Posted on: August 21, 2009 4:44 pm

The White Chocolate Controversy

Despite the Knicks claiming his rights initially, and rumors about a Memphis reunion, anybody who has followed Jason William's career over the last few years knew he would sign with the Magic eventually.  In typical Otis fashion, Otis Smith stayed quiet while the rumors flew and closed the deal that both sides wanted.  And now, with Jason Williams coming home to Florida, some eager bloggers in the blogosphere (what a word, by the way) are claiming a PG controversy on the horizon.  Wow.

So Jason Williams has a ring, which is great.  He has crazy ball skills, which ignite the fan base and can spark a team.  And he's not afraid to pull up on the fast break 3, slash to the hole, or have the ball in his hands in big time situations.  His skill set is comparable to Rafer Alston, maybe even better in his prime, and couple that with Jameer Nelson's reckless, injury prone style of play and J-Wil's ability to play starter's minutes, and it could be trouble, right?  Plus, Jameer is much worse looking over his shoulder at a capable backup than with the pressure off with a guaranteed #2 like Anthony Johnson.  So if J-Wil shines and Jameer struggles, what then? 

The Magic want a championship now, that's why they broke the bank trading for Carter, matching Gortat and taking on Bass and Barnes all while being in the luxury tax already.  One year, maybe two year window from ownership for Otis to bring home a ring at any cost...the exact length of Vince Carter's contract (Hedo wasn't resigned because of years, not dollars, but that's another story).  And if he's similar to Rafer in play, and Rafer took the Magic to the Finals only to cede way to Jameer and then lose the series, then a controversy makes sense...doesn't it?

Not even a little bit.  It makes about as much sense as Hedo being the most important player in the Magic lineup.  Oh wait, people really said that.  People who heard an announcer say it first and jumped on the bandwagon.  So Hedo handled the ball from the 3 spot and was 6-10 with ball skills and hit game winners.  He was great at times.  But his bad passes, forced shots and turnovers earlier in games usually balanced out the heroics or put the Magic in that position.  He was a good player for the Magic, not irreplaceable and not the most important player.  He wouldn't have been able to pick and roll and run point from the perimeter if Dwight didn't attract so much attention in the lane by himself, allowing the Magic to play four on the perimeter.

So what does that have to do with Jason Williams and a potential PG controversy?  Simple...people try to make a story out of anything just to garner attention.  It happens in sports, news, politics, entertainment, PR, business, interoffice relationships...people throw out enough lines until one catches and ride it as far as they can. 

Here's the truth.  Jason Williams was an extremely talented electric playmaker who used to hit teammates in the face with passes as a Gator (which was awesome to watch, by the way).  He was a fearless shooter, a starter his whole career, and won a ring with Miami as the starting point guard. 

And then he retired.  And it wasn't because he didn't want to play for the Clippers, as was reported at the time.  We forget sometimes that athletes have personal lives, often complicated ones, and J-Wil was about to have a baby, was having problems at home, and his family was on the verge of falling apart.  And he decided to focus on that, to be responsible, and make sure the family stayed together, before he could focus on basketball.

Of course, not everyone will buy that.  And whenever you have a player spend time away from the game and want to come back, you have to question his heart, his rust, his skills and his mentality.  So J-Wil knows he has something to prove.  Plus, he no longer is in the position or the mindset to demand a starting role.  He's playing in Florida, close to his family and his home, for a contender.  Believe me, he's happy with whatever role he has.  For now, for this year, at the very least.  He took time off because he realized there is more to life than basketball.  A man who makes that choice is a man who will play for the team, not himself.

Jason Williams does have a skill set similar to Rafer Alston's.  He also comes with a much different mentality and much lower price tag.  He is the perfect fit for the Magic.  A #3 PG who can leapfrog to #1 in case of injury and play starter's minutes, who can spark a team, who provides veteran leadership to a young core, and who has won it all.  Make no mistake, Anthony Johnson is the PERFECT backup PG.  Steady, calm, controlled, reliable, consistent, great for 10-12 minutes a game to settle a young team.  But he is no starter.  For the Magic to find a #3 who can and has played #1 yet is willing to accept his role at a minimum contract and low risk, well, it's a perfect fit.  And no surprise.  Because it was an Otis Smith move.
Posted on: August 20, 2009 11:45 am

Plaxico's Double Standard (the other one)

First off, I don't like Plax.  Always thought he was too full of himself, didn't work hard enough.  With his size and skill set, he could've been much, much better than he was, but he was satisfied to take what came easy to him.  Plus, he's thugged out.  It's not a secret, especially now, and all those factors added up to both the Steelers and the Giants giving up on him, although Plaxico made the Giant's decision a little easier.

