Thursday, June 28, 2012

9 comments 2012 NBA Mock Draft

Usually around NBA Draft time I take a shot at creating a mock draft. There's nothing I enjoy more than being wrong in a public fashion. I didn't do a mock draft last year, so figured I would take a shot at it this year. I did a 2010 NBA mock draft and got about seven of the picks correct. Not a great showing and I will try to do better this year. I'm the Jon Gruden of the NBA Draft. I didn't hate last year's draft and I love this year's draft. I think there are three guys who could be perennial All-Stars coming out of this year's NBA Draft. It's a really deep draft and there is talent from Pick #1 to Pick #32. Of course there is also Perry Jones III and Andre Drummond, both players whose sole purpose to exist is to get the General Manager that drafts them frustrated/fired and disappoint their team's fan base.

So here is my shot at who I think each NBA team will take in this year's draft, along with my opinion of the potential selection. This is a tough draft to mock up. I'm not even sure who Charlotte will take at #2. I also didn't include prospective trades in here if the trades weren't done by the time I posted this. I try not to predict trades.

1. New Orleans- Anthony Davis, C

This pick is fairly obvious. I don't know what kind of package would have to be offered to the Hornets in order to get this pick, but I'm guessing it would have to blow the Hornets away. It's an easy pick to make. Davis isn't as perfect as he is being made out to be, but he's a great defensive player with a ton of room to grow offensively. Though I do have an unnatural love for Brad Beal, and think he will end up being the best player in this draft, I see Anthony Davis as the best pick for the Hornets. They need a big man and if they get a scorer with the #10 pick and re-sign Eric Gordon they will have a very nice core of players.

2. Charlotte- Thomas Robinson, PF

I don't hate Thomas Robinson, but I don't like this pick. The Bobcats can find a better player at the #2 spot. Robinson won't ever be a star. He's strong, but I think he's bothered when guarded by players with length. Look at his games in the NCAA Tourney against UNC, NC State, and Kentucky. For me, he's a more powerful Jared Sullinger, and I'm not sure how I would like Sullinger as an early-lottery pick. Biyombo and Robinson seem like duplicates to me in the fact they are both natural power forwards and can't really play center for long periods of time. They are completely different players, but neither of them are a true center. I hope for the Bobcats' sake this isn't the pick in the #2 spot. Beal should be the pick. Robinson will be a 10 year starter, but nothing special. Beal is special.

3. Washington- Brad Beal, SG

I'm probably too high on Brad Beal. I think he is going to be a star in the NBA. This is a great choice to pair with John Wall and the Wizards need scoring. I'm not going to fawn all over him, but the biggest holes in his game are his inconsistent shooting and the fact he tended to defer to his teammates while at Florida. In his defense, he was the third guard in a backcourt with Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker, so he wasn't deferring to shitty teammates. His shooting can be worked on and he will be an All-Star. Great pick. If only the Bobcats weren't drafting Robinson.

4. Cleveland- Harrison Barnes, SF

I have a bumpy relationship with this choice by the Cavs. I see Barnes as pretty overrated in some ways and think he is a replica of Sean Elliott, which doesn't immediately scream Top 5 pick (though Elliott was also a lottery pick). On the other hand, Barnes and Kyrie Irving are BFF's and probably have bracelets to prove it. Barnes is also not going to bust and will be a really good NBA player. He was playing injured for a good portion of last year, which affected his explosiveness (as a UNC fan will breathlessly point out when you criticize Barnes' lack of explosiveness), and he needs a quality point guard to achieve his full potential. I think Cleveland is a great fit for him. The Cavs can't really go wrong with Kidd-Gilchrist or Barnes in this spot. They are different players and I think Kidd-Gilchrist has the higher ceiling, but Barnes is the better scorer. I do want Kyrie to play with Brad Beal, but my dreams don't seem to come true. Barnes may end up being the third best player on a playoff team, but he's a great building block for them.

5. Sacramento- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF

I want Sacramento to stay away, as far away as humanely possible, from Andre Drummond. It looks like they will get their wish. If they want a big guy whose motor (or head) is questionable and whose game needs refinement, they can sort of look at DeMarcus Cousins. He's on the roster already. Sacramento has so expertly filled their team with a bunch of scorers and guys who want to score, so they need a guy who will play defense and do all of the little things really well without an ego. That's Kidd-Gilchrist. Draft him.

6. Portland- Damian Lillard, PG

Maybe this is wishful thinking and just poor planning on my part. There are two guys in this draft who I think are coach-killers. Andre Drummond and Perry Jones III. Both guys are going to get coaches fired and also will cause teams to fall in love with their potential. I only slightly dislike Drummond, but hate Jones III. The Blazers need a point guard and they need a center. I think they take the point guard they like the most here and will try to use the #11 pick on a center that has a few less question marks, but a lower ceiling as well. Lillard seems to me like a player who could have a Jamal Crawford-type career, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

7. Golden State- Andre Drummond, C

As a rule, I tend to dislike the Warriors draft picks. I hated the Klay Thompson pick last year and I didn't like Anthony Randolph or Epke Udoh that much either when they were drafted. So I know I will hate this pick. The Warriors need a big man, even if they have Andrew Bogut on the roster, you can't have too much size. Mark Jackson wants to turn the Warriors into a defensive team and I think they try to start this progression by drafting Andre Drummond. He could be special or he could also be the reason Mark Jackson is back in the booth with Jeff Van Gundy in two years. Of course just as I was posting this, Jerry West basically said the Warriors aren't taking Drummond. What does he know? I'm sticking with the pick because that's what I do.

8. Toronto- Austin Rivers, SG/PG

I'm not convinced Rivers can be a point guard. Of course I am also not convinced Rivers isn't really a shooting guard. I think he can play shooting guard and defend the position well also. I don't see the issues experts have with Rivers at the shooting guard spot. He's as tall as Dwyane Wade, but 10 years younger and 20 pounds lighter. I think he can play shooting guard is my point. Rivers has a massive ego and is cocky, so this is a bit of a risk for the Raptors. Teammates generally don't seem to love Rivers and from what I've heard he has the ability to grate at times, but he has the ability to get to the basket, draw fouls and he works hard at becoming a better player. He could become a five-time All-Star or he could just end up being a cocky asshole whose actual ability never matches his own perceived ability.

9. Detroit- John Henson, PF

This is such a good pick, I can see where it won't happen. If Drummond is available, I think the Pistons take him. If the Pistons draft Meyers Leonard they deserve what they get. Henson isn't much offensively yet, but he's incredibly long and will fit in well with Monroe and Knight. This has to happen. The Pistons need a shot blocker and I think Henson is second to Davis in this draft in terms of shot blocking and shot altering ability. Henson may never be a great offensive player, but he will fit in well with the Pistons forward rotation.

10. New Orleans- Dion Waiters, SG

Yes, the Hornets already have Eric Gordon but I don't think the skill set of these two players overlaps that much. The Hornets need a scorer and Waiters can score. I see him working really well with Anthony Davis and Eric Gordon. He gets to the rim creating passing lanes for Davis to get easy baskets and for Gordon to get open jump shots. I haven't seen Waiters mocked to the Hornets anywhere else, so maybe I'm far off, but I think it makes sense.

11. Portland- Tyler Zeller, C

This is another pick I think other mock drafts will disagree with (or they did disagree with. I started this mock Monday morning and by Thursday morning other mocks had Zeller in this spot), but Zeller isn't as bad physically as advertised. A team knows what it will get with a guy like Zeller. He can run the floor, he's a smart player, he's long and has some moves on the offensive end. Pairing him up with LaMarcus Aldridge and Lillard makes sense to me. I think he is a more polished and NBA-ready player over Leonard, so that's why the Blazers take him...if he lasts this long. Of course, if the Blazers want potential they may go in a different direction.

12. Houston- Meyers Leonard, C

I don't anticipate the Rockets keeping any of their picks, so these are the guys I would draft if I'm the Rockets and I keep all three first round picks. I'm not on the Meyers Leonard bandwagon. Fortunately the Rockets are probably not keeping this pick. If they do keep this pick, Leonard is a great choice for them. They need a center and Leonard does have a ton of potential and he did improve a lot between his freshmen and sophomore years.

13. Phoenix- Kendall Marshall, PG

So this has to happen, right? Maybe I'm playing too much fantasy NBA Draft by having the Suns base on a shooting guard like Lamb or Ross. Marshall is perfect for this offense. Even if Nash re-signs with the Suns they will need another point guard sooner rather than later. There isn't a better point guard in this draft to run a high-octane offense like the Suns have. Marshall thrives in that atmosphere. Jeremy Lamb could also be a consideration if the Suns prefer scoring or Moe Harkless if the Suns want to choose a player no mock draft has them taking here (but I would take Harkless in the Top 10). None of those guys are bad choices, but Marshall is the perfect choice. Now if he can work on his lateral movement on defense, I'll feel even better about this pick.

14. Milwaukee- Terrence Ross, SG

The Bucks got this pick from the Rockets and while they do need a center, they could also use another scorer. Ross is that good scorer. I'm not a huge fan of Ross being an above average player, but he is a great shooter and will fit in well for the Rockets.

15. Philadelphia- Arnett Moultrie, PF/C

Talking to 76ers fans, some say the team needs height and others say the team needs scoring. I don't see the scoring need as much as I see a need for some height. I'm guessing the 76ers go with Arnett Moultrie over a guy like Sullinger because Moultrie can play center. Moultrie is an athletic guy and I prefer him over Meyers Leonard, though I honestly haven't seen Moultrie play enough to really be confident in that assessment.

