Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Could One Draft Pick Changed NBA history?

Paying homage to this week's NBA draft, I'll step away from my usual college football writing to consider the "What might have beens" of the 2007 NBA Draft.  As we all know, the Portland Trailblazers won the lottery and with the first pick selected Center Greg Oden of Ohio St.  Meanwhile, with the second pick their arch nemesis to the north; the Seattle SuperSonics fortuitously added University of Texas standout Kevin Durant. These two picks, and the fates of their respective franchises, will forever be intertwined.  As we all know, big man Oden has been mired with injury throughout his NBA career and was released by Portland and the franchise has been inundated with mediocrity.  Meanwhile, Durant played one modest season with the Sonics before the one of greatest franchise robberies of sports history took place.  Starbucks coffee baron Howard Schultz decided to get out of the basketball business and it just so happened that NBA Commissioner Stern introduced Schultz to Oklahoma billionaire and close friend Clay Bennett.  Bennett purchased the franchise and after making lofty demands for a new arena to be payed for with tax payer dollars, from tax payers who recently spent over $100 million to renovate the Sonics' home, Key Arena, moved the franchise to his hometown of Oklahoma City.  Over the next two drafts the Sonics--now called the Thunder, add a supporting cast around their young standout Durant--Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka in 2008 and James Harden in 2009.  In the 2011-2012 season that group took the former Sonics to the NBA Finals and no doubt, with this glut of young talent, will be a perrenial title contender for the rest of the decade.

Could the fates of these two franchises been radically different had the 2007 Draft taken a different course?  What if Portland would have heeded doctors' warnings that Oden, while having franchise player talent, had knees of glass and would be at serious risk of injury?  They prudently pass on the big man and take Durant instead and with the second pick the Sonics take Oden:

With a front court hallmarked by LaMarcus Aldridge and rookie Durant the Trailblazers, rather than posting a modest 41-41 record end the season with a winning record, qualify for the playoffs, and make a respectable showing in the first round before ultimately losing the series.  The experience gives the franchise something to build upon for the future as Durant continues to develop into a super star.

In Seattle the organization is crushed when their rookie Oden is sidelined with injury and will miss the entire season.  The team does far worse than the 20-62 mark they netted in actuality, posting the worst record in the league (as opposed to 2nd worst) and if fact only net 12 wins making them one of the worst teams in history.  Adding insult to injury, they Sonics don't come up lucky in the draft lottery and the Chicago Bulls get the #1 pick overall while the Sonics settle for the #2 pick.  Clay Bennett still wants an NBA team but isn't desperate enough to bring the Sonics to Oklahoma City.  He decides not to pursue the franchise despite the fact that his golfing buddy David Stern is nudging him to make a bid.  It looks as if the NBA might have to take control of the franchise but at the last minute a local ownership group emerges who is committed to rebuilding their beloved Sonics no matter how bad they are--surely they will have some good draft picks coming to them and they won't make a mistake like Oden again.  

Three years later, when the New Orleans Hornets come up for sale Benson jumps at bring the team that sought refuge in OKC during the Katrina seasons to his hometown on a permanent basis--after all the cupboard isn't bear like the Sonics' were in 2007--this team has talented point guard Chris Paul.  Bennett doesn't come off as quite the villain he did in the Sonics deal--he did after all take in a franchise whose city was devastated by a natural disaster.  The transition from New Orleans to OKC is somewhat seamless as their temporary refuge becomes the franchise's permanent home. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


In recent news, the Houston Rockets sent Small Forward Chase Budinger on a plane north to Minnesota for the Timberwolves' 18th pick in the 2012 draft.  This gives the Rockets the 14th, 16th, and 18th draft picks.  So, what are the Rockets doing with all of these picks, other than becoming the Ma Bell of the first round of the 2012 NBA draft?

1) The Rockets are trying to place young talent around the pieces they have left - i.e. Kevin Martin and Luis Scola.  This is, of course, assuming Goran Dragic does not return to Houston next season.  Here, the Rockets would likely select from young rookie talents such as Perry Jones, Meyers Leonard, Tyler Zeller, Terrence Ross, Terrence Jones, and maybe even Jeremy Lamb or Jared Sullinger.

