Leave it to the San Antonio Spurs. Just one day after celebrating one of the most emotional title clinchers in NBA history, the “Ozymandias” episode of the Duncan-Pop era was rendered irrelevant by America’s first World Cup game.
It's called the "24 hours news cycle" and it churns quickly when the hot sports takes run out.
Q: In recent sports history, how many redemption stories were better than that of the 2014 Spurs?
I wouldn't call it a "redemption story" necessarily. The Spurs were beaten by super-clutch Ray Allen last year, but they still had Game 7 they could win and failed to do so. The Spurs were beaten and didn't necessarily need redemption, but I guess it's more fun to create a narrative to go along with an NBA Finals rematch.
There are two kinds of sports redemption:
AND ONLY TWO KIND OF SPORTS REDEMPTION...unless Bill finds another version related to a Boston sports team and needs to create a third type of sports redemption.
The first is an individual battling back from a personal tragedy (think Michael Jordan after his father’s murder), major injury (think Derrick Rose next season)
I think Bill needs to look up the definition of "redemption." I don't think returning from an injury or coming back after two years of retirement really qualify as "redemption." Maybe it's just me.
the second is an entire team recovering from an unforgettably devastating defeat (the 2014 Spurs). Ideally, the team would want to avenge the defeat right away. If it’s against the same opponent, even better. If it’s done convincingly, with all demons being exorcised, even better. There’s no way to rank the redemptive power; you’re either in the group or you’re not.
These are the rules people. Bill doesn't make the rules, well, he does make them. There's also nothing he can do about them. Well, actually he will probably eventually contradict or change these rules. Either way, for right now, these are the rules on how a team can be redeemed.
From the past 40 years, here’s the group that San Antonio joined:
You may not believe this, but three Boston teams will be mentioned in this section. I know, it's shocking that Bill would make rules and then use his favorite sports teams as examples of these rules.
the ’85 Lakers (avenged their ’84 Finals collapse in Boston); Sugar Ray Leonard (avenged his Roberto Duran loss with the “No Más” fight); the ’89 Athletics (won the World Series one year after being haunted by the Gibson homer); the ’89 Pistons (swept the Lakers after getting bounced in back-to-back years by Boston and L.A. in the most excruciating ways possible); and, of course, the 2004 Red Sox (lost on 2003’s Boone homer, rallied from 3-0 down to beat the ’04 Yankees, then won their first World Series in 86 years).
Every column Bill ever writes will at some point call back to the 2004 Boston Red Sox. It's the opposite of the gift that keeps on giving. If we want to talk about lingering, this Boston team is the fart in Bill's column that will always linger. It doesn't go away.
What's interesting (not really) is Bill leaves out quite a few teams on this list (1991 Bulls, 2007 Giants who came so close to ruining the Patriots perfect streak during Week 17 only to ruin it during the Super Bowl, and I can mention others) and now the Heat theoretically could be looking for redemption next year in the NBA Finals. After all, they want to redeem themselves for failing to win three NBA titles in a row, right?
The best thing about a redemption title: That “unforgettably devastating” defeat becomes forgettable pretty fast. Boston fans stopped thinking about Boone’s homer a little before midnight on October 27, 2004.
Still lingering and always will be. Sometimes I think Bill writes columns specifically to mention the 2004 World Series title.
Anyway, I have been in the house in 1984, 1985, 1986, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014 when an NBA team won a championship; Sunday night was the most emotional scene I can remember.
Little brag going on in that sentence under the guise of providing information (which is actually an opinion) that proves the point Bill wants to prove. Bill has been in the house for eight NBA title clinching games and that was the most emotional scene he can remember, so that proves Bill's point that Game 5 was the most emotionally satisfying win for Spurs fans. Also, Bill has seen eight teams clinch an NBA title. This is important to know.
Q: Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan … Kawhi Leonard??? Wait … what??? How good can this guy be?
In the last three games of the 2014 NBA Finals, Kawhi went head-to-head against the world’s best basketball player AND OUTFREAKINGPLAYED HIM. He even earned a nickname that hasn’t caught on yet: “Kingslayer.”
Small sample size alert. Leonard is developing into a great player, but let's pump the brakes on him a little bit. But good news, this is exactly what Bill will say and use the fact we should pump the brakes on Leonard backed by...Bill's own past opinion on a player who didn't end up being a great NBA player.
