Eddie Griffin is the perfect example of how being insanely athletic and having Unlimited Potential (TM) can keep thugs and criminals out of jail, employed, and making millions of dollars as professional athletes. That wouldn't work for people like you and me, of course. If, for instance, I ran over a meter maid and got caught with illegal narcotics in my car (like NFL star Randy Moss), I would by typing these words from the state penitentiary, where I would no doubt be enjoying a blissful civil union with someone named "Killer" or "Drax The Ass Destroyer."
For those of you unfamiliar with Griffin's storied career as a Lex Luthor's young protege, here's the (somewhat) abbreviated rundown. First, he was expelled during his senior year of high school for fighting a fellow teammate in the school cafeteria. Suprisingly, he still graduated (no doubt because he was a huge local star and had accepted a scholarship to Seton Hall). In college, Griffin struggled with alcohol abuse and allegedly had several verbal and physical confrontations with his teammates.
Eventually, Griffin and his 40-inch vertical leap made it to the NBA. Suddenly surrounded by full-grown men (most of whom could totally kick his ass), he turned to beating up women instead of teammates. On October 25, 2003, he was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and assault causing bodily injury after the 6'10", 250 pound center punched his girlfriend three times in the face and then fired two gunshots at her car as she fled his Houston mansion. What terrible thing did she do to instigate such violent behavior? She found him getting Biblical with another woman. Bitch.
It should be noted that, at the time of the double-assault, Griffin had been suspended from the Rockets for missing several practices and a team flight. Suffice to say, the Rockets cut him...but the New Jersey Nets immediately signed him to a contract (although he never played for them).
Griffin entered an alcohol abuse program in order to avoid imprisonment, but he ended up in jail anyway for continuously violating the curfew terms of his bond -- including an incident in which he tried to run a man over with his SUV during an altercation outside a gas station. The Nets quickly waived Griffin, who, amazingly, was released from jail to enter yet another alcohol abuse program. In March, only a month after he beat up his girlfriend and tried to freaking kill her, he was sentenced to a mere 18 months of probation. In October, he signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves, delcaring himself "a man that's made mistakes, but a changed man."
And I guess he was right. Kind of. He hasn't tried to kill anybody, or punched any hookers (that we know of). But last March, Griffin crashed his luxury SUV into a parked Suburban outside a store in Minneapolis. Which wouldn't be that big of a deal -- accidents happen, right? -- except that he was drunk and masturbating at the time of the accident.
There's actually video footage of Griffin trying to cut a deal with dude whose car he hit. There are plenty of great quotables, like:
"I can't go to jail."
"Any car in life you want, I got it for you, man."
"I'll pay for it, I promise. Tomorrow, you'll have it tomorrow."
"You want a Hummer? You want a...not a Bentley."
"But it's like I'm, I'm drunk."
When read out loud, these quotes sort of sound like the track listing for a country album. But what do they tell us about Griffin as a person? He wants to avoid jail. Seems reasonable. He's not above bribery. Well, he is a known criminal after all. He'll bribe someone with a Hummer, but won't spring for a Bentley. That's strange, but understandable, since a new Bentley will run you about 100K more than a new Hummer. Oh yeah, and he's a drunk fuck.
Of course, since he's a rich and quasi-famous athlete, the cops didn't test him for alcohol and they even gave him a ride home. To put this into perspective, last year I was driving a drunk friend home from a bar and got pulled over because he was spitting out the window. Even though I'd been the designated driver, the cop put me through about 20 different types of sobriety tests (all of which I passed) before finally forcing me to take a breathalyzer. All because a drunk dude was spitting out my car window. I'm pretty sure that "shoveling" someone's car while drunkenly whacking myself off would have ended with someone's gloved hand up my ass and not a police escort back to my house.
To be honest, most of this is pretty boring stuff. I mean, drunk and disorderly conduct isn't anything new. The masturbation is a nice touch, and sure to induce fits of Beavis and Butthead-style snickering. But what really interests me is what kind of porn Griffin was watching? I mean, was is standard Guy/Girl porn. Was it Girl-on-Girl? Was it fetish porn...a little bondage, maybe, or something hard core like watersports? Whatever it was, it would make a great commercial for the production company. "Our porn is so good, you'll masturbate in the car and cause a major traffic accident...or your money back!!"
All this talk about porn has made me want to watch some. So here's a video of a girl playing with her boobs. No nudity, though. Damn.
"In Rocky IV, two white guys compete for the heavyweight championship. Man, that Spielberg is something else!"
