Monday, June 30, 2014

3 comments Ten Things I Think I Think Peter King Has Not Thought Of: The Un-American Edition

It's time to dust off the links to articles that may not merit a full post, but definitely merit being discussed in this space. There is some Bleacher Report fun, one of the worst instances of PED speculation I have ever read, Manny Ramirez being an embarrassment, and Jay Mariotti calling Jurgen Klinsmann "Un-American." Jay the Patriot. Bob Nightengale even pulls a "Murray Chass" and says, "Hey, I just noticed these minor league players don't get called up until after they wouldn't qualify as a Super-2." As any good complaint about bad sportswriting should do, let's start off with Jay Mariotti.

1. Jay thinks that Jurgen Klinsmann's defeatest attitude (otherwise known as playing "mind games with the media in public while giving his team confidence in private") is very un-American. We all know Jay Mariotti should be the judge of what is and is not American. Jay had an issue with Klinsmann stating the American team couldn't win the World Cup, which I thought was simply him lowering expectations publicly for the U.S. Men's Soccer Team, but what do I know?

He doesn’t think the U.S. squad, the team he coaches, can win the golden trophy this year. I don’t believe the Americans will do much in Brazil, nor do you, nor does anyone else with even a modicum of soccer knowledge — but when the national coach blurts it out twice, before the first ball is kicked, I have to wonder why I should bother watching.

But if you don't think the Americans would win much in Brazil then why would you watch anyway? The assumption is Jay is watching the soccer game to see if the Americans can win and he wouldn't watch if he didn't think they could win. So if Jay doesn't think the Americans could win and he won't watch if they can't win, then why does he need confirmation from Klinsmann the U.S. squad could win the World Cup? Does Jay believe his opinion is wrong? If so, why does he hold an opinion he believes is incorrect?

“I think for us now, talking about winning a World Cup is just not realistic,” he said in Sao Paulo, mere days before the Americans take on their recent nemesis, Ghana, in first-round group play. “First we’ve got to make it through the group. So let’s stay with our feet on the ground and say let’s get that group first done, and then the sky is the limit. But a half a year before and even today before the World Cup starts — to say that we should win the World Cup is just not realistic.

The message was, "Let's not get ahead of ourselves and worry about winning the World Cup. Let's get out of group first." Seems like a reasonable message to me. It manages expectations and keeps the team focused on the current task at hand. Of course, focusing on the task at hand and not speculating about future victories is totally un-American.

The approach is embarrassingly un-American, if that’s what he’s getting at. Hired three years ago to fix a wayward U.S. program, the German national hero is speaking the truth about our ho-hum soccer condition at absolutely the wrong time, as if to take pressure off himself. This is a country that believes in sports miracles, none bigger than a 1980 Olympic hockey team with which he might want to familiarize himself.

It's un-American for Klinsmann to not unrealistically believe in miracles and give the nation false hope for the World Cup. How dare the U.S. coach not realistically manage expectations and choose instead to elevate expectations to where anything less than a miracle is considered a disappointment.

It’s hard to sell the sport to the American masses, as ESPN and Fox and NBC continue to do with great vigor, when our World Cup team keeps losing to Ghana. The least Klinsmann can do is let U.S. fans embrace their hopes and dreams, hollow as they are, before they’re officially punctured starting Monday in Natal.

This argument is absolutely ridiculous. Jay is essentially arguing Klinsmann should give the United States false hope about the team's talent in order to eventually be disappointed when the hope is shattered. Guess what else would happen? All of the talking heads would say, "Klinsmann promised a World Cup victory and he couldn't even get the team out of the group stage. Maybe he should be fired."

The idea a coach should give fans false hope intentionally is such a Jay Mariotti point of view. 

Foolishly left off the 23-man U.S. roster by Klinsmann, Donovan — merely the most recognizable and accomplished of American soccer players — thinks Klinsmann’s stance is all wrong. Not that Donovan is right in predicting the Americans will win the World Cup — he said so at a rally for the American Outlaws fan group — but it sure beats the Klinsmann blues.

Yeah, but Donovan is helping fans embrace hopes and dreams! That's all that matters in World Cup fantasy land isn't it?

“This will come as a surprise to nobody, but I disagree with Jurgen,” said Donovan, who likely will criticize Klinsmann early and often as an ESPN analyst if the U.S. doesn’t fare well. “I believe it and I think all of America believes we can do it. I agree with the American Outlaws — `We believe that we will win.’
 
“In my opinion, Germany’s one of the best teams in the world, and if we can beat Germany, why can’t we (advance from the group)?”

There is no "we" Landon, you aren't on the team. Also, it's a lot easier to talk shit about how the team can win the World Cup when you aren't an active member of the team. Donovan doesn't have to back up his words with actions. He can just sit and be a talking head while pointing out what the U.S. team SHOULD have done.

Oddly, Klinsmann named five German-American players to the team, all raised in Germany as the sons of U.S. servicemen. “Every year we are getting stronger,” he said.

And now Klinsmann is recruiting a bunch of foreigners to come in and play for the U.S. team. This ain't Germany, it's America! Go home and play with your Nazi propaganda you bunch of un-American American citizens!

“We are going to take the game to Ghana and they will take it to us and it will be an exciting game and then we go from there.’’

Can’t wait, coach.

Klinsmann should just be sure to give everyone in the United States false hope so Jay Mariotti can write a column describing how Klinsmann is a piece of shit coach because he promised something he couldn't deliver. See, Jay only wants to write a column ripping Klinsmann to shreds when he fails. It's no fun for Jay to see a coach like Klinsmann lower expectations to a reasonable level and not allow Jay the chance to rip him behind the safety of his computer.

2. I know you wanted to know who the most underrated player on each MLB team is. Don't worry, Bleacher Report has the list for you. It won't surprise you to know there are some interesting players on the list. And of course EVERY MLB team HAS to have an underrated player for the sake of pageviews.

Let's start the slideshow!

What follows is a rundown of the most underrated player on every MLB team. As you'll notice, there are a ton of relievers on the list whose contributions are often overlooked. However, there are also aces who are overshadowed by more prominent teammates.

Baltimore Orioles
  
Most Underrated Player: Nelson Cruz, DH/OF

You mean the 2-time All-Star and 2011 ALCS MVP? That Nelson Cruz?

It's truly remarkable that the Baltimore Orioles were able to sign Nelson Cruz to just a one-year, $8 million deal.

The Orioles were able to sign Cruz to this deal because he was suspended last year for PED use and no MLB team wanted to meet the 4 year $75 million request that Cruz had for his next contract. He had already turned down a 4 year $56 million deal with the Rangers. So he's not underrated because he's underpaid. There's a reason he is underpaid. He asked for too much money coming off a PED suspension.

Cincinnati Reds

Most Underrated Player: Brayan Pena, C

The 32 year old catcher who has a lifetime line of .258/.291/.361 and has never had an OPS+ over 100 is underrated? That's interesting.

Backup catchers generally don't get much attention. That's certainly true of Brayan Pena of the Cincinnati Reds. However, with starter Devin Mesoraco sidelined with a hamstring injury, Pena has been a key contributor for the Reds. 
 
In 20 games, the switch-hitter is batting .328 with a .923 OPS. The 32-year-old's strong start at the plate is not a complete shock considering that he hit .297 for the Detroit Tigers in 71 games a season ago.

As I write this, Pena has a .255 batting average with a .656 OPS. It sounds like the author is stating Pena is underrated based on a small sample size for 2014. He's a good backup catcher. That doesn't make him underrated.

Detroit Tigers

Most Underrated Player: Anibal Sanchez, SP

Oh, so the guy who signed a 5 year $88 million contract is underrated? It seems like given that contract amount the Tigers seem to think he's pretty good.

On just about any other team in baseball, Anibal Sanchez would the undisputed staff ace. On the Detroit Tigers, though, the right-hander is just the No. 3 starter.

The fact there are more traditionally more talented pitchers in front of Sanchez doesn't mean he is underrated.

Houston Astros

Most Underrated Player: Chris Carter, 1B/DH

In 2013, Carter swatted 29 home runs, which tied for No. 11 in the AL. This year, Carter has gone yard four times and also added seven doubles. Of course, he's also struck out 40 times.

Derr, he hits a lot of home runs so he must be underrated. Derr. Home runs are pretty. Carter is hitting .191/.280/.440 on the season. He has hit 13 home runs though, so that's super-impressive and makes him underrated.

Milwaukee Brewers

Most Underrated Player: Carlos Gomez, CF

The guy who was an All-Star last year, came in 9th in the MVP race and won a Gold Glove...that guy is underrated?

