Friday, February 09, 2007

Slowing My Roll

While it may seem like I'm on something of an anti-LeBronikova kick, that's only because I am. That said, my inflated expectations might be getting the better of my judgment:
James' 2005-06 season was more extraordinary than most people realize. In fact, since 1979-80 (the first season for Magic Johnson and Larry Bird), James had the best Player Efficiency Rating for any non-center age 18 to 22, posting a 28.1 PER at age 21. In other words, during those 27 years, only Shaquille O'Neal put up a better statistical season by age 22.

James easily outpaced Michael Jordan, Amare Stoudemire, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant and all the rest.

Naturally, now we expect more from James. It comes with the territory.

Instead, James has tailed off.

That doesn't mean he's having a bad season -- far from it. He just turned 22, and his current PER of 23.7 would be the 10th best (since 1979-80) for players age 18 to 22. (emphasis mine)
"Still really good" isn't a complete rebuttal of "should be better," but it would be churlish not to admit that he's still quite useful, despite teammates who could charitably be described by my friend Retz as "blowing donk".

And while I'm speaking of ludicrous expectations, we may need to hold an intervention for Simmons:
Anyway, when Chad Ford wrote that Oden had more upside than Durant last week, we had a lively e-mail exchange about it, with my basic point being, "Look, Oden has a chance to be one of the best five centers ever ... Durant has a chance to be one of the best FIVE PLAYERS ever" and Chad qualifying his point by discussing overall impact on a team (if you draft Oden, you're more likely to win a title because franchise centers invariably win titles … well, unless they're Patrick Ewing). We could go round and round on this, and over the next few months, we probably will. All I know is that MJ was the last guy since Wilt to crack 37 a game in the pros … and Kevin Durant will be joining him in 5-6 years if he stays healthy. That's not even hyperbole. I don't see anyone stopping him. But will his rebounding/shotblocking catch up to the rest of his game? And will his teams ultimately win? Those are the looming questions.
When someone describes something as not even hyperbole, the chances of the statement in question being hyperbole approach 164%. And that's not even...But pedantry aside, what? I've been on the Durant bandwagon for a while yet (he was the most impressive player, by a mile, in the McDonald's game last year), but 37 per game? In today's NBA? If someone was going to do it, wouldn't it have been Kobe, last year?

Simmons is setting himself up for a big fall here. There's really no way this ends well for him. Either the Celtics get the #1 pick, take Oden (like they should), and he's bitter that they didn't take Durant, who wins RoY going away; or, they get the #2 pick, take Durant, and he doesn't live up to Simba's advance billing; or between the gleeful espousal of fantanking and his glorification of Oden/Durant over everyone else, they get the #3 pick, just to prove that Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish are not walking through that door.


Injuries are never funny. Except when they are.

Tyrus Thomas on being invited to the NBA Slam Dunk Contest:
"I'm just going to go out there, get my check and call it a day," Thomas said.

Asked if an opportunity to rub elbows with some of the game's greats could be beneficial for a rookie, Thomas kept unlacing.

"I'm just into the free money," he said. "That's it. I'll just do whatever when I get out there."
Tyrus Thomas, trying to get some in-game practice:

2 thoughts. First, the Kevin Martin 3 at the other end is about an 85% shot in that situation. Shaq probably makes 3 of 5 from there in this sequence. Second:

Update: As about 7,000 people have pointed out, the best thing to come out of this might be James White in the Dunk Contest. If he catches the third one in this video, it will be the greatest dunk I've ever seen...

Scratch My Back, Baby

Well played, RIA. Since my personal favorite Thorogood & The Destroyers song is not really available on YouTube (this does not count. I love George, and I loved LoTR, but they go together about as well as milk and orange juice,) I'm going to flip the script and go a different direction:

Your move.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Profanely Serious

Note: This is not the greatest post in the world. I wrote it, and then blogger ate it. This is just a tribute.
Writing is a revelatory thing. Use of ALL CAPS is a shout; use of profanity to me reflects unseriousness
-Some dude
Writing is a revelatory thing. The words chosen can demonstrate flippancy and frivolity. You can demonstrate passion and anger. Or you can wow with dispassionate analysis. That much I agree with, but can we please put to bed the notion that profanity renders an opinion unserious? This dismissiveness is both galling and lazy. (Speaking of dismissals, John Edwards has apparently told those like the above quoted to sit and spin. Good. And speaking further of dismissiveness, is calling him "some dude" dismissive? Damn right it is. Deal.)

