Tuesday, April 8, 2014

8 comments Bill Simmons' "Fuck It, I Give Up on Writing Original Material So Here's a Mailbag" Volume 5: Bill Fixes the NBA Playoffs

Bill Simmons took a week off from the difficult activity of publishing other people's emails and adding comments below them, then didn't put his as-promised Wednesday mailbag until Friday. It's almost like he's putting it off. The guy simply doesn't want to write anymore, why can't he get his readers to understand this? So in his fifth installment of an NBA mailbag Bill fixes the NBA Playoffs, since he's the only one (obviously) qualified to take on an activity such as this. Really, Bill's mailbag is just an excuse to talk about a topic that doesn't require a full column and then kill some space with a few emails from his readers.

I didn’t write an NBA Bag on Thursday because I knew David Letterman was stepping down. I wrote an NBA Bag because I’ve been doing mailbags ever since I started writing this column in 1997 … and only because I loved Letterman’s “Viewer Mail” gimmick.

So is Bill saying he was going to, but did not, post a mailbag on Thursday due to knowing that David Letterman was stepping down? If so, Bill is swinging his dick around bragging he knew Letterman was going to step down before the general public knew, since Bill would have written the mailbag before the public knew Letterman was stepping down. Bill probably knew through Jimmy Kimmel, because he and Kimmel are totally friends. Did you know Bill used to write for Jimmy Kimmel's show? It's true and he knows Jimmy Kimmel. Want Bill to call Kimmel to prove he knows him? Bill will do it.

I also like how Bill didn't do any work out of respect for David Letterman. It sounds like an excuse to wait another day to be lazy and not write a mailbag.

So thanks for that, and thanks for everything else, David Letterman. If you hadn’t passed through my life in my formative years, I’d probably be doing something else for a living. And I like doing this.

He did it for you, Bill. It was all for you.

As always, these are actual emails from actual readers.

Of course they are, Bill. Of course they are.

Bill prints three emails first that scold him for taking longer than a two week break from writing an NBA mailbag with the curse words or vulgar words deleted. It's funny Bill does this because the word "fuck" is used on Grantland, but he excises a less vulgar word from the emails in this case for effect. Check it out...

—Ric D, Brooklyn

I'm assuming the word deleted is either "shithead" or "asshole," both words I don't think there would be a problem posting on Grantland since I'm pretty sure they post the word "fuck." Maybe the word used was a creative word I had never heard before that's worse than "fuck."

Q: Hey [deleted], it’s April 3rd now and we’ve all gone over weeks without an NBA bag. It’s bad enough you skipped last week (for the Action Hero column), but now you can’t follow through on a promise for one on the 2nd? Yup, that’s our Simmons.
—Nathan, Lewiston

Okay, maybe "dipshit" is the word deleted, but either way, I think it's a word that Grantland could use on their site.

SG: Fine, fine. I won’t make the mistake of pushing Wednesday’s NBA Bag to Friday ever again. Heard you loud and clear. Look at all these deleteds! I don’t want to be known as a [deleted] finger-popping [deleted] [deleted] anymore. I’ll even throw in an extra thousand words free of charge.

How about starting to care about what you write again, not mailing in columns, and stop becoming a parody of what you once were? I would settle for that.

Q: Did you see Mark Cuban fire shots at NFL’s possibly expanding 18-game schedule? Would the NBA would ever go nuclear and attack the NFL over concussions? Ads showing NFL players laying on the field unconscious with tag lines like “The NBA, our players actually remember their careers” and “The NBA, watch the top athletes in the world — guilt free.” 

Right, because NBA players remember this career in between the smoky haze of all the pot they smoke in between games. Not that NFL players don't do it, but there are accounts of NBA players playing games stoned. I don't think the NBA has room to throw stones in this glass house. The NFL could also quite simply politely point out more people watch the NFL than the NBA.

SG: Kudos to Nick for coming up with my favorite idea of 2014 — the NBA spending $25 million on attack ads specifically to wound the NFL’s credibility and give the NBA a competitive advantage. But why stop at concussions and 18-game schedules? I’d throw in stuff like, “The NBA, Where We Don’t Replace Our Refs For 25 Percent Of The Season With Random Dudes Off The Street,”

The NFL could then counter with, "The NBA, Where the Outcome of the Game is Decided By Whichever Official Has the Most Money on That Night's Game" or "The NBA, Where the Officiating is---Nothing to See Here, There's No More Officials Gambling on Games and Please Ignore All of the Playoff Games That Say Differently."

and, “The NBA, Where Our Players Don’t End Up Committing Crimes Every Other Week.”

