Basketball And More Basketball

The NBA Finals might be finished tomorrow; the Warriors lead the Celtics 3 games to 2 with tomorrow’s game in Boston.  If a 7th game is needed it will be Sunday in San Francisco.  The Series so far has been interesting, but the games have not been exciting; the average margin of victory has been 13.4 points per game; every game has been decided by double-digits.  Tomorrow’s game – and Sunday’s game if needed – should be worth your attention.

I want to focus on some of the remarks that Adam Silver made about the league earlier this month before the finals began.  The league did well this year on TV and its playoffs averaged more than 3.5 million viewers per game.  That is good news for the league and for its fans because the league lost a reported $695M to the pandemic.  Moreover, reports say that the losses are not restricted to the “small market teams”; the NY Post reported that the Brooklyn Nets lost at least $50M over the course of the COVID-19 restrictions.

The NBA national media deals expire at the end of the 2024 season; the existing deal will have brought in $24B in revenue to the league at expiration, and one report I read from CNBC suggested that the NBA will seek a multiyear deal worth $75B this time around.  If the league can triple its revenue from TV rights, that should go a long way to erasing the COVID-related losses.

As is always the case when a league Commissioner participates in one of these so-called “State of the League” press events, there is some focus on issues that seem far less important than things like TV ratings and revenue growth.  This year’s press event was no different.

Commissioner Silver said that there is still consideration given to a tournament for NBA teams in the midst of the regular season and that such a tournament might begin as soon as next season – – if they can figure out how to do that.  The Commissioner’s remarks there are important:

“We continue to talk to our Competition Committee about it, our team governors, the Players Association, to see if there’s a way throughout the season to create more meaningful games, more games of consequence, potentially a tournament that would arguably replace some of the regular-season games but would be more meaningful.”

“More meaningful games” and “more games of consequence” for the NBA regular season has been a bugaboo for at least the last 25 years.  There are way too many games that are of zero importance to anyone other than the participants on the floor and I have argued for years that the league needs to find ways to fix that.  My solution has been to shorten the season to 58 games where each of the 30 teams plays every other team twice – – home and away.

I am not sure if the league were to “take a break” and run a single elimination tournament in mid-season if that would add “meaningful games.”  Maybe the last three games of the brackets might be interesting – – or not.  I will say this about the idea of a tournament:

  • I cannot imagine a scenario where the Players’ Union would agree to institute a tournament in addition to an 82-game regular season schedule.
  • Even without a tournament, it is unusual to find a player who participates in all 82 games; adding more contests would seem to call for more consideration of load management.

One way that pro sports leagues have used to infuse capital into the league is expansion.  Rumors abound that the NBA will expand by two teams as soon as 2024 and that one of them will play in a new arena under construction in Las Vegas.  Silver seemed to throw some water on the specifics of those rumors in his remarks.  He said that indeed it was inevitable for the NBA to expand but that it is not something that is under discussion right now.  On this point, I think the Commissioner is correct.  There are supremely talented players in the NBA – – but there is not a surfeit of them.  Unless the league were to allow teams only to “protect” a starting five from an expansion draft, an expansion team – – or two of them – – would be hideously uncompetitive for several years.  The last team in that position was the Vancouver Grizzlies  It was not until the 5th season of the team’s existence that it was able to win 20 games in a season.  That is not something that bears repeating.

Switching attention to college basketball, the NCAA Rules Oversight Panel approved “allowing men’s basketball officials to assess Class B technical fouls to players who fake being fouled, beginning in the 2022-23 season.”   A Class B technical foul awards one free throw to the opponent.  Under the current rule/interpretation, the official would give a warning first before calling a “Flopping Tech”.

As a former official, I am of two minds on this one:

  • I totally agree with the intent to get flopping out of the game.  Fakery should not be part of basketball at any level.
  • I also know that every “flopping call” will have a component to it that requires mind-reading on the part of the official as he/she considers the intent of the potential flopper.  Basketball officials are not mind-readers; these calls – if there are many of them – will be VERY controversial.

Here is the explanation of this new rule interpretation that does not mention mind-reading.  It almost sounds as if you could measure it objectively:

“When evaluating potential flopping situations, officials will be asked to judge whether the player’s physical reaction to the contact with another player is consistent with what would have been expected, given the force of the contact. When the reaction is not consistent, the player is most likely exaggerating the nature of the contact in an attempt to gain an advantage, and flopping has occurred.”

Good luck with this one, folks…

Finally, let me close today with the definition of “Basketball” from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:

Basketball:  A fast-paced and energetic team sport in which two opposing teams attempt score the most points by propelling a large orange ball through a hoop roughly ten feet off the ground.  The game is notable mostly for the fact that it is played in stadiums that used to have some individuality but are now named after a wide variety of telephone companies and office supply retailers.”

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