Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Wednesday, September 03, 2021

okie-dokie
Goodbye SuperSonics, hello Thunder. As in Oklahoma City Thunder, the new name of the National Basketball Association franchise formerly based in Seattle.

Chaz won’t say it, but I will: Meh. And furthermore, blech!

I mean, come on. Can you get any more generic? Especially when matched with a typically boring NBA team logo (which features — of course! — a basketball), it just comes off as though the team’s identity and branding were afterthoughts. Which they probably were: The Bennett group’s aim was simply to have NBA ball played in their hometown; the incidentals, to the extent that they matter in pulling in crowds, are negligible.

But then, that’s the NBA for you. I’ve expressed before my contempt for the roundball league’s lack of creative design aesthetics:

Have I mentioned how God-awful I think the majority of NBA team logos are? The majority do indeed include a basketball as a central graphic element in their designs — and, as a result, look downright pedestrian. And yet, league merchandise sells like hotcakes. I guess my sense of popular entertainment graphical style is too high-falutin’ to have mass appeal.

And that still holds. I’m sure the OKC team will rake in a fair share of merchandising sales, based on novelty alone at the outset. The rest is determined on the court, so what does it matter, really? Therefore, roll Thunder, roll.

I reserve the right to refer to individual players on the team as “Thunderers”. During those rare occasions when I’ll actually pay attention to hoops.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/03/2021 11:45 PM
Category: Basketball
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Sunday, July 06, 2021

outboundinbound
Once considered a slam-dunk, the move of the New Jersey Nets from the East Rutherford to Brooklyn is now on shaky ground, thanks to local opposition over Atlantic Yards and a faltering real-estate economy. They could stick it out in the Meadowlands for a while longer, as their lease doesn’t expire until 2012.

Or, they could avoid further lame-duck status in Jersey and go back to where they came from: Nassau Coliseum, to be co-tenants with the New York Islanders.

A refurbished Coliseum is part of the Lighthouse Project, the pride and joy of Islanders owner Charles Wang and his partner, Long Island real estate whiz Scott Rechler. Like Atlantic Yards, the Lighthouse would be a commercial, sports and real estate complex with a strong component of affordable housing. Unlike Atlantic Yards, it is priced at $2 billion.

Granted, it has been years since I was on the junior high math team, but I’m still good enough with figures to know that $2 billion is a lot less than $4 billion. The problem is that the Lighthouse is going nowhere fast, following the glacier’s pace that many Long Island projects take. A commitment from the Nets could give it the oomph it needs.

Probably a longshot. For one, current Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner would sooner sell than shack up with the Islanders as a co-tenant — unless he can engineer a sweetheart land-development deal with the help of Rechler, that would include building a new arena. In that case, the whole deal might turn inside-out, with Ratner not only bringing his hoops team to Long Island, but also buying the resident NHL team, thus relieving it from Wang’s inept stewardship. Stranger things have happened.

But then, Ratner has other options. There’s always Newark and the shiny new Prudential Center, where the Devils would welcome a reunion with the Nets. Again, it’s not likely that Ratner would want to occupy a building he doesn’t own/control, so maybe he sells the franchise to Devils owner Jeffery Vanderbeek.

Or, if he’s going to sell, perhaps a buyer in Seattle would be interested, since there’s now an opening for a SuperSonics 2.0.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/06/2021 07:01 PM
Category: Basketball, Hockey, New Yorkin', SportsBiz
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Wednesday, July 02, 2021

It’s finally official, and all over but the crying — tears of joy in Oklahoma and of grief in Washington State, as Seattle’s NBA franchise strikes a deal to relocate to Sooner country for next season.

They won’t be playing their games as the “Oklahoma City SuperSonics”, though:

[Team owner Clay] Bennett said he and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels signed a binding agreement Wednesday, which would be formalized later, that keeps the SuperSonics’ name, logo and colors available if Seattle gets a replacement franchise.

Leaving behind a franchise’s trappings in the wake of relocation has become de rigueur for carpetbagging owners, often characterized as a goodwill concession. Never mind that it’s mostly self-serving — there are distinct advantages to creating a new brand identity to match a team’s new home city, mostly in the merchandising area. And there’s only one modern-era instance of a successful “restoration” of a city-team franchise: The current incarnation of the Cleveland Browns, which the NFL pretty much insisted upon as a public relations fix. Furthermore, I know of only one other in-effect major-league franchise leave-behind: That of the NHL’s Hartford Whalers, whose spirit is property of the State of Connecticut.

Which brings me to my idea: Instead of embarking on a mad dash for another shot at big-league hoops, the Emerald City should take its parting gift, and promptly graft it onto the next National Hockey League team that wants to move into KeyArena.

Why not? Hockey is a missing link for the Pacific Northwest’s sports scene (the cross-border Vancouver Canucks notwithstanding). Reviving the Seattle SuperSonics as an NHL team would nicely fill the void. That green-and-gold color scheme would look great fitted with skates and hockey sticks. The Sonics logo would have to be reworked a little, but it can’t be too hard to airbrush that basketball into a puck.

Besides, it’s high time that Seattle resumed its aborted Stanley Cup-winning run.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/02/2021 11:27 PM
Category: Basketball, Hockey
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Tuesday, April 08, 2021

If you watched last night’s NCAA men’s basketball championship game, you might have noticed the shiny new ladder that was used for the night-ending climb to the ceremonial net-clipping.

What, you didn’t? That’s bad news for Werner Ladder, because they ponied up the necessary scratch to be named the “Official Ladder of the NCAA Basketball Championships”.

