Category Archives: NBA

TV Ratings for the NHL and NBA

This post is a bit of a momentous occasion for the Rally Cap – it’s the first post written in response to comments left on this blog and on our facebook page.  A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post detailing attendance figures for both the NHL and NBA.  This post prompted some feedback from readers mentioning that attendance only tells part of the story when it comes to a franchise’s business success.   Those readers were correct, most modern sports get a large portion of their revenue from HUGE television deals.  While I briefly covered television deals in a post about MLS back in March, the Rally Cap has yet to  explore television ratings.  Note: Since then, the NHL signed a new, massive (for them) television contract with Versus/NBC Sports.  The contract will average $200 million per year for 10 years.  While the NHL’s television contract does not come close to either of the other Big Four sports, this is a substantial step in the right direction for the league.

NBA local television ratings. Some of the statistics are pretty interesting. (Source: SportsBusiness Journal)

As with attendance figures, the SportsBusiness Journal is a great source for those interested in TV ratings (click for an explanation of what the ratings measures are) for teams around the NHL and NBA.  The April 18-24 issue of the SBJ has an article about television ratings in the NHL; the SBJ website posted a corresponding article on the NBA.   The numbers used are through April 11, which accounts for virtually the entire regular season (minus a game or two). The numbers presented in the SBJ article on NHL attendance are a bit incomplete.  While the NBA numbers are missing two teams (New Orleans and Toronto), the NHL numbers are missing the 6 Canadian teams (Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Ottawa).

Now to the interesting part – the numbers.

Things we learned:

Teams without competition do well – Some of the top performers are teams that are in one team markets (those that have either an NHL or NBA team, but not both).  The San Antonio Spurs lead the NBA in local television ratings with an average 10.19 rating, which was almost double second place Utah (5.6). Pittsburgh led the NHL in local television ratings at 8.68, Buffalo was second with a 7.03, and the St. Louis Blues were a surprising fifth with a 3.07.  Clearly it helps being the only thing in town.

The Cavs fans don't miss LeBron. TV ratings and attendance were still strong despite James taking his talents to South Beach.

Cleveland doesn’t really miss LeBron – Despite the largest season-to-season drop in ratings (54%) in the NBA, the Cleveland Cavaliers (another team from a one team market) were still 7th in the NBA in local ratings (3.93).  Combine the TV ratings with the attendance figures and it’s pretty clear that Cleveland loves their Cavs, King James or no King James.

New Jersey Hates its Teams – The Garden State just doesn’t support the Devils or the Nets, despite the fact that they are the only two teams that play in New Jersey that actually admit it.  The Nets played before the lowest average attendance in the NBA and had the lowest ratings in the NBA by a wide margin.  The Nets averaged a .29 rating, which is over three times lower than the Clippers (.99) who were next to last. The Devils just missed the bottom 5 in NHL TV ratings and attendance, posting a .47 rating and playing before under 15,000 fans per night.  The bright side for the Devils is that they posted better numbers than the Nets in both categories.

Atlanta Hates its Teams Too – The Hawks ranked 22nd in the NBA in attendance, drawing around 15,600 fans and are the only team in the playoffs to end up in the bottom 5 in average ratings at 1.17.  The Thrashers were second to last in local TV ratings in the NHL (.23) and played before an average of 13,400 fans.  Maybe a deep run in the playoffs, they already knocked off the Orlando Magic, will help the Hawks.  The only thing that will help the Trashers is moving somewhere cold.

Boston Loves its Teams – While New Jersey and Atlanta could care less about their NHL and NBA franchises, Boston is the only city to appear in the top 5 in local ratings for both the NBA and the NHL.  The Celtics averages a 4.73 ratings, while the Bruins pulled down a 3.12.  The cold New England winters have to help (what else are you going to do?), but most of the success comes from the fact that both teams were battling for the top spot in their conferences for most of the season.

