(Prologue: The beginning of this article I started more than a year ago. It references last year’s NBA season, what with the Rajon Rondo ACL tear and everything. I’m not stuck a year in the past, and this article does not prove that time travel is possible through the Internet. Yet.)
The Internet’s Most Popular Sports Writer Bill Simmons released what seems like his first NBA-related column of the season today, and, to the surprise of absolutely fucking no one, it was about the Celtics.
More specifically, it was about the fact that the Celtics have been playing exceptionally better since the season-ending injury to starting point guard Rajon Rondo. Could Rajon Rondo qualify for the dreaded (and completely made-up) Ewing Theory?
You aren’t aware of what the Ewing Theory is? I’ll let Simmons himself explain it:
Q: What’s the Ewing Theory? Where did it come from?
The theory was created in the mid-’90s by Dave Cirilli, a friend of mine who was convinced that Patrick Ewing’s teams (both at Georgetown and with New York) inexplicably played better when Ewing was either injured or missing extended stretches because of foul trouble.
Simmons then immediately adds this caveat:
We should also mention that (a) the ’84 Hoyas won the NCAA title….
Clearly Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas won despite Ewing’s best efforts to make them lose. I’m not even cherrypicking that little bit of contradictive information, Simmons freely admits that himself. That’s how stupid this is. Want MORE contradicitive points? Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas were the NCAA tournament runner-up in 1982. Does that ring a bell? It should. Also, remember who was involved in that game, it kinda turns into a theme.
To continue, take it away Simmons!:
Eventually, we decided that two crucial elements needed to be in place for any situation to qualify for “Ewing” status:
- A star athlete receives an inordinate amount of media attention and fan interest, and yet his teams never win anything substantial with him (other than maybe some early-round playoff series).
- That same athlete leaves his team (either by injury, trade, graduation, free agency or retirement) — and both the media and fans immediately write off the team for the following season.
When those elements collide, you have the Ewing Theory.
So there you have it. But the question remains: Does Rajon Rondo’s ACL tear and the Celtics’ subsequent revival qualify as Ewing Theory status?
First off, to start this whole utter nonense, let’s rejoice at this fucking dream-land-do-me-on-the-glorious-rainbow level of delirium quote:
Heading into the All-Star break, Celtics fans find themselves checking the standings and thinking, “If we can get to the no. 6 seed, we could beat Indy in Round 1, and the Knicks in Round 2, and then LeBron only needs to tweak a hammy and … “
HAHAHAHAHA…oh what? Sorry, I blacked out for a second. Is he serious? He thinks the Celtics can make it to the Finals? If Celtics fans are actually thinking this, they are going to be sorely disappointed in the second half of the season. The Celtics lost their starting point guard and best player, but happened to win…oh wait, I’ll Simmons explain that away again:
We knew the schedule worked in their favor: Six of eight home games post-Miami (and Toronto and Charlotte on the road).
Keep in mind, as of writing this, the Celtics have won 7 of 8 since the Rondo injury. (That one loss? The Charlotte road game that Simmons mentions. Hilarious.) So Simmons only evidence that Rondo is a Ewing Theory candidate is that the Celtics have won 7 of 8 games since he went down, six of which were at home, against the Kings (win), Magic (win), Clippers (win), Raptors (win), Lakers (win), Nuggets (win), Bobcats (loss), and Bulls (win). Look at that list again. The only quality win is against the Clippers (Wait, they didn’t have Chris Paul? Nevermind.) The evidence for Rondo being a Ewing Theory candidate isn’t even circumstancial, it’s nonexistent.
Trying to say that the Celtics are better off without Rondo because they won 7 of their next 8 games is like calling the 2008 Houston Rockets one of the best teams ever because they won 22 games in a row. Sometimes crazy shit just happens in professional sports. It’s not necessarily a sign of a larger theme.
