Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Kobe Turned Down By Chicago?

Although Drive and Dish has historically declined to engage in rumor, gossip and sports geek-style feverish speculation (what if...if, then...if only...etc.), we'll jump in on the Kobe hype with this tidbit, courtesy of Arizona Central: "Although Kobe Bryant apparently would like to join (Chicago), Chicago general manager John Paxson sent a message to the Los Angeles Lakers' superstar on Monday: Don't count on it. "

Friday, June 22, 2007

Final List of Underclassmen In NBA Draft

Here's the final list of who's returning to school and who's forgoing his collegiate eligibility to stay in the NBA draft pool (and, in many cases, praying that he gets drafted).

Monday, June 18, 2007

Why Was Interest In the NBA Finals So Low?

The 2007 NBA Finals garnered the lowest television ratings of any NBA Finals in the post Larry Bird/Magic Johnson/Michael Jordan era. Many theories abound as to why.

As we've alluded to many times, the public just doesn't care about the San Antonio Spurs. They're a small market team in the middle of the country (and in a very non basketball oriented region - Texas) full of foreign born players and lacking a marketable, charismatic star player. Tim Duncan is one of the all time great big men in the history of the NBA, but he just doesn't have the requisite "sizzle" to make him compelling to casual sports fans (or, apparently, even to the average basketball fan). Duncan appeals to basketball purists (who constitute a tiny minority of the NBA fan base, let alone the general sports viewing public), yet lacks the "it" factor that has allowed NBA stars like the aforementioned trinity of Magic/Bird/Jordan, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal and pre rape trial Kobe Bryant to transcend sports, and become international super celebrities. Those players drew wide spread interest to the NBA. Duncan and the Spurs can't do that.

What's more, having championship caliber teams in big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago was also, in part, responsible for delivering large television audiences to the league. The city of San Antonio can't accomplish that. And, despite the marketability and celebrity potential of LeBron James, having the Cleveland Cavaliers as the Spurs' opponent didn't do anything to help draw casual fans to the series. Cleveland, also in the middle of the country, is an even smaller market than San Antonio, and is also in a football crazed and non traditionally basketball oriented region (not to mention the fact that, in the public consciousness, Cleveland is associated with negative things - from rivers catching on fire, to its legacy of sports futility, to its general rust belt economic depression and dwindling population). To the most casual of sports fans, Cleveland teams aren't exactly sexy.

Whatever the reason (and there certainly may be reasons other than those mentioned in this early morning stream of consciousness posting), the NBA's popularity is at its lowest point in recent history.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Kobe Goes to Spain to Demand Trade

Friday, Lakers star Kobe Bryant flew to Barcelona, Spain to meet with Lakers owner Jerry Buss. Bryant reportedly reiterated his desire to be traded. Kobe's contract allows for him to veto trades and, rumors abound that Kobe wants to go to the Knicks or Chicago.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

San Antonio Sweeps Cleveland, Wins Fourth Championship

The San Antonio Spurs have swept the Cleveland Cavaliers to become NBA Champions for the fourth time in nine seasons. Drive and Dish extends congratulations to the Spurs. They play the game the right way. They're a dynasty. We love them.

In the picture to the right, Tim Duncan (left) is holding the Larry O'Brien trophy, and Tony Parker is holding the series MVP award. Drive and Dish used to dislike Parker tremendously. However, he's really matured as a player. Early in his career he was a turnover prone shoot first showboat who just happened to start at point guard for the best team in the league. Now he's a top notch NBA point guard, who breaks down defenders, protects the ball and makes good decisions. We have become fans of his.

By the way, when the game was tied with five minutes to go, it was Manu Ginobili who took the game over. In the last five and a half minutes, Ginobili put on a show that rivals anything Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird ever did in the Finals. Although Parker was named as MVP, it was Ginobili who made the difference in the final minutes of this championship deciding game.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

San Antonio One Win Away From Fourth Championship

Tonight, San Antonio went into Cleveland and won game three of the NBA Finals to take a 3-0 series lead. They are one win away from claiming their fourth NBA Championship.

San Antonio is generally viewed as a boring team. Their star player, Tim "Big Fundamentals" Duncan, is notorious for his efficient, but non flashy style of play. He's the ultimate "lunch pail" guy. What's more, he doesn't smile or exhibit any other marketable outward expression of personality.

The rest of the team follows Duncan's lead. Even Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, two formerly flamboyant players, have toned down their play. They've become solid pros, quite different from the gambling, ballsy, yet turnover prone daredevils that they once were.

Bruce Bowen is probably the best on the ball defender in the league. He absolutely locks guys down. Because of that, one might expect him to be widely hated, as he plays the role of the foil to the league's high scoring superstars. Yet, even Bowen elicits a yawn from the typical observer.

People just don't get the San Antonio Spurs.

But we here at Drive and Dish really like them. San Antonio is our favorite NBA team, at least in part, because of the aforementioned reasons. San Antonio is a great, veteran team that exemplifies professionalism. Year after year, game after game, they just go out and get it done. Drive and Dish loves them for that.

Monday, June 11, 2007

San Antonio Goes Up 2-0 In Finals

In the wake of Sunday night's smack-down of Cleveland, San Antonio appears to be on its way to its fourth NBA championship in eight years. If they do win a fourth championship, they'll deserve to be considered a dynasty. Since their first trip to the Finals in 1999 (which resulted in their first championship), San Antonio has remained one of the league's elite franchises. That's all the more impressive when one considers that, with the exception of stalwart power forward/center Tim Duncan, the team's roster has undergone drastic changes over the years. San Antonio is, undoubtedly, a top-notch organization: from the front office, to the coaching staff, to the players who get it done on the hardwood.

