Thursday, August 11, 2016

I Like(d) My Saturdays

The Bucks schedule was released today, and if nothing else it reinforced the notion that the Herb Kohl era is over.

The Herb Kohl era was reviled by online Bucks fans, but season ticket holders (including the editor of this blog) had it pretty good. The perks were the best in big time sports with huge arena concession credits and an eager customer service corps setting the franchise apart. The on court product was often less than stellar, but that had the happy side effect of keeping ticket prices down.

Lasry & company seem to have other idea. The arena concession perk was cancelled after last season (in fairness, Bucks merchandise coupons were offered in its place) and season tickets have been bumped up 20% or more despite a conspicuous lack of on-court success. (Unless "triple-double in a losing effort" is the new measure of success.)

The Herb Kohl era was notable for a few things, schedule wise, most notably an affection for Saturday home games. Thirteen were scheduled in Kohl's final year of ownership, with previous seasons always notching double digits.

#BucksForest loves Saturday home games. A Saturday morning flight to MKE, followed by an evening Bucks game and Sunday brunch with family made for a great weekend. Throw in the occasional Monday home game and it became even better. The moment that produced this blog's favorite sports photograph of all time happened during the back half of one of those Saturday/Monday doubles.

The current Bucks owners do not love Saturday home games. Only eight of them have been scheduled for the 2017 season, with five happening within the first six Saturdays of the season.

The reason is concerts. The Bucks owners had no qualms about booking Saturdays in October and November because popular touring acts already have their schedules set for those months. 2017 concert schedules (along with UFC, WWE and other tours) are less certain. So, the Bucks owners -- who are entitled to 37.5% of arena revenues for non-Bucks events -- want to keep the Bradley Center available on the most popular concert night of the week.

Surely the Bucks owners would spin this another way. They might say that they are contributing to the culture of the city by leaving Saturdays for something besides basketball. Perhaps they'd point out that Friday night/Sunday afternoon doubles allow families to attend two games without compromising school nights.

Whatever. I liked my Saturdays.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Jabari Curse

Jabari Parker is in the news again.  A highlight video of his was making the Twitter rounds and he garnered some praise from Jimmy Butler.

That makes this as good a time as any to re-state a long held #BucksForest position: we are skeptical.

Jabari Parker has explosive athletic ability and NBA size and a willingness to work.  He was the second pick in the Draft for the reason.

Here's the problem: he's a ball-stopper and he always will be.

Playing basketball, like so many things in life, is a combination of one's Being and Becoming.  Being is who you are.  Becoming is what you're learning.  You are what you are, and then you learn (and, hopefully, improve) as much as you can on top of that.

I have full faith in Jabari's Becoming.  I think he wants to be great.  I think he will work like mad at it.

The problem is Jabari's Being.  On the basketball court he is within himself.

Some of the greatest basketball players of all time were within themselves.  Heck, the greatest was: Michael Jordan.

When Jordan won the MVP in 1988, there were many skeptics (including myself) who thought that Jordan was not a team player.  We thought the same thing in '89 and '90, even as Jordan advanced to the Conference Finals.

Even on June 6, 1991, the morning after Michael Jordan did "The Move" against the Lakers in Game 2, I said the same thing: this guy does spectacular things, but he's not a team player.

And here's the thing: I'm right.  Jordan wasn't a team player.  He might have been the most successful athlete of all time in a team sport, but his game was always a selfish one.

That's why, out of Jordan's twenty-four NBA Finals wins (still an amazing number), only four came when an opponent scored 100 points or more.  Jordan won ugly.  He scored one-on-one baskets, used every trick in the book on defense and reigned through an era where heat was more important than light.

So, Jabari can be successful.  Possessing the Being of a selfish player doesn't disqualify him from that.

But you know what, I don't care.  I didn't become a Bucks fan to watch a crew of talented, selfish players slug harder than the other guy.  I'm a Bucks fan because I love Milwaukee and I love NBA basketball.  And, to me, basketball is best when it's played by unselfish players.

