The NBA Season Is Half Over. Who Knew?

The NBA season is half over. Imagine that. One of the major sports in the US has played about 50% of its scheduled games and only a few sports fans have paid any attention. Think about it; if you stopped 100 sports fans on the street and asked them to name the teams in any division of the NBA and where they rank in the standings as of this morning, you would be lucky if you found 5 people who could do that. Since most folks have not been paying attention, let me bring you up to date on one issue swirling around at the moment.

There is a suggestion out there to change the way teams get into the NBA playoffs. Instead of 8 teams from each conference, the idea is to take the 16 teams with the best records and put them in a playoff bracket seeded according to record. The impetus for this suggestion comes from the woeful state of the NBA Eastern Conference where – as of this morning – there are only 6 teams with records over .500 and the “eighth seed” from the East if the playoffs were to start today would have a record of 17-24. Meanwhile in the West there are 11 teams with records over .500 and the 3 teams that would be “out of the playoffs” if they started today would have records of 21-19, 23-18 and 23-18. On the face of it, this idea seems to have merit but if there is going to be a change and to turn the NBA playoffs into a meritocracy, there would need be at least two other changes:

    1. The divisional structure has to be abandoned because it will have no meaning whatsoever.

    2. There has to be a balanced schedule where every team plays every other team the same number of times to assure a level playing field. My first rough calculation says that you cannot do that with 30 teams in the confines of an 82 game schedule.

Here is an even better idea – - one that has exactly zero chance of coming to pass:

    Do not allow more than half of the teams in the league into the playoffs under any set of rules that the league might concoct.

Another ongoing NBA issue involves the persistent rumors that the Washington Wizards are going to blow up the squad and start over. It will take some amazing turns of fate ever to see Gilbert Arenas in a Wizards’ uniform again; there are more than a few whispers that Antwan Jamison will be swapped even up for the Cavs’ Zydrunas Ilgauskas who has an expiring contract; Caron Butler has trade value. Getting new players there should not be a problem. The problem for the Wizards is not finding someone to take Jamison or Butler; the problem is that the rest of the squad is very young and very undisciplined. Jamison and Butler provide the only “adult presence” on the team and if they disappear, coach Flip Saunders will have to be a combination coach and daycare provider.

Am I the only one who recalls that Stephon Marbury declared that he was taking the 2009/10 basketball season off to look after his business enterprises? I did not realize that meant signing with a team in the CBA – - that is the Chinese Basketball Association – - in an attempt to expand the marketing potential for his low-cost shoes. When he signed, Shanxi was the 12th place team in a 17-team league. It will be interesting to see if Starbury can change the team’s fortunes.

No, I do not know if the 12th place team in the Chinese Basketball Association makes it to the playoffs. It would seem to me that in a Communist system, everyone should make the playoffs…

In one of the myriad Batman movies, The Riddler used the line, “Riddle me this…” OK, so tell me why lots of people have jumped all over Lane Kiffen for being classless and disloyal to the University of Tennessee when he left Knoxville to go and coach USC, but those same people have not jumped all over Derek Dooley’s case when he just left Louisiana Tech to go and coach at the University of Tennessee. You will get no argument from me that Lane Kiffen has had a few “smarmy moments” in the past couple of years; nevertheless, what he did is exactly what Derek Dooley did. If one is worthy of scorn, then so is the other in approximately equal measure.

Who knew that Danny Boy Snyder was a family-togetherness activist? Clearly, he must be because of the history of the coaching staffs for the Washington Redskins while he has been the owner. When Mike Shanahan took over a few weeks ago, one of the first things that happened was that Kyle Shanahan also joined the coaching staff. That is no coincidence when you consider:

    Marty Schottenheimer and Brian Schottenheimer coached the Redskins together.

    Steve Spurrier and Steve Spurrier, Jr. coached the Redskins together.

    Joe Gibbs and Coy Gibbs coached the Redskins together.

    Al Saunders and Bob Saunders coached the Redskins together.

Too much has been made about Keith Brooking’s complaint that the Vikings ran up the score on the Cowboys last weekend scoring a completely meaningless touchdown in the final two minutes of that playoff game. I can understand in the emotional context of a “loser goes home” playoff game how a player can say things on the field that might best be left unsaid. I can even take that to the locker room for a period of decompression from a big loss. What I cannot ignore is for people to give that kind of behavior a life of its own way beyond the limits of its natural existence.

The Cowboys took all of their timeouts in the game with about 5 minutes to play and trailing by 24 points. Any rational observer would say that the game’s outcome was not in doubt at that point, but the Cowboys chose to extend the game and hope for a miracle. In no way could anyone believe that the Cowboys had waved the white flag at that point. Therefore, in any rational sense, Keith Brooking has no room to complain. In addition, in any rational sense, no one commenting on the game or Brooking’s show of anger at the end of the game should have paid any attention to his venting.

I am definitely not an “MMA guy”. I have said in the past that with all the hype and all the posing by contestants and handlers, it gives me the impression that it is the WWE with real blood in place of ketchup. Having said that, compared to boxing the folks in MMA come off looking good. Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao had the opportunity for a fight that would have allowed them to take down $20M+ apiece – - some put the figure as high as $30M. The fight fell apart because of bickering over the kind of blood tests and PED testing that might be done prior to the moment when each of them would step into a ring with the singular intention of knocking the other one senseless. That would not happen in MMA. It certainly would never happen in the WWE…

Finally, since I led off today with NBA stuff, here are two NBA related comments for your edification and enjoyment:

“The New York Knicks blamed a haunted hotel for a road loss. Seriously. Thinking that pretty much means every available excuse has now officially been spent.” [Greg Cote, Miami Herald]

“Shaquille O’Neal and his wife have split up. Was it something Kobe said?” [Scott Ostler, SF Chronicle]

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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Comments

  • Rob  On January 20, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    “No, I do not know if the 12th place team in the Chinese Basketball Association makes it to the playoffs. It would seem to me that in a Communist system, everyone should make the playoffs…”

    That was brilliant.

    The Mayweather-Pacquiao scenario says everything you need to know about boxing right there. The possibly greatest fight in recent memory is right there in front of them and they (promoters, athletes, etc.) can’t get out of their own way fast enough to make it happen.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On January 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Rob:

    Glad you liked the comment on Chinese Basketball.

    There was a heavyweight fight about 20 years ago that was interrupted when some guy in the audience launched himself in a glider and hit the ring. I told friends then that boxing was morphing into pro ‘rassling. Look at the events of the last 20 years including ear-biting and pre-fight hype claiming that one fighter wants to eat the children of the upcoming opponent; I wasn’t that far off.

    Now, there is “drama” associated with getting the contract signed to set a date for the fight prior to which there will be some outrageous event to hype attendance/pay-per-view buys. Boxing as I knew it as a kid is dead…

  • Steve  On January 21, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    Good point on Kiffen / Dooley. HOWEVA, (or whatever), Dooley’s tenure at LA Tech was about three time as long as Kiffens. That being said, I’ve always noted the hypocrisy of these educational institutions who have no problem with dismissing coaches who aren’t getting the desired results (Bobby Bowden) in hopes of program inprovements but are incensed by the notion of a successful coach who might want to make his own improvements (Knoxville / SoCal.)

    Cheers.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On January 21, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Steve:

    Hypocrisy and college sports are joined at the hip…

    You know, the easiest way for a school to keep a coach from going somewhere else is to have no buyout clause in his deal in the first place and clauses in there related to “abandonment of position” as an avenue for his forfeiture of all earned income at any other school during the tenure of the original deal.

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