And The Fillerbuster’s two cents before he gets started…what about THIS guy as the OTHER guy? We can bring in Morgan Freeman and REALLY have a True Detective party…
Unrelated Side Note #1: In my first crack at fantasy baseball, I drafted based on a very simple strategy: Unless there’s a player who is obviously better at your current draft position, take a) Guys who have pissed hot for steroids/are rumored to have taken steroids before, or b) Yankees. I had no empirical evidence or logic to back up why I wanted to draft this way, I just thought it would be funny and because I watch almost every single Yankee game. Anyways, my team, “Tony Bosch’s All Stars,” are in first place thanks to guys like Ryan Braun (3 HR’s the other night) and Bartolo Colon.
True Detective and Fixing the NBA
Relevant Side Note #1: I admittedly got the idea to write this article after reading Simmons’ latest mail bag on Grantland. Good stuff.
Relevant Side Note #2: When I get out of the Army I’m sending my resume to Grantland to try and write for them. Somehow I imagine that not panning out well for me… I should probably develop a back-up plan.
I heard a rumor that made me so excited my hands started shaking. Not only were they considering doing a True Detective Season 2, but that it also might feature Brad Pitt as one of the detectives.
“What’s in the box!?”
Above and beyond the fact that I think Brad Pitt is an awesome actor (his character in Se7en would be PERFECT!), this excites me because it confirms that creator Nic Pizzolatto is determined to actually make season two better than season one. What? Yup. That’s right. Despite the wild success of Season 1 (and that the original idea was just to make one, awesome, standalone season), Nic Pizzolatto and HBO pointed out that the difference between HBO and everyone else is that the goal isn’t just to develop a product that people want to consume again, it is to constantly improve on what you’ve done before. Anything else simply isn’t worth doing.
It’s a remarkably interesting and refreshing concept if you ask me. Most TV shows seem to follow this general formula:
– Develop a good idea that interests people
– Promote your show to get ratings
– Milk the initial hype surrounding your show to stretch it out until a) either all the actors quit and move on to bigger and better things, or b) you legitimately run out of ideas and risk your show becoming a shell of its former self
We’ve seen it happen time and again in television and movies as well. I watched every episode of Lost despite the fact that the show easily peaked in season two or three, but I just had to know how it ended. The writers kept saying, “well, we can’t end it yet, so let’s open up another storyline and keep this thing going.” How I Met Your Mother? Pretty much the same way. Family Guy? Just not the same show anymore. What we’re left with is endings that fail to fulfill what we see as the reason why we’ve been watching for all these years. “Man, that first Matrix movie was awesome, I hope they make another one!” They do. And it’s not as good. And they don’t care because on the bottom line all they see is $$$.
True Detective – and a lot of shows on HBO for that matter – seems to be approaching this a different way:
– Quietly let people know you’re doing a show that is wildly different than anything we’ve ever seen before
– Cast A-list, blockbuster, quality movie actors to play in a show that may or may not even be a big hit
– Let the hype develop itself
– When it comes time to make another season, cast new quality, high-profile actors
– And finally – most importantly – don’t make another season unless you at least think it will be better than the last one
This is why good companies know that in order to avoid failure, you not only have to maintain what you’ve been doing, but improve and try to get even bigger. The moment you stop growing is the moment you die. That’s why Google didn’t stop with a search engine and why Apple made an iPad. People (including me) said, “Well that’s dumb. It’s just an iPod touch, but bigger. Who’s going to pay for that?” I did. And millions of other people did. Why? Because Apple told us we needed it.
In the world of sports, taking this attitude towards management of a team is nearly impossible. In college, your best players leave for the pros. In the pros, when your good players become great players on championship teams, they leave for great contracts which wreak havoc on your roster and fills up your salary cap when you try to keep them. Just ask San Francisco next year when they have to actually pay Colin Kaepernick for being Colin Kaepernick instead of paying him for being that “second-round pick who might pan out.” Ask Seattle when it comes time to pay Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman.
But from a managerial standpoint of running a professional sports organization, we can absolutely constantly improve on what’s been done before. IF, and only if, we’re willing to break with tradition and at least entertain the idea that we can do things better if we’re willing to admit that change is good.
