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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Clippers Win Draft Lottery - Griffin LA Bound?

The Los Angeles Clippers won the draft lottery sweepstakes on Tuesday and will get the first pick in the June 25th draft. Oklahoma's Blake Griffin is the standout player in a draft that is not particularly rich in talent this year. Memphis will pick second and the OKC Blunder third. Sacramento, which had the worst record in the league at 17-65, fell all the way to fourth followed by Washington at fifth.

The last time the Clippers had the first overall pick was in 1998 when they took Michael Olowokandi, considered by many to be one of the biggest busts in NBA history. He was taken ahead of stars like Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Mike Bibby, and Rashard Lewis. Olowokandi's career ended in 2007. A 2005 Sports Illustrated article ranked him third on a list of NBA draft busts. ESPN's Bill Simmons claimed someone once described Olowokandi as "the human Ebola virus". Ouch. He averaged less than 9 points a game for his career. Will the Clippers, a franchise known almost as much for their terrible front office as they are their endless losing seasons, do the right thing and take Griffin?

Why I think they do.

This will help wash the stink off the Elton Brand loss, give them a formidable inside presence and bring a fresh face of hope for this horribly moribund franchise. The positive press that Griffin will bring will likely result in an initial ticket sales surge based on the promise of a better tomorrow for the Clippers. Under Donald Sterling's ownership, the Clippers have toiled in the Lakers long shadow, because the Lakers are a franchise dedicated to winning and Sterling is not. This is another chance the Clippers have to wash off the stink from years of futility and right the ship. They may not get another chance.

Why I think they don't;

Because they are the Clippers and cannot help but make the wrong move. It is innate with this franchise, from Sterling on down. Memphis, a team for sale and picking at #2, will not try to move up. They'd rather save the money. The obvious suitor for the #1 spot are the Blunder. They'd be foolish, Donald Sterling foolish, not to go gang busters to acquire that top pick. They can afford to.

They can give the Clippers their third pick and another first rounder and even add next year's first round picks. The question is how far would OKC go? Would they be willing to part with Durant, Green or Westbrook? The Clippers would HAVE to demand one of them and a slew of OKC's first round picks and the Blunder may be desperate enough. They won't part with Durant, but they need to throw a Hail Mary to get Blake -it'll mean everything for that franchise. Local star stays local - that'll warm hearts and sell tickets in OKC. OKC would be quite formidable with him. Presti is smart enough to know that and Sterling is small-minded enough to look past a sure thing for a better deal.

I could not stomach the thought of Blake working for Bennett and how happy that would make him. It would be Bennett's dreams come true, and Bennett ruined many Sonic fans dreams when he moved the team. He deserves NO good karma. Blake being just out of their reach is beautiful poetic justice.

Griffin, Spanish guard Ricky Rubio and Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet are considered the top three picks with Blake being the concensus top pick. Both Rubio and Thabeet are considered projects.

The Clipper franchise needs some good press and a total makeover. This is a face saving move. If they do not pull the trigger, they will sink to even greater depths of futility and embarrassment. Drafting Blake makes sense all around for this team. Common sense says take Griffin, and I think they do.

Unfortunately, common sense does not always prevail in Clipperland.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

NBA: Revenue Sharing Plans?

The NBA is in preliminary discussions to get into the revenue sharing business. Will this help or hurt the league?

NBAPA Executive Director Billy Hunter said that the next collective-bargaining negotiations with the league must include increased revenue sharing among clubs. Hunter wants the NBA's model to resemble the NFL's. In the NFL system, the home team receives 60% of gate revenue and the visiting team gets 40%.

Currently, the NBA's 30 teams get equal shares of TV and merchandise revenue, but do not share gate receipts. The NFL and MLB share gate receipts. Hunter claims the NBA's current revenue sharing plan is the weakest among the four major sports leagues (NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL).

Talks between the league and union will begin this summer, two years before the current CBA expires. Hunter believes the current system works for the players and that the NBA would have to prove to the Union that major changes should be made as a result of the current economic downturn.

Hunter and David Stern began one-on-one, informal talks in February. Hunter says he floated the idea of offering an extension of the current CBA deal, with a little tweaking here and there. He claims they rejected it, saying NBA players are not yet convinced that economic conditions at the league are so dire that the players need to make major changes.

Not yet convinced? The league already has a $180 million-dollar slush fund for teams in dire financial trouble, and more than ten teams were lining up for that money. A full third of the league needs financial help? Isn't that dire financial trouble?

Revenue sharing balances out the leagues - it takes from the rich and gives to the poor. It gives teams outside the New York market place a chance to compete. It also makes you wonder why the league would sanction moves to smaller markets where they would immediately become a drain on the system instead of a contributor. Perhaps Stern still believes large, magical palaces for teams to play in are the key to success. I doubt league owners will go along like lemmings and approve small market relocations once revenue-sharing is put in place. It's a welfare system for the neediest markets (like OKC) that cannot add to the pot, but will line up to draw from it.