16. Houston- Jared Sullinger, PF

I didn't like Sullinger being taken in the first 10 picks because of the injury issues I have with him, but if the Rockets want a guy who can rebound and score in the low post, he is the natural option at this point. He's not the most athletic guy and I'm not sure he hasn't gotten closer to his ceiling, but he's got great size and a huge ass. I say that because he uses his huge ass and body to get in rebounding and scoring position. At worst, you have a DeJuan Blair-type player who can rebound and score in limited minutes. You never want to think worst case with a first round pick, but I don't think it will be a worst-case scenario like that.

17. Dallas- Jeremy Lamb, SG

This is a no-brainer at this point. I can't believe I have Lamb falling this far since he seems highly valued. I know we hear the comparisons to Reggie Miller, but I don't know if I see those comparisons as much as others do. To me, he isn't as good of a shooter as Miller was out of college (of course Lamb is also 20 years old) and he isn't very strong. He's best coming off screens which I think makes his game somewhat limited. Lamb isn't a #1 scorer on a team, as we saw last year at UConn when he was miscast as the best player on the team. Still, this is a great spot for him and the Mavericks could use a scorer like him. I'm not sure he will ever do much else but come off screens and be a poor man's Rip Hamilton, but we'll see.

18. Houston- Perry Jones III, SF

I don't like Perry Jones III. He simply seems to leave a lot out on the floor in terms of production or energy. This isn't a case where too much is being expected of him. It's a case where Jones III never seems to provide a consistent effort on the court. I watched quite a few Baylor games this year and would forget he was on the floor. He's that guy who is extremely talented, but will never put it all together for some reason. He'll get a coach fired and all of his potential will be fool's gold. I hope I'm wrong and he has all the physical tools to be an All-Star. I don't blame the Rockets for drafting him here, but I would take Moe Harkless. He's going to be star.

19. Orlando- Terrence Jones, SF

I used to question Jones' drive and willingness to put forth effort, but it seems staying in school for his sophomore year really seemed to give him slightly more consistency. He's like a chubbier, less athletic Josh Smith for me. He loves to hang around the three-point line and I can see a situation where he is the left-handed version of Antoine Walker. Having said that, Antoine Walker wasn't a bad player for a while and the Magic need the rebounding and versatility that Jones can provide. He's a small forward in a power forward's body and can do quite a few things well.

20. Denver- Royce White, SF

Denver needs a backup point guard. Royce White can bring the ball up. Does that count? I'm concerned this seems like too obvious of a pick, but the Nuggets have a good group of players and the best part about Royce White is that he will fit in with what the Nuggets and they won't have to worry about pigeon-holing him in a certain position. So he won't upset what the Nuggets are trying to build by duplicating the skill set of a player on the Nuggets current roster. Basically, he is versatile enough to back up Ty Lawson if necessary, but also play some power forward as well. Just don't ask him to fly. Every man has his limits and that is White's limit.

21. Boston- Moe Harkless, SF

I'm not cheating, I promise. I didn't put one of my favorite players in this draft on my favorite NBA team because I just like to see it in writing. I think the draft falls this way and it is a need for the Celtics. Yes, they have Paul Pierce already, but the Celtics lack a guy who have some sort of explosive ability on offense and Harkless could provide this. He's an excellent rebounder for his position and will look great running with Rondo. I just hope I'm right and he falls here. Harkless would be on the "Redshirt first year in the NBA" track that Avery Bradley was on.

22. Boston- Fab Melo, C

I don't really like Fab Melo in this spot. I would rather the Celtics take a backup point guard or trade the pick, but if they keep this pick they are going to need big men. Garnett doesn't like playing center and even if he comes back the Celtics have to do better than the shit-platter of Stiemsma and Ryan Hollins. The only thing Melo can do really well is protect the rim and that's probably good enough for the Celtics to draft him here. He'll play 10 years in the NBA for five teams and then convince some team to sign him to a four year deal for $30 million along the way. He's one of those guys.

23. Atlanta- Tony Wroten, PG

I heard rumors back in early April the Hawks wanted Wroten to come out of the draft so they could take him. Of course now they have a new GM so this may be way off, but Wroten is a special talent in my opinion. He can't guard a fence post (which probably could end up being a major factor in the NBA), but he is a big-body combo guard who can get to the rim. I've seen mocks where he didn't go in the first round, which is ridiculous. He has a lot to work on, but I think he is worth the pick here.

24. Cleveland- Doron Lamb, SG

The Cavs may not play defense much this year, but they will be fun as hell to watch. Perhaps a draft of Barnes and Doron Lamb is too much offense, but it will certainly be a good way to build around Kyrie Irving. By passing on one of the average to mediocre big men here the Cavs are essentially saying they know they will get killed some on the inside, but Lamb would be dangerous spotting up when Irving/Barnes drive to the basket. Lamb may just end up being an Eddie House-type player, but there are worse things to be. I don't see why the Cavs would reach for a player who is taller just to take care of a need they have, but there's a lot of things I don't understand about the draft.

25. Memphis- Quincy Miller, SF

Yes, the Grizzlies need depth at point guard, but Quincy Miller is the type of pick that could really pay off two years down the road. Sure, Miller comes from the Baylor school of "a lot of hype and not a lot of production" that seems to be a Scott Drew special, but the Grizzlies have shown in the past they are willing to take a chance on an underachieving player (Josh Selby) and he will have time to learn behind Rudy Gay. Miller has injury issues and he didn't produce much, but the Grizzlies are in a position where they won't find any guys with higher ceilings at this point in the draft.

26. Indiana- Andrew Nicholson, PF

Nicholson is a great pick here. Granted, he isn't going to be an All-Star, but he can stretch the opposing power forward out and can also play in the middle. Nicholson will have a chance to play behind David West and learn from a guy who plays the game similar to how he plays. The Pacers still need some depth at the forward/guard position, but with the uncertainty around Hibbert and West being a free agent after this next season, I think this pick makes sense.

27. Miami- John Jenkins, SG

As well as playing with Bosh at the center spot worked for the Heat in the playoffs, it isn't a recipe for long-term success. The Heat need an actual center on the roster. Since Festus Ezili isn't going to be any good in the NBA (and I assume the Heat know this), I figure the Heat will try to shore up their perimeter shooting since they got a taste of how unstoppable they are when the three-point shooters are on. He's versatile and is a fantastic shooter. Sounds like a good fit for the Heat.

28. Oklahoma City- Draymond Green, PF

Maybe the fact I hate Festus Ezili as a prospect affects my mock too much. He's tall and doesn't fall over himself while walking, which means he will go in the first round. Draymond Green seems too good of a pick in this spot. He's athletic and he doesn't pay the eye test. He has those intangibles that coaches seem to love and he does everything well. He's smaller for a power forward, but he still rebounds well and would give the Thunder a different look at the "4" position. Playing he and Perkins together probably doesn't seem very smart since neither of them are real shot-blockers, but Draymond Green is a smart player who would fit in well with the Thunder. Not to go crazy with the cliches, but he's the kind of "glue guy" off the bench the Thunder were missing. I can see Marcus Teague being the guy here also under the idea of taking the best player available.

29. Chicago- Marcus Teague, PG

Two-fold reason for drafting Teague. The uncertainty around Derrick Rose's knee and the fact the Teague is the best player available in this spot. The Bulls have other needs, but Teague should never fall this far. I actually tried to fit him in earlier, but didn't feel strongly enough to move another player out of the position to put Teague in. This fits well for the Bulls. At worst they have a guy who has potential to be a great backup point guard. At best, he could be a quality starter in the NBA for a playoff team.

30. Golden State- Jeffrey Taylor, SF

The Warriors seem to be looking at a shooting guard with the #7 selection, so they would be happy to get Jeffrey Taylor who is a good shooter and can play the wing position in the NBA, at least athletically. Plus, he plays defense, which is always helpful.

Feel free to tell me how stupid my draft is and hopefully trades won't screw it all up too much.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

6 comments Murray Chass is Suspicious about This Book Mike Piazza is Writing

Murray Chass believes that Mike Piazza used steroids when he played in the majors. Murray bases his conclusion on Piazza's bacne and he's argued this reasoning before. I think Mike Piazza used steroids also. Of course, I don't really care if he did or he didn't to the extent that Murray Chass cares. I consider Piazza innocent of using steroids until it is proven otherwise. Piazza never tested positive for PEDs and as much as I disliked him when he played for the Mets, that's good enough for me. He's under the Jeff Bagwell umbrella for me. I'm suspicious, but my suspicions aren't hard evidence, so I don't know if it should affect either player's Hall of Fame candidacy. Well, Murray Chass and his best bro Fay Vincent disagree with me on this. Piazza is writing a book about his baseball career and Murray Chass just knows it's a huge conspiracy to achieve book sales and make the baseball Hall of Fame while also admitting to using steroids. Murray takes to his non-blog to urge Hall of Fame voters, of which Murray is one (shiver), to not vote for Piazza to get in the Hall of Fame until the year after his book comes out.

Tying a significant record held by a great player is noteworthy, but it also is controversial and raises the primary question of the time in which we live:

What will be the net effect of the human race's existence on this planet in 3000 years? At what point does science go overboard with new discoveries that can dramatically alter human DNA? If we can clone a person, is that person a real person in terms of civil rights and should be treated that way? What happens when we die? Is deciding the gender of your child playing God?

(I have a lot of science-related questions apparently)

Should we give Rodriguez the credit a record holder would deserve if he were free of the taint of performance-enhancing substances?

Actually, this is an easy one. Yes.

Yes, Rodriguez’s grand slam in Atlanta was clean, as far as we know,

Yes, Murray Chass isn't a robot designed and placed on Earth to secretly rid the world of the human race at a specific time in the future, as far as we know.

But the three grand slams he hit when he played for Texas presumably were linked to steroids.

Well then subtract three home runs from his career amount of 23 home runs because none of those home runs would have gone out of the park if he wasn't on steroids. We know this for sure, don't we? Wait, we don't know this for sure?

There are skeptics who suspect he used them during a more extended period.

