Andrew Bynum is Not a Winner

The Lakers are a better team without Andrew Bynum. Their career 1-8 three-point shooting center has a lot of growing up to do.

With 16 seconds left on the shot clock in Tuesday’s game against the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum launched a three pointer from the top of the key. He missed by a mile and was benched about a minute later. (I think he would’ve been benched even if he made the shot.)

But making the blatantly poor decision did not bother me as much as his attitude following it. Listen to Bynum’s body language in Tuesday’s post-game interview:

Subjectively, he sounds nonchalant and conveys a care-free persona.

Objectively, Bynum’s response at the 1:06 mark troubles me. “Why did you shoot the three?”

“I made one last night and wanted to take another one.”

“I” wanted to take another one, so “I” did. Bynum indirectly admitted he is a selfish player at times (at best). Bynum knows he belongs nowhere near that three point line, yet consciously chucked it up anyway.

It shows immaturity and an individualistic mindset. It shows Andrew Bynum’s attitude is detrimental to the Lakers’ locker room. Unfortunately, I believe his decision to shoot the three was a way of saying, “Yanno coach…I really don’t care what you think.”

**In my opinion, the Kobe and the Lakers are fed up with head coach Mike Brown. In his defense, replacing arguably the greatest coach in basketball history plus inheriting a veteran franchise is not an easy task.

Still, Brown will catch a lot of heat. Bynum’s interview begs the question, “Coach, do you have control of the locker room (let alone Andrew Bynum)?” Mike D’Antoni didn’t.

Do Bynum’s seven-foot frame and above average basketball skills eclipse the negative baggage his attitude elicits? Yes, the Lakers won two championships with him, but as he gains seniority, will Bynum’s pro/con baggage tilt in the opposite direction? I think within a year or two it will. What is his “negative attitude ceiling?” It doesn’t help he can’t stay healthy.

The Lakers’ biggest win would have been to trade Bynum in a package deal for Orlando’s Dwight Howard, but that’s a rant for another day.

“Intangibles” is the most underrated stat in sports. We drown ourselves in numbers, but give me a stat for locker room presence. Does this individual catalyze or retard the team’s progress?

It’s the one stat the sports world is missing, but at least now I know where Bynum ranges in the category.

Peyton Manning was John Elway’s Ultimate Exit Plan

John Elway is the happiest person in the United States right now – not because of who he acquired, but the backlash he avoided.

Getting Peyton Manning was Broncos’ executive John Elway’s pubic relations dream.

Elway’s resistance to guaranteeing Tim Tebow job security beyond season’s end, despite his win total, shows Elway has no confidence in his tight end – err – quarterback.

But without Manning, Elway was caught in a serious PR catch 22. Let’s break it down by scenario before Manning agreed to negotiate:

Tebow starts, does poorly
Tebow’s stocky build and slow delivery are tangible flaws, and the fan base would argue the red flags are an inexcusable oversight for a co-owner who knows how to win Super Bowls.

Tebow starts, keeps winning
Until Tebow proves he can throw the ball, it doesn’t matter how well he does. Winning would suppress the Broncos quarterback debate, not squash it.

Tebow relegated to the bench, <insert quarterback here> does well
Does this new quarterback win at a rate better than Tebow’s 7-4 record? Can he prove he can throw the ball? If Elway’s new quarterback could keep this pace for a full season, it would be the co-owner’s best case PR scenario.

Tebow relegated to the bench, <insert quarterback here> does poorly.
This would be Elway’s worst case PR scenario. If you’re going to bench a quarterback that wins, you had better be right – which is why I think Tebow would have started the season as Broncos quarterback. It would have made the most PR sense, which unfortunately shows how the media has literally affected sports.

Peyton Manning’s presence takes an enormous weight off Elway’s shoulders. Even if Peyton Manning starts the season 0-4, Elway remains off the hook – it’s what any owner would have done. An 0-4 start with any quarterback other than Peyton Manning would unfairly put the Broncos owner in hot water.

Think of Peyton Manning as #2 Duke. No one will attack you for not picking Lehigh to advance to the round of 32.

Now the Broncos just need to find some wide receivers…

The Yankees Should Go Completely Unconventional

Welcome back Andy. New York loves you, and I would love to see you win with us…but you put us in a tough spot. We already have enough quality starters to fill a five-man rotation. Simply put, your presence makes things very difficult.

However, your signing opens the door to an unconventional strategy no American baseball team has used before:

Use a six-man rotation.

Here is a list of the Yankees’ potential starters listed by, in my opinion, likeliness to make the rotation. Let me know if you disagree:

CC Sabathia
Ivan Nova
Michael Pineda
Hiroki Kuroda
Andy Pettitte
Phil Hughes
Freddy Garcia

Traditionally, Major League clubs use five starting pitchers, meaning two of the aforementioned will be relegated to long-reliever (most team’s first pitcher cut) or the minor leagues.

