Friday, May 30, 2008

Nuggets need not apply.

Jason Whitlock thinks that one of the reasons the NBA is enjoying significantly higher ratings this year over last year is in part because the current participants of the playoffs (now down to Lakers, Celtics, Pistons) don't all look like "prison-ready brutes," and he refers specifically to the excessive tattooing undergone by a large number of NBA players. I have to agree, but only to a point. Last year's Finals teams didn't look like brutes, but ratings were in the toilet because the matchup was regarded as boring. Which, honestly, it was.

But the problem David Stern has is not just with "boring" teams. The Spurs are regarded as boring because they aren't young, fast, and don't run a lot. But the perception of teams who run a lot of half-court sets, picks-and-rolls and other basketball fundamentals is largely a product of who the NBA and media outlets market. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. These organizations market the teams and players they think and assume people want to see, and as a result they condition people to expect that, and then when people turn on the TV and don't see Kobe waltzing into the lane to dunk over some 7-foot center every 30 seconds, they decide it's boring and they change the channel.

Jordan's gone, guys. Stop marketing individuals, stop marketing dunks and buzzer-beater treys. Start marketing the game for what it is 95% of the time. If people can't accept basketball for what it actually is (that is, not a bunch of highlights of breakaway dunks strung together), then at this point you're only delaying the inevitable and the league is going under. But we all know that won't happen. We all know basketball is here to stay. So start educating people on the game. Help them to understand how the game works on a deeper level, and help them to appreciate fundamental offense and good, solid defense. Why do people around the world love soccer? There's a reason. People still watch baseball in droves, and that's one of the slowest sports on earth. And guess what, hockey is a very fast-paced game and how many people are watching that these days?

No, David Stern's problem is not because of teams like the Spurs, Jazz and Pistons. It's because he doesn't know how to properly promote his league, and while he and his colleagues run around trying to push the "new" MJs on us, fans drop by the wayside one by one. Couple that with the inconsistent reffing and the image problem Whitlock refers to, an image problem reflected in numerous polls conducted pitting the league against other major sports, and he's going to have a real problem on his hands real soon.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Vlade is just glad he got out early.

Apparently the NBA is going to start imposing fines on players who clearly flop. The fines will be assessed after games, following a review by some committee of "observers." The details are all a little fuzzy right now. All I can say is that while I'm glad something is being done to cut down on the serious flopping going on in the NBA these days, I don't know if it'll be enough. These men make enough money that a $10,000 fine is pocket change to them. Even to players making "only" around a million a year. Especially if they risk a flop, get the call, and their team wins a game as a result. A little fine isn't going to stop that, is it?

This'll only work if the fines are significant and repeat offenders are punished harshly. The main problem with this is that I doubt it'll be strictly enforced. What we'll see is a lot of flip-flopping (no pun intended) by the league and this committee of observers as to whether or not there was a flop. Most of the chronic floppers are not obvious about it, which is why they do it--because they can and because oftentimes they get the call. A repeat viewing is not necessarily going to make this and open-shut issue. They'll continue to do it, and a review of the action after the game is going to end up as a "we can't tell if it was a flop or not" kind of verdict and life will go on. The only flops that will be regularly fined are the really, really obvious ones while the more irritating, subversive ones that go on all the time will continue.

MLS has been doing better this year in no-calling or yellow-carding a player who obviously flops. In my opinion, flop-calling needs to be a foul-like judgment call by the ref as it happens, and while that may put more of a burden on the refs to make a subjective game even more subjective, it may in the end cut down on flopping because players would be less willing to risk it if it's a heat-of-the-moment call rather than an after-the-fact call. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


The NBA acknowledged the no-call on Fisher, saying it should've been a 2-shot foul. Which most people would agree with. Lakers fans are now going back and arguing about previous plays--travels on Duncan, Manu, the bogus shot-clock violation on the previous play, etc. Unfortunately those arguments are largely invalid because you have to draw the line somewhere or you can simply keep going further and further back, and it'll never end. I think the best thing to do is to draw the line at the last play, and if you can, on the play that the game clock runs out on... which in this case was the foul on Fisher.

Now, the Spurs were outplayed and didn't really deserve the win, but you have to concede that had the call been made, the outcome may have changed. The fact is that the no-call disallowed any chance of the Spurs to pull out a win. If you go further back than that, who knows what may have happened when there was still enough time left to reasonably make a play? If the Lakers retained possession on the play prior, maybe the Spurs force a turnover before they foul. Maybe Kobe misses a free throw or two. Who knows? The difference between the last play and the plays previous to that are that there is no way to predict the game's outcome based off the previous plays, but there is only one game outcome based on the final play--the one that happened.

But the fact is, there was another no-call on the same final play before Fish fouled Barry. Barry lifted his pivot foot before putting the ball on the floor and that is by definition a travel. So two no-calls, one for each team. So the refs blew two calls, and the outcome ended up being what it was, and that's the way things go.


... the Lakers beat the Spurs last night, giving LA a commanding lead over the defending champs. I'm not a Spurs fan, but I do not want to see the Lakers in the Finals, and that's for several reasons. I do not believe there is some kind of conspiracy going on to get a Lakers-Celtics Finals, but I do have a real problem with the way the Lakers are treated like royalty by the NBA, and one thing I can't stand is the air of entitlement given off by the entire franchise, most notably Phil Jackson and one Kobe Bryant. Those two are too haughty and arrogant for their own good, and all they do is harm the league and the game when they treat other players, teammates, fans and the press like crap. Which they do regularly...

One example: in the series against the Jazz, following a game the Lakers lost, Jackson was asked at a post-game interview something to the effect of how the loss would affect the team's mentality going forth into the next game, and Jackson took this condescending tone and said "all it means is the series is going 6 games," and then he stood up and walked out. Who does that? How old is this man?

Last night, after a tough no-call that cost the Spurs a chance to at least tie the game, Kobe was asked what he thought about it and in typical playground-jerk fashion, he got that "I'm so great" amused smile and said "no foul." Hey Kobe, at least be gracious about it. At least acknowledge the fact that Fisher jumped into Barry and if you'd been in Barry's place and the no-call had cost you the game (or a chance to change a loss), you'd be furious. You make several million dollars a year playing a GAME and you act like you just got out of the sixth grade.

Lakers fans, stop wondering why it seems like everyone hates you and pay attention to the behavior of the two most prominent members of your club.