Upon conclusion of the recent NBA lockout and the events that followed it has become clear that neither the players nor owners are too concerned about the final product and consequently the fan experience.

I recently read a book titled “Fixing the Game” by Roger L. Martin, in which the author makes a compelling argument for how the NFL has managed to grow into the most popular sport in North America in a fairly short time frame (20-30 years) and has overtaken baseball as America’s favorite sport. By many accounts the league has gained so much popularity the phrase “football is America’s new religion” has become a cliche.

“Fixing the Game” has more of an economic focus where Martin makes a very compelling and enjoyable-to-read argument of how the current capitalist system could take advice from the regulators of the NFL to fix its current problems. Within the numerous connections that make for the interesting analogy between the NFL and the current economy, Martin explains that the success of the NFL lies squarely in its ability to put a focus on the consumer. The NFLs focus for the last 30 years, and thus all of the decisions the governing body has made, have focused on fan experience. Without going into to much detail (read the book), making a long story short it seems that the NBA is headed in the footsteps of the MLB rather than NFL.

Before I get ahead of myself I wouldn’t go so far as to say the NBA owners, commissioner, or players have completely forgotten the fans. However its clear that with the apparent financial struggle of the NBA all parties involved are more concerned with making/saving money than pleasing its customers.

According to most sources the owners came out on top after months of negotiating with the players making all the concessions. But what they got is more money, with a 50-50 split of profits reduced from 59-41 in players’ favor, but failed to fix the same reason they seemed to have started negotiations in the first place… how to keep smaller markets profitable. A hard salary cap was not put in place, and nothing has been done in way of ensuring or giving star players incentive to stay in the smaller markets they so often leave behind.

A few facts that prove the unfair state of the NBA and why small markets can’t stay competitive, can’t keep the star players, and thus can’t make money:

– Over the last 30 years the NBA has had only 8 teams that have won a championship. The NFL… 18 different teams over the same period (many of which have been small market teams Green Bay, Pittsburgh…). And its even worse when you consider the teams that have been to the finals.

– Recent star demands pre lockout: Lebron, Bosh to Miami. Amare, Melo to the Knicks. Kobe demands a trade so the Lakers get him Pau and Odom.

– Post lockout demands: Paul and Dwight ask for trades days after the lockout ends. Paul gets what he wants and even though Im as excited as anyone to see him throwing lobs to Blake and Jordan he still got what he wanted, moved to LA (a big market) and left New Orleans in the dust, which by the way could have been even worse if the NBA didn’t own the Hornets.

To sum it all up, nothing substantial has been done to help smaller markets stay competitive. Stars will continue to leave to bigger cities, and smaller market teams will continue to lose games, fan support, and money.

I personally don’t want Stern stepping in every time an ‘unfair’ trade goes through, and would rather see him and the rest of the powers that be make some operational changes so that mega trades and star demands can’t happen. The sport may be popular and growing, but the league will continue to suffer if something isn’t done.

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For those who still haven’t heard the NBA lottery is complete with the top five picks going to:

1. Cavs    2. TWolves     3. Jazz     4. Cavs     5. Raptors

This year’s class is weak no doubt. The looming potential of a lockout next season scared away much of the 2011 class and what’s left is the most unsure draft class in a while. I say ‘unsure’ because I’m having a hard time predicting where most picks will go (not that I’m an expert.. but still). Although the class is weak overall I think there is potential in a few players- but almost all come with issues/questions. So here are the first few picks and how I think they’ll plan out.

1. Irving – the Cavs need a leader and hes the top talent with probably most potential.

2. Williams – Personally Im a little unsure about how good he is. The NCAA tourney may have catapulted him over his actual value… but maybe not. Either way he’s more of a sure pick than any other prospect in the draft (outside of Irving). This of course assuming David Khan takes the safe pick… :O. He may also take Kanter

3. Walker – Its Utah picking and for this reason I feel theyl take the dynamic, PROVEN scorer who can play both guard spots. They have Jefferson, Milsap, Okur, and now a developing Derrick Favors so I doubt theyl want a big and they have a fairly young and talented Devin Harris at point. While the 2 spot is taken up by an aging Raja Bell or CJ Miles (whos prolly a SF anyway). Knight is a possibility though.

