Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  July 23, 2007

Here’s a roundup of thoughts and other things to help us get started on a Monday, sort of like a cup of coffee for the week.

• I thought friend-of-the-site Nate Jones had an interesting piece about the referee/Tim Donaghy scandal over at Fanhouse — basically, it doesn’t bother him that much.

My thoughts are this is a HUGE problem and issue. Not as much with Nate or myself or many of the readers and commenters here because we are basketball junkies — bottom line, we’re not leaving the sport. We can say that Donaghy was a bad apple, that he was working primarily the under/over not game outcomes, that things can be done to prevent this in the future. (The under/over thing is interesting, Brandan “Two for the Money” Lang told it’s a challenge for a ref to influence a game outcome — what if Kobe has an off night? — but the under/over is much easier to fix.)

Right now the NBA is struggling, slipping some on the national sports scene (television ratings and other numbers show it). I think that is primarily due to the lack of a charismatic star/tandem to drive viewers (Magic/Bird, then Jordan, then Shaq/Kobe for a few years) but this scandal is a kick in the groin of a sport trying to find its footing. It hurts a lot. It cuts to the very core of the sports respectability.

And that hurts with the casual fans. Not the ones who tune into summer Team USA scrimmages in Vegas but the ones who first check the standings around the All Star Break, think Charles Barkley is the best basketball commenter on the planet and really tune in mostly during the playoffs. For those fans, this is a chance to confirm the long-standing belief that games are fixed, either by the league or other higher powers (the New Jersey mafia). It confirms that refs have other agendas and ulterior motives, something even we harder-core fans thought at times. Bill Simmons said it well — guilty or innocent people will not watch an NBA game quite the same way again.

• Blog-a-Bull was one of the first really great NBA blogs out there (one I tried to steal stuff from when I started this blog). Congratulations to Matt on turning four (and continuing the quality work).

• The Team USA scrimmage sounded like a lot of fun (I have yet to watch the replay, but there are some good recaps in the comments) but I’m not sure how much we can take away from it. What we need to see is a month away — this team against real quality international competition. Until then it’s just a scrimmage, even if it was one with some promise.

• Some people really seem surprised Kobe didn’t want to clarify his situation with the Lakers while in Vegas. Really? What is he going to say that helps his situation one way or the other? You think he wants to rehash that media disaster of a couple months ago?