Wednesday, May 30

Cavs draft just another step in larger plan

The 2012 NBA draft order has been set and Cavalier message boards are on fire with the angst of losing the opportunity to steal the number one pick in the draft for the second year in a row. Anthony Davis, the consensus number one and franchise cornerstone, is likely headed to New Orleans and with him go the dreams of a dynamic point guard-center combo not seen in Cleveland since Price and Daugherty last took the court.

The disturbing reality is that there is a strong possibility that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal will also both be off the board as well by the time the Cavs select at number four. This leaves "2nd tier" prospects such as Thomas Robinson, Andre Drummond, Harrison Barnes, and Perry Jones III on the short list of players poised to don the wine and gold when they take the court next fall.

Of course, Beal or Kidd-Gilchrist could still be available if Washington or Charlotte chooses one of the aforementioned players. In the world of the NBA, nothing is certain except for uncertainty.

The safest play for any franchise, it seems, is to accrue multiple selections in the hopes that a late first-rounder or a second-rounder will turn into another Michael Redd (pre-injury) or Carlos Boozer. This is why the Cavaliers have positioned themselves with four overall picks in the draft.

The number four pick is going to be an NBA starter with all-star potential - let's get that out of the way. The above draft list is full of possibilities and the Cavs will be a better team with any one of these players on their roster than they are today. Chris Grant is going to make his money from pick numbers 24, 33, and 34 and the hope is that the Cavs manage to find another starter, role-player, or at worst, depth.

Lost in the excitement of the current deep draft is that the Cavs' blueprint for success is a marathon, not a sprint. Having four of the top 34 picks feels outrageous until you consider that they could have up to five picks, including three first-rounders, in the 2013 draft.

This, of course, is contingent on Sacramento improving to the point where they are no longer a lottery-bound afterthought. Even if Sacramento is not able to improve enough in 2013 to avoid the lottery, one of those first-round picks will move to the 2014 draft. Eventually, Sacramento has to find somebody who can play quality basketball to catapult this team out of perennial awfulness and into the playoffs. When that happens, the Cavs will receive their reward of the Kings' first round pick in the following summer's draft.

In 2014 the Cavs have their own first-round pick, their own 2nd-round pick, and the 2nd-round pick of the Orlando Magic.

In 2015 the Cavs have their own first-round pick, the first-round pick of the Heat, and their own 2nd-round pick.

Impatient fans want to win now, but a plan is securely in place for the Cavs, a team intent on continually building this team through the draft. The next three years are packed full of extra picks and there is still plenty of time to stockpile additional draft assets.

It would have been phenomenal to see Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis running the floor together, but the Cavs were not going to win the 2013 NBA Championship even with Davis. The payout comes from patience, youth, skill, time and assets. The Cavs are doing their part to provide all of the above.

The fans just need to be patient a little bit longer.


In case you're a woman reading this, and you almost certainly are not (but hi! if you are), then let me tell you something that you may wish to know: men like wrestling.

We do. We like watching it, participating in it drunkenly, discussing it, and especially (as this post will meta-prove) reminiscing about it. There is simply something about wrestling that appears to appeal to the male psyche, and ladies, you're just going to have to accept that.

I'll keep this post's focus on professional wrestling, so I'll limit any discussion about drunken post-bar grappling, not that I have any experience with that.

There's a certain simplicity to wrestling that I think really works - it's the most unadorned athletic competition this side of running races. In the former, there's really nothing to it except moving your body faster than everybody else; no gear, no ball, no fouls, no teamwork. Run fast and win. (Incidentally, I think that's part of why I don't like cycling as a spectator sport - the technology. Why should one guy win because he has a faster bike? Cycling is an awful spectator sport for many reasons, but this one sticks with me.) Likewise, wrestling is an extremely simple, direct form of competition: you versus the other person, no equipment, nothing just strength and technique.

I'm glad we disposed of the Greek tradition of wrestling naked. I wouldn't be writing this were it not for that important step.

Professional wrestling has had an unusual hold on popular culture since first being broadcast in the 1950's. Of course, it became the first sport to be televised for a more practical reason: the squared circle is very easy to film. Since then, even as football, baseball, and basketball have easily surpassed it in popularity, wrestling has maintained a substantial audience. Of course, under Vince McMahon's guidance, the professional ranks have moved towards "sports entertainment" - it was always fake, but now it's more openly so.