4. Kanter – Cavs picking again so they don’t need another point. With Irving playing the 1 they’ll need a low post scoring presence or more defensive toughness so my back-up would be Jan Vessely at this spot. If Kanter is available it will most likely be him.

5. Knight – This is what I hope at least. Jose is good, but Id think its obvious good isn’t enough and its finally time to address the defense. What better place to start than at the point… of attack. Knight also has a toughness/fearlessness with the game on the line (key for a young leaderless team) and is a smart player.

Others with potential… Jan Vessely (size, athleticism, and tough minded player- to me a mix of Kirilenko’s size, athleticism and skill set, with Nocioni’s hard-nose, in your face attitude), Bismack Biyombo (beast down low, but not sure how refined his offensive game is- see him maybe as a Serge Ibaka…mayyybe), Monteijunas (great skill set and size but questions about heart and love for the game- Bargnani comparison)… Dont know the others too well so Id rather not say.

Comment on what you think will go down… Thanks for reading!

Thought Id squeeze in my picks before tonight’s reserve allstar selections:

West:

– Gasol: Should be Yao’s replacement. Hes the only one who can play the C position and actually deserves to be an allstar.

– Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams, Russel Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Manu Ginobili, Kevin Love. These I would consider locks, while the last is tough to pick. I would go with Monta Ellis. He brings it every year and his team altough a losing one, really isn’t that bad.

– Honourable mentions to Tim Duncan, Lemarcus Aldridge, and Steve Nash.

East:

– Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Al Horford, Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer, Raymond Felton, and Josh Smith.

Some thoughts: I found the East harder to pick, even though the West has more talent. Was actually hoping Melo got traded so he could play for the East team. Although I  feel that if a team is one of the best in its conference their players deserve a bit more merit that doesn’t mean the Celtics should have four players. They’re not all deserving of being all-stars. Boozer is the second option on one of the best teams, Joe Johnson is one of the best all-around guards in the league, Felton has been playing like one of the best points in the east and is almost as influential in the Knicks rise as STAT. Jsmoove is one I wouldn’t mind switching but I think if Horford is in he should be too (leads his team defensively, and provides a spark offensively with his athleticism and ability to pass the ball).

Ther’s alot of room for debate here of course. If KG or Aldridge, to name a couple, are Allstars as of tonight I wouldn’t completely disagree. But then again these would be my picks.

So much to go over, sooo lets get to ittt…. First week of the NBA =

1. Lakers are the shit still, and Kobe continues to amaze. Im neither a hater nor a die hard lover as so many are, but a fan for sure. Still it makes sense to question whether he’ll drop off because of age, injuries… In an interview with Ahmad he answered: “They still don’t get it. No matter what, I always find a way. I always win.” After this first week Lakers look amazing, and once again Kobe proves hes the best.

2. Lets go East with the Green. Holly Rondo! Thats all Il say about him, I despise him this week cuz he’s killing me in fantasy ball. As for the team I knew they wouldn’t surprise. Already they’re making news on and off the court- Theyre playing like the team to beat in the East (IMO), KG is a dumbass for his comments to Charlie V (I WAS a fan), and Shaq continues to show his obsession for cross-dressing (called CB4 Rupaul last year, and now dresses as “Shaquita” and sings Beyonce for halloween?). Im just saying, basketball analogy aside, i think Shaq has something for cross-dressers. And Delonte and Von Wafer fight in practice. I said it before this team is NUTS but they are GOOD.

3. Baron Davis- I hate to say this, but the man seems to be another over-the-hill favorite in the list that includes T-Mac, Stevie Franchise, AI, and others. The worst part of it is that if he was two years younger theyd probably be a playoff team.

4. Chris Bosh- Everyone’s all over his case. Sure thers a reason, but its way too premature. He’s only averaging 13 and 6.5 but it wont last. Reasons why it wont last: A. Theyl need an inside presence in the playoffs and hel provide. B. Wade will most likely get injured again, maybe Lebron (playing pg is tough in the NBA) and theyl need Bosh as they did in the preseason. C. Spolstra and Riley will figure out how to use him, because if they keep running with just Wade and Bron, theyre gonna wear them out.

