2/15/22 Welcome to the Wild, Wild West

Well, I survived day two in Vegas. It was a highly productive day, as we got a bunch done for work, and got the living situation all sorted out. None of that was the highlight though. The highlight of the day was a close battle between my first In N’ Out Burger experience and getting up to my building’s “Vino Deck” at 9pm and looking out at the strip with a bottle of Chardonnay. Both were heavenly in their own ways.

First, I have to give a big shoutout to my buddy Nick and the lady who wrote this blog post about In N’ Out for teaching me what “animal style” is. I got a #1 “animal style” and it was delicious. Unlike most fast food places, the burger wasn’t over cooked, and it tasted fresh, which isn’t always a given. The fries probably wouldn’t have been special if I hadn’t asked for “animal style,” but they were awesome with the added toppings. I could have been full all day from that one meal.

Then there’s the vino deck. Sure, it was “only” like 60 out there, and very windy, but who cares? The view is amazing. In a very weird way, Vegas reminds me of Chicago, in that from above it looks like it goes on forever. As you look out in any direction across the valley, you just see lights forever. Yes, way off in the distance you see mountains, more so in the daytime, but that too is amazing. I sat up there last night and just listened to music, had some wine, and enjoyed. It was amazing.

Ok, so the rest of the world… where to begin… how about the Harden-Simmons trade? Yesterday both did their introductory press conferences in their new cities, and neither said much that was surprising. The national press (basically, ESPN) took their gratuitous shots at Philly fans by insinuating they caused Ben Simmons mental health issues, which was predictable from the press corps that spent his whole career picking at Simmons game. Some analysts have taken turns at critiquing the trade and trying to find the winner. It’s been fun reading for me, and I’m almost sad I’m not in Philly for the fun. But here comes my take.

  • The Sixers won the trade. This is a simple fact. They had very low odds of winning the Eastern Conference, let alone the NBA Championship before they got James Harden. They have much better odds now. Brooklyn probably made the best trade they possibly could under the circumstances, but they are not better after. Their big three with Harden was simply much better than with the offensively inferior Simmons. Yes, Curry and Drummond are really good playoff rotational players, which is why Brooklyn is still a contender this season, but they are still role players. Given that neither draft choice moving is going to be super high, and that the Sixers got a rotational piece back for their playoffs in Millsap, it’s clear to me that whatever advantage Brooklyn got back in the rest of the trade is not equal to the gap between Harden and Simmons in a star driven league.
  • We will never know if Ben Simmons has mental health issues. Sure, the first we heard of it was when he started getting fined for not showing up to camp, and sure he refused to share any details with his team or meet with the team doctor, and sure he miraculously got back to basketball after being traded. You’ll still never know, so there’s no point calling him a liar. I do know this though- whether he had them or not, his decision to essentially only bring it up when facing fines, which mental health issues can negate under the CBA, was weaponization of a deadly serious issue. If he has these issues, I hope he gets help and sees improvement in his life. The reality of Ben Simmons the player though is that he is always going to leave you unsatisfied. He’s an elite defensive player, sure. He’s a good distributor, though not nearly as good as Harden (the difference between Harden this year and the last Ben we saw play is around two assists a game). The reality though is that his refusal to develop literally any kind of shot at all, or even to just become a good foul shooter, leaves your team playing 4 on 5 ball in the half court, which is where the playoffs are played. You can’t win four NBA playoff series that way. The Sixers never did with him, rather predictably. Perhaps as a third option in Brooklyn his flaws can be covered. Let’s be honest though, if you were Kevin Durant, how excited would you be about having to worry about Ben’s offense and Kyrie Irving just deciding he doesn’t feel like playing?
  • Philadelphia fans did nothing but cheer Ben on for years. No one turned on him until he literally blew a playoff series last year, AND demanded a trade. ESPN has hosts insinuating the fans had a part in this, when they ran skits mocking the guy on their shows and even in their awards show. Just stop. James Harden called Philly fans “ride or die” in his press conference. It’s too early to know, but he seems to “get” us, much like a Brian Dawkins or Bryce Harper do. I’m really excited to see how he does here.

I don’t have much political news for you today, from anywhere. Out here the hot races appear to be North Las Vegas Mayor and Sheriff, but I know nothing about either yet, I just saw big signs for those. I have learned that Nevada has super strict campaign finance laws limiting the “hard side” (candidates) and not the “soft side” (outside money), so not as much gets spent on local races here. That empowers power brokers, like the local party. Of course, Nevada does have major races for U.S. Senator, Governor, Congress, and the state legislature, so money will get spent here. I guess I’ll write more when I learn more.

More tomorrow…

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