Statistics are fun, and some people make their living off of them. "Stat guys" like Elliot Kalb and John Hollinger like to break the game of basketball down into its component ones and zeroes. But this isn't The Matrix; this is a sport. Statistics are interesting, often revealing, and can help you recognize trends that might otherwise go unnoticed.

bonerBut there is a human element involved that cannot be quantified, nor measured in any way.
Bill Russell is the perfect example. He didn't dominate the stat sheet (except in rebounding), but he did dominate the league, winning 11 championships in his 13 NBA seasons. But no one really feels comfortable ranking him as the best player ever. Guys like Michael Jordan, Shaq, and Wilt Chamberlain are more popular choices, essentially because they both won championships and dominated statistically. By explaining that they won while putting up legendary (and in some cases unreachable) numbers, it is easier to justify their all-time ranking. But it takes all three of these men together to equal Russell's championships, the ultimate statisitic.

It's too easy to rely on numbers. The general consensus is that, the deeper we dig, the more detailed the analysis, the closer we can come to The Truth. Hollinger, and sites like, have developed a mind-numbing array of ways to measure basketball players and the game itself. True Shooting Percentages, Player Efficiency Ratings, "Hands" Ratings, on and on...these things are supposed to provide us, the fans, with a pure and unbiased view of what really happens on the basketball court.

While I find it interesting to find out what percentage of Wang Zhi-zhi's shots were blocked during the 2003-04 season, I'm not sure it's a true indicator of Wang's worth -- or lack thereof -- as a basketball player. Don't you get the feeling that we're starting to overthink things just a little? Take Hollinger's latest article, Failure To Stop. According to him, that team is this year's version of the
Seattle Supersonics. He uses something called the Defensive Efficiency Ranking to prove that Seattle is the worst ever, and he even gives us the top five worst ever teams.

The thing is, a few months ago we posted an article called
Worst Defensive Team Ever (that's right John; we did it first). We didn't use anything as convoluted as a DER to prove our points. We just used bottom line numbers...stats that are just as compelling as Hollingers -- and a hell of a lot easier to related to.

Consequently, I sent the following e-mail message to Hollinger in response to his article:

I understand that you're a statistical wizard. I'm sure the Defensive Efficiency Rating is a powerful and fairly accurate formula. However, it must contain some sort of flaw, considering the true "Worst Defensive Team Ever" wasn't even mentioned in your article.

I'm talking about the 1990-91 Denver Nuggets. They surrendered 130.8 points per game, which is 34 points more than the best defensive team that season (Detroit allowed only 96.8 ppg) and 24.4 points more than the league average of 106.4 ppg. By comparison, the Sonics (106.3 ppg) allow an average of 17.7 points more than the best defensive team in the league, San Antonio (88.6). Their differential versus the league average is even better.

Furthermore, the '91 Nuggets let their opponents shoot 51.2 percent, while the Sonics' opponents are shooting 48.9 this year. The Nuggets never held a single opponent under 100 points all season. They held opponents under 110 points only four times! They allowed the opposition to score 130 points or more a mind-boggling 37 times...almost half the season! And this team doesn't even warrant a mention in your article about the worst defensive teams? Great googly moogly.
I'll be interested to see whether he responds, and what he'll have to say.
garbage time (gar'-bij tym) noun. The time remaining in a basketball game when the contest has been effectively decided by a lopsided score, the coaches empty their respective benches, and the level of play drops to unwatchable levels.

Usage example: The Suns just annihilated the Pacers last night. It was garbage time by the start of the second half.

garbage time
Yep. That just about sums it up.
Maybe I'm just cynical. It's bad enough that, despite all the clutch game-saving heroics Reggie Miller has treated us to, he will forever live with the seemingly unforgivable label of not winning a championship. But now, in true Pacers fashion, Reggie's jersey retirement ceremony had to have plenty of rat feces in it.

Jermaine O'Neal redefines the meaning of "false hope" and sits out again after a promising return, officially putting a dagger in Almost Fan's fantasy season.

The Pacers are down 10 immediately and never looked forward.

Jamaal Tinsley rolls his ankle and needs ice.

Stephen Jackson rolls his ankle and never returns.

Where the hell is Larry Bird?

The Governor and Mayor come out to congratulate Reggie and were almost booed out of the building.

Goddamn Rik Smits, one of Reggie's favorite teammates and tag-team partner for 12 seasons (his entire career) is nowhere to be found during the ceremony, although players like Eddie Johnson and Sam Perkins, who were only in Indiana for a cup of coffee, were there with bells on.

Scot Pollard heads to the locker room with some random ailment and never returns.

The stands are half-empty by the end of the 3rd quarter.

The broadcast ends, and I am not kidding, with a shot of Reggie wondering around confused and alone in an empty skybox.

I could only think of one way to end this...
There sure is a lot of poop flying around the league right now, including, but most certainly not limited to, the following:

Indiana Pacers (35-35) solidified their standing as a crappy team by letting the Atlanta Hawks (22-48) sweep the season series. To put this in perspective, the Hawks have four wins against the Pacers...and 18 wins against the rest of the league. Or, for you mathmatists out there, almost 20 percent of the Hawks' wins have come courtesy of Indiana.

reggieAmid the wreck and ruin of a once promising season, the Pacers are going to retire the legendary Reggie Miller's jersey number tonight at halftime. I predict Phoenix will totally ruin the festivities by destroying the Pacers. God I miss you, Reggie.

John Paxson is officially sick of Tim Thomas' shit. Thomas claims that, had the Bulls (31-40) let him play, the team would have "won 20 more games to get to the playoffs." If you prorate those 20 wins against the Bulls current record, that would put them at 48-23, which would tie them (with Miami) for the fifth best record in the league. Just by adding Tim Thomas. Said Paxson, "'If he thinks we would have won 20 more games with him, then he's delusional." I'm gonna have to side with Pax on this one.

