Commentary

A 'Band-Aid' for the NBA offseason

An ode to the NBA signing period and the best movie of the decade, "Almost Famous"

Updated: July 28, 2009, 1:12 PM ET
By Bill Simmons | Page 2

"I'm flying high over Tupelo, Mississippi, with America's hottest band ... and we're all about to die."

I always wanted to lead a column that way. That's a quote from "Almost Famous," my favorite movie of the aughts, the double zeroes or whatever we end up calling this stretch from 2000 to 2009. In a mid-July B.S. Report with Chris Connelly, we tried to determine the decade's defining movie. My three qualifications? Excellence, originality and (this is crucial) rewatchability. I want a movie that's just as good on my 20th viewing as it was on the first. Now, you could argue "The Dark Knight" was the decade's defining movie -- and it very well might be -- but we don't know about its rewatchability yet.

[+] EnlargeAlmost Famous
DreamworksListen to the dialogue in "Almost Famous," and you'll appreciate it even more.

Hence, I went with "Almost Famous." Many readers were stunned. "Almost Famous?" they asked. "Really?"

Yeah, really. Has there ever been another good drama about the dynamics of a rock 'n' roll band? Think about how much time we spend listening to music. Think about how much time we spend wondering about bands and individual artists. Now, think about your favorite movies about fictional bands. Give me your top 10. (I'm waiting.) Give me your top five. (Still waiting.) OK, give me one other good one. You can't.

The degree of difficulty for "Famous" was off the charts. It was a 10 out of 10. A period piece about a rock band? Cameron Crowe pulled it off and even won an Oscar for "Best Original Screenplay." He crafted a masterpiece loaded with memorable moments, elite performances, a believable band and meticulous detail. It has a salient theme -- namely, that 1974 was the exact time when music lost its innocence and started to go corporate. It has a few iconic scenes, one iconic performance (Billy Crudup absolutely crushing the role of Russell Hammond), as well as a final 10 minutes that are as good as any movie I can remember. It has a director's cut DVD ("Untitled") that's somehow better than the released movie (a rarity). And best of all, of any movie of the 2000s, it has the best quotes. A treasure chest, if you will.

You know what? I'm just going to have to prove it to you by dusting off one of my old-school column gimmicks. Let's hand out 50 of my favorite "Almost Famous" quotes and exchanges to the winners and losers of the NBA's 2009 free-agent buying spree. The first 25 are below, and the final 25 will run in Part 2 on Tuesday.

1. Write what you want.

Thank you! I will.

2. And you can tell Rolling Stone magazine that my last words were ... "I'm on drugs!"

[+] EnlargeTrevor Ariza
Bill Baptist/Getty ImagesAt only 24, Trevor Ariza has plenty of good years left in the tank.

To the Lakers' fans. If you think your boys improved by swapping Trevor Ariza (a 24-year-old who came into his own this past spring, shot 45 percent from 3-point land, came through repeatedly in the clutch, turned into the NBA's single best defensive swingman and doesn't care about his numbers) for Ron Artest (an unreliable 29-year-old head case/attention hog who slipped noticeably as a perimeter defender these past two seasons and has a knack for taking terrible shots at the worst possible times), then absolutely, you're on drugs. I don't know what else to tell you. Your team is worse. I'm sorry. And that's before we get into the whole "Is Lamar Odom coming back?" and "Do you really want to commit to an aging Artest for FIVE years?" questions.

3. Some of the stuff that happens is good for a few people to know about, as opposed to, say ... a million people.

To Artest. Here's a classic case of someone hoodwinking the American public with a 10-year pattern of bizarre behavior that eventually immunized them to all future crazy Ron Artest stories and anecdotes, such as the fact that he's wearing No. 37 to honor Michael Jackson because it's the same number of weeks that "Thriller" led the charts (um, what?), or his recent revelation that he had been pining to play for the Lakers for two solid years. Artest told reporters that he wandered into the Lakers' locker room to express that desire to a showering Kobe Bryant -- right after L.A.'s bitter Game 6 thrashing in Boston in the 2008 Finals, no less -- adding, "Yeah, I walked in the shower. I'm not a homosexual or nothing like that, but Kobe had no clothes on."