The first question you may be asking is, “Does the NBA even need fixing?” My answer is, absolutely.
The NFL and Roger Goodell aren’t afraid of change. It seems like everyone and their mother wants to hate Roger Goodell but the freaking owners love him because the NFL has never been more popular, it keeps growing in that popularity, and Roger Goodell never seems satisfied with that popularity. That’s why the NFL is always mulling over what its next move will be. Move the extra point back, encourage going for two… make the season 18 games… rule changes that will keep moms from preventing their playing football, etc.
I won’t bore you with the statistics, but after the NBA’s peak in popularity in the late 90s due to a certain “greatest basketball player of all time,” the NBA hit record lows in ratings in the early 2000’s after Jordan’s retirement. It is pretty easy to understand why.
We’ve seen a bit of a recovery from that because whether or not we want to admit it, average fans are frontrunners and frontrunners love the Miami Heat and Lebron James. The NBA Finals recovered in popularity with Nielsen ratings over 10 from 2010-2013. Why? The Lakers-Celtics rivalry and the ascendance of the aforementioned Heat and Lebron James’ star power.
However, this doesn’t speak to the fact that most NBA regular season games (and the NBA Playoffs’ first round) are borderline unwatchable to the average fan who doesn’t have a vested interest in who wins or loses.
The NBA is drastically over-reliant on star power to generate interest. That’s why David Stern prayed to the basketball Gods last year that Miami would beat Indiana in the playoffs. What Adam Silver needs to do is think outside the box and get us interested in the NBA again by taking bits and pieces of what is done in the NFL and college basketball to regenerate interest in professional basketball again.
Change #1: CRUSH players who flop
THIS is pathetic. That is all.
Change #2: Lengthen the shot clock to 30 seconds
Maybe we’d get some better ball movement, smarter decisions, better shot selection. Maybe we wouldn’t see guys give up on the dribble-drive after only one pick and roll attempt.
If nothing else, maybe this will prevent us from having to watch J.R. Smith heave something in the direction of the rim with 2 seconds left. No. He’ll still do that.
Change #3: MAKE THE DUNK CONTEST LIKE IT USED TO BE IN THE 90’s (and early 2000s
Change #4: Take the freaking games seriously by treating them as serious games.
I hate the fact that we play music WHILE THE PLAYERS ARE PLAYING in the arenas during games like its baseball to cover up the fact that there’s no real genuine excitement from the crowds. We don’t do that in college games or the NFL because the sound of the student section jumping up and down is much more satisfying that hearing “The Mexican Hat Dance” as Ty Lawson dribbles the ball up court.
I hate that the stupid PA announcer screams “LEBROOOOOOOOOOON JAAAAAAAAAMES!!!!” when he hits an uncontested 14-footer in the second quarter like he just conquered the world.
I hate that we have nights where NBA players wear their nicknames on the backs of their jerseys. How old are you? Are you a professional basketball player right now? To highlight the ridiculousness of it, we should at least have the decency to force the play by play guys to call all the players by the nicknames on the backs of their jerseys. “K-Dawg” passes the ball to “D-Will”… dribble drive kick out to “Truth” pass back to “D-Will,” “D-Will” SHOOTS! Rebound “U-Train!” and a fresh 24 for the Heat!
(that “Plums” jersey for Mason Plumlee WAS hilarious though)
I hate that we have “Noche Latina” where “Los Bulls” play “Los Lakers.” What is that? Look, I’m not Latino so maybe I’m commenting on something I don’t understand but are we really honoring the Latin American community and promoting their interest in basketball because they see “Nueva York” playing against “Los T-Wolves?” I mean we don’t even bother translating the actual word the teams are named after. As if Spanish-speaking people were like, “Who’s playing? I can never tell…” and then on “Noche Latina” they’re like “Oooooh Los Bulls are playing El Thunder! Now I get it! Ooh look! El Kevin Durant is passing el ball to el Serge Ibaka!”
All this stuff just cheapens the games and reminds you that the guys are out there half-assing a regular season game that is virtually inconsequential. Speaking of…
Change #5: Shorten the regular season
Side Note: I know everyone is going to hate this. “NOOOOO! Royal, you’re changing record-keeping forever! Now we’ll never be able to compare Lebron’s statistics from 2015 to MJ’s in 1997!” Deal with it. If it makes Suns-Nuggets more watchable then count me in.