- Chris Rock
In honor of my recent post about how Dirk Nowitzki is so not Larry Bird, I made like Mr. Wizard and performed a ground-breaking experiment. On Gamecube NBA Live 2006, I set up a 1-on-1 game pitting 80's Legends' Larry against the Mavs' Dirk. The game would be by ones, first to eleven, win by two.
The theatre for this epic battle would be a miraculously clean New York City basketball court, with various lazy looking, moderately interested street thugs watching from the sidelines. To ensure that my bias in favor of Larry Bird would not influence the results, I set up both players as CPU. This would allow the computer to play itself, like the Joshua / WOPR super computer playing tic-tac-toe in War Games. The result, of course, would be an accurate, indisputable representation of how this historic battle would play out...
...but not at first.
Nowitzki won Game 1, stroking a two-pointer to win, 14-12. Honestly, I'm thinking this first game was an aberration -- digital Larry clearly wasn't taking Nowitzki seriously. He had that "I'm friggin' Larry Bird. I'm gonna whip your ass" look on his face throughout the game. After Dirk's victory, however, Larry got serious.
In the post-game interview, Larry said, "I played like a woman. Until I get my heart in the right place, I'm in trouble." Deeply affected by his own wiley psychological warfare, Bird assumed an air of determination...
...which would have been irrelevant had I not decided to make it two out of three.
Perhaps the most critical part of any game (or Rocky fight): The Staredown
Once Larry got serious, it was all over for Dirk. Larry dug deep, coming up with an astonishing array of sky jams that had never been a part of his professional career repertiore.
Ah, remember the days when Larry used to sky
gracefully like this? Okay, I don't either.
Bird somehow went all Jordanesque on Dirk's ass. The one
accurately programmed player attribute? Dirk's inept defense
Stop messin' with the wanna-be, Larry. I mean, a
no-look dunk? Now you're just being an asshole.
Needless to say, Larry ran away the next two games, sparing me the need to make it three out of five.
Like the Miami Heat, Larry Bird overcame an initial setback, and proceeded to bitch-slap Nowitzki into submission.
There was one truly great, defining moment in these two final games. Here I was, thinking that Larry would be at a disadvantage because he could not utilize one of his greatest weapons -- the pass. But as usual, Larry Legend was full of surprises. In one magnificent play, Larry stole the ball from Nowitzki, cleared it, froze Dirk with a fake pass to...uhm...nobody...then stroked a jumper over his dumbstruck opponent.
I can almost hear legendary Celtics announcer Johnny Most
screaming from the grave: "Bird stole the ball!"
The quintessential genius of Larry -- faking a pass in one-on-one.
The glorious hilarity of this play is best enjoyed in video. Fortunately, I managed to capture it for your viewing pleasure. Note in the video how the pass freezes Dirk, giving Larry just enough spacing to stroke his patented jumper.
As a final confirmation that Larry is head and shoulders above Dirk, I submit the following: after a dunk, digital Dirk said, and I quote: "I've got more moves than a boy band." This may be the single gayest thing ever said on a basketball court, and for that alone, Dirk falls down another rung on the respect ladder (the first rung being for his unnatural fondness of David Hasselhoff). Neither those words, nor any combination of them, would ever come out of the real OR digital Larry's mouth. In fact, I imagine Larry would take a break from his busy GM schedule to visit EA headquarters and smash a few heads if he learned that any programmer ever caused his pixelated self to say something so utterly uncool.
So there you have it, a completely one-sided chronicle of the historic matchup between Larry Bird and Dirk Nowitzki. I can confidently say that these digital games have proven just what I predicted they would prove: absolutely nothing.
White and blonde. That is as far as the comparison between Dirk Nowitzki and Larry Bird should go. In fact, "white and blonde" may be the only two reasons the comparison was ever made to begin with. What else could explain why analysts equate a German, 7-foot tall, moderately successful, occasionally magnificent scorer to the legendary 6'9" hick from French Lick who dominated the NBA for 10 years in almost every possible way that the league could be dominated?
After Dirk had sub par games 3 and 4 in this year's finals, Dan Patrick had the nerve to turn to Mark Jackson and ask: "So, Mark, are we realizing Dirk is not the next Larry?" Uhmm, guess what Dan...Dirk was never remotely -- at any point -- the next Larry.
Attention all NBA analysts: These parts are
not interchangeable, unless...
...you collect bobbleheads.
Jesus, could you even tell if I switched these heads?
Is that Nowitzki or Granny from The Beverly Hilbillies?