Too bad nobody outside of San Antonio seems to notice.

By the way, we're aware of the fact that Dallas took a 2-0 series lead before eventually being overtaken by Miami in last year's NBA Finals. But unless Shaq and Dwayne Wade suit up for Cleveland, don't expect the same thing to happen this year. Cleveland just isn't a championship caliber team ... yet.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sopranos Finale Vs. LeBron and the NBA Finals' Game Two

Yesterday we noted the pathetically low television ratings returns for game one of the NBA Finals. Tonight, game two of the Finals will have to compete with the series finale of HBO's Sopranos. We can't even imagine how poor tonight's ratings will be. If game one garnered the lowest viewership since the 1981 Finals (which aired on tape delay), the prospects for tonight's contest are grim.

That's a shame. The San Antonio Spurs are becoming one of the NBA's great dynasties. LeBron James is the brightest rising star in the game. But nobody seems to be interested.

In the 1990's the NBA, with its emphasis on star player/personalities over team accomplishments, was the envy of every sports association (with the exception of the NFL). After the 1994 strike left Major League Baseball for dead, MLB remade itself (to the chagrin of the purists) into a high scoring (thanks to smaller ballpark dimensions, juiced balls and juiced up players), star personality dominated game. The traditionally conservative PGA aggressively marketed the phenom persona of Tiger Woods, which marked a drastic departure for the "gentleman's game." Seemingly, every major sport wanted a Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson or Larry Bird personality. It was all about the stars.

Oh, how things have changed. Now a decade removed from the Jordan era, the The NBA has really lost its luster.

Drive and Dish will watch the Finals tonight, but just about everybody else will be watching the Sopranos.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Is Anyone Watching the NBA Finals? Anyone ... Anyone?

Thursday's game one of the NBA Finals drew the third lowest television rating of any NBA Finals contest. Ever.

The ratings were on par with those of the 1981 NBA Finals. In 1981 the NBA Finals weren't even aired on live television. They were shown on tape delay, late at night, after Johnny Carson's Tonight Show.

Good Lord.

Earlier in the week, we linked to an article which argued that nobody (outside of San Antonio) cares about the San Antonio Spurs. The article mentioned relief among NBA executives, that rising star, LeBron James and Cleveland would be San Antonio's opponent, rather than the star-power-challenged Detroit Pistons. The thinking was that, despite the fact that Cleveland is a smaller, Midwestern television market, LeBron's star power would be enough to offset the blandness of San Antonio, and draw a national television audience.

On second thought...

Look, Drive and Dish is staffed by basketball people. We love the NBA playoffs. We wouldn't miss the Fianls for anything. But the rest of America, apparently, couldn't care less about the NBA.

David Stern and the "association" better watch out. Their league could become as irrelevant as the NHL.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Billy Donovan Bails On Florida, Then Bails On NBA and Goes Back to Florida

After leaving his job as the men's basketball coach at the University of Florida to become the new coach of the NBA's Orlando Magic, Billy Donovan has backed out of his commitment to Orlando, and returned to Florida.

Drive and Dish has historically disliked Donovan. We think that he's an outstanding coach (although it's taken him quite a few years to achieve this distinction), but that he borders on being an egotistical narcissist.

Donovan's jilting of Orlando does nothing to dissuade us from our previous perception of him.

By accepting the Orlando job, then backing out days later, Donovan screwed around with the livelihoods of Orlando's players and front office and Florida's players and athletic department.


At least Orlando has landed on their feet with the hiring of Stan Van Gundy.

By the Way:

Despite our feelings about Billy Donovan's career as a basketball coach, we've always admired his work from his earlier career as a child actor. He was just priceless as Eddie Munster.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Nobody Likes San Antonio

Chicago Tribune NBA columnist, Sam Smith argues that San Antonio is one of the NBA's greatest dynasties, but that nobody (outside of San Antonio) cares. I think he's probably right. The staff here at Drive and Dish loves the Spurs. But we're basketball people (and defense minded, fundamentally sound point guard types who love to, well, drive and dish). We aren't representative of average fans.

So nobody cares about San Antonio.

Unfortunately, that's all too true.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Cleveland in Finals After Detroit's Free Fall

In earlier posts, Drive and Dish asserted that Detroit was the best team in the NBA, and would, most likely, win the NBA Finals. It was our opinion that while Utah and Cleveland were up and coming teams, and were led by dynamic young stars (or super stars in the case of Cleveland's LeBron James), they would have to wait for their shots at a championship because the balanced, veteran casts in Detroit and San Antonio were still superior and, at least this year, would be back in familiar territory: the NBA Finals.

So, we were wrong about Detroit.

Oh well.

I thought that Detroit was better than Cleveland. Guess what ... I still think Detroit is probably better than Cleveland.

Detroit absolutely imploded after going up 2-o in the series. Perhaps there were internal troubles that folks outside of their locker room aren't privy to. Chauncey Billups, the leader of that team and one of the best point guards in the league, was uncharacteristically awful in the series' later games. Rasheed Wallace reverted to being Bad Rasheed (and cost his team by incurring costly technical fouls and by not being mentally in the game - like Billups). At times, Antonio McDyess looked great, but eventually appeared to lose confidence and was, thus, intermittently ineffective. Richard Hamilton practically disappeared against Cleveland.

Who knows what was going on with Detroit. But whatever the reason, they didn't look like the solid veteran Championship team that that they have been in years past (and appeared to be throughout this season). Instead, they looked like a disinterested group of guys who couldn't stand each other's presence, and no longer respected their coaching staff.

A month ago Detroit looked like a championship team. Now they look like the Miami Heat - a dysfunctional, unmotivated, veteran team that's become uncoachable and needs to be blown up.