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NBA owners are claiming that they are losing millions of dollars per season, and contraction has been considered. The Minnesota Timberwolves are on a short list of teams that may not be around too much longer. Photo by Jeff Lewis By Michael Brown Sentinel Sports Writer
Jeanie Buss says NBA should “consider” contraction In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published last week, Jeanie Buss lent her voice to an ever growing chorus of people in the league discussing the possibility of contracting teams. Buss, vice president for business affairs for the Lakers, said, “I would hate to see us lose teams, but I think contraction is something we have to consider. We may be in some markets we shouldn’t be in.” Before the season, NBA Commissioner David Stern hinted at the possibility of contraction and a few weeks back, LeBron James suggested the product could improve if the league dropped some teams. There’s merit to the argument of jettisoning some teams. Motivated by greed, the owners allowed the league to grow exponentially over the past 25 years. The extra teams have diluted the talent, and over expansion placed teams in markets such as Vancouver, a folly if there ever was one. Vancouver went by the wayside and I wouldn’t mind seeing organizations like New Orleans, Charlotte, New Jersey and Sacramento are scrapped. Judging by those organizations recent attendance numbers, people in those cities wouldn’t miss them either. Despite the merits, make no mistake about it, this contraction talk is all about the expiring collective bargaining agreement--and the potential labor strife between the owners and players union. It’s no coincidence that we never hear any contraction talk during seasons where there isn’t an impending lockout. Stern and Buss are propping up this straw-man issue as a negotiating ploy and to garner leverage with the players union, which opposes getting rid of jobs. If Stern really was serious about contraction, why did the NBA just purchase the struggling New Orleans franchise?
NBA should adopt NHL’s All-Star game ideaWhether you like the NHL or not, there’s no denying the league has the right idea when it comes to its all-star game.During this past all-star weekend, the NHL allowed two team captains to select their teams from a pre-selected pool of all-stars. Neither team captain was beholden to selecting members from his team’s conference, but instead, picked the best player he saw fit.I didn’t watch a second of the NHL all-star game or the farce known as the NFL’s Pro Bowl Sunday, but rather, I thought: ‘How would this mode of selecting all-star teams translate to the NBA?’ If ever a professional league was designed for such an experiment, it would be the NBA. Whether you’re Derrick Rose or some hoops wannabe, we all began playing basketball on the blacktops where there were no pre-determined teams or positions.“I got next!” is usually all you need to yell at the local park to make you a team captain. From there, you select your team based on who you just watched play for the losing team or whatever buddies you may have brought with you.The NBA should stop treating the All-Star game like a “game” and more like a showcase. A collaborative process including the fans and coaches could make the already exciting all-star game even more fun.For instance, the top-two vote getters, let say Kobe Bryant and LeBron James should be allowed to flip a coin to see who gets first pick. The pool of available players would be comprised of popular fan vote getters and coaches’ selections.This showcase would feature a cross section of player pairing up because there would be no such thing as a Western or Eastern Conference. Imagine Kobe running the floor with Dwayne Wade while LeBron dishes the ball to Pau Gasol for a lay up. Wouldn’t that be intriguing?If the NBA wanted to really play-up the drama of the game, they could allow even a larger pool of players to be selected, thereby not insuring anyone a spot in the game. Just imagine Kobe down to his last pick and he needs another small forward. But instead of picking Danny Granger, he chooses Paul Pierce.
To say Granger would have an axe to grind would be an understatement. The league could create an internal rivalry. With all of the current players basically kissing and hugging after the games, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to manufacture a little more intensity.These all-star games are exhibitions for all intents and purposes. Let’s treat them that way and give the fans and players a real treat. Rookie report card
Blake Griffin is the run away choice for Rookie of the Year, but the Clippers Eric Bledsoe has turn some heads too his rookie season. He has been a steal from the 2nd round of the NBA Draft. Photo by Jason Lewis
OK, I know, Blake Griffin isn’t technically a rookie--but the NBA is just keeping the trophy warm until the high-flying Clippers forward claims it.Aside from Griffin’s “rookie” campaign, last year’s NBA Draft hasn’t bore too many fruit so far this season. To be fair, the players picked in the age of one-and-done college players are so young, grading them after a year or two is premature.However, players picked in the lottery are expected to at least contribute--and there hasn’t been much impact this season.No. 1 overall pick, John Wall, has battled some injuries in Washington, but has shown signs of potentially being an impact player. Wall averages 15 points per game and 9.3 assists.Wall’s playmaking ability has been a surprise. Many assumed he was a scoring guard locked in a point guard’s body--but he’s still a work in progress. Along with the gaudy assist numbers, Wall also turns the ball over four times per game and struggles from the perimeter--denoted by his 40 percent shooting from the field. The No. 2 overall pick, Evan Turner has been a bust in Philadelphia. After he excelled at Ohio State for three years, draft experts assumed he was the most polished player, even more so than Wall. But Turner has struggled to gain minutes on a mediocre Sixers team, and averages a modest seven points per game.Other lottery picks who have made an impact are Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Detroit’s Greg Monroe. The steals of the draft are second round picks Landry Fields (New York) and Eric Bledsoe (Clippers).San Antonio’s 26-year-old rookies Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter have played important roles for the 40-7 Spurs. Neal plays 20 minutes per game and averages nine points and shoots 40 percent from the 3-point line. Splitter provides depth off the bench when Tim Duncan or DeJuan Blair needs a rest.
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