Frank: Most overrated and underrated Eagles: DLs

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Frank: Most overrated and underrated Eagles: DLs

Monday, June 20, 2011
Posted: 10:43 a.m.
By Reuben FrankCSNPhilly.com
Weve seen some big-time all-pro defensive linemen pass through Philly. Reggie White. Jerome Brown. Hugh Douglas. William Fuller.

And weve seen some of the worst defensive linemen in NFL history pass through town, as well. Jon Harris. Greg Jefferson. Leonard Renfro. Bruce Walker.

Lets put aside who are the best and the worst defensive linemen the Eagles have had over the years and in our sixth installment of the Most Underrated and Overrated Players in Eagles History, take a look at the D-linemen who time has treated too kindly or too harshly.
Next Monday: Quarterbacks.
OverratedJevon Kearse
He was supposed to be the next in the long line of great Eagles defensive ends. Reggie White. Clyde Simmons. William Fuller. Hugh Douglas. Jevon Kearse.

Kearse wasnt the next Reggie White. He wasnt even the next Hugh Douglas. Heck, Kearse wasnt even the next Mike Mamula.

Although Eagles fans inexplicably embraced Kearse as a star right up until the very end, Kearse in reality was a colossal bust after the Eagles made him the highest-paid defensive end in NFL history after the 2003 season.

Kearse had recorded 26 sacks in 1999 and 2000 with the Titans, fourth-most ever by a player in his first two seasons (Reggie White had 31, Derrick Thomas 30 and Shawne Merriman 27).

And in his next two full seasons, he remained an effective pass rusher, with 19 12 sacks in 2001 and 2003.

As soon as the Eagles got him, he was done. Kearse managed only 22 sacks in four seasons with the Eagles, which ranked him precisely 43rd in the league during that span.

Mike Mamula had two seasons as an Eagle with at least 8.0 sacks.

Jevon Kearse had zero seasons as an Eagle with at least 8.0 sacks.

Mike Mamula averaged 6.3 sacks per year as an Eagle.

Jevon Kearse averaged 5.5 sacks per year as an Eagle.

Maybe because he had a great personality, was generally available for interviews, was well-liked by the media and came across very well on TV, Kearse was never perceived as a failure here until his very last days in 2007.

The numbers dont lie. He wasnt Mike Mamula. He was worse.

Corey Simon
His career began with such a bang that we all thought Corey Simon was a star. And he was. Just not for very long.

Simon, the Eagles first-round pick in 2000, recorded 9 12 sacks as a rookie and 7 12 more in his second year. That put him in pretty elite company. Only four NFL defensive tackles had more sacks during that two-year period (LaRoi Glover, Warren Sapp, Trevor Pryce, John Randle), and only five D-tackles have ever had more sacks in their first two NFL seasons (Kevin Williams, Keith Millard, Dennis Byrd, Dana Stubblefield, Bill Pickel).

This was historic stuff. Simon could do it all.

And then, before he even turned 25 years old, it was all over. Simon began gaining weight and losing his quickness. You would think the extra weight might make him a better run stuffer, but it didnt. It hurt his ability to move across the line of scrimmage, beat offensive linemen and harass the quarterback and get to ball carriers.

In Simons final five seasons, he had just 15 sacks fewer than he had in his first two. Despite his sudden drop in production and his lack of postseason big plays he had just one sack in 12 playoff games for the Eagles there was the usual outcry when the Eagles cut ties with him after the 2004 Super Bowl season.
How could the Eagles let him go? Why werent they committed to winning? Why would they let the Colts sign him? Why wont they spend money?

Simon never recorded another sack.
Brodrick Bunkley
Hes now going into his sixth NFL season, hes going to be 28 years old in November, and what exactly does Brodrick Bunkley have to show for being the 14th pick in the 2006 draft?

Six sacks, including just one in his last 39 games, and fewer than 40 tackles per year during his three full years as a starter.

And about 10.7 million in salary.

Bunkley is big and strong and fast, but the production has never lived up to his reputation. Throw out his rookie year, when he rarely played, and this past year, when he played much of the year hurt, and he still is averaging fewer than 40 tackles per season.