There are skeptics who believe the Holocaust never happened and there are skeptics that believe the 1969 moon landing was staged. Skepticism isn't proof, though I am skeptical Murray really understands this concept.

How should Rodriguez and others of the steroids squad be viewed as they rise in the ranks of the great hitters?

Apparently they should be viewed with a great amount of suspicion. Who am I to say this though? Let's bring in an expert's expert and the judge of all that moral is in the world. No, not Tony Dungy.

“It’s a very good question,” said Fay Vincent, the former commissioner, who is among the most moral men baseball has known.

Oh yes, it wouldn't be a Murray Chass column if we didn't get the opinion of the Stevie to Murray Chass's Kenny Powers, the Garth to Murray Chass's Wayne, the Chewbacca to Murray Chass's Han Solo, the Joannie to Murray Chass's Chachi...Fay Vincent. If Murray Chass has any questions about life, liberty, and the pursuit of libelous words he calls on Fay Vincent.

As a side note, unless Murray Chass has known every person in the history of baseball then he doesn't know Murray Chass is among the most moral men baseball has known. Yep, I'm nitpicking cliches today.

“You can’t ignore the record; it takes skill,” he added, speaking of A-Rod’s feat. “But nobody can compare his achievement to Gehrig’s without acknowledging his use of steroids.

Hang on for the words of a person who is among the most moral men baseball has ever known. It gets a bit rough when following the logic of these quotes.

We can’t measure the taint produced by substance use, but it’s a substantial taint.”

We actually can calculate this taint. The formula for Taint Accumulated over Time by Substance Abuse (or TATSA) is:

(Years of Substance Abuse x Taint During Years of Substance Abuse)/(Numbers of years without Taint + Amount of Bacne Acquired)

This equals the taint produced by substance abuse. For A-Rod, I don't have access to his bacne records so I can't really speak to whether the taint is substantial or not.

Vincent was not suggesting that steroids enhance performance. “It’s never been tested,” he said, recalling a conversation he had with Dr. Frank Jobe, the legendary Los Angeles Dodgers’ orthopedic surgeon.

So in summary, this is what we've learned from this conversation with Fay Vincent:

-We have to acknowledge A-Rod's use of steroids when discussing his baseball records.

-A-Rod's use of steroids put a substantial taint on his baseball records because they may have enhanced his performance.

-Scientists say steroids may not enhance performance.

-Fay Vincent isn't saying steroids enhanced Rodriguez's performance when saying A-Rod's career is tainted because he took steroids, Vincent is simply saying he thinks these steroids possibly enhanced A-Rod's performance and any records achieved by A-Rod should be viewed with suspicion.

-Steroids may not enhance performance and Fay Vincent isn't saying they do, but A-Rod's career was probably enhanced by his use of steroids.

To Vincent, though, it’s not how much better steroids might make a player but how much cheating undermines a player’s character.

And we all know the final determination on whether a player should be in the Hall of Fame is based entirely on that player's character.

In judging players for election to the Hall of Fame, Vincent said he would never support players who tested positive for performance enhancing substances or even players who were strongly suspected of steroids use.

Yes, but WHO strongly suspects this player of using steriods? Fay Vincent? If so, he is simply using his own beliefs in the absence of facts about whether Player X used steroids or not. Vincent's own personal belief that Player X used steroids does not mean a player is strongly suspected of steroids use. It means HE strongly suspect the player of steroid use, but he has no proof. His own belief in Player X's steroid use does not mean it is a widespread belief that should keep Player X out of the Hall of Fame.

“I wouldn’t vote for anyone who cheated,” Vincent said. “I wouldn’t have voted for Gaylord Perry; he cheated. What are you going to say? He cheated a little?”

But what if you don't know someone cheated at all? Fay Vincent wouldn't vote for him either apparently. This person doesn't fall under the heading of "cheating" or "cheating just a little bit," he falls under the heading of "not having been caught cheating at all." So a player suspected of steroid use wouldn't meet this "cheating" standard that Fay Vincent holds and should receive Vincent's Hall of Fame vote.

He waits with interest to see what the writers do with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, neither of whom ever tested positive for substance abuse but both of whom have been tried in Federal court on steroids-related perjury charges.

How have those trials gone so far?

Then there’s Mike Piazza, who will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time later this year, joining Bonds, Clemens and Sammy Sosa as controversial candidates.

He's controversial because Murray Chass and Fay Vincent proclaim that Mike Piazza used steroids so they won't vote for him to enter the Hall of Fame. If you accept that Piazza never tested positive and don't hold your own suspicions against him, he isn't controversial at all. I personally believe Piazza used steroids, but there is no proof so I would vote for him to enter the Hall of Fame if I thought he deserved induction based on his statistics.

What if he is elected to the Hall of Fame and then it’s discovered that he used steroids?”

Or what if Piazza is revealed to be a robot designed and placed on Earth to secretly rid the world of the human race upon his induction into the baseball Hall of Fame? The best bet is to not vote for Mike Piazza, that's for sure.

Piazza never tested positive for steroids use, and that has been his defense against charges that he used steroids.

Murray Chass showed proof he has a heart and human skin, and that has been his defense against charges that he is a robot.

But within baseball he has long been a steroids suspect.

But within my own personal belief, I think he is a robot.

All of his teammates and anyone else in his teams’ clubhouses saw his acne-covered back, a tell-tale sign of steroids, until baseball began testing for steroids, and then the acne magically disappeared.

The acne magically disappeared? So Piazza is not only a steroid-user, he is also a wizard! Do we need steroid-using wizards in baseball's Hall of Fame? I think not.

When I have written in the past couple of years that Piazza was a steroids suspect, especially when I have mentioned the acne,

As the saying goes, "if he has bacne, you must...act-ne like he used steroids."

One reader said he was a teammate of Piazza on the University of Miami baseball team and that he was such a good, strong hitter that he didn’t need to use steroids. After checking Miami statistics, I figured the reader must have had Piazza confused with another teammate. In his sole season at Miami, Piazza was 1-for-9.

Hey Murray, do you think it is slightly possible this teammate saw Piazza hit the baseball in batting practice, simulated games, scrimmages or at any other point during the year they were teammates? He probably saw Piazza hit the baseball at other times during the season, rather than just in games. Sometimes it pays to think before you type.

More incriminating is a comment from a former major league teammate that appears in a book titled “The Rocket That Fell to Earth.” The author, Jeff Pearlman, quotes a former player, Reggie Jefferson, as saying, “He’s a guy sho did it, and everybody knows it. It’s amazing how all these names, like Roger Clemens, are brought up, yet Mike Piazza goes untouched.”

So the speculation of other players now serves as evidence?

"Hold on your honor, I can't place the defendant at the scene of the crime, but I can provide at least 10 people who say that seems like that restaurant would be a place the defendant would go to eat."

For nearly three years, Piazza has been said to be writing a book about his career. It appears to be taking him longer than Tolstoy needed to write “War and Peace.”

Piazza isn't a blogger like you and me are Murray. He can't match the caffeinated-aided output of bloggers like you and me.

Aides to the Simon and Schuster editor handling the book, Bob Bender, and the agent who put the project together, David Black, said they would find out the status of the book and let me know, but neither called with information. Another publishing source said he believed the book would be published next year.

“It’s taking a long time,” I remarked to Vincent.

“You can imagine why,” he responded.

Because it is an autobiography? Because Piazza isn't a natural writer, it takes time to fact-check his memory of events, edit the book and then release it? Those are the reasons I can think of. Of course I am not among the most moral people baseball has ever known, so what do I know?

If the timetable calls for publication next year, Piazza and Simon and Schuster would both get their cake and eat it, too.

Mike Piazza doesn't want cake. He wants steroids.

Piazza would be in the Hall of Fame with the writers having no recourse to unelect him. Just as he did in his playing career, Piazza would have fooled the voters and the fans.

So now Murray Chass has gone from speculating whether Mike Piazza has used steroids or not, convicted him of using steroids based on his own unproven suspicions, and accused Piazza of releasing a book just after his induction into the baseball's Hall of Fame (which may or may not happen) so Piazza can reap the rewards of books sales and not get punished for his steroid use? Hey, it may happen, but Murray Chass no proof of this. So all Murray is doing is writing down a ton of speculation and passing it off as fact. Come on Murray, us bloggers are above that.

Then, as if fate called Murray at home on his rotary sun-faded yellow phone, an aide to Piazza's editor updated Murray on when the book was going to be released.

The moment of truth is set for Mike Piazza. His book, “Long Shot,” is scheduled for publication next February, the publisher, Simon & Schuster, said Thursday.

While it have a picture of Piazza on the cover with a needle sticking out of his ass?

Now I know, and while I am not a conspiracy theorist, I smell a conspiracy here.

While I am not one to throw out unproven speculation, I think Ryan Gosling is a homosexual and Kristin Bell is a post-op transsexual.

The only question relevant to pre-publication is does Piazza write about steroids and if so, what does he write?

It's almost like the entire point of the book being published is to read it in order to find out this information. Just another conspiracy Mike Piazza is responsible for in order to get you to pay for the chance to read his book. What an ego this bacne-riddled man has!

But sometime last year a Piazza associate said he would cover his entire career, whatever that means.

I'm guessing, and this is just a guess based on context clues, it will cover Mike Piazza's entire baseball career. I find it interesting Murray Chass can't figure out what "cover his entire career" means, but he is smart enough to know for sure that Mike Piazza used steroids without any proof this is true and therefore doesn't deserve anyone's Hall of Fame vote.

It seemed unlikely that the former catcher would admit to steroid use and jeopardize, even for an $800,000 advance, his chances of being elected to the Hall of Fame.

Well, there you go then. Problem averted. Now Murray doesn't have to worry about Mike Piazza admitting he used steroids after he's being elected into the Hall of Fame. Of course, the problem isn't really averted because Murray Chass still believes Mike Piazza is up to no good...especially since the fact the book is being released in February (who releases a book in February?) of 2013.

