The Day The Globe Hoop Coverage Died.

Yesterday, I woke up to an already brutally hot and humid morning and shuffled into my home office to check out the morning’s sports offerings. Despite the obvious decline of the newspaper business, I still have a little twinge of anticipation when I open up the Sunday papers, with their various notes columns, features and coverage. As I sipped my iced coffee, I browsed though a fairly good Dan Shaughnessy column on the UCLA Olympic Analytical Laboratory, which, if you read Game of Shadows, you already know everything you need to know about.

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A bit further on, I came across Peter May’s Basketball Notes with the title of “Truth is, Pierce’s deal could have waited.” Knowing that Peter likes to get his shots in at Danny Ainge and the Celtics, I wondered how he was going to work this one.

So I read it.

Then I read it again.

Then a third time.

No, it wasn’t because I was amused by May’s line about James “Thanks Dad II” Dolan, but instead, I re-read this column three times because I really wanted to believe that May wasn’t as clueless as I thought he was about Paul Pierce’s contract status. I even went onto the BSMW message board to point out the May column and hope that someone else would see what I was clearly missing. May sums up his position on the Pierce extension thusly:

I understand this is a contrarian line of thinking, but I also can't fathom why the Celtics were so eager to get this done. Why not wait another year, see where the team is going, see how Pierce responds, and go from there.

OK, here’s the problem. Pierce has a player option after next season, so if the team didn’t re-sign him, they risked allowing him to hit the open market as a free agent.

Now, I tried really hard to understand where May was coming from here. I figured he HAD to know about the option…didn’t he? So assuming he did, and still wrote the article, what is his angle? That Pierce might not be worth giving a three-year max extension to? OK…that point is actually debatable. I come down strong on the side of re-signing Pierce before he hits the market, but you can debate whether Paul Pierce is worth hitching your wagon to for the foreseeable future.

So May might’ve written the article trying to be a contrarian (as he states) and taking the view that signing Pierce wasn’t worth it. That the team would be better off seeing how things go this season and then taking the risk of letting him go to free agency if things didn’t go so well next season. Again, that is IF May knows that Pierce can opt out after next season. It’s a bad position to take, in my opinion, but still feasible.

However, the truth is that Peter May had no clue that Pierce held an option on his contract for next season. That is borne out by this section from May:

Sure, you would have run the risk of the "disrespect factor" by waiting. But here's what the Celtics also should have been gauging: What teams were going to have cap space in the summer of 2008 and did they really think any of those teams were going to keep that money to sign Pierce? In other words, were they negotiating against themselves?

Unless that 2008 is a typo, (though we’ll see in a moment that it is not) then May reveals here that he believed that the Celtics had Piece locked in for the next two seasons (thus the reference to Piece hitting the market in ’08) and that they extended him for three beyond that. Not convinced? Well, this should cement the case that May, the top NBA writer for the Boston Globe, had no idea of the contract status of the best player of the local team:

This is not to suggest Pierce didn't merit an extension. But he still had two years left on his previous deal and while he is clearly the Celtics' best player, do you really think he deserves $20 million a year for three more years when he still has yet to prove he can carry a team?

Whoops. May asks:

What would have been the downside had the Celtics decided to wait a year on the extension?

The downside of course is that Pierce could’ve opted out of his contract and become a free agent next summer…and the Celtics could’ve ended up with nothing.

This is a joke…The Globe continues to embarrass itself with this type of coverage.

Let’s review again here, for those inclined to defend Peter May (and I know you’re out there.)

The point here is NOT whether it is a good idea to sign Paul Pierce to a max extension or not. That issue is debatable.

The point here is that the lead NBA writer for the largest and most influential newspaper in the region had no idea about a very important contract clause for a player that he covers which many casual fans were aware of. Further, no one on Morrissey Blvd caught this mistake, either.

There’s nothing to defend. The whole premise of the column is invalid because May thought Pierce had two years left on his deal, when in fact Pierce could opt out after next season. Had it been true that the Celtics had Pierce locked in for the next two seasons, the premise of May’s column, while likely unpopular, would still have had some merit to at least consider. But it doesn’t. He looks rather foolish at the moment.

All of this aside, the Globe has been way behind on this whole Paul Pierce contract from the beginning. Steve Bulpett in the Herald has been providing updates almost every day on the status of the extension, and has had the details about Pierce’s option correct the whole time. From last Monday:

Pierce has two years remaining on his current contract, but he can opt out of it and become a free agent next summer. Schwartz dismissed talk that Pierce might like to take that route and join a team with a better chance at the title.

Schwartz is Pierce’s agent. So there doesn’t appear to be any issue here with the Herald having mixed up the details here. Bulpett made several references throughout the week to Pierce’ option.

I went out for the day and returned in the early evening to find my inbox jammed with messages about the column and about the Globe’s basketball coverage in general. This one stood out:

Dear Bruce,

I hope to God you mention how badly Peter May screwed up in today's Sunday Globe. He's allegedly the "basketball expert" for a newspaper section that used to mean something. Well, here's the kind of expertise we get from him: He wrote an entire column slamming the Celtics for signing Pierce to an $60M extension when he allegedly had "two" years remaining on his current contract -- including such classic lines as "What was the hurry?" and "What would have been the downside had the Celtics decided to wait a year on the extension?" and my personal favorite, "I understand this is a contrarian line of thinking, but I also can't fathom why the Celtics were so eager to get this done" -- without f***ing realizing that Pierce had an out clause next summer and could have been an unrestricted free agent.

