NBA State of Play – Rule Changes – Trends – CBA – Schedule Reform – Load Mgmt – etc

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The NBA is formally exploring how it might use its 75th anniversary season as an opportunity to test some of its bolder initiatives -- not only a mid-season cup and postseason play-in tournament, but also a reduction in the 82-game regular season schedule.

big city slam (Spottie), Wednesday, 26 June 2019 16:45 (four months ago) link

really seems like theyd have a hard time convincing ownership to buy into any of that. but maybe just start simply but eliminating back to back games completely.

big city slam (Spottie), Wednesday, 26 June 2019 16:51 (four months ago) link

f the owners players start their own coop league and institute all my beautiful ideas

lag∞n, Wednesday, 26 June 2019 16:52 (four months ago) link

Bill Simmons

It’s important to remember that they settled on 82 games for no real reason. The right number is 72 (play everyone twice + your conference one extra time). The ten extra games are about wear and tear and greed.

Go to 72 games, do a single elimination play-in tournament for the 7/8 seeds, make the first round Best of 5 but the 1-seeds get 1-2-4-5 at home, and stretch things out so the Conference Finals last 3 days longer so teams are more rested.

big city slam (Spottie), Wednesday, 26 June 2019 17:54 (four months ago) link

It's greed. (good) teams will still make plenty of profit with 5 less home games, though I would feel bad for staff such as vendors, ushers etc. Personally I'd pay $5-10 more for a ticket if that's what it took to go to 72 games.

A True White Kid that can Jump (Granny Dainger), Wednesday, 26 June 2019 18:02 (four months ago) link

This is why a players run league would never work:

I do NOT understand how and why Jeff Green keep signing these 1 year deals for the minimum. This is now 3 years in a row. He’s never injured, He’s never been a problem in the locker room, He’s athletic, he can shoot the 3, he can guard multiple positions and he’s not old 🤷🏾‍♂️.

— DWade (@DwyaneWade) July 3, 2019

big city slam (Spottie), Wednesday, 3 July 2019 03:37 (four months ago) link

tbf the nba only figured out not to give jeff green big contracts 3 years ago

lag∞n, Wednesday, 3 July 2019 03:57 (four months ago) link


Sources: The NBA Board of Governors have passed the implementation of in-game challenge flags for head coaches for the 2019-20 season.

— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) July 9, 2019

big city slam (Spottie), Tuesday, 9 July 2019 23:53 (four months ago) link

man no iggy no shaun end of an era

Sources: Warriors are waiving guard Shaun Livingston, who is guaranteed $2M of his $7.7M salary for season. Livingston, 33, is determined to continue playing and becomes one more valuable free agent candidate for contenders. He’s won three NBA titles and reached five Finals.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 10, 2019

lag∞n, Wednesday, 10 July 2019 00:53 (four months ago) link

rong thred

lag∞n, Wednesday, 10 July 2019 00:54 (four months ago) link

that shams tweet had me scared for a second that there was going to be a literal flag which would have been the worst thing in the world.

call all destroyer, Wednesday, 10 July 2019 01:39 (four months ago) link

Should be just like football where they throw a beanbag on the floor in a snit.

EZ Snappin, Wednesday, 10 July 2019 01:47 (four months ago) link

brad shd have to keep it in his sock to show proper respect to belichick

lag∞n, Wednesday, 10 July 2019 01:51 (four months ago) link

three months pass...

interesting 3than 5tr@u55 article here

The NBA’s dwindling viewership and precarious outreach plans

By Ethan Strauss 7h ago 154
Every year, roughly a month before the season starts, the league’s beleaguered head coaches meet in Chicago and communicate directly with a source of their many woes. Most fans have never heard of the annual National Basketball Coaches Association meetings, but they are one of the NBA’s major rituals. All who can make the journey show up, mingle and speak with league officials on what rules are bound to govern their working lives. There are briefings, communication with referees and ultimately, a speech from the commissioner.

