NBA Primetime Saturday Night is NOT FantasticThis is the first time that I have ever written a game recap while the game in question was still in progress--but I am so furious with the NBA in general and the Cleveland Cavaliers in particular that I do not need to see the outcome of the disgrace otherwise known as L.A. Clippers versus Cleveland Cavaliers (junior varsity edition) to provide analysis of the most pertinent aspect of this game: simply put, this game is a mockery of everything that used to be great about the NBA, including the concepts that there is value in competing hard and that it is important to care about the fans whose money and interest are the league's backbone.
The Cavaliers' Big Three of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are healthy but they are sitting out tonight's game to "rest." They are all expected to play tomorrow night against the L.A. Lakers. Tonight's game has major significance in the standings for multiple teams: the Cavaliers are fighting for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder are battling for the fifth seed in the Western Conference and the playoff fates of several other franchises could be affected by this game as well.
By sitting out his best players, Cleveland Coach Tyronn Lue is essentially providing a gift win to the Clippers, who are coached by Doc Rivers--one of Lue's mentors. If one didn't know better, one could assume that the Cavaliers (and possibly the league office) are manipulating the standings/playoff matchups. Some people have accused the NBA of this for years but I always defended the league, in part because Commissioner David Stern always took action when any team or player stepped out of line--but that has not been the case since Adam Silver has become the Commissioner.
The problem goes even deeper than manipulating the standings at the top of the pecking order. ABC's Jalen Rose brought up a great point during the halftime show: not only are contending teams "resting" players but teams that are jockeying for position in the NBA Draft Lottery are "shutting down" high paid veterans.
By "resting" healthy players, various teams (and possibly the league, which is doing nothing to police this activity) are manipulating the playoff seedings and they are manipulating which teams will have the best odds to obtain the top pick in the draft.
How is this any different than a fake sport like professional wrestling, where the outcomes of each match are scripted?
Meanwhile, Commissioner Silver is doing his best Bud Selig impersonation.
If I am Russell Westbrook, I am furious tonight. He is putting up triple doubles at a record-setting pace and almost single-handedly carrying the Oklahoma City Thunder to a playoff berth but now former Doc Rivers assistant coach Lue is just giving a win to the Clippers, a win that could cost the Thunder the opportunity to avoid playing one of the top three seeds in the first round of the playoffs.
If I am Thunder fan who buys season tickets, I am furious tonight that my team could be negatively impacted by this nonsense.
If I am a Clippers fan who saved my money to go to one game to see LeBron James, I am furious tonight.
If I am a Clippers fan who had to buy other game tickets as part of a package to get a ticket to this game, I am furious tonight (ABC's Jeff Van Gundy rightly called this tactic "bait and switch" and said that any other business engaging in such a practice could be found liable for fraud).
I am a devoted follower of the NBA for well over 30 years and I am furious tonight. If the NBA does not take seriously its regular season, its playoff seeding or its Draft Lottery then why should anyone else?
I will reiterate what I wrote last week when the Warriors and Spurs perpetrated a similar sham on the paying public:
1) All ticket buyers for this Clippers-Cavaliers game should receive a full refund from the league, with the cost split evenly among the the two teams; these teams are franchises representing the larger organization (the NBA) and as business partners they are equally culpable: the Cavaliers are culpable for resting healthy players and the Clippers are culpable as the home team for selling tickets to and profiting from this fiasco. If the Clippers don't like having to pay half of the cost, then they should take legal action against their business partners for devaluing the product.
2) The NBA should refund whatever portion of TV money it received for selling the rights to the game to ABC, with that cost again split among the Clippers and Cavaliers.
3) None of the healthy players who sat out should receive a game check; if they want to rest on company time, then they can do it on their own dime--and if they object to being unemployed for a day, then their union should file a grievance against the teams and/or the league for artificially manipulating the sport's competitive balance. The forfeited game checks should be pooled together and donated to help out people who are truly involuntarily unemployed.
4) Both teams should be fined at least $250,000 each, with the specter of larger fines looming if this offense is repeated.
posted by David Friedman @ 10:17 PM