P.S. This isn’t completely unfounded. You always have to factor in the era in which a player played when evaluating his greatness in the broader picture of the history of the game. Did Sosa hit 60+ home runs in a season? Well yea, in the steroid era. Did Babe Ruth blast 714 home runs? Well, he wasn’t doing it against black and Latino dudes who throw 98 mph fastballs.
I’d like to see the season shortened to 50 games, but I would settle for 60. There will be great despair, gnawing and gnashing of teeth among ownership but this needs to happen. You have got to find a way to make these games more meaningful. And judging by the popularity of NFL Sunday Ticket and the ridiculous regular-season contracts the NFL is signing, the real money to be made in the era of the 80-inch HDTV is with the networks and not necessarily in the arena.
Above just the quality of the product that we’re watching, the reason we love college basketball or football in general is that regular season games matter a lot. When you’re a Wichita State or Syracuse fan this year, you feel like your team could actually go undefeated this year and that’s so cool. And if you can’t go undefeated you feel like if you get quality wins in the regular season that they matter for your seeding in the NCAA Tournament (assuming the committee doesn’t screw you anyways – sorry Wichita, but that’s for another article).
Let’s not forget that we would avoid that thing that Greg Poppovich likes to do where he just randomly rests all 5 starters because he just feels like they could use some time off. Imagine if you saw that in almost any other sport other than baseball. Imagine if Calipari rested his starters in February? Please.
Change #6: Make divisions matter
There’s nothing better than division rivalries, and right now there are NONE in the NBA. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I can tell you what Division the Knicks are in, and name like two or three other teams in there but that’s about it, and I’m a die-hard Knick fan. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. No one walks around with “2012-2013” Atlantic Division Champions t-shirts because nobody cares. But somehow I can rattle off the last 6 years of NFC East Champions off the top of my head, back when UConn was in the Big East I could rattle off the last 3-4 years of Big East champions, I can tell you who the last 4 AL East champions were in baseball because it matters. Fans and players in other sports take pride in winning their division. Not so in the NBA.
So here’s what you do:
– Schedules set up 5 games against each team in your division every season. In a 60-game season that’s 33% of your games, in a 50-game season that’s 40%. Right now, NBA teams play only 16/82 games in division. That’s 19.5%. In the NFL you play 6 of 16 games in-division. That’s 37.5%. Baseball? 47%
– Division winners are guaranteed playoff berths and home-court advantage in playoff series in which they face non-division winners
Speaking of playoffs…
Change #7: Fix these god-awful playoffs
Boy. It is going to be REALLY hard for me to keep this section short. I mean, there’s just so much to be said, so much to laugh at. OK, let’s start with the funny stuff first.
The first round of the NBA Playoffs is such a joke. Every year the NBA gets more and more lopsided, it gets worse and worse and we’re left with this scenario where the NBA desperately tries to convince us that this shit is watchable.
I can’t stand the Miami Heat, but the fact that they had to dignify the first round of the NBA Playoffs by playing the Milwaukee Bucks last year is insane, and this Dwayne Wade response to Brandon Jennings declaring the Bucks could win the series in 6 games is one of the funniest moments in the history of sports.
Still laughing. Hold on. AAAAND We’re back.
I must start by admitting that I think it’s crazy to have a professional league where 16/30 teams make the playoffs – and then have to play a SEVEN game series in the first round. In baseball, eight teams make the playoffs (after the “Wild Card Game” which is a glorified play-in game). In the NFL, 12 teams make the playoffs. Both are a far cry from over 50% of the league making the playoffs. When more than half the teams make the playoffs it screams, “THE REGULAR SEASON DOESN’T MATTER, NOBODY CARES.”
Having said that, I admit I’m in the minority on this. The NFL is entertaining the idea of an expanded playoff, baseball already adopted one, and we all LOVE the NCAA tournament. So I’ll accept the current number of teams in the playoffs.