The afterglow of the 2016 Warriors is too bright to conduct a forensic investigation.  But when we, as the basketball-loving public, do, we are going to find a few things.  We are going to find that Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are not elite athletes.  We will find that none of them would have added as much had they not been lucky enough to play with each other.  And we will see that adding a talented, selfish player to their stew would ruin the taste.

I want the Bucks to be the 2016 Warriors.  I wanted that when I started this blog in March, 2013.  At that time, both the Bucks and Warriors were contending for a bottom Playoff spot.  (In fact, one week after this blog started the Jennings/Ellis/Sanders Bucks ran the Curry/Klay/Draymond Warriors off the floor in Oakland.)  But the Warriors valued that low Playoff position and tried to add to it.  The Bucks -- perhaps kowtowing to pro-tanking calls by online Bucks fans -- were frustrated with their low Playoff position and tried to blow things up.

Today, the Warriors are the biggest thing since Jordan's Bulls and the Bucks are the home of Jabari and Giannis.  And that's no accident.  The Warriors could never have drafted Jabari.  They don't pick up the Carmelos and Rudy Gays of this world.  They are not interested in talented players who are cursed with the selfish gene.  And Jabari Parker, for all his good qualities, carries that curse.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Facts & Truth: Giannis at the Point

Some facts about the Bucks' point guard situation:

-Michael Carter-Williams played his last game on February 27 against the Pistons, in Milwaukee.

-The Bucks lost that game to fall to 24-35 on the season.

-The Bucks finished the season 33-49, which means that they went 9-14 over their last 23 games.

-9-14 extrapolates to 32-50 over the course of an 82 game season.

-While going 9-14, the Bucks beat three Playoff teams, all at home.

-One of those Playoff teams was Memphis, who were decimated by injuries.

-The Bucks gave up less than 100 points in 6 of those 23 games (26%).

-The Bucks gave up less than 90 points in 1 of those 23 games (4%), the aforementioned win against Memphis.

-Prior to Carter-Williams's injury, the Bucks gave up less than 100 points twenty times (34%), and under 90 nine times (15%) over the course of 59 games.

And some truths:

-Past performance is no guarantee of future results, small sample sizes often do not extrapolate and the Greek Freak enjoys playing with the ball in his hand, but...

-When focused, Giannis has been the Bucks' best Wing defender.

-When focused, Giannis has shown the potential to be the Bucks' best interior defender.

-From game number two, you could tell that the Bucks were no longer a Playoff team.

-Giannis doesn't focus on defense when he plays with the ball in his hands. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Nineteen in Thon Years

Take a look at the man in the middle of this picture.

Nick Brancaccio/Windsor Star
The picture was taken on a Canadian high school basketball court, a place that he does not belong.

The man is Jonathon Nicola, and according to the birth date he gave when applying for an American visitor visa, he was 29 years-old at the time.  He may or may not have been 29.  He now says that he doesn't know his true age.

His age in that picture is most certainly not 17.  That news was broken by the Windsor Star three months after that picture was taken.  Nicola was arrested by the Canada Border Services Agencyafter the ruse was revealed.

In the bubble of basketball and media, this is a big story.  "17 year-old with NBA dreams is actually 29 year-old running age-old scam."

Outside of the bubble, the picture reveals all.  Nicola's furrowed brow, receded hairline, adult musculature and face that has seen the smooth puffiness of youth escape tell the story.  That is not a 17 year-old.  Not even close.

Now look at this man.

Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images
If we are to believe Milwaukee Bucks management, that is the picture, from one year ago, is of an 18 year-old boy, not a 23 year-old man.

If we are to believe Bucks management, this picture, from Thon Maker's first Australian passport, is that of a 12 year-old child, not a 17 year-old teen.

Look at the pictures.  Block out everything you've heard and read about Thon Maker's age, and look at these pictures.

Maybe pictures lie.  Maybe Thon Maker has an aging disease, or maybe those were just bad angles.


There are two stories, and only one can be true.