The center fielder was tied for the highest WAR (8.9) in MLB a season ago, per Baseball-Reference.com. In 2013, the right-handed hitter collected 24 home runs and also stole 40 bases. This year, Gomez is once again off to a fast start. The 28-year-old has nine doubles, eight home runs and is 4-for-5 on stolen-base attempts.

He's a great baseball player who was recognized in three ways last year as a great baseball player even though he plays in a smaller market. Sounds like he is properly rated.

Minnesota Twins

Most Underrated Player: Chris Colabello, 1B

Chris Colabello isn't just underrated. For years, the right-handed hitter was outright ignored.

Because he's not very good. He's hitting .232/.280/.377 on the season. It seems the author chose any player who got off to a hot start in 2014 as "underrated." Perhaps the slideshow should be called, "A list of players who got off to a hot start and I will call them underrated but don't pay attention to this slideshow in a month."

This year, the 30-year-old has totaled 10 doubles and four home runs. He's also collected 28 RBI, which ranks No. 5 in baseball.

He was sent down to the minors in late May. I'm sure he's a really, really underrated minor league player though.

New York Yankees

Most Underrated Player: Alfonso Soriano, DH

I don't need to explain this one. He's made $158 million in his career.

The 38-year-old doesn't hit for high average, but he provides a constant source of power. In 2014, the designated hitter has already connected on seven doubles and five home runs. His home run total is tied for second on the club.

He hits home runs and home runs are pretty.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Most Underrated Player: Neil Walker, 2B

Neil Walker provides a lot of pop for a second baseman. 
In 2012 and 2013, the switch-hitter connected on 14 and 16 home runs respectively. This year, the 28-year-old is on pace for his best output yet. Walker has already gone yard six times, which ranks second on the team.

Hit home runs? If so, the author will consider you underrated.

San Francisco Giants

Most Underrated Player: Brandon Hicks, 2B

A career .160/.263/.323 hitter is underrated? But why?

The right-handed batter is only hitting .208, but he owns a .330 OBP and has contributed five home runs including a walk-off.

He's not hitting .172 but he has hit 8 home runs, dammit! That's underrated!

Seattle Mariners

Most Underrated Player: Felix Hernandez, SP

Not at all, friend. Not at all. He plays on the West Coast for a team that isn't very good. He's not underrated because of this though. He has a Cy Young award as well.

Texas Rangers

Most Underrated Player: Martin Perez, SP

In 2014, Perez has already recorded two shutouts and reeled off a 26-inning scoreless stretch. However, the left-hander has now been tagged in back-to-back outings. His most recent poor performance came on May 5 when he served up five runs in five innings while pitching against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

He's underrated because one time he pitched 26 straight scoreless innings. This makes him underrated apparently. Not every team has to have an underrated player, but that's just how Bleacher Report works sometimes.

3. Christine Brennan thinks that Florida State is coddling Jameison Winston, an amateur athlete by the way, a little bit too much. They need to be tougher on him. He doesn't get paid to get in trouble with the law, he gets paid to win football games.

Were Jameis Winston a fourth-string punter rather than a first-string quarterback, he almost certainly would have long since been kicked off the Florida State football team, probably for good.

Boy, she is astute. It's almost like college athletes are held to a different standard from other college students. That couldn't be true though, could it?

If we've learned anything over the past six months in the ugly Winston saga in Tallahassee, it's that nothing — not an allegation of sexual assault, not failing to appear when you're expected to testify, not stealing crab legs from the local Publix — will stand between the so-called leaders of Florida State and their unending love of their winning football program.

I think this lesson was learned in regard to Florida State quite a few years ago. This isn't a recent lesson to be learned about the school's love for their winning football program.

And that goes for you too, Tallahassee police department, letting a sexual assault case sit dormant for nine months, just long enough for Winston to be well on his way to completing that magical Seminole football season.

They should remove him from both the football and baseball teams at least until he answers questions about what happened the night of the alleged sexual assault, as two of his football teammates did at a code of conduct hearing on Tuesday. They should tell him he needs to take time away from both sports to begin to deal with his mushrooming off-the-field problems.

I mean, stealing crab legs is stealing crab legs. It's pretty clear that the Publix allowed Florida State players some sort of free rein to do this sort of thing in the past. Winston wasn't exactly running out the door on the video showing him stealing the crab legs.

And there is the potential of civil action against him and FSU. The kid has barely left his teenage years and already has not one but two attorneys. I don't care how many awards he has won. This is not the way you want to start out life as an adult.

I like the idea that the school should teach Jameis Winston a lesson about how to start life out as an adult when Christine Brennan thinks the school itself is corrupt and covering up for Winston. It would be the corrupt teaching the corruptible.

It's well past time for FSU's leaders to provide an example for Winston by actually playing the role they are supposed to play — that of adults supervising young people — and showing him he is worth more to FSU as a person than just as an athlete. They should stop letting him slide. They should tell him the only course of action is to show up and tell the truth, come what may.

The assumption here is that Winston had not told the truth and was previously lying. Christine Brennan doesn't provide any evidence this assumption is true.

But now he's all lawyered up, so that's not going to happen. He's all but untouchable now.

Fucking lawyers always looking out for their clients using due process and the American judicial system to their client's favor. What a bunch of sharks. 

When Winston stole the crab legs, FSU did the right thing, at least for a little while. He was suspended from the baseball team, where he is a relief pitcher — for all of four days. He was back in plenty of time to finish up the regular season and play in this week's Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. I'm sure that comes as a shock to absolutely no one. It's the FSU way.

I mean, they were crab legs. It's not like he is stealing televisions or committing a large scale crime which would require jail time. Stealing anything isn't right, but they are crab legs. In terms of committing a crime, this is pretty low on the totem pole.

Yes, Florida State needs to be harsher, but if Christine Brennan is in anyway surprised that star football players get different rules to play by then she hasn't paid attention for the last 30 years.

4. Phil Mushnick is tired of the nonsense on baseball broadcasts and is also pissed off that the grocery store moved the wine aisle all the way across the store so he has to walk further to pick up his favorite Chardonnay. Mushnick is tired of baseball players not running when they need to be running. In fact, he's just tired and angry about everything.

It went unmentioned — and likely unknown by Kay, at the time — Arenado wouldn’t have had to slide had he run the entire way on a shot off the wall in left.

In town with the Dodgers last week was Matt Kemp, 2011 MVP runner-up who missed 89 games last season with ankle surgery. While that’s regularly noted by local media, its particulars are never addressed:

Here is Mushnick talking yet again about how Matt Kemp should have been running on this play. It's not enough to mention it in his column, but he thinks announcers should talk about how lazy Matt Kemp is every single time his ankle surgery is mentioned.

On a chopper between first and second, Kemp, on third, jogged toward the plate, presuming there would be no play on him. When the throw was made to the plate, Kemp, who should have easily scored, standing, turned it on too late. His awkward slide wrecked his ankle.

Got that? A star missed 89 games because he didn’t bother to run to the next base! Crazy, but that’s now standard MLB play.

Yes, this is now a "standard" MLB play. Everywhere you look there are stars not running to the next base. In fact, some baseball players like Yasiel Puig are crawling to the next base or not even attempting to run the bases if he doesn't hit a home run. Puig actually heads to the dugout after a single because he wanted a home run and isn't going to waste his time hustling if he can't hit a home run and trot around the bases.

Over the weekend, the Cubs named Manny Ramirez a Triple-A player/coach. Hmm, now what advice could he provide aspiring big leaguers?

Gosh, I don't know. What advice could an absolutely fantastic hitter impart to aspiring big leaguers? I can't think of anything other than to share the knowledge that helped Ramirez become one of the best hitters in baseball history.

How to pose at home plate? How to turn doubles into singles, in playoff games, too? How to assault a 65-year-old traveling secretary for being unable to meet a late request to leave 16 tickets for buddies? Tips on how to be consistently, conspicuously, unconditionally selfish?

Exactly. I'm sure Ramirez is providing tips on all of these things. It must be nice to be as perfect as Phil Mushnick is and be able to spend the majority of your time pointing out everything that others have done wrong and then holding it over that person's head for their entire lifetime. Perfection is such a burden.

Wednesday during Dodgers-Mets, an SNY graphic on L.A. starter Zach Greinke: “No more than two runs allowed in any of last 21 starts, longest streak in MLB history.” Wow!

Fuck your snark, that is impressive.

Know how many complete games Greinke has pitched in the last four seasons? One. He’s a six-to-seven-innings starter. Yet, he has surpassed the greatest of greats, including those who regularly pitched nine innings and occasionally allowed three runs. Bob Gibson threw 28 complete games in 1968 — and again in ’69!

