Posted on: February 8, 2012 12:37 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 1:21 pm

So what if the NBA play is bad this year?

Turns out people care more about stars than quality of play as league popularity soars. (Getty Images)

By Matt Moore

Oh, the agony.

The torture.

The basketball.

We've become accustomed to a certain level of play in the NBA. What's worse, NBA scribes, bloggers, and hardcore fans are constantly comparing everything to prior moments and finding fault. There were some last year who found the playoffs disappointing because there were no truly great teams. You know, despite it being arguably the most entertaining playoffs of all time. Some would prefer the era of Jordan's dominance, even when that meant that the playoffs were about as unpredictable as a Fresh Prince of Bel Air episode.

The point is, we're ready as fans of the game to find fault with it at every turn. This season? Not hard to locate. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com points out all the agonizing ways this season's play has been reduced to rubble. Shooting percentages are in the basement. Scoring totals are in the basement. It's sloppy. There are injuries. It's gotten so bad that the age-old debate of whether a great college team, in this case, Kentucky, can beat an NBA team missing its best player, in this case, the Raptors without Andrea Bargnani, has returned to haunt us. And we all know it's insane. Size and strength matters, and the kiddos would be beaten to a pulp. What's more, it doesn't take much time to notice the gap between baseline jumpers at the college and pro level.

But the bigger point is that the game has been irreparably harmed. David Stern and his League of Extra-Stingy Gentlemen have forced this 66-game schedule down the fan's throats and the result is that they have turned away fans forever.

One problem.

They haven't.

Attendance is up, considerably. Ratings on TNT for games and NBA on TNT are up double-digit percentage points. NBA TV is through the roof, when for years most people haven't known the channel exists. Teams are raising ticket prices. Fans are paying. The reality is that the game is becoming more popular headed towards its annual zenith of the playoffs. But how can this be, with the play this bad? With turnovers and bad conditioning and injuries and clang after clang after clang?


The hardcore fans are going to watch anyway. And the casual fans, the golden goose for any sports league? They don't care about how the play is.

They care about storylines. LeBron failing in the clutch. Derrick Rose trying to will his way past Miami(and missing free throws in the clutch). Kobe Bryant's last stand. The Celtics trying to prove they're not dead yet. The Orlando drama. The Knicks disaster with Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. Linsanity. The Denver Nuggets flourishing (until the last six games) without Melo. Lob City. The Mavericks put themselves back on the map. The Chris Paul veto and its various effects. Kyrie Irving. Ricky Rubio.

The 76ers! ... OK, still no one cares about the 76ers, sadly.

The Thunder, destroying everything in their path as the new favorites. Blake Griffin over Perkins.

And again, as always, LeBron.

And what's more, the game is actually pulling in more viewers, even with terrible play. Know why?

No one can hold a lead.

The conditioning and schedule has created absolute chaos in the second half of games. Teams are racing out to 15-20-25 point leads and then blowing them, consistently, because they lack the energy and personnel to keep the foot to the pedal. The Magic blowing a 28-point lead, at home, to the team that has tortured them the past two seasons? Fascinating, like a train wreck. The Heat blowing leads to Golden State and the Clippers on back-to-back nights? Must-watch!

No lead is safe in this new, worse, NBA, and that makes it all the more watchable. It's part, oddly, of what makes college fun. Their players aren't good enough to close the door and so huge leads evaporate. Now the same thing is happening at the NBA level with teams burning themselves out in the first half and then trying desperately just to get back to the hotel and go to bed.

So yeah, the play is terrible. No one can shoot. Everyone's injured. The players are exhausted, already slightly miserable, and unable to give us the grace and precision that makes the NBA the best basketball product in the world.

And people haven't liked it this much in years.

Part of the issue is that there are always injuries. There are always terrible teams. For years we've heard the argument that there are so many bad teams. That's a product of there being great teams. Not everyone's going to go four-games-under-.500 or better. Yeah, the shooting's bad, but no one seems to focus on that when Blake Griffin is dunking the ball down Kendrick Perkins' throat and Monta Ellis is scoring 48 points.

Turns out you can lock out the fans, lock out the players, compact the schedule, shorten the season, torture the percentages, burn out the talent, and still have a product that sells.

Because drama? Drama transcends buckets.
Category: NBA
Posted on: December 27, 2010 4:12 pm

The NBA kind of owns Christmas

Record ratings for NBA on Christmas shows heightened interest in the league in year before lockout. 
Posted by Matt Moore

The NBA posted the highest Christmas day ratings in history this year, up 45% on ABC and 20% on ESPN. It was the highest ratings for Christmas Day since 2004.

What's interesting is that the ratings for Heat-Lakers were higher than Lakers-Celtics two years ago. That these matchups created such high ratings says two things. One, the league is, as predicted, having unparalleled success in this era of the Lakers, Celtics, and Heat, and two, the Heat are a bigger draw than traditional fans of the two great superpowers may like to admit. 

It'll be interesting to see how the ratings held throughout the games considering the Celtics-Magic game (which was also up 40% over a year ago) was pretty boring until the fourth quarter, and that the Heat thoroughly dominated the Lakers after Lamar Odom's opening alley-oop dunk. But on top, this is a huge win for the NBA as they further cement themselves as part of the Christmas Day tradition in this country, despite what Phil Jackson, LeBron James, and Stan Van Gundy have to say on the matter. 

And all this good will? Will likely be wiped away in a blizzard of lockout and labor disputes this summer. Such potential, inevitably wasted. 
Category: NBA
Posted on: December 3, 2010 7:57 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2010 8:04 pm

Apparently many of you people watched Cavs-Heat

Ratings up significantly for Cavs-Heat, as it becomes second-highest-rated game of the year.  Posted by Matt Moore

Wow, that Cavs-Heat game was crazy, huh? Okay, so really it was pretty quiet, and the Heat completely destroyed them. Basically it was just like a public IRS audit only with more profanity (or less, depending on how you take such things). But with all that hoopla, did people really revolt from the over-coverage? 

Not so much. What say you, Sports Media Watch?
TNT earned its second-largest NBA overnight of the season with Thursday night's Heat/Cavaliers game. Miami's 28-point win drew a 5.0 overnight rating on TNT Thursday night, up 257% from last year's comparable game (BOS/SA: 1.4), and the second-highest overnight of the season for any NBA game.
via Sports Media Watch: TNT Has 257% Rise In Overnights For Heat Blowout.
Turns out Cavs-Heat outdid the NFL game Thursday night. Granted, that was on the NFL Network, which is still harder to get for most of America than decent healthcare. But it's still indicative of the trending era of this season as one of the most successful in NBA history, right on the verge of a lockout. 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com