NBA Talking Points: Where The NBA Needs A Redzone Channel

NBA Talking Points is a weekly series that runs down some of the top stories in basketball, and some that aren't being talked about enough. Click any of the links below to jump to one of this week's stories, and click here for last week's edition.

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1. What If The NBA Made League Pass Into One Channel, And Made It Free?

Last night, when I saw that the NFL Redzone channel is going to be available on mobile phones in the near future, it got me thinking. Why can’t the NBA have something like this?

For me, the NFL Redzone channel is actually pretty disorienting. The way I’ve grown accustomed to watching football is with the traditional ebb and flow of a game. A long, methodical drive down the field that culimnates with touchdown. That’s what I love about football; there’s a natural flow to it, that’s pretty fascinating. And then when a team breaks that flow with a long touchdown pass or a crucial interception, it’s that much more exciting and shocking.

On the redzone channel, it’s sort of disorienting to just constantly be watching touchdowns and teams within the 20 yardline. Like, it’s cool to see all these big plays, but it’s almost overkill. Suddenly, watching football turns into watching a home run derby. All these plays that used to prompt ecstasy are rendered ordinary, and it’s not quite as fun. But that’s just me. For most every other football fan I’ve talked to, the NFL Redzone has become an indispensable aspect of the fan experience.

So where’s the NBA Redzone Channel? Where an NFL Redzone Channel is a little disorienting, the format would be PERFECT for pro basketball. Watching an entire pro basketball game is difficult for most sports fans, just because regular season games can sometimes take on sort of a lifeless atmosphere. Like, every sports fan I know respects the NBA and its players, but not many people I know actually watch that many games. This is because in an era of short attention spans, regular season pro basketball doesn’t measure up.

Which is why we need a RedZone-type channel for basketball. This has always been David Stern’s problem. He’s so worried about “growing the game” and taking the NBA to places like Asia and Africa, he forgets to sell the game here. Beyond the rabid base of basketball-obsessed fans, there’s not many people that watch regular season basketball on a regular basis, at least compared to football. And why should win football win that battle outright?

Among basketball fans, a makeshift service already exists for this type of thing. Whenever a game is close or otherwise noteworthy, someone will use Twitter to send out a #LeaguePassAlert, letting fans know that they should tune in ASAP. With an NBA channel—that you could easily call League Pass Alert, by the way—a television studio could do this for us. And it doesn’t have to be restricted to end-of-fourth quarter close games.

With tip-offs already staggered at every half-hour between 7 and 10:30, it wouldn’t be difficult to jump from game to game all the way through. Take last night’s games. NBAtv broadcast the entire Lakers-Pacers game, which was never really close, and painfully uninteresting. Instead of that game, we could have been jumping from Cleveland-Minnesota to LA-Indiana, to Miami-Toronto, to Memphis and Detroit. Then later, we could have alternated between Chicago-Oklahoma City, Atlanta-San Antonio, and Utah-Portland, all good games. Who wouldn’t watch this?

Navigating the labyrinthine television agreements would be tough, and toggling between games while maintaining some level of coherence would require an expert braintrust in the NBA studios… But again, if the NFL can pull this off, what’s the difference? The NBA could share profits from the channel with TV affiliates; ultimately, the interest in the sport would grow exponentially with a channel like this. Any revenue concessions would be made up elsewhere.

People buy the NBA’s all-encompassing League Pass option for two reasons. Because a) They moved from their hometown, and still want to watch their favorite team on a nightly basis or b) they want to watch star players like Kobe Bryant and Lebron James and Dwight Howard every night. That second group is small, though, mainly because NBA League Pass is really expensive, and once you buy it, most casual fans realize that sifting through eight games-a-night is more work than it’s worth.

NBA Redzone, or League Pass Alert, would do that work for you. We wouldn't have to do away with NBA League Pass, and the NBA could still reap all the profits from League Pass, as plenty of fans will still sign up to see every game. But if the NBA took the best of league pass, crammed into one five hour block every night, and made it free, there’s no question that the NBA would suddenly see a dramatic spike in interest. People may not have the attention span to sit through an entire regular season game, the best parts of eight different games, including at least one or two close fourth quarter finishes? It’d be a home run. 

There’s no red zone in basketball, but that doesn’t mean we can’t steal the RedZone channel.

