More often than not, reading the analysis of the so-called "basketball experts" annoys me. They're totally biased, and yet they pretend not to be. At least there's some level of honesty (or at least partial honesty) among bloggers. For instance, everybody who reads this blog already knows we hate Kobe Bryant. What this means is you don't have to waste any time speculating about whether we spend our evenings covered in goat blood and imploring the Dark Powers to unleash savage justice on Kobe. Of course we do. And FYI -- goat's blood? Great for the skin.

Bill Simmons recently climbed to the top of our "Sports Analysts We'd Like To Throttle About The Head And Neck" list, thanks mostly to his continuing diatribe against Steve Nash. Simmons claims to love Nash's style of play and team-first attitude. Yet he hates, hates, hates the fact that a funny-looking, floppy-haired little white guy won back-to-back MVPs. And that's fine. As a basketball fan, you can love or hate whatever you want for whatever reasons you want. But when you try to represent your feelings as fact, that's when I have to step in and insult you. And your mother. Have I mentioned she's a fatty? Well, she is.

Anyway, I'd like to take some time to refute some of the bull feces I read in Simmons'
latest column:

I hate to keep harping on Steve Nash's faults because he's such an extraordinary offensive player to watch, and he was spectacular in back-to-back Game 7s...
Here's a standard rule of thumb. When someone begins a sentence with "I hate to say this, but...", they're probably about to say something stupid. And the reality is, they don't hate saying it at all. They want to say it. Bill Simmons has been disgruntled ever since Nash was selected for his second consecutive MVP Award, and he seems incapable of talking about Nash or the Suns without belittling Nash's game. It's like he has some rare form of Tourette's that revolves entirely around how Steve Nash shouldn't be MVP.

...but when you play 35 minutes a game during the season, followed by a seven-game series against the Lakers in which you didn't have to play any defense at all, followed by a couple of tough games against the Clips, I don't want to hear how tired you are.
Fine, Bill. Don't read the news then. Or read it, but try to take some time to discriminate between what a player said and how what he said was interpreted and portrayed. When you see a headline like "Nash Complains Of Tired Legs," it's easy enough to heap criticism on him. I mean, what's he complaining about? He's a two-time MVP, for Chrissakes! Everybody's tired at this point of the season, aren't they?! What a whiner!

It's not that simple, of course, and Bill Simmons -- of all people -- should realize that. I did a Google news search for every possible iteration of "Steve Nash" and the word "tired" that I could imagine. Then I searched Yahoo news. Then I searched Technorati. Nowhere could I find a direct quote of Steve Nash "complaining" about anything. He went through a mid-series shooting slump against the Clippers, and the sports writers (as is their way) pressed him relentlessly for The One Reason for his faltering jumper. "Is it your bad back, Steve? What about the hamstring you've been having problems with? Is that sprained ankle from the Lakers series still bothering you? What's the story, Steve?"

Instead of playing the injury card, Nash simply gave credit to the Clippers' double-teaming defense and said that his legs were fatigued (which they were) and he therefore couldn't have his normal jump shooting range (which he didn't). He only confirmed what we all could see with our own eyes while watching the games. That was it. Or it should have been. But the news media, always searching for a scoop, couldn't leave well enough alone. They had to editorialize. According to one article, "It's been a long, arduous season for Steve Nash." According to another, "Steve Nash continues to play bravely through pain and exhaustion, despite an ever growing fatigue that has robbed him of his jump shot."

For the record, Nash has not (to my knowledge) described this season as arduous. He has not (as far as I know) discussed his "brave" play or his "growing fatigue." That's simply the media creating a story where no story really exists. And then, of course, Bill Simmons jumped all over it and used it as another piece of ammunition in his running critique of Nash.

Lastly, Bill also failed to point out that Nash has been logging more than 40 minutes throughout back-to-back seven game series...while directing an offense that's more like a track meat than a basketball team. Throw in the fact that
he might have a spinal stress fracture, still has the bad hammy, and suffered an ankle sprain a fews weeks ago, and you have a guy with some very valid reasons to complain a little. And yet...he really hasn't.

Especially if you're a two-time MVP. The fact remains, Nash played only two good games in that series -- Games 1 and 7 -- and the Suns still won the series. If Nowitzki goes 2-for-7 against the Spurs, Dallas is going home right now. So who's more valuable? You tell me.
I guess MVPs never complain, do they? I'll get to that in a minute. According to Mr. Simmons, "Nash played only two good games" in the Suns/Clippers series. That's a fact. Bill Simmons said so. But here are a few other facts for you to chew on. Nash averaged 18 points and 11 assists for the series. Those are pretty amazing numbers considering he had only two "good" games out of seven. I've got an idea. Let's take a peek at Nash's series against the Clips.

