OK … let me give this disclaimer up front. I think Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, from a volume of useful information, writing ability and sheer historical knowledge of a franchise standpoint is one of the best assets any NBA franchise has writing for it. Maybe THE best in the league. I think all team site beat writers, usually unfairly, get labeled with the ‘oh, that’s just P.R.’ blah blah blah nonsense. Langlois isn’t a shill. He consistently has interesting stuff, he’s a great writer, and Pistons.com in general is can’t-miss reading for any fan. I can’t stress enough that any time Langlois publishes any kind of story about the franchise’s rich history and you don’t read it? Well … you’re crazy. His stuff during the lockout especially was incredible.
That being said, as a known ranter about inappropriately used comparisons for Pistons young players constantly and unfairly ratcheting up expectations to unrealistic heights, I have to comment on this tweet he sent:
— Keith Langlois (@Keith_Langlois) July 20, 2012
I promise, I’m not trying to be snarky blogger guy who acts like he’s smarter than all the beat writers. I don’t think that at all. But my Flint-ness will not allow Glen Rice’s good name to be sullied like that.
The reason we know Glen Rice as NBA fans, of course, is because he is one of the best 3-point shooters in NBA history. Khris Middleton shot 26 percent from three his junior year in college. I’m pretty sure this aged, heavy, camel-colored-suit-wearing, MMA-promoting version of Glen Rice could come out of retirement tomorrow and shoot 30 percent. Rice made 52 percent (99-of-192) of his 3s as a senior at Michigan. After his rookie year with the Heat, he shot 37 percent or better for 11 straight NBA seasons. Glen Rice was born with a reliable jumper. He’s a Mr. Basketball winner from Flint Northwestern, arguably the greatest player of many great players the much-maligned city I love has ever produced. He was one of the top three or four players ever to come out of the University of Michigan. He’s one of the … I don’t know? … seven or eight (definitely after Magic, DeBusschere, Gervin, maybe after Mel Daniels, Haywood, Chet Walker, C-Webb … somewhere in the convo after that) top players the state of Michigan has ever produced.
I know that Langlois’ tweet was innocently intended — he even said ‘not saying he’ll have the same career.’ I get that the qualifier is in there. But Middleton, even if the mechanics of his shot look beautiful (and from what I’ve seen, he does have a very nice looking jumpshot that just so happened to not go in an elite amount from college 3-point range), even if build-wise and height-wise, he resembles the way Rice looked as a young player … their names must never be uttered together in any kind of comparative way, innocent or not.
As I said in my post about the already unfair comparisons being thrown out for Drummond at such a young, unproven stage, I’m OK with the concept of a comparison. Even a somewhat favorable comparison — for example, Middleton isn’t as good a player as James Jones yet, but if someone says, “His nice stroke and his height on the wing remind me a little of James Jones,” I’m totally OK with that, even if Middleton isn’t there yet. Jones is a role player, from a similar draft position, had a solid career but not one that is nearly unattainable. But when anyone — and like I said in that Drummond post, fans and writers/media alike are guilty of it — immediately compares a raw, unproven, untested player, particularly a second round pick who, technically, doesn’t even have a roster spot yet to an All-Star caliber player or better, it has the unintended effect of drastically heightening fan expectations for that player. I hope Middleton becomes a really good player. I’m rooting for him to exceed the expectations of a second round pick. But little of what he’s done to this point, other than perhaps physical appearance, is remotely close to Glen Rice in any way.
There were many times last season when the annoying Brandon Knight-Isiah Thomas comparisons came up from folks on Twitter, on TV broadcasts, in comments sections, on the radio, in stories and columns, etc. It usually had a disclaimer like, “I’m not saying he’s going to be as good but Isiah was also a young point guard who played for the Pistons at one time so maybe …”
It drove me crazy. So this season, I’ve self-appointed myself as the Czar of Reasonable Comparisons. It’s my official title with the site now (I have free reign to choose my title in lieu of an actual salary). I am fully committed to reporting on all violations of the Reasonable Comparisons edict. I know I have supporters out there among you, too, so you are all my eyes and ears. Don’t hesitate to e-mail or tweet me links to violators or leave them in the comments. Together, we can beat this.