A Case of NBA Lockout-itis: The All-NBA NFL Team
NOTE: The nightmare is over. But I’m still scarred. I will never get those first 16 games of the NBA season back, and the relationship between the fans and the various cliques within the NBA will take a long time to heal. Longer than it took Lance Bass to admit to the world what it already knew, I fear.
For days on end before waking up a few days ago to the wonderful news that the players and owners of the NBA shook hands on a tentative labor deal that still requires the hammering out of some important details, I had conjured up a brilliant idea for a lockout article that I did not decide to sit down and write until the night before.
Just because we can now chime in any NBA related conversation with a Wayne Campbell “game on,” does not mean the concept is defunct.
This article is about having an imagination, so pretend you are reading this at some point in the previous 149 days before the lockout ended.
I’m really effing bored. It’s not just a “for the moment” kind of bored that will pass in a matter of hours, but a prolonged state of boredom that threatens to spiral into depression. Life without the NBA is proving to be very rough. Sure, the NFL is rife with Homeric storylines playing out every Sunday, and each Saturday we get to talk at great length about which is the newest team most likely to lose the BCS Championship to LSU.
But, if you are only a mild NHL enthusiast like myself, and find the prospect of becoming a real follower of college basketball at any time of year other than March Madness as daunting as a 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle like I do, then the middle of your week is seriously lacking in fresh discussion material. The only way to satiate my hunger for sports topics these days is to move from the real world of filthy scandals and psychotic people stompers with bad balance, to the realm of the imaginary.
We all miss the NBA as much as or more than the deserts miss the rains, so why not fantasize what it would be like if your favorite professional basketball players were to crossover into the NFL?
Here is the scenario (remember, it is completely imaginary, so ignore any irrational, unlikely or unfair circumstances): accused of purposely tanking their season in order to secure the drafting rights to Andrew Luck, the Indianapolis Colts are put on a one-year probation. None of their current players are allowed to play next season, and they are barred from signing any existing NFL free agents or making any trades. In fact, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to spice things up and in a secret meeting with David Stern and Billy Hunter, decides the Colts must fill their roster with NBA players mired in the lockout that Stern will not allow to end until LeBron James massages his feet (demands to which James will obviously not acquiesce due to his unflappable pride).
Colts GM Bill Polian knows absolutely nothing about the NBA, so he turns to the fans to help fill his roster.
Without further ado, here is my ballot for starters on special teams, defense and offense:
Kicker: Steve Nash, PG, Phoenix Suns
Dennis Rodman would be the shoo-in kicker were he still active. Alas, he is legally unable to participate. So I turn to Steve Nash. With accuracy like this, you would be hard pressed to find a more trustworthy white guy to put the pigskin through the uprights.
Punter: Richard Jefferson, SF, San Antonio Spurs; DeShawn Stevenson, SG, Dallas Mavericks; James Posey, SF, Indiana Pacers
Nash and Kobe Bryant are famous among NBA players for their exceptional soccer skills. Nash is already the kicker and Bryant proves valuable elsewhere on the field. Not much else is known about NBA players and their kicking ability. As such I have chosen a punter-by-committee, using the last three players to be fined for punting a basketball into the stands during a game. Come on down Richard Jefferson, DeShawn Stevenson and James Posey.
Return Specialist: John Wall, PG, Washington Wizards
What qualities do you look for in a returner? Vision. Speed. Quickness. And jukes. Definitely jukes. Wall has it all. He covers the court end-to-end as well as any guard in the league and knows how to avoid defenders better than most.
Defensive Tackles: Glen Davis, PF, Boston Celtics and Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee Bucks
Had Shaq and Yao not both retired last season, this team would be a beast to run against up the middle. In their stead we still have two nicely wide, yet surprisingly athletic, guys in Big Baby and the Melbourne Ultimatum. With his stout 6’9, 289-pound frame, Davis clogs the paint better than most 7-footers. Bogut is a giant and the best shot blocker in the game not named Superman, essential for batting down passes at the line of scrimmage.
