Blowing out some awards for Round 2
I broke a personal record last week: four playoff games in four nights, in Los Angeles (Game 2, Lakers-Jazz), Phoenix (Game 2, Suns-Spurs), Orlando (Game 2, Magic-Hawks) and Boston (Game 3, Celtics-Cavaliers). Intending to write a recap on Saturday morning's plane ride from Boston to Los Angeles, I ended up getting sidetracked by the in-flight movie -- "Extraordinary Measures" with Harrison Ford and Brendan Fraser -- and only finished half the column. That led to this exchange when I arrived home:
-- Sports Gal: "I don't understand, why can't you meet your deadline? Just stay up later, work around the clock--"
-- Me: "I ALREADY WORK AROUND THE CLOCK!!!!!!!!"
I blame myself. Right as I started typing on the plane, I noticed the movie starting on one of those tiny, old-school airplane televisions above me. Fraser was leaning over a kid in a hospital bed and seemed sadder than at any point of his career since anti-Semites were hazing him in "School Ties." I thought to myself, "OK, I'll watch two minutes just to see how bad it is, but I will NOT put the headphones on."
Two minutes turns into five. That's when I realized that the girl from "Felicity" was Fraser's wife in the movie; she was just crying in every scene. I started thinking to myself about how much I love my kids, and how lucky I am that they're healthy, and within a few minutes, I was putting on those headphones. At that point, I thought, "All right, I'll just stick around until the 'work around the clock' scene," but by the time we finally got there, Fraser and Ford's quest to find a cure for Pompe disease had me hooked. Throw in Ford's overacting and it couldn't have been a better airplane movie: no surprises, some unintentional comedy, a couple of heartwarming moments, and every time the pilot interrupted us to tell us we were flying over something I couldn't see, the movie wasn't quite good enough to be ruined. Win, win, win and win.
So that's what postponed the column. Once the Lakers and Magic jumped to 3-0 leads Saturday, I decided to hold it until Tuesday morning as a Round 2 awards recap. Why wait so long? Because I don't actually work around the clock. I'm lazy as hell. Without further ado
THE BOBBY CLARKE AWARD FOR "BEST PLAYOFF MUG"
To Steve Nash, who got busted open by a Tim Duncan elbow, received six temporary stitches, came back with his eye swelling shut, then made some one-eyed shots to clinch Phoenix's improbable sweep over its biggest nemesis. First of all, try shooting a 3-pointer with one eye. I bet you miss. Second, if that had happened to Vince Carter, he would have been on the ground for 20 minutes, they would have had to carry him out on one of those neck-stabilizing NFL stretchers, and he'd be groaning in a dark hospital room right now while a plastic surgeon checked out the stitches. Third, it's bizarre that the best Canadian basketball player ever always ends up with hockey-like gashes and cuts; he should just get it over with and knock out his own front teeth. And fourth, if you're a Suns fan, that's exactly how that sweep needed to end: in San Antonio, with Nash banged up, with all the ready-made excuses in place -- only this time, the bad luck bounced right off the Suns like they were wearing a shield.
I have Spurs-Suns 2010 ranked as the second-most entertaining/memorable/dramatic NBA playoff sweep ever. All four games stood out for different reasons, each game was supremely entertaining, the subplots in the series were sublime, and the overriding theme (Phoenix finally lifting that Spurs monkey off its back) was tremendous. Only the 1995 Finals (Houston over Orlando) trumped it because of the stakes, because it had a better ESPN Classic game (the incredible Game 1, or as it's more commonly known, the Nick Anderson Game), because it had a pantheon performance (Hakeem sticking it to Young Shaq with averages of 33 and 12 over four games), and because it took on added weight over the next few years for destroying a Magic team that really should have evolved into a juggernaut. It's nearly impossible to have an entertaining sweep. As the Magic and Hawks just proved. Painfully.