5. Raptors- Theyre playing alright in my opinion. Their record is worse than last season, but at least theyre trying and it shows. Thers no more granpa Turkoglu, thers no more Bosh and therefore ball movement. And I actually cheer for players like Reggie. On top of that I don’t expect them to win games so when they lose its not as bad. Plus Im looking forward to drafting Perry Jones or Kyrie Irving.

6. Fantasy ball- Pickups:

Elton Bran- 25-12 in the last game, also 4 stls i believe. Hes averaging 35 mins a game with the new coach and will continue to do so. And if he keeps playing like this hel actually become their number one option. Trust. Sure thers a bit of a gamble, but to get a guy like that off of waivers is huge.

Serge Ibaka- Not starting, but averaging more minutes than Krstic. Averaging a near double double, and will get you some serious blocks, and wont take bad shots so the % are good.

Dorell Wright- Gotta give a shoutout to my boy Rish for this one. He picked him up after the first game of the season and the mans been torching it up ever since. Check his stats (20.5ppg, 5.5rpg, and plenty of 3pts made).

Shannon Brown- This one is iffy, but with Phil Jackson trying to limit Kobes minutes, Shannon will see increased minutes. He wont fill up the stat sheet but will give you some threes and steels if those categories are a need.

7. Point guard debate- My rankings: 1. Chris Paul. 2. Deron Williams. 3. Rajon Rondo. 4. Steve Nash. 5. Derrick Rose. 6. Russell Westbrook. 7. Stephen Curry. 8. Tyreke Evans. 9. Jason Kidd. 10. John Wall

Honerable Mentions- Chauncy Billups, Aaron Brooks, Darren Collison, Brandon Jennings. My reasons for these rankings are simple. When healthy, and over time which players are best. Not whose playing the best at the moment, but who is most skilled and who actually performs with that skill at the highest level when healthy. Everyone went crazy on the Deron Williams’s performance in the playoffs last year and put him ahead of Chris Paul. But forgot that Paul’s team went further in the playoffs the year before, and that his stats were even BETTER. I have no problem with people saying that D-will is better, but it is annoying when theyre saying theses things when a guys in injured and they completely forget what he did just a season ago. Thats why I have Nash in the top 5, Steph right in the mix, and Darren Collison in the hon men. Nash’s team sucks but hes still one of the best if with some better talent and motivation, Steph is injured but shouldnt be forgoten, and Collison is playing bad on a new team right now, but showed last year that he can lead a team and put up really good numbers (probably just needs some time).

WHAT A WEEK- ball fan out

Since the decision everyone’s been all over Lebron, Bosh, and the Heat. Hating and bandwagoning on the hate like little kids. Even the so called professionals of the sport are in on it and I think its the furthest thing from professionalism.

Before I state my case in defense of the Heat and the aforementioned players, I have to say that I do not endorse the way “the decision” was handled. An hour special on national television, and doing it without talking to the Cavs beforehand was completely unprofessional on Lebrons part. It was not fair to his fans nor to the organization, so I understand the Cavs fans and their hate to a certain extent.

The rest of the ball world however has been quite ridiculous, at times quite hypocritical, and often forgetful. Heres a breakdown:

The hypocritical:

Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and a couple of the other NBA greats that have gone on record stating their negative views of Lebron, Bosh, and Wade. Now they are not completely hypocritical in the literal sense of the word, but more so in hindsight. What I mean to say is they all had great players with them. Jordan had Pippen, Phil Jackson, and crew, Bird had his cast of Celtics, and many of the others had theirs. Sure they did not plan and execute the craziest free agency in NBA history but they a) did not have that kind of opportunity, and b) they did not have to! Sure Jordan was with the Bulls for a few years before they were champions, but so was Lebron. 7 years to be exact. And who did he have- Mike Brown instead of Phil Jackson, and Mo Williams and Jamison instead of Pippen and Rodman. Point being its not like the man didn’t try. So in hindsight its quite easy to bash Lebron and say Jordan and Bird didn’t do it that way but maybe if they didn’t have such great organizations and such great talent, they would have looked for a way out, especially if they had the opportunity to sign with a friend as great as them. Maybe not, but we never know, and it easy to point fingers and talk smack in hindsight.

