Monday Superlatives

The new NBA "tampering" fine is the pointless idea of the week

September 16, 2019
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Kevork Djansezian

A collection of NBA owners are mad at the new state of super teams in the NBA, and as you might guess, it's the teams that missed out on the gold rush of the 2019 free-agency period. They want rules in place to prevent this from happening again, and they've apparently exerted enough pressure on commish Adam Silver that he's mulling a $10 million fine for "tampering." Now, what does tampering mean? It's a little vague still, but the definition will definitely encompass free-agency deals that are hatched before the rules permit, and could involve additional penalties for offenses that include "players inducing players under contract to request trades," along with "a requirement that teams preserve communications with players and their agents for one year." There's even talk of teams losing draft picks or being barred from signing any player they "tamper" with.

Basically, those bitter owners want to stop anyone on the team or player side from planning to form a super team before it's officially open season. Which is impossible. Silver himself said it all back in July, and this quote needs to be remembered:

"It's pointless, at the end of the day, to have rules that we can't enforce."

Yup! That's about all that needs to be said! In the end, most violators aren't going to get caught, and the ones that do will get caught because they were stupid, meaning the absolute best-case scenario is that the rule will be unevenly enforced. So why are we talking about this now?

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That's easy: Because the have-not owners are mad, and the other possible solutions, which include stricter salary caps, would pit them against the players' union in a losing fight. So they have to try for a rules tweak that's bound to fail, and which, even if it succeeded (it won't), would only delay the inevitable. Super teams would still form, it would just happen a few days after the free-agency period, rather than 90 minutes after.

What these owners are asking, really, is not just to remove autonomy from players, but to effectively blind them to the actions of their peers and other teams around the league. In their minds, it probably beats the alternative, which is to accept their role in the NBA underclass, but their desperation doesn't make this concept any more feasible. Even the operating word, "tampering," is a misnomer—this is just athletes and teams planning for the future, and nobody can legislate that freedom away.

The Absolute Mad Lad Assist of the Week: Roberto Firmino

This was a huge week for Liverpool, who hasn't won the English Premier League since 1990, but who have started 5-0 and hold a surprising five-point lead over Manchester City after they dropped a 3-2 shocker to Norwich over the weekend. Liverpool fans can legitimately start to dream, early as it may be, and on top of those dreams they got to witness this insane pass from Roberto Firmino to Mo Salah for the third goal in their win against Newcastle Saturday:

Check it out from the close angle:

Firmino recently became the first Brazilian to score 50 goals in England's top league, and as a novice soccer fan, I can tell you that he might be the coolest human in the world. This pass is just more evidence.

Second-most incredible ending in women's sports of the weekend: WNBA playoffs

You can read all over this site about the dramatic, so-good-it-seems-scripted finish at the Solheim Cup, and frankly nothing will top it, but this last-minute steal and prayer by Dearica Hamby of the Las Vegas Aces is pretty damn good, too:

This had to hurt even more for Sky fans because of how early Hamby shot, clearly not aware that she had plenty of time to drive to the basket. It was an unnecessary desperation heave, and it somehow worked. That's extra gut-punchy.

The "Welp, My Heisman Campaign is Over Early" Player of the Week: Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

For the record, Trevor Lawrence has been fine so far this year. Not great, certainly not bad, but absolutely competent. His team is 3-0, he has lots of passing yards, five TDs in three games, and a decent completion percentage. He's been unlucky with interceptions and made a few bad decisions, so his TD-INT ration isn't great at 5:5, but you'd have to be crazy to think he's had a bad year, or that it says anything about him as a player.

The problem is ... Jalen Hurts.

Aside from the fact that he just ended UCLA's football program, Hurts' stats are just unholy, from his DI-leading 250 QB rating to his 9:0 TD-INT ratio to his 80 percent completion rate to his 373 yards rushing. That latter number is sixth-best in the nation, and I would like to remind you that THIS MAN IS A QUARTERBACK. Would you like to guess how many other quarterbacks are in the top 40? If you guessed zero, you are correct, and Hurts is tied for sixth!

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Sure, it's early, but if Hurts stays healthy, he wins, end of story. The only drama is whether they rename the trophy in his honor. Sorry, Trevor, but to use a political analogy, you just became Amy Klobuchar, and Hurts is ... well, any candidate who could actually win.

The "Hope Kills" Franchise of the Month: The New York Mets

Hey, folks, guess what? The Mets are doing hope! They're doing hope, and it's going to murder the last shred of sanity the fanbase has held onto through these lean years. As I write, the Mets are 3.5 games back of the Cubs for the final Wild Card spot, and if they finish the Sunday night game they're currently leading in the bottom of the sixth [ed note: they didn't], that margin will be down to an even 3. The Brewers stand between them and the Cubs, so there are actually two teams to catch, but the fact remains that with 13 games left, this is doable. Unlikely, but doable.

And my God, the hoping Mets fans will do. The sheer, desperate hoping that takes over the borough of Queens in the next two weeks will be truly heartbreaking, right up until the point when the hope bursts like a big blue-and-orange balloon that some unsuspecting child blew up way too much until it popped in his face and instilled a lifelong balloon phobia in his brain. That's the kind of hope-killing Mets fans are in for, and when it finally hits, they'll be left with a single question: "Why did you have to do it, Mets? Why did you have to do hope?"

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Mets fans may be miserable when their team is bad, which is most of the time, but at least they know how to do misery. This faint, fleeting hope? That's showing them paradise through a doorway that's tantalizingly near, and then slamming that door in their faces. That's what kills.

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