Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sports Guy, LeBron, Thumbs Down

Welcome to the hip-hop Woodstock:"Here's what I know. I had four conversations with connected NBA people over the weekend that centered around the same themes: LeBron isn't playing nearly as hard as he did last season; it looks like his only goal right now is to get his coach fired; he's regressing as a basketball player (especially his passing skills and his shot selection); he made a huge mistake firing his agent and turning his career over to his buddies back home (all of whom are in over their heads); he was a much bigger problem during the Olympics than anyone realized; he doesn't seem to be enjoying himself anymore; he has an overrated sense of his own worth and his own impact in the sports world (as witnessed by the ESPN interview last week when he answered the "What are your goals?" question with two words: "Global icon"); he's been protected by magazine fluff pieces and buddy-buddy TV interviews for far too long; he doesn't have the same relentless drive to keep dominating everyone like Wade and Kobe have; and basically, we're much closer to LeBron re-enacting the career arc of Martina Hingis, Eric Lindros and Junior Griffey than anyone realizes. This will evolve into THE dominant NBA story of the next two months. You watch."

Response (from Tom): I thought about not saying anything, but what the hell. Here we go, in order of stupid assertion:

LeBron isn't playing as hard this season because he nearly killed himself last season to get the Cavs to the playoffs (remember the collapse of the year before), and he does not need to do that this year. He has made no indication that he dislikes Mike Brown, although he wants to push the ball more, and it appears that Brown agrees. His assists are down slightly because Ilgauskas and Hughes are playing so poorly. His shooting percentage (the usual indicator of shot selection "Sports Guy") is down slightly from last year but is above his career average and is higher than all of the league leaders in scoring except Wade and Nowitski. Aided by his buddies, he signed a contract this past offseason that everyone thought was brilliant for the flexibility it gave him, he makes more endorsement money than anyone in the league, and he has never had any trouble with extracurricular activities. No one besides Simmons' anonymous "connected NBA people" said he hurt the Olympic team. He wants to be a global icon but doesn't have the relentless drive of Kobe (who hasn't won anything, not even a fricking playoff series, without Shaq) and Wade (ditto)--two guys, incidentally, that he has more than held is own against, including beating the two of them a combined three times in the six days before the all-star break (way to be topical Simmons). Martina Hingis peaked early as a teenage girl in tennis, like a dozen other female tennis stars, which doesn't have anything to do with basketball; Eric Lindros had some good seasons but was more hype than performance (Crosby is much more the real deal) and LeBron's achievements in basketball already blow away whatever Lindros did; and Junior Griffey was on his way to being in the argument for the greatest baseball player ever when his career was interrupted by a series of freak injuries.

So basically, every single sentence in that paragraph was wrong. And I find myself more and more wondering about Bill Simmons' career arc....

(Oh, one more thing, Las Vegas is a shithole. I had fun there last month at Derek's bachelor party only because I was hanging out with friends, but I literally would rather have spent the weekend in any other major city in North America. It is that bad.)

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