English Institute of Sport Sheffield

Sheffield Shark

Location – The Sheffield Sharks play in the English Institute of Sport Sheffield, next to iceSheffield. It’s about 10 minutes from Sheffield City Centre and less than 5 minutes from Centretainment. This means that there is a good range of places to get some food or drinks nearby and there are two hotels (Ibis and Premier Inn) a short walk away.

We drove up from London but the venue can also be accessed by public transport – buses and trams both stop near the venue. If you are travelling to an away game I advice checking train/bus times carefully to make sure you can get back after the game.

The Venue

The Venue is a good size. It’s a slightly interesting layout as you enter the seating area through a corridor where you collect your tickets and can purchase a programme or some snacks.

Concessions

The usual range of soft drinks, beer and snacks are available.

Seats

The seats are padded and comfortable. There is seating along both sides of court – away fans are seated behind the away team bench.

Atmosphere

On my recent visit to the Sharks the venue was not very busy but you could hear some of the home fans cheering.

Oracle Arena – Golden State Warriors

Getting there

The venue is in Oakland. If you don’t want to stay in Oakland you should base yourself in San Francisco and take the BART to the game. You get off at Coliseum, take the footbridge and walk around the coliseum. To be honest, you take the BART and follow the crowds. It’s about 45 mins from downtown to the venue (including the walk).

The venue

One of the older venues in the NBA it’s easy to see why the Warriors want to move to new premises. The building is functional but has seen better days.

Seats

Pretty comfortable for such an old venue and the sight lines seem to be good from all sections.

Concessions

This is where the age of the venue can be seen. Although there are fan shops and food stalls there are fewer of each that you would find in other venues meaning that the queues can be much longer than you would expect pre-game.

There is a good range of food and drink available including healthy options

We bought one water and one shock-top beer and paid $20.

Atmosphere

We were at the Spurs @ Warriors game which was sold out so there was a good atmosphere. I know there are plenty of fans who only discovered the Warriors when they started winning championships but there fans at the Oracle are loud and proud of the Warriors.

Final tip

If you are planning a trip to Oracle make it soon as the new venue is scheduled to open in time for the 2019/20 season.

The Golden 1 Center – Sacramento Kings

Location

The venue is conveniently located in downtown Sacramento so once you have arrived in Sacramento you should have no trouble making your way there.

You can fly or take the train to Sacramento. We drove in.

Accommodation

I recommend the Vagabond Inn. It’s only a five minute walk from the venue and has parking.

The venue

This is a new venue. When you walk in you can actually see the court as you go down in to the lower bowl from the main concourse. This seems to be the new style of basketball venues.

The seats

The seats are padded and comfortable. There seems to be good sight lines from anywhere in the venue.

Concessions

They have the usual range of fan stores and food concessions. They have some healthy food options as well.

Atmosphere

The venue was fairly quiet and clearly hadn’t sold out the night we were there. This is a shame as it is a really nice venue but the team are one of the worst in the NBA just now which shows in their attendance figures. Still worth a visit though.

Knicks Trades

Approaching the trade deadline it was clear that the Knicks wanted to do something about the number of centres on the team and it seemed they were listening to offers for O’Quinn and Hernangomez.

Then it was announced that Baker needed season ending surgery and then KP got injured (and will also need season ending surgery)and no one was quite sure what to expect. Who would fill KPs role (and minutes) for the rest of the season? How would the Knicks keep themselves relevant?

The answer to the later question seems to be that they decided not to.

They traded Hernangomez to the Hornets for a player they immediately waived and two second future draft picks (they kind of picks that land you a project player, you know like Hernangomez).

Then they traded Dougie McDermitt for Emanuel Mudiay (who is having a less than impressive season) and some more draft picks.

The deal the Knicks really needed was one that took Noah off their hands but his massive contract made that impossible without losing some key pieces (another Phil Jackson legacy).

And so now we have a Knicks team minus 5 of the players they started the season with (assuming Noah stays exiled) which will impact on team morale and little to show for it.

The playoffs are no longer a consideration and it’s another year where there is no sign that front office have a plan.

Staples Center – Los Angeles Lakers

Location

The venue is located in downtown LA.

Getting to the venue

We drove and parked in lot 1, you need to have booked in advance to use this. Lot 1 is right next to Staples Center and getting in is straight forward however getting out again does take a while.

I would recommend not driving to the venue if you can. If you are staying in LA anyway either walk or use public transport depending on how far away your hotel is.

