For Grantland’s Trade Value TV special that ran on ESPN on February 8, I ranked Kyrie 26th overall and sent Cleveland fans into a rancorous frenzy.
They criticized you on the internet! The rancor! Don't they have any hobbies?
You would have thought I mistakenly said the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was in Cincinnati or something.
You would have thought that you made a bunch of loaded and unsubstantiated criticisms of Irving for the past year or so.
You couldn’t blame them for being salty. They had just watched the semi-floundering Cavs play .500 ball through the first 40 games as they inadvertently filmed their own 30 for 30 documentary.
That's why they were mad. They were jealous of the Celtics and your success as a film executive.
Their chemistry looked almost as shaky as the Real World: Skeletons cast.
Entirely Irving's fault!
LeBron didn’t look quite like LeBron
His hamstring and back issues were obviously accentuated by Kyrie's selfishness.
Kevin Love had the permanent “Mike Myers standing next to an unraveling Kanye” face going.
Name me one person who has looked uncomfortable in public since 2005. You can't.
In January, everything started to flip: Cleveland made two shake-it-up trades, came together defensively and ripped off a 12-game winning streak that included Kyrie’s 55-point game against Portland.
Wait, is he admitting that he unfairly blamed Irving for the Cavs' struggles, which were subsequently proved to be due to LeBron's health and their lack of depth in public.
My defense: I didn’t feel right about rewarding a shooting guard trapped in a point guard’s body, someone ill equipped to execute the traditional “make teammates better and take over when it matters” recipe.
Let us look at the starting PG's on the last 15 NBA champions:
2014 - Tony Parker
2012/13 - Mario Chalmers
2011 - Jason Kidd
2009/2010 - Derek Fisher
2008 - Rajon Rondo
2007 - Parker
2006 - Jason Williams
2005 - Parker
2004 - Chauncey Billups
2003 - Parker
By my count, a team with a traditional pass-first PG has won 3 (Kidd, Rondo, Williams) of the last 15 titles. So, stop pushing this worthless narrative to cover your wrongness.
I call those players “0-guards.”
Inventing a worthless term to make it look like I was the first person to discover something that has long been known! I call these terms KlosterSimmonsGladwell-isms.
In some cases (a.k.a. Russell Westbrook), they’re so good that it doesn’t matter. In other cases (Tyreke Evans, Steve Francis), it does matter.
There are a million good examples he could have picked, and look what he does. Francis' career fell apart because he suddenly stopped being good in his mid 20's, not because he shot too much.
Kyrie’s five-year, $90 million extension wasn’t helping his cause, nor was the fact that his NBA teams had never succeeded for even four straight weeks.
But Kevin Love's lack of team success in Minnesota didn't count against him because he "looks like he'd be fun to play with"
I like Cleveland, I swear. Does it still bother me that the Cavs won the 2014 lottery? Of course! Can’t we agree that the NBA needs better rules to prevent the same bumbling franchise from winning three of four lotteries in a 30-team league? You shouldn’t be repeatedly rewarded for being incompetent.
We can all agree that teams should only be rewarded for being intentionally bad! And only if they hire a well-respected college coach to motivated a crappy young team. And only if Larry Bird used to play for them.
But I couldn’t shake the fear that I had screwed up. I spent the next two weeks watching Cleveland more closely, ultimately bumping Kyrie’s ranking before Part 2 of the written column was posted on February 25.
You weren't watching Cleveland more closely, you were overreacting to their struggles in the first half of the season and then overreacting again to their hot streak since then.
LeBron’s miraculous return to form (thanks to two weeks of R&R in Miami [footnote](Let’s nod knowingly at each other.)
This guy's passive aggressive insinuations about LeBron's potential PED usage are really starting to piss me off. If something comes out, then WAKE UP SHEEPLE, I TRIED TO TELL YOU ALL ALONG!!! If not, then he can say he was JUST ASKING QUESTIONS. But of course, he doesn't want to deal with the scrutiny of taking an actual journalistic stance.
Either way, if you're going to make that case, the fact that he rested for 8 games and came back with more zip in his game isn't really very strong proof.
had overshadowed a more compelling subplot
The team's best player is overshadowing a guy who isn't as good! The nerve!
Finally, we saw all the ways Kyrie could affect a winning team. Ridiculous first step.
Which he also had when the team wasn't winning as much.
Which he also had when the team wasn't winning as much.
Semi-freakociousness on fast breaks.
Just stop with that word. But he also was a great transition scorer when the team wasn't winning as much.
A world-class ability to finish in traffic from any and every angle.
Which he also had when the team wasn't winning as much.
It’s all there. When you project him as a Wealthy Man’s Tony Parker, Kyrie’s basketball ceiling makes more sense:He’s a ridiculously efficient scorer who needs another creator (or a fluidly brilliant offensive system) to get everyone else involved.
In 2015 AND NOT A MOMENT BEFORE, he became a really good shoot-first point guard. Nice attempt to pass these off as recent developments, though. Admirably shameless.
Could LeBron be that creator for him? No question. It’s already happening.
As predicted by every single person before this season started.
I was dead wrong about Kyrie’s potential. But hey — at least I got to the right place with it. Just took awhile.
Because your conflation of team and individual success aligned with the truth. Congratulations dickhead.
You know who loved hearing Kobe praise Kyrie? Jalen. We had been arguing about Kyrie’s potential for months.
Jalen loved the fact that, even after LeBron had arrived, Kyrie never changed how he played and who he was. Didn’t kowtow to LeBron. Didn’t start doing an awkward John Stockton impersonation. Just kept attacking and getting buckets. For Jalen, that mattered. That told him, unequivocally, that Kyrie was here to stay.
