Friday, April 12, 2002

I APPRECIATE BILL SIMMONS: ESPN has mostly guys who have real life press or literary credentials writing for them, even on Page 2. I think Simmons is one of the few who has made a name for himself from writing on the Internet, and it shows in his enthusiasm and his willingness to wrap up the NBA season using quotes from Rounders. (Read part one then part two.) It shows in his counter-intuitive arguments too, unless he actually understands the NBA better than most writers, Internet or not. Anyway, here's Bill:

To David Stern and the NBA in general ... could this season have gone any better? The new rules served their purposes to a tee (increasing scoring, jump-starting fast breaks, changing the tempo and giving NBA fans the best product we've seen in 10 years). Those phenomenal draft classes from '95 to '99 finally started hitting their collective prime. The Pistons and Celtics finally turned things around, giving the league two more marquee franchises for April and May. Three likable players (Pierce, Nowitzki and McGrady) emerged as legitimate superstars. And it promises to be the most competitive playoffs in recent memory.

And if that wasn't enough, MJ returned and pulled a Pink, gettin' this party starrrr-ted by playing 60 games, hooking himself up to the Juvenation Machine for two months, raising interest in the NBA, touching a whole new generation of fans, making everyone in the league a boatload of money ... and gracefully disappearing down the stretch (thanks to his aching knees). Now the New Guys take the reigns.

Contrast this with something found in this piece by Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News-Tribune, also published today:

I agree with the silvery tongued D. Stern that this has in fact been a pretty good season in the NBA, given that a few playoff spots in the East are still to be determined, and seeding in the West changes by the day.

But with all due respect to Stern -- whom we should nickname Rumpelstiltskin because he spins so much gold -- there actually have been some disappointments in the 2001-2002 campaign.

Michael Jordan's aching knees brought the Wizards' playoff run to a screeching halt.
The most obvious, of course, is that Michael Jordan did not complete his season with the Washington Wizards. Actually, the more baffling question about Jordan is what ever happened to his divorce? Now that is a disappointment.

Imagine all the grit and gristle that would have come out of that thing. One day, you hear that Juanita is going to take the children and hole up in their 150,000 square-foot mansion like the family in Land of the Lost, and I get interested. The next, Juanita says everything is hunky dory, and she holes up in her 150,000 square-foot mansion like the family in Land of the Lost, and Michael continues to drive the kiddies to college. I wanted details. I wanted smut. I wanted fresh material for The Enquirer and, well, That is my biggest disappointment.

Barring that, though, I'd have to list MJ's season-ending knee injury. I'll be honest, if the Wizards made the playoffs, I was going to vote Jordan as the league's MVP. I nearly gave him the award just for getting that team close to .500. I mean, have you see that group of players. Christian Laettner? Jahidi White? The fact that Jordan had them believing in themselves is something of a miracle in itself, and I would have liked to see what he did on the national stage of the playoffs. Now, we'll have to wait, hopefully, for next season, and by then maybe Michael and Juanita will be fighting again and we can double-dip.

You see the difference? Or am I just making this up? Old Media Guy: MJ's comeback a disappointment because the Wizards didn't make the playoffs. New Media Guy: MJ's comeback great for the league as it led to a lot of sellouts and to renewed mass interest in the league. Again, maybe Simmons just knows the NBA better than most, or maybe just throwing your thoughts out there in the Internet leads to better things than sticking to the daily grind-out-the-copy newspaper grind. This is, as ever, a completely unsubstantiated point.

Also interesting is that Simmons thinks the current league is the best it's been in ten years. This means --in his opinion-- that the bulk of the Jordan years were not that good --I guess in a competitive sense, but maybe in an aesthetic sense as well. Huh. Something I hope he explains further at some point.

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