Some Markets Like Hockey More than Basketball – One of the those markets is Washington, D.C.  Not exactly known for being a hotbed of hockey enthusiasm, the Capitals drew a 1.8 rating, while the Wizards drew a 1.15 (check out the article here).  As mentioned above, even though New Jersey hates its sports teams, the Devils outperformed the Nets.  Complete numbers for all teams were hard to come by, but based on previous years numbers Philadelpha loves the Flyers more than the Sixers and Minneapolis/St. Paul supports the Wild more than the Timberwolves.  I’m guessing the numbers might be different, but the outcome is still the same for both Philly and Minneapolis.

The NHL Needs to Give Up it Warm Weather Pipe Dream – As mentioned in my post on attendance, warm weather teams are not well supported.  Seven of the bottom ten teams in the NHL in attendance are located in the South or California.  Four of the bottom 5 NHL teams in the television ratings are in warm weather cities (the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Atlanta Thrashers and Florida Panthers).  The only team in the bottom 5 of the NHL ratings not in a warm weather city are the Islanders.  It will be interesting to see if the NHL thinks about moving any of these teams now that they have their lucrative new TV contract.

The NBA Had a Good Year – Attendance was up for the NBA; television ratings too. According to the SportsBusiness Journal, “Overall, the local ratings story was a good one for the league. Fourteen of the 28 teams that SportsBusiness Journal obtained ratings on saw double-digit increases, including big market teams like the Los Angeles Clippers (up 130 percent on Prime Ticket), Chicago Bulls (up 91 percent on CSN Chicago) and New York Knicks (up 89 percent on MSG).”  ESPN reports that national numbers mirrored the increase in local numbers, “…[the NBA’s] three national TV partners all had their most viewers ever this season, topped by a 42 percent increase for TNT. ABC was up 38 percent and ESPN had a 28 percent jump, the league said Friday.”  Not bad for a league that might not have a season next year.

… And So Did the NHL - According the The Triangle Business Journal, citing information from the Sports Business Journal, the NHL on Versus saw a 19% increase in viewership and NBC saw a 3.9% increase.  Not earth shattering numbers, but moving in the right direction.

Next season the NHL could be presented with a unique opportunity – it could open the season (or play the entire season) without competition from the NBA.  If the NBA labor situation isn’t resolved, will the NHL benefit?

Disagree/agree/just have a something to say, leave a comment.

Attendance in the NBA and NHL

While Cavs fans might feel betrayed by LeBron James, they have shown their support for the team despite a 19-63 record. (Mike Cardew/Akron Beacon Journal/MCT)

Beyond my interest in sports as fan, my interest in the business of sports has grown over the past several years.  One of the aspects of sports business that I find the most interesting are attendance figures for teams in the various leagues. I’m interested in the raw numbers, but also in what cause fluctuations from year to year or within seasons.  A helpful tool for my odd obsession with attendance figures is the SportsBusiness Journal’s Turnstile Tracker.  The SBJ, in its April 4-10 issue, published the latest Turnstile Tracker for the NBA and the NHL and some of the statistics were surprising.  Let’s take a look at the NBA first.

NBA – A couple of things jumped out at me as I was perusing the figures.  These numbers are through March 29, which accounts for between 35-38 of an NBA team’s 41 home games.

1. The Cleveland Cavaliers are 2nd in the NBA in overall attendance at 763,636 fans through 38 games (the Chicago Bulls are first by a wide margin – 803,874 fans through 37 games).  While the average (20,096) isn’t 100% of capacity (which is 20,562 for the Quicken Loans Arena), it’s still pretty impressive.  Cleveland wasn’t competitive this season, finishing just 19-63, and lost LeBron James to the Miami Heat in the offseason. It’s almost like the fans in Cleveland came out to support the team as a way to stick it to LeBron.  Impressively, 24 home games counted at the time of publication, were played before an arena holding 98% or more of capacity.  The only other teams – the Boston Celtics, Chicago, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Portland Trail Blazers, and the Utah Jazz,  to match that are in the playoffs or in Utah’s case are the only thing in town (no offense to Real Salt Lake who don’t play for most of the NBA season). Several playoff teams – the Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, and Atlanta Hawks – couldn’t match Cleveland’s support.

