Saturday, April 9, 2011

FJMing the Sports Guy: Oh, The Unbearable Agony Of The Kendrick Perkins Trade

One of my favorite recurring Blogfrica columns is when Big Daddy Drew at Kissing Suzy Kolber resurrects the old Ken Tremendous / Fire Joe Morgan routine of responding to individual lines from some tool and has at it. In FJM's tactic, it was any number of old-school defenders against sabermetric or brain-alive analysis, and in BDD/KSK's point, it's Sports Illustrated and NBC's Peter King, who seems to believe that we're all here to learn more about his coffee consumption and other forms of print wanking.

As I find myself incapable, to date, of not reading the Bad Tooth, ESPN's Bill Simmons... I'm opening up on him. And in this, I'm sorry in advance to his legions of fans, really. I don't know about your level of Prince William's devotion, but I've been reading the guy for ten long years of less and less enjoyment, and I just can't stop. I'm powerless, really. He likes the NBA, and there just aren't enough people out there who do. His podcast is excruciating, and yet the guests are frequently good enough to pull me in. I long for Boston teams to lose in every sport now, more than any other municipality, because of the distinct possibility that this will make the Prince unhappy in print. His cultural references are increasingly wince-inducing, since he hasn't moved past the craptastic MTV sludge of his youth... and yet. And yet. And yet. Bad Tooth. Must touch. Owww. Owww. Owwww....

I waited too long to post Part Two of my NBA Mega-Power Poll.

Oh noes! If only you had actually been able to complete this gimmick in one shot. Curse those ESPN writer union rules that limit you from completing a job in one day!

Pia was tragically voted off "American Idol"

I suppose we should be thankful here that it's just the one mention, rather than a photo, video, or 500-word detour into something Billy cares about more than, you know, what we actually care about here. Good work, William. Baby steps.

Really, the Red Sox season had to be over before Tax Day? I hate everything.

Yes, yes, yes. The Red Sox season is over. Very brave of you to admit this. Now, never write about them again. Particularly in an NBA column. I look forward to your new, edited and focused persona.

I watched less Hornets basketball than any other 2011 playoff team because of Chris Paul: Every time I watched him, I found myself thinking about Tim Hardaway, Andrew Toney, Sidney Moncrief and any other potential great from my lifetime whose Hall of Fame pass got swiped by an injury.

Provided they were, of course, black and a guard, and otherwise had nothing in common with the way Paul plays ball. And considering that these guys worked 10 to 25 years ago, it's just encouraging that Billy hasn't gone all the way into full curmudgeon, really...

The other fascinating Hornets subplot: David West was crushing his contract year. If you're scoring at home, he was totally underrated, then overrated for being underrated, then just overrated, then properly rated, and this year, he somehow became underrated again.

My head hurts. But note what's implied here; West's merits as a player are secondary to what Willy thinks of him. That's not too unspeakably irritating, is it?

Last Hornets thought: How would you describe Emeka Okafor as a draft pick? We have draft terms like "sleeper," "stud," "late bloomer" and "bust" but not something to cover the Okafor types -- top-5 picks who carried high expectations, never met them but weren't disappointments, either. I suggest "Knish" after Knish from "Rounders," who kept grinding out those pots once an hour...

Oh, good God. Do you want to know what I call Emeka Okafor? Okafor, because that's his name, and I don't need a twee reference to create artificial lingo to ratchet up my word count to make a comment that's not terribly interesting, or a reason to somehow group disparate players into wanky lists. Yeesh.

Six reasons we need a lockout... (money listed) That's what Atlanta owes Joe Johnson, by year, through 2016.

This reminds me of those duplicitous conservative writers who talk about how "we" need to sacrifice (with Social Security and Medicare cuts), while the super-wealthy keep paying historically low tax rates, and corporations pay nothing. We need a lockout? No, you remarkably useless piece of garbage, we do not need a lockout. Perhaps the owners want one. Perhaps the league might even be a little better with reworked contracts to lose these inequities. But that is not a good enough reason to shut down a league. If an owner is too stupid to make money, his business should fail. Not all businesses. Screw you, and screw everyone who gives aid and comfort to anyone who gives any cover to ball going away. What a freaking tool.

The Hawks finally make their move: a three-teamer that sends Smith and Pachulia to the Clippers, Chris Kaman to Cleveland (absorbed by their trade exception for LeBron James), and Al-Farouq Aminu to Atlanta.

If you are scoring at home, this makes for the 867th instance in which Billy predicts the Clippers getting into a major NBA trade, because the Clippers are just such movers and shakers, and everyone wants to go play for LA JV, because Willy goes to those games. EVERYTHING THAT BILLY WATCHES IS IMPORTANT!

THE FEEL-GOOD STORIES

12. Philadelphia 76ers

We're immersed in a memorable battle between Scott Skiles and Doug Collins for the career lead in, "Most Times A New Coach Has Gotten a Team To Overachieve, Been Anointed as Their Savior, Then Eventually Burned Them Out Because He's Too Intense.