These anecdotes just bounce off people now. Artest is a benevolent crazy. Or so we think. Being around this nuttiness every day is a little different from merely hearing about the nuttiness in secondhand anecdotes. I know for a fact he routinely broke plays on offense and is still a handful behind the scenes, and the Rockets buried every 2008-09 story that would have made this patently clear. For instance, Artest routinely walked around in his underwear in public places: the Rockets' team bus, hotels, you name it. People around the team barely flinched after a while. Before Game 7 of the Lakers series -- only the biggest game of the entire season -- they finally flinched.

Here's what happened: Artest missed the first two team buses (the ones for players, coaches and team personnel) from Houston's hotel to the Staples Center and barely made the third and final bus, which was reserved for business staff, sponsors and friends of the team. These stunned people watched Artest sprint to the bus right before it left, jump on and take one of the remaining seats ... yes, wearing only his underwear. Owner Leslie Alexander happened to be sitting on the bus and witnessed the whole thing. And you wonder why the Houston Rockets didn't make any effort whatsoever to bring back Artest.

[+] EnlargeRon Artest
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty ImagesDespite what Lakers fans might think, Ron Artest is not an upgrade over Ariza.

(Note: If you want to make the "Kobe and Phil can keep him in check much like MJ and Phil kept Rodman in check" argument, just remember Rodman was still a world-class defender and rebounder when Chicago acquired him. Artest is neither. If anything, his athleticism is slipping and he can't defend quick small forwards anymore. So why even risk it? Wait, why am I complaining? Thank you for screwing up your title defense, Lakers!)

4. How old are you?
Eighteen.
Me, too!
How old are we really?
Seventeen.
Me, too!
Actually, I'm 16.
Me too. Isn't it funny? The truth just sounds different.
I'm 15.

To Ariza's agent, the immortal David Lee, who stupidly played hardball with L.A. and ignored the glaring "Plan B: Ron Artest" warning signs that had been flashing for two solid years. For the same money L.A. initially offered him, Ariza downgraded from Kobe and Gasol to T-Mac's microfracture surgeon and Yao's foot surgeon. It's too bad Lee isn't representing free-agent forward David Lee -- it would be the perfect storm of "no leverage" and "no agent savvy." He'd end up signing a nonguaranteed contract with the Globetrotters.

5. What, are you like the star of your school?
They hate me.
You'll meet them all again on their long journey to the middle.

To Houston GM Daryl Morey for landing Ariza (the quintessential athletic swingman who can play defense and hit 3s in the playoffs) for the full midlevel exception before he even hits his mid-20s. Total steal. The Rockets continue to assemble value assets to package for the inevitable "New Orleans needs to dump an unhappy Chris Paul" or "Toronto is having a Chris Bosh fire sale" trades, so for anyone who feels bad for Dork Elvis because he was crippled by the contracts of T-Mac (expiring this season) and Yao (expiring in 2011), think again. By the way, there's no better yearbook quote for a high school outcast than this one ...

"You'll meet them all again on their long journey to the middle."
-- Lester Bangs

That's really the pinnacle. Let's talk about Philip Seymour Hoffman's extended cameo as Bangs. According to the director's commentary, they had Hoffman for three shooting days, and he was sick the whole time. Yet he still banged out a winner. If you were to have a DVD-collection draft with five buddies (and by the way, don't think I haven't done this) in which everyone picks six actors in snake fashion and you get every single movie they made on DVD, Hoffman would be a sneaky late-first-round pick. You'd get "Almost Famous," "Boogie Nights," "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Scent of a Woman" and about 10 watchable indies, right?

(Because you asked, my top 12 looks like this: Hanks, De Niro, Cruise, Stallone, Pacino, Douglas, Freeman, Damon, Hoffman, Costner, Hackman and Denzel. Late-round sleepers: Clancy Brown and Joe Pantoliano. Admit it, you want to make your own list.)