Bulls shoots-a-lot guard Ben Gordon hates Duke. Not Duke players, just Duke. He won't say why. He also won't drive to the cup. C'mon Ben, stop shootin' so many damn jumpers.

After three years of backbreaking effort and endless toil, Lebron James is finally, at long last, going to the playoffs. Yippee. Somewhere out there, Craig Ehlo is very excited.

Pat Riley is whining again.

Maurice Cheeks thinks this year's Detroit Pistons (57-14) are a little like his 1982-83 76ers, a team that won 65 games and steamrolled to the championship, going through the playoffs at a "fo, fie, fo" clip. He then likened the current Sixer team (32-38) to the 1972-73 squad.

Dallas Mavericks (54-18), for all the success they've had this season, continue to lose tough games against above-average teams.

The Portland Trailblazers (20-50) suck, and Joel Przybilla isn't happy about it. In fact, he may not re-sign with the team because he thinks some of the other Blazers have stopped trying. I have to disagree there, Joel. They never started trying. Anyway, you'll be missed in Portland, I'm sure. How will the ever replace your 4 points and 5 rebounds per game?

Our buddies over at
The Association aren't the only ones who have a hate thing for Bruce Bowen. Apparently, Phil Jackson (a.k.a. "The Zing Master") thinks that the frisky Bowen plays the game like...Edward Scissorhands. Of course, this is the same guy who once made a home movie about how Rick Adelman is like Adolph Hitler. But sarcasm aside, I think this opens up a whole new range of endorsement possibilities for Bowen. I, for one, would love to own a Bruce Scissorhands action figure.

Just try to tell me you wouldn't buy this.
boo birds (boo burds) noun. Fans who boo the home team when the team loses or is playing badly.

Usage example: The boo birds come out early in New York.

Word Trivia: Few things are as demoralizing to a professional basketball player as getting jeered by the home crowd. These men are used to being showered with money and adulation, so it can be somewhat of a shock when they find out that the fans' unconditional love is actually kind of conditional. Cities like New York and Philidelphia are notorious for booing the home team, usually early and often, when things don't go their way. Seriously,
Knick fans will boo after their team surrenders a 2-0 run. But the boo birds come out everywhere. Tracy McGrady got his share of catcalls when he played for Orlando, and it made him "sick to my freaking stomach." Even Lebron James has felt the heat this season, getting booed in Cleveland during a particularly horrific shooting night (he was 0-for-8 in the second half and shot only 8-for-19 from the line for the game). Oh well. Now he knows how Stephon Marbury feels every single day of his life.

boo birds
Kind of makes you want to follow them to their
job and boo them when they make a mistake.
View other results (tags: NCAA, Final Four, tournament, college basketball, worst team, March Misery)

Idaho def. Northern Colorado 60-42: Idaho shot an unusual 50% and flushed Northern Colorado into the Futile Four, despite NCO's Michael Gordy's 11 point outburst. The Vandals season comes to a merciful end, but have the benefit of 11 returning players next season. You can't ask for that level of team chemistry. Tanoris Shepard, graduating senior and communications major, is thankfully realistic about this future in basketball. Why didn't someone have this same conversation with Ed O'Bannon? Having escaped the wrath of the Golden Turd, the Vandals can get back to important stuff, like losing to Boise State in every conceivable fashion over and over again.

Ed O'Bannon, customer service department, circa 1998

Texas Christian def. Prairie State A&M 57-43: I was disappointed that my Futile Four pick, TCU, actually showed up and didn't suck. When the Horned Frogs shot a promising 27% and squeezed off 37 points in a 1st round loss against Texas State, I thought they were a lock. But, in a textbook case of one-downsmanship, TCU shot 37% against the Panthers and won in a blowout. TCU Coach Neil Dougherty was surprised by his non-firing at the end of the season and admits he's a "horrible loser". The real problem is that his team is quite good at it. Teams lick the Frogs constantly and don't even get a buzz.

St. Francis def. Stony Brook 47-43: St. Francis shot 28% for the game and won, led by JR Enright's 12 point explosion. I must admit, this is D1 ball at it's absolute worst. The box scores resemble something from a YMCA scrimmage or maybe a girl's middle school game. I have legit respect for St. Francis, if only because they're stubborn enough to not change their name, despite there being 15 other unaffiliated St. Francis Universities in this country. Until this year's 4-24 stinker, the Red Flash always had a decent basketball program, despite being smaller than most junior colleges. Stony Brook just doesn't have an excuse at this point.

Jacksonville def. Morgan State 55-41: The Dolphins came to life and, as a result, Morgan State got their asses handed to them. The Golden Bears were held to 29% shooting, and had 22 turnovers on 16 field goals. You know Jacksonville had a long season when they summarize it with statements like "the program is headed in the right direction academically". With one win on the season, Jacksonville was one of the favorites to lose it all, further proof that bad teams find ways to disappoint everyone to a certain extent. And plus the Dolphin's mascot is a real goddamn dolphin. The mental image of a bunch of college freshmen carting around a pitiful sea creature from town to town in a giant Dixie cup just to watch some of the worst basketball in the country
is the most depressing thought I've had in at least an hour. Dee Brown shakes his head in disgust and pumps up his expensive Reebok Pumps.

These boxscores are just painful to look at, and I expect it to get worse. I'll post them if anyone asks, but please take a long look at yourself in the mirror before asking.
If you haven't heard about the blubbering spectacle Adam Morrison made of himself after Gonzaga choked one up to UCLA last week, I hope you enjoyed your trip to the Care Bear village. Now that you're back, go check out Adam Morrison's Five Stages of Grief. It's worth it.

