Re: "If you could be GM of any lottery team..."

My favorite part of the EA Sports games isn't the games. Honestly, I never get the guys who camp in front of the TV for weeks on end, playing Madden by themselves. Doesn't beating the computer by 30 get old?

Instead, it's building a team--growing the Raiders into a juggernaut, or transforming the Charlotte Bobcats into contenders--that hooks me (or at least did, back when I had the time).

So of course, I'm fascinated by this very interesting post by Steve Weinman over at Taking it to the Rack. (Ok, full disclosure: Steve kindly spent the entire post answering my question: "Pick among last year's non-playoff teams and build a contender within three years.") His choice--the Bobcats, the newest team in the L, but still the only franchise never to even sniff the playoffs, let alone make a run. Not the first team most of us would pick.

But you know what? Steve's buying Charlotte stock at the right time. The Bobcats have 1) a young, talented core; 2) aren't in the West, which should continue to be awful competitive across our self-imposed three-year window; and 3) have the three offensive cogs that most good teams need to compete (Gerald "next MJ" Wallace, Jason "next MJ" Richardson, and Emeka Okafor).

However, who takes the shot at the end of the game? Wallace? Every good team needs that closer and I don't know who's it on the 'Cats. Guess Sam Vincent's got three years to figure it out.

Other nice chips include Sean May (who's been great, if injured), sweet-shooting Matt Carroll, and sweet-hair-product-using Walter Hermann.

Of course, the team's backcourt is weighted down by bricklayers Adam "Che" Morrison and Ray Felton. Steve's plan to move Morrison is a great, if fanciful, idea, but he oversells Felton, whose 39% career shooting percentage terrifies me, and who didn't really improve between his rookie and sophomore years, other than boosting his PT.

And I don't buy that Gilbert Arenas or Shawn Marion would relocate to Charlotte. (Steve, have you been to Charlotte? Place is sleepy. I'm getting tired just thinking about it.) If anything, if the Bobcats want an impact free agent, they should hope that a local college legend--maybe an aging Antawn Jamison type or even a Carlos Boozer--comes home to relive glory days.

Still, a solid selection. Which shames asking the question, I hadn't really though through who I'd choose. Also, like most bloggers, it's not as if I have any special basketball knowledge. Sure, I can pick others apart no problem. But I'm no expert on the L. The further I get away from high school basketball camp, the less I know.

So, relying on my mere fandom as a guide, the Hornets are the easy answer, the Celtics are the real easy answer, and--since Steve's removed Portland from discussion, while another commentator argued for the Hawks--I guess I'm taking...the Bucks. Almost unbelievably so. But perhaps it was fated to be.

A few caveats though. Namely, I hate half their roster.

Desmond Mason isn't worth $5M a year. Bobby Simmons also isn't worth $5M a year--which makes his $9M salary some kind of crime. Royal Ivey is cheap at $750k, but isn't anything special on D and couldn't score at the Bunny Ranch. And so on.

That said, the Bucks hook me because of one guy: Andrew Bogut. He's a more athletic, less dominant Yao Ming. What can I say--ever since Hakeem, I've loved the good-passing big man...and Bogut is downright Walton-esque at times. He's still young enough to build around and is clearly an inspirational figure--you don't see Etan Thomas penning a letter to Dwyane Wade or LeBron James, do you? Guys flock to Phoenix to play with Steve Nash. The Euros will courra to 'Kee to commiserate with their truth-talker.

(Look, I don't know if I'd like Bogut, the person. But as a young big, you could do a lot worse).

Admit it, NBA fans: The buzzworthy comments. The hairstyle. The blog fans. Mark my words, this year will be like the Takeover for Bogut. Only, it won't be, because Bogut hates dealing with the media. But if I was the GM, I'd brand the team around his cuss-worthy image. Market the heck out of his Australian connection--maybe work out a deal with Star TV to show the games overseas, if there isn't one already.

Anyway, it's not like Bogut's the only good chip for the Bucks. Their strength is currently in the backcourt, although Michael Redd is probably overpaid (sense a theme?), and so is Mo Williams. But Redd is about a solid a two-guard in the L and, as a great shooter in his prime, he shouldn't really diminish in value the next few years. Williams' performance is parabolically improving, so who knows--perhaps the Bucks get a few vintage Jason Terry years out of him. Charlie Bell seems like a total flake, but at $3M a year for a decent backup guard, he'd be a good bargaining chip if it didn't fly.

Going back up front, I like Charlie Villanueva a lot, actually. Scores over everybody, any which way. Yet clearly, a guy who needs motivation to play well so I'd start badmouthing him to sites like The Bratwurst; when he's in the crib, ego-googling, he'll be stunned by the amount of renewed draft-bashing ("#7 in '05? Over David Lee??"), TJ Ford-praise-singing ("Raps completely won that deal"), and misidentified C. Villanueva-bashing ("What an awful gopher ball to Nate McLouth--guy can't pitch a lick").

And maybe take out a billboard challenging his manhood, just to be on the safe side.

Then, there's a guy you may have heard about: Chairman Yi. The kid is taking a lot of flack. And you know what? He's not the next Nowitzki or Gasol. The guy is 22, let's not pretend otherwise. We know the Chinese athletic association is all about age-fixing. And 19 or 22, he looked real bad in summer league. If scuttlebutt has it, Yaroslav Korolev may not long set the standard for recent lottery busts.

But...what if...he's a contributor?

Is it that hard to imagine? Yao was 22 when he came over. Toni Kukoc was 25. Heck, Arvydas Sabonis was 53. All made the move--and thrived--and certainly none had the NBA-quality athleticism of Yi. He looked good against the Americans at the 2006 World's, too.

I'm holding out hope.

So: Bogut, Villanueva, Simmons, Redd, and Williams as my starting five. Gadzuric, Yi, Mason, and Bell off the bench.

Two years for that young core to gel--for Bogut's numbers to rise to 17/10. For Charlie V to emerge as a solid 18 ppg scorer. For Yi to become a more athletic Detlef Schrempf. For Mason's contract to expire and be replaced by a Marquis Daniels-type. For Redd to remain a dead-eye gunner.

Knock on wood, I like them to emerge from the 2009/2010 East. They'll just have to get by those pesky Bobcats first.

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posted by Doctor Dribbles @ 21:24, ,

Why can't newspapers clone Deadspin?