Actually, I didn’t watch a minute of the game, since I’m not a hoops fan. But this news item worked on me in a sense, because I did make sure to tune in at the end, just to see how that ladder would be precisely-positioned for the camera to catch that prominent Werner logo. So I noticed it, if no one else.

But why stop the sponsorship gravy only halfway up?

Still unsold but presumably available would be a sponsorship of the Official Scissors of the NCAA basketball net-cutting ceremony. More often than not, a bandage scissors provided by the winning team’s trainer is used to actually cut down the nets. Perhaps ShopScissors.com?

There is, of course, an echo of gallows humor to the observation. Because it’s a lead-pipe cinch that by this time next year, some scissor-maker will step up and buy their way into that coveted “official NCAA scissor-cutters” spotlight. In fact, this year’s branding focus on the official ladder will serve to spur the bidding on the until-now moribund scissor namings-right opportunity — money begets money. That competitive spirit is what college sports is all about, right?

Maybe the winning clip-job sponsor will throw a curveball into the process, and have the Scissor Sisters on hand to deliver a deranged serenade for this triumphant ceremony.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 04/08/2021 12:19 PM
Category: Basketball, SportsBiz
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Friday, March 28, 2021

black and white in color
Much as Monday Night Football and Terrell Owens taught us almost four years ago, you simply cannot put a black man and white woman together in American media and not have people go (pardon the pun) apeshit.

But the image is stirring up controversy, with some commentators decrying the photo as perpetuating racial stereotypes. [LeBron] James strikes what some see as a gorilla-like pose, baring his teeth, with one hand dribbling a ball and the other around [Gisele] Bundchen’s tiny waist.

It’s an image some have likened to King Kong and Fay Wray.

“It conjures up this idea of a dangerous black man,” said Tamara Walker, 29, of Philadelphia.

And in fact, some think that photographer Annie Leibovitz, who shot this April 2008 cover of Vogue, took her inspiration from the semi-famous “Destroy This Mad Brute” World War I propaganda poster, which predates King Kong.

As always, image is everything.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 03/28/2008 03:37 PM
Category: Basketball, Fashion, Photography, Publishing
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Sunday, December 02, 2021

re-balanced
A search through this blog will give you a hint of the extreme distaste I’ve had over the National Hockey League’s cockamamie unbalanced season schedule. To me, it sacrifices even an attempt at completeness — i.e., every club playing every other club every year at least once — in favor of a hyperdivisional setup that sought to instill rivalry by rote in five-team clusters.

After enough discontent from key franchises, the setup has been, thankfully, abandoned. Starting with the 2008-09 season, the league is reverting back to the pre-lockout scheduling formula:

The NHL has approved a scheduling format that will have each team play 24 divisional games, 40 in-conference matchups, 15 games against non-conference teams and three wild card games against out of conference teams.

Am I satisfied? Not completely. I’d still like to see a fully-balanced schedule, certainly weighted toward divisional and intra-conference play but also incorporating complete home-and-home inter-conference play. Pretty much what the players wanted:

New NHL Players’ Association executive director Paul Kelly met with the league’s owners on Thursday, and added that the players preferred going to an 84-game schedule with 24 divisional games, 30 against the rest of the conference and 30 against the other conference.

“The reason the players feel this is one, they’re tired of seeing the same guys week after week,” Kelly explained to reporters on Thursday. “(And) two, they believe the fans in their buildings want to see the star players in other teams and they themselves would like to like to see other cities.”

I’d have gone for that. Two extra games on the season would be just great for me — I’m not one of these kooks who want to see a schedule reduction to 70-odd games.

Barring that, copying the NBA’s scheduling format would have been the next-best thing:

- Each team plays two games against every team from the opposite conference, one in each team’s building, for a total of 30 games.

- Each team plays their four division rivals four times each (twice at home and twice on the road) for 16 games.

- That leaves 10 other in-conference opponents to be played 36 times. A team plays six of those teams four times each and the other four teams three times apiece (18 at home, 18 on the road).

Yes, it’s unbalanced, but at least the NBA avoids these one-off matchups. It’s killed me that, during this post-lockout era in hockey, the argument was that the NHL was too geographically spread-out for all the teams to meet — when the NBA, with comparable dots on the map, could pull it off.

Anyway, this reversion may not be perfect, but it’s an improvement. In the middle-term, with expansion likely coming, we may eventually see something closer to balance.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/02/2021 07:11 PM
Category: Basketball, Hockey
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Tuesday, November 20, 2021

Now that Lil’ Romeo ain’t so little anymore, he’s going to be playing hoops for Southern Cal for the next four years, thus living out his athletic dreams.

And, no doubt, his father’s too:

Lil’ Romeo, whose full name is Percy Romeo Miller, is currently a senior guard at Beverly Hills High who averaged 13.9 points and 5.6 assists last season. His father, hip-hop mogul Master P, had tryouts with two NBA teams in the 1990s.

I don’t remember the specifics of those two tryouts, but I sure remember talking about them while I was at the St. Petersburg Times Sports desk. One of the copy editors was trying to lead that news bit into a news-roundup column, but couldn’t make it work. The key would have been incorporating his trademark catchphrase into an appropriately punny headline; but given that his most-recognizable lyrical wordplay was “Uhhhhhh!”, we quickly reached a dead end. Hopefully, his son’s basketball career will be more amenable to quippiness.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/20/2007 11:24 PM
Category: Basketball, Pop Culture
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Monday, June 25, 2021

unlike mike
A spectre is haunting the National Basketball Association — the spectre of Michael Jordan. Years after his glory days with the Bulls, His Airness still casts an overbearing shadow over the league:

The denigration goes on and on. A few years ago, it was determined that the solution to the NBA’s image problem was an age limit. The rationale that frequently surfaces: If Michael Jordan played in college for three years, so can these high school punks.

