Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dr. Murphy is in town. I am hung over.

NBA Season in Review: Bottom half of the league struggles for the spotlight

The last month and a half or so has given basketball fans a very frequent and close look at the top echelon of teams and players in the NBA. While not everyone that graced the playoffs with their presence put up a great fight, they nonetheless were presented the opportunity to strut their stuff on the national stage. My only problem: these were the same exact squads that have dominated the airwaves of ESPN, TNT and ABC since late October.

It’s no secret to any basketball enthusiast that this season’s nationally televised matchups almost always consisted of a combination of the title contending Lakers, Celtics, Cavaliers and Spurs playing the playoff ready troops of the Hornets, Rockets, Mavericks, Jazz, Pistons and Magic. What that boils down to is interchangeable games of the division winners mixed with the Southwest Division rivals. I understand these are generally the more competitive matchups, but it only compounds the disrespect, arrogance and ignorance the national NBA media has toward smaller market teams or those teams with less star power. That is the biggest problem, not only does the national media ignore these teams, but their poorness of reporting on them is enhanced by lack of air time.

Let’s take the Golden State Warriors for example. 2 years ago the Dubs were the darling of the league, playing an entertaining brand of basketball and ousting the first seeded Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. Their fall from grace has cost them serious national TV time despite the fact their style has not changed. Warriors games mean lots of scoring both ways (per game they were second in the league while surrendering a league high on the defensive end) and sure entertainment, yet only 7 nationally aired games were thrown their way. Meanwhile, the Dallas Mavericks – who have been on a continual slide downward since losing to Miami in the finals in 2006 – appeared on national TV 19 times.

It is not just TV time that should have fans of non-playoff teams upset. Using the Warriors example again, it is increasingly hard to find any love for them in the national news and even multimedia. When pressed in chat-rooms about Golden State’s roster issues, ESPN analysts frequently ignore any talk of the players themselves and bring up annoying front office issues. Fans looking for answers regarding the team are often met with a response of “they will never be any good until the owner sells the team” – how helpful. Even worse is the reporting of details on individual story lines. Many times Monta Ellis’ Moped accident was reported as an ATV or motorcycle crash - so not only do Bay Area fans not get to see their team on TV, they aren’t even getting the correct news. As the icing on the cake, many basketball video games (trust me, real fans play this stuff) don’t even get names right – for the record, Monta is pronounced Mon-tay not Mon-tuh and Azubuike is Azu-bookie not Azu-bweekay.

While some of these rants may sound petty, this is the result of mass disrespect in the national media. Local broadcasters, reporters and radio personalities are able to look past front office issues, get reports right and at minimum correctly pronounce the names of the athletes, so why can’t the national guys do it? ESPN calls its staff reporters yet I find it difficult to respect them as journalists when they can only accurately cover teams that make the conference finals. I can guarantee that any fan of a small market or less competitive team can relate to this.

To end on a good note: having 90 percent of the Warriors games on local broadcast is not always a bad thing as they are covered by a group that is more informed and knowledgeable than anyone you will ever see on ESPN or ABC.

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