6. Live? "American Woman"? The most brilliant piece of gobbledygook ever! Give me some white light hot heat! (Picks up an album.) IGGY POP!!! Aaaaaa-men!

To my three favorite sneaky-good moves this summer ...

Anthony Parker, two years, $6 million (Cleveland): Quality 3-point shooter (42 percent during the past three seasons) with size who can defend 2-guards. Something the Cavs didn't have last season. Also, we finally have a conduit for LeBron and Candace Parker (Anthony's sister). I know she's married to Shelden Williams, but I still can dream about Candace and LeBron producing the greatest basketball player ever.

Arron Afflalo, trade (Denver): Now this is how you run a team. You let someone else overpay Dahntay Jones (Indiana, $11 million, four years) and replace him with a short-term guy with the same skills (defense and 3-point shooting) for one-third of the price. I might dump Morey for the Wark (Denver's Mark Warkentien) as my role-model GM soon.

Jannero Pargo, one year, terms not disclosed (Chicago): A poor man's Ben Gordon who catches fire off the bench every so often. Please, Chicago, don't do anything else! You had a nice run this past spring and created an identity for yourself, and you have Luol Deng coming back to take Gordon's minutes. Let this thing breathe. Let the kids run around and do their thing. You have plenty of time. And here's why I'm saying this ...

7. Tell him, you know, it's a think piece about a midlevel band struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom. He'll wet himself.

According to NBA history, the Bulls will struggle coming out of the gate as this season's enticing "Watch out for these guys!" team that surprised in the previous playoffs, receives a little too much attention and briefly self-combusts the next season (copyright: 2007-08 Warriors). Again, let it breathe, Chicago. Thank you.

(Random question: Where does the kid from "Almost Famous" rank on the "Wow, it's absolutely disorienting to see him in any other movie on cable at 1:30 a.m." scale? I have him ranked No. 3 behind Ray's father in "Field of Dreams" and Flatch from "Hoosiers" ... but just ahead of Ian Ziering.)

[+] EnlargePatrick Fugit
2000 - Dreamworks LLC Go on the road with Stillwater, and you'll find out what life in a rock band is truly all about.

8. You should be really proud of him. 'Cause I know men, and I'll bet you do, too. And he respects women, and he likes women, and let's just pause and appreciate a man like that. I mean, you created him out of thin air, you know, you raised him right, he's having a great time, he's doing a good job, and don't worry, he's still a virgin. And we're all looking out for him. You know? And that's more than I've ever even said to my own parents, so there you go. This is the maid speaking, by the way.

To Kevin Durant. Why? He flew to Vegas for summer league even though he wasn't playing, sat on his team's bench every day, cheered his boys on, dispensed advice during timeouts and everything else you'd want from your top gun. All signs point to Durant becoming one of those galvanizing, personable, Duncan-like leaders for the Zombie Sonics. Love it. Couldn't be happier about this. Our one-sided bromance continues to be in full bloom. And you know what else?

9. Russell. Jeff. Ed. Larry. I really love your band. I think the song "Fever Dog" is a big step forward for you guys. And you guys producing it yourselves instead of Glyn Johns, that was the right thing to do. And Russell, Russell, the guitar sound ... is in-sin-diary. Incendiary. Way to go.

To Sam Presti, GM, Zombies. Love the restraint. He's letting this baby breathe (see above) by building around good chemistry guys, preserving his cap space, avoiding potentially dangerous contracts and building a young foundation around Durant. (In other words, he's doing everything Cleveland didn't do for LeBron these past six seasons.) The Zombies will be $9 million under the cap this season and have $10 million worth of expiring contracts. For teams getting hammered by the economy that need to shed high-salaried contracts, Presti is their first, second and third calls and he's probably in F-You mode every time he answers. If only he were on Twitter.

    EFFYOUNBAGM: "Philly just offered Elton Brand, Sam Dalembert and its next four first-round picks for Damien Wilkins. Laughed. Hung up."

    EFFYOUNBAGM: "Note to Jersey: Stop offering me Bobby Simmons. Why don't you offer me VD while you're at it?"