So, long-term, what are we looking at? Before you play the Pippen 2.0 card, please read the following paragraph about Mystery Player X from one of my 2007 columns …
Great player. The closest thing to Scottie Pippen since Pippen, although he’s not the dunker or the destructive defensive presence that Pippen was. Still, we could be making room for [Mystery Player X] in the Second Banana Hall of Fame some day along with greats like Pippen, Johnny Marr, Kevin McHale, Ricardo Tubbs, Kevin Johnson, Reed Rothchild, Shawn Kemp, Nate Dogg, Hank Kingsley, Young Kobe, Old Shaq, Jeff Garlin, Andrew Toney, Beavis and everyone else.
See, "we" may be wrong about Kawhi Leonard because Bill Simmons (the shining example of what every sports fan thinks) was wrong about a player in the past who didn't turn out to be as great as Bill thought he would be.
Who was Mystery Player X? Josh Howard!!!
OH YES, BILL!!!!
If someone as smart as Bill Simmons could be wrong about a player's potential, then nobody is safe from incorrectly evaluating an NBA player's potential.
That might be the single worst paragraph in my entire ESPN.com archives.
Could he climb to Pippen 2.0 heights? Like Pippen, he fell into the perfect situation, blessed with an all-time superstar teammate, a Hall of Fame coach, multiple leaders/mentors, successful teams and the luxury of asserting himself offensively on his own terms.
Pippen was drafted in 1987 and played for Doug Collins before playing for Phil Jackson. He didn't fall into playing for a Hall of Fame coach. The Bulls pre-Phil Jackson were a playoff team but nowhere near as successful as the Spurs teams were prior to Leonard playing for them. It's just not a very good comparison. Pippen wasn't even close to initially being in as good of a situation as Bill is painting him as being in.
Since Pippen was a 22-year-old rookie, Kawhi got a two-year career jump on him. But Pippen was Chicago’s backup playmaker, so he handled the ball way more than Leonard does (hence, more points and more assists).
Age 20: 8.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 0.6 apg, 50-45-81%, 1.6 stocks, 15.1 PER, 1.2 WS
Age 21: 13.5 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.0 apg, 55-39-63%, 2.3 stocks, 18.9 PER, 3.1 WS
Age 22: 14.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, 51-42-74%, 2.4 stocks, 18.7 PER, 2.9 WS
And Pippen’s first four playoff years …
Age 22: 10.0 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.4 apg, 47-50-46%, 1.6 stocks, 10.0 PER, 0.1 WS
Age 23: 13.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 3.9 apg, 46-39-64%, 2.3 stocks, 14.4 PER, 1.3 WS
Age 24: 19.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 5.5 apg, 50-32-71%, 3.4 stocks, 18.7 PER, 1.9 WS
Age 25: 21.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 5.8 apg, 50-24-79%, 3.6 stocks, 22.0 PER, 2.9 WS
Because Pippen had a better all-around skill set in terms of handling the ball, that means Pippen has better statistics in terms of assists and points, and well, he was also a better rebounder than Leonard has been so far in his career.
It’s not that ludicrous to compare them.
No, it's not that ludicrous to compare them. It's premature and probably ludicrous, but not THAT ludicrous. Pippen was the better scorer, play maker, and rebounder, but otherwise Leonard and Pippen are pretty comparable to each other.
Over the next two years, as Duncan and Ginobili get phased out, Kawhi will assume a bigger offensive burden.
But can he handle the bigger burden? Leonard is the fourth offensive option (maybe even lower sometimes) for the Spurs. Pippen was the second option for the Bulls offense (by a longshot according to field goal attempts) from his 2nd season in the NBA on. Leonard has never been higher than 5th on the Spurs team in field goal attempts. So he's never been the focal point of the opposing team's defense and hasn't had to assume a bigger burden. It's fallacy to think he'll continue to thrive with more of an offensive burden.
Because I think Scottie would have defended LeBron just about exactly the same way. Regardless, that was awesome. A star was born. Let’s keep him away from Josh Howard, please.
Bill points out the mistake in assuming a Leonard will develop into a great second banana on a championship team, compares him favorably to Scottie Pippen, and then says a star was born. What could go wrong?
Q: Couldn’t you argue that LeBron should have won the Finals MVP, considering Miami would have gotten swept by 40 points per game if he hadn’t played?
A: Put it this way: When I was an unborn fetus during the 1969 Finals, I probably kicked my mom in the stomach when Jerry West won the Finals MVP. How valuable could you have been if your team lost? Absurd.
