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Friday, May 22, 2009
The NBA playoffs mailbag, Part 1

By Bill Simmons
Page 2

I don't like Lakers fans, and they don't like me. Both sides are fine with this arrangement. When I was leaving Game 2 on Thursday night, I couldn't help making the following Twitter post: "What's better than the cacophony of bitter Laker fans leaving the Staples Center complaining about Dick Bavetta? Nothing, I say." It's all in good fun. Sports wouldn't work unless you liked certain teams and disliked other ones. That's part of the deal.

Just to mix it up, I will say something nice about my archenemies. They blew Game 2 thanks to some typically brutal officiating in a league that's slowly becoming defined by its typically brutal officiating. This is such a good series, such a perfect matchup between two evenly matched teams -- and even better, a fiercely competitive Nuggets group that's forcing the finesse Lakers to get their hands dirty, or else -- and just when the bodies were banging and Game 2 was turning into PLAYOFF BASKETBALL in all caps, the whistles started coming with about five minutes to play. God forbid two teams just played their asses off, brought out the best of each other and decided the outcomes themselves. Nobody would want to see that.

Tom Cruise
Only in L.A. can a Western Conference finals game enter the "Danger Zone."

Anyway, there was a really funny moment Thursday that could have only happened at a Lakers game. Near the end of a third-quarter timeout, the camera caught Val Kilmer and three of his chins on the JumboTron, punctuating the moment by playing "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins. You know, a "Top Gun" homage. He took a second or two to get the joke, then unleashed one of those "Very funny, you got me, just know that I'm on a lot of meds right now" smiles. And this would have been enjoyable on its own, but they cut to someone else in the stands. ...

That's right. ...

Tom Cruise!

He caught on a little quicker and did the Tom Cruise Over-Laugh. And this would have been great on its own, but the Lakers pushed it to another level: They went split-screen with Kilmer and Cruise with "Danger Zone" still blasting. As far as I was concerned, this was the most emotional reunion in Lakers history. Cruise kept laughing; Kilmer looked mildly perturbed. (After all, he's an actor, dammit! That was 23 years ago! He's made a lot of movies since then!) At this point, I was praying they'd cut to Anthony Edwards in Section 312 but he wasn't there. Still, I couldn't have enjoyed the sequence any more, and it dwarfed the remainder of the game for me.

Can you top seeing Mav and Ice reunited on a JumboTron? I don't know. But here's what I do know: This could only happen at a Lakers game. Let's commemorate this historic moment with a two-part NBA playoff mailbag. As always, these are actual e-mails from actual readers.

Q: My friends and I were tossing some of these around and we wondered where you would put your cash, and if you had some other interesting ones for us.

1. LeBron James ... Over/Under 3.5 MVPs in his career
2. Kobe Bryant ... Over/Under 4.5 career NBA titles
3. Dwyane Wade ... Over/Under 11.5 seasons in the NBA
4. Chris Paul ... Over/Under 1.5 NBA titles + MVP awards
5. Carmelo Anthony ... Over/Under 1.5 scoring titles
6. Greg Oden ... Over/Under 2.5 All-Star Games
7. Derrick Rose ... Over/Under 6.5 All-Star Games
8. Current NBA players as first-ballot Hall of Famers ... 9.5
--Mark, Boston, Mass.

SG: In order ...

1. LeBron James ... Over/Under 3.5 MVPs in his career

LeBron James
LeBron is definitely knocking on the door of The Pantheon in 2009.

Over. That's a lock. Larry Bird, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell are the only players who ever won three straight MVP awards. LeBron should crack that group easily. His performance in Game 1 of the Orlando series (even though Cleveland lost) might be the single best 48-minute athletic achievement I have seen on a basketball court: 49 points, 20-for-30 shooting, eight assists, all over the place defensively, at least six "WOW!" plays, and during the last five minutes, the Cavs went to their vaunted one-versus-five offense and he still managed to create points on almost every possession. I was in awe. It became impossible about 15 months ago to tell where this is going. So yes, over.

