countdown Crew" section of Bill's column. It has become a staple along with "Throw up a YouTube video to kill space" and "Here's a Half-Assed Theory" whenever Bill writes a column.

The man has enough stories for three books, but too much respect for the game, and for the relationships he has cultivated over the years, to ever actually write one.

Meanwhile Bill doesn't give a shit about the game or his relationships, he just wants money and fame, which is why he was going to write a book with Steve Nash about his time in the NBA. I'm not blaming him. Money is great. Just pointing this out.

Fourteen years later, he started coaching Michael Jordan — someone who collected more ripped-out hearts than anyone. Do you think Michael Jordan was a genius? I barely got the words out of my mouth.

And Bill had not spoken for a full ten minutes, so he was really pissed off Doug Collins barely let him finish the sentence.

“Oh yes,” Collins said. “There’s no question.”

What did Bill expect Collins to say? "No, Jordan was a dumbass"?

If he sensed that a particular teammate would fail him, he’d gesture to Collins to remove that person from the game. All these years later, Collins delights in imitating how Jordan did it — by making eye contact with his coach, glancing toward the offending teammate, then unleashing one of those “Get him the F out of here” grimaces. Almost always, his instincts were right.

Of course prior to Michael Jordan being the super-winner that he ended up being, teammates found this behavior annoying and there was a book called "The Jordan Rules" by Sam Smith that detailed how Jordan would often try to fight and mentally tear down his teammates. So while Jordan's instincts were right, he wasn't quite the genius under Doug Collins he is played up to be.

Michael Jordan was an excellent basketball player who had a feel for how to play the game and was a genius in terms of understanding basketball. He had the experience, instincts and the knowledge required to be considered a genius in his field of sport. Great basketball players (or anyone who is an expert in his respective field) are geniuses compared to others who play the game of basketball that aren't professionals (or an expert in his/her respective field).

Of course, the greatest sequence of Jordan’s career didn’t involve teammates: Game 6 of the 1998 Finals, 41.9 seconds remaining, Chicago trailing by three. Pippen inbounded the ball at half court, and after that, nobody on Chicago touched it again. Jordan ripped through Utah’s defense for a floating layup, swiped the ball from Karl Malone like he was snatching a purse, then drained the title-winning jumper in Bryon Russell’s mug. It wasn’t just the storybook ending that made it so unforgettable, or even Jordan’s incomparable brilliance, but how premeditated everything seemed. There was something genuinely spooky about it.

It's like Jordan was intentionally trying to score points in order to win the game and he was attempting to score these points as quickly as possible because there was less than a minute left in the contest. It's eerie how Jordan knew the Bulls were losing and his team had to score points at a faster pace. Was Jordan's ability to score points based on the premeditated decision to win the game or is there something innate in him that encourages him to win games during the NBA Finals?

I watched Jordan play in person, many times, at various stages of his career. 

But never from the makeshift NBA Countdown set with the small television, so Bill never really WATCHED Jordan play in person.

when the Bulls occasionally rolled through Boston and eviscerated the carcass of Celtic Pride. One particular night, we turned on the locals and started cheering what we were watching. It didn’t happen because we were selling out, but because we had witnessed a special kind of greatness during the Bird Era. We knew what it meant. We knew how fragile it was. We missed seeing it.

Hey, it's a story about the Celtics and their fans. Remember when this column was about LeBron James coming back to Cleveland? As usual, every Bill Simmons column about the NBA is really about the Boston Celtics and their fans. In this case, it's not that the Celtics fans were selling out, it's just they are so much smarter than any other NBA fans only they could appreciate the greatness that was Michael Jordan. No other fans understood what it meant to see greatness because they didn't go through the Bird Era. Could Bill be more insufferable?

Pippen moved like Michael, saw the court like Michael, jumped passing lanes like Michael and blended with Michael’s game like a non-identical twin. It was crazy. I will never forget watching it for the rest of my life. Bird and Magic were genuises, too, but shit, they never figured out how to replicate themselves.

Yes, but shit, Bird and Magic didn't replicate themselves like Jordan did. Probably because there aren't too many 6'9" point guards out there nor are there basketball players with the high basketball IQ that Bird had. But Pippen was a replicant of Michael Jordan. The same thing, no differences, as long as you don't count all the differences between them.