As a whole, this isn't absurd. This question is more often dealt with in MLB when it comes time to name the AL/NL MVP, but if a guy like LeBron drags a Heat team that Bill describes in this column as looking like the 2010 Cavs to the NBA Finals then that means he is pretty valuable, right? He's possibly the most valuable player in that if any one player was removed from the Spurs or Cavs his removal from the Heat would have most negatively affected his team. I'm just saying, there is a way for a player from the losing team to be the MVP and it's not absurd.
Q: What was San Antonio’s luckiest moment of the past 15 years not counting their three lottery wins?
A: Not trading Tony Parker during the summer of 2010 or 2011 when 90 percent of the league would have reacted to 2010’s Phoenix sweep and 2011’s ass-kicking from Memphis by saying, “Let’s cash in our best trade asset and reboot this thing ASAP.”
This wasn't luck, this was a smart personnel decision. There is a difference.
The lessons: Trust your infrastructure, trust continuity, don’t make big trades just to make big trades, and if that’s not enough, count on the fact that you’re the Spurs and you have a steady stream of horseshoes falling out of your ass.
This from a Celtics fan.
Q: Wait, the Spurs won three lotteries? Didn’t they win only two?
Technically, yes — they won in 1987 (Robinson) and 1997 (Duncan). But considering that George Hill morphed into a third guard during this year’s playoffs, I’m counting 2011’s Leonard-Hill trade as San Antonio’s third lottery win. Grantland’s Zach Lowe wrote wonderfully about that trade last year, but the odds of Leonard falling to no. 15 in 2011 — making that trade possible — had to be lower than San Antonio winning the 1987/1997 lotteries.
After Utah took Burks at no. 12, I wrote in my Draft Diary, “How has Kawhi Leonard not been taken yet? What am I missing?”
Of course while touting that he liked Leonard when he was drafted and traded to the Spurs, and he considers this to be the third lottery the Spurs won, Bill forgets this statement,
TRADE! Ric Bucher reports that San Antonio is sending George Hill to Indiana for the rights to Kawhi Leonard. Like it for both teams.
So while talking about how badly the Spurs robbed the Pacers in the Hill-Leonard trade (based entirely on this year's playoffs by the way), Bill brings out an old quote from his draft diary showing that Leonard should not have lasted until the 15th pick. In that same draft diary Bill states he likes the trade for both teams. Funny how he leaves out "what he knew" at the time and fails to mention how "what he knew" at the time doesn't jive with his current opinion. Interesting how that works.
To recap: The Spurs needed Michael Jordan, Dork Elvis AND the Basketball Jesus to blow the Kawhi thing, along with everything else that happened. They NEVER should have gotten Kawhi. That’s Lottery Win No. 3.
Right, but I don't know if this was luck because the Spurs had to have the foresight to trade up for Leonard. It's not like the Spurs just sat there and took Leonard, they traded a proven NBA player to move up and acquire Leonard's rights. Maybe they were lucky Leonard was there, but they made a smart move to get Leonard when he was available. I don't know if I would call this luck. If so, the Celtics were lucky they landed Rondo and Pierce, which is something I know Bill would never consider to be true.
Also, when did Daryl Morey become a drafting genius? I must have been absent that day.
Q: Will we always remember the Cramp Game, or will that just fade away over time?
The Finals result was so decisive — and LeBron’s overall workload so ridiculously daunting — that I can’t imagine anyone holding those Game 1 cramps against him long-term. (Well, unless they’ve never played sports.)
Um, Skip Bayless.
Not to sound like Clint Eastwood sitting on the porch in Gran Torino, but I attended 40 or 50 Boston Garden games that were hotter than Game 1. The Garden wasn’t air-conditioned and they didn’t have suites, so everyone was packed into that place like 300 college kids cramming into someone’s apartment at a keg party. That’s how Game 5 of the 1984 Finals — a.k.a. the Heat Game, when it was 96 degrees outside and 296 degrees inside — became one of the defining Bird games. Fans were fainting in the stands. The Lakers were sucking from oxygen masks on their bench. We were deliriously hot during that game; we felt like cars overheating.
OUR ARENA IS LESS AIR CONDITIONED AND MORE STIFLING THAN YOUR ARENA!
Yes, we have reached the point where Bill has to point out his favorite NBA team's arena was less air conditioned than another NBA team's arena.