2. Kobe Bryant ... Over/Under 4.5 career NBA titles

Under. His window is 2008-10 and it's closing fast. Has to win this year to even think about five.

3. Dwyane Wade ... Over/Under 11.5 seasons in the NBA

Come on, even Penny Hardaway lasted 12 seasons. Let's tweak to this:

Dwyane Wade ... Over/Under 1,000 career games (including playoffs).

Hmmmmm. He's at 445 right now and barely made it to Game 89 this season. There's something about his style of play that seems like it might not translate long-term, especially if he has to keep carrying bad teams like the '08-09 Heat. Then again, I think he's playing D'Antoni Ball for the Knicks in two years (he's much more likely a Knick in 2010-11 than LeBron), which might inject some life into his career. Tough one. I'm going slightly over but wouldn't bet it.

4. Chris Paul ... Over/Under 1.5 NBA titles + MVP awards

Over. He has one MVP and one title in him. If Steve Nash can win two MVPs, Chris Paul can win one. Where is he playing in two seasons, though? Rumors are flying that New Orleans might gut the roster this summer and that, as crazy as this sounds, Chris Paul could be had if you can save them a boatload of money in the process. For instance, let's say they were offered the following "Godfather" package from Houston: T-Mac's expiring deal and Brent Barry's expiring deal ($24 million combined), Aaron Brooks, Carl Landry, Shane Battier and Luis Scola for Paul, Peja Stojakovic, James Posey and Tyson Chandler. That trade works even before Paul's extension kicks in, meaning it would save New Orleans $10 million next season and $4 million to $5 million more if they bought out T-Mac. Over the next three years, it saves them $45 million to $50 million potentially, keeps the team afloat in New Orleans, and might even keep them decent with the right moves. Wouldn't that make more sense than gutting the franchise like a fish (which they will), saddling Paul with a terrible team and eventually pushing him to demand a trade? I can't see any scenario in which Chris Paul is a happy New Orleans Hornet in two years. Which means he'll find a better team. Sorry, N'Awlins. Over.

5. Carmelo Anthony ... Over/Under 2.5 scoring titles

A tough one because it looks like he's putting it together mentally (finally) and only turns 25 next week. (Did you see that clutch offensive rebound and putback in Game 2??? That was a "my baby's all growns up!" moment.) A few readers e-mailed me after Barkley commented that Melo was the best "pure" scorer in the NBA (wondering what that meant), and my answer is this: It means Melo gets his points easier than anyone else does. There are six ways to score in a basketball game: Make 3-pointers, post up, beat guys off the dribble, score in transition, score in traffic and get to the line. He can do all six without breaking a sweat. That's what makes him special. But he figured out this season that he doesn't have to score 30-plus every game for his team to win; he can help them just as much with rebounding and defense. I don't think he cares about scoring titles. That is a good thing. I'm going under.

6. Greg Oden ... Over/Under 2.5 All-Star Games

Under. You could have given me 0.5 and I would have gone under. In the 2009 playoffs, he finished with 96 minutes, 30 points, 26 rebounds and 27 fouls. Under. Six feet under.

7. Derrick Rose ... Over/Under 6.5 All-Star Games

Over. Way over. Eight easy. Possibly 10 or 12.

8. Current NBA players as first-Ballot Hall of Famers ... 9.5

Kobe, Iverson, Duncan, Nowitzki, Nash, LeBron, Garnett, Kidd and Shaq, for sure. That's nine. Of the young guys, Paul, Howard, Rose, Durant, Melo and Dwyane Wade have the best chance (in that order), but I wouldn't bet my life on any of them because it's so early. Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Chauncey Billups and even Tracy McGrady have long-shot chances for the first ballot depending on how their next few postseasons play out. That's about it. So basically, I'd have to nail one of those last 10 guys I just mentioned to win my bet? Yes. I'm in. Over.