The Onion captured this aspect the best, as they always do, with hard-hitting reporting on pro wrestlers being cleared for Olympic competition.

The popularity of pro wrestling seems to be cyclical, although I recognize that at least part of that may be just my own perspective, having had two periods in my life when I was very much interested in the WWF/WWE. Removing myself from the equation, I still think that those two eras were the two most fertile for the sport in modern times.

The first was during the 1980's, which I think might have been the all-time high-water mark for the popularity of wrestling. The first WrestleMania (just a fantastic name for an event) dropped in 1985, a time period that coincided with an real who's-who of the sport's superstars. You know the names: Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, Rowdy Roddy Piper, The Junkyard Dog, The Iron Sheik, Shawn Michaels, Bret "The Hit Man" Hart, "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase, and I'm sure more. Wrestling had an unbelievably deep bench back in those days. I think most of the guys my age look back fondly on that era as something of a Golden Age in professional wrestling; bring up the topic and you'll have dudes throwing out names left and right in a matter of seconds.

For me, though, an even more important period was the late-90's / early '00's era, when the WWF changed its name to WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment), you know, because people were constantly getting it confused with the World Wildlife Fund. After Hulkamania died down and I went to high school and college, I sort of forgot about wrestling, thinking that would just be a phase of my youth. Nope.

I've written before about how I ended up seeking refuge in WWE, but it had to do with a disillusionment with actual sports at the time; Art Modell had just moved the Browns, the Indians had lost another heartbreaking World Series, the Cavs were awful, and I had moved to Pittsburgh for school, separating me a bit from my Ohio-centered rooting interests. I can still remember bing home for the summer, attending First Town Days (an Independence Day festival at Tuscora Park in my hometown of New Phila), seeing people all over the place with "Austin 3:16" t-shirts, and wondering what on Earth that meant.

I found out soon enough that it was the catchphrase of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, one of the two men who spearheaded the wrestling revival of the late-90's. Playing off of the bible's famous John 3:16, Stone Cold coined his own chapter and verse: "Austin 3:16 says 'I just whipped your ass'."

There's nothing even vaguely subtle or sophisticated about this... and I loved it. Austin was simply a brilliant character - a beer-chugging, loudmouthed, jhort-wearing, finger-flipping anti-hero who seemed constantly pissed off at everyone around him and determined to lay waste to everyone and everything. He seemingly had a feud with everyone, especially WWE owner (and occasional character and wrestler) Mr. McMahon, and pretty much all of his appearances involved him yelling at someone and then delivering his finishing move, the Stone Cold Stunner, to said person. Can I interest you in this montage of Stone Cold Stunners?

I can't watch that enough times. I love how often he does it in non-wrestling situations, how he always uses that kick to disable the opponent's defenses, how indiscriminately he applies it (wrestlers, announcers, women, McMahon family members...), how it's usually a cheap shot, and just how comically awesome it is. I went to a WWE taping circa 2000, and it was worth the price of admission just to hear the breaking glass on the PA announce his arrival and watch him run out to the ring to deliver a Stunner to some chump. Hang on a sec, I'm going to watch the video again. And link to another one:

And...I'm back!

Apparently this time period I'm describing was called The Attitude Era, which sounds about right. This was also when WWE/WWF and WCW were competing for viewership, going head-to-head on Monday nights with WWF's Monday Night Raw ("Raw is War!") and WCW's Monday Nitro. I remember looking at anyone who said they watched Nitro with a sort of puzzlement, like they were a zoo animal. Why would you not watch Raw, the obviously superior program? Eventually WWE absorbed WCW into its empire, and that settled that. There was a period for about two years where I don't think I missed a single episode of Raw, nor did I watch any Monday Night Football to speak of.

While Stone Cold unquestionably headlined the Attitude Era, he had plenty of memorable characters in support: Triple H, DX, Chyna, the Big Show, Shawn Michaels (again), Al Snow, The Godfather, Kane, and others. It also featured Mick Foley as Mankind, one of the more unique and fascinating characters in the WWF's history. Foley, who was also known as Cactus Jack and Dude Love throughout his career, never seemed to have much of a wrestler's body, but he was responsible for some of the finest matches I've seen. The guy was simply indestructible - he'd come out as Mankind, this nattily-dressed weirdo with a weird leather half-mask and a sock puppet, and just absorb an astounding number of falls and beatings. He was something to watch.