2. The Philadelphia 76ers played the most games (25 out of 35) in front of crowds that were less than 75% of capacity.  This surprises me.  The 76ers got off to a rough start, but were competitive throughout the season and made the playoffs.  On average only 70.8% of the seats in the arena were filled on any given night.  It’s pretty clear that the Sixers have slipped to #4, and maybe even #5 behind the Philadelphia Union, in the pecking order of Philadelphia sports.

3. Only two teams (the New Jersey Nets and the Indiana Pacers) played before crowds of fewer than 10,000 fans.  New Jersey played a game before just 8,866 fans, and Indiana played before 9,466.  An interesting fact about the Nets – despite playing before the lowest crowd in the NBA this season, the team has enjoyed an 8.6% increase in attendance from last year.

4. Overall, the NBA has seen a 1% increase in attendance vs. last season and is playing before arenas filled to 90.1% of capacity.

It seems like a lot of fans will be missing the NBA if the current labor situation does not get resolved before the start of next season.  The current collective bargaining agreement expires on June 30 and the possibility of a lockout looks more and more likely. That said, there are clearly a couple of markets that probably wouldn’t miss the hardwood too much if the 2011-2012 season if the NBA shortens or cancels its season.

NHL – The NHL, more than the NBA, relies on putting fans in the seats to pay the bills, and is having a pretty good year overall.  The numbers cited below account for between 37-40 of the NHL’s 41 home games. Some interesting numbers:

1. The NHL is averaging only a couple hundred fewer fans per game than the NBA – 17,071 for the NHL to the NBA’s 17,262.  Not bad for a sport that is a distant 4th in the pantheon of American sports.

2. While it might have seemed sad that the Nets and Pacers played before fewer than 10,000 fans, they have nothing on the NHL.  The New York Islanders played a game at Nassau Coliseum in front of just 3,136 fans.  It is worth mentioning that this game was played during the post-Christmas blizzard that blanketed much of the Northeast in over a foot of snow, but other teams were still able to but fans in the seats.  There were 4 other teams that played before crowds of fewer than 10,000 fans – the Atlanta Thrashers (8,461), the Columbus Blue Jackets (9,128), the New Jersey Devils (5,329) and the Phoenix Coyotes (6,706).

3. Of the teams with the 10 lowest average attendance figures (click here to see the list from ESPN – this list doesn’t match the SBJ list exactly, but it is illustrative), 6 are located in the South and 1 is in California.  It’s pretty clear that the NHL’s strategy to expand into the South isn’t working and some of those teams need to be relocate to areas that will support the teams.

4. Chicago loves it NBA and NHL teams.  The Blackhawks and Bulls are the leaders in average attendance for both leagues.  While part of this can be attributed to the United Center’s ability to hold nearly 20,00o seated fans for hockey and nearly 21,000 for basketball, both teams are playing to capacities of over 100%, meaning fans are flocking to see the Blackhawks and Bulls play and are willing to stand to do it.  Impressive.

Philadelphia fans have been turning out in bunches to see the Flyers, but have abandoned the Sixers.

5.  While Philly has seemingly abandoned the playoff bound Sixers, the Flyers have seen an uptick in attendance compared to last season.  The Flyers are 3rd in the NHL in average attendance and have played before 100.9% of capacity over the course of the season.

It will be interesting to see if the NHL capitalizes on the potential NBA labor strife.  If there is a shortened or canceled NBA season, will that mean more fans going to see hockey?  Time will tell.

Time to Move On

What is there to say about yesterday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers?  The Eagles cost me $5!  Any time the Eagles play the Packers or 49ers (she lives outside of San Francisco), my wife’s grandmother calls to set up a bet.  The Packers were my wife’s grandfather’s favorite team.  He grew up in Wisconsin and was a life long Packers fan.  He and I used to bet on the games, and now my wife’s grandmother has continued the tradition.