"But Only Because There's Fewer of Us Per Team As Compared to the NFL."

Can all the Talented Weirdos Who Make Elaborately Weird YouTube Clips make attack ads and put “GRANTLAND NBA/NFL ATTACK ADS” in the subject heading so we can binge-watch them? Also, even if it’s beefing down, why can’t we go after baseball, too?

Because this gimmick is getting old quickly. Also, I love how Bill orders his Simmonsites to go to YouTube and create these videos and then he'll feature them in the next mailbag. It's the typical thing Bill does where he reminds himself of his relevance by ordering his Simmonites to do something, and they do it which massages his ego, while the Simmonsites have a great time trying to get Bill to acknowledge their video and justify their existence.

Q: Something we’re not talking about with Miggy Cabrera’s contract extension: Mike Ilitch is 85 years old. What does he care? He’s going to be dead by the time this goes bad. So what’s the age limit for owners, so we can’t have some octogenerian shouting “YOLO” and signing another Anna Nicole Smith contract?
—Ian, New York

Okay, who is "we" in this situation? I ask because I have read multiple articles mentioning Ilitch is 85 years old and wants a title before he dies, so he doesn't care as much about the back end of that Cabrera contract.

Q: Is Joakim Noah the first “Point Center” in NBA history?
—Ed C., Chicago

Bill uses this useless and innocuous question to write a paragraph about how impressive Bill Russell was. Not that Bill takes any chance he can get to bring up his Celtics of course.

Q: On the list of fake injuries that helped a team lose games over the final stretch of the season for lottery purposes, where does Pau Gasol’s vertigo rank?
—Ethan, Goleta

SG: Come on, that’s a real injury! Who would ever make up “vertigo” as a reason to sit your best player? Even Sam Hinkie wouldn’t have thought of that. You should look at this another way: It’s a fact that Kobe Bryant could have returned five or six weeks ago, only the Lakers decided they’d be better off holding him out until next season — even if it meant costing him about 600 points that he needs toward Kareem’s scoring record. You gotta love the NBA, a league with a lottery system so screwed up that even Kobe — the most maniacally competitive player since Jordan — looks at the big picture and says, “You’re right, I shouldn’t play.”

The NBA isn't the only league where a team will hold out a player so he can be fully healthy for next year rather than risk that player suffering a re-injury playing during a lost year. NFL teams will often put a player on IR when that player could conceivably come back late during the season. So while Kobe is very competitive, it's not a result of the NBA's lottery system that Kobe is sitting out, but it's a result of the Lakers not wanting him to re-injure himself during a lost year. This decision isn't exclusive to just the NBA either.

Q: Have we ever seen a “superstar” player have his on-court production affected by his off-court antics more negatively than Paul George, at least in this era?

SG: I’m answering only because my readers keep asking if the off-court stuff affected George (and, by extension, the Pacers).

Bill feels the need to remind his readers that he is an expert whose opinion on this subject has been highly sought after by his readers. He has many leather-bound books and his house smells of rich mahogany.

George’s 2013 hot streak (October 29 through December 31, 30 games): 23.8 PPG, 47% FG, 40% 3FG, 86% FT, 17.3 FGA, 6.6 3FGA, 5.8 FTA. And it happened: We thought, PAUL GEORGE IS MAKING THE LEAP!!!!!!

As always, when Bill is wrong it becomes "we" thought Paul George was making the leap. If Bill had predicted that Paul George would come back to Earth at that point he would say "he" thought George would eventually regress to his career statistics. "We" thought something when Bill is wrong, "he" knew something was true when Bill is right.

From an eye-test standpoint, I thought George exhibited unusual confidence those first two months, taking and making hands-in-the-face, off-balance 3s right out of the Durant/Carmelo/T-Mac/Old-School Vince superstar playbook. But are we sure that’s who he is?

This sentence is a good example of what I'm talking about. When Bill is analyzing George's confidence it's "I thought" and then in the very next sentence when Bill is wrong it turns into "are we sure that's who he is?," where Bill goes from "I" to "we" in a matter of two sentences. It not-so-coincidentally happens to occur when Bill goes from being correct to being wrong.

What if there’s still another offensive leap for the 23-year-old George to make, only he’s one or two seasons away from making it?

