Howard Beck


The low post is presented by Hulu. If you didn't know, Hulu has live sports can watch live games at all your favorite teams live on Hulu. No cable required. And now the low has welcome to the low post podcasts live from a windowless studio in New York City, New York where it is time as we do to say the three most anticipated words in the history of niche podcasting in the NBA what a back. What up Zach I feel under dressed? You're like all spiff up. You you were on get up the morning, you've probably still got makeup on. You got like a nice sport coat and shirt and stuff. And I'm in like a Biard sweatshirt. I only dress up if they shove my ass on television other than that. I look like like I've given up I'm Beuerlein Costanza on days where there's no television. I've just I've given up baseball hat hoodie t-shirt once it gets warm. You should you should just try that on on get up. You should just I mean, it is it's a morning show. People are supposed to roll out of bed, and you watch you wrote a you go on TV like you should be able to just look like you would normally at that one judgment. I have made his I do not shave everyday. If I if I'm two days if I two days is the maximal go on TV with two days of nod shaving three I start to go a little my wife likes it by start. I feel like I crossed the line to like you could have just bothered. You could have just taken the five minutes. We got we got a beard Zack in your like your Croatia photos. Right. Like wasn't what I. I will I'll shave maybe wants to hold trust. I go totally I go I go Dirk in the outback apropos of our backs actually before you get that segue because you mentioned Costanza I had a near Costanza moment on my way here. I think I nearly trampled a pigeon. Like, I was not driving. It wasn't Costanza in in car versus pigeon. That did not uphold its part of the bargain by getting the heck out of the way. When you right, but I was coming across a crosswalk on like somewhere around like sixty third. And I did that thing where it's like. Okay. Travers going to be coming. So we did a little hop at the end from the crosswalk to the curb just as he pigeon was like coming in and the pigeon decided to like all of a sudden like hop up half flight thing in front of me. I think nearly kicked the pigeon. Okay. Did you did you heard it or is it? Okay. No. But I had a moment. Okay. Because because my first thought was if somebody saw that like, I kicked a pigeon that you just look like you look like a terrible human being. I mean, even New York where pigeons are basically viewed as just flying rats. And are despised. I don't wanna be the guy who kicked a pitch. I thought you were going to say when you did the hop that. You did like member he jumps over the pothole in the frogger episode and this keys because he did a little sachet, and they make fun of that my Keyser still my pocket there. Okay. Last season Costanza. It went off the rails a little bit off the rails. Great though, it's still good. It's just when he he's just permanently angry. Anyway, you're on because you wrote as you are want to do a wonderful piece on a topic of of timeliness, which is the. Interesting. I'll say non traditional rivalry. But real rivalry between Dwayne Wade who is for. Sure retiring and Dirk Nowitzki who will not say that. He's for. Sure retiring, but I would be absolutely blown away based on what I know and conversations I've had with him, including a podcast if he came back. I thought it was a great idea. And you got both of them you got riles one on one, which is very rare. I've never got rows one on one of only a couple of times. And it's never been for something like this. I was pleasantly stunned. And it's just it's just it is twenty it's fifteen twenty years, whatever it is of NBA history. So, you know, did you deci did anything prompt you to do this other than their retiring was at the all-star thing was at all ready in the works before. Oh, yeah. No actually was in in the worst long before all star. And it was low in the worst before they'd done the jersey exchange the first time that they played each other this year. Although I led with the jersey exchange in the story. It was I don't know maybe back in November October whenever you're sitting around going like, okay. What's this season about what what are some things that without knowing how the seasons going to go like we can plot out that would be kind of fun. Interesting stories, and I don't remember when or why it hit me? But I just did it hit me as certain stage that here we had Dirk or Dwayne who had already announced in an eight minute video than that. He was retiring before the season Dirk who played coy about it continues to play coy about it. But was probably going out Jonathan Abrams had done a fantastic story for us already on Dirk. So we didn't need a dirt. Retrospective. I figured everybody who's going to do some kind of Dwayne retrospective. And all I could think was like I want to do something on these guys because I like just great regard for them as players in human beings. And they're both really interesting and they've had these phenomenal careers, and I don't want to just do the waxing poetic on one or the other. And I it just kept hitting me that you know, they they're rivals because of some things that happened and they're mostly rivals because of those two finals match ups, and some things that were said in some, you know, hurt feelings and stuff, but nothing that's on the level of magic bird or Chamberlain. Russell the war of rivalry historical. It's my first thought was just not this is a rivalry. It was just. It's like the most basic kind of story idea. Isn't it interesting that these guys who have nothing to do with each other, otherwise different conferences different positions? Don't play other that often, but they've had a really profound impact on each other's careers. And so my premise going in was just to kind of explore that and just see you know, where that led me. And unfortunately for me while I was pondering and working with my editors on like when do we want to do this? Do we want to do this and work another stories, then they met for the first time on the court had the jury's exchange? And I think a lot of stuff was you know, written about then kind of reflecting on their criss crossing paths. But I still wanted to do it by that point. I was already far down the road of saying that, you know, I'm gonna set this up, and it took a while to just to get each of them, basically like a twenty four hour in and out of Miami to get Dwayne and riles and and I had to chase. Dirk from here to to DC after they played in Brooklyn because nobody wants to do it. I don't blame them people come to New York. They don't wanna spend time like hanging out with me talking about. Listen, you're already here though. So, you know, so I chased chased Dirk DC literally did the like I was out in back. I think within six hours or something took the train down got Dirk jumped the train back it worked beautifully and they were both fantastic. They're both very gracious about it, you know, that they've had to review these things many times, and especially for Dirk, I feel it gets more interesting aspect of it. It's definitely more painful. I think exercise going down memory lane for Dirk than it is for Dwayne even though the the ledger says that they're one one in the finals is similarly I had on my podcast two months ago month and a half ago, and I had to go to Cleveland to to get him. Because if he was here, you want to be a New York wants to he wants to see people that are better than me better. Better more interesting people than I is is my dad would correct me. Yeah. It would it would be interesting to see if Dirk would even entertain these sorts of things had they not won the championship. And whether it was over the heat, and Dwayne Wade or not whether he never captives career because it just if you I mean that Dallas team I've said this many times, it's it's just it's going to be a team that's remembered forever. I think even relative to most championship teams, and there are many many reasons for that Dirk being one of them. But one of the reasons is that it was not quite a one off because the Mavs have have been one of the best franchises in the league for a long time until this little fallow period, we've got here. But you know, they were coming off first round loss after that first finals against the heat two thousand six which Mark Cuban is referred to as the scene of the crime avian Thompson's book loss first round loss. First round loss. Second round got spanked in that second round by Denver loss first round. And. Have lost first round or not made the playoffs every year since and in between have this one sort of magical run one shining moment if you will one shining moment stuff and watch the Lakers one shining moment that was going around. Really good. Yeah. I I hate one shining moment. I am a complete. Like just Scrooge when it comes your. That's not nice. It's a terrible moment for the starts. Credible. This is a universally embraced piece of utter America. Or were you on round rock thing on what round ball rock? John passion. I'm a loss. Rock is. Like is like candidates, okay? Castle is going to end. No that was going to end. I would never have not been anymore. I'm not messing with John Tesche. Ramble