Sunday, June 7, 2009

NBA Notes

Ok, so with TK 2.0 starting up at the very end of the NBA season, there isn’t a whole ton of topics to cover that aren’t already covered by more mainstream media outlets. However, as I sit here watching Game 2 of the NBA Finals, I realized that I do have a few takes on some smaller League-related topics. So I give to you “Random Thoughts About Basketball—Mostly From The National Basketball Association Finals Playoffs Series, But Also Including Other Players Who Have Already Been Eliminated From Contention” (which is way too long, hence the shortened title above).

*Game 2 of the Finals is two days after Game 1, which is completely and utterly ridiculous. Everyone knows that the NBA Playoffs drag on and on, but the one smart thing they’ve done in recent years is to team ESPN and TNT together to bring us at least one game every single night from the beginning of the first round through the end of the Conference Finals. Then the Finals come around and we have two full days in between games when the teams aren’t traveling? Do they really think this is a good idea? I know that the company line will be that they want the highest level of basketball being played on its most important stage, so they want everyone rested and in peak physical condition for each game. But that line of thinking is extremely flawed for two very important reasons: first, your league is based on fans and television ratings. After giving the people “40 Games in 40 Nights” leading up to the Finals, you give them “(Maximum) 7 Games in 40 Nights” for what is supposed to be the most important part of your year.

That’s a great way to lose viewers in a hurry if I’ve ever seen one. A perfect example of this came earlier today. I was talking to Fuzz about Lakers-Magic and he wanted to know who won the night before. I explained that they were playing tonight (Sunday), not yesterday (Saturday). His immediate response was, “Oh, Game 3 is tonight?” This from a guy who is a very dialed in and informed sports fan. He, like most others I assume, was floored at the idea that two days of rest were needed between games with no travel involved.
The second reason why this makes no sense is because you have conditioned the players throughout the playoffs that the only days off they get is on a travel day (singular) and in between series.

Now for the crown jewel of your sport, the schedule changes completely and you expect them to benefit from this? Athletes thrive on things like rhythm and adrenaline. How are you supposed to get into any kind of rhythm or build any momentum when no one can even remember what happened in the previous game because it took place so long ago? The NBA needs to stop believing that they have to show games in prime time on Sunday (which could still have easily happened had they played Game 2 on Friday and then Game 3 on Sunday—you know, like the playoff schedule has been until now). It’s things like this that are causing the League to become less and less popular.

*One of the most talked about subplots (which tend to get focused on more than the actual games at this point in the year) is how this year’s Finals will define Kobe Bryant’s legacy. It is said that he needs to win a ring without Shaq in order to vault him into elite company as far as NBA history goes. This seems completely irrational to me. Just because he’s not playing with a Hall of Fame counterpart shouldn’t affect his perceived legacy one way or another. If anything, this current Lakers team might be more balanced because they aren’t so reliant on two guys to do absolutely everything. Not to mention that no teams with the Finals with one amazing player and virtually nothing else: Jordan had Pippen, Duncan had Robinson and later Parker/Ginobili, Magic had Kareem/Worthy etc., Bird had Parrish/McHale, LeBron has…well I guess that kind of proves the point. Would a title bolster Kobe’s resume? Of course it would. But would not winning one without Shaq tarnish his legacy? Definitely not. At the very least, Kobe will have 3 rings and 6 Finals appearances at the age of 30. That in itself should define how great of a player he is, not who has or has not won with.

*On a quick and semi-related note, has there ever been a more overrated player than Dwight Howard? I get it, he’s funny, likeable, and looks like a cartoon character with his massive arms and tiny head. But the guy can basically do two things—block shots and dunk. Please don’t try to sell me on the fact that he’s one of the top superstars in the League.

*On the other hand, everyone knows that LeBron James is possibly the most uniquely gifted basketball player of all time. He has the fame and scrutiny that naturally goes along with it as well. But could his whole “storming” off the court at the end of the Eastern Conference Finals been more overblown? I read articles stating that he forever tarnished his reputation and set a poor example for sportsmanship for children all over the country. Since when did pretending to be happy about losing get confused with sportsmanship? Kevin Garnett used the F word 789 times on live television during the Bulls-Celtics series (in which he did not play) and no one said a word about him ruining his reputation or setting a bad example. If you ask me, that’s much worse than what LeBron did (especially the times he would yell at guys like Ben Gordon as the game was going down—as illustrated below).

Look, I’m not saying that what James did was right, but it’s also not the end of the world that the sports media would have you believe. The kid (he is only 24 years old after all) made a mistake—by all accounts the first one he’s made in his career. People need to quit making news on unimportant issues.

*Speaking of the media hype machine, much was made earlier this week about the possible return of Jameer Nelson to the Orlando Magic after being hurt for most of the second half of the season. I get that this is a big story given that they were pretty big underdogs and getting back your All-Star point guard could help in winning a title. The problem I have is that I never saw an article anywhere about how this could be a very bad idea. I mean, even a network like ESPN, which thrives on contrasting viewpoints (see: Around the Horn, PTI, First Take, Cold Pizza (is that even on the air still?), and any NBA/MLB/NHL/NFL/NASCAR/Golf/Soccer segment on Sports Center) never went with the “Jameer Nelson will mess up the momentum that Orlando has gained throughout this playoff run” angle? Very disappointing.

*There will be an NBA Draft article coming in the next couple weeks. It will be mostly focused on the Wolves, but will include a Mock Draft—just in case you cared.

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