Since it’s the first week of baseball season, what about a doubleheader of mailbags? On Tuesday, we gave you the April Fools’ Mailbag. As for Friday …
Q: OK, so you give us next to nothing on the NBA during the NFL season, then in your last mailbag you acquiesced to some loser complaining about a lack of baseball coverage and do a non-NBA mailbag. So what now, you only cover the NBA for February and March? Come on, you’re killing us NBA fans! This is one of the best NBA seasons ever with soooo many good story lines. Give us an all-basketball mailbag!
–Matt S., Toronto
SG: Twist my arm! You knew it would be one of the crazy Raptor Truthers who set me straight. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.
Q: If Memphis was undefeated heading into the Final Four right now, do you think we’d see the members of the 1976 Indiana basketball team being interviewed all over the place and talking about how great they were, and how even if Memphis goes undefeated the Tigers would only be equal to them? Maybe ESPN could get Sean May to sing a song about how great the 1976 undefeated IU team was? Maybe Kent Benson could get interviewed on “Mike & Mike” and “First Take”? Maybe Bobby Knight could join the CBS announcers and openly root for the other team while insincerely insisting that if Memphis can somehow go undefeated he will be the first person to congratulate John Calipari? Man, I hate the 1972 Dolphins.
–Ben Miller, Washington
SG: Hear hear! I have to say that e-mail finally managed to put the ongoing loathsomeness of the ’72 Dolphins in perspective for me. Can’t the media agree on a ban from this day forward — no more interviews with the ’72 Dolphins for the rest of eternity? If you want to run a clip of one of them talking, just run one of the old interviews and time-stamp it. Let’s get rid of these guys once and for all. And while we’re here, can we all agree to give America a 10-year break from Mike Eruzione? Mikey, we love you, we appreciate everything you did … but if I hear you describe that winning goal one more time, I’m going to buy Jim Craig’s American flag on eBay and strangle myself with it. Take a breather and we’ll see you again in 2018.
Q: Do you think Stephen Jackson is the best NBA player to have ever discharged a firearm in a public place?
–Tim, Victoria, B.C.
SG: Come on, he had a permit!
Q: If you were a kid, how great would it be to have Dikembe Mutombo at your house on Christmas morning to watch you open presents? Having him stand up and shout “You got the Wii!” would be the greatest moment in Christmas morning history.
–Colby Wood, Pittsburgh
SG: In the words of Troy Aikman, you’re exactly right. Couldn’t Dikembe auction himself off for Christmas morning every year, with all proceeds going to his charity? By the way, I’ve been writing for a long time that Dikembe should be required to attend as many events as he possibly can during the course of a calendar year — slam-dunk contests, home run derbys, “American Idol” tapings, those talk shows during which Oprah or Ellen give away gifts to their audiences, etc. — I spent an hour searching through my archives for the first time I wrote about this and finally just gave up. What’s amazing is that he has delivered the goods from a “euphorically happy reaction” standpoint for this long. I almost feel like they should work him in the final season of “Lost” just so we can see his face when some of the castaways finally get rescued.
Q: What are the rules governing free-agent fans? Most of my fellow Sonics buddies will be taking their loyalties to the Blazers, but I say that’s bandwagon hopping, what with the prospect of them being really good next season. What guidelines should a free-agent fan use when selecting a new team?
— Jonathan C., Walla Walla, Wash.
SG: Tragically, I’ve been getting this question dozens of times per week from the Seattle, New York and Milwaukee areas. We covered the finding-a-new-team rules in 2002 during my “20 Rules of Being a True Fan” opus (scroll down to No. 19), but that column desperately needs to be updated (and even partially rewritten to reflect the fact I eventually violated two of those rules after the Red Sox and Patriots became more successful than I ever imagined). Regardless, I’d say three rules from Section 19 could be applied to the current Sonics-Bucks-Knicks situation. Here are those excerpts again:
- “Once you choose a team, you’re stuck with that team for the rest of your life … unless one of the following conditions applies:
“Your team moves to another city. All bets are off when that happens. In fact, if you decided to turn off that sport entirely, nobody would blame you.”