The forgetful/bandwagoners:

This group is for mostly everyone else. Firstly the reporters, who just jump on because the topic is hot and perhaps their emotions are swayed in the heat of the moment. Then there are all the other ball fans who love to hate. Also those who dont really know much about basketball but hear things and complain how it “ruins the sport”. And lastly all the Kobe lovers, who couldn’t wait for a chance to jump all over Lebron while hes down. The key here is that they are all forgetful. Interesting how selective memory can be. They all forget that Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce did the same thing a couple of years ago. They forget that the Lakers of a few years ago, even with Kobe and Shaq on the team tried to win by adding Karl Malone, and Gary Payton to an already stacked team. And lastly to all those who point to Kobe (mostly Kobe fans, or Lebron haters) as the most recent of the greats to stick with their team and win like a “real” competitor. They all forget how just a few years ago Kobe was demanding to be traded constantly, and publicly! And then he got Pau Gasol, Phil Jackson once again, Lamar Odom, and a few others. What’s even worse is how easily people jump all over Lebron and Bosh for leaving as FREE AGENTS, and forget that Kobe demanded a trade (id say demanding a trade is worse than leaving as a free agent when it comes to loyalty but maybe thats just me). Not saying either didnt have rights to do so, but if people are comparing one versus the other and bashing Lebron maybe they should revisit recent history.

Lastly Il say that if the espn special was handled better there would have been much less hate. If you think about it, a few friends who have a chance to play together in Miami and potentially create a dynasty together. Why wouldn’t they do it? It is their lives, so its understandable theyd want the best situation possible where they could have the most fun possible. Sure I would have liked to see a bit more balance, like Lebron going to the Knicks or Bulls, but ther’s still plenty of competition. Kobe, KD and the growing OKC, the Celtics, Orlando, Dallas, and probably a few others that will form in the next couple of years. Maybe New York with Melo probably joining Amare next year. And Crhis Paul whoever he joins will instantly create a contender (assuming its one of the teams hes been requesting). So really the NBA hasn’t been ruined at all, its actually gone back to its old roots of dominant teams and dynasties like Celtics vs Lakers. Except now it will be Heat vs Lakers, vs a couple of other teams.

So revisit the history before you start hating. And check this article of what Earl Monroe had to say:

http://www.nba.com/2010/news/features/fran_blinebury/08/01/earl.monroe/index.html?ls=iref:nbahpt1

A friend of mine recently asked this question to a group of us as a result of the recent World Cup blunders. Should FIFA, and perhaps soccer in general institute some kind of instant replay? Here is my response:

I say yeah. People say it would change the game too much. I personally think the game needs change. Granted I’m not the biggest soccer enthusiast and don’t watch it allll the time but from an outsiders perspective the game has little to no integrity.

Certain players are a joke at times and have no pride, flopping every little chance they get, even when they aren’t touched at ALL at times. Fans can see that, and outsiders who aren’t used to it and just tune in to watch the World Cup are baffled. No wonder they say soccer sucks and is a soft sport. I’m not saying it is, but at the same time I understand their premature judgement.

On top of that you have ridiculous calls happening all the time. Even at the biggest tournament the sport has to offer, which is supposed to include the best refs of the world. How are three refs going to call a fair game on such a large field. Seriously. The tiny NBA hardwood has as many refs and they run their asses off, watch game tape every night, and actually have to explain their calls alot of the time. On top of which they have instant replay.

Seriously I really don’t think its a question, especially when you consider something like the World Cup only happens every four years and countries put their all (fans, players, coaches, and capital) into their teams. So much hope on the line. Just think of poor Ireland and the disgraceful French that were let into this years World Cup.

Everyone seems to have an opinion on where the superstars of the biggest free agent class in the history of the NBA are going, as they should. It’s the most exciting offseason I’ve witnessed as an NBA fan. So hers my quick shpeal on LBJ and a couple of the other superstars.