2) Houston will attempt to trade all or a number of their picks to Orlando in an attempt to get Dwight Howard.  This seems very plausible, as the Rockets could offer  either Martin or Lowry and some enticing draft picks to the Magic, who would seemingly be willing to jump at the possibility of getting some decent returns for their indecisive big man.  However, as of late, rumors have surfaced that Dwight would not re-sign with Houston if traded there.  Perhaps these rumors will be enough to deter the Rockets, as Dwight is extremely difficult to please.

3) The Rockets ship all or most of their draft picks to the Sacramento Kings for Tyreke Evans.  This seems to be the most recent rumor to hit the web, and it appears to make sense.  Ever since the Rockets set their heart on retrieving Pau Gasol last offseason, an attempt that was unsuccessful,  they have been desperate to bring a major player to town.  While Tyreke Evans may not be Pau Gasol, he would certainly help their franchise.  On the other hand, Sacramento would gain a bunch of new, young talent, as they also hold the 5th pick.  This deal could just be the revitalizing lift the Kings need.

Options 1 and 3 are the most sensical, as the Rockets could use the likes of Tyreke Evans or some young talent.  While Superman's talents would be nice, he would likely leave the organization after one year of play, and the Rockets would repeat what the Magic are currently encountering.

Bringing Basketball Back To Seattle

The NBA has gone without one of the more storied franchises in its history (in my opinion) for the past few years. I am of course talking about the Seattle Supersonics. The Sonics teams that consisted of Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton were repeatedly among the best in the NBA during their prime. And had they not ran into the Michael Jordan led Bulls in their lone finals appearance they may have a ring to show for their efforts.

Much of this history has been lost however with the team's move to Oklahoma City. The Thunder making their first finals appearance in only their 4th season since moving from Seattle only furthers the 2 franchises even more. So what can be done to bring basketball back to Seattle? The most obvious choice in my opinion is to move the Charlotte Bobcats.

After giving this some serious thought I have come to the conclusion that this is the best possible scenario for Seattle. Charlotte has a rich basketball history but it does not belong to the Bobcats, it belongs to the Hornets. Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson were among the NBA's best during their time in Charlotte and the team reached the playoffs in 7 of their final 10 years before being moved to New Orleans.

The Bobcats on the other hand have been writhing in mediocrity since their inception into the Association. In the 8 years the team has been active they have made the playoffs just once (with a record slightly over .500) and only have had 1 all-star (Gerald Wallace) who was selected in the expansion draft following the teams creation. Only 5 of the teams 17 total draft picks are starters in the NBA with only 2 still playing for the Bobcats (Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson).

The inability to recognize talent that will translate into the NBA comes straight from the top. For all his incredible feats as a player for the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan is lacking when it comes to evaluating talent in the NBA. This is a man who drafted Kwame Brown over players such as Tyson Chandler, Joe Johnson, Tony Parker, and Pau Gasol. His most recent blunder was trading Stephen Jackson to the Bucks for Corey Maggette and a 1st round pick. Trading away your top scorer for a has been and a lottery pick in a fairly weak draft does not yield good results, even if the underlying reasoning was to attempt to tank this season. Which failed in hindsight as the Bobcats posted the worst season ever for an NBA franchise and still did not receive the top selection in this years draft.

As bleak as things are in Charlotte there is a sliver of hope. Moving the team to Seattle will develop more interest in the team and I'm sure the team would be welcomed with open arms by the Seattle faithful. Seattle being the 13th largest media market in the US could also help sweeten the pot. And at this point I'm not even sure they are the best basketball team in the state of North Carolina (UNC). Charlotte fans may not welcome the move but it is one that should be made for the good of the franchise. However as long as Michael Jordan is in charge the team is not going anywhere, he was born and raised in North Carolina and played his college ball at UNC. But we can always hope right?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Ferry Back In The Driver's Seat and What It Could Mean for Hot 'Lanta

As of yesterday the Atlanta Hawks announced the signing of a new General Manager, Danny Ferry.  Ferry served as the General Manager for the Cleveland Cavaliers during most of the Lebron-era, and then became the San Antonio Spurs' Vice President of Basketball Operations.  Notably, both of these teams were successful while Danny Ferry was in the front office.  The Cavs were 272-138 under Ferry and the Spurs managed a Western Conference Finals birth before they were uprooted by the Oklahoma City Thunder this season.

So, what does Ferry have to offer the Hawks?  Earlier an interview with General Manager Ferry was recorded and can be read by clicking on this link: Hawks Blog.