That rule still applies for Sonics fans. If they move to Oklahoma City, they cease being the Sonics anymore and you should wash your hands of them and wait for your inevitable new arena and expansion team five years from now. (In other words, you’d become an NBA widow for a few years, then you’d remarry the new team.) What I don’t understand is how any Sonics fan could ever fathom switching to the Blazers when it would be a complete violation of a 41-year rivalry and every great Sonic who killed himself trying to beat Portland over that time. No Red Sox fan would ever switch to the Yankees; no UCLA fan would ever switch to USC; no UNC fan would ever switch to Duke. If you’re a Sonics fan and you’d seriously consider a Portland switch, you’re effectively saying, “The last 41 years meant nothing and neither did that rivalry.”
- “You grew up in a city that didn’t field a team for a specific sport — so you picked a random team — and then either (A) your city landed a team or (B) you moved to a city that fielded a team for that specific sport.”
We watched this happen most recently in Washington, where so many Orioles fans in the extended D.C. area jumped at the chance to extricate themselves from the Angelos era and happily switched to the hometown Nats. Any Knicks fan in the Tri-State area could make a flimsy argument for switching to the Nets right now for two reasons: Jimmy Dolan and Isiah Thomas have destroyed even the rudimentary boundaries of a franchise/fan relationship, and the Nets are moving to Brooklyn in three years and possibly (OK, probably) ushering in the LeBron era to boot.
Here’s my verdict: Unless you’re living in Brooklyn, you can’t switch to the Nets when they arrive. You can’t. There’s no question Dolan has been a 250-car highway crash for most of this decade, but it’s not like he hasn’t been spending money … he has just been running his team like a complete moron. If he’d been running the team like a complete moron for 15 or 20 years, then I concede the seeds of a potential switch. But he’s only been in “complete moron” mode for a few years, and besides, they can deny it all they want now, but when Dolan hired Isiah and the Knicks immediately destroyed their cap space in 2004 with the Stephon Marbury trade, every Knicks fan on the planet was chugging the Jimmy Dolan Kool-Aid (maybe the second worst Kool-Aid ever made other than the fabled Jim Jones Kool-Aid) and believing the Knicks were relevant again. So you can’t just jump ship because of a tough stretch, just like you wouldn’t disown a son or daughter if they were going through a rough patch.
(Of course, this “rough patch” would be the equivalent of your teenaged daughter running away to the West Coast, developing a coke problem and eventually filming “No Country For Horny Old Men” for Vivid Video before you hunt her down with a private detective like George C. Scott in “Hardcore” and bring her back home … but still, it’s a rough patch and that’s it. Let’s revisit this one if the Knicks are still floundering in 2014.)
- The owner of your favorite team treated his fans so egregiously over the years that you couldn’t take it anymore — you would rather not follow them at all than support a franchise with this owner in charge. Just for the record, I reached this point with the Boston Bruins about six years ago. When it happens, you have two options: You can either renounce that team and pick someone else, or you can pretend they’re dead, like you’re a grieving widow. That’s what I do. I’m an NHL widow. I don’t even want to date another team.
Bucks fans are nearing this point because they’re so frustrated with 20 years of forgettable, irrelevant teams (save for the 2001 playoff run) and the lack of accountability of owner Herb Kohl (who has a rare talent for hiring horrible GMs and horrible coaches). Clearly, something needs to happen for them — for God’s sake, when your team has a home game when they re-retire Brian Winters’ number at halftime (this actually happened), you know something has gone terribly, terribly wrong. Bucks fans also have an ace in the hole that many other NBA fans don’t have — they can divert their basketball attention to two perennially successful college teams (Marquette and Wisconsin) and maybe even switch NBA allegiances to the Bulls, who only play 90 minutes away and were never considered a “rival” of the Bucks, anyway.
