The NBA Playoffs Have Begun…

The NBA regular season began on 29 October 2013; that was almost 6 months ago. Since then, the 30 teams in the league have staged 1230 games – many of which were meaningless even before the teams showed up at the venue. Last weekend, the NBA Playoffs began and those games will last another two months. I mention this to illustrate one of the key elements of college basketball that I find far more attractive than NBA basketball.

    College tournaments – conference tournaments and the post-season tournaments – are “one-and-done”.

Obviously, the NBA has a much higher talent level than does any possible collegiate ensemble of teams. Given that the NBA seeks out and signs only what it considers to be the best players from the college ranks, it would take a monumental lack of competence on the part of virtually every GM in the league for it to be otherwise. The fundamental difference between the NBA playoffs and college tournaments is that only a “Game 7” is “win-or-go-home” for both teams. To get to that level of importance, I need to watch 6 previous games in the series at a lower level of importance. Ho-hum…!

Perhaps five of the NBA playoff series will go to seven games this year; that would make for some intense play in those five games. Surely, the teams will be playing “full tilt” in the final series and if it were to go seven games, that would produce a total of 11 games in the playoffs that would be worth the investment of attention to watch start to finish. Given that the total number of NBA games in the regular season plus the post-season will flirt with the 1300 mark, 11 intensely interesting games seems to be low-grade ore to me. Even if you want to try to convince me that there were triple that number of intensely interesting games, it is still low-grade ore…

Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel had this perspective on the NBA Playoffs:

“I’m not saying the NBA playoffs go on far too long, but by the time they’re over, they will have surpassed ‘Meet the Press’ as the longest-running television series of all-time.”

The NY Knicks fired Coach Mike Woodson. Last year, Woodson had the Knicks in the playoffs. In fact, his record with the Knicks was 109-79 meaning he won 58% of his games. Let me put that into some perspective here:

    The last Knicks coach with a winning percentage of 58% or more was Jeff Van Gundy who won 59% of his games with the Knicks. Van Gundy left the club in 2001.

    In the intervening years since Jeff Van Gundy left town, the Knicks have had 7 coaches. None of them – to include Hall of Fame coaches Lenny Wilkins and Larry Brown – broke even with the Knicks.

    In fact, Woodson’s record with the Knicks is better than legendary coach Red Holzman whose record was 613 – 484. That is a winning percentage of 55.8%.

One level down in basketball, Missouri coach, Frank Haith, bailed to take over the head coaching position at Tulsa. In three seasons at Missouri, his teams won 76 games. At first, one might wonder why someone would leave a successful program and the SEC to take a job at Tulsa; but I think there are two good reasons for Haith to have made that move:

    1. Missouri fans did not like him when he was hired from Miami and there was a petition started during the season seeking his firing. Remember, he took Missouri to the NCAA tournament in each of his first two years on the job, he won 23 or more games in each of his 3 years at the school and yet there were fans who wanted him “outta there”.

    2. Tulsa is part of the American Athletic Conference whose basketball competition includes UConn, Cincinnati, Memphis, Temple and Villanova. The AAC may not come close to the SEC in terms of football, but in basketball…

The new replay rules for MLB are less than a month old and it would seem as if the idealistic view of replays is not working out in practice. The idea is to “get it right”; the reality is that there are lots of extremely close plays in a typical baseball game and in order to “get all of them right” requires an investment of time and a bit of kabuki theater to take place. Bob Molinaro of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot put it this way:

“Developing story: How do you like MLB’s expanded replay rules so far? The process that was supposed to provide rapid clarification of dubious calls is leading to time-wasting pageants. Managers saunter onto the field at the hint of a missed call to talk with the umpires while someone associated with their teams reviews the video to determine if a challenge is worth it. If not, the managers return to the dugout, having held up the game for no reason.”

The selling point for replay was that it would quickly provide a means to overturn egregiously incorrect calls – such as the missed call at first base that cost Tigers’ pitcher Armando Gallaraga a perfect game. What has happened is that we get to witness the kabuki theater performances of managers and umpires far more often than is necessary. It seems to me that most of the posturing allows for microscopic examination of freeze-framed imagery. By definition, whatever call was made under those circumstances cannot have been egregiously incorrect.

Finally, here is one more observation from Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel after Bubba Watson won The Masters:

“Last word: I love that fellow Orlandoan Bubba Watson celebrated his second green jacket by going to the Waffle House and ordering grilled cheese and hashbrowns. Not quite the same as former Orlandoan Tiger Woods celebrating his green jackets by going to Perkins and ordering eggs and legs.”

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

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Comments

  • Trent  On April 21, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Remember, the playoffs is where a team makes money. That’s why they plan for seven and not for less games.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 21, 2014 at 10:13 pm

      Trent:

      Yes, but that is a semi-circular argument. With a salary cap that is tied to gross revenues, if the playoffs were shorter, the cap would be lower and therefore the major team expense – players’ salaries – would be less. I understand WHY these are all 7 game series; I meant to say that format does not enhance the product for me.

  • Doug  On April 22, 2014 at 6:49 am

    I have never liked the replay in any sport, but baseball is especially diminished by its use. Part of the beauty of sport is its imperfection. How teams (athletes) take advantage of each others imperfections is what makes it possible for Mercer to beat Duke. The shortcomings of officials are part of the game, just as are those of coaches and venues. I hate to see the games become so sanitized.

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 22, 2014 at 11:26 am

      Doug:

      For some reason, it has become dogma that officials’ calls MUST be perfect. Given the constant evidence of imperfection with regard to the athletes participating in the events, I wonder why every call has to be perfect.

  • Alan  On April 22, 2014 at 8:03 am

    Baseball could solve many of its replay and game-length issues by simply having a fixed number of timeouts, say 3 per team per game. If the manager wants to wander out on the field while his assistants check the replay, that’s a charged timeout. If a batter cannot master the art of velcro required to properly fit his batting glove, that’s a charged timeout. When you’re out of timeouts, no more stepping out the batter’s box or visits to the umpire/mound.

    Baseball game lengths would fall dramatically and replay would work as intended (correct crucial calls that are obviously incorrect).

    • The Sports Curmudgeon  On April 22, 2014 at 11:27 am

      Alan:

      If you charged timeouts to every batter who wanted to adjust equipment in an at-bat, each team would be out of timeouts in the first inning of every game. Indeed, that would make the game move along a lot faster…

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