Morrison mad
This is the "I'm About To Have Violent
Sex With My Basketball" Stage.
You may have already seen this picture of Darko Milicic "celebrating" with Keyon Dooling. But you have to admit, it's worth seeing again:

Dooling hump
So...this is how they celebrate in Serbia-Montenegro?

The caption for this picture reads as follows: "Orlando Magic's Darko Milicic, left, of Serbia-Montenegro, and Keyon Dooling celebrate after Milicic sank a 3-point shot in the fourth quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers." Why do they feel the need to mention Darko's nationality? How is that relevant? I guess when you publish a picture of two grown men humping one another, especially if the two men are professional athletes, you need to throw in something to kind of explain it away. It's like, "You know, Italians, they kiss each other on the cheek. Serbians, well, they pelvic thrust. It's a cultural thing."

While working on some upcoming Words of the Day, I did a
Google image search for "Bad Basketball Defense." This was one of the results I got:

Butt defense boys
That's fundamental something, but it isn't defense.

I guess I could sort of understand that defensive stance if the guy was guarding the low post, but the offensive player is facing the basket. I admit it would throw my shot off to suddenly feel somebody's manhood jabbing me in the prostate, but I can only hope and pray this new defensive style doesn't catch on.

Of course, women's basketball tries (sometimes successfully, often times not) to mirror the men's game. So it should be no surprise that the same image search also yielded this result:

Butt defense girls
Not exactly my number one girl-on-girl fantasy.

Notice how the defender seems to be waving her arms and making scary noises. I guess she had to add a few things to make up for inability to penetrate the offensive player's anal region. Yet another example of how the women's game is inferior to the men's game: they can't dunk and...they can't dunk.

Okay. This next picture has absolutely nothing to do with the sport of basketball. But, frankly, it's too weird for me not to include:

I don't know if it's art. In fact, I don't know what the hell it is.

In case you're wondering -- and how could you not be?! -- this is a sculpture of Britney Spears giving birth. The sculpture, lovingly crafted and masturbated to by artist Daniel Edwards, is intended to promote "a new take on pro-life." To illustrate this new take, Edwards sculpted the image of Spears naked and pregnant, crouching face-down on a bare-toothed bear rug as the baby's head pokes out of her vagina. (Thankfully, the rear-end isn't pictured.) I apologize if the following words mark me as an unenlightened barbarian, but this thing is downright creepy.

Speaking of creepy, Edwards' three kids -- ages 3, 6, and 8 -- helped him build the first clay model of this monstrosity. According to Edwards, "At first, the kids thought it was kind of gross. Yukky. But then, they got curious." I don't have kids, so I may not be the best source of parental advice and inspiration. But this is the last thing I would ever want my children getting curious about before, you know, the age of 40.

Of course, whenever I find myself in these situations, when I'm caught between horrified disgust and morbid curiosity, I always just ponder: What Would Memo Think (WWMT)?

Memo thumbs up
Mehmet says "thumbs up" to naked statues of birthing women.

Well...Memo approves. And that's good enough for me.
matador defense (mat'-uh-dor' de'-fens) noun. A lackluster, low-effort form of defense in which the defender simply reaches for the ball and then quickly pulls his hand away -- similar to how a matador pulls his cape out of the way of a charging bull -- as the offensive player drives by him for an easy shot at the hoop.

Usage example: Vlade Divac wasn't just the master of the flop, he was also an expert in playing matador defense.

Word History: The term "matador defense" was coined by
Chick Hearn, the Lakers' long-time and legendary play-by-play man. Hearn revolutionized color commentary with his rapid fire, staccato broadcasting style and is credited with creating many of basketball's most well-known and enduring phrases. Some of the most famous Chick-isms include "slam dunk," "air ball," and "no harm, no foul."

matador defense
You didn't think I'd miss the chance to
include a picture of Tito Santana did you?
View other results (tags: NCAA, Final Four, tournament, college basketball, worst team, March Misery)

I just wanted to give a shout out to one of the most underappreciated players in Celtic history: Cedric Maxwell. Before the Basketball Jesus showed up to save Boston, Maxwell led the Celtics in scoring, while shooting nearly 60 percent from the field and grabbing almost 10 rebounds a game. But he willingly stepped aside for Larry, and he did it quietly and without complaint. Only David Robinson ever displayed that level of grace. Although it should be noted that the Admiral ceded control of his team near the end of his career, whereas Maxwell did it while he was still in his prime.

CornbreadDespite playing second fiddle -- and even third or fourth fiddle after Robert Parish and Kevin McHale arrived -- Maxwell carved his own special niche into Celtic lore. He was the Finals MVP during the 1981 championship run. He was the best player in Game 7 of the 1984 NBA Finals, when, after telling the team to jump on his back, he went out and made James Worthy look silly by scoring a game-high 24 points (hitting all 14 of his freethrow attempts) to go along with 8 rebounds and 8 assists. Larry might have been the Finals MVP that year -- Bird averaged 27 points, 14 rebounds, and 7 assists a game for the series -- but the Celtics wouldn't have won the title without Maxwell.

So why don't basketball fans and pseudo-historians properly appreciate -- or even remember -- Maxwell? He was like an All-Star disguised as a role player. His career field goal percentage with the Celtics is 55.9 percent, which ranks first in team history -- higher the Bird,
Havlicek, McHale, Parish, or Russell. The C's may not have gone to him every time, but when they did, he usually produced. And it was Maxwell, not Bird, who usually guarded the toughest opposing frontcourt player, whether it was Doctor J, James Worthy, or Bernard King. Maxwell never shrank away from the challenge. He usually invited it.