We confess to being fascinated by the symbiotic--if not parasitic--relationship between newspapers and blogs. No longer do blogs spend hours merely deconstructing a paper's coverage; increasingly, it's the blog breaking a story that the newspapers have to react to (and in turn, blogs then react to their reaction). According to Slate media critic Jack Shafer, the process leaves newspapers with "already chewed news." Delightful stuff, if you're a newspaper man pondering your career options.

And if you're a blogger--well, duh. Skip ahead.

(What's also interesting, if not surprising, is that some of the more successful bloggers had their origins in traditional journalism. A guy like Bill Simmons or Mike Florio does a spin around a news desk, then bugs out to have it his own way on the 'Net. But that's another topic for another day.)

Thus, it's no secret that newspapers are freaking out about losing share to the Web space and throwing writers online, trying to figure out how to gain eyeballs in this new space. (We can only imagine what some of those conversations are like).

But forget the dedicated team blog, which just extends a beat writer's column and taps into an existing audience. No, we're curious about the all-purpose blogs, the ones that cover the sports scene and try to be "hip" and "clever," winning new readers even as overall circulation declines. The Washington Post and Tribune Company and others' attempts to grow Deadspin in an office building.

In many ways, newspaper sports blogs should be the best of the best--the writers have press passes, professional relationships they can cultivate, even resources around the newsroom--that the typical basement blogger can't compete with.

But while we've been spoiled by the Post, we had a hunch that many newspaper blogs leave something to be desired.

Professional journalists are still bound by convention, namely that their employers limit what they can cover. You don't see links mocking Miss South Carolina or even Mr. PHILADELPHIA. Plus, a lot of the writers are...well, old. If you've been in the business for two-plus decades, learning a new style of writing isn't easy, let alone welcome.

So, over the next few days/weeks/whatever, we're taking a look at what the papers have come up with. As a rule, we avoided team- and sport-oriented blogs to focus on all-sports blogs--ones that didn't have a built-in audience but had to cultivate their own (like a Mister Irrelevant or With Leather have done, as opposed to a TrueHoop or BulletsForever). We stuck to the major sports towns and, as an informal guide, came up with a few metrics that seemed fair.

* Post length: Hey, working against readers' limited attention span is important.
* Output: And so is keeping things fresh.
* Style: How the blog's written (like an AP article or a self-help column) goes a long way toward standing out.
* Hat-tips: How much love is given to non-newspaper blogs.
* Following: The best metric would be utilization, but since that's kind of opaque, we used the imperfect gauge of comments.

This post has been in the works for weeks, and we have some thoughts on how newspapers can best position themselves, given their advantages (access, funds) and drawbacks (funds are still fairly limited, stodgyness). But first, we'd like to give you the national scope, which offers a clear picture of the leaders versus the stragglers. Thusly, here's how the Atlantic Division of newspaper blogs shakes out:

Atlanta Journal Constitution
Various authors

A good test case for our rationale. Overall, the AJC offers a comprehensive blogging product--each local team warrants its own blog (populated by commentary from beat writers), while the paper also commissions fan blogs of various quality (The "JunkyardBlawg," tracking Georgia football and written by an AJC copy editor, is very good; less good is Braves-fan blog "ChopChick," which appears for the first time in months with a "post" called "Will the Braves do it?" Here's the entirety of ChopChick's eloquent thoughts:
We’re heading into the final stretch and the Braves are scrambling to make the playoffs. They’ve won five in a row? Will they do it?
Answer: NO.)

But we're overlooking those other blogs to sniff out a general sports blog...and you know what? The AJC doesn't really have one. The paper comes closest by wiring its sports columnists into a blogging system--enabling comments from readers--but there's no dedicated "general sports" columnist, although Jeff Schultz appears to be the closest thing to a catch-all. The stories here are all from the print edition, as far as we can tell. So that's what we'll review.

Post length: Long. Typically 600+ words.
Output: Frequent. Usually, three-four columns per day between the columnists.
Style: Traditional, columnist-speak.
Hat-tips: None. Again, these are traditional columns.
Following: Very strong. Many stories have dozens if not hundreds of comments. Again, these are traditional columnists with pieces appearing in the print edition, not just online, so readers can very quickly chime in after their morning review. Who knows--it's cost-effective, with a built-in audience. And after all our searching from coast to coast, maybe this is the way to do it.

Baltimore Sun
O, by the Way
Bill Ordine

As Baltimore sports fans, we want to like this blog. Really, we do. But, like watching "The View," O, by the Way leaves us confused, angry, and depressed. Perhaps it's because Ordine isn't writing to us but seemingly targets a completely different audience: The AARP set. The blog features a mid-day "musical interlude"--a YouTube video that occasionally reaches back to 1940s song-and-dance movies--and morning recaps are titled "About last night, dear." In Ordine's words, "Heavens to Betsy"!

Post length
: Short to average. 200 words.
Output: Very frequent. Five-six posts on the average day; however, the majority of stories might as well be ESPN news alerts. Take a Monday in early September--the order of posts went Travis Henry's fatherdom, Randy Couture's UFC win, Vick's plea deal, Vick's apology, Lance Briggs' car crash, Falcons' post-Vick plans. Basically, nothing you didn't first read somewhere else.
Style: Conventional. We feel like jerks, but we can't stand Ordine's writing. There's no trace of humor, wit, or insight in his stiff prose. Although...he's getting better!
Hat-tips: None. YouTube is generally as close as it gets. There were a few links in a post about Brady Quinn's hairstyle a few weeks ago, but only to the images--not to the actual blog posts or mass of existing, funnier coverage of Quinn.
Following: None. Most stories receive no comments. We have strong suspicious about regular reader "Captain Jack," especially after a ginned-up argument between the good captain (who apparently comments only on O, By the Way) and "RavenBullet"--a poster never seen before or since on the Sun's blog pages.

Boston Globe
Eric Wilbur

When we started this project a few weeks ago, we were immediately intrigued by the posts on the front page; Wilbur picked up a New York Times story on Ratatosk, the mythical squirrel from Norse mythology, and a YouTube clip of aged BoSox and Yanks competing in a Captain Morgan carnival. But despite the name, this hasn't been a Boston blog so much as another Red Sox blog, although the return of the Pats appears to signal a shift in focus.