Eventually, Stone Cold was replaced at the top of the WWF pecking order by an even more charismatic wrestler, one equally as comfortable behind the mic as he was in the ring.

That man was, of course, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

It's hard to overstate just how entertaining this guy was during his heyday. An entire two hours of Raw was worth watching just for one of his crazy five-minute interviews (this was before YouTube). He was an absolute artist at talking trash, deploying a staggering array of ridiculous catchphrases and rarely if ever referring to himself in the first person.

Did you watch the video..."IT DOESN'T MATTER IF YOU WATCHED THE VIDEO!" I hope you at least caught the end, where he delivers the legendary line "If you smell...what the Rock is cookin'"

He was also a monster in the ring, capping off his victories with the devastating "Rock Bottom" followed by the unnecessarily and hilariously complex "People's Elbow," which is of course the most electrifying move in sports entertainment. Do yourself a huge favor and watch a typical Rock match finisher:

Classic. Eventually I outgrew wrestling, and even though I'm sure there's some entertainment to be had from today's crew, I think I've had my fill. Good times while they lasted, though.

Saturday, May 19

Heat unable to win from within

This started as an attempt to find sports articles from the early 90's to build a case against the seemingly-phantom injuries conjured by Dwyane Wade and LeBron James after poor playoff performances. Maybe they're real, maybe they're exaggerations - the point is that LeBron's elbow "tingling" provided the perfect excuse for a playoff collapse in 2010, and Wade's knee (?), that wasn't an issue until now, suddenly was a factor in his 2-13 shooting performance Thursday night.

I never found the article for which I was searching, specifically regarding the playoff game (I think it was 1993) where Michael Jordan had a severe wrist injury and was not expected to play. Instead, he came out wearing nothing but his usual black tape around his wrist and proceeded to apply his customary playoff ass-beating to the Knicks. No excuses. Just a gutsy performance by perhaps the greatest competitor and basketball player who ever lived.

What my search uncovered instead was an excerpt of chapter one from "The Jordan Rules" by Sam Smith. This chapter describes, in detail, the seven games of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals between the Bulls and the "Bad Boy" Pistons.

After the first two games of the series -- a pair of 9-point Pistons victories -- Jordan was visibly upset with his teammates.

"I looked over and saw Horace [Grant] and Scottie [Pippen] screwing around, joking and messing up," Jordan told an acquaintance later. "They've got the talent, but they don't take it seriously."
The Bulls went on to win three games in the series and force a game seven. To remind those whose memories are not fresh enough to remember the details of a game played 22 years ago, Scottie Pippen went 1 of 10 for two points. In fact, it "was the second straight year he'd vanished in the last game against the Pistons." The Bulls lost that game 93-74. Not counting the year Jordan unretired just a month before the playoffs began in 1995, this would be the last playoff series that Jordan and Pippen would lose as teammates.

Before Pippen was a member of the Dream Team, one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history, and a member of the basketball Hall of Fame, he was a talented but immature player being called out by the greatest player in the NBA.

Michael Jordan, faults aside, possessed the rare combination of talent, drive, ambition, poise, and leadership. When he stepped onto the court, he demanded perfection out of himself and his teammates.

To call out a player with the talent level of Scottie Pippen, that's something remarkable.

The only way a talented player of Pippen's caliber is going to respond to peer criticism is if that criticism is from one of the best players of all time. A player like Michael Jordan.

Unfortunately, the pendulum often swings the other way. If the undisputed talent is an immature, non-poised player, then the remainder of the team slowly erodes.

This is not an indictment against LeBron James, but rather an exploration of parallel careers where the roles of Jordan and Pippen are reversed and projected into LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

In 2006 Dwyane Wade willed the Miami Heat to the NBA Championship in one of the most unlikely playoff runs in recent memory. Poise seeped from his pores and a god-like aura surrounded his every move. He didn't dance and mock his opponent after each play. He accepted what the refs called, and did not cry after each drive to the basket. He played hard and did not resort to cheap shots and get caught up in subplots. He played the game as pure and perfect as any individual player since Michael Jordan held his hand high for a few extra seconds as his last NBA Finals shot swished the net in game 6 against the Jazz.

