Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Perfect NBA

For the people who find this topic familiar, this my original post from way back when:

The original topic was actually replied-to a long time after it was originally posted so some of the later replies have different context, just to let you know. Given all that, I'm updating my list for 2008.

1. Abolish conferences and divisions, and have each team play the other twice.

This goes against my original post which called for playing 4 times. The reason is simply that the season as it is is extremely long. Because of that, players and teams are more likely to take games off (whether intentionally or not). This is a situation where less is more: the importance of an individual game in the regular season would be magnified, as teams would vie for home court advantage in the playoffs. How ridiculous is it that this year we have 4 western conference teams struggling for the last couple spots in the west when they would be comfortably placed in the East? Also considering that they are playing against tougher competition more often?

The reason a lot of people cite for divisions existing is rivalries. I contend that rivalries based on team performance are much better than rivalries based on geography. Why add additional games to the season just to develop rivalries that may never come about?

The practicality of this does get called into question though, as I'm uncertain how arena revenues would be affected. The season would have roughly 15 home games rather than 41. This should keep the arena contract costs lower, but would definitely make getting arenas built for games quite a bit more difficult. Then again, if the NFL can do it then it should be possible.

2. New Playoff Format

Like my old post, I would want teams seeded according to their overall ranking, regardless of location. This gives us a true playoff in which teams are ranked according to their regular season performance.

All series would be best of 3. This is taking my old idea of abolishing the 7-game series entirely to the extreme. This makes homecourt advantage HUGE, and ups the ante of every single game. This would also give the Finals more of a Superbowl vibe, rather than be the 5th most exciting matchup of the postseason, as it often tends to be. The best team may be a bit less likely to win, but the greater level of excitement is more than worth it.

3. TV Referee

I touched on this idea in the old post, citing that the NBA needs instant replay. People responded by saying that it would bog the game down unnecessarily, and upon further review, I agree. Instead, I'd love to see a referee that sits at the scorers table and views the game from the TV screen. It gives additional angles for better refereeing on individual calls and can serve as a proactive review area for officials as the game goes on. It also gives refs more accountability--those questionable calls that are so obvious to us on ESPN are going to be EXACTLY what the ref sees. So if they screw up, they're going to look pretty bad, and don't really have any excuses.

The NBA supposedly critiques every referee call after every game anyway, so they are still reviewing calls using (I'm assuming) the same game footage that we see on TV. Why not give the referees on the floor that perspective as well? At worst it would expose the shortcomings of the all-too-human referees, and at best it gives us more accurate officiating.

4. Abolish suspensions and ejections, especially in the Playoffs

Punishment for egregious behavior is necessary, especially on the global stage of the NBA. Suspensions and ejections however, aren't the solution. Who is getting punished when Tim Duncan gets ejected for yelling at a referee? Amare and Diaw leaving the bench to come to Nash's aid after an Horry shove? Players getting into a shoving match over a hard foul?

It's the team and the fans that pay. National TV ratings pay dearly anytime a superstar gets suspended prior to a big ESPN or TNT game. Fans that pay big money to see their favorite player are suddenly left hanging. The game in which it occurs becomes called into question. Subsequent games lose meaning and/or interest.

My solution? Ramp up the fines big time. If a player gets fined 5% of his annual salary for each ejection, I have a feeling he will control his temper. The league can review individual cases for more serious occurrences and levy a fine accordingly. What happens if rather than a season-long suspension, Ron Artest had to pay his entire salary minus per diem in fines? The point is to penalize the player himself. Not his team, not his fans, not the TV companies, not the league.. just the player.

5. All-star weekend

Dunk Contest - This year we have fan-voting, which is interesting in that it gives a LOT of power to the commentators (Kenny Smith anyone?), and raises the inevitable issue of it turning into a popularity contest if certain players enter the field. God forbid Yi Jianlian enters the contest and wins on a two handed reverse jam.. However, make the field BIGGER! This event is a huge fan draw and limiting contestants to relatively unknown young players really keeps it from becoming a big deal again.

3-Point Contest - Not much to improve upon. As with the Dunk contest, I'd want a bigger field. Perhaps set aside a couple of spots for fans to vote on who they want to invite to the contest.