Two more over/unders I made up just to get us to 10:

9. Shaquille O'Neal ... Over/Under 3.5 more seasons

Let's see ... loves the limelight ... loves money ... less than 2,400 career points away from 30,000 ... less than 4,600 points away from passing MJ as the No. 3 scorer of all time ... thinks he's better than he is ... could play 20 minutes a game as a bench scorer/chemistry guy on the right contender into his early 40s ... OVER!

10. Dwight Howard ... Over/Under 0.5 MVPs

The obvious parallel with him is David Robinson: Phenomenal athlete and specimen, splendid person, way too nice. And Robinson won an MVP. Then again, Robinson was a genuinely skilled offensive player who averaged 30, 28 and 27 points for three straight seasons; Howard can beat slower guys off the dribble if he's facing up, but he gets most of his points on alley-oops, fast-break dunks, offensive rebounds and those "standing next to the basket and getting a free dunk because my teammate drew my guy over to him" plays. A scoring touch in the low post can't be learned over the years, it has to be in your DNA. Al Jefferson averaged 50 a game in high school. Kareem was draining sky hooks as a high school sophomore named "Lew." Kevin McHale grew up wanting to play hockey but drifted toward basketball because he had a natural knack for scoring any time someone passed to him. Even someone like Hakeem went from kicking soccer balls in Nigeria to drop-stepping the likes of Sampson and Ewing in college in about two seconds. He just knew how to do it.

If Howard was going to become a dominant low-post scorer, we would have seen flashes by now. ... Right? Watching Kendrick Perkins body him up and force Howard into bad shot after bad shot was kind of startling. (After five years, Howard's best low-post move is the one when he dribbles away from the basket, turns his body and slings a jump hook against the rim at 97 mph. When they say Patrick Ewing is his "big man coach," what does that mean? He coaches Howard how to play Scrabble and make eggs? What is he teaching him?) On the other hand, there are 29 NBA teams and only a handful of them have a defensive center like Perkins. So yeah, maybe Howard can get to 24-25 a game one year just on athletic prowess; throw in a 60-win season and a 15/3 in the rebounds/blocks department, and that might be enough to steal an MVP during a "we're all bored of voting for LeBron" season. I say over. But I wouldn't bet it.

Q: In "Tin Cup," Molly says to Roy after the 12, "No one's going to remember the Open 10 years from now, who won, who lost ... but they'll remember your 12! My, God, Roy, it was ... well, it's immortal!" Was the Celtics/Bulls series the NBA equivalent of Roy McAvoy's 12?
--Joe C., Green Bay, Wis.

SG: Let's just start the Roy McAvoy Hall of Fame for "Meaningless Sporting Events That Somehow Managed to Become Immortal." Our inaugural class: Bulls-Celtics 2009, the Ward-Gatti Trilogy, the 1976 ABA Dunk Contest, Lyle-Foreman I, Connors/Krickstein at the '91 U.S. Open, the UConn/Syracuse six-OT game, Willis Reed fighting the entire 1966-67 Lakers team (and winning), the Drago-Balboa fight in Russia, the final day of the 1977-78 NBA scoring race (David Thompson scoring 73 and George Gervin answering with 63), the Monday night game when Bo Jackson bowled over Brian Bosworth, the famous Piper's Pit with Roddy Piper and Jimmy Snuka and, of course, Roy McAvoy's 12.

(Note: You could argue that this should be called The Earnie Shavers Hall of Fame since he's a real person and no athlete was involved in more meaningful moments that ultimately meant nothing. Instead of dropping $50 on the next boxing PPV that will probably suck, just go on YouTube and watch Earnie Shavers clips for 90 minutes for free. Much better use of your money.)

Q: Your willingness to write off Greg Oden (birth date: 1988) goes against everything I like about your columns. We get it Simmons -- Portland should have taken Durant over Oden. Why does this have to mean that he's a bust? It's too early to tell and you know it.
--Mike B., Vancouver

SG: I have to apply The Darko Corollary here. You can trot out every tired excuse you want to explain why a "can't miss" prospect is missing -- and remember, Oden was a "can't miss" 22 months ago -- but at some point, we have to see something. Remember when Detroit fans kept making excuses for Darko as he toiled away on their bench and looked spazzy and overwhelmed during games, and the months kept passing, and he wasn't showing anything, and, eventually, all those games added up and we realized, "Wait, Darko doesn't have it"?