Oh, thank you, thank you, lifelong fan of my team's most hated rival, for taking just one overly long sentence to dismiss one of the less hateful seasons we've had in the last decade. It's almost as if we can dismiss most of what you write as just being the self-serving toss of a useless homer. (And ...he's probably right. I will now set these words on fire.)

(three paragraphs on how Evan Turner is doomed, because the #2 pick always comes with a side order of doom)

Gosh, what a feel-good story, this Sixers season! It's almost as if Billy's not edited. Or coherent, or unbiased, or deserving of violence.

(Two paragraphs of how what the Grizzlies have done is somehow good) It's perplexing, all of it.

A moment of humility where Willy admits that there may be more than His Way of creating a good NBA roster?

Sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders and enjoy the ride.

Well, close enough, I guess. Baby steps.

I would not want to play Memphis in Round 1. At all.

In that you are a 40-year-old white sports blogger whose hoop game crapped out at the intramural level, I can see that. Personally, you know who I would not want to play in Round 1? Anyone, since I'm not a professional basketball player. Or someone who equates myself with one, due to my runaway ego. Moving on.

If players were forced to argue their own MVP cases...

Um, they wouldn't. That would involve them really caring that much about awards, rather than money and wins and, in Dirk Nowitzki's case, whether or not the woman I'm with is a criminal. But why would I bring this up, when I'm supposed to be writing about the playoff chances of a team with one of the best records in the Association? Because no one outside of Mark Cuban actually cares about the Mavericks, since they have about as much chance of winning the NBA championship as the teams who aren't actually qualifying for the playoffs. But that opinion is nearly as lazy as Billy's Dirk rant here, so let's just move on...

THE SLEEPERS

9. Denver Nuggets

Four MAJOR karmic forces in their favor:


MAJOR, I tells ya!

George Karl's inspiring recovery (and "inspiring" is an understatement);

"Hey, old white coach that we never listen to might not die of cancer this week. Let's try harder now, and play better basketball, because we love it when old white coaches who have never won a title don't die of cancer."

the Ewing Theory (can never be discounted);

Because, of course, Billy wrote that theory. EVERYTHING I WRITE IS IMPORTANT!

a fan base that handled the Melo-Drama before/during/after with as much class/enthusiasm/devotion as you could ever expect (seriously, nobody came out of the Melo saga better than Denver fans);

Um, you do realize that the fans don't actually play in the games, do you? Of course not. You're from Boston, where the fans decide everything, because they are SO SMAHT. Even the janitors there are geniuses!

and Danilo Gallinari's defeating post-coital depression after spending the past three years hooking up with every hot model and actress in Manhattan.

Billy cares very much about who is having sex. AND SO SHOULD YOU.

At 75-to-1, (Portland) they're one of the most intriguing longshot title bets I can remember:

So intriguing that Billy spends 10 of the next 11 paragraphs talking about things that have nothing to do with Portland, ending with a rousing roundup of the worst players in the league. No, seriously. But these Blazers are intriguing!

I can't give him my MVP vote for one simple reason: he leaves something on the table every night. Dwight Howard should be the league's most dominant player.

I know a woman who, when she is at a horse race, picks the animal that she will bet on by seeing which one takes the biggest dump in the pre-race promenade, under the theory that the animal will be lighter and more at ease than their opponents. It's as good of a crap (hah! I kill me!) theory as any other for your $2 bet, and reminds me of the Prince's construct here. Billy can't give Dwight Howard the MVP award, not because his team doesn't have a very good won-loss record, or because his free throw shooting problems mean that he disappears in crunch time, or some other actually provable factor... but because Billy feels that there's more here, and he can't abide with the disappointment.

Take a big poop already, Dwight. Then bleach your skin and wear your shorts like an old-time player, and work up some other measures of Scrappiness. It's your only hope to win an award that you probably don't care about, from a writer that you probably do not read. Moving on...

Doesn't it bother you that Howard still defers to Jameer Nelson down the stretch?

Yes! Why should a big man defer to his point guard who can shoot free throws? Instead, Dwight should just drop trou, like Danilo Gallinari, and show us all who's boss.

Look, I'm a basketball fan -- I want Dwight Howard to get there.

Really, Billy, you are? I just thought you were a Celtics fan, and a Laker hater, a Sixer detractor, and a self-absorbed twat. But then again, maybe Howard goes to Boston in free agency, where Celtic Fan can exert his magic to make Dwight achieve his full potential. It's amazing what a change of laundry can do, isn't it?

A few weeks ago, Kendrick Perkins said something interesting: he believed you need two quality big guys if you really want a good defensive team.

Wow, that's perceptive. Your team needs good defensive players at 40% of the starting lineup to be good? Next, he'll be telling me that in the NFL, teams need to defend the run as well as the pass to be good. I learn so much from this column.

Now, I have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about this -- not just what Perkins said, but defense and what makes it work -- because the Celtics have unraveled over these last few weeks

This is in the Oklahoma City comment. I know, I know. I'll just spare you the next 2.5 paragraphs that have nothing to do with that team. But it's not Billy's fault that his stuff isn't edited, even by himself...