At about the same time, the dress code was instituted. Guess why? Michael Jordan wore suits to games and at news conferences, and everybody loved the league then.

No sport ever dragged itself through this long a period of mourning for a departed star. Baseball didn’t give up and start mocking succeeding players after Babe Ruth (or Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays or Reggie Jackson) retired. Football didn’t curse an entire generation of players after Johnny Unitas (or Walter Payton or Joe Montana or Jerry Rice) finished playing.

And let me add in my own fave sport: After Wayne Gretzky retired, no one started trashing the next generation of hockey stars. (Just doing my part to keep the NHL in that “big four” fraternity…)

Was Jordan’s superstardom too much of a good thing? It’s curious that the transcendence of talent/personality in the NBA seemed to come to a screeching halt after Jordan retired from Chicago (let’s ignore the Washington Wizards years — most everyone else did). Jordan didn’t emerged from a vacuum — he was part of the lineage that started with Karim Abdul-Jabbar, followed with Dr. J and extended to the Magic Johnson-Larry Bird era. Before that, the league was a dodgey affair, with perpetual image problems. By the time Jordan came along and started racking up championships, pro basketball had seemingly established itself as primetime, challenging even the NFL for sports popularity.

And, as David Steele points out, that’s still mostly true. The perception now is running ahead of the reality. But that sort of perception can be self-fulfilling, which is the danger. As long as Jordan continues to be identified as the unattainable personification of the ideal state of the NBA, the danger is real.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 06/25/2007 10:50 PM
Category: Basketball
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Friday, April 13, 2021

without authority
Among the potpourri of pet peeves and proposed fixes in sports offered up by Tom Jones, one suggestion for the NBA stands out:

There is a 3-point shot in the NBA. And, of course, the traditional 2-pointer. So how about a 1-pointer (other than free throws)? We have the perfect shot to be worth one measly point: the dunk. We’re so sick of dunks dominating the highlights on SportsCenter that we’re proposing changing the shot to be worth one point. Then, maybe, we can see some ankle-breaking crossovers, some behind-the-back passes and someone knocking down 25-footers on the highlights instead of one dunk after another.

Within the point-scoring framework of the basketball court, this makes sense. If a long-distance lob earns you the maximum number of points (three), then the shortest distance to the hoop should get you the least number of points (one). So I like that logic behind it.

That implies that getting slamdunks is easy, which it isn’t. You do pay the price for getting in that low, in the form of more physical jostling. And you have to actually succeed in stuffing the ball through the basket, which isn’t automatic.

Still, the principle is sound. It’d be interesting to see how it would affect gameplay strategy. Naturally, it would reduce the overall number of dunks per game, in the interest of getting more points via outside shots. I could see plenty of coach-player friction resulting, with the old “showboating” debate rearing up. Such is the dramatic fuel on which the NBA thrives.

I wouldn’t start looking for a rule change from David Stern’s office, though. For one, it’d be a nightmare to police: How high does a player have to get for it to be an “official” slamdunk? Echoes of the NHL’s “distinct kicking motion” on goals comes to mind. And of course, the dunk remains a big crowd-pleaser, even a defining move for the sport; so the league would be foolish to diminish it.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 04/13/2007 09:16 AM
Category: Basketball
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Thursday, March 22, 2021

As the NCAA Tournament’s West Regional in men’s basketball commences tonight, some are less than impressed by the digs:

While robot vendors or eye-scan security might be a bit too James Bond, a cool laser show or MP3 downloading stations seem appropriate. How about touch-screen panels on the seat in front of you to order nachos?

“Honestly, I was expecting something more like that,” Kansas guard Rodrick Stewart said before his team’s practice Wednesday. “I thought this place would be all high-tech and computerized.”

Nope. When the [Kansas] Jayhawks play Southern Illinois tonight, the game will take place in a building that is futuristic in name only.

The floor is bordered in black, the same color as many of the plain seats. The amenities are pleasant, but this is a Windows 95 arena serving a city with the highest concentration of high-tech workers in the country.

This isn’t the first time I’ve come across critiques over the shortcomings of San Jose’s HP Pavilion, AKA the Shark Tank. Years ago, when the arena that would become St. Pete Times Forum was being mapped out, Tampa Bay Lightning founder Phil Esposito was stressing how state-of-the-art the facility would be. Espo tossed off a comment about how the then-new San Jose arena was built without television camera sightlines being a consideration, and how the building suffered from that. I’m not sure how valid that complaint was/is; I haven’t heard anything since then about any special challenges in televising hockey or hoops games from HPP.

And on a closing note: I happen to be typing this post on, yes, an HP Pavilion notebook computer. It is my home computer, and I’ve had it for close to a year and a half now. Given that aging, it’s no longer even close to average in the computing world; but it’s good enough for me (for now).

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 03/22/2007 07:06 PM
Category: Basketball, Hockey, SportsBiz
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Sunday, January 28, 2021

Everyone’s well used to it when booking an airline flight. Now, paperless ticketing is poised to transform the way seats are sold for sporting events, with Cleveland Cavaliers games serving as the testing ground.

Why the Cavs? They happen to have an inside connection to the e-ticket biz:

While some Major League Baseball teams have introduced electronic ticketing, the Cavaliers have taken it a step further, providing a completely paperless transaction. Nearly a third of their season-ticket holders use Flash Seats, [Cavs] owner Dan Gilbert’s online ticketing company.

The firm is looking to sell other professional teams on the concept, allowing them to cash in on the lucrative secondary ticket market. Teams have long been frustrated by the fact that they sell seats for the price listed on the ticket only to see scalpers outside the stadium get double and triple that figure.