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2. The Wizards MUST Void Gilbert Arenas' Contract

This is sort of in-depth and pedantic, so if you’re not a Wizards fan, feel free to move along…

If you’re a regular reader of NBA Talking Points, you may remember this post from a few weeks ago, when I rejoiced after Gilbert Arenas pled guilty to felony gun charges. At the time, I had this to say:

And because of this felony charge, and Gilbert’s impending guility plea, the franchise will likely be able to void Gilbert’s contract, and re-build about five years earlier than expected. Rather than five seasons of gritting our teeth, pretending that we can win with Gilbert, and gradually realizing the futility of it all, the Wizards get a fresh start. That’s not just lucky; it’s a freaking miracle.

Now, I thought that was the end of it. In the weeks leading up to that post, basketball folks all echoed a similar refrain. “It’ll be really, really hard to void that contract. But if he’s convicted of a felony… then, all bets are off.” So when Arenas pled guilty to felony two weeks ago, that was the end of it, as far as I was concerned. A void was a foregone conclusion, right? Done and done.

Except… There are still voices out there saying this cannot, or should not, be done. Which is just indescribably naive, masquerading as experienced “with the process” and “the way the league works” and blah blah blah. Uh uh. Whether the Wizards void Gilbert Arenas’ contract isn’t an option; it’s an imperative. For the franchise, first of all, but more than that, for the fans. Am I writing this in response to all the Wizards writers out there hemming and hawing over whether to make this move? Yes, yes I am.

It’s not a choice. When Gilbert Arenas pled guilty to that felony, he sealed his fate. Fair or not, them’s the breaks. There are some who contend that what Gilbert did “is not a $90 million mistake,” but then… What if none of this happened? The Wizards would have suffered through another five seasons with Gilbert Arenas as the face of the franchise, hobbling around and hoisting 3s with 22 seconds on the shot clock. Why? Because they made a bad business decision when they signed an injured Gilbert Arenas to a long-term max contract. It’s a business, and the Wizards would have had to live with their bad business decision.

And Gilbert—who made a really, really, really bad business decision when he decided to bring four guns to the Wizards locker room—will have to live with his. When he brought guns into their Washington D.C. locker room, Arenas was committing a felony, and leaving himself vulnerable to the whims of the Wizards. Is it fair that Arenas’ mistake gives the Wizards a “Get Out of Jail Free” card? Maybe not, but Gilbert Arenas has damaged his reputation beyond repair, and can never play for the Wizards again. Would it be fair for the Wizards to pay him 40 or 50 million in a buyout? No.

Which means voiding the contract is really the only option, here. Can they do it? Absolutely. I spoke with the New York Times’ Larry Coon yesterday, who penned a recent article outlining why the NBA might prefer that the Wizards don’t attempt to void Arenas’ current 6 year, $111 million contract. In his article, Coon mentions that the NBA's planning on including new language in a 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement that would clearly outline circumstances that allow for teams to void player contracts. If the Wizards succeed here, it would be at a detriment to the league’s ultimate goal, to construct air tight language in the new CBA.

And while there may well be some credence to the NBA’s reasoning, that’s not a reason for the Wizards to care. This is about the future of the franchise, not the future of 29 others. The NBA’s collective bargaining negotiations are not Washington’s concern. Still, Coon expressed his reservations, both in the article and to me, yesterday.

He made the same mistake that virtually everyone has made so far in this process—citing Latrell Sprewell as the overriding precedent here.

He’s the only player in NBA history to have his contract terminated, and he eventually had that decision overrulled by an arbitrator, who cited a “double jeopardy” clause in the CBA. Basically, a player can only be punished once for a given offense. As Coon explained to SB Nation’s Wizards blogger Mike Prada yesterday:

I look at it this way. If it’s double jeopardy, then the only way a team could void is if there’s moral turpitude sans league penalty. But the more severe the action, the more likely there will be a league penalty. Voiding would therefore only be available for “lesser” offenses. The more severe the infraction, the more likely the league penalty, therefore the more severe the penalty the LESS likely the team voids.

And while Coon concedes that “this makes no sense,” he nevertheless told me that as far as double jeopardy is concerned, “Sprewell was precedent that it was.” And that’s the center of this. The flawed reasoning that’s governing this debate—not Coon’s, necessarily, he’s just relaying the NBA’s logic—is clouding the issue.