    EFFYOUNBAGM: "Dear Atlanta: I'd rather peel the skin off my body than take on the Crawford and Pachulia contracts. Thanks, though."

10. Side proposition to the winner: For 50 bucks and a case of Heineken, I'll throw into the pot three lovely ladies, including Miss Penny Lane of the famous Band-Aids, who have to leave the tour before we get to New York.

[+] EnlargePatrick Fugit
Almost FamousCan you say that slowly one more time, for the record?

To Milwaukee. Wasn't 50 bucks and a case of Heineken what the Bucks got for Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva? Or was it 100 bucks? I can't remember. And will we ever figure out why they didn't make Villanueva a restricted free agent (keeping his sign-and-trade options open) rather than just jettisoning him completely? I knew this team would fall apart when it hired Lanita Dotson as its GM. I just knew it.

(Note: The blind poker scene was extended in "Untitled" -- including a part in which one of the guys mentions having some special David Crosby pot on him, followed by someone else saying, "You have Crosby pot?" as if this was the medicinal marijuana stash of the '70s. And it probably was. Ever since I saw this scene, I have called superpotent pot "Crosby pot." Um, not that I partake. But still. You're right, I need to stop talking.)

11. Before I go, lemme give you a lesson in mystique. (Holds out a cigarette lighter in one hand and closes his other fist.) You can only have one. Which one do you want? As long as you can't see what's in this hand (shows closed fist), you'll always want it more.

To the Knicks' fans. Just remember ... there's nothing in that closed fist yet. Literally, nothing.

12. If you think Mick Jagger will still be out there trying to be a rock star at age 50, then you are sadly, sadly mistaken.

To Shaq, who reinvented himself for the umpteenth time as "the good-natured sidekick who just wants to help LeBron win a title." I'd believe this if he didn't just spend the past season going for his own stats in Phoenix to prove to everyone that he wasn't done yet. In the past year, Shaq has become a top-10 celebrity tweeter, launched his own reality show and pretended to make up with Kobe. Now he's going to be happy taking a backseat as a LeBronnaire? How do we know he can stay in shape without Phoenix's training staff? How will he help Cleveland stop those high screens with which Orlando killed it this past spring? I don't even need 140 characters in Shaq-speak to say the following: This will not end well.

(Random note: How 'bout Jimmy Fallon wearing a Bee Gees beard and nailing his part as Stillwater's annoying new manager? He's even better in the director's cut. I'd say it was the best acting performance by a late-night host in history, but I don't want Jimmy Kimmel to ban me from his house with football season looming when he just bought a 103-inch plasma that can break into four quadrants. So let's just say Fallon was good. Not as good as a 103-inch plasma that can break into four quadrants, but good.)

13. Listen, my advice to you -- and I know you think these guys are your friends -- if you wanna be a true friend to them ... be honest and unmerciful.

To my ESPN colleague Chad Ford, who wrote about Indiana's summer (the Pacers added Tyler Hansbrough and Dahntay Jones) that "I like the strategy Larry Bird and David Morway have been employing the past couple of years in Indiana. Instead of swinging for the fences in the draft, they are trying for singles and doubles, and they're connecting." All due respect to my favorite Hawaii-based columnist, but doesn't going for singles and doubles ensure 38 to 40 wins and a mediocre lottery pick every year? What am I missing? How is flipping Jerryd Bayless for Brandon Rush, then having to spend another $11 million on Jones (who does the same things as Rush), hitting a single or a double? I think we need to lace up the gloves and fight on another podcast soon.

14. Hey William, we showed you America. Did everything but get you laid.
(William smiles.)
Nooooooo! Yeah?

One of the funniest moments of the movie goes to one of the funniest subplots of the offseason: Zach Randolph breaking the record for the most times being the focal point of a salary dump when his team literally did not care what it got in return for him. Portland traded him for Steve Francis and bought Francis out for $32 million, the price of a stunning Hamptons mansion on the water, just to get Randolph off the team as soon as possible. The Knicks traded him for Tim Thomas (no heart) and Cuttino Mobley (immediately had to retire because of a bad heart). And the Clippers gave him away for Quentin Richardson (more on him later). Poor Zach is like the worst gift in a Yankee swap.