I don't know, great point Bill. MAYBE THIS 23-YEAR-OLD ATHLETE ISN'T A FINISHED PRODUCT YET? I thought George was a finished product but then it turns out we were wrong and a 23-year-old still has room for growth.

George’s closest style dopplegänger is T-Mac, also a streaky scorer, but a more talented offensive player who got to the line whenever he wanted. George isn’t there yet. He’s a work in progress. And lately, he’s fallen into some bad habits — see Zach Lowe’s Indiana piece today — that have undeniably stilted his progress.

What a coincidence. The most popular writer on Grantland and the editor-in-chief of the site answers a question in his mailbag that allows him to also link a column appearing on Grantland that very day. Great synergy here.

If I could create a pie chart of percentages explaining Indy’s pseudo-collapse, here’s what it would look like.

Not to be picky, but Bill never actually shows the pie chart and lists the percentages. Listing percentages without an actual pie chart isn't a pie chart of percentages, it's just listing percentages. 

The Collective Slump (10%)

Identity Loss (25%)

And also — the concept of “handling success and being out front the right way” is a great one. Wasn’t that what derailed the mid-2000s Pistons? They won in 2004 and made the 2005 Finals because of defense, teamwork and consistency. When the ’06 Pistons ripped off that 37-5 start and sent four players to the All-Star Game, it was the worst thing that happened to them. They arrogantly developed an on/off switch that doomed them. Could that be happening here?

Bill thinks this is exactly what's happening here. At least until he is proven wrong and then "we" were wrong about the Pacers problems and their resemblance to the problems of the '06 Pistons.

The Chemistry Thing (40%)

I’m the same guy who wrote a 700-page NBA book about the secret of basketball not having anything to do with basketball.

Around 100 of those pages consisted mainly of comparisons between women and pornstars and other misogyny, to the point the secret of basketball was that all women are evil whores who should always be compared to those women who have sex on camera for money whenever possible.  

So now you have 25 percent of your team playing for new deals, a star who’s getting prematurely compared to LeBron and Durant, a defensive anchor who thinks he’s Bill Russell, Lance thinking he’s an All-Star headed for a meaty extension, and a subtle behind-the-scenes chemistry downgrade from Granger to Turner/Bynum. 

Ever want to know the difference in studio analysts like Bill Simmons who always change their opinion in retrospect (and pretend they didn't) and a guy like Zach Lowe who actually knows and understands basketball so his opinion is based on actual knowledge and not talking points? The ability to have foresight. From the trade deadline chat between Bill and Zach Lowe:

Please remember that Bill is currently giving his readers a semi-lecture about Evan Turner not being a good locker room guy and how trading Danny Granger messed up the Pacers locker room. Not shockingly, that's not the opinion Bill held at the time of the trade, but he would rather us forget that and focus on the lecture he is trying to give his readers right now in this mailbag about the very-important chemistry downgrade from Granger to Turner.

Zach Lowe (3:52 EST) Put broadly: Turner is just not that good an NBA player, and the things he does well require him having the basketball. Well, Lance Stephenson has already turned into the ball-handling captain of the second unit, even pushing C.J. Watson, a nominal point guard, mostly off the ball. Stephenson’s a good enough 3-point shooter to spot up around Turner-centric plays, but that would represent a large rejiggering of Indy’s second-unit offense late in the game. Turner isn’t providing much spacing as a spot-up guy around Stephenson, and he’s probably a defensive downgrade even from a hobbled Granger. And those bench units have survived based upon very stingy defense.

Bill Simmons (4:04 EST)
I concede all of those points. But Granger looks done to me – we just watched a 24-game sample size of someone who couldn’t shoot anymore and lost his brakes. You lose your brakes in the NBA, you’re done.

I made fun of this "lose your brakes" comment, mostly because it completely deserved to be mocked. Notice while Bill currently uses his extraordinary ability of hindsight to point out 40% of the Pacers problem is bad chemistry, he didn't once mention chemistry when the Turner-Granger trade went down. Again, Bill is a talking head. Zach Lowe is not. Bill's job in his columns is to say interesting things, Zach Lowe's job is to analyze basketball and show the reader what he perceives the truth as being based on the research he has done.

Turner offers the following things: creates his own shot, played in big games (college and pro)

Not to pat myself on the back too hard, but I pointed out it sounds like Bill is making things up in place of analysis.

a little fearless (irrationally so), can play either guard position, provides an extra set of young legs … oh, and remember his 26-point game on Opening Night when Philly shocked the defending champs? I’d rather take my chances with Turner than Granger in Round 3.

