Monday, February 24, 2014

4 comments Bill Simmons Writes about Steve Nash's Comeback Attempt, But Has to Make it Just a Little Bit About Himself Out of Habit

Bill Simmons and Grantland has done a pretty good series about Steve Nash and his attempts to come back from injury to play again in the NBA for the Lakers. The video is very well done and it's not hard to find yourself cheering for Nash to come back and be productive. Bill Simmons provides an introduction to the video in written form, and rather than give a brief introduction and let the video speak for itself, Bill writes 2600 words and just has to make it a little bit about himself. I'm not sure Bill understands how to write a column or even an introduction to a video without making it just a little bit about himself. He's under the impression everything is about him anyway. So watch the video, it's good, here's the overly-long introduction, which isn't so good.

2014: $9,300,500  
2015: $9,701,000
Steve Nash wears no. 10 for the Lakers, but it’s really 9.3. Next season, that turns into 9.7. Those are the numbers Lakers fans see. They see a walking cap figure.

You already know what I'm going to write here. Bill is speaking for Lakers fans, they only see Nash as a commodity because fans are only capable of viewing athletes in that way, blah, blah, blah...don't try to think you speak for the fans. Bill isn't going to stop doing this of course.

You can’t blame them for feeling that way.

I don't know if Lakers fans see it exactly this way, Nash as a walking cap figure, but they could see him as a guy who is expensive and isn't playing right now, yet a player who provides a lot of value if/when he makes it back to be productive. 

Adam Silver once told me his league had evolved into a 10-month sport: from preseason (October) all the way through free agency and summer league (end of July).

This is your reminder that Bill Simmons has talked to Adam Silver before.

It’s a nonstop frenzy of mock drafts, calculated leaks, fake trades, unsubstantiated rumors, misleading tweets and hopeful executives knocking on front doors at 12:01 a.m., with everything feeding off the collective sophistication of the fans.

Not that Bill is off topic or anything right now, but Steve Nash's attempted comeback has very little to do with the sophistication of the fans or how long the NBA season really lasts. But again, Bill has talked to Adam Silver. This is important to know.

Believe me, we didn’t always inhale summer that way.

Yes I know, I wasn't born just a few years ago and have memory recall that goes back further than the year 2000. For some reason, Bill feels the need to educate his readers on what the NBA used to be like, as if his readers are mouth-breathing morons who aren't capable of understanding the sophistication of the game without him spoon-feeding it to his readers. It's ironic, given that Bill calls the fans collectively sophisticated yet seems to want his readers to "believe me" the game wasn't always a nonstop frenzy. The collective sophistication of the fans must stop when it comes to remembering what the NBA was like 10-15 years ago.

Right after hired me in 2001, I wrote a column handing out Boogie Nights quotes as “awards” for the NBA’s best and worst offseason signings. I didn’t have a feel for ESPN’s readers yet.

Will this piece go over people’s heads? Is there too much salary stuff in here? Do people care? Is this too nerdy? How many readers actually give a crap?

Thirteen years later, that piece reads as if I deliberately dumbed it down.

So to summarize Steve Nash's attempted comeback attempt so far:

1. The NBA is a 10-month sport now, because Adam Silver told Bill this.

2. Bill wants us to know it wasn't always that way.

3. Here is a link to a column that Bill wrote and here are Bill's thoughts at the time about the column.

4. Bill didn't think his fans were that smart and dumbed the article down.

It certainly appears so far that Steve Nash's comeback attempt is mostly about Bill Simmons and his thoughts 13 years ago about the NBA. I'm surprised Nash even got camera time in the accompanying video.

I don’t remember cap figures mattering for me until 1994, when I came to the horrifying realization that I understood the cap better than my beloved Celtics did.

"I, I, I, me, me, me. Let's talk about my favorite NBA team and how I'm smarter than they were in 1994. Me, me, me, I, I, I."

