My girlfriend's youngest (that’s right, youngest, as in she has more than one - KEEPER!) daughter is named Charlotte, and she's six years old. Our opponents Tuesday evening, the Bobcats, happened to come into the game with a six game winning streak, a franchise best. One might think that their recent spell of competent play might have inspired the 'cats to discover a whole new level of maturity and professionalism in themselves that they didn't even know they were even capable of. However, as their modest streak was evaporating all around them inch-by-inch "Any Given Sunday" style, the Bobcats reacted to various (admittedly questionable) unfavorable referee calls the way l'il pig-tailed Charlotte reacts to just about anything that doesn't immediately go her way: By crying and stamping their feet like annoying snot-nosed kindergartners. And as I sat in front of my laptop, watching their spoiled, tear-ridden, temper tantrums, I knew that I would never ever be able to spank them, no matter how much I feel their bratty behavior warranted it. I'm not a fan of Charlotte, but I have to tolerate their existence because they're a part of a league and a sport I enjoy, just as the whiny bed-wetting six-year-old is non-negotiably attached (often literally) to this woman whose company I sometimes enjoy.
Okay, you see what I did there? How I tied the ending of my anecdote back to the beginning like that in a practical yet amusing way? You see how I told a short story that involved both an NBA team (thus fulfilling the "sports" part of my sports blogging duties) and minutiae from my private life that only the truly insane among you would care about (thus fulfilling the "blogging" part of my sports blogging duties) and crafted it in such a way that it was both engaging and informative? Notice how it only took me one paragraph to do this while the world’s preeminent sports blogger needs like 47 paragraphs to tell you that Mike Dunleavy is poor at his job – a fact that you already knew anyway? You know how I can do this? Because, my friends, I’m a professional writer.
I don’t have to ramble on and on in my posts to make my always spot-on observations. I just choose to do so, and I do it for YOU. I mean let’s be real here for a second. For most of you reading my recaps has to be the single biggest thrill of your otherwise mundane lives. All I’m doing is trying to prolong the ecstasy as long as possible. Think of me as the sports blogging version of Sting and my recaps as Tantric sex. If it helps you I’ll share that like the former (current?) "Police" frontman, I also shower about once every three weeks.
Besides, I missed the first third of the year, so I’ve been trying to squeeze a year’s worth of words into these recaps. Because I love each and every one of you that much. And as Spurs fans, you’ve become accustomed to nothing but excellence.
Monotonous, mind-numbingly boring excellence.
On the left, with the sombrero, is James "Flight" White, the original Pops Mensah-Bonsu
Speaking of boring, you might have surmised from my oh-so-clever title that I’m not exactly enamored with madcap rollercoaster that is the Charlotte Bobcats. For those keeping tally at home, I figure I’ve probably expressed similar sentiments about, oh, 19, maybe 20 other teams. Some might think that this admission makes me unqualified to be a serious basketball blogger; that I don’t have the necessary passion for the sport. I would argue that having more than a passing interest in ten teams still gives me a significantly more inclusive and expansive view of the league than The Sports Guy, the self-acclaimed "biggest basketball junkie on the planet" who somehow writes about only four teams, the Celtics, the Lakers, the Cavs and for reasons both geographical and morbid, the Clippers. And what of Simmons’ masters, the so-called "Worldwide Leader in sports," out there in Bristol, CT? To them the NBA is Kobe, LeBron, and Shaq, whenever he’s in the mood to give an exclusive interview on a critical matter that he’s just got to get off his chest.
Stuart Scott: Now Big Fella, people know that you’re the most dominant bigman that’s ever laced ‘em up, that you’ve starred in movies, that you’ve recorded multiple phat rap albums and that for 16 years you’ve been the prominent draw in the league. Now all of this is not just to your sick skills as a baller, but also for your one-of-a-kind larger-than-life personality, with your inventive nicknames, your hilarious one-liners, or that one time where you almost murdered Brad Miller in public. But the peeps out there may not know, is that you also have a serious side. Shaquille O'Neal, The Big Shaqtus, the original "Superman" what would you like to tell the millions of people watching this exclusive ESPN interview right now?
Shaquille O’Neal: I used the bathroom today all by myself.