Bill would rather have Turner over Granger in the playoffs in February, but now that's it is April, Bill wants his readers to know that the chemistry difference in trading Granger for Turner was large. It's funny what knowledge Bill can claim to have known once he is able to use hindsight. It's also no shock that Bill doesn't even mention he liked the trade for the Pacers. He would most rather his readers focus on reading the lecture about team chemistry that Bill is giving in this mailbag. Ignore that Bill was wrong, focus on how smart he is a few months down the road from this trade.

Lance Has This (25%)

I’m going mostly eye test here. Admittedly dangerous.

This must be as opposed to the hardcore analysis that Bill was doing prior when making up arbitrary percentages for a pie chart that doesn't exist.

But in my early ESPN.com days, I always joked that Tim Wakefield was the Steve Sanders of the Red Sox — in other words, you loved having him around, but you never wanted him involved in crucial plots. If you modernized that joke for 2014, you’d say that Lance Stephenson is the Saul Goodman of the Pacers — you love having him around, but you never wanted him involved in crucial plots.

Or as a normal human being who is capable of just saying something without using 20 too many words might put it, Stephenson is one step above a role player and you don't want him to be the guy you count on to be the best player on the floor at a crucial time.

Now, you can flip this the other way and say, “The 2003 Spurs won a title partly because Stephen Jackson had the balls to occasionally say, ‘I GOT THIS!’” His swagger (I hate that word, but still) 

Bill hates the word, but he just voluntarily used it.

really helped them. This is 100 percent true. It’s also 100 percent true that San Antonio allowed Captain Jack to leave that summer, and that they never acquired another “I GOT THIS!” guy.

The Spurs never acquired another "I GOT THIS!" guy most likely because this type of person doesn't necessarily exist except in the mind of Bill when he wants to make up attributes for NBA players when he needs to prove a point. It also helps that an "I GOT THIS!" guy would need the ball to "get this" and while Lance Stephenson can bring the ball up the court, the Spurs had Tony Parker handling the ball, which means Parker could stop one guy on the Spurs team shooting the ball excessively in situations where he shouldn't be.

To be fair, second-half swoons don’t necessarily mean you’re finished. (The 1995 Rockets or 2010 Celtics, anyone?) And 49 of the last 60 Finals teams (dating back to 1984) had a top-two record in their conference, so history sides with Indy regrouping here. But when you’re built unconventionally — winning with defense, chemistry, depth and unselfishness, but without an elite offensive player — it’s tough to say “They’ll be fine” when their four biggest strengths vanished. And we DO have a precedent for the swoon to keep going — in Indiana, no less. Remember when the Pacers went into the 2003 All-Star break with the East’s best record, peaked at 37-15 … then belly-flopped to an 11-19 finish and got stunned by Boston in Round 1?

Bill is deftly playing both sides of the issue so that when the Pacers tank in the playoffs he can say he saw it coming or when they beat the Heat and make the NBA Finals he can say these second-half swoons happen. I'm sure at that point Bill will point to his February chat with Zach Lowe to say he told us all that he would take Turner over Granger in Round 3. This information is only useful when it makes Bill look good. 

So, this isn’t a media-created story line just because it’s March and we’re bored.

Not that Bill needs an editor or anything, but this mailbag was published in April. So it's April, not March. Clearly Bill wrote this mailbag in March and was just too lazy to change this date around. This further confuses me as to why he didn't publish the mailbag on the same day Letterman announced he was stepping down, assuming the mailbag was already written. I know, I know, it doesn't really matter.

Now? I could absolutely see Brooklyn or Chicago toppling Indy in a Round 2 rock fight. It’s in play. Stay tuned.

Oh, we will stay tuned Bill. We will find out if you were right about the Pacers or if "we" were wrong about them.

Q: Could you see Kevin Ollie being the next coach of the Thunder if they crash and burn in the playoffs? In your podcast with Kevin “The Servant” Durant, he spoke very highly of Ollie as a leader.
—Ricardo, McAllen, TX

SG: Had the same thought as I watched Ollie coach his ass off last weekend, 

Ricardo from McAllen, Texas every original and creative thought you've had before isn't original or creative because Bill has already thought of it. He's smarter than you. Don't you know that's the point of these mailbags? So Bill can one-up his readers' ideas?

then abandoned that thought last night when I remembered that OKC can still make the 2014 Finals because they’re such a horrendous matchup for the Spurs. (Then again, that’s the coolest thing about the 2014 playoffs — there’s a little rock-paper-scissors action going on. Everyone has someone they don’t want to play.)

