Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is It Time For NBA To Dump The 2-3-2 Format

The NBA Finals are here, which means we get to again hear the debate about the Finals' 2-3-2 format. For the people out there who don't know, the teams with the best regular season record gets the first two games at home; the next three are at the other team's arena; and the final two games are back in the other gym. So this year, Games 1, 2, 6 and 7 will be in Miami and Games 3, 4 and 5 are in Dallas.

A lot of people have a problem with this setup ... though it's been around for nearly 30 years. They say it is extremely weighed to the home court advantaged team's benefit. Only twice has a home team won those middle three games since using the format: the 2004 Pistons and 2006 Heat.

Maybe they're right. Since the 1986 Finals, only five teams who didn't have the home court advantage in the Finals won the title. That was the 1993 Chicago Bulls, 1995 Houston Rockets, 1998 Chicago Bulls, 2004 Detroit Pistons and 2006 Miami Heat. Naturally, the team holding the home court advantage will usually be the better team ... but 5 of 25?

To be honest, I'm on the fence about this topic. I understand the 2-3-2 format but I understand people wanting to go back to the 2-2-1-1-1 of yesteryear. I think we should just cut the difference: if a Finals series is between two teams that are geographically close, then make it a 2-2-1-1-1 series. If more than one time zone separates the teams, then use the 2-3-2 format.

This year, Dallas is in the Central TZ and Miami is in the Eastern. So let's use the 2-2-1-1-1 format. The travel isn't a big deal between Miami and Dallas. The last few years (Lakers-Celtics twice, Lakers-Magic) should be on the 2-3-2 format. The travel from Orlando or Boston to Los Angeles is a bit of a journey for both teams if they have to do so four separate times. But Spurs-Pistons, Spurs-Cavaliers are no brainers. Just have the series set up like all the other ones.

Let's do this!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jim Boeheim Is Right: All 17 Big East Teams Need To Be Invited

The Big East is having a beast of a time figuring out how to continue their conference basketball tournament. In 2012-2013, the Big East will add TCU into the mix which would make the mega-conference a 17 team league. Now the conference must find a way to either make an already long tournament longer or have to let some teams stay home.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim has publically stated that all 17 teams need to be at the Big East tournament in New York and they got to find a way to make it happen. I'm with him. If you are going to have 17 teams in your conference, then you let all of them into your postseason tournament.

I'm against expanding the actual NCAA tournament. But making sure EVERY Division I conference invites all its members to their postseason tournaments kind of let's EVERY team to play its way in. Even if TCU goes 0-18 in their first Big East season, they still deserve an opportunity to go to New York and try to play their way in. Yeah, that would mean the mother of all runs to get into the Big Dance, but that's the way it should be.

It also should be about the student athletes and taking them out of the conference tournament is just wrong. These kids all deserve a shot to play in New York even if their team sucks.

Conference tournament kind of feel like a wedding. You visit the baker for the cake, the tux guy for your tuxedos, your DJ for the music, the caterer for the food, the florist for the flowers, the church for the ceremony, the room for the reception and you have those meet-and-greet of all the family members in the months of planning leading up to the wedding. When that day arrives, all these people and things come together as one. A hoops conference is the same way. Everyone spends two months traveling all over the conference playing games ... which makes it cool when all those teams get together for a four or five day stretch.

To me, it's only fair. The Big East wants TCU in their conference so they can get a top flight football program and a pipeline to Texas. The least they can do is allow the Horned Frogs to compete in the Big East hoops tournament in the spring.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

STOP With The "Break Up The ... " Analysis

One of the most irritating things that occur in sports nowadays is the "break up the ... " analysis. After a team falls short of reaching their ultimate goals, people seem to always want to break up those teams.

It happened last week when the San Antonio Spurs were upset by the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA playoffs. "They're too old!" "Their dynasty is over!" "Break up the Spurs!" is all we heard. Even a co-worker asked me how the Spurs should disassemble their team.

I told them, you don't. You just don't.

You can reconfigure the team. The 2011 Tim Duncan isn't the 2003 one. Manu Ginobili will have that Allen Iverson decline very soon. There are old guys on that roster. But if you look at this Spurs "dynastic" period, they have done a great job at reconfiguring their team.

You had those Duncan, David Robinson, Sean Elliot, Avery Johnson team in 1999. They emerged into the Duncan, Tony Parker, Stephen Jackson championship team in 2003. That team saw David Robinson, an instant Hall Of Fame player, take a reduced role. The 2005 and 2007 teams were built around the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili formula ... the one that's reaching their closing window right now.