Story 1: Thon Maker emigrates to Australia at the age of 6, waits until he's 12 to get a passport, is discovered by American expat Ed Smith in Perth at the age of 14 and makes his way west to become the Bucks' first round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Story 2: Thon Maker is an ordinary Sudanese kid living in Australia when he's discovered by Ed Smith, who has set up something of a basketball pipeline from Sudan to Australia to America.  Smith trims five years off Thon's age when getting him his first passport, knowing that NBA people won't care about a rail thin seventeen year-old with no basketball skills.  Maker and Smith keep up the ruse, and now he's the newest hope for the Bucks.


It matters.  It matters because basketball players have a development curve, and it's known.  They are raw until age 20, then they learn what the game is.  At age 24 comes The Leap, as famed sports personality Bill Simmons likes to call it.  The final part of the curve is age 31, give or take a year, when the player reaches peak awareness as his athletic ability begins to wane.

If the pictures tell the truth, then what we've seen is what we've got.  Thon is in his prime, and this Thon is the best Thon.  And for a team that's had a hard time winning, that may not be enough.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bucks Lottery Memories

It's NBA Draft Lottery Day!!

Oh, do Bucks fans long for the day when Lottery Day no longer matters.  

But that's not today!  Today is the highlight of the Spring for Bucks fans.  It's the day that We Might Win The Chance To Draft A Guy Who Really Doesn't Fit.

Yes, yes.  Bucks Forest should not be a pessimistic place on Lottery Day.  It should be a place where we rejoice in the fact that the Bucks already have a better version of Ben Simmons, in the Greek Freak.  Or that the Bucks don't need Brandon Ingram because Jabari Parker is the team's active, athletic Big.  

It is weird, though.  The Bucks already had the misfortune of a DOUBLE tiebreaker loss, getting assigned the 10th best Lottery odds (and, therefore, the 10th pick if no long-shots move up) after tying the Kings and Nuggets for the 8th worst record in the NBA.  And even if the Bucks DO win, the far-and-away top two prospects are just about EXACT carbon copies of the Bucks' two young studs.  (And, yes, I am far from being a believer that Jabari Parker is ACTUALLY a stud, but that doesn't matter right now.  The Bucks believe it, and they're going to give Parker a chance to be a stud.)

Still, Lottery Day is a fun day and so Bucks Forest wants to share a few Bucks Lottery memories.  

And if you have some fun Bucks Lottery memories, leave them in the comments below.


Bucks Forest wouldn't be Bucks Forest if it wasn't stuck in the 90's.  

The Bucks ended the 1994 season tied with Detroit and Minnesota for the second-worst record in the NBA.  They won the Lottery, and it was EXCITING.  Sports Illustrated was touting Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson as the best college basketball player since Larry Bird, and the Bucks won the right to draft him.

The reality of the situation ended up getting a shade complicated because Jason Kidd declared for the Draft after his sophomore season (it was a different time, kids) and Grant Hill had an excellent senior season, nearly leading overmatched Duke to an upset of a stacked Arkansas team (again, different time) in the 1994 National Championship game at the olde Charlotte Coliseum (which sat 23,000 people IN REGULAR SEATS, no luxury boxes, for basketball!  PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON SAT IN A REGULAR SEAT to watch that title game).  The Bucks stuck to their guns and drafted Big Dog, but there was a lot consternation about the choice.  

Interesting 'after the fact' note about the 1994 offseason: When former Bucks coach Mike Dunleavy, Sr. started a Twitter account years ago, I asked him whether it was true that he decided to draft Big Dog over Hill or Kidd after Kidd and Hill couldn't beat him (THE COACH OF THE TEAM) one-on-one, but Big Dog could.  He said drafting Kidd was a real consideration, but that the Bucks were stuck under the contract of Sherman Douglas and didn't want a second, highly paid point guard.  

Sherman Douglas was actually not with the Bucks during the 1994 offseason, but I'm guessing that Dunleavy, Sr. simply wrote that name "Sherman Douglas" when he meant to write Eric Murdock, who was ANOTHER highly paid/ineffective point guard for the Bucks in the mid-90s.  