But it actually added to the atmosphere — we felt like we were playing, too — and that’s what happened, to a lesser degree, during Game 1. San Antonio’s fans were going bonkers down the stretch, they loved the conditions and REALLY loved that LeBron couldn’t handle them (even if it wasn’t his fault).
I will also never forget doing the postgame show and SportsCenter segments for an hour after the game, with the humidity from open doors combining with TV lights to make us feel like we were wearing fire-retardant suits. Ever been a groomsman wearing a tuxedo in an oppressively hot church, when the sweat starts soaking through and you start feeling like you just swam in your clothes? That’s what it felt like. Bizarre night.)
These stories from the NBA Countdown set never don't get old. Bill is very, very proud of himself for being on NBA Countdown and I am sure there is a subset of the population (Simmons fanatics) who love these stories because they love Bill, but don't count me in that group. It all sounds like he's bragging and very impressed with himself to me.
I watched every Finals game in San Antonio with Doug Collins from our set behind one of the baskets.
Oh, more stories from the NBA Countdown set. Stories from NBA Countdown are starting to rival YouTube videos and bad pop culture jokes as space fillers in Bill's columns.
And as we became buddies over the last eight months, I realized that Doug had something of a hierarchy of praise that went like this.
Level 1: “Coach, that guy is tough.”
Level 2: “Coach, that guy is a BITCH.”
Level 3: “Coach, that guy is a [12-letter word].”
I'm riveted to my computer screen right now. Is it possible to be riveted to your computer screen? If so, I am. Where will Doug Collins place Kawhi Leonard on this hierarchy of praise? I MUST KNOW AND THE ANSWER ISN'T CLEAR TO ME AT ALL, SO KEEP DRAGGING THIS STORY OUT, BILL!
Level 3 didn’t happen that often (and never in mixed company). And if it happened, he’d usually nudge me and whisper, “Coach, coach, that guy is a [12-letter word].” There was no higher praise from him. During Game 5, Doug blessed Kawhi with Level 1 and Level 2, then something else happened (I think it was one of those big Kawhi 3s) and Doug briefly lost his mind, pounding my arm, breaking Level 3 code and yelping, “Coach, that guy is a [12-letter word]! He is a [TWELVE-LETTER WORD]!!!!!!” That’s right, Kawhi Leonard single-handedly created Level 4 on the Coach Collins Hierarchy of Praise.
Oh my, what an epic turn of events! This story was completely relevant to the column and didn't feel forced at all. I was very, very interested in the hierarchy of praise that Doug Collins has. My only regret is this story is now over, but I'm sure Bill will kill space with more stories from the NBA Countdown set. Maybe he will get to the one where Sage Steele gets fired because she calls Bill a whiny asshole for complaining he went 10 whole minutes without being able to talk. That's a story I would like to hear.
Q: Can you give me three reasons why Miami lost the title other than “San Antonio was better”?
Reason 1: The decrepit East fooled the Heat into thinking they were better than they were — hence last summer’s risky Beasley-Oden dice rolls over targeting more reliable role players,
Shaun Livingston, Jodie Meeks, D.J. Augustin, Alan Anderson and Anthony Tolliver were out there.
This is complete hindsight. Augustin wasn't considered a valuable guy, Livingston had never played 76 games in a season during his career where he had played for eight different teams. Bill has to be better than this. Oden-Beasley were a roll of the dice, but he's being disingenuous to use hindsight in order to criticize the Heat for not signing these other players.
Reason 2: They spent the season resting Wade and keeping him from playing back-to-backs, foolishly putting an even bigger burden on LeBron (a far more important player for them). Not only did that gamble NOT pay off — get ready for the eBay listing “GAME-USED FORK FROM DWYANE WADE’S BACK: 2014 FINALS” — but that unneeded LeBron mileage backfired on Miami in the Finals. He wore down and actually seemed human a few times.
Considering the Spurs also used the strategy of resting their older starters, Bill can see why this tactic would be attractive for the Heat though, right? It seems like it makes sense to rest Wade when possible.
Reason 3: Playing in four straight Finals is the NBA’s version of running a marathon, doing a triathlon, scaling a 15,000-foot mountain and finishing a Tough Mudder in back-to-back months. (You can do it; you’d just be a lunatic.) Wade, Bosh and James played five seasons in four when you incorporate those 87 playoff games; combined, they played over 10,000 more minutes than Duncan, Parker and Ginobili since 2010-11.
This is a boring reason based on facts. That can't be the real reason the Heat lost the title. Give me something more intangible and bullshit-based, Bill.