The annual speech isn’t available to the public, so it tends to contain franker messaging than you might find in Adam Silver’s news conferences. This year was no exception. While the NBA has publicly indicated that there’s been a dropoff in ratings, that message gets conveyed with subtlety. In person, with the coaches, Silver was blunt, according to sources at the meeting. Viewership is down, said the commissioner, down so significantly that he badly needs the help of the men present. They must do what it takes to aid the occasionally intrusive TV broadcasts, even if that means going outside their comfort zones.

This fits with a common push-pull dynamic behind the scenes of the league, where the NBA asks for more inside access from coaches who would prefer to jealously guard their focus and privacy. Coaches don’t just resent the feeling of being spied on by TV cameras; they fear the consequences. Once a communication with a player goes public, it opens them up to scrutiny, while changing the nature of how that message might get received.

For example, Steve Kerr and the Warriors were not happy when ABC captured and televised a private conversation the coach had with Kevin Durant in Game 5 of the 2018 Western Conference finals. The speech from Kerr on how KD might learn from Michael Jordan’s playoff game foibles made for great television, but the last thing the Warriors wanted was a public showing of criticism toward KD, however constructive and however couched. Going forward, the league is hoping to forge a process that avoids such mishaps. Of course, with the continued cooperation of the coaches.

Coaches might not like Silver’s request for access, but they appreciate the manner in which it is communicated. Silver is seen as proactive and open-minded. Feedback is welcome, even if it isn’t always implemented.

“This guy gives out his phone number and tells us to call him!” one coach said, in disbelief. “David Stern would never do that.”

The previous commissioner’s old NBCA speeches did not welcome such participation, especially the one given in Chicago, shortly after the NBA had signed its 2007 national TV contract. According to multiple coaches who were there, Stern communicated the importance of the TV side having access to locker rooms. Then-Chicago Bulls coach Scott Skiles raised his hand and told Stern, after a preamble of “no disrespect,” that the locker room was his “sacred space.”

Based on multiple coaches’ retellings of this legendary league story, Stern dispatched the response with withering sarcasm.

“Well, let’s see,” the smiling commissioner began. “On the one hand, we have eight billion dollars from our broadcast partners. And on the other hand, we have … Scott Skiles!” Stern then lit into him, telling Skiles in so many words and curses to shut up and that he didn’t want to hear any more out of him. Skiles went quiet, as did the room.

“He was neutered,” one coach relayed of Skiles. “Scott thought he was brave. And after Stern was done with him, he wasn’t brave no more.” All the coaches in the room got the message. Commissioner Stern wasn’t asking. He was telling. And woe be unto whichever clipboard clinger flouted the dictate.

When asked about the incident recently, Skiles told The Athletic, “I no longer do interviews about basketball. But whatever you are referring to is completely false. The commissioner never went at me or anyone in a harsh manner. You’ve gotten incorrect info.” Last week, Stern himself said, “No recollection at all. Not denying.” Make of that what you will.

Fast-forward to this fall, when Silver didn’t blow a gasket on any coach in Chicago, but he could be forgiven for feeling the impulse. The modern NBA has many issues to sort out. They are well buoyed by a lucrative national television contract, signed at perhaps the height of the TV rights bubble, that grants the league an annual payment of $2.66 billion until 2024-2025. In the meantime, for all its coverage as a fun, modern league, the NBA’s TV ratings are sliding in the United States.

For so long, ascendance has been a dominant theme of NBA coverage. The league’s fans are so young, the sport’s never been more popular, etc. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar submitted one such example of this argument back in a December 2017 article for The Guardian titled, “The NBA, and not the NFL, is the league of America’s future.”

In it, he wrote, “This prediction has nothing to do with the athletes themselves, their level of skill, their heart, or their commitment to their sport. Professional athletes are generally the highest expression of what the human body is capable of doing and therefore inspiring to the fans to reach higher and strive harder. In that way, no sport is superior to any other sport. But when it comes to professional sports, some are more inspirational, more exciting and more entertaining to the general public than others and those sports take on a symbolic meaning for Americans. They come to represent our core values. They represent not just who we are, but who we want to be.”