Another quote that makes me want to face-punch Simmons as hard as possible:
You know what happened next. They reeled off seven straight Rondo-less victories to the delight (and semi-confusion) of their just-when-I-thought-I-was-out-they-pull-me-back-innnnnnnnnn fans. Somewhere during that time, we realized two things.
1. We’re not ready to say good-bye to no. 5 and no. 34 yet. Can’t trade them. Can’t trade them. Can’t trade them. Celtics for life.
2. Even if it makes no sense whatsoever, our boys are playing better without Rondo.
The bolded part is my doing. I’ll just leave this here.
“Wait,” you say, “Is there actual proof of this ‘Theory’ actually existing?”
“Well,” I say, as I condescendingy pat your head, “Looks like Simmons has done my job for me again.”:
Q: What’s the best example of the Ewing Theory?
That’s easy. During the ’99 NBA playoffs, Ewing tore an Achilles tendon during the second game of the Eastern finals against Indiana. With Ewing finished for the playoffs and nobody else on the Knicks who could handle Rik Smits, the series seemed like a foregone conclusion. As an added bonus, since Ewing himself was involved, that made this the ultimate test of the Ewing Theory
So what happened? The Knicks won three of the next four and advanced to the NBA Finals for only the second time in 26 years. (A Knicks upset was simply too tall of a task against Duncan and Robinson, Ewing Theory or no Ewing Theory.)
Hold on, you see how he slips that little qualifier in at the end? Let me re-emphasis it:
(A Knicks upset was simply too tall of a task against Duncan and Robinson, Ewing Theory or no Ewing Theory.)
Lest we forget that the (lockout shortened) 1999 NBA season involved a Knicks team (which was seeded eighth) that had a in-his-prime Allan Houston, a still super-athletic Latrell Sprewell, a re-invented Larry Johnson, and a whole hell of a lot of help from the refs. But that doesn’t even matter! The Knicks didn’t win anything! Even with Ewing out! How is that the best example when it whole-heartedly DOESN’T prove the point?! The only way that would be the best example would be if the Knicks never made it to the NBA Finals with a healthy Ewing…ohwaitnoforgetImentionedit.
So, as it turns out, Patrick Ewing is a bad example of the Ewing Theory.
“Hold on!” you yell, “Isn’t it at least a LITTLE BIT curious that out of all the years since the Knicks won a championship, in the last two times the Knicks have made the Finals, one was with Ewing, and the other was specifically the year he got hurt?”
“Fine point,” I say, “But remember that theme I mentioned earlier? did you watch that video? Did you recognize the other main player involved?” Again, if you’re reading this website, you really, really should have.
Keep in mind that the lack of Ewing’s success doesn’t mean that his team was fundamentally better without him, just that his career coincided with the greatest player of all time’s career. I don’t really understand. Just because the Knicks were able to beat the Pacers a few times after Ewing went down, that’s all Simmons needs to decree that Ewing’s teams were really better off without him? Enough so as to name the entire idea of a very good player being detrimental to his team after him?
God, I hate Bill Simmons.
So after a year away from this article, I wanted to bring it back. But on a more positive note. I want to help Simmons out. I want to see if I can figure out an actual Ewing Theory player that makes sense. A very good-to-great player that went down unceremoniously, and his team over-performing either because of or in spite of that player. Off the top of my head, here are the top ten candidates I could think of:
1. Iverson being traded from the Sixers to the Nuggets.
Iverson was traded 15 games into the 2006-2007 season. The Sixers went 38-44 during the prior 2005-2005 season, and missed the playoffs. The Sixers, after trading Iverson (for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two first round picks) finished the season at 35-47, missing the playoffs again. No Ewing Theory here.
2. LeBron ripping Cleveland’s heart out.
I don’t even need to look at statistics. Not a chance at a Ewing Theory.
3. David Robinson retiring.
Robinson retired after the 2002-2003 season, conveniently with his second title in tow. Considering the Spurs didn’t even make it back to the Finals the next year, I don’t think the Ewing Theory is relevant here.
