Monday, May 19, 2008

Back in the Saddle

So, what could possibly be important enough to drag the WAD back onto the blogosphere? Well, truth be told, I’ve been feeling the itch for the past several weeks. With one tremendous NBA playoff game following another, and with so many great story lines flowing out of these first two rounds (i.e. the Celtics’ “Big Three” being pushed to the brink twice, the Hawks’ improbable home court heroics, Chris Paul’s meteoric emergence, Kobe’s sustained excellence and aching back, yet another valiant effort by T-Mac in defeat, the Pistons reaching their sixth straight conference finals behind some guy named Stuckey, Ron Jeremy leading the Magic into Round 2, etc…), I’ve often been tempted to put the fingers back on the keyboard. Each time I felt the urge, however, something got in the way. You know, the typical things a single 30 year old man confronts…sweeping the hard woods, doing the dishes, obsessively cleaning the granite counter tops, re-sweeping the hard woods, vacuuming the upstairs carpet, cleaning the shower, and sweeping the hard woods once more before going to bed. In case you haven’t heard, the WAD is now a proud a homeowner, and let’s just say that the transition into the WAD Palace has changed my life. And, while we’re here, let me just publicly apologize to my Mother and any of my past roommates for the way I treated our homes and apartments. Let’s just say that the first two mortgage payments have definitely changed my philosophy on cleanliness and home maintenance. Anyway, I digress.

What has led to the resurrection of the WAD? Just as with the original incarnation of the WAD, it was a great sports debate via email. This debate, however, unlike some in the past, took place via blackberry while I was attending a dinner party. Yes, I’m a homeowner that attends dinner parties. I’m a mail order bride away from being all grown up. At any rate, here is the gist of the debate that brought us here: My good friend claimed that, in comparison to Jordan and Kobe, Lebron is not clutch because he didn’t knock down the shots necessary to win today’s Game 7. In response, I pointed out that Bron Bron is a 23 year old that has already led his team to one NBA Finals, and today, engaged in an epic shootout with Paul Pierce in which he threw up 45 only to come up just short on the road against a 66 win team with 3 future Hall of Famers in Game 7. In turn, my good friend vehemently disputed the fact that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen are Hall of Famers.

That is a long way of saying that we have two questions to address today: 1) Should Lebron’s failure to win Game 7 against the C’s be viewed as an indictment of his “clutchness” as compared to Kobe? (Yes, MJ was initially part of this discussion, but anybody that knows me knows that until science actually perfects cloning and reproduces MJ himself, I will never compare any one to the greatest to lace them up); and 2) Are “The Truth” and “Jesus” Hall of Famers? Let’s take these in order.

1) Lebron

First of all, let me reiterate, this is a 23 year old man that has already led his team to one Finals, which is the only such appearance in franchise history. Also, it should be noted that en route to last year’s Finals, Bron led the Cavs back from 0-2 down against the Pistons, and in Game 5, he set a franchise record with 48 points, which included the Cavs’ last 25 points in a double OT victory!!!!! Does it get any more clutch than that? Well, today, he put on one of the great Game 7 performances of all time, but unfortunately for him, the remainder of his team couldn’t even match his point out put. As far as I’m concerned, we could stop right there and we don’t even need to discuss the fact that Bron has nobody else on his roster that could sniff an all star game, much less the Hall of Fame. Well, since Kobe, of whom I am a huge fan, was interjected into this debate, I guess we are forced to take a look.

At 23, Lebron’s current age, Kobe was in the midst of earning his second of three consecutive rings with the Lakers, thanks in large part to the presence of the greatest center of our lifetime. That’s not to diminish Kobe’s part in the Lakers’ run. He was extraordinary in those three seasons and playoff runs. In the second championship run, he averaged about 27, 6, and 5. Of course, Shaq was also averaging 28.5 and 13 during those playoffs. But, if you fast forward to the end of the Lakers’ run, that five game debacle at the hands of the Pistons in the ’03 Finals, Kobe averaged only 22.6 points/game and shot 35.1% from the floor as he, Shaq, Malone, and The Glove were humiliated. We all, of course, know what happened next, so we won’t even discuss that, but we can discuss the fact that the next three seasons featured Kobe pouring in tons of points on bad teams. These three seasons, of course, were highlighted by scandal, jersey number changes, the bizarre disappearing act in Game 7 of Round 1 of the ’06 playoffs against the Suns, and finally culminated with a forgetful 5 game loss to the Suns in Round 1 of the ’07 playoffs.

