Take Back the Night

With our hearts bleating a thousand trumpet blasts, we come to make a proclamation to you all: As beloved as The Association is, it can no doubt improve. We are not the first to make such a claim, as nearly every season, the lot of us laments what the league has BECOME, as opposed to what it used to be. Formulas for lig-wide enhancement, therefore, are rooted in the past as well. No doubt we have documented countless quests for the next next next "former" NBA centerpiece, be it Dwyane Wade, Bob Cousy, or Scottie Pippen. When will they learn? Sabonis destroyed your prototypes. They dissolved under the weight of one thousand Chris Webber tears. Kevin Burleson rots in exile. These are players of a new

And so we have taken it upon ourselves to come with FORESIGHT and VISION, to present a treatise on how to improve the NBA, so that it not only becomes a better association, but an earth unto itself. Numerous times we have discussed NFL as the most popular of the professional leagues, largely due to the scarcity principle coupled with our animal instincts. Baseball grasps at our hearts and has become ritual. Even the NHL, although banished to premium cable networks and post-topten Sportscentr placement, has captured a nation all to itself. The NBA once stood atop the pro sports leagues, but this status was miraculously due to the sheer talent of single individuals, perhaps Jordan alone. These superhumans no longer exist, and so changes must be made through the institution, the structure, and ultimately as a collective.

And so, Silverbird, Bethlehem Shoals, Brown Recluse Esq., and myself present (in no order of importance) the following changes, that in 2006, would make the NBA stand alone:

1. Divide league revenue to reward the teams and stars creating it. Under the current system, attendance revenue goes to the home team, and the money from national media contracts is shared equally by all. Yet when teams with superstars play on the road or on TNT, they attract significantly more spectators and viewers than their average, freeloading counterparts. Economists have estimated that Michael Jordan’s “superstar externality” exceeded $50 million for the 1991-92 season alone. Giving popular teams their fair share of total revenue and the cap space to spend it would allow them to build properly around their superstars: imagine if KG’s Timberwolves, who ranked third in road attendance for 03-04, had been given this money and cap space during the following offseason. Perhaps more importantly, rewards in this system would go the most exciting teams, whereas now they go to the boring ones.

2. Mandatory tattoos for everyone in the league. Ostensibly to neutralize the subversive power and aesthetic impact of the new breed’s ink, those today covered with virgin flesh have the option of officially-issued, randomly-generated letters and image. But once the Piatowskis and Padgetts of this league find ways to project their rich identities via ink, the lid will come unglued and Cherokee Parks will reign o’er the land. This too probably serves the league’s evil goals, as Marquis will suddenly flip el scripto and rush to become the least inscribed man on a roster.

3. No one, I mean no one, can even fuck with the importance of reverse territorial rights for free agent signings. If three teams are bidding for a desirable player’s services, any one located in a city he can claim is at a distinct disadvantage. The money may be equal, but the sentimental windfall of getting to come on home is worth more than gold itself, making, in effect, one max more max than the other two maxes. Emotions notwithstanding, not having to buy a new home or travel constantly allows for significant financial and logistical savings. This is the only way to ensure that, within this open market, justice is more than a rumor. Come to think of it, this same should probably go for those large-market endorsement swells we keep hearing so much about.

4. Unassigned seating sections in basketball stadiums. This seems like a pretty straightforward ploy to bring the rowdy back to NBA arenas. Countless times it has been noted that the NBA's biggest target demographic (e.g. young people/people who can't afford a $50 ticket) is not that demographic attending the games. Old footage from the 1980s shows places like the Great Western Forum and the Boston Garden going absolutely wild. Now you look at the lower level sections, and it's socialites with blue hair who couldn't give a fuck about the game. So let them have their lower levels, and let the kids get wild in the upperdecks. These sections could be especially useful for the player-reserved charity sections.