THE ROSIE RUIZ AWARD FOR "FUNNIEST MOMENT THAT COULD ONLY HAPPEN IN BOSTON"
With Cleveland still finishing off Friday's 29-point beating, most Celtics fans were fleeing the arena a few minutes early in the first-ever 18,000-strong Walk of Shame. We were practically leaving tread marks. We had to get out of there. It was that bad. There hadn't been a single fun moment in the game; Cleveland hadn't allowed Boston to get involved once. As we were leaving, the Bruins (trying to sweep the Flyers in Philly) pulled their goalie and scored a game-tying goal, sending the game into overtime. Word spread quickly from fans refreshing their BlackBerrys and iPhones. A small rumble of excitement rolled through the masses. A depressed group of people suddenly had life again.
A drunk kid in a Pierce jersey walking in front of us summed the moment up best: "Ovah-time! WE GOTTA GET TO A BAH!"
(Postscript: The Bruins lost in OT. Throw in the Yankees' shellacking the Red Sox at Fenway and May 7, 2010, will be forever known as "Boston Massacre 2010.")
THE LINDSAY LOHAN AWARD FOR "OLDEST-LOOKING THING UNDER 22 YEARS OLD"
This goes to Orlando's Amway Arena (better known as the O-Rena), which opened in 1989 as a "state-of-the-art" place and quickly became the last nobody-had-any-idea-what-they-were-doing-when-they-were-building-these-things sports arena. No club seats, no midlevel boxes, concrete aisles just call this place the Hot Tub Time Machine Arena. (When I walked in, I thought I was suddenly back in college attending a WWE event at the Worcester Centrum. I kept looking around for Rick Rude and Demolition.) The poor Magic recently had to build another new arena that opens next season; if someone doesn't purchase the O-Rena by next year (asking price: $90 million), the city of Orlando is probably knocking it down. So the Magic got 21 years out of a "state-of-the-art" arena. That's a catastrophe. On the bright side
THE JENNIFER ANISTON AWARD FOR "BEST SELECTION OF COUGARS"
Put it this way: If you're a balding, moderately successful divorced guy in his late 40s or early 50s who likes to wear golf shirts and wants to out-punt your coverage with a fairly hot second wife who has a few miles on her and may or may not have spent two years working at a Hooters in the mid-80s, I'd throw everything in a suitcase and move to Orlando right now. I'm not kidding. Start packing. The O-Rena was teeming with cougars. In fact
THE TORCHY'S AWARD FOR BEST SOUND OF A RECORD SCREECHING TO A HALT
At halftime, I did an interview with two local TV people in which I joked about the O-Rena cougar scene and added, "No wonder Tiger got into so much trouble!" Both guys reacted like Scientologists at an L. Ron Hubbard roast: horrified and even a little fearful. They told me they'd have to edit the joke out. Apparently Tiger jokes go over about as well in Orlando as O.J. jokes did in Brentwood circa 1994. Who knew?
(With that said again no wonder Tiger got into so much trouble! I don't think living in the Cougar Capital of the United States, in retrospect, was the best place for a horny celebrity who got married too soon to set up shop.)
THE KATE HUDSON'S IMPLANTS AWARD FOR "BEST NEW ADDITION"
To Antawn Jamison, who gave Cleveland everything that oh, wait, that's not true. No Cavs fan trusts him right now. Or any of the other LeBronettes. Actually, Ron Artest, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Jefferson, Vince Carter, Shaquille O'Neal, Antonio McDyess, Caron Butler did any new addition work out this season?
I got it! Channing Frye! He exceeded all expectations as a backup big man who could shoot 3s and spread the floor. So there.
THE SAYID JARRAH AWARD FOR "BEST RETURN FROM THE DEAD"
To the Lakers, who looked like they were imploding during the Oklahoma City series, righted the ship in Game 5 and never looked back. I watched every minute of the first three Utah games; the Jazz never played badly and never stopped trying. They just weren't as good.