“I hope to be in every league starting next fall,” said Flash Seats chief executive officer Sam Gerace, who would not say which teams have expressed interest.

The real genius of this development? It kills several birds with one stone:

1. The obvious: It makes the event-ticketing transaction more completely electronic, cutting down on paper.

2. It addresses the major issue of ticketbuyers giving away their tickets — something that’s fairly negligible in the airline business, but is a constant when it comes to sports season tickets. People buy into season ticket packages knowing they’ll give away some to friends and associates; for corporate accounts, the whole point is to give away tickets to guests. Observe:

“I love it,” said [Cavaliers season ticket holder] Lee Baskey, who won’t go back to paper tickets next season. “It’s a neat concept. When I first heard about it I had 8,000 questions.”

Baskey, who uses his tickets for both his family and customers in his insurance business, said his main concern was how easy it would be to transfer tickets. He said there’s been no glitches.

It would have been too easy, and shortsighted, for Flash Seats to have made their e-tickets nontransferable, thus sinking the concept instantly. But they accounted for it, and make it as easy as sending an email to the person receiving the gift ticket (I wonder if the guest has to register with Flash Seats to complete the transfer; that’d be a pain, but then again, I can’t think of a better incentive to go through with a laborious registration process than getting gameday tickets!).

3. It comes with a controlled ticket-selling exchange marketplace, where season ticketholders can sell individual game e-tickets to others, with Flash Seats taking a 20 percent cut. This freezes out traditional ticket brokers and scalpers — at least until they figure out how to infiltrate it. It also makes eBay’s recent $310 million purchase of StubHub look like a dead-end proposition, since the e-ticketing system would put entire process into the teams’ hands.

The fit with sports, especially for extended schedules like those in the NBA, NHL and MLB, is a natural for e-ticketing. I wonder how bumpy the process would be for one-time-only event, like concerts. Indeed, that’s an area that can be addressed when they start offering e-tickets for single-game sales.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/28/2007 09:10 PM
Category: Basketball, SportsBiz, Tech
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Tuesday, January 23, 2021

player relations
It ain’t often that the hoops guys can take a lesson from the professional puckheads, but the development of new, streamlined hockey uniforms is a prime example:

The uniform shift is bound to spark controversy among players and hockey traditionalists. To stave off the kind of player revolt that derailed the NBA’s composite ball from Spalding, the NHL and Reebok incorporated feedback from the NHL Players Association, general managers, retired stars and even draft picks. Nearly all 750 NHL players, from superstars to enforcers, have been personally fitted by Reebok, Jennings says. More than half the teams have practiced in the uniforms, O’Toole says.

NHLPA director of hockey affairs Mike Gartner says the union got involved later in the process. He believes the player input pushed full rollout back to next season from this season. But Gartner gives credit to Reebok for listening to complaints and making modifications. “By doing that, they avoided the NBA ball,” he says.

Take notes, David Stern. It didn’t have to get to the point of league-wide paper cuts for you to start listening to your own players/employees. Talk with them instead of to them.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/23/2007 02:43 PM
Category: Basketball, Hockey
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Monday, December 11, 2021

bouncing back
What kind of a bush-league sport makes a major gameplay equipment change in mid-season?

A little outfit called the National Basketball Association does. Commissioner David Stern announced the league would revert back to the old-style leather balls on January 1, finally acceding to a chorus of complaints from players over the introduction of the re-engineered microfiber ball.

No word on if the prospect of having to re-jigger most of the NBA team logos over the new ball’s seam-patterns had anything to do with this stunning about-face…

Stern claims that the recurrence of papercut-like injuries to several players’ fingertips — a result of the friction caused by the microfiber — was what finally convinced him to make the switch back. A formal complaint by the players’ union with the National Labor Relations board over the both the hassles of the new ball, and the way in which it was basically forced down the players’ throats, suggests a more compelling reason for the league to ditch the new rock, and points to underlying problems in the business of pro hoops:

As much of a mistake it has been to ramrod the new ball into use without real feedback from NBA players – and sorry, summer leagues don’t count – the way Stern dismissed the complaints was worse. Truth be told, there was a real arrogance in rejecting the players’ issues as a nuisance. Here was the most essential tool they use in the game, an orb that connects them in every way, and until now, Stern’s stance bordered on disrespectful.

Of course, there are instances that the commissioner has to rule unilaterally for the good of the sport. In the end, no league can function as a democracy. Still, this was an instance where a stand-down never needed to happen, where the players association never should’ve had to file a grievance with the National Labor Relations board.

“I don’t know if it’s ever been a partnership,” NBA Players Association president Derek Fisher told Yahoo! Sports last week. “I know we have attempted to make it that way (but) very rarely has it felt like a partnership. For us, it feels like we’ve had to generally react, or defend, or stand up for things that we believe in.

“We’ve very rarely been sought out for advice before things have been decided.”

This hardly sounds like the ideal players-owners relationship in a league that, not long ago, rivalled the NFL as a near-perfect working model of professional sports. This might be an indication that the glory era of the NBA has passed, and that whatever success the league is experiencing now is coming almost despite itself, and under constant threat from organizational dysfunction. Is a decline far off?

Beyond that: Has the new ball had any impact on games? I’d assume the new ball would lead to more turnovers and less scoring as players had to adjust; but I haven’t heard much serious squawking about that. If the effect’s been scant, then how valid have the complaints been? On top of that, there’s now grousing about making the switch in mid-season, when a re-re-adjustment will be necessary. All in all, an uncharacteristic mess in hoopsland.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/11/2021 10:18 PM
Category: Basketball
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Monday, October 23, 2021

positives, negatives
Since when does the mega-popular National Basketball Association mimic its weak sister, the National Hockey League?

