Ungodly Politics

"Announcing your plans is a good way to hear god laugh." - Al Swearingen

Friday, April 30, 2004  

I don't often talk about things like sports, but I'm an NBA fan. In particular, a San Antonio Spurs fan. And there's been a lot of complaining about how bad the playoffs are this year. I was just musing about it, and this post resulted.

Here's the problem: David Stern, Marketing GeniusTM decided to extend the first round to 7 games.

This had several effects, all of them bad. First, it virtually eliminates the possibility of an upset. Over seven games, the best team is virtually always going to win. Little things like Lakers/Kings last year are anomalies, the best team almost always wins in seven.

Second, Stern decided to stretch out the first round to maximise television revenue by putting more games on weekends. This means that the first round could, if it goes seven games, last 18 days. That's just insane. Right now, if any series goes 7 games, we'll have the bizarre scenario of a second round series going on at the same time as a first round series' game 2.

Third, it eliminates upsets. Yeah, this is a big deal, so I'll mention it twice. This is what makes the NFL playoffs so much fun, and what makes the NCAA tourney so fun. It's one game, win or go home. In the NBA (and MLB), the best team is going to win.

Another problem is that bad teams hang around too long. This is mostly a problem in the lEastern Conference, where teams like Boston and New York were inflicted on us for a full four games, instead of three.

Here's another problem: Psychology, both for fans and teams. For teams, a five game series meant the road team only had to take one of the first two on the road, then hold home court. That's not too hard to think you can do, just one real upset. But now, you have to win one on the road, then THREE at home. That's a lot harder.

For fans, it's harder to get into the playoffs when there's such a long break between games. For instance, Minnesota played Game 1 on 18 April. They played Game 2 on 21 April. Why in the world did they have that long a break? San Antonio played their first two games in three days. That's reasonable. Four, for a homestand, is pathetic.

The reason for the delay? Higher seeded teams were more stretched out so they'd be playing the majority of their games on weekends. Minnesota didn't play Game Three until April 24. So, that's one week to play three games. Game Five of that series is tonight, 12 days later. The regular season is more packed than that. Game Six is planned for Sundays. Most playoff series go six games. Seems obvious what they're planning, right?

Finally, we're facing the problem of rust in the second round. This is what leads to college bowl games' being so underwhelming; take a few weeks off, then come back and play a hugely important game? Makes no sense.

San Antonio will have been off for a week when they finally play the Lakers on Sunday. Had that series gone seven games, it would have been two weeks. That's another ridiculous scheduling cockup that Indiana may be facing if the Miami/New Orleans series goes seven. Indiana finished off Boston on the 25th. Miami/New Orleans may not finish until May 4th, meaning the next round for this bracket may not start until the 7th or 8th.

The playoffs, sadly, really don't start until the second round anymore. Now's when we start seeing some great matchups. So far, we've got Detroit vs New Jersey, which should be a blast. I can't wait to see Kenyon Martin up against the Wallaces.

The other bracket in the East is likely to be bad, though. Indiana should tear through whoever comes out of the New Orleans/Miami matchup.

The West has two great series starting, though. Sacramento/Minnesota is intriguing. This is the T'Wolves' first foray into the second round, while Sacramento has been through a lot of wars with LA in the past, so they've got experience on their side.

And, of course, we have the classic LA/San Antonio matchup in the other bracket. Now that should be some good basketball.

With the first round constantly giving us such bad matchups, the case for extending it just doesn't hold. More games won't mean more money if the ratings are so low that advertisers won't pay much in the future.

posted by lazarus | 12:22 | |
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