Nash Chart

Only two good games? Hardly. It looks to me like he had two great games (Games 1 and 7), four good -- or even very good -- games (Games 2, 3, 5, and 6), and one bad game (Game 4). And despite the shooting slump (6-for-20 from the field and 0-for-8 in threes over one stretch), he still shot 48 percent for the series. And he's shooting over 50 percent for the playoffs. MVP also-rans Kobe and Lebron shot 49 and 47 percent respectively. For the sake of comparison, Allen Iverson shot 38 percent in the playoffs during his MVP season, and yet nobody talked about him being in a shooting slump. Interesting, isn't it?

And he's right. The Mavericks wouldn't win if Dirk Nowitzki went 2-for-7. He's a scorer. That's what he does, and that's what his team counts on him for. Nash is a passer first and a scorer second. He can run the offense and guide his team to victory even when he's not shooting well. And, frankly, the ability to find a way to win without a major scoring outburst does make him more valuable. I shouldn't have to explain that to an expert.
(You know who should have been tired? Shawn Marion, who played 3,268 minutes in the regular season, nearly 500 more than Nash, then upped it to 42.3 minutes a game in the playoffs as Phoenix's only reliable rebounder/shotblocker -- he had to play both ends of the court and guard everyone from Odom to Kobe to Kaman to Cassell, then have something left as the second scoring option. And while we're here, Larry Legend logged more than 4,000 minutes over eight grueling months during the '86-87 season without hearing a single "Wow, he's getting tired" excuse. Warrants mentioning.)
This is another thing that bugs me about Simmons. He loves to toss out Larry Bird comparisons to prove his points. That doesn't work with me. I don't like to brag, but I've read almost every book and magazine article that's ever been written about Bird. When I'm feeling really frisky, I go to the library, reserve a microfiche machine, and read through old Boston Celtics game recaps and box scores. Harvard University is even considering awarding me an honorary Ph.D. in LarryBirdology. So, suffice to say, I know at least as much about Larry Bird as Simmons, and probably more.

Regarding Bird's '86-87 season. The Celtics were the defending champions. They had a a litany of injuries -- Walton's foot, McHale's foot and ankle, Parish's ankle, Ainge's knee and hamstring, Bird's back and elbow -- and
the worst bench of all time. The starters all averaged between 38 and 42 minutes a game, and they were noticeably worn out as the season progressed. Don't listen to Simmons. The press made a very big deal of the Celtic's exhaustion, especially when the team lost 10 of 11 on the road, and finished with the first (and only) sub-500 road record of the Bird era (20-21). Even more was made of it during the playoffs, when the Celtics endured back-to-back seven game series against the Bucks and Pistons. The Celtics had squandered a 3-1 series lead against the Bucks, mostly due to Bird's disappearing act in the fourth quarter of Games 5 and 6 (he didn't hit a shot in the fourth of either game). Tommy Heinsohn, who called Game 7 for CBS, talked about how tired Bird looked. And how emaciated (Bird had gone on a "7-Up and popcorn" diet before the playoffs, because he thought dropping 20 pounds in three weeks would help his game).

It wasn't just the press, either. According to Peter May's book The Big Three, Bird himself admitted to being exhausted after beating the Pistons and making it back to the NBA Finals. Bird even said, and I quote, "I wish we didn't have to play another series." I think that warrants mentioning too, Mr. Simmons.

And as long as we're using Larry Bird comparisons to prove our points on Nash, one of Simmons' biggest gripes is how Nash rests on defense so he can go all out on offense. It's funny, but you know...Bird did the same thing. In Jack McCallum's book Unfinished Business: On and Off the Court with the 1990-91 Boston Celtics, it was described in great detail how Bird would be allowed to guard the opposing team's least effective frontcourt player while McHale and Cedric Maxwell would be forced to guard the Dr. Js and Dominiques of the world. Bird, meanwhile, was given the freedom to zone out and pick off passes. Bird is therefore often described as a great team or "help" defender. But you won't hear Simmons direct criticism at Bird's defense.

Bottom line: Nash deserved the be named MVP. Kobe quit on his team and quite possibly cost them any chance of winning Game 7 against the Suns. Lebron was eaten alive by the Pistons in Games 6 and 7 of the Detroit/Cleveland series. Nash, on the other hand, came through for his team in two fabulous Game 7s, and he put them on his back and willed them to victory last night on the road against a superior Mavericks team. He won it. He earned it. Get over it, Bill.
17 Comments:
Anonymous Nels said...
Great article! I don't even read Simmons anymore, but I love to see logic and fact used over opinion any day! (Not that I use a lot of logic or facts in my own writing, but it's cool when other people do)

Anonymous J.E. Skeets said...
Now THAT was a fucking post! Well done.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
You know McCallum has been following the Suns around and (I believe this is the case, otherwise why would he be there?) is doing a book on them, right? Get ready for a lot of parallels to (yep) the Bird-led Celtics. And more of this nonsense.