When there’s sponsorship money involved, of course. Behold the NBA’s version of hockey’s plus-minus stat — on steroids:

From a fan perspective, the change will be noticeable in the creation of the Lenovo Stat, a new measurement that looks to quantify teamwork—both offensive and defensive—in much the same way as the National Hockey League’s plus/minus statistic. The NHL counts the goals scored when a particular player is on the ice, and subtracts from that number the goals scored against his team while he’s playing.

The NBA’s new statistic will be compiled by crediting all players with their teams’ points scored while they’re on the floor. They are then debited the points scored by the opposition while they’re in the game. In a major feat of number crunching, all 1-, 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-man combinations will be analyzed across the league.

The measurement doesn’t count rebounds or assists—or any other variable—but “this single stat tells you the most effective combination of players,” said Lenovo Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Deepak Advani. It has the distinct feel of “sabermetric” analysis and the computerized “search for objective knowledge about [a sport]” that analyst Bill James wrote about in his 1988 Baseball Abstracts. The approach was made famous in the 2003 book “Moneyball.”

You can see a screenshot of the team-aggregate pluses and minuses here. That should give many a stat maven a nice warm feeling.

The real story here, though, is the creation of a new statisitcal measure solely as a result of corporate sponsorship. Lenovo ponied up the dough, and it got its company name irremovably implanted into the game’s scoresheet — truly prime real estate. It’s way better than grafting a new name onto a pre-existing stat column that has a history; this is the equivalent of the now-standard practice of securing naming rights to a newly-built stadium. (I guess any diehard anti-corporate types can insist on rejecting the name “Lenovo Stat” and subbing in “plus-minus”, but they’ll be a permanent minority.)

I’m not sure there’s been another instance of a brand-new stat being cooked up just in response to business reasons, at least not on the major-pro level. In this sense, the NBA is blazing a new, more invasive trail in sports business marketing.

I’d like to use this development as an opportunity to announce that the naming rights to this blog’s newly-instituted NHL Special Teams Index weekly tally is open to corporate sponsorship. I didn’t exactly invent it, but in the hopes that Lenovo’s actions will inspire other companies to toss dollars at any other novel statistical presentations, I’ll gladly take the credit. I’m thinking “NHL Special K Special Teams Index” has a nice cha-ching ring to it…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 10/23/2006 11:38 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball, Hockey
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Tuesday, October 17, 2021

ballin'
The National Basketball Association is rolling out a new basketball this season, made of microfiber instead of leather and consisting of two interlocking panels instead of the traditional eight oblong ones, with distinctive seams.

Naturally, there’s been a lot of grousing from players and coaches over messing with such a fundamental element of the game. I’m sure the ball will make for a convenient scapegoat for complaints over decreased shooting percentage and increased turnovers.

But Esquire writer David Walters brings up an unforeseen result of instituting the new-look bouncy-ball (the full article’s not online, unfortunately):

Currently, twenty-five teams feature a ball in their logos, all of which clearly depict the outdated seams. Does that mean they’ll all have to be overhauled? “That’s a great question,” says a member of the New Jersey Nets PR staff. “We hadn’t even thought of that.”

It’s surprising that such a marketing-conscious league like the NBA wouldn’t have taken this factor into account. But it’s also typical of most business organizations, overlooking the crucial marketing details.

Have I mentioned how God-awful I think the majority of NBA team logos are? The majority do indeed include a basketball as a central graphic element in their designs — and, as a result, look downright pedestrian. And yet, league merchandise sells like hotcakes. I guess my sense of popular entertainment graphical style is too high-falutin’ to have mass appeal.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 10/17/2006 10:05 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Basketball
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Tuesday, September 19, 2021

Don’t look now, but Albuquerque is making rumblings about angling for a major league franchise or two:

Look 10 or 15 years down the road. In a metropolitan area of, say, 700,000 to 750,000 people, will there be a push to move an NBA or NHL franchise to Albuquerque? It’s possible, perhaps even likely. Will one be here with an arena that seats only 10,000?

No way. A future mayor almost certainly would come back to Albuquerqueans and ask for their support in building a mega-facility. Our take is simple: Skip that step and build a major arena now.

Expect rampant cursing from the world of sport journalism should a big-league team land in New Mexico, and reporters constantly stumble over the spelling of “Albaquerque” “Albuquerque” (dammit!).

On the plus side, there are built-in rivalries with Dallas and Phoenix to consider. And for whichever sport gets there first, the team would just have to adopt the coolest geography-appropriate name possible: “Aztecs”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/19/2006 05:04 PM
Category: Basketball, Hockey, SportsBiz
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Tuesday, August 01, 2021

in spirit
The 30-team National Basketball Association divvies up its television revenue 31 ways each month — 30 checks to each franchise, and one to Ozzie and Dan Silna.

Who are the lucky guys? The former owners of the long-defunct Spirits of St. Louis from the long-defunct American Basketball Association. And their cut is the result of what’s turned out to be a sweetheart deal that facilitated the merger of the ABA and NBA thirty years ago.

In 1976 the ABA reached a merger deal with the NBA. The NBA agreed to take four of the six teams from the dismantling ABA. The Spirits and the Kentucky Colonels were not invited to join the league. However, the ABA owners needed to reach unanimous approval for the merger to take place.

John Y. Brown, owner of the Kentucky Colonels, quickly accepted a $3.3-million buyout as compensation. That deal was also offered to the Silnas.

But Ozzie Silna kept haggling for more, and he finally reached a deal in a swank Massachusetts hotel room. The Silnas would get $3 million, plus a share of the TV revenue from the four teams entering the NBA.