I can’t render a verdict here because it’s one of those “every fan makes his or her own decision” situations, but I can tell you this: I never regretted jettisoning the Bruins from my life, partially because the NHL changed so much as a product from the rough-and-tumble game I loved as a kid, and partially because our owner cost us a Stanley Cup somewhere between 1988 and 1993 with an unforgivably low budget that was completely out of whack with the rabid fan base for the Bruins at the time. This was a guy who drove off Dave Poulin — the heart and soul of those early-’90s teams, as well as the best checking center we had — over a difference of something like $200,000 when Poulin wanted to stay. I just couldn’t handle it. (Note: Jacobs had been infamously cutting costs since the mid-’70s, so there was no light at the end of the tunnel.) The way Jacobs ran the team actually made me feel bad about myself for caring about the Bruins; for my own sanity, I had to move on, even if it took me a few more years to completely extricate myself. Anyway, if you reached that point with the Bucks (or any other team, for that matter), then it’s probably time to renounce them or find someone else.
Q: Bill, I am a pothead. Most days I sit around my apartment, getting stoned and wondering where life might take me that day. I have no daily purpose, other than eating and expelling bodily fluids. I have been a devout Bucks follower for years, so you can understand my complete lack of enthusiasm for anything Bucks related. You becoming Bucks GM could literally change my life, give it a purpose. Where do I send my application to be your assistant? I’ll get you coffee in the morning and beer in the early afternoon. Just let me know, Bill, and make the Bucks relevant again. Milwaukee is way too great of a town to be subjected to apathetic sports management.
— Cory, Madison, Wis.
SG: See? That’s what I’m talking about. Cory from Madison might need to either find a new team or declare himself an NBA widow.
Q: Have you seen the details of the WNBA’s new collective bargaining agreement? Talk about unintentional comedy! There’s the hard salary cap, which got raised to a whopping $750,000 for ’08. (Isn’t that what most NBA teams spend on sweat removal alone?) The league max salary is up to $95K, which would be funnier if that wasn’t a good deal more than I make. But, by far, the highlight was the “quality of life” issues that the players tackled. Now five-year veterans finally get their very own hotel rooms on road trips! Talk about trail blazers.
— Mike O., NYC
SG: (Afraid to say anything.)
Q: How would you balance your obviously blatant Boston homerism with being the Bucks’ GM? Would you be permitted to make trades with the Celtics? Would we get the Bill Simmons Cam during a Celts-Bucks game where the camera would cut to you in the owner’s box, your lower lip quivering and hiding a smirk whenever KG dunks on the Chairman? Would you be testifying before Congress on charges of conflict of interest and telling them “My buddy, House, misremembers … I did not attend Paul Pierce’s afterparty following the Bucks’ playoff loss to the Celtics. But my nanny and my wife and children might have?” I think Bucks fans should demand that you renounce your ties to Boston at your introductory news conference.
— (Name Accidentally Deleted), Ann Arbor, Mich.
SG: Good e-mail with some good points. I guess I’d have to put my love for the Celtics on hold for as long as I held the Bucks’ job — kinda like how you can put your DirecTV account on hold for a few weeks when you move. And I’d have to adopt Larry Bird’s rule of never trading with the Celtics under any circumstances. Sadly, we’ll never know how it would have turned out — the Bucks are bound and determined to fail with the likes of Doug Collins, Billy King or any other name guy who has failed with at least one other NBA team. This is how the NBA works and how bad teams stay bad. They don’t take chances, don’t think outside the box and continue to make the same safe mistakes that everyone else is making.