Lebron James: I believe that he wants to play in New York and has wanted to for a while for a number of reasons. The city and all its attractions, and the fact that his legacy as one of the greatest players the league has seen can be built-in the mecca of basketball. The fact that D’antoni always seems relaxed and confident that the Knicks will “be fine” this free agency sort of makes me think that perhaps he knows something. On top of that Lebron has been reported speeking with Eddy Curry. Supposedly they talked about Curry’s career and what he expects and sees in the future. A phone call that would make sense for Lebron considering Curry is one of only a few players actually on the Knicks roster this offseason. In my eyes this is Lebron doing research and really wanting to play for the Knicks. The one thing keeping him from being sure of it and perhaps choosing another city is the fact that the Knicks may not be ready to compete for a championship like other teams. Their roster is nowhere near ready at this point, which makes me think there is a correlation between that last barrier for Lebron, and him inquiring into Eddy Curry’s future plans and career. If he gets Curry on board, a center that has always had potential to be a force inside, along with Galinari, and Chandler, plus another A-list free agent or at least a couple of B-list players it may be enough for Lebron. Then again it may not. Point being Lebron wants to play in New York, but their lack of talent at this point may be the deciding factor.

Dwayne Wade: Wants to stay in Miami and probably will because Miami has the cap and the city to entice one other free agent at least. Perhaps Amare and someone else.

Chris Bosh: I actually think this is a 60/40 considering he doesn’t want to be a secondary player if he doesn’t have to. He may stay in T.O if Collangelo can make a couple of good moves. I give a slight edge to leaving however. Likely destination will be Chicago. I don’t think the Bulls will be able to get Lebron or D-Wade, leaving Bosh, the third best player of the class and a guy that would fit well with the Bulls roster and still allow Rose to be the leader.

Joe Johnson: Almost guaranteed he will leave with so many teams clearing cap and considering most will not be able to get any of the top-tier guys. Plus he clearly doesn’t like ATL. Possible destinations are too many to consider.

No matter what happens, as an NBA fan, I’m pumped.

Every year seems like its going to be the best. Every year there are series that intrigue, and seemingly more so than th year before. That’s just the beauty of the NBA playoffs. No matter who’s in, regardless of whether your team made it or not, you get excited. Provided your a basketball fan of course.

That being said out of that same excitement I had to write a blog on the playoffs. Here are my picks and opinion on each series…

First to get rid my picks for NBA season awards:

MVP: Lebron. Best team, best stats. And if you took him away from the Cavs they would suffer as much and in many cases more than any other team without their star.

Defensive player: Dwight Howard. The most dominant big man in the game today- but because of his defense. People love skilled players, and the skills noticed the most are the offensive. The reason he is continuously underrated. D12 is in my opinion an MVP candidate for his defense alone.

6th man: Jamal Crawford. One of my favorite players in the league. His numbers, and the improvement of the Hawks from last season sums this argument up.

Coach of the year: To be honest I don’t think any average viewer can make any educated opinion on who should win COY because we don’t really see what they do. So with that said, my uneducated pick would be probably Jerry Sloan or Scott Skiles. Reason being that Jerry has had good playoff teams year in and year out and never gets recognition. And this year more so than any other of recent, his team is considered a contender. Skiles, on the other hand has done most with the least this season. Has brought together a fairly young Bucks team from one of the worst last year to a playoff team this year. And he has done it with key injuries all year long (Redd, Bogut).

Rookie of the year: Stephen Curry. I like all three (Jennings, Evans, and Curry) and if either won I wouldn’t disagree. I pick Curry here by a slight edge because of his game type. He has improved and his stats have almost caught up to Evans. But more importantly he seems to control the game and run his team like an experienced veteran. While Evans and Jennings have raw skill and physical ability that Curry somewhat lacks, they make rookie mistakes and achieve their statistic averages with less control and efficiency. Curry controls the tempo and takes much better shots than both. And he distributes the ball better than both. I love both Evans and Jennings and they may very well end up being better than Curry in the future, but Curry seems like a seasoned vet already.

Playoffs:

East-

(Cavs vs Bulls- 4-0) – (Magic vs Bobcats- 4-2) – (Hawks vs Bucks- 4-1) – (Celtics vs Heat- 4-2)

West-

(Lakers vs Thunder- 4-3) – (Mavs vs Spurs- 4-2) – (Suns vs Blazers- 4-2) – (Nuggets vs Jazz- 3-4)

To sum it up- its gonna be nuts, especially in the wild west. The best series in the East will be Heat Celtics, and Bobcats Magic might surprise. While in the west almost anything can happen, I call the Jazz with the only upset (seeding wise) and the Thunder to take the Lakers to 7!!! I realize the Blazers will be without Roy but I think they have enough fight and good coaching to steal a game or two from the Suns.