And maybe that was part of the problem. Max's mouth tended to get him in trouble. He talked an endless stream of trash to Celtic opponents. Prior to the 1984 Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Knicks, Maxwell vowed to shut down Bernard King, one of the league's top scorers. "That bitch ain't gettin' 40 on me," Max said. He even went so far as to imitate King's distinctive gait, and said, "Ain't no way a guy who walks like this is getting 40 on me." Of course, King scored 43 in Game 4 and 44 in Game 6 as New York pushed Boston to the limit.

Although Max usually backed up his brash words, there were times he talked the talk then took the night off. He once approached Elvin Hayes before a game and predicted a severe ass-kicking...courtesy of Kevin McHale. He also tended to coast through games against weak teams, trying to pick up fouls quickly so he could take a seat on the bench. "I'm not getting injured playing no junior varsity game," Maxwell would tell his teammates. That kind of attitude tended to grate.

Max wrote his own sentence when he got on Red Auerbach's bad side. Cornbread injured his knee during the 1984-85 season, and, according to some, didn't fully commit himself to his rehab (if you go back and watch any of the classic Celtic games from that season, you'll notice Maxwell is a shell of his former self). Then, when Auerback told Cedric he should attend rookie camp to test the knee, Maxwell balked. This infuriated Red, who promptly traded Max to the Clippers for Bill Walton. With Big Bill playing the role of the best backup center in NBA history, the Celtics won 67 games and steamrolled the competition en route to their 16th world championship. And to this day, Walton's contributions during that one season are more well-known and celebrated than anything Maxwell did in his 600-plus games with the team.

Still, Max eventually got his due. After almost 20 years, the Celtics finally retired his number 31, once Auerbach was finally ready to forgive him his transgressions. As Maxwell said, "The father should not have to apologize to the son. And Red is the father."

Anyway, I didn't mean to get all nostalgic here. The point of this post was to explain how Maxwell got the nickname "Cornbread." None of my friends, one of which is a die-hard Celtic fan from Boston, knew the answer. Well, here it is. During his junior year at North Carolina-Charlotte, Maxwell and teammate Melvin Watkins went to see the move Cornbread, Earl and Me, about a 12-year-old who is traumatized over the murder of his friend, a star basketball player. Watkins decided that Maxwell looked like the lead character and soon started calling him "Cornbread." However, Max didn't like it, and so the nickname was quickly dropped. Until NCC made it to the NIT and Maxwell was named the tournament MVP, that is. According to Watkins, "The New York media picked up on [the nickname]." Which is probably a nice way of saying he spilled the beans to a reporter, and, of course, they printed it.

So here's to you, Cornbread. This Celtic fan remembers you.
Watching Isiah Thomas destroy the New York Knicks is like watching a retarded child try to hump a door knob: You don't know whether to laugh or cry, but either way it's still politically incorrect to say anything about it.

But the people at
Jail Isiah feel differently. They don't just want him fired, though. They want him thrust into a cell with large, hairy men who will no doubt make him the prison bitch. After all, it's already a known fact that Isiah likes to kiss other men. The JI folks live their lives according to the following mission statement:
"That's right, jail Isiah Thomas. It's more than a slogan. It's a cause. A mission. A movement. The man is absolutely nuts. In no other part of our society, would we tolerate such wanton destruction of an organization with public stakeholders. Isiah needs to go -- and not just from MSG. He needs to go to JAIL. How many organizations need to die before we put this man behind bars? First the Raptors driven into the ground. Then the CBA -- utterly destroyed. And now, our beloved New York Knickerbockers. No sir -- this can not go on any longer."
Isiah had better watch his back. I think these guy's are serious. They even have a store where you can buy t-shirts promoting the imminent imprisonment of the legendary point guard. And they're even charitible about it: for every product purchased, JI will donate $1 to the YMCA of Greater New York to help develop the savior of the New York Knicks. So go do your

Memo JI
Mehmet Okur recently unveiled his "Jail Isiah" banner.
I think. I don't speak Turkey-ese. Can anyone translate?
double triple double (dub'-ul trip'-ul dub'-ul) noun. A feat in which a basketball player accumulates a number total of at least 20 in any three statistical categories during a single game.

Usage example: Wilt Chamberlain once had a double triple double. Freaking wow.

Word Trivia: Never heard of a double triple double before? It's no wonder, since only one player in NBA history has ever gotten one. And the player is none other than that statistical marvel Wilt Chamberlain. On February 2, 1968, The Stilt had 22 points, 25 rebounds, and 21 assists in a 131-121 Sixer win over the Pistons. The accomplishment isn't as crazy as it may seem. For the season, Wilt led the league in rebounds (23.8), was second in assists (8.6), and fifth in scoring (24.3). Looking back on it, you wonder whether he could have gotten a double triple double any time he wanted to.

Forget the 100 points. The Big Dipper's
double triple double was his greatest feat.
View other results (tags: NCAA, Final Four, tournament, college basketball, worst team, March Misery)

Duquesne def Stony Brook 59-54:
Duquesne, after posting losing records in 19 of the last 20 seasons (!), squeak past the amazingly bad Seawolves. Its tough to contend with a Stony Brook squad that shot 33% and only had 2 players in double figures (
Mitchell Beauford and Tre 'Richie' Cunningham each had 10). But the Duquesne Dukes will still have the satisfaction of being the most dubious Duke in the country, worse than Duke University, Daisy Duke, Duke from GI Joe, The Rappin' Duke, and whoever else you want to name...

Good 'ol Duke: Almost as stiff as Duquesne's frontcourt. Almost.

Morehead State def St Francis (PA) 54-51: The poor Eagles...Kyle Macy resigned as head coach this month, and has officially had enough of your shit. But Morehead State did drop down and get their eagle on against St Francis, and narrowly avoided certain humiliation. St Francis' starters shot a combined 14-47 against a team that lost their season finale by 32 points. Wow...