rock is is I it's it's it's precious. It's it's it's important. I wish it were back. I have long thought that either ESPN or my corporate overlords at Turner should should bring that thing. Back like it needs to get needs to be part of like I'm glad like NBA radio uses it quite a bit. It needs. It needs to be more part of our our modern day NBA fabric. I miss round there's going to be a generation, but once shiny Romans trash, I just I can't get there. Anyway. So it would be interesting to see what what Dirk how Dirk would approach this without that without that the ring. And because you know, he's now because everything that happened going to the outback literally with Holger, which he talked to you about and talk to me about living out of ogres van after going grocery shopping somewhere and going out into the outback. It's a journey because it has an end point if it has no happy end point it just kind of becomes a journey to nowhere. Yeah. I look at at the point where Dirk loses in the finals after being up to and that that crushing defeat, and and the bitterness of it because of all the officiating controversy everything else and then a year later to be a sixty seven win team. And losing the first round in one of the greatest upsets in NBA playoff history. The the losing the we believe warriors and winning the MVP and getting the MVP after he was already out. I mean, I don't know that you could conceive of a more painful twelve month span of an MBA career for an MBA superstar it just in terms of the competitive side of it. Forget anybo- anything. That's happened. Anybody personally that competitively that was crushing in so many ways. And I think certainly it was legitimate to wonder at that time whether you were Dirk himself or any of us is he ever going to get back to that point. Is he ever going to have? A chance to win a title. Are we going to view him in the way, we've used certain legends? Where like oh. Within a nice career. And they put up a lot of stats, and they were great, whatever. But they couldn't win the big one. And in jerks case, it comes with all kinds of other nonsense that goes with it. Oh, you know. Can you win with the jump shooting? Big man as he too soft is he to this all the European? Yes. No, no. Is the answer question. So. Yeah. That I mean that was if we had never seen or heard from him again at the finals and were on that stage. No one would have been surprised, and we would have been a hole in the wall at oracle arena from two thousand seven we believe when they lose any throws the chair like twenty for the air leaves a hole. That's that's not funny anymore. It's a little bit funny. But it's not as funny. The fact that he signed it for them. The fact that it's you know, that that he has he embraces talking about it and reminiscing and all that other stuff goes all the way back to or all of that goes back to what you were just saying a minute ago, which is winning it in two thousand eleven. Not only is a crowning achievement for his career. But I think it's this big exhale like, okay, I can look at the large expanse of my career all the highs and lows and have perspective and be able to talk about it without being painful. I think you, and I both experience in talking to work that you can still see how much he's affected by the memories of six, but it's not nearly the scarves. I think that it would be to your point. If he doesn't win an an eleven. How much did he say to you? Is there anything on the cutting room floor because I know you always keep track of your credit room floors as do I? About he likes to use the word frosty for some reason. He used it on my podcast to about his relationship with Dwayne over the years create word, I got the sense from talking to him in. Let's say from the facial expressions in the room during that podcast that were of people that were not other people who were there. I got the sense that he's soft that out of politeness and perspective. And that it and that there was some real. There was something beyond frosty that maybe his has thought now because they're both sort of NBA geezers living out the end of their career. So who cares? Let all grudges die. I think it was. I think it was worse than frosty. I think there was at least from Dirk Dwayne. I think there was active and Midi. Which is a great word. I agree. And no he didn't let on any more than he's too smart. He's he's too. He's candid, but he's too smart to go down that road. And I think also, you know, again things have softened over time. And they've had this moment. It's funny. You know, I started I open the story. By kind of just describing the scene of them exchanging jerseys and smiling for the cameras, and I tried to describe it in a way that that points at this. But without without hitting you over the head with it. They're not really smiling in a big happy kind of embracing warm way. Dirks kind of toothy you like it's a smile, but it's it's kind of taught smile, it's not a wide smile. Duan's not showing his teeth at all he's just kind of got a toothless grin and in the green is not that wide. And if you look at it again, it just it's just a matter of when the shot was snapped. Right. Maybe they were smiling little more before or after that snapshot. Although I've watched the video, and I don't think they were there. It's a moments, and it's a nice moments. But I think I think they're still a little bit behind those those smiles in the gritted teeth of like, yeah, you know, you you you were kind of addictive he back in the day. I mean. This of course, goes back to and this is this is talked about in the story. I didn't want to go down the rabbit hole of officiating and all that stuff. And I didn't even want to go too much into the why they not didn't necessarily like each other. Because it's kind of it's kind of weird like if you think about it. Nobody dislikes Dirk Nowitzki. Like, there's nothing polarizing controversial about Dirk as a player or a person. You might disagree about whatever his his career is resume, Dirksen. Great guy. Dwayne a great guy. However, you look at Dwayne Wade like these are not guys that inspire a lot of to your word enmity it. It's it doesn't make sense that they would be enemies because they're they're they're both good dudes. But this is what competition does right. So Dallas loses. The no six Mark Cuban in particular. But the Mavs is a whole complain about the officiating they go way beyond complaints about it again in your story. He's not backing down. No, it's oh, let me third clean years later bookmark that let's come back to that. But that that really ate at the heat, and certainly Dwayne 'cause you're you're basically saying are championship is is is fraudulent that we got it. And it was handed to us by the officials. And so it's like seven eight months later, whatever that Dwayne gives an interview to I think I think it was all of the heat media hashtag. Saying, you know, look, Dirk didn't lead them, right? They lost Dirk didn't lead them. Right. So now, it's a total shot across the bow. Now, this is this is he's firing back because he feels like they were taking shots at him by by putting it on the officiating. But he's now making it kind of personal about Dirk. So I think that's where it will start that was one of the so I had forgotten about that. Until I read Ian, Thompson's book to say all the basketball same gray in net, quote, where he says essentially, Dirksen, bad leader Eric was Dirk came up short. He's a bad leader. Yeah. I read that in the book. I was like did that just how how is that? Not like a. Like a like one of those things you just remember all the time. Tentpole kind of thing that is to first ballot hall of famers one going for the throat of the other. I mean that that's a crazy one that one is in it's rare. We don't see that too often. You might see guys take little shots at each other. Or like, you know, playful stuff or even if it's a little bit cutting. It's not that one that one was pretty deep that cut pretty deep. And I think that's where we're at all really begins and then it festers for years, and then the Dwayne LeBron making fun of Dirk being sick during the eleven two thousand eleven finals. I'm coughing on cameras. It's like they've were trying to be jerks. Yeah. Like, they reveled in being jimmer playing up to their villain status at that time, and you know, Dirk calls at childish, but I think under the surface if that if that had happened in a vacuum. It wouldn't have mattered that much that happened within the context of what had already gone on between Dirk Dwayne. And I think that's what made it seem like more than that. It would have been otherwise. Is it would have just been a silly childish thing as as Dirk framed it. But to your point about about Cuban, I went to Cuban when Dallas was here. And I said, listen, I'm doing this thing about Dirk and Dwayne their intersections their career. It's a very open ended question, by the way, I said, you know, the rivals in a weird way. But they're not they don't play any position the only met twice in the finals and other than that, blah, blah. And but that I might go to phrase was I feel like they've just had a profound effect on each other's careers for guys who didn't really face each other that often that was I went to Carlisle the Cuban Dwayne Dirk everybody. And Mark immediately jumps into officiating. And how you know it was taken from them and everything else. And there were there were multiple quotes on that subject. I only use I think one or two of them because I just I again did not want to get just side tracked in into that that whole rant. But the funny thing was that. In researching the story ESPN dot com had done a phenomenal oral history of the two thousand six finals in two thousand sixteen on the ten year anniversary, and within that story Cuban says, this is the last time I'm talking about it. And after this. I'm burying it forever. Just never going to talk about this again. So the last thing I expected having read that going to him a month ago and saying Markham just destroy about Durkan twenty and their intersection the officiated, and he's and he's just starts go. I'm like, holy crap. I did I did not see that coming people one of the most important things we do far health everyday is brushing our teeth and most of us don't even do it. Properly. Quip is a better electric toothbrush. 