Post length: Average. 400 words.
Output: Frequent. Wilbur's longer features are mixed in with shorter blog posts, contributing to about one-two posts per day.
Style: Traditional/conversational. Wilbur reads like a columnist, but he's not too self-important to self-deprecate.
Hat-tips: Limited but improving. In early September, the only non-YouTube link we could find was a link to the Seventh Inning Stretch's
Boston version of ESPN's "Who's Now"--although the address was mislinked. Now, Wilbur links to relatively well-read blogs like UniWatch and Fire Joe Morgan. It's not adventurous, but Wilbur's positively kingly compared to most of the other newspaper blogs.
Following: Unclear. For better or worse, the Globe doesn't enable readers to comment on any of its blogs. But with our limited exposure to Wilbur, we liked this guy.

Miami Herald
Random Evidence of a Cluttered Blog
Greg Cote

Cote's a Herald columnist, so his blog mixes stories he's written for the print edition with a few shorter online blurbs. This was decently written and suited to the online world, although we weren't especially attached to anything Cote covered.

Post length
: Short. 150 words.
Output: Ok. A post a day, on average.
Style: Confrontational and inquisitive. Cote asks questions of the reader, but primarily just builds off issues raised in his existing columns.
Hat-tips: None
Following: Strong to very strong. Many posts receive a few dozen comments, reflecting the avid Florida sports scene. Of course, being a columnist who stirs the pot, not all the responses are positive. Writes one commenter, "Why do you even write a blog? The Herald must hold a gun to your head every time you publish this joke of a section. A five year old could replicate your effort." Despite getting so much feedback, Cote never seems to respond to the criticism nor engage his readers at all.

New York Daily News
Daily Blahg
Flip Bondy

We were a bit stuck with the options in New York. Yes, the city has a ton of papers, but we weren't all that taken with most of what passed for all-sports blogs. The Daily Blahg pleasantly surprised us, though.

Post length: Average. 350 words.
Output: Frequent. About once a day.
Style: Conventional, if a bit confessional. Bondy's been in the game for 24 years, but we're impressed that he made a solid transition to a different format; he's got the blogger's sense of self-deprecation down pat. A typical post has Bondy picking a news hook (let's say, the Mariners playing late on the West Coast), and jumping off from there with observations and commentary. The posts have an insider's feel to them, too, which we liked.
Hat-tips: None.
Following: Very low. While the occasional Blahg got a handful of responses, a great number of posts were comment-less, which has to be disappointing--the News has wide circulation and this is well-written stuff.

The New York Post doesn't really have a general blog--just a "backpage" where all the generic news is lumped, with links to actual articles. The tagline ("Whether in the press box or locker room, the Post's bloggers can't be beat") is humorously delusional, though.

New York Times
Various authors

We made an exception here to represent the gray lady; yes, it's a baseball blog, but at least it encompasses the Mets, Yanks, and the rest of the league. What made our decision easier is that this is pretty good stuff. Original reporting, some inside info...and the Times writers aren't exactly shabby.

Post length: Short to average. 250 words.
Output: Frequent. About two posts a day between the Times baseball staff.
Style: Conversational. We found the writers to be surprisingly laid-back and engaging, ranging from tales inside the locker room to personal anecdotes.
Hat-tips: None.
Following: Mediocre but improving. In early September, a few posts drew a dozen or so responses, but most were comment-less; as the playoff push has heated up, however, the commenters are starting to emerge in droves (210 comments on whether the Mets will make the postseason). Still, there were plenty of posts with not a single comment to be found. We found this amazing: The country's greatest paper should be able to draw a decent audience for one of its premier sports blogs. On our end, while we can't stand the Yankees, we enjoyed this one enough to come back.

Orlando Sentinel
Various authors

Although it's a different part of Florida, visiting the Sports Buzz must be like attending a Marlins game. It's depressing, clearly no one else goes, and you're not sure why anyone bothered in the first place.

Length: Short. Most posts are under 200 words.
Output: Minimal. A handful of posts pop up every few weeks or months.
Style: Conversational, although it ranges from author to author.
Hat-tips: None
Following: None. The blog suffers from being a weird catch-all, with a number of writers weighing in on completely disparate topics. But they're not -uninteresting- topics. Case in point--a post from April wondering whether Florida basketball coach Billy Donovan would stay or go. You'd think some reader would weigh in on a champion and icon's next steps. You'd think.
Sports blog
Various authors

Neither the Philadelphia Inquirer nor Daily News seemed to have a general sports blog, and we looked all over their sites. For shame! Instead, we found an all-purpose blog on, which is a consortium of smaller papers, like the Bucks County Courier Times and the Intelligencer. It's almost unfair to compare it to efforts at much larger papers like the Boston Globe and the Chicago Tribune...but hey, we're doing it anyway.

And from live-blogging a football game at Coatesville High--Rip Hamilton's alma mater--to writing about WWE, this blog *does* cover the spectrum. But how good or innovative is it? Eh. Draw your own conclusions when, Mike Patrick-style, the editor starts a post pulpit-izing "I've just about had enough with Britney Spears"...and he isn't trying to be funny.

Post length: Short to average.
Output: Very frequent.
Style: Varies. Seems like the entire staff pitches in.
Hat-tips: None.
Following: Limited. Several posts got about a dozen comments; others were completely ignored. Some bloggers were strongly disliked. Wrote one commenter to "Thanks Hank"--which, Jack Nicholson in "The Shining"-style, listed out the ex-HR king's name 755 times--"You're officially the most annoying person on the planet. Never blog again."

Washington Post

While the DC Sports Bog is our hometown hero, we must confess our bias--Steinberg has linked to this blog on one occasion before and admitted, on television, to actually enjoying us. The Bog has somehow risen above these gaffes, however.

