blue corner hailing from New England, currently living in California, making a living working for ESPN, one of the most popular yet simultaneously divisive sports writers around...BILL SIMMONS!
And in the red corner, currently running the Boston Celtics, weighing in at a combined 390 pounds, from Oregon and Illinois respectively...DANNY AINGE AND DOC RIVERS!
Maybe the boxing angle is a little over the top. And publicly it has been for the most part one sided. But for the better part of two years Simmons has railed against the Celtics organization. He initially focused on Rivers, progressed to include Ainge, and recently put Wyc Grousbeck in crosshairs as well. Even Bob Ryan joined the fray at one point. But before I explain the timeline of Simmons' outbursts, let's take a minute to appreciate how amazing it is that this feud exists. Realistically, for a guy who is a national columnist, Simmons spends an inordinate amount of time talking about the 3rd most popular team...in Boston. It has reached the point that people enjoy the C's misfortune. And I'm convinced Simmons was essential to this development. On to the feud.
1. It started back in January of 2006. When Simmons decided Doc was a bad coach. He dedicated a 3,000 word article to this realization and unveiled the Bad Coaching Index, which included eight categories: lousy record in close games, too many turnover, too many offensive rebounds allowed, not enough winning streaks, opposing 3-point percentage, lousy record on the road, lack of consistent rotation, and downright stupidity. Needless to say Doc performed poorly in all of these categories. However, #7 - lack of consistent rotation - caught my eye. Simmons' take:
Fast forward to the 2007 season where Doc spoke out against rotations and it was only a matter of time before things heated up again. In Simmons' defense he was not the only one confused. Paul Forrester wrote a NBA roundup with the following criticism:
I even wrote a post for my old site where I argued that the injuries were good for the C's in the sense that they helped Doc develop a rotation. Something had to give.
2. As expected Simmons did not remain quiet for long. This time he set forth a nearly 4,000 word epic predicting Doc's firing. If you are scoring at home that's two articles about Doc Rivers in less than a year. And they were a combined 7,000 words long. Wow. My understanding is that Simmons had it on good authority from someone inside the Celtics organization that Doc was on his way out the door. The preemptive article was memorable for four reasons:
- Simmons highlighted two of Doc's more frustrating tendencies - his willingness to throw players under the bus and his questionable decisions:
- Simmons essentially called out Bob Ryan:
`And, yes, I'm a Doc guy. I can't help it. I've known him too long. I have too much respect for his intelligence, common sense and goodwill to abandon him in this hour of crisis. Do I know for sure that he can convey all the basketball he knows to others? No, I do not. But I know it's there, and I'd sure like to play for him (assuming he could use a 6-foot, 1-inch forward with 1965 post-up moves).'
With all due respect to Ryan, the greatest basketball writer of my lifetime ... what the hell does that even mean? He's your friend, so you can't admit that he's a bad coach and you need more time to evaluate him? Nearly 200 games wasn't enough? Come on."
- He argued that gunning for a top pick was the only possible reason the Celtics could keep Doc around.
- Finally Simmons made it personal by recalling snubs from the Boston media, criticizing the Celtics beat writers, and proclaiming that people no longer needed a press pass to cover a team. This last point was ultimately a reaction to Doc Rivers' derisively calling Simmons a "blogger" on WEEI and questioning his credentials. This was far from over.
4. Simmons continued to criticize the Celtics whenever possible and then ratcheted things up in February by introducing fantanking:
- Looking back this was the point that Simmons' feelings about the state of the Celtics consumed him. Consider the fact that he repeatedly wore a shirt with bird crap on it during the Boston Red Sox World Series run because it was lucky. Why would he completely turn his back on karma? Clearly he was not himself. Whatever the reason, Simmons rode the fantanking train for the rest of the season.
5. A short time later Simmons looked at "The No Balls Association" and aired his criticism of Ainge:
6. Albert Einstein once described insanity as, "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." So when Simmons decided to keep a diary of a Celtics/Rockets game in March, I knew it would drive him crazy. And of course it did. Bonus points for including this now painful thought:
Simmons also took a shot at Rivers,
And Ainge for good measure:
* Telfair: 6 games, 13.5 minutes, 3.5 points, 2.0 assists, 0.7 rebounds, 27.5 percent shooting.