Now, here's the interesting part: Mike Dunleavy, Sr. traded FOR Murdock in one of his first big moves after being hired in 1992, even though he KNEW that Murdock was under a long term, multi-million dollar contract (which was considered a relatively high-priced contract at the time; again, different time).  

So, essentially Dunleavy, Sr.'s stance appears to be, "if I drafted the better player (Kidd), I'd make myself look bad because I was the one who chose the guy that Kidd would be be replacing".  (In Dunleavy's defense, Eric Murdock was a solid player.  It was a shame to see that he may have attempted to blackmail Rutgers before releasing that ugly Mike Rice video back in 2013.)


Oh, if there's one thing Bucks Forest loves more than re-living the 90's, it's re-living 2007.  

The 2007 Bucks finished 28-54.  Ugly, sure, but not that ugly.  Lots of teams win fewer than 28 games in any given year an-- OOHHH, wait a minute.  2007 was an odd year in the NBA because NOBODY tanked and there were TWO 'generational' stars expected to be taken at the top of the 2007 Draft.  With only 28 wins, the Bucks still ended up having the THIRD worst record in the League.  Third!!!  To put that in context, the year before that 28 wins would've been good for 6th worst and the year after it would've been good for 8th worst.  

Somehow, the Bucks got incredibly lucky to be bad-but-not-awful, but still end up with the third-best Lottery odds in a year where Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were expected to be dead-bolt lock awesome players at the top of the Draft.  (And Al Horford was supposed to be a darned good Big man at number three, too.)

Like everything else promising about the year 2007, the Bucks' Draft Lottery experience ended in a combination of bad luck and self-inflicted disaster.  The bad luck was falling THREE spots (which RARELY happens in the NBA Draft Lottery) and the self-inflicted disaster was drafting Yi Jianlian (which I LOVED at the time).

It was all so bad.  The Blazers got the first pick, and you knew they'd screw it up because they're the Blazers.  (They did.  They listened to conventional wisdom and drafted Greg Oden.)  The Sonics leaped to number two despite having a lackluster fanbase and local politicians intent on driving the franchise out of town.  And the only big-city franchise with a more lackluster fanbase than Seattle's -- the Atlanta Hawks -- jumped ahead to claim the third spot.  

Aack.  Nasty.  2007 was a memorable Bucks Lottery, but for all the wrong reasons.


Get ready, Bucks Forest.  This one's going to be painful.  Unless you're in your late-thirties, or older, you may not remember just how bad the 1992 NBA Draft Lottery was.

Let's set the table:



BEN (15) lies on his parents' white sectional, hoping to not be asked to do chores.  He wears a Los Angeles Rams jersey with 'MILLER' and the number '83' on the back.


Ben walks in from the adjacent living room and sits at the dining room table.  He leafs through the Milwaukee Journal, finding a sports section that has already been rummaged through by BEN'S DAD.

Ben peers out the front window to see Ben's Dad mowing the lawn.  Ben hurries to find the Sports section before the inevitable call to chores.

BEN (V.O.)
Man, I can't believe the Bucks are in the Lottery today.

Ben folds the paper over, having found what he's looking for.

Twelve straight years of Playoffs.  Every season since 1980.
Only the Lakers had a longer streak.

Ben rises, takes the paper with him.


Ben plops down on the couch.

BEN (V.O.)
I wonder if the Bucks won the coin flip with Charlotte.

Ben sits up, examining the newspaper.

What a weird thing.  The Bucks finished with the same record as Charlotte, but if we won the coin flip we get five lottery balls instead of four.  And there's only 66 balls!

Ben looks up, calculating in his head.

That's a big difference.  7.6% chance if we won; only a 6.1% chance if we lost.

Ben fingers through the newspaper.


Ben, startled at his audible exclamation, snaps his head towards the front window.

Dad stares back.  

Dang.  Time for chores.

Ben wriggles his sock'd feet into knockoff Teva sandals.

He stands and walks towards the front door.