5. Expand the shit out of the roster. I am thinking about 20 players should do it. This seems to work in other sports, with few repercussions. I love seeing sandy alomar jr. make somebody's squad every year, and furthermore, he's actually useful as a third catcher (kind of the equivalent to a third center in the NBA). I love seeing Jeff fucking George get invited to an NFL training camp. Same goes for Vinny Testaverde, Morton Andersen, etc. There are actually roles for these guys to fulfill. If the NBA had a 20-man roster, the sheer number of league-wide CHARACTERS--of which the league is desperately in need--would increase. Someone would pick up Shawn Kemp. Rodman would get a spot. Oakley would do 10-game stints all around the association. Khalid El-Amin. Craig Hodges. Master P. Seven-foot dudes from the Netherlands, or from the block would be summoned by the truckload.

6. Reverting to a draft that includes more than two rounds. This suggestion is akin to the one above, as it would yield more characters: obscure Euros, raw-as-fuck college players, And1 legends. It's basically giving some Fish That Saved Pittsburgh wildcards a chance to show up to training camp and make an NBA roster. Every year in the league, at least two undrafted guys emerge as key players, so why not just give them a shot up front. Also, and this is the most important aspect of this suggestion, more draft picks can be used to facilitate trades. For example, when a contender just needs that perfect fourth PG, they can give up a fifth round pick in exchange for Royal Ivey.

7. Conduct the lottery as usual. But then, in a move that will astound everyone and shock no on, have team #1-4 play in a min-tournament to decide the final order. ‘Twould be the opposite of late-season tanking; teams would want to be lousy enough to secure good odds for one of these spots, but have to be competitive enough to have a chance to win the pearliest prize. And even if some off-year disaster sneaks in despite talent to the contrary, the zany March Madness-like quality will flatten the playing field. The whole system will collapse, however, when the Rockets bring T-Mac and Yao off the IR for the sole purpose of competing in these contests, in essence bringing a playoff horse to the toy pony races.

8. Institute a coach’s challenge. One per half, applicable on any faulty call or non-call by either offense or defense. If it’s on a missed shot, the buzzer must be depressed before the other team either sets up their offense or fires up an attempt on the break. Like the ref’s game-winner replay, this would only really get used in incredibly obvious or deadly situations; since timeouts are arguable more precious in basketball, this would be far less frequent an occurrence than in football. The one per half is mostly for symmetry, though a successful challenge early on can certainly alter the tone of the calls (as can, presumably, a blown one). The basic idea here is that now, no game could be won or last on a phantom call, or a dream incinerated by one referee’s momentary blindness.

9. Players vote on a couple of All-Star spots and their own annual awards. Yes, the NFL has their own select the Pro Bowl cast, but here it would be a counterbalance/commentary on the vapidity of fan and coach selections. Equally revolutionary would be this awards banquet, which would be like the Golden Globes or White House Correspondents’ Dinner of NBA ceremonies. Lots of carousing, grandstanding, and agenda pushing. And capes. Lots of capes.

10. More microphones on league personnel and more NFL-FILMS-quality features on teams/seasons/events etc. Seriously, the half-hour feature on, say, the 2005 St. Louis Rams that NFL Films produced (and that is shown about every other week on ESPN2 at 2 in the afternoon) is a million times more entertaining than even, say, Hoop Dreams. A couple years back, the NBA mic'd up everyone at the all-star game and put up a fifteen-minute montage at NBA.com This was incredible. Shaq falling into Ruben Studdard. KG requesting that Shaq show everyone his "gorilla walk." Sam Cassell talking "Florida" trash to Vince Carter. And can you imagine the half-hour segments? Tell me that watching a half-hour-long feature on the 2005-06 Portland Trailblazers wouldn't be more emotionally engaging than last year's finals. NBA TV tries to pull this off occasionally with their "Training Camp" pieces, but these are usually pretty watered down.

11. More personalized music selections for players in their own arenas. Sort of like how baseball hitters get to choose their at-bat music, or closers choose their coming-out-of-the-bullpen music. Jermaine Dye comes out to "Tell Me When to Go" as a tribute to his Bay Area roots. Prince Fielder comes out to "Hustlin" because he's fat. The closest the NBA has come to this type of is personalization is the Big Ben gong in (RIP) Detroit, and JR Rider playing "More Bounce to The Ounce" at the dunk contest.