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A high end electric toothbrush would be like triple digits at least twenty five dollars. That is if you go to get quip dot com slash low. My last name the name of this podcast right now. And you get your first refill pack for free with a quip electric toothbrush that your I refill pack free at G T Q U IP dot com slash low. So every time you write a big piece like this. You get access to so many people that there is always one quote that is going to be the aggregate, or quote, can you guess which one I think it's going to be oh, man. I mean Cuban on the officiating is is a natural. That'll that'll be one. That's not the one. I'm thinking of. No, I don't know Riley saying that for a period of time around the six title. Dwayne Wade was a better player that Kobe Bryant. Yes. That was pretty good. Did your did your I did you perk up when that came out of his mouth? Yes. Riley's really interesting. So I don't know Riley that will to be honest, my years covering the Lakers, obviously, he's long gone. I get the New York. He's long from New York. We never really cross paths in a major way. And as you know, during these last, however, many years in his in his post coaching tenure in Miami riles he meets with the Miami needed. A couple of times a season Caisley comes comes up to to talk about some issue or talk about you know, you know, when Chuck Daly passed or something you don't hear from them that often. And so I don't really have a relationship with him. But on this when it was kind of a, you know, talking so quick aside out to Tim Donovan, great PR guy for the Miami, Heat and Serra Milton for the TAOs Mavericks both of them, you know, longtime among the best PR people in the league. And they were both phenomenal in helping me out in the story when I'm texting with Tim Donovan, I say, listen. So here's what I think I can come down or he's he's telling me when to come down. I said I'd love to get Spoelstra. And and paddock. He's available. It was just kind of a throwaway line. In my texts thinking, I gotta ask start the ask high. You gotta start the sky. I I don't know if I should have actually say this. But I had I had almost zero expansion. I was going to get him and Tim text back basis says, Yep. We're all good all three of them. Yeah. Okay. Cool. Thanks. So I got down there. You know? I'm I'm always the pessimism. I'm still expecting like, oh, it's gonna turn out. He was busy or whatever. I'll get you know, get Wayne gets bo- all hop on a plane and fly back. But no, Tim says follow me he says, we're heading to the inner sanctum he actually called it the inner sanctum, and there I was in PAT's office use it starts on laying in the background, probably godfather, right? And and we sat and chatted for while. He was fantastic. Are there are there big leather armchairs and leather bound books. What? Office. I remember mostly like, I was I was fairly locked in on just like finding my way to a place to sit and then just talking to him and and paying rapt attention. But there is a collage on this one wall of all these highlights, and, you know, news clips and all that stuff. And is there any visible hair product? Not that. I saw. He's such a legend. He's he is. He's such a legend. There are certain people have come across in my years of covering this league, as I'm sure you have that you just think not only like this guy's just a just as a natural bad ass. But just this aura about them certain people, Jerry West got an aura about him. Even if you never knew who he was or what he'd done or that he was the logo Jerry project something. And so does Pat and certain guys that, you know, Bill Russell if you're ever I've never spoken to Bill Russell. But just being in the room with Bill. Russell us feel some I couldn't I can't speak to Bill or. No, I think I would be completely a. Yeah. That'd be mess Riley, just exudes cool and exudes wisdom, and we talked for I don't know twenty minutes or so and and he was phenomenal. And a lot of it was him just kind of going down certain tangents himself to compare and contrast these guys other eras, and whatever it was his greatest struggle stuff. It wasn't germane enough to the story to pack. It all in there. I wish I could have. But he was just a just a pleasure to talk to. And he says he says. All for about three or span. Wade was in Riley's view, quote, the best player in the world. He could stop there. Stoppable? You've made a statement stop. You can stop Dwayne was better than Kobe at that time. Riley says he had a better year by having the impact on winning in the finals in the biggest moments on the biggest spades on the biggest stage, and you get that monitor that I was surprised he went there. In fact, so I want to talk to you about weight. I I want some time in the off season to reflect on wait for a couple of reasons. I feel like he's the great unknowable star of like the past twenty years. I just don't feel like I know who Dwayne Wade is a human being what is he about? What's he like, what's his personality? I mean, I know certain things about as game and he's rugged player, and obviously he's symbolic of the heat culture and all of that. And you get glimpses of his off court life. I just I just don't feel like I have a grasp of him the way that I do of. Someone of his stature and just his stature alone. I think is a matter of of interest to me because he doesn't come up enough. I don't think integrators shooting guard of all time below Michael rankings? And and Wade versus Kobe at their primes. I think is an interesting debate. And then you look at how many top three finishes. Do you think? Twin Wade had an MVP voting. I'm going to say less than three one. Yeah. How many first team all NBA is do you think? Oh, that's a good one. I must say three to Kobe made. I team all NBA like nine thousand times. I can't even there so many here. I can't even count them. It's just he's had a string and there've been injuries. He's been injured here and there because of his what was it? What was it? Eight times down seven to stand. Stiff all down eight stand up as the commercial right something like that meeting. And so his counting stats aren't maybe as impressive as they could be given some of the time he missed and then of course, he takes back seat to LeBron for the latter part of his career. He's just had a really interesting career that maybe because of the era it took place in or because he he, you know, he a lot of guys sort of have their brief flicker of maybe I'm the best player in the league. And then someone else comes and takes it. And like LeBron did I just I just feel like I haven't quite put my finger on him yet. What what did you come away with this? It's interesting because even well first of all it. So in terms of like where he ranks all time. I mean, isn't it generally universally agreed upon he's he's he's third in the in the shooting guard rankings behind Michael and Kobe. I guess I mean as anybody else made a case that is somebody Japan's how you characterize Jerry West. I think who is constantly. I mean, maybe maybe because of what he's done since his playing days constantly overlooked in like all those days. And I think he's overlooked in the greatest Laker debate. Not to say he is the greatest lake are ball time. But his he just it's not he's not in that discussed conversation. Maybe maybe he may be Dwayne is universally the number three guy. And I think how he stacks up with Kobe player for player prime for prime is actually kind of an interesting conversation. But in terms of accolades and statistics counting statistics. Anyway, it's it's not close. But in terms of efficiency statistics, it is close. Yeah. And you know, there's to your point there is a lot. That's I think oh, I don't wanna say unknowable about him. But. Dwayne interesting in talking to you guys. I talked about to them I think like literally seven days apart, and it's just very different talking to talking to Wayne. I mean know as any two people, I guess, but Dwayne is so polished in his so, you know, it's going to be a great interview. No, he's going to say some interesting things he's going to be earnest he's going to, but but it's with a polish on it. Like, it feels like Dwayne was always made to be in these situations. Like, he was he's just great