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Putting lazy basketball writers on notice

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I've invited Kevin Sawyer, a displaced Pistons fan living in Minnesota (you know him in the comments as "kevin s."), to pontificate on basketball, the Pistons, and, well, whatever else he wants. The guy has serious writing chops, as anyone who's frequented his blog, The Problem With Kevin, knows. Today, he calls out lazy basketball writers. (Gulp)

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by: Kevin Sawyer

Basketball writers seem to have a particular penchant for reiterating, rather than challenging, the status quo. Thus, we are blessed with a sport that is often reported by way of a constant string of banalities that are often completely incorrect. What does that mean for basketball fans? Well, owners read the sports page, and many make decisions accordingly. So it pays for diligent fans to call reporters out on their indolence.

Here are some of my (least) faves.

UPSIDE

    Usage in a sentence: The skinny dude from Canada has serious upside!

This is the term that starts the discussion. In lazy sports reporter parlance, "Upside" means "has yet to play well in the NBA and isn’t yet 26". Heck, people were talking about Michael Olowakandi’s upside right until the point he officially became washed up. We can also include "upside’s" second cousin "project", which exclusively refers to 7 footers from Senegal who were spotted hunting goats by a scout from his prop plane during a safari.

THE STAT SHEET, OR LACK THEREOF…

    Usage: What Mark Madsen brings to the game doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.

This phrase is unique in that it is always empirically true. Nobody says this about, for example, Ben Wallace, whose hustle and defense find many a column on the stat-sheet. If you box out, you get rebound. If you hustle, you get a steal, or an assist, or even a basket. If you set picks, you get open looks on pick and rolls. If you play defense, your opponents don’t score.

If it doesn’t result in points or possessions, it isn’t worth much. Falling down five times a game, beating the basketball against your head, and intermittingly shouting the word "hustle" are signs of autism, not basketball prowess. They don’t show up on a stat sheet for a reason.

CHANGE OF SCENERY

    Usage: A change of scenery might do Eddie Griffin some good.

Reporters often speak as though an arbitrary adjustment from playing in one city to another will somehow benefit a player. Antoine Walker changed his scenery to Miami Beach, the Lake Wobegon of the NBA, where the taxes are low, the cocaine is harmless, and the starting center duals as law enforcement. And how did Walker, a borderline all-star in Boston, fare in his new digs? Exactly. If your present scenery includes Ricky Davis, then a change can be valuable. Otherwise, this is fluff.

EVERY TRADE IS POSSIBLE, IF NOT IMMINENT

    Usage: Kobe to the Knicks? Could happen.

Lazy sports reporters will use a source, any source, to make an interesting story out of a slow newsday. Thus, we get Kobe Bryant for David Lee scenarios, which seem only to require a mid-level exec refusing to deny the possibility of such a trade. If you are a mid-level exec for the Knicks, would you outright dismiss talks of a possible Kobe trade? If a mid-level Bush administration hack tells a political that catapulting encephalitic goats into Bolivia isn’t off the table, does said political hack run this information? A basketball writer has an obligation to use their basketball brain when they write.

GOOD TOUCHES

    Usage: He’s a strong player, but he needs touches to be effective.

A companion to "volume scorer". What it really says is that, if player x doesn’t have the ball in his hands, he is unlikely to score. In related news, if I don’t drive my car, I am unlikely to wind up on a highway. This phrase is generally used to cover for mediocre two-guards who have an unearned reputation for being good.