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Sticking up for John Hollinger

John Hollinger’s recent tweet – “One more for @sportsguy33 asterisk list: ’04 Pistons. Nets, Pacers, Lakers all had key injuries against them” – has raised the hackles of Detroit Bad Boys’ Mike Payne and Pistons by the Numbers’ Ben Gulker, a couple Pistons bloggers who I think typically do a very good job.

Starting with a compliment? Bet you can see where I’m going.

First, some context. Bill Simmons ranked “the 20 most fortunate breaks an NBA champion ever received,” explaining the premise:

A basketball season always features collateral damage, whether it’s injuries, lucky breaks or someone stupidly assaulting a fire extinguisher. Asterisks should be saved for fishier achievements like Bonds’s 73 homers, Roger Clemens’s last few Cy Youngs and Pia Zadora winning a Golden Globe. A "footnote title" respects the champion while also acknowledging that, "Look, SOMETHING funky happened and you can’t discuss that postseason in detail without mentioning that one funky thing."

Hollinger’s tweet followed that.

Again, in context: The whole idea of the discussion – which I find pointless, though maybe fun* – is that Simmons still “respects the champion.” If Hollinger is following that lead, I think it would stand to reason he does, too.

*Simmons’ whole premise is sort of silly, which he basically admits. If he wanted to, he could’ve come up with footnotes for every championship team. They’re fun to discuss, but they don’t make a championship less meaningful.

Before we go further, it’s worth pointing out that Hollinger is right. The Pistons benefited from injuries. I don’t think that takes away from the Pistons’ title – their training staff deserves credit for keeping everyone healthy, and unlike their opponents, they didn’t rely on as many older players – but Hollinger is right.

Associated Press on Jason Kidd:

The star point guard has struggled with a knee injury, and there has been speculation that his back hurts, too. But Kidd refused to talk about his injuries during the series — or after.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Jermaine O’Neal reported to yesterday’s morning shoot-around complaining of increased swelling in his left knee.

Considering him more gimpy than go-to, Indiana rarely worked the ball inside and O’Neal finished with 11 points on 10 shots while battling pain, foul trouble and a bulky knee brace.

Indiana played at far less than full strength, with Jamaal Tinsley still battling several injuries in his left leg and taking multiple trips to the locker room. Backup point guard Anthony Johnson played with the stomach flu.

But O’Neal, an All-NBA second-team selection who finished third in balloting for Most Valuable Player this season, is the fuel for the Pacers’ racecar.

He originally sprained his left knee in the first quarter of Indiana’s Game 4 victory on Friday. But he returned to contribute 12 points and 13 rebounds in 38 minutes and felt so confident about his injury on Saturday that he declared it a "non-issue."

Then came yesterday.

"It’s an injury," O’Neal said. "It takes away some of your mobility. It won’t get better overnight, so I’ll have to find a way to deal with it. This series isn’t over."

Adding to the intrigue were conflicting stories by Carlisle and O’Neal, the former saying the swelling required the draining of fluids and the latter denying that.

This much is clear: O’Neal didn’t get enough touches for 38 minutes of action.

Associated Press:

Karl Malone is playing despite having what he believes to be a torn ligament in his right knee, and Derek Fisher and Devean George have also been slowed by injured knees.

Again, this shouldn’t take away from Detroit’s title. Every championship team receives some degree of luck, and this is the area where the Pistons caught a break.

This also isn’t Hollinger’s anti-Detroit bias. He hasn’t been shy about complimenting those Pistons, like he did the year before their championship:

So the Pistons don’t have the superstar talent we’re used to seeing in conference championship teams. They’re built more on the lines of recent deep, big teams like Indiana or Portland. David Stern is probably praying they don’t make it to the Finals; selling viewers on a team with 10 interchangeable parts tends to go against the league’s marketing M.O.

But with the emergence of Prince at small forward and Okur up front, these Pistons are the best team in the East. I didn’t believe it all season. But after Friday, there’s not a doubt in my mind.

And it’s not him covering for the fact that PER, the stat he created, underrated the Pistons’ top defenders, especially Ben Wallace. He freely admits PER has shortcomings:

Bear in mind that PER is not the final, once-and-for-all evaluation of a player’s accomplishments during the season. This is especially true for defensive specialists — such as Quinton Ross and Jason Collins — who don’t get many blocks or steals.