12. Some version of the NFL's "all reject PF's become TE's" trend. Like if all cast-off pitchers became point guards, or useless "big receivers" could be converted into defensive stoppers. And while I know that the Rockets have hired on a sort-of Moneyball guy, what if it went to the next level and some team hired a professor of African-American Studies as a coach who could reach the players? Then again, the beauty of the Antonio Gates phenomenon is that it makes basketball look like the most exalted form of athletic accomplishment known on this planet, and everything else just its droppings.

13. Competing players' unions to represent different political and financial agendas. These would exist primarily to weigh in on the CBA, but would also release official statements at key junctures like The Brawl, and provide professional guidance for their members, Jermaine O’Neal heads one devoted to the redistribution of wealth. Zo looking out for veterans’ affairs and that pension plan. Tim Thomas, villain of all villains, so focused on the rights of those living off of some GM’s fatal misstep. Some Euro watching over those internationals crossing over into the league or attempting to exit with dignity. Though as Silverbird points out, there couldn’t be too many, or else the players would have no leverage.

14. Every team has a player-coach. This position would instantiate just a little more authority for teams that are seemingly directionless, or are too young to have any sort of true leaders. The player-coach position would be sort of a redefinition of the captain's role, but with actual input into game strategy. Also, the player-coach would not count as an extra roster spot, so Atlanta, for example, could assign Kevin Willis to be their player-coach. He would suit up every night, maybe even play a couple of minutes, but he would also be involved in calling plays and monitoring substitutions. Mugsy Bogues could do the job for the bobcats, which would actually be useful for guys like raymond felton. Similarly, Ervin Johnson could take the spot for the Bucks. This would also prevent against embarrassing situations in which a franchise player has simply aged too much to be effective, yet is still taking up a much needed roster spot. Hakeem and Ewing, we see you.

15. Weekly addresses by the commissioner. This ritual would be on some president meets the pope shit. Listening to stern discuss his opinion of the game never gets old, so let's have him give a live "State of the Association" address every week. Broadcast it before every Thursday NBA on TNT game, and show him sitting at a desk, with a giant Michael Jordan painting on the wall behind him. Let him discuss key injuries, things that he sees that he likes, rule emphases, changes he would like to see made. Let him pontificate about how much he's done for the "L," whatever he wants. The man has juice. Let him flaunt it.


At 10/04/2006 12:24 PM, Anonymous seezmeezy said...

the motherload post... well worth the wait.

i have always thought the only remotely interesting aspect of baseball's regular season is that the schedule is comprised of seriesssss (is there a plural for "series" that doesn't sound retarded?)

the nfl regular season is cool because its playoff format reflects the same immediacy/any-given-sunday mentality as a week 3 match-up. mlb benefits from the drama of best-of-seven during the post-season and even offers a little tingle in the ol' remote hand from a 5 game series at fenway during the regular season. nobody cares about hockey, but for the sake of comparison it shares the same schedule duality as the nba.

do we really want to love something that shares even the slightest resemblance to hockey? sure, mullets are always a good time. and hell, watching two grown men resolve their differences by simultaneously performing the most complex human function (fighting) and the most basic human function (standing upright) has its advantages. but all in all, i feel we need to separate the nba from this cesspool of apathy.

so here's my suggestion: sprinkle in a few 3-game seriessss into the regular season. same as mlb, all games played at one team's floor and then the favor is returned later in the season. out of 82 games, have 8 of these seriessss leaving 58 of the good old-fashioned "you only get one shot" type meetings.

a grand idea if i do say so myself. and if you disagree, you may be a terrorist.

At 10/04/2006 12:48 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

Number 1 is one of the worst ideas i've ever heard. Not everybody is as divorced from team loyalty and as devoted to the curiously abstract as you. Sure, there are certain qualities everybody wants to see embodied in or by the game, but most people are home/favorite team first. This idea basically reverses what is generally accepted as being the strength of the NFL and NBA and the weakness (and perhaps downfall) of the NHL and MLB.