Even funnier, these were the three GMs who thought it would be a good idea to trade for him: Isiah Thomas, Mike Dunleavy and Chris Wallace. Throw in the fact that Bob Whitsitt drafted him, and it's amazing that James Cayne or Ben Silverman didn't try to trade for Randolph this decade. That reminds me ...

15. I'm glad you were home.
I'm always home. I'm uncool.
Me, too.
The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when you're uncool.

To Chris Wallace, aka the Money Launderer!!! What? You might need a fourth party to help facilitate your complicated deal that currently can't work under the cap and will make everyone better but my team? And you need to exchange $3 million in cash for $2.8 million in unmarked bills? Call me! I'm always home!

(Note: If "the only true currency in this bankrupt world is what we share with someone else when you're uncool" were a yearbook quote disguised as a fastball, it would be clocked at 107 mph. Just a classic. I love it. And not just because I'm uncool and I'm always home. How can you not love a movie with lines like that? See, I'm talking you into this Movie of the Decade thing, aren't I? You're getting sucked in. I can feel it.)

16. You know, I think we both wanted to be with her. But she wanted us to be together.

To Crudup for delivering those two corny lines and somehow pulling them off. How? By making the Billy Crudup face: slight nod, thoughtful smile, raised eyebrow, as if he's saying, "Wow, I just said something super-interesting, I can't believe it."

This isn't one of the Great Three Movie What-Ifs of All Time (don't worry, it's covered in my basketball book), but it's definitely worth an honorable mention. ... Did you know Brad Pitt signed on to play Russell Hammond, then backed out before filming started because he couldn't grasp the character? Do you realize what a disaster that would have been? A not-totally-invested Brad Pitt would have murdered this movie. Instead, Crudup ended up making it. Nobody else could have played Russell. Nobody. As it turned out, it was his defining role, and he never became a star along the Pitt/Damon lines, mainly because he never wanted it. He was like the Vince Carter of show business. Hey, speaking of Vince ...

17. None of us love you. You act above us, you always have.
Finally, the truth.
You just held it over us like you might leave, like we're lucky to be with you. And we had to live with it, man. I had to live with you, and now I might die with you, and it's not f------ fair!

To the Vince fans out there -- you might be muttering these words if Vince's last chance to salvage his career as a meaningful player (Orlando) doesn't work out. You certainly couldn't ask for a better last chance: a Finals team that desperately needed a 2-guard like Vince who can create and stretch the floor. On the other hand, what are the odds Vince and Stan Van Gundy will get along? 10-to-1? 20-to-1? Off the board?

(By the way, you don't know how much it kills me that the Lakers won the 2009 title, meaning I couldn't give the above quote to all of Kobe's teammates. Which I would have done while doing the Kobe fist pump. There is no God.)

18. I love you. And I'm about to boldly go where ... many men have gone before.

To the Spurs for signing Theo Ratliff to a one-year deal, immediately making him ... yup ... Theo Ratliff's Expiring Contract. Couldn't they have signed Raef LaFrentz and Wally Szczerbiak as well just to give me infinite delight on ESPN.com's NBA Trade Machine? Actually, that might have given me an aneurysm. Scratch that thought.

(Speaking of the Trade Machine, multiple readers topped my "improve the Knicks" trade by increasing their projected win total by 79 with this specific trade: This appears to be the pinnacle. You can't do better than plus-79, which would make the 2009-10 Knicks an astonishing 111 and minus-27. I'm almost positive this would be a record. If you can top plus-79, God bless you. Even the Picasso of the Trade Machine couldn't do it.)

19. Don't worry, he only means half of what he says.
Which half?

To the NBA and the players' union. They keep pretending we aren't heading for Armageddon in 2011, and meanwhile, some season-ticket renewal numbers are catastrophic (Milwaukee, Indiana, Minnesota, Memphis, Jersey and poor Philly, which remains in the blood-red even after losing Andre Miller for nothing) while others are deceivingly high (such as New Orleans, Detroit, Miami, Sacramento and Phoenix, where overall renewal rates are OK, but the high-priced stuff isn't selling well). This season's cap dropped for a reason; next year's cap will drop even more.