Craig Muder, the Hall’s communications director, said no date has been set for release of the results but noted that the announcement usually is made between Jan. 5 and 15. Voting ends Dec. 31.

And Mike Piazza is conveniently releasing his book one month later. Of course, in Murray's mind it doesn't matter anyway because Mike Piazza is under a cloud of suspicion (caused by Murray Chass) of using steroids and wouldn't receive his Hall of Fame vote regardless of when the book was released.

If, on the other hand, the book includes a steroids admission, all I can say is shame on Piazza and his publisher.

Shame on you for giving Murray Chass the perception you are waiting until the Hall of Fame votes are tallied so the steroid admission that may or may not be contained in the book doesn't hurt Mike Piazza's chance of making the Hall of Fame. You will never be the moral man that Fay Vincent is!

With that possibility in mind, though, the voters would be wise to withhold their votes from Piazza until a future election. He will have 14 more chances.

Yes, voters would be "wise" to do this. If "wise" is now defined as, "So concerned and affected by the pure speculation from an unemployed ex-newspaper writer they lose grip with their sanity and join this writer in abstaining from voting for a player into the Hall of Fame in preparation for a steroid admission from a player that may or may not have used steroids that may or may not be contained in the book."

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

2 comments Terence Moore Says Umpires Have an Impossible Job, So Why Make it Easier?

Terence Moore is tired of people bashing baseball umpires. From his point of view, the umpires get calls wrong, but that doesn't mean they should be replaced or baseball should use technology to make sure the calls are correct. Terence thinks umpires are really good at their job even though he sees their job as impossible. The use of technology or instant replay would make their impossible job a little more possible and accurate, but once we let the machines umpire a game we are only one short step away from allowing the machines to play baseball. We can't let the machines and Sabermetricians win. In related news, it is clear Terence Moore fears machines and change as a whole.

Here we go again.

Whine, whine, whine.

I agree. I wish people would stop whining on behalf of the umpires. They get calls wrong. Even they know that. Defending them as if the expansion of replay wouldn't help to get calls correct and improve the game of baseball is silly at this point.

Which leads to this message to the latest group of umpire bashers: Stifle, please.

Yeah, umpires are supposed to get calls wrong! That is what makes baseball so great. Wouldn't football be better if the NFL took away instant replay and a bad call or two changed the game in even a minor way? NFL officials are fallible beings who sometimes get calls wrong. If a complete pass was ruled an incomplete pass and forces your team to punt rather than have a first down and continue their drive, doesn't that add to your enjoyment of the game? Human error is part of the NFL, so we should bring as much human error as possible back to the NFL as soon as possible.

Not only has baseball had these admirable men as long as there has been a home plate,

Irrelevant. You could use this same backwards reasoning for fighting any type of progress our world has experienced over the last 200 years including the invention of the car, slavery, the prevalence of air travel, giving women/minorities the right to vote, and using the Internet as opposed to using encyclopedias to gather information. The fact baseball has always used umpires, and not expanded replay, is simply not a reason to avoid any changes to umpiring or the replay system.

I am not necessarily in favor of a system that calls balls and strikes for the umpire, but I wouldn't mind seeing replay expanded to include other plays (outside of just home runs) that affect the outcome of the game. MLB agrees with me on this and the umpire union just needs to approve this use of instant replay.

but studies show through the decades that umpires get calls involving balls and strikes -- along with others -- correct at an incredibly high rate.

The incredibly high rate umpires get calls right is not relevant to this discussion. Instant replay isn't going to be used for every single call made by the umpires. What do studies show the percentage of calls umpires get correct when they have to make a close or borderline call? Umpires do get balls and strikes, and routine plays on the basepaths correct at a high rate because they are easy or slightly difficult calls. That's not the issue. The issue lies in how many very close calls do umpires get correct? That is what instant replay is needed for. To take the tough calls and ensure they are correct.

"I want a ball called a ball and a strike called a strike," Valentine told reporters this week. "Figure out how. I don't know how to do it. I know you can. It's 2012."

This is true. I like the presence of the umpires on the field, but would accept a system that would make it easier for umpires to judge what is a ball and a strike. Of course, I don't want a system calling the balls and strikes for the umpire, so I'm tough to please.

Much of the complaining about umpires by players or managers occurs after a tough loss. Complaining about the umpiring is a way to place blame for the loss, but they can also valid complaints about the way a specific play was called.

Valentine's reference was to 21st-century technology, but most of the umpiring ways of the 20th and 19th centuries aren't bad.

They're actually pretty good.

We all know "actually pretty good" is the standard most baseball fans would like to see in the umpiring. Sure, they miss some close and not-close calls. Sure, sometimes umpires completely and utterly miss a call any normal human being with eyes would get correct and the expansion of replay would immediately overturn. The horrendous call I've linked only affected one game. I'm sure Pirates fans weren't bothered at all by it. Overall the umpiring is actually pretty good.

Sure, sometimes a blown call leads to the game-winning or game-tying run on second base, which made the difference in a playoff game. Maybe taking a look at the replay of this call would have changed this playoff game. Umpires are fallible though and they are actually pretty good. Where's the fun in baseball at if an umpire can't affect the outcome of a game with a bad call?

For every time an umpire misses a single by Carlos Beltran that is ruled a foul ball despite kicking up chalk down the left-field line to give Johan Santana the first no-hitter in New York Mets history, there are tens, hundreds, thousands of other spot-on calls.

That's true. Many of these spot-on calls are easy calls to make. The tough calls are the ones where the umpires need help sometimes. I can drive a car hundreds or thousands of times and not get in an accident, but I still wear my seat belt because there is that one time I could get in an accident. I don't wear my seat belt for the thousands of times I drive around town, I wear it for when someone rear ends me doing 30 miles per hour. In my bad analogy, the same thing goes for the expansion of replay. It isn't going to be used for every balls and strikes call or every play on the field, but only for the important calls that were difficult for the umpire to get correct due to human error.

Hall of Famer Frank Robinson had it exactly right when he told me a few years ago, "Folks have put umpires in such a tough position that it's almost impossible to umpire today.

The fact umpiring has become more difficult is an argument for ensuring this impossible job has the benefit of oversight to ensure the call made on the field was the correct one.

Fans in the stands hear commentators on TV and on radio and in the newspapers talking about an umpire missing a call [in the past], and the fans bring it right to the ballpark.

Again, the ability for fans to hear and see missed calls means MLB needs to be more dedicated than ever to making sure the call on the field was the correct call. Use technology to help improve the game, don't ignore technology in an attempt to make sure no egos get stepped on. If an umpire misses a call, that has an impact on the game. Continuing this umpire's perception that he is great at his job and none of his calls should be questioned can not override the need to get the call on the field correct.

"Suddenly, there's a close call against the home team, and the fans are yelling, 'See there? There goes another blown one. He wasn't safe or he wasn't out.' All of this just increases the mindset of hostility toward umpires, and it's not justified."

It's not justified, except when umpires miss calls that in some way affect the game. This anger is justified if it turns out the call made by the umpire was a bad one.

No massive overhaul of umpires throughout the Major Leagues, and no expansion involving those two overrated words in sports: instant replay.

Ask the NFL and its fans how overrated instant replay is. Ask the NBA and its fans how overrated instant replay of a shot that was either a two or a three point shot is. Instant replay is overrated only if it is implemented poorly or if a person is personally against the use of instant replay. Otherwise, I don't see how pausing for a minute or two (approximately 1-2 pitches during an Andy Pettitte start) to make sure a call is correct can be seen as a bad thing.

For one, the meteoric rise of instant replay in pro and college football has made games last forever.

Got any research supporting this contention? No? Great.

As a result, many fans are grumbling over what they once considered a sports messiah.

Many other fans are grumbling over MLB's inability to ensure human error and judgment isn't compromising the outcome of even one MLB game this year.

It's getting to the point where NBA referees are checking television monitors for nearly everything near the ends of games to make sure they "got it right."

I haven't noticed this at all. Though in my defense, I don't have preconceived notions about instant replay and am not willing to bend facts around to make it seem like instant replay is more trouble than it is worth. I'm not sure Terence Moore can say the same thing.

That leads to timid officiating. Why make a definitive call -- or one at all -- when you have videotape at your disposal?

Maybe because it is your job to make a definitive call? Why do any type of work if someone else can just pick up the slack and do it for you? Umpires have pride in their ability to do their job and display this pride in a professional manner by attempting to accurately make calls on the field. If they can't do this with instant replay in use, they shouldn't be umpires at the major league level.

Under the new rules, instant replay will cover fair and foul calls, whether balls are caught or trapped by fielders and the expansion of fan-interference reviews from the home-run boundary to every wall.

I think these are good rules. How often will this replay be used in a game? I'm guessing it won't be used but maybe once a game. The review of the play will take two minutes. Baseball can cut time from other areas of the game if the length of games is a concern. I don't see why two minutes to ensure a call is correct is too much to ask.

Even if there are zero arguments between managers and umpires on plays involving the new rules, the length of games will increase.

By two minutes and the review of the call will prove to the manager the call was made correctly or the call will be overrturned and changed.

And there will be arguments, even if you tell managers that decisions via replay are final.

I'm not entirely sure there will be. I'm sure managers will still argue on occasion, but if the umpires look at the replay and come to the conclusion the call was correct, I am guessing managers won't take the time to argue the call.

After Jim Leyland's Detroit Tigers lost a recent game to the Red Sox, he ripped the umpiring without saying so directly and begged the media to "hold people accountable" with their computer keys.

Leyland gets fined if he criticizes the umpires, who at the major league level continue to be treated as if they are not only the best umpires in the world, but also above reproach, review, and any type of criticism by anyone outside of their umpiring supervisor.

