Thursday, December 16, 2010

10 comments A Sad Day for Mike Wilbon

Don't get me wrong: I love Mike Wilbon. Pardon The Interruption, in my opinion, the best sports television show on ESPN (Hence my old blog title's name, Pardon The Opinion). But his recent transition to the written word has soured my disposition. Clearly, he is no stranger to pen and paper. The Washington Post housed his ramblings for quite some time before ESPN scooped him up. But what separates him from the other ESPN regulars is his biting, Bengoodfella-type commentary. On PTI, neither he nor Kornheiser (talking about Tony should probably be an entirely different conversation) subscribe to the unequivocal praise the mainstream journalism pumps out on a daily basis. Instead, they bash and criticize athletes and teams without equivocation. In fact, I'm sort of surprised that shows like PTI and Around the Horn are even allowed to air on ESPN.

Unfortunately, Wilbon recent foray into writing has signaled his transition into, "one of those guys." Normally I do not do a line by line dismantling of writers (as fun as it seems), but I believe that it is time. I still, and always will, enjoy Mike Wilbon on PTI. I even went back to the Washington Post archives and enjoyed many of his musings. But since Wilbon began writing for the almighty corporation, a growing trend has emerged. Today, my frustration came to a head. This puff piece on the Chicago Bulls leaves me utterly disappointed.

There was sobbing throughout Northeast Ohio and plenty of whining in New York City when LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach. Meanwhile, in Chicago, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah shrugged and went back to the gym.

Along with every other player not named Allen Iverson. I'm tired of the "this guy works harder than everyone else cliche. If so many guys work hard, then no one is actually working harder than anyone else. And to be honest, some players do not work hard. The entire Boston Celtics' roster spends every non-basketball minute resting their fragile shells. If they were to take the court on a more-than-necessary basis, impending doom would probably overwhelm the gym and send Pierce, Allen and Garnett into the depths of injury-plagued hell. After Garnett witnessed "The Decision," he probably continued icing his knee while murming trash talk to no one in particular. If there were ever a man predestined for senility, it was this guy.

[Rose] already thought his team worthy, and after Bulls management redirected its free-agent efforts and signed Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver, Rose believed his boys could rumble with anybody. Nothing has changed his mind, especially now that Chicago has won six straight and begun to fully incorporate Boozer into the lineup since his debut Dec. 1.

The only problem with the statement above is the statement below.

Don't get me wrong, this season's team isn't a finished product in terms of personnel -- acquiring a proven shooter is an absolute necessity.

It's OK, finally, to fall in love with the Bulls again, starting with the fact Rose and Noah didn't spend all summer begging for help; it's indicative of a tough-mindedness that ought to immediately endear this squad to Chicago.

Most players would not beg for LeBron. Most players want to win on their own. Is this not the debate the has continued to permeate every aspect of NBA discussion? LeBron choosing wins (well, at least that's what he planned) over glory is the unique move, not Rose and Noah watching their roles diminished by the addition of another superstar.

Not trading Noah -- in fact, doing just the opposite and signing him to a long-term deal -- already has proved to be the right move, if for no other reason than Noah's value to the Bulls is so much greater than his statistical contribution, even his prolific rebounding.

Trading Noah may have upset team chemistry, but take a look at the NBA over time: talent almost always defeats chemistry in the long run. You may point to the Heat as the perfect counter example, but we are yet to surpass the 30-game mark of the season. The Lakers add Pau and they get 3 straight finals appearances and two titles. Boston acquires Garnett and Allen and chemistry magically ignites, leading to 1 and 1/2 NBA titles (they gave away last year's title. As much as I appreciate Derek Fisher's ability in the clutch, he should never be the reason a team wins an NBA title. Sure, Pau played well but the corpse of Derek Fisher brought it home).

Noah is one tough SOB, as evidenced by him playing through a right hand injury. Rose is toughness squared. And the rest of the Bulls had better take a cue from them. Each was instrumental in leading his college team to the NCAA title game, which historically has forecast a degree of success in the NBA.

I love unprovable generalities.

He made himself a better 3-point shooter the old-fashioned way: by practicing the darned thing until he got it right.

If it were that easy, the entire NBA would do it. Apply that to free throws and maybe Shaq hits 75% from the line. Imagine the NBA titles/scoring titles/unstoppability due to the loss of hack-a-Shaq that would ensue.

Rose's emergence as a 25-point scorer and the acquisition of Boozer means Deng, who is so much more comfortable in Tom Thibodeau's offense than he was in Vinny Del Negro's, should be much more effective as a guy who is often the team's No. 3 scoring option. The clamor to trade Deng (along with Taj Gibson) for Carmelo Anthony has rightly quieted.

When Derrick Rose gets triple teamed and needs another perimeter scorer to help out, luckily he can look to Deng instead of Carmelo. Noah would have been part of that deal as well, but you can replace a Noah for half the price. You don't pay for energy/rebounders, especially when that negates a Carmelo trade. They're everywhere (see Ronnie Turiaf).

And let's be honest. Does a team with Melo and Rose and Boozer have a worse chance against the Celtics than one of Noah, Rose and Boozer? It's not even a comparison.

Though Carmelo is one of the league's top seven or eight players, and though teams that acquire great players in exchange for nice players usually make out like bandits in the long term, the Bulls would have had to rework everything had they traded for Carmelo.

I just hate the general "I'm going to support the contrarian argument simply because it sounds nice" cliche. Sure, they would have to rework a bit, but are you telling me that 50 games is not long enough to get to know each other?