Here’s a great example: New York’s hiring of 67-year-old Donnie Walsh to save its basketball operations. Yeah, he’s a “respected” name, but he was also part of the braintrust that overpaid for Jermaine O’Neal, Al Harrington, Austin Croshere and Jamaal Tinsley; traded for the reprehensible contracts of Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Troy Murphy just to get Ike Diogu (huh????) and dump Stephen Jackson; turned Antonio Davis (a valuable big man at the time) into Jonathan Bender; turned Ron Artest into three months of Peja Stojakovic; hired Isiah Thomas as a coach and handed over the 2002 draft to him (leading to Isiah overruling his scouts and drafting Fred Jones over Tayshaun Prince); and on top of that, it’s not like he was knocking draft picks out of the park (check out Indiana’s picks since 1990 and tell me if you love any of them other than the no-brainer pick of Danny Granger in ’05, unless you have a fetish for white guys who were drafted 15 picks too high). Could Larry Bird share some of the blame for those moves? Absolutely. But it’s bizarre to me that anyone would consider Walsh a potential savior of anything. That’s the NBA for you.
Q: Whenever something goes wrong for a Houston sports team, can we please refrain from using the “Houston, We Have a Problem” headline? We get it already. When a 7-foot-6 guy who plays for the Rockets hurts a lower extremity for the third consecutive year, we could at least go with something sexually suggestive like “Houston’s Big Rocket Goes Limp Again?”
— Todd, Chapel Hill, N.C.
SG: See, I think that headline has been beaten into the ground to the point that next year, when Yao goes down again, ESPN.com could run a picture of him wincing with a “Houston, We Have a Problem” headline, only the headline would be in Chinese letters. Everyone would get it, anyway.
(Ladies and gentleman, the Yao Ming era!)
Q: Could you please not renew your Clippers tickets? It’s my only chance of not exploding. Thanks.
— Al Thornton’s ACL, Los Angeles
SG: Don’t worry, Al’s ACL, I’m done giving Donald Sterling my money. You know what’s really sad? The Clips have the pieces in place to make a couple of monster moves this summer when you remember that (A) they’re getting a top-seven pick and (B) they’re getting Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston back. They can’t get stuck in no man’s land for another season, especially now that Chris Wallace (NTCWFFN) has set up the Lakers as a contender through 2014. That leaves one of three directions.
Direction A: If they want to make a splash in L.A., the Clips trade for the one guy out there who could steal local headlines from Kobe: Gilbert Arenas. There’s also a slim chance Baron Davis could become available this summer because Golden State has to pay Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins, although the Warriors would be looking to shave payroll if they traded Davis and the Clips couldn’t absorb his contract. I’m ruling that one out for now. (Note: I refuse to acknowledge a “Corey Maggette, Cuttino Mobley and a conditional No. 1 for Vince Carter” deal here, as much as it makes sense on paper. Haven’t the poor Clips fans suffered enough?) So, what would it take to get Gilbert? The lottery pick, Chris Kaman, Livingston and probably another lottery-protected No. 1 pick. As much as I like Kaman, under the guidelines of “we can’t play second fiddle to the Lakers anymore,” the Clips would have to do that trade.
(Note: the Wizards would be fools if they turned that trade down or didn’t at least counter by asking that Etan Thomas’ contract and Tim Thomas’ contract were included as well. If they re-signed Antawn Jamison, they’d have this year’s nucleus back sans Arenas but with Kaman, a top-seven pick and their own first-rounder, plus Thomas and a one-year flyer on Livingston if he’s fully recovered from that knee injury. Couldn’t that team contend in the East or am I crazy?)
