Late Season Observations

In a few weeks the road to the NBA’s Promise Land for the 2012-13 season will commence. Even though my favorite team is currently on the outside looking in at the playoffs, I can’t wait for them to start. As the regular season comes to a close, here are a few observations I’ve had about the league over the past 45 days or so.

Weekly articles from David Aldridge and Zach Lowe – Aldridge has been covering the NBA for I don’t know how long and his Morning Tip segment every Monday on NBA.com is a great way to prolong starting your work week. He tends to tackle the biggest story coming from the league of any given week, such as the future of the Sacramento Kings, and gives you an in-depth look at it.  Meanwhile, Lowe tends to focus his attention on what happens on the court. He watches games like any coach or scout does and seamlessly incorporates advanced metrics in all of his articles. I highly that every NBA fan make add them to their soon to be defunct Google Reader.

Noche Latina Program – For the past 7 years, the NBA has celebrated its cultural diversity by paying tribute to their Latino players and fans. This includes a variety of in-arena events, commercials targeted towards Latino fans, etc. They also incorporate the Spanish language by creating special jerseys that read “Los Bull”, “Los Spurs”, “El Heat”, and so forth. While the NBA deserves kudos for their month long Noche Latina nights, it seems me to that they could go full-out with the translating of team names (“Los Torros”, “Los Lagurenos”). Of course, I’m not of Latino decent and perhaps I’m making an issue out of a non-issue.

J.R. Smith’s play since March – Smith has always been a player with the ability to shoot his team into games or shoot his team out of games. Since March, when injuries forced him to be the Knick’s #1 option for a stretch, he’s arguably been playing the best basketball of his career and is perhaps becoming a team leader. Gone is the terrible shot selection and he’s generally been playing smarter basketball. I hate to use the phrase “maturing as a player”, but it fits in this case. Smith needs to keep up his post March numbers (22 PPG, 45% FGs) if the Knicks are to ride their current 12 game winning streak into a deep playoff run.

End of Game Officiating – Across the board, referees in all sports have the toughest, most thankless jobs and NBA officials are probably on the top of that list. Fairly or not, both teams involved in the game they’re officiating are going to think they’re doing a terrible job. Every mistake they make is going to be criticized and they’re rarely complimented when they make a good call. I’m not going to spend time harping on the number of mistakes that NBA refs have made this season, but one thing has always perplexed me – the idea of officials “swallowing their whistles” in close, late game situations. It’s a simple and noble concept. Nothing is more thrilling than an NBA game that’s come down to the final possession and nobody wants to see a cameo appearance from Joey Crawford or Bennett Salvatore in that spot. Still, that idea is slightly flawed as you’ll see on this play. With the Grizzlies down by 2 and only 4.1 seconds left in the game, Mike Conley takes the inbound pass and heads to the basket where he’s met by Dwight Howard, who forces Conley to miss the last second shot. Game over. Lakers win. Good defense by Howard. Not so fast. Even though Dwight tried his best to challenge the shot while avoiding a foul, there’s definitely contact on the play. Not a lot of contact, mind you, but definitely enough to earn a whistle. I’d bet a large sum of money that a foul would’ve been called had this play happened with 124 seconds left to play instead of 4. A foul is a foul is a foul no matter when it occurs during the game. NBA referees “swallowing their whistles” at any part of any game is wrong. The playoffs are coming and I want to see the best from everyone.

Clippers Regular Season – With a victory of big brother Lakers on Sunday afternoon, Lob City assured themselves of at least the most successful regular season in franchise history. That normally wouldn’t be something to celebrate, but these are the Clippers and they’re not really accustomed to winning. The 2012-13 NBA season has seen them set franchise records for victories (51 and counting), winning streak (17) and the first ever division title in team history. There’s still a playoff run for them to make and they’re definitely not satisfied with just those three things, but they’re not a joke anymore. At least for now. Speaking of divisions….

Division Alignment and Playoff Seeding – When the Charlotte Bobcats franchise was added to the list of NBA teams, the league added a third division to each conference with each division winner guaranteed a top four playoff seed and nothing else. This leads to the awkward situation of winning your own division, but not having home court advantage in any playoff series. Much like the situation the Clippers would find themselves if the playoffs were to start today. There’s a logjam with the #3-4 playoff seeds in the Western Conference with only 2 games separating the Denver Nuggets (53-24), Memphis Grizzlies (52-25) and the Los Angeles Clippers (51-26). As a reward for winning their division, the Clippers would have to travel to Memphis for the first two games of their first round rematch with the Grizzlies. This current format resulted from the 2006 controversy when the Dallas Mavericks finished with the second best record in the Western Conference, but were dropped to the #4 seed because they failed to win their division. The NBA has tried to reward either division winners or regular season records with their playoff format and can’t seem to figure out how to reward both. A few solutions have been proposed to revamp the playoff format, including this latest one from George Karl. I’ve usually been in favor of eliminating divisions since they serve no real purpose and just taking the 8 best teams from each conference, though the more I think about Karl’s idea the more it grows on me. At any rate, the NBA needs to address the playoff format soon.

Allen Iverson’s return to Philadelphia – The Answer recently made a visit to the Wells Fargo Center as the 76ers had to decided to honor their former MVP with a bobblehead night for old times sake I guess. I had meant to write a post about Iverson when he declined an invitation to join the Maverick’s D-League team, but never got around to it. I still may write about Iverson’s legacy and standing as a player. For now I’ll simply say that I find it – peculiar(???) –  that Juwan Howard, Kurt Thomas and Rasheed Wallace have roster spots on NBA teams and Iverson doesn’t. They had to bring Wallace out of retirement while Iverson had to try out for a D-League team. There’s something to be said about that.

Jump Balls – Every basketball game at every level begins with a jump ball. To my knowledge the NBA is the only basketball organization that has them after the game has started. On plays where there’s simultaneous possession teams will form an organized circle and an official will toss the ball up in the air and let two players gain possession. Other leagues, such as the NCAA and high school, will have a possession arrow decide it. The possession arrow is probably the stupidest rule in all of basketball and I’m thankful the NBA doesn’t use it.

 

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