Injuries and terrible management decisions derailed the Heat for the next four years, but in the summer of 2010 the only player in the NBA who is more of an alpha dog than Dwyane Wade joined the Heat. The only guy whose personality and influence meant more to the surrounding team than Wade's. The only guy whose mere presence could change the personality of a team and its (previous) best player. In the summer of 2010, LeBron James joined the Miami Heat.

Since then, we have witnessed a different Dwyane Wade. He famously celebrated prematurely in game two of the 2011 NBA Finals after hitting a three with 7:14 remaining to give Miami a 15-point lead. That was the start of an epic collapse. Later that series, Wade and LeBron publicly mocked Dirk Nowitzki in a classless display of immaturity.

Wade's downfall has been worse in the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Indiana Pacers. First he threw a shoulder into Darren Collison from behind in what could have been a very dangerous cheap shot. Then he got caught up in the celebration by the Pacers, bothering him enough to comment on it during the postgame press conference. In game three of the same series, Wade completely disappeared in a LeBron-esque/1990-Pippen sort of manner. Instead of taking responsibility, his knee is suddenly and mysteriously a factor.

Collectively, the Miami Heat are a present-day example of the reason why Michael Jordan called out Scottie Pippen 22 years ago. The backward parallels between this team and the 90's Bulls are unmistakable. With Wade no longer being the undisputed best player on the Heat, LeBron's immature personality will forever hinder this team from winning its first of at least eight promised championships.

In short, unless Wade can channel his inner-Jordan, the Miami Heat will forever be the greatest punchline in the history of sports.

Note - Here is a video of the game I was originally searching where Jordan played with an injured wrist against the Knicks in game 4 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals.

Friday, May 18

Of panels and heat

Last week I attended an interesting event here in Cleveland at the Happy Dog. Here was the promo:

They don't call it a "beat" for nothing. Aaron Goldhammer of WNKR's "The Really Big Show" moderates this panel discussion on the thankless task of writing the first drafts of Cleveland's uniquely tragic sports history. Panelists include Peter Pattakos of, Vince Grzegorek of Cleveland Scene, Tom Reed of the Plain Dealer and Zac Jackson of Fox Sports Ohio. The event is part of the Write to Assemble series, curated by Ohio City Writers and hosted by Happy Dog. Admission is free.

Seems interesting, right? It actually was, in spots, though it had its flaws. Unfortunately, the discussion slipped far away at times from the stated goal, and by the end had little to do with writing about Cleveland sports. We'll get to that.

I liked the panelists pretty well. Goldhammer rubs some people the wrong way, but I thought he did a really good job moderating the discussion and offering fair-minded points. Reed seemed the most professional on the panel, perhaps befitting his status as the Plain Dealer rep. He also seemed to be the one with the most losing experience (Blue Jackets, Browns, Cavs) as a writer and understood the locals' plight even better, being married to a Pittsburgh fan. Jackson was interesting as well - he clearly saw too much when he worked for the Browns and can't get the bad memories out of his head. I feel for you, man. Grzegorek did an excellent job - I met him briefly and also thought he offered some of the most insightful points, though his quietness shut him out of a lot of the conversation.

After the conversation ended, the panel challenged the audience to stump them and win a book. I didn't want to be too esoteric, so I asked them if they knew Manny Harris' real name. Jackson came close ("Copperdale"?) but not quite (it's Corperryale L'adorable Harris). Still, I feel like maybe I inadvertently cut off Grzegorek when revealing the correct answer, which I still feel sheepish about. I returned the book.

Some of the discussion eventually turned to #6, and I maintain that I don't want him to return to play in Cleveland, ever, nor do I want #23 hanging from the Q's rafters. I believe the phrase is "positive reward for negative behavior." It still sucks the way he left with that douchey TV show, and I feel like I'm entitled to continue to root against the guy. You remember him - the guy who quit on the Cavs in the 2010 playoffs? And please, I know he was well within his rights to leave in free agency (though perhaps not within his rights to collude) - that doesn't mean I have to suddenly be cool with "The Decision" and with a guy leaving my favorite team and city.