Dirk will humbly accept any accolades, but if you plunked him down in a plain wooden chair beneath a hot spotlight and adopted a menacing German accent, it wouldn't take long for him to admit the comparison is ridiculous (unless he enjoys that treatment, as many Germans do). Speaking of abrasive tactics, anyone who considers Nowitzki comparable to Bird needs to be tied to a chair with their eyelids pried open like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange and force fed a continuous spool of highlights from Larry's career.
Forget that Larry's career has the advantage of being complete. Forget that his Celtics won three championships and contended for countless others battling teams led by Dr. J, Akeem, Kareem, and Magic. Larry's career was legendary, but this isn't about that -- it's about one man's game vs. another man's game.
Larry was an incredible scorer, as is Dirk. But Larry could score 10 points and still control a game with extraordinary passing, tenacious rebounding and unquestioned leadership, which he did regularly. When Dirk goes 2-for-15 in a game, that's about it. He has very little else to offer, other than [insert David Hasselhoff joke here].
Look, I watched basketball in the eighties. I was born in Boston and lived there during that time. I went to Larry's games. Hell, I was in attendance at The Duel. Am I biased? Absolutely. Bird is my favorite player of all time. But I am more than capable of looking past my favoritism here. The Nowitzki-Bird comparison is ludicrous, even if Nowitzki goes on to win multiple championships...and maybe bring sweaty, bouffant hairstyles back into vogue.
"You know who you look like?
That 8-year-old standout German basketball player."
Larry Bird played basketball in a way that affected the entire flow and movement of a game. When he wasn't scoring well, he knew how to get his teammates more involved with an amazing variety of passes that would lead to easy buckets and make his teammates better. Bird's passing was on such a sublime skill level that NBA basketball was actually frustrating to watch in the years after he retired. In every game I watched, I could identify a plethora -- you heard me, a plethora, El Guapo -- of missed passing opportunities..."Bird would've passed there...and there...and there...and there."
Nowitzki scores, drives and moves extremely well for a big man. He has a smooth shooting stroke and nice follow through. Once in a while, he even makes a nice looking assist. Very little of his movement or his game, however, is reminiscent of Bird. Nowitzki is incapable of distributing the ball or controlling a game the way Bird did. His lanky frame gives him a more lumbering gait and a more awkward drive to the basket (and if you're about to reply with "Well, Bird was awkward too," find the old games and start watching. Bird was fluid, fast and precise in his prime. His "awkward white guy" reputation is a myth furthered by those who didn't watch close enough -- or only paid attention during his "Fat Elvis" years of '89 through '91).
Now don't go thinking I have reasons to tear down any player compared to my beloved Basketball Jesus. The fact is, I would love to come across another player like Bird. I long to recapture even a hint of the emotions I felt watching Bird play. But Dirk Nowitzki, aside from his shooting accuracy and lack of skin pigment, simply doesn't command comparisons to Larry Bird.
Cedric Maxwell, a critical player for the Celtics in the '81 and '84 championships, recently stated in a Boston radio interview that if starting a team, he would choose Nowitzki over Bird. The entire conversation can be found here.
Maxwell focuses mainly on Nowitzki's height and foot speed, but at one point grudgingly concedes that Larry was better in a number of ways: "...from a physical standpoint, Dirk is a better player. Now [Larry's] will, now all the intangibles that you guys are throwing in, makes Larry Bird the better player. But from a physical, from a purely physical basketball..."
Give it up, Cedric; we know you're just putting us on.
Some might argue that Maxwell's comments are indicative of a man who resented Bird for taking over "his" team, and instantly receiving all of the notoriety. After all, in the very same interview, Maxwell disputed the notion that Bird was a great defensive player: "Who do you think was covering Larry's man from time to time? Who do you think made all-defensive team and I didn't make all-defensive team?"
But I don't buy Maxwell as a grudge holder. I think Maxwell's comments stem more from his feisty, humorous personality than any deep resentment of Bird. Maxwell never took himself very seriously, and was always the type of guy who enjoyed making waves with his mouth. Choosing Larry over Dirk doesn't make news or waves. But choosing Dirk does.
I suspect for weeks after his comments, Maxwell sat on his front porch rocking chair, giggled to himself and muttered "...Dirk over Larry. That was rich..." over and over.
The same thinking that puts Nowitzki on par with Bird is the thinking that puts Scottie Pippen on the list of the 50 Greatest NBA players. Remember that list from a few years ago? That list was -- and as they update it, it will be more so -- heavily weighted in favor of current and recent players. Why? Because who the hell remembers the 50's, 60's and 70's? And because how can you promote a league if you tell the world that its best days are behind it? The NBA needs to prove that it can not only keep producing the magic, but can keep producing the Magic Johnsons. As a result, every young black standout athlete is touted as the next MJ, and any time a white forward can score, he's the next Larry.