The question, as always: Will Kobe do the right thing next round (pounding the ball inside, controlling the flow, picking his spots and taking advantage of the Lakers' obvious size advantages against Phoenix) or will he do the have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too routine (pounding it inside one game, then jacking up 29 shots the next game just to prove he can score on Jared Dudley and Grant Hill)? As I wrote last week, he's the most competitive guy in the league, but he also wants to be the hero, and sometimes, you can't be both. If he tries to be a hero against Phoenix, the Suns have a real chance. Don't think they don't know this.
(Important note: After much deliberation, I decided not to give Artest a Round 2 Award for his half-assed attempt to cause trouble by making passive-aggressive tweets about Phil Jackson's coaching before Game 3 in an apparent attempt to either [A] get attention, or [B] come up with a plot for that week's taping of his reality show. Ron-Ron, you once caused a melee by charging in the stands in Detroit. You once played in a playground game in which someone was killed with a broken table leg. Don't go out like this. Even Sasha Vujacic thought those tweets made you look like a pansy. You're the Tru Warier! If you're gonna start trouble, start trouble! You're gonna let Phil Jackson laugh you off like that???? Like you're some sort of circus oddity? And what's wrong with you shooting 3s? You're a great 3-point shooter! Didn't they see how valuable you were when you locked down Durant in Round 1? Why don't they appreciate you more? Why don't they want you to fit in? Fight for your respect! Be a man! You're the Tru Warier!)
THE RICKY MARTIN AWARD FOR "WORST-KEPT SECRET"
To Doc Rivers I mean, you have a better chance of seeing Doc Martens coach next year's Celtics team. It's the smart move -- jump ship before next year's more-than-possible "we're way too old and things have gone to crap" season, get a big TV contract, watch his son (a top high school senior) play hoops next year and help him with the recruiting process, and best of all, get paid during the 2010-11 lockout. I can't wait until he signs with ABC/ESPN, then we finally bury the hatchet on the most dramatic BS Report yet. Or I e-mail asking him to come on and he tells me to eff off. Either way, it's gonna be all kinds of awesome.
(By the way, I didn't believe the second half of that Artest paragraph -- I was just hoping one of his friends saw it, copied it and sent it to him. You never know. Anything to mess up the Lakers.)
THE PARISH-DECKING-LAIMBEER AWARD FOR "WORST NON-CALL"
To Joey Crawford, Dick Bavetta and Greg Willard for missing Wes Matthews pull down Derek Fisher on the biggest inbounds pass of Game 3, creating a Lakers turnover and giving Utah (down one) a chance to pull out a miracle victory. That was such an egregious screw-up that my initial feeling about Utah's final play -- Deron Williams launching a 23-footer instead of taking it hard to the basket (always my preference if you have the right player because he might get fouled) -- changed when a friend pointed out that Williams never, ever, ever, EVER would have gotten a favorable whistle after that botched no-call. Good point.
(Random strategy note: Why would Jackson have Artest throw that inbounds pass over Luke Walton? Would you trust Artest to pass you a hot plate of sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving, much less the biggest pass of a playoff game??? Plus, Walton was put on the planet for two reasons: to throw game-clinching inbounds passes, and to enrage every male between the ages of 17 and 45 who can't believe their girlfriend or wife just said the words, "I like Luke Walton, I think he's hot." That's really it. I don't get it.)
THE CHARLIE SHEEN AWARD FOR "WORST PUSH FOR A NEW MEGA-CONTRACT"
Put it this way, Joe Johnson: Knicks fans aren't exactly going to be pouring champagne on each other because their team just signed the 29-year-old alpha dog of the 2009-10 Atlanta Hawks -- a team that was nearly embarrassed by the depleted Bucks, got taken to the woodshed by Orlando (four blowout losses by a playoff-record 101 points) and quit on their coach Bud Kilmer-style multiple times -- on the heels of a three-year, 28-game playoff run in which you averaged an 18-5-4 and shot 41 percent from the field. You cannot win a title if Joe Johnson is one of the two guys making max money on your salary cap unless the other guy is named "LeBron." Desperate NBA teams with money to burn this summer, consider yourselves warned.