I bring up all these points not to diminish Kobe’s accomplishments or to question his place as one of the greatest players of all time. In fact, my intent is just the opposite. What I have just done is proved that no matter how great a player is, no matter how much he accomplishes, if you look hard enough and do 10 minutes worth of thinking and take one trip to, you can tear them apart. For God’s sake, Larry Bird missed a wide open three to win Game 6 of the ’87 Finals against the Lakers, and Bird only beat Magic once in the Finals. I guess that means Magic was more clutch than Bird, right? The answer, of course, is NO. You simply can’t measure how clutch a guy is, or how great a player is for that matter, by one game or one series. If you could, which would you pick? Kobe against the Pistons? Bird in ’87? Lebron today? Or, would it be Kobe in Game 7 against the Blazers in ’00? Bird against ‘Nique in Game 7 in ’88? Lebron against the Pistons in Game 5 last year? Players like Kobe and Lebron come along only a few times in a lifetime, and if you are lucky enough to watch them play, you shouldn’t waste your time trying to compare them and trying to find fault in one so you can exalt the other. The fact of the matter is that they are both extraordinary players. They have both had incredibly clutch moments, and they have both had bitter disappointments. Who is more clutch? Who cares?

2) Pierce and Allen

Here is the easiest way to address this issue:

Paul Pierce’s career regular season numbers: 22pts, 6 boards, 4 assists

Paul Pierce’s career playoff numbers: 22.6, 7.6, and 4.6

Stab wounds: 7

And, let’s not forget that Pierce has been the only constant in the NBA’s proudest franchise over the past decade.

Ray Allen’s career regular season numbers: 21pts, 4.5boards, 4 assists (40% 3pt and 89% FT)

Ray Allen’s career playoff numbers: 22 pts., 4.5 boards, 4 assists (41% 3pt and 90% FT)

Oscar worthy threesomes: 1

Now, at present, there are 134 men and women in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Let’s see how Pierce and Allen stack up against some of those you may know:

Alex English career regular season numbers: 21.6 pts, 5.5 boards, 3.6 assists

Alex English career playoff numbers: 24.4 pts, 5.5 boards, 4.3 assists

Clyde Drexler career regular season numbers: 20.4 pts, 6.1 boards, 5.6 assists

Clyde Drexler career playoff numbers: 20.4 pts, 6.9 boards, 6.1 assists

Joe Dumars career regular season numbers: 16.1 pts, 2.2 boards, 4.5 assists

Joe Dumars career playoff numbers: 15.6 pts, 2.3 boards, 4.6 assists

Bob Cousy career regular season numbers: 18.4 pts, 5.2 boards, 7.5 assists

Bob Cousy career playoff numbers: 18.5 pts, 5.0 boards, 8.6 assists

Charles Barkley career regular season numbers: 22.1 pts, 11.7 boards, 3.9 assists

Charles Barkley career playoff numbers: 23.0 pts, 12.9 boards, 3.9 assists

So, those are some raw numbers that reveal that Pierce and Allen have done enough statistically to reside in the company of several of those already in the Hall of Fame. Then, consider the fact that Allen is an 8 time all-star, the second all time three point shooter in NBA history (Reggie Miller is #1), will finish his career easily in the top 50 scorers in NBA history (currently 69th behind Cousy), has won a gold medal, and was a First Team All American in college. Now, consider that Pierce holds 17 Boston Celtics records, has the second highest scoring average in Celtics’ history (Bird is 1st), is a six time All Star, led the NBA in points scored in 2002, was a first team All America in college, and survived 7 stab wounds! Finally, consider that neither of these guys is done yet. By the time they have completed their work, there is no chance these guys won’t be enshrined in the Hall.