So the Thunder may or may not beat the Spurs, but the larger point is that Bill thought of Kevin Ollie as the Thunder's coach WAY before you did, Ricardo.

Now, I can’t see the Thunder changing coaches unless they get bounced in Round 1. Not because they’d be unhappy with Scott Brooks, but because they’re too friggin’ cheap to pay two coaches. But Ollie is a super-intriguing name to file away, especially if OKC doesn’t win the title in 2014 or 2015 and wants to avoid “The Decision II” (Durant in 2016).

And of course the Thunder won't be too cheap to pay two coaches if they get bounced in Round 1? So maybe the Thunder aren't cheap, they just don't think it's worth replacing their head coach unless given a very good reason to do so.

Q: If your Celtics don’t win the lottery and have the 5-8 pick who would you not want the Celtics to take? Being a Timberwolves fan, I’m praying the Lakers don’t take Aaron Gordon. Super athletic but can’t shoot at all.
—Tommy H. Mankato, MN

This is a boring question, but of course it only exists because Bill has to talk some about the Celtics. He can't write an entire NBA column or NBA mailbag without mentioning the Celtics at least 3-4 times. He is the Boston Sports Guy after all.

SG: My top six right now, at this very moment and not counting the 730 other times I’ll change my mind before June:

So basically, whichever way the wind is blowing next week will be the direction Bill goes. These are the things that happen when you pretend to watch college basketball and don't really watch college basketball. You become a slave to a prospect's stock going up or down on a daily basis due to your own inability to have an informed opinion on that prospect.

(1) Andrew Wiggins, (2) Jabari Parker, (3) Joel Embiid,

Really? Bill wants the Celtics to take a seven-footer with a bad back? Look for him to change his mind about Embiid closer to the draft.

After that, I’d be depressed that the Celtics didn’t get a top-six pick. And we disagree on Gordon — he’s Shawn Marion 2.0 with a dash of Blake and a dash of Kirilenko thrown in. I came around on Gordon the more I watched him.

What Bill really means is he enjoyed watching Aaron Gordon in the NCAA Tournament. I don't know. I like Gordon and I'd like to see him play with Rondo, but he's a little boom-bust for me. Of course, at worst I think Gordon is a very athletic guy who can rebound and that's not such a bad thing.

Q: I’m ready for your annual trade value column. This is where you’re going to explain why Goran Dragic and his cap friendly salary and slashing style are more valuable than Damian Lillard and his eventual max contract and poor percentage at the rim. I’m going to get mad because Damian is my guy and I’ll think you’re an idiot. Then I’ll come to grips with the fact that you’re right, I’m a homer, and watching my Blazers crawl to the finish line while the Suns seem to not go away only verifies your point. I suppose that’s why you’re a necessary evil. I don’t have to like it though.
—Jake, Gold Beach, OR

SG: That was this month’s winner of the Backhanded Compliment Award.

This is also a good example of Bill including a mailbag question that makes him seem smarter than he really is. This is also an example of Bill wanting his readers to know that he's considered an expert on something as subjective as a player's trade value...and really isn't Bill an expert mostly regarding subjective things? He's good at making things up that help to prove a point he wants to make. This Simmonsite refers to Bill as a "necessary evil" as if he is often correct about things that fans don't want him to be correct about. What's ignored is how often Bill can be wrong.

I don’t know when we’re seeing the annual Trade Value Column — if I wrote it right now, I’d end up putting Anthony Davis first, second and third. Might be better off waiting until the summer when I can’t overreact to everything. I love overreacting. It’s one of my weaknesses.

Another of Bill's weaknesses is pointing out when you are correct and ignoring the times when he has been incorrect, while using the times he has been correct as evidence a theory he is working on will also be correct.

Q: LeBron is currently 10/1 for MVP betting. Talk me out of this. —Sean, Dublin
SG: One second.

You know Bill, you don't have to answer a question that you aren't prepared to answer. You control the questions you answer in a mailbag.

Q: Who is the next NBA MVP not named Durant or LeBron? I suspect it’s Anthony Davis. He can dominate on both ends of the floor in a LeBron-esque manner, and is barely 21. Does he have the potential to carry a Pelicans team of the mid/late 2010s (with an inevitably weak supporting cast) the way LeBron did on the Cavs a decade earlier?
—James Newmyer, Prague

SG: Absolutely. Zach Lowe covered it on Tuesday. Davis is the safest bet. 