As if Bill Simmons couldn't write an introduction to a Steve Nash comeback video, that's right it's not even supposed to be an entire column but an introduction to a video about an NBA player's comeback attempt, without talking about the Boston Celtics. There's absolutely no reason for Bill to talk about one of his old columns, there's absolutely no reason to talk about the Celtics, and there is no absolutely no reason to talk about whether Bill was smarter than the Celtics front office in 1994. Yet, Bill can't write anything without either (a) making it about him in some way or (b) shoehorning in a brief discussion about his favorite teams. The world revolves around Bill and his past/present thoughts. Look no further than this introduction accompanying a video about a non-Celtics player comeback efforts to see this as a true.

That summer, we were already saddled with Sherman Douglas’s never-ending contract,

"We" huh? I didn't realize Bill played for the Celtics team in 1994.

(Checks Celtics 1994-1995 roster and doesn't see Bill on the roster)

Xavier McDaniel’s expiring toilet-clogger and two more years of the late Reggie Lewis’s expensive salary.

Again, if you can find the correlation between Steve Nash preparing a comeback attempt and the cap situation of the 1994 Celtics then you are a better person than me. You also probably are a big, big Bill Simmons fan.

Why did Reggie stay on Boston’s cap after he tragically passed away in 1993? Two words: David Stern. One of many reasons I didn’t write a “Farewell, David” column. 

You screwed over the Celtics, David Stern! Bill Simmons never forgets and this is one more reason Celtics fans are just so tortured and downtrodden. The team isn't on pace to make the NBA Playoffs this year. Has an NBA team never not made the playoffs in such tortured fashion? If Bill wrote columns still then he would write 10,000 words about how the Celtics 13-14 season is the most tortured season of any non-playoff team ever.

That didn’t stop our bumbling general manager, M.L. Carr, from splurging close to $40 million on Dee Brown, Pervis Ellison and an aging Dominique Wilkins. Suddenly 80 percent of our cap was earmarked for two washed-up stars, a fat point guard, a guard without a position, a center who never played and someone who wasn’t alive. We had no way to improve — no real assets, no future stars, nothing. We were trapped under .500 for years.

I can't imagine how Bill survived this period. Most likely he just did what he has done with the Bruins and Red Sox when those two teams haven't been very good. He made an excuse about how he's a "widow" and then stated he didn't like these teams because "they weren't very fun to watch." What this really means is "I only pay attention to my favorite teams if they are winning games."

To nobody’s surprise, the ’95 Celtics lost 47 games before getting bounced by Orlando in Round 1.

I'm sorry, Round 1 of what? Round 1 of the NBA Non-Playoff Teams Playoffs? That's right, the season that Bill is complaining about the Celtics made the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference. So there were six teams in the Eastern Conference who were worse than the Celtics. Granted, the Celtics were bad for a period of time after this season, but the season Bill is complaining about the Celtics made the playoffs.

I stopped for gas, bought a Sunday Globe and flipped to the sports section. Unbelievably, improbably, incredibly, Wilkins was reportedly ditching Boston to play in Greece. And I’m in the middle of nowhere, holding a gasoline nozzle with one hand and the newspaper with the other, and I’m yelling, “YES! YES! YES!!!!! CAP SPACE!!!!!”

This is a true story. I believe it. Hey, remember when this introduction was about Steve Nash's retirement? Well, it's not really. This introduction to a video about Steve Nash is really about Bill Simmons' need to bitch about a Celtics team from 20 years ago. Not that Bill makes everything about him, because he would never do that. 

Just a few weeks later, M.L. squandered that miracle by gift-wrapping Dana Barros $20.8 million over six stupefying years. Overpaying a 5-foot-9 point guard when we already had Douglas, Brown AND David Wesley?

M.L. eventually solved that glut by dealing Fat Sherm for Todd Day, a.k.a. The Least Likable Celtic of All Time. Not even one of M.L.’s five worst moves. 

So Bill has bitched that Sherman Douglas was on the Celtics team and now he is bitching that Douglas got traded. Also, Todd Day was better than Sherman Douglas, no matter whether Bill found him likable or not. Likable doesn't have anything to do with it. But hey...Steve Nash...retirement...anyone?