I saw a bit of Pacers-Heat tonight (78-75 Indiana, love it), and wow, I just cannot stand watching that Miami team play. Their horrible late-arriving fans. Dwyane Wade and his single skill of flying towards the basket and hoping for a bailout call that he usually gets. The way none of them can EVER believe that a foul call didn't go their way. Juwan Howard looking ugly while cheerleading from the bench. It's just a grotesquerie.

The worst part is, of course, #6 himself. I've never enjoyed something less in sports than watching him play, and that's too bad because I can of course objectively realize that he's by far the best player in the league and one of its all-time greats. Incidentally, this is a lot like my experience with Jordan - people frequently and ever-helpfully reminded me how great he was, as if my disdain for him was based on some sort of criticism of his ability rather than general distaste at his habit of routinely dispatching the Cavaliers in the playoffs. Don't people know what it means to be a fan?

Wednesday, May 16

Kyrookie of the Year

Big congratulations to Cavaliers PG Kyrie Irving, who won the 2011-12 NBA Rookie of the Year award in a landslide. Irving was superb for Cleveland in his inaugural campaign, averaging 18.5 ppg and 5.4 apg and almost single-handedly dragging the Cavs to mediocrity. Really excited to have this kid on our club for a few more years, because I think we've only seen the beginning. I'm stoked enough about the win that I don't really even feel the need to take a potshot at the only other Cav ever to win the league's RoY award.

78-75 Pacers (OK, a small one).

Irving was the CLEAR winner, garnering 117 of a possible 120 first-place votes, and if you know me you know where I'm going: who are these dummies who got it wrong? Jebus do I ever hate anonymous incompetence. What's interesting is that Ricky Rubio placed second (that's where I had him as well), but yet three other, different players garnered a single first-place vote. What is going on here?

My first suspicion is that the sportswriters guilty of this idiocy are doing the same thing that MVP voters do, insisting that the winner of an individual award have experienced team success as well. Forgetting how dumb that is in general, consider how incredibly inappropriate that is for the NBA Rookie of the Year award, given how the NBA's top rookies are all but assured to play for the leagues's worst clubs. Yet there are Kenneth Faried (Denver), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio), and, unbelievably, Iman Shumpert (New York), all playing for playoff teams and headlining some weirdo's ballot.

Before I get to the numbers, did you see Kyrie Irving play this year? I'm not big on anecdotes, but wow did he ever pass the eye test. The fourth-quarter scoring, the court awareness, the ability to get to the rim and finish - yes sir, that's your top rookie. If you don't believe me, please look below at some statistics I've prepared with the help of ESPN and Basketball Reference (click to enlarge)

Irving vs Rubio
Look, this one is less close than people think. Rubio missed 10 more games than did Irving, scored eight points a game fewer, and posted a true shooting percentage 90 points lower than Irving (10% lower overall). Rubio was good, no doubt, and he racked up almost three more assists a game than Kyrie (thanks in some measure to Kevin Love), but in virtually all standard and advanced metrics (Irving's O rating, D rating, and PER were all way ahead of the Timberwolf's) Irving was the clear winner. Fortunately, it does appear that none of the voters put Rubio ahead of Irving, so we're good.

Irving vs Shumpert
Are you fucking kidding me? This writer should admit his or her mistake, and then be stripped of all voting rights for the rest of his or her life. I don't even mean just NBA award voting rights, I mean anything, no matter how trivial.

I mean, was Iman Shumpert better at anything this year than Kyrie Irving? Lok across the board - half as many points, half the assists, roughly half the PER, 80 points lower in TS% - what the fuck? I honestly don't even know what to say about this. Absolutely ridiculous.

Irving vs Leonard
It's OK - I hadn't heard of Kawhi Leonard either.

The Spurs first-year forward actually had a solid year, averaging eight points and five rebounds a game. He also played in nearly all of the Spurs games, though actually logged fewer minutes on the court than the Cavalier guard. But seriously, this is a solid season, not a Rookie of the Year season, and he had the benefit of an outstanding Spurs team around him all season as well. Put Irving on that Spurs club and Leonard on the Cavs and see who thrives more.