It's interesting to me how often Bill links a Zach Lowe column. It's almost like he hired Zach Lowe as a way of making himself sound more intelligent about the NBA. What I mean by that is Bill can pick Zach Lowe's brain at any point he wants and so Lowe's presence on the Grantland staff means Bill can use the knowledge Lowe has passed on in his own analysis of the NBA. It's a sort of brilliance-by-association, where Bill is associated with Zach Lowe and perceived in some way as being as smart as Lowe about the NBA. He references a Zach Lowe column 3-4 times in this mailbag and this isn't the only time Zach Lowe's name has appeared frequently in something Bill has written for Grantland.

But let’s be clear — LeBron and Durant are owning the rest of this decade. Durant is JUST hitting the beginning of his prime, at age 25, and coming off this insane three-month stretch after Christmas (from 12/27 through 3/25):

42 Games, 39.3 MPG, 35.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 6.1 APG, 52% FG, 40% 3FG, 86% FT

I sucked it up and looked through every conceivable three-month stretch of Larry Legend’s career — he never caught fire like THAT. 

And of course there is no other NBA player that can be used in this comparison, seeing as he is the best NBA player of all-time and all. I've always loved Larry Bird, but Bill Simmons seems to use Bird as the baseline for way too many comparisons.

Not even during the last three months of the ’85 season, when the Legend basically averaged a 31-11-7 in the 50-40-90 range, with at least four or five buzzer-beaters and the famous 60-point game against the Hawks in New Orleans. By the way? He’s the greatest forward of all time.

I mean, the greatest forward of all-time? That's a different argument.

But to answer James’s question, the Brow is definitely the first pick. I’d also throw Blake Griffin, Steph Curry and Thon Maker in there.

This is the heartiest of LOL's for Bill including Thon Maker in this discussion. I see Bill has fired up the YouTube videos again and is buying into hype just like he did with Ricky Rubio before he violently threw himself off the Rubio train when reality didn't match the YouTube videos. Bill's trying to act like he's all plugged-into high school recruiting and throwing Thon Maker out there in the discussion. What a poseur. The best part is that Bill couldn't be more douche-like about being on the Thon Maker bandwagon.

Thon Maker? Thon Maker.

Maker looks great on the YouTube videos. Once he goes to Kentucky, then to the NBA and only becomes a pretty good player, at that point Bill will throw himself off the Maker bandwagon as if he wasn't even on it in the first place.

Player A: 21.6 ppg, 6.4 APG, 41.7 fg%, 32.4 3-point%
Player B: 21.3 ppg, 8.9 APG, 42.8 fg%, 33.5 3-point%
Player C: 21.1 ppg, 6.2 APG, 42.8 fg%, 36.6 3-point%

Player A is Steve Francis Year 3.
Player B is Stephon Marbury Year 3.
Player C is Kyrie Irving Year 3.

—Kyle B., Indy

Q: Look at this.

Player A: 20.7 ppg, 6.4 apg, 1.3 spg, 3 tpg, 45.3 fg%, 35.4% 3fg.
Player B: 21.1 ppg, 6.3 apg, 3.6 rpg, 1.4 spg, 2.7 tpg, 42.8 fg%, 36.6 3fg%.

Player A is Isaiah Thomas. Player B is Kyrie Irving.

—Aamir Shakir, San Francisco

And of course Bill won't let these two guys have the best scary Kyrie Irving comparison. Remember, Bill has to be the smartest, most clever guy in the room at all times. So he has to top these comparisons. His ego can't allow someone to be smarter than him.

SG: My counter to Kyle and Aamir …

Player A: 21.1 ppg, 6.3 apg, 3.6 rpg, 43.1 FG%, 36.6 3FG%, 20.1 PER
Player B: 21.3 ppg, 6.9 apg, 3.3 rpg, 43.8 FG%, 29.1 3FG%, 21.6 PER

Player A? Kyrie. Player B? Devin Harris in 2009.

(YES! I just won the “Who Could Freak Cleveland Fans Out The Most With a Blind Player Comparison To Kyrie Irving” Contest!!!)

