Mike Wise calls Peter Vecsey an "old, bitter man"
In the interest of closing the loop, figure I should present Mike Wise's comments on the New York Post's Peter Vecsey. After Vecsey ripped him in print, Wise responded in true 21st century fashion: on his radio show. This was the final segment of Wise's show on 106.7 The Fan from Tuesday afternoon.
"Let me first say that without Peter Vecsey, I'm never promoted to the job of NBA columnist at the New York Times, and the reason is there wouldn't be a position of NBA columnist. He created it. He was the first beat writer to be given the job of only covering the league, not just the Knickerbockers. His reporting and tidbits surrounding really the renaissance of the NBA in 1980 with the arrival of Bird and Magic won him fame and riches in his profession. And as the players he covered in the '70s and '80s became team executives, he developed great sources over the years and has broken some of the biggest stories in the NBA in the past three decades. His longevity--I'll give him this--has earned my respect. He's been around forever, and that has as much to do with him being inducted into the writer's wing of the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. last fall as anything.
"Now, what hasn't earned my respect is his half-assed journalism. He's thrown 10 things against the wall his whole life, hoping one of them sticks. You know, Peter Vecsey's what's wrong with my business. He became one of these tabloid yahoos more concerned with being [first than right]. And he was enabled by the New York Post, a publication where the sports editor once told the new Knicks writer, Never be afraid to be wrong. Never be afraid to be wrong. Think about that. That's Peter Vecsey's legacy.
"Oh, did I mention he took interest-free loans from Nets owner Joe Taub to buy his house on Shelter Island in Long Island? Yeah. One of the great lines I once heard him tell someone was this: 'If you don't have at least two conflicts of interest in this business, you're no one.' Well, who would know other than Peter Vecsey?...
"Secondly, let me say, Peter Vecsey would be a flat-out joke in my business, but he's not funny. He's mean-spirited, and he's just about heartless. I'll never forget the time I came back from talking to a kid who tried to commit suicide in Dallas after he ingested a bottle of aspirin. Leon Smith was his name, and he never should have come out of high school, and the Mavericks should have had a much better support system for an obviously troubled young man who just happened to have talent. Vecsey made cruel jokes about this kid's suicide attempt afterward in his column. Now, I don't care if you slam me or anybody else, but Leon Smith was raised in a foster home called Lydia Children's Home in Chicago. He was a ward of the state of Illinois due to neglect from his parents when he was 5 years old.
"When you do something like that, when you make fun of that kid, you're not just insensitive, you're a rotten human being. You're a lousy person. You don't deserve the respect of a punk-ass kid at the Rucker League thinking, 'Man, Peter Vecsey used to be something, didn't he?' You old bitter man. You make me sick."
Like you, I then got curious about what Vecsey wrote about Leon Smith. Turns out Smith has been a frequent punchline in Vecsey columns, provided "punchline" doesn't connote humor. I'm not sure which particular line set Wise off, but here are some of Vecsey's best.
* Note to all you disgruntled college graduates: Do you really think, had Leon Smith not jumped from high school to the NBA, he'd be sane today? Give me a commercial break. As if the pros and Don Nelson are responsible this kid's messed-up mind.
* If union executive Billy Hunter's job description is to blame somebody else any time one of his membership has a problem, he's succeeding. As usual, the trigger-happy Hunter was quick to point his finger at Don Nelson when Leon Smith tried to commit suicide. As if it was the Maverick coach/GM's fault the kid entered the league as its No. 1 mood swing player.
Now that Smith has been arrested twice while under the auspices of the player's association's assistance program, it's only fair for Nelson to cite Hunter, a Johnnie Cochran wannabe, for contemptible irresponsibility. Come on, Billy, can't you control your guys?
* Deputy commissioner Russ Granik says the NBA may void Leon Smith's contract. Gee, I hope it doesn't set the kid off. Clearly, the scouts were wrong in their assessment of Smith. As evidenced by his draft selection (last pick of the first round), they were unimpressed with his talent. They claimed Smith couldn't get himself arrested in this league.
* Union executive Billy Hunter contends Don Nelson should have known something was amiss with Smith when his name surfaced three times in the Warren Report.
* This year's crop [of rookie game participants includes] Steve Francis, Elton Brand, Lamar Odom, Shawn Marion, Adrian Griffin, Walt Szczerbiak, Baron Davis, Andre Miller, Jason Terry, Ron Artest, James Posey, Corey Maggette, Richard Hamilton and possibly (based on hearsay) Jonathan Bender. Leon Smith would be eligible should David Stern yield to Billy Hunter's pressure and open up the game to first time offenders.
* And you wonder what Mark Cuban, the Mavericks owner-in-waiting, sees in Dennis Rodman? Evidently he needs a leader for this freak show. Once Rodman joins Don Nelson's circus, Cuban's next act will be to recruit John Rocker as director of community relations. What could be a bigger draw than The Worm and The Germ? Next thing you know, Cuban will be selling us the promotional value of Siamese Twin Towers. How long can it be before Cuban brings back Leon Smith and apologizes to him for all the suffering the Mavericks have caused him?
* Bill Willoughby says the Nets really are fatally attracted to Leon Smith. Why not? No question Smith's unique. He figures to be the first guy to go from the NBA to the NRA.
* The Bulls have ordered Corey Benjamin (charged with domestic battery for purportedly slapping his live-in squeeze) to meet with the team's new sensitivity counselor Leon Smith
* Rumor has it Leon Smith is stalking the guy who was stalking George Harrison.
* Selected No. 40 in '99 by the Spurs, [Gordon Giricek] was traded on draft day to Dallas for the lionized Leon Smith and a future second-rounder.
* Leon Smith's Nets tryout could be viewed as another suicide attempt.
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