Thursday, January 25, 2007

Today was a banner day on Rome is Burning. In the middle of the host's gushing praise, the Benefactor managed to say that David Stern does some things as a commissioner that suck. And interestingly enough, that isn't the statement that bothered me as much as two of the other thing he said this afternoon.

First, he said that the NBA's product is better than it has ever been. That is not accurate. The NBA is not what it was when Jordan and the Bull were three-peating. Nor is it anywhere near what it was back in the 1980s when Jordan was an up-and -comer, and Bird, Magic, Dr. J and Barkley stalked the NBA landscape.

The problem with the NBA is that there are probably a dozen teams that are any good. And most of the rest of the league becomes unwatchable at the very mp moment that the game should be most interesting. Almost every team starts to stagnate offensively in the last four or five minutes of a game. The team's best perimeter player gets the ball and dribbles from half court into the teeth of defense.

And the average NBA team is a sickening joke of a sports franchise. Part of it is the economic system which rules the league. An overpaid stiff with an expiring contract is now a hot trading commodity. Theo Ratliff's chief value for the Boston Celtics is that his horribly bloated contract expires soon. But that doesn't change the fact that he shut it down for the season after playing only 44 minutes. When you realize that his salary for the year is $11.7 million, that means Theo earned just over $1 million for every four minutes he spent on the court. Nice work indeed provided, of course, that you can get it.

But the product is better than it's ever been. Which brings us to the real villain of the post. Our old friend, Danny Ainge is reaping as he sowed. Maybe Doc Rivers is a bad coach, but it doesn't change the fact that Danny Ainge came into town, dealt a valuable piece of a playoff team and promised to build a contender. Unless some amazing set of circumstances comes together involving seven or eight teams disbanding and joining cults, the Celics aren't contending for a championship any time soon.

The Celtics are 12-29. They are 2-14 since Paul Pierce got hurt, but they were 10-15 with him in the lineup. They have a better record on the road than they do in the TD Banknorth building (I won't call it the Garden). To add salt to the wounds, the team currently leading their division is under .500. Thank God for the Memphis Grizzlies, otherwise the Celtics would be the worst team in the entire league. In spite of all of this, Danny Ainge is still running a team that hasn't won since January 5th.

On top of this statement, the Benefactor compared himself to Terrell Owens today, which is a fair point when you remove TO's athletic ability and the fact that if push came to shove TO could intimidate more formidable adversaries than Bill Simmons, he and the Benefactor are practically identical twins. Ironically, in a moment that could have compromised Jim Rome's integrity if he had any, Cuban threw Don Nelson under the bus for suggesting the Mavs tank the season the first year Cuban owned the team to get a better shot at a top pick. After all, Jim Rome is always slamming TO for throwing McNabb and Garcia under the bus. But he had nothing to say to the Benefactor on that score.

On a lighter note, I happened to catch Inside the NBA on TNT tonight because there was nothing better on. I was glad I did, because Barkley was brilliant. He ripped today's players, calling them "nitwit-ass players" and suggesting that as "grown-ass men" they ought to behave better. Then he suggested that he will get out of any trouble that his remarks might bring him by telling the world that he's gay and he's on his way to rehab, which is what all the celebrities are saying these days when they make a mistake. A man that eloquent, or at least that funny, ought to get away with saying that stuff.

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