on that stage. And if in fact, you know, a lot of us have felt over the years that like LeBron being with Duane in Miami made LeBron a better, you know, media presence because Dwayne always kind of invited it and had a certain like you enthusiasm for it that I think kind of brought it LeBron LeBron was not as great in his first run with Cleveland. So joins us natural with that. Dirk Dirks got that low key kind of monotone I'm to sit back in the chair with the microphone off the stand. S conferences and be a little bit is not that expressive, but Dirksen, emotions are so much Rahr. They're they're like, they're they're really raw. And he's like he's letting you in when he says. Yeah, I thought Dirks quote to me, I'm sure he said some version of this before. But this thing is basically saying like, you you just want it you want to just like not get out of bed. You don't want like go out. You just you just feel like everything's just over. It was always have time. And you just don't even want to leave the house and like this very raw. And I can't see Dwayne saying in that same way. And so maybe wait is not dropped the facade long enough in the course of his career for us to Nome in the way that you're alluding to he's more. He he's definitely more of a celebrity. Yes. That that's part of it. But like Carmelo Anthony is a celebrity, and I feel like I know Carmelo Anthony I feel like I know who he is. And what he's about. I know his personality. I know his mannerisms. I I know I I don't feel that. There's something kind of untouchable about Wade. That is interesting to me that I would like to look at once, you know, once we get. Through eight months of playoffs and eight days of crazy free agency one half the league is going to change teams that everyone is going to be upset was we get to July maybe in Croatia. I'll spend my Croatia time thinking about Dwayne Wade and growing and growing your beer love that. Honey, I just get a go go to the hotel bar next door and think about Dwayne Wade for a few hours. Can you take care of our daughter? I'm gonna I'm just gonna have you Dwayne Wade yet win Dwayne Wade. No the basketball player the him. Yeah. I'm going to advise you against that. Yeah. What else what else was what what what else was fun to you about this this story with reliving the twenty eleven finals? So there's there's interesting stuff in there about Dwayne says losing the twenty eleven finals made me greater, and then he explains that by saying it made me give the reins to LeBron which is the story line. That's been sort of talked about ad nauseam. But it was interesting to hear him frame that as a step increasing his own greatness. Yeah. Because I think there's a certain feeling like, you know, in that for your span, or, you know, obviously, they didn't think it was going to be only four years at the time. They got together. Wade Bosh LeBron. I don't think they really expected to win not four not five not six seven. But they certainly expected that we're going to be some ups and downs in there. So whether you win two out of four being your one in your three or year two and three as it happened. I think they thought that there was going to be some, you know, some combination of of wins and losses like that. In the finals. I don't know. I got the sense in being there that they truly believe in. Spoelstra said this too. And I don't think ended up quoting Spoelstra in the story. But that it it would just something that just kind of had to happen. It just like they had to start off nine and eight and and have everybody freaking out before they could kind of get themselves righted and figure out what the right chemistry was the right? Pecking order, whatever. And then they had you know, maybe they had to lose for LeBron understand what he really had to be. Because obviously he got killed for the way that that finals went it's one of the all Dirk has said this before he says it in your story. Like, maybe we were lucky to catch them in their first year. He he's saying that because he's self affairs ING, but I do think he believes deep down that there's a kernel of truth there that they were lucky now, I also all the focus on the LeBron meltdown. I think took away a little bit from how good Dallas wasn't that series. And how smart defensively they were that was Tyson Chandler at his absolute apex that was to Shawn Stevenson, Jason Kidd still widely enough to. Every position. And on and on Marian. And they they had a great defensive game plan. They executed it LeBron was in his own head, but they shoved him deeper in his own head because they didn't let him out if they were even just an okay defensive team he would have gotten out of his head, and they shut him in there. But he was really in his own head. And when when he retires which all of a sudden, it doesn't feel so far off given what's happened this year when he retires all of the noise and yelling and screaming about LeBron. And how he was a choker, and he couldn't win the big one, and blah, blah, blah. It's all gonna come down to one playoff series. And it's that because he was a beast in two thousand seven he was a beast in two thousand eight two Celtics wanted no part of him in two thousand eight and they were so relieved to get by him despite forty something in game seven when Pierce also at forty something. He was a beast in two thousand nine and the magic just were better. There are a better team. They were terrible matchup for Cleveland two thousand ten something. Happened. That's the last Cleveland year something happened. It's not sure what it was somebody knows. And they're going to write it eventually somebody knows not me somebody knows. But statistically, he was good. And he was at least like ninety percent engaged the two thousand ten finals. He just flat out wasn't. There wasn't there. And it's the real black Mark on his career. Yes. And I think really the only significant one the only one, and there was so much screaming before they finally won that Kevin arnovitz at the buzzer of twenty eleven twenty twelve rather when they won had an article ready and posted saying goodbye to all that. And it was just a sensually. Thank god. We don't have to go through this charade anymore because he won and the really the Teredo was was only real for that one series. Yeah. So well what we've been discussing this. I wanted to find it because I did not use this quote from Spoelstra. This was interesting. Maybe I should have jammed in there somewhere. It was already. The story was getting too long sponsor about eleven says, quote, I think it was probably meant for us not to succeed in that. First one it really set the table for the next two years a level of pain and experience that allowed us to win back to back and happened all that first year because of how that team was put together of maybe we might not have realized just how challenging it is to win. No matter what your team makeup is. So there is he's basically saying like this like this was kind of fate. Basically we had to lose to figure out who we were in order to win the next two. And I think that's kind of what what Dwayne telegraphed a little bit. And what he said to me as well. He's Dwayne Dwayne his fascinating. And I suspect at the end of this year, a journalist who actually knows him somewhat in Miami up just guessing I'm hoping will write something like I would read a book about Dwayne Wade like a real good book about Dwayne Wade out read in Croatia. Bring it with me. Go read the book. Anyway, the piece is called some Bleacher report today, it is called the ballot of Durkan Dwayne by the one and only Howard Beck, and you should all read it. Howard, those great piece of I don't wanna ruin it for for people. Why did Joel Embiid changes nickname from the process to Hulu has live sports because Hulu paid him? Lots of money. It's the most blatant form of advertising I've ever seen. Hulu live sports and news your favorite teams, the biggest games and sixty plus life channels follow your teams all season, no cable required. Start your free trial today. Live TB plan required for live content. Restrictions apply. Learn more at Hulu dot com. Let's talk about some actual present day things short. I this is it's the present day and they're playing for the final time tomorrow night. That's right tomorrow night. And boy the heat the heat are in the thick of what has suddenly become. I don't want to talk about this people talk about this for a second a five team race for three playoff spots between Brooklyn who is in. I in this five team slap fight at thirty eight and thirty seven and the Hornets who are thirty five and thirty nine but have the potential to win every tiebreaker and finished the season against the magic. I believe who are right above them. Currently in eighth place in the standings. The nets have absolutely brutal schedule the rest of the way, they've had a brutal schedule for like a month. Now, Charlotte is in play for the spot, which I did not think would happen. And we're going to look back at that. Jeremy lamb shot in Toronto seen my in laws were at the game. My mother. In law was devastated. Demi does she still talking about devastated? My father in law does not like sports and was dragged there because they needed another person to go because someone cancel he was just happy. There was going to be no overtime. That