(Celtics) This could be 450 words or 45,000. I will spare you -- we'll go for 450. Just know that I can't remember another deadline deal knocking a team from "favorites" to "also-rans."

Really? I write about sports as a sidebar hobby for less money than you make for taping phone calls with your friends, and I was still able to come up with the 2003's Gary Payton for Ray Allen move that ended the Bucks, and the 2001 move of Dikembe Mutumbo from Atlanta to Philly that threw in the towel on ball in Atlanta for much of a decade.

But this is more about what you remember, and not about what's real, because your memories are more important. Who knew you could be a solipsist and hold an ESPN column?

The more I watch this Celtics team, the more I realized that they were overachieving those first 3½ months because of chemistry and swagger. Watching Chicago rough them up Thursday was pretty depressing.

No, it wasn't. It was proof that God loves us. It was better than a fine meal, or raking in a big pot, or watching a well-crafted movie. It was why we watch sports, and why people watch pro wrestling; there are few things better, really, than watching loathesome people (and that starts with your team, but mostly involves your fans) get beaten like a rented mule with fascistic sympathies.

Honestly, it was like watching a deleted Cobra Kai scene.

Year 25 of Karate Kid references. Way to play the hits, Grand Funk. And Billy? The world hates your team, who have won more than just about any other team. I could watch them lose every game they play for the rest of my life and still find it to be the height of entertainment. You *root* for Cobra Kai. You *are* Cobra Kai. And when your team is winning, you are completely OK with that.

I'd say more about this, but this blog doesn't use profanity. Sadly.

The trade was bad enough -- watching my team get punked out on national TV was something else. That game made me ill.

MORE, BILLY, MORE. Did you cry? Did you vomit? Did you abuse your dog, wife, children? Did it make you question your faith in the one true Celtic God, cause you to just give up and become a Clipper Fan, make you want to slit your wrists in the bathtub, Godfather-style, or just swallow a bunch of pills like the big girl you are? MORE.

You know what everyone else calls a bad loss on the road for their team that will be a top 3 seed? Unfortunate. Perhaps even a sign of Reckoning for the rent-a-title team that brought in discount superstars and had a good run with them. But they don't, at least not in public, pule like a toddler that's had their Kendrick Perkins binky taken away,

I don't know what the Celtics are anymore, and neither do they.

Kendrick Perkins, an injury-prone defense-first center on a team that had gone to multiple Finals, was the only thing that kept a team from crippling amnesia. OK.

One more thing: Every Celtics fan is in "last year, we wrote them off and we made the Finals" mode. Which is fine. That's what you do when you're grieving. You make excuses.

Or you discount one regular season loss on the road as something you can, you know, overcome in a future playoff round. But by all means, go put your head in the oven. You've got a padded stool for when you do that, right?

One more thing: I was looking forward to a Celtics-Heat playoff series for so many reasons, but mainly because it was a battle for everything I ever believed about basketball. Hell, it was the premise of my entire NBA book: that there was more to basketball than just a bunch of individually talented dudes playing together, that the concept of "team" mattered, that structure beat chaos, that there were ways to evaluate players beyond statistics, that there was a "secret" to all of this. Miami tried to cheat that structure and my Celtics were going to make them pay.

I feel for you here, Prince. You see, as a Sixers fan, I had beliefs about the world, too. I believed that if I was just patient enough, and kept faith that eventually the worm turns (ask Phillies Fan), and my long-term devotion to a franchise might get paid off in a season or two where the story of a season ends with me being happy, instead of rooting for plane crashes or virus outbreaks.

Then reality happens, and I have to be a man and get over my disappointment, and remember that my theories and stories about sports are just head trash that I tell myself to add to the drama, but don't actually exist in reality. With time and decades of practice, this has gotten easier, but it's not actually easy.

So, well... so sorry that you don't get a full-on stroking from your Celtics taking out a team you consider as E Vile, because they are constructed from the free-market machinations of players, rather than the usual dictates of owners and general managers. I can see how sad that must be for you. Please tell me how depressed you are. We're just here to support you in your time of pain, really.

Guys like Luol Deng and Joakim Noah might not be able to sell tickets

Actually, winning sells tickets. People like winning. Wacky, that. The '90s Knicks, who redefined ugliness in our time? Sold tickets.

Someone like Brian Scalabrine might not matter historically

Oh, he matters. He matters because he proves that only white scrubs can be great and memorable scrubs, and that you are more than just a little bit racist. That matters, really.

To be honest, this is probably one of those years when there wasn't totally a most valuable player

Oh, it's getting harder to keep to that no profanity pledge. Every year has a most valuable player, because the award is given out every year. And only people who care more about soap opera than game care that much about it. You're missing a pretty great game here for your soap opera, Prince.

(an interminable number of words later) Derrick Rose, you're my 2010-11 MVP.

Finally, America's national nightmare is over; we can go to bed knowing the Prince's MVP. It's the same guy as everyone else's. Good thing I was sitting down for that.

L.A. over Chicago in six. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go wander into traffic.

Billy's older now, and no longer sets himself on fire. Instead, he asks for others to do the deed. Laker Fan with a car, I think you know what you have to do...

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