It’s just Hollinger giving another example of a team that caught a break on its way to a championship.  The 2004 Pistons, in that regard, were just like the title teams before and after them. I don’t think it cheapens their accomplishment to admit that.

42 Comments

  • May 4, 20122:05 pm
    by brgulker

    Reply

    Asterisk is the same thing applied to cheaters like Bonds and McGuire. If it is a footnote, call it that.

    I think they are trolling and not being honest in the process. They deserve the heat. If they arent trolling then why not put their own pet teams to the same logic?

    • May 4, 20122:23 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      I had the same reaction you did initially, but I didn’t read Simmons’ column, only saw Hollinger’s tweet. Hollinger using the term ‘asterisk’ certainly made me think ‘illegitimate.’ But, now that I’ve gone back and read Simmons’ column and premise and realize that Simmons never actually used the term ‘asterisk’, I think Hollinger just mixed up Simmons’ own madeup terminology in a tweet. I don’t think he meant at all to suggest that Detroit’s championship was illegitimate. I know PER isn’t a friend of Ben Wallace, but I’ve honestly never noticed some sort of anti-Detroit patter out of Hollinger. Debating the usefulness of his stat is one thing, but I don’t think he’s some particularly egregious, out to make the Pistons  of the 2000s look terrible, sports writer.

      And, for the record, yes, the Pistons in 04 benefited greatly that everyone stayed healthy. They were incredibly lucky in that respect. But I would argue Simmons beloved ’08 Celtics were even more lucky as far as health, considering that team was much older and had much less depth.

      Simmons was probably trolling some, but a big portion of what Simmons does in all of his columns is troll. In all honesty, I think this was one of the few times he’s largely been complimentary of the Pistons throughout a column.

      • May 4, 20123:58 pm
        by brgulker

        Reply

        As Mike aptly showed, the injuries of the Pistons’ opponents that year were very minor and didn’t impact the outcomes all that much — especially Malone’s in the Finals.

        And as others have noted in the comments here and at DBB, the Pistons did have Wallace’s injury to contend with as well.

        As I see it, these two knuckleheads said something stupid, got called out on by a bunch of passionate fans, and then got stuck with their feet in their mouths. Hollinger’s follow up tweet naming the  various injuries sort of shows this.

        Look, every team that wins a championship has some good fortune. But it’s not just coincidence that these two idiots picked Detroit. Especially Simmons.

        And I’m sorry, but taking aim at this team (and not a team like last year’s Mavs who had things just as “easy” as the Pistons did) demonstrates their bias quite nicely.  

        And if Hollinger is just innocently mixing up terminology, well shame on him for doing so. As a professional sports writer, you don’t use “asterisk” lightly. That word has a specific meaning post-steroid era.

        • May 4, 20124:28 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          I respect and appreciate calling out media figures passionately, and I told Mike as much in an e-mail. One of the things I enjoy about his writing, in fact, is when he gets super pissed about something and goes through all of the trouble of researching a well-articulated rebuttal. I loved that he suggested a retraction, that was great in an absurd never gonna happen kind of way. In a bygone era, MFMP would’ve wrote some incredible letters to the editors of newspapers.

          But to me, this entire thing is a bit silly. First and foremost, to call out Simmons for incomplete or inaccurate or faulty logic just seems like one of the most pointless exercises known to man. Simmons’ schtick is being all over the place with crazy logic that no one but Simmons could possibly think is rational. He’s an entertainment writer who happens to like sports. I’ve occasionally enjoyed things he’s written, but I’ve never ever looked at him as any type of authoritative opinion on anything.

          As for Hollinger, I think part of this anger is boiling down to a personal PER vs. WoW thing. WoW proponents hate PER, PER proponents hate WoW. Proponents of each routinely get in their little catty digs at each other in the quest to come up with the most totally awesome one-stop-shopping basketball stat. Honestly, I’ve found both useful at times and both kind of ridiculous at times.

          Overall, I agreed with just about everything Mike wrote, fully support his passion and, like I said, thought Hollinger’s use of the word asterisk was inflammatory and he definitely should’ve known better just because of the connotation of that word when it comes to sports. But I fully reject the notion that Hollinger has some sort of anti-Detroit bias. Simmons obviously does, but as a TOTALLY DOWN BRO FROM BOSTON, that shouldn’t surprise anyone and Simmons has never really hidden it. Hollinger is a proponent of a stat that has under-valued a couple of really important players in Detroit’s history. That doesn’t make him anti-Detroit, and as Dan linked above, there are examples of him lauding the Pistons pretty frequently over their run.