I try to not swear a whole lot on this here blog. I'm not exactly sure why, since I've dropped an F-bomb or two in my day. Partially it's that my dad reads, but that makes so sense since he swears like a sailor, especially when driving. Partially, it's that I'm not entirely sure who reads this. (Hey Boss! I'll get those TPS reports to you just as soon as I finish some important business.) Mostly it's that given what I actually write ("have polemic" and all), I worry that full on pottymouthitude will push me from "angry, but in a cute and cuddly way" to "scary."


That's my preference, and I'm certainly not offended, shocked or scandalized when I four-letter word appears on my screen. Certainly a string of profanities can be inarticulate, but then so can posts attempting to use all kinds of $10 words that don't mean what you think they mean.

Second, the suggestion that profanity is not expressive, nor a means to conduct information is demonstrably false:

Third, we aren't writing academic papers, nor are we delivering speeches or testifying in court. We're blogging. Part of the appeal of blogging is the immediacy of "just talking". To signal this informality, we might slip into a more familiar form of address. By which I mean calling our friends assholes for continuously bullshitting us. It means we're relaxed and comfortable. As much as I might like to rise up on my hind legs in court and say "Objection: The witness is bullshitting, your honor" that might fall short of the standard of proper decorum. And maybe I want to leave decorum at my office.

This isn't to say that all or even a majority of the naughty words printed on these here intertrons are meant to signal clubbishness, or embody a chosen vernacular. Sometimes they are just expressions of raw id. Sometimes they are meant to wound. But the passion inherent in all of this emoting is can hardly be anything but serious.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"Oh, Indeed"

John Hollinger ($, bitches) came out with his top ten least improved players in the NBA this year, and, surprise, surprise:
2. LeBron James, Cavaliers

James was my pick for MVP a year ago, and like many I thought he'd pretty much take over the league this season. What we've seen instead is a surprising slip backward, including a dip in scoring numbers and a puzzling slump from the free-throw line.

It's easy to blame exhaustion from the world championship, but Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki played in the same tournament, and both are dominating. A better explanation might be Cleveland's lack of a real point guard, which doesn't allow James to play off the ball more.

Or...he doesn't really give a crap?


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

"Good Character Guys"

I made a snotty aside to this in my SB post, ("God hates Chicago"), but overt religiosity by athletes/coaches has always bugged me. First, I suspect that the whole point-to-the-sky thing is a less overt version of the sack dance. Yet another way of saying "look at me." Poster child for this was always Cris Carter, who was by most accounts a complete prick during his playing days. So, color me cynical when I suggest that his 'thanks-to-God' schtick was just that*. Second, there's the sheer ridiculousness and arrogance of suggesting that God cares about a football game. I'm reminded of the Chris Rock bit where, imitating a losing boxer interviewed after the fight, he says "I was doing fine, until Jesus came down and busted me in my ribs." Third, what are we really talking about here? Tony Dungy, such a great guy. Except when he isn't (via Dwil):
Virtually every article about Colts coach Tony Dungy praises him as a devoted family man of deep religious values. But Dungy’s values do not extend to tolerance for gays, which is why he will be the honored guest for Indiana’s leading anti-gay political organization.
For all the hagiography about the Colts "doing it the right way" that we've heard in the last few days, you wouldn't suspect such open bigotry. Even understanding that prop sports in general and the NFL in particular are not especially welcoming to non-heterosexuals, this is surprising and disappointing. Though upon reflection, I shouldn't be either surprised or disappointed. I'm in no position to offer a lecture or to pontificate about why Dungy has any special responsibility to gay people. But am I off base in wondering why this is both ok and not a bigger story, nationally? Instead of focusing on such trivia as a candy bar ad, why are we not talking about this great guy, Tony Dungy, being honored by a group who's main purpose seems to be to deny rights to their fellow citizens?