And what about M.L. naming himself coach as well? Since the Internet hadn’t taken shape yet, I couldn’t vent about Bizarro Red Auerbach to anyone other than my father and my friends. I didn’t have a column or a podcast, I didn’t have a message board … shit, I didn’t have email. I wanted to climb Mount Washington, Balboa-style, stand at the top and scream, “M.L. CARR IS RUINING MY TEAM!!!!”

Bill was tortured that he didn't even have a forum to tell everyone how tortured he was. This is the worst thing that can happen. Bill was tortured by not being able to convey how tortured he had become.

So that’s when I started caring about cap figures.

I routinely criticize Bill for not just being able to say something. He has to describe how he feels rather than just stating the feeling he has. Bill tends to do this a lot when he shoehorns in a pop culture reference to state how something made him feel rather than just saying how he felt. The previous paragraphs are a cousin to this trend. Rather than just stating, "I paid attention to the salary cap during the 1994-1995 season when the Celtics made dumb moves and M.L. Carr screwed up the team's cap by signing Dana Barros," Bill has to go into an overly-long story and bring the focus back onto him and what he wanted to say. Bill Simmons doesn't know how to not make something about him.

I look at Gerald Wallace and think, $30.3 million through 2016. Knicks fans look at Amar’e Stoudemire and think, Off the cap summer after next. Phoenix fans see Emeka Okafor and think, $14.5 million, expiring, what can we get for him? Pistons fans look at Josh Smith and think, I have 54 million more reasons to handcuff Joe Dumars to a radiator in my basement.

And Lakers fans look at Steve Nash and think, 9.3 this year, 9.7 next year.

Actually, when comparing Nash's cap figure to Okafor, Wallace Stoudemire, and Josh Smith it doesn't seem as intimidating. Nash is owed $19 million over the next two seasons and if he is able to come back healthy then he could be worth this money. I can't read the minds of an entire fan base, so I'm sure because Bill sees Gerald Wallace as nothing but a cap figure then Lakers fans see Steve Nash as only a cap figure. After all, Bill speaks for fans everywhere.

It’s no different from how I thought of ’Nique at that Vermont gas station — when I didn’t care about his 25,389 career points or his dunking-in-traffic legacy. I only cared that ’Nique was in the way. And that’s how Lakers fans feel about Nash.

This might be true, but it's always dangerous to assume that your thoughts are the same thoughts shared by others. Somehow Bill has gotten away with doing this for almost 15 years now.

It’s a cruel finish for such a wonderful player. I never saw Cousy and Oscar, obviously. I only caught the tail end of Frazier and the second (and inferior) incarnation of Tiny. I caught everything Magic and everything Isiah; they’re 1-2 on the “Best Point Guards I Ever Watched” list.

"I, I, I, me, me, me."

Nash peaked on those “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns teams, when Phoenix built him a high-powered Formula One racing car — with Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and a rotating cast of 3-point bombers as the engine, and Mike D’Antoni as the lead mechanic — knowing that Nash and Nash alone could steer such a complicated vehicle.

Halfway through the column and finally there is a discussion about Steve Nash. We should feel lucky Bill mentioned Nash at all in his introduction to a video about Steve Nash. We could have gotten a season-by-season breakdown of the Celtics cap figures instead.

Maybe they never won a title, but Chris Connelly nailed it when he called them “critically acclaimed.” Not the worst legacy in the world.

Yet much like saying a player "Was the least likable" this ultimately means nothing. The Suns didn't even make an NBA Finals. They were fun to watch, which I'm pretty sure isn't Steve Nash's ultimate career goal that he wants to achieve.

When he battled nerve damage in his back last November, rumors stupidly swirled that Nash might retire. You know, because it’s so easy to walk away from 10 million bucks.

Bill knows Steve Nash, as he will make quite clear in the next paragraph so he probably really does know better than I do, but Nash has interests outside of basketball and he seems to be a very well-rounded individual. I can see him not playing again if his nerve damage was too much to handle and he wanted to focus on his other life aspirations. It's not easy to walk away from $10 million but Steve Nash isn't your typical athlete either.