Don't worry, this is still an impressive record. Your impression of history isn't going to be threatened. Clearly, a caveat stating Greinke only pitches six or seven innings should have been included. We can't have anyone thinking today's pitchers are as great as pitchers were in Phil Mushnick's time.

Sense? Tuesday night, with the Dodgers in town, TV couldn’t help but show the first six rows behind the plate — best seats in the Mets’ house — went empty. The Mets and Yankees have that in common. At the same time, the Yankees were playing the last-place Cubs at Wrigley. Not an empty seat in sight.

I'm sure there is no price differential in seats in the first six rows at Yankee Stadium, Citi Field and Wrigley Field. That probably wouldn't explain why the seats were empty. I'm not entirely sure why this makes Phil Mushnick so angry.

Headfirst slides? Why not? Knock yourselves out.

Why are you so angry? Why do you pick out the most inane things and then complain about them in your column? It's like hearing a senile, homeless man rant on the corner about how the trees are looking at him funny.

5. Speaking of Manny Ramirez, Dan Shaughnessy was embarrassed by the Red Sox tribute to him. "It's a farce!," says Shaughnessy.

Let me see if I have this straight: Manny Ramirez hit like Jimmie Foxx for 7½ seasons in Boston, but it turned out he was cheating with PEDs the whole time.

I'm not sure it's known whether he was cheating with PED's (it sounds like Manny was cheating with PED's in a biblical way, luring PED's into bed...I can picture him smoking a cigarette beside the cream and clear) the entire time he was with the Red Sox. Jimmie Foxx had an extra "x" in his name, so that has to count for some sort of cheating, right? It made him seem extra badass.

Ramirez also regularly ignored the kids from the Jimmy Fund

What about the kids? Doesn't Manny care about the kids?

After quitting on the Sox, he went to Los Angeles and hit .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs in the final 53 games of the season. Without Ramirez, the Sox went on to lose the seventh game of the 2008 AL Championship Series to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Ramirez was also instrumental in the Red Sox winning two World Series, which is the reason he was honored...so there's that too.

On the night the Sox chose to honor the most important team in their 114-year history, they made Manny the featured character. After legitimate Sox gods Pedro Martinez, David Ortiz, and Curt Schilling were asked to step aside — Bloody Sock Schill was making his first public appearance while in the throes of a serious battle with cancer — Manny came out from the Green Monster and had the honor of throwing the ceremonial first pitch.

Manny doesn't care about the kids AND he took the ceremonial first pitch from a person stricken with cancer. I'm surprised he didn't punch a baby in the face on his way out from the Green Monster. I also like how Manny isn't a "legitimate" Sox god. He certainly seemed legitimate when he helped lead the Red Sox to two World Series victories. It's funny how time has scraped Ramirez's legitimacy away.

Manny received the loudest ovation. 

Another example of the fans being assholes. They cheer for a granny-assaulting, PED-using, kid-snubbing, cancer survivor-snubbing, illegitimate Sox god. These people have no morals, but should feel free to continue to read Dan's columns and buy his books in order to make him more money.

Wow. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing. We wish Manny the best as he goes forward in his new life.

No, you don't. No one likes a liar. Well, no one likes a liar who can't play sports well and Dan Shaughnessy doesn't seem like he can play sports well.

But management knows better. Must the Sox brass always appeal to the lowest common denominator? (Seen NESN lately?)

Read Dan Shaughnessy's column lately? I should go easy on Dan, he hasn't been able to manufacture a fake curse in order to sell books in over a decade. Times are tough for him.

Appearing on WEEI’s “Dennis & Callahan” Thursday morning, Sox CEO Larry Lucchino said,...“But the simple fact is that we were honoring the World Series championship of 2004 and the MVP in the World Series was Manny Ramirez . . . A choice had to be made among several candidates that were fitting and appropriate and I believe the decision turned on the World Series MVP. 

It's a logical way to determine who should throw out the first pitch. I know Dan Shaughnessy doesn't like the decision, but choosing between the other Sox players was difficult so the World Series MVP (the non-legitimate Sox god) threw out the first pitch.

“That seemed to be a rational decision. We would never please everyone.’’

Especially those people like Dan Shaughnessy who could never be pleased.

6. Now comes an absolutely terrible slideshow (not done by Bleacher Report) called "10 Most Likely Baseball Steroid Users Never Caught." Yeah, wow. This is the type of stuff that lawsuits are made of.

Albert Pujols: 

Let's be honest here. The odds of Albert Pujols being clean are slim. He's never been caught or linked to PED's, but something just doesn't add up.

Yes, let's be honest. Let's accuse Pujols of using PED's because that's the most honest thing that could be done in this situation. 

Nolan Ryan: 

Ryan retired in 1993 with the Texas Rangers. He played with Jose Canseco in his later years, which makes him even more suspicious.

He played on the same team as Jose Canseco. So did hundreds of other baseball players, so every single one of them has to be under suspicion, right? As I've detailed many times, if this shitty reasoning is used then what does it say about Derek Jeter? 

Mike Sweeney:  

Mike Sweeney had back problems through much of his career, but he was a big-time offensive weapon for Kansas City from 1999-2003.

Sweeney wasn't much of an offensive weapon prior to those seasons. In fact, it came as a big surprise to Royals fans when he became the hitter that led him to 5 All-Star appearances.

Sweeney wasn't much of an offensive weapon prior to those seasons because he was 24 years old and had never gotten more than 300 at-bats in a season, but don't let facts get in the way of creating lies about Mike Sweeney. 

Rickey Henderson: 

Maybe Rickey really was a freak of an athlete. Or maybe he was on steroids. We'll probably never know.

Maybe Napoleon Bonaparte was Emperor of the French. Or maybe he was a Tyrannosaurus Rex pretending to be a human. We'll probably never know. 

Adrian Beltre: 

This is a tough one because Adrian Beltre only has one monster season. But he's been so up-and-down that his career doesn't make much sense.

He's only had one monster season as long as you don't count his production from 2010-2013. I'm looking for the up and down part of his career. He's seemed pretty consistent to me. 

Cliff Lee: 

Cliff Lee was a mediocre pitcher from 2003-2007. In 2008, he won the Cy Young and has been great ever since. It is a bit odd that Lee couldn't figure things out until age 29, especially after pitching so many innings prior to that season.

Sandy Koufax didn't become a Hall of Fame pitcher until he turned 26 years old despite pitching almost 955 innings prior to that. Maybe he was on steroids too!

The author of this is an absolute moron. Like he didn't even do one bit of research and just sort of took a big shit all over his keyboard and this group of sentences is the result. Cliff Lee went 18-5 with a 3.79 ERA and 1.218 WHIP in 2005. He came in 4th in the Cy Young voting. He struggled in 2006 and was injured most of 2007. But no really, I'm sure he used steroids beginning in 2008.

Jacoby Ellsbury: 

Jacoby Ellsbury has much in common with Brady Anderson. They even play the same position.

Oh, well say no more. Obviously Jacoby Ellsbury used steroids because Brady Anderson was a proven steroid us---wait, no he wasn't. He never failed a test for steroids that didn't exist when Brady Anderson played in the majors. But they both played centerfield at one point during their career, so that's some hard-and-fast evidence right there. 

Maybe it was a fluke. Or maybe he cheated like Brady Anderson did when he hit 50 homers in 1996.

I wish you would get sued. 

7. Vernon Davis explains why he is holding out. In a shocking twist of events, it's not about him and his need for more money, but is totally about getting what he deserves. 

In 2010 I signed a five-year, $37 million contract extension with $23 million guaranteed. It was the biggest contract for a tight end in league history.

But Vernon Davis deserved the biggest contract for any football player in league history. He's holding out to right this wrong.

Four years later, and I’m playing at a higher level than I was then, which brings me to why I’m holding out.

Because you signed a contract for you to be compensated for your performance over a five year period and the fact you could improve your performance over this time period is the risk you took when signing the contract? Would Davis have given the money back if you didn't play at a higher level? I doubt it. I hate to bring this up, but Davis hasn't matched his production since signing that contract in terms of receptions and yards. He did have 13 touchdowns this past season, but I would argue he is earning his contract and hasn't exceeded what the 49ers paying for by giving him a $37 million contract extension. At his best, I would say Davis' level of play hasn't declined and has stayed consistent, but I'm not sure that's enough for a contract extension.

It’s all about getting paid what you deserve.

And you are getting paid what you deserve. You are getting paid like one of the top tight ends in the NFL. Congrats!