Defensive Ends: Dwight Howard, C, Orlando Magic and Blake Griffin, PF, Los Angeles Clippers
Howard and Griffin are the epitome of size, strength and speed rolled into one freakish human being. If there were two guys in the NBA who most remind me of a Julius Peppers or a Dwight Freeney it’s these two; no quarterback would enjoy seeing either of them barreling down off the edge.
Linebackers: Metta World Peace, SF, Los Angeles Lakers; Josh Smith, PF, Atlanta Hawks; Kevin Garnett, PF, Boston Celtics
These guys are three of the best undersized defenders in the NBA. The Artist Formerly Known As Ron Artest, J-Smoove and KG also get the nod because they remind me of Ray Lewis more than any other NBA player – full of heart and a serious crazy streak. Moreover, the linebacker is the leader of the defense, the guy who roams the field, looks for contact and makes plays all game long. The defensive pedigree of each player speaks for itself.
Cornerbacks: Tony Allen, SG, Memphis Grizzlies and Ronnie Brewer, SG, Chicago Bulls
The two best lockdown perimeter defenders in the game. Period. Shane Battier would be brought on in nickel situations.
Safeties: Chris Paul, PG, New Orleans Hornets and Dwayne Wade, SG, Miami Heat
Paul roams the perimeter and picks off passes like Ed Reed, hence the choice. Wade is likewise a stud pickpocket, and also has the speed and strength to blitz the quarterback and take down a tight end.
Center: Joakim Noah, C, Chicago Bulls
Guards: Nene Hilario, PF, Denver Nuggets and Al Horford, PF/C, Atlanta Hawks
Tackles: Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies and Anderson Varejao, C, Cleveland Cavaliers
We can assume that the technicalities differentiating each offensive line position from the next is lost in translation for this exercise. Simply put, these are the five scrappiest bigs in the NBA who set picks harder than anyone else and make their opponent fight for every advantage. The center is usually the smallest and smartest guy on the line, and also acts as the leader calling out blocking schemes before the snap. Noah fits this category well. The guards have to be quick in order to create holes for the running back as well as pull on wide runs. Horford and Nene are both considerably strong and quick. Tackles are the real muscle of the offensive line, going up against the end rushers. I would feel pretty good if I had the younger Gasol and Varejao protecting me in the pocket or lead blocking the run.
Fullback: Chuck Hayes, C, Houston Rockets
Hayes is the consummate bruiser. He has to be if he wants to succeed as the shortest center in the NBA at 6’6″, three inches shorter than any other center.
Tight End: LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat
People have speculated for years how LeBron, at a freakish 6’8″-250, would fare in the NFL. Too big to play receiver, James is an ideal candidate to play tight end. He has the strength to hold blocks on the line, and the speed to be a productive pass catcher a la Antonio Gates or Jason Witten.
Wide Receivers: Kobe Bryant, SG, Los Angeles Lakers and Kevin Durant, SF, Oklahoma City Thunder
Long, athletic and capable of finding open space, I can picture both of these guys rising up over short cornerbacks like Calvin Johnson and using their soft hands to bring down the most difficult of passes.
Running back: Derrick Rose, PG, Chicago Bulls
Rose does it all on the court. He evades defenders with ease and thrives on contact in the paint all at the same time. He has a burst of speed that few players can match, and he has impeccable vision. He might be one of the strongest guys pound-for-pound in the NBA and would be extremely tough to bring down, especially in the open field.
Quarterback: Rajon Rondo, PG, Boston Celtics and Deron Williams, PG, New Jersey Nets (backup)
The little alien Rondo would have the starting job locked down easily if he wasn’t so short and frail. Listed at 6’1″-170, Rondo wouldn’t last long in the pocket, though he would be a solid scrambler. Other than his size, Rondo has the best vision of any NBAer in the game today and distributes the rock better than any. Williams comes right behind Rondo in this regard, and is more stout at 6’3″-209.
So, there you have it. The 2012-2013 Indianapolis Colts. Like my favorite supporting child actor in a sports movie once said, “Hey, it could happen.”