Post-length: Average to long. Most posts are several hundred words, although Steinberg has been known to run features of 1,000+ words. And, reading these posts--like this run-in with Bill Walton--you're glad that he puts in the time.
Output: Exceptional. Steinberg usually posts 5-7 times per day. And not the brief posts like the Sun-Times' Full Court Press or the rehashed coverage of the Sun's O, by the Way, but original and creative reporting that often involves leaving the newsroom.
Hat-tips: Exceptional. The Bog runs a regular "Top 5" of other area blogs, in addition to linking to numerous sites in various posts. [Full disclosure: The Bog has linked to our humble blog before.]
Following: Strong/unclear. This was a subject of internal WRG debate. When Steinberg writes about DC-area newsmakers--Gilbert Arenas, SportsTalk 980, Eastern Motors commercials--he'll draw dozens of comments. But so many posts are too esoteric to connect with the average reader; last month, for example, a series of posts on the Rugby World Cup each drew just a handful of comments. What distinguishes Steinberg's following is how universally he's loved--"Dan Steinberg Does God's Work" wrote in one commenter--plus his scope (as a co-host of the televised Blog Show and frequent name-check on other blog sites). Steinberg's situation reminds us of the Arrested Development phenomenon--a TV show so smart, not everyone got the joke; it was bound to be a niche. But for our money, of any of the newspaper blogs we looked at in the Atlantic, the Bog was head and shoulders the best; Steinberg is the only guy who fully understands, not to mention supports, the blogging community.

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posted by Crucifictorious @ 07:17, ,

Some Unsolicited Legal Advice for GameBoy, or, The Torts of Sports

“I’m taking some action. I’m not going to stand pat and accept this because I didn’t do nothing wrong.”
--- Milton Bradley, aka GameBoy, after suffering a season-ending knee injury during a verbal quarrel with an umpire.

I'm not here to judge Milton. No, that would be unethical. As a lawyer, I am sworn to provide objective advice.
But Mr. Bradley wants to take some action. What action could he take? A criminal suit would be difficult - nothing said by the umpire warrants punishment, which is unjust unless it deters further crimes. One would hold suspect anyone spouting the opinion that an umpire would be deterred from arguing with Mr. Bradley even under penalty of death.
So it should be a civil action. But which? How can Mr. Bradley ever recover for the pain and suffering he has received from this heinous act on the part of the ump? I mean, Milton Bradley never gets injured! He has had, well, one full season since beginning his major league career in 2000. I'm sure I could twist that into being a sterling record of health and service --- just need to find the right jury.
Mr. Bradley certainly hasn't lost any wages - thanks to baseball's wholly equitable and admirably civil payment agreements, Milton will receive pay no matter what happens to him on the field --- so long as he has signed that contract. Ah, the inviability of contract - an American institution. He will certainly be enforcing it if necessary.
So however can I be certain, as a fair and just counsel, that I help Mr. Bradley get his fair restitution for this unspeakable incident? We shall rely on torts. Was it battery? That would be tough to prove, though I would certainly argue for the close relationship between umpire and home plate (which he grooms between innings) to assert a connection with first base as well (the instigator of this terrible set of events). But what if the jury fails to see what I find so readily obvious? Perhaps we shall resort to negligence. The umpire failed to follow his inherent duty of reasonable care in his verbal tussle with Mr. Bradley, thus creating a situation of risk that led to the ACL injury. Did the umpire owe a duty to Mr. Bradley? Certainly - the umpire is the caretaker of the field, and correspondingly of the players that grace said field with their presence (in the opinion of Mr. Bradley).
Yes, Mr. Bradley, I will be able to assert your claims and, God willing, be successful in my attempts to uphold virtue and good ol' American litigiousness to bring about a just and equitable result for you in this tragic turn of events. Please call soon.

posted by Pedro Cerrano @ 16:19, ,

Four stiffs and a trombone

An occasional feature where we link to great profiles of four less-than-great athletes and the one star who ties them all together.

We've realized our niche at We Rite Goode--loyal reader, you clued us in. Mediocrity. Let Lion in Oil and Deuce of Davenport celebrate the celebrated. We'll stick to doing bad so goode, it's merely awful.

But we're not the only ones bringing the spotlight to the shadows. Here's a tour of the lousy around the eBays:

Meanwhile, who's our great this week? Let's see if you can parse the connections...

* Like Cota, this man played in two NCAA Final Fours (and against a pre-Cota UNC in one)
* Like Foyle, this NBA big man did a tour of duty in Golden State
* Like Booth, he was a versatile player who could step out and shoot the three (ht: BF.)

* And like Smith, this man was, that's hardly fair, our star was acquitted...we'll say that he left D.C. sports fans with awesome highlight memories.

Yes, this week's star is the one, the only (highlight for answer) Chris Webber. As Bullets Forever continues its countdown of all-time greats, click over to read a fond, well-written summaryof Mayce II's Washington days.

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posted by Crucifictorious @ 20:45, ,

Paul Millsap better have a heck of a year

Sequels almost never live up to the original, but The Empire Strikes Back, Dr. No, and High School Musical 2 just got company: Tom Ziller is back at Ballhype with "Love and Mathematics, Pt. 2," and it's a doozy. The post is notable not for what it proves but what it disproves: The fallacy that more minutes equals decreased production.

With data support from Ballhype founder Jason Gurney, Ziller goes deeper on what he calls "The Paul Millsap quandry," in honor of the Utah Jazz rookie (the theoretical test case we keep returning to) who put up sterling production in about 18 mpg last year.

But would Millsap be just as good a starter as he was a sub? Or would playing more minutes against first-team competition expose his weaknesses? It's that sort of question that's been floating around since Plissken at the Buzzer first questioned PER, John Hollinger's kitchen-sink stat on NBA players' offensive performance, over the weekend. (See recap here). FreeDarko's Silverbird5000 and Bethlehem Shoals then advanced the debate by discussing how the inequalities of NBA play muck up the data in a way that makes Hollinger-style statistical analysis misleading.

However, Ziller limits himself to a data set (251 role players whose role increased the subsequent year) that made sense to this blogger. To summarize his analysis, 70% of the players incurred a slight-to-significant increase in production, while 28% of the players declined. Citing the standby correlation vs. causation rule, Ziller's cautious about the significance of these findings:
I want to emphasize this again: We don't know [whether Millsap's per-minute production would suffer, improve or be maintained given more playing time]. We cannot look at any of this data and say "Increased minutes leads to increased per-minute production (aka efficiency)" just as we cannot and should not say "Increased minutes leads to decreased per-minute production." But this data does indicate a positive relationship between minutes and efficiency.
(In this corner, I'm guessing that more playing time tends to correlate with an NBA player's progression, having always thought of mpg as somewhat of a bell curve. Thus, players are getting better as they earn more minutes. But you know what...I'm more than happy to let Ziller, Jason, and co. do the math on that).