Here’s the problem: the Clippers haven’t pulled off a big trade in five years and have three different factions fighting behind the scenes to make personnel decisions right now; you couldn’t get Elgin Baylor and Donald Sterling to agree on lunch right now, much less the future of the franchise. Which leaves …
Direction B: Trade Elton Brand to Philly. Philly has cap space and a giant hole at power forward, so the Clips could facilitate a sign-and-trade in which they sign Brand to a lucrative extension, then ship him to Philly along with Tim Thomas (they have to dump Thomas in any Brand deal, right?) for Kevin Ollie (sign-and-trade for one year at 75 percent of Thomas’ 2009 salary), a 2008 No. 1 pick (probably in the 16-18 range) and a whopping $16-17 million trade exception that could be used Sam Presti-style for the next 12 months (translation: help out any team looking to shed payroll for luxury tax reasons and pick up two or three first-rounders and maybe even a Luis Scola-type mistake in the process). Hey, it’s not like the Clippers’ fans would take it personally — they’ve been getting crapped on for 25 years and counting. Of course, the Clips would never be savvy enough to pull a Presti with Brand. Which leaves …
Direction C: Move to Anaheim … a move that should have happened five years ago. What’s the point of getting sloppy seconds in L.A. from the Lakers? They don’t own the Staples Center; they get every terrible date; and on top of that, nobody in L.A. cares about them now that the Lakers are good again. Why not emulate the Angels, move to Anaheim (a city with a good basketball arena, by the way), pursue the natural Disney tie-ins and build a fan base in Anaheim and Orange County that would adopt the Clips as their No. 1 team? Or is that way too logical for Donald Sterling?
(Wait, don’t answer that.)
Q: If you take over the Bucks, you need to draft Kevin Love and convince him to wear No. 69. You can’t possible deny that a Love 69 jersey wouldn’t be the No. 1 selling NBA jersey of all time, right? Ladies and Gentlemen, the new GM of the Milwaukee Bucks … Bill Simmons … YES WE CAN!!!
— James, Calgary
SG: See, these are the moments when it’s a bummer that my Bucks’ campaign never got going. I could have put this on my platform and everything: “Promise No. 27 — we’re going to draft Kevin Love and make him wear No. 69.” With the Love/69 gimmick, his Color Me Badd beard and his dumpy physique, K-Love would have had every female’s heart in Milwaukee fluttering. They wouldn’t know whether they’d want to cheer him, make out with him or cook him a brat. Now we’ll never know. But seriously, Milwaukee, enjoy Doug Collins, Billy King or Keenan Ivory Paxson as your next GM. Best of luck with that.
Q: I would have thought that after “Phone Booth,” “SWAT,” “The Recruit,” and “Daredevil” people would realize every single movie Colin Farrell has even appeared in is terrible. For some displicable reason, Hollywood kept giving him more money and bigger roles (“Miami Vice,” “Alexander,” etc.) Hence the Colin Farrell Rule: No matter how bad all Colin Farrell movies are, Hollywood studios will insist on giving him leading roles and huge paydays. Who is the Colin Farrell of the NBA?
— Murph, New York
SG: Has to be Stephon Marbury, right? Twelve NBA seasons, four playoff appearances, 18 career playoff games, zero playoff series wins, four different teams that were excited to acquire him, four teams that were excited to trade him, nearly $132 million earned (with another $21 million coming next season) and, if that’s not enough, he was the starting point guard for the Nightmare Team in the 2004 Olympics. Did I leave anything out? You know it’s a good comparison because it’s hard to tell who should be more insulted — Farrell or Marbury.
Q: Forget about being GM of the Bucks. What if my older brother and I signed a petition for you to be our dad? My mom makes great meatballs.
— Justin, Medford, Mass.
SG: Mmmmmmmm … meatballs …
Q: Sports Guy, can you get my back on this? Every NBA writer and broadcaster in the universe goes on and on about teams with cap room. … How the Knicks are doomed because they have no cap room. … Look at those Grizzlies with all their cap room! … Honestly though, who the hell needs cap room? Name me one team that got to the top based on its cap room. Wise trades and quality drafts build championship teams, not CAP ROOM.
— Steve, Schenectady, N.Y.