4. Chamberlain being traded from the Sixers to the Lakers.
Wilt was traded from the Philadelphia Sixers to the Los Angeles Lakers after the 1967-1968 season (and after leading the league in assists and leading the Sixers to the best record in the league at 62-20). They proceeded to go 55-27 and lose in the East semis the next year. Next.
5. Barkley being traded from the Sixers to the Suns.
Barkley was traded after the 1991-1992 season. He’s pretty famous for winning the MVP and leading the Suns to the Finals that very next year, and since the Suns didn’t play the Sixers in the 1992-1993 Finals, I’m pretty sure this one isn’t going to work either.
(Don’t worry. I checked. The Sixers went from 35-47 in 1991-1992 to 26-56 in 1992-1993. Yikes. And Barkley won the MVP and went to the Finals with the Suns the year after going 35-47 with Sixers? How bad was everyone else on the Sixers? No wonder he wanted to be traded.)
6. Kareem retiring.
Kareem Adbul-Jabbar retired after the 1988-1989 season (where the Lakers lost in the Finals). That very next year, while the Lakers had a better record (57-25 to 63-19), they were bounced out in the second round by the Suns. (It wasn’t even close, as the Lakers lost the series 4-1. Lakeshow lost to a Suns team pre-Barkley with a pre-HIV Magic, Worthy, and everyone else? I gotta check that out.) As a matter of fact, the Lakers never won another championship until the Kobe-Shaq era.
(I checked it out. Nothing magical happened in that series. Lakeshow just blew it.)
7. Iverson being traded from the Nuggets to the Pistons.
Here we are back at Iverson. (who I think I may subconsciously want to be the new Ewing Theory.) Iverson was traded after the 2008-2009 season, and only played three games for the Nuggets that year anyway. However, the 2007-2008 Nuggets went 50-32 and lost in the first round, while the 2008-2009 Nuggets finished the season at 54-28 and lost to the Lakers and Trevor Ariza’s defense in a crazy good Western Conference Finals.
We have our first potential replacement right here.
The only caveat would be if either Iverson wasn’t an impact player when he was traded, (He was, he played in all 82 games the year before, and averaged more than 41 minutes and 26 points a game.) or if the team was somehow drastically different after he left. (It was, as that was the last effective year of Chauncey Billups as Mr. Big Shot, whom Denver got in the trade from Detroit. Damn it. So close.)
8. Carmelo being traded from the Nuggets to the Knicks.
Carmelo Anthony was traded during the 2010-2011 season after playing 50 games for the Nuggets. They would finish that season at 50-32, losing in the first round. They would go 38-28 in the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season, while still losing in the first round.
This one has some potential.
That very next season (which was last season), still without a superstar caliber player, the Nuggets went 57-25. However, they were still bounced in the first round. Since Carmelo once took them to the Western Conference Finals, this one needs to be laid to rest.
9. Deron Williams being traded from the Jazz to the Nets.
Deron Williams was traded during the 2010-2011 season after playing in 53 games for the Jazz. The Jazz would finish that season at 39-43, missing the playoffs. In the lockout-shortened next season, the Jazz would go 36-30 (not bad), but lose in the first round. And, unfortunately, Deron Williams once played in a Western Conference Finals with the Jazz, in the 2006-2007 season.
We’re running out of time.
10. (Preemptive) Dwight Howard signing with the Rockets after running away from the Lakers. (Fingers crossed!)
So, with all other options exhausted, I am looking into the future for the real Ewing Theory. I am calling, right now, that in this upcoming season, the Lakers will do not only better than last year, but better than the supposedly formidable Rockets are expected to do.
The Dwight Howard Theory.
I can’t wait to email Simmons. He’ll be so happy I helped him out.
(If anyone has any other possible candidates, especially from other sports, leave them in the comments.)