So how did we manage to get a few guys overpaid this summer? For the same reason it always happens -- it takes only a few knuckleheads to screw it up for everyone else, whether you're talking about a brawl in a bar, a stock market, NBA free agency or whatever. We're headed for a league of haves and have-nots -- like baseball, actually -- with big-market teams, small-market teams and a middle class that could swing either way depending on the season. I have written about this extensively in the past: If you care about the quality of playoff basketball, actually, the haves/have-nots system works splendidly, as we learned from 1984 to 1993. But if Stern shuts down the season? That wouldn't be fun. In fact ...

20. When and where does this "real world" occur? I mean, I am really confused here.

To Antoine Walker, living proof why we're headed for a 2011 lockout. Here's a man who made more than $110 million playing basketball since 1996. Earlier this month, he was arrested for failing to pay nearly a million dollars to a Las Vegas casino. Can't say I was surprised. When Toine played for Boston, he spent money so generously/recklessly that people within the organization were extremely concerned because they all liked him so much. None of them wanted to see him go broke before he turned 40. But that's what happens in the NBA -- too many players live paycheck to paycheck, try like hell to sustain a life beyond their means, inflate their own worth, support too many people, save too little of their money and eventually end up in stories that contain phrases like "escorted from a casino in handcuffs."

David Stern notices all these stories. I promise you. He learned 10 years ago that, for a variety of reasons, some of his employees cannot survive if their paychecks are cut off for a few months. Billy Hunter and the agents should have learned this as well. It's unclear whether they did. Just know that, after how 1999 played out, I wouldn't feel comfortable if Hunter was negotiating the price of fruit for me at a farmer's market.

21. Your time has come. Deflower the kid!

To poor Blake Griffin. He couldn't play even three summer league games without suffering a shoulder strain that will sideline him for four weeks. As always, once you get the Clippers stink on you, you can't get it off. More on this in Part 2.

By the way, the best part of seeing William getting deflowered in the movie is wondering how nervous Patrick Fugit (who played William) was about filming a pseudo-sex scene in his underwear with three Hollywood actresses, including Anna Paquin, well before she became an icon for our current generation of horny teenagers as Sookie on "True Blood." I always picture him sitting there as the girls attacked him, thinking, "baseball, baseball, Bea Arthur's face, cancer, dried throw up, smelly diapers, self-mutilation, Courtney Love naked, smelly diapers, smelly diapers, SMELLY DIAPERS!!!" the whole time. If it were I at age 16, I would have had to be sedated with an elephant tranquilizer beforehand.

22. Act 1, in which she pretends she doesn't care about him. Act 2, in which he pretends he doesn't care about her, but he goes right for her. Act 3, in which it all plays out the way she planned it. She'll eat him alive.

To Carlos Boozer and Pat Riley. I don't know who's "he" and "she" in this scenario -- really, they could play either part -- but somebody's getting eaten alive. They deserve each other. (Can two people stab each other in the back if they're both staring right at each other waiting for the other to turn around? It's a great question.) By the way, I wish we could bet on things like "Dwyane Wade will be a Knick or a Bull 12 months from now."

23. Show me any guy who ever said he didn't want to be popular, and I'll show you a scared guy. I've studied the entire history of music. Most of the time, the best stuff is the popular stuff. It's much safer to say popularity sucks, because that allows you to forgive yourself if you suck. And I don't forgive myself. Do you?

This one goes to everybody who hasn't seen the director's cut. Why? Because these are the kinds of moments you missed if you didn't see the director's cut, which might be the only time someone added 35 minutes to a movie and made it better. One of the most poignant observations of the movie. And true, by the way.

(Best four extra scenes from the director's cut: Russell and William talking music before the first Stillwater concert; Jeff Bebe's interview with William during which he utters quote No. 23; Penny's birthday cake scene; and Russell and Jeff making up at the end and botching their man-hug. There's also an 11-minute scene in which William makes his mother listen to "Stairway to Heaven" -- yes, the entire song -- in an attempt to get her to understand rock 'n' roll. It's indescribable. I loved it; some hated it. Crowe couldn't get the rights to the song, so it didn't matter. More importantly, how is this not on YouTube? Wasn't YouTube invented for stray clips like that?)