(Note: These are the things that happen when you deal with a team that initiates trade talks by sending you a DVD of "Through the Fire" with a note that says, `PLAY ME.')"
7. In early April Simmons' let up a bit and only devoted a small segment of a links/mailbag post to a dreadful Bucks/Celtics game:
Boston starters: Kendrick Perkins, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Delonte West, Rajon Rondo.
Bench players who should see action: Bassy Telfair, Leon Powe, David Noel, Ruben Patterson, Dan Gadzuric, Allan Ray.
Coaches: Doc Rivers (career record: 272-294) vs. Larry Krystkowiak (career record: 2-7).
Sidelined stars with dubious injuries who might be in attendance: Paul Pierce, Al Jefferson, Andrew Bogut, Charlie Villaneuva.
(The NBA ... it's FANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN-tastic!)"
8. By mid April however, Simmons was back on the horse with an article titled, "From Celtic Pride to Celtic Shame." This one stands out for three reasons:
- It included one of the most bitter top 10 lists of all time or as Simmons called it, "Top 10 Reasons Why We're Extending Doc Rivers That Have Nothing To Do with The Fact That He Successfully Executed His Tanking Mission." I won't even try to summarize. You should read it.
- Remember how Simmons brought Bob Ryan into this. Well at some point Ryan responded and now Simmons had to counter that counter. Does that make sense? Regardless here goes:
After a few paragraphs Simmons went into it again,
- If I put the over/under at 3,500 words for the column what would you take? For the record it was under...by 34 words.
10. On May 11th, refusing to give up the fight, Simmons ran a mailbag under the following premise:
He responded to a question about the events for a hypothetical reality TV show about the next Celtics GM with the following:
- Looking the other way as Doc cancels yet another much-needed practice during a losing streak so he can fly to Orlando to see his family.
- Sell reporters on the fact that Kendrick Perkins has shown real progress over the past four years, even though his offense consists of one move that could best be described as "throw a jump hook against the backboard at 200 mph."
- Come up with the best possible excuse why we won't spend the free agent exemption every year that doesn't include the words "we're freaking cheap."
- Call Portland, offer Theo Ratliff and Bassy Telfair's $2.5 million cap figure for Brandon Roy, Raef LaFrentz and Dan Dickau, then see how long you can keep them on the phone before they hang up laughing.
- Execute as many puff piece interviews as possible in two hours with the Boston Globe, Boston Herald and WEEI in which you get away with saying stuff like, `We feel like we already have two franchise players, and that's before you include Oden or Durant,' and `we may have won 23 games, but I really feel like we're a playoff team trapped in the body of a lottery team' without anyone calling you on it."
Long story short Simmons was not going quietly into the night. I don't see any reason to rehash Simmons' articles on the NBA lottery and karma or the fallout after Boston obtained the 5th pick. As a side note the latter delighted anti Simmons and anti Celtics fans everywhere. Instead I'll focus on a Simmons rant from a NBA themed post he wrote in the days leading up to the lottery.
It happened to Jeremy Jacobs, Harry Sinden and the Bruins; it's going to happen to you. You've reached that do-or-die point with your fans and season-ticket holders -- trust me, I'm getting the e-mails every day -- and the fact that none of you realize it is more disturbing than anything. So stop talking. Wait to see what happens with the Ping-Pong balls next Tuesday. You have to believe me, I'm speaking for just about everyone who loves your team. The lack of humility and urgency after two straight crappy seasons has been appalling. I can't emphasize that strongly enough."
Tom Hagen once said, "This is business, not personal." Sticking with the Godfather theme, Simmons would be Michael right around the time he decided to kill McKluskey. Translation - he's taking it very, very personal. Simmons simply can't let Rivers' "blogger" comment or Ryan's "yahoo" insult slide. And that is unfortunate because it detracts from his points about how terrible the Celtics have been. This is a Celtics team that has gotten progressively worse under Ainge and Rivers. They appeared to bottom out last season with 24 wins and an 18 game losing streak, which was only bearable because it seemed like the franchise's fortunes were about to turn for the better. And now no one has any idea what the hell will happen. In fact there is a sense amongst some fans that things could actually get worse. And right now it does not seem possible. That's why Simmons can't simply sit back and say nothing. However, in the end does it really matter with LeBron James being LeBron James? Exactly.