Beyond the Eagles costing me 5 dollars, this paragraph should suffice. The Birds played poorly in every facet of the game.  It’s easy to blame David Akers for the loss, his two missed field goals are the most glaring mistakes; however, this is just not accurate.  The defense was porous, giving up points at the most inopportune times.  Sean McDermott’s squad gifted the Packers points (see the offside penalty that extended Green Bay’s fist scoring drive), and the tackling was atrocious.  The other side of the ball wasn’t much better.  Michael Vick and company were unable to mount sustained drives when the team needed them most.

With that brief discussion of my thoughts on yesterday’s game out of the way, I am moving on.  While I clearly support the Eagles and Phillies the most vocally, I am a fan of both the Sixers and the Flyers.  Some might not know it, but there are other sports going on in Philly.  The Flyers sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 26-10-5 record and have played well all season.  They are fun to watch and I suggest Philly sports fans going through withdrawal should check them out. The Sixers sit 8th in the Eastern Conference, despite a 15-22 record.  Not to shabby.

With over a month until pitchers and catchers report, I will be focusing most of the blogging on the Flyers and Sixers.  I will also be looking to blog more about soccer and college basketball (Duke has started the season 15-0, and BU look like they will compete for the America East title).

What to Do?

This weekend was a tough one for Philadelphia sports fans.  Our beloved Phillies flamed out in the NLCS against an inferior opponent, and the Eagles forgot how to hold a lead against the Titans.   I could easily write a post full of recriminations of both the Phillies and the Eagles (hello Ryan Howard, how do you not swing at that pitch!? But don’t blame him, as set out in this post on FanGraphs) but those topics have been covered to death by both the mainstream media and in the blogosphere.  Instead of harping on that mistakes that were made (Kenny Britt and his 225 yards and 3 TDs against the Birds), I am asking – where to I turn my sporting attentions after this tough weekend?

The baseball season is over, and with the Phillies already committing $143 million to just 16 players in 2011 there will be no major signings to keep the hot stove hot during the winter.  Very little chance of entertainment or something interesting happening in that area.

The football season does not look promising either.  This Eagles team is deeply flawed, but then again so is the rest of the NFL, and looked lost in the second half against the Titans.  While Sunday’s game should settle any talk of a quarterback controversy, it didn’t provide much hope for the future.  With the Eagles facing just two teams with records currently under .500 the second half of the season could be rough.   While I haven’t given up hope yet, the NFC is a conference of parity, the Birds will need to get their act together to make some noise.  Plus, this week is a bye.

It’s much to early to care about the NHL or the NBA in a meaningful way.  Sure I will catch some games here or there, but these leagues don’t consume my attention until well into the spring (read when they get to the playoffs, with over half the teams making the postseason the regular season is rendered irrelevant).

Cameron Indoor Stadium, home of my favorite team - the Duke Blue Devils.

We are still weeks away from college basketball tipping off, but here again is another sport where I just can’t bring myself to focus more than a small amount of my attention before conference play starts in January. Sure there will be some early season marquee matchups (Duke-Michigan State on December 1 or a rematch of last year’s title game – Duke-Butler on December 4) that will draw my interest, but the season doesn’t really start until you are in conference play.

College football provides me with some distraction, but with Penn State floundering my interest is only in seeing Boise State crash the BCS title party.  What is a sports fan to do? Where do I turn for my sports distractions?

I am counting on Rhett and the Terriers to deliver me some sporting hope.

It appears college hockey, a realm where my alma mater – Boston University is a contender, and world soccer will be my areas of interest for the next several months.  While I can never quit the Eagles, I need more than just one team to fulfill my sporting needs.  So here’s to the Terriers! Here’s to Arsenal and Reading FC!  My sporting hopes lie with you, don’t let me down.

Suggestions are welcomed.

