Posts Tagged 'NBA'

The NBA as a “niche” sport: Why?

Dan Shanoff and Tom Ziller had an excellent war of words around the NBA as a niche sport. The NFL is on it’s own level, MLB and College Football are in the 2nd group, college basketball (for March Madness alone) is next, and the NBA is right behind. I agree with Mr. Shanoff based on a lot of reasons, most of which I am a huge sports fan and I am not, nor do I know any hardcore sports fans. I grew up in Chicago during the Jordan era. I was 8 when they won their first title and 14 when they won their 6th. I remember the parades and riots and some basketball but I was too young to appreciate what I was witnessing. Fast forward 10 years. I am a VERY casual basketball fan. I watch the playoffs and an occasional game during the season but there isn’t a lot of love. So I started to wonder, why is it that pro basketball has fallen off the radar?

  1. Attention span – People in general don’t have the attention spans they did 20 years ago. There are so many cable channels, video games, the internet that people have so much else to do it’s hard to pay attention for 82 regular season games. (I can’t even sit in front of the TV without my laptop being I need to be doing multiple things at once). It’s the same reason MLB suffers the summer lull Mr. Shanoff referenced. Add to it that the NBA playoffs drag on for an eternity and by the end people can’t even remember the beginning.
  2. Meaningless regular season – The NBA’s playoff structure is a joke. 16 of 30 teams make the playoffs, that’s more than half (!). Consider that the previous two seasons there was one team in the playoffs with a losing record and at least one that was exactly .500. This year is shaping up the same. That means even if you lose more than you, you are still in the playoffs. The NFL (6 out of 32) and MLB (8 out of 30) make you at least sort of earn it. This makes it tough to get excited about regular season games, especially when a team like the Spurs doesn’t really start trying until after January 1st.
  3. Fantasy – Fantasy sports are out of control. I am not going to spend this time talking about everything I dislike about them, but they drive a lot of attention to the NFL and MLB. I am fairly convinced that fantasy baseball is one of the main factors for keeping people interested in the summer months. Fantasy football is so big that most people spend more time researching their fantasy team than their favorite team and I would guess that a lot of fans would root for their fantasy team over their own in a lot of circumstances. Fantasy basketball doesn’t seem to be near the same level.
  4. Gambling – I already mentioned March Madness and we are right in the thick of Office Pool Madness. It’s amazing to me how many people who couldn’t name 10 college basketball players before March 1st talk to me about their brackets. I don’t mind, it’s nice to see the interest in the college game. The fact remains, especially with the 1-year college rule, that office pools are about the only thing that keep college b-ball out of the “niche” classification. The NFL has even more gambling associated with it. Major websites (*ahem* Bill Simmons) give their weekly picks with the spread. It actually surprises me how many people openly talk about betting on the NFL.
  5. Bad Timing – The NBA has experienced bad timing in two ways. First, it’s season takes place in horrible months. When the season starts in October, it’s competing with the heart of the NFL and College Football season. By the time the Super Bowl ends, they have about a month before March Madness. They wisely put their All-Star game in this time frame and pick up some casual fans during this time (I am usually one of them). Then right as the NCAA Tournament ends baseball season starts. So right as people are getting amped about the start of baseball, and the NFL draft, the NBA playoff marathon starts. When during that span are they supposed to pick up casual fans? Baseball has June through August almost to themselves, plus it’s warm out, people want to be outside at games, etc. Then there was the issue of the lockout. The NBA lost Jordan and then missed a bunch of games. They lost a lot of fans then. Baseball struggled until the Home Run Chase of ’98 revived things. The NBA is STILL going through what hte NHL is going through. How do we get the fans back? Unfortunately David Stern is bad at figuring that out.

When you consider all of that, it’s not crazy to see how the NBA could have become a niche sport. It’s surprising when you consider the fact that about 20 years ago the biggest sports star on the planet was an NBA player. The sad part is that the NBA is too stuck to their “traditions” to make the radical changes they need to make to bring back fans. Radical changes helped MLB freshen things up, hopefully the NBA gets that wake-up call before it’s too late.


Now I know how the Detroit Lions feel (a.k.a Neverending Rebuilding)

It’s been a long time since I posted but there hasn’t been anything I really felt the need to talk about. Now there is…I am not a huge Chicago Bulls fan. Sure I lived through the Jordan era, but I was only 8 when the Bulls won their first title, and 14 when they won their last. I remember the rallies and parades and some of the games but I didn’t truly appreciate it for what it was. After Jordan retired the Bulls entered rebuilding mode. They used the first overall pick in 1999 to take Elton Brand, who was a solid player but not a franchise guy. The next year they took Marcus Fizer and Jamal Crawford. In 2001, they gave up on Brand and ended up with Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler. They appeared to be the perfect complement of eachother, one all offense, the other defense. Curry was the laziest player ever and Chandler didn’t pan out until the Bulls gave up. In 2002 they tried to add Jay Williams, but he would hurt himself in motorcycle accident and never play again. That ended rebuilding phase #2. The third phase began in ’03 when they took Kirk Hinrich 7th, the 3rd first round PG they had take since Jordan left.  They continued to add high first round picks and looked on the verge of busting out, but this year they have just been a bust. The team is a mess and it doesn’t seem like this is the team that can go places. So what should they do?