Still, Ziller hammers home a key insight: That more playing time doesn't mean a player's PER will necessarily go down. And yes, this conclusion may be intuitive to some of us, but given the fray that's gone on the past few days, sometimes it takes a big stick of data to truly get the attention of non-believers.

Whew! When does Professor Dean Oliver stroll into town?

Now, to you--the reader who stumbled across this.

Look, I'm not going to kid you--I'm glad you're reading this, but this debate is moving well out of the scope of We Rite Goode at this point. We can follow the argument and will continue to happily dumb it down summarize it, but Ziller, the Darko guys, and the Plissken gang all write just as goode (and include snazzy graphics) in their increasingly detailed arguments. If data is your scene, head yonder to get your learn on.

However, if you want to read about mediocre athletes and cheese, and usually not in that order, stick with us.

Note: There are some who point out--and perhaps rightfully so--that a conversation so focused on PER leaves out the other school of thought on basketball statistics put forth by Dave Berri. I can't speak for the model--as it's been nearly a year since I looked at Wages of Wins, and remember only that I found it lacking--but FreeDarko was clinically dismissive of the work.

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posted by Doctor Dribbles @ 00:27, ,

Stick to PTI, fellas

On the surface, We Rite Goode may appear a placid sea of harmony--an ivory tower, where we nod in unison on the day's sports news and pretend that we all agree. Good show with that Gregg Jefferies story, Jimmy Chitwood! Excellent post on Brian Bersticker, Doctor Dribbles!

But underneath...oh, the tensions swirl. Name an issue, and our riters frothingly disagree, almost on instinct. Is the best league National (according to Phunctional Phalcoholic) or American (the MIA Mr. Jay Tibbs)? Is the best cheese Swiss (Doctor Dribbles) or American (the lamented Mr. Jay Tibbs)? Is the greatest fictional film athlete Jimmy Chitwood (Pedro Cerrano) or Pedro Cerrano (Jimmy Chitwood)?

Which is why Doctor Dribbles and I were amazed that we both wondered what Michael Wilbon is smoking and where we could get some. Truly, his column in today's Post is bizarre.

Quoth "Boller Comes In, and Again He Errs It Out":
"[Kyle] Boller was bad. The play-calling was way too trusting of Boller, who simply hasn't earned any benefit of the doubt. Why in the world, when you're a smash-mouth running team to your very core, would you have the usually disappointing Boller throw five times in the final eight plays? He did complete a fourth-and-three pass earlier to keep the drive going...but [Boller's] right arm should have been put in a harness after first and goal at the 3 so that all he could do was take the snap and hand it off to Willis McGahee."

And more Boller bashing from there. But say what?

Objectively, Boller stepped up in the moment and led a struggling Ravens offense down to the goal line; he made clutch 4th down throws to Derrick Mason and then to Todd Heap, although the Heap pass--which would've been a TD--was waved off by a phantom penalty, as the entire nation now knows. And when Boller again went to Heap in the end zone, the ball bounced off Heap's hands and led to the game-ending interception. Why this is Boller's fault--especially after the Ravens had seemingly blown the game, with five earlier turnovers--is beyond us.

Blame an erratic Steve McNair or, better yet, the offensive playcalling of offensive coordinator Billick. But it's not like Wilbon even needed to use his platform to discuss the end of the game; there were enough other column-worthy plotlines (The Ravens as contenders pretenders; the wash of injuries and the holes the Ravens now face; even Ocho Cinco's disappointing celebration) that it feels like Wilbon just watched the last two minutes and took the easy story out.

Our discourse:

Doctor Dribbles: Is Wilbon a Billick apologist? This is like when Mitch Albom filed that Final Four column early--I bet Wilbon just had a "Boller screws up again" template and dropped the details in.

Crucifictorious: Totally agree. Throwing the loss on Boller is like blaming "Friday Night Lights" for NBC's three years of bad ratings.

First, we thought we were in the minority on this one. After all, the great Deadspin carried the Wilbon piece as fact, and WRG friend Jarrett Carter rolls with Wilbon rolling on Boller.

But as we started penning this and looking around the blogosphere, we were heartened--Jamie Mottram at Mister Irrelevant and Ryan Wilson at FanHouse also called shenanigans. (Update: And by the legions of Washington Post readers who tell Wilbon he's wrong). None of us think Boller's an all-pro, but that doesn't make it right to pile on.

Look, every columnist is entitled to a few bad ones, and Wilbon is normally one of the best. But as Tony Kornheiser continues to flail on Monday Night Football, and Wilbon mails this stinker in, you have to wonder if the pair is getting over-stretched, between their many TV, some radio, and occasional print commitments. We're huge PTI fans and love the Post--and think Wilbon and Kornheiser deserve tons of acclaim--but if you're doing 300% more work, you can't be 100% at everything.

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posted by Crucifictorious @ 20:49, ,

No stupid questions, just confused bloggers

I don't carry a calculator, have never read Bill James, and barely survived high school math. That said, I'm a total least for certain metrics. The good ones. Like PER.

A quick background on PER, for readers who've avoided the past year or Magic GM Otis Smith: It's John Hollinger's stat that combines "the good (made shots, steals, assists, rebounds, blocked shots, free throws), and subtracts the bad (missed shots, turnovers, fouls) by assigning a point value to each item." The figure is then adjusted on a per-minute basis and by the team's pace. It doesn't account for defensive presence, but it's a good barometer for offensive ability.

For example, when Raja Bell moved from the turgid Utah Jazz to the up-tempo Phoenix Suns, of course his scoring average went to nearly 15 ppg--there were plenty of possessions to go around and he played 37+ mpg. Writing for ESPN, Hollinger was less-impressed by Bell's "breakout season" and rightfully so; Raja didn't do anything different from his past performance, he just had more chances to do it. (amazingly, Raja's closest comparison, according to the database, is actually an old friend of ours).

(And yes, I love Raja as a defender and wish he played for the Wizards, but offensively, he's one of the weaker starting-2 guards in the league).

Similarly, Tim Duncan may average "only" 20 ppg (and you'd hear this argument last year, from stupid commentators who didn't think that was an MVP figure) but he's playing for slow-it-down San Antonio offense and just 34 mpg. His PER last year was 4th best in the league, which sounds far more representative of his value than his ranking on conventional lists (20th in ppg, 7th in rpg).