THE SPENCER PRATT AWARD FOR "BIGGEST ENIGMA"
Paul Pierce has played so poorly (11.8 PPG, 32 percent FG), looked so lethargic and had such a lousy expression on his face during the Celts-Cavs series that
A. I tweeted that Pierce should start telling people he's battling Lyme disease or pneumonia, even if it's not true.
B. My father -- the same man who calls Tony Allen "Trick or Treat Tony," blames six full years of Tony exposure for possibly shortening his life, and joked after Tony had a big game in the Miami series, "I hope this doesn't mean we re-sign him" -- texted me after Game 4 to say, "We need to start Tony and bring Pierce off the bench."
C. I texted my dad back saying, "I agree."
D. ESPN Boston ran a story with the headline: "Paul Pierce: 'There's Nothing Wrong With Me.'" By the way, if it's a news story because there's nothing wrong with you, odds are you're not doing so hot.
THE MARK TWAIN/HALLEY'S COMET AWARD FOR "STRANGEST COINCIDENCE"
On the same night I attended my first Orlando Magic home game, my least favorite NBA player (Vince Carter) randomly decided to try in the second half and annihilated Atlanta. This was old-school Vince: cuffing one-handed rebounds over the rim, exploding through traffic for dunks, playing some (gasp) intense defense, even swishing 25-footers and skipping the other way with a front-running scowl. I immediately tweeted, "Should 'Vince Carter is trying' get a BREAKING NEWS spot on the ESPN ticker? I can't decide." In retrospect, yes. The world needs to know when Vince Carter tries.
The bad news for the other playoff teams? Nobody will beat the 2010 Magic in a seven-game series if Vince plays like that four times.
The good news for the other playoff teams? He's still Vince Carter. A real playoff team (namely, Los Angeles or Cleveland) will notice him gaining confidence like that, then just clobber him the next time he drives to the basket. That's the book on Vince: Knock him down once and he'll roll around on the floor for a few seconds, get up grimacing and never be the same. Hey, Atlanta? You know your backup center with the giant noggin and bacne? Clumsy, rugged, a little hot-tempered? Pachulia? Um, I'm pretty sure God made him a basketball player so he could someday clothesline Vince Carter in a playoff series. It's the best possible explanation. You should have told Zaza to knock Vince's ass down. Assuming you wanted to compete. And actually
THE BIZARRO DIDO AWARD FOR "MOST PREMATURE WHITE FLAG"
Check out these Atlanta quotes between Game 2 and Game 3. I only made two of the four up.
Jamal Crawford: "[The Magic] are as good as anybody out there. I think they're built for a championship."
Josh Smith: "Orlando is really, really good, which sucks for us because we ran out of ways to quit on Mike Woodson about eight weeks ago. We can't escape this series with our dignity, but at least we can leave with our health."
Joe Johnson: "You almost have to play a perfect game to beat them. They can beat you both ways: inside and out. It's tough, man. When you got that combination, it's tough to beat."
Mike Bibby: "I'd have some thoughts, but I died two years ago."
(Important note: I read those Crawford/Johnson quotes on Saturday's plane and thought, "Wow, those guys are D-U-N." They lost by 30 a few hours later.)
THE JOHN TERRY/WAYNE BRIDGE AWARD FOR "MOST UNCOMFORTABLY BITTER SUBPLOT"
To Jazz fans for their continuing enmity toward Derek Fisher, who asked for his release from Utah three summers ago so he could play in an NBA city that had a hospital with an advanced eye surgery wing for his cancer-stricken daughter. He signed with the Lakers who knocked Utah out of the playoffs in 2008, '09, and now '10. Jazz fans take this personally -- even booing him during games -- and conveniently forget that Utah was happy to let Fisher go in 2007 (not only was he overpaid as a backup, but it needed the cap relief for Deron Williams' extension) and wasn't worried about the Lakers contending at the time (since they finished 42-40 and seemed headed for a Kobe trade). A few months later, Chris Wallace gift-wrapped Pau Gasol to Los Angeles and everything changed. Not Fisher's fault. I am all for booing Lakers players and fostering random vendettas against them, but not like this.