I'm assuming the "people" that Leyland was referring to weren't his underachieving players. Despite a talented (and expensive) bunch that includes Cy Young and American League MVP holdover Justin Verlander and slugger Prince Fielder, who came as a $214 million free agent in the offseason, the Tigers aren't even a .500 team.

This is irrelevant. So umpires are allowed to miss a call if that call goes against an underachieving team? It's irrelevant if the Tigers have underachieved this year in terms of evaluating the major league umpires ability to do their job well and when considering the expansion of instant replay.

Elsewhere, Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon was so upset last week with the balls and strikes called by home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn that he fumed in the clubhouse while saying Reyburn should be sent back to Triple-A.

What are the Phillies doing this season after spending the previous five winning the National League East?

They are solidly in last place.

Again, this is so very much irrelevant to the discussion of umpiring and the use of expanded instant replay. It doesn't matter if the Phillies are in last place. Terence Moore is being not-so-subtle in suggesting the Phillies are too concerned about the umpires and not concerned enough about winning baseball games.

See a pattern here?

No, I don't see a pattern other than teams in last place are going to be more frustrated by bad umpiring. So a team in last place shouldn't worry about calls they perceive as not going their way?

Worse, the Red Sox are in the AL East, where they keep going south in the standings while everybody else is going north.

Which brings us back to that easy target ... umpires.

I'm not going to argue the umpires aren't an easy target for some teams to take out their frustration upon. They are. The fact some teams take out frustration on what they perceive as bad umpiring doesn't mean instant replay doesn't need to be expanded. These are two separate issues.

First, he blasted the weekend-long umpiring at Fenway Park -- you know, after the Washington Nationals swept his Red Sox. Then he continued his assault on umpires this week, but only with a softer tone.

"I think [umpires] are very well trained, and I think they're very good at what they do,"

Listen to that assault on the umpires. How dare Bobby Valentine indicate MLB umpires are good at what they do and are well trained. He should be fined for saying things like this. I can't fathom Valentine believes he can get by with this full-on assault of umpires.

Valentine said. "It's impossible to do what they do, so why do we ask them to do the impossible?"

Accurately making close plays correctly 100% of the time is nearly impossible to do. I think Valentine makes a good point. Umpires could use some help on calls that are borderline or too close to call. I see no reason why expanding replay would be a bad thing as long as MLB implemented the expansion to ensure it was used only for close plays and didn't take a long time to review the play.

Mostly because umpires do the impossible well.

Yes, but why can't they do the impossible better? This isn't about the umpires egos or second-guessing how good they are at their job. The expansion of instant replay is about making sure close calls, which are harder for umpires to accurately and correct rule upon, are the correct call. Admitting the umpires' job is impossible can be seen as more proof the expansion of instant replay needs to happen. As good as MLB umpires are, they aren't perfect, and the standard of doing the job "well" or being "actually pretty good" isn't a high enough standard to hold when discussing calls that could make a difference in the result of a game.

Monday, June 25, 2012

3 comments Scoop Jackson Thinks Michael Jordan Should Do Jedi Mind Tricks in Order to Draft Anthony Davis

Scoop Jackson wants to let Charlotte Bobcat fans know all is not lost. There is still time to find a way to draft Anthony Davis. All it will take is Michael Jordan convincing the New Orleans Hornets it is more in the Bobcats interest to draft Anthony Davis than it is in the Hornets' interest to draft him. That doesn't sound so hard does it? Many times NBA teams will not draft a player because another team needs that player. We've seen this happen all of between zero and zero times. Anyway, Scoop Jackson thinks the Hornets don't need Anthony Davis. After all, they have Jason Smith. What else do they need?

Charlotte Bobcats GM Rich Cho sent out a message not long after his team lost the chance to nab Anthony Davis with the No. 1 pick in next month's NBA draft.

"The last time we picked No. 2 we got Durant," he said.

This is a really good point and why Bobcats fans need to step away from the ledge a little bit. Brad Beal has all the potential to be a franchise guy and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has the characteristics of a great all-around player. If Andre Drummond decides he likes basketball he could very well make a huge impact in the NBA. I'm going all "Jon Gruden" on this draft. I love it. There is life after Anthony Davis. Having said that, I think he should be the #1 overall pick. Any team that doesn't already have an established power forward and center should choose Davis. He's not a guaranteed franchise guy, but he is still developing and has incredible instincts on the basketball court.

But this time, the No. 2 pick isn't going to help his squad the way Kevin Durant did in 2007 when Cho was assistant GM of the Sonics.

I disagree. I think Kidd-Gilchrist or Beal can be franchise guys. What's so funny is Scoop Jackson tells us the #2 pick isn't going to help the Bobcats squad like Durant helped the Sonics, yet he believes Kidd-Gilchrist could easily be the #1 overall pick. It seems weird Scoop thinks Kidd-Gilchrist couldn't help the Bobcats, but he also thinks he is worth the #1 overall pick. The Bobcats aren't that strong at the wing position to where they could pass up a franchise-type player who plays SG/SF. So I think taking Beal/Kidd-Gilchrist would be advisable.

Unless Cho's boss, Bobcats owner Michael Jordan, can convince the New Orleans Hornets that Davis is not the answer to their drama.

(moving a medallion back in forth like a pendulum in front of Dell Demps' face) "You are getting very sleepy. You do not want to draft Anthony Davis. He is young, skinny and not the answer to your problems. You want to draft Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and then trade for D.J. Augustin."

Like that's really going to happen. We all know the chances of hearing those words come out of David Stern's mouth are as likely as the chances were of hearing RG3's name come out of Roger Goodell's mouth after "Indianapolis Colts" a month ago.

It's so unlikely Scoop Jackson just had to write an entire column about what a good idea this seems to be.

But as crazy as it sounds, for the Hornets, Kidd-Gilchrist is the right pick.

As much as I like Kidd-Gilchrist, I don't believe this to be true. Anthony Davis provides defense and shot-blocking ability that can positively affect the entire team's defense. A center who can block shots makes defense easier for the entire rest of the team.

There's a gaunt line between a need and a want. Missing in all of the post-lottery uproar of league conspiracies concerning the top of the draft order is that teams are sometimes forced to choose between the two.

Anthony Davis is a need and a want. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (I prefer Brad Beal to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) is a need and a want. Though it has sometimes bit teams in the ass to do this (and sometimes it hasn't), the tall and talented guy wins out.

This year that player is Davis, the NBA's can't-miss version of Andrew Luck. But the Hornets don't need him. He's a want, a desire.

The Hornets don't need Davis? They were tied for 20th in blocked shots this year and 24th in rebounds per game. Yes, they were 12th in rebounding differential, but more rebounding and blocked shots never hurt a team. Scoop wrote this before the Hornets traded Emeka Okafor to the Wizards, but they still needed Anthony Davis before they made this trade.

How the hell is Anthony Davis a want and not a need when the Hornets frontcourt consisted of:

Emeka Okafor
Jason Smith
Gustavo Ayon
Lance Thomas
Darryl Watkins

Yes, the Hornets could re-sign Carl Landry and/or Chris Kaman, but does this look like a frontcourt that could use Anthony Davis? I think so. It's not that the Hornets DON'T need Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but they could sign restricted free agent Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Amiu is slowly learning to score in the NBA, and Jarrett Jack can also provide scoring. Some of the scoring issues for the Hornets arose last year because Gordon was out for most of this season. The Hornets also have the #10 overall pick, so it will be easier to find a scorer in that spot than it will be to find a guy like Anthony Davis. In short, they should pick Anthony Davis because he is a need and a want.

The Bobcats, on the other hand, and with almost desperate severity, need Davis.

Charlotte was tied for 5th in the NBA in blocks, 29th in rebounding, and 29th in rebounding differential. They definitely do need Anthony Davis, but I'm pretty sure the Hornets won't hold off on drafting him because the Bobcats really, really need him.

Not because they finished with the worst winning percentage in NBA history, but simply because no other player in the draft balances their roster like he would. No other player in the draft comes close to completing them.

Unfortunately for the Bobcats, Anthony Davis also fits the New Orleans Hornets roster.

Charlotte already has three players who can legitimately score at three different positions: D.J. Augustin at the point, Gerald Henderson at small forward and Kemba Walker off the bench.

Well they definitely don't need a franchise-type scorer and defender like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist then. They already have D.J. Augustin and Gerald Henderson. There's absolutely no need for either Beal or Kidd-Gilchrist to play the small forward position, no matter how good they may end up being in the NBA. Who even needs a small forward when you have D.J. Augustin on your roster?

The Bobcats' problem -- well, there are many, but for the sake of this column we'll just focus on one or two -- is that they can't stop other teams from scoring. Plus, they don't have one player who can make it difficult for opponents to score.

So why don't the Hornets just not draft Anthony Davis so the Bobcats can? It's just common courtesy.

Davis would change that for Charlotte. Immediately. No disrespect, but an upgrade from Bismack Biyombo in the middle is urgently necessary.

No disrespect to you but Bismack Biyombo is 20 years old and is a natural power forward. Let's not call him out since he's been playing organized basketball for a few years and had to play out of position this entire year because Michael Jordan is such a kick-ass owner.

With three centers and a 7-foot starting power forward (Jason Smith), the Hornets don't lack at Davis' position

Yes, but the three centers were Emeka Okafor, Darryl Watkins and Gustavo Ayon. If the Hornets didn't select Anthony Davis because they already have any of these players then Dell Demps should be fired immediately. You don't pass on Anthony Davis because you already have Jason least not if you expect to keep your job.

If they draft Davis, they'll have to make some deals or begin cutting players to make room.

The Hornets have already started doing this and it is a good thing. As painful as that may be, I'm pretty sure the Hornets could play Ayon at power forward and somehow manage to get the audacity to cut Darryl Watkins. I know keeping Darryl Watkins is a high priority and all, but I think to make room for Anthony Davis you cut some of the players that led the Hornets to the fourth worst record in the NBA during the 2011-2012 season.

