Where the NBA went wrong

The 2011-2012 NBA season was supposed to start two days ago.  It didn’t.  The owners and players are still bickering over who gets how much money.  It’s unfortunate.

I’m not here to say the players should agree to take any offer on the table just because they’ll still have unimaginable salaries to play a game they love.  However, I’m not going to say the owners should end the lockout because any deal they decide on will benefit them more than it did before.  If the whole season is lost, it’s unfortunate, but it’s not the end of the world.  I can shift my focus to college ball for a year.

As you can probably guess by the picture attached to this post, I harbor a lot of resentment toward the NBA, and very little of it has to do with the current lockout.  Ideally, I’d like to write an article that magically attributes the move of the Sonics to the current lockout, but I think that would be a serious reach.

However, between the loss of my team three years ago and the current lockout, I’ve done some serious thinking.  I think my love of basketball needs to be separated from my opinions regarding the NBA.  As someone who feels strongly that basketball is by far the greatest sport in existence (except for SlamBall of course), it surprises me how much the NBA sucks.

Not to turn this into a laundry list, but the NBA could be infinitely better than it is.  If you flip between a college game and an NBA game, you would have to be a totally blind NBA loyalist (which I was) to not notice that college games almost always have much, much more intensity than NBA games.

Why is that?  Are NBA players inherently less interested in basketball than college players?  I think the problem is that on a game-to-game basis, there is far less at stake in the NBA than there is in college ball.  The NBA season is way too long and back-to-back games should never happen.  ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz suggested a 44-game season at two games per week for each team.  This sounds about right to me.

Many people suggest there are also too many teams and that the talent pool has been diluted, but I’m not sure I agree with this.  There are enough talented basketball players in the world to fill out 30 NBA teams.  I think the greater problem is that there are too many untalented big men in the NBA, who are helpful to a team because the court is too small.  It’s just a theory, but if the court was bigger and players were forced to run a little further, I think it would start to eliminate the benefit of having slow-footed giants on your team.  I don’t know exactly how much bigger the court should be, but I think another four feet wide and six feet long would make a difference.

The NBA has a host of other problems: the playoffs are too long, there are too many playoff teams, they never call traveling, flopping is the most effective way to play defense, Manu Ginobili, contracts are too long and/or too guaranteed, too many young and raw players (they need a bigger and more relevant NBDL) and too few games are on network TV (none until Christmas and then there’s another huge gap until football is over…this is stupid).

Constant team relocation is another problem with the NBA.  Like I said before, I don’t think the alienation of a few fan bases is what caused the lockout, but karma’s a bitch, isn’t it?  In the last ten years, three NBA teams have moved (Vancouver, Charlotte and Seattle) and one team was relocated temporarily (New Orleans).  There have also been rumblings of more teams moving within the last year (Sacramento, and again, New Orleans), and of course, the Nets are about to move to Brooklyn.  Compare this to Major League Baseball (one move since 2000), the NHL (one move) and the NFL (no moves).

NBA owners and players take their fan-base for granted in the worst sort of way.  I don’t know if the NBA will lose much long-term support from the lockout (probably not), but there is something to be said for a league that doesn’t even take that into consideration.  It’s insulting.  For as much as I hate how deafeningly popular the NFL is, they were at least smart enough in their lockout to understand that not missing games should be a huge priority.

The NBA, and especially the owners, don’t much seem to care how many games are missed.  It’s unfortunate, but it helps to know that the NBA isn’t the only basketball around.

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