Centenary def Jacksonville 63-46: Centenary ended the season with a 9-game losing streak, including 5 straight losses at home. But the Gentlemen's Chris Watson caught fire and scored 14 against a Jacksonville squad who shot 29% for the night and apparently, after posting one win on the season, have no concept of basketball whatsoever. Centenary is out and, somewhere, Robert Parish breathes a pot-filled sigh of relief.

Robert Parish analogizes Joe Kleine's contribution to the 80's Celtics

Savannah State def Morgan State 53-48: After seeing both of these teams shoot a combined 31% for the game, be thankful I don't have the power to organize such a tourney in real life. On the bright side, Savannah State was winless in 2005, so two wins in 2006 and losing games by an average of only 26 points (despite the 60 point loss to Oregon) is plenty to be thankful for. Savannah State's Javon Randolph led all scorers with 18 on 7/23 shooting. Randolph, according to the coach, is apparently the Tiger's closest thing to Allen Iverson, like the Vancouver Grizzlies closest thing to David Robinson was Bryant Reeves.

journeyman (jur'-ne-mun) noun. A veteran basketball player who has proven and legitimate worth, yet can never stay with a single team for more than a few years.

Usage example: Jim Jackson is the ultimate NBA journeyman.

Word Trivia: The annals of
NBA history are filled with both legends and flops. But there's also an in-between world filled with proven veterans who can benefit a team for one or two seasons before being disappearing into the ether. Men like Kendall Gill, Luc Longley, Olden Polynice, and Derek Anderson all fell (or have fallen) into that "journyman" category: wiley vets who couldn't put up big numbers but nonetheless provided substantive worth in some specific area (be it defense, rebounding, three-point shooting, or what have you). But for my money, Jim Jackson is the ultimate journeyman. This guy is a former lottery pick (number four overall in the 1992 draft) who used to score over 20 a game (including a career high of 25.7), with career averages of 14.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists...and he recently joined his 13th team in 14 years. Jackson isn't an on-court distraction or a locker room cancer, and he can still put up numbers when he's given minutes, but nobody has kept him for more than two seasons since the Mavs traded him to New Jersey. He was once on the roster of three different teams in one season, and that was when he was still getting around 17 a game!

Jim Jackson: journeyman for hire.
larry_godA few months ago, I exposed former Celtic great Tommy Heinsohn as a jibbering madman. In fact, I even went so far as to suggest that, someday soon, Tommy would probably eat someone alive and then wear their skin to work while singing Barry Manilow's Greatest Hits. He hasn't done that yet, but he came pretty close the other day when he said Paul Pierce is the greatest offensive player in Celtic history.

"Paul Pierce could end up being the best offensive player this team ever had. And I've seen them all. I mean, he's got an inside game, an outside game, a tweener game - everything."
Yeah. Paul certainly has everything...except maybe a "lead my team to the playoffs" game. But I digress. The obvious implication of this statement is that Paul Pierce is, in fact, superior (offensively) to the Basketball Jesus. And Tommy was quick to confirm this implication.

"Oh, Larry Bird was a great player, No one would ever dispute that. But this kid's going to blow by everybody. Even Bird, one-on-one, was not as good as this kid. Sam Jones might have been decent one-on-one. Havlicek was a pretty decent one-on-one player. I just think Paul has a chance to be better than all of them when it comes to offense and the total offensive game."
Despite my intimate knowledge of Tommy's creeping insanity, these comments caught me by surprise. Usually, old-timers like Heinsohn go with the throwback player over the young buck. Maybe Tommy was consciously trying to go against convention, mix things up a little, and give a little credit to the new generation. Who knows? But whatever the case, he ruffled Bird's feathers something fierce. So respondeth Larry Legend:
"Are you basing it on the regular season or the playoffs? I mean, it’s hard to compare guys that have never been to the finals to other players. If you gear yourself to play six months of the year, it's completely different than gearing yourself to play nine months a year. My whole focus was trying to gear myself to play nine months a year."

Ouch. It's going to take Paul's eyebrows a while to grow back after that singing. But I don't think it's an entirely fair statement. If you saw Bird play (as I did), read his various books and autobiographies (as I have), and watched Larry Bird: A Basketball Legend (as I do every night before bed), you'd know that he never held anything back. He didn't pace himself because he was playing nine months versus six. That guy went all out every time he set foot on a basketball court. So this hit was a little below the belt, although he was quick to sing Paul's praises.

"Paul's a hell of a player. He's probably having his best year. Paul's the type of guy who can defend. He's very competitive. He can shoot. He rebounds his position, and that's key. He's one of our best in the league. I ain't taking nothing away from him. The thing is, the playoffs are what make you as a player. I mean, you can sit and talk about players all you want, but until you get in the playoffs and play for the big prize year after year. . . ."

Again with the playoffs thing. I agree that the playoffs are what separate the great players from the legends, but you can't hold Paul completely responsible for the Celtics woes. After all, Larry got to make Kevin McHale and Robert Parish better. Pierce gets to make Wally Sczcerbiak and Brian Scalabrine better. Another thing to remember is that Heinsohn never said Pierce was a better all-around player than Bird, just a better offensive player. Although that's kind of misleading too, since Bird's career numbers are either close (24.3 points to 27.1 points) or better than (49.6 percent shooting and 6.3 assists versus 47.8 and 4.7) Pierces career-best numbers.

Keep in mind also, that Bird once averaged 29.9 points a game (and was only four total points away from averaging 30) on 52.7 percent shooting to go along with almost 7 assists. And that was a season when the Celt's starting five averaged almost 100 points a game. So don't think for a second that Bird couldn't have thrown in 30 to 35 a night. He doesn't.