Abdul-Jabbar said this at perhaps the height of NFL pessimism. The article came during a brief epoch of NFL ratings declines that happened concurrently with fans dividing into pro- and anti-Colin Kaepernick camps. The NFL has since rebounded from its swoon, seeing ratings gains last season and early this season. The Lakers legend could still be right in the end, but I suspect he’s wrong about a sport’s popularity reflecting a kind of noble aspiration.

The resilience of American football reminds of Warren Buffett’s investing strategy. Buffett has become the third-wealthiest person in the world while establishing stakes in Dairy Queen, See’s Candies and Coca-Cola, among other junk-food providers. In theory, these brands are behind the times and primed for a fall when an ever savvier population switches to the healthier diets they aspire to. In reality, human beings can’t get away so easily from their base instincts. In our inevitable weak moments, we will falter, furtively mainlining refined sugar in between Instagram posts of our gym workouts. Similarly, it appears the better angels of our nature cannot win out against the violence of football. The American population is drawn to the game on a visceral level, and no amount of “60 Minutes” stories on CTE will topple the nation’s favorite sport.

Meanwhile, it’s the NBA that’s struggled of late. If the NBA is “who we want to be,” then the American people are only so interested in our goals. It took a while for the league to hit a snag, to be sure. LeBron James saved the NBA from its post-Jordan nadir. Then he chose South Beach and became a compelling, ratings-friendly villain. His return to Cleveland mended broken hearts, concurrent with the Warriors’ rise. The latter dynamic fueled some of the best nationally televised ratings the league had seen since MJ.

While the Warriors’ dynastic run buoyed national TV ratings, many other teams saw declines locally. Based on the Sports Business Journal’s annual check-ups, in the 2014-15 season, 16 of 27 measured teams saw year-over-year declines in their local ratings. In the 2015-16 season, 17 of the 27 teams measured saw declines. In the 2016-17 season, local ratings dropped 14 percent overall. Those ratings bounced up 3 percent in 2017-18, only to fall back down 4 percent last season. It’s been a rough half-decade overall.

Recent playoffs paint a slightly prettier picture, though one almost completely propped up by the Warriors vs. LeBron and the Cavs dynamic. With LeBron’s Lakers missing the postseason, the first three rounds of last season’s playoffs saw a sharp 14-percent drop from the prior playoffs. Fortunately for the NBA, James will probably make the postseason cut this time, flanked by Anthony Davis. Unfortunately for the NBA, there are some less auspicious developments at play. Kyrie Irving left an ardently followed Celtics team in big-market Boston for a big market in Brooklyn that’s only ever yielded small-market viewership. Kevin Durant followed him there, and is out for the season. The Warriors, that dependable ratings machine, are a much worse team this season, with Klay Thompson recovering from an ACL tear. Historically hyped No. 1 pick Zion Williamson fell to New Orleans, one of the league’s smallest markets, rather than to the forever dormant Knicks.

It might sound like sacrilege, but it’s more than likely that the NBA is losing domestic popularity now and in the near term, despite its ever-sold narrative of a perpetual ascendance. Yes, the NBA is young, steeped in the social media zeitgeist and theoretically primed to take over when those other dusty sports die out. No, this dynamic isn’t yet resulting in demonstrable viewership growth in America.

What about cord-cutting?
Bring up the NBA’s ratings declines and someone might cite cord-cutting as an excuse. Aren’t all the leagues suffering? Yes and no. It’s more difficult to command big audiences in prime time than it was in the past, but certain sports have fared better than others. Baseball has seen recent ratings declines similar to the NBA, but, as previously mentioned, the NFL has seen viewership gains of late and college football has held steady.

For a quick and dirty comparison, look at average NBA Finals viewership over the years versus average Super Bowl viewership. In 1998, Michael Jordan’s last Finals registered as the most watched in NBA history, yielding an average viewership of 29 million. The best Finals viewership since Jordan happened in 2017, the year of Kareem’s article, when the Durant-led Warriors first took on LeBron’s Cavs. That Finals yielded an average viewership of 20.38 million. Impressive, but roughly down 9 million from that high in 1998. Keep in mind, the U.S. overall gained 50 million in population between 1998 and 2017.

