Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Do Nice Guys Finish Last? #3

(My weekly column from The Love of Sports. Can my fantasy basketball team keep winning, without any felonies or embarrassing strip club incidents circulating through the fantasy locker room?)

The stock market’s in turmoil. Pakistan is in upheaval and under martial law. The New Orleans Saints got their asses handed to them by a previously winless St. Louis Rams team.

These are just a few examples of the madness which surrounds us. Everywhere we look, another surprise. Around every corner, the proverbial masked man is waiting to attack. But through it all, and amidst the chaos, The Centerfolds remain at the top of their game.

Perhaps it’s the calming influence of the massive Yao Ming, or the support of Shane Battier off the bench. Ray Allen continues his stellar play as a perennial pro, and Kevin Durant overcame a miserable shooting performance early in the week and has emerged as an early season candidate for Rookie of the Year.

But individual honors aside, my team continues to develop its own unique personality. Even as I sit here in the fantasy clubhouse, just out of view of the fantasy locker room, typing away on my fantasy laptop, I can hear Ray Allen singing to LaMarcus Aldridge, It’s a beautiful, soulful lullaby - with lyrics about candy-coated basketballs and chocolate referee's whistles. You see, LaMarcus has had trouble sleeping this week, what with the change from daylight savings time and what not.

So Ray thought he’d try something that’s worked for his three young children, especially when they were infants. And guess what? LaMarcus is sleeping like a giant baby right now, right there on the locker room floor. Ray stops singing, his voice trailing off like a velvet mist. He tiptoes towards me, flashing a smile that could stop your heart with its brilliance. Luckily, I'm used to it - mine keeps beating. I give him a silent high-five as he glides past.

“Great play Ray,” I whisper.

This is what it’s all about. It’s a crazy world outside, but in this place, The Centerfolds home base, all is calm and quiet.

As I mentioned earlier, we remain at the top of the league statistically. Our record for week 2 was 5-3-1, and we’re a half game out of first place. We tied our opponent in three-pointers, but dominated in points, rebounds, shooting percentage, free-throw percentage and blocked shots - overall, a very solid performance.

I’m as proud as can be. But I find one piece of statistical data rather vexing. There’s one category in which we’ve been lacking during the first two weeks, and you’d think it would be the one category at which The Centerfolds would excel.

That category? Assists.

The entire team is composed of guys who live for the chance to lend a helping hand. The Ray Allen lullaby story is but one small example. So, how can it be that this team doesn’t pass the ball in order to give others the opportunity to score?

I guess part of the problem lies somewhere along the fine line between fantasy and reality. Each of my players exists in something called “the real world” and plays for something known as an “NBA team.” Apparently, quite often on these NBA teams, there’s no one to pass to. So, for example, in those cases, Yao just dunks it or Ray squares up and fires a three. I continue to work on ways by which my fantasy managing can affect real-life game play, but so far to no avail. I’ll keep you posted on this.

All that being said, I really believe my team continues to improve. We made a significant free agent acquisition this week, with the addition of Yao’s countryman, Yi Jianlian (PF, Milwaukee). He’s only 6-feet 11-inches, but is a bit more agile than Yao, and therefore gets a few more steals.

When their teams played each other last week, the game drew an estimated 200 million viewers worldwide (I believe 199 million of them were in China). Luckily for me, they’re both on the same fantasy team (mine) and compliment each other quite well.

Yi and Yao, together again. A thing of beauty. So until next week - just remember we’ve got a ton of beautiful basketball left to be played this season, and The Centerfolds are just warming up.


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