Thursday, May 06, 2004

Profiles in Courage: Jay Mariotti

This famed columnist from the Chicago Sun-Times has overcome many obstacles in recent years. For instance, while servicing Michael Jordan this week,  he somehow found the strength to write this article:

Jerry Reinsdorf, who has made a bloody mess of the Bulls, should talk to his various partners and arrange a piece of ownership for Jordan. It's the least the chairman can do after he and his colleagues made fortunes off of Michael for the better part of 15 years.

They also gave him 30 million dollars a year for his last couple of seasons. But whatever.

If you wonder why this franchise has grown stagnant since the dynasty was wreckingballed, the reasons go beyond the buffoonery of departed Jerry Krause. Reinsdorf simply doesn't care as much about the Bulls as he does his beloved White Sox, establishing a pecking order when he said he'd trade in his six NBA title rings for one World Series ring.

While its true that he is at heart a baseball fan,  Reinsdorf has opened the pocketbook many a time. And he said he has no qualms paying the luxury tax as long as the team is winning. So how else do you measure 'caring'. I don't know either.

While general manager and former teammate John Paxson has eagerly endorsed Jordan's return to the franchise -- "I'd welcome it, if that's what Michael wants,'' he said -- no one would want Jordan anywhere near the day-to-day basketball operation. Not only did he struggle in that role with the Wizards, he'd just get in Paxson's way.

Wow, I cannot believe this is Jay Mariotti writing this. I thought Michael could succeed at everything he wants, even if he doesn't want to put in the work. So I cannot hold Jordan's miserable record in the front office against him...or can I :)

An infusion of Jordan is precisely what the organization needs to regain its pride, if also its swagger. I would mandate he be at the United Center every night just so his presence can seep back into the franchise, on the court and off. He could counsel players, recruit free agents and mingle with fans. He could smoke cigars, talk to the media and schmooze big shooters.

Here's a list of the Wiz's transactions since '00-'01. I picked out Jordan's 'recruits'

3/13/00: Signed Don Reid

8/2/00: Wizards resign Jahidi White and Chris Whitney

10/5/00:Signed Harvey Grant to a free agent contract

7/18/01: Wizards resign Christian Laettner and sign free agent Tyronn Lue

7/26/01: Wizards resign Popeye Jones to one-year deal
9/20/01: Wizards sign Mike Smith

9/25/01: Michael Jordan signs a two-year contract

07/18/02: Signed free agent Larry Hughes

09/10/02: Signed free agent Bryon Russell

10/01/02: Signed free agent Bobby Simmons

10/12/02: Signed free agent Charles Oakley


Going through that transaction list, I was even being nice and included players he re-signed. Among those were Jahidi White and Christian Laettner, part of the all-star bad contacts club. And we don't need to go into the draft picks or trades.


Listen, Michael Jordan does not want to buy a team. He wants someone to give him one. Believing that his name alone would bring a surge in revenues. While the change in revenues was true for the Wizards....where are all these marquee free agents only he can 'schmooze'?  What I saw instead was a completely disastrous locker room situation that may have ruined the career of Kwame Brown and has left the Wizards in worse shape than before Jordan came in on his white steed. So as a Bulls fan, I have to say thanks for what you've done Michael, but stay away from my team.

All in all, the best player that Jordan recruited was...himself. But that's probably deep down what Mariotti wants anyway.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Quick Hit

No punditry today, but I'll link you to some good stuff:

Here's Aaron Gleeman with a scathing entry telling everyone what Chicagoans already knew, Lacy Banks is a moron.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Underdogs, part 2

I blame my aggressively-caching browser for not seeing KnickerBlogger's update on the first round question (which I touched on last night).

Sunday's two games underscores the point between the first and second round games. The early game, a first rounder between the Heat and Hornets, meant little to me. It wasn't because it wasn't exciting, because tempers were flaring all over the court. One reason was that I couldn't imagine either of these teams beating Indy in 7 games, and then the winner of Detroit/NJ on the road. The other was that it game 6 of the series. The Hornets were fighting for their lives, but Miami wasn't. The other tournaments I mentioned above are all single elimination. Each game is important for both teams, not just the one with their backs against the wall. Tthe longer series makes each individual game less important as well.

The second round matchup between the Lakers & Spurs was another story. Since both of these teams have won the last 5 titles, I felt that the winner could possibly go all the way. The Lakers were the early season favorites, with their new additions of Payton & Malone. It was a GREAT game to watch. Even though it was only one game, it was the first of the series, and an upset on the Spurs floor would have tilted the series in the Lakers favor. That the winner of this series still has to face the winner of Minnesota/Sacramento to just reach the Finals is an awesome thought.

To conclude, really low seeds (7th & 8th) have virtually no chance of getting far in the playoffs. You can't eliminate the first round altogether, because as pointed out by Kevin, 5th & 6th seeds do have a (very slim) chance of making a magical run. I can't think of a playoff format that would make the first round more exciting without going to single elimination, or even a quick best of 3. The NBA will never allow such a hit on their wallets, even if it would make the game more exciting for their fans.

Yes, it would nice to have the first round more 'exciting'....but you can't have it both ways. If you want a second round matchup like the Lakers/Spurs and Minnesota/Sacremento, you cannot also have a best of 3 or single-elimination 1st round. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to set the VCR for Hornets/Heat game 12.


Sunday, May 02, 2004

Not everyone roots for the underdog

I know that everyone is peeved that the first round is taking so long. I think the Hornets/Heat series has been going on longer than the entire series run of  'Century City'. While the first round could be shortened by not having every game having exclusive TV coverage, Knickerblogger says cut the series back to best of 5:

I mean seriously, the only underdog that might win their series is the Hornets who are tied 2-2 in their series so far. 4 teams have already moved on to the next round, and 3 others are up 3-1. Is it me, or does this smack of the greatest scam of all time? How many millions is the NBA making from having about 40 extra games played with packed arenas and almost prime time television? All for what? The 5% chance that a 6th, 7th, or 8th seed might upset a better team, just to most be crushed in the next round anyway? Off the top of my head I can't think of a team past seed #5 that went two rounds other than the strike season Knicks. So can anyone tell me what's the point of the first round?

I don't know the actual percentage of lower seeds that make it past the 1st round, but I for one like the idea of making that chance minimal. I'm being serious, I can last through a non-competitive first round to get these juicy second-round matchups. Lakers-Spurs. Wolves-Kings. Nets-Pistons. Indy-Some crappy team. Well 3 out of 4 aint bad.

What if Memphis somehow upset the Spurs? The Knicks beat the Nets? Not only would the second rounds for those teams be laughers, we would be hearing all the cryin over low TV ratings and supposed decline of the NBA. I am glad I get more basketball, and there are no sacrificial lambs in the second round. I'm so amped about the Lakers/Spurs series I think my head will explode. Rockets-Grizzlies? They're underdogs for a reason, they're not as good. And I want my playoffs to see the best playing the best.