Basketball Stuff Today…

The NCAA runs two post-season men’s basketball tournaments.  Tons of people follow “March Madness”; the NCAA’s logo and brand is all over that event.  However, the NCAA also owns the NIT which used to be an even bigger deal than the NCAA Tournament but is now an ignored stepchild in terms of fan attention and interest.  However, the NCAA used this year’s NIT as a test-bed for four potential rule changes for college basketball.  I was aware of three of the “rules tests”; I just learned about the fourth.

  1. The 3-point line was moved back 20 inches:  I have thought for years that the 3-point line was too close, so I think this is a noble experiment.  I would not care of they moved it back even further.  Granted that the NIT presented a small sample size – 31 games – but the results showed that 3-point attempts per game were virtually unchanged and 3-point accuracy dropped less than 1%.  I think this is a step in the right direction, but it was not a sufficient increase in the length of the shot to make a significant difference.
  2. The foul lane was widened from 12 feet to 16 feet:  That is a 33% increase in the size of the foul lane and – theoretically – that means offensive players in the post position would have to set up further from the basket.  That also means that defenders would be further from the basket thereby increasing the driving lanes available to other players.  If that is what happened in reality, there should have been either an increase in 2-point shooting accuracy or a decrease in 3-point shot attempts as more players used those new driving lanes.  Neither of those two effects showed up in any significant amount.  Like the idea of moving the 3-point line back, this is an idea that needs to be thought upon some more.
  3. The number of team fouls was reset to zero at the 10-minute mark of each half.  Teams shot two foul shots after the fifth foul in each of the 10-minute segments:  The result here is that there were indeed fewer foul shot attempts per game.  I guess that is a goal worth pursuing.
  4. The shot clock was reset to only 20 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of to 30 seconds:  I did not know this rule would be under evaluation.  Frankly, I have no idea why anyone thought this was a good idea to begin with, but the rules mavens tried it out.  There was no comment after the fact that this change had any effect on scoring or shooting accuracy or anything else.  As far as I am concerned, this one has had its time on the vine; it is now time to put it to rest.

[Giant Aside:  How the NCAA came to be the owner of the former rival NIT tournament is a bit strange.  The owners of the NIT sued the NCAA under anti-trust laws claiming that the NCAA acted as a monopoly.  They filed their case and their briefs; a judge called the parties to the trial and then the parties settled the suit.  The result of the settlement was that the NCAA bought out the owners of the NIT.  So, the “alleged monopoly” got out of the lawsuit by getting even bigger – – and the judge hearing the case thought that was an appropriate way to bring this to a conclusion.  Now you see why I would never have made it as a judge…]

Sticking with the subject of basketball for a moment, Greg Cote had this comment in the Miami Herald about a week ago:

“Lakers’ president abruptly resigns: Once an all-time great player, Magic [Johnson] has since failed pretty miserably as a broadcaster, a coach and now as a club executive. The good news? There has to be some way to blame LeBron James for this, no?

I guess you can assign some of the blame to LeBron given the instances of him distancing himself from his teammates as the season ground down to dust.  But you can’t blame him for his injury or the injuries that sidelined several of the better players on the rest of the roster.

What happened in LA was that the Lakers hired Magic Johnson to do for the franchise what Magic Johnson had done for the franchise as a player in the 1980s.  As Professor Cote noted above, Magic Johnson did not come close to performing as an NBA exec as he did as an NBA player.  You might say that the Lakers hired “Magic” Johnson as their team President, but they got “Earvin” Johnson in terms of performance.

As I have said here before, the fundamental problem with the Lakers was the roster construction around LeBron James for the 2018-19 season.  Magic Johnson shared that responsibility with Rob Pelinka who cut his teeth as a player agent and not as an NBA exec; over the course of a single season, that did not work even slightly well.  Now the Lakers are left to learn if Pelinka can act alone as a solid NBA exec.  He has his work cut out for himself.

Personally, I think the big winner in this entire drama is Luke Walton.  Consider Walton’s résumé as a coach:

  • As the interim coach of the Warriors, his team went 39-4 until Steve Kerr was able to return to the bench.
  • In 2016, he took over a Lakers’ team that had won 17 games the previous year and only 21 games in the year before that.  In Walton’s first year in LA, the team won 26 games – a 9-bame improvement.
  • In his next two years, the Lakers won more games than in the prior year.
  • Now he is the coach of the Sacramento Kings – a young team that appears to be on the rise.

If Luke Walton can get the Kings into the playoffs next year – and especially if the Lakers again miss the playoffs next year – I think he will have put a significant and permanent luster on his coaching record.

Finally, here is another comment from Greg Cote of the Miami Herald where he channels Johnny Carson as Carnac the Magnificent:

“Answer: Paul Westphal, Al Attles and Jack Sikma are among the latest inductees.

“Question: ‘What makes you say the Basketball Hall of Fame lets in too many people?’”

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