As I sit here typing, the Miami Heat are clinching a game six victory over Nowitzki's Mavericks. Something tells me this Dwayne Wade fellow might just be the next Jordan.
White Boy Hustle (hwit boi hus'-uhl) noun. An intangible but seemingly innate characteristic possessed by many white basketball players, whereby they compensate for a lack of natural speed and athleticism with relentless (and often irritating) hustle. Converse to the principle of the White Gunner.
Usage example:Channing Frye is more athletic than Andrew Bogut, but Bogut's got White Boy Hustle going for him.
Word Miscellany: Caucasians (usually of the "fat and poorly dressed" variety) dominate bowling. Asians dominate badminton and ping-pong. The United Arab Emirates dominate Camel Racing. I dominate the clitoris. And African Americans dominate the NBA. These are indisputable facts. But despite the black domination of professional basketball, you might notice that every NBA team (with the exception of Utah) has exactly 3.25 white guys. This works out to approximately 1.25 white Americans and 2 white or quasi-white guys from various other countries. You might also notice that these white guys are generally less athletic than their African American teammates, who tend to have better hops, more quickness, a certain smoothness to their game, and way, way more talent. So what do these 3.25 white guys have to offer their teams? In most cases it's good old-fashioned White Boy Hustle. This trait is generally characterized by constant hustle play used to offset their lack of athleticism. (For example, almost all the guys on this list are hustle-hard team guys.)
White Boy Hustle also has some relation to a devotion to basketball fundamentals, as opposed to what would be defined as "natural talent." To test this theory, name a white guy who can't shoot free throws. Free throw shooting has got to be the purest example of fundamental skill that can be measured transparently.
White Boy Hustle generally goes hand in hand with a team-first attitude. There's probably nothing more frustrating in the NBA than watching someone who looks like he's not giving 100 percent out there (or 110 percent if it's a contract year). You know, the classic "I'm just here to collect a paycheck because I'm big and athletic but I don't really care much beyond that" attitude. Toronto Raptors fans had to suffer through two and a half seasons of Vince Carter admittedly not giving a shit despite being paid tens of millions of dollars a year to do so. How the Raptors couldn't sue Vince for breach of contract and try to reclaim some of the cash they shelled out for him is beyond me. I mean, it must have said something in his contract about trying...right?!
The purest example of a white hustler is Mark Madsen. You may remember him as that annoying white guy on LA and Minnesota a few years ago. I thought it would be hard to find a picture where Madsen was showing evidence of White Boy Hustle, but it turns out that there's not a single picture of Madsen where he isn't beaming hustle in every possible direction.
Did I say "beaming"? I meant "mugging."
Note: The White Boy Hustle principle doesn't seem to apply in Eastern Europe, although it's worth noting that today's breed of Eastern European ballers is different from the previous generation (Vlade Divac, Toni Kukoc, et al.). Eastern European guys of late (like Peja Stojakovic and Vladimir Radmanovic) avoid physical contact like they're made out of stained glass. I'd be willing to bet that Yinka Dare had more career assists than Peja has career floor dives for loose balls. The scouting report on these guys typically reads: "Fundamentally sound. Shoots well from the line and beyond the arc. Soft like marshmallow."
It's called "White Boy Hustle," Dirk. You should try it some time.
mullion (mul'-yuhn) noun. A grotesquely fat and/or hideously ugly woman with whom a basketball player will have "relations" when no better options are available.
Usage example:If it's late and you're horny enough, you might just end up with a mullion.
Word History: According to Merriam-Webster, a mullion is "a slender vertical member that forms a division between units of a window, door, or screen or is used decoratively." But Wilt Chamberlain used a much different definition for the word. In his 1974 autobiography, Wilt: Just Like Any Other 70-Foot Black Millionaire Who Lives Next Door, the Big Dipper described his time time travelling the world with the Globetrotters (whom he usually refers to as the "Globies"), and most of those exploits have nothing whatsoever to do with basketball. If you can believe even half of what Wilt had to say, then I would guess that approximately 80 percent of the world's current population consists of illegitimate Globtrotter children.
Since the Globetrotters were the most famous basketball players in the world (this was well before the NBA had gained widespread credibility), they could usually bag their fair share of hot babes. They would even go into the crowd during games just to get a phone number (or, if they were lucky, a room key). But even the best pickup artists in the world don't succeed 100 percent of the time, and so -- in order to serve the libido -- it was sometimes necessary for them to fall on a grenade (or two, or three, or...). You just couldn't let your teammates find out. Ever.