We're getting there with Oden. Look how well Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah played in the 2009 postseason. Look how much Rajon Rondo grew from Season 1 to Season 3. Look at some of the beauties Durant had this season; same for Kevin Love or Brook Lopez, or even Russell Westbrook. If you're headed toward greatness, or even goodness, you're going to show us flashes of your ultimate destiny in your embryonic years. That's just the law. You can't go from "I am doing nothing" to "I'm an All-Star!" unless you're Jamaal Magloire (who immediately went back to nothing). It's a series of baby steps. And through two seasons, Oden has shown nothing other than a remarkable ability to suffer bad luck with injuries and draw empathy from his fans. I don't know what else to say. If he's good, let's see it. We could always use more blue-chippers. But he hasn't even shown hints of flashes. It's been a full-fledged blackout for two seasons. When you're clumsy, you're clumsy. We should have seen something by now. Just remember the lessons of the Darko era. After a while, it stops being an accident.

(And by the way, after watching Melo in the 2009 playoffs, can we officially say that "Darko over Melo" was one of the worst NBA front-office decisions ever? Are we there yet? What else needs to happen? Remember, this was a crazy decision AT THE TIME. At least in my mind. See my 2003 Draft Diary and 2003 Season Preview for further evidence. Personally, I think Joe Dumars got robbed for 2009 Executive of the Year -- he did a better job turning the Nuggets into a contender than Mark Warkentien did.)

Q: Did your Clippers just win the draft lottery or did Blake Griffin lose it?
--Chris, Brooklyn

SG: Both

Blake Griffin
Let's hope Blake Griffin can end the Clipper Curse.

Q: Does God hate Blake Griffin?
--Bill, Danville

SG: Possibly.

Q: As a Longhorn fan, I was rooting for the Clippers to get the No. 1 pick just so I could see them destroy Oklahoma's Blake Griffin. What a franchise!
--Ray, Austin

SG: Yup.

Q: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!
--Blake Griffin's Knee Ligaments, Oklahoma

SG: (Shaking my head.)

Q: After thinking about your theory that Duncan and KG declined after hitting the 1,000-game mark, I noticed that LeBron is past the halfway point, having played in 527 games (including playoffs). Do you think that since LeBron is built like a big man, he will decline like a big man and wear down physically? Or will his decline be more like a perimeter player because of how he plays the game? At this pace, he will be hitting 1,000 games by age 30, right?
--Scott, Dubuque

SG: He's going to be our most fascinating test case. The two comparisons would be Kobe Bryant and Karl Malone: Kobe because he's a perimeter player who turned pro after high school, and Malone because he was an indestructible force with a similar body (6-foot-9½, 270 pounds and, as crazy as this sounds, LeBron supposedly weighs a little more than that). Both of those guys kept thriving after the 1,000-game mark because they stayed in great shape and made the necessary adjustments in their games. Kobe mastered the perimeter game and stopped driving so much; Malone's team slowed down its pace and limited possessions to keep him fresh.

The Thousand Game Theory is really about miles: Your knees only have so many miles in them, and your body becomes less flexible as you get older. These are irrefutable facts. You can stave off that process by a couple of years, but only by working out, watching your diet and changing how you play. LeBron just started doing the first two things. The stylistic adjustments ... that's another story. It seems like he's settled on being a perimeter guy and hasn't developed any low-post moves yet, when actually, he could prolong his career by posting up smaller guys the way MJ did from 1996-1998. That's the next step for him. That and HGH. Just kidding.

