by Julian Spivey and Preston Tolliver
First Quarter: Was the new NBA All Star Game format a success? What changes would you make?
Surprisingly! The All-Star game had some wrinkles in it that will need to be ironed out by this time next season, but overall, it was just what the NBA and its fans needed to process the grief that’s lingered since the Jan. 26 helicopter that killed Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. It was also the shot in the arm that All-Star Weekend needed following a disappointing dunk contest the night before (at least when it came to the judging). The final 15 minutes of Sunday’s game made for the best and most entertaining half hour of All-Star programming in years, brought down only by the final basket, knocked in from the free throw line by Anthony Davis. When Davis sunk that free throw, the NBA fandom let out a collective groan - how a game so exciting and revitalizing and goddamn fun could end from a free throw was almost as disappointing as Dwyane Wade’s screwjob of Aaron Gordon the night before. Obviously the NBA can’t allow players to take the gloves off and start throwing haymakers for a dedicated foul-free game, but some solution is needed, even if it’s going as far as to say that free throws in the final quarter reduce the score of the other team, rather than increase the total for the team at the line. Further, while it was a great tribute to format the rules of the game nearly entirely on the legacy of Bryant, a part of grief is moving on. Naming the All Star MVP trophy after Bryant is a fitting testament to what he meant to the game, and it will be on the NBA to find a respectful way to leave it at that. PT
I’ve never enjoyed a NBA All Star game as much as a I enjoyed the final untimed quarter of this year’s All Star game, which saw the leading team after three quarters needing to score 24 points (in tribute to Kobe Bryant) and the first team to hit that target score would win the game. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s team had a nine-point lead going into the fourth quarter, so I didn’t expect it to be as fun as it turned out to be, but Team LeBron James put up a big fight and eventually won the game. This was a last minute deviation from the normal NBA All Star game format, which is that of any other NBA game, but I don’t think the NBA should ever return to a normal game format for this exhibition. It was supposedly Chris Paul’s idea to have the NBA All Star game played with an Elam Ending, created by Nick Elam for a summer event called The Basketball Tournament. In that format the leading team only needs to hit a target score of seven points over whatever they had after three quarters. I don’t believe the NBA needs to keep 24 as the target score after this one-off tribute to Bryant, but I think seven points is a bit too easy for the best ballers in the world. Find something in between to shoot for and keep this format for the game. JS
Second Quarter: Should the NBA Do Away with Timed Quarters and Play to a Set Score?
The final quarter of this year’s NBA All Star game was exhilarating and had me thinking … is this the way basketball should be played? Think about it … when you pick up a ball and hoop with friends are y’all keeping time? No, you’re playing to a set score – first to 11 and must when by two or something like that. That’s how basketball is pretty much played worldwide when not a part of an organization like the NBA, NCAA, etc.
I must admit, it would be pretty fun to watch two NBA teams go at it with the first to score 100 point win. It would also be a nice way to end blowouts early.
But timed quarters are how basketball has always been played by leagues and I’ve never been a fan of completely changing how a sport is played. So, ultimately, I’m in favor of the NBA continuing to do things the way it always has – four timed quarters. I’ll just have to cherish the new All Star format, which I doubt is going anywhere, once a year and leave the games to a set score to the playgrounds of America. JS
Nope, never, not a chance. The only time it works is as a gimmick. A novelty. An event to look forward to, like in the All Star game. Removing the time clock would change the dynamic of the game entirely, and not for the better. It would reduce competitiveness in games where the score isn’t as close and could hurt the amount of time players get to see on the court. It would also eliminate the best thing in basketball: overtimes. PT
Third Quarter: Should the NBA Playoffs be 16 Best Teams Regardless of Conference?
It seems more apparent each and every season that the NBA is getting close to changing up its playoff format. There are a couple of ways they might do it … they might have a play-in tournament for the final seeds or they might effectively do away with conferences and had the 16 best teams in the league make it.
I don’t really want to see a play-in tournament for teams to have the right to be swept by the best team in the NBA, that just seems too gimmicky for me.
I wouldn’t hate the idea of the 16 best teams in the NBA reaching the playoffs. The Orlando Magic are seven games under .500 and almost a lock to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. There have been years in the Western Conference where winning teams have missed the playoffs. This is a scenario where I wouldn’t mind the Magic missing out and a winning team replacing them in the playoffs … it only seems fair. However, the 2019-20 season isn’t one of those seasons to truly worry about. The Magic are currently 25-32 and likely to make the playoffs. The first team out currently in the West is the Portland Trail Blazers at 26-32. So, it’s not a huge crime this year for one of those teams to make it and another to miss out.
I’m pretty torn on this. As I said, I don’t hate the idea of getting the best 16 teams into the postseason. But I also don’t like the idea of completely dismantling the conference system of the NBA. When it comes down to the end of the season, I want to see the best team from the West and the best from the East going at it for the championship. I think I’d just stick to the way it’s always been done. JS
No, but I would be in favor of a tournament to fill the 7 and 8-seeds of each conference. Not only could it bring some needed excitement to the end of the regular season, but it could effectively fix the NBA’s problem with tanking teams, as even the worst team still has a chance in April. Besides, who doesn’t love a good Cinderella story? PT
Fourth Quarter: Who’s the NBA’s MVP with a quarter of the season left to play?
