Seasonal Sports News: For What It's Worth


The Nation Boring Association

I keep trying to love the National Basketball Association, but I fail–and it's not because my favorite team, the Boston Celtics, has about as much chance of winning the NBA title as Hillary Clinton has of being tapped Miss Congeniality. There are two reasons why I find today's NBA unbelievably dull. It starts with poor fundamentals. In my youth, I could shoot a 20-foot jumper better than a lot of today's pros and that's not hyperbole. But the bigger reason why the product is dull is the same reason why the Celtics are unlikely to see Round Three of the playoffs; somewhere along the line, the NBA stopped being a team game.

It used to be that a team that had only a superstar was too weak to win titles; now a team that lacks a superstar has no chance. Today's NBA is built around players like LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Russell Westbrook. No rap on them; they are thoroughbreds who would have been great in any era. But now they can win games entirely on their own because their opponents are average or mediocre. That didn't used to be the case. Michael Jordan was perhaps the best of all time. But everyone knew how to beat the Bulls in Jordan's early days in Chicago–acknowledge that you couldn't stop him, but you could shut down the stiffs around him. Make Michael sweat to get 35, and make sure no one else got more than 12. Scottie Pippen made Jordan a champion; he cleared the boards and passed the ball to guys like John Paxson, Steve Kerr, and Horace Grant who scored consistently enough that Jordan didn't have to carry the team on his own.

Remember the Celtics Big Three–Robert Parrish, Kevin McHale, and Larry Bird? How many teams thought if they contained those guys they'd win? And how many of them left the Garden with an "L" because Danny Ainge or Dennis Johnson or Tiny Archibald or Reggie Lewis or Chris Ford torched their pack-it-in defense? Remember Kareem Abdul Jabaar's great Lakers' teams? Sure—Magic Johnson arrived on the scene and redefined the guard position, but even if Kareem and Magic were off, there were superb players around them that could fill the hoop: Charlie Scott, Michael Cooper, Norm Nixon, Jamaal Wilkes…. (Cooper, in my estimation, was enormously underrated.)

Some recent clubs still play team basketball, like the Tim Duncan-era San Antonio Spurs or Golden State when Curry stops trying to do it all. But the diminution of talent is pretty obvious across the NBA. One-and-done college players fill rosters simply because they have "NBA bodies," not because they would recognize a trap defense if it came with steel-sprung teeth. Put it this way: LeBron should not be able to defeat a team single-handedly.

This brings me to the Celtics and why the current get-younger plan won't yield a championship. Put bluntly, the Celtics are run-of-the-mill– a roster of guys who can score but can't defend, and vice versa. I love the offense of Isaiah Thomas, but he's a short guy in a tall forest–officially 5'9" but 5'7" is closer to the truth– and can't stop taller opponents. He's also the best the C's have on offer. The only player who has the potential both to score and play D is the maddeningly inconsistent Avery Bradley. Maybe Kelly Olynyk, if he got more minutes, but those are currently being consumed by Amir Johnson (clunk!) and Al Horford, who needs to start living up to his rebounding hype or will turn out to be a very bad signing. Why have a scorer like Gerald Green if you don't intend to play him? Will Jaylen Brown be the answer? Not for several years, if at all, and he will need to get much stronger to be more than just a bit player—like Marcus Smart, the last savior with more sins than redemptive power.

Time to stop the youth movement. The Celtics no longer stink, but they are miles from scaring anyone. Were it my team, I'd package some guys–say Smart, Jerebko, Johnson, and a number one pick–and go get that guy: the superstar that can dominate all by himself. (DeMarcus Cousins?) PS—release James Young: NBA body, high school understanding of the game.  

Bowl Games

Just a matter of time till there is one!
What a joke! There are 36 of them in the next several weeks, not counting the national championship. You don't even have to have a winning record to go to a bowl: North Texas (5-7) will face off against Army in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, and Hawaii (6-7) is in the Hawaii Bowl. Mighty Boston College (6-6) will meet Maryland (also 6-6) in the Quicken Loan Bowl, thereby assuring the one of them will leave with a sub .500 record. (Two of BC's wins came at the expense of UMass–one of the weakest programs in America–and Wagner, who was so bad that UMass blew them out.) And the Quicken Loan Bowl? Who the hell wants a trophy with that name sitting around the den? But wait, it gets worse. There's the Belk Bowl, named after a department store chain; the Dollar General Bowl, which honors a store selling things most people would send to the landfill; the Russell Athletic Bowl–will players compete in gym shorts?–and the Foster Farms Bowl. My favorite is the TaxSlayer Bowl. Can you imagine the pride swelling in papa's breast when a decade from now when he tells his son, "Daddy was the third-string linebacker on a team that went to the TaxSlayer Bowl." Priceless!


Complete list of poor owners
The Cubs win the World Series and immediately raise ticket prices by 20%. That pretty much defines "gauche." How about a steep discount for longtime season ticket holders who suffered through decades of mediocrity rooting for terrible teams owned by some of the richest tightwads in America?

Can we eliminate the farce of salary caps and revenue sharing? My continuing mantra re: "small-market" teams is: "No po' boys own MLB teams." So here's what some of those alleged "small-market" teams have spent by the first week of December. The Braves shelled out $5 million per for the so-so Sean Rodriguez; $7 million for Charlie Morton, a bad pitcher with a 46-71 lifetime record; $600,000 for Jakob Lindgren, a minor leaguer who will miss all of next season; and a whopping $12.5 million for Bartolo Colon, who is believed to be at least 106. The Twins plopped down $8 mil plus for a catcher (Jason Castro); Oakland over $5.5 mil for the immortal Matt Joyce; and the Marlins $11 million for Edinson Volquez, a pitcher who usually manages to disappoint. Let's not even get into bigger-market teams, like the Jays paying over $6 mil per for Steve Pearce, who has been released more often than a trout in a fish-for-fun pond; or the Rangers paying 39-year-old Carlos Beltran $16 million. 

Whatever salary problems baseball might have are the result of profligate spending by playboy owners and has nothing to do with the size of the market. Let's face it—those with enough cash to own a baseball franchise aren't locals in the first place–they can live wherever the hell they wish.
Red Sox get Chris Sale. This makes them odds-on favorites to get to the World Series next year. That may or may not happen, but one thing that must: Sox fans need to STFU  about how the Yankess used to "buy" World Series' teams. The Red Sox are the new Evil Empire. (They, the Yankees and the Dodgers always were the Axis of Evil for anyone outside of Boston, New York, or LA.) Sorry, but the plea that the Sox "traded" for Sale rather than acquiring him as a free agent is the lamest thing I've heard in years. The Yankees used to trade with their top prospects as well–plus the current Sox roster contains numerous former free agents.Unless the Yankees do something quite silly, their payroll will be far less than that of the 2017 Red Sox–and that's including $26 million for A-Rod and Brian McCann, who aren't on the team any more. So own it, Sox fans--you are the Evil Empire II. 
But don't count your chickens before they hatch. Price, Sale, and Porcello sound like the next coming of Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz, but remember: the Braves won exactly one World Series with those guys!

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