And it’s not just the physical toll — many times in the playoffs, they looked like they didn’t have much fun playing together. On Monday, Chris Bosh confirmed as much, telling an AP writer, “I don’t think anybody really enjoyed this season like in years past. There was no, like, genuine joy all the time. It seemed like work. It was a job the whole year.”
See, Bill had this prior thought WAY BEFORE Bosh said the Heat team wasn't having fun on the court together. See, Bill knew the Heat weren't having fun together, but he just forgot to mention it because that bitch Sage Steele didn't give him a forum to speak his views on the subject. But Bosh's quote pretty much just confirmed what Bill already knew and he isn't at all piggy-backing off Bosh's quote and pretending he thought this was true prior to Bosh's quote. Not. At. All.
If you remember, that kind of happened to them last season, too … and then they ripped off that 27-game win streak and regained their collective mojo.
So the point is the Heat are talented and don't have to enjoy playing with each other? Or is the point the Heat can go on a run and "regain their mojo" anytime they want? Either way, this reasoning is simply hindsight based on the outcome of the NBA Finals.
Q: Which obscure movie quote captures what happened to Miami those last three Finals games?
We have to go back to 1989 for Young Flanagan in Cocktail saying, “Everything always ends badly; otherwise it wouldn’t end.” Just ask the 2004 Lakers (three straight losses), 1991 Lakers (three straight losses), 1991 Pistons (sweep), 2011 Lakers (sweep) and 1996 Rockets (sweep) — all of their “runs” ended ignominiously, only we were saying to the bitter end, They’ll be fine; they won’t go out this way. And they usually do. One of MJ’s greatest moves may have been not returning to the ’99 Bulls. It would have happened to him too.
Michael Jordan and the Bulls just lost the 1999 NBA Finals that occurred solely in Bill Simmons' head. I also like how "we" were saying "They won't go out this way." This is another example of "we" being wrong because "we" share Bill Simmons' thoughts and he has personally never been wrong, so "we" have to be wrong as a collective group.
In his place, we can unretire all Dwyane Wade fat-guy jokes. Once upon a time, we wondered if he’d become the next Michael Jordan — in 2014, it’s actually happening.
Yes, "we" wondered if Wade would be the next Jordan. Not Bill, but "we" were wrong. I hate it when my thoughts I didn't know I had were wrong.
Q: Gut feeling — have we seen the best of Chris Bosh?
Almost definitely. For one thing, he suddenly has 11 years, 796 regular-season games, 89 playoff games and nearly 32,000 career minutes on his NBA odometer. But once the minutes, rebounds and free throw attempts start slipping, that’s the beginning of the end for elite big guys —
I'll be sure to remember this next year when Bosh is the second or third-best player on an NBA title winning team. Bosh may be done, but counting the Heat out after a loss in the NBA Finals seems very reactionary to me.
Q: Gut feeling — is it over for Dwyane Wade?
He's 32 years old with a lot of wear and tear on his body. I mean, this isn't exactly a bold statement. Still, it seems very reactionary for Bill to start counting the Heat out for next year. It seems like something he would regret and then make an excuse for why "we" were wrong about the Heat.
Everything bottomed out during those last two Finals games — the nadir of Wade’s career, no question — when Wade got swallowed up in the paint over and over again, couldn’t finish plays, kept turning the ball over, couldn’t defend anyone and jogged around on defense with his spirit broken. I don’t meant to sound harsh; this was genuinely disheartening to watch.
Bill watched Wade jog around on defense from the makeshift television in the NBA Countdown so you know he had a better view than anyone else did. The makeshift television doesn't lie.
But his body is breaking down — it’s undeniable now — and the history of terrific 2-guards once they pass that his-body-looks-like-it’s-breaking-down point couldn’t be more bleak. (T-Mac? Richmond? Drexler? Sprewell?)
To be fair, the history of athletes once they pass the point of where it looks like their body is breaking down isn't good. So it's not just 2-guards this affects. Once an athlete looks like his body is breaking down on him, there's a bad history of this simply being true.
Could he reinvent himself Manu-style as a scorer/creator off the bench? Maybe. Just know that this happens to every great player — all of them, without exception — and we never accept that it’s happening until it’s way too late.
"WE" never accept this happens to every great player until it is too late. :WE" never do. I hate it when we as a collective group are wrong because Bill is wrong. But hey, when "we" are wrong "we" are wrong.