Makes Aubrey McLendon's "We'll be happy if we break even" admission, that much more damaging. This is a blatant statement that they'll be in line for the handouts when they are available. These guys are not about doing what is best for the league, but rather for themselves.

"It's up to David and the owners to convince us of the urgency of the situation. We have an open mind, but this is a negotiation, not a one-sided give-away.

Will revenue sharing save the league? Will the large-market owners accept this or fight it? Small markets (ie; OKC, 26th in tv ratings, Charlotte, 30th) make no TV money and are being propped up by their larger market brethren. How will the decision to move to these smaller markets hurt Stern in the negotiation, especially when large markets are available to be exploited? Instead, Stern played small-market ball. The problem is that he doesn't bear the financial burden of these decisions...the owners will. OKC, Memphis, New Orleans, Charlotte; will Stern's only-game-in-a-small-market vision be what sinks him? Be pretty ironic, huh?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Blunder: "Another Disappointment"

As expected, the Blunder achieved another level of futility; embarrassing tv ratings. No surprise there. According to the Sports Business Journal, the Blunder averaged the second-lowest viewership in the league, with only 8,000 households tuning in to catch Blunder losses...in their FIRST season in Tornado Alley.

From the Sports Business Journal (April 27-May 3);

"Another disappointment came in Oklahoma City, where an average of just 8,000 homes watched the Thunder games on Fox Sports Oklahoma, even though this season was the team's first in the market. The Thunder moved from Seattle before the season started."
Charlotte's dismal numbers were blamed on the Bobcats slow start and the lack of HD telecasts (only 16 games were avail in HD), according to Jeff Genthner, Sr VP and GM for Fox Sports South. he said all of the Bobcat games would be in HD next season.

The Clippers posted the lowest ratings in the league for Prime Ticket, with a paltry 0.51/29,000 homes.

Looks like more than three times as many people 'accidently' tuned in to catch the Clippers, the league's long-time laughing stock, than tuned in to see Blunder games in OKC in their inaugural season. Only three teams had worse ratings than the Blunder. All of them averaged higher household viewership (except Charlotte); Charlotte, Clippers, Nets and Timberwolves.

Cleveland led the league, averaging a 8.76 rating and an astounding 134,000households tuning in. Cleveland is the 17th largest market. The Spurs were second (6.71/55,000) followed by the Jazz (5.60/49,000), Lakers (4.43/250,00, actually LOWER than last season) and the Blazers (4.40/44,000).

More Corndogs, More Losses, More Blunder, Less ratings!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bulls vs Celtics: Thanks for the Instant Classic!

The Celtics held off the feisty Bulls, 109-99, on Saturday to advance in the Eastern Conference playoffs in what has to be one of the best and most hard fought series in recent memory. Four games went into overtime to be decided including an incredible three-overtime thriller the Bulls won to stave off elimination at home. This series was a thrill-a-minute battle between the veteran champion Celtics and the young and hungry Bulls, a recipe that usually results in blowout wins by the champs. But not this series. Chicago was unquestionably the Celtics equal for at least this series. The young Bulls, led by rookie coach Vinnie Del Negro, showed poise beyond their years and made it known they will be a force in the East in the future.

Six Bulls averaged double figures in the series, led by Ben Gordon's 24 points and rookie Derrick Rose's 19. Joakim Noah averaged an impressive 10 points and 13 rebounds.

The Celtics won the series without star Kevin Garnett, sidelined indefinitely with what I am hearing from inside sources is an infected knee. Will he be ready for Orlando? Only time will tell.

The road for the champs gets no easier as the Magic are every bit as formidable as the Bulls, but a balanced inside-outside game led by all-world Dwight Howard, who averaged 24 points and 16 rebounds in the Philly series. Playoff-tested Rashard Lewis adds veteran leadership.

The Boston/Orlando series could be another instant classic, especially if Garnett is healthy and available. As a former fan, who has dismissed the NBA since the disappearance of the Seattle Supersonics, I found myself drawn into the Bulls/Celtics series and could not turn away. I am not a fan of either team and perhaps my indifference to the teams allowed me to enjoy the actual competition with an unbiased view. Deep down I never thought the Celtics would lose the series as that would erase the coveted Lakers/Celtics matchup in the finals you known the NBA is drooling over. I can already see the predictable marketing onslaught of the Coast-to-Coast rematch and the plundering of the historic Bird/Magic years to build interest in it.

Truth is there is no natural connection between those two dynasties anymore. The NBA is in a completely different era - forced to pimp itself to stay topical. Back in the Bird/Magic days the natural momentum and competition drove the league. Bird, magic, Barkley, Malone, Olajuwon, Payton. It just doesn't feel like that anymore. It all seems...forced. I will be stunned if the Lakers and Celtics do not meet up in the finals. Not because I view them as the best teams, although they arguably are, but because it's the textbook matchup the NBA needs. It's the obvious sequel. Sadly, the league seems less about the game and more about the business anymore.

Anyway, thank you Boston and Chicago for a very memorable match-up. Truly one for the vaults. Probably already re-running the games on ESPN's Instant Classic series.