1. Mid-Season Tourney?: In an effort to boost fan interest, Adam Silver has floated the idea of a mid-season elimination tournament, NCAA style, where all the NBA teams would be eligible and the winner could get cash bonuses ($1 million for each player on the winner) and an extra draft pick for the team that wins the tourney. Silver has been touting this as a possibility for several months, trying to drum up fan interest with multiple tourneys like the European clubs play. Silver correctly recognizes European soccer and basketball teams put less emphasis on league play and winning some of the tourneys is a worthy goal for the fans. He further correctly recognizes that the NBA All-Star game has so little defense played now that it is not really watchable anymore. Having said all that, the notion of a tourney has quite a few critics. Let’s run through some of the beefs and see how legit they are:
-Mark Cuban came out against the tournament strongly, noting that teams in luxury tax territory won’t even want the pick. This beef is not that legit. Cuban is right that some teams might not want a late first-rounder but if the pick awarded is high enough, no team would turn it down.
-The larger issue, though, is what a mini-tournament within a season really accomplishes. In Europe, there are many great leagues and having multiple tournaments allows teams to play that might never meet in a single season. In the U.S., there is really only the NBA and all the teams do play each other regularly. A mini-tournament serves little purpose. It’s sort of fun to see but it can only make the long slog of the NBA season have less purpose. If a team wins the mini-tournament but losses in the NBA Finals, should its fans care? I’m not really sure but, intuitively, it seems not.
Silver is trying innovative ideas to make things interesting but the real problem is that mini-tourney doesn’t bring enough to the table to make up for the disruption. If Silver is set on trying something new and interesting for the mid-season, we have two potential suggestions:
-An alumni tournament: The NBA always loves nostalgia. It could set up matches that mix in older players for each team for an abbreviated showdown that mixes in some current stars. The Lakers could bring LeBron James and Kobe Bryant against Kevin Garnett and Jayson Tatum and the Celtics. This tournament might have to be three-on-three because the older players’ bodies don’t move quite the same way anymore but it would have a novelty value and fans would watch.
-World Tourney: Do a multi-continental EuroLeague by adding some NBA teams to the mix. The top few NBA teams like the Bucks and Lakers could compete with Real Madrid and CSKA. An NBA team would likely prevail but fans love seeing international teams compete and the format of a mini-tourney would raise the shot at an upset, which would only increase interest. Logistically, this tourney does present some problems as only a few NBA teams would be able to compete and they might not have the incentive to risk injury for a glorified exhibition. The only way to remedy that issue would be to have the financial reward be high enough (no doubt the revenues from a true world tourney might be high enough to create such revenues).
Neither of these tourneys is ideal but they make a heck of a lot more sense than the tournament idea Silver is proposing.
2. Lakers v. Clippers: The Battle of L.A. is legitimately fun this season. The Lakers and Clipps are arguably the two best teams out West (only Dallas has them both beat in SRS oddly enough). This got me wondering how often the Clipps and Lakers have actually dueled in the 35 years since the Clipps moved up from San Diego.
Before crunching the numbers, my guess would be that the competition between the two teams was quite rare because of how bad the Clipps were most of the time. In fact, a review of the data shows that the Clipps and Lakers haven’t synced up this well ever before. The Clipps didn’t make the playoffs from 1984-85 through 1990-91, which was basically the entire Showtime Era in L.A. When the Clipps did make the playoffs as a low seed in 1991-92 and 1992-93, the Lakers had lost Magic and devolved to an eight seed led by Sedale Threatt, which was slightly worse than the Clipps each season (the teams went 5-5 against each other over that span).
The Lakers quickly rebuilt around Shaq and Kobe and the Clipps rebuilt around a shakier foundation. When the Clipps finally had a pretty good run in 2005-06, the Lakers were a lower seeded playoff team with no Shaq. The Lakers and Clippers split the season series 2-2 but the Clippers had the better playoff run.
The teams first really crossed paths as legit rivals in 2011-12, which was the tail end of the Kobe/Pau/Odom run and the first years of the Clipps team with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. The teams had virtually identical records. Here’s how the teams stacked up that season:
-Lakers: 41-25 (3 seed), 1.96 SRS, lost in second round to OKC
-Clippers, 40-26 (5 seed), 2.82 SRS, lost in second round to San Antonio
The Lakers were first-round fodder by 2012-13 and haven’t made the playoffs since while the Clippers have had a nice several year run of 50+ wins. All of this is a long way of saying that 2012-13 was the only season where the teams might’ve met in a meaningful playoff series until the season before this season and we could have a really fun late playoff series in L.A. for the first time ever.