SG: You’re wrong and you’re right on this one. The three Shaq-Kobe title teams happened because of cap room, so that throws your theory out right there. Shaq landed in Miami because Anthony Carter’s agent screwed up a year earlier and inadvertently gave them enough cap room to sign Lamar Odom (used to acquire Shaq a year later). Steve Nash landed in Phoenix because of cap room. Same for Gilbert Arenas (Washington) and Carlos Boozer (Utah). On the other hand, cap room hasn’t been the great elixir, either — just ask Chicago (Ben Wallace), Cleveland (Larry Hughes), Denver (Kenyon Martin), Atlanta (Joe Johnson), Miami (Brian Grant) or Orlando (Grant Hill), and that’s before you get to the dozens of Speedy Claxton/Nazr Mohammed-type signings. In my opinion, cap room only truly matters for the five destination teams (the Lakers, Knicks, Suns, Heat and Magic). Every time those teams create cap space, somebody big will want to sign with them. It’s a built-in advantage exclusive to them. For instance, if one of those five franchises has $16 million to burn this summer, if you think there’s any chance Elton Brand would extend with the Clips over fleeing town and signing with one of those five teams, you’re crazy. Same for Baron Davis.
(Note: Why are those the five destination teams? The Lakers and Knicks need no explanation. The Florida teams are appealing because of the weather and no state income tax. And Phoenix has warm weather, it’s on the West Coast and it’s a 40-minute flight to Vegas. If those teams have money to spend, they’re getting the best free agents. Case closed. That’s why it’s such a travesty that Isiah screwed up New York’s cap situation for most of this decade. They could have gotten LeBron two years ago.)
Q: Your proclamation of Stan Van Gundy as “the single best TV analyst for any sport” is unconscionable. He’s a talking head if there ever was one, a guy who talks before he thinks and, as a result, can’t help but get it right once and awhile. Sure, he knows hoops better than you and I, but his inane nonbasketball opinions are ignorant and arrogant to a degree that I can’t help but disregard everything he says. SVG has proven he’s bush league at best.
— Joner B., Victoria, B.C.
SG: So I’m guessing you’re a big Mark Fratello fan? Or do you like Hubie Brooks?
Q: I work in a law office and generally spend about 85 percent of my time with a file open in front of me looking as though I’m working. In actuality, I’m just surfing the net and hoping no one surprises me by walking into my office and realizing I’m not doing anything productive. I truly believe that since his time in Toronto’s front office, Isiah Thomas has been doing the exact same thing. Do you think he’s sitting in his office right now at MSG hoping no one walks in and realizes he’s just watching YouTube clips of the 1989 Finals?
— Mitch, Detroit
SG: Right now or for the past two years? I vote “yes” for both questions. That reminds me, I stumbled across the ’89 Finals video on NBATV recently and Isiah’s decline with the Knicks has reached the point where it was legitimately bizarre to see footage of him (A) winning, (B) happy and (C) in a position of respect and authority. Has any great athlete ever sullied his legacy more without committing a crime?
Q: In your (last) all-NBA mailbag, you actually wrote the following sentence: “Once you pass the point of no return, there’s no going back.” Is Tim McCarver writing your mailbag now?
— Peter C., Massapequa Park
SG: That hurts. Although he makes a great point. As McCarver might say, every time I read an e-mail from a reader, there’s a chance he or she will make a great point, and there’s a chance they won’t. When it’s a great point, you know it’s a great point right away, which is one of the things that makes it a great point. And in this case, Peter C. from Massapequa Park made a great point.
Q: So LeBron should win MVP because he is carrying a terrible team to the fourth seed in the East with no help? Isn’t this the same reason why Kobe shouldn’t have won MVP the past couple of years, because he carried a terrible team to the playoffs in the West? You’re a moron and biased against Kobe. Grow up.
— Andrew, Louisville, Ky.
SG: All great points except you left out the part in which I wrote a column two Aprils ago arguing Kobe should be the 2006 MVP. I’m always astounded when readers think I hate someone — for instance, according to the e-mails we’re getting lately, Dallas fans believe I hate the Mavs now, even though I wrote a glowing Nowitzki column two springs ago, and even though I wrote an entire column blasting the officiating during the ’06 Finals and continue to bring up that travesty and make Bennett Salvatore jokes to this day. I thought the J-Kidd trade was a lateral move that wasn’t getting the Mavs anywhere in the long run, so now I hate Dallas? Huh?
Q: Has Hubie Brown ever seen a timeout he doesn’t like?