The venue

Getting in was easy, the queues moved quickly.

This is a typical NBA venue with concessions and restrooms on each concourse.

Concessions

The usual range of fan stores, drink and food stalls. The is the first NBA venue I’ve been to that has McDonalds inside.

They have a few bars and there is a range of drinks available including margaritas (just remember that alcohol is not sold after the start of q4).

The prices are typical for the NBA. We got two cokes, small popcorn and a hotdog for $24.

The seats

We were in the upper bowl and the seats were really comfortable, al the seats were padded. It would have been nice if there were a bit wider but I understand the need to fit a lot of seats in.

Atmosphere

The crowd were loud on and off during the game. The venue wasn’t full which always impacts on atmosphere.

Knicks – Hernangomez

The Spaniard is in his second season for the Knicks and seems to be getting reduced playing time. I am not aware of any injury worries so this is clearly a coaching decision.

Hernangomez didn’t have a great EuroBasket experience, which was surprising following his first NBA season in which he played in the Rookie game at All Star weekend and made the All Rookie Team.

I don’t know what was behind his EuroBasket performance (it could have been the difference in coaching, worry about the Knicks given the off season drama or any other reason) or even if that is behind his limited minutes so far this season.

What I do know is that he looks less confident when he does get minutes. He is more hesitant and then over compensates by playing too hard and racking up too many fouls for his playing time.

Hernangomez is a Knicks player with great potential, which can be seen when he plays with confidence. Sometimes sitting a player makes him hungry and he plays much better when he gets on the court, this has definitely worked with Kyle O’Quinn, but sometimes it knocks their confidence and you get a nervous player who can’t make the most of his opportunity.

While this is something that Hernangomez needs to work on but the coaching staff need to be careful to build his confidence and skill so that they don’t waste his potential.

Knicks – Ntilikina

The Knicks’ new Belgian rookie is showing early signs of great promise. He is still getting fairly limited minutes, not surprising as this is his first season, but he is using those minutes to demonstrate heart, hustle and skill.

The main thing he needs now is experience and the only way to get that is more minutes. As the season goes on he will gain experience and he will have some brilliant moments and make some mistakes but that is how we learn.

There is a risk of the crowd, the media and the coaching staff being hard of him for those mistakes but he will learn from them and the coaching staff need to be careful not to cut his playing time unless he is repeatedly making the same mistakes.

OKC

There is a lot of discussion about OKC’s Big Three.

The big three are used to playing iso-ball. They are used to being the go-to player on the team. They are used to being the main guy on the team.
When you put three guys like that on one team you cannot expect them to change overnight.

I have heard people say that they need to want to change. I don’t necessarily believe that they don’t want to change.
These guys are used to how they play and have been playing that way for years. Until now their coaches have been telling them that they are playing the way the coaches want them to.
Expecting them to forgot those habits, forget the way they are used to playing, within one or two games is not realistic. They need time to get used to playing with each other, used to the new style of play.

I admit that they aren’t demonstrating any hint of change but changing habits takes time and doing it under the spotlight of the media does not make it easier.

The coaching team at OKC need to work with the players and find small ways to start changing those habits, building that team spirit. When that starts to happen they way OKC play will start to change.

Knicks – the season so far

The Knicks have not had the start to the season that we may have expected. That’s not to say that they have had the best start but there have been more wins than expected and against some teams we would have predicted loses against.

The main reason for this performance is Kristaps Porzingis who is having the best season of his life. He is putting up some amazing numbers and absolutely showing how much potential he has. However, he cannot keep this up all season. When he missed the game against the Hornets, the Knicks lost. That may have happened even if he had played but without his big numbers the rest of the team had more to do.

Porzingis has a few niggling injuries and has already said that he may need elbow surgery at the end of the season. Playing as hard as he has been so far this season, is only going to aggravate that elbow and potentially mean more games that he has to sit out.

When Carmelo Anthony was at the Knicks the game plan seemed to be getting the ball to Melo and letting him take over the game. That plan did not result in a lot of playoff appearances.

My worry is that keeping to the plan, just swapping Melo for Porzingis, is going to have the same results.

The Knicks team does have potential to be a good team, maybe even a playoff team but they can’t rely on Porzingis to do it all.

I know there will be those who point to the Russel Westbrook last season. I am not trying to suggest that Porzingis is not capable of having an absolute stand out season. But that is not going to result in a playoff run for the Knicks unless the rest of the team improves.

Portland Expo Center

Maine Red Claws

The Maine