Q: How high on the intentional-unintentional comedy scale would a segment on TNT's NBA broadcast called "Chris Webber's Timeout" be? I've got to go 7.3 because I want to see it, but I know it would be too intentionally funny.
--Andy, Slidell, Texas

SG: Look, it's not topping poor Kenny Smith awkwardly trying to move pixels around on a plasma screen with an "I know we got this segment sponsored, but couldn't we just go back to Kenny's Pictures?" grimace on his face. It's just not.

Q: Didn't you mention previously that Cleveland's crowd is in full "LeBron might leave in two years mode so let's go crazy" mode or something like that? Based on Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals (which is the first I've seen of Cleveland in the playoffs), Dwight Howard has more heart than their fans. I cannot believe how dead they were.
--Charles, Clifton, N.J.

SG: You can't totally blame them, for one reason -- that was the first time all season when the Cleveland fans truly sensed the stakes and realized that (A) they weren't cakewalking to the title and (B) they're still Cleveland, the city that hasn't won a title since 1964 and has experienced a variety of Stomach Punch moments -- so that window of doubt opened up and everyone fell right through it. They got tight and so did the players. But what happened was a necessary part of the process: Sometimes you need those "OK, this ain't gonna be easy" moments to get over the hump. The best thing that ever happened to the '90-91 Bulls was losing Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The best thing that ever happened to the 1999-2000 Lakers was nearly blowing Game 7 of the Portland series. The best thing that ever happened to the '07-08 Celtics was Game 7 of the Cleveland series, when the Cavs wouldn't go away. You don't know what kind of team you have (and what kind of fans you have) until someone socks you in the mouth at home. How you respond to that moment defines the team you become.

Now, if some 2003 Cubs karma surfaced there -- namely, the "Oh God, it's happening again, we're screwed!" factor -- then that's a whole other story. But the Cavs fans have been terrific all season; I think they just got nervous and froze. You know what's not helping them? Their loser game coordinator, who played "In The Air Tonight" coming out of the timeout with 14.5 seconds left on the biggest possession of Game 1, then topped himself by unconscionably playing "Jump" by House of Pain right before the game-deciding jump ball with one second to play when the Cavs looked screwed. Nice discretion! The Cavs' game coordinator might be the guy who fulfills my dream of seeing a team getting fans fired up by playing "The Shining" clip of Jack Nicholson swinging an ax into Scatman Crothers' chest. I wouldn't put it past him.

Q: I'm liking your theory that sports teams should just hire really smart guys more and more. This guy turned Fiat around despite never running an auto company before. Now they're buying Chrysler, who had hired Robert Nardelli (the Mike Dunleavy of CEOs). Can we just hire the top students from MIT to run the newspaper business now?
--Sam, Atlanta

SG: Maybe this will be part of my pitch to take over the Clippers: "If an outsider could turn Fiat around, an outsider could turn the Clippers around!"

Q: If we're going to routinely get the Kentucky Derby, a boxing megafight, and at least one NBA Game 7 on the first Saturday in May, don't we need a name for this unofficial sports holiday? --Ryan S., Davis, Calif.

SG: Sure, call it "Simmons Was A Moron And Conceived An Early-May Daughter And Her Birthday Party is Always The First Saturday In May" Day, or as an acronym, "SWAMACAEMDAHBPIAFSIM" Day. Not as catchy as Halter Top Day, but give it some time. It's difficult to control the fertility process, but if you can, always aim for this specific date range: Feb. 8 through March 10. It's a five-week window when you can hit everything you'd ever want for your kid: A birthday that coincides with the school year (so they'll always have parties thrown for them); an early-in-the-year birthday so they can play Canadian junior hockey (inside joke for anyone who's read "Outliers"); and most importantly, it's the most boring sports stretch of the year. Every one of my kids with my second, third and fourth wives will be born during that five-week window.