Yes, parity and flash seem to be at odds in the Assn., but that does not mean they are the X and Y of the NBA function. If I was a fan of a team opposite a star in a rivalry, I could give a fuck how transcendant their centerpiece is- and that wouldn't be unfair. I could also give a fuck how boring and defense minded they are, if they win. That may not be the most pleasing mindset for the erudite aesthete, but it would be unfair to deny that team's fans (say what you will about the GM that failed to draft said star) by placing them at a disadvantage compounding the one they already have.

At 10/04/2006 1:16 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i would say that, competitively speaking, lumbering contracts are more of a disadvantage in today's NBA than not having a superstar. i guess the real solution here would be to not allow GM's to make stupid signings (sort of like a fantasy league veto), but this at least gives a team the option of building around a star despite having made one other bad decision.

don't tell me the league wouldn't be a better place if lebron, kg, and iverson weren't hampered by their teams' shitty personnel decisions. they deserve better, and should not be punished for the sins of mchale and king.

basiaclly you're saying that teams without stars rely on poor GM'ing to keep stars down. i think that's a ridiculous, roundabout way of dismantling greatness, and would rather see stars not put into foul slumber.

At 10/04/2006 1:39 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

you misunderstand me. What I'm saying is that the approach DLIC suggests is based a holistic, league-first approach that sounds appealing at first but would be galling to fans who are loyal to star-less teams.

In essence, his approach suggests that teams with stars get advantages to enhance their value to him as as a third party, disinterested in the traditional hometown team approach to basketball fandom. I think it is undue punishment leveed against the fans of star-less teams which would get pushed further down the food chain through no fault on the part of the fans themselves, but through the fault of their unsuccessful GMs.

While the idea is fun to toy with, it is regressive in the sense that it enhances existing disparity and creates the situation that most leagues are trying to avoid- the small market/big market gap in Major League Baseball IN that situation, success is rewarded with $$ (the means to success) and failure is punished (in that it is not rewarded while success is). Thus the situation is self perpetuating.

While this system may create dominant, exciting teams with the means to fully utilize the capacities of their stars, it would reduce the Assn to a two-tiered system. So in the end you get a league that is philosophically pleasing with in the context of the FreeDarko world but you unfairly punish those who have a regional affinity to their team, which happened to have made mistakes in development- a Kansas City Royals scenario.

The whole idea that flash is negatively related to parity (flash goes down when parity goes up, for non-scientists out there) is seemingly central to this concept. This may or may not be true. Their conflation may just be a product of their coexistance. Regardless, I think there is a whole world out there who would trade a decline in overall flash for a shot at the playoffs.

At 10/04/2006 2:05 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

I think it is undue punishment leveed against the fans of star-less teams which would get pushed further down the food chain through no fault on the part of the fans themselves, but through the fault of their unsuccessful GMs.

again, the assumption here is that it's star-driven teams who are often the most fucked-up by gm'ing. this was silverbird's idea, and he could slay it further, but it has a lot to do with the difficulties of building non-traditional line-ups. the test cases here really are iverson and garnett, both of whom finanically benefit starless teams (successful and unsuccessful) with their feats while staying mired in mismanaged rosters.

as for the targets, think utah, san antonio, milwaukee, etc. teams that win without having the burden of iconoclastic greatness. those are the real thiefs up in here.

At 10/04/2006 2:13 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

We're talking past each other still. what I'm really saying is that if I rooted for the Knicks, and the Sixers started getting all these financial bonuses just because they have Allen Iverson, and a good Sixers team would be fun to watch for people divorced from regional fandom, I would be pissed the fuck off. They would have Iverson, through no fault of mine (the fan) and now they are given the means to elevate themselves relative to my team because Allen Iverson is a star, and stars are good.

My focus isn't the GM thing per se, it's the deliberate creation of competitive imbalance to satisfy the appetites of those at Free Darko, who are not representative of fans on the whole because you eschew regional loyalty in favor of a desire to see the achievement of a certain ideal League-wide.