As it seems, Hawks fans can expect an uplift from their newly revitalized front office.  Prior to Ferry's hiring it seemed like the only thing anyone had heard from the Hawks organization was that Kevin Garnett is the dirtiest player in the league.  Outside of signing Joe Johnson to an abnormally large contract, continually bringing back the same players year in and year out that usually get knocked out in the first or second round of the playoffs, and seemingly formulating empty Josh Smith trade rumors it doesn't seem like the organization has done much in the last few years.

Hopefully, Ferry can put a stop to all of this and get the organization moving.  Will Ferry chose to rebuild the team by attempting to create cap room, keep the team the same, or try to build a better team with the pieces they already have in place?  Nobody knows the answer, but we are all waiting for the Hawks to do something.

Welcoming A New Author

At this time I would like to welcome a dear friend of mine to the blog, Mr. Robbie Wilson.  Robbie is a historian in training and an athlete by nature.  Robbie's cunning wits in the arenas of college football, professional football, and the NBA, accompanied with his firece abilities with a pen will bode well for him on the "The Definitive Opinion."   Welcome aboard, Robbie!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mystery, Mayhem, and the Maloofs in Sacramento

Presently at the helm of the fledgling Sacramento Kings organization is the once wealthy and arguably misguided Maloof family.  Originally natives of the state of New Mexico, the Maloofs managed to forge out a multi-million dollar distribution industry, in the Southwest during the late 1930’s. 

The Maloof family, consisting of two parents and their five children purchased the Sacramento Kings organization in July of 1999.  While the Maloof biographies, which are available on the Sacramento King’s website, boast "the Maloofs have guided the Kings to their most successful stretch in the Sacramento-era (since 1985)," attendance statistics tell another story.  In fact, the attendance records reflect the mismanagement of the organization and the Maloofs poor rapport with the citizens of Sacramento.

In the thirteen seasons the Maloofs have owned the King, the fan attendance rating has been in the bottom half of the league seven times.  Moreover, five of the seven times the attendance rating has dropped to within the bottom five.  Between the '06-'07 and the '07-'08 season this atrocious attendance rating took a tremendous hit.  During this stretch, the King's attendance fell from a respectable 709,817 fans that attended a King's home game to a dismal 580,178.  Ever since, attendance ratings at King's games has continued to falter, as only 478,764 people attended a King's home game during the '11-'12 season.

This is a far cry from what attendance figures in Sacramento looked like before the Maloofs.  Between the '86-'87 season and the '98-'99 season, the thirteen seasons before the Maloof era, the team's attendance ratings were in the top half of the league nine times and eight of the nine times within the league's top ten.

This shift is unquestionably a result of the current state of management.  Time and again the Maloofs have angered the basketball world and the city of Sacramento.  One outrage came earlier this year when, according to an article published by Steven Greenhut in the Sacramento Bee, “the Maloof family said they are backing out of a handshake deal in February to invest $73 million in a project to build a new arena downtown.”  Additionally, the Maloofs owned the former WNBA team, the Sacramento Monarchs.  Under Maloof management the team collapsed in 2009 despite making the playoffs nine times in just thirteen seasons and winning the championship in 2005.  Meanwhile, the Maloofs have recently been credited with the downturn that has befallen the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, which they used to own in addition to the Kings.

While this article is not meant to slander the entrepreneurial capabilities of the Maloof family, as the family has had wild successes in many areas, it is meant to make us wonder if the NBA should intervene?  Will the Kings become the next New Orleans Hornets?  Will the team even stay in Sacramento?

What's going on with Boston University and their Patriot League Move? CAA expansion?

Boston University's move to the Patriot League is a perplexing one.  Conventional wisdom tells me that their is a simple, short answer for this move and then there is also a longer, more diabolical one.

The simple answer is that BU sees the AmEast as fragile due to the moves by the CAA and while BU is in contention for a CAA upgrade the school is cheap when it comes to athletics and doesn't want to have the increased cost to their athletic department budget by adding additional travel that comes with a league upgrade.  Hockey is that school's sport and hockey is unaffected by the move.  The Patriot also gives them a boost academically.

The longer, sinister one is that something is brewing in the CAA and the football schools are losing ground in the expansion talks and somehow the Patriot League and/or BU was tipped off.  The Patriot could be positioning itself to grab some additional football programs in the shift.  William and Mary is the first to come to mind but Towson and Stony Brook could also be in play for the Patriot.  This scenario probably is the product of someone in the CAA (JMU or Delaware) joining UMass in FBS leaving everyone else scrambling.  New Hampshire and Maine probably get stuck in the NEC.

