Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Updated: March 12, 2:53 PM ET
THE SPORTS GUY
By Bill Simmons
When I jokingly announced my "campaign" to become the next Bucks GM on ESPN.com, something strange happened: Dozens of e-mails poured in from disgruntled fans pledging support.
Maybe I won them over by describing their plight as "a cross between indifference and hell," or by pointing out that "You couldn't do worse!" Maybe they were inspired by my Obama-like rhetoric ("Vote Simmons in 2008! Yes We Can!") or because I like Milwaukee and have always wanted to live there. These poor Bucks fans were like castaways drawing an SOS in the sand: In their beaten-down minds, a sports columnist who fancies himself the "Picasso of the ESPN.com Trade Machine" was their most appealing alternative in years.
Stephen in Madison put it simply: "Don't toy with us; we need you." Bill in Madison very candidly admitted, "Maybe I'm drunk, but I'm voting Simmons for GM." Lane in Milwaukee pulled a Renée Zellweger: "You had me at 'I'd like to officially apply for Larry Harris' job.' " Jeff in Madison explained, "I've lived here my whole life and never cared about the Bucks. That will change if you become the GM." Dale in Milwaukee joked, "The last media guy to get a GM job in the Midwest was Matt Millen. What's the worst that could happen?"
The e-mails kept coming. Nick in Appleton offered to get a petition going before adding, "We need someone with the passion and energy to make basketball in Milwaukee relevant again." Nate in Milwaukee decided, "If you were the GM, I might actually plunk down cash to go see them." Jordan in Milwaukee said, "Your enthusiasm about becoming our GM has been the only thing to get me excited about this team in the past six seasons." Alex in Waukesha backed my candidacy in a letter to Milwaukee owner Herb Kohl, then told me, "He's got my home address, phone number and e-mail—I'm ready to hear from him!"
But my favorite post came from Cam in Watertown, who punctuated an emotional endorsement with, "Your family can even room for awhile in my dorm until you get settled." Not only would the Bucks have a new GM, America would have a favorite new reality show: Cam's Dorm Room.
Now, here's where you say, "Come on, a sportswriter couldn't really take over an NBA team." And this is where I answer: "Au contraire!" You don't need to be a former player to run a team, and run it well. Ever hear of Bryan Colangelo, the 2005 and 2007 Executive of the Year? He never played a minute in the NBA. Neither did Houston's Daryl Morey (who stole Luis Scola from the Spurs), Seattle's Sam Presti (who turned a trade exception into three first-round picks) or Memphis' Chris Wallace (who gave away Pau Gasol & oops, forget I mentioned him). For every Jerry West, there have been five McHales and Isiahs. Only recently, Mark Cuban told Memphis' Commercial Appeal, "One of the biggest misnomers in sports is that you just get a basketball person and let him run it. There's no other business in America that would get a salesperson to run it just because he was the best salesperson."
Running an NBA team comes down to two things: patience and common sense. For instance, you can't destroy your cap space by overpaying role players. That's exactly what the Bucks did, spending more than $100 million on Bobby Simmons, Charlie Bell and Dan Gadzuric. And you can't build for the present and the future at the same time. The Bucks did that, too, when they drafted Yi Jianlian last summer. Trying to juggle two agendas at once—contending and rebuilding—is, more than anything else, why the team is floundering now.
I lead the league in patience and common sense. I watch as much hoops as anyone. I won't get suckered by tremendous upside potential, bad character guys, contract runs, lethargic big men or anyone with the same sour puss that Bunk had when McNulty started to rig the homeless murders on The Wire. I care about chemistry and body language as much as talent; you'd never see me roll the dice with the likes of Zach Randolph or Vince Carter, and you'd never see me overpay the likes of Mo Williams just because he was putting up big fantasy numbers on a bad team.
I am, on the other hand, partial to rookies who played for winning programs, produced in college or do one thing exceedingly well (say, rebounding or long-range shooting). I wouldn't care if a prospect looked great in a workout; isn't a 30-game college season the only workout anyone needs to see? I wouldn't care if someone was two inches too short or 15 pounds too heavy, just that he was good. Kevin Love isn't even a lottery lock these days, but so what if he can't run or jump? He's a surreal cross between Wes Unseld and Bill Laimbeer. Why pass on him for some project who looks good posting up a chair?
As for my other credentials, in 2005 I wrote that the Bucks should take Chris Paul instead of Andrew Bogut. In 2006, I won the NBA Cares Celebrity Fantasy League. In 2007, my preseason prediction (San Antonio over Cleveland in the Finals) came to pass. This year, I mastered the Trade Machine to the degree that it sent me an automated e-mail begging, "Leave me alone, I'm worn out."
Know this: I would never stop badgering other GMs with trade offers. Plus, I'd win the respect of my players by kicking their butts in Madden and NBA Live on road trips. Oh, and I'd be smart enough to fire Larry Krysttsngswgwgtiak and hire Sam Cassell as a player-coach, then get Senator Kohl to overturn the unconstitutional "No player-coaches" rule in Congress. Sam would rejuvenate the players and the city even as I saved money on a 12th man.
More important still, I'm a true fan. Know what that means, people of Milwaukee? No more JumboTron music blaring during games. Cheerleaders who are the perfect blend of "wholesome" and "possibly slutty after three drinks." One free kielbasa and Miller Lite at the next game every time we get blown out by double figures at home. A suggestion box to which you can e-mail trade ideas or ways to frame Gadzuric for a crime to get him off our cap. Exciting interviews in which I say things I should never say because I just can't help myself. Maybe even—wait for it—an annual preseason game outdoors in Lambeau. (Admit it, you just pulled a Dr. Evil, pressing a finger against your mouth and saying, "Hmmm.")
Finally, unlike nearly every other GM, I wouldn't be afraid to take chances because I could always go back to ESPN if I got canned. Don't kid yourself: TNT's security blanket enabled Steve Kerr to take a chance on Shaq. Throw in my inevitable behind-the-scenes book about being an NBA GM, and really, there's no way you can lose. I'll run the Bucks; you'll live vicariously through me. And if I have to gain 40 pounds to fit in, so be it. I'll start eating sausages and drinking dark beer right now.
Besides, do you really think someone can save the Bucks in any conventional way? Puh-leeeze. It's time for a change, Milwaukee. Your hoops team hasn't mattered in 20 years. You haven't cared this entire decade. You need a fresh voice. You need passion. You need me. So vote Simmons in 2008.
Yes We Can!
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