Which leads me question what we mean by having a team full of "good character guys." Peyton Manning just might be an asshole, but he's a "good talker," so he gets a pass. Allen Iverson shows real erudition at times, but he's surly at others and vaguely scary, so he's a "bad character guy." How do we know enough about any of these guys to say? It would be different if we had personal knowledge. I've interacted with a few pro athletes, enough to say that he's a good guy, and by proxy, so is he; Randy Moss is in fact a jackass. But beyond that, what the hell do I know? And why should I base my opinion of them on their ability to conjugate a verb or not have tattoos?

*I'm not doubting that Carter was and is a very religious man, giving his recovery from substance abuse. However, I doubt very much that he is praising God, instead inviting you to praise or at least notice Carter.

Monday, February 05, 2007


I forgot to mention in my Enormous Salsa Cup XLI coverage, that I was already in a sour mood before the game started after watching the Cavs get dismantled by the Pistons, and LeBron looking (again) like he just didn't give a flying rat's ass. So, until he shows me something, it's the Official Policy of WAP that Mr. James will be known as LeBronikova. This will remain in effect until I get the sense that he feels the need (as opposed to a mere preference) to win.

If I can find it sometime today, I'll post the straw that broke the camel's back...that baseline reverse dunk down 10 with a minute left after he stunk all day. He managed to get his 8 "Kobe-time*" points to finish a respectable 9-22 for 21 pts, but that vastly overrates his contribution to the game.

*Kobe, pre-Phil Jackson, was the greatest garbage time scorer of the last 2 decades

XLI Plus - Minus

Plus: Billy Joel, with a huge upset, gives the win to the under on the "1:45 National Anthem" prop bet. Geezeman clocked it at 1:36.

Minus: Billy Joel is really the best that they could do? Was John Mellencamp unavailable due to rerecording the remix of "This is Our Country" for the next round of stupid truck spots?

Plus: A Super Bowl being played in football weather. I agree with MY, Edmonton next year.

Plus: Devin Hester. Gone.

Minus: Everything else the Bears did with the ball.

Plus: Rock-Paper-Scissors (ok, who out there was with me in asking "who throws f'in paper? You p****!"), the BlockBuster Mouse, the New Fist Bump and Connectile Dysfunction.

Minus: Every other ad. Seriously, if the top ten Super Bowl adds includes not one but two movie trailers (including one for this obvious dog, though I laughed and laughed at the T.Rex at the end of the spot for this one: "I have a large head and small arms", it seemed to say. How it longs for a grapefruit), you have problems. Also, I'm all for making fun of K.Fed rapping, but if the commercial is 80% K.Fed rapping...then I just watched 40 seconds of K.Fed rapping. This time does not get credited back to my account because it was presented in ironic fashion. The Go Daddy ad was also very disappointing. If you are going for the prurient, go for the prurient. Tastefully done, my ass...

Plus: Prince. I liked it, damnit.

Minus: Shannon Sharpe plagiarizing the late, great, Robin Harris at half time, acting like it was the height of wit.

Plus: Mmmmm...Steak.

Minus: Large dog trying to steal my steak.

Minus: Jim Nantz as the Official Budweiser Authority on Black History XLI (I'm sure they sold naming rights for this). A tradition unlike any other! Black History and Augusta National, I see no problem here at all. The tiebreaker being Billy Packer...gah...)

Minus: According to Irsay and Tony Dungy, god hates Chicago.

Overall: Giant "meh."