To reiterate Coon: “The more severe the infraction … the LESS likely the team voids.” … Huh?

If that’s indeed the logic that governs these proceedings, then it’s ripe for a challenge in the court of law. And in that case, Latrell Sprewell is hardly a precedent. Sprewell was never charged or convicted of any crime. Ultimately, his most severe infraction in the eyes of the law was violating terms of his employment contract, a transgression for which he was punished severely (68 games, about $6 million in salary). Double jeopardy makes sense there.

But Arenas was charged with a crime, and it was a felony, to boot. In the eyes of an independent arbitrator, that will be very difficult to ignore. He was punished for a violation of league rules, yes, but by committing a felony, he also left himself vulnerable to termination. It’s hard to definitively argue the morals of an altercation in an NBA practice (as with Sprewell), but it’s not hard to point to a felony and say, “Look! Moral turpitude.”

It seemed innocuous when it was just Wizards writers worried about voiding the contract, but when someone as brilliant as Coon—his website might be the most indispensable NBA resource on the internet—weighs in with a wrongheaded take, I get concerned. This shouldn’t be that complicated.

For now, the Wizards would be wise to wait until March 26th, when Arenas is sentenced. At that point, as a repeat offender, he’ll probably get jail time. And whether it’s 60 days, 30 days, or even 1 day, the Wizards will be able to show an arbitrator that not only did Arenas’ felony irreprably damage the team’s reputation and ability to employ him, but that at one point he was phsyically incacerated, and unable to fulfill the terms of his contract. Don’t be fooled by the bluster from NBA writers about this being a difficult process; it’s really quite simple, in legal terms.

There are those in the media who have speculated that the Wizards would damage their credibility with free agents should they move to terminate Arenas. To which I say… Can it get any worse? And if we buyout Gilbert’s deal, his salary remains on the books until 2014; what difference do free agents make? Plus, these are NBA players we’re talking about. Washington’s already among the most popular cities in the league as a road destination, and if we have money, nobody’s going to take less to go elsewhere. The entire premise is absurd.

But it’s more than that, and this isn’t about free agency or creating cap space. It’s about being a competent business organization, and serving fans that shell out thousands of dollars every year for tickets. The Wizards are at a crossroads with their ownership—if Ted Leonsis had taken over by now, we wouldn’t have to worry about management getting cold feet on Arenas. But even without Leonsis, somebody should be competent enough to recognize that voiding Arenas’ contract isn’t an option, but an imperative. The Wizards MUST void Gilbert Arenas’ contract.

Not for any free agents, but for the sake of fans that still have faith.

There, now I’ve said my peace. Promise, there will be no more Gilbert Arenas talk.

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3. Derrick Rose Is Dominant Again

Earlier this season, you may have heard rumors of a sophomore slump from Derrick Rose. Not that he’d suddenly stopped being a very good player, but over the first few months, he seemed human all of the sudden. And… Well, now not so much.

Derrick Rose is a point guard created by aliens.

And he’s starting to really hit his stride. Literally. After being felled by an ankle injury for the first two months of the season, Derrick Rose is a superstar again. ESPN’s John Hollinger weighed today at True Hoop:


It seems that the only thing that was holding him back the first month-and-a-half of the season was the ankle injury he suffered in training camp. Check out his monthly splits:

  • November: 16.2 points, 5. 3 assists, 46.4 percent shooting
  • December: 20.4 points, 6.1 assists, 45.0 percent shooting
  • January: 23.5 points, 6.5 assists, 51.4 percent shooting

SB Nation’s Bulls blog, Blog-a-Bull, has some great stuff as well. Rose is getting better all-around, but more specifically, his midrange jump shooting has been deadly. From Blog-a-Bull:

Derrick Rose has apparently decided to become the greatest mid-range shooter of all time. (or, something close to it)

From Hoopdata‘s charting of shots 16-23ft, Rose hit 6 of 10 tonight.  In this streak he’s been over 55% from that range, which would be nearly the very best in the whole league. It’s an astounding rate of effectiveness, yet it doesn’t seem too crazy when you watch. His incredible speed makes nearly all these shots wide open, as his defender is either off-balance or going under a screen trying to compensate for an impending drive. And Rose’s form and arc on his shot looks better as well.

