Monday, May 26, 2008

Detroit Beats Celtics, Evens Series

Tonight, Detroit defended their home court and pulled even in the Eastern Conference Finals by beating the Celtics 94-75. The series is now tied at 2-2.

The Detroit Free Press live blogged tonight's game. Their live blog can be found here.

Celtics, Lakers Hold 2-1 Series Leads

Last night, San Antonio kept the Lakers from taking a 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals by holding off Kobe Bryant and his Laker teammates 103-84. The Lakers now hold a 2-1 lead.

In the East, the Celtics beat Detroit 94-80 on Saturday night. The Celtics lead the Eastern Conference Finals 2-1. The Detroit Free Press chronicles injured Detroit point guard Chauncey Billups' struggles.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lakers Demolish San Antonio

Last night, the Lakers annihilated San Antonio 101-71. The Lakers lead defending World Champion San Antonio 2-0 in the NBA's Western Conference Finals.

San Antonio looks very bad. A Celtics vs. Lakers series appears to be imminent.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

San Antonio Survives New Orleans, Advances to Western Conference Finals

Last night, San Antonio beat New Orleans 91-82 in the seventh and deciding game of the Western Conference Semifinals. San Antonio will face the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals in Los Angeles on Wednesday night.

The fact that San Antonio prevailed over Chris Paul and New Orleans is notable. New Orleans won the first two games of the series, and Chris Paul absolutely tore San Antonio's defense apart early in the series. And sports commentators of all stripes were quick to write San Antonio's obituary.

San Antonio was said to have suddenly become be too old, too slow and too soft to compete. Their dynasty was officially being written off as a thing of the past.

But then San Antonio figured out a way to slow Chris Paul, force New Orleans to settle for jump shots and expose New Orleans' weaknesses (lack of rebounding, lack of depth, smallish backcourt, etc.).

And San Antonio came back from the brink of extinction to win the series and advance to the Western Conference Finals.

As we noted yesterday, it seems as though the NBA and everyone in the national sports media is rooting for a return to a Celtics vs. Lakers NBA Finals (just like the old days). Here's to hoping for a San Antonio vs. Detroit Finals (just like 2005).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Celtics Get Past Cleveland

Yesterday, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and the Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals by escaping LeBron James and Cleveland 97-92 in game seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series. More here.

All season lonng, Drive and Dish cast a wary eye on much of the media hype that was lavished on the 2007-08 Celtics. We (I) thought that the league and ESPN were making too much of a big deal about the Celtics. And that's not surprising. ESPN is obsessed with the Boston vs. New York sports rivalries. That network is practically a 24/7 advertisement for the Red Sox and Yankees baseball rivalry.

ESPN's world revolves around New York and Boston. And the Celtics are a sentimental favorite of many, many prominent members of the national sports media.

And the NBA's Seacaucus, NJ, front office has long promoted the Knicks, the Celtics and the Lakers at the expense of the rest of the league. The league treats those three franchises as its cornerstone franchises (with the Nets, the Sixers and the Wizards getting a nod as well). The NBA seems to think that its primary markets are the Northeast corridor (New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.) and Los Angeles (and more specifically, "Hollywood" and the entertainment industry). And they appear to go out of their way to promote the teams from those markets, even though many of the league's great dynasties and great teams have come from the hinterlands (Detroit, Chicago, Houston, San Antonio).

As a side note, the NBA may very well be right about where interest in their league is the highest. No doubt, the NBA does extensive market research. And its quite possible that interest in the league is strongest in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.
For what it's worth, Drive and Dish gets most of its hits from the Eastern part of the United States. On the map, our daily hits are most abundant along the East Coast (from Boston to South Florida), in the Carolinas, the Southeast, through the industrial states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana), and up and down the West Coast. We get also see daily action in parts of the Midwest and in the cities of Texas. But our readers are, overwhelmingly, on the coasts and in the Eastern half of the U.S.

So if Drive and Dish's daily traffic flow is any indicator of interest in the game of basketball, the NBA's Northeastern bias may just be a case of knowing its market.

But one can't help but wonder if the NBA (and the media) are missing out by giving short shrift to the rest of the country.