Here is who is signed for 2009 and last when they which summer their contract is up (t-team option, r-restricted):

  • F Drew Gooden (2009)
  • G Thabo Sefolosha (2009-t, 2010-r)
  • G JamesOn Curry (2009-t)
  • F Cedric Simmons (2009-t, 2010-r)
  • F Tyrus Thomas (2009-t, 2010-r)
  • C Aaron Gray (2009-t)
  • C Joakim Noah (2009-t, 2010-t, 2011-r)
  • G Larry Hughes (2010)
  • G Kirk Hinrich (2012)
  • F Andres Nocioni (2012)

That’s 10 guys under contract for next year. Add to it that Luol Deng and Ben Gordon are restricted free agents next year and likely a lottery pick this year. So what do the Bulls do?

  1. Re-Sign Deng and Gordon and hope things come together – I don’t think this is all that likely. Although they Bulls can match any offer and since they have 10 guys under contract for next year they might have the cap room for it. They can hope that this year was a hiccup and that with (hopefully) a new coach next year things come together and this team can have a shot in the East. Sefolosha, Thomas, ad Noah have shown growth and maybe this year was a hiccup.
  2. Re-sign Deng or Gordon – Another option is to bring back just one of the two. Deng is probably the better player, and still looks like he could be a solid 2nd or 3rd option behind a star. Gordon is basically a shooter who doesn’t play great defense. With Larry Hughes on board for two more seasons, there is almost no way Gordon is back.
  3. Let both Deng and Gordon walk – It’s possibe that both guys will move on. If this somehow happens, there would likely be one sign and trade involved. Don’t forget the Bulls have a lottery pick that could be a good spot for a point guard. They could take someone like DJ Augustin, play him at the 1, and Hughes at the 2, and rotate Hinrich at both. Then rotate Tyrus, Gooden, Noah at the 4 and 5. As for the 3, they could use the money left over to get someone like Corey Magette or Antawn Jamison to be that veteran prescense. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t mind getting a guy like Jamison. Another option could be to go after an ETO guy like Jermaine O’Neal.
  4. Blow up the team – One option is to plan for the big free agent class of the summer of 2010. The Bulls only have two guys under contract for then, Hinrich and Nocioni. Tyrus, Thabo, and Cedric Simmons will all be restricted that summer and Noah will be under team control if they want to keep him. In 2010, LeBron, Dirk, McGrady, D-Wade, Amare, LaMarcus Aldridge (restricted), Ginobili, Bosh, Boozer, Deron Williams COULD all be free agents then. A lot of them won’t make it without new contracts but who knows. With Larry Hughes big contract expiring at the same time, they have that to look forward to. Of course there is a ton of unknowns here. Could they actually get one of the big guns? Will any of the current guys pan out by then? Thabo is coming along, it’s only his 2nd season and he was a foreign player. Since they are stuck with Hughes, Noc and Hinrich, they can keep playing those three while bringing along Noah, Tyrus, Thabo and whoever they draft in June. And hope in the next two seasons the team grows just the right amount to add a superstar and put them over the top.

Those are the options, but which do I prefer? I wanted the Kobe trade last summer and it’s evident that this team needs a star. I would let Deng and Gordon walk. I think they will likely get sign and traded or take the one year and walk. That would be ok, but I wouldn’t sign them long term. Optimally I would trade them for contracts expiring in summer of 2010. I would use my first round pick on a point guard. Derrick Rose is the dream scenario, but Bayless, Westbrook, Collison or Augustin should still be there when the Bulls pick. I would do whatever I could to prepare for the summer of 2010. I would trade my first round pick in 2011 (banking on signing someone the year before) for parts that would help me in two years.

Of course that isn’t what the Bulls will do. They will trade Gordon, re-sign Deng. Waste the 1st round pick on some mediocre, high risk big man (DeAndre Jordan, Kevin Love, and Hasheem Thabeet come to mind), try to trade Tyrus Thomas (since you have Drew Gooden and the aforementioned draftee), make the playoffs next year, lose in the first round, get a crappy draft pick, make a bad signing (Iverson, Rasheed Wallace) thinking its the solution and get caught in the same cycle