"You know, if I wanted to score 35 points a game - if I knew I was just going to play in the regular season - I would have been very capable of doing that. But it wasn't me. I had more talent around me than Paul's had, and our whole focus was winning championships."

Okay, Larry. We get it. The Celtics aren't going to the playoffs this year. But the basic premise is correct. Bird could have averaged as many points a game as he wanted. He just wasn't that kind of player, and the Celtics weren't that kind of team. Everyone was involved. Everyone contributed. And Bird's supporting cast was much, much more talented than what Pierce has to work with. What people (and Tommy) need to realize is that the greatness isn't about numbers. Bill Russell averaged 15 points a game and shot 44 percent for his career, yet the numbers that count are 11 championships in 13 years.

As good as Pierce has been this year -- and make no mistake, he's been great -- remember this: he's having a career-best season. You have to look at the broad scheme of things and consider his accomplishments within the perspective of his entire career. He may be more athletic than Bird, his drives to the basket and off-balance jumpers may be more aesthetically pleasing than Bird's awkward lunges to the basket and soft step-back shots, but Pierce never ran, and controlled, the offense of a truly great team the way that Bird did.

View other results (tags: NCAA, Final Four, tournament, college basketball, worst team, March Misery)

Eastern Illinois def Idaho 65-49
: The Panthers' season mercifully ends, losing 9 of their last 11 games during the season, but you'd think a school that has a picture of
Kevin Duckworth hanging up somewhere would be used to disappointment by now. 31% shooting and one player in double figures from Idaho (Tanoris Shepard with 13), an impressively bad first outing...

Central Michigan def Northern Colorado 68-55: Central Michigan's fight song, which was probably instituted this year, ends with "Win or lose, we're proud of you!", sadly sounding like something lifted from a
pee-wee soccer game. The Chippewas soundly thumped Northern Colorado into the next round, despite having nearly as many turnovers (20) as field goals (23). Chief Travels-Too-Much was unavailable for comment.

Texas State def Texas Christian 57-39: I like TCU already. They found a way to shoot 27% against a team that had 3 wins on the year. Their leading scorer,
Nile Murry, ended up with one point. "Skilled big man" Art Pierce shot 1 for 6 with 4 turns in 14 minutes. This is a team on a mission. 7 years later, Texas State is still reeling from the graduation of Jeff Foster.

UC Riverside def Prairie View A&M 54-37: At the beginning of the season, UCR Riverside coach
David Spencer said the scoreboard is going to need a 3rd bulb from all the scoring his squad was going to do this year. But when your 2nd leading scorer nets 10 ppg on 33% shooting on the year, the 2nd bulb wasn't even getting much use. The Highlanders somehow made short work of Prairie View, but are losing 3 seniors this summer. See you next year. (I love this quote: "The official UCR mascot is 'Scotty,' a Highlander tartan-wearing bear, who attempts to look frightening.")

The real fright is in the UCR Rec Center, around Mid-January.

The NCAA Tourney is good fun, I love watching co-workers swindle each other out of money and hold sincere conversations about Shockers and George Mason University.

But the nation's obsession with frivolous tournaments (and the bitterness following a certain alma mater failing to make aforementioned frivolous tourney after being ranked in the preseason) got me thinking...The Final Four determines the best team in college hoops, the NIT tells us who's the ...33rd best (I think), but how about the worst team in college hoops?

That's where Basketbawful comes in.

Using basketball sim software, the schools with the worst records in each region are actually fighting to get out of the tourney; the loser advances one step closer to the Golden Turd. The Sour 16 is right around the corner...WHO YA GOT?!? (view results)

(tags: NCAA, Final Four, tournament, college basketball, worst team, March Misery)

White Chocolate (wit chok'-lut) noun. A Caucasian basketball player who plays a street-rooted style of basketball that is typically associated with African Americans.

Usage example: Did you see that white guy toss a sick no-look pass while spinning through the air? That boy is White Chocolate.

Word Trivia: While
Jason Williams is the most prominent NBA player to be called "White Chocolate," the term is used extensively in pick-up games and rec leagues across the country to describe "white guys who got game." And now that Williams basically walks it up court and just spots up for open jumpers, streetballer Randy Gill is the world's most famous White Chocolate. Randy won Magic Johnson's reality television show Who's Got Game (and a hundred grand) by beating eleven other streetball legends. When he's not breaking ankles on the asphalt, he tours the country as an inspirational speaker, touting a tagline of "Believe To Achieve!" So be sure to book him for your next corporate outing or leadership retreat.

White Chocolate
Remember, they call him White Chocolate
because of his game. Just his game.
verbal flop (vur'-buhl flahp) noun. An exaggerated groan, scream, or cry of frustration that is emitted for the sole purpose of drawing a foul. Usually accompanied by a grimace of pain and anguish.

Usage example: Even though the defenders were either standing still or had a hand on the ball, Kobe was able to draw the foul with a verbal flop.

Word History: In Patrick Hruby's article The Art of the Flop, Dallas guard Jason Terry refers to Laker guard Kobe Bryant as a "verbal flopper, able to coax a call out of a single well-timed scream."

verbal flop
Eric Snow is standing still. Lebron has the ball.
But Kobe still draws the foul with a verbal flop.
The best or worst thing about eBay, depending on your point of view, is that anybody can sell almost anything they want there. You can buy a haunted clown doll, a used paper plate with a stain that looks like the devil, and even a fossilized boob. But for a basketball fan, eBay is a treasure trove of the strange and obscure.

Speaking of "strange and obscure," check out this
auction for a game-used jersey worn by none other than Basketbawful mascot Greg Ostertag!!

Ostertag jersey
And it's signed...YES!!