Here’s why a six-man rotation would benefit the Yankees:

1) Extra Rest

With such emphasis on pitch count and pitcher conditioning, you give all starters an extra day off, thus decreasing the chance of injury. You can argue the extra day off leads to an increased chance of stiffness and muscle tears, but pitchers can always add an extra throw day to their workout.

2) Playoffs

You have more options when assembling a potential playoff rotation. The extra man also increases competition between hurlers, which may be what the Yankees need to put them over the hump come late in the season.

Also, Joe Girardi can certainly feel better about using a starter on three-days rest in the postseason because of the decreased innings pitched in the regular season. Again, this would conflict with pitchers’ routines, and going from six-days rest to three-days rest is a lot to ask. However, I still feel the greater positive lies in a six-man rotation. Professional pitchers can adjust.

3) Pitcher Confidence

You don’t have to relegate (most likely) Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia to long reliever roles, assuming they even make the team. A six-man rotation would avoid another hit to Phil Hughes’ dwindling confidence, who I believe would be the final starter in a six-man army.

This concept is not uncharted territory for the Bombers – the Yankees experimented with a six-man rotation toward the end of last year. A six-man rotation is the Japanese standard, so the Yankees can use those teams as a model. Potential starter Hiroki Kuroda pitched in Japan from 1997-2007. I couldn’t find validation online, but if the Hiroshima Toyo Carp used six starters during those years, it would bring Kuroda back to his roots.

Here’s where Yankees pitchers stand with two weeks left in spring training:

CC Sabathia – Ace of the staff, huge contract. He has a spot.

Ivan Nova – His 16-4 record was the best among Yankees pitchers in 2011. Is he the Yankees’ next ace? Until he shows he’s not… three left.

Michael Pineda – You can argue the Yankees can play the seniority card and have Pineda start in the minors, but that wouldn’t go over well with the fan base. Assuming he doesn’t blow up in the last weeks of spring training, he’ll have a spot in the rotation.

Hiroki Kuroda – I’m wondering if the Yankees are wishing they hadn’t signed Kuroda now that Pettitte is returning. Personally, I wasn’t crazy over the signing to begin with. He’ll be 37, he’s coming to the offensively-driven American League, and gave up 24 home runs last year – only eight to LCF or RCF according to Baseball-Reference. Important because Yankee Stadium is more concave than Dodger Stadium (Yankee Stadium vs. Dodger Stadium), and plays even smaller than its dimensions indicate. I still think he’ll make the rotation.

Andy Pettitte – He’ll make the rotation. The Yankees would not sign their good friend to embarrass him with a trip to the minors. He may start there to get his confidence and strength back, but he’ll be in the rotation by May 1st.

Phil Hughes – Hughes has been a bit of a bust since his highly anticipated debut April 2007. He’s shown flares of greatness, but has been hurt often, and has yet proven he can be more than a fourth or fifth starter. If Hughes doesn’t make the rotation, the Yankees may put him back in the bullpen, a role he thrived in 2009. Hey Diamondbacks, how about Phil Hughes for Ian Kennedy, straight up?

Freddy Garcia – Garcia seems to hold the shortest stick. He’s old, has no sentimental value to the organization, and was nothing short of ghastly down the stretch. He re-signed in December to a one-year deal, but the Yankees won’t be afraid to eat the contract if need be. I see Garcia as an long reliever/emergency starter come opening day no matter which way you form the rotation.

Dear Mr. Girardi,

I have no problem with a six-man rotation. I’m old, and along with Kuroda and Sabathia, extra rest would certainly help. I’m not crazy about something that goes against my career routine, but I’ll get over it. I know I’ll make the team, but it’ll be nice knowing I’m not destroying Phil Hughes’ confidence by doing so.

Thanks for taking me back. I’m sorry for throwing a total monkey wrench into your system.

Your former teammate and current fifth starter,
Andy Pettitte

NCAA Tournament to Expand to 4,096 Teams

The 68-team NCAA tournament structure lasted only one year. Next year the NCAA tournament will include 4,096 teams.

This video on the Onion Sports Network is one of my all time favorite sports videos.

Later today (or early tomorrow) I’ll be arguing how the Yankees would benefit taking an unconventional route this season – why not have a six-man rotation?

Top 10 NBA Player Commercials

I found this great list on Buzzfeed.com of the top 10 commercials featuring NBA players.

Personally, I think they missed this one below. It was the NBA’s opening promo to the 2011-12 NBA season on Christmas Day. How long did this take to edit?

LeBron…This is Why You Will Never Be Michael Jordan

LeBron James is the most athletic, talented, and arguably strongest pound-for-pound player in the league today. He has the gall to take, and hit, circus-clutch shots like this (skip to 2:54)…and this (skip to :45), yet under 24 seconds in the final period, he’s a consistent no-show.