— Andy, Philly
SG: During the second round of the ’87 playoffs, Don Nelson called a timeout in Game 4 of the Bucks-Celtics series that Hubie wasn’t crazy about.
Q: I suppose I already know the answer to this … BUT earlier in the season, you praised the Spurs for unloading Luis Scola in the name of chemistry and now you blast them. What gives? BTW, I’m not a fan of either squad … just a fan of consistency.
— Anthony, Charlestown, S.C.
SG: The Spurs traded Scola because they were worried his ego wouldn’t be able to handle a supporting role with Duncan and company; they didn’t even want to take the chance that it wouldn’t work out. I accepted that explanation at the time because I didn’t know anything about Scola and assumed they had enough information at their disposal that they were worried just enough about his character and they didn’t want to risk it. Well, he has been a fantastic teammate in Houston, even though his role was yanked around for the first half of the season, and he eventually became a key guy for the Rockets during their 22-game winning streak. So the previous explanation was invalidated. What made them think he would hurt their chemistry? By all accounts, he’s a fantastic guy. Upon further review, I think they just misjudged how good he was.
Q: Bill Simmons mentioned MY name? In the street? When we bounce from this (bleep) here, y’all (expletives) gonna go down to them corners and let them people know … WORD DID NOT GET BACK TO ME! Let ’em know Billy take on any (expletive), Bill Simmons, Allen Iverson, whoever. My name IS MY NAME!!
— Billy King, Philly
SG: I’d write “LOL” here if I wasn’t so morally opposed to the usage of the phrase “LOL.” By the way, any e-mail that can successfully incorporate Marlo Stanfield and Billy King is a mortal lock to make the mailbag. That’s just the way it is.
Q: So, Davidson is a small liberal arts school with an excellent academic reputation that just made the Elite Eight? Oh and they have free laundry, and their trustees paid for everyone to go to the tournament games? Holy Cross has no excuse now, the precedent has been set. We need to get it together.
— Jon, Worcester, Mass.
SG: Don’t get me started. Hey, I’m glad you brought up Davidson. More than a few readers asked why I haven’t been writing about college basketball as much this year. Here’s the answer: As long as the NBA is running on all cylinders — and really, it hasn’t happened in 15 years — I don’t see why anyone would watch college over pro unless they had a favorite college team (which I don’t, thanks to Holy Cross fading into obscurity). Of all the guys we watched in the tournament this year, maybe eight of them could step into an NBA rotation right away, and only two of them (Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley) could start for a decent team. Personally, I’d rather watch basketball played passionately at the highest possible level; the NBA hasn’t been this good since the watershed 1992-93 season and the competitiveness of its games has just been absolutely remarkable. I remember the days when maybe 10 regular-season games per year would stand out; now we’re getting four or five a week, and that’s not even an exaggeration.
With that said …
Nothing in sports can match what happened Friday and Sunday: An underdog school (Davidson) with a Jimmy Chitwood-type hero (Stephen Curry) toppling one high seed and coming within one possession of making the Final Four, and if that’s not enough, Gus Johnson was announcing both games and ready to have an on-air seizure if Davidson had scored on the final play to beat Kansas. Of all the sports (college or pro), March Madness is the only time when you can hop on a bandwagon and not feel guilty about it — whether it’s Belmont trying to topple Duke, Davidson trying to make the Final Four, or whatever — and it’s the only time when an athlete can completely alter his destiny in the span of 10 days. For example, Curry wasn’t even considered a first-round pick before the tournament started; now he’d probably crack the top-15 if he came out (which he won’t), and if that’s not enough, we’ll always remember him as the kid with the gorgeous jumper who did the Chitwood impression.
Anyway, I’m not down on college hoops this year — the Davidson run was incredible theater, and we’re headed for one of the greatest Final Fours of my lifetime. Just know that, overall, the NBA product was markedly better as a whole this season unless you had a college team you loved.