Irving vs Faried
The only one on the board that is even defensible, even though Faried is a reserve who played 2/3 the minutes of Irving this season. Actually, having read the second half of that sentence, I take back the "defensible" part, but you could talk me into Faried being a close second for this award. The Manimal was an efficient player when on the court, with a slightly higher PER than Irving and averages of 10.2 ppg and 7.7 rpg. The guy was a quality contributor for the Nuggets this year.

But compared to the numbers Irving put up, the way he instantly established himself as the Cavs' best player - there's no way you can honestly look at the numbers and the situations and come to any conclusion other than: Kyrie Irving was the Rookie of the Year in 2012. I'm interested to know how three people who write about professional basketball for a living seem to have missed that.

Tuesday, May 8

A roundup of Stupid!

With the possible exception of politics, no realm has more to offer in terms of people saying and doing stupid things than does the sporting world. Politics has a mix of people who are genuinely stupid saying stupid things and people who are smart and calculating saying seemingly stupid things to win elections, but sports seems to have a higher proportion of genuine dummies. After I had five recent events fresh in my mind, I decided to post about it. We'll start with the most recent first.

Cole Hamels
Philadelphia chucker Cole Hamels truly earned himself a spot among sports' biggest cowards by throwing at Nationals rookie Bryce Harper in Harper's eighth game for no reason, apparently, other than jealousy. Hamels' own words:

I was trying to hit him. I'm not going to deny it. I'm not trying to injure the guy. They're probably not going to like me for it, but I'm not going to say I wasn't trying to do it. I think they understood the message, and they threw it right back. That's the way, and I respect it.

That's something I grew up watching, that's kind of what happened. So I'm just trying to continue the old baseball because I think some people are kind of getting away from it. I remember when I was a rookie the strike zone was really, really small and you didn't say anything because that's the way baseball is. But I think unfortunately the league's protecting certain players and making it not that old-school, prestigious way of baseball. It's just, 'Welcome to the big leagues.'

What a colossal douchebag. You can't throw a 90-MPH fastball at a guy for no good reason other than wanting to "continue the old baseball." What the fuck does that mean? In the real old baseball, someone on the other team would go kick your ass.

And the way he hides behind this false "old-school" bravado and saying "I respect it" is just horseshit. You respect what? Abject cowardice? Unbelievable. I love that Washington GM Mike Rizzo absolutely tore into Hamels for his actions:

I've never seen a more classless, gutless chickenshit act in my 30 years in baseball...Cole Hamels says he's old school? He's the polar opposite of old school. He's fake tough. He thinks he's going to intimidate us after hitting our 19-year-old rookie who's eight games into the big leagues? He doesn't know who he's dealing with.

He thinks he's sending a message to us of being a tough guy. He's sending the polar opposite message. He says he's being honest, well, I'm being honest. It was a gutless chicken shit-fucking act. That was a fake-tough act. No one has ever accused Cole Hamels of being old school.

This goes beyond rivalry and all that stuff. This points to, you take the youngest guy in baseball. He's never done a thing. And then Hamels patted himself on the back. Harper's old school. Hitting him on the back, that ain't old school. That's fucking chickenshit.

I could not agree more with Rizzo. You know what else was chickenshit? MLB only giving Hamels a slap-on-the-wrist five-game suspension, same as they gave Jeanmar Gomez for a far more legitimate purpose pitch, one which Gomez didn't follow up with a lot of bullshit bluster. Hamels' "suspension" won't even cost him a turn in the rotation because somehow the league has never figured out how to suspend a pitcher properly. So, apparently in modern baseball, some douchebag can throw at a kid because he doesn't like him and basically get off scot-free. I bet the Nationals pitching staff is just lining up to drill Hamels with a fast one. Maybe when Stephen Strasburg is reaching his 160-inning limit for the season they can have him lodge one last 99-MPH heater in Hamels' back. That would continue the old baseball.

As usual The Onion has the best take, with the headline: "Cole Hamels Apologizes For Not Hitting Bryce Harper Right In The Fucking Face With Pitch"

Ron Artest
I mean...have you seen this? Watch the video - Artest (I'm not using his idiotic misnomer of a surname) throws one down then unleashes a vicious elbow at James Harden's head. This behavior would be out of line in a UFC bout, let alone an NBA game.