Steve Nash? I thought he’d already arrived. I thought he was there. And then, one night … my phone rang.

It was him.

Oh, the drama!

Bill even tries to make Steve Nash's comeback attempt phone call about him in just a little way. And no, Bill still won't get to the point and has to relate his relationship with Steve Nash over the years before he gets to the point he discusses the first part of the Grantland "The Finish Line" video documentary.

I have known Steve Nash for nearly five years.

(Stands up and gives Bill an ovation while Bill jerks off to the sight of himself in the mirror)

We met by phone during the summer of 2009, when Nash needed a copilot for a potential book project. Teaming up for a modern-day version of Life on the Run or The Game absolutely intrigued me, especially after chatting with Nash and finding out how perceptive he was. For instance, Nash didn’t just play with Stoudemire.

I always love Bill's use of italics. It really emphasizes what he's trying to say.

This was a whole other level of thinking. I was doing backflips. This could have been, potentially, one of the great sports books.

Not that Bill has an ego or anything, but he could have helped write one of the great sports books.

Steve Nash would be allowing us behind the curtain. 

Plus, Bill was writing the book, which automatically means it would be better than any other book that had ever been written.

Over the course of a few phone calls and emails, Nash smartly realized he could never publish the book he wanted to write. Not while he was still playing, anyway. He couldn’t be candid about teammates and coaches as he was leading them. Impossible.

Deep down, I knew this — that’s why I urged him to scribble out some thoughts while being as frank as possible. I promised I would never show anyone those emails. (And I won’t.)

What a good friend Bill is. The fact Bill needs to tell us he won't show anyone those emails tells me two things. (1) Bill really, really wants to show someone those emails so he can show the world how Steve Nash opened up to him and (2) he could just delete them and Nash would never have to worry about Bill showing someone these emails, but Bill is holding out to still write this book with Nash and that's why he has kept the emails he would never show anyone.

Nash became involved with one of my big projects, 30 for 30, codirecting our film about Canadian hero Terry Fox. We spent a night at Sundance eating dinner with an oversize group;

"Me, me, me, I, I, I, myself, myself, myself."

I realize Bill is giving his perspective on Steve Nash, but Bill has a unique way of making this introduction about him and his feelings as it pertains to Steve Nash. This is an introduction to a series of videos about Steve Nash's comeback, not the history of how Bill Simmons came to know Steve Nash. Yet, that's what the reader has gotten so far.

After Nash’s Fox film received universally positive reviews, we remained in touch and recorded a few podcasts, crossing paths by accident a couple more times. His move to Los Angeles opened the door for a belated collaboration. Well, for about three seconds. Almost immediately, Nash’s first Lakers season degenerated into a full-fledged soap opera — Starring Dwight! And Kobe! And Jimmy! And Phil! And Mike Brown as Mike! — right as Nash’s divorce trial became weekly TMZ fodder. I never felt right about following up.

A solid year passed. My phone rang one night.


Now Bill is 75% through this introduction and he finally gets to the part where he explains why Steve Nash has agreed to do these series of videos for Grantland. We have had to suffer through the history of Bill's friendship with Steve Nash, the 1994-1995 Celtics salary cap situation, and Bill telling us how Lakers fans feel about Steve Nash's cap figure.

Did he have anything left … or did he just WANT to have something left? And how could he tell the difference?

He wouldn’t know for sure unless he killed himself to come back. And that’s what he had been doing, Steve Nash said. For weeks and weeks. He figured he could play quality basketball once a week. But in the NBA, you need to do that three or four times a week. That’s the subtle difference between being productive and being a scrub.

This is what the brief introduction to the first part of the video should have been, not Bill's feelings about the NBA's salary cap.

Now, imagine you’re me.

I'd rather not. It would cause me to hate myself.