My finals prediction is Lakers vs Cavs. Cavs in 6

This post is geared more toward Raptors fans, but can apply to all NBA fans.

Picture this…

2010 NBA playoffs underway. The Toronto Raptors finish in the lower half of the playoff bracket and matchup against the Orlando Magic. All Raptors fans already know the excitement that series would bring and the reasons for it. From Turkoglu and Carter, to Bosh and Dwight’s rivalry, to the simple fact that it is the playoffs and every team is extremely hungry.

But the fans are hungry to. They want wins, they want excitement, they want intesity. But most of all they want to cheer.

Raptors fans have been waiting a couple of years to get back into the playoff picture and now they’re pooring in to the stadium. From the GTA to Ottawa, and even other provinces people are showing up, and the ACC is buzzing. Its got an electric feel, people are ready.

But what are they ready for??? In the NBA fans cheer at the occasional dunk, play, boo at the refs once in a while, and are happy when their team comes back. But this is nothing in comparison to the top soccer leagues around the world. Im not speaking literally of hooligans who break and fight, but rather of the thousands and thousands of fans who all show up, all know the routine, and all eagarly and gladly express their emotion and excitement the same way, as if they were organized to do so. They sing and chant the whole game. From chants meant to distract the oposition to singing old rhymes made up and cherished throughout a franchise’s years. They even have chants and songs for specific players. Some rude, some funny, and some just nice. But they have them, and it makes the atmosphere that much crazier and for the most part more enjoyable. AND they do it every game.

It is unrealistic to expect or even think about the possiblity of this happening in the NBA, but how about a chant or two during the playoffs. And im not talking about the occasional “ole, ole” that was stolen from soccer anyway, but full out team chants. Why not? The playoffs are already filled with crazy fans who are willing to cheer and yell, but they don’t have any songs to do this by.

So back to the picture I was painting earlier. Picture it. Its the playoffs. Raptors vs Magic. Vince vs Toronto, Bosh vs Dwight. Hedo vs Orlando. Bosh possibly leaving. SO many opportunities and key storylines upon which chants and excitement could be spread.

The fans poor in. About 20,000 eager, excited, red-shirt wearing Raptor crazies. The game hasen’t even started. The players are warming up, and getting ready, but the fans ARE ready. Its a sea of red, and the chants begin. Loud, in unison, the ACC thundering with singing voices. Creates for an earie environment. Gives me shivers just thinking about it. And I’d picture the players getting shivers also. First time its ever happened in the NBA (I think anyway), and its happening in one of the most international cities in the world.

So I leave you with this thought, and if you’re as eager as I, perhaps post a chant or song. Who knows what becomes of it. After all, it has to start somewhere 🙂

Out of all the trades that occurred on the day and a few days prior to the NBA trade deadline this year, the team that might prevail as the most successful is the New York Knicks.

I’m not saying this simply because T-Mac had a great first night at MSG, but actually because of Sergio Rodriguez. T-Mac, although he has fallen off quite a bit because of injuries, is still one of the most talented players in the league. However with his injuries and inconsistency who knows how much theyl actually get out of him. Hopefully alot, as I am a fan.

Rogriguez however is piece that might end up doing wonders for the Knicks. He is an exciting point, who can score and pass (very well), but needs to be set free. He has been restricted in the past by play-time and slower offenses. Where other teams perhaps had more talented or younger point guards they wanted to develop and didn’t want to risk it with a wild Sergio, the Knicks may very well do so. They do not have a very good point guard. Chris Duhon is a solid player but having had the starter position for a couple of years now, he hasn’t really produced much and isn’t improving either. 7.1 ppg and 6 apg in 33 mpg is not exactly production.

Besides the fact that the Knicks have no depth at the point, Sergio would fit in with a fast paced, Dantoni system perfectly. He is a very talented passer and creative when allowed freedom to play. Where is there more freedom than in Dantoni’s offense (well maybe the ridiculous 4 guard Warriors but thats another story).

It might end up as nothing, but Sergio may very well be the dark horse that will tell us who the real winner of this year’s trade deadline was.

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