I want the 49ers to win the Super Bowl, and I want to be on the field this summer working toward that goal, but I have to worry about my future first.

Hey, I understand. I really do. It's just I wouldn't say you are playing at a higher level now than you were when you signed the contract extension.

Most of my teammates and many players in the NFL understand that. A few don’t. Behind closed doors, they’ll say they’re all about the team and would run through a brick wall for the organization. But when you look closer, they’re doing things to contradict themselves.

At least Davis is being honest that it isn't all about the team to him. Personally if I'm the 49ers, even if this is the truth, it makes me nervous to hand out to Davis another contract extension since he's on the wrong side of 30 and is admitting he worries about the team after himself. The truth is great, but it also sucks.

I can’t listen to anyone but my family and my advisors, because those are the people who are going to be there when football inevitably dumps me.

And really, who could live on $37 million? I wish Davis the best of luck in his attempt to get more money, but I think he's getting paid what he deserves right now.

8. Howard Bryant thinks Kevin Durant needs to drive to the basket more. While one can see his point, Durant's competitive advantage is that he is really tall and it's hard to block his shot when he shoots jump shots. He is a skinny guy, so driving to the basket would also cause wear and tear on his body that he could have difficulty withstanding. Also, Durant's inability to drive to the basket isn't why the Thunder didn't win the NBA title this year. I think that's important to know.

Offense was built from the inside, which opened up the outside shot, not the other way around. That was especially true in the playoffs, when referees rewarded an attacking offense with free throws and let aggressive defenses dictate:

The analytics say those days are dead. They say the 3 is the key. On a team with Larry Bird and Danny Ainge, the champion 1983-84 Celtics attempted 229 3-pointers. This season Kevin Durant attempted 491 3s by himself. The game resembles a long-distance shooting contest. Yet when the trophies are raised, the winning formula is older than a pair of classic Chuck Taylors. That is why the lasting image of Durant was of him walking off the court after losing to the Spurs in the Western Conference finals, no closer to a title now than when he entered the NBA seven years ago.

Could it be because the Thunder team is built around Ibaka (who was injured in the playoffs this year), Westbrook (who was injured in the playoffs last year), Durant and a bunch of role players that really aren't that great and can't be counted on to score? Nah, it's because Kevin Durant won't drive to the basket.

The biggest questions, however, surround Durant himself.

The numbers say he isn't the problem. The numbers say he is efficient. The numbers say he isn't just a behind-the-arc gunner: No one shot more free throws than the 805 he attempted this season.

Howard Bryant's theory is Durant needs to go to the basket more often to get fouled, yet Durant shot more foul shots than any other NBA player. So it seems like he's doing a good job of getting to the foul line by being a gunner and he is preventing his relatively skinny body from taking a beating. Durant isn't built like Jordan, he definitely isn't built like LeBron.

But history says it is impossible for a superstar to win 25 feet from the basket; Durant's game runs counter to what playoff basketball rewards. Yes, the Heat take plenty of 3s, but LeBron sharpens his game for the playoffs. He penetrates more, becoming tougher to defend and thus going to the line more.

But again, Durant's advantage is that his shot is almost impossible to block when he's taking a jump shot because he is so tall.

About 23 percent of James' shots were taken from behind the arc in the regular season and in the playoffs leading up to the Finals, but his foul shot attempts increased from 7.6 to 8.7 per game.

During this year's playoffs, 29.6 percent of his shots were from 3, and he went to the line 8.6 times a game.

So the problem is Durant doesn't get to the line as much as LeBron in the playoffs, though those pesky statistics say that Durant went to the free throw line almost exactly as much as LeBron. So Durant needs to be more like LeBron and get to the free throw line even though he's already getting to the free throw line in the playoffs as much as LeBron does.

If he wants to join the ranks of James, Jordan and Bryant, he must attack as they did. When it was go time, they went -- to the basket.

Again, Durant isn't build like these guys were built. Not that he can't go to the basket, and it's never a bad idea to drive to the basket, but I'm not sure this is the big need for the Thunder to take the next step and win an NBA title.

Whatever the solution, the current plan isn't working. Durant might be the MVP, but when it comes to championship basketball, the wheel cannot be reinvented. Many have tried. All have failed.

The current plan isn't working because the Thunder don't have very good role players. Outside of Reggie Jackson they have no one who can score and Steven Adams had to play big minutes in the playoffs once Ibaka went down. The wheel can not be reinvented, which is why part of the solution for the Thunder to play championship basketball is to improve the players around Kevin Durant, Ibaka and Westbrook.

9. Bob Nightengale wonders if there is a conspiracy to keep minor league players in the minors until they don't qualify for Super-2 status. Yes, there is. It's pretty much a no-lose proposition. It's not against the CBA, it saves the team money in the long-term and ensures a prospect plays as much minor league baseball until he is ready to play in the majors. At least Nightengale stops short of accusing these teams of lacking integrity.

Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco, who debuted just a week ago, is already impacting the National League, getting a hit in every one of his seven games.

In a cruel paradox, the better Polanco performs, the more scrutiny the Pirates may face.

If the Pirates don't return to the postseason this year, particularly if they miss out by only a game or two, the scorn will come in waves.

It's not a cruel paradox. It's a strategic decision the Pirates organization has made in which they are choosing to forgo immediate success for two months in favor of having an additional year of Gregory Polanco. And as I always say, if Polanco ends up being a great player then none of this Super-2 or not crap will matter. He will be signed to a contract extension by the Pirates which buys out his arbitration years.

So naturally, folks want to know, why wasn't he called up sooner? Was his debut intentionally delayed to avoid paying an extra year of arbitration? Was he penalized for not agreeing to the seven-year, $25 million contract offer earlier this year? Did the Pirates risk a potential playoff berth to save millions?

I have defended teams keeping players in the minors until after they can't qualify as Super-2's before. I will continue to do so until it is against the CBA that is negotiated. It's a long-term strategy. I can't get behind keeping a player in the minors because he won't sign a long-term deal prior to being called up. That's shady and is some bullshit.

Players with two years of service time and rank among the top 22% of their class are eligible for four years of salary arbitration, and not three years, which can be worth millions. If the arbitration rights simply began at a full three years (which the owners would love) or two years (which the players would love), it would avoid the appearance of any deceit.

"I thought it was a grave mistake when we went to the Super-2 [in 1990],'' Coonelly said, "and I continue to believe it's a grave mistake, especially in a market like Pittsburgh. I would really be in favor to going back to three years. Or even two years. Or even getting rid of salary arbitration entirely.

The arbitration system can be stupid at times, but I'm not sure about getting rid of it entirely. But see, this is the part Murray Chass leaves out when he rails against teams keeping players in the minors too long. He forgets the part where the players negotiated the current Super-2 rule and not all owners like the rule. Obviously the owners want a bargain that is more advantageous to them, but this Super-2 rule was negotiated and agreed to by the player's union.

If a player is really ready, no matter the financial implications, you want to believe the team will bring him up. If not, you really hope it's for the player's development, and not for the good of the club's bank account.

Here's the problem...when is a player "ready"? A player could tear up the minor leagues and come up to the majors and struggle, then get sent back down for more minor league seasoning. It happens.

"You have to take it on the faith that the clubs are doing the right thing for their team and their organization,'' Chicago Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija says. "You hope that they are truly keeping guys down because they need more time in the minor leagues.

"If they don't, it's just absurd. Why wouldn't you try to put your best team on the field?''

Teams have budgets to manage. That's why they don't put their best team on the field. The arbitration system in baseball can be ridiculously stupid. Jeff Francoeur got paid $3.4 million in arbitration despite the fact he was coming off a season where he was one of the worst regular players in the majors and hit .239/.294/.359. Once that arbitration clock starts things can get silly for a team dealing with a budget.

The Pirates insist they're doing the right thing, and the timing for Polanco's call-up has everything to do with his development - with only 295 plate appearances above Class A before the year - and not money.

"Gregory Polanco, barring something completely unexpected,'' Huntington said, "was not going to make the team out of spring training.''

And that's the thing, a guy like Polanco has only had 295 plate appearances above Class A ball. Is it really such a smart thing to throw him on the major league roster because he tears up the minors for the month of April? Players go on tears and then the pitchers adjust to these players. It made sense to see Polanco adjust to the pitchers who were adjusting to him, then call him up once he proved he could make the necessary adjustments and was ready for the majors. And yes, the Pirates saved money as well. I'm sure the Pirates fans won't mind if it turns out Polanco doesn't sign a long-term deal buying out his arbitration years and the team gets an extra year of Polanco prior to arbitration.