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Swag's in the Mail

I don't know how, or why, but I'm more of an NBA fan now then I have been since...who knows when? Partially, college basketball has been so bad for so long (and without the 'Stache or even a particularly interesting Duke team to follow), that I've kinda given up on it until March. I mean Greg Oden is a beast, Jo Noah is vastly overrated, and Kevin Durant might just be the second coming of George Gervin, but we know all that already, so why watch? Partially, it's the baseball offseason. And partially it's that I can't really bring myself to care too much about the 41st Exceptionally Large Fruit Receptacle game. Go Colts, I guess...

But also, over the last two seasons, there has been a marked improvement in the aesthetic quality of the games. Plus, I've had a DVR, so I can watch games at my convenience. Additionally, FD and other sites have greatly enhanced my enjoyment: I now watch a basektball game almost as I used to watch a film (before they all started sucking because the best writers are working on cable dramas), with an eye towards narrative structure and character development.

In any event, a few things about this here Association:
  • This is all kinds of awesome from Gil. Video here. (Via H. Abbot.) Swag. Phenomenal. (Speaking of Swag, mine is here too...)
  • Some called me crazy, but I now fully doubt whether LeBron really gives a shit. Simba picks up on it, (ironically in a column largely about Anna Kournikova, to whom I compared LBJ):
    the difference between Wade (killing himself and ramming his way to the rim over and over again like a running back) and LeBron (on cruise control and seeming disinterested most of the time -- and yes, I know he's hurt, but I've watched him mail it in too many times this season and we're nearing the point where Barkley needs to call him out on TNT) was absolutely startling. One guy just wants it more than the other guy. It's that simple.
    The "wants it more" thing can be deceiving - Tim Duncan is incredibly stoic, but there isn't much question about his "wants to". But in remembering back to the first time I saw LeBron play in person (at the Tar-get his rookie season), yeah he was a little sick (by report) but also a little indifferent.
  • Top quotes of the 1st half. My favorite:
    "Typical NBA punch. In hockey, your own team would beat you up for that."
    -- Two-time MVP and proud Canadian Steve Nash describes his thoughts on Anthony's punch and quick backpedal in the Knicks-Nuggets brawl.
    Also, evil meets evil
    "Next time he does that, break his f------ foot!"
    -- Thomas tells his team his strategy for handling the Spurs' Bruce Bowen, whom Thomas had accused of sticking his foot underneath his players' when shooting.
    Stay classy, Zeke.


Overheard at Steph's (warning, extreme tech-wonkery ensues):
Don’t you think it ironic that as our Republican administration is sweeping away all manner of civil liberties they are mandating business adhere to stringent “privacy” protections for the consumer. Does this not suggest that we are as more valuable as consumers than citizens?
It does indeed so suggest. Also, "duh".

Further, Megan has an excellent series of posts defending (in qualified fashion) the regulatory state, as well as demonstrating why GWB's mandated additions of zampolits to all executive agencies is bad idea, even setting his ideology aside.

(With apologies to RIA, who seems harried)

Friday, February 02, 2007

BlogReader Bleg

Here's a quicky for the collected wisdom of my legionsdozensseven fans family members who read this. Does anyone have a recomendation for a good, easy to use blog reader/aggregator type thingee, so I can have the wonders of the intertubes delivered directly to me, presumably via truck driven by Senator Stevens?

Thursday, February 01, 2007

5 Things on Thursday

  • Not to get tin-foil hatty, but was the Sternbot's egregious suspension (more here of Kobe Bryant (seriously, it's basketball. You get hit in the face. It happens) some kind of backhanded (pardon the pun) ploy to rehabilitate the image of the man DLIC calls Bean Thousand? Is it mere coincidence that the next game he got "MVP" chants. On the road. In Boston?
  • How did my dentist just find me? I don't open the mail from you, I don't call, I don't write. Some might call this stalking. Needless to say, I now have an appointment in a few weeks.
  • Speaking of weird basketball happenings, this involves the worst dive I've seen since the World Cup. What is it about West Virginia and massively hyped basketball prodigies? More here. [Update: in comments, Icepick makes the not unreasonable point that Iverson is from Hampton, VA. To which I respond in two ways. A) Shut up. B) I meant the western part of both Virginias, obviously.]