See, here's what you get when you boo Fisher, Utah fans
1. Bad karma. Goes without saying.
2. You just look stupid. Like you have no idea what actually happened. Fisher didn't betray you by jumping to a conference rival. The Lakers were floundering at the time.
3. You bristle every time a media member calls you the most (fill in one: bitter/angry/hostile/vicious) fans in the NBA. This illogical Fisher vendetta helps you on this front how?
My advice as a neutral party: Let the Fisher thing go. It's creepy and ill-conceived.
THE TIM DONAGHY AWARD FOR "BEST REFEREE-RELATED INSULT"
With the Celtics getting killed in garbage time of Game 3, Zach Zarba made a bad call against Boston (not the first one), followed by a bitter fan behind the Celtics bench screaming at him, "That's enough, you already won your bet!" Hey now.
THE CARLA IN "VISION QUEST" AWARD FOR "MOST INSPIRATIONAL APPEARANCE AT A BIG GAME"
To Jay-Z, who brought Beyonce to Boston for Game 3, sat courtside and pushed LeBron to dizzying heights. Actually, after three days of national grief about his aching elbow (and his urgency, and his ability to play in pain, and his no-show in Game 2, and his "will to win"), LeBron was probably unleashing a virtuoso evisceration performance on the Celtics anyway. But Jay-Z's presence sealed the deal. LeBron didn't even need to symbolically brush dirt off his shoulders to bang the point home.
Every time I see LeBron in person, I pick up something new. This time around, I noticed something subtle: When he's in fifth gear and full-fledged attack mode, in the arena it feels like he's playing on a lopsided court that's tilted downhill. We hear the phrase "downhill runner" in football; LeBron is a "downhill dribbler." Can't remember ever seeing that before. The other thing I learned: Never bet against LeBron James if he's pissed off and Jay-Z happens to be in the house. Add that one to the gambling manifesto. Of course, Jay skipped Game 4 and really, so did LeBron to some degree. But you know who didn't?
THE MAGIC JOHNSON AWARD FOR "BOX-SCORE LINES THAT HAVE NO RESEMBLANCE TO ANYTHING ELSE CURRENTLY HAPPENING IN THE LEAGUE"
To Rajon Rondo, whose series-saving Game 4 against Cleveland (29 points, 18 rebounds, 13 assists, total control over the game) was a pantheon-level Celtics performance and had little in common with anything we've ever seen. Keep in mind
• Since the 1986-87 season, only eight guards have grabbed 18-plus rebounds in ANY game (regular season or playoffs). Michael Jordan did it three times (once in the playoffs); Jason Kidd did it only once.
• Larry Bird had 69 triple-doubles but never a playoff game that looked quite like a 29-18-13. The closest: 24-17-10 (1981, Chicago), 19-16-13 (1986, Milwaukee), 25-15-11 (1986, Houston), 18-16-11 (1987, Milwaukee) and 24-18-10 (1990, New York).
• Only Oscar Robertson (1962: 32-19-13) and Wilt Chamberlain (1967: 29-36-13) had at least a 29-18-13 in a playoff game before, and in the past 40 years, only LeBron (2007: 27-13-13) and Magic (1986: 29-15-14) had at least a 25-13-13. So, um yeah.
• If you read my basketball book, you might remember how I created a 42 Club for playoff performers who averaged 42-plus for points, rebounds and assists combined for an entire postseason (12-game minimum). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Rondo also joined Wilt in the 60 Club for players who submitted a 60 (points, rebounds, plus assists) in one playoff game without scoring 30 points in that game. Wilt did it three times, all in 1967: 29-36-13, 24-32-13 and 16-30-19.