Plax came to NY and the Giants won a Super Bowl, and he was a hero.  Then, he got hurt the next year, and he was a goat.  Wait, sorry, he didn't get hurt.  He got shot.  Well, he shot himself.  By accident, of course, you'd have to be an idiot to shoot yourself on purpose.  Then again, you'd have to be an idiot to bring an unlicensed gun out with you as a pro athlete.  And carry it yourself.  In your waistband.  While wearing sweatpants.  And then dancing.

Seriously, it does take a leap of intellect to literally go through this thought process:

"We goin' out tonight, I'm gonna get dressed up, real fresh, kick it to some of these women, show them how that NFL money does.  Yeah.  I'm gonna wear sweatpants."

"People be hatin', though.  And I didn't grow up easy.  Now everybody knows I got money, so I have to protect myself.  Athletes get robbed all the time, and I ain't goin' out like that.  I roll deep with my boys, and I can afford private security, but I keep it real.  I'm still me, I'll carry my own gun.  In my waistband.  Of my sweatpants."

"We run this club.  I skip the line, skip security, nobody even checked my gun, I got bottles, VIP, the liquor is flowin', all these women want me, all these men want to be me, I'm gonna go dance.  With my gun.  In my waistband.  Of my sweatpants."

"Yeah, this girl is feelin' me, she love feelin' that big, hard gun pressed up on her.  Yeah, she can work that a...oh snap!  My gun!  It slipped!  I gotta grab it before it hits the floor!  Let me just reach down, without looking, from the outside of my sweatpants, and grab the g...I been shot!  The haters shot me!  From inside my own sweatpants!"

The moral, of course, is don't wear sweatpants. 

I bet you thought I was going to say don't carry a gun, or put the safety on.  Well, Plax is a receiver, he doesn't like safeties.  And like it or not, I understand athletes owning weapons, and nothing about that is illegal.  The gun wasn't hot, it was legally purchased and registered in Florida.  Not registering it in NY is a conceivable oversight, interstate bureaucracy is easy to overlook.  At the very least, it is an understandable slip.  But it takes a damn fool to carry that gun himself, with the safety off, to a nightclub, wearing sweatpants, then dance with it in the ELASTIC waistband of the pants, then reach for it from outside your pants when it slips.  Wow.

But that of course is not the point of this post.  The point is the double standard of his prosecution.  Mayor Bloomberg and DA Morgenthau made very public statements early in the story saying that there won't be a double standard for athletes and that they need to face the mandatory minimums the same as regular folk.  An unlicensed gun is an unlicensed gun, and the law is the law.  Forget that he hurt only himself and gave up his career, his millions, and his reputation.  It was an unregistered weapon and the law is the law.

Fair enough.  Athletes have been getting away with things that we normal folk would be jailed for as long as anyone can remember, and public sentiment was sick of it, so now times they are a changin'. 

But just a few days before Plax pled guilty and got a two year prison term, another story broke in NYC, a heroic, seemingly unrelated story.  Four men were robbing a restaurant supply store in Spanish Harlem that does a lot of cash business.  The cashier was being pistol whipped by one of the robbers when the elderly owner of the store came from the back with an old shotgun and begged the men to just walk away.  The shotgun hadn't been fired in decades.  The man didn't want to hurt anyone.  But the robbers didn't leave.  They threatened the man and his employee, and the owner shot them, killing two.  One of the dead robbers had a rap sheet a mile long.  The owner saved his employee's life, according to the employee, who proceeded to kick the dead men and curse them out (he even kicked over candles that were lit for the dead the next day).

The man is a hero.  Even after, he wished that it hadn't happened, and regretted that a mother and father are now without a son.  He wished they had just walked away, he was remorseful, and he will live with his actions, however justified, for the rest of his life.  It was self-defense, clearly, and no charges were filed against the man.

Here's the hypocrisy, and it's not a stretch.  The shotgun was unregistered, unlicensed, and illegal, and it killed two people.  According to the rhetoric, the law is the law, an illegal weapon fired is an illegal weapon fired, and mandatory minimums are mandatory minimums.  Bloomberg and Morgenthau's hands are tied.  The law is dispassionate, and charges must be filed.

Obviously, if charges had been filed, the media and the people of NYC would have gone nuts.  A judge would've laughed at the case, and a jury obviously would have aquitted faster than Breet Favre changes his mind.  But the rhetoric stands.  The law is the law.  An unregistered weapon is an unregistered weapon.

Plax wasn't denied a lesser plea deal because of the law but because of public opinion.  Because he needed to be made an example of.  Because politicians lie, hiding behind public opinion and crafted, manipulative rhetoric.  I like Bloomberg.  I don't like Plax.  But really, his life is ruined, his career is over, and he shot himself.  The punishment fits the crime.  Give the man a few months in jail and let him go forward in shame. 

Common sense has disappeared from the American lexicon, replaced by bureaucracy and intransigence.  The law is there to prevent future crime as much as to punish past offense, maybe more so, and I can't imagine anyone having learned the consequences of his actions more than Plax. 
Category: NFL
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