“When we accepted the arrangement, the big thing was that the NBA had television” and the ABA didn’t, said Silna. “But still, the TV revenue was minuscule compared with baseball and the NFL.”

Initially, the contract netted the Silnas about $300,000 a year as the NBA struggled with spotty attendance and weak TV ratings until the ’80s, when Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan catapulted the league to a higher profile.

As the NBA’s popularity rose, so did the league’s TV contract and the Silnas’ cut. For the NBA’s last contract, they averaged $15 million a year.

“The process never even entered our minds of how high it would get,” Ozzie Silna said. “We just wanted a piece of the action.”

They are due an even larger jackpot from the NBA’s current contract, which began in 2002. That six-year, $4.6-billion deal with ABC/ESPN and TNT could earn them upward of $24 million annually, according to Silna.

Without having to dole out salaries or money on stadium leases, the Silnas earn more each season than most NBA teams.

As close to hitting the jackpot as you can get in the business side of pro sports.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/01/2021 11:50 PM
Category: Basketball, SportsBiz
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Sunday, April 23, 2021

hoop it up
Wow, that NBA postseason really sneaks up on you, doesn’t it?

No? Well, it snuck up on me. I’m not even remotely a hoops fan, college nor pro. I doubt I’ve watched more than five minutes of National Basketball Association play this season, total. And so, while I knew from extremely incidental media consumption that the basketball playoffs were imminent, I didn’t consciously realize that they started at the same time as the NHL championship dance.

Still, when I said I’d keep a record of the major league sports playoff schedules, I meant every one of the Big Four. That means the NBA, and so I will present its schedule here.

I’m afraid I’ve run into the same impediment that I did with hockey: Because of the re-seeding that takes place, it’s pretty hard to determine next-round gametimes. Plus, the NBA has this annoying habit of starting up next-round games in instances when certain matchups have been determined, even when other current-round series are still being played out; that further muddies the waters. Therefore, I’m going to have to start off with just the first-round schedule here.

This detracts from my original intent, which was to provide dates for the complete playoffs, regardless of when the actual teams are determined. I really just wanted a one-time-published resource for when rounds begin and end, and when the last possible date for the championship game was. That’s the information I found the most frustrating to find; conversely, current-round schedules are relatively easy to find.

What I will do is update this post as subsequent rounds become set. At least that way, everything will eventually be on one easy-to-find page.

So, with that said, the schedule (all times EST):

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Detroit Pistons vs. No. 8 Milwaukee Bucks
Game One: Sun, Apr 23 - Mil at Det, 3 p.m.
Game Two: Wed, Apr 26 – Mil at Det, 7:30 p.m.
Game Three: Sat, Apr 29 – Det at Mil, 8 p.m.
Game Four: Mon, May 1 – Det at Mil, TBD
Game Five: Wed, May 3 – Mil at Det, TBD*
Game Six: Fri, May 5 – Det at Mil, TBD*
Game Seven: Sun, May 7 – Mil at Det, TBD*

No. 2 Miami Heat vs. No. 7 Chicago Bulls
Game One: Sat, Apr 22 – Chi at Mia, 7 p.m.
Game Two: Mon, Apr 24 – Chi at Mia, 8 p.m.
Game Three: Thurs, Apr 27 – Mia at Chi, 8 p.m.
Game Four: Sun, Apr 30 – Mia at Chi, 1 p.m.
Game Five: Tues, May 2 – Chi at Mia, TBD*
Game Six: Thurs, May 4 – Mia at Chi, TBD*
Game Seven: Sat, May 6 – Chi at Mia, TBD*

No. 3 New Jersey Nets vs. No. 6 Indiana Pacers
Game One: Sun, Apr 23 – Ind at NJ, 1 p.m.
Game Two: Tues, Apr 25 – Ind at NJ, 8 p.m.
Game Three: Thurs, Apr 27 – NJ at Ind, 7:30 p.m.
Game Four: Sat, Apr 29 – NJ at Ind, 3 p.m.
Game Five: Tues, May 2 – Ind at NJ, TBD*
Game Six: Thurs, May 4 – NJ at Ind, TBD*
Game Seven: Sat, May 6 – Ind at NJ, TBD*

No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 5 Washington Wizards
Game One: Sat, Apr 22 – Wsh at Cle, 7 p.m.
Game Two: Tues, Apr 25 – Wsh at Cle, 7 p.m.
Game Three: Fri, Apr 28 – Cle at Wsh, 8 p.m.
Game Four: Sun, Apr 30 – Cle at Wsh, 7:30 p.m.
Game Five: Wed, May 3 – Wsh at Cle, TBD*
Game Six: Fri, May 5 – Cle at Wsh, TBD*
Game Seven: Sun, May 7 – Wsh at Cle, TBD*

WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 8 Sacramento Kings
Game One: Sat, Apr 22 – Sac at SA, 7 p.m.
Game Two: Tues, Apr 25 – Sac at SA, 9:30 p.m.
Game Three: Fri, Apr 28 – SA at Sac, 10 p.m.
Game Four: Sun, Apr 30 – SA at Sac, 10 p.m.
Game Five: Tues, May 2 – Sac at SA, TBD*
Game Six: Fri, May 5 – SA at Sac, TBD*
Game Seven: Sun, May 7 – Sac at SA, TBD*