That formula won the Spurs 61 games this season ... so why is there such an urgency to break San Antonio up? Yeah, they lost to the 8th-seeded Grizzlies, but that Memphis team is not your typical fodder fed up to the top seed. Who's to say that with a little tinkering and changing of players' roles that these Spurs couldn't be right in the mix again?

The same thing is happening in Los Angeles. With the Lakers on the verge of elimination and ending their string of three consecutive Finals and two championships, people ... including Magic Johnson ... are clammoring that these Lakers need to break up. Why?

Kobe Bryant is still better than 90% of the rest of the league. Pau Gasol, despite his meek showing in this postseason, is one of the top big men in the league. Andrew Bynum is consistently on the verge of becoming a star. Lamar Odom just won the Sixth Man award.

Sure, the Lakers look a bit old against the Mavericks. Their ages aren't typically ancient, but these guys have a ton of wear on those tires. Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant have played a ton of postseason games. Bynum came into the league as the youngest player to ever be drafted. Gasol and Odom were still wet behind the ears when they started their NBA careers.

Reconfigure is more like it. With so much labor turmoil, who knows where the next CBA will be. Plus, LA is a very desirable destination and a couple of big names (Dwight Howard, Chris Paul) could head that way.

Plus one of the things you need to consider is what the 2011-2012 season will look like. It could be a short season that wouldn't take as much out of an older squad (then again, a rushed schedule similar to 1999 could wear a team out). Needless to say, it isn't necessary to just blow up a team because it didn't finish off a brilliant season. Strap it on and try again.

Just look at the history of it. It took the Bulls over a decade to go from the Jordan-Pippen-Phil Jackson era before they were title contenders again. It took the Celtics over 20 years after the Bird-McHale-Parrish teams until they won it again. And that was because they got a great discount in trades for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Yeah, the Lakers post Magic-Kareem-Worthy down times weren't as long as that, but that's due to shrewdly "drafting" Kobe Bryant and trading everyone to lure Shaquille O'Neal via free agency.

Ask the 1990s Sonics, the 1990s Suns (or the current ones) or the current Pistons how easy it is to break apart a title caliber team and build a new one.

Gus Johnson to Fox? He Belongs to Everyone!

There is a rumor out there that play-by-play extraordinaire Gus Johnson could be leaving CBS and joining Fox.

While, in some aspects, it wouldn't be a huge deal -- after all, Gus would still call NFL games and get to call Pac-12 games -- it would sting to not have ol' Gus calling NCAA tournament games. CBS and Turner owns the tournament for the next decade or so, so Gus Johnson moving to Fox would rid us of those classic Big Dance lines.

I say this: Gus Johnson belongs to everyone. He doesn't work for just CBS or Fox. He works for both CBS and Fox. And ABC/ESPN. And NBC. And any channel that holds any sort of sport.

I'd love to hear Gus call the Kentucky Derby.

Or the NBA Finals.

Or every Super Bowl.

Or any hockey game.

Or the Olympics.

Or the World Cup.

Well, maybe not a golf tournament ... though we'd have to experience it at least once just to be able to process how cool it could be.

Gus Johnson could make any event exciting. A big play made in a normal game gets the red carpet treatment from Gus. We need that. We need much more of that.

So let's get the word out that Gus Johnson doesn't belong to CBS ... he belongs to the sports people of this great land.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How Is Pat Riley GM Of The Year???

Pat Riley was named the NBA's top GM this year for his "great" work with constructing the Miami Heat.

Um, why?

Riley is being rewarded for adding Chris Bosh and LeBron James and resigning Dwyane Wade. Three outstanding additions, I assure you, but it really wasn't much from Riley's design. If anyone should get the honor in Miami, it should be Wade from *cough* colluding *cough* with James and Bosh to create this team.

Oh, but Riley did convince guys like Z Ilgauskas, Mike Bibby and Mike Miller to take smaller contracts to come aboard. Again, getting some used-to-bes to take less money for a great look at a championship isn't really that skillful. Just ask Mitch Kupchak about that in 2004 when he added Gary Payton and Karl Malone to a team that already had three championships and two Hall of Famers on the roster.

To me, a top GM is one who pulls off a blockbuster deal or a series of deals to improve his team. I mean, I'm more impressed with what John Paxson was able to do in Chicago to contruct that team and hiring the man that was just named Coach of the Year.

I'm not saying that Riley didn't do a masterful job setting up this team or that it was easy to pull this off ... but I think it had more to do with the fact that Wade, James and Bosh all agreed to hook up together long before they were free agents than anything Riley was selling.