Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Instant Karma's Gonna Get you

So I won't be the first or the last to rub salt in the wounds of Bill Simmons in regard to tonight's NBA Draft Lottery. But I did think it was nice to post the following I wrote (with a little editing) in an email to Messr. Elkon of Braves & Birds fame in reference to this column on who "deserves" the top picks in the draft.

As for Simmons' karma column... well, anyone can shoehorn what you want into a formula that's got completely subjective criteria. Really, the Hawks have less history than the Hornets or T-Wolves? Also, see how team history and traditions fits right into "Loyalty/History" and "Rigging Potential". Why not just have a category on its own of "titles won before anyone who watches basketball was born", give the Celtics a bunch of points and be done with it. I have no idea how he sees Milwaukee as having any worse luck than Atlanta (or more front office competence or better loyalty/history for that matter). But most of all, I love that Simmons' list of bad luck for the Celtics is this:
  • Len Bias - died before most of the guys to be drafted were born. Irrelevant to today's team (of course it was a tragedy, but it was 21 years ago).
  • Reggie Lewis - died 14 years ago. Would be 42 years old today and not playing basketball. Irrelevant to today's team.

  • Demolition of the Boston Garden - not sure how that's bad luck. They moved into a bigger arena with luxury boxes, allowing them to compete with other franchises on a level playing field. If the Celtics were still playing in the Garden, there's no doubt in my mind that Simmons would call it bad luck or unfair and that the Celtics aren't able to draw free agents or pay them enough because of the lack of revenue from the arena. Also, they moved out of the Garden 12 years ago. Irrelevant to today's team.
  • ML Carr era - OK, is this bad luck or is it front office incompetence? You can't get positive points for bad luck and negative points for management for the same exact guy, can you?
  • The Duncan Lottery - OK. Bad luck. You've got one.
  • The Pitino Era - See ML Carr above. Front office mismanagement is not bad luck.
  • The Paul Pierce Stabbing - This happened in 2000, and Pierce did not miss a single game because of the stabbing. In the 2000-2001 season Pierce set personal (at the time) career highs for points, assists, rebounds, minutes, 3 pointers, blocks, and FG%. Yes, it is terrible that he got stabbed. But by all reasonable accounts, the stabbing had little or no effect on his playing ability or the team's strength.
  • The Vin Baker trade - Front office mismanagement, not bad luck. Also, the guys they traded to get Baker (Kenny Anderson, Vitaly Potapenko, Joe Forte) amounted to virtually nothing from there on out. Baker ended up being a bum, but so did the guys they gave up.
  • Red Auerbach's death - When an 89-year old man who smoked cigars his entire life dies, that is not bad luck. Arguably, Auerbach's long life and accomplishments with the Celtics was extremely good luck
  • Doc Rivers' second life - front office mismanagement, not bad luck.
So basically Simmons idea of "bad luck" are a bunch of things that are so outdated as to be irrelevant to the team today or were the sole result of poor front office management. The only item that is bad luck was Duncan going to the Spurs via the lottery.

Compare to the Hawks: Jason Collier dies 2 years ago (and would probably still be involved on the team). In each of the last two years (and 3 times since 2000) a team with a better record has jumped them in the Lottery. And their Bostonian Celtics fan co-owner forced onto the team forces ownership into extensive litigation, handstrings front office from signing players to extended deals.

That's far more bad luck in recent years than Boston can claim. Also, the Celtics lost the Lottery in Duncan's year. That sucks. But this "bad luck" is only amplified because they had the most ping pong balls in a year with a good draft (which is luck). The Hawks had the most balls in a year when the best player in the draft was only Bogut (and still lost it). Objectively the bad luck (not getting the #1 pick when you had the most balls) is the same.

Every team in the lottery has had some bad luck, but lots more bad management. Boston is no better or worse than loads of other teams. The Celtics were no more deserving than Atlanta, Seattle, Portland or anyone else in the lottery.

Of course, now we'll get to see bimonthly columns on how unlucky the Celtics were in this lottery for 12 months.