BEN (V.O.)
Ah, I guess it's not so bad.  I'll finish the lawn and then watch the 1992 NBA Draft Lottery, where the Charlotte Hornets have the four ping pong balls that the Milwaukee Bucks would have had, if Milwaukee had lost that coin flip.


And if you don't remember how the 1992 NBA Draft shook itself out, take a gander.  Had the Bucks held the Hornets' ping pong balls, they would've won the second Lottery slot.  Alonzo Mourning was the prize at number two that year.  


Scenario One was the Bucks winning the coin flip with Charlotte, losing the Lottery, Mike Dunleavy, Sr. using his first draft pick on Todd Day and the team floundering for most of the next two-and-a-half decades.

Scenario Two was the Bucks losing the coin flip, grabbing Alonzo Mourning in recent Coach of the Year Mike Dunleavy Sr.'s first season, extending the twelve-year Playoff streak (Mourning was immediately one of the best Big men in the League and the Hornets made the Playoffs in his rookie year) and thenprobablyleavingforMiamijustlikehedidfromcharlotteBUTSTILL.

The Bucks got Scenario Two, and the end result is that most modern NBA fans have no idea what a great franchise the Bucks once were.

Hopefully, that is all changing.  And that's really what the Lottery is all about, right: Hope in a circumstance that you have no control over.  Ain't it great?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Last Chance for Arena Suggestions, and I Have Two

The City of Milwaukee Neighborhoods and Development Committee is meeting tomorrow (May 17, 2016) at City Hall, Room 301-B to discuss the design and architecture of the new Bucks arena.  It is a public hearing that anyone can attend.

In most ways, the arena discussions on the meeting agenda appear to be all show and no dough.  I expect that the Committee and the Bucks will let the public have their say and then ignore any comments that contradict what the Bucks already have planned.

The Bucks are paying for most of the arena's construction cost and are planning to pay for maintenance and upkeep.  (At least, for now.  When the Pacers' arena was build the team promised to pay for maintenance, but when the economy crashed the team threatened to leave if Indianapolis didn't take over those costs.  Indy now pays the Pacers $9 million/year to "operate" the Pacers' arena.)  It stands to reason that the Bucks should be allowed to decide what they want to do with their money.

Most publicly known aspects of the Bucks' arena design plans hit that sweet spot where 'team-friendly' overlaps with 'fan-friendly'.  The exterior looks cool, the concourses will have more space and the seating bowl will put more fans below the luxury suites.

There are just two things I wish the Bucks would reconsider: the grade of the building and the steepness of the seating bowl.

Present plans call for the entire building to be above grade, which means that fans would enter from the street at the same level where the basketball court sits.  Building an arena above grade saves excavation costs and, in a place like downtown Milwaukee where the land sits below the water table, saves the Bucks from having to an install an expensive system to prevent water intrusions.

The Bradley Center sits above grade, so if you've been to a Bucks game (and, since this is Bucks blog, I'm guessing you have) the new arena will have a similar entrance.  You'll walk in from the street, have your ticket scanned and then proceed up stairs or an escalator to the Concourse level.

Milwaukee's new arena will hardly be the first to be built above grade, but it is likely to share the inconveniences of that design.  In addition to forcing fans to use stairs or an escalator to get to or from the Concourse level, above-grade arenas rob fans of that feeling of walking through the turnstyles (or, in modern stadiums, through the metal detectors and past the barcode scanners) and being there.  When I walk into Staples Center, I see the tunnels to the seats.  When I walk into the Bradley Center, I'm in a lobby.  There's a big psychological difference there.

Les Alexander, the Houston Rockets owner, decided late in the planning process to build the Toyota Center below grade.  He spent $12 million of the team's money on excavation so that fans would enter at the Concourse level.  I hope that the Bucks owners reconsider their current plans, and re-design the arena so that fans enter at the Concourse level.

My other request is more controversial: I want the seating bowl to be less steep.

Steep seating bowls are adored in some circles.  A steep bowl can make fans feel like they're "on top of the action".  Short people may be better able to see over tall people.  And a steep bowl means that the back office space underneath the bowl might have more vertical space.