A defensive tackle picked in the first half of the first round should have something hes really, really good at. You dont expect a ton of sacks, but you hope hell collapse the pocket. You do expect big run-stuffing numbers, but as a starter, Bunkley has averaged 2.39 tackles per game.

Of the 33 defensive tackles taken among the first 14 picks from 1982 when sacks became an official stat through 2006, when Bunkley was drafted, only four recorded fewer sacks than Bunkley in their first five NFL seasons (Ryan Sims 5.0, Jimmy Kennedy 4.0, Jonathan Sullivan 1 12, Wendell Bryant 1 12).

Over the past two years, 69 NFL defensive tackles have more sacks than Bunkley.

Hes still a young guy, so maybe Bunkley will blossom under new defensive line coach Jim Washburn. But so far? The epitome of overrated.
Underrated
Clyde Simmons
One of the most surprising stats in Eagles history is this: From 1989 through 1992, a four-year span in which Reggie White established himself as one of the greatest defensive ends in NFL history and the Eagles won at least 10 games every year and reached the playoffs three times, Reggie didnt even have the most sacks on his own team.

Clyde Simmons did.

Simmons spent most of his career playing in the shadow of the legendary White, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But for many of those years, Clyde was right up there with Reggie as one of the leagues most feared pass rushers.

From 1989 through 1992, Simmons recorded 55 sacks, or nearly 14 per year. No defensive lineman in football had as many during that span, during which the Eagles won their only playoff game during the 1981-1994 stretch. White had 54 during that same four-year period. Second-most in the league, second-most on his own team.

Simmons wasnt Reggie, but he remains one of the greatest defensive ends in history. When he retired after the 2000 season, Simmons ranked 10th in NFL history with 121 12 sacks, sixth-most among defensive linemen.

Now, you can make the case that Simmons was the beneficiary of having White on the opposite side. Opposing offenses devoted so many blockers to account for White that it gave Simmons plenty of opportunities to get to the quarterback. This may have been true to an extent, but Simmons recorded 45 sacks after leaving the Eagles, and in 1995 ranked seventh among all NFL defensive ends with 11 sacks on a bad Arizona team.

Plus, Simmons was a monster run stopper and averaged 102 tackles from 1987 through 1993, his seven seasons as a starter for the Eagles.

Simmons recorded seven or more sacks in nine seasons. Only 12 players had more seasons with at least seven sacks, and seven of them are in the Hall of Fame. And he was still a good player well into his 30s. He had seven sacks for the Bears in 1999 at 35 years old, and only 10 defensive linemen have ever had more sacks in a season at that age.

Clyde was a quiet, humble guy and never got the attention that his Hall of Fame friend and teammate got, but no matter who he played alongside, he was one of the greatest defensive ends to ever play the game.
Andy Harmon
From 1992 through 1995, there were very few defensive tackles in the NFL better than Andy Harmon. He stopped the run, he collapsed the pocket, he sacked the quarterback, and he did it for a defense that after the departures of Reggie White, Clyde Simmons, Eric Allen, Seth Joyner and all the others did not have a lot of talent remaining.

Injuries cut short Harmons career, but during his four years as a starter 1992 through 1995 he quietly did everything for a defense in transition from Bud Carson and the Rich Kotite coaching staff to Ray Rhodes and new defensive coordinator Emmitt Thomas.

Harmon, a sixth-round pick out of Kent State in 1991, is the only defensive tackle and one of just five players overall the Eagles have ever drafted to record more than one season with double digit sacks.

Only four defensive tackles in NFL history have been drafted later than Harmon or gone undrafted and recorded more sacks in their career.

During his four years as a starter, Harmon recorded 38 12 sacks, second-most among all NFL tackles during that span, behind only John Randle, who had 48. Yet Harmon never made a Pro Bowl team.