Can you imagine if a Red Sox writer or Pats writer screwed up that badly? Would they ever hear the end of it?

I'm sure May is a nice guy ... but I can only judge him by his production over the past 20 years. It doesn't seem like he has given a crap about basketball since Bird retired; if anything, he comes off like a middle-aged white guy who openly dislikes the sport and can't relate with most of the players. Even worse, he gets a free pass because so few fans follow the Celtics diligently anymore and none of the media members seem to give a crap anymore except for MacMullan/Holley/Russillo. A good example of how far the basketball IQ has fallen in Boston came over the extended July 4th weekend, when John Wallach (subbing on the Arnold/Holley show) tried to claim that Ben Wallace would be a better fit for the Celtics than Kevin Garnett because KG "doesn't rebound," which was the equivalent of saying you'd rather have Jim Thome over David Ortiz because Big Papi "doesn't hit for power." And you wonder why nobody cares about basketball in Boston anymore.

In all seriousness, why can't the Globe hire someone who actually likes basketball to cover the team? And where were the copy editors on this one? Not one person working for the Globe's sports section knew that Pierce, the single best Celtics player of the past 15 years, could have opted out and become a free agent next summer? Really? Nobody knew the contract status of a Boston player who's one of the top-15 guys in the league? Why have copy editors then?

I just can't believe how far this newspaper has fallen - we have now reached the point where the alleged lead basketball writer for the paper had no idea that the team's best player could have been a free agent in 12 months, and even worse, slammed the Celtics for re-signing him because he was so desperate to be a contrarian (and only because he doesn't have the talent or the passion to make this team more fun to follow). I'm so tired of this crap - it's really sad that I trust the opinions/information of complete strangers on a message board over someone who's employed by the Boston Globe to cover the only basketball team in town. What a disgrace.

Please call May and the Globe out on this one. It's one thing to be mediocre at your job; it's another thing to perpetuate a complete falsehood because you were too lazy to do any research. And you wonder why newspapers are going bankrupt.

--SIMMONS

That of course, was Bill Simmons of ESPN.com. I got a lot of other emails as well, many with the same points.

Chalk this one up as the Globe being the Globe…

Coming out of the All Star break, the Red Sox dropped three out of four to the Oakland Athletics, including yesterday’s 8-1 defeat. You can check the coverage on the Red Sox Daily Links page and the Bay Area Sports Pages.

Jon Couture admits to initially being disappointed with “Feeding the Monster“, but says that a strong finish to the book really makes it a rewarding read. Couture also touches on my Manny column from last week and looks at Sam Horn’s only spot in the record books.

Kyle Busch won the Lenox Industrial Tools 300 up at New Hampshire International Speedway yesterday. Michael Vega, David Exum and Mark Labore report on the race, which basically went into overtime due to a caution flag on lap 298. Fluto Shinzawa looks at a collision between the last two winners at NHIS, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman. Allen Lessels goes inside pit row at the speedway. Exum’s notebook has more on the Stewart/Newman dust-up, while the Globe notebook looks at Denny Hamlin’s day ending early.

The Patriots start training camp next Friday, and the camp previews should be starting up shortly. Today, Jonathan Darling says that rookie Jeremy Mincey might remind some people of Willie McGinest. Mike Reiss gets the ball rolling on positional previews with a look at the QB spot.

Other Weekend Coverage:

Putting Peter May’s column aside, here are a few other highlights from the weekend:

Nick Cafardo catches up with Theo Epstein’s former right hand man Josh Byrnes in the Baseball Notes. Tony Massarotti tried to respond to reader email in Covering All Bases. Alex Speier examines how impressive David Ortiz has been, especially in the post-steroid era. He also had a bit on how the A’s lost out on Jonathan Papelbon after drafting him in the 40th round in 2002 and not getting him signed. Art Davidson looked at former Sox hero Dave Roberts having the season of his career in San Diego. Shaun Tolson took Herald readers inside the Green Monster.

In his NBA Notes Steve Bulpett talked to Walt “Clyde” Frasier about whether Paul Pierce and Allen Iverson could play together. Scott Souza reviewed the Celtics summer league efforts in Vegas.

Jerome Solomon says Deion Branch is a victim of poor timing in the Football Notes. Solomon and the Globe get some props for having the only NFL Sunday columns the last two weeks. Training camp previews should start up this week…

Kevin Paul Dupont says that it isn’t a lock that Bruins first round pick Phil Kessel will head back to college in the Hockey Notes. Stephen Harris in his NHL Notes reports that the Bruins originally offered Pat Quinn their head coaching job, but he turned them down. Douglas Flynn thinks Zdeno Chara could be the next Bruins Captain.

NESN has Red Sox/Royals at 7:00. ESPN has Braves/Cardinals at 7:00.

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