My counter argument is a simple one: shallow bowls are better for viewing basketball games.

Basketball is my favorite sport in large part because of the athleticism involved.  The players' size, speed, explosiveness and every other athletic quality is simply incredible.  I believe that the players' athleticism has more impact when fans are lower and closer to the floor.

A shallow bowl slope means that each row's seats are lower.  I notice the difference any time I attend a basketball game at Staples Center, where the lower bowl has the shallowest grade of any arena in the League.  Row 16 at Staples Center (where my Clippers season tickets used to be) is at approximately the same height as row 12 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn (I could be off by one row).  The shallow lower bowl slope of Staples Center allows the arena to have a whopping thirty-two rows below the luxury suites without making the suites feel too far away.

Admittedly, I don't feel "on top of the action" when watching a basketball game at Staples Center.  And maybe for sports like football or hockey I would care.  Those are sports where, in my opinion, the live experience is about viewing formations and alignments as much as feeling the power of the athletes.  Steep seating bowls help with that.

Basketball is different.  I want to feel the power of these amazing athletes.  I worry that the Bucks' arena design will allow fewer fans to feel that power because the bowl will be too steep.

Steep seating bowls also create the problem of pushing the upper bowl too high.  The Bucks' arena designers made the excellent decision to have only one row of luxury suites ringing the court.  Great job; well done.  I hope that the Bucks also decide to push the slope of the lower bowl downward so that it's a little less steep and so that upper level fans can be less removed from the action.

The suggestions I have for the new Bucks arena are minor quibbles.  Whether the arena is built above grade or not, I'll enjoy being in a more modern building.  Whether the slope of the seating bowl is steep or shallow, the energy of a live NBA game will be there.

But there's still time and there's a public meeting coming up, so here's hoping that the Bucks consider building the main concourse at street level and lessening the steepness of the seating bowl.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The NBA and March Madness

Against all odds, March Madness is happening.

To those who have grown up with the NCAA's Division I basketball championship as an American cultural mainstay, the event feels ordinary. Ardent sports fans, gamblers and the alumni of participating schools largely consider it the biggest sports happening of the spring season. Casual sports fans, office pool participants and culture watchers give it some degree of attention.

To cold, emotionless eyes, however, the popularity of March Madness a miracle. The players aren't very good, at least compared to NBA professionals. The refereeing is inconsistent and riddled with errors. Millions of people could choose to watch the best players in the world play the exact same sport at the exact same time, but they choose not to.

When it comes to the sport of basketball, the results indicate that the NCAA is doing something right or the NBA is doing something wrong; or both. In no other highly promoted sport to the results shake out like this. The College World Series draws eyeballs and the College Football Playoff draws more, but neither MLB nor the NFL are out-done by an event put on by their college counterpart. Even in hockey, where Canada's sports culture obsesses over the World Junior Championships once a year, the attention paid to the amateurs never reaches the level paid to the pros.

I, and many other Bucks fans, get annoyed by the whole thing. It's annoying to me when I see a crowd of people watching NCAA tournament games on TVs in the Bradley Center concourse while a Bucks game is going on. (Prepare for this if you're attending today's game against the Jazz, as the Badgers tip off right around the time the Bucks' fourth quarter will begin.) It's annoying to me when the local media prioritizes the college game. It's annoying to me that sports bars put the sound on for Marquette or Wisconsin. (Though the last two annoyances are less of a problem than in recent years.)

NCAA basketball has two intrinsic advantages that the NBA cannot match: amateurism and energy. There will always be a segment of the population that is turned off by professionalism in sports. That segment is dwindling, but it exists. College hoops also has an inherent energy because of student fans and alumni. No matter how passionate NBA fans get, they can never quite match that.

Amateurism and energy are usually not enough to overcome quality, however. Student fans and alumni exist in college football and Canadian junior hockey, yet the professionals reign supreme.

So, what is it? Why has the NBA become one of the few sports where the culture cares less when the quality of play improves?