Did we all watch it? Read Artest's comments:

During that play I just dunked on (Kevin) Durant and (Serge) Ibaka and I got really emotional and excited and it was unfortunate that James had to get hit with an unintentional elbow. I hope he's OK. The Thunder, they're playing for a championship this year, so I hope that he's OK and I apologize to the Thunder and to James Harden. You know, it was such a great game and it was unfortunate so much emotion was going on at that time. ... That's it for today.

Later on Twitter:

I just watched the replay again..... Oooo.. My celebration of the dunk really was too much... Didn't even see James ..... Omg... Looks bad.

You fucking liar! How stupid do you think anyone is to actually believe that this elbow was even slightly unintentional? Even if you weren't the guy who went into the stands in Detroit eight years ago to fight fans (and you are), this would be an incredibly blatant lie. Unbelievable.

The NBA suspended Artest for seven games. What would I have done? Kicked him out. That's it. You're done. You can't do shit like that. You've already proven that you're a liability, thanks to the Malice at the Palace, only the single most disgraceful moment in NBA history. You got a second shot that you probably didn't deserve, and you just gave a guy a concussion with a vicious elbow and lied about it. The NBA doesn't need you. Artest should never play again.

Rajon Rondo
Far, far less egregious behavior here, but equally self-delusional and dishonest. Rondo, upset with a call (a close one, but a good one - Brandon Bass rips at Josh Smith's head), gets up in referee Marc Davis' face, then gives him a chest bump and gets tossed.

If you read the Artest piece, you can probably guess how Rondo's version of events will play out.

Well, obviously I was upset about the call and I said some words to Marc. I deserved the first tech and, as I was walking, I thought he stopped, my momentum carried me into him -- I even think I tripped on his foot. I didn’t intentionally chest bump him. But that’s what it appears to be.

Liar. You're a liar. Why do it? No one believes you. It's on tape. We can clearly see you puff out your chest to bump him. Why get that close in the first place? Why insult everyone's intelligence? I don't get it. Rondo got a one-game suspension, which unlike the first two entries here, was a fair punishment.

Lamar Odom
In case you don't follow the Association, in a nutshell Odom had a tumultuous off-season, got traded to Dallas, and then just pocketed $9 million of the Mavericks' money to show up out of shape, not play hard, and be dismissed well before the playoffs. The story today was that Mavericks players voted to deny Odom his $14 000 playoff share.

Good. I can't imagine this was too hard of a decision for the Dallas players - do we want to give an equal playoff share for the guy who never played hard for us, wrecked any chance we had to defend our NBA title, and didn't play or practice a single minute in the playoffs? The guy already stole $9 million from the organization - I'm glad he was denied this small, yet meaningful, amount.

Michael Wilbon
The madness in sports isn't restricted to the athletes, as FIRE JOE MORGAN made so abundantly clear during its run, and the normally astute Michael Wilbon is carrying the torch, writing an article about how Chicago is "cursed." I put Wilbon in this article just for editorial convenience - his misstep is nowhere near elbowing a guy, throwing at a guy, bumping an official, or quitting on your teammates. It's just a badly-constructed and ill-conceived argument.

Forgetting how inane the idea of a curse is in general and focus on: are you fucking kidding me? In my not-especially-long lifetime, Chicago has a Super Bowl ('85), a World Series ('05), six NBA Championships ('91-93, '96-98), and a Stanley Cup ('10). Wow, I wish Cleveland was that cursed, to have a champion in every goddamn sport in the past 28 years. People who don't go through what we go through really have no idea at all what it's like.

I read some of Wilbon's piece, thinking maybe I was missing a point. I wasn't. He leads with "So what could we possibly have done to deserve this sentence of six months in professional sports hell?"

SIX MONTHS?????? SIX MONTHS????? We haven't won a title in fucking 48 years. That's five hundred and sixty-eight months. What were you saying about professional sports hell? And how bad was your last six months anyway? Did you get to enjoy a 4-12 football team that missed the postseason for the ninth straight year, and an NBA team completing a run with the worst overall record in the entire league over the past two years? Whatever, so your franchise quarterback (which we haven't had in two decades) hurt his hand and your NBA MVP (ours left in the douchiest possible fashion to play in front of no fans in Miami) got hurt too? Aww.