Although it's subtle, an observant media consumer will notice that the NBA and the national sports media always refer to the Knicks, Celtics, Lakers, Nets, Sixers and Wizards by their team names, while all other franchises are identified only by the names of the cities in which they operate (including franchises that have won multiple championships, such as Detroit, Chicago and San Antonio).

As a nod to ESPN and the national media, Drive and Dish faithfully observes this practice with regard to our NBA coverage. And while it might seem trivial, I think it speaks volumes about the attitudes that prevail in the Seacaucus offices.

The NBA describes itself as a "sports entertainment league." Which isn't much different from the way Vince McMahon describes his WWE: the WWE calls its product "sports entertainment."

The NFL overtook baseball as the most popular sport in America after former commissioner Paul Tagliabue's vision of league wide "parity" was achieved. Tagliabue's logic was that the disparity between the triumphant dynasties and the vast swath of teams that had absolutely no shot at qualifying for the playoffs (let alone the Super Bowl) that had characterized the balance of power in the NFL from the 1970's to the mid 1990's was, ultimately, bad for the league. Tagliabue reasoned that if the balance of power was more evenly distributed throughout the league -- and as a result, more teams were able to contend for post-season berths -- the public's overall interest in the NFL would explode.

And he was right.

Interest in the NFL has grown exponentially in the era of parity. And the league is healthier than it has ever been.

But the NBA seems to operate under the premise that its appeal is primarily limited to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions (plus Hollywood). And as such, the league segregates itself. The Knicks get tons of attention, no matter how bad their on court performance is. But San Antonio -- the reigning World Champions -- gets the proverbial redheaded step child treatment from the league and the national sports media.

Maybe the NBA knows their market inside and out and has been shrewd in focusing its marketing on the East Coast. But Drive and Dish has always wondered if the NBA would be better served by trying harder to promote its league across the country (and by dropping the snobby East Coast-centric attitude).

Long story short: the league and the national media have been salivating over a potential Celtics/Lakers NBA Finals all season long. And ESPN's NBA coverage has virtually been "all Celtics all the time."

But the Celtics don't (and never did) deserve all the hype.

Drive and Dish believes that the Celtics are over-hyped and overrated. They barely got past Atlanta and Cleveland in the playoffs. And Detroit should be able to knock them out in order to advance to the NBA Finals.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

San Antonio Beats New Orleans, Forces Game Seven

Tonight, defending World Champion San Antonio beat Chris Paul and visiting New Orleans 99-80. In doing so, San Antonio evened the Western Conference semifinal series 3-3, and forced a deciding game seven (which will be played Monday night in New Orleans).

Once again, San Antonio was led by Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili:

"Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 25 points. From the 4:32 mark of the first quarter until 10:48 left in the game, he hit six 3-pointers.

Tim Duncan had 20 points and 15 rebounds. He has 7 of 14 from the field and 6 of 8 on free throws. Tony Parker had 15 points."
(Hat Tip: San Antonio Express-News)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dallas to Introduce Carlisle Today

Dallas will formally introduce new coach Rick Carlisle to the media today.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

ACC Unhappy About Only Getting 4 NCAA Bids, Mulls Changes To Increase Number of Bids

At the ACC spring meetings, league coaches and administrators complained that their conference only received 4 bids to the NCAA Tournament this year.

As Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton told the Charlotte Observer:

"'When it appears that we're always one of the top one or two conferences in the country, it's hard for me to figure out why other conferences or other teams are receiving more bids than us,' said Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton."

What's more, the ACC coaches and administers devised a plan to increase the league's bid in the coming years:

"ACC Commissioner John Swofford has sent a letter to the Division I men's basketball committee requesting that conference strength be added to the list of criteria considered when the NCAA tournament field is selected.

Coaches say they plan to remind the media more often next season about the conference's strength."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

D'Antoni to the Knicks

Mike D'Antoni has left Phoenix to become the Knicks' new coach.