that changed the playoff odds by itself like more than any other event. So the the the heat that every game for the heat is important and that lost last night against Orlando at home was a crusher for Miami. But we're reaching the end of the season. Everybody wants to know who the MVP is who is your MVP Howard Beck. Do you have one yet as you know, I'm a stubborn stickler on this thing? I'm going to be one of the last people to hit assuming that I have about whether we don't the ballots aren't in our hands yet. Right. We unless they went out, and I don't I don't believe that we have received. They're not out yet. It's usually, you know, April first second third somewhere in there. I'm always among the last to hit send to send nothing to Mark retarded at NBA PR on the very last day, which is the day after the season ends. So we do have eight to ten games left here on the schedule. And I'm probably going to go down to the wire on my ballot on all of these things because certain ones are going to be are going to be tough MVP. I mean, I don't. I don't mind saying where I'm leaning. I will never say its final. I'm leaning hard Jaanus without a good tease right there. I'm leading hard Yanni. I don't think actually planned it that way. Yeah. I'm I'm leaning. I'm leaning on. Very much at this point for a variety of reasons. But it is it's going to be a really close race. It's definitely hard in unison the top two. We don't have one of those years where this is going to be three or four guys. Everybody's trying to figure out there's excuse me. My computer's doing annoying things. We're absolutely. This is absolutely a two man race as far as I'm concerned. And I I think most people so it'll be interesting to see how many people go one way or the other to me, it's Jaanus at this point. Again, things may happen in the next few weeks mostly because of the totality of of his work, including the defense. The bucks of the number one defense in the NBA and Yana says the primary reason for that. And the rockets simply are not that's Craig they are not the number one. Nor nor really all that close that matters being great from one three eighty two matters. Which is again goes back to my stubbornness about not declaring a winner in January February March or even March twenty seventh as we're recording this because the whole season matters. And so yes, hard went on a tear that saved their season. But they had a season that needed saving and he's responsible for that as well. There are eleven and fourteen on December eighth and fourteenth place in the west and that was before Chris Paul had gone down. So you can't even blame it on injuries. I mean, I don't know what you blame it on Carmelo Anthony. I mean that that always struck me as a bit of a stretch, it feels like. Twelve years ago that Carmelo Anthony was on the rockets I was looking at their on off data by team just among many tabs. I had opened for MVP purposes to see what hardens ratings were. And I saw Anthony comma Carmelo at the top. Wow, I was negative number. Second of all that was this season. Yeah. Didn't it did not work out? No, sadly. So look, you know, that that that I twenty five games which is a significant chunk of the season that matters to and the bucks have been great from day. One Janas has been great from day one. And as you know, I also, you know, my definition for MVP is always the individual excellence plus team's success formula. The bucks are going to have the best record in the NBA. They do have the best record in the NBA. They may cross sixty wins. The rockets are gonna get to the fifty wind threshold, which I thought they might not get to it all in which case, I would have pushed hard and down even further because I believe that that fifty when threshold is really important in the MVP discussion because with one major exception a couple years ago fifty wins has been kind of a requirement for the last thirty five years, but they're going to get there. But the going to be what fifty to fifty three wins somewhere in there, and the bucks are going to be at sixty and that that matters too. So. Yeah. For all those reasons I'm leaning very much toward Janas will see if anything changes in the next few weeks. I'm I'm interested to see how the seedings in the western out, and if voters care and by that I mean. Can Houston get up to number three which would seem valuable because it's a way to avoid the warriors except the warriors in the nuggets are now tied. Atop the Western Conference. So there is a world in which three does not avoid the warriors. In the second round. Three gets you the warriors. Now, I think the wears will win the number one seat because they have a much easier schedule, and they currently lead head to head to two one. Although they have one game left against the nuggets. And if the nuggets win that game, it defaults to conference record, which is very close between them right now, so TB, but if the warriors are first and the rockets have a chance to get up to third they trail the blazers now by game. And the blazers have the better head dad record. But the rockets have won their division, and because the NBA stupidly still has divisions that somehow matters. If the words get one and the rockets stumbled a four, and and we get to the end where they're in a position to know urgently that they would like to get out of four, and they don't I wonder if that will matter some people, I would like this. I would like if I'm going to vote for harden. There's part of me that would like to get them to three if that ends up mattering. Yeah. I mean, I generally feel like again going back to precedent almost all MVP's for thirty five years except for one top three in the conference fifty plus plus wins. I would like to see the rockets in the top three for MVP purposes. If James harden is going to be getting major consideration for the top of the ballot. I do think it matters. Now, if we get there and somehow with three games left. The warriors are like an eighty percent chance to comes second. I'm taking two four like they they should tank two four. Yeah. It's funny because we I don't feel like we've seen a lot of that in recent years where the focus of taking somebody so much more about the the lottery in the draft and not so much about the tanking in and out of matchups. But you're right. This is one where you could very easily see the rockets trying to manipulate that. I have been leaning Janas all season. I everyone knows I like defense very much. I think defense is very important. I think Harvard is somehow both simultaneously underrated overrated as a defender. And I know that it's impossible to be. But. Like, he's not a good player off the ball. He's terrible. You he doesn't box out. And you've seen some smart teams kind of realize that it doesn't box out and send his man to the glass they have to switch all because of him. Right. Because he doesn't want to do any work. But I don't think he's got enough credit in this regard his post defenses legitimate. Yes. It's again now he's one of the best post defenders in the league statistically by the eye test. But the deflections all of it, it's not fake. It's not because bad players are posting him up hunting mismatches. He's a good post defender. I get good players in the post. And so it's tempting to say Houston has to scheme the way they do to protect him. But that scheme wouldn't work if he weren't good at this one thing he has to be really good at that one thing. Yes. It's not like he's bad at everything. And they scheme around it. They do scheme around him. But the scheme around him in a way that etc. Accentuates the thing he's actually good at and they wouldn't and that scheme wouldn't work to the degree. It works at all. If he were bad at it. And by the way, while we're on the subject with me to dismiss a couple of tropes right off hand. Because I've seen the cycle through Twitter in the last like twenty zero mistake in life. You're looking at tropes on Twitter too. Big mistake at its among many mistakes. I make almost all of which involve Twitter. If harden doesn't win it. It's not going to be because voters are quote unquote board first of all you'd have to be able to mind read one hundred voters to know that because it even when any of us in this position explainer votes on Twitter and columns, or blogs or elsewhere, nobody ever says, they're bored. So your logs anymore. I don't know this NBC's that weren't you more you. I don't think there are blogs. And I just telegraphed yourself as an old person. Dammit again. No, it's not because of boredom I voted for in each of the last two years. He lost the first time to Westbrook. He won the last time. If I don't vote for this year's not because I'm bored of hardener Boorda voting for him. And it's not because I I suddenly think his game is suddenly worse. It's if anything it's even better it's because each season is its own thing. And the again back to my definition like, you know, your team's win total matters the being great from one through eighty two matters that consistency matters of Yana says defense matters all these things matter, so it's just a different Welvinson, racial. I had about it's not about boredom Detroit. I have seen in that is not the boredom one which I don't think anyone's actually poor maybe hard engine shave his beard as like a last minute