Patriot League might end up looking like this:
Boston U.
Holy Cross*
Stony Brook*
William and Mary*

Football affiliates

Revisiting the All-Ohio D-II Conference Idea after the WVIAC Break Up

One of my earliest blog articles had to do with all the D-II schools in Ohio forming a conference together.  In the interim a lot has happened.  It nearly looked as if the nascent G-MAC was going to actually become a reality rather than just a promise.  It looked as if they were going to have 8 members and even more exciting--5 play football.  That list of schools included Ursuline, Urbana, Central St, Cedarville, Georgetown (KY), Kentucky Wesleyan, Trevecca Nazarene, and Virginia-Wise.  Turmoil in WVIAC has made the G-MAC's "birth" more suspect.  The 9 football schools in the WVIAC (not including Alderson-Broaddus, who is just starting football this year) have withdrawn and declared they want to find 3 more members in keeping with the "12 by 2015" guideline set by the NCAA.  This means that both the WVIAC (left with 6 members) and the new conference will all be looking for more members and effectively declaring open season on the G-MAC.

Virginia-Wise will no doubt join the WV football faction thus leaving 2 available slots in that league.  They could go to the pair of Kentucky schools or the two football-playing Ohio schools Urbana and Central St.  The G-MAC and WVIAC remnants will probably be forced to merge to stay cogent.  With 2 Ohio schools (Ursuline and Cedarville) facing an almost certain fate in a Busch league and the other two possibly left behind as well I think its time to revisit the All-Ohio idea--

In the GLIAC the Ohio schools have a strategic advantage over the Michigan schools.  The 9 Michigan schools need the Ohio schools, particularly because of football scheduling.  The "12 by 2015" rule gives them added leverage as the Michigan contigent would need to find 3 new members while the 7 Ohio schools merely need to secure promises from Notre Dame (OH), Urbana, Ursuline, Cedarville, and Central St--none of whom would refuse--and they have their 12.  Throw in an NAIA school like MVNU in too just for safety and the Ohio schools are in far better shape.  The impediment is still getting Findlay and Ashland to get on board with the plan.  I hope that the other 5 GLIAC schools have enough pull to wrangle in their more tenured brethren into buying into a Buckeye League.  Like I said previously, I think you can arrange friendly terms for the GLIAC schism---a football scheduling agreement, as well as scheduling agreements in other sports and a unified league in sports neither league has enough members to field a conference seems like a fair way to ease the transition.


I am happy to announce that I will be joined on this blog by a dear friend of mine from my college years.  While my expertise is in college athletics, his forte is the NBA and MLB which should make this blog a little less one dimensional.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

We need a Commissioner of College Sports

One of the problems with big time college athletics is that every university and conference is looking out for its best interests.  Conference raiding is a direct product of conferences and universities looking to become stronger than others or to intentionally weaken others.  part of the reason that college football can't agree on a playoff model is that all of the power brokers are determined to design a playoff that will benefit their respective leagues.  Let's look at why the current BCS system failed:  the BCS was predicated on their being 6 power conferences and that parity would exist among them and that each season the teams in the title game could come out of any one of the leagues.  This delicate balance was upset--first by the Big 8 raiding the Southwest Conference and then by the ACC raiding the Big East (it could even be argued that the SEC stealing Arkansas from the SWC and picking up indy South Carolina was the first strike on the integrity of the BCS system even before we started calling it the BCS).  Fast forward to 2012 and things are even more skewed.

FBS or perhaps all of Division I needs to have a Commissioner of College Sports whose job it is is to look out for the best interest of college sports.  I am talking about someone with much more extensive powers than the current President of the NCAA.

Here are some of the powers I think the Commissioner of College Sports should have:

Designing models of post season play that are the most beneficial and competitively balanced

The ability to veto conference expansion if its deemed to be predatory and upsets the competitiveness of college athletics

The ability to mandate realignment if a conference has become too strong as a result of prior predatory raiding

Punish universities and players for violations, including increasing punishments that universities give their players if they are deemed to weak

Place mandates on scheduling--how many conference games a league plays, when teams can play OOC games (personally I think their ought to be a rule against SEC teams scheduling FCS schools in the next-to-last week of the season, heck, if I were the Commissioner of College Sports I would flat out ban games between power conferences and FCS schools)

Creating and implementing a revenue sharing plan

Friday, June 8, 2012

New Mexico St and Idaho's College Football Fate (as well as the fate of the WAC itself)