The New York Post cites a source close to D'Antoni:

"According to a member of Mike D'Antoni's inner circle, the Sun marquee fast-break guru verbally accepted a four-year, $24 million offer Saturday morning, beating out (Chicago)."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Recently Fired Missouri State Coach Hinson Exudes Class and Dignity

For nine seasons, Barry Hinson coached one of the most successful basketball programs in the Missouri Valley Conference. But despite his success (which included consecutive 22-win seasons in 2005/06 and 2006/07, top-40 RPI ratings both seasons and four consecutive trips to the N.I.T.), Hinson's Missouri State teams never got invited to the NCAA Tournament. And that ultimately cost Hinson his job.

In March, Missouri State fired Barry Hinson. Shortly thereafter, Cuonzo Martin was hired to replace Hinson.

But despite no longer being employed by Missouri State, Barry Hinson has stayed in Springfield, MO. And remarkably, he's been helping Martin -- his replacement -- as Martin transitions into his first head coaching job.

What's more, Hinson recently attended -- and spoke at -- Missouri State's basketball banquet, despite no longer being Missouri State's basketball coach.

Barry Hinson is a very good basketball coach. A former Junior College coach, he's paid his dues and then some: he rose from the bottom of the profession to prominence at Oral Roberts and then at Missouri State.

But coaching prowess aside, Coach Hinson is a class act. And that's a rarity in the business of college basketball.

Here's to hoping that Hinson lands on his feet.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Dallas Close to Deal With Carlisle, D'Anotni Free to Pursue Other Employment Opportunities

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, sources indicate that Dallas is close to hiring Rick Carlisle to replace the recently fired Avery Johnson as its new head coach.

Carlisle -- or whomever becomes Dallas' next coach -- will inherit a roster that's likely to be in flux:

"(Jason) Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki are likely to return, but the rest of the players under contract -- Josh Howard, Erick Dampier, Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse and Eddie Jones -- could all be traded. Problem is, they all have expensive contracts and Howard is the only one not in his 30s. If the Mavs use their option to keep 23-year-old Brandon Bass, he'd be their youngest player by five years."

Meanwhile, reports out of Phoenix indicate that Phoenix General Manager Steve Kerr has granted Mike D'Antoni permission to talk with other NBA teams (the Knicks and Chicago) about their coaching vacancies. For the moment, D'Antoni remains head coach of the Phoenix Suns; but he's free to pursue other employment opportunities. As Jerry Brown of the East Valley Tribune reports:

"Suns general manager Steve Kerr said as late as Friday morning, about an hour before he met with D’Antoni and owner Robert Sarver, that he would not grant such permission, but apparently had a change of mind after the sides talked.

'As we have continued to convey, we value Mike D’Antoni as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns and would like him to continue leading this basketball team,' Kerr said in a statement Monday. 'Because he has requested to speak to other teams about their head coaching vacancies, we have granted him permission. We will have no further comment until this process further evolves.'"

Brown continues:

"D’Antoni still has two years and $8.5 million left on his deal with the Suns, but Phoenix wouldn’t be on the hook for any of that if he signs on with (Chicago), the Knicks or any other NBA team before next season.

The relationship between D’Antoni and Kerr, which has been tenuous since an argument over philosophies in November, reached another level with Kerr’s refusal to back D’Antoni amid questions of his future before and during the playoffs. Management also let it be known they would like to see changes – from a more defensive-minded voice in the coaching staff to seeing more players included in his playing rotation."

Friday, May 2, 2008

Indiana Center Holman Goes Out With a Bang

On Thursday, Indiana freshman center Eli Holman walked into new IU head coach Tom Crean's office to inform the Hoosier staff of his intention to transfer. But Holman didn't just tell the staff that he's leaving: apparently, he felt it necessary to "get a few things off his chest."

Thus, campus police had to intervene and escort Mr. Holman out of Coach Crean's office.

According to Hoosier beat writer Terry Hutchens of the Indianapolis Star, Crean recounted:

"His behavior took me, along with the other people in the office, by surprise,'' Crean said in a university release. "We saw him as a danger to himself and wanted to take precautionary measures to help him.''

IU Police Department Capt. Jerry Minger confirmed that his department was called to the Assembly Hall lobby at 3:40 p.m. Thursday and told Holman had thrown a potted plant."