Look, PER isn't the greatest. If taken out of context, a bench player--who has a mini-scoring spree over a few minutes of garbage time--can look like Michael Jordan. But over the course of the season, players who rack up enough meaningful minutes can be accurately judged.

Anyway, what's this all about? Why question PER, a stat increasingly trusted by basketball fandom, in the middle of a football weekend? Well, Plissken at the Buzzer begged to differ with the formula. Here's the gist:

Plissken: Want to write about Lamar Odom. Lamar Odom=good. So why only 16.2 PER? No one understands PER. Pape Sow and Dajuan Wagner=better PER than Odom. PER lies. Give me conventional stats.

(Having seen the post, I immediately wrote a witty, clever rebuttal, as is my style)
Me: PER perfect, but very good. Pape Sow and Dajuan Wagner misleading examples. Still best single stat in basketball, take with grain of salt.

There were pronouns and verbs too, but I'm lazy and want to get back to watching football.

Anyway, Tom Ziller--who pens the incomparable Sactown Royalty blog, which has the unfortunate distinction of being a Sacramento Kings blog--went and did me a lot better. Writing on BallHype, Ziller goes all "your argument, not so much" to Plissken, with convincing prose, anecdotes, and even a few graphics to defend PER's honor. Good stuff. More interestingly, it's drawn out a bunch of well-read sports bloggers, who reveal where they come down on PER (Jason Gurney: Pro. Miss Gossip: A little skeptical.) Much more interesting wedge issue than ethanol.

Anyway, if Hollinger, PER, or the whole idea of a blogger fight APBRmetrics (the basketball version of baseball's sabermetrics) appeal, check out the original Plissken and Ziller posts.

(Update: Cruc added the Plissken link earlier; here are a few others worthy of checking out, too. Thank You Isiah has a short, similar (dare I say, more incisive?) critique of Plissken, with a longer discussion in the comments. And juggernaut FreeDarko has gotten in on the conversation with an intriguing statistical analysis of PER inflation and deflation).

(Update on the update: Ziller's back with a sequel of sorts, breaking down what happens to role players' PER when they get more time. If clever stats and easy-to-read graphics aren't your thing, though, you can read our simplified summary here.)

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posted by Doctor Dribbles @ 17:08, ,

It's French for 'the dell'

No ex-Washington Bullet role player gets more love than Ledell Eackles. We're sure of it. Wizards fans don't perk up to talk about Doug Overton or get misty for LaBradford Smith. But in the Mid-Atlantic region and among NBA fans of a certain vintage, Eackles just stirs the heartstrings, or something.

And for good reason: The man was blog gold.

Having been reminded of this massive, overwhelming interest, courtesy of the excellent Bullets Forever, we bring you a closer look from "Ledell: The Carnivore's Dilemma." (A biography that we must begin writing, post-haste). Today, we clarify Eackles' infamous holdout of '90.

Chapter Nine: The Contract Dispute

In the summer of 1990, Eackles was coming off his ball-hogging second season (having tallied the aforementioned 29.5 usage rate) and entering restricted free agency; meanwhile, the Bullets had traded Jeff Malone, a 24 ppg shooting guard who was a Rip Hamilton prototype. Though they didn't know it at the time, the roster decisions made that summer would help decide the franchise's future for the next half-decade. After two straight lottery seasons, the team was teetering on the brink of its early '90s tailspin; however, the Bullets weren't that removed from a five-year playoff run, albeit a run that ended five straight times in the first round, so had some legitimacy left and were looking for a bounce-back year.

Statistical analysis being what it was in 1990, the Bullets decided that to contend with the loss of Malone, they needed another "20-point scorer" (forget efficiency) to pair with the aging Bernard King, who had about one great season left in him. And as Eackles had been the team's best bench gunner, he and his agent (a New Orleans judge named Eddie Sapir, who was a real character) thought they had leverage.

They didn't.

Well, maybe they did.

But they sure didn't know to use it.

On his rookie contract, Eackles had earned about $315,000 per year, and Washington was prepared to more than double his compensation to roughly $800,000 per year (these were the days of an $11 million salary cap). Which is why the team was legitimately shocked when an "insulted" Sapir came back and asked for superstar money, at $2 million per season.

Now, forget Drexler and Malone (and Joe Dumars and Reggie Miller and David Robinson and the numerous other All-Stars who made $1 million or less)--a $2 million salary would vault Eackles squarely into Michael Jordan ($2.2 million) and Larry Bird ($1.6 million) territory.

Which was totally reasonable, because all three were in that famous McDonalds commercial (Eackles snuck in and ate Jordan's Big Mac when the other two were trying to shoot it through the window).

Anyway, the dispute went on all summer and into training camp, with the posturing between the Bullets' front office and Sapir playing out in the media (even as Eackles good-naturedly visited DC and hung out with the other players and staff). The Washington Post and Times dutifully carried regular updates: Eackles was going to go play in Greece; the Bullets offered to stamp his passport. Eackles would shop his wares around the league; the Bullets said they'd pack his suitcase. And so on. Eventually, as October rolled around and with no other team even biting on an offer sheet, Sapir realized he'd backed himself into a corner. From the Times, on the eve of the Bullets 1990 season opener:

Eackles' agent, Judge Eddie Sapir, originally sought a four-year, $8 million contract but has lowered his demands considerably. He's believed to be willing to accept a deal paying Eackles in the range of $1 million per season. The Bullets' offer apparently didn't come close.

"I bent over backwards to make it work," said Sapir. "The club just isn't going to evaluate Ledell like {Charlotte's} Muggsy Bogues or {Denver's} Michael Adams. Those are guys getting over a million dollars a year. They're getting the market value. You're going to tell me Ledell isn't as good as those guys?"

[Actually, those guys weren't getting over $1 million per year, and yes, they were better than Ledell.-- Crucifictorious]

"It's not that Eddie Sapir is asking for something that is unfair. I'm asking for rock-bottom market value. No way in the world can I give Ledell away. It's just unfair now."

Even if it was unfair, Sapir's demands continued to plummet as the games started and the Bullets played it cool. By the time Sapir finally caved to GM John Nash, several weeks into the season, Eackles was 20 lbs. overweight and left with a deal that was for a year and hundreds of thousands of dollars less than the Bullets' original offer.

Chubby and in the doghouse, another opportunity blown. Such was life for Ledell Eackles.

