Thursday, May 31, 2007

I knew today was going to be a weird day from the start. I woke up to see a headline in the Boston Globe, one of the day's lead story in a major metropolitan newspaper, to the effect that some jackass with a pseudonymous blog (not me obviously) managed to get himself revealed in open court. He actually included a thinly veiled account of the daily proceedings of his trial for medical malpractice in his blog. As far as I'm concerned, important personal details have no business in a blog so long as the blogger wants to keep a private life apart from the blogging life. I'm not sure yet what the details are on the settlement of the other blogger's case look like, but I bet it was one hell of an expensive mistake.

Then as I was driving through a neighborhood in Boston at 7 this morning (I can't tell you which one, lest I compromise my somewhat secret identity), I found myself behind a Nissan SUV. The guy driving it was rocking a cowboy hat. At 7 AM. In Boston. And not the metropolitan area, either. The city itself. If that's not a bad omen for the start of a day, I'm not sure what is.

And there is the whole A Rod mess. So what if he yelled at a guy who was trying to field a pop fly at third base? If any other player on any other team did that it wouldn't have been a story. If one of the Red Sox players did that, Red Sox Nation would be fawning over him as though he cured polio. But since it's A Rod, it's the worst thing that has ever been done on a baseball diamond, or at least since he slapped the ball away from Bronson Arroyo. People just need to leave the guy alone for a while.

But tonight's post is really about basketball. The NBA is slowly wasting away before our eyes, and it's almost laughable. I'm not blaming the refs or the league for the on-court violence which is a far bigger problem in my eyes than the off court violence associated with the current NBA player. This degeneration from basketball to a sort of half-assed rugby is the responsibility of the players. They put up with it, so why should the league address it. Every team that whines when its star is hacked turns a blind eye when its goons maul the opposing star. So the players need to do fix this themselves.

And it starts with personal pride. Not ego, but honest-to-goodness "I did my damn job the way it ought to be done to the best of my damn ability" pride. For the love of God, Bill Russell would have been scandalized into committing ritual seppuku if he defended Chamberlain the way Prince and Hamilton played LeBron tonight and he were a samurai. A little bit of contact is fine, but a player ought to find a new line of work if he can't guard his man without hand checking him 10 times in a 24 second possession.

The three most egregious instances of shameful basketball came in the second overtime. First, Webber never should have gotten continuation on the foul that sent Ilgauskas packing. He carried the ball in the first place. Also, the motion which enabled him to put the ball in the basket was not the same motion which was interrupted by the Ilgauskas foul. That cannot be continuation, de facto or de jure. Finally, it probably wasn't even a foul at all.

Then there was the 24 second violation on Cleveland where they passed the ball to Varejao for some strange reason. As he fought for the loose ball, Billups splashed him. That's got to be some manner of foul. You simply cannot throw your body onto another player's body in a non-contact sport. It's just not the way it was intended to be played.

Finally, on one of Detroit's final possessions in the second overtime, Chris Webber tried to set a pick by hand-checking the Cleveland defender (I'm pretty sure it was Pavlovich). There's no way that you can set a pick with a hand check. Hell, according to strict semantics, I don't even think you can hand check on offense, but I don't know how else to describe what Webber did. Instead of positioning his body appropriately, he reached out and put his hand on Pavlovich's hip as the Cleveland player was defending another Piston.

But lost in the hype that will surround this game (and rightly so, it was a legendary performance by LeBron, he played like 3 men in the 4th quarter and 2 OTs), is a rare win-win situation for me. Phoenix has decided to take the GM title away from Mike D'Antoni and install Steve Kerr in that position. I like this move because I do not like the team, and I won't miss Kerr calling games.

First, Phoenix was on a nice run under D'Antoni. True, they have yet to advance past the Spurs or reach the conference finals. However, they have made the playoffs after a very good regular season in each of the past two years. It seems like an interesting time to mess with their chemistry in this fashion. Players seem to like D'Antoni, more to the point they have responded to his leadership fairly well when it comes to wins and losses.

And what exactly has Steve Kerr done to show that he's ready to build an NBA championship caliber NBA organization? Was it sitting next to Marv Albert night in and night out without being bitten? So what if he were a cog in title runs by the Bulls and Spurs? Where does that translate to successful GM?

After all, if that were all it took, maybe Danny Ainge would be helping to hang banners in the rafters of his own building. Can Phoenix not see the parallel? Role player on title teams, terrible broadcaster, terrible 80s hair. Ainge and Kerr might be the same person, for all intents and purposes, with the exception of one key detail. Ainge was a moderately successful coach for a couple of years. Kerr doesn't even have that on his resume. Enjoy the long descent into mediocrity and beyond, Phoenix fans.

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