I don't mind the use of "we" as it pertains to a group of people, but the way that Bill uses it, to put thoughts into the mind of a large group of people, is just a way to shield himself from being wrong. It's perfectly fine to say, "we" in terms of referring to a large group of people or even"we" in terms of a group whose thoughts you know to be true. Bill just uses the term in assuming everyone else has the same thoughts he has when these thoughts just happen to be wrong.
Q: OK, so if you were LeBron, what would you do this summer?
(LeBron opted out of his contract with the Heat as I copied and pasted the sentence above)
We also don’t know how many skeletons are buried out there — for instance, if Wade and LeBron made a pact during the 2008 Olympics to play together, then spent the next two to three years colluding on their 2010 destination, then got Riley involved at some point during the 2009-10 season, AND MULTIPLE PEOPLE KNEW THIS WHOLE STORY, I think it would be risky for LeBron to walk away (and have that stuff belatedly come out).
Maybe I'm underplaying this story a bit, but I don't know if this is a huge revelation. I've pretty much assumed those three decided in 2008 they would be on the same team once they became free agents, if possible, and then once it became possible they followed through on the deal.
Who would tell this story though, assuming it would be salacious? Not Pat Riley and not anyone in the Heat organization who cares to have a career after the story gets told. Not LeBron, not Wade, not Bosh, and not anyone who wants to deal with the best NBA player on the planet holding a grudge against him/her. I've always assumed they colluded and as much as it sucks as a fan of the Raptors/Cavs, there's not much to be done. It's not like Bosh/James did anything wrong to become free agents.
So here’s where LeBron and agent Rich Paul have to throw their weight around — they have to convince everyone involved (not just Wade and Bosh, but Miami’s owners, too) to restructure those deals. Let’s say Wade and Bosh opt out of their 2014-15 deals, then sign for $58 million apiece over the next four seasons. And let’s say the numbers look like this: $12.5 million (next year), $13.5 million, $15 million, and then $17 million apiece for the 2017-18 season (when the salary cap will be $20 million to $25 million higher, anyway). So Bosh and Wade get slightly more than $15 million guaranteed beyond what they’re already owed.
Now I'm confused. Bill Simmons, who just stated we had seen the best of Chris Bosh and states he would not pay $20 million per year for Bosh, thinks the Heat should give Bosh $15 million MORE guaranteed, including $17 million in the last year of a contract? So Bill wouldn't pay Chris Bosh $20 million per year, but he would give him $15 million more guaranteed, including $17 million in the last year of the contract. I want Bill to be an NBA GM. I need to see him make moves like this.
Also, Bill has just stated that Wade is pretty much done and went to great lengths to point out just how done Wade is. Why would the Heat extend Wade's contract and give him more money guaranteed? Why does Bill think this is a good idea? If Wade is done, is giving him more money guaranteed, including $32 million as a 35-36 year old a great move? This has to be a joke.
And let’s say LeBron exercises his 2014-15 player option for $20.6 million. Throw in Norris Cole’s salary ($2 million), convince Udonis Haslem to retire (and just overpay him as a Heat employee and the newest member of the Miami Mafia), and suddenly you have nearly $20 million to spend on one more big gun (Carmelo). Or, you could go a different way and pursue one or two elite free agents (Kyle Lowry, Pau Gasol, Luol Deng, Marcin Gortat, even Lance Stephenson), combined with a couple of veterans (Paul Pierce, Trevor Ariza, Spencer Hawes, Vince Carter) and maybe one role player (Shaun Livingston, Josh McRoberts, Greivis Vasquez).
This is a typical Bill Simmons idea. He's losing the forest for the trees. Yes, the $20 million can go a long way and I think he has some good ideas, but he also just signed two players that he admits are clearly on the decline to longer contracts worth more guaranteed money. Sure, the cap will be higher (which is being assumed), but the Heat would still be spending $64 million over two years on two players who are on the decline. It's not a smart long-term move.
Q: If LeBron does leave Miami, where would he go?
Door No. 2 (+400 odds): He goes back to Cleveland and convinces Carmelo to come with him. Do NOT rule this out. Especially if Cleveland hires a coach who LeBron likes. The Cavs are loaded with young assets and could create whatever team LeBron wanted.
It would be fun if LeBron came back to the Cavs. The problem is those hurt feelings from four years ago, plus LeBron is 29 years old. He wants to win now. Do the Cavs have a team that can win titles now with LeBron on the team? I think that's debatable.