You can fault Eackles for being selfish and wildly over-estimating his value, but more likely he just got snookered by Sapir, a New Orleans judge/councilman/sometime sports agent. Sapir had cultivated Eackles when the latter was a basketball star at the University of New Orleans, even having Ledell work at his office part-time as a copy boy. While Sapir had a lot of experience negotiating contracts--he was the agent for Billy Martin, the repeatedly hired-and-fired manager of the Yankees--Eackles was the first NBA player he represented.

Given what happened, likely the last, too.

For the Bullets' sake, this wasn't a particularly proud moment; not having Eackles in training camp and the season's first month was clearly a blow to the rotation, as the team got off to a slow start and never recovered. Some of the games without Eackles, the team labored to score; Bernard King put up 45 points in one early loss to the mighty, previously 0-7 Sacramento Kings, while the other 10 Bullets who logged game time combined for just 37 points. Sapir's negotiating mantra had been, "Ledell wants to get paid like one of the players of the '90s." Well, it was a bad omen that Eackles didn't, as the Bullets were hardly players across the decade. The team eventually eked out 30 victories in 1990-1991 and then went another four years before winning even 26 games.

Still, while Nash's tenure as Washington's GM wasn't fraught with success--no playoff appearances and a lot of 20-win seasons, alhough he did bring in Webber, Howard, and Muresan--this was one time when he did shine. When told that Eackles would rather sit out a year than accept Washington's initial offer, Nash replied, "We've been in the lottery the past two years with Ledell. We can be in it without him."

(Of course, Eackles inspired his share of one-liners. After he once scorched the Milwaukee Bucks for 37 points, then-Coach Wes Unseld said, "With Ledell, you never know what you're going to get. Tomorrow, he may not make the team bus.")

Thus informed, we head off to pen our next entry in the Ledell Eackles saga--Chapter 15: Roman Candle--which we will write while wearing our glorious '98 bench t-shirt. Go with God (Shammgod), Wizards fans.

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posted by Crucifictorious @ 16:32, ,

Man wants world to know he has giant box of porn

We're a nation of packrats, especially when it comes to sports stuff. Nearly every fan's collected something, whether it was the free Cal Ripken posters in the newspaper or classic Sports Illustrated covers.

But even as tiny tots, we could never stomach our collection playing second fiddle to anyone else’s, let alone not being unique. Who wanted to have the exact same Starting Lineup figures as dorky neighbor Joey? Not us. It’s a habit that has followed us over the years.

Take 1989, when we heard about Jimmy Chitwood's massive baseball card collection and realized he’d basically cornered the market. Frustrated, we stuck to finding every single Garbage Pail Kid instead--and trust us, Adam Bomb and Valerie Vomit age a bit less impressively than, say, a Junior Griffey rookie card.

Or in 2005, when we learned about one Redskins super-fan's insane collection of team paraphernalia, which had become "his whole life." Not that we were going to collect Redskins stuff anyway--we hate Dan Snyder and all he stands for--but the news further served to keep us away.

And in 2006, when we read about Arenas getting into the jersey-collecting business and promptly threw up our hands. What next? We gracefully ended our flirtation with the habit and returned the Unseld throwback jersey, price tag uncut.

(About the only time we ever out-collected our peers was in third grade, as no one else in class could represent the entire American League entirely via ice cream mini-helmets. Not coincidentally, we were tubby little bastards).

But, as we learned from the news wire yesterday, there’s one collection we’ll never be able to compete with. Honestly, we're retiring from the game right now. Just a truly exceptional feat of collecting that many young, sports-loving males can relate to. Only one problem: The police don’t want to return the guy’s giant stash of porn.

SAN RAFAEL, Calif.-- A man recently jailed for secretly videotaping a woman and a teenage girl has sued a police department for the return of his massive porn collection taken during the investigation. Dennis Saunders, 59, filed suit after the department refused to give back some 500 pornographic movies and 250 magazines his lawyer described as unrelated to the peeping case.

The Smoking Gun has done the world a tremendous service by posting snippets from the 40-page police report, which the cops had to love filing. Among Mr. Saunders’ collection, we found classics like "NYPD Nude," "Muffmania" (‘01 through ‘04), and the especially naughty "Maxell Video Head Cleaner."

(Yes, we feel dirty just writing this.)

Strictly speaking, we couldn’t find much in Mr. Saunders’ story that was sports-related, although we have some concerns that “Northwest Amateurs” shares too much information about Greg Oden, Josh McRoberts, and rest of the young Portland Trailblazers. And we’re reasonably confident that Fred Smoot and Daunte Culpepper were guest speakers at Muffmania ’04.

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posted by Crucifictorious @ 17:37, ,

Where have you gone, Brian Bersticker?

August was Mediocre Month at We Rite Goode...where in the spirit of things, we were only devoting two weeks to celebrating lousiness. And sure, the month's over, but what's the point of being mediocre if we actually followed through on time? Here's another of the awful-yet-great athletes who made us grin or, more likely, groan. I'll let Doctor Dribbles take it away...--Crucifictorious

It was March Madness, 1998, and skinny forwards were totally in style.

Kevin Garnett had just signed his record deal with the Timberwolves. Dirk Nowitzki was a few months away from entering the league. High schoolers Darius Miles and Tyson Chandler were already being eyed by eager NBA executives.

And that's when I saw him.

Entering an ACC tournament game in its waning moments, UNC's Brian Bersticker just took NC State's lunch money. Yeah, it was garbage time, and Carolina was killing State; Antawn Jamison and Vince Carter were long out of the game. But Bersticker, the lankiest ACC big man I'd ever seen, played like he belonged with the first team; in the game's last three minutes, he threw down three dunks (hanging on the rim and taunting the State crowd after one slam) and canned a free throw.

Seven points in only three minutes!?! My mind raced with the 40-minute projections. Clearly, Bersticker was a threat to break Pete Maravich's records, if he only got some playing time. I did a little research on the player; according to my friends at UNC, he was athletic, not to mention had shooting range. With Jamison, Carter, and three key seniors leaving the team after the season, surely Bersticker was the next UNC star-in-waiting.

Unfortunately, despite my hoping and wishing the next four years, it would never happen. Those three brilliant minutes fixed what Bersticker could be in my mind forever. But in those three brilliant minutes, Bersticker, as they say, may have been flying above his pay grade.