So as you can see, I’m clearly more qualified than anyone employed by ESPN to write about basketball, and to do so in an entertaining way (sorry John Hollinger).
Yet even I cannot stomach the thought of watching the Bobcats, much less writing them, on any kind of regular basis. They do nothing for me. And, judging by their attendance figures, not a whole heck of a lot for anyone in the greater Charlotte metropolis either. I look at the names and faces on the roster and I shrug, not because I’m unfamiliar with them but rather because I’m all too familiar.
Take Raymond Felton for example. No, really, take him. Because I sure don’t want him. He’s a nice enough little player, I guess, but in the past four years he’s shot between 38 and 41% from the field, he’s averaged between 7.2 and 7.8 assists per 40 minutes, turned it over between 11 and 12% of his possessions, and his PER has ranged between 13.55 and 14.30. In other words he’s consistently mediocre and very unlikely, at this point, to somehow radically improve into an asset.
Or what about Emeka Okafor? His 14 and 10 would be a godsend for the Spurs, a team on which he’d be the fourth best player. Sadly for Charlotte, when you draft someone second overall, you’re not hoping that person will become the fourth best player on a contender. You’re hoping they’ll be the fourth best player in the conference, if not the whole league. Not only is the talent gap between he and the 2004 draft’s number one overall pick, Dwight Howard, wider than the latter’s shoulders, but Howard even has more personality and charisma. I can’t think of a single memorable thing Okafor has done on the floor his entire career except openly cry when Bennett Salvadore called him for a foul on Duncan. It was embarrassing.
Finally we come to Gerald Wallace, one of the most visually unpleasant gentlemen in the league. It’s not his physical appearance I find off-putting as much as disgusting obsession with his mouthpiece. Clearly this man kept spitting out his pacifier as a baby. He takes the mouthpiece out, he puts it in, he takes it out, he puts it in (TWSS…), he cannot stop French-kissing the damn thing. Mr. Wallace, I beseech you: America does not need to be exposed to your slobber guard. If you cannot keep your mouthpiece in your mouth for more than eight seconds at a time, it’s not really serving its purpose and should be discarded. It’s like a biker putting his helmet on, then removing it, then putting it back on, then removing it, constantly back and forth, as he’s riding - only totally gross.
Also, Wallace is jackin’ his threes at a .284 clip this season, so it appears Bobcats fans (giggle) will have to settle for him being merely a good player instead some hidden, unrecognized star.
What about their "role players" you ask, frantically searching for a day-glo orange beacon of light for the Bobcats and their future. What about Boris Diaw? He’s been really good for them ever since the trade, and he’s only 26. Yeah, except he had his career season at 22. What about Raja Bell? Hasn’t he provided veteran leadership? Raja Bell is nothing but a comic foil to the legitimate two guards in the NBA. Imagine if Michael Finley on the Spurs is how Michael Finley was his whole career. That’s Raja Bell. Picking up Vladamir Radmanovic for a useless Adam Morrison was a good move though, right? He went to the Finals with the Lakers last year. Oh yeah, I can’t possibly see the downside of acquiring a 6’10" guy who plays no defense and was publically referred to as a "space cadet" by his past coach. Please. The stacked Lakers went to the Finals in spite of Radmanovic, not because of him. Oh yeah, oh yeah? Well what about D.J. Augustin smart guy? You can’t possibly say anything negative about him. Who the fuck is D.J. Augustin?
Whatever. Morrison might have sucked, but at least when he kinda looked like the lovechild of Jack White and Larry Bird, I was kinda interested. Then he got hurt, and then he came back but cut off all his hair, and now he's been traded. Combine that with the fact that they've got a miserly owner and an infamous GM who's not likely to draft anyone useful on purpose, and I don't see any compelling reasons to be interested in these guys next year either.
It's one of the NBA's greatest tragedies that this never worked out.
Anyway, in the game, we were tied after three quarters, typically playing down to a lesser opponent's level. Then Pop had a brainstorm. "Suppose I wanted to make a defensive drills video, using only guys on my team. Who would I have on the floor?"