Anonymous Rog said...
I love it when white people put down white athletes and say and do things in a manner that a black person would do them. I saw plenty of this behavior in college. As a non-Anglo, it amuses the hell out of me. It's like some type of bizarre self-hatred and sociological affirmative action rolled into one big mess. Bill Simmons: One Jive Turkey!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
a couple things:

one, let's not use the postseason to justify who won the MVP. last i checked it was awarded for the regular season.

two, to follow up on the last post and go a bit off-tangent, mccallum's pre-season stunt as an "assistant coach" should cause him to recuse himself about writing about the suns for SI. no matter how professional or how good a writer, there is no way he can spend that much time with them in that capacity, even if it's on the record, and then remain unbiased. same thing as verducci's stunt with the blue jays in spring training last year. when i saw mccallum's article on nash during the season i wanted to gouge my eyes out.

Blogger Greg said...
This is off on a tangent, but since people mentioned it, I thought I'd mention McCallum. He's writing a book about the Suns, not an article for SI, and therefore has almost complete access to everything the team does. I have no idea what the book will be like, but if what's-his-name can write Season on the Brink and it's hailed as a great sports book, there's no reason why McCallum can't do the same thing. In this instance, he's not there to be an "unbiased" reporter - he's there to write a book on the Suns.

Very good post, and not just because I'm a Suns fan. Simmons was much more interesting (and funnier) before the New England teams started winning.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
you're pulling a simmons with the Kobe quit stuff, just stop. i enjoyed and agreed with everything else tho!

Blogger laura said...
first, let me say that this was a great smackdown of bill simmons.

second, i agree with anonymous that you shouldn't use the postseason to justify the mvp award.

third, i love steve nash and i love his politics. but i think the regular season mvp should have gone to either dirk nowitzki or lebron james. i think part of the reason nash is doing so well is because of the rule changes stern made and because d'antoni is such a great coach. the system nash is in is conducive to the new rule changes, so that explains nash's increased success.

i'm not saying that nash should give back his mvp. i'm just saying that no way he's on the same level as a player as tim duncan, magic, bird, and jordan, who all won back to back mvps. there are other players who are better overall players than him who never won an mvp, much less back to back.

shaq hasn't won back to back mvps--and he's a greater player than nash, even though his game is clearly going down. why is that? is nash at his best anywhere near shaq's game at his best? yet nash is the one with 2 mvps.

it's like phil jackson and his 9 rings. he only won one coach of the year award. it's these kind of things that make year end awards seem like a joke.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
When exactly did Simmons claim to be an unbiased expert? I must have missed it...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Looks as though you were not the only one tired of Simmons', Nash bashing. Someone compared Simmons' to Billy Packer and his whining about the no. 1 seed. I think that made Simmons throw up in his mouth. Either that, or the fact the Suns keep winning with Nash and Simmons is trying to cover all the bases before the end of the WCF.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/060526

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Looks as though you were not the only one tired of Simmons', Nash bashing. Someone compared Simmons' to Billy Packer and his whining about the no. 1 seed. I think that made Simmons throw up in his mouth. Either that, or the fact the Suns keep winning with Nash and Simmons is trying to cover all the bases before the end of the WCF.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/060526

Blogger Boston Strangler said...
great post!! Simmons is absolutely terrible, I can't even read this guy anymore. I like how he brings up a fucking Celtics player during the playoffs. If you are going to make a comparison, at least try to make it a little more relevent. Why not compare nash with billups?

Anonymous Lucas said...
Damn son, great article.

Blogger jaemark said...
and bill simmons (kinda) responds, about letting the whole nash thing go:

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/060526

Anonymous sameer said...
I find myself disagreeing with Simmons fairly often, though I do read a lot of him. BUT...I tend to agree with his assessment of Nash in the Clippers/Suns series. And here are the holes in your argument.
- You tout his 18 and 11 average for the series, but really you're proving Simmons' point because he only eclipsed 18 points twice in the series in the two great games that juiced his series numbers. And you shouldn't really tout an 18 point average when he averaged 20 in the regular season, and it's not like his assist average skyrocketed at the same time.
- You identify game 4 as a bad game, and game 3 as a good game. I think you would be hard pressed, based on the numbers presented alone, to prove any significantly different statistical difference in a game when he scored only 4 points (2 baskets!) less, had one more assist (one basket!), and the same number of rebounds. The point is, if game 4 is a bad game, then so is game 3.
- Players are always, ALWAYS, judged by their talents. A good game is relative. For a player of Nash's offensive caliber, 14 and 8 is not a good game. It's, in fact, below average for him. 12 and 10, 8 and 11, same thing. Not good Steve Nash games. Games 5 and 6, despite scoring below his average, are at least closer to what the man does in your average regular season game.

If you are the Boston Celtics, and you get Nash's games 2 through 6 out of Delonte West, you are definitely thrilled. But if you are the Suns and have Steve Nash, reigning two-time MVP, those are not good games. Those are below average games. I love watching Nash play, but I don't think he's shown MVP form in the playoffs besides for a few games. How many times were you watching and thinking, "Wow, that's the best player on the court right now." And I know that MVP and Best Player on Court are different beasts entirely, but still. I think that warrants mentioning.

Blogger NFL Adam said...
Damn, you nailed it.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Exactly what I was thinking Sameer.

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