Kobe Bryant
"Well, Craig, I really think I am the best player to ever wear No. 8 and No. 24."
Q: Kobe's performance in Game 2 of the Rockets series left me wondering one thing: How is this guy going to adjust to life after basketball? When Craig Sager prefaced his LeBron question with "you're no longer the MVP," did anyone buy Kobe's ensuing response? He's "happy for the kid" (LeBron) because he's worked hard? It's like he's talking about Joel Przybilla, not LeBron Freaking James. He clearly isn't comfortable sharing the spotlight with anyone, whether they're a teammate or a peer. So what happens when he's done? Does he move to the TV studio, where he's constantly reminded that he's washed up, but he can also constantly remind us how great he was? Personally I'm hoping he becomes GM of the Knicks.
--David, Dallas

SG: Great e-mail. I'd send you a T-shirt if we gave out T-shirts for great e-mails. Lots to work with for my response, including ...

A. I'd bet anything that Kobe secretly regrets being on the Redeem Team. He gained nothing exposurewise because they showed every game in America in the wee hours; all he did was put unnecessary mileage on his knees when he could have been resting. If that's not bad enough, he SINGLE-HANDEDLY altered the course of his main rival's career. LeBron intimated as much himself: Only after watching Kobe's daily workout routine and nonstop commitment to defense did LeBron realize that he was selling himself short, to some degree. And when Kobe took over as the alpha dog in the gold-medal game (and everyone let him do it), that made LeBron realize, "I'm not quite there yet."

Of the many reasons MJ skipped the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, I guarantee these were two of them: "Why should I show these guys I'm trying to beat how I prepare every day?" and "Why should I give my foes any insight into what makes me me." He remembered how the 1992 Dream Team experience rejuvenated Barkley's career and didn't want to make the same mistake twice. Anyway, if Kobe never plays in the 2008 Olympics, then LeBron and Wade become alpha dogs by default and spend the whole time playing poker or Bid Whist in Worldwide Wes' hotel room ... and Kobe is cruising to the title right now. He has to be kicking himself.

B. All bets are off for Kobe's post-playing career. I could see a two-year, $100 million stint in Italy (or even him buying an Italian team, then playing for it). I could see at least one ill-fated comeback, a la MJ with the Wiz. I could see him becoming a GM and being just as impetuous with his teams as Isiah and Jordan were. I could see him doing studio stuff for TNT and fake-laughing at Barkley's jokes while wearing Mr. Rogers outfits. I could see him buying a soccer team. I could see him recording more music with Tyra Banks. I could see him trying to become an actor and maybe even appearing in "Conan IV: Conan Becomes Governor of California." I could see him buying the Clippers. Really, I'm prepared for anything. You can't forget that he's been in the limelight -- in the city of stars, no less -- since he was 18 years old. He's almost like a child actor in that respect. This isn't someone who's going to retire to a 200-acre ranch in Montana when it's over. He's going to want to remain in the public eye somehow, if only because he doesn't know anything else.

C. Unrelated to Kobe, but I'm glad you mentioned it: Other than the money and the hours, the best thing about appearing on a studio show is the ongoing chance to reinvent your own career. Barkley partied too much, didn't take care of his body, didn't respect authority, shot too many 3s and reached maybe 76 percent of his career's potential. Karl Malone did everything right and reached 112 percent of his career's potential. In the end, Malone enjoyed a slightly better career than Barkley even though they played on the '92 Dream Team at their respective peaks and Barkley became the team's breakout star. Now Barkley is sharing a TV studio with Chris Webber, one of the biggest disappointments of his generation, a coach-killer for the first five years of his career, and someone who absolutely should have appeared on eight first team All-NBAs instead of one.

Here's why I mention this: These guys are so good on television that we forget TV Barkley and TV C-Webb would have ripped NBA C-Webb and NBA Barkley for all the things mentioned in the previous paragraph. Basically, they reinvent their careers on a nightly basis and criticize players for the same bad habits they had: shooting too many 3s, not showing up for playoff games, being afraid to shoot, bitching to referees, disrespecting coaches and everything else. Kind of funny. Although you could argue that their mistakes gave them perspective, and if that's true, then ESPN is in great shape with Matt Millen and Herm Edwards. I mean, GREAT shape.

