I’m enjoying March Madness quite a lot. In fact, it’s on right now which, along with my love of bluegrass are the two things I share with the state of Kentucky. My bracket lies, a smoking shambles, at my feet. From time to time it whispers up, save me. And I whisper down, no.We don't save losers.
By the way, is the NCAA obligated to investigate Calipari when his team wins a championship? Is there a chance that happens without crime? Can they just do the shakedown instead of a trophy presentation, if that’s how it goes down?
Enough jokes. I have come here today to discuss a serious matter with y’all. Because there’s another variety of madness that shows up this time of year, and yes, basically every year: some college basketball fans begin to insist that, 1) NBA players do not play defense or that, at least, they do not try hard and that 2) the best college basketball team could beat the worst NBA team.
Actually, according to Larry Brown, Kentucky could beat 15 NBA teams.
So you’re Anthony Davis. People are saying you’re going to go #1 in the draft. They’re saying you’re the next Dwight Howard. They’re touting your decision not to pluck your unibrow, as a sign that you’re not superficial without, perhaps, adequate reflection that the reason to do anything cosmetic is mostly to attract the opposite sex, which is not typically something that our 7 foot millionaires have too much trouble with, far as we know.
Your dream comes true. You’re drafted #1. You get to play basketball with the likes of Bismack Biyombo and Kemba Walker in front of literally hundreds of screaming fans, and also their parents. The Greatest of All Time may occasionally call in from the golf course and say things like, "how is that new guy doing? Tony Mavis? Something like that?"
The night after the draft you get a call from LeBron James. This is the big time! He congratulates and offers a lot of advice on how to conduct yourself that you try not to giggle at. Then he drops a bombshell.
"The one thing is," he says, "you can’t try hard."
"The NBA is great," he says, "money, girls, Madison Square Garden. But trying is our kryptonite. We just…we just can’t do anything against people who try."
This is literally the only thing that I can imagine that the people who imagine that NBA players don’t try, don’t hustle, or don’t play defense, imagine. Because it’s an insane idea.
Sure, not everyone’s the same. Baron Davis doesn’t dive for loose balls unless they are also cheeseburgers. On the other side of things, Kevin Garnett would punch an eagle in the face to win a game, both because he’s crazy and because the eagle, like most people he picks in game fights with, is much smaller than him.
But come on. If Baron Davis ACTUALLY didn’t try, he’d be Gerald Green. If Gerald Green tried as hard as Tony Allen, he’d be Roddy Beaubois. But every player in college could try as hard as they could possibly try and only the NBA players will make the NBA, and if they then don’t try, let me tell youse something:
Jason Kidd is 39 and Bismack Biyombo is19. That’s 20 years of NBA drafts. There are 60 people drfated every year. 60 X 20 is 1200. There are five starters on every NBA team, for a total of 150 starters in the league.
You think if somebody didn’t try they couldn’t find somebody else? That teams put up with the lazy guys because it’s hilarious?
Look: Jose Bautista and Miguel Cabrera didn’t take 240 walks, combined, last year because they were too lazy to swing at pitches. They did it because they have outstanding pitch recognition, and also because many other players on their teams are not very good. They would not be better players if they went all Adam Dunn on the ball. Period. And the Mavs haven't won a loose ball since the first Roosevelt administration, but one assumes a large part of that is because these days diving for it would result in a broken hip and still no loose ball.
As for the other thing:
Anthony Davis is a great college player. Andray Blatche is a really bad NBA player. I would bet, and I hope for Davis’s sake I’m right, that he’ll have a much better career than Andray Blatche.
But for all that, when the Wizards play the Orlando Magic, Blatche has to guard Dwight Howard. When they play the Lakers he has to guard Andrew Bynum. You think Anthony Davis has moves he hasn’t seen?
You don’t have to take my word for it, though. After all, The Charlotte Bobcats have the guy who almost singlehandedly won the tournament last year (Kemba Walker). They’ve got the 12th pick from 2009, Gerald Henderson. They’ve got Bismack Biyombo, who, though not a college player, WAS the 7th overall pick last year. They’ve got Tyrus Thomas, the 4th pick in 2006. I’ll never forget what Thomas did against LaMarcus Aldridge’s Texas team. And they’ve been able to beat an NBA team 7 times this season. Kyrie Irving, last year’s top pick, has won 17 games so far. John Wall has won 12.
Incidentally, your Dallas Mavericks have no number one picks. They have a #2 (Kidd), a #4 (Odom) and a #5 (Vince). At various points this season the Mavs have employed the services of 2007’s #6 (Yi Jianlian), #7 (Corey Brewer), and #8 (Brandan Wright). The #2 pick in that draft, Kevin Durant, is likely to win the MVP this year. The #1 pick, Greg Oden, may never be an impactful NBA player. You just never know. The Mavs have 2 #9s (Dirk and Marion), and a #10 (Terry), who was also an NCAA champion. Tyson Chandler, still a Mav in our hearts, was a #2. Just after Kwame Brown who somewhere, right now, is losing a battle with a wheel of cheese.
My friends, enjoy the NCAA. I hope you enjoyed tonight (Saturday’s) games, and I hope you enjoy Monday’s. Enjoy it because college basketball is great. It’s gritty, and heartfelt, and nearly all the kids don’t turn pro and don’t make any money from basketball except for the illegal stuff from boosters. Enjoy it, too, because it is the beginning of a lot of storylines. Magic and Bird was a rivalry from before day one.Last night’s Orlando game featured pivotal, end of game plays by Delonte West and Jameer Nelson, one time teammates on a Saint Joe’s team that fair shocked the world. It happens.
From these games come tomorrow stars, especially now that players have to spend a year in college. You don't know who they're going to be. For every Durant, there's a Greg Oden. For every Blake Griffin there's a Hasheem Thabeet. And the vast majority of everybody doesn't even get a chance to dream. This is it for them--so watch.
But while you’re watching, take a minute to remember, too, that the best basketball in the world is played in the National Basketball Association—even by the Charlotte Bobcats. And for the moment, the best basketball team in the world is still the Dallas Mavericks. Who would beat Kentucky 160-40, and that's no insult to anybody.
Watch and enjoy what there is to watch and enjoy.