I’ve long felt that the MVP award shouldn’t necessarily go to the all-around best player on the best team, but rather the player who carries their team to unprecedented success despite the odds stacked against them. It’s one thing to be a successful player when you have help all around you. It’s another to be a successful player when you’re on a team full of ____. Giannis and Harden have dominated the MVP conversation for two years, and there’s certainly still a case to be made for the Milwaukee Bucks’ Greek demigod, but my vote this year (okay, my pretend vote that the NBA probably won’t consider) goes to the player who has little more to play with than Steph Curry’s less talented little brother and the ghost of Kristaps Porzingis. Luka Doncic has been the NBA’s best surprise over the last two years and has carried the Mavericks - who by all rights should be in lottery contention - to the 6-seed in the West (tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder, as of Friday). According to basketball-reference.com, Doncic is averaging 29 points, 8.6 assists, and 9.6 rebounds (that’s dang near a triple double, folks). Compared to the star power of Giannis and Harden and LeBron, Luka might be a dark horse MVP candidate, but he’s still a deserving one. PT
Preston had brought up something that’s frequently a debate, maybe so in another sport like baseball, but occasionally in the NBA too … what is the MVP? It stands for Most Valuable Player, which is why is choice of Luka Doncic makes perfect sense. But it’s often given as Most Outstanding Player, which I really don’t have an issue with.
I think Giannis Antetokounmpo is both of those things in today’s NBA. He’s arguable the league’s best player, but I also consider him to be the most valuable to his team. Without Antetokounmpo I don’t think the Milwaukee Bucks are a playoff team. With him they currently have the best record in the NBA by a handful of games and have clinched the earliest playoff spot of any team in at least the last 15 years. Sure, the Mavericks aren’t a playoff team without Doncic either, but with him they’re only the seventh best team in their conference. Antetokounmpo is deserving of being the back-to-back MVP of the NBA, which would make him the 12th to ever do so in league history. JS
by Julian Spivey
Sunday’s Super Bowl was a pretty fantastic night of entertainment all-around. The game was close and entertaining up until the final minutes seeing the Kansas City Chiefs win the organization’s first Super Bowl in 50 years, the halftime performance from Jennifer Lopez and Shakira was widely celebrated and the commercials elicited both laughs and tears.
But there was a moment during the big game’s pre-show on Fox just before the league celebrated it’s All-100 roster of legendary players and coaches and Yolanda Adams and Demi Lovato stunned the Miami crowd with stellar performances of “America the Beautiful” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” that was completely inappropriate on the part of the league and its broadcaster for the evening Fox. It was a moment that was touching and beautiful in its production, but the underlying message of it was disgusting.
I’m speaking of the “Ragged Old Flag” segment that featured a celebration of America’s flag and military (but mostly the flag) set to Johnny Cash’s 1974 spoken word track “Ragged Old Flag.” The ad, which was essentially propaganda, showed Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter raising an American flag set to images of American heroism in previous wars and images of the flag flying over the destruction at Ground Zero after 9/11. It was the kind of stuff meant to make patriotic Americans swell with pride – and it did the trick for many of Americans.
But what this segment truly was is a thinly veiled attack on former NFL superstar quarterback Colin Kaepernick who took a stand against police brutality by kneeling during the National Anthem before NFL games and has since been blackballed by the league for doing such.
The ad, despite its beauty and my love as a hardcore fan of Johnny Cash, left me feeling dirty for having seen it. It didn’t make me proud of America. It didn’t make me want to waive the red, white and blue. It truly made me want to turn off the television – but alas it’s the biggest sporting event of the year and I’m not as courageous as someone like Kaepernick.
It’s OK to celebrate America. It’s not OK to use potentially the biggest symbol of America to essentially slap a person in the face for standing up for his First Amendment right of free speech in hopes of doing some good for the world. It’s not OK to use potentially the biggest symbol of America in an attempt to entice some folks offended by Kaepernick to come back to the game by saying, “look we love the flag. And, Kaepernick, well we took care of him.”
The NFL has done many things over the last decade to make me feel dirty for being a fan of the league – many of those involving player protests - and this was yet another. The video basically had the same affect as if they had just chosen to show that image of Donald Trump hugging the American flag, except maybe not as sleazy and maybe slightly more subtle.
As a Johnny Cash fan since my early teens and someone who considers Cash to be one of my all-time heroes I’m often protective of his legacy – I once fired off a heated email response to my own grandmother during the Obama administration for using Cash’s name in a joke email about how we used to have Bob Hope, Johnny Cash and Steve Jobs and now we didn’t have any hope, cash or jobs. Don’t put statements or words into a legend’s mouth when they aren’t here to give their say in how they feel about something.
I know someone – I assume the Cash family – must’ve OK’d their father’s track in this ad, but I can’t help but think that Cash, being the man of the people and downtrodden that he was, might not have appreciated the use of his words as a means to attack a black man for using his First Amendment rights to stand up for folks being treated less because of who they are.
If this segment had aired in 2010, instead of 2020, I wouldn’t have thought too much about it … but now it just seems like the NFL shoving a middle finger at Kaepernick and telling those fans offended by player protests during the National Anthem that those days are over.