For that reason and many others, I am never seeing a better basketball player than Michael Jordan.

I mean, shit, he replicated himself and all. That's some high-end science stuff right there.

“I was there,” Doug Collins will tell you. “We need to stop comparing people to Michael. We are NEVER seeing that again.”

Bill Simmons will now indeed start comparing LeBron to Jordan by stating they are both geniuses. Not basketball geniuses, but just geniuses overall.

From December 1990 through the 1998 Finals, not including his baseball sabbatical, the Chicago Bulls never lost three straight games with Jordan. Given the unforgiving NBA schedule, nonstop travel and general wear and tear, that’s basically impossible. But it happened. The man hated losing THAT much. Either he brought the best out of a teammate or he dumped that teammate like a showrunner killing off a struggling character. 

This doesn't make him a genius. It makes him a very good basketball player who brought out the best in his teammates. Intelligence doesn't translate to winning games or else the Ivy League would have won quite a few NCAA Tournament titles over the last 20 years.

Still, that was an exclusive genius — Jordan couldn’t transfer those gifts to others, with Pippen the lone exception.

Yeah, but Jordan replicated himself through Pippen. It wasn't a direct translation of skills but a replication of skills. It's a totally different scientific process.

Bird and Magic went the other way — if they made their teammates better, it gave them a better chance to win. Like Jordan, they were basketball savants who possessed a supernatural feel for what should happen collectively on every play, as if they had already studied the play’s blueprint and come up with a plan of attack.

Yeah, Larry Bird was great. Unfortunately this article is about LeBron James, so maybe we should either write about LeBron James or get to the fucking point quickly. Sound good?

Bird’s first Celtics coach, Bill Fitch, affectionately nicknamed Bird “Kodak,” explaining to a writer that Bird’s “mind is constantly taking pictures of the whole court.” You could have said that about Magic, too. That’s what made them such devastating passers; they always knew where every teammate would be.

Yep, Bird and Magic were great. Of course it's easy to trust your teammates and make them better when you have teammates you can trust to be in the right spot at the right time. Kareem, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale, James Worthy, Danny Ainge, Dennis Johnson, Bill Walton, Michael Cooper, and Mychal Thompson could be counted on to be on the right spot at the right time. Luc Longley, Will Perdue, and Craig Hodges? Not quite as much. It's almost like there are different methods to achieve the goal of winning, but that can't be true, can it? How could Bill waste space if his point was capable of being made in just a few sentences?

Bird learned how to fully harness “it” during the 1984-85 season; for Magic, “it” didn’t happen until two seasons later. And here’s what “it” is. Each guy could assess any basketball game — in the moment, on the fly — and determine exactly what his team needed.

It's halfway through this article and Bill still hasn't gotten to the point about LeBron James and why God loves Cleveland. He is so out of ideas that even when he is inspired to write a column, he is only inspired to write a short column and has to fill the rest of the column in with rambling around about topics ancillary to his intended topic.

That seems simple, right? It’s impossible.

You need to understand every strength and weakness of your teammates.

You need to realize that you can’t dominate every game, that your teammates have to shine occasionally — if only because it enables them and allows you to count on them later. You can make that concession because you know, deep down, that you can take over whenever you want.

You need to be so good, so talented, so ridiculously dominant, that you don’t even think about it anymore. It’s almost like breathing.

And you need to embrace the performance aspects of what you’re doing.

You’re not just playing basketball anymore. You’re an artist. You’re creating something that you want people to remember. Every arena is filled with people who may not have seen you before. On the road, you love silence. That’s your favorite sound. You want to hear cheering and yelling, you want to hear the panic, and then, you want nothing. Just a sound vacuum other than your teammates yelling and screaming. You want them dejectedly filing out of their arena, feeling like someone just hit them with a wrecking ball. You want them muttering that you’re the best player they ever saw, and that they have absolutely no idea how to stop you. That’s your goal on the road.

I include this portion of the column because I want you, the reader of this blog, to know what I have to wade through when covering a Bill Simmons column. If you are not reading the column I link, then you are probably a smart person. That's my point. This is just a bunch of space killer.

Collins told me a fantastic Bird story once.