like eye-catching vote. I think the world would come apart Twitter, the one I've seen is the rockets fan saying, well, you can't have voted for us in twenty seventeen because of some incredible statistical feet on a forty something when team and then not vote for Hardin in two thousand nineteen when. He has incredible statistical feet because he is on a forty whatever. Third seed that. I that's bogus to me for exactly what you said. Every scene is season is different. Now, I am not subject for you to such alleged incongruous because I did not vote for us two years ago. I don't think it's like a crime that he won two years ago. I think it was a perfectly legitimate vote. He averaged a triple double his clutch shooting was outrageously good. And he has Rachel Nichols. Very cogently said many times picked up a franchise on his shoulders that had been punched in the Golan ads by Kevin Durant decision to leave at could have folded not folded literally. But like that could go in a very bad direction. There were there were many potential reasons to vote for Westbrook that you're neither of us bought those reasons, but if you vote for Westbrook, then and don't look for heart and now, it's not a crime. It's not incongruent and also Jaanus is having an outrageous statistical season in its own right in terms of points in the paint, shooting, percentages, steals blocks. An unprecedented combination of stuff which again brings up something that runs through the threat of all three of these guys which is making history is not does not equal MVP. Okay. Having a historic season having a historic stretch of games within a season. Does not equal MVP. The MVP is not there to reward you for setting records the reward for setting records are the records. That was my case that I made it about Westbrook, averaging the triple double setting the record for triple doubles in a season few years ago. And it's the case I would make about harden now. Yes, hardens having a historically incredible season on based on certain parameters and based on the street. Streaky had thirty five point games. Also Jaanus also is having a historic season, which by the way, hard and also had a historic season the year that Westbrook had historic season. They were just differently. A different digits. They were different digits different amounts of digits in one category by one digit, but hord and also had something that was historically incredible that year, and he has this year. And so does your history does not equal MVP. So there's another one to throw out the window last night's game head to head as people were suggesting on Twitter, and I responded on that one it it's not about the head to head didn't my decision solely based on the next. It did not matter who won head to head. That's not a thing. People are creating things that don't think used to exist MVP has existed as a media vote for. I don't know how many decades a lot of these things are are recent conventions that people think of created on the fly. The you've got to have a moment. She gave me some defining moment. You know, you've got to have these moments. And then that would you say one shining moment or possibly several striding moments. But that was part of the Westbrook narrative to a couple of years ago was oh, well he had these always game winners down the stretch and these clutch shots. Okay. Fine. Those are important too. But like it you don't need a moment. Michael, Jordan, however, many MVP's, you know, five six whatever, I don't you could not tell me a single moment that defined those seasons nor historical records that define those season. He was MVP because he was MVP because he had the best season on the best team. I mean, that's anyway, people over thinking this, and they're creating new new categories of what defines MVP that just did not exist, historically. But this is all because I spent. Too much time on Twitter. I'm sorry. Here's the case for harden. And it's a case after leaning all season toward Jaanus sometime in the middle of like another fifty seven point game last week. I began to lean the other way. And now, I'm just I'm like buffering in two different directions like frozen someone in every year. I do this. I pulled as many people as I can around the coaches executives about whatever question is most pertinent awards wise, in my mind this year, it helps me VP at one person responded that they would vote for harden. And I said I asked about Yoenis and this person said Janas case for MVP is too intertwined with him with buds case for coach of the year. And by that he meant this. But but there's an interesting. Okay. I don't quite buy that. But it's interesting, and here's why what what they are trying to say is that bud and John Horst crafted an ecosystem SP. Specifically to on offense on offense specifically to limit the impact of Janas one weakness his jump shot four shooters in you. That's it. We're all in on that. And I think the point this guy was making was you don't have to do that. For harden harden? His one hundred percent scheme and teammate proof. You have a rim runner have a Ramona rim runner who can't shoot you have no rim runners, that's fine too. You just wanna play one on one all the time. That's fine too. You have a rim runner in two non-shooters or like a rim runner and a couple of guys with unproven three point track. Records will make you can make that work. He is completely system and scheme proof on offense in a way that. Maybe two other guys in the modern NBA have been and I think he's even taking it to an extreme degree with the step back three. There's just nothing you can do. And so you see these games like it. Now happens all the time. You're watching the bucks last night. I don't know that I've ever even seen curry guarded with this kind of extreme where they are invite. They are giving him six foot layups not at rim layups by the time. You get to the rim. Somebody will be there. But they are literally rolling out the red carpet like dude just dribble. As far as you want like triple to the area where like the entire history of basketball is based on preventing you from doing that do it. And what will happen is? You'll get pretty close. Cappella got Capellas guy will come over another wing player will come over to help Capella. And then the other wing from the other side will come in to help on you. And all of a sudden four dudes are guarding James harden at once six feet from the basket, and he still has a pretty I just don't know. Great floater that's going to beat you anyway. And I just don't know. Oh that anyone has been literally ushered to the rim like this before. Because no one can figure out a better way to do it. All of that is a phenomenal case for harden. And I don't dismiss any of it. I would only you saw me like Ringling my brow. Little bit about the idea that you can't like as if as if bud being coach of the year in Yoenis being of EP or somehow, mutually exclusive. It can only I don't get only gives Christian this person meant that. I just I've heard that other years where people try to say, well, it can only be one of the other. Because otherwise, you can't you can't say it was the coach if it was the player, and you can't say it was player who was the coach. No, these these are this is all symbiotic relationships. That's how that's even you know, I wrote about this a couple of years ago about what a perfect match harden was to Dan, Tony and dantonio Maury, and that whole everybody being in alignment there with a certain philosophy and a style that maximize you know, Mike's philosophy hardens game Daryl's analytics driven strategy and roster building they Bill. I mean, you're right there roster there, they can do different things. No matter who's on the floor. But that's not to say, they didn't build a Roth. Sure that means made to maximize James harden, it it is it is. But it is. But I don't think they feel as urgently about. I mean, they wanna play a particular way because Mike wants a screen and dive centre and that works well with harden. But I I just I think he's almost ecosystem independent. I I don't think it matters. No, which is a great point that you could you could almost drop hardened into any context on your roster and he team, and he would still just he doesn't need a pick. Like, that's I guess it's a fancy way of saying he doesn't even need to pick. Now Jaanus doesn't need to pick and some degree too. Because he just dribbles and spins and then dunks, but he'll occasionally meet a defender that can bother him. Right. And if you lay off him, he's not gonna just destroy from the three point line, which interestingly when you look at I think both active field goal and true shooting or it was just true shooting that Jaanus wins in one or both of those despite not having a three point shot like hardened feasts on three pointers. Which you know, definitely boosts your your advanced fiddle percentages. And Janas does it without that because he's just such a high percentage guy on twos. And obviously gets to the line a lot. We also have to fill out a five-man ballot. And while that's where it gets hard. Well, and on the one hand you just it's a two person race. And really what matters is who gets the top slot. But I do I do think hard about three or four and five because all it matters into its storage. I just went and said how many top