According to Wilt: "The worst sin a Globie could be guilty of was to be seen with a 'mullion.' If a guy got horny and couldn't find anything but a 'mullion,' he might cop her, but if he spotted another Globie, he'd just take off and leave her standing there. If you said you'd seen him with a 'mullion,' he'd have 101 excuses -- 'That wasn't me' or 'She was begging me for it and I couldn't get away' or "you should've seen this fine fox I copped before you got there; this one was her frient, and I was just being nice.'"
It's late. And you're horny. And, hopefully very, very drunk.
A few years ago, former Duke standout Jay Williams was involved in a motorcycle accident that broke most of his body and ended his career in professional basketball. The only upside of this tragic event was that it served as yet another reminder that man is mortal, and maybe other people -- particularly other professional athletes -- would practice greater motorcycle safety.
The only message Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got was that accidents are what happen to the other guy. Not only did he keep riding his motorcycle (something that is often expressly forbidden in pro conracts, as it was in Williams' case), he kept riding it without a helmet. When asked about why he didn't wear a helmet, Big Ben once said:
Because you don't have to. It's not the law. If it was the law, I'd definitely have one on every time I rode. But it's the law and I know I don't have to and you're just more free when you're out there with no helmet on...I don't think its as much of a risk as people make it out to be.
It's pretty easy to be nonchalant about these things before you have an accident. I have a feeling his attitude is about to change. Colliding with a motorist, busting your face (including a broken jaw and nose), and going through seven hours of reconstructive surgery will do that for you. But hey, lifelong scarring and disfigurement is sometimes the price you pay...for freedom.
This box contains an exact replica of the helmet that Ben Roethlisberger was wearing when he crashed his motorcycle on Monday, June 12, 2006.
Inappropriate? Maybe. A little tasteless? Probably. Funny? Absolutely.
By the way, Charlie Batch, the Steeler's backup quarterback, was one of the first people to visit Roethlisberger in the hospital. Talk about a bag of mixed emotions. On the one hand, you want to make sure your teammate is okay, but on the other...you know it could be your time. I have a feeling Batch was taking notes on hospital security and figuring out whether he could slip something into Ben's IV.
Toughtastic Extra: The last couple NFL seasons, guys like John Madden practically humped their own legs over Roethlisberger's reputed toughness. In point of fact, he was the only quarterback in the league who's passing percentage actually went up when he was hit by the opposing defense. His famous durability was again on display after his accident. Despite the fact that he could't talk and his face was broken into 127 seperate pieces, Roethlisberger "was resisting the effort to make him stay down." He may be an idiot. But he's a tough idiot.
truthbox (trooth-bahks) noun. A television or any other video transmission medium that can be used to review a basketball game and thereby analyze what the team did wrong.
Usage example:The truthbox doesn't lie. I'm talking about the television. When we watch tape, that truthbox does not lie. And you can see the mistakes, the lack of rotation, the lack of help, the things of that nature. ... It just wasn't there.
Word History: The term was coined by Miami Heat backup center Alonzo Mourning after Game 1 of the 2006 NBA Finals. And he's right: the truthbox doesn't lie. The Heat are a poorly constructed team that isn't capable of defeating the Dallas Mavericks.
"I really don't know what to say. Ya'll better go ask the truthbox."
As this year's playoffs progressed, it became increasingly clear that no one outside of San Antionio and Detroit wanted to see either the Spurs or Pistons in the NBA Finals. "No more boring Finals!!" the world demanded, and David Stern responded. We got two popular teams with likable players and a promise of high scores and even higher drama. Everything was perfect. Until the series actually started, that is.
This year's NBA Finals is suffering from what I refer to as "The Phantom Menace Effect." High expectations have given way to anger, shame, and something with the general smell and consistency of rat feces. The worst parts of this game are desribed below:
1. The first quarter
With about six minutes to go, the score was 11-8...and things didn't get any better. That quarter was like watching a Special Olympics competition after all the contestants got liquored up on cough syrup. And if you've ever watched a nine year-old drunk retarded boy hop around in a potato sack, you know what I'm talking about. The quarter ended 18-17, and it was most painful 12 minutes of basketball I've watched since, well, last year's NBA Finals (the second quarter of Game 1 also ended 18-17). Ugh.