          I think the whole “media hates the Pistons” meme is so inaccurate. If you go back and look at NBA previews from SI, ESPN, etc., you will find that after ’04 the Pistons were kind of media darlings. Old dudes in the media LOVED the whole going to work/superstarless theme of those teams, and the Pistons were routinely picked to go to the finals and win titles in those subsequent years. I think this ‘Pistons don’t get respect’ thing is so out of control and not grounded in reality. Individually, I don’t think Ben Wallace gets his proper respect for how dominant he was and I don’t think Chauncey Billups gets his for how good he was. But collectively? The Pistons were a pretty respected team by the national media during their run.

        • May 4, 20126:10 pm
          by tarsier

          Reply

          “But it’s not just coincidence that these two idiots picked Detroit.”

          You’re right, it’s not. It is because they won a championship. Virtually every team that has made an appearance in Simmons’ column. After all it was listing 20 championship squads with a couple honorable mentions. That’s more than a third of all teams to win it all.

    • May 5, 20123:36 pm
      by tarsier

      Reply

      Oh no, somebody used a word to mean one of its totally reasonable definitions (as in how it is used in mush of literature or even this very column. There is an asterisk in it  and it hardly renders that which precedes it illegitimate). But because other people have used the word in another way, which is also reasonable and fair, it must be horrible to use the word this way. SMH

      Comparably, whenever Charlotte won a game this season, they were the winner. But if you asked anyone if they were a winner, the answer would be an emphatic no. The same words can be used to mean different things.

  • May 4, 20122:32 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    Two things.
    1. Rasheed was not all that healthy throughout the playoffs when they won in 2004 and was limping around a bit while lacking his normal explosion.
    2.  Simmons included the 2005 season, calling it “somebody had to win” and details a lot of nonsense about all of the teams that didn’t make the finals and failed to see the season for what it was.   I see that year as a great accomplishment for the Spurs and Pistons because Stern had created rule changes during the off season that everyone agreed would hurt them and were geared to open up the game for driving superstars,  That the Pistons and Spurs were able to hold on for another year is a testament to their absolute greatness and that was a great 7 game series and anyone who thinks it was boring doesn’t like defense.

    • May 4, 20123:11 pm
      by Max

      Reply

      Also, the new rules favored the Spurs over the Pistons in that series since the best players in the series at driving to the basket were Parker and Ginobili.

      • May 4, 20126:08 pm
        by tarsier

        Reply

        There are new rules every single season. But most, like those new to 04-05, are minor.

        Only a few are really major, like widening the lane, instituting the semicircle under the basket, adding the 3 point line, and such ones as those.

        • May 5, 20122:31 am
          by Max

          Reply

          No handchecking is one of the biggest adjustments in rules ever.  Out of the ones you named, only the 3 pointer had a greater impact.

          • May 5, 20126:59 am
            by tarsier

            Yeah, you’re right, that one is pretty major. However, I think of it as relatively minor because it took a while to take effect. As in, it was basically gradually phased in over about 4 seasons as refs didn’t call it a ton at first.

            Also, you are seriously underestimating the effect of widening the lane. Because of 3 second violations, that basically totally changed how big men could play offense and defense. One of the best rule changes, imho, because now guards can be comparable in value to bigs. Before, the NBA was all about the bigs.

        • May 5, 20122:52 am
          by Max

          Reply

          I’d like to add that the no handchecking rule was the most crippling blow to one on one defense in the history of the league.

  • May 4, 20123:18 pm
    by Nick II

    Reply

    @Max Now that’s the TRUTH with some cheese on it LOL. It seems like Hollinger is always hating on the Pistons.

  • May 4, 20123:18 pm
    by djunak

    Reply

    If you did not like the series between Spurs and Piston in ’05 lastnights game of Knicks and Heat would have made you sick.

  • May 4, 20123:19 pm
    by Rodman4Life

    Reply

    Simmons is a little dude driving a big truck.  The internet is the perfect podium for big mouths like him.  If it weren’t for his jokes, his column wouldn’t exist.  No insight, just trying to “start a talk show,” and when there isn’t much to talk about, he can always throw stuff like this crap out there for a reaction.