And it does make sense, when you think about it. Derrick Rose’s combination of strength and speed would theoretically allow him to create space for himself on almost every shot he takes. He’s that gifted, athletically. What happens when a player with those type of gifts develops a consistent jumpshot? Well, Derrick Rose’s latest hot streak happens. Or Brandon Jennings’ first month of the NBA.

When players like Derrick Rose or Jennings or Chris Paul are hitting jump shots, it’s pretty much impossible to defend them with any consistency. It’s the type of thing that can take average teams like Rose’s Bulls (or Jennings’ Bucks, back in November) and have them competing with some of the NBA’s more competitive teams. For Chicago, though, it’s a gift and a curse.

Now that Rose is rounding into the superstar we’d always expected, the Bulls are back at square one. Relying heavily on Derrick Rose to single-handedly make them competitive. He’s one of the best players in the league, so he can do it. But in so doing, it overshadows very real deficiencies in Chicago, and allows their horrific management to get away with penny pinching habits, foolish loyalty to Vinny Del Negro, and all sorts of other tactics that real, respectable franchises don’t utilize. This was Chicago’s plan all along, I think.

It’s working, and Derrick Rose has been a revelation the past few weeks. Is that a good thing?

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4. A Labor Stoppage In 2011? Not Faaaaantastic

Yesterday at ESPN’s True Hoop, Chris Sheridan provided some harrowing insight into what lies ahead for the NBA and the players union. From Sheridan:

“The owners are really going to chop the money down,’’ the owner said. “I think Stoudemire would get $5 or $6 million [annually] in the next deal. The bottom line is that things are going to change dramatically.’’

Five to six million dollars for a five-time All-Star in his prime? That sounds cruel compared with the players’ current salaries, so cruel that I just don’t believe it. A general manager I spoke with later agreed that that was an extreme.

”That [$5 million for Stoudemire] sounds a little bizarre, but player salaries are definitely going to take a hit,’’ the GM said. "Players that come up for contracts under the new CBA are going to find themselves getting a lot less money.’’

It’s not as if any of the above info comes as any surprise. But when you say it out loud—or read actual GMs saying it out loud—it’s suddenly so much more real. An NBA Labor Stoppage might actually happen again? An NBA Labor Stoppage might actually happen again. Billy Hunter and the NBA Players’ Association should be terrified here.

Because there’s nothing more terrifying than negotiating against someone who’s got nothing to lose, and right now, most NBA owners are losing money under the current operating costs. In other words, for a lot of owners, it’s more financially viable for them to have a labor stoppage while they get this sorted out, rather than continue operating at a loss. This will give the owners enormous leverage, and well… Damnit.

The players have shown in the past they won’t blink, and it looks like now they’ll be compelled to make more concessions than ever. An impasse of some sort certainly seems inevitable. Let me take a crack at David Stern’s statement two years from now, announcing that the players have agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and will soon begin a 64 game season:

Thank you all for gathering here today. New York is marvelous in December, isn’t it? I think so. And today our spirits are particularly jovial, as I am proud to announce that the NBA Players’ Association has agreed to the terms of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that will be tremendously beneficial to both sides.

This past week, Players’ Association President Billy Hunter, finally expressed a willingness to talk, like adults. To dispel some most nefarious rumors, there were no any water boarding sessions involving Billy and my associates. (Hunter, to the left, begins visibly shaking) Since then, as many of you know, negotiations have been fruitful between both sides, and the NBA players have finally realized that their personal wealth simply cannot come at the expense of the NBA’s longterm health. (long pause, sneers in direction of player reps) It was a rudimentary discussion, really. 

The exact details of our agreement are not pertinent at this time, but I can safely speak for everyone when I say that, while tenuous at times, the negotiations were fair, and the resolution has everyone’s best interests at heart. Yes, I think we can say that much. (chuckles) And before the ravenous questions begin, there will indeed be an age limit of 25 years old. Both sides came to the conclusion that if you aren’t old enough to rent a motor vehicle, it probably isn’t appropriate to be playing on the highest levels of professional basketball. I think that’s a fair appraisal, don’t you? Right.

Beyond that, I’ll leave it to you muckrakers to disseminate the new agreement.

In closing, though, I’ll just stress that our players are not perfect, and in this instance, I suspect some of them became a bit divorced from the realities of our economic times. Nevertheless, as the holiday season approaches, it is particularly gratifying to me personally, knowing that the greatest game on Earth will return to the forefront of our sporting consciousness.Our fans have been patient, and for that they will be rewarded with what should be a spectacular 64-game season.