Door No. 3 (+500 odds): LeBron rolls with Doc and CP3 in Los Angeles — something that would only require the Clippers to trade DeAndre Jordan’s expiring deal, Matt Barnes’s expiring deal and Jamal Crawford’s deal (expires in 2016) to different teams with cap space (super-easy), then use last year’s first round pick (Reggie Bullock) and/or a future first rounder, along with $3 million of Steve Ballmer’s money (chump change!), to dump Jared Dudley (two years, $8.5 million remaining) on someone with cap space (also doable). Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick will make about $48 million combined next season — if the Clips cleared everyone else (again, VERY doable), they could offer LeBron a deal starting at about $15 million. And he’d get to reinvent himself in Los Angeles, with a coach he loves, a superstar he respects and a billionaire owner who’s ready to splurge on a great team.
I feel the need to mention that Bill harped on and on about how the Clippers needed to sign another big man at the trade deadline this year and he now thinks it is a good idea for the Clippers to trade their best center and essentially have a whole at that spot. It's not a bad idea, but I feel like I need to mention this. It would be fun to watch, that's for sure.
And don’t think the Clips aren’t pursuing it, because they are.
Wait, so you mean an NBA is actively pursuing options to get the best player in the NBA to play for that team? No way.
He’d look like a sellout for going to Houston. Phoenix is never happening. And going back to the Midwest but picking Chicago over Cleveland? Come on.
Right, because LeBron has always worried about looking like a sellout. His move to Miami which netted him two NBA titles made him look like a sellout and it didn't seem to bother him one bit.
Q: Do you really think Carmelo Anthony could save Miami?
No. Serge Ibaka could save Miami. Marc Gasol could save Miami. Joel Embiid four years from now could save Miami. The Heat didn’t lose the 2014 Finals because of their offense; they lost because their supporting cast sucked, they couldn’t defend anyone, and Wade and Bosh aren’t the same guys anymore.
Again, I come back to the question of why the Heat would pay the two guys who aren't the same guys anymore $15 million more guaranteed than they already have to? It's not a smart long-term move and I'm not sure it's a smart short-term move either.
Q: After watching Miami get rolled over in the Finals, how many Eastern Conference teams are saying to themselves right now, We can make the Finals next year!!! No, really, who’s stopping us????
I’m counting eight: Chicago (easily the best bet because of the Noah-Gibson-Carmelo-Butler-Rose potential), Indiana (can it flip Hibbert into a different asset?), Washington (hey, Wiz fans, you ready to wildly overpay Ariza and Gortat???), Charlotte (don’t forget, it has cap space and the no. 9 overall pick), Toronto (one more elite player away from being interesting), Brooklyn (if Brook Lopez can come back and Deron Williams miraculously turns into a franchise point guard again), Cleveland (loaded with tradable assets if it wants to go that way), and Boston (if it gets Kevin Love).
I don't get why the Celtics will become an Eastern Conference Finals contender if they land Kevin Love. He's great, but he's also only one player and the Celtics would have to add more guys than just Love to suddenly vault them into contention for the Eastern Conference Finals. They were the team with the #6 overall pick for a reason.
(Note to any Knicks fan: Please, for your own sanity, stop typing the “What about us?” email, delete it, and stare at your computer screen in silence for a few seconds until you crash back to reality. Thanks.)
With Carmelo opting out of his contract with the Knicks it does open up cap room for them and playing anywhere near Phil Jackson has worked out for superstars in the past. What am I thinking? Of course the Celtics, who will have to trade assets to get Love, will go from being the #6 overall pick in the draft to an Eastern Conference Finals contender simply by trading for Kevin Love.
Q: Enough with the crappy East — let’s go back to the Spurs! What was the most underrated Spurs-related story line?
Second, you can’t sleep on how important it was that Duncan-Manu-Parker took less money to stay with the Spurs.
I think very, very few people have slept on how important it was that these three players took less money to stay with the Spurs. It's pretty much the reason the team was able to put a great team around these three players. I'm not sure who is sleeping on this. Probably "we" are.
But at the same time, they played for 25 to 30 percent less than their market value, which allowed San Antonio to re-sign Tiago Splitter and afford Boris Diaw, Marco Belinelli, Danny Green and Matt Bonner.
This has been covered repeatedly I think. The sacrifices those three players made allowed the Spurs to win the 2014 NBA title. I'm not sure why Bill would think anyone is sleeping on this being a Spurs storyline and it's not at all underrated.