When Harmon retired after the 1997 season, he had 39 12 sacks, which at the time ranked 14th in NFL history among defensive tackles even though he had only four healthy seasons. Only one defensive tackle had more sacks through 1997 and didnt go to a Pro Bowl (that was Mike Pitts, who had most of his 48 12 with the Falcons and Patriots though he did have 19 12 in six years with the Eagles).

We were so used to Reggie and Clyde and Jerome and Seth and Eric Allen and this whole cadre of Hall of Fame-caliber defensive players that came through Philly in the late 1980s and early 1990s that we never stopped to notice just how productive Andy Harmon really was.
Kenny Clarke
Kenny Clarke had the misfortune of not becoming a starter with the Eagles until the 1982 season and being released by the Eagles after the 1987 season. So during the Super Bowl season, he was a deep reserve and special-teamer. And by the time the Eagles started going to the playoffs regularly, he was gone.

But from 1982 through 1987 six losing seasons under Dick Vermeil, Marion Campbell and Buddy Ryan Kenny Clarke was quietly one of the most productive defensive tackles in the NFL.

Clarke, who didnt start a game or record a sack from 1978 through 1981, recorded 32 12 sacks during his six years as an Eagles starter and was a consistent, steady and active run stopper.

During some dark years for the Eagles 1984 through 1986, combined record of 18-28 Clarke had 25 12 sacks, sixth-most of any DT in the NFL during that span. Expanding to go from 1984 through 1990 a seven-year span during which he played for three teams but mainly the Eagles Clarkes 38 sacks were fifth-most of any NFL defensive tackle.

Only two undrafted defensive tackles in NFL history (and eight undrafted players total) recorded more career sacks than Clarkes 43 12. They are Hall of Famer John Randle and Joe Nash.

When he retired after the 1991 season, Clarke had played in more than 200 games, starting 110, and his 43 12 sacks ranked fifth in NFL history among tackles (behind Steve McMichael, Bill Pickel, Keith Millard and Randy White).

Because he didnt play on very many good teams and never started a playoff game, Clarke has been largely forgotten. But he was one of the most productive defensive tackles of his generation and one of the best the Eagles have ever had.
E-mail Reuben Frank at rfrank@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow him on Twitter @RoobCSN.

Related: King: Eagles favorite to sign Nnamdi Frank: Most overrated and underrated Eagles: WRs

Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Challenging series begins with Jon Lester

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Phillies-Cubs 5 things: Challenging series begins with Jon Lester

Phillies (26-21) at Cubs (31-14)
2:20 p.m. on CSN

After their having their second straight Thursday off, the Phillies open up a challenging three-game weekend series Friday afternoon against the Cubs, owners of the majors' best record.

Let's take a look at what to expect:

1. Best in the bigs
The Cubs are three games better than any team in baseball. Their run differential of plus-119 is 47 better than the next-best team. They've scored the most third-most runs (256) and allowed just 137, which is 12 fewer than any other club.

With Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jason Hammel and Kyle Hendricks, the Cubs probably have the deepest starting rotation in baseball. 

With Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Heyward and Addison Russell, they have the National League's top offense.

With guys like Tommy La Stella, Matt Szczur and David Ross making key contributions, they have one of the best benches in baseball.

There is no real weakness with this team. Even the mostly anonymous bullpen has been among the game's best, posting a 3.09 ERA with 135 strikeouts in 122⅓ innings.

This is, however, the right time to be playing the Cubs. Chicago is 4-6 in its last 10 games and 6-8 in its last 14. The Cubs did appear to get back on track by beating the Cardinals in the final two games of a nine-game road trip that ended Wednesday.

At Wrigley, the Cubs are 14-6. They've lost two home series this season to the Padres and Rockies.

2. Cool Lester Smooth
Props if you get The Wire reference.

The Phillies open the series against left-hander Jon Lester, who is 4-3 with a 2.60 ERA this season but is coming off his worst start. Lester allowed five runs in just 2⅔ innings in last weekend's loss at San Francisco.

Aside from that, he's enjoyed another very good season. The 32-year-old joined the Cubs in free agency prior to last season on a six-year, $155 million deal, and has gone 15-15 with a 3.18 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 41 starts with Chicago. He's struck out 259 batters in 260⅓ innings.