I wouldn't even need to read ahead to correctly predict Bill would try to top the comparisons these two readers had. Bill even proclaims himself the winner, though I have to honestly say comparing Irving to Francis and Marbury should be scarier to Cavs fans since they got huge contracts and were seen as malcontents while having these huge contracts. At least Devin Harris didn't seem to carry a bad attitude around with his contract. But Bill is the judge of this contest and I wouldn't expect him to admit he's not the most clever guy in the room, so proclaiming himself the winner isn't unforeseen.

Q: Could you please make sure that near the end of the NBA season you tease us with a breakdown of what your Entertaining-as-Hell Tournament would look like?
—Scott Scattergood, Korea

Sucking up to Bill by reminding him of how good his ideas are seems like the best way to get Bill to answer a mailbag question.

SG: When the 2014 Suns can miss the playoffs and the Knicks can make it, we’re fundamentally doing something wrong. When the Sixers can blow 26 straight games, then win at home to break the streak as their mortified fans don’t know whether to cheer or cry, we’re fundamentally doing something wrong. When the 2014 Hawks say, We’d rather fall into the lottery than make the playoffs, we’re doing something fundamentally wrong.

This isn't the first NBA year these things have happened. Teams have tanked before and teams that don't "deserve" to make the playoffs make the playoffs. I'm not sure why this year is suddenly Bill's breaking point except for the fact he is running out of column ideas and has resorted to beating the problem of NBA teams tanking into the ground as a result.

First-Round Winners: No. 1 Memphis over no. 16 Milwaukee (“Welcome to Tru TV!”) … no. 2 Phoenix over no. 15 Philly (Sam Hinkie: “Hey, Thad and MCW, it’s OK to try in this one”) … no. 3 Minnesota over no. 14 Orlando (yes, ’Sota could absolutely blow this game) … no. 13 Boston over no. 4 Denver (OUR FIRST UPSET! LET’S GO CELTS! HERE WE GO GREEN!!!!!!!)

For once, I wish Bill wouldn't be a homer...even if he's being a hypothetical homer.

And also, Kobe could have returned a month ago, only it made little sense for him to risk his aging body on a lottery team. But if he could win three win-or-go-homes to make the playoffs? That dude is coming back.

Maybe Kobe would come back. I don't have the ability to read minds like Bill does so I can't say for sure Kobe would come back, but it still seems silly to risk further injury for the privilege of losing to the #1 seed in the West in the playoffs.

Second-Round Winners (re-seeding): No. 13 Boston over no. 1 Memphis (MASSIVE UPSET! BRAD STEVENS LOVES TOURNAMENTS!!!!! RONDO WITH A 17-19-16!!!!!!) … just kidding, no. 1 Memphis over no. 13 Boston (golf clap for the C’s) … no. 2 Suns over no. 11 Lakers (final score: 129-125, and I gotta admit, I came damned close to picking Kobe, Nash and Vertigo Pau)

This tournament does sound entertaining. I will admit that. I do like how it blatantly steals from the conference tournament setup in college basketball that gives teams automatic bids into the NCAA Tournament. Bill is too prideful to admit he's completely stealing this idea, but he is.

Lingering second-round thoughts: I really, really, really, really, really enjoyed pretending to watch all of those games. Look at what we accomplished already. We convinced Kobe to come back.

I realize this is a hypothetical, but I'm still not sure Kobe would come back just for the chance to play the #1 seed in the Western Conference IF the Lakers managed to win this tournament for the 8th seed in the West.

The more I think about it, the more I think (a) the EAHT should end after three rounds (it doesn’t make sense to have a championship game), and (b) we should just dump conferences and go with an NBA Sweet 16 for the actual playoffs (like Kirk Goldsberry posted two weeks ago).

See? Bill uses the other NBA writers at Grantland to make himself seem smarter as a result of his affiliation with them. Bill's ego even makes the hire of intelligent NBA writers in some way about him and improving the columns he writes. I guess there's nothing wrong with surrounding yourself with talented people as long as you don't try to claim their ideas. Here, he uses Kirk Goldsberry's idea and (here's a shock) thinks of one that is supposed to be smarter than Goldsberry's simply because Bill is the one who thought of it.

Why not open the door for a late-peaking team? Why avoid a scenario in which someone like Kobe says, “You know what? I’m coming back,” instead of, “There’s no reason for me to come back”?

Boy, Bill is really riding this whole "Kobe comes back for the playoffs in this scenario" thing isn't he?