The description says, "Here you go, a game-used jersey signed by Greg Ostertag. Yes, Greg wasn't the greatest of the Kings players but he still is a very good player." Uh huh. This seller really has a knack for the overstatement. Saying Greg is a very good player is like saying George Bush is a very good public speaker. Anyway...

Men have few hard and fast rules in life. The "10 Second Rule" is just our way of saying we'll eat something right off the floor, and the section in The Guy Code Book about not dating a buddy's ex-girlfriend applies only when she's totally ugly. But something all guys agree on is that you never, ever, EVER touch another guy's sweaty gym shorts. All of which means I don't see much hope in this
auction for a game-used pair of shorts worn by Karl Malone.

Malone shorts
You don't really want to know what
the Mailman delivered in these shorts.

In what may be the strangest auction I came across, you can purchase a custom toilet seat with the NBA logo airbrushed on it. As the descriptions says, "Have everyone laugh and have fun at the idea of having a basketball net as a toilet seat (go head [sic] make a 3 pointer!!!)." Classy.

NBA seat closed
NBA's pooptastic!

And for those of you demand absolute realism when going for three by going number two, you're in luck: the inside of the seat looks like a basketball goal.

NBA seat open
I wouldn't suggest using the backboard when
taking a shot on this goal.

This next auction will remind you that, in every life, a little rain must fall. Or in Dominique Wilkins' case, a whole lot of rain. Dominique never won an MVP (thanks to Larry Bird), he missed out on several scoring titles (thanks to Michael Jordan), he never got so much as a whiff of an NBA title (thanks to the Celtics, Pistons, and Bulls), and he even got traded away from the Hawks (to the lowly Clippers, no less) during the team's best season.

After a brief and tumultuous stay in
Beantown, Dominique was left off the NBA's 50 Greatest list and banished to Europe. But in 1997, the Spurs picked him up after losing David Robinson to a broken left foot. Wilkins came in and averaged 18 points and 6 rebounds (at 37 years of age), giving the San Antonio crowd something to cheer for in a season of woe. For his efforts, he won the "Comeback Player of the Year" award. But the Spurs, at 20-62, won the Tim Duncan lottery, and so after the season Dominique was out of a job...and back out of the league.

Things got totally ridiculous last year when 'Nique was
passed over for induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. It's shameful and disappointing that the Comeback Player trophy is his greatest accomplishment as a professional basketball player. I guess Dominique felt the same way, because his CPotY trophy is up for sale on eBay. We're sorry 'Nique. So very, very sorry.

Wilkins trophy
It's sad that this was the best award 'Nique ever won.
French pastry (french pa'-stre) noun. An overly elaborate motion or needless flourish added to a standard basketball play.

Usage example: Bob Cousy was known as "The Houdini of the Hardwood" because of the French pastry he added to his passes.

Word Trivia: Very few players in
NBA history have been able to use French pastry effectively. Bob Cousy was the inventor of the French pastry, and Magic Johnson honed it to perfection.

Cousy look away
Bob Cousy invented the no-look pass, the original French pastry.

Unfortunately, these men are the exceptions. Most people simply cannot pull the French pastry off, but this doesn't stop them from trying. The results? Bad passes, turnovers, miscues at the worst possible time (which often causes announcers like Hubie Brown to cry out in disgust, "Too much French pastry!"). Earlier this seson, I saw Chris Webber start to pass the ball to an open man, then pull it back for the sole purpose of making a behind-the-back pass. The ball was almost intercepted, and the recipient of the pass had to loft a shot up to beat the clock with a defender in his face. Needless to say, he got stuffed and Philly essentially wasted the possession. Thanks, Chris!!

French pastry
The French pastry has resulted in many a wasted possession.

What people fail to realize is that guys like Cousy and Magic, for all their flair and artistry, were always in control of the pass. They didn't waste possessions just to make a spectacular play. They rarely forced a French pastry, instead using it in the flow of the game when there was little danger of losing the ball. It wasn't done simply for aesthetic purposes, the success of the play actually depended on it. But today's NBA is all about style over substance, which is why most people would rather spend five hours doing dribbling while upside down and pulling off-the-heezies in NBA Street than running the pick and roll in NBA Live.

Video pastry 2
Everybody wants to do something fancy, even more than just scoring the ball.
I got really depressed when I found out the guys over at Deadspin had reported on the Jesus Jersey before I could get around to it. Now I can truly appreciate the profound sense of shame and disappointment that Lois Lane felt when Clark Kent scooped her on Superman stories.

Never one to hang my head in defeat, I set out to find a company even more devout (i.e., insane) than the folks over at
Heavenly Jerseys. Two minutes and a quick Google search later, I had redeemed myself by finding the Christian Throwback Jersey Web site ("A proud sponsor of Jesus Christ").

At least the Jesus Jersey was sort of unique and original. I mean, other than being jersey-shaped, it was clearly its own thing. Not so for the Christian Throwback Jerseys. They're nearly exact replicas of the jerseys that are actually worn by professional basketball teams. Only instead of "Celtics" or "Pistons", they say something inspirationally religious.

King James
You know, I'm kind of surprised this
isn't Cleveland's official team jersey.

I'm not a Bibleologist or anything. In fact, the only thing I know about the 10 Commandments is that you're not supposed to covet your neighbor's ass, and there's a 147 percent chance I only know that one because it contains the word "ass." Heh, heh, I said ass. Anyway, even a non-theologian like me was able to figure out that the "team names" on the jerseys are chapters of the Bible. And I have to hand it to whoever designed the jerseys, they did a pretty good job of matching the Bible books up with an actual NBA team. For instance: The Rockets became Romans, the Sonics became Songs, the Timberwolves became Thessalonians, and so on.