Q: As Bucks GM, would you promise to defend every coaching hire with “his interview blew us away”?
— Larry, Gurnee, Ill.
SG: Absolutely! That question blew me away.
Q: Have “The rights to Rudy Fernandez” officially taken the mantle of the go-to NBA phrase from “Theo Ratliff’s Expiring Contract” in this space yet? If not, what’s the time frame?
— Matt, Portland, Ore.
SG: I can’t believe you missed the logical successor when you’re from Portland! At 12:01 a.m. on July 1, 2008, the torch will be passed from “Theo Ratliff’s Expiring Contract” to “Raef LaFrentz’s Expiring Contract.”
Q: With the way the West keeps changing by the day, what would you change in your “Wild Wild West” column from (last week)?
— Timmy, Baton Rouge, La.
SG: I got that e-mail last weekend and my answer has changed 10 times since then. The two biggest changes: San Antonio caught fire and might be headed for a No. 1 seed, and the Warriors imploded in back-to-back blowouts (San Antonio and Dallas) and look like they might be done in two weeks. As much as I liked the Jason Richardson trade and thought it was logical from a cap standpoint, it backfired on them down the stretch — they aren’t tough enough without Richardson and their only two hombres (Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson) are starting to wear down from playing 40 minutes a game at a breakneck pace.
Important tangent: I like the word “hombre” as an NBA word that means the opposite of wuss. If you’re an hombre, that means you’re not allowing anyone to push you around; you’ll stand up for your teammates when they get knocked into the basket support; you play bigger than your size; and you have the balls to take and make big shots in big moments. Golden State had three of those guys last year (four if you include Matt Barnes); now they’re down to two because Richardson is gone and Barnes fell out of favor with Don Nelson, and as talented as Monta Ellis might be, he’s not an hombre yet and has a bad habit of stinking out the joint in big games. They beat the Mavericks last spring mainly because they out-hombred them and controlled that series from an emotional and mental standpoint — the Mavs caved to their style, didn’t fight back, weren’t tough enough to win in Oakland and that was that. But this year’s Warriors team isn’t as fiesty, and on top of that …
Q: As a Warriors fan who witnessed a truly unique fan experience last year, I feel the need to report that the fans officially jumped the shark (on Sunday night against the Mavs) when I witnessed The Wave at the Oakland Arena. Did you see it?
— Mike, San Fran
SG: Yup, I watched it happen live and reacted the same way I did when Jaye Davidson revealed her member in “The Crying Game.” For the real Warriors fans who stuck with the team through thick and thin and got priced out from home games after last spring’s memorable run, we’re feeling for you. Not only are we down to one potentially great NBA crowd and that’s it (MSG if the Knicks ever get resucitated), but my “Roar of the Crowd” column from the 2007 playoffs officially feels like it was written 20 years ago. It’s just appalling. I can’t get over it. Is there any throwback experience that doesn’t eventually get ruined in professional sports? Watching Warriors fans doing The Wave with one of their own players at the foul line would be like seeing Bruce Springsteen take over the “Our Country” commercials from John Mellancamp — an indefensible, legacy-altering violation in every conceivable respect. This might have been the “Fair Weather Fan” moment of the decade.
Q: I’m reading the Pistol Pete biography and couldn’t help notice some similarities between him and Shannon Tweed. Both were essentially born 10 years too soon — Pistol before the overwhelming popularity of college basketball then the NBA. Shannon Tweed before being in Playboy wasn’t a stigma at all. Both performed on crappy teams — Pete on those Hawks and Jazz teams and Shannon in some bad Skinemax movies. Both were the best at what they did before their platforms were largely accepted into mainstream. And both have you saying “what if?” In other words, what if Pete would have gone to the ABA out of college, and what if Shannon Tweed would have been able to parlay her Playboy and Skinemax films into something more mainstream?
— Brian, Austin, Texas
SG: I don’t even need to say it.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. For every Simmons column, as well as podcasts, videos, favorite links and more, check out the revamped Sports Guy’s World.