The Phillies have faced Lester six times — five when he was with the Red Sox — and they've never beaten him. He's 4-0 with a 1.76 ERA against them and has allowed just 30 hits in 41 innings. He's gone seven innings in five of the six starts.

Lester's repertoire has remained consistent through the years. He throws mostly four-seam fastballs, cutters and curveballs. He'll also mix in sinkers and changeups, but 85 percent of his pitches this season have been four-seamers, cutters and curves.

Lester's cutter is his great equalizer against right-handed hitters, who have hit .240 against him the last four seasons. He can back-door it, starting it outside and having it break back over the outside corner, or start it over the middle and have it break in to jam a righty.

Current Phillies are 10 for 55 (.182) against Lester with two walks and 18 strikeouts. Ryan Howard and Freddy Galvis have each homered off him. Carlos Ruiz is 0 for 11, Cameron Rupp is 0 for 3 and Maikel Franco is 0 for 6. Odubel Herrera has never faced him.

3. Tommy time
Facing a lefty means an automatic start for Tommy Joseph at first base. Joseph went 4 for 11 in the Tigers series with a double and a homer, hitting the ball hard even when he made outs. 

What will be interesting is how Pete Mackanin uses Joseph the rest of the series. The Phillies will face right-handers on Saturday and Sunday in Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey. Only once since Joseph came up from Triple A has he started against a right-hander in place of Howard. Joseph faced two righties in the Tigers series, but Howard was the designated hitter. The only game in which Joseph replaced Howard at first base against a right-hander was last Sunday in the Phils' win over Casey Kelly and the Braves.

Joseph hit .324 with seven extra-base hits against right-handed pitchers at Triple A this season, and is 4 for 18 (.222) with a double and a homer against them with the Phils. Both extra-base hits came Monday off Mike Pelfrey.

Here's the Phillies' lineup Friday:

1. Odubel Herrera, CF
2. Freddy Galvis, SS
3. Maikel Franco, 3B
4. Tommy Joseph, 1B
5. Carlos Ruiz, C
6. Cesar Hernandez, 2B
7. Tyler Goeddel, LF
8. Adam Morgan, P
9. Peter Bourjos, RF

4. Morgan's command must be perfect
It's the same thing every time Adam Morgan takes the mound but it's especially true this afternoon: He needs to throw quality strikes early in counts and command his fastball nearly flawlessly on the inside and outside corners.

Morgan (1-2, 5.61) is coming off a decent start against the Braves in which he allowed two runs over six innings. But the Braves and Cubs are about as different as two offenses can be. 

Morgan held lefties last season to a .225 batting average, but this year they're 8 for 26 (.308) against him with two doubles and a homer. He's not the kind of lefty who makes it uncomfortable for a same-handed hitter, so look for Rizzo and Heyward to stay in the lineup Friday.

Morgan faced the Cubs last season and allowed four runs in five innings in a loss. Fowler, Heyward and Javier Baez all had multi-hit games against him.

5. Model for success?
The Cubs endured several years of losing during their own rebuild and have emerged as one of the most talented teams in recent years. It took a little luck along the way. The Astros drafted Mark Appel first overall and left Kris Bryant at No. 2. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took advantage of a rare win-now move from Billy Beane in trading a half-season of Jeff Samardzija and Hammel for Russell. 

But the Cubs also identified Kyle Schwarber (out for the season, but a very good young hitter) and drafted him higher than most analysts predicted he'd go. They found lights-out closer Hector Rondon in the Rule 5 draft. They clearly won the 1-for-1 swap of Andrew Cashner for Rizzo. Most importantly, they bought low on a highly-touted Arrieta, who was struggling with the Orioles before emerging into one of the three-best starting pitchers in the majors.

And when the prospects began graduating to the majors, the Cubs did what the Phillies will likely do in a year or two: They spent. 

