Tuesday night I watched the Columbus Blue Jackets on Fox Sports. Maybe it was only the third period but it was more hockey than I’ve seen all month.
From what I gathered, the Jackets played a near-flawless game, outhustling the Nashville Predators to almost every puck while thriving together as a team. They were rewarded with a 4-0 victory and inched closer to a spot in the playoffs. As a fair-weather hockey fan, I enjoyed it immensely.
The next night I half-watched the Cleveland Cavaliers square off against the Houston Rockets on the same channel. Both teams seemed to play with a mild, passing interest, equaling my own indifference. Defense was merely a suggestion in a 124-119 loss. The Cavs were out-rebounded by 20!
Maybe they had an All Star Weekend hangover. Or maybe they were looking ahead to their upcoming game on Friday against the newly-formed New York Knicks. Most likely, they were simply phoning it in; their minds focused on destinations far away from Cleveland once this season mercifully ends.
Now this definitely wouldn’t be a game you’d show someone you were trying to persuade to watch the NBA. You’d try to sell them on a marquee matchup like Heat/Celtics or Lakers/Spurs. But for every one of these high-profile games in the NBA, there are 20 other unwatchable ones, and this is a major problem.
Friday’s game will at least give diehards a reason to watch. Carmelo Anthony comes to town – one of the latest in a line of NBA stars to whine like a spoiled child and get exactly what they want. He’s now with the Knicks, playing next to Amare Stoudemire on the world’s biggest basketball stage.
And good for the Big Apple. It’s nice to see an underdog like New York City defy the odds and land a top-tier player like Anthony. They sure do deserve it.
Meanwhile for NBA teams not located in Miami, New York, Chicago, Boston or Los Angeles, the outlook is grim. With the CBA set to expire, Commissioner David Stern knows there’s a lockout on the horizon. Owners are losing money, fans are shying away. The inmates are running the asylum.
There’s been passing talk of contraction - eliminating teams from the NBA. The New Orleans Hornets seem like an obvious choice, being owned by the NBA and struggling to find a buyer. Once their star player Chris Paul leaves, Commissioner Stern will be left with another decimated franchise, joining Cleveland, Minnesota and Toronto. Teams like the Kings, Jazz (who just traded their star Deron Williams to New Jersey), Nuggets and Wizards aren’t far behind.
Even hitting on the draft lottery, the supposed defibrillator for dying franchises won’t help most of these teams. There just isn’t enough talent to fill all the voids.
Meanwhile Cavs head coach Byron Scott is struggling to impart a blue-collar, nose to the grindstone type of attitude on this new version of the Cavaliers. And this is exactly the type of team Cleveland loves to support. But regrettably, the NBA is making it impossible for any team with this kind of approach to thrive. And it’s the reason why I look forward to a lockout next year.
The NBA is a star-driven league, more so than any other. But like a Lays potato chip, you can’t just have one. Now boasting two, sometimes three franchise-type players is en vogue, necessary even, while teams like the Cavs are left further and further behind. And casual fans like me simply change the channel in search of more hockey.
It’s time for the brain-trust in the NBA front office to fix their league. Maybe a year without basketball will knock some common sense into a few of these megalomaniacs who posses no marketable skills beyond the ability to put a ball into an elevated basket. They seem to think the NBA exists for the sole purpose of ballin’ with their buddies.
I know my life will carry on just fine if the NBA decides to take next season off. And I suspect there are plenty of people out there who feel the same way. Owners know this and they’ll likely stand firm on sweeping changes after this season ends. Good news is…at least there’ll be more Blue Jackets games to watch.
What do you think? Does the NBA need an overhaul? Leave your thoughts below