I’m sick of all the crap I’ve been reading from writers and fans. It is truly disheartening, and for a while I gave up the fight. But I have had enough. Silence has its drawbacks too.
I read panic everywhere! I read writers trying to take full responsibility for a loss. I read fans saying fire Otis. Resign Otis. It was the trades fault. It will be Arenas’ contracts fault. Van Gundy is jesus reincarnate. Oversimplifications. Gross errors in logic (which will be the subject of my next volcanic eruption).
As an aside here, it is funny to me that most of you are worried about Dwight and who Orlando should fire and trade for, and I am worried about how much the owners are going to steal from the players under the new CBA! Having you been paying attention to the NFL? The benefits to all players are more important than these easily resolvable questions.
My thesis is that while many writers and fans blame the trades for our losses, more people share in responsibility for the loss to Atlanta, and what seems to be an overall disappointing season, in addition to Otis, Arenas, Turkoglu, and Richardson. I am of the opinion that the loss to LA was a disappointing season since we did not win the championship, but came so close. The Magic never have had a great season. That is the collective dream, to win a championship.
Yes Otis is partly at fault. The thing I am the most mad about is not at least signing someone like Chris Johnson out of the D league, or an old oaf, for the playoffs. You may well deny it, and it is hard to say, but Dwight Howard needs to take some blame. As do all Magic players, with the possible exception of Orton. Even Van Gundy deserves criticism. But Van Gundy rarely ducks for cover. He is the least of my concern when it comes to self-assessment.
First…the media. Is it cliché to say panic and fear sell? I just read one of Evan’s links to a friend Kareem’s article. Someone commented in response about how they were not an optimist. Perfect example. The news cycle is so short that it has to promote a “what have you done for me lately” mentality. Anyone ever hear of geologic time? We should judge players and coaches on more than a playoff series or year. Are people calling for Otis’ resignation or firing only looking at the recent past?
Does media influence reality? Remember earlier this year when fans got pissed at writers for writing about rumors of Dwight leaving. Evan said: “What we write, as journalists who're tasked to cover the team, has no bearing on what happens on the floor or in the locker room. The players, coaching staff, and opponent dictate that.” I could not disagree more strongly. Bianchi is the most recent proof that this response is BS. Certainly he is not the sole reason the Magic lost game 6. But even he admits: “It was me, after all, who provided the Hawks their fuel and fire.” Maybe a little exaggeration here. Bianchi is not THE reason, only A. It was stupid. They did not need any extra help. Ad homonyms are not arguments, they are fallacies.
The larger question is the relationship between the media and players. I was disappointed with the media’s representations of Gilbert Arenas this year. What it was like for Gil to read the bashing for someone else’s decision to serve papers at halftime? I am not arguing that Gilbert is perfect and does not deserve criticism. I am arguing that given the difficult transition in role from former super star to 8th man, the media made an already difficult transition harder. This does not mean we should stroke Gil’s ego. Surely, it is big already. But how much criticism is too much? Do we give him credit for the things he did well, or just blast him for mistakes? This may apply to fans more than writers, but writers are guilty to some degree too.
Writers might stop now because the reader’s attention span is not long enough to stay focused. TLDR. Or maybe they have word limits or other breaking Magic stories to work on. Maybe they are a blogger with a real life. So instead we get reports digest into a million parts, which then may or may not be read together and in context. I think in general, some people look for the simple answer. It is easier. Takes less time and energy. The more bold and provocative ideas are more likely to be criticized, more risky, so some people shy away from saying them. Or thinking them.
Next…Otis Smith. What would the Magic’s record have been had we not made the trade? How did you come to that number? Educated guess? Computer models? I was going to provide quotations and citations to document the inability of experts and models to accurately predict, but instead I ask: who picked the Magic to win the series against Atlanta? How close were the road games!? How could Otis have predicted the historic low shooting percentage? Did he miss those shots?
