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.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.