Bill Simmons on watching LeBron in person

The Cavs visited the Clippers recently, and Bill Simmons was in attendance. Here’s what he thinks of LeBron up close.

To say the least. He’s the most charismatic athlete of his generation, only you wouldn’t fully know it until you studied him in person. Command of the room. He might dunk in the layup lines. He might try to make a one-handed half-court shot. He might call for an alley-oop and soar above his incredulous teammates just for the hell of it. Simply saying “bursting with energy” wouldn’t do him justice. It’s like watching a super-coordinated, mutant 4-year-old dealing with a severe sugar rush.

I’m gonna go block Delonte’s shot from behind! HAH! He didn’t see me coming! Wait, I’m in the mood for an alley-oop. I need me some oop. Mo, throw me an oop. Ah, yes … it’s in the air … I’m jumping … DUNK! What now? I want to try a one-handed shot from the corner. Jamario, come play with me. Hold on, I just saw Baron Davis! Hey Baron! What up, dog! Watch this, I’m gonna make a half-court shot with my eyes closed … DAMN! Just missed it. You know what I really feel like doing? Jumping on Shaq’s back. Look out, Big Fella, eeeeeeeeeeee-yah!!!!!!!

Jordan saved his legs before games, using that time to stretch, practice specific shots and butter up referees. LeBron can’t pace himself. Even when he walks from Point A to Point B, there’s no loping or strolling. He prances. He hops up and down. And if all these people are staring at him anyway, why not rile them up with a couple ridiculous dunks?

On the chances of him leaving Cleveland at the end of the season…

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Bill Simmons goes to Vegas

To celebrate his fantasy football league’s 20th anniversary and the 40th birthday of a buddy, Bill Simmons and a group of friends hit Vegas. As usual, he has a number of funny anecdotes, but this was my favorite from Part 1.

7:45: We will refer to it in 2039 as “The Sneeze.”

Here’s what happened: I stood up at the end of a shoe right as Grady’s cigarette smoke nailed me in the nose and mouth, causing me to abruptly sneeze. Unfortunately, my mouth had water in it, which ended up ejaculating (and really, that’s the right verb) all over our unfriendly female dealer’s hands and arms. In the history of my life, I don’t think I have ever bummed anyone out more. It’s a new record. I could have attacked her with a bat Juan Marichal-style and she would have been happier. She took an exaggerated step back, frowned, grabbed a napkin and wiped the sneeze juice off her hands with a record amount of disdain … and then, to make it more awkward, refused to accept my sincere/mortified apology, which made me friends laugh even harder, which made her hate us even more, which in turn made us dislike her again because she’d been killing us for an hour, which suddenly made me feel happy that I accidentally sneezed all over her.

“We will be talking about that sneeze 30 years from now,” Russ says, wiping the tears from his eyes.

The dealer glares at him. She’s in Eff You Mode. If you know anything about blackjack, you know this ain’t ending well.

Here’s my favorite blurb from Part 2. Bill and his friends are at their fantasy draft, and were given a suite at Ceasar’s by the CEO of a fledgling fantasy football company.

12:20: The doorbell rings. It’s CEO Eric! He’s accompanied by two scantily clad Pizza Girls, five pizzas and a case of Bud Light. I’m not kidding — this almost caused a riot. One girl is dressed like a cheerleader; the other is wearing Tom Brady’s jersey and underwear (only if both had been shrunk to one-fourth the size). Later, CEO Eric described our reaction as “2-year-olds at a birthday party as Barney walks in.” By the way, we’re old.

12:40: Pizza, beer and awkward conversation with the girls is highlighted by a hungover Grady (wearing Tevas) struggling to keep things moving by asking the girl in the Brady jersey, “So, where are you based out of?” My favorite moment of the weekend so far. Slayed me. I want to see this scene re-enacted online with Zach Galifianakis playing Grady. In Tevas.

“So, where are you based out of?” Classic.