three finishes does Dwayne Wade have and it was one like we're gonna look those things matter. Yeah. And so I have eight candidates for five ballot spots. Are you ready? Okay. Jaanus Hardin, Paul, George, Nicole Yokich, Damian Lillard Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant and Steph curry and Currey is going to be a little short in games. But we can talk about that. If you want. So I have I have all those same guys. I you could see where have Kawhi with with a cross through him. And you can see I've I've curry circled there. But I've those same eight names. So I guess my question to you is would it be strange to have a five-man? MVP valid no warriors. It would be it feels wrong. No, it this is this is the conundrum that's been created ever since Durant. Went there. Right with the we we have a hard time parsing out. Well, is it curry or Durant? Who you give the credit to is at both of them. Are they taking away from each other both of them statistically are so good and yes curry we have it. We have a games played a little bit of a games played issue. But they're both so off the charts, especially curry in his officiency that you you cannot dismiss them. Their numbers are better than some of the other guys were talking about. And their teams record is better than some of the other guys. We're talking about better than Dame and Portland, obviously better than m beat in Philly. But it'd be almost impossible to jam them. Both on there. Where I come down on this right now to you know, and again, I don't know how I'm going three four five specifically or what order, but I do think it's curry over K D because we've seen what when curry was out. Katie just can't lead them in the same way. They're not the same the same team. Without curry. He he is still the most important engine of of the warriors. And maybe it'd be different if the team had been built around Katie, I don't know. But I think we've seen that when curry is out the warriors are much more vulnerable than than than vice versa. So Korean key deep stats are phenomenal for both guys. If it's going to be one of them on the ballot in that three or four five position. I think it stuff. Statistically, they've actually for the first time, Ben, okay? Without curry a win. Durant is on the floor of the year. Just what in those minutes Durant on curry off? This is one of the first times I've been that was referring mostly to win out. Curry also have Mark Mark Medina had a good piece on this today. Particularly in a season with so much drama around the warriors Curry's presence in his leadership. Ju it just has to count it has to count in this calculus in a big way in a bigger way than I think for almost any player the league, it's just him holding the team together strong, but him being the voice that if there's a conflict between literally any part of the team in any other part of the team. He is the glue who can go in and figure out how to how to fix it that has to matter. Agreed. I also. It's gonna be really hard to leave Lillard off. Lillard? I think Yokich is a lock to get on for me. And I think PG is a lot to get on for me. So that really leaves? We're talking about one spot. I think you're going curry versus Dame versus Embiid or. Yeah. No. And embiid's in there to Embiid shooting percentage and turnovers. I just don't know if it's enough, and it's like Lillard is making one hell of a case they are the difference between when he's on the floor. And when he's off the floor is sixteen points. It's one of the biggest gaps in the league, Paul George. I think is the biggest one at seventeen. There's going to be someone who is like it's really hard to leave them off. And Embiid for everything I just said about the shooting percentage in the turnovers. The Sixers are flat bad when he doesn't play bad. They've been bad for two years when he does lay doesn't matter Simmons is on the floor. Mel he's attached. At the hip terrific. So Rettig deserve some of that credit to man game is so good by like we've yet to see the Sixers with the exception of that run at the end of last season. When Embiid was hurt in Simmons went crazy, and they played mostly bad teams. They're mostly just not very good. When m beat is off the floor. Yeah. No. He he's for all those reasons I had to put him down, and he has to be under consideration. And the Sixers where are they now third. So, you know, they're they're they're in a good range there there. You know? I think finally about where we expected them to be. And yeah, I don't wanna leave him beat off in the same way. You don't want to leave Lillard off and Lillard everything. I said about curry applies to Lillard Lillard is an absolute rock and a stud phenomenon maybe the best culture center in the entire league. Every single feature that you've seen written on him the last couple of years. It's he's just he's just fantastic. And the way the guy's respond to him react to him. Yes. Tone, set, our culture said are all of that. And that's stuff should matter in the MVP discussion to it's not just stats, and it's not just wins. It's it's it's it's your presence. Yeah. It's it's going to be really tough. I don't know how it's going to shake out for me. I'm with you that I think yoga John Paul George are fairly essential. Although the thunder's late-season fade here is fairly troubling to. It is going to be true to see where they end up and how that hurts him or whether he built up enough equity in the first sixty eight games of probably did. Because the way that we have these minute to minute discussions now because of Twitter talkradio pods everything else, we we, you know, the MVP discussion people do start to get I think kind of mentally locked into a certain place at a certain point even though their season to go. And you shouldn't the Paul George thing. It was like a few weeks ago, but he was talking about oh, he's definitely third. And maybe he's even pushing into the into the race. With harden Yoenis, I don't think that was ever the case. But because again, it's it's an eighty two game thing. It's not just what you were doing for that month. But the late-season fade also kind of matters. And that's you know, he looking at the shoulder issue. So I it's it's injury related possibly, but the thunder themselves also just haven't been that great. And again there's a team component to the MVP race. It's not just your individual. That's so I'm I'm not certain that Paul George will be third on my belt. He will be on my ballot. But I'm not I like right now because of the way that they're what would they like lost Levin of their last sixteen. They I I can't dismiss that listeners. You know that getting tickets to sporting events for friends and visitors used to stress me out there were too many sites to check on the secondary market. Am I getting a good deal? Am I getting the best deal? I can get what if there's a better season. I just forgot well, guess what Seekie has solved all of those problems for you it pulls millions of tickets into one place only after visit seatgeek, and that's it you can easily. 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Because that is where there's so much at stake in terms of not only money, but how the money makes those teams think about those players in their place in their long term future. So to review I did this last week with Zillow. Yes, I listen to that. I have four point five guards who are locks for the six pots, obviously curry and harden Lillard is three kyri we could argue about, but I have him as a basic lock gets a little shake every time the Celtics win without him. Although they beat the freaking Cavs in their American gladiators jerseys last night, and Russ I do have now if you don't if you want to unlock him, I'm cool with that. I'm not wedded to him as a lock, and that leaves a whole pilots. A pile of oil. A plethora of pinatas pile. Who what do you got? Well, first of all start. Do you disagree with my locking curry Hardin? Lock absolutely positively. That was easy Dame. Lock easy kyri at the time that you in russillo were debating this and russillo. I think was was not on. He said no to Cairo mad about kyri. I was with you on that one kyri was a lock a week here later like I like, I waver a little bit on Kyrie. But as of right now, I'm still pretty sure that Damon kyri are the second team. So that's four four locked. It's a disaster for the third team and the hot take alluded to. Yes, before we got started rolling on this. And you know, I'm not Mr. I don't know what I've taken some very excited be put on my goggle. It doesn't feel as hot anymore because you just kind of. Renault Russ, maybe not Russ. Let's I think to the to the masses that will sound like a hot taken it will sound like something like, oh, you're just trying to know like Russ's russes efficiency numbers in particular are terrible. The thunder are again as I said five and eleven in their last sixteen. I just want to point this out on on Russ, and I'm not positive. I'm leaving him off. But you'll Kemba Walker and Bradley Beal have great cases to make Klay Thompson clan. Steph or the only guards in the league averaging over twenty points who are shooting fifty percent from two and forty percent from three in Kyrie's close at three ninety eight from three. So there's three guards who in the entire league twenty plus points per game