10. Ross Tucker doesn't like to put stock in Johnny Manziel. It's because of all the usual reasons of course.

Tucker does the typical, "I have no problem with Example A or B of Manziel partying, but here is Example C that I have a problem with."

I didn't have any problem with the picture of him hanging with Rob Gronkowski and a bunch of ladies in Las Vegas over Memorial Day weekend. Good for him. 

The inflatable swan and a bottle of champagne thing probably didn't look great to some people, but I thought it was funny. 

His latest off field stunt, however, now has me legitimately concerned. 

Tucker is no longer amused or illegitimately concerned, he's now legitimately concerned. It's not because of Manziel's partying of course. His concern is about Manziel's partying.

There's a video making the rounds all over the Internet from a party for Manziel's friend Drake in Houston in which Manziel holds up a stack of cash to his ear like it is a phone and tells the camera he "can't hear you because there's too much money in my f------ hand!" 

Manziel's signature move is to rub his fingers together like he's got money in them. He's done this for a while now. Ross Tucker obviously would know this. So...why is this concerning then?

Even if you are a hardcore Manziel supporter, you have to admit it's a bad look for a guy that's supposed to be the new face of the franchise for the Browns. Stacks of cash? Dropping an f-bomb on a video? Eyes barely open, presumably because he's so inebriated? 

"All those other times Manziel has clearly been inebriated in public and has made reference to making money are no big deal. This instance disturbs me though...not that I'm looking for a reason to be disturbed by Manziel and want to make it seem like I'm not searching for a new reason to question Manziel's behavior, of course."

Manziel’s behavior is getting progressively worse and eroding the public confidence in both the player and organization. That's a problem. 

Training Camp hasn't even started yet. What confidence in Manziel did the public have previously? Did they watch college football over the past two seasons? I'm not saying I wouldn't be annoyed if I was a Browns fan, but this is what Manziel has done over the past two years. It's not new. Why the sudden, "Hold on a second, this infatuation with celebrity and money while showing confidence in himself is a red flag!"? This is the guy the Browns wanted and drafted. He hasn't changed.

He told everybody that would listen during the pre-draft process, that the "Johnny Football" persona and lifestyle was behind him. I guess not. It looks more and more like that was one heck of an Eddie Haskell routine that Manziel pulled off, possibly pulling the wool over the Browns' eyes. 

You mean Manziel was telling people what they wanted to hear during the pre-draft interview process like I said he was doing? No way. You mean Manziel didn't magically change and not really want to make stacks of money after he was drafted and actually started making stacks of money? If Ross Tucker was fooled by Manziel during the pre-draft interview process then it is only because he wanted to be fooled. Come on, he's still a kid and he's still an exciting quarterback prospect.

Current Lions backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky chimed in as well, asking someone to "Find me a QB with his off the field lifestyle that has had a lot of success." 

Joe Namath.

Also, Dan Orlovsky, at least Manziel knows where the hell the back of the end zone is and doesn't step out of it like an idiot. I mean, Dan Orlovsky is the go-to guy on how a quarterback can juggle his lifestyle and still have success? Does he know the dimensions of the end zone yet?

That's just it. You can't. Even if you say guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees are bad examples because they are in their mid-to-late thirties, what about youngsters like Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III? 

Manziel is not the first quarterback to ever have fun. Plenty of them have and still do. They are just smart and discreet about the way in which they go about it because they understand the public attention that goes along with their job. It comes with the territory and they accept that. 

Okay, now I'm confused. No quarterback has had the lifestyle Manziel leads off the field and had a lot of success, except Ross Tucker says plenty of quarterbacks have fun, but they are discreet about it. So the difference is that Manziel is dumb enough to have fun in front of a camera, but other NFL quarterbacks have had a fun lifestyle and had success as an NFL quarterback? Is that what I'm reading?

I remember calling the starting quarterback of the team I was on one time during my career on a Saturday in the offseason and he told me he was at Home Depot getting supplies to make a beer funnel. He liked to party. He just did it at private residences around people he could trust. If we went out, he never had more than two beers. He would've liked to have had more, but he knew he couldn't. He said the message boards and blogs would be all over him. 

So again, I'm not defending Manziel's actions, but the difference is he has fun in front of a camera and other quarterbacks party in private? Manziel definitely has a discretion problem, but the fact the public doesn't know about the off the field lifestyle of other quarterbacks doesn't mean other NFL quarterbacks haven't led a similar lifestyle to Manziel and still had success in the NFL. It sounds like Ross Tucker is backing this assertion up a little bit.

The truth is, I hope he does have success. I'm a radio talk-show host. That'd be great for me. Johnny's great for me. Plus, Browns fans are extremely loyal and passionate. They deserve a winner.

Too bad it's looking less and less like Manziel's going to be the guy to bring it to them. 

He's not thrown an NFL pass yet. Let's see how much partying he does once Training Camp starts and the time comes to actually be an NFL quarterback. Manziel hasn't changed, I'm not sure why there is an assumption he would. He's a guy who likes partying, money and being around celebrities. Ross Tucker really thought Manziel becoming a millionaire would curb the partying, love of money and being around celebrities? I don't understand how Tucker never had a problem with Manziel's partying until this newest instance of partying. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

0 comments Lowell Cohn Forces Derek Jeter Into the Role of the Anti-PED Icon We All Needed

The Derek Jeter Over-Appreciation Tour is still going on. Don't worry. The face of baseball and the face of a clean, anti-PED player is still present and making the world a safe place to love traditional, old-school baseball where the players took amphetamines that in no way enhanced their performance rather than take PED's that did enhance the players' performance. Derek Jeter has become so over-praised that it's almost hard read anything about him at this point. To merely point out what a great player he was isn't enough. There has to be more. The writer has to go over the top and make Jeter into more than he may have wanted to be. He's not a Hall of Fame shortstop, he's the antidote to PED use, despite the fact he played on Yankees teams chock full of PED users. Even if his teammates didn't, Jeter played the game the right way. He's the PED icon that will save "the kids" from using PED's even though he couldn't save a fairly large number of his teammates from using PED's. Lowell runs the typical gamut of Jeter praise and tries to overwhelm the reader with new, additional Jeter praise. After all, Jeter can't just be appreciated, he has to be a deity.

The A’s are presenting a Derek Jeter tribute today, as they should. This is the last time Jeter will play in Oakland unless the A’s and Yankees meet in the playoffs. He turns 40 in a few weeks and he is retiring after this season and he’s on a farewell tour — just like Mariano Rivera last season.

Except Rivera retired while still playing at a high level while Jeter is one of the worst performing regulars in the majors. Nevermind the idea Jeter may have stayed one year too long. No sportswriter has the balls to question The Jeter or indicate he stayed too long. It's blasphemy and would not be tolerated.

Why is he important?

If you have to ask, then you don't know. If you don't know, then you hate America, babies, drug-free school zones, children who try to make a better life for themselves by getting an education, puppies, kittens, warm spring days, cancer survivors, a cozy blanket on a cold night, old people holding hands while in wheelchairs, and more importantly than anything else, you hate The Jeter. Ask why he's important? No need. If you have to ask, then you aren't worthy of knowing the answer.

For starters, he’s the face of baseball. Whatever it means to be the face of a sport, he’s it for baseball. It’s how he carries himself. With dignity.

Actually, the face of baseball would be 40 years old since it seems the sport is skewing older and older. That's not a good thing. I would think baseball writers would be eager to make a guy like Mike Trout the face of baseball, but the sport clings to it's past so tightly sometimes I think it becomes more threatened by the future when the real threat is the desperate clinging to the past it so reveres.

With class, although “class” is an outmoded concept in our times.

Yeah, it's been that way since baseball let all those foreigners into the game. Fucking foreigners all being not classy and celebrating their outstanding plays on the field. Babe Ruth didn't celebrate his achievements. He just went out and performed well on the field, did his personal sexy business with the shady ladies in private, and then had a few beers. That's class.

And when a man is the Yankees’ leader, he figures big in the national pastime.

Next year the face of baseball will be Masahiro Tanaka, which will piss Lowell Cohn off in some way I am sure.

You know the deal. He labored quietly at his craft, honored baseball while the bloated phonies made the headlines. The bloated phonies include Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Jeter’s infield partner Alex Rodriguez.

Jeter quietly labored and wanted nothing to do with bloated phonies like Roger Clemens, Gary Sheffield, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte and Jason Giambi who helped shape and build Jeter's legacy as a winning winner who only won when he needed to win. While these bloated phonies were cheating to enhance their own personal achievements, Jeter was using these bloated phonies to win games and World Series as a team. It wasn't about Jeter, it was about how Jeter could use these bloated teammates to win World Series as a group. It wasn't about just one person, but it was winning World Series on the back of his bloated teammates, which in turn helped Jeter's legacy.