If I'm Michael Jordan, this is what I'm selling.

If I'm Dell Demps, that's not what I'm buying. Let's see how this conversation would go...

(The phone rings and Dell Demps picks it up)

(Michael Jordan's voice in the background) "Oh shit, I just missed that putt! Here is the $10,000 I owe you! Double or nothing?"

(Dell Demps) "Hello? Anyone there?"

(Michael Jordan starts speaking) "Hold your horses, man. I'm getting to you."

(Dell Demps) "Is there anything I can do for you? You called me."

(Michael Jordan is yelling in the background at a golf cart girl who offered him Powerade over Gatorade) "You stupid excuse for a woman. I should have you banned from working at this course. Don't you know I'm a Gatorade man? You should know everything about me because I am so important."

(Dell Demps hangs up out of frustration...two hours later his phone rings again) "Hello?"

(Michael Jordan) "You hung up on me earlier. I hate you. Hey, don't draft Anthony Davis. We want him. Do this for me."

(Dell Demps) "I'm pretty sure we are drafting Davis. Why would I not draft him?"

(Michael Jordan) "Because Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a better player. Plus you already have Jason Smith and three other centers on your rost---"

(Dell Demps begins laughing insanely to the point he begins choking and then hangs up the phone)

Not getting the No. 1 pick wouldn't bother me as much as not getting a shot at getting Anthony Davis.

Yes, but getting the #1 overall pick is the same thing as getting Anthony Davis. You get the #1 overall pick, you get Anthony Davis.

If I'm New Orleans -- and if it's the gospel Jordan is speaking -- I'm listening.

Well, there is a reason you aren't an NBA General Manager then.

Because contrary to what everyone else is saying, Davis is not the Hornets' answer, not in the way a player like MKG would be.

Really? I'd love to hear the logic behind this. I could agree with this if I heard good, informed logic behind this statement.

(Spoiler alert: There isn't good logic behind this statement.)

If the Hornets are serious about building a team that will make the playoffs in the near future, they need offense now at a position where they don't have anyone to score.

The Hornets could have Eric Gordon, the team's leading scorer last year, and a guy who could end up being a really nice #2 option on a playoff team. The Hornets could re-sign him, plus they could decide to draft a scorer with the #10 pick in the upcoming draft. I can think of a few guys that would fit the bill in that spot. So the Hornets really, really need some scoring, but drafting Anthony Davis will have a positive net effect on the defense, which in turn could help the offense. A full season of Eric Gordon and the #10 draft pick could also help the offense., so I'm not quite as concerned about the offense as Scoop Jackson seems to be. Besides, no one said the Hornets were going to turn it all around in one season. They draft a defensive presence this year and worry about offense at a later date.

They need explosiveness, not a defensive presence who is going to need time to find himself offensively.

I really think Eric Gordon can be this guy for explosiveness. My opinion is that it's easier to find a guy who can score than to find a defensive presence in the paint. A guy like Anthony Davis who can block shots helps to erase mistakes by the perimeter defense and helps to turn defense into offense.

They need a player who in the next few years might be the next Paul Pierce, not someone who before his career is over could the the next Tim Duncan.

Read that sentence again.

You've read it again now? Great. Scoop Jackson says the Hornets need a guy like Paul Pierce, not Tim Duncan. Mind you, Tim Duncan has four NBA titles to Paul Pierce's one NBA title. Also, please remember that Tim Duncan is in the running to be the best power forward to ever play in the NBA. I love Paul Pierce, but come on, every team needs a player who before his career is over could be the next Tim Duncan.

Notice how under Scoop's logic the Spurs would have never drafted Duncan because they already had David Robinson on the roster? It seems managing to make room for Duncan worked out for the Spurs, huh?

I think if you have the choice between the next Tim Duncan and the next Paul Pierce you really don't have bad options. Either way, saying Davis could be the next Tim Duncan is terrible reasoning for not drafting him. That sounds like great reasoning TO draft Anthony Davis.

That's going to be a hard, almost impossible sell with all the hyping of Davis' uniqueness and upside. Even for a team with a roster full of players at his position, what Davis brings may be worth clearing a table already set.

Yes, but Jordan just needs to tell the Hornets HE wants Anthony Davis and provide all the previous information that Scoop has provided. I'm sure Dell Demps will understand and let the Bobcats have a shot at drafting Davis.

Jordan needs to go deep, take the Hornets through his own personal history. Remind them of what happened in 1984 when a team with a higher pick (Portland) chose another great big man from Kentucky (Sam Bowie) and passed on a special shooting guard. (And then Jordan can have Cho follow that up and remind them about the Greg Oden-Durant outcome.)

Maybe Dell Demps can remind Jordan what happened when the Magic selected Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor, David Robinson over Armen Gilliam, Tim Duncan over Keith Van Horn. I know these aren't directly analogous situations to the Jordan/Bowie or Oden/Durant decisions, but Davis hasn't had any injuries in college close to what Bowie and Oden had in college. Oden and Bowie had injuries in college, which weren't definite red flags necessarily, but showed in retrospect they could have injury issues that would affect their ability to play in the NBA. Anthony Davis has no such injury issues.

Jordan needs to remind the Hornets that only twice since he won his first NBA championship ring have there been teams (2004 Detroit Pistons and 2008 Boston Celtics) that won NBA championships without a player on the roster averaging 20 points.

So the key is to find a guy who can score 20 points in a game and a team has a shot to win an NBA title? You know what else these Pistons and Celtics teams had? Great defense supported by a power forward/center who could rebound and block shots. Anthony Davis seems to fit this description.

He needs to then fly to New Orleans, show them the six rings he collected and enlighten them how he did that without having a "can't-miss" center on any one of those teams.

Then the Hornets can remind Michael Jordan he didn't need a "can't-miss" center on any of those teams because he is the greatest basketball players of all-time. Then the the Hornets can remind Jordan the teams since 1990 that have won the NBA Title without an elite or Hall of Fame center are the 1990 Pistons, the Jordan-era Bulls, 2004 Pistons, and 2011 Mavericks. Take away the Jordan-era Bulls and 12 of the last 15 NBA Champions had an elite or Hall of Fame center. So as important as a 20 ppg scorer seems to be, an elite center is important as well.

So before you dismiss this and never read another one of my columns, remember that crazier things have happened. In 1993, the Orlando Magic traded the No. 1 overall pick, Chris Webber, to the Golden State Warriors for the No. 3 pick, Penny Hardaway, and three future first-round picks.

Yes, and how did that work out for the Magic? Think the Magic would have enjoyed Webber and Shaq playing beside each other rather than enjoying a few seasons of a healthy Penny Hardaway? I would venture to say they would like to have this trade back.

It comes down to how desperate/serious the Bobcats are in pursuing a dream. Does Jordan have enough Bishop Juan skill as an owner to persuade Hornets owner Tom Benson that Davis is not in his team's best interest?

Probably not. I don't think giving up a boatload of picks for Davis would be beneficial to Jordan either. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Brad Beal will be a really good player. I'd take Beal if I am Jordan.

Can the Hornets be persuaded to believe that MKG's career could at some point during the length of his rookie contract begin to replicate the original AD: Adrian Dantley?

It's possible they could be persuaded of this. Of course the Hornets could also be persuaded Anthony Davis could be another Tim Duncan and draft him #1 overall. As much as Scoop Jackson seems to think this is a bad thing, I don't see it that way.

The Bobcats' need has to supersede the Hornets' want.

Again, this is a need for the Hornets also. Maybe not as big of a need as the Bobcats have, but a need nonetheless. Also, the Hornets don't give a shit what the Bobcats' need is. The Hornets have to do what is wrong for their team.

There's a saying in the NBA when it comes to the draft: Always take the best player available. That player might not be Anthony Davis.

It might not be. Of course Davis may be the best player available. Either way, when the Hornets have the chance to draft a player with Davis' potential, whether he is a need or a want, I think they have to draft him. Re-sign Eric Gordon as the required 20 point scorer and draft a scoring-type guy with the 10th pick. I'm not sure Michael Jordan is good enough to convince Dell Demps to pass over Anthony Davis.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

4 comments Rick Telander is Not Taking the Rudy Jaramillo Firing Well, Seems Confused about the Idea of Rebuilding

The Chicago Cubs, the one MLB team who have the potential to gain more annoying bandwagon fans than even the Red Sox have if/when they win a World Series, are rebuilding. The players know that, the Cubs fans know that, I know that, and the Cubs front office knows that. Rick Telander missed the memo. He is not taking the firing of Rudy Jaramillo very well. He takes the firing of Jaramillo as a sign the Cubs rebuilding process isn't going well. It seems Telander believes the rebuilding process should be over by now. It seems Telander thinks you rebuild in one offseason and then start winning pennants immediately. Theo Epstein said the firing of Jaramillo was about sending a message. Well, Rick Telander got the message and he hates the message that in order to rebuild there will be some turnover among the players and coaches.

Now we’re talking.

Remember the press release the Cubs sent out saying the firing of Jaramillo will fix all of their problems? You don't? That's probably because they didn't send out a press release saying firing Rudy Jaramillo would fix all of their problems. It's just one step in the process.

Fire the hitting coach!

He was in the last year of his contract, so perhaps the Cubs had no intentions of keeping him around after this year and wanted to try out someone else for the job. Firing the hitting coach is often a cheap scapegoat tactic teams use in order to explain why the lineup is hitting poorly. Other times it shows an organization wants a change in philosophy or approach to hitting on the major league level. In the case of Jaramillo, he is a holdover from the Jim Hendry era and was in the last year of his contract. The Cubs weren't hitting well and if he wasn't coming back, then why not see if James Rowson (the Cubs new hitting coach) is cut out for the job? He gets a three month tryout. If he doesn't work out, the Cubs can find another hitting coach who more closely fits the personality and approach they are looking their hitters to take at the plate.