Look, I get it. Is it outside the realm of possibility to think the Mavericks could take the Spurs in the first round? No. It’s highly unlikely, but it’s not impossible. But we’re missing the point. The freaking Spurs SHOULDN’T HAVE TO BEAT the Mavericks four times to go to the second round. Why not? Because they have the best record in the league and they’ve proven to be that much better than the Mavericks already.
You have to incentivize winning in the regular season, reward those who do, and make sure playoff matchups are at least reasonably tough. And there’s just so many different ways to do it.
– Go to a wild card system. You can’t tell the Knicks or Hawks they deserve to be beaten by the Heat or the Pacers FOUR TIMES in the first round to definitively say, “Yup! The Pacers were and are a better team than the Knicks this year.”
– You keep the 16-team playoff format and adopt Bill Simmons’ “Entertaining as Hell” Tournament idea where spots 1-7 in each conference are guaranteed and you set up a crazy, NCAA-like bracket for the eighth spot. This is a really fun idea, but I don’t think it’s drastic enough.
– You could go to an NFL-type system and give top seeds a first round BYE and force lower seeds to play Wild Card teams
– You could give the higher-seeded team home court throughout the entire series, or at least for one more game
– You could just shorten the first round to a best of 5, or even a best of 3
Change #8: De-incentivize tanking
All teams that don’t make the playoffs get ONE lottery ball for the draft. Teams that make the playoffs in my new format share in the TV revenue it generates and are allowed $5 million more in cap space than non-playoff teams the following year.
Change #9: End max-contracts for non-rookie deals
Simmons estimates that if the NBA operated in an open market like the MLB with no salary cap, Lebron James would make roughly $75 million in salary per year.
I don’t know if I want to see an era in the NBA where the Knicks and Lakers can bring in huge names just because they can so drastically outbid other teams (kinda like the Yanks, Sox, Dodgers) in the absence of a salary cap. But I don’t think we’d be seeing Wade/Bosh/Lebron on the same team if some small, out of market team could pay one of those guys twice what they’re making now because there are no max contracts. I see the point of the salary cap, but the max contract concept is silly.
SUMMING IT ALL UP
So. In case you care (is anyone even still reading this thing?… Am I the only one who even watches the NBA still?), if I was Adam Silver this is what I would do:
– 50-game season
– Each team plays 5 games against teams in their division every season
– The three division winners from each conference automatically get the 1-3 seeds in their respective conference (this incentivizes division rivalries/importance as well)
– The top two seeds get first round BYEs
– The four seed is rewarded by not having to play a Wild Card game (in case two of the best teams happen to come out of the same division)
– Teams seeded 5-8 are Wild Card teams and play one game for the right to play in a 5-game first round series against seeds 3 and 4 (in a 2-2-1 format)
– The NBA Finals would follow a 2-2-1-1-1 format instead of the ridiculous 2-3-2 format we have now which makes zero sense
Here’s how my NBA playoffs would look this year:
Eastern Conference Western Conference
(1) Indiana (first round BYE)
(2) Miami (first round BYE)
Safe Non-Division Winner
(8) Who cares?
(1) San Antonio (first round BYE)
(2) OKC (first round BYE)
Safe Non-Division winner
(6) Golden State
Wild Card Round (1 game)
|(5) Brooklyn over (8) Who Cares?
(7) Washington over (6) Charlotte
|(8) Dallas over (5) Portland (I like Dirk in big games)
(6) Golden State over (7) Phoenix
First Round (5 game series)
|(3) Toronto over (7) Washington (in 4)
(4) Chicago over (5) Brooklyn (in 5)
|(3) Clippers over (8) Dallas (in 5)
(6) Golden State over (4) Houston (in 5)
Conference Semi-Finals (7 game series)
|(1) Indiana over (4) Chicago (in 6)
(2) Miami over (3) Toronto (sweep)
|(1) Spurs over (6) Golden State (in 5)
(2) OKC over (3) Clippers (in 6)
Conference Finals and NBA Finals (7 game series)
Indiana over Miami (in 7), OKC over Spurs (in 6); OKC over Indiana (in 6)
We still get the big names, we still get our ratings, only now the players are healthy, they’re not as tired, and the first round is ten times more entertaining and watchable instead of watching Lebron dunk on Brandon Jennings twelve times a game… I guess that is kind of entertaining though.