Post LeBron Reaction

I, like everyone else with even a passing interest in the NBA, spent part of my night watching the LeBron James decision special on ESPN.  He announced that he was “going to take [his] talents to South Beach” and sign with the Miami Heat.   He did this, despite saying that it was tough, with little emotion on his face.  While he said that the decision was tough, his actions were those of a man who had made his mind up a long time ago that he was leaving Cleveland.  He may not have known where he would land or, if you believe some of the information in Bill Simmons’ article, he had an idea that he would land wherever Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh landed.  The fact remains, that despite what LeBron said, he may not have the best chance of winning in Miami.

Miami will use roughly $49.5 million of their salary cap space on Wade, Bosh and King James.  With the NBA setting the salary cap at $58 million.  That leaves the Heat with $9.5 million to fill the remaining 9 slots on their roster.   They currently have Mario Chalmers on the books, as well as Michael Beasley.  It is unlikely Beasley will remain with the Heat, so his salary would come off the books.  Chalmers is scheduled to make $850,000.  That leaves the Heat with $8.65 million to fill the rest of the roster.  They have to hope that some veterans will take WAY less than market value to play in Miami with the Trinity.  There are rumors going around the Mike Miller might be interested in signing with the Heat.  Even if Miller signs, the Heat still need a legit center, and back ups for the Trinity.  I don’t buy that the Heat need a point guard because with Chalmers, LeBron and Wade on the court, there is more than enough ball handling skills to run the offense.  As it stands right now, Bosh, James and Wade will have to play most of the night due to what could be a lack of quality on the bench. What would worry me if I were the Heat management is Wade’s injury history.  Success is predicated on the Trinity playing together, if one of them goes down, who will the Heat replace him with?  Will the Heat luck out the way the Celtics did when they got P.J. Brown, James Posey and Eddie House for nothing to play along side the Big Three?  Who knows.  Without quality back ups, this team will still be a contender in the East and under the right circumstances a contender for the title.

After hearing the decision, the real question to me is: why didn’t he go to Chicago where he could play with Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, and Derrick Rose?  While Chicago obviously wasn’t as flashy as signing with Bosh and Wade on South Beach, I believe it would have presented a better, long-term opportunity for LeBron to win.  He would have been playing along side a legitimate future all-star point guard in Rose, an all-star power forward in Boozer and the emerging Noah.  Chicago also has Luol Deng coming off the bench under this scenario. Beyond those four players, Chicago would have still had money to fill out a team that would have been better than anything Miami could put together.

After watching part of the special, I began to wonder if Cleveland was ever really an option?  They didn’t have the resources to build a good team to play around him.  Bosh was adamant that he would not play in Cleveland, despite the fact that the Cavs and Raptors had a preliminary sign-and-trade lined up that would have united Bosh and LeBron on the shores of Lake Erie.  If LeBron had stayed, could Cleveland have spun a trade to steal a player the way the Lakers stole Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies?  A more pressing question is where do the Cavs go from here?  I don’t profess to have a great deal of knowledge about the Cavs roster, but I suspect they will be hoping the ping-pong balls bounce their way come next June.

Thoughts on the NBA Draft

Evan Turner - Is this the man that will return the Sixers to the promised land?

As usual, the NBA draft had its share of surprise picks, trades and drama.  The beginning of the draft started the way many mock drafts had predicted, with John Wall going 1st to the Wizards, followed by Evan Turner to the Sixers, and Derrick Favors to the Nets.  First, I must say that I am glad the Sixers took my advice and drafted Evan Turner (quite possibly the only Ohio State Buckeye I will ever like).  I think he has the potential to be a star in the league and gives them a player to truly build around for the future.  He seems to be a stand up guy and plays well on both ends of the floor.  The Sixers have struck gold with this pick.  Given that his was the Sixers’ only pick in the draft, they made a splash.  I know that it will create some over-crowding at the wing and guard positions, but this pick was the best for the franchise.  Hopefully, Ed Stefanski isn’t done trading and can clear out some of that over-crowding while bringing in some new talent.  As, I stated in a previous post, the gutsy move is to trade Andre Iguodala, who would likely fetch some good pieces (picks or players) in return.