fifty percent from two point range forty percent from three point range if you round up for for kyri inside that far. Clay, Kemba and Beal or the other guys I'd be considering against Russ Russ is. Among all these guys. He's last in two point percentage. He's next to last lasted three point percentage of twenty eight. He's last ineffective field goal percentage of forty six. I ran a couple of different versions of this just to see how it would pan out. Oh, and he's also averaging four point six turnovers a game, which is a lot. And he's his his free-throw percentage. Russell shooting sixty five percent from the line for a guard. That's that's that's just horrific. Thirty one guards were averaging at least two free throw attempts game. That's not even that high. But threshold thirty one guards who average English two free throws attempts to game Rush's thirtieth and free throw percentage. The only one he's ahead of his Ben Simmons who I had not mentioned, but should be part of the discussion for third team as well. Thirty three players period, regardless of position average, twenty points or more game Russ's dead last in that group ineffective field goal percentage. And yet he's fourth and field goal attempts. I mean deficiency has always been my knock on him. And I think for a lot of people the knock on Russ it's really pronounced right now. And that's certainly mattering in the standings and in their performance. And in the fact that they while looking like they were going to be and should be a top four team in the western now going to finish in the bottom part of the bracket again. I think all that matters less. So the record I don't I don't place as much emphasis on record for all MBA's. I do for him the MVP. But it's it's it's in there somewhere. Well, where where it will be where it was going to factor into people's votes. I think is thirteen center where I think if you pulled a hundred coaches. Go bear would have a seventy five twenty five edge over towns because of record this impact on winning. Whereas I think if you pulled one hundred Bedia members who would be closer to fifty fifty or more protons, maybe I'm wrong, though. And yet at every as everybody in Salt Lake City will tell you those same coaches did not reward go for winning when it came to all-star reserves. They voted in towns over his true. And that's that's a point of some bitterness in Utah. And it it it may well be again if go bear loses out to towns in all NBA. And so speaking of record. Charlotte is thirty five and thirty nine in the east. Huzzah, okay. So record is not. I don't hear a lot of well with with Bradley Beal, the wizards are thirty and forty five and they're really a special kind of thirty and forty five they are really a dumpster fire on top of a trash fire on top of the Titanic. I mean, they are just a spectacular. Can we work in nuclear like, I don't. Spectacular. They can't just fail. They have to fail with comedy. So there are thirty and forty five and I hear while you can't give all NBA to Bradley Beal, they're thirty and forty five they stink guess who else thinks the Hornets stink thirty five or thirty nine. They stink. They just stink a little bit less. And if you go through the history of all NBA teams over the course of decades. I'm you're gonna find plenty of guys who had great stats on bad teams. It it's not a disqualified. So I'm going to give you candidate whose name is not being mentioned at all. Literally. You have not set him. I did not say him last week on my podcast who statistically deserves. Attention. If Campbell walkers play at thirty five and thirty nine and the junior varsity and Bradley Beal's in play at thirty and forty five in the junior varsity, Mike Conley should be in play. I thought you were gonna say like Chris Middleton or go, Mike. Well, you can go the other way and go and go that way, if you want Mike Conley has had an outstanding. Ending season by the numbers. He's better or as good as all these guys and the grizzlies have been like shockingly competitive since trading Marcus oil, and he has been outstanding. Nobody is bringing him up because I think there's this perception that although Memphis, just terrible like their way to terrible their team is like an NBA mad, libs. They just made up a team half with Tunisia. The Justin holidays on the team. New joke him Noah, he's he's got. He's a character. Bring him really random. It's the most. And so they have this perception of like this random tanking flotsam because there are thirteenth in their conference. Guess what they have as of right now a better record than the Washington Wizards and they'd be three and a half games on the Hornets. They're functionally the same as well. They're not but the Hornets have a much of a negative point eight point differential, where's the grizzlies have negative two point four. So they're not functionally the same. But they're they're number is read both their numbers aren't read their negative and red. And so I'm going to give I don't think I'm gonna vote for my. Calmly, but I literally haven't heard his name because I think people lump the grizzlies in with like the sons and the Knicks and they're not they're random tanking flotsam. Either needs to be the name of a punk band or a podcast somebody out there named something random tanking. I believe they play the warriors tonight the random taking flats. Yeah. I believe they play the words. They just beat the thunder. Like, it wasn't that hard but game. No this like this is the perfect, Mike. Conley. This is the epitome of Mike Conley. In the way that we regard him. He's perpetually overlooked, and I just overlooked them in this discussion, and you're right. He's not gonna make. I mean, somebody somebody somewhere might throw them all in. But I might throw them on just add just just for just for the fun of it. You know, I I said last week I was leaning Beal because the typically it's an overwhelming the twenty five five five and when we're going to keep doing the let's make up a random statistical thresholds percentages are way, better still campus and things like that. Now, he's he's legit. We'll say what I left out last week. And I've watched the wizards a couple of times since then for God knows what reason I guess it's I enjoyed horror movies and whatever his defense. This year is taken his his defense has been really bad. Like, he's never been a good defensive player. But he's been average maybe a little below average. He has sunk with the rest of his team to just really really bad. But I think that's what happens with bad. Yes. It is. And so like, he's not the biggest problem on on the Washington Wizards defense, but he's a problem. He's not part of the solution. He's he's been very bad defensively. No. Combos reliability because of his size be tries really hard. And and is usually in the right place. You know, another these guys Conley's just good now. He's not outstanding. Like he used to be. And and you know, so you can I have the beholder. But like bills defense has been not just like it's been very bad. Yeah. The other thing I'll say about all NBA again. Traditionally I think we're we talk about a differently in the last five to ten years with more of zone defense and more statistics that we can kinda grab even if those statistics are flawed. I think all NBA is mostly about stat generators. It is mostly that we and we still think about elite players in this league is being elite offensive players, right or wrong. That's still what defines them. It's why towns will probably win over Gobert, and that's not to excuse Bill for propor- defense or anybody else. But you know, we're not considering Dame's defensive liabilities. When we're talking about him for second team for Kyrie's liabilities for that matter. Like, we we give a lot of guys a lot of passes on this stuff until it comes down to crunch time. When we need. To like eliminate somebody. And then we start to bring in their defense. Well, that's why clay I think actually has a lot of momentum should because I think although he's a little overrated defensively. He's very good. And he's he's really important to them defensively. Put it that way. Sometimes you really do feel like he's sneakily the most important warrior like the only guy they just don't ever have to worry about Klay on under the floor. That does this thing. But he was just so ice cold for by his standards for twenty five thirty game. Then it took a long time. And. Yeah, clay and yet he's percent forty percent from three fifty percent from two and averaging over twenty points a game one of three guards in the NBA doing it. Right. And if there's a buck guard, by the way that deserves the second thirteen spot, it's not Middleton. It's Bledsoe led. So his head an last night was I think not for him. He was a monster last night. If you had just what you you turn on that game to watch Hardin and Yoenis, but if you just watched Bledsoe last night, you'd be you would have been phenomenally entertained and impressed. He was great. Okay. Howard. You gotta go. The ballad of Dirk Dwayne I'm Bleacher report, which is a website on the internet. Not a blog. Not blah. Great story. Everything you do is. Great howard. We always appreciate you the people. Love you the people demand. More Howard Beck. Thank you, sir. Zack. 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