Now, without further ado, let’s play basketball!

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5. Absolutely No PHOTOS: Greg Oden Gets Naked

It would be pretty naive to think that we could neglect the photos of Greg Oden’s penis that surfaced earlier this week, since they’re arguably the biggest NBA story that’s emerged this week. You can see the photos here, if you’re so inclined. The header made me laugh out loud—"Triflin: Jumpoff Leaks Nude Photos of NBA Star Greg Oden." Somewhere, Fake Scoop Jackson is smiling and shaking his head softly, saying "Brother and sisters, we have a new lesson today. The jumpoff giveth, and the jumpoff taketh away. That’s the game we play, and it’s nothin’ more to say."

But it is news, unfortunately. He’s one of the more notable players in the NBA—if only for his quasi-tragic narrative—and let’s be honest, everyone’s ears perk up a little bit when they hear the word "penis." Penis sells. Penis works. Penis moves the needle. Penis penis penis.

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SB Nation’s Blazersedge provided a nice of summary of Oden’s remarks about the photos:

During his remarks, Oden stated that the nude pictures had been taken for a "lady friend" he had been "in a relationship with over a year and a half ago."  He said he was no longer in contact with the person for whom the pictures had been taken.  Oden clearly sent the pictures to someone he trusted and noted that when he saw the pictures online this morning, "My heart just dropped."  

Oden said he had grown a lot as a person in the last year or two and that he no longer takes and sends similar photographs because the internet and social media allow for such rapid distribution of private materials from person to person.

And really, that should be the end of it. There’s nothing particularly interesting about Oden’s photos. Is it surprising that a seven foot basketball player has a gigantic penis? Are gigantic penises impressive? James Wolcott had a great essay on the decline of the celebrity sex tape in last month’s Vanity Fair:

The celebrity sex video is riding on the rims of creative exhaustion, scratchily repeating itself. Celebrity sex tapes should be a far more exciting fugitive genre than they are. Their potential has been under-utilized, squandered—proof that even the standards for exhibitionism in contemporary showbiz have gotten lax, sloppy, and degraded.

Wolcott’s criticism was less remarkable for its substance than the notion that he was writing it in the first place. Celebrity sex videos and nude photos have become so ubiquitous that their mere existence is no longer remarkable. They have to be good to be interesting, and most of them just aren’t very good. Oden’s certainly weren’t. It was just a gigantic dude looking into a mirror taking a picture of his dick. Who cares? 

It’d be incredibly condescending to wonder whether the fans in Portland are less de-sensitized to sextapes than the rest of us, but just for the record, that’s pretty much the only way this can be considered a serious problem for Oden. And even in Portland, a city of good people that aren’t constantly besieged by the grime of contemporary media, it seems like something that’ll be forgotten and laughed off in a matter of months.

Greg Oden made a mistake, and because it’s Oden, we feel really bad about it. He’s not the exhibitionist type, and you get the sense that he’s genuinely mortified by all this. But he’ll be fine. He may never have a fulfilling career, but that’s because of injuries; strange naked photos won’t make a difference one way or the other.

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6. Actual PHOTO: The Boston Costume Party

This is relatively tame when juxtaposed with Greg Oden’s penis, but pretty transcendant nonetheless. In20 years, this would make a very cool retro-poster. So file this away for 2030.

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(HT: Skeets’ Tweetpic)

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7. JamesOn Curry And The Joys Of NBA Socks

Some may snicker at JamesOn Curry’s recent brush with the NBA. As SB Nation’s Ridiculous Upside noted, he lasted… well, four seconds. That must be some kind of record, right?

Well, maybe. But that’s beside the point. Even if he suffered the ignominy of being the NBA’s Moonlight Graham, I bet he still got his hands on some of those socks, eh? Fresh NBA socks?

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Like Lobster or First Class travel—expensive, but once you’ve experienced the joys of brand new NBA socks, there’s no turning back. In the league, I imagine teams handing out giant 24-packs. Just an orgy of cushiony, low cut, perfect little feet miracles. Mmmmm.

Not saying I’m saying it, but… Are NBA socks the coolest part of making the NBA? Maybe.

So, bruised ego or not, I bet JamesOn’s feet are feeling reeeeal comfy in some fresh NBA socks right now. sOme people catch all the breaks.

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