As much as everyone loves to talk about Chicago's young talent, they also spent $184 million on Heyward, $155 million on Lester, $56 million on Zobrist and $60 million on catcher Miguel Montero. They filled in their roster with veterans who fit the plan, and it's allowed them to continue to ease in guys like Baez and Jorge Soler.

It would take a ton of breaks for the Phillies to be as exciting or as successful a team as the Cubs in a few years, but Chicago has shown that this model can work in a major market.

In aggressive D, Mike Martin trying to show Eagles his worth

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In aggressive D, Mike Martin trying to show Eagles his worth

When Ray Horton brought his two-gapping 3-4 defense to the Tennessee Titans in 2014, Mike Martin wasn’t thrilled. 

After all, the former third-round defensive tackle thought he was at his best in an aggressive get-up-the-field type defense, not the one full of lateral motion that Horton established in Tennessee. 

But without recourse, Martin played out the last two seasons of his rookie deal in Horton’s defense, before joining the Eagles in free agency this offseason. 

“That’s something that I was kind of disappointed in Tennessee when we were playing that, but you gotta adjust,” Martin said this week. “That’s this game. Coaches switch and you have to be able to change to stay in this game. But to be back in a system like this, excites me a lot.”

Martin, 25, admitted part of the reason he joined the Eagles was the opportunity based on the lack of depth the team had at his position, but an even bigger reason was the opportunity to play in Jim Schwartz’s downhill scheme. 

Really, it’s the main reason the 6-1, 306-pound interior defensive lineman decided to sign a one-year deal to join the Eagles in April. 

“I already knew what they were all about and then when I got to see what type of scheme they were bringing in and what Coach Schwartz wanted to emphasize, with getting off the ball and getting to our landmarks and things like that, really excited me and solidified it for me, because I know I can flourish in a system like that.”

In fact, Martin thinks he fits best in the kind of defense the Eagles will run this year. 

“Oh yeah. Oh yeah,” Martin said. “My quickness and my get-off and the type of player I am, it suits me well, so it’s exciting.”

Martin came to Philadelphia because of the defensive scheme, but he already knows a couple players on the team. Martin played at Michigan with Brandon Graham; the two have been good friends ever since. And Vinny Curry was Martin’s roommate at the Senior Bowl back in 2012. 

This offseason, as Fletcher Cox stays away from the Eagles’ spring practices while he awaits a new contract, other guys are getting extended reps. One of those guys is Martin. While Taylor Hart lined up next to Bennie Logan on the first-team defense last Tuesday, it was Martin next to him this week during the practice open to the media. 

Martin said he’s been sporadically working with the first unit and has been switching sides with Logan too. 

Eventually, Cox will return and reclaim his rightful spot as the starter and Martin will be sent back to his spot in the depth chart with the likes of Hart, Beau Allen, Destiny Vaeao and Connor Wujciak. 

In the meantime, Martin is just focused on showing his coaches as much as he possibly can, which isn’t very easy in May. During these practices players aren’t in pads and the hitting won’t start until training camp — even then, it’s limited. 

Still, Martin thinks he can show something over the next few weeks. 

“Really, I’m just trying to focus on my hands because we’re not allowed to have a lot of contact,” he said. “If I’m good with my hands, I can show them how I can move in this defense. I think that’s something that they can see and you can’t really deny. I’m just going to continue to improve and show them those things. When it comes time to put the pads on, it will just translate.”

I know I’m supposed to love Russell Westbrook, but I don’t love Russell Westbrook

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USA Today Sports

I know I’m supposed to love Russell Westbrook, but I don’t love Russell Westbrook

Look, let’s get one thing clear right off the bat. I love watching Russell Westbrook play basketball. The dude is bonkers. Flying around the court with reckless abandon. Tomahawk rams on people’s necks. Pogo-stick pull-ups on the fast break where he just rises up on a dime like Guo Jingjing (she’s a Chinese diver, I looked her up) bouncing off a springboard, setting himself up to hit a Triple Lindy in an opponent’s eyeball. He’s a once-in-a-lifetime talent. He could be the first person in the history of the NBA to successfully complete a flip dunk (although it could be argued that Zach LaVine is the odds-on favorite, or this dude I saw on the corner of 16th and Shunk last weekend all hopped up on mescaline). Either way, Russ is a beast, and I’m totally convinced that his anger and aggression is the only thing keeping PJ Carlesimo out of the NBA coaching ranks. He’s rugged. He’s tenacious. He just seems like a bit of a shithead. 