I ask this despite the fact this column should obviously be about Larry Bird since it is about Larry Bird, but has Doug Collins ever told you a fantastic LeBron James story? If so, I think it would fit in this column supposedly about why God loves Cleveland in regard to LeBron James signing with the Cavaliers as a free agent.

In Chicago, Bird was feeling ornery because the Bulls had screwed up his complimentary tickets. He noticed Collins on the sideline, complained about the tickets and asked him what the “house record” was. Then he vowed to break it. Uh-oh. 

I'm guessing Bill models his childish temper tantrums over fairly irrelevant matters after Larry Bird as well.

You don’t get the nickname “Larry Legend” because of Game 7s, you get it because you brought it on those random November nights in Chicago because someone messed up your tickets. That’s a very specific kind of art, a genius crafting his performance with anger and competitive drive. That’s the final level of basketball. And when you get there, it’s not just about titles anymore.

(Falls asleep at the keyboard realizing it's over halfway through this column and Bill is still introducing the topic)

So what about this? What if LeBron James cared about making everything right in Ohio … but he also cared about protecting his ceiling as an artist? He couldn’t create what he wanted to create in Miami.

The replication machine that Michael Jordan used to replicate himself is only available in the Midwest, so obviously LeBron had to go back to Cleveland to take advantage of this. LeBron is an artist and the only cure for improving his portraits was finding more talented brushes.

This had quietly become 2009 and 2010 all over again — LeBron stuck on the wrong team, with the wrong teammates, being asked to do too much like he has been throughout his career.

This had not quietly happened. In fact, Bill wrote article (after the season was over, granted) about how Wade was declining and Bosh was becoming Sam Perkins. I think anyone who viewed the NBA Finals saw the burden being placed on LeBron. If he didn't perform well, the Heat struggled.

During Game 5 of the 2014 Finals, something happened that few people noticed because San Antonio played so wonderfully. Trailing by seven after halftime, LeBron came out for the third quarter and wouldn’t shoot. Every pass was sent with a little extra zip, as if he were telling Micky Arison and Pat Riley, here’s the team you stuck me with.

I'm going to need a chart explaining when it is fine for LeBron James to start giving up on his team. When he was with the Cavaliers and mailed in a playoff game then he was a bad person who only cared about himself, but when he's mailing it in while playing for the Heat, he's just sending a message to management that he needs better teammates...despite the fact he went to Miami from Cleveland originally for the reason that he would have better teammates. So please, I need the chart showing when LeBron is being an asshole by not playing up to his ability or when he is justified to not play up to his ability in order to prove a point.

Watching it in person, you could tell he was tired and pissed, but you couldn’t tell if it was because the season was slipping away … or because of something deeper. 

I love this "watching it in person" crap Bill throws in now that he is on NBA Countdown. Funny how he sees things that no one else can see because he's watching the game in person. Of course, this doesn't mean his observations about the NBA, as seen through the television over his previous 40 years are any less insightful of course. He's still preaching the truthful gospel when he can't attend a game, but he wants his readers to give extra weight to the observations he makes while watching a game in person. Because, he's there. 

Midway through the fourth quarter, trailing by 18, he missed a 3 and didn’t even run back on defense. The man was totally spent, mentally and physically. He had given everything he could give.

If LeBron didn't run back on defense when he was with Cleveland then he was a quitter who had given up on his teammates. In this situation with the Heat, he was completely justified. He was just spent, not being an asshole.

When he signed with Miami in 2010, I wrote that LeBron copped out, that he joined forces with Wade over doing the honorable thing and trying to defeat him. But the more I watched LeBron and the more stories I read about him, the more I wondered if something more organic had driven that decision.

You are going to love this. Rather than just write, "I was wrong" like any normal, non-ego driven writer who can't stand the thought of being wrong would do, Bill throws another half-assed theory out there to cover up for his original half-assed theory that was eventually proven incorrect. Bill wasn't wrong, he just wasn't as right as he is now.

What if LeBron was a genius like Bird and Magic?

What if he KNEW he was a genius?

I never thought about that, mostly because I don't make things up and then believe I discovered something deeper than I really have in overcomplicating an issue, but I didn't think of this. What if LeBron James knew he was a genius? What if he had never told anyone this, but he KNEW he was one of the great NBA players of all-time. How did "we" not see that LeBron James is good at basketball?

