NBA Primetime Saturday Night is NOT Fantastic
This 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
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 singlehandedly 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.
Labels: Cleveland Cavaliers, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, L.A. Clippers, LeBron James
posted by David Friedman @ 10:17 PM
The NBA Shamefully Devalues Its Product
The San Antonio-Golden State game last Saturday night should have created memories to last for decades but instead it was a travesty and a disgrace. It is unfortunate but understandable that legitimate health issues prevented Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant from playing but the decisions by San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich and Golden State Coach Steve Kerr to sit out the rest of their healthy starters with the number one seed in the Western Conference on the line is one of the most disappointing things that I have had the misfortune to witness in the decades that I have religiously followed the NBA. I was looking forward to that game all week--and, indeed, for the whole season, as were many other diehard NBA fans. When I was a kid, Philadelphia-Boston, Philadelphia-L.A. and Boston-L.A. were matchups to be anticipated and savored; those games foreshadowed the Eastern Conference Finals and/or the NBA Finals for every year from 1980-85. The big-time stars rarely missed those games and when they did sit out they had real injuries; no one was "resting."
Why should anyone take the NBA regular season seriously anymore? Clearly, the two best teams in the league do not think that the regular season matters, nor do they believe that homecourt advantage in the Western Conference Finals matters.
The NBA is walking on treacherous ground here. A game between bench players to potentially decide who will have the best chance to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals is even more damaging to the league than the farce known as the NBA All-Star Game.
Some people are just throwing their hands up and acting like there is no solution to this but that is the Bud Selig approach, made most famous when he shrugged his shoulders as the 2002 MLB All-Star Game ended in a tie
. If David Stern were still the NBA Commissioner, Saturday's nonsense would have never happened--or it only would have happened once. When Popovich tried a similar stunt on Stern's watch in November 2012 (sitting out four of his top players during the Spurs' only visit to Miami), Stern immediately announced, "I apologize to all NBA fans. This was an unacceptable decision by the San Antonio Spurs and substantial sanctions will be forthcoming." Stern was not bluffing. He hit the Spurs with a $250,000 fine and this verbal broadside: "The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case. The Spurs decided to
make four of their top players unavailable for an early-season game that
was the team's only regular-season visit to Miami. The team also did
this without informing the Heat, the media, or the league office in a
timely way. Under these circumstances, I have concluded that the Spurs
did a disservice to the league and our fans."
Worth noting is that Adam Silver--then Stern's right hand man--had publicly stated in April 2012, "The strategic resting of particular players on particular nights is within the discretion of the teams. And Gregg Popovich in particular is probably the last coach that I would second-guess."
Stern was a strong-willed Commissioner and he could be condescending to the media at times, so it is not surprising that when Stern retired many media members piped up about how Silver would supposedly be a breath of fresh air. Silver is not the type to challenge a media member's question or a media member's command of the facts. I am not going to say that Silver has been a bad Commissioner but it is ridiculous to even put him in the same conversation with Stern, who is on the short list of greatest sports commissioners ever.
Commissioner Silver needs to step in immediately and decisively to make sure that Saturday night's fiasco never happens again on his watch:
1) All ticket buyers for Saturday's game should receive a full refund from the league, with the cost split evenly among the Warriors and the Spurs.
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 Warriors and the Spurs.
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.
Some will say that the Warriors and Spurs are acting intelligently to preserve the health of their players. If that is really the case, then the owners and players must immediately agree to shorten the season to however many games they deem to be safe and they must construct a schedule that eliminates "unhealthy" back to back or four game in five night scenarios. If health is truly at stake, then the schedule must be changed. Of course, that would mean less revenue for the owners and players but that is a small price to pay for the sake of players' health.
I think that health is just an excuse being used by these coaches to justify tweaking the league for its scheduling and/or to avoid having a showdown between the top teams until absolutely necessary. Players used to thrive on competition but, as we saw during the All-Star Game, that is clearly not the case now. It almost seems like these teams were afraid to put their best foot forward and possibly lose, so instead they made the game so farcical that no one can derive any meaning from the outcome.
Durability used to be a mark of pride for the sport's greatest players. Wilt Chamberlain once averaged more than 48 mpg for an entire season, meaning that he played every minute of regulation plus every minute of overtime (I think that he actually was ejected from one game and thus missed a few random minutes but he played enough overtime sessions to keep his average above 48 mpg). Michael Jordan played in all 82 games nine times, including in his final season as a 39 year old Wizard with at least one decrepit knee. He played more than 3000 minutes in 12 different seasons; the only times he missed that mark were when he broke his foot during his second season, when he played 17 games during his first comeback in 1994-95 and when he played 60 games as a 38 year old during the first season of his second comeback. My basketball hero Julius Erving played in all 84 games in four of his five ABA seasons and in his 11 year NBA career he played 82 games twice, 81 games once and at least 77 games four other times. Until his final season as a 37 year old (when he played a career-low 60 games), Erving's lowest total was 71 games in his second season, when he missed a few games due to a contract dispute that eventually wound its way through the court system--and he proceeded to average a career-high 41.2 mpg the rest of the way in that campaign.
There are many other examples of great players from bygone eras playing almost every game and averaging a high number of minutes while doing so. How is it possible that modern players who have the best possible diets, chartered flights and state of the art treatment/recovery options cannot play most if not all 82 games?
Labels: Commissioner Adam SIlver, Golden State Warriors, Gregg Popovich, NBA, San Antonio Spurs, Steve Kerr
posted by David Friedman @ 2:11 AM