Some other moves that I liked:

Oklahoma City Thunder – The Thunder were active in this draft.  I liked what I saw from them.  They had a total of 4 picks in the draft, but didn’t keep any of them.  They spun their picks into: Daequan Cook, a young shooting guard who will give them depth in the back court; Cole Aldrich, a good, young big who will add depth to the front court, Morris Peterson (who will provide veteran leadership off the bench) and a future 1st round pick (lottery protected).   The Thunder made these trades both for the future and in order to win now.  They had 4 picks in the draft and already are loaded with young talent.  They did their best to not overload themselves with players that are too young and not ready to contribute.  This team can win now, they already have a talented core and gave the Lakers a run for their money in the playoffs.  With their moves, I think they can push the elite in the Western Conference.

Miami Heat – The Heat made some shrewd moves in this draft.  The first, As John Hollinger of ESPN wrote about their trade of Cook to OKC, “Miami is in the process of buying out James Jones, whose deal is only partially guaranteed next year, and if in addition the Heat can find a taker for Michael Beasley they’ll have enough cap space for three max contracts — allowing them to potentially unite the holy trinity of LeBron, Wade and Bosh on one roster.”  Can you believe that?  How crazy would it be if Miami had Bosh, King James and Flash on the same team?  They would be unstoppable.  In addition, the Heat made 4 picks in the 2nd round and like several of them.  Getting Jarvis Varnado, the all-time NCAA leader in blocked shots, in the middle of the 2nd round is great value.  He will be great off the bench as a defender/rebounder.  The Heat also drafted one of my favorite players from the NCAA tournament, Da’Sean Butler.  He injured his knee against Duke in the national semifinal, but will provide the Heath with good value when he recovers.

Utah Jazz – The Jazz picked Gordon Hayward, the unlikely star of this past NCAA tournament.  I love what Hayward can do.  He can shoot, play D and has a good motor and feel for the game.  I think he fits in with this team perfectly.

Washington Wizards – Obviously, John Wall was a great pick.  He allows them to move Gilbert Arenas to the SG position, which makes both the PG and SG positions better.  I also liked their pick of Trevor Booker from Clemson.  He adds size and toughness in the paint.  Include their trade with the Bulls, where they got Kirk Hinrich (who can act as a mentor to Wall and provides a solid backup in the back court), and I think the Wizards have gone a long way to getting themselves back to respectability.

One move that I did not like was Portland’s firing of GM Kevin Pritchard.  The way they fired him and the fact that they fired him at all is just ridiculous.  Paul Allen, the Blazers’ owner, fired Pritchard just hours before the draft.  Pritchard conducted the draft admirably, making a trade that makes the Blazers a better team.  He was able to acquire Ryan Gomes and the rights to Luke Babbitt from the Timberwolves for Martell Webster.  I like this trade because I am a fan of Gomes.  I like him when he played for the Celtics and I think he is a great addition to the Blazers.  I also like Babbitt, who played college ball at Nevada.  Pritchard also drafted Elliot Williams, who will add depth to the Portland back court.  Pritchard should be able to find work elsewhere as he was responsible for rehabilitating the Blazers’ image and rebuilding the franchise on the court.  He did an excellent job in both departments and to see him go out like this is just pitiful.  Could this be the start of the Pritchard Curse?  It would serve Paul Allen right if it were, but the Blazer fans deserve better.

Musings on Baseball, Basketball and the Longest Tennis Match in History

So many sporting events during the last day, and so little time to blog about them.  I’ve decided one post to cover the most interesting non-World Cup sporting events of the last day was the way to go.

Baseball - Good night for one of my teams, not so good for the other.  The Phillies were able to pull off a late game rally to defeat the Indians 7-6. Maybe Jimmy Rollins‘ absence meant more the Phillies than I thought.  His walk-off homer secured the victory.  Coupled with a sterling pitching performance from Jamie Moyer on Tuesday the Phillies are on a modest 2 game win streak.  Maybe the Phillies need to play the AL Central more often.  Hopefully, the Phillies can use this to propel themselves into a good stretch before the All-Star break.  If the Phillies can play well going into the Break, I think they have an excellent shot of catching Atlanta and winning the division.  In the past several years, the Phillies have been excellent after the All-Star Break, posting a .599 winning percentage over the last 5 seasons.  If the Phillies can go into the Break within striking distance, I believe they will heat up after the break and catch the Braves.

