NBA

Kobe Bryant: Judgement Day

t-800-12

After watching Kobe Bryant’s eight turnover, -.31 PER gem of a day, I found myself in a torn state of pity and sarcasm. I love Kobe, I love making fun of him and I can only do that because he’s an all-time great.

Sunday night was a cruel, cruel reality check.

What if he’s not Kobe anymore?  Is there a point to basketball? Who will we deem the best clutch player of all time without any statistical evidence to back it up next? Nobody else deserves to shoot 6-of-24 and win a Finals MVP.

Kobe at least offers a variegated shrubbery of insult-fodder. Nick Young has about one week’s worth of monochromatic jokes. He’s so dimensionless we’re resorting to this, which just isn’t funny.

Kobe’s proven year in, year out that he’s a machine (sorry, Sasha) and this is all starting to look eerily like Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Kobe’s the T-800 who’s been replaced by a newer, swaggier T-1000 (Nick Young) and Steve Blake is John Connor because he looks like a kid that probably has a whiny voice.

Anyway, you find yourself rooting for the same guy you rooted against in the first Terminator because now he’s older, cooler, has a sense of humor and is up against a whole bunch of Swaggish-evil. The T-800 is clearly outmatched but there’s no way the dude is getting outgunned. The T-1000, on the other hand, is just a relentless, one-trick pony in pursuit of his next shot. Nobody wants to root for that.

We all know how it ends. Swaggy P shish kebabs Kobe with a pole but Kobe re-routes his system to an alternate power source and grenade launches Swaggs into the melting pot. But this is where the movie gets sad. Because Kobe still has to go. The movie’s ultimate realization is that even a Terminator has a heart. And that heart must be melted into oblivion.

The T-800 can’t actually self-terminate either. Linda Hamilton has to do it for him. That’s the thing with these great players — they’re often unable to self-destruct unless the circumstances are right, i.e., joining a miserable team who hits the red button for them.

Enter the Brooklyn Nets.

If Hollywood is where dreams and personalities go to die, Brooklyn is where basketball Terminators go to liquidate their chips. The Nets have arguably the second-best power forward in NBA history in Kevin Garnett (because Tim Duncan isn’t really a power forward) and a Hall of Fame, NBA Finals MVP in Paul Pierce. Both of them are currently self-terminating in a giant, industrial melting pot in Brooklyn.

I mean, those guys terminated the ultimate Kobe Bean Terminator in 2008. Last year, they were both highly functioning, effective basketball players. Nobody saw this coming. Their collective negative drop in PER this season is -14.82. That’s like a whole league average, anti-player. They have managed to create some sort of negative value T-1000 out of their decline that is as rotten as Pau Gasol (14.90 PER) is valuable.

It could be worse, I guess. They could be on the Knicks. If the Nets are the league compost pile, the Knicks are the New York City garbage system. One is at least full of things, or the shells of things, that were at one time colorful and useful. The other just stinks and give you tickets that cost a lot of money.

Anyway, with all these once-great machines waving goodbye to Linda Hamilton as the industrial elevator takes them to their ultimate doom, I’m not ready to see Kobe Bean go there yet.

You’ve got an alternate energy source somewhere, Kobe. Find it.

You’ll have to self-terminate someday of course, because we can’t have Nick Young getting that chip of yours.

But not yet.

Andre Drummond: The Renaissance Man

Andre Drummond

Nov 24, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Detroit Piston coach Maurice Cheeks and center Andre Drummond (0) fist bump before the start of first quarter play against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA Draft exists for a reason — to boo David Stern and watch Michael Jordan fail year after year.

It’s also a chance to draft a franchise player.

The thing is, you usually have to stink to make this possible. You need to patiently, calmly, stink. You cannot panic (the golden rule in Michael Jordan’s How to Ruin a Franchise) and you must not draft Adam Morrison.

Only then – armed with a high lottery pick, good scouting and a little bit of luck – can you hope that this happens.