How would the EAHT affect tanking? I’m throwing out my fourth different idea for this one … what if we blew up the lottery format and reinvented it with three tiers:

Worst Six Teams: 9 percent chance of winning
Worst Teams 7 through 12: 4 percent chance of winning
Worst Teams 13 through 16: 2 percent chance of winning

Wait, that’s only 86 percent. Hmmmmmmm … let’s give each of the 14 playoff teams 1 percent odds. That’s right, we’re putting everyone in! TRY TANKING NOW!!!

Teams that tank will still know they have a good chance of getting a Top-5 draft pick. And also, the NBA is the only major sport that has a lottery system where the worst team in the sport doesn't automatically get the #1 overall pick, yet Bill continuously acts like the NBA has some system that rewards terribly run teams and no other sport has this problem. It's not true. The NBA is the only league that doesn't automatically guarantee the worst team the #1 overall pick.

We run the lottery for the first four picks, then the draft goes in reverse order of record from the fifth pick on. You really think Philly is casually blowing 26 straight under this revamped system?

As I said in a previous discussion about this topic, the 76ers are tanking now when they are only guaranteed the #4 overall pick. I'm not sure moving that pick back to the guaranteed #5 overall pick will make a lot of difference overall. It's only moving the worst-case scenario back one pick. I'm not sure that's enough to deter teams from tanking and moving payroll off the roster in order to lose games in the short term and (hopefully) win games in the long term.

Oh, and Adam Silver? You’re shopping your next slew of media rights packages right now to ESPN/ABC, Turner, Fox and everyone else, right? And you’re thinking about adding a third package that includes a Saturday-night regular-season bundle, right? Wouldn’t it make the most sense to combine that bundle with the Entertaining As Hell Tournament into a third, mack-daddy package? Conceivably, Disney would pay more for the same deal it already has; same for Turner and its current deal; then a third party comes in (Fox Sports? NBC? Maybe even … gulp … Google or Apple TV?) and grabs those Saturday-night games and the Entertaining As Hell Tournament? 

Bill just fixed the playoffs for us and thinks he stopped NBA teams from ever tanking again by moving the worst-case scenario for a team's lottery pick back by one whole pick. We should thank him.

And yes, Thon Maker. Remember that name until Bill doesn't want you to remember it anymore because it will remind you that he jumped on a high school player's bandwagon based on YouTube videos. 


franc said...

if i understood this correctly; the regular season seems meaningless, teams are throwing away games and there is no incentive for bad teams to be competitive. there is an added bonus of bad teams (knicks) making the playoffs while some good teams (suns) won't. the whole point of bill's mailbag was to show these issues can somehow be fixed, yet by bill's own logic, bad teams should tank and any team that is persistently mediocre (as in, they're trying to win games) is doing something wrong.
also, if i understand EAHT correctly, the sixers could go 0-82 and still make the playoffs. how does this give them any incentive? i think EAHT would make the regular season even more meaningless.

Anonymous said...

Is it too simple to say that the top 16 teams should make the playoffs regardless of conference? We might see a 50 win team in the west miss the playoffs, which is indeed ridiculous, but I don't think some convoluted tournament is the correct solution. Divisions and conferences can remain the same for scheduling purposes, but otherwise the top 16 records make the playoffs.

Gee, that was tough. Just "fixed the playoffs" in one paragraph.

Bengoodfella said...

Franc, according to Bill's EAHT even teams that go 0-82 could make the playoffs. I guess the incentive to do well in the regular season is to get a better seed, but otherwise there is no incentive to try and play well if you aren't going to be in the playoffs, just like it is now. So yes, he tries to cure tanking by giving teams who tank a chance to make the playoffs.

Anon, that is not even close to be as convoluted as Bill wants it to be. He has to have an overcomplicated plan to "fix" the NBA.

Bill does have some good ideas but I think he's made this one too complicated. Also, he isn't going to fix tanking by bumping back the worst case scenario for a team that tanks by one pick.

Anonymous said...

This post was hilarious.

Anonymous said...

This post was hilarious.

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, glad you liked it. It was nice that for a month Bill actually wrote on a consistent basis. Well it wasn't actually nice, but you know what I mean.

Anonymous said...

LOL I was trying to find the old mailbag that I made for being angry when I stumbled on this. I'm the angry guy who couldn't spell basketball. In case you were wondering, I believe I had called Simmons a Douchenozzle which I was surprised got bleeped. Maybe for dramatic effect? Either way, thought you might like to know 4 years later lol

Bengoodfella said...

THAT got bleeped? There is real cursing in the columns and that word got bleeped. Very odd. It's one mystery that is now solved!