As a 6'10", 205-pound high school basketball player in Virginia Beach, he had been overlooked by the major programs--and for good reason. Before his senior year, Bersticker hadn't been dominant (never named to his all-district team) or, foreshadowing his future challenges, able to stay healthy. But a successful summer on the AAU tour attracted schools like Kentucky and Georgia Tech, and the resulting recruiting stampede led one local newspaper to dub Bersticker "the best player you've probably never heard of."

Once at Carolina, Bersticker was to become a mediocre backup center, albeit one with a few moments of brilliance. As a sophomore, he played crucial minutes in the 1999 ACC Tournament--first turning the tide against Georgia Tech, then dunking off a full-court bomb from Ademola Okaluja to seal a win over Maryland. Entering his junior year, the future looked rosy; Bersticker kicked off the year with seven points and seven boards against USC, then put up 12 points (six of seven shooting) in the Maui Invitational championship game. But after scoring four quick points in one minute against the College of Charleston, the team's sixth game, Bersticker broke his foot and things were never quite the same after that.

Following his redshirt year, Bersticker returned to the team but was buried by new coach Matt Doherty well behind Brendan Haywood and averaged a career-low 1.5 ppg. While there were hopes that Bersticker's fifth year on campus would be his breakout opportunity--and it statistically was his strongest season (4.0 ppg)--the year was a nightmare, as Doherty led the Tar Heels to an embarrassing 8-20 team record. Bersticker had to take the court Senior night knowing that he was closing out the worst season in the program's history. What an unfortunate way to go out for a player who, by all accounts, was a real good guy.

And that's where Bersticker's career took a weird turn. In writing about our favorite mediocre players, we were supposed to stick to the pros--and from this website, I'm guessing Bersticker gave it a go overseas. But as Deadspin noted, Bersticker ended up working for UNC's ticket office, selling passes to games. Maybe this was a good move; I understand that Bersticker throwback jerseys can now be spotted around the Smith Center. In some ways, Bersticker the ticket-seller is more beloved by the Carolina community than Bersticker the unexceptional player.

Of course, I wasn't the only one to fall for Bersticker--as a player, the guy apparently had his own BerstickerGrrl fan club and was once a write-in candidate for UNC student body president--but as a Maryland fan going ga-ga over our rival's backup center, I had to be one of the strangest. And I'll always wish he had more of those out-of-nowhere games, even if they came against the Terps.

In his post about Ledell Eackles, Crucifictorious complained that there are no Eackles highlights video on the 'net. Hey, at least he found the guy taking a shot. The best I could do was the brief glimpse of Bersticker in action about 1:10 into the clip, as he works on an ill-fated pick-and-roll.

For Bersticker's sake, I wish I could do better. But maybe it's fitting that I can't.

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posted by Doctor Dribbles @ 09:03, ,

A player so Ledell-icious

August was Mediocre Month at We Rite Goode...where in the spirit of things, we were only devoting two weeks to celebrating lousiness. And sure, the month's over, but what's the point of being mediocre if we actually followed through on time? Here's another of the awful-yet-great athletes who made us grin or, more likely, groan.


Ledell Eackles.

We assure you--it's a real name.

But try saying it five times fast. Ledell Eackles Ledell Eackles LedellEackles Ledellckles Ledeckles.

It gets better every time, really.

As offense off the bench, the late '80s/early '90s Detroit Pistons had "The Microwave," Vinnie Johnson. The Washington Bullets had a 240 lb., 6'5 shooting guard who was never in shape, frequently disinterested in defense, and missed more practice than Allen Iverson.

(In a related story, those Pistons teams won championships, while the Bullets couldn't even win the lottery).

Eackles wasn't a total chump. Fans loved that he was a 2nd round pick from a small college (New Orleans) who made good, not to mention his ability to score in bunches; in just 23 mpg, Eackles put up about 13 ppg his first four years in the league. Although, the scoring numbers are a bit deceptive--it's easy to score on a bad team, and those Bullets were truly awful (across those four years, their win total consecutively declined from 40 to 31 to 30 to 25). is a better, deeper gauge of Eackles' playing career; his PER was a wonderfully blah 13.8 and his list of comparable players reads like a roster of all-time mediocre players: Harold Miner, Terry Teagle, and Luscious Harris.

What was best about the young Eackles was his complete lack of hesitation in putting shots up. In his second season ('89-'90), Ledell made the league's top 10 for "usage rate," which is the basketball stat measuring how many of a team's posessions a player uses--either by taking a shot, turning the ball over, or getting to the foul line--per 40 minutes. Basically, how much a player hogs a ball.

Ledell's usage rate that year: 29.5.

(To compare to current players for perspective, that's about the same usage rate as LeBron James last season, and a higher rate than Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Iverson, Dirk Nowitzki...the list of all-stars goes on. A list that Eackles doesn't quite belong on.)

After that initial run with the Bullets--which included a hilariously overblown contract holdout, where Eackles and his agent asked for a higher annual salary than Larry Bird, Karl Malone, or even Clyde Drexler, and the Bullets basically told him he could sit out a year instead--Eackles hopped in and out of the league, later becoming more of a three-point specialist before fading into Bolivian. However, the name lives on: A Ledell Eackles, Jr. just wrapped his college career, although at 5'9", appears less likely than his pa to make the L.

So why did we love Ledell so? The name? The game? Nah...probably the name.

Plus, there was a charming ignorance about the ex-Juco. Sports Illustrated's Jack McCallum has a great story from his book :07 Seconds or Less; apparently, when Eackles played for the Miami Heat, he tried to fire up the team during a meeting by walking to the whiteboard and writing, "No Your roll." Glen Rice replied, "Sit down, dumbass."

We'd love to leave you with an Eackles highlights package--as he goes on a scoring, or more likely, a pancakes binge--but video is, unsurprisingly, tough to find. So instead, here's a vintage Michael Jordan scoring 51 on the hapless Bullets of '92. Eackles (#21) actually had a decent game that night (28 pts), but his only YouTube appearances come when being a) scored upon and b) hoisting the last shot of the game (a half-court miss).

For us, though...these precious few seconds are enough to bring back a lifetime of memories. Godspeed, Ledell Eackles. Tonight, we will eat four hamburgers in your honor.

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posted by Crucifictorious @ 18:30, ,

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