What if he was searching for some basketball version of the Holy Grail, some higher state of being, a level of basketball that he couldn’t find in Cleveland?

You mean like win an NBA Title? That's exactly why LeBron left Cleveland, to win an NBA Title. So there is no "what if" in this situation. It was pretty standard knowledge that LeBron left to find something he didn't think he could find in Cleveland. As usual, Bill overcomplicates an issue in order to confuse his lemming-like readers into believing he is saying something of substance that has any originality.

What if those nights during that first season when Wade (still at the peak of his powers) and LeBron (hitting his prime of primes) would take off after a rebound and unleash the most devastating two-on-one fast breaks we’ve ever seen in our lives … what if THAT was what LeBron really cared about, just playing hoops with someone who saw the game the way he did?

Oh my gentle Jesus. This is exactly why LeBron left Cleveland. He left to play with talented players who he believed could win him the NBA Title he so desperately wanted to win. He played with Bosh and Wade on the Olympic team and thought they would be a good fit together.

I think Bill Simmons truly believes he is spitting out some sort of knowledge here, but he's simply summarizing in more hyperbolic words why LeBron left Cleveland to go to Miami in the first place. He wanted to play with guys who saw the game the way he did so they could complement each other. I mean, this is really, really basic information, no matter how much Bill tries to pretend it isn't.

We never talk about his brain enough. Somehow we talk about everything else, but not that.

Maybe "we" should talk about his brain more while "we" are on national television talking about LeBron James. I know "we" always forget.

Bill's use of "us," "we", and any other term used to lump a large group of people together is annoying. There's no way getting around it. Stop using words in the plural in order to throw an entire group of people together like they all have the same thought that you do.

He’s the most criticized basketball star since Wilt Chamberlain, blessed and cursed by his immense physical advantages. Maybe that’s what happens when you blend the best of Magic, Mailman and Scottie into one frightening 270-pound package, only if that human had an unstoppable motor and Bird’s DNA.

There is no Scottie Pippen, just the replicant clone of Michael Jordan. Remember?

But you know what he can’t do? Play basketball at an insanely high level without the right teammates.


At this point, his résumé is unassailable: He could retire tomorrow as one of the best seven players ever.

I can't wait for the 5000 word essay from Bill on where LeBron is on his Pyramid of Basketball or whatever the hell that thing was in his "Book of Basketball."

I'm kidding of course. I can wait.

We always point to his physical gifts, but none other than Paul George recently called him the league’s smartest player. Think about THAT for a second.

You are going to have to give me a few hours. I have a small brain that hasn't watched an NBA game with the NBA Countdown crew, so I can't process information as quickly as you can.

Then Bill re-writes the LeBron "I'm Coming Home" magazine article with the "I'm a genius" bullshit and it's as bad as you can imagine. In fact, it ends like this:

I want to use all of my skills. I am Magic and Larry and Barkley and Malone in the same body. I am an artist. That’s what I am.

Apparently LeBron writes like he's Popeye.

I have caught LeBron in person maybe 50 times.

(Bengoodfella dies, his life now complete knowing how many times Bill has caught LeBron in person)

My favorite night happened in Game 4 of this year’s Eastern Conference finals against Indiana, right after Lance Stephenson stupidly challenged him. LeBron said he didn’t take Lance’s buffoonery personally, only we knew that he did.

Oh, "we" totally knew.

His numbers weren’t mind-blowing: just 29 points and nine rebounds through three quarters. But he dominated the proceedings in every conceivable way. You never forgot he was out there, not for a second. He made the correct basketball decision every time, even something as simple as “I should push the pace right here” or “I’m just gonna assume that Norris Cole is in the left corner even if I can’t see him, so I’m going to throw a 50-foot pass over my head to that spot and hope he catches it.”

LeBron had two turnovers so it seems he didn't make the correct basketball decision every time. Sorry, hyperbole on...

During the third quarter, I texted a friend that “this was an all-time non-signature signature game, he’s made like 13 incredible plays.” Almost on cue, the man made two more, including an insane full-court push that finished with a reverse dunk in traffic.

Because Bill KNEW LeBron was having a non-signature signature game. This anecdotal evidence proves it as true. What an all-time non-signature signature observation by Bill Simmons. 