2. Shaq's (non)attack
After Shaq's disappointing 17 point/9 rebound performance in Game 1, sentient beings from across the universe were crying out for the Heat to get The Big Not Getting Enough Shots more involved. In fact, the U.S. Government even received the following communique from the Jupiter 2:
The Robot went berzerk. It destroyed most of our critical systems and killed both Will and Penny. We are surviving on minimal life support, and today we were forced to eat Dr. Smith. But don't worry about us. Please make sure Pat Riley gets Shaq more shots. Major John West out.
The one thing everybody knew going into Game 2 was that Shaq was going to go balls out. Most of us thought something along the lines of a 30/20 would be forthcoming. And, with a resident coaching genius and a budding superstar ready and willing to force the ball in to him, the idea that Shaq might spring for 40+ didn't sound out of the question. The sky was the limit, or so it seemed.
Instead we had to watch The Old Crappy score a playoff career low five points (on 2-for-5 shooting, including 1-for-7 from the line) to go along with a measley six rebounds. It wasn't just a low point for the Heat or the NBA, it was a low point in the history of Western Civilization. And now we have to read about how Erick Dampier (6 points on 2-for-3 shooting and 13 rebounds) totally outplayed Shaq. No wonder he wouldn't talk to the press last night.
3. Dwayne Wade
The clamor of the "Is He Better Than Lebron?" crowd has quieted down considerably. Last night, Wade was 6-for-19 and had four turnovers. He did have eight rebounds, though, which was two more than Shaq had.
4. Sweep predictions
Now that Dallas has won the first two games in convincing fashion, most people are predicting that Miami might get swept, or, at best, will win only one game. Have any of these people ever actually watched the NBA Finals? Last year, San Antonio won the first two games by scores of 84-69 and 97-76. The dominated the Pistons in every conceivable way, and everybody was predicting a sweep then, too. Not only did the Pistons win the next two games, they pushed the series to seven. So trust me when I tell you, Miami will not get swept. In fact, I'm personally guaranteeing a Heat victory in Game 3. My prediction for the rest of the series goes thusly: Miami wins a tough Game 3, Dallas wins a tough Game 4, Miami wins big in Game 5, and Dallas wins handily in Game 6. And Alonzo Mourning will cry at some point.
5. That veteran savvy, part 2
Gary Payton: 1-for-4, two points, four assists.
Jason William: 3-for-10, 11 points, four assists.
Antione Walker: 8-for-16 for 20 points. He actually had a pretty good night. But why did he get three times as many shot attempts as Shaq did??
6. Watchability (or the lack thereof)
Some friends forced me to watch an ECW Wrestling pay-per-view event, and as a result I missed a lot of the game. I was pissed at the time, but, considering how the game turned out, I'm actually kind of glad I spent that time watching a bunch of old fat guys setting each other on fire and strangling each other with barbed wire. Kind of.
According to the ABC pregame show, this year's NBA Finals is a classic confrontation between two "explosive" offensive teams. In Game 1, those offenses treated us to a 90-80 game in which Miami scored a pitiful 13 points in the second quarter and an equally feeble 12 points in the fourth. Was I the only person in America who was having flashbacks to the 1994 Finals between Houston and New York?
Anyway, here are the worst parts of Game 1, in no particular order.
1. The score
Call me old-fashioned, but I like to see the best teams in the league light it up a little. Neither team is great on D, there are matchup problems on both sides, and they've had almost a week off. I figured Dallas would win by a score of, oh, 110 to 100 or something like that. I got the 1o-point spread right, but I was 20 points off on both point totals. Miami shot a frigid 43 percent from the field, and Dallas shot a not-quite-as-horrible 44 percent. The teams were so cold that I kept expecting Arnold Schwarzenegger to leap out of the crowd and start vomiting up bad puns like "Hey Nowtizki, cheeeeel ouuuut!" or "I'm afraid Wade's shooting has left me cold...as ice!"
2. The Heat's defense on Jason Terry
I guess the above statement is a little presumptuous on my part, because looking back, I'm not sure the Heat were actually playing any defense on Jason Terry. Terry was 13-for-18 from the field (including 4-of-7 three-pointers) for 32 points, and he was wide open on about 15 or 16 of those shots...particularly on those back-to-back threes in the fourth quarter that pretty much broke the Heat's back. If Pat Riley's such a coaching genius, how did he forget to remind Jason Williams about the fundamental "hand in the face" and "stand between your man and the basket" elements of defense?
To bad for the Heat. They wasted a game in which Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, and Jerry Stackhouse shot a combined 11-for-39. That's not going to happen again.
Jason Williams demonstrates his "take it up the ass" defense...
...and Gary Payton used "C3PO" defense in the 4th quarter.