Some of the jerseys look so much like their NBA counterparts, you'd actually have to look twice to notice the difference. And at $75 a pop, you won't even notice a difference in price. The best part is they even have an All-Star jersey:

Did you know that Jesus has made the
All-Star team for 2,000 straight years?

The site also offers jerseys for baseball, football, golf, and hockey. They even offer full team uniforms, complete with shooting jackets and warm-up pants. Christian Throwback Jerseys really is your one-stop shopping center for Bible-themed sports apparel. I do find it interesting, however, that a business built around "Christian values" almost exclusively shows hot babes wearing their products.

Throwback babes
So, uhm, what's the "more..." they're offering?

Inspirationtastic Extra: During my two-minute Internet search, I also found a site that sells Jesus Inspirational Sport Statues. They're basically little figurines of Jesus playing some sport with a couple kids. My favorite statue is the one for basketball, but not just because I love basketball. It's because it looks like Jesus is playing keep away and taunting those poor little snots.

Jesus keep away
"Ha, ha, you little brats! You can't have the
ball because you're not The Lord."
flop (flahp) 1. verb. flopped, flopping, flops. To fall down intentionally after little or no contact with an opposing player in order to draw a foul. 2. noun. The act of flopping.

Usage example: Vlade Divac once flopped after brushing against Shaq's shoelace. Needless to say, he drew a flagrant foul.

Word Trivia: The King of Flop. Sir Flops A Lot. Floppy Divac. The Serbian Flop Monster. These nicknames -- and more -- were all applied to
Vlade Divac over the course of his illustrious 16-year career. No one remembers the 14,000 points, the 9,000 rebounds, the 4,000 assists. They remember the fact that an opponent couldn't sneeze without sending Divac pinwheeling into the crowd or sprawling to the floor like he just got shot in the heart by a bazooka.

Extra Word Fun: Go read The Art of the Flop over at

Vlade drew over 5,000 personal fouls during his
career, yet never actually got touched. Amazing.
Have you ever been making time with a pretty girl, only to eventually find out that things weren't exactly as they seemed? Maybe she waited two hours into the conversation before casually mentioning her boyfriend, or maybe her dad came running after you with a shotgun, screaming "She's only 14 years old, you goddamn pervert!" And while it's never happened to me personally, there's no shortage of Urban Legends about "That Guy Who Went Home With A Woman Only To Find Out She Was Actually A Dude." Whatever the situation, you end up feeling like a first class jackass. With blue balls.

Fortunately for most of us, these embarrassments are at least semi-private. We can go home, masturbate furiously, and forget about it forever. Not so for University of Southern California point guard
Gabe Pruitt. The week before USC faced the University of California Berkeley -- with the Pac 10 Title and an NCAA Tournament Bid at stake -- Pruitt spent several days chatting over AOL Instant Messenger with a Cal student named "Victoria." The chatting got hot and heavy, so much so that Pruitt and several of his teammates made plans to go to Westwood after the game so that they could party with Victoria and her friends.

happened during the game goes down in the history books as one of the most evil, humiliating, and hilarious pranks of all time.

"When USC guard Gabe Pruitt took his first trip to the free throw line early in the game, the Cal student section hollered in unison: "VIC-TOR-IA, VIC-TOR-IA," and then yelled out a telephone number. Pruitt glanced back at the crowd in horror and bewilderment before clanking his free throws.

"It turns out that a couple of mischeivous little bastards from the Cal student section had been IM'ing with Pruitt all week under the identity of "Victoria," a fictional UCLA hottie, and Pruitt was eagerly anticipating a date with this nubile co-ed back in Westwood after the game. In preparation for the date, Pruitt had handed over his digits, which the Cal student section recited back to him in unison.

"Pruitt, a 79% free throw shooter this season, missed both shots after the "VIC-TOR-IA" chants began, and hit only 3 of his 13 shots for the game. Cal beat USC by 11 for the season sweep, in part due to the Cal fans' devious psy-ops."

Not since William Wallace was castrated by his arch nemesis in front of a group of his mortal enemies has a man been so painfully and publically emasculated. Take a look at the following picture. Pruitt tried to kind of laugh about it, but I'm sure Custer did the same thing right before the Native Americans owned his ass. Because if you can't laugh at yourself, well, then everybody else can. Oh, how they will laugh.

Gabe Pruitt
Pruitt tried to laugh it off, but his and his
penis's hearts were broken. Perhaps forever.

Funtastic Extra: Check out the following picture, which is also from the Gabe Pruitt Memorial Emasculation Game. Wonder what's going on? This answer may shock you: I have no idea. Either the USC guy is going to lauch the Cal guy into the stands, or they're about to start the most repulsive three-way in college basketball history.

Remember the Cobra Kai slogan:
If a man can't stand, he can't fight.
Contract Year Phenomenon (kahn-trakt' yir fuh-nahm'-uh-non') noun. The miraculous occurrence in which a professional basketball player is able to have a "breakout year" (which usually equates to career highs in several major statistical categories) when he's about to become eligible for free agency or open negotiations on a long-term deal with his own team.

Usage example: The Contract Year Phenomenon allowed Erick Dampier to scorer a 7-year, $73 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Now he sucks.

Word Trivia: Few things are as deceiving as a basketball player's performance during his contract year. Let's take the above example of
Erick Dampier. During his last season with the Golden State Warriors, Dampier averaged 12.3 points, 12 rebounds, and almost 2 blocked shots per game (all career highs). He then inks a huge, long-term contract with the Dallas Mavericks...and just stops trying. Less than two years removed from the Contract Year Phenomenon, Dampier's averaging 5 points, 8 rebounds, and a blocked shot per game. And this is as the starting center for the best team in the Western Conference.

Contract Year Phenomenon
Players are rarely the same after the contract year.