Take that, Larry Brown! Kyrie Irving PROVES you should have let me shoot as much as I want!
One of the coolest things about my job as it has evolved these past few years: getting access to so many memorable basketball players and basketball minds.
In Simmons' imagination, the reader is sitting their thinking "Please, please, list every single famous player or ex-player you've ever talked to!"
I spent a year watching basketball games in a tiny conference room with Magic, and then a second year with Doug Collins. I talked shop with Kobe, off the record, a number of times. I spent a whole day with the great Bill Russell. I got to know Steve Nash and Steve Kerr. I spent multiple days with Charles Barkley. I spent three hours with Durant and Harden once. I’ve picked the brains of dozens of famous NBA people on my podcast. I’ve spent the past three years talking for hundreds and hundreds of hours with Jalen. I spent an afternoon in Vegas with Isiah Thomas that became the second chapter of my book. And I’ve talked basketball with dozens of ex-players and ex-coaches who passed through the league — everyone from Kiki Vandeweghe to Danny Ainge to Doc Rivers to Elgin Baylor to Jeff Van Gundy to Hubie Brown.
Thank god we cleared that up.
Once you learn how to discount personal agendas (they are endless)
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Where does this rank on the list of things that Bill Simmons has not learned to do? Level 5.
personal relationships (there are many)
Really enlightening parentheses there. Many people know and like each other in the world.
and just plain stubbornness
Like refusing to admit Kobe Bryant is good until your favorite player of all time tells you point blank that you're wrong?
you realize that those old-school lifers see things that you and I can’t see.
Did you know that basketball players understand basketball in unique ways? I bet not, since you never interviewed Bill Walton, you filthy peasant.
They can play or coach against someone like Westbrook or Kyrie — even if it’s one time — and pick out something in his DNA that we could never pick out.
Like the fact that Kyrie Irving was just as good as he was before LeBron's siesta but is now being good on a winning team with a better overall roster? Clearly, it would take a Hall of Fame Career in the NBA to figure that out. Otherwise Bill would have picked up on it.
That community doesn’t trust advanced numbers; they don’t care about PER, SportVU, shot charts or real plus-minus. And as the TNT guys recently showed after Kyle Korver made the All-Star team, it’s unclear whether many of them are willing to accept where basketball is going as a sport (pace and space, baby). That community wants basketball to be more black-and-white.
Bill Simmons is criticizing people for preferring simplistic narratives to the messy truth! We are through the looking glass here, people.
For them, it’s about heading into basketball battle. That’s also why someone like Blake Griffin drives the old-school dudes crazy. He bitches at referees too much, bitches about getting hit too much, forgets to rebound, misses too many free throws and cares a little too much about making an impact off the court.
Of course, no mere FAN of basketball has ever made these complaints about Blake Griffin. We've never been in a BASKETBALL WAR.
And over the years, I have learned HOW to listen to that community.
By pretending to agree with them, but secretly and condescendingly thinking I'm smarter.
For instance, Jalen enjoys Jamal Crawford’s work for a variety of reasons, but mainly for those three times a month when Crawford activates heat-check mode and starts draining shots that nobody else in the NBA can make. The potential of that happening is why Jalen respects Crawford so much. He’s willing to jettison every negative in the Jamal package (poor defense, no rebounding, the occasional 5-for-18 stinker) and drifts toward those heat-check games and Crawford’s unwavering confidence. And why?
Because it's obvious to anybody who watches the NBA that these are his strengths and weaknesses, and most fans would agree that the positives outweigh the negatives?
He understands the degree of difficulty in what Crawford does.
I could never understand that. When I watch Jamal Crawford hit fadeaway rainbow threes with a 6-8 guy waving two hands in his face, I think "that looks easy, I could totally do that."
So we agree to respectfully disagree on Crawford; even if Jalen overrates his impact (in my opinion, anyway), I understand why.
Man this guy is so fucking patronizing. Here's a pat on the head Jalen, I forgive your wrong opinion because of your personal biases, of which I have none!
At the same time, Jalen has raved about Kyrie’s ceiling for three years and learned to discount MY unenthusiastic opinion
He didn't LEARN to discount your unenthusiastic opinion, he saw you suddenly shift course on Kyrie for no good reason and maintained the very reasonable opinion that Irving was really fucking good.
I wanted Kyrie to be something that he could never be: basically, late-’80s Isiah or Right Now Chris Paul, the point guard who spends 42 minutes making everyone better before taking over in the final six minutes.
After years of defending Westbrook no less.
Jalen maintained that Kyrie wasn’t that guy.
Because he's not a contrarian idiot who conveniently turns into a "pass five times before every shot!" old-school sourpuss when it makes him seem sophisticated for going against public opinion.
I maintained that, until anyone proved they could win with him, I was out on him. We were in no-man’s-land.
And then … the Cavs started winning
Which was entirely due to Kyrie Irving learning the Secret, and not the Cavs acquiring much needed size and shooting and LeBron being healthy again.
If Kyrie keeps blossoming over these next two months, then it will start to feel like Miami in 2005 — Shaq’s first year, when Dwyane Wade made a massive in-season leap and suddenly they looked like Kobe-and-Shaq reincarnated.
It will feel like that in the sense that Wade was considered one of the best young players in the league before Shaq got traded to the team, and Irving was considered one of the best young players in the league before LeBron got traded to the team. It would feel even more like that, if you had unfairly criticized Wade before that point and then backtracked when his team improved for unrelated reasons.
How fucking dense is this guy, Jesus.