3. The "Super"stars
For the past week, the sports media has churned out story after story about how the superstars (Nowitzki, Shaq, and Wade) in this series are basically unstoppable. Predictions for Nowitzki and Wade have ranged in the 30s and 40s, and everbody expected at least 20/10 from Shaq on a nightly basis. Well, anyone expecting a Jordanesque scoring onslaught probably cried themselves to sleep last night. Instead of getting Superman, Batman, and Green Lantern, we got the Wonder Twins and Gleek ("Form of...A BUCKET OF ICE!!"). Nowitzki dropped a 4-for14 stinkbomb. Wade scored 28, but he shot 11-for-25, missed both three-pointers he took, and hit only six of 10 freethrows. And Shaq managed a meager17 and 7, despite 8-for-11 shooting. Dampier actually did a good job of blocking the Big Guy out, but the lack of scoring punch was due to...
4. Shaq's freethrows
Shaq's status as an all-time great is without question. But people who put him in the top five are insane. He has several fundamental flaws as a player that limit his greatness. He's guaranteed to miss about 20 games a season. He spends about half of the season out of shape. He can't create his own shot. And you can't go to him at crunch time because he can't hit his freethrows. He shot 1-for-9 last night. Right before he attempted his 8th freethrow, they showed a graphic about how Shaq holds the NBA Finals record for most freethrows attempted without a make (0-for-8), and the Diesel promptly matched it by bricking number eight (Kobes old jersey number...coincidence?). He did hit number nine to escape setting another all-time record for foul shooting futility, but the point is this: Shaq's missed freethrows (and Wade's) cost Miami a reasonable chance of winning the game. I'm not saying it's certain the Heat would have won had Shaq hit a couple more, but it would have made a difference.
5. That veteran savvy
Antoine Walker: 3-for-9 three-pointers and 6 turnovers.
Jason Williams: absolutely terrible defense on Jason Terry. He might as well have been an inflatable defender.
Gary Payton: 0-for-4 shooting, zero points, 1 assist, and more terrible defense on Jason Terry.
Alonzo Mourning: 0-for-1 shooting, zero points, 1 rebound.
Does anyone still want to justify Riley picking these stiffs up during the off-season?
There are two things you can count on every June: The NBA Finals, and the same old boring stories about the NBA Finals. Here are the top seven crappy story lines you're probably already sick of. 1. The Veteran's "Last Shot" At A Title
It's a well known fact that NBA players spend their time away from basketball sleeping on large piles of money, lounging in swimming pools filled with hookers, and dining on the souls of the unborn. In other words, they're living The Life. But we're still supposed to feel sorry for them if they haven't won an NBA championship. To that end, the Miami Herald is running a 4-part series about the Heat veterans (Alonzo Mourning, Antoine Walker, Gary Payton, and Jason Williams) who are desparately striving to win it all after a years of suffering the indignity of making hundereds of millions to play a game. I will now drown in a river of my own tears.
(I'm going to pull a Bill Simmons here and write an entire paragraph within parentheses. Has any team ever had a group of veterans who were less deserving of a title than these guys? I mean, it was hard enough to watch Glenn Robinson win a trophy with the Spurs for basically filling an open roster spot. But a championship would only justify a lifetime of trash talking by Payton, two careers' worth of bad shots and wild passes by Walker and Williams, and a decade of screaming and flexing by Mourning. I'm telling you, if Miami wins it all, Mourning may become the first person to ever flex so hard his goddamn head explodes. You've been warned.)
"I wants the Ring, precious...yeeessss precious..."
2. The "Coach Story"
We have two different variations of the "Coach Story" in this year's Finals. On the one hand, we have the legendary coach (Pat Riley) who took over a veteran team and is looking for redemption (after his last dreadful seasons coaching the Heat) and a return to his former glory (four titles with the Lakers in the 80s). On the other hand, we have a rookie coach (Avery Johnson) who finally got a perennially successful team (Dallas) over the hump. It's experience versus exuberance! It's age versus youth! It's composure versus passion. It's...making me want to throw up.
I'm actually happy for Avery. He's a great guy and deserves the kudos, even though it's hard to take someone seriously when they're three feet tall and sound like a chipmunk with a speech impediment. But Riley's a different story. Here's a guy who got sick of coaching a bad team, so he quit during 2003-04 preseason, giving the odious job to Stan Van Gundy...who actually ended up doing a pretty good job. But then the team got Shaq, and you just knew it was only a matter of time until Van Gundy got the cement shoe treatment. It's a shame, too, since he was two injuries (to Shaq and Wade) away from leading the Heat to the Finals last year. Anyway, Riley's a douche. I'm just sayin'.