Any reason for March Madness's primacy in the basketball world is going to be an educated guess, but there are several possible possibilities. All of them are choices. The NBA could choose to try any or all of them.


Televised NBA games have drifted closer and closer to NASCAR, while the viewing experience during NCAA tournament games has remained relatively ad-free. The name of the arena -- usually containing a sponsor -- is plastered on the court of NBA games. While NCAA tournament courts also include the arena's name, the font stays the same as all other markings and the city, round and NCAA slogans ("March Madness" and "Road to the Final Four") get prime on-camera real estate. College basketball tournament games also have no sponsor logos on the sidelines, attached to the basket stanchion or on sideline chairs. NBA arenas have ads in many or all of those places.

Sports fans seem to be accepting of some level of advertising. We also know that excessive amounts can be a turn off. The NCAA tournament's clean on-camera look could be something for NBA arenas to consider.


Let's get the obvious out of the way first: compared to NBA referees, college basketball refs are bad.

What NCAA officiating does possibly have going for it is the general concept of its officiating. NCAA referees call a much tighter game. Shooting fouls are rare. Continuation barely exists. Gray areas like moving screens, contact during rebounds and hand checking are forgiven less often. Flopping is a far less effective strategy.

Many NBA fans enjoy the general officiating concept of the League. The idea of the "crafty veteran" who can draw calls is an endearing concept, especially if that veteran plays for the home team.

The question is whether the NBA's officiating is a turn-off for rank and file sports fans. There is certainly evidence that it is. This blog would not be the first publication to point out that a lot of sports fans believe that star players and teams are favored by officials. Some college basketball fans feel the same way, but it's fair to say that the NBA is a more common target for complaints of favored officiating for stars.

NCAA basketball officials also are less tolerant of expressive players. NBA players are allowed to complain about calls to a degree that college basketball officials do not tolerate. Pro players also celebrate big plays in ways that come closer reaching the level of "taunting".

Player expressiveness is one area where I enjoy the NBA culture. In this case, however, I am not the target audience. I already love the NBA. But I would continue to love it if some of the more aggressive expressiveness were reigned in, and that might draw in some people who are turned off by the current state of affairs.


The NBA is a business and college basketball is not. When it comes to any business, it is hard to begrudge a business owner who wants to maximize business revenues. The NBA attempts to do this by scheduling lots of regular season games -- 82, compared to less than 35 per college basketball team -- and by having seven game Playoff series instead of single-elimination Playoffs.

In terms of raw dollars, things are working out for the NBA. The highest per-school television payouts in college sports are to Southeastern Conference (SEC) teams, which are approximately $34 million per year. The Lakers likely get about five times that for local games, and will get somewhere around $50 million from the NBA's national TV games. For all the talk Kentucky basketball players making money for their school, the reality is that they draw a tiny amount compared to NBA players. The fact that NBA players play so many more games is a huge part of that.

It is an open question, however, whether the NBA's "more is more" scheduling strategy is a proverbial case of stepping over dollars to pick up dimes. Yes, the teams make a lot of money by scheduling a lot of games. But at what cost? Last night's Spurs vs. Warriors game -- a primetime, nationally televised game featuring teams having two of the greatest regular seasons in League history -- was out-drawn in both the 18-49 demographic and total viewers by a semi-competitive round-of-32 NCAA tournament game between Kansas and UConn. It was only one night, but it was symptomatic of the fact that the NBA holds a place in the American sports culture that sits below the NFL, Olympics, NCAA March Madness, college football and perhaps even the FIFA World Cup.


Perhaps the NBA will look at the structure of their business and perhaps they won't.

Perhaps the NBA already has, and they believe that they are doing the right thing. Perhaps basketball is the rare case where sports fans prefer amateurs to professionals, and that is why things are the way they are. Or perhaps NBA business executives believe that violence is the reason that the NFL out-paces the NBA. Or maybe it's something else.

At some point, the NBA will thirst for growth. It is the nature of any business. When that happens, they would do well to assess their policies on advertising, officiating and scheduling.