• For the playoffs, Rondo is averaging 17.9 PPG, 11.4 APG, 7.1 RPG and 1.9 steals. According to ESPN ace researcher Alok Pattani, only Magic Johnson ever averaged a 16-11-6-2 in the playoffs, and he did it twice: 1983 (17.9, 12.8, 8.5, 2.3) and 1984 (18.2, 13.5, 6.6, 2.0).
• We just compared Rondo to Magic, Wilt, Bird, Oscar and Jordan legitimately. Kind of insane when you remember I was writing about him in "Rajon The Late Bloomer" terms just two springs ago. I continue to think we should dump "The Big Three" nickname and just start calling Rondo "The Big One."
THE MARK CUBAN AWARD FOR "BEST DECISION TO MAKE A MOVE BEFORE THE MARKET CHANGED"
To the Celtics for locking up Rondo to a five-year, $55 million extension in November. He's already underpaid and it hasn't even kicked in yet: If Rondo were available on July 1, he'd be the third-biggest free-agent target behind LeBron and Dwyane Wade (and a lock for a max deal). By the way, would you rather have Rondo at $30 million total for the 2011-12-13 seasons or Chris Paul/Deron Williams at $49 million? It's a valid question. All right, I'll stop talking about Rondo before my jinx powers kick in and he blows out every ligament in his body.
THE CHARLES SMITH AWARD FOR "BEST WAY TO BUM OUT A KNICKS FAN IN LESS THAN THREE SECONDS"
2006 draft: Renaldo Balkman (No. 20); Rajon Rondo (No. 21).
2010 draft: Jordan Hill (No. 8); Brandon Jennings (No. 10).
THE SQUAD 66 AWARD FOR "BEST CROWD-RELATED IDEA THAT COULD POTENTIALLY CHANGE THE WAY WE WATCH GAMES"
When LeBron shot his first set of free throws during Game 3 of the Boston series, I was disappointed that the Boston crowd didn't chant either "You're a fa-ker! You're a fa-ker!" (to tweak him about his injured elbow) or "You're gonna leave! You're gonna leave!" That's when I realized something: Thanks to Twitter, we could mobilize crowd chants almost to the minute during playoff games.
For instance, let's say someone created a Twitter account called @CelticsChants (just for fun, I did it) and became the go-to chanting coordinator during games. Before Game 3, I post the tweet, "Chant for first LeBron FTs: 'You're a fa-ker! You're a fa-ker!'" Then, during garbage time, I post another one: "If LBJ goes to line again, chant, 'You're gonna leave! You're gonna leave!'" Even if 500 people at the game were following that account, wouldn't that be enough fans to get those chants rolling so everyone in the stadium joined in? Just for fun, I'm trying this for Game 6 in Boston: www.twitter.com/celticschants.
THE GEORGE LOPEZ'S LATE NIGHT SHOW FOLLOWING CONAN O'BRIEN'S LATE NIGHT SHOW AWARD FOR "MOST LAUGHABLY UNLIKELY SCENARIO THAT MIGHT ACTUALLY HAPPEN
"The Suns! The Magic! It's the 2010 NBA Finals on ABC!"
THE SUE ELLEN MISCHKE AWARD FOR "BIGGEST INFERIORITY COMPLEX"
To the Magic fans, who somehow took that last award personally. Whaddya mean it was laughably unlikely??? We're killing everybody! We whupped Cleveland in five games last year! We made the Finals last year! We have one of the best five players in the league! We have the best inside/outside game! We have the deepest team! We have a healthy Jameer, which we didn't have last year! WHY THE HELL IS THIS SO LAUGHABLY UNLIKELY????
Well, the odds were something like 40-1 for a Suns-Magic Finals heading into the playoffs. That's one reason. But the Magic fans are right -- it shouldn't have taken an 8-0 romp through the first two rounds to make some people take the Magic seriously. Still, it's hard for me to imagine them winning the actual championship for the following reasons (not counting Vince Carter and their arena, as mentioned earlier):
1. Their best player, Dwight Howard, cannot push a grocery cart through an aisle or walk across the street on a crosswalk without bowling over three people.