For contemporaneous contrast, the January 1998 Super Bowl drew an average of 90 million viewers. Nearly two decades later, the February 2017 Super Bowl drew an average viewership of 111.3 million viewers. In short, the NFL has added 10s of millions in viewers to its championship since the 1990s, while the NBA has remained flat at best and dwindling at worst.

What about streaming?
Well, maybe the NBA, with all its millennial fans, suffers more from cord-cutting than the NFL. Perhaps all those people who used to watch games on TV are now watching games on other devices. The NBA usually casts such growth in relative terms. According to the league, digital viewership increased 47 percent versus last year.

Here’s the issue. While digital certainly is a growth market, the vast majority of people still prefer watching sports on traditional television. Streaming numbers are difficult to come by, but within North America, they are often not so impressive, compared to overall viewership. To cite a positive NBA stat, 15.9 million Canadians watched the Raptors win Game 6 of the NBA Finals on TSN. To give you a sense of how niche streaming can be, only 143,000 people viewed the TSN live stream for that same game. In other words, the televised Raptors Finals clincher had 111 times the audience of the livestreamed version. Given that conversion, it is highly doubtful that, in the U.S., TV ratings declines are being compensated for with digital gains.

Time zone effect
The league has admitted to a recent ratings drop, and it mostly attributes the decline to LeBron heading West, outside the preferable Eastern time zone. Silver explained, “Fifty percent of television households in this country are in the Eastern time zone. And so if your West Coast games start at 10:30 at night in the East, you’re invariably going to lose a lot of viewers around 11, 11:30. I mean, you can just chart it. You see how many television households turn off around 11:15, 11:30 at night, just because people have to get up for work in the morning.”

That explanation doesn’t quite explain everything, given the team James joined. The Lakers might be the league’s biggest brand. Their market includes not just Southern California, but Hawaii and Las Vegas as well. A superstar joining the Lakers shouldn’t be what tanks TV ratings.

Still, there’s something to the idea of correcting suboptimal game starts. Silver, in a proactive move, has gotten behind shaping the schedule to account for those pesky Pacific start times. The league has announced that nationally televised 10:30 starts have been reduced from 56 last season to 33 this one. The Lakers will go down from 19 nationally televised 10:30 starts to 10 in the upcoming season. We shall see if it works.

What about social media?
#NBATwitter is a thing. Much of the ascendence narrative comes with praise over how the league dominates social media platforms. One slight issue: Such dominance does not appear to gin up much interest in watching the actual games. The NBA sells games, not feuds between stars and not news of transactions. Games. You know, the contests Allen Iverson so desperately wanted us to talk about.

Perhaps all the off-court drama helps the NBA in some peripheral way, but it wouldn’t be so inconceivable to think that it’s hurting. As Pat Riley was fond of saying, “Keep the main thing the main thing.” Is the NBA doing that when so much of its coverage is devoted to something other than the games themselves?

Deus Ex MaChina
This all brings us to China, the country that currently threatens to wipe away massive sums of NBA money in response to one tweet from a general manager. For those who haven’t been tracking this ever unfolding international incident, Daryl Morey, GM of the Houston Rockets, retweeted an image with the words “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” in support of the semiautonomous territory’s months-long pro-democracy protests on Friday, just as the Rockets began a preseason trip to Asia. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta disavowed the tweet, himself tweeting, “Listen … @dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization.” Morey deleted his Hong Kong support retweet, but the incident did not end there.

On Sunday, the Chinese Basketball Association announced that it was suspending cooperation with the Rockets. Chinese companies pulled Rockets sponsorships. Tencent Holdings, the massive company that owns China’s online streaming rights to the NBA, announced that it was wiping the Rockets from its platforms. Tencent’s streaming deal, which hangs in the balance of this dispute, pays the NBA $1.5 billion over five years. Sunday night, the NBA released a statement stating, among other things, “We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China.”

On Monday night, Steve Kerr was asked about the issue, to which the normally loquacious coach offered little comment, saying, “It’s a really bizarre international story. A lot of us don’t know what to make of it. It’s something I’m reading about like everybody is, but I’m not gonna comment further.” The no comment would come to be mocked by President Donald Trump in a press conference two days later.