No. 2 Phoenix Suns vs. No. 7 Los Angeles Lakers
Game One: Sun, Apr 23 – LAL at Phx, 3:30 p.m.
Game Two: Wed, Apr 26 – LAL at Phx, 10:30 p.m.
Game Three: Fri, Apr 28 – Phx at LAL, 10:30 p.m.
Game Four: Sun, Apr 30 – Phx at LAL, 3:30 p.m.
Game Five: Tues, May 2 – LAL at Phx, TBD*
Game Six: Thurs, May 4 – Phx at LAL, TBD*
Game Seven: Sat, May 6 – LAL at Phx, TBD*

No. 3 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 6 Los Angeles Clippers
Game One: Sat, Apr 22 – Den at LAC, 8 p.m.
Game Two: Mon, Apr 24 – Den at LAC, 10:30 p.m.
Game Three: Thurs, Apr 27 – LAC at Den, 10:30 p.m.
Game Four: Sat, Apr 29 – LAC at Den, 10:30 p.m.
Game Five: Mon, May 1 – Den at LAC, TBD*
Game Six: Thurs, May 4 – LAC at Den, TBD*
Game Seven: Sat, May 6 – Den at LAC, TBD*

No. 4 Dallas Mavericks vs. No. 5 Memphis Grizzlies
Game One: Sun, Apr 23 – Mem at Dal, 9:30 p.m.
Game Two: Wed, Apr 26 – Mem at Dal, 8 p.m.
Game Three: Sat, Apr 29 – Dal at Mem, 5:30 p.m.
Game Four: Mon, May 1 – Dal at Mem, TBD
Game Five: Wed, May 3 – Mem at Dal, TBD*
Game Six: Fri, May 5 – Dal at Mem, TBD*
Game Seven: Sun, May 7 – Mem at Dal, TBD*

* - if necessary

UPDATE, 5/7/2006: Here we go. Hoops schedule for the second round Conference Semifinals (all times EST). And as a bonus, TV networks included, where known:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Detroit Pistons vs. No. 4 Cleveland Cavaliers
Game One: Sun, May 7 - Cle at Det, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game Two: Tues, May 9 – Cle at Det, 7 p.m. (TNT)
Game Three: Sat, May 13 – Det at Cle, 8 p.m. (ABC)
Game Four: Mon, May 15 – Det at Cle, 7 p.m. (TNT)
Game Five: Wed, May 17 – Cle at Det, TBD (TNT)*
Game Six: Fri, May 19 – Det at Cle, TBD (ESPN)*
Game Seven: Sun, May 21 – Cle at Det, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)*

No. 2 Miami Heat vs. No. 3 New Jersey Nets
Game One: Mon, May 8 – NJ at Mia, 8 p.m. (TNT)
Game Two: Wed, May 10 – NJ at Mia, 8 p.m. (TNT)
Game Three: Fri, May 12 – Mia at NJ, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Game Four: Sun, May 14 – Mia at NJ, TBD
Game Five: Tues, May 16 – NJ at Mia, 8 p.m. (TNT)*
Game Six: Thurs, May 18 – Mia at NJ, 8 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game Seven: Sun, May 21 – NJ at Mia, TBD*

WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 San Antonio Spurs vs. No. 4 Dallas Mavericks
Game One: Sun, May 7 – Dal at SA, 1 p.m. (ABC)
Game Two: Tues, May 9 – Dal at SA, 9:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game Three: Sat, May 13 – SA at Dal, 5 p.m. (ESPN)
Game Four: Mon, May 15 – SA at Dal, 9:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game Five: Wed, May 17 – Dal at SA, TBD (TNT)*
Game Six: Fri, May 19 – SA at Dal, TBD (ESPN)*
Game Seven: Mon, May 22 – Dal at SA, TBD (TNT)*

No. 2 Phoenix Suns vs. No. 6 Los Angeles Clippers
Game One: Mon, May 8 – LAC at Phx, 10:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game Two: Wed, May 10 – LAC at Phx, 10:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game Three: Fri, May 12 – Phx at LAC, 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Game Four: Sun, May 14 – Phx at LAC, TBD
Game Five: Tues, May 16 – LAC at Phx, TBD*
Game Six: Thurs, May 18 – Phx at LAC, TBD*
Game Seven: Mon, May 22 – LAC at Phx, TBD*

* - if necessary

UPDATE, 5/21/2006: Well, half the Conference Finals are set. I’ll go ahead and post the schedule for the Eastern showdown; the West will be determined tomorrow.

Conference Finals

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 1 Detroit Pistons vs. No. 2 Miami Heat
Game One: Tues, May 23 - Mia at Det, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Game Two: Thurs, May 25 – Mia at Det, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Game Three: Sat, May 27 – Det at Mia, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Game Four: Mon, May 29 – Det at Mia, 8 p.m. (ABC)
Game Five: Wed, May 31 – Mia at Det, 8 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game Six: Fri, Jun 2 – Det at Mia, 8 p.m. (ESPN)*
Game Seven: Sun, Jun 4 – Mia at Det, 8 p.m. (ABC)*

WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 2 Phoenix Suns vs. No. 4 Dallas Mavericks
Game One: Wed, May 24 – Phx at Dal, 8:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game Two: Fri, May 26 – Phx at Dal, 8:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game Three: Sun, May 28 – Dal at Phx, 8:30 p.m. (TNT)
Game Four: Tues, May 30 – Dal at Phx, 9 p.m. (TNT)
Game Five: Thurs, Jun 1 – Phx at Dal, 8:30 p.m. (TNT)*
Game Six: Sat, Jun 3 – Dal at Phx, 8:30 p.m. (TNT)*
Game Seven: Mon, Jun 5 – Phx at Dal, 8:30 p.m. (TNT)*

* - if necessary

LAST UPDATE, 6/2/2006: Both Conference Finals series are locked at 3-2 as of this writing, but regardless of who comes out alive — and when — the Finals date/time schedule for the next round is set. Actual sites, including which Conference gets home-court advantage, is still TBD. I’ll post what’s now known, and fill in the blanks as soon as this round’s winners come through.