Presto! Rocket and Fin were banished and guys like Fatality, Mr. Potatohead and Eeyoopeeyoo were brought in. Tony remained on the court because, well, the ball wasn't going to dribble itself. In the face of the Spurs new-found defensive pressure the Bobcats crumbled and San Antonio ended the game with a 20-6 run. Hill scored all nine of his points in the fourth and Mace iced the game with a couple of sure-what-the-hell threes. Another "W" on the ledger, another game sooner to Manu's return. (Theoretically.) (Fuck.)
What I really wanted to mention in this space was Sabrewolf's thread about Bill Simmons "being bad for your soul." A number of people replied by defending TSG, saying he's been an avid Spurs supporter over the years.
Well yes and no.
It's true that Simmons has been generally complimentary of Tim, Manu, Pop, and the Spurs franchise as a whole. But he sure has sent a lot of mixed messages, both recently, and throughout his career.
For one thing, Simmons has never been a big fan of Parker. He makes no bones about it. He simply thinks the guy is soft, that he's an awful defender, and that he's not clutch. I bash Tony all the time, but I've given Parker far more credit for the Spurs' success than Simmons has.
For another thing, Simmons can't seem to make up his mind on anything Spurs related. Here, he calls the '07 team their best ever (while also writing that Ginobili "bastardized the sport with his flopping" - it's true, Manu invented flopping!) while here he writes that the '07 Suns were the best team. In a recent podcast, not only did he claim that the outcome of their '07 playoff series would be different if Amar'e and Diaw weren't suspended, but also that the Suns would've won the first round series last year if they won Game 1.
Here he has Manu 5th in his non-existent '08 MVP vote (I love the phrase "particularly unique impact" as opposed to run-of-the-mill ordinary unique impact, HACK) while here he wrote that Manu's never been a "top 15 player." Here he says of the '05 Spurs that "they have two best players in the series," meaning Tim and Manu, but in a recent podcast he was dismissive of the '05 Spurs, partly because "Manu wasn't Manu yet." Dude. Manu's never been more Manuer than the '05 playoffs. That's the Manuest he's ever gonna get. Also here, after the '05 playoffs, he has Manu as the 14th best player, and even makes a hilarious joke that his family will inevitably wind up being kidnapped. Because nothing's more funny than kidnapping.
And as you've surely noticed, in any Simmons column where Ginobili is mentioned, there are multiple references or "jokes" about flopping (musta picked it up from all that damn soccer they play over there) and his bald spot. Because you know, he's original like that.
Simmons has even wavered on Duncan. Here he said Game 7 of the '05 Finals was "the finest game he's ever played" (and really who can argue with an epic 10-27 shooting night?) while here he said that Duncan's Game 6 in the '03 Finals was a "forgotten classic that should be mentioned in any 'Greatest Playoff Performance Ever' discussion."
Or who can forget this all-time classic?
"So that's what this series comes down to: Kidd vs. Duncan. And as much as I like Duncan, Kidd isn't just knocking on the Pantheon Door right now, he's like Rob Lowe at the end of St. Elmo's Fire, standing outside Demi Moore's apartment, holding a fire extinguisher and screaming, "All right, I'm coming through!!!!!" Nobody's playing better than Jason Kidd right now. Nobody. And that's why I'm going with the Nets in six."
(He also argued, vehemently, that whole postseason that Kidd should've gotten MVP).
So, to recap, Simmons has written that the '07 Spurs were one of the best teams of the past 25 years, but that Duncan has never played on a great team. That the '07 team was easily their best of the four title winners, but should've lost to the '07 Suns. That Tim is the greatest power forward ever and the best player post-MJ, but if not for Horry in Game 5 in '05 he'd be just another Karl Malone and that at his absolute peak he was still not as valauble as Jason Kidd. That Manu was never a top-15 player except for the time he was, but back then he wasn't as good as he is now.
Finally, he said in a podcast that he thinks San Antonio (never a great team, by the way) might beat LA in the Western Conference Finals, but that they couldn't beat Boston, even though Duncan is much better and more clutch than KG. And this makes perfect sense because, you know, the Spurs have a long and storied history of losing NBA Finals to dipshit Eastern Conference teams.
So what have we learned from all this, kiddies? That, I've spent far too much time reading and listening to Bill Simmons. But I do it so you don't have to. If you can't ignore The Sports Guy, take his opinions with a grain of salt. He'll change them a week later anyway. After all, not all of us can be professionals.
A face made for hacky blogging.