On Tuesday, Silver gave a clarifying statement that supported Morey’s right to free expression. This happened the same day that Chinese broadcaster CCTV announced that it would not be airing the NBA’s upcoming preseason games in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

This hardly encapsulates all that has happened in the last half a week, and there’s surely more to come. The implications of the Morey affair are massive, touching everything from international politics to the outlook of the NBA’s BRI. It’s worth wondering how we got to such a fraught, precarious moment in the league’s history.

While domestic interest in the NBA flatlined, the NBA contented itself with chasing viewership abroad. The struggles of the post-Jordan era might have been distressing, but the NBA had this big, lucrative project that was sure to make up for it all and then some. Advertising the league’s popularity in Iowa was so drab and unrewarding when stacked against a magical megaphone that blasts the game out to a billion-plus.

Current events show that this plan, thought to be wondrously successful until about 15 minutes ago, included some significant risks. Morality issues aside, the NBA is dealing with a top-down authoritarian regime that can scuttle the entire arrangement in a blink. Just like that, all the NBA’s years of investment and planning can be wiped away. This has always been so, yet almost never discussed. Now we know. The NBA’s golden goose can ghost. No longterm plans based on China’s continued NBA involvement can be completely trusted.

Thanks to the squeaky wheel dynamic, coverage of this current standoff tends to focus on China, or as Nets owner Joe Tsai (who was born in Taiwan) put it, “the way hundreds of millions of Chinese NBA fans feel about what just happened.” Less often are we asked to consider how Americans might feel about this mess. All the coverage on the NBA’s delicate handling of China’s umbrage might miss a larger dynamic at play: The American public’s opinion has chilled on the country the league so ardently courts. When the NBA made its initial forays into the world’s second-largest market, the conventional wisdom was that this was yet another step toward China’s inevitable liberalism and general allyship with the United States. This hasn’t really happened, but NBA officials have followed the old script, endlessly broadcasting their China inroads as some form of higher diplomacy to an American public that sees little reason to swoon.

A Pew poll released on Aug. 13 detailed that only 26 percent of Americans conveyed a favorable view of China. This represented a steep drop from 2017, pre-trade war, when 44 percent of Americans conveyed a favorable view. From the Pew report, “Americans also increasingly see China as a threat. Around a quarter of Americans (24 percent) name China as the country or group that poses the greatest threat to the U.S. in the future, twice as many as said the same in 2007. China is tied with Russia (24 percent) as the country or group most cited as a threat to the U.S.” Keep in mind that this polling preceded this current controversy. The current numbers could easily be even less China-favorable.

America’s relationship with China is too complex to fully parse here, but both nations have recently caught and punished accused spies of the other. This is not, currently, the most harmonious dynamic between nations. The issue for the NBA is that trend lines suggest an escalation of tensions, not a relaxing. Donald Trump ran for president in 2016 on confronting China and the aforementioned polls suggest at the position’s popularity. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, perhaps Trump’s challenger in the upcoming 2020 election, has sharply criticized China in the past, most recently over Twitter per this particular incident. Based on the tweets of Democrat and Republican politicians alike, there was a bipartisan consensus of disgust directed toward the NBA in the immediate aftermath of this incident.

How sustainable is that dynamic going forward? Even if China, its bluff called by Silver, comes back to the NBA, there will likely be more issues. The Morey mishegoss might come and go, replaced by another news story, but what prevents another unforeseen international incident? Remember, this all happened over one deleted tweet.

There may be no fixing this. Even an improvised solution that immediately saves the NBA’s multibillion-dollar marriage to China could be doomed to inevitable failure based on the bigger dynamics at play.

So, if the league’s China relationship is inherently unstable, how does it recover? Does it look for the next superstar in India, as the New York Times suggested the NBA so desperately wants?

Perhaps the answer is in that room, back in Chicago. Much as the coaches might wince, mic’d up segments have the potential to gloriously augment the viewing experience. The NFL is, to borrow a phrase, light-years ahead of the NBA in that respect. The NBA’s domestic product, whether it be League Pass, NBA TV, or some of the postgame shows of its broadcast partners, needs to be sharper. Two decades of the NBA studying abroad has correlated with a lot of slack in its domestic TV products. Stateside, there’s not enough high-quality TV coverage that’s pertinent to the actual game, especially now that David Griffin has left the studio to run the Pelicans. The league would benefit from the kind of coverage that lets fans know that games are actually interesting.