REALLY LAST UPDATE, 6/3/2006: Shaq carried the Heat into its first-ever Finals last night, so we now know what we need to know to complete the rest of the schedule. I’ll put the final touch on it whenever the Dallas-Phoenix series ends (tonight or on Monday).

I’m surprised that the NBA is doing the 2-3-2 series format for the Finals; all previous playoff rounds were the more traditional 2-2-1-1-1. But that’s the size of it.

NBA Finals

Miami Heat vs. Dallas Mavericks
Game One: Thurs, Jun 8 - Mia at Dal, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game Two: Sun, Jun 11 – Mia at Dal, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game Three: Tues, Jun 13 – Dal at Mia, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game Four: Thurs, Jun 15 – Dal at Mia, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game Five: Sun, Jun 18 – Dal at Mia, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
Game Six: Tues, Jun 20 – Mia at Dal, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
Game Seven: Thurs, Jun 22 – Mia at Dal, 9 p.m. (ABC)*

* - if necessary

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 04/23/2006 11:44 PM
Category: Basketball
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Thursday, April 13, 2021

ready to shuffle
After having shelled out plenty of public money in recent years for its NFL and MLB sports palaces, Seattle and Washington State seem reluctant to bend over backwards for the local NBA squad. In response, league commissioner David Stern has been pressed into making veiled threats about allowing the SuperSonics to move out of town.

Sonics owner Howard Schultz, the chairman of Starbucks Corp., has threatened to move or sell the team if state lawmakers don’t approve a sales-tax package to pay for a new or renovated arena. But state lawmakers last month said there would be no deal this year.

“I would say that the city is making it pretty clear of what they want us to do, and we’ll accommodate them,” Stern said.

Asked what that meant, Stern responded: “What I mean is they’re not interested in having the NBA there. We understand that, we understand that there are competing issues, and the mayor is free to make whatever decisions he needs to make and I support that.

“But that’s a pretty strong signal and I think that the existing ownership has said they don’t want to own a team that’s not in Seattle, so I know what they’re in the process of doing. So we’ll just see how this play ends.”

Unusually blunt language, but at root, it’s the same old song-and-dance: Make with the tax dollars, or we take our ball and go home. The team’s lease at Key Arena runs through 2010, so things won’t come to a head until then — if then.

But Stern’s further comments on a couple of other franchises gives me an idea:

Also, Stern said he would “never say never” to getting involved again in the situation in Portland. The NBA recently pulled out of the process of trying to help find one buyer for both the Trail Blazers and the Rose Garden because it was frustrated by Portland Arena Management, the lenders who now own the arena.

And he repeated that the Hornets will return to New Orleans, even if investors from Oklahoma buy a minority share of the team from George Shinn, saying that he didn’t even know how the Hornets would get out of their lease with the city.

I see some beneficial linkage here… If things are so sour for pro hoops in the Pacific Northwest, and Oklahoma City is intent on keeping a team at Ford Arena, then it would make sense to encourage either the Sonics or the Trail Blazers to head for Sooner Land. Those OKC investors can forget about the Hornets and look west, and snare a team that way. Problem solved.

And conveniently enough, that would open up a slot in Washington or Oregon for an NHL franchise (the Penguins?) to take up residence. I’d swap a roundball team for puck action any day — but that’s just me.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 04/13/2006 10:56 PM
Category: Basketball, SportsBiz
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Sunday, January 01, 2021

Midway Games has been making a lot of noise over two of its recent sports game releases: Blitz: The League and NBA Ballers.

Both titles are something of a fusion of sports games with a Sims-like sensibility. The gameplay that happens on the field and the court is almost incidental; the portions that deal with characters’ extracurricular activities (barhopping, flashing that blingy-bling, etc.) are the meatier portions of both games. It’s basically a reality TV approach to videogaming, with infotainment reportage serving as the inspirational underpinnings.

Here’s what I find curious: While Blitz is the product of a loss of official NFL licensing for any football games not produced by Electronic Arts, Ballers is being produced as branded NBA merchandise. Throw in the fact that the creative force behind Blitz is Peter Egan, former writer for “Playmakers”the NFL’s series non grata — and it appears that the football boys are more concerned about keeping their images clean(er) than the NBA is about its rep.

It’s not completely cut and dried. The morphing of Blitz into a faux XFL experience came after the NFL cut off Midway and other game studios. The NFL wasn’t presented with the option of putting its seal of approval on an ultraviolent, negative-stereotype game; Midway went the extreme route because they needed that to replace the lost NFL/NFLPA cache. On the other hand, the NBA and its players’ union didn’t appear to have any qualms about officially sanctioning a game with fairly similar themes.

Basketball has always been seen as being more attuned to youth culture than the other major pro sports. Maybe this is another manifestation of that.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/01/2021 04:07 PM
Category: Basketball, Football, Videogames
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Tuesday, September 20, 2021

Hoops fans in Chi-Town can rejoice, for the local WNBA team has been christened the Chicago Sky (narrowly avoiding the joke alternatives of “Loopsters” and “Deep Dishes”).

Nah, I don’t care about the WNBA either. But the mention of a franchise naming in that league brings to mind an old favorite joke on the subject. I wish I could claim ownership; I don’t remember where I first heard it:

When selecting a name for the Miami team, one idea floated was “Humidity”. Thus spawning a promotional line eminently appropriate for the Florida climate: “It ain’t the Heat…”

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 09/20/2005 10:58 PM
Category: Basketball
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