I have never actually met Russell Westbrook. He could be a totally nice guy. KD certainly seems to think so. And despite the fact that I’m a world famous local celebrity, and could easily use my status to get a media credential for an OKC-Sixers game, or even the Western Conference Finals, and potentially meet Russ in person to find out what he’s all about, I haven’t. So my opinions of Russ comes from the exact same place as yours do, from my couch. This entire blogpost is just speculation based on his piss-poor body language and his butthead actions on and off the court. I wish I could root for him. I really do. I just can’t. Which is shocking because I grew up idolizing King Kong Bundy, and later married a woman with a major, major, major attitude problem. 

Let’s get into it. 

From the moment Russ first shows up to the arena, he struts in looking less like Dominique Wilkins and more like Dom DeLuise. With the bandanas and the berets and all the cute little outfits. And that’s fine, because honestly who cares how you dress. He’s young. He’s just trying to express himself. I get it. I mean, even as I’m writing this, I’m wearing a shirt that says “Cracklin Oat Bran is for Hustlas.” But there’s just something about his air of nonchalance that conflicts with his obvious craving of attention. And what image is he going for anyway? One day he’s rocking a Slayer t-shirt. The next he’s wearing overalls like Mario and Luigi. Not that a Slayer fan doesn’t love playing Super Mario Bros., it just doesn’t seem genuine. Plus, the sheer fact that he’s from Los Angeles only adds to his layer of ugh’ness. It’s like, enough with these LA dudes already — James Harden (we get it), Swaggy P (barf) — guys that grew up in that red carpet culture of “Hey look at me I’m different I’m crazy I eat avocados.” But whatever, ultimately, like I said, it doesn’t freaking matter. I don’t really care, and this is by far my weakest argument I’ll have in this post. I’m not really sure why I decided to start off with it in the first place. Russ is just annoying. Plain and simple. Just put on a belt, bro. You’re an adult. 

Then there’s that whole nightly tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein that he puts on before every game with his little mushroom-headed dance partner, Cameron Payne. What is that cornball isht? It’s not even good dancing. They’re just like, flailing their arms around like idiots. Plus, what the freak are they doing?! Dancing in and of itself is not very masculine. And I know, I know, in this day and age, God forbid you do anything macho, but this is sports afterall, this is basketball, and there is still some sense of ruggedness that is appreciated on the hardwood (boner joke). I’m not a Dane Cook guy (and let me repeat myself for all of you who may be skimming this part of the post, I am NOT a Dane Cook guy), but he does a pretty funny bit on how you will never hear a group of dudes gather together on a Friday night and say, “You know what I want to do tonight? I wanna dance. I just wanna express myself through the art of dance.” That doesn’t happen. I’m not knocking dancing. It has its place in this world. Like, at weddings and celebrations. Or in your kitchen while you’re doing the dishes and listening to Whitney Houston. Or in the basement of some disgusting fraternity house while you try to impregnate every woman you meet. It just doesn’t have a place in NBA pregame warmups. I don’t need to watch Big Bad Russ and Coochie Coo Cam Can doin’ the Tennessee Twinkle Step. Just rub some baby powder on your balls and get it poppin. That worked for Dolph Schayes. 

I appreciate Charlie Villanueva trying to step in there a few weeks go to shut it all down, but c’mon Chucky V, we know you’re not really #bout #dat #lyfe. You’re a big softee at heart. I know this because I follow both you and your lovely wife on Instagram and I have NEVER seen two people who are more in love. Poor Charlie. Russ clowned him both in the moment and later at the postgame press conference. It’s a shame Charles Oakley is no longer in the league. Or Rodney Rodgers. Those dudes woulda put an end to this Derek Hough nonsense IMMEDIATELY if not sooner. For the record, I always thought Rodney Rogers would’ve dominated if the NBA were to ever hold a Royal Rumble. Sad that he ended up the way he did. Damn shame what they did to that dog. 