3. The "How are they going to stop that guy?" Debate
Despite a few obvious exceptions (namely the 2004 and 2005 Detroit Pistons), you can't get to the NBA Finals without having at least one nearly unstoppable scorer. This of course leads to the eternal debate of "How Do You Stop [Whoever]?" That, in turn, leads to the typical inane quotes from Coach X and Players Y and Z: "You can't stop [That Guy] one on one. We're going to need team defense. We want to limit his touches, make him work for his shots, and make him play defense on the other end." Ssssssssnnnnoooooooooorrrrreee!!
What happened to the good old days when Cedric Maxwell said of Bernard King (who was at that time the league scoring champ) "We're gonna stop the bitch"? Look, if nobody says anything interesting, I say don't run the story. I'm sorry if my gigantic brain is showing, but I already kind of figured that Udonis Haslem couldn't guard Dirk Nowitzki by himself. And if I thought even for a second that Dampier or Diop could contain Shaq, I'd be wearing an adult diaper and blowing spit bubbles in some assisted care community.
4. The Determination Of A Legacy
Last year, everybody said that Shaq's legacy would be decided by whether or not he could lead the Heat to the Finals. He didn't, but David Stern was nice enough to let Shaq keep his one lonely MVP award and his three championship rings. In fact, Stern was so gracious that he didn't kick Shaq out of the league and gave the Diesel another crack at making it to the Big Dance. That's the same soft-hearted sentimentality that makes you ask your grandparents questions you don't really care about, like what it was like fighting the Nazis during the Korean War.
My point is, the Finals are big time, no question, and you never want to squander an opportunity to get a title (or a shot at a title). But the media makes too big a deal out of a player's legacy, or a team's legacy for that matter. The Pistons made it to the Conference Finals the last four years, made the Finals twice, and one the championship once. That, my friends, is a legacy. But when they lost to the Heat -- hell, even before they lost to the Heat -- everybody wanted to question the legitimacy what the team had already done. "Does this tarnish all they've accomplished over the last four years?" Or course it doesn't, you idiots. Do we wonder whether Obiwan throwing Darth Vadar into a pit of lava is tarnished by the fact that Vadar later cut Obiwan in half and then defecated in his empty robe? Okay, maybe that's a bad example.
5. What Happens To The Losers
The teams that don't win the NBA title get treated like lepers. And I'm not just talking about the runner-up. This way of thinking also extends to the guys that lost in the Conference Finals. No matter how or why you lost, the mere fact that you did obviously means there's something fundamentally wrong with everything about you. The Spurs barely lost to an incredibly good Mavericks team in a series for the ages. So of course the Spurs suck and they need to be completely rebuilt (around Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli of course). The "blow it up and start over again" articles inevitably lead to an angry string of editorials about how the team shouldn't be blown up and only a few minor changes are necessary...like Ben Wallace hitting a few freethrows or Manu Ginobli not fouling a guy who's dunking the ball.
I propose something entirely different. When a team loses, I think they should be kidnapped and taken into a secret underground government laboratory. There they will be given bionic implants and be forced to undergo radical radiation treatment and genetic manipulation. If that doesn't improve the team's chances of winning next season, at the very least we'll have an army of unstoppable supersoldiers ready to take on the alien invasion that is currently being planned by an evil cabal consisting of Big Foot, Elvis, and Jack Bauer.
6. Anything Involving Mark Cuban
Yeah, we get it. He's a rich guy who bought a pro basketball team and plays by his own rules. If I was worth $1.8 billion dollars, I'd be playing by my own rules too. Of course, my rules would involve at least a dozen beautiful female escorts covered in baby oil, all of whom would be expected to refer to me as El Conquistador. Oh, and all of my enemies would be brought before me to grovel before I shot them in the head. That's just how I roll.
7. Dwayne Wade's Rise To Stardom
The kid's dynamite. He defers to Shaq, and yet leads the team. He can score with anyone but also sets up his teammates. He's humble, hard working, and well-spoken. He's everything that's right about basketball. But he is not Michael Jordan. I repeat: he is not Michael Jordan. Wade's had a stellar first three seasons. And he's had a lot of success the last two seasons...playing with Shaq. Mike never got to play with Shaq. And Lebron James doesn't get to play with Shaq now, which makes all the Wade/Lebron comparisons a little misleading. He isn't the unstoppable Shaq of four or five years ago, but playing with Shaq makes everything easier. Just ask Kobe.