In the meantime, in the aftermath of the Morey affair, the NBA needs to ambitiously grow the game at home as a bulwark against getting leveraged like it was in this incident. Other leagues have wrapped themselves in the American flag, for better or for worse perhaps, but these sports at least recognized where they were rooted and what domestic customers respond to. The NFL has a slickly produced series titled, “America’s Game.” It’s hard to envision the NBA ever doing that, even if the sport this nation nurtured has just as much a claim to the title.

The NBA has constantly advertised its ambitions beyond America. To be an NBA news consumer is to hear endlessly from the league on how they might conquer China, India and beyond, but little as to how basketball might become the favorite sport of its home country. Silver said, during the 2017 Finals, “It frustrates me that there are no Chinese players in the NBA right now,” adding, “There’s probably more basketball being played in China than anywhere else in the world. And more NBA basketball is being watched in China than anywhere else in the world.” Silver then went on to talk about consulting with Yao Ming on developing great Chinese international teams that might win big in future Olympics and World Cups. An understandable view from a corporate perspective perhaps, but a little strange to hear an American commissioner so openly pine for China’s success in the Olympics. One wonders if, based on the U.S. ratings, American customers can sense the National Basketball Association’s apathy towards its own nation.

There’s nothing bad about spreading the gospel of your sport beyond borders and receiving the privilege of players like Dirk Nowitzki, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Yao Ming inspiring fans here. Indeed, that’s all fantastic. The challenge is remaining solid within your sphere of immediate influence, growing within what you know. The challenge is keeping the main thing the main thing. When you’re embroiled in a conflict that’s 7,000 miles away, you couldn’t be farther from it.

de-mamba mentality (Spottie), Friday, 11 October 2019 02:47 (one month ago) link

The NBA's going to survive, even if ratings are down 15%. The owners, players and networks may not make as much off the sport as their greed would like, but if future rookie contracts and max contracts for all-stars have to take a 15% haircut and 'only' 17 million people watch the NBA Finals, then boo-fucking-hoo.

The business end of the sport only interests me in terms of competitive balance within the league. Whether the NBA conquers the world, signs a 40 billion dollar tv contract, and Zion becomes a billionaire or maybe just a half-billionaire is nothing I really care about. That's not hoops. That's just raw capitalism doing its maximum profits thing. Let me find my tiny violin so I can serenade them.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 11 October 2019 03:07 (one month ago) link

The combination of cable companies dropping RSNs and a moderate loss of China business would be rough

Matt Armstrong, Friday, 11 October 2019 17:27 (one month ago) link

From a fan’s perspective what we should worry about is a dramatic loss of revenue causing a lockout

Matt Armstrong, Friday, 11 October 2019 17:28 (one month ago) link

A lockout would have to wait until the next CBA was being negotiated, but aiui the ultimate basis of player compensation is a fixed percentage of league revenue, not a fixed dollar amount, so a lockout over decreased league revenue would seem to be illogical, unless the position of the owners was that they want a bigger share of the shrinking pie. If so, fuck 'em.

A is for (Aimless), Friday, 11 October 2019 18:01 (one month ago) link

well that is what they would want, and i agree with your stance, but it’s not good news for all of us who enjoy watching basketball.

call all destroyer, Friday, 11 October 2019 19:53 (one month ago) link

The position would be that they’ve committed to contracts they can no longer pay

Matt Armstrong, Friday, 11 October 2019 21:26 (one month ago) link

I don't imagine revenues will fall to the extent that the owners would be unable to pay the cost of staying in business without abrogating their player contracts. But if keeping the doors open and the lights on required renegotiation of player contracts, then it would be smart for the player's union to do so, rather than kill the league altogether. A lockout almost certainly would be about the owners extracting terms favorable to themselves, not because the players insist of holding them to "contracts they can no longer pay".

A is for (Aimless), Saturday, 12 October 2019 00:42 (one month ago) link

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