LeBron loves playing at home — loves seeing the arena covered in white,

If LeBron likes to see white in his home arena, he should have signed with Boston then.

He’s been great at basketball for years and years, but now he’d figured out the sport itself. He reached that final level. This was art. This was genius plus performance.

It seems Bill has been hitting those hyperbole classes at ESPN hard lately. This column is the most hyperbolic column I have ever read in my entire life and probably the most hyperbolic column ever written. It's like Bill has reached that final level. His hyperbole is art now. This is bullshit plus space filler.

In an underrated movie called Six Degrees of Separation, Will Smith plays a scam artist who infiltrates the lives of four different wealthy families in Manhattan.

Since this movie is underrated, what is the proper rating for this movie? I'm just wondering. It's based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play, Stockard Channing was nominated for an Oscar for her performance, and it has a 88% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I would just like to know how it was underrated or the criteria Bill has used to come to this conclusion.

But as long as LeBron could keep cooking those Will Smith meals, Miami would be fine. Or so we thought. His Game 4 meal was a thing of beauty. He brought out the Magic course, the Jordan course and the Pippen course, even throwing in Bird and Barkley appetizers for good measure.

Charles Barkley doesn't do appetizers. Come on Bill, you know that about Charles. I would think you spend so much time looking up at him and TNT in the NBA pregame show ratings you would have studied Barkley enough to know he does buffets, not appetizers.

Who could have guessed that LeBron had only seven Miami games left? 

There were a few people who guessed.

I thought they were headed for a three-peat. I thought LeBron was never leaving Miami. I couldn’t see the things that he saw.

Well, he is a genius, so...

I watched Game 4 from our NBA Countdown set, sitting on the metal steps, and at one point, I emailed an NBA Entertainment friend asking if their photographer could snap a picture. I thought it could be a cool photo — me wearing a blue suit, surrounded by happy Heat fans dressed in white, the Celtics fan trapped in enemy territory, all of us watching someone at the peak of their powers. I just wanted to have it for 30 years from now. I know that sounds sappy, but that’s how I felt.

The truth is, I didn’t know when this would be happening again. And I still don’t.

Based on this column, it seems this will be happening again this very upcoming 14/15 NBA season. After all, LeBron has:

He’s been great at basketball for years and years, but now he’d figured out the sport itself. He reached that final level. This was art. This was genius plus performance.

LeBron has figured out basketball, so this upcoming season Bill can watch LeBron in Cleveland while he is at the peak of his powers. I mean, right? Isn't that the point of this column? LeBron is a genius and he's figured basketball out. He isn't retiring and isn't on the wrong side of 30, so he still is at the peak of his powers for a few more years. So when NBA Countdown inevitably comes to Cleveland for a playoff game, this moment can happen again.

Magic and Bird were done before I graduated college. Jordan came and went before I turned 30. Duncan, Kobe, Hakeem and Shaq never quite got there — all of them were great, but they were never GREAT. 

Oh man, I'm not even touching this right now other than to say I completely disagree in every way possible. Wasn't it just a few weeks ago that Bill stated if any NBA player could have another player's career that it would be Duncan's career? Now Bill states that Duncan wasn't GREAT. As for Kobe and Shaq, Bill must not remember the late 1990's and early 2000's. Shaq was the dominant force in the NBA.

After him, you’re looking at Anthony Davis — someone with an infinitely better chance of becoming the next Duncan than a basketball genius — and there’s nobody on the immediate horizon. This might be it for a while.

It also helps the Bill Simmons is completely making this "basketball genius" shit up based on subjective criteria that he determines. So it's hard to argue with him too much without turning into a crazy person.

So yeah, I wanted a picture. Shoot me. I was there for Larry. I was there for Magic. I was there for Michael. And I was there for LeBron James. Now he’s bringing his genius back to Cleveland.

And "we" had no idea that LeBron was a basketball genius!

It’s the right move at the right time for the right guy. This will be fun.

So in summary, the Cavaliers don't deserve the #1 overall pick three out of four years because they have mismanaged their roster in Bill's opinion, but they totally deserve to sign the best active NBA player and one of the four basketball geniuses that have ever played in the NBA. It's almost like he makes this stuff up as he goes along.