The NBA playoffs have begun and the games are significantly more interesting than they were a mere week ago. Tape ten random NBA games and one playoff
game. Then show the eleven tapes with the sound off to any basketball fan. He will pick the playoff game out of the dross all the time. What's the
The players care enough about winning playoff games that they play hard just about all the time. Forget all the emoting and demonstrating of the bench
players; most of that is for show. Focus on the players who are actually on the court and playing. In a playoff game, you will not see anyone standing
around with a hand on his own hip; in a regular season game, I would not be shocked to see a player on the court give out a full-fledged yawn.
The NBA would have you believe that they played to record attendance this year. I don't believe that for even a minute because the NBA counts
attendance by the number of tickets distributed and not by the people who actually show up and enter the arena and put their fanny in a seat. I've
watched portions of games on TV and seen vast expanses of empty seats such that I would estimate that the arena is about 60% full. The next day, the
paper reports attendance as 90% of capacity and that just can't be the case. This practice probably doesn't violate the letter of the law on false
advertising, but it sure smells like false advertising to me.
The NBA tried mightily to convince you that the struggle for the final few playoff slots is dramatic and important. Actually, it's barely interesting
because the teams doing that struggling are simultaneously struggling to lose less than 40 games for the season. Most of those "races" are as
interesting to watch as a dripping faucet. And one of the sad things is that ESPN is part of the hype because they carry NBA games and it is in their
interest to pretend that those late season games are anything other than a meeting between mediocre teams playing fundamentally flawed basketball.
ESPN "analysts" actually try to tell you about the intensity and the desire of players in these regular season games - ignoring the evidence that is
staring the viewer in the face. For them, it's all about ratings and not about the product on the court.
I don't like the idea of an age limit for the NBA from a philosophical point of view. Once someone reaches the age of majority, they should be allowed
to pursue their goals and aspirations without artificial restraints. For the record, I don't buy the rhetorical gas about how someone should be
allowed to play basketball at age 18 because they are old enough to be in the Army and be sent to Iraq. The counter to that argument is that the kid
may be sent to Iraq but he still cannot legally buy a beer at age 18. Military service eligibility is irrelevant to this argument. But here is why I
wish that players would go and play college basketball for a couple of years before entering the NBA:
Too many 18-year-old phenoms still need to learn fundamental basketball and their lack of basic skills is hurting the game.
Isiah Thomas took over a truly mediocre Knicks' team that was in "salary cap hell". He has changed coaches and made a bunch of trades and the team is
now less than mediocre and is still in "salary cap hell". Thomas was a great player but his post-career forays into the business of basketball have
not been overly successful - despite what the national media would want you to believe about this former icon of the game. The Raptors only got good
after he left; his ownership of the CBA was a disaster; he was OK as a coach in Indianapolis, but the personnel decisions were overseen by Donnie
Walsh; his tenure in NY has yet to show any improvement other than the normal exuberance that exists right after a trade. Thomas recently talked about
the Knicks and all the moves he's made and said, "The way I feel right now, I'd trade my mother if the right deal came along." Here's the problem:
Thomas would trade his mother and get in return another undersized power forward who has a "maximum contract" and can't play.
Often when someone does something outrageously stupid - or even illegal - the euphemistic thing to say about him is that "he needs to learn to make
better decisions". Whatever. Here is the poster-child for a "bad decision maker". Brandon Browner was a cornerback on the Oregon State football team
with eligibility left. He declared himself eligible for the NFL draft and hired an agent, which not only burns the bridge to get back into college
football it scorches the earth for miles around the bridgehead. At the end of seven rounds of NFL teams drafting players, Browner is now an undrafted
free agent. That decision may not be as bad as Napoleon's decision to invade Russia, but it does leave you with two questions that you really don't
want to have answered:
1. Who advised him that this was a good idea?
2. What the hell was he thinking?
Yesterday, I noted that no one from Penn State had been selected in the NFL draft. A reader informed me that the last time that happened was in 1959.
That's even longer than I would have guessed.
Jim Armstrong has this stat in his column in the Denver Post recently. Pedro Martinez' ERA in the first inning of games this year is 11.25; in the
innings after the first inning, his ERA is 0.72. In the first inning, batters have an average of .313 against Pedro; after the first inning, their
batting average is .074.
Finally, here is a comment from Dave Thomas in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram relevant to the unwatchability of regular season NBA games:
"The US Postal Service files a request seeking a two-cent raise in the rate for regular mail. Atlanta Hawks players respond by requesting
cost-of-living raises so that they can continue mailing it in."
But don't get me wrong, I love sports...
Copyright The Sports Curmudgeon