2. Their key guy for defending Kobe Bryant (Matt Barnes) had a crucial dinner scene in "Basketball Wives" two weekends ago.
3. Before Game 2, the Magic handed out "Karate Kid II"-type noisemakers, which the fans proceeded to bang for three straight hours (and left me feeling like I had a mild brain tumor afterward).
4. There are enough similarities between the 2002 Kings and 2010 Magic that someone could get a 1,200-word column out of it. Some definite "even though they had the best team on paper, they couldn't pull off four wins against an inferior big-market team, partly because nobody stepped up when it mattered, and partly because the league didn't want them to win" potential. I'm just sayin'.
5. Now that Tiger Woods is in seclusion, their No. 1 celebrity fan is this guy.
THE SLEEPY FLOYD AWARD FOR "MOST IMPROBABLE/MEMORABLE/ENJOYABLE PLAYOFF EXPLOSION"
LeBron has a season pass for "virtuoso evisceration" mode and uses it whenever he wants. Goran Dragic bought a one-day pass, like signing up for one day of Internet service in a hotel room. He chose to use it against the Spurs on Friday night. It was exactly the kind of fluke curveball that I had mentioned in Thursday's column; when you're dumping serious baggage (like Phoenix's mental block with the Spurs), it can only happen in the goofiest of ways. A backup point guard turning into a fireball, scoring 26 points in the last 14 minutes of a playoff game, and driving a stake into the Duncan Era? I think that qualifies.
Dragic's emergence as a reliable backup (and, occasionally, a streaky scorer) for Steve Nash symbolizes the Bizarro GM Success Run of Steve Kerr to a tee. Last season, everyone thought Dragic (a hopelessly overmatched second-round pick that Phoenix overpaid to lure him from Europe) was just another crappy Kerr move. Not anymore. He's like a crazy lefty hybrid of Beno Udrih (the point guard gene), Sarunas Marciulionis (the driving-hard-to-the-hoop gene) and Nick Van Exel (the pull-up, off-balance 3 gene).
Short-term, he saves Nash's legs and swings games. Long-term, they finally have a backup plan for when Nash retires to become player-owner of his Vancouver MLS team. Historically, now and forever, we will always have The Dragic Game. (Who could have ever guessed that one?) And for anyone who's a sucker for chemistry trumping talent -- you know, like me, the guy who devoted the first chapter of his basketball book to this phenomenon -- you had to love seeing the starters euphorically cheering on Dragic down the stretch, or everyone happily mobbing him after the game, or his GM hugging him in the tunnel like they were filming the end of a sports movie. One of my friends e-mailed me that night that I was a full-fledged sucker for the 2010 Phoenix Suns. Guilty as charged.
THE WHATEVER-THE-HELL-U2'S-LAST-ALBUM-WAS-CALLED AWARD FOR "MOST ABRUPT END TO A PHENOMENAL RUN"
To the Duncan-era Spurs: Four titles, 13 straight 50-win seasons (I'm including the stupid lockout season) and a boatload of fantastic memories. OK, not really. But we got to watch Duncan (the best power forward ever), Ginobili (the best international guard ever if you're not counting Nash, and you shouldn't, since Canada isn't really "international"), Parker (who perfected the celebrity relationship), Popovich (the best coach of the past 15 years), and two really fun rivalries (Spurs-Suns, Spurs-Mavs). Look, you can't stay on top for more than a decade without getting a top-three lottery pick or having Chris Wallace trade you a top-three lottery pick. That's just the way this league works. So hold your head up high, Spurs. Fantastic run. When players are bawling in their locker room because they finally beat you (like Nash did after Game 4), you know you accomplished something great. And you did.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for ESPN.com and the author of the recent New York Times best-seller "The Book of Basketball." For every Simmons column and podcast, check out Sports Guy's World. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sportsguy33.
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