The Cubs did just that, and you have to figure Rudy Jaramillo was personally responsible for 50 or so of the Cubs’ losses this season.

That's exactly what this move means! Rudy Jaramillo is directly to blame for all 40 losses. Anytime a coach gets fired it means he is the biggest and only problem in the organization. Rick Telander seems to have it all figure out doesn't he?

What’s that?

The bottom-feeding Cubs have only lost 40 games?

Well, whaddaya know.

So clearly having Rudy Jaramillo on staff as the hitting coach was working wonders for the Cubs since they have lost 40 games already.

The Cubs were 27th in runs, 21st in batting average, 27th in OBP, 23rd in slugging percentage, 27th in walks, and 15th in strikeouts.

The Cubs were 19th in runs, 13th in batting average, 20th in OBP, 15th in slugging percentage, 29th in walks, and 10th in strikeouts.

Mostly, this is the fault of the players, but these low numbers are also an indication that Jaramillo did not have the Cubs batters performing at a high level over the past year and a half. The Cubs wanted to go in a different direction. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially since the Cubs are currently so bad. I wouldn't understand the firing of Jaramillo if the Cubs hitting was a bright spot on the team.

Whatever, the Rudy-less Cubs should now go on a hitting and pitching and base-stealing and run-producing and towel-snapping tear that will rocket them into —dare we say it? — 28th place.

Regardless, the Cubs wanted a change in hitting philosophy to go along with the other changes the organization has made. Theo Epstein probably wanted to know if he should bring in his own guy after this season or Rowson could do the job. Jaramillo didn't have much to work with, but any person in his/her right mind knows Jaramillo isn't being scapegoated.

With the great news that the Cubs just signed 20-year-old Cuban power-hitting outfielder Jorge Soler — and he might be ready for the big leagues in two or three years — why shouldn’t we all be dancing and singing about the World Series?

How dare the Cubs make a rebuilding plan that takes more than three months! Why do they insist on signing players that aren't ready to play in the majors immediately and seem to want to develop young players? Why can't the Cubs make more brilliant signings like that stud outfielder Kosuke Fukudome was? Now that was a brilliant signing that didn't rely on "potential" or cause the organization to bother with that pesky idea of developing players. The road to success in baseball is paved with quick fixes. Who needs player development anyway?

If the Cubs were your doctor, and you were suffering from, oh, let’s say, hemorrhoids, Theo Epstein (MD) would have just removed a wart from your neck and promised you some Preparation H in 2014.

Or if the Cubs were your doctor and you were suffering from cancer, the doctor would prescribe a treatment that would at first weaken you, but would hopefully take care of the cancer over the long-term.

Maybe Jaramillo, whose reputation was among the best in baseball, was too old.

Or he simply wasn't helping the Cubs hitters hit the baseball better.

Clearly, he wasn’t making the Cubs — who are 10th or worse in the 16-team National League in on-base percentage, runs scored and batting average — into hitters.

Clearly, his inability to help the Cubs batters hit the baseball better is a reason not to freak out about Jaramillo's departure as the Cubs hitting coach.

Maybe he just forgot all those details he knew when he was with the Texas Rangers for 15 years and had them leading the American League in batting average three times.

So Jaramillo gets credited for the performance of the Rangers batters during much of the Steroid Era (Palmeiro, A-Rod, Juan Gonzalez), many of whom were proven steroid users, but he shouldn't take the blame for the Cubs bad hitting? If his team hits well, it is because of Jaramillo and his influence, but if they hit poorly it is because the players on his team are poor hitters?

Maybe it’s the weak-hitting Cubs pitchers. Maybe it was all done with smoke — and ’roids — with the Rangers.

That's quite possible the great hitting those Rangers showed was because the Rangers had quite a few proven steroid users on some of those Rudy Jamarillo-coached teams. It's also quite possible Jaramillo helped these guys become better hitters when he was with the Rangers. It could also be a combination of both. Mostly, Jaramillo's record with the Rangers in the past is irrelevant because he was the hitting coach for the Cubs in the present and the Cubs hitters weren't hitting well.

Except, boy, this smells like a red herring to me. Or maybe it’s a sacrificial goat. Possibly it’s a stinky sleeping potion.

When a team is rebuilding, tough decisions like this have to be made. It isn't much of a rebuilding process if there isn't turnover among the coaches and players. If the coaches, players, and farm system were worth a shit there wouldn't be a need to rebuild the team.

Because if Cubs fans are supposed to simply sit back and doze while owner Tom Ricketts and architect Epstein and all the boy geniuses who are supposed to turn Wrigley Field into Boston Midwest do their thing a few years ‘‘down the road,’’ then why even field a team now?

This is a moronic statement. You field a team now because there is no other way to know which players and coaches need to stay around "down the road." That is, unless Rick Telander knows of a way to evaluate baseball players and coaches without the benefit of seeing their performance during baseball games. These players aren't computers you know, they are actually have to go out there and perform on the field. You can't only use computers to judge the players you Sabermetrician asshole!

I realize Rick Telander is being sarcastic when he makes this statement, but if he doesn't understand how a team may have to take a step back when rebuilding in order to get where the team wants/needs to be then he probably shouldn't be covering sports anymore. Cubs fans aren't supposed to sit back and doze while the team is rebuilding. They are supposed to cheer for the Cubs and enjoy the progress the team makes.

The payroll is going down, the talent is going down further and a team that was predicted to be bad is worse than anyone knew.

The Cubs weren't very good when the payroll was high. So it is a sign of progress the payroll is going down. That mean the expensive, underachieving players are coming off the payroll and roster. A high payroll isn't always a good thing, especially when that team hasn't performed at a high level for the past few years. A declining payroll can be seen as the road to success for a team like the Cubs.

In what other business could you get away with this?

Cutting payroll in order to make room for lower or equally paid, higher performing talent? I would say in pretty much every other business you could get away with this, especially in sports. Teams will often cut payroll in an effort to make financial and roster room for younger and better players.

How would you like to be Dale Sveum?

Obviously, he’s not a great manager,

And why do I have a feeling Rick Telander would object if Sveum, the "not great manager," got fired by the Cubs? Rick Telander thinks the Cubs need to rebuild without actually making any significant changes to the team.

The Cubs are on pace to be not just pitiful, but the worst ever. No Cubs team has ever lost 104 games in a season. This version is on pace to lose 108.

Yep, the Cubs are terrible this year. Little known fact: A team's record starts over at beginning of each season. If the rebuilding plan is strong then the Cubs should start seeing results in the next 1-2 years. That seems like 6-18 more months than Telander wants to wait to see results. Maybe the whole plan sucks. We won't know for another year or so. Firing Rudy Jaramillo may not make a difference at all, but having him as the hitting coach certainly wasn't preventing the Cubs from losing games.

Is this what Mrs. Sveum had in mind for Dale when she birthed him 48 years ago in California, watching him become an All-America high school quarterback, then a respected major-leaguer?


What does this have to do with anything?

You can really have fun as a boss when you tell your customers that, sure, the steak is rotten and the wine tastes like radiator fluid and the silverware is plastic-ware because it’s gonna get better. Keep paying full price, folks, because once we get the cockroaches and tapeworms out of here, you’ll be amazed!

This is how rebuilding works. Things are shitty and then things (hopefully) eventually get better. Theo Epstein chose not to rebuild on the fly, so he tried to tear it all down before rebuilding again.

Would you put up with this nonsense if Epstein and Co. were anybody else?

He has a history of success. This is like asking if I would put up with an NBA player putting up 30 shots in a game if he wasn't Kevin Durant. Epstein isn't the best General Manager in baseball, but he has a history of achieving success. Give him a chance to do it, and if he fails, laugh in his face. Just give him longer than 60 games to see results.

Then there’s this, dark as it may be: If the Cubs can descend to the bottom without fans revolting, then imagine the genius of the execs who make the Cubs good after ruining them.

This is how the Cubs are choosing to rebuild. They are cutting costs, and yes, cutting talent in order to achieve a long-term goal of putting together a consistently winning team. NFL teams do this all the time. They cut expensive players in order to gain more cap room, draft well and sign the correct free agents. I know the process is painful in baseball because the season is so long, but why is this a bad thing? Epstein sees ruining the Cubs in the short-term as improving them in the long-term.

The Cubs might win 30 more games next year than this.

If the Cubs win 40 games this year then 70 wins next year could be seen as progress. Why would this be a bad thing?

And you know what, just-promoted interim hitting coach James Rowson, 35, might be the answer to it all.

You pay your money, and you gotta believe.

Last question: Right?

Well, we know one thing...Rudy Jaramillo wasn't the answer as the hitting coach. I don't think Rick Telander gets the idea of rebuilding. Sure, the Cubs are doing the extreme edition of rebuilding. It may work or it may not work. It takes more than six months to know for sure. Have patience and quit freaking out when the Cubs make the changes necessary to put a winning team on the field.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

4 comments Drew Sharp Says LeBron Didn't Take the Easy Path to the NBA Finals Because the 1992 Dream Team Exists

There isn't necessarily an "easy" path to an NBA Title. There are certainly paths that are easier than others. If Kevin Garnett had demanded a trade to the New York Knicks instead of agreeing to a trade to the Boston Celtics in 2007 then that certainly would not have been an easier path to an NBA Title than joining the Celtics ended up being for Garnett. So theoretically you could accuse him of taking the easy path to an NBA Title. It's all relative though. LeBron James didn't take the "easy" path to an NBA Title, but he certainly laid the groundwork to improve his chances of achieving an NBA Title by joining Wade and Bosh on the Miami Heat team. Drew Sharp says LeBron James didn't take the easy path because of the 1992 Dream Team and how it was put together by USA Basketball for the purposes of dominating national competition. It doesn't really make sense to me either.