LeBron James is the “The fans’ pressure greatly affects me” poster-child. And we¬† love it. We fans know we have the collective ability to greatly affect arguably the most powerful character in the NBA.

That’s why it’s so much fun to hate LeBron James – because it works.

*For the record, I do feel bad for LeBron. All he wants is to be loved… it’s just not working out for him.

Dear LeBron,
Here’s a list of your PR moves that made me cringe:

7/8/10 The Decision, & “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach”
How you interpret this: I’m benefiting a charity. This is a great PR move.
How the fans do: “My talents?!” ugh…and yes LeBron, you are the center of attention. I know that’s what you want. Thanks for making yourself bigger than the game.

11/30/11 – Tossing out free T-shirts at an Ohio St. basketball game
How you interpret this: I still love you guys. I’ll never forget where I came from!
How the fans do: It’s like Benedict Arnold giving out free burgers & dogs on Independence Day.

10/11/11 – Tweeting to ESPN’s John Clayton asking when NFL teams can sign free agents.
How you interpret this: The NBA is locked out, but I’m a football fan like the rest of ya!
How the fans do: Why are you worrying about football?! Don’t you care the NBA canceled the first two weeks of the season yesterday?

2/17/12 – Announcing you wouldn’t rule out going back to Cleveland
How you interpret this: I was loved in Cleveland, maybe THAT’S my key to being loved again.
How we do: LeBron… ugh just don’t say anything.

The interesting theme here is (I feel) LeBron truly thinks these aforementioned slip-ups would result in a more positive public image. However, LeBron has dug himself a PR hole so deep he can’t escape with a few pseudo-events or actions. To improve his image, he must at least play a major role in a Heat championship, and multiple times – a feat immensely difficult. I’ll talk about this more later.

And why, LeBron, do you make your twitter handle @KingJames? It comes off as self-centered to the average fan – especially the ones who love hating you.

On a random note, Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant, Eli Manning, and Albert Pujols don’t really tweet. Do the winners naturally avoid twitter? Do great ones recognize social media as a distraction? A concentration retarder? Let me know in the comments.

Fans try to affect all superstars. The difference is the truly great ones either ignore or thrive off the hate. What happens when Kobe, Reggie, Jeter, Eli, Michael, and any other big time winners get hated on?

Kobe Bryant – He was blacklisted after his sexual assault case in 2003. Today, he’s arguably the closest player to Michael Jordan. Kobe claims he has had not rivals in his career, and I think he’s right.

Reggie Miller – No championships, but if you don’t think there was a direct correlation between pressure and performance, watch ESPN’s documentary Winning Time: Reggie vs. The New York Knicks.

Derek Jeter – Five-time World Series Champion in America’s biggest market. Non-Yankees fans have been trying to hate Jeter for 17 years, yet he continues to show he is unaffected.

Eli Manning – The biggest reason why the Gotham Giants have won their two most recent Super Bowls. Okay, you can argue defense carried them in 2007, but not in 2011.

Michael Jordan

LeBron has made some big mistakes in his NBA career – only some aforementioned, but his biggest mistake is one he has yet to overcome – not being himself. He wants to be Michael Jordan so badly. Choosing #23 for the first seven years of his career was LeBron’s inaugural mistake.

It showed weakness. It immediately conveyed he wanted to follow in Michael’s footsteps, not pave his own legacy.

Michael takes the final shot. He didn’t care what you thought. Reggie wanted Knicks fans to hate him – and what happened the last time he played at the Garden? Knicks fans serenaded him with respect – chanting “Reggie! Reggie!” as he left the floor. Barring a crazy steroid scandal or anything unforeseen, Derek Jeter will be cheered in his final game at Fenway Park. I guarantee it.

Fans aren’t dumb. We know who the star players are. Fans judge a player not just by physical ability, but reaction to immense pressure. LeBron has failed to show he can handle the latter.

LeBron, in your best-case-scenario form, here’s how you can become loved again:

1) Fail in Miami. Not on purpose, but if you win even one championship here then leave for Cleveland, it conveys, “Okay, I got one – I’m ready to help you guys now.” Because that’s a slap in the face.

2) Opt Out and Return to Cleveland – Prove to the fans in Cleveland you’ll give up what you went to Miami for – a shortcut to an NBA Title. That will convey, “It doesn’t mean anything if I don’t win it in Cleveland.”

3) Lead Cleveland to an NBA Title

Be The King.

But right now, where’s the killer instinct LeBron? If you don’t have it… that’s okay. Honestly. If you can’t be Michael Jordan it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person nor are you a bad basketball player. If you win in Miami congratulations – that takes hard work. However, you will never be Michael if you win in Miami. You’ll never get back Cleveland’s respect, and you can keep your twitter handle @KingJames because it won’t mean anything.

The King? I have a new one…Dwyane’s Prince.