At 10/04/2006 2:24 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

okay, now i get where you're coming from. basically, you're piping up in support of hometown fans who come up with the "NBA wants LeBron in the Finals" conspiracies. i mean, i guess they can feel slighted, but the fact that the NBA is the only league where this is regularly assumed should say something about just how distant our "ideal" is.

League of Stars, and not because I want it to be that way.

At 10/04/2006 2:41 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

Right, now we're on the same page on this.

What DLIC is suggesting is actualizing the conspiracy. I say that this is a really shady thing to do to fans, but that he's OK with it because he doesn't see things in terms of team allegiances like most fans do.

Shoals, to say "I guess they [hometown fans] can feel slighted" is, frankly, a real ivory tower kind of thing to say.

At 10/04/2006 2:51 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

again, i don't think it's only freedarko who wants to see the stars flourish. and i'm not entirely convinced that this is an either/or scenario for hometown fans. would you really have been seeking the keys to hell if, say, the rockets could've signed a battier without giving up gay? i can't imagine that the hometown fan's ideal is a smoldering wasteland that they stride through with the LOB.

At 10/04/2006 2:53 PM, Blogger GentleWhoadie9000 said...

under this scenario, the stars have to flourish at the expense of someone else, and with the subjective application of uneven financial subsidy.

At 10/04/2006 2:57 PM, Blogger T. said...

#9 - The players already vote on the sportsmanship (not the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship - there's another one) award - the one that Yao Ming was one of the 4 finalists for. I agree a player vote for all-star spot might be pretty good though.

#11 - it really depends on the team and the crowd. I'm not sure the denzians of Salt Lake City would really appreciate all the Young Jeezy that seems to be the music of choice for half the players (at least last season). The team I know the best (Rox) did have little snippets of music for each player - TMac (Nelly - #1), Juwan (Wanna be a Baller), etc. The players also dictated the pre-game warm-up music, so the entire crowd of 18k was subjected nightly to a song about dealing cocaine (which I thought was awesome) during the player's warm-up. (Young Jeezy - Trapstar).

At 10/04/2006 3:48 PM, Blogger Stumbleweed said...

I just wanted to direct everyone's attention to this choice bit of Arenas-related awesomeness:


What a cool guy.

At 10/04/2006 3:53 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

silverbird already heard me say this morning, but doesn't it seem like they messed up the headline?

At 10/04/2006 4:37 PM, Blogger c-los said...

please by any means don't do anything to the NBA that would it make it like baseball....baseball is forced down our throats like that wood tonsil thing at the doctor....i despise it in every way imaginable...the NBA does not need series, it doesn't need mandatory tatoos, it needs to embrace it's young players, cut a few franchises (Charlotte mainly)...and get rid of the zone defense's....zone kills the individualism i have learned to love from the Association

At 10/04/2006 4:39 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

not to make this into the "gilbert's chamber" thread, but right here i found caron's amazing reaction to it:

"I read that in the paper this morning. I actually didn't know that. And once I heard that, I was like, 'Man, I've got to up the ante, I've got to do something now.' So we'll see what I can do next summer to keep challenging him. I don't know, I might build a hill in my backyard or something."

At 10/04/2006 5:31 PM, Blogger T. said...

It's funny that Gil's doing the high altitude thing. The news that's making the rounds in the triathalon circles (hoops is not the only sport I participate in) is making the high altitude tents illegal - like they're a banned substance. It's really drawing lines amongst elite triathletes.

That guy with the sand in the Bay Area is the same guy Leon Powe trained with all summer.

At 10/04/2006 6:04 PM, Blogger Dan Laugharn said...

I'd like to see a player response to number fifteen a la the Democratic radio address.

At 10/04/2006 10:35 PM, Anonymous db said...

It took a while, but I agree with GentleWhoadie9000, even though I'm not a geo-located fan myself. You'd end up with the haves and havenots real bad. There's not enough real stars in the Assn anyway.

That aside, awesome post. The Stern address would be great, and could segue into his political career pretty well if he made it work.

