Friday, March 29, 2013

My letter to Rick Reilly

Many writers have been down on Rick Reilly since he joined ESPN and became a mere shadow of himself.  His lazy efforts in column writing have left a sour taste in some readers' mouths, and I'm sure jealousy contributes to their vindictiveness.

It doesn't help when you get caught doing this on national TV.

His latest column about the Lakers 33-game win streak left a sour taste in my mouth.  So sour, in fact, that I felt I needed to respond.

Way to "mail in" another column Rick.  Nice cliche at the end, but the facts of the story are weak.  Case in point:

In 1966-67 there were a total of 10 professional basketball teams, but by 1971-72 there were 28 teams between the NBA and ABA.  That "expansion" led to some extremely weak teams, and they were not (whether you believe it or not) all in the ABA.  Have you looked at the Portland Trailblazers roster from that year?  Or what Lanier was working with in Detroit?

When those ABA teams joined the NBA in 1976 (an eternity later, but you opened the door), how did they do?  The Denver Nuggets won their division, the Spurs had a winning record, and only the Nets (better than both the Spurs and Nuggets the year before) embarrassed themselves...because they were forced to sell their best players (Erving especially) to pay off the Knicks.  10 of the 24 players in that year's All-Star game were ABA alum.  Why didn't you see them in the NBA beforehand?  Because the ABA paid better.

Your "beasts" the Lakers had to face, night-in, night out?  I love Wes Unseld, but the man is 6-7...and was playing center for the Baltimore Bullets.  LeBron is 6-8 and spends some time at guard.  If these teams played each other, the Heat would beat them 8 out of 10.  In 2013, better and bigger athletes play the game.  The travel might be easier, the rules about 3 games in 3 nights may have changed, but the game overall today is much tougher to play. Your Lakers shot 73.4% at the free throw line...which would be good for 22nd in the league this year.

Defense didn't exist in the NBA - yes, the Lakers scored 121 points per game, but that's easy to do when a team takes 8000 shots in a season.  Last year in the NBA, the most shots a team took was 5400.  With fewer possessions and tougher defense, games are going to be closer...which is why the Heat had a tougher time winning 27 in a row.

Give credit where credit is due - both streaks were tough, and congratulations on the Lakers still having their record intact...but winning in the NBA today is much tougher.

But at least it gave you a nice ending to your story.

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