  • May 4, 20125:05 pm
    by Nick II

    Reply

    If anything they need to put an asterisk on the 06 Miami Heat champinoship.

    • May 4, 20126:02 pm
      by tarsier

      Reply

      Read the column, it makes the list. Not that it means much to be one of the 20 luckiest breaks for a championship team when there have only been what, 65 or so total.

    • May 4, 20126:51 pm
      by MNM

      Reply

      Yeah, it would help if you actually read the column.

  • May 4, 20126:06 pm
    by tarsier

    Reply

    Yes, it was silly premise for a column. But almost all sports writing is silly. I mean, it is in-depth analysis of a game played for the entertainment of viewers. But we enjoy said commentary so we read it. So of course it will be written. I don’t see how writing a column on which championships involved a larger helping of luck than which other ones is any more frivolous than a tribute to Ben Wallace after he played his last game. They may have different audiences, but they are also both interesting reads provided they are thoughtfully and well written.

    • May 4, 201210:13 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      “But almost all sports writing is silly. I mean, it is in-depth analysis of a game played for the entertainment of viewers.”

      YEP. Agree with that 100 percent.

      • May 5, 20123:19 pm
        by tarsier

        Reply

        I’m not actually sure whether you are being sarcastic or not. Either way, I don’t mean to be at all insulting. I enjoy it and appreciate it. Much like the sport itself. But that too is rather silly.

        • May 5, 201211:19 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          No sarcasm at all. I love to write, particularly about basketball, but am under no illusion that it’s a particularly serious endeavor. It’s entertainment. I do it both because I enjoy it and (hopefully) other people hope enjoy reading/talking/arguing about things I write in the comments. There is a lot of fantastic, well-thought-out, compelling sports writing out there. But even the best of it is about a topic that isn’t all that important in the grand scheme.

  • May 4, 20126:58 pm
    by MNM

    Reply

    So are some of you gonna just pretend that he didn’t put the ’88 Lakers on the list too? He actually gave some of the Pistons teams props a few times through out the article..If I hadn’t taken the time to read the article myself the other night, judging by some of the comments here, I would have thought the whole piece what a “anti detroit” column..Which doesn’t suprise me to here that people from Detroit Bad Boys got all hot and bothered to the point where you would be concerned for ones health.. Im a proud Pistons fan and I used to frequent that site, but I had to leave because it seemed like that if I expressed an opinion about the organization that wasn’t mostly positive, I was getting lambasted..eventually I found this place and Im much happier.

    • May 4, 20127:52 pm
      by tarsier

      Reply

      I think most people who read any of the column, only read the Pistons entry. And still probably not “the verdict.” Many probably just read the PP post.

  • May 5, 20122:52 am
    by Max

    Reply

    He’s a Celtics fan.  He hates the Lakers.

    • May 5, 20127:04 am
      by tarsier

      Reply

      Yes, but before commenting, again, read the article. I believe Boston has the most titles on the list (although I am sure either way it is a close call with LA). And, as Simmons is wont to do, he makes highly biased comments and then follows them up with basically “yeah, that was me being a homer.” I’m not saying Simmons is the best source of objective analysis, but every sports fan has biases. You don’t discount all they say based on that, you just take it with a grain of salt.

  • May 5, 20128:16 am
    by Josh B

    Reply

    Yeah Simmons put the 89 Pistons on there too, but followed it up by saying that the Lakers barely beat them the previous year, and weren’t gonna do so again even if healthy. As far as 04 goes, I hate it when anybody brings up the Malone injury. Although I know that the regular season is not a flawless indicator of playoff success, but our matchups at the 1 and 4 positions looked like advantages anyway. If I remember correctly Chauncey averaged over 30 in the two reg season meetings, and Sheed’s length made him a really tough cover for Malone. Sure Malone was hurt in that series, but if my memory serves me, Rasheed only had one game where he made a huge statistical impact, and other than that he was limping around in foul trouble all series

  • May 5, 20121:45 pm
    by CNA5

    Reply

    If Miami manages to win the NBA Title, they better get ready to add an asterisk to them using that criteria.  

    New York-  No Jeremy Lin, Tyson Chandler with the flu, and Amar’e with back injuries and losing on a TKO to the fire extinguisher.

    Chicago-  Their main threat in the East losing its superstar PG, Derrick Rose, to an ACL tear.

    For some reason, I think Hollinger and Simmons will conveniently forget such criteria because Miami has LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade.