You would not want to take the ball from Rose, or let go of Noah or Gibson, or do anything that would dramatically change the Bulls from what they appear to be at the moment, which is no worse than the third-best team in the Eastern Conference, depending on how convinced you are that Miami has found its stride.

Third best in the East does not equal best in the East. Nor does it mean you can defeat any top West team. So you can have 3rd best with just Rose guiding the offense, or a Melo/Rose tandem terrifying opposing defenses. Seems like an easy choice.


Bengoodfella said...

I'm a little confused as to why the Bulls wouldn't want to take a chance to be the best team in the Eastern Conference. As good as Taj Gibson really is I am not sure I wouldn't mind parting with him. I am a little bit more up in the air on Joakim Noah, because as much as it pains me, he does seem to have some talent that goes beyond hustling really hard.

Personally if I am the Bulls and I get offered Anthony for Gibson and Deng I take the trade. That's just me though.

Dick said...


As we know, Michael Wilbon is a Chicago guy so writing about the Bulls or any Chicago team can be expected. It is sad because he and his foil Tony are great on PTI.

Dylan said...


Players like Taj Gibson are replaceable. Players like Carmelo Anthony are not. You have to take a chance on great players. The worst thing that happens is that it doesn't work out, and you make a similar megadeal where you acquire picks and players similar to the caliber of Taj Gibson.


Wilbon being a Chicago guy obviously plays a part in his liking of them. I just thought that he would be able to approach the situation with more objectivity than he did.

Bengoodfella said...

Dylan, exactly. Taj Gibson isn't a bad player but he is also a guy you could find somewhere else. Anthony isn't.

Dick, I don't mind him being a Chicago either. He just has to be smart about what he writes in regard to them. The chemistry is there for the Bulls but chemistry also comes with winning and I think the Bulls would win with Anthony.

Of course if you believe what we all hear Anthony only wants to go to New York.

FJ said...

Bit of an odd rant:

The entire Boston Celtics' roster spends every non-basketball minute resting their fragile shells. If they were to take the court on a more-than-necessary basis, impending doom would probably overwhelm the gym and send Pierce, Allen and Garnett into the depths of injury-plagued hell. After Garnett witnessed "The Decision," he probably continued icing his knee while murming trash talk to no one in particular. If there were ever a man predestined for senility, it was this guy.


First off, you said "the entire Boston Celtics roster". Well, 5 players x 48 minutes = 240 minutes per game. Every single NBA game played necessitates 240 and only 240 minutes of total playing time on the court, so I think by "entire Celtics roster" not playing on a "More than necessary" basis, you were referring to Allen, Pierce, and Garnett only, right? Maybe Shaq too?

So you have a problem with the fact that the Celtics are deep enough and have the luxury to rest players that are a bit older but can still make a serious playoff run...? Have you seen this team play this year? Pierce is out there a lot still; Allen can still cut to the hoop when he needs to, and Garnett looks better than he has the past two seasons.

Don't forget Rondo and Perkins are young and are also starters on this team - and Perkins was missed in Game 7 of the Finals.

Just seemed an odd place to rant about the Celtics considering they balance their minutes out and have the best record in the Eastern Conference. Can't blame Doc if he can "get by" with a 20-4 record and rest his guys for when it counts.

Bengoodfella said...

FJ, Dylan wrote this after a particularly tough loss to the Celtics. I blame his total and complete bitterness for that statement.

I am just kidding Dylan...or am I?

Dylan said...


I agree with everything you said. If Doc can rest his guys, (obviously he has and it's working out) Obviously I did not do a good enough job in articulating my point. What I intended to convey was that great teams do not need to "get back to the gym" as Wilbon claims. Working harder does not lead a championship. Sometimes, resting and looking towards the future is the key, as you pointed out. In fact, Rose and Noah's regular recklessness will eventually hurt the team in the long run if one of them gets injured (wait that already happened). When I said the entire Celtic team, I simply meant the guys who contribute significantly (Pierce, Allen, Garnett, Perkins, Shaq, Jermaine O'Neal. Obviously Rondo and Nate as well, but all of the above guys are injury-prone, old and wearied, or already injured).

So if you're to take away one thing from my rant, it's that Wilbon is wrong in implying that Rose and Noah "getting back to the gym" will automatically lead to success. The great teams look to the future, and sometimes do the exact opposite of practicing harder, as Wilbon suggests.


I was soured, no doubt about it. But I like to think I can remain relatively neutral (emphasis on relatively).

Bengoodfella said...

You should be soured. If Pierce's basket went in with 0.6 left (Gregg Easterbrook would hate this discussion), then Amare's shot may actually count. I don't know why the officials didn't look at when the ball went through the basket just to be sure.

your favourite sun said...

Each was instrumental in leading his college team to the NCAA title game, which historically has forecast a degree of success in the NBA.

Which is why Khalid El-Amin is a perennial All-Star and Steve Alford is a Hall of Fame finalist. Miles Simon will be glad to know he's still got a successful future waiting for him in the NBA, too.

Seriously, what a stupid statement. Yes, some highly successful NBA players made it to the NCAA championship game. Chances are their having a degree of success was being forecast with or without a tournament run, however.

The logic doesn't even apply here because Carmelo led his team to an NCAA title game, too, arguably more instrumental to Syracuse's success than Noah was to Florida or Rose to Memphis.

Bengoodfella said...

Sun, that's a great point. Anthony was as essential to his team winning the national title as Noah was. So you could use that same logic as a reason to trade for Anthony. Yes, successful NBA players do make the NCAA title game but I don't know how much pro success it really foretells.

I hate Khalid El-Amin...with a passion.