There are a ton more bloated phonies, but those are the notable ones. Jeter was not one of them — is not one of them. I have no idea if he illegally took performance-enhancing drugs. But I doubt it.

Jeter was above all of this PED use. He wanted nothing to do with it and the very idea he is the least little bit complicit in his teammates' use of PED's is ridiculous. Sure, the entire sport was probably complicit in some way or another, but Jeter didn't have time to rat on teammates while laboring quietly at his craft.

Bonds so bloated he barely could field his position. Bonds so bloated you wondered if there was a human being in there. 

Jeter hits singles. He hits doubles to the gaps.

And no player who used PED's would ever hit a double or a single. Home runs are the only natural result of a player using PED's. In no way could PED's take a player from a strictly singles hitter to a player who had doubles power in the gaps, specifically to the opposite field. Lowell Cohn being the scientist he is, knows this is true. PED's cause home runs and nothing else. So a guy with little power who used PED's wouldn't turn into a doubles hitter. Not at all. He would turn into a 50-home run machine.

He does the little things, although calling what he does “little” does a disservice to him and the game. He plays baseball the right way.

He wears his glove on the correct hand and uses a wooden bat to hit. The right way. No other way.

Watching him in the batter’s box or at shortstop brings you back to the beginnings of his sport, to what baseball was and should be.

You mean back to the beginnings of the sport when Jeter would not have been able to play in the majors because he is half-black, half-white? Yes, seeing Jeter in the batter's box does take me back to when Jeter would have possibly had to play in the Negro Leagues. What a great memory.

Jeter is the healthy antidote to the fictions and the cheating of the bloated phonies which degraded baseball.

Lowell Cohn wants Jeter to be the healthy antidote to the bloated phonies. There are other players who are the antidote to the cheating phonies, but when discussing Derek Jeter, hyperbole and exaggeration must be used in order to overstate the case. The hyperbolification (not a word, I know) of Jeter's career has done more to ruin Jeter's legacy than it has done to help his legacy, at least in my mind. The lengths writers will go to make Jeter seem like the anti-PED poster child, the guy who played the game the right way, and the very best example of perfection in all things baseball overshadows Jeter's accomplishments that made him great. He becomes more of a fairy tale than a talented baseball player. The same writers who are dousing Jeter in hyperbole are telling the reader to not ignore what a great player Jeter was, all while skipping over Jeter's statistics and accomplishments in favor of hyperbole.

Not particularly impressive. But he is — or was — a great athlete. And he’s a genius at his sport. Oh, “genius” has been overused around here, although Jeter is one. Maybe “winner” is a better word. The ultimate winner.

Actually, the ultimate winner would be a player like Yogi Berra. He won 10 World Series titles. I hate to belabor this point, but stating that Jeter is the antidote to bloated phonies and also claiming he is the ultimate winner is perfectly fine. But for the sake of honesty, it has to be mentioned that part of the reason Jeter is the ultimate winner is because he won a few World Series with the help of the same bloated phonies that Lowell Cohn rails so hard against. I realize it's sac-religious to point out Jeter is the ultimate winner partly because of PED users, but unfortunately it is the truth. Of course when Lowell Cohn is drawing a thick line between the face of baseball and the bloated phonies, he will make no mention these two parties overlap in some ways. Sure, it would be honest, but it doesn't fit the intentions of Lowell's narrative.

Like what happened in 2001. Online they call it The Iconic Oakland Flip Play. I was there for the iconic flip and I never saw anything like that before or since.

I always thought Jeter's catch into the crowd against the Red Sox in 2004 was the better defensive play. It was dangerous, a difficult catch, and also showed his ability to make an outstanding defensive play. The Flip Play was great and showed excellent instincts, but I really think Jeremy Giambi is safe if he slides. This is obviously arguable, but while the Flip Play showed Jeter's defensive instincts I thought his dive into the crowd better described him as a player and was actually the better defensive play. 

Spencer threw the ball to home plate. It was not an elegant throw. It missed not one cutoff men. It missed two cutoff men.

This is not playing the game the right way. If Jeter were throwing the ball in this situation he would have hit both cutoff men. He would have managed to throw the ball "the right way" to where the ball would go into the glove of both players.

Flew over their heads. We’re talking Tino Martinez and Alfonso Soriano. When Giambi crossed the plate the game would be tied.

Yes, we are talking about Alfonso Soriano, noted defensive specialist at second base. The same Alfonso Soriano who was moved from second base to the outfield as soon as possible by the Texas Rangers.

He caught the throw barehanded in his right hand. Now comes the iconic part. As he sped into foul territory sprinting away from the plate, he somehow flipped the ball backhanded to catcher Jorge Posada who caught that sucker and administered a swipe tag on Giambi who never slid. The Yankees won the game 1-0 and won the next two games and eliminated the A’s.

I'm really not trying to downplay the backhanded throw, but Jeter is a shortstop. Shortstops make backhanded throws to start double plays, it's part of the requirements at the position. I'm not saying Jeter's backhanded throw wasn't great, but he was practiced at it due to having played the shortstop position for his entire career. 

Jeter’s play was extraordinary because no one expects the shortstop to be at the first-base line in case the outfielder misses two cutoff men. Jeter was heads up in the extreme and the play was and is a monument to athletic poise.

One can not disagree with this. Still, if Giambi slides I don't think this play will be talked about for years (decades, inevitably) to come. Nothing can take away it was a great play of course. 

Jeter had mastered the basics, had gone beyond the basics with the iconic flip. Giambi failed at the very basics. He didn’t even slide. And that means Jeter deserved to succeed more than Giambi. It was a case of the impeccable defeating the slovenly.

This is the type of thing I am talking about. Derek Jeter can't just make a great play on the field, his play has to mean something more than just a great defensive maneuver. The Flip Play has to teach a great moral lesson to our nation as a whole. Rather than let the play stand as a great defensive play by a Hall of Fame shortstop, it has to be much more than that. This is an example of where a sportswriter feels the insatiable need to hyperbolize Jeter's career and why Jeter's accomplishments get lost in the need to one-up other sportswriters to glorify him.

That flip has become the landmark play of Jeter’s great career.

His great play was a fielding play — it rivals Willie Mays’ catch in center field off Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series. Jeter’s play was all about smarts and desire and feel. He had a feel for the play, for the victory, for baseball.

Again, Jeter had a feel for victory partially because some of his teammates had a feel for using PED's. I'm sorry, it's difficult to hear Jeter described as the anti-PED poster boy and as a winner. He didn't use PED's, but some of his success is tied to the PED use of his teammates. This goes for other MLB players as well, but no other MLB players have sportswriters drawing such a thick, dark line between themselves and other PED users, while being referred to as "the ultimate winner." For any player who played during the Steroid Era, the line between the clean players and PED users isn't as thick and obvious as sportswriters want it to be.

Today, when the A’s present their video tribute to Jeter they will not show the iconic flip. Too many bad associations for A’s fans.


And you can feel sad, if you must. Sports memories linger.

Like a smelly farts, bad columns linger too. Hopefully these types of columns will go the way of Jeremy Giambi once Jeter is done with his Over-Appreciation Tour and is officially retired.

Whatever you do, remember Jeter as he deserves to be remembered. The common man who took the bloat out of baseball.

How did Derek Jeter take the bloat out of baseball if players used PED's the entire time Jeter was an active player? This is another good example of hyperbole used in reference to Jeter. He didn't take the bloat out of baseball, he was a baseball player who didn't take PED's. Jeter didn't take the bloat out of baseball because players continuously used PED's while he was an active player. Jeter didn't even manage to take the bloat out of his own Yankees team and part of his five World Series titles were contributed to by PED users. Stop making Jeter more than he truly is by using hyperbole and creating him into something he never has been.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

4 comments 2014 NBA Mock Draft

My 2013 NBA Mock Draft didn't turn out very well at all. The Cavs screwed me over with the first pick being Anthony Bennett and I didn't do much better after that. I mostly blame the Cavs though, because they are to blame for everything wrong with the NBA Draft. Everything is their fault. So I figured I would give creating an NBA mock draft another shot and see how I do this year. After all, I can't go out with last year's mock draft. With Joel Embiid getting hurt (again) I feel like it's shaken up the draft board a little bit. There's bound to be a team that will take a chance on him and I can't figure out which one it will be. Big men with negative back and foot histories always scare me, so I would be very nervous to draft him if I were an NBA team.