    • May 5, 20123:22 pm
      by tarsier

      Reply

      Wow, I am amazed by how many comments continue to spring up in which people criticize Bill Simmons’ article without reading it. Even though nobody has won the title yet this year, he has already put this year on the lest for those very reasons. But, of course, people wh don’t read it assume he “will conveniently forget such criteria because Miami has LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade.”

      • May 5, 20129:50 pm
        by CNA5

        Reply

        You’re right.  I didn’t read it.  I read Mike Payne’s rebuttal and Dan Feldman’s defense of Hollinger.  He listed a lot more teams than I thought he did.  And, for that, I will admit I’m 100% wrong.

        However, he is still a blithering idiot who isn’t even remotely funny or insightful. 

        I guess I’m more angry at how he tries to challenge the legitimacy of titles.  A title is a title.  Only 15 franchises have won an NBA Title.  And, only 6 franchises have won multiple.  (that is if my accounting of moving franchises is correct)  Footnotes are NEVER necessary.  

        • May 5, 201210:29 pm
          by tarsier

          Reply

          That he is a blithering idiot is fair opinion (what isn’t?) but he doesn’t challenge the legitimacy of the titles. Putting on a footnote does nothing of the sort. It basically says some of the lucky breaks that a title team had. He recognized that they’ve all had multiple, but some are bigger than others. Also, for the majority of the footnoted teams, he even says more or less that they probably would have won anyway, this fact just made it easier.

          Simmons makes good points and bad ones. I have no particularly strong feelings about his writing either way, although I admit that I enjoy some of his jokes. So I definitely have no problem with people criticizing him. But I do get annoyed when people criticize basically any article for making a claim that it did not in fact make. Hence why I feel compelled to point out that he straight up started off with:
          ‘A “footnote title” respects the champion while also acknowledging that, “Look, SOMETHING funky happened and you can’t discuss that postseason in detail without mentioning that one funky thing.”‘
          And that certainly does not sound to me like a claim of illegitimacy of the title.

  • May 6, 20121:23 am
    by Daye and Knight

    Reply

    So…if or when the Heat win this year cause of injuries to Boston, Chicago, Indiana (Granger sprained knee DTD), Orlando, Atlanta and the Knicks would their title be by luck? Cause that’s every single team in the east playoffs…

    • May 6, 20121:28 am
      by Daye and Knight

      Reply

      Oh and btw we went right back to the finals a year later…that doesn’t exactly scream out “fluke” to me…or anybody with a brain…Hollinger’s a hater and Dan I expect better from you lol

  • May 6, 20126:10 pm
    by Lapin

    Reply

    Wow, the hate for Simmons doesn’t seem justified… after reading the article. It was actually one of his more entertaining pieces imo. As for the Hollinger thing, I remember being completely shocked at how easy the 2004 title seemed for the Pistons, especially the finals. The Pistons didn’t match up well with those Indiana teams and Kidd was a Pistons killer. The stars just aligned that year. Cosmic payback for 87? That one still hurts. If you’re making a list of footnote titles I could see 04 getting an honorable mention.

    • May 6, 20128:16 pm
      by Max

      Reply

      Just to be clear regarding myself, I’m much closer to loving Simmons than hating on him but I don’t think he is objective or fair minded when it comes to the Pistons.  And as I’ve said a few times before, I am particularly put off by his books chapter on Joe Dumars.

      • May 7, 20124:50 am
        by Lapin

        Reply

        As a fan of basketball in general I totally understand his anti-Piston bias. He’s a fan first and he makes that pretty clear. The Pistons dethroned his beloved Celtics in the late 80s. Hell, I still have a lingering dislike for the Bulls when they did the same to the Pistons. Also, outside of Michigan, the Pistons teams of the mid-80s to early-90s were pretty damn unlikable. Even out here in hippy-dippy Eugene Oregon people flick me all kinds of shit whenever I wear my Bill Laimbeer jersey out on the town and if I ever do that in Portland… woof.

  • May 6, 20126:11 pm
    by Lapin

    Reply

    Derp. I meant 88.

  • May 7, 20126:19 pm
    by Rick Ross the Boss

    Reply

    Wasn’t Rasheed playing on like one leg the entire playoffs?

  • May 31, 201210:00 pm
    by TradeAustinDaye

    Reply

    Everyone hates us because we’re one of the few teams who do things the right way.

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