On the other side of a walk-off were my 2nd team, the Red Sox.  They were facing Ubaldo Jimenez, who has been historically good this season, so who could have blamed them for losing.  The funny thing is that the Sox actually got to Jimenez, chasing him after 5 2/3 innings in which they scored 6 runs.  To put this in perspective, Jimenez had only given up 13 runs total in his previous 14 games!  In the month of May, Jimenez pitched 6 times and gave up 4 runs in the whole month!  The 5 2/3 inning outing was also the shortest of the season for Jimenez.  John Lackey put in a valiant effort on the mound and at the plate (he had 2 hits) and deserved better.  The Sox rallied from an early 4 run deficit to take a 6-5 lead into the 9th.  Jonathan Papelbon came on, so the game should have been over.  Instead, Papelbon gave up two home runs and the Rockies walked off with the victory.

Tennis - The longest tennis match in the history of the sport is finally over.  I couldn’t go without mentioning that John Isner finally won his match against Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon.  The match started on Tuesday.  Tuesday night the match was suspended and play was resumed on Wednesday.  The players played for the entire day Wednesday only to have the match again suspended due to darkness.  Isner was finally able to break Mahut’s serve in the 138th game of the 5th set.  The match is truly an epic, taking more than 11 hours over 3 days to complete.  The match was so compelling that it even got me to stop watching soccer yesterday afternoon.  The Ghana-Germany and Serbia-Australia matches took a backseat to history in the making.  Like Isner said “This will never ever happen again”.  Both men deserved better than for the loser to be knocked out of Wimbledon.  Bravo to both men.

NBA – The lead up to the NBA draft continues with the top of the draft coming more into focus.  John Wall is a lock to go at #1 to the Wizards.  It appears the Sixers are going to take my advice and draft Evan Turner.  The Nets are now leaning toward Derrick Favors.   After that things get fuzzy, as there could be a lot of movement due to trades.  It should be an interesting night.

Note to the Sixers Before the Draft: Please Use Some Sense!

I know that most of my posts have been about soccer.  What is a sports fan to do when it’s World Cup time?  The event comes once every four years.  Lost in all the soccer madness is the fact that the NBA Draft is tomorrow night.  I love the NBA Draft because it represents the time of year when every fan has hope.  Hope that your team will get its next franchise player and return to respectability (I’m talking about you New Jersey Nets).  Hope that your team will draft the missing piece that will propel them to the playoffs and beyond.  Hope that your team might make a blockbuster trade.  I better stop with the hope bit (otherwise I might sound like an Obama campaign commercial).

My team, the Sixers, fall into the category of team looking for a franchise player and respectability.  The Sixers have been mediocre, at best, for most of the decade and haven’t posted a winning record since 2004-2005.  In the 9 seasons since the Sixers played in the NBA Finals following the 2000-2001 season, they’ve compiled an overall record of 348-390.  On the face of it, that doesn’t sound that bad.  Over nine seasons they are only 42 games under .500.  But when you stop to think about the fact that they have had just 3 winning seasons and 1 .500 season in that time span things get a little more depressing.  Thanks to playing in the generally weak Eastern Conference, the Sixers have actually made the playoffs in over half the seasons since 2000-2001.

In an effort to address this mediocrity, the Sixers splashed out some major cash to sign Elton Brand following the 2007-2008 season (a season in which the Sixers finished just 2 games under .500).   What the Sixers got in return for their investment was 1 more win the following season.  Not exactly what you pay $82 million over 5 years for.  Brand played in just 29 games his first season in Philadelphia and was a shadow of his former self this past season.  This is clearly not what the Sixers were expecting and the contract has hurt the Sixers’ ability to make moves in the future as Brand is owed $51 million over the next 3 seasons.