Once the game starts, Russ gets shot out of a cannon (in a good way!), but God forbid you lay a finger on him or he’ll scowl at the referee like he shot his dog. And I know, everyone yells at the refs these days. It’s horrible. Even the golden unicorn himself, Tim Duncan, acts like a total p.o.s. when he’s called for a whistle. But there’s just something inherently nasty about the way Russ berates an official. Like, I don’t think Westbrook ever goes up to Leon Wood after the game and is like, “Oh, hey Lee-Lee. Sorry I was barking at you all night. I get kinda worked up and lose perspective sometimes. I’m sorry, Duke.” No, instead he just yells at some OKC public relations intern to fetch him some more fettuccini alfredo. 

HEAT THIS UP, MELVIN. 

THE CHEESE IS STARTING TO CONGEAL.

Once again, I have no idea what I’m talking about, and have no idea if any of this is true. I’m just speculating purely on my Jewish intuition. 

Then there was the time Russ yelled at those poor idiots sitting in the front row in Dallas, telling a guy to “just sit there with your wife and shut the [eff] up.” 

And I know, fans are friggin’ annoying. I mean, look at me. I’m spending 1,600 words ripping a guy who I legitimately do not know. It’s just like, we get it, Russell, you’re angry. And Russell’s anger is just really, really angry. And the weird thing is, I normally like angry! Matt Barnes. Metta World Peace. Da Black Mamba. But at least those dudes had a sense of humor about themselves. Well, maybe not Barnes, but Metta and the Kobester are definitely aware that they are complete and total maniacs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Russell smile. He acts as if every human being is always out to get him. And that’s probably what drives him. That’s probably what makes him such a warrior on the court. But calm down, dude. Show some semblance of human personality for once in your life. Just once!

It’s sad, because outside of Westbrook (and Cam Payne, and Dion Waiters, and Kyle Singler’s hair), the Thunder have a pretty likable team -- KD, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, ENES KANTER THA GAWD, even Anthony Morrow and his buttermilk jumpshot -- but I can’t possibly root for them in the Finals. 

Can I?

The alternative is to pull for LeBron and the Cavs, another incredibly polarizing figure. And I’ll admit, LeBron has his faults: the weird pettiness with Kyrie on Twitter, being a blatant jerk to David Blatt, getting David Blatt publicly burned at the stake, like, legitimately getting that dude fired despite the fact that they got to the Finals without Kevin Love and Kyrie last year, and were first in the East when he was fired this year. But ultimately, I think LeBron’s a good dude. His teammates love him. He was absolutely fantastic in Trainwreck. And he is an absolute F-lord who has demolished pretty much everything the NBA has put in his path. I mean, the guy wants to bring a title to Cleveland. CLEVE-LAND. Have you been to Cleveland? It’s a cesspool. It’s an urban pool of cess. 

So look, love Russ. Hate Russ. Love LeBronski. Hate LeBronski. It doesn’t matter to me. But there’s just something about Russ that rubs me the wrong way. I appreciate his talents. I appreciate his desire. I know no one is perfect. Charles Barkley. Latrell Sprewell. Tom Brady. Literally any human being who has ever walked the earth. But I also know that there’s a way I like my human beings to carry themselves on and off the court. I know that when it comes down to ultimately liking and pulling for people -- Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Elle McPherson, Barack Obama, Kim Kardash, Donald Trump, Bobcat Goldwaithe -- that personality counts for a whole lot more than you think. 

So go ahead, Russ. Keep entering the arena with that smug look on your face. Keep dunking on people’s necks. Keep whining at officials and barking at fans and doing the Chattanooga Choo Choo with your little rinky-dink dance buddy. 

I love watching it all. You are wildly entertaining. And I can’t wait til Kyrie puts you on skates. 

(Or, y’know, Golden State comes back and renders these last few paragraphs meaningless.)