The WAC is on life support.  It has five members left--old guard (and by old guard I mean 2005 additions; that qualifies as a veteran program in this league) members Idaho and New Mexico St, newcomer private schools Denver and Seattle, and Boise St's Olympic sports.  As it looks now, Idaho and New Mexico St will be left without a football conference.  There are murmurs of trying to get the Southland's top schools to join but its simply too little, too late for this dying league as a football conference.  I thought I'd explore some of the possible scenarios that could play out:

Option A:
The WAC survives as a non-football league.  It requires adding some lack luster programs like Utah Valley and Cal St Bakersfield to do it but they meet the NCAA minimum.  In their infinite kindness the Sunbelt Conference takes in New Mexico St and Idaho as football affiliates, albeit on a short-term contract, so they can get to 12 and host a title game.

Option B:
The same only as option A except that the Sunbelt affiliation doesn't work out for New Mexico St and Idaho.  As FBS independents they are left to fend for themselves.  They scrap out a meager existence playing rent-a-victim games against the big boys, occasionally get a MWC school to play at their places, and scheduling more than just one FCS team.

Option C:
Boise St and their new-found Big East friends work out a deal by which they use the Big West as a conference of convenience.  Boise St goes to the Big West and so does a MWC member (UNLV?, AFA?, Frenso St?) so that the Big East can have their team in their Frankenstein football league.  This move opens up a spot in the MWC and New Mexico St pleads their way in as a full member.  Denver, Seattle, and Idaho are left out in the cold.

Option D:
Same as option C only the Big Sky gets involved and takes in the 3 orphans, or at least Idaho.  Most everyone has a home, albeit not necessarily the ones they had aspired to.

Option E:
Boise finds a conference of convenience (Big West, Big Sky, Summit) but doesn't drag a MWC school with it.  With no opening for New Mexico St to sneak into, both Idaho and NMSU are out in the cold.  They explore FCS options: Idaho and the Big Sky have a 5 minute long phone conversation and the Vandals become an all-sports member.  NMSU however entertains offers from both the Big Sky and Southland before deciding on the Southland do to travel considerations and Texas recruiting.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What if the NFL was more like College Football?

The NFL is the most watched and most profitable sports league in America so why mess with something if it isn't broken?  Personally I think the NFL could be a lot more intense and get a lot more viewers if qualifying for the playoffs was a little harder.  I also think that due to the AFC-NFC set up there are a lot of regional rivalries that go un-utilized.  Think of how profitable it would be for the NFL if the Jets and Giants played each year?

So here's the plan: 
The NFL reorganizes, much like the NHL is going to, into four regional conferences---

The East
New England, Buffalo, NY Jets, NY Giants, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, Baltimore

The North
Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, Kansas City

The South
St Louis, New Orleans, Tennessee, Atlanta, Carolina, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Miami

The West
Dallas, Houston, Denver, Arizona, San Diego, Oakland, San Francisco, Seattle

Each conference plays double-round-robin (=14 games), the two remaining Out-of-Conference games will be on a rotating basis.  These games suddenly become big deals because these match ups will only occur once every 12 years.  Teams will only host a team from another conference once every 24 years.

Here is how the playoffs work:
The top 3 teams in each Conference make the playoffs.  In the first week the #2 seed hosts the #3 seed while the #1 seed has a bye.  The following week the #1 seed hosts the winner of that game.  Once each Conference crowns its champion those 4 Champions advance to the Semi Finals.  This is where things get interesting:

Home field advantage is determined by the result of the Pro Bowl.   The Pro Bowl?  Yes.  In the NFL the Pro Bowl matters.  It occurs in the 10th week of the season, after each team has had the chance to play both of its OOC games and each of its conference foes once.  And since the Pro Bowl is no longer in February all 31 NFL stadia have the opportunity to bid on the right to host the Pro Bowl.  It is also a two week affair.  In week 10 the East's Pro Bowl team faces the West's Pro Bowl Team and the North's Pro Bowl Team faces the South's Pro Bowl Team.  The winners then face for the Pro Bowl Championship in week 11.  The regular season then resumes in week 12.

For the Semi Finals the representatives of the conferences who played in the Pro Bowl Championship each have home field advantage.  The team representing the Conference who won the Pro Bowl Championship gets to pick which of the remaining two teams they want to play in the Semi Final.

Yes, it's wild and unconventional but I think it would be awesome!