Then Bill does real analysis (no sarcasm) about how the Spurs improved from 2013 and has an interesting point about the Mount Rushmore of NBA coaches. It gives me false hope that he can be salvaged as a writer.
Q: Has anyone in NBA history had a better career than Tim Duncan?
We’re not arguing “Best Player Ever” here, just start-to-finish careers. Think of it this way: You’re starting a team from scratch, you can grab any player from NBA history … and you can build around that one player for up to 20 years. If you pick Jordan, you’re getting 11 full Chicago seasons, two abbreviated Chicago seasons, a lost baseball season and those two Wiz seasons.
Fine, I choose Jon Koncak.
But if you want to succeed for two decades, you’d gravitate toward all-encompassing excellence, durability, longevity and the knowledge that, at some point, the winning pedigree of that player would win you a few titles. (Sorry, Reggie Miller, John Stockton and Karl Malone … you just got crossed off.)
If you notice, Bill essentially setting this up to where a certain player would be the obvious answer. I'm not going to argue against Duncan's career, or "the Duncan Show" as Bill put it in a two-part column over a year ago, but the criteria is essentially being set up to where this certain player is the answer. Bill is rigging it. Why have a player for 20 years? Why not 15 years? Well, then Jordan/Bryant become a guy to consider. Why include winning pedigree? Because that takes Malone and Stockton, both players who performed well over a long period, out of the running. He's rigging it with criteria that takes out certain players who would otherwise be viable candidates.
Duncan’s résumé: 17 seasons; 5-1 in the Finals; won titles 15 years apart; 14 All-Star Games; back-to-back MVPs; three Finals MVPs; Rookie of the Year; 10 first-team All-NBAs; three second-team All-NBAs; never had a winning percentage below .600; never missed the playoffs; 19.9 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 2.2 BPG, 50.6% FG, 24.6 PER, 191.6 WS (reg. season); 21.3 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 2.3 BPG, 50% FG, 24.6 PER, 36.2 WS (playoffs). The best player of the post-MJ generation — it’s true.
The résumé of The Guy You Should Have Picked: 20 seasons (19 as an asset); 6-4 in the Finals; won titles 17 years apart; won two Finals MVPs (14 years apart); six MVPs; 19 All-Star Games (!!!!); 10 first-team All-NBAs; five second-team All-NBAs; 16 seasons with a winning percentage over .600; missed the playoffs twice; leads the NBA in minutes and points; 24.6 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 55.9% FG, 24.6 PER, 273.4 WS (regular season); 24.3 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 53.3% FG; 23.0 PER; 35.6 WS (playoffs).
That guy? Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
While it is unusual for Bill to be kind to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, notice that he chooses criteria that perfectly matches up with Kareem's career. Where did the 20 year requirement come from? Oh yeah, that's how long Kareem played. The whole idea of a player having the best career would be better served if the time period required were shorter than 20 years since 99% of NBA players don't play in the league for 20 years.
Kareem remains our most underrated great player. Nobody had a better start-to-finish career. But if Duncan plays two or three more years, makes another Finals and reaches that 20-year mark? It might become an argument, right?
No, because Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant had great careers, but they just didn't play for the cherry-picked 20 seasons. Jordan's career isn't less than Abdul-Jabbar's career simply because Abdul-Jabbar played for so long. The same goes for Kobe Bryant. His career hasn't lasted 20 years, but he's been productive for 16 of his 18 seasons. It sort of ruins the point of the exercise in putting a time period on it when discussing a player's career, since each player's career lasts a different period of time.
Duncan’s most underrated “skill”? He’s one of the greatest and most unselfish teammates of all time. The Spurs realized early on that they could build a franchise around his personality, his competitiveness and his work ethic, so that’s exactly what San Antonio did.
Again, the fact Duncan is unselfish is not in any way underrated. It's defined his career essentially and has been widely mentioned and discussed. I can't fathom how Duncan's unselfishness could be considered underrated.
Everyone from Duncan’s generation was jealous of the players who got to play with Tim Duncan. It’s one of many reasons why he’s had the second-greatest career of all time.
And of course Bill can't simply appreciate Duncan's career, he has to create some sort of contrived way of appreciating Duncan's career in order to be the smartest guy in the room. It's like how Bill can't allow a reader in his mailbag to have a better idea than him. Bill won't allow anyone to appreciate Duncan without trying to find a new way to appreciate Duncan.