You’re sitting home on some random night watching hoops when the phone rings. It’s one of the five or six best point guards who ever lived, a two-time MVP, one of the most entertaining players of the past 40 years. He’s talking candidly, telling you about his myriad problems, vowing that he isn’t done yet. 

That makes you feel very special about yourself, doesn't it? And after all, aren't these series of videos chronicling Nash's comeback attempt about Bill and how it feels to talk to Steve Nash about his feelings?

Halfway through the phone call, I started to comprehend the stakes. We finally had a chance to pull off that Life on the Run/The Game idea, only in video form, and in real time. You read those books, as great as they are, while already knowing the ending. This time around, the ending would write itself. We could root for Nash as it happened.

It's a great idea with a self-involved introduction.

I took the other side, believing the Lakers would be foolish to use the stretch. Wasn’t Nash more valuable as an expiring deal, both as a potential trade piece and a 2015 cap hold before free-agent studs like Kevin Love become available? Then again, the Lakers have done a variety of silly things lately. Who knows? Nash and I batted around the various scenarios like we were Wilbon and Kornheiser. Only later did I realize how surreal it was to discuss Cap Figure Nash with Real Person Nash.

Bill and Steve are like super-besties now. And yet again, while in the middle of telling us how this video series came together Bill has to put the focus back on him and how it felt to be talking to Steve Nash. That's really what this introduction is about. It's about how Bill Simmons feels while talking to Steve Nash...well, and the 1994-1995 Celtics salary cap situation of course.

Regardless, I couldn’t believe how much I was pulling for him last week. Cap Figure Nash had morphed into Real Person Nash — the guy trying to save his career, his contract, his family and his inordinately special gift. I didn’t see 9.3 and 9.7 anymore. I saw only no. 10.

But Lakers fans still only saw 9.3 and 9.7. Bill is smarter than you and can read minds, so he knows this for sure.

Whether Lakers fans follow suit remains to be seen. The day of that Minnesota game, a buddy of mine who loves the Lakers stopped by Grantland’s office. He knew nothing about our Nash project.

By the way, this buddy of Bill's is not famous. It's easy to know this because if this buddy were famous then Bill would have name-dropped exactly who this famous buddy was.

As I started describing it, he hissed, “Oh God, I hope it’s a project convincing him to retire.” We showed him a rough cut. Within 10 minutes, he was begrudgingly admitting, “Now I’m rooting for him to come back.” 

It's a really good video and it should be able to speak for itself without Bill Simmons making the video about him or leading up to the video by using 2600 words to tell us about his feelings when he talks to Steve Nash and how the Celtics giving Dana Barros a six year contract made him feel.

Welcome to The Finish Line.

The finish line would have gotten here a lot faster if Bill wasn't so enamored with himself that he had to make Steve Nash's comeback video about him. 


Slag-King said...

For instance, Nash didn’t just play with Stoudemire.

What juvenile writing is this? Why does he have to write such snide comments filled with innuendos that will fill the Simmons-sphere with chortling back-slaps and knowing, leering winks?

His writing is worse than the Weekly World News articles by the simple premise that he sees himself as a serious writer.

Bengoodfella said...

Slag, Bill is very serious and this is a serious discussion about Steve Nash. Well, that and the Celtics cap situation 20 years ago.

I just love his use of italics. It's not like I don't use italics, but his use of italics always makes me chuckle.

your favourite sun said...

Bill's not going to show us the e-mails from Steve Nash, but isn't it still bad to talk about their existence? It might make Nash's teammates glance over and think "Wonder what he's said/going to say about me?"

I know that most guys are professionals--Kobe played for Phil Jackson less than a year after that book, of course. But if Bill really wanted to avoid undercutting Nash's leadership he wouldn't have brought up the story at all. He might have had to write a shorter column about Nash's comeback attempt, though, and obviously he was trying to avoid that.

Bengoodfella said...

Sun, that's an interesting thought. I don't know if Lakers players are worried about that or not, but if I were a player I couldn't help but wonder if I'm getting a portion of a book about me when Nash retires. Especially if I were a guy like Kobe who likes to control his image and can be a real dick.