Bill Simmons wrote a column* about the Eastern Conference Finals follow Game 1 of the Pacers – Heat series. In it he talks about the Heat being weak and the Pacers being plucky underdogs again. He also talks about the importance of veteran leadership. You know, like Sam Cassell provided in the 1994 and 1995 NBA Finals. From Grantland:
The Rockets blew multiple close games against Portland for a variety of reasons, but mainly because they didn’t have anyone like West — the seen-it-all veteran who would have made those three or four we’re-screwed-if-someone-doesn’t-score-right-now jumpers, told Dwight to stop bitching, yelled “GET YOUR HEAD INTO THE SERIES, WE F—ING NEED YOU!” at James Harden, and grabbed Chandler Parsons’s jersey in the final second of Game 6 and said calmly, “If there’s a switch and you let Lillard get a wide-open 3, I’m beating you to death.”**
There aren’t a lot of these guys left — reliable veterans who aren’t the team’s best player but carry inordinate sway and thrive when their team needs them most. Over the past 20 years, these guys ranged in all shapes and sizes. Hakeem’s Rockets had Sam Cassell and Mario Elie.
Sam Cassell was a rookie during the 1993-1994 season and Elie was in his third season. (Though, to be fair, Elie was 30.) Meanwhile, starters Otis Thrope, Kenny Smith and Vernon Maxwell were in their 9th, 6th and 5th seasons in the league respectively. This has been your weekly nitpick of something Bill Simmons did.
*I know. That makes 4 in the last month. He’s on a torrid [90210 reference]-like pace right now.
**He’s also obsessed with the idea that being a good teammate/leader means you are willing to threaten to fight/kill teammates if they make a mistake at the end of a game.
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