Skills Challenge - I don't like it at all in it's current incarnation. For whatever reason it has drawn some very good players to play in it, but it doesn't strike me as particularly exciting or indicative of skill. I'd love to see this replaced by a 1-on-1 tournament of 8 players. Monta Ellis vs. Kevin Martin? Deron Williams vs Chris Paul? How about Steve Nash against Dwight Howard? Now THAT's a skills challenge.

That stupid event with WNBA/NBA/retired players - Why does this even exist? Does anyone honestly care about this at all? Other than being a way to get more players involved in all-star weekend, it's pretty bad. I would rather see a shootaround or something. I'd scrap it for a longer dunk contest.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Damnit PJ, We've been over this before

Remember that Sonics-Lakers game from not too long ago?

To quote myself:

Wally Sczerbiak "tries" to inbound the ball. I realize this isn't really Wally's fault.. After all, Coach Carlesimo should know that if you're going to choose a person to inbound the ball, it should be someone who has actually passed it on more than a couple occasions.. Timeout sonics.

So when the Sonics are down 99-100 to the Phoenix Suns, with the ball under their own basket and Wally inbounding the ball.. Why doesn't it surprise me that he pulls a Chris Webber? Ugh.

View it if you dare.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Hornets @ Suns on 2/6/08

Quite possibly the most entertaining game I've seen this year.

You can take one look at the box score for it, but I really suggest watching it if you get the chance.. Give google a shot and see if you can find it.

An absolute travesty that this game wasn't on national television.. Actually it was on NBA TV, that separate entity that you don't even get with League Pass (ugh).

Incredible game.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Rumor: Shaq for Marion & Banks

So here goes trying to get into the mind of Steve Kerr:

If the Suns do it, it means they are probably in panic mode about losing Marion for nothing at the end of the season (Matrix has a $17M player option next year).. And they probably feel that offers will only get worse towards the trading deadline since other teams will realize how desperate they are to deal.

Shaq's contract is basically $20M per year all the way until 2009-10. Marion has the aforementioned player option at the end of the year for $17.1M, and Banks is being paid around $4M per year to sit on the bench... all the way through 2010-11.

So if they somehow appeased Shawn "I want to be traded" Marion, they'd be looking at another long term deal to keep him on (which they've said they don't want to do); a questionable move since he would be getting older and obviously chafes at having less star power than Amare.

Since they are trying to ride Nash's creaky back (team option in 2009-10) while they can, this gamble isn't necessarily mortgaging their future either.

So I guess Kerr is hoping Shaq/Amare/Nash can keep them competitive and/or get them a ring in the next couple years.. and if not, they unload Nash and Shaq's combined $35M in 2010 and can rebuild around Amare, Barbosa, and possibly Diaw--a pretty solid core by anyone's estimation.

And if we assume that Shaq never gets healthy or never fits in..

Two years ago Amare was out and Nash took a team of Marion, Diaw, Bell, Tim Thomas, Kurt Thomas, and Barbosa to the Western Conference Finals, where they lost to Dallas in six games.

Comparing lineups:
05-06 Suns
T. Thomas

07-08 Suns (assuming the trade happens and Shaq never plays)

Granted, the Diaw of today isn't as good as he used to be.. But Hill is an upgrade over Thomas and Barbosa has only gotten better. For all the concerns over Nash, he is statistically on par with recent years.

While the competition this year is tougher than back then, one can argue that losing Marion won't exactly put the Suns in lottery status, and certainly leaves
enough left to make some serious noise in the playoffs.

If (a big fat IF) Shaq happens to get some semblance of his old form back, even if it's only for the postseason.. Then this move is going to look like a stroke of genius.

Old Man Shaq averaged 19 pts and 9 rebs the last 2 years in the playoffs, which of course includes the year they beat the Mavs for the championship. If the Suns can manage a 4-man running game while going to O'neal when the game gets bogged down, then who knows?

I would definitely love to see a defensive scheme to stop a Shaq-Amare-Hill-Bell-Nash lineup.

It's cute to say the least.

One question for Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace though..
You traded Pau Gasol for this:
- Kwame Brown's expiring contract ($9 Million)
- Javaris Crittenton (A good PG but not better than Conley or Lowry, so he'll never play)
- Marc Gasol (Pau's brother, who was a 2nd round pick and may never be an impact player)
- 2 (most likely late) first round picks in '08 and '10

Or you could have made a deal centered around Gasol for Marion and gotten $16 Million in cap relief?