Correcting Bill Simmons, Part 5: Bill hates Charley Casserly

In Bill Simmons’s most recent mailbag, a reader asks a question about former Redskins and Texans GM Charley Casserly…

Q: I’m taking Sports Leadership taught by Charley Casserly at Georgetown next fall. What percentage of the class is going to be on “How to draft a defensive end from N.C. State even when a running back from USC is available”?
— Rawiri, Washington

SG: Hold on, hold on, hold on … Charley Casserly is teaching at Georgetown??? This is the last straw! What’s next — Trevor Ariza’s agent and Lamar Odom’s agent teaching a class in sports law? For years, I’ve been waiting for some college or university to approach me about teaching a class called “Sports Column Writing 101,” “How to be Lazy and Succeed” or “Weaving Pop Culture and Sports to Your Own Literary Detriment.” Did I get one offer? Did UCLA ever say, “Let’s give Simmons a class, I bet 30 kids will be dumb enough to sign up?” Noooooooooooooo! But failed GM Charley Casserly gets to teach kids at Georgetown, the school I wanted to attend that brutally rejected me in 1988? This makes me want to skin sheep in front of a PETA rally. I’m so bitter right now.

Why is Simmons hating on Casserly? He doesn’t offer any evidence, so I guess that this is all about the Mario Williams-over-Reggie Bush pick in 2006. Only that pick has turned out pretty well for the Texans. Williams was a Pro Bowler last year and Bush has missed 10 games in his first three seasons.

In fact, after a semi-disastrous start in Houston in 2002 (David Carr, Jabar Gaffney and Fred Weary), Casserly rebounded in 2003-2006 by drafting five future Pro Bowlers (Williams, Andre Johnson, Jerome Mathis, DeMeco Ryans and Owen Daniels). Ryans was named Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006. The Texans went 2-14 in the 2005 season, and Casserly was run out of town resigned after the 2006 Draft. But the team has improved since then, posting a respectable 22-26 record in the three years since his departure. Much of the credit for this leap is given to the aforementioned players that Casserly drafted.

Prior to joining the Texans, Casserly was the GM for the Washington Redskins, where he won Executive of the Year honors in 1999 after fleecing the Saints for all their picks in the draft (as well as a future first and third) while still landing the guy he wanted — Champ Bailey.

While Casserly did have his share of clunkers (Heath Shuler must be mentioned), the guy had his share of good picks as well. Again, I don’t know what Simmons’s beef is here, but if it’s the whole Williams/Bush thing, then he should check his facts — Casserly has been vindicated.

Read the first four parts of Correcting Bill Simmons.

Bill Simmons’ Finals preview

Bill Simmons previews the Finals by taking fake questions from well-known people. Here’s a sample:

Q: Let’s say I pull this off and we win a title. Does that push me past Oscar and Jerry and make me the third-greatest guard ever?
— K. Bryant, Los Angeles

SG: Yes. Absolutely. No question. Just know that your title window is closing because of your odometer — more than 1,100 games in 13 seasons and 203 games (not including the 2009 Finals) over the last 19 months alone — and a group of contenders that will be better next season with Garnett and Ginobili back, Portland and Chicago possibly making a leap, and Cleveland undoubtedly getting LeBron more help. You will never have a better chance at another ring than you do this month. And if you get it, your place in history is secure.

Let’s say you don’t get it. Let’s say Orlando continues to ride the “Nobody believed in us!!!!” wave and topples your Lakers for its first title. Let’s say the matchup troubles from the regular season (both Orlando wins) translate to the postseason just like they did in the Cleveland-Orlando series. That would mean the following things:

A. You never won a title when you were the best guy on your own team. An indisputable fact.

B. You lost not one, not two, but THREE Finals in which you were the best player on a favored team heading into the series: 2004 (versus Detroit), 2008 (versus Boston) and 2009 (versus Orlando). You played poorly by your standards in 2004 (23-4-3, 38 percent FG, 17 percent 3-point FG) and 2009 (26-5-5, 40.5 percent FG, 32 percent 3-point FG, 4.7 TOs); in deciding games those years, your team lost by 13 points and 39 points. If history repeats itself in 2009, you won’t be able to recover historically. You’ll be the guy who needed to ride Shaq’s coattails to win a title, and that’s that.

Honestly, this is one of the reasons I love basketball so much. Kevin Garnett’s career was altered by the 2008 Finals in a good way. Karl Malone’s career was altered in the 1997 and 1998 Finals in a bad way. Walt Frazier’s career was altered in the 1970 Finals in a good way. Clyde Drexler’s career was altered by the 1992 Finals in a bad way. You can come up with 25 superstars like that. A “fork in the road” moment, if you will. For Kobe, we’re here. Officially.

That pretty much sums up Kobe’s situation, though I’m not sure that a Finals loss would send him into a tailspin that he couldn’t recover from. The Lakers will be good again next year.

Simmons rails on NBA officiating

In his latest column, Bill Simmons takes the NBA to task for its poor officiating. It’s a good (if long) read.

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