As always, expect a hundred trades to occur which dramatically change this mock draft. In fact, I expect every draft pick to be traded at some point. So whenever I am making a pick for a team, just assume the words "Team X will probably trade this pick" are written as well.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers- Andrew Wiggins, SF

Remember "Riggin' for Wiggins" and all of that prior to the college basketball season starting? Wiggins didn't do much to prove NBA teams shouldn't tank in order to land him. He played on a very loaded Kansas team, played well and was eventually overshadowed by Joel Embiid, who is tall, and more importantly tall. Embiid can block shots and is raw, so naturally THAT is the guy NBA scouts had their eye on until he had his injury issues. Not that Embiid may not be great, but NBA scouts drool over tall guys with potential when compared to wing players with potential. Anyway, I think the Cavs pick Wiggins over Jabari Parker in this spot. Wiggins is a more natural small forward (Parker seems to have conditioning issues), and though I think Parker is the more certain player, I do think Wiggins should be the pick here.

2. Milwaukee Bucks- Jabari Parker, SF

Yeah, the Bucks already have a small forward. Yeah, Parker seems to have conditioning issues (which as a Duke fan I didn't know about, which tells you either it's bullshit or Coach K keeps this shit really close to the vest...it was always explained that Parker gained weigh in high school due to an injury, so it seemed like a one-time thing, not a trend) which could explain a few things like Parker being benched randomly at the end of games and the insistence from the coaching staff that Parker stay consistent through the whole game. Still, as a fatty or a non-fatty Jabari Parker can score and do multiple things on offense really well. So it would help to have Larry Sanders and John Henson behind him to help block some of those shots that will inevitably need to be blocked as the defender passes by him to get to the rim. Plus, if he plays the power forward spot then he's a matchup problem.

3. Philadelphia 76ers- Dante Exum, PG/SG

I'm tempted to mock Vonleh here, but Exum is the type of wing talent that is hard to pass up at this point. Pairing him with Michael Carter-Williams would give the Sixers two talented guards who can be interchangeable. Exum is accused of being a player without a position, but by having Carter-Williams stay as the point guard, Exum can move to shooting guard or even play some point guard in certain lineups. I confess to not know much about Exum. I've read the scouting reports and read about his strengths and weaknesses. It seems he could fit in well with Carter-Williams, plus gives them length at the shooting guard spot.

4. Orlando Magic- Joel Embiid, C

Third time is the charm, right? The Magic couldn't keep their previous two franchise centers from leaving for the Lakers, so why not try to take advantage of the best center in the draft falling to them? Someone has to take Embiid. He's got too much potential and he plays center, so there's no way I see him falling too far. I admit there is no way in hell I would take Embiid. I didn't consider him a lock as the #1 overall pick when he was healthy, so with his injuries I couldn't justify taking him. He's a lot of potential and will need to work with a good big man coach to get that potential out of him. It's a lot different playing against college athletes versus playing against NBA athletes, especially for a guy with such little experience as Embiid has. I get the Olajuwon comparisons, but Olajuwon also played more than one season in college basketball. For me, if he isn't injured then I think he could be a good NBA center as long as he keeps up with the physicality of the league, which he has not shown he is capable of doing yet outside of one aborted year in college.

5. Utah Jazz- Noah Vonleh, PF

The Jazz seem to have success with power forwards and Vonleh will probably be their pick due to the injury questions around Julius Randle. All things being equal, I would take Julius Randle in this spot. Still, the Jazz have talked about moving Favors and Vonleh can play center if Enes Kanter never becomes the type of player the Jazz were hoping he would be. I think his upside makes him the choice over Randle, though I think there is something to be said for Randle being the more sure thing (at least in my mind). 

6. Boston Celtics- Julius Randle, PF

The guy is a double-double machine. Yes, he has injury concerns but that hasn't scared Danny Ainge off before when it comes to drafting guys like Jared Sullinger. I've seen Aaron Gordon mocked here repeatedly and I just can't believe it. Gordon is a great rebounder and has upside galore, but he looks like he'll be a great player. Otherwise he can't shoot and his offensive game is extremely limited at this point due to that. Also, I don't buy that Marcus Smart would be the pick here. He's another guy who can't shoot and I think the Celtics are going to build from the inside-out.

7. Los Angeles Lakers- Marcus Smart, PG

Bill Simmons would hate me for complimenting Kobe, but if there is any player who understands Marcus Smart's competitiveness and how to channel it in the appropriate direction then it would be Kobe Bryant. Smart isn't a very good shooter, but he is built to drive to the lane and (contrary to belief) is a very unselfish teammate. He can play both guard spots and got a bad rap in college. Smart's biggest issue is shot selection, but he can score and again (contrary to belief) can be a leader. I think Smart would have a great chance of succeeding in Los Angeles with the Lakers.

8. Sacramento Kings- Aaron Gordon, PF

The Kings have a need at power forward and they could even hope to take some of the "Dunk City" excitement from the Clippers with Gordon on the other end of some alley-oops. Gordon simply isn't my kind of prospect, which could very well be why I'm not good at analyzing college basketball players. He can rebound based on his athleticism, but I struggle to find too much else he does exceptionally well, though he isn't a bad three-point shooter. Maybe I'm missing something about Gordon when I've watched him play. He's not going to be able to out-athlete everyone in the NBA. I'm willing to accept I could be wrong about Gordon, but I don't think I am.

9. Charlotte Hornets- Nik Stauskas, SG

Taking Doug McDermott here is a typical HornCats move. Yes, they need a shooter, but why take a guy with such limited range and such a bad defender? So I'm trusting the HornCats won't screw this up and take the correct sharpshooter available at #9. Stauskas is a great shooter and that's all that he may end up being in the NBA. He's got guts though and plenty of room to develop. Why not take a chance on him when he's younger and has more chance to be a star than McDermott? I love teams who take proven college stars, but in this case, I think the HornCats need to take the sharpshooter with the better chance to be more than just a role player.

10. Philadelphia 76ers- Doug McDermott, SF

Just a gut feeling that I have. The 76ers would have a great group of guards if they draft Exum and Gary Harris. They need a low post threat, but I think any of the other power forward would be a stretch at this point in the draft. I choose McDermott here because Philly does need outside shooting and for some reason I almost mocked T.J. Warren here. The guy can straight score points. If the 76ers don't take McDermott then maybe they would go for Rodney Hood or Gary Harris. You can see I have no idea who the 76ers will pick here, but I'm sticking with McDermott. Just as a note, I had McDermott falling to the Thunder at #21 originally and moved him up here because I convinced myself he wouldn't last until #21. I have to mention this in case he falls so everyone knows I was right until my balls shriveled up and I didn't have the guts to do my own mock draft as I believed the real draft would fall. I'm a wimp.

11. Denver Nuggets- Elfrid Payton, PG

On a much smaller scale, Payton could be the Damon Lillard of this year's draft. He's a guy who hasn't gotten a lot of press, but has had great workouts and can play both point guard and shooting guard. The Nuggets need a backup for Ty Lawson and they started Randy Foye at shooting guard last year. They could do worse than taking Payton in this spot.

12. Orlando Magic- Rodney Hood, SF

If the Magic are really going to be shopping Aaron Afflalo then it wouldn't hurt to take a guy who could be his replacement at #12. Hood has been called underrated by so many NBA scouts that I think he is overrated in a few aspects. He's not going to be a star in the NBA, but he's developed into a great shooter and has shown he is willing to work hard, as well as being a good rebounder from the small forward position. He tends to get lost sometimes and disappear from games. This is mostly due to the fact he can get tentative at times and will defer to his teammates. He's not going to be great in the NBA, but he can be a starter for a decent team and will rebound at his position.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves- Gary Harris, SG

If the T-Wolves are serious about trading Kevin Love then choosing another stretch four (albeit much less talented) would be a good way to start replacing Love's production. But I think Gary Harris is too talented to pass up at this point. I'm pretty sure Flip Saunders and Tom Izzo are boys, so Saunders taking a Spartan with the T-Wolves first round pick makes sense in that respect. My fear about Harris is that I found him moving to the background a lot when watching the Spartans last year, but his talent can't be denied. He can provide scoring off the bench, which the T-Wolves need.

14. Phoenix Suns- James Young, SF

I really like James Young and I think he will fit in very well with the Suns up-tempo style. He's one of the guys who sort of got lost in the shuffle at Kentucky this past season and was overshadowed by Julius Randle and the Harrison twins. For fear of overrating him, there's no reason I can't see him averaging 15/6/3 three years from now in the NBA with the Suns.