In an effort to shed some salary, but I also think make the team better, the Sixers traded Samuel Dalembert to the Kings for Andres Nocioni and Spencer Hawes.  The trade gives the Sixers a good forward to come off the bench in Nocioni and replaces Dalembert with Hawes.  The Sixers give up something on the defensive end with this switch, but Hawes is younger, cheaper and has room the develop.  Besides, Dalambert was unhappy in Philly.  Who really wants an unhappy player on the team anyway?  The problem with this trade is that it gives the Sixers another small forward.  They already have two starting quality small forwards in Andre Ig0udala and Thaddeus Young.  I know that Iguodala plays shooting guard for the Sixers, but his best position is SF.  The Sixers lack a starting quality center and power forward for that matter (unless Brand has a bounce back season).  I like Jrue Holiday at the point.  If the season were to start right now the Sixers starting line-up would probably look like this:

PG – Holiday
SG – Iguodala
SF – Young
PF – Marreese Speights/Brand (Brand gets the nod if healthy)
C – Hawes

They would have Lou Williams, Nocioni, and Jason Smith and assorted other players on the bench.  This line-up isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t good.

I believe the Sixers have a chance to make an impact with this draft.  I know that a lot of people think the Sixers should draft for need, but I think the Sixers need to take the best available player with the #2 pick.  I know this analogy crosses sports, but the Vikings took the best available player on the board when they drafted Adrian Peterson and I think they are happy with that decision.  Unless you are a playoff team already, I think you have to take the best player on the board over drafting for a specific need.  Clearly, if you have the #2 pick you don’t exactly have and amazing team, how can it hurt to pick the best player?  Finally, after nearly 700 words, I get to who I think the Sixers should draft: Evan Turner.

Evan Turner is, after John Wall, the best player in the draft.  He is long, athletic, can play both guard positions and a good defender.  Chad Ford of ESPN says that this pick is a near lock after some of the other prospects (Derrick Favors, DeMarcus Cousins) the Sixers were looking at failed to impress in workouts.  If the Sixers draft Turner, I could see them trying to move a player to make room in a crowded backcourt/small forward rotation.  I think the gutsy move would be to trade Iguodala.  He clearly cannot carry the team.  The Sixers could get back a some decent players and maybe some picks in exchange to Iggy.  I know that it is tough to trade away the guy you started to build a team around, but clearly Iggy is more Scottie Pippen than Michael Jordan.  This would allow the Sixers to start Holiday at PG, Turner at SG, and Young at SF.  They would still have some decent options off the bench and whomever they received in return for Iggy. However, instead of trading somebody, I think the Sixers will slot Turner in a PG and use Holiday as a sparkplug off the bench.  I could also see the Sixers look for another trade (perhaps to unload Brand’s contract if anyone will take it).

If the Sixers don’t draft Turner, a player that will bring immediate help to the team and provide a star for the future, they will regret their decision.  Clearly Brand and even Iguodala are not the future of the franchise and the Sixers have lacked an identity since Allen Iverson was traded.  Evan Turner can provide that identity and make the team better, what’s not to love?

RIP Manute Bol

I just read, via a retweet that Manute Bol has passed away.  He was only 47!  He was a great humanitarian, one of my favorite basketball players, and I am pretty sure the only NBA player to ever kill a lion with a spear.  I will always have fond memories of his game against Phoenix where the 7’7” center rained threes on the Suns!  He had such a weird shot from long range.  I remember him grabbing the ball with both hands over his head and just chucking it at the rim.  Amazingly, he hit 6 threes in that game, easily the most he ever hit in one game. In addition to being a member of the Sixers during my pre-teen years, Bol played for the Bullets, Warriors and Heat.  He retired 2nd all-time in blocks per game.  More than his for his basketball skills, he should be remembered for the work he did in his native Sudan, helping refugees and speaking out against the genocide in Darfur.