If you’re not that lucky, you could always settle for Andre Drummond — an all-star caliber center who’s capable of dropping ridiculous 31/19/6/2 lines.

Yet no one in Detroit seems all that interested in watching Andre Drummond play. In fact, no one seems interested in going to Pistons games anymore.

It’s your fault, Joe Dumars. You panicked.

You broke the golden MJ rule.

The “aughts” is a weird name for a decade.

There were a few NBA teams that excelled for most of it– the Spurs always, the Lakers in the earlier and latter parts and the Pistons for most of the stuff in between.

Detroit probably got the least amount of attention due to their “blue collar style,” which was an excellent defense, an underrated offense and no superstars. They won a championship in ’04 and were a few Rasheed Wallace three-pointers short of a repeat in ’05. From 2003-2008, they advanced to an absurd six straight Eastern Conference finals.

Then, things got ugly.

After trading their glue-guy (Chauncey) for Black Hole Iverson, they got swept in the first round and seemed poised to start some sort of rebuilding process. It’s not like they didn’t have options. Trading Hamilton (while he still had value) and/or Prince made a lot of sense, especially with Ben Wallace back for his sentimental encore.

Instead, Joe Dumars panicked and did the unthinkable — he signed Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon.

To be fair, they weren’t as bad as everyone made them out to be. They still weren’t any good, though. You don’t want trigger-happy defensive sieves on your team, period (see Mullens, Byron), let alone headlining your team’s splash in free agency. Even worse, the Pistons were an 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. It’s not like they were an impact shooter away from a finals appearance. You dismantle, Joe. Dismantle!

In the years that followed, they just plain stunk. The old guard went quietly (Hamilton waived, Wallace vanished, Prince traded) and Detroit’s flashiest player was Rodney Stuckey, a sort of anti-Ben Gordon (I’m not entirely sure what that means, but it’s something like a point-guard with two-guard size who can’t shoot but can kinda play defense).

Not surprisingly, the Pistons – who were 1st in NBA attendance rate in 2008 and 2009 – plummeted to 18th in 2011 before flat-lining at 28th for two straight years. This year, they’re 26th, right next to MJ’s Bobchornets.

It makes sense. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2009. Given the halcyon days of those other Pistons, there probably couldn’t have been a less interesting team to watch.

Enter Andre Drummond.

He came out of college labeled a “freak” who was “raw” with an “NBA body.” Unless those were pornography search tags, I don’t see why Pistons fans were supposed to get excited either. Just Google “NBA prospect body raw” and see how many player results you get. It’s exhausting.

There were also concerns about Drummond’s motor and not being ready for the NBA. All that, plus a confusingly empty hashtag reference to Amanda Bynes’ motor vehicle skills, led to a discreet 9th selection in the 2012 draft.

Of course, it all turned out to be a bunch of hot air. His PER was only 22nd among rookies in NBA history, according to Basketball-Reference.com. As a 19 year old! Only one other guy has been that productive at such a young age — Shaq.

This year, Drummond’s #unpolished is merely 30 MPG of top-fifteen PER basketball (Hollinger’s PER rankings). He’s quick, strong, has hands like a guard (top-10 in SPG) and is already one of the league’s best centers. He’s got a ways to go in developing a low-post game (nearly all his buckets are tips, dunks, or alley-oops) but a few more obligatory summers with The Dream and things could get downright scary. The fact that he’s just 20 is gravy. Just don’t ask him to shoot free-throws.

Look, I don’t blame Pistons fans for not caring in recent years. Charlie Villanueva tends to bring that out in people. But it’s okay to start caring when you’ve got a franchise center who’s absolutely annihilating people and cleaning up all those J-Smoove misses.

So get down to the Palace, where a superstar is currently in the making. Also, don’t forget to thank the Cavs for reminding you how bad things could be as they try to find another sucker home for their 2012 draft pick, Dion Waiters.

Things are gonna be okay. Andre Drummond has arrived and he’s only just begun.

After all, he saved Joe Dumars’ job.

If he can do that, sky’s the limit.