15. Atlanta Hawks- T.J. Warren, SF

I know the Hawks have had their eye on Kyle Anderson, but I think the Hawks have to do something about the small forward position and provide more scoring to the team from that spot. I said this about Shabazz Muhammad last year, so feel free to ignore me, but Warren can straight score. T.J. Warren didn't have a great supporting cast at N.C. State last year either, so it's not like he was being set up by teammates for easy baskets or wasn't the focal point of every opponent's defensive game plan. If the Hawks want scoring, then I think Warren is their guy.

16. Chicago Bulls- Zach LaVine, SG

I wouldn't draft LaVine at all. Like not in the 2nd round either. He couldn't find his way on the court to merit a Top 20 selection with a just-okay UCLA team (He played 24 minutes a game), but he is athletic and has measurables. The Bulls need some scoring from the wing spot and he has that dreaded potential. I hope the Bulls don't make this pick.

17. Boston Celtics- Tyler Ennis, PG

I'm not buying that the Celtics would take Dario Saric here. It's not that long of a wait, but they need help on the team now. Tyler Ennis provides the Celtics with a backup point guard and insurance just in case Danny Ainge gets a trigger finger and decides he does want to trade Rondo. Plus, maybe drafting Ennis will make up for the horrid selection of Fab Melo a few years ago (shudders). Ennis is talented, but he has that annoying "it" factor that I think goes well with the Celtics.

18. Phoenix Suns- Adreian Payne, PF

Payne is another one of those college seniors who supposedly have almost hit their potential. I'm not arguing, but simply pointing out that Payne improved dramatically from his junior to senior year. Is his talent maxed out? I think so, but I also never had him as a Top 20 pick a year ago. Still, Payne fits in well with the Suns team as a stretch-four who can hit the three-point shot and rebound. The Suns would then have a replacement for Channing Frye with another tall guy who can shoot.

19. Chicago Bulls- Shabazz Napier, PG

The Bulls need a backup point guard and Napier's stock shut up as he inexplicably led the UConn Huskies to a national title. I don't know if he's worth a pick at #19, but this is around the time Napier will go and the Bulls need a backup point guard while awaiting Derrick Rose's next knee explosion. That whole "it" thing I talked about Ennis having? It seems Shabazz Napier has it too. Of course so did Khalid El-Amin and Bulls fans know how that turned out. Of course El-Amin was a fat motherfucker whose best attribute is that he was fine with Jim Calhoun's loose recruiting style and was consistently a bad shooter for a guard who didn't understand his strengths (eating) and weaknesses (shooting too many three-point shots). Yeah, I'm bitter and biased. But El-Amin WAS fat.

20. Toronto Raptors- Kyle Anderson- PG/SG/SF/PF

I have no idea what Kyle Anderson is. He isn't really athletic enough to be considered a wing, he's too tall to be a point guard and probably not big enough to be a power forward. Still, he is intriguing because he is a really tall guy who can handle the ball. So while he may not be the answer at point guard for the Raptors, he fits in on this team in multiple spots. This pick makes sense to me, which obviously means it won't happen.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder- Dario Saric, SF

I swear to God, if the Thunder draft a guy to stash him overseas I'm going to scream. They need bench help now and the draft is the best way to get that help. So I hope I'm wrong about this pick. Saric may end up being a very fine basketball player, but the Thunder need to improve their bench for this upcoming season so they have some sense of scoring from the second unit. In reality, P.J. Hairston or K.J. McDaniels would fit perfectly here as well. Either way, the Thunder would be set with either player. I can see them going with an overseas guy though.

22. Memphis Grizzlies- C.J. Wilcox, SG

He can shoot and score. He's not got bad size for a shooting guard either. Again, this makes too much sense to me, which means it won't happen. I don't think Wilcox is going to be a great player in the NBA, but there is always a spot for a guy who can bury a few three-point shots.

23. Utah Jazz- Clint Capela, PF

He's another in a line of international players I don't know much about to sufficiently discuss in this spot. The Jazz have needs now, but from everything I have read about Capela he is a year or two away from producing in the NBA and is a good rebounder/shot-blocker. Seems like a good pick to tuck away for future use.

24. Charlotte Hornets- P.J. Hairston, SG

I want to mock P.J. Hairston here for so many reasons. Screw it, I'm going to do it. If the HornCats select Hairston here then they would have gone all-in on the "we need a shooter" spot in the draft, but Hairston has a ton of talent. He can get hot very quickly and has proven in the D-league that he could handle the competition of the NBA. I wouldn't be too upset if the HornCats selected him with the #9 pick actually. It would be a reach, but he fits a need. If they are going to draft Doug McDermott at that spot for his shooting then they may as well draft Hairston at #9. I'm possibly overstating the case a bit.

25. Houston Rockets- Jordan Clarkson, PG/SG

Clarkson is a combo guard who really isn't a combo guard. What I mean by that is he has the size to play the shooting guard spot, but he can also handle the basketball. He's a shooting guard in my mind. The Rockets need bench scoring and he can play point guard if the Rockets end up trading Jeremy Lin. I've seen Clarkson on quite a few "underrated prospects" lists prior to this draft, and while I'm not totally sold on him being any more than a bench player, this (or Cleanthony Early) seem like a Rockets pick.

26. Miami Heat- Bogdan Bogdanovic, SG

I am torn between the Heat choosing a player that can help now or drafting a player from overseas who won't count against the salary cap this season. I am going with the Heat keeping their options open in this spot and taking a player from overseas who may not necessarily be in the NBA next year. If the Heat do go with a player ready to contribute this year they have some really good options. K.J. McDaniels would be a great choice as a defender off the bench, Jordan Adams has that whole "potential" thing going for him, and if they want to waste a draft pick but draft a guy who is tall then Mitch McGary could fit in for them. Personally, I would draft Cleanthony Early if I were the Heat.

27. Phoenix Suns- K.J. McDaniels, SF

McDaniels may not be the best shooter on the planet, but with Kawhi Leonard shining during the NBA Finals it is tempting for the Suns to draft a guy who could be a poor man's Kawhi Leonard. McDaniels is another guy who was stuck on a bad college team and still found a way to score and he is an absolute pest on the defensive end and can block shots. I don't know if he will ever be anything in the NBA, but his ability to defend could easily make him a contributor off the bench.

28. Los Angeles Clippers- Mitch McGary, PF/C

This is a layup for me. I wanted to mock Jordan Adams here, but the Clippers need help in the frontcourt. McGary is widely overrated due to his great NCAA Tournament two years ago, but he's a high energy guy who will fit in well with Chris Paul and the Clippers. He'll never be a starter for a good team but this is a good situation for McGary to try and succeed in. I can't overstate how overrated McGary is though. He is 22 years old, has very little offensive game, and is going to be drafted based on a run of three to four weeks where he played exceptionally well. He's got some skills I guess, but he's not a first round pick in my opinion.

29. Oklahoma City Thunder- Cleanthony Early, SF

This pick is more of a "I wish they would do this" pick. I figure the Thunder will draft an overseas guy and stash him. I don't think they should panic, but the time is now to improve their bench. I think the Thunder have to come out of this draft with two additional bench players. Early really improved over this past season and he's also a willing defender off the bench. I almost went with Jordan Adams in this spot or had the Thunder reach for a big guy, but went with an older player who is ready to come and contribute off the bench now.

30. San Antonio Spurs- Dwight Powell, PF

A smart pick would be either Walter Tavares or any player from France (look, it's Damien Inglis and he's from France!), but I will assume that the Spurs are taking a player from the United States. This is probably a dumb assumption. There is no way the Spurs can ever replace Tim Duncan, so trying is futile, but they do need to provide some more depth behind him. This is probably a bit of a reach for Powell, but he is athletic, a good passer, and can shoot from outside the paint. Besides, the Spurs have their own system and they just want guys willing to try and succeed in that system. Powell may be a reach, but he has first round talent.

So feel free to go ahead and tell me how dumb I am or come back and see how the trades have completely screwed this mock up.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

8 comments Bill Simmons Introduces 24 Questions that Linger from the NBA Finals, Unfortunately One of Them Isn't "How Many Minutes Does It Take for Bill to Throw a Hissy-Fit About Not Getting a Chance to Speak"

Bill Simmons has questions that linger after the NBA Finals, much like the stench of his hissy-fit on the NBA Countdown set about how long it had been since had lost gotten to speak will linger in the mind of those who wonder if Bill Simmons is really the entitled whiner rumors suggest that he can be. So desperate for something to write about now that his ideas for columns have dried up, Bill essentially tries another form of his mailbag. Instead of someone else asking the questions for him to answer, he asks the questions and then answers them. 

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 NO!!!

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.

It's not.

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.