24. It's just a shame you missed out on rock 'n' roll. It's over. I mean, you got here just in time for the death rattle. Last gasp. Last grope.
At least I'm here for that.

To Steve Kerr, who missed out on the Seven Seconds or Less era and took over just in time for the Less Than $70 Million Payroll or Else era. That was like taking over AIG in 2005. Good luck! Here's some rope, I want you to tie your hands around your back. ... Now go to work. Maybe I'm a sap for people who appear on my podcast, but I actually liked most of Kerr's moves (the had-to-do-it Kurt Thomas deal and unfortunate Terry Porter hiring excepted) until this summer ...

25. It's OK! I'm easy to forget! Just leave me behind! I'm only the f------ lead singer!

To Steve Nash, who made the decision to extend through 2011-12 (two years, $22 million) over playing out his contract or pushing for a trade elsewhere. Here's a case where both sides were to blame: I don't think Kerr wanted to be The Jerk Who Traded Steve Nash From Phoenix, and I don't think Nash wanted to be The Ungrateful Superstar Who Dumped His Fans for a Chance to Win a Title. I understand why Kerr did it, even if I think he made a mistake keeping together the nucleus of a team that can't possibly win the title. But Nash's logic left me confused.

See, unlike most stars in this situation, Nash had an out. The entire Suns fan base would have said, "I can't even blame him -- our owner's cheapness drove him away" and directed its venom toward Robert Sarver. Nash sucked it up and stayed. And now, he'll never play in a Finals barring one of those goofy, Ray Bourque-type trades at the tail end of his career. I just feel bad for him. We chatted for about 20 minutes during this past All-Star Weekend, right as the Suns were going through all that coaching turmoil, and what struck me was how little confidence Nash had in his ability to control his career. Like, he couldn't conceive of being the one who said "I want a trade" or "This needs to get better, or I want out." At one point, I explained to him that he easily could broker a trade to Portland if he wanted; the Blazers had the assets, and cap-friendly assets, to make it worth Phoenix's while.

"You think they'd want to do that?" he asked, meaning the Blazers.

You think they'd want to do that? You're Steve Nash!!! Of course Portland would want to do that! The thing is, he couldn't even conceive of using that leverage, whereas I'm an only child and would have been looking for an out the moment my team traded my starting center and two No. 1s for a No. 2. Which goes back to the unselfish thing. Nash is a throwback to those wives from the '50s and '60s -- think Don Draper's wife in "Mad Men" -- who stick with their husbands through thick and thin, even when every sign says they should flee. Call them fools, call them saps, just remember to call them loyal. Actually, I think that's why he took Dallas' decision to let him leave in 2004 so personally; he would have stuck with that team through thick and thin, absolutely, no question about it, only when it came time for them to return the favor, they didn't. So he made them pay for this mistake with uncharacteristic relish. Unfortunately, that same intense loyalty is coming back to bite him. Great, he gets to play on a few more 48-win teams, and eat at Pizzeria Bianco with Grant Hill and mentor Goran Dragic.

If I were his friend -- and again, I have met him only once -- I would have urged him to call Raymond Bourque before he signed that extension. Similar circumstances, similar DNA ... and when Bourque finally leaned on Boston's pathetic owner to trade him, eventually winning a title in Colorado the following year, everyone in New England was delighted for him. Hell, we even threw him a parade. We did. You can look it up. Bourque retired and has lived in Massachusetts ever since. Nash could follow suit. He's one of the best 40 players ever and deserves to play in a Finals. The Suns' fans would have understood. He should have fled when he had the chance.

Coming Tuesday: Part 2

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2. For every Simmons column, as well as podcasts, videos, favorite links and more, check out the revamped Sports Guy's World.

Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) is the editor-in-chief of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best-seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, log on to Grantland. To send him an e-mail, click here.