My Christmas was pure bananas. Every year, try as I may to be organized, this year I forget gifts and my famous apple pie for Christmas dinner. My solice? Five NBA games on Christmas day. Ahhhh. The best part? Dinner was at my sister's place this year and her husband Brian is a huge basketball fan so it was two against my Dad and my brother-in-law Aaron. If they polled for stress-level ratings of Christmas past, this year would take the cake. Alas, TV ratings make the grade and based on fast national ratings, NBA games airing on ABC and ESPN delivered the highest growing audience ever. The much anticipated match-up (and eventual smack-down) of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat increased its viewing audience by 45% over last year's game (Cleveland vs Los Angeles) in the same broadcast window. At the end of the day, ratings gage the percentage of all homes with televisions tuned into the same program. So these stats show basketball and turkey consumption go hand in hand. Let's consume some serious news makers over the past week, including: LeBron James 'water and Love' comments, Larry Brown being fired as Head Coach of the Charlotte Bobcats and Shaquille O'Neal's fine for speaking his mind.
All is fair in Love and war
Let's clear this up. After Heat practice on Monday, LeBron James said he "didn't mean to upset anybody" when he called the NBA "watered down" last week. He also said his comments regarding the league being more popular in the 1980s due to fewer teams and more stars on top squads were not meant to hurt anyone either. He claims he is not saying leave the Nets or Timberwolves high and dry but for the need to see players like Kevin Love playing somewhere other than in Minnesota. He does have a point. Look at Kevin Love's stats. He leads the league in rebounding with 15.6 and is averaging 20 points. Plus, he also leads the league with 25 double-doubles. Pretty impressive, right? Let's face it. LeBron James is not the first person to think this or say it out loud for that matter. Fans and officials across all professional leagues have thought it, too. Don't kid yourself. NBA Commissioner David Stern is not counting out this argument but continues to subscribe to the theory expansion, no matter how financially viable, makes the league more attractive. Look at what is happening to the Hornets. The owners step down without real investors to take over, are all smile and giggles about the Hornets being such a great investment opportunity and yet they throw their hands up and walk away from what is clearly a mess. Forget the fact LeBron James has a target on his back already for "taking his talents to Miami". His argument about the league's talent being spread out makes some sense. Take a look at some of today's bottom benchers who are making mad dough and have the privilege of calling themselves professional athletes. Insert these guys into the game 20 or 30 years ago and the words "professional basketball player" would not be on their resume. These are the guys most upset at LeBron's 'watered down' comments. They should be. A new Collective Bargaining Agreement is on the horizon and they are wondering where they fit in.
Michael Jordan goes back on his word
Think back to when Larry Brown was hired as Head Coach of the Charlotte Bobcats. Michael Jordan (Bobcats owner) said he wanted Larry Brown to coach this team as long as Larry wanted to coach it. Then a few weeks ago, Michael and Larry met on 'how to improve the team' and 'how to play better basketball'. They met again recently and apparently decided the team could be playing better basketball and a change was needed. So since they were in a soft schedule according to them, now was a good time to make the transition to interim Head Coach Paul Silas. Sure, when you are loosing games by 30 points or more, a change is definitely in order. But to argue Larry Brown stepped down on his own free will is a complete fabrication. "Yes, Michael. Our Bobcats could be playing better. Why don't I just step down as Head Coach and let someone else give it a try?" Who are we trying to kid? This is Michael Jordan - an intense athlete in his playing days and proving to be just as ruthless in his quest to win as an owner. My only question is: does he have enough pocket change to buy the Maple Leafs?
Shaq on the Attack
This is just laughable. Shaquille O'Neal has been fined $35, 000 by the NBA for his public comments about the officiating. On Christmas, Boston played Orlando and got beat 86-78. He criticized the referees in this game after picking up his sixth foul when Magic center Dwight Howard fell to the ground wrestling for position. Shaq said, "I just wonder why I have never gotten that call in 20 years. Don't pick and choose when you are going to make the call...That's what happens when you get control freaks". No, that's what happens when you try to change the game abruptly after players are used to being the control freaks. Everyone just needs to settle down and take a time-out. Inconsistency in officiating issues are also plaguing professional soccer where they are considering having an official parked at the goal. Not sure if this would work in the NBA but when the dust settles, we all need to move on. The moving on part is harder for some than others.
Thanks for joining me this week. I will see you on Thursday for more "Behind Enemy Lines".