At 10/05/2006 12:50 AM, Blogger T. said...

I think Gil's sponsoring a Halo team is much stranger than sleeping in a high-altitude tent.

This is fairly awesome:

Final Boss? You know anything about video games? They're the number one [Halo] team for the last four years. They just took me through a session and beat the hell out of me and I was like, 'Well, I've got to sponsor this team.' You know, they didn't have any sponsors. And I was like, 'This is something I can get into.'"

(As part of the sponsorship, he's gone to see the four-man team play at a tournament in Orlando, and he gives them gear, clothes and money. $3,900 at a pop for each player.

At 10/05/2006 12:23 PM, Blogger salt_bagel said...

League of Stars or League of Stories? Don't you (don't we all) take nourishment from the kind of plight that these stars suffer?

I tend not to look at the league--or more accurately, the league's evolution/ascendence--as an entity in itself that requires service. Even if I did, though, I'd bet you'd end up with a problem. I think the sport experience requires an underlayer of everyday struggle. Otherwise, if you prop excellence up for its own sake, you end up without weight. It becomes the next Mission Impossible movie. Favoring none in order to serve all gives excellence its setting. Would you want less from your yearly spectacle?

In Euro soccer, we see what happens when the whole system becomes pure free market. They survive the pain because they have leagues to the horizons, and the substance and staple of those lower leagues are the striving of team against team. The Final Product is not on anyone's mind. And we all know what baseball is like.

(Importantly, another thing we see in Euro soccer is the have/have-not effect consuming itself [although it may be wrong to assume anyone here follows this]: the Premiereship shed its lower constituents, then the biggest clubs rose up to an even higher caste, then Chelsea outpaced everyone: A sort of fractal injustice arises.)


Re: altitude training:
low-oxygen tent = higher red blood count,
running on a mountain = higher red blood count,
taking EPO = higher red blood count.

My favorite Gil quirk was bouncing the foul shot.

The Nine looks like it's gonna be platinum.

The plural of series is series. The good thing is, if people don't get it, you can just roll with it like you're above them.

If Stern made public addresses on a regular basis, he may end up getting strong support for governmental office.

wv: tjyet = soon, Raptors fans. soon.

At 10/05/2006 12:28 PM, Blogger "rem" said...

i kno the season is already too long but what thinketh thee of a champions league (UEFA style) tournament

the NBA could send its division champs versus the various euro league winners

there could be some serious money to fill the coffers

At 10/05/2006 1:25 PM, Anonymous Mr. Six said...

I don't know whether #1 is necessarily the best solution, but I support the idea of making changes in the league to increase the possibility that the league's stars are at least on competitive teams. I empathize with the view of those who support their local team regardless of composition that such changes may punish the small market or regional-interest team. But the overall quality of the game and the sustainability of the league itself suffers when the best players don't make the playoffs or are done in quickly in the first round. I may be mistaken, but I think that the NBA has been at its most popular when it's best players regularly competed in games of consequence. Stern Co. has to balance the interests of its national and local audiences. If steps aren't taken now to correct the trend of irrelevant superstars, the league will suffer.

It struck me immediately, however, that there's a bit of tension between #1 and some aspects of what I perceive to be FD-ness--specifically, that ensure the stars get their chance to assert themselves at the highest level, they give up a little of their eternal potential.

I also like the idea of series. It brings back a bit of the old school opportunities for personal and team rivalries.

At 10/05/2006 3:22 PM, Anonymous Ronald James Davis said...

I, for one, eagerly await the satellite remote sportcenter interview given by the head of the tim thomas players union from a dark decrepid castle perched on a harrowing peak.

At 10/05/2006 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

awesome post, i actually think most of the ideas would be enormous successes (i particularly like the mini-series because we need more serious grudgematches/rivalries, the extra players cause i love the old guys who hang on (steve kerr will still be showing up in late post-season games to knock down threes, the address by stern, the challenges, etc.)

as for gil's sponshorhip, i've often wondered why more sports guys don't do things like this with their mad money.


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