Q: Congrats! When you type "email the" into the Google search bar the auto fill in has you No. 7, after the pope but before the Easter Bunny:
1. The president
2. The White House
3. The president of the United States
4. The View
5. The Jonas Brothers
6. The pope
7. The Sports Guy
8. The Easter Bunny

Not sure what that means, but thought you should know.
--Colin, Boston

SG: I'm ahead of The Edge? Even I'm embarrassed. I feel like Kris Allen right now.

Q: I'm writing about the difference between Kobe and LeBron getting the MVP. I'm a huge Lakers fan, always have been. Love Kobe as a player, but not as a person. Here is the difference between LeBron and Kobe. I loved how LeBron got his MVP trophy at his high school, and his whole team showed up. I mean Kobe has a news conference at the practice facility when he won it and only a handful of guys showed! Here LeBron is giving each of his teammates a sweet Flip Camera. I could see Kobe giving each of his teammates an autographed Bryant No. 24 jersey, saying "Now you can say you played with Kobe Bryant when he was the MVP!"
--Brad D., Huntington Beach

SG: It's a valid point. I would defend Kobe in two ways: First, LeBron is the greatest teammate of any superstar since Magic. It's not fair to compare anyone to him. Second, Kobe wasn't any better or worse of a teammate than Jordan was for the first nine years of his career; read "The Jordan Rules" sometime. You could have written the same exact paragraph for MJ when he won the MVP in 1988 or 1991.

Of course, Jordan never pretended to be anything other than he was: a demanding teammate who cared about winning, and that's it. Even during his last three Chicago seasons, he spent most of his free time playing cards in a hotel suite. His teammates were co-workers, he respected them, and that's where it ended. Ever since the Gasol trade, Kobe has been trying to perpetuate the image that he's a supportive teammate and one of the guys and all that crap, and there's just too much information to the contrary. The one fascinating thing about "Kobe Doin' Work" was Kobe's contrived interactions with his teammates; it's like he was taking us for fools. Watch this, I'm going to talk Italian to Sasha Vujacic. And what's funny was that his teammates all had a "Wait a second, he never talks to me!" look on their face as soon as he walked away. It was a massive miscalculation of the average NBA fan's IQ, and digging even further, a blown chance to show people that he's a ruthless competitor who demands the best from everyone around him. Just like Jordan. I was bitterly disappointed. Couldn't Spike have made "KG Doin' Work" or "LeBron Doin' Work" or even "Tim Thomas Not Doin' Work?"

Q: Kobe said during the Spike doc, "Me and Phil will sometimes call the same play without even knowing it." Did that not remind you slightly of Amber Waves' documentary about Dirk Diggler in "Boogie Nights," when Dirk is being interviewed with Jack Horner and explains how Jack lets him block his own scenes? Remember, Jack waits a beat and replies, "I .. uh .. I don't let him block his own scenes." I imagine Phil waiting a beat and then saying, "I .. uh .. I don't let Kobe call the plays."
-- Adam, Carmichael, CA

SG: I'm laughing but refuse to type "LOL." You're right, the parallels between "Kobe Doin' Work," "Exhausted" with John Holmes and the Amber Waves doc were overwhelming. We're going to eventually remember "Kobe Doin' Work" as a comedy. I really believe that. You know what else is funny? The Kobe fans are so devoted that many are defending the documentary and saying it was terrific. Come on.

All B.S. and rhetoric aside, let's agree that (A) Kobe is one of the best 15 players ever (and cracks the top eight if he wins the 2009 title); (B) Kobe is a polarizing figure who generates a ton of reaction in every kind of direction and that's just the way it is; (C) whether you like him or don't like him, Kobe has been immensely entertaining to follow and discuss for 13 solid years (and counting); and (D) considering Kobe's body of work as a teammate over the past decade, Spike's documentary was ridiculous, insulting and ultimately really funny in some strange way. Can we find common ground on those four points? Please? Thank you.

Click here for Part 2.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. For every Simmons column, as well as podcasts, videos, favorite links and more, check out the revamped Sports Guy's World.