The most ridiculous complaint among the chronic LeBron James whiners is that he took "the easy way" to serious NBA championship contention.

So was LeBron's previous NBA Finals appearance with the Cavs not serious NBA championship contention? Perhaps LeBron and the Cavs appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals in 2008-2009 doesn't count as serious NBA championship contention either.

This has been "easy"?

"Easy" isn't the best word for it necessarily. The Miami Heat have made two NBA Finals in the first two seasons LeBron has played for them. It hasn't been easy, mostly due to the difficulty with fitting LeBron/Wade/Bosh together and the public hatred towards "The Decision," but success has certainly happened for LeBron upon joining the Heat. So LeBron's path to an NBA Title over the past two years has been easier than other player's path to an NBA Title. Two NBA Finals in two years tells me LeBron's intentions to join the Heat in order to win an NBA title is probably going to work.

James doesn't merit much sympathy or compassion because he willingly placed a bulls-eye on himself, first crowning himself king before he even won a ring and then masterminding the assemblage of a proposed super team on South Beach.

I always love it when a writer acknowledges the opposing viewpoint and doesn't do anything to discredit this view. Part of a successful persuasive writing paper is discrediting or disproving the other viewpoint in order to show why your point of view is correct. Drew Sharp acknowledges the opposing viewpoint, but doesn't disprove or discredit it, then says something like, "Sure LeBron James shouldn't get any sympathy for his current situation because he put himself in that situation." He then proceeds to write the rest of the column explaining why LeBron is being overly-criticized and this should not be be happening, even though he acknowledges LeBron brought a lot of this criticism upon himself.

But the volume of animosity directed at him and the Miami Heat for their hubris reeks of hypocrisy.

I'm guessing Drew Sharp was on his couch Sunday night eating Cheez-Its and flipping between the Tony Awards and a Bravo reality television show when he suddenly remembered the 1992 Dream Team special was coming on the NBA Network this Wednesday. Suddenly a light bulb went off in his head and Drew Sharp thought, "Everyone who is criticizing LeBron for putting together a great team are hypocrites for cheering for the 1992 Dream Team." Then without even closing his box of Cheez-Its or giving this theory a further thought, Drew Sharp began writing this column as the sweet voice of Neil Patrick Harris entertaining the audience with antics and show tunes played in the background.

I suppose those same people who cry that the Heat violated some code of competitive ethics by amassing as many excellent basketball players as possible and unabashedly boasting about it will greet the 20th anniversary of the original Olympic Dream Team this summer with equal disdain.

Absolutely not. These are not comparable teams. The 1992 Dream Team was assembled for the Olympics. Any time there is an Olympic team formed by a country it (usually) features the best players from that sport. So by any measure of calculation, any hockey, baseball, basketball or soccer team will be a combination of the best players in that sport from a certain country. FIBA opened the Olympics up to professional basketball players in 1989. Every country could now use professional players and as a result the best team of all-time was formed. The members of the Dream Team had no choice to join another Olympic team. I don't believe any of the players on the Dream Team had duel citizenship, so therefore they had to play for Team USA if they wanted to play in the 1992 Olympic games. LeBron had a choice in deciding which NBA team to join.

Essentially what I am saying is the Heat and the 1992 Summer Olympics Basketball team are not comparable. Both teams had different goals and both teams were assembled for completely different reasons. By definition, an Olympic team will be the very best players in a given sport from a least this team will contain the very best players who want to play in the Olympics. This definition isn't true for an NBA team. If John Stockton wanted to play in the 1992 Olympic games, he had to play for Team USA. LeBron, Bosh and Wade had options about which team to play for when they became free agents.

After all, the concept of the "super team" and the bravado it wrought was born during the 1992 Barcelona Games.

So the idea of combining Bosh/Wade/James was born in 1992 with the Dream Team? In actuality this idea was born during the 2008 Olympics or probably well before that. Every other country could use professional players as well, so it isn't like the United States was cheating. FIBA essentially gave permission for the United States and USA Basketball to use NBA stars. There was no bravado involved, unless Drew Sharp considers national pride to be bravado.

The NBA descendants of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Karl Malone are only following their lead.

Of course, not ironically Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Karl Malone played for the same team for the vast majority of their NBA careers. Malone didn't leave Utah to chase a ring until he was past his prime and both Jordan and Johnson retired and then came back to the exact same team they played for previously. Compare that to LeBron James and him specifically signing a contract with the Heat that would allow him to be a free agent at the same time Wade and Bosh are. I just thought this was an interesting point to bring up.

Now, that was taking "the easy way" 20 years ago.

No, that was obeying the new rules FIBA had set out. Sure, USA Basketball could have not allowed professionals to play, but the 1992 Dream Team roster wanted to play. Because they wanted to play, and could play according to FIBA, they had to join Team USA.

USA Basketball opted against the long-standing conventional approach of taking the nation's best college players because it had grown outdated and less reliable against gradually improving foreign professional players.

This is a lie. USA Basketball opted against taking the nation's best college players because FIBA changed the rules and other countries would be including professional players on the the NBA players wanted to join the Olympic team. What Drew Sharp intentionally leaves out is using college players had become outdated simply because professionals could now participate. This concept wasn't outdated only because the United States didn't win the gold medal in men's basketball in 1988. The concept was outdated because the rules were changed.

USA Basketball needed an alternative for accelerating America's return to uncontested world basketball dominance.

Hmmm, that strategy sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Not really. Other than good players joining up on the same team, I fail to see a tight connection between the Heat and the 1992 Dream Team. I could see the connection if members of the Dream Team who had duel citizenship had chosen to have a press conference and the reveal which country they would play for. I would see a good connection in that case, but that didn't happen. Professionals could play in the Olympics and Bird/Jordan/Magic had no choice but to join the American team if they wanted to play in the 1992 Olympics.

It spawned higher than normal Olympic TV ratings even though the games generally lacked any compelling drama.

The same is true with LeBron and the Heat.

What? The Heat playoff games lack any compelling drama? This is so far removed from the truth it becomes obvious Drew Sharp has no interest in approaching this subject honestly.

Had they lost Game 7 on Saturday night, the NBA season would've officially concluded before the NBA Finals. Nobody would've cared about a Boston-Oklahoma City championship series because of the all-consuming level of emotional involvement with the Heat,

Yes, "nobody" would have cared about a Boston-Oklahoma City NBA Finals. ESPN hardly pays attention to teams from Boston and God knows Kevin Durant isn't one of the three best basketball players on the planet. I'm sure there wouldn't have been storylines for this series about the young Thunder taking on the old Celtics or any discussion about two of the best point guards in the NBA squaring off against each other. "Nobody" would have watched this series.

Anything that involves him immediately attracts our attention and in most cases, our ire.

I'm pretty sure this entire column is directed at Skip Bayless.

When James walked off the floor after Orlando eliminated Cleveland from the playoffs in 2009 without shaking Dwight Howard's hand, it turned into a national firestorm for several days. He became the Spoiled One. Where's the outrage today over Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo blowing off the postgame congratulations Saturday night after the two finest consecutive playoff performances James ever delivered?

This is a valid point. My answer would be that we expect Rondo and Garnett to be dicks about losing. So the expectation for good sportsmanship from one/both of these players is a little bit lower compared to the expectations for James. It is true that James means ratings, but simply because James means ratings doesn't mean a Celtics-Thunder series would not have drawn ratings.

The Thunder's Kevin Durant stands at the threshold of becoming the most popular player in the NBA.

Which is another reason why ratings for a Thunder-Celtics NBA Finals would still have been very high.

Not because he could win his first NBA title, but rather because he would step over another LeBron Finals corpse to get to it.

The media, and yes that is who I am blaming for this issue yet again, has created the narrative that Kevin Durant loves his mom, loves video games, doesn't want to be a huge star, doesn't have tattoos (which is not true), and is just an All-American boy who has no ego. The media has created the narrative that LeBron James loves his mom but still lets his teammates have sex with her, travels with an entourage everywhere he goes (which is true), craves to be the king of all things basketball and non-basketball, and is the perfect example of the modern ego-driven and spoiled star. Durant made a quiet deal about signing an extension with the Thunder and James made a big deal about signing with the Heat and leaving Cleveland. The narrative created by the media is wrapped around these perceptions and facts.

The personal hate for the guy is downright childish.

Don't blame us. Blame the 1992 Dream Team. They created this mess.

I'll couch this by adding "as far as we know," there have been no public episodes of belligerence involving LeBron. No obsessions with porn stars and diner waitresses. No nightclub soirees with a loaded, unlocked automatic pistol slipping out of his underwear. No DUIs. No drug busts. He got engaged to the mother of his children.

Again, Drew Sharp goes the "he's such a nice guy" route like Rick Reilly did. This is irrelevant to quite a few people. The issue many people seem to have with LeBron is related to "The Decision" and his performance on the court. Guys like Reilly and Sharp try to cloud the main issue people have with LeBron by pointing out what a nice guy he seems to be.

But he's evil because he's somehow taken the easy path.

No, people consider him evil because the way they think he took the easy path and what was perceived as general disregard for the Cleveland Cavaliers franchise.

At least now we know where he got that from.

Yep, he got it from the 1992 Olympic Men's Basketball team. They took the easy way out by playing for Team USA in those Olympics. I would like to know what the hard way would have been for the members of the 1992 Dream Team that wanted to play in the Olympics? None of the players had duel citizenship, so they couldn't have played for any other country. So the members of the Dream Team had the choice of playing for Team USA or not playing at all. NBA players were allowed to play in the Olympics so if the members of that 1992 Dream Team wanted to play in the Olympics they had to play for Team USA. They didn't take the easy path to a gold medal, they took the only path available to them.