He traded Lewis. Please do not get me wrong. I will never forget his game winner against Cleveland. I am a huge fan. I would love to have him and Arenas. But we all know this is a business. Sometimes you have to part ways for the benefit of the team, even though it may not be in the player’s interest. We should also think about value and roles here. He had value and a role that was being filled. Gil fills a different role, what I like to call the 1.5. The contracts are the choice between lesser evils. Make sense?
He traded VC. Who we likely would have exercised the option on. He most likely would have been a free agent either way. An inevitability. If you love him, root for the CBA to keep mid-level exceptions and create a website for his return! The real question is was he better than Richardson. Again, no way to say with certainty.
He traded Gortat. I love this one! First and most obvious answer: Who drafted him (or traded for the draft rights)? Second, did we lose to the Hawks because of a lack of a backup center? Third, what was his role? What was his value? People, there are reports that say we could have traded for Martin. There are reports that the Rockets would not trade Martin. A few people know the truth. You are not them! Bottom line is we traded with Phoenix, not Houston. Fourth, if Otis could have traded Gortat for CP3, do you think he would have?
He traded for Richardson. Who is also expiring but we have the first dibs on him, if that will even exist? Similar salaries. Similar inconsistent production. A few more questions: Was Richardson properly utilized? What did Nash do to make him so effective? Can Nelson do that too? Can Arenas? Is it just a question of making shots? David Steele had one of the best columns and assessments of the first few games of the Hawks series. It said something to the effect of: poor ball movement and failure to get players into a rhythm early in the game were the causes of poor offense.
He traded for Hedo. Hedo’s problem, like most of the players, was consistency. We all understand why we traded for him. Yes it was a gamble, but sometimes we roll the dice. Amor fati! There are few locks in the NBA. Risk is inherent in decision making. For those who argue salary, others have already responded that a new CBA could change everything. Many comparisons are drawn to the NFL. PLEASE, TELL ME IF I AM WRONG, but the NFL has non-guaranteed contracts right? So they can cut anyone and it comes off the cap next year? Now I understand the players union will not like this. But personally, I think this may be a compromise point if the owners restrain their attacks on salaries and/or benefits. Last point: everyone has value. There is a worse contract in the NBA, no doubt! Some team needs a player like Hedo to come off the bench. Everyone’s salary is inflated. If we really wanted to, we could find Hedo a new, or old, home. Possible destination: SAC-TOWN?! Just throwing that out there since everyone loves speculation, and I certainly love trade proposals.
He traded for Arenas. Who was damn near the 2nd best player for the Magic in the playoffs! Seriously, do you find that so indefensible? Now, I admit he was not 2nd, but played better than most are saying. You can see what Otis was thinking. He was one of the few players to consistently attack the basket and get layups while everyone else was bricking threes! Was Gil the reason we lost to Atlanta? You all complain about his contract as if it were a blank slate. We were already over the cap. His contract is only one year worse than Lewis’. And we have no idea what the next CBA will look like. Even if there are guaranteed contracts many have already pointed out the Allen Houston exception is a reasonable possibility. Correct me if I am wrong, but Arenas + JRich = 30 Mil+. Who knows if there will even be a cap in the future CBA, or a luxury tax for that matter!
Last thing I want to say about Otis. Give the man credit for what he did. By and large, he drafted well and hired a good coaching staff. Hiring Donnovan was the best PR stunt ever. Did he help in the development of Howard and Meer? I was so angry when he drafted JJ because I thought JJ would never develop into an adequate defender. But it worked out. People say we have no assets but I disagree. What did Chicago think of JJ? You all love Ryan Anderson. Free Earl Clark! Even Fran Vazquez has value. I know the Grizzles GM liked him, how much could they use him now? What about Minnesota? Again, you all asses value in the short term. You had a bad playoffs coming off injury, so JJ is worth little. But GMs, who have to think more long term, recognize his value. Even that kid Orton has some value. It was brilliant to get him at that point in the draft. Knees can be repaired! Go ask the Bucs and Cadillac.
What about Van Gundy? Should we also blame him? Clearly there are things he could have improved on. Is that worth firing him? No! He made some mistakes. So did a lot of people. Maybe it was just bad timing, the perfect storm, but few if any expected the series to play out like it did.
My first complaint regards Arenas. If a player is inconsistent and unpredictable, how can you predict he will be inconsistent tomorrow? It was a huge tactical error on Van Gundy’s part to sit Gil game 3. We will never know if he could have been the difference in a close game! Steele pointed out what might be a strategic flaw in our play calling to start games. Van Gundy also put Arenas on too short a leash. How long would Howard have played if we pulled him after his first turnover? Of course I am not suggesting Van Gundy do that with Howard. Maybe we pull Arenas before he gets to 5 turnovers, but 1…come on man!
I felt like he put JRich on the bench while he was hot in the third quarter of game 3. But at this point I am nit-picking. Some fans put Van Gundy on a pedestal. So I just want to remind them that criticism of him is necessary and productive, while not suggesting his departure! And that this directly relates to, and has the most dramatic impact on, the player you complain about and hate the most.
JJ. Did not shoot the ball well. Blame the injury. I do not care. Co-responsible.
QRich. Shot the ball a little better. Not setting anyone on fire though.
Bass. Wow. Uh…co-responsible.
Anderson. Was there part of the time, but not others.
Nelson. Had a couple great halves. Some good quarters. Some average times. Nothing to brag about.
The hardest thing to say: Dwight. Turnovers! Here’s my only stat: 5.5 to pg. 8, 7, 3, 8, 1, and 6. I know Dwight has a great work ethic and will continue to improve here. But the bottom line is, it made a huge difference. Stat boys…what was Atlanta’s points off DHO turns? Co-responsible.
Almost finished…fans. I want to say I should have drunk less starbucks and used some miles for airline tickets. I waited too long to take my vacation. There is no reason that I could not make it to one playoff game! But what about you? By the way, the Magic lost the 3rd quarter of game 1, arguably the most important of any series, 30-23. Did you get back to your seat in time? Are you getting old? Lost your voice? Afraid to become the next gen fat guy?
David Stern. Man, this guy is a fascist. And I do not use that word lightly. I will not be the first person to point out his history of union busting. Many people forget, or do not know, how he came into dealing with the NBA. Connie Hawkins v. NBA. Go read David Zirin’s new book about how your tax dollars are making owners rich by paying for new arenas. And then listen to their BS about how owners are in the poorhouse. If Stern wants to balance the budget, why not start with his salary!? Do you know what Devos and Co are worth? They are going tolock the players out. That is one prediction I feel confident in making. That is a probability, not a possibility. How come they can lock you out, but you are not legally allowed to strike, or apparently complain? (As Stan Van Gundy so brilliantly pointed out. I usually hate Jeff Van Gundy but I loved it when said the NBA gives out secret fines. Can a fine be used as a form of economic warfare? Watch what happens to Mendenhall for expressing his opinion on Osama bin Laden. But back to Stern.) I decide to read about Mussolini after reading Zirin’s most recent column on Stern and his attack on the union. Mussolini definitely stripped unions of any power and influence. What did he think of freedom of speech? It is ok as long as it does not question his legitimacy. Corporate state. Unions are under attack throughout the US. NFL. Wisconsin. Idaho. War against the unions and workers’ rights. Privatize. And give the billionaires more profit. Anyone know what is happening in Bahrain? What about the NBAs dress code? Mandatory drug testing? They regulate what you can put into your body, how you dress, what you can say, how much you money you make, and what your benefits are when you retire. I think Stan was more correct than he realized, and was given credit for. Life is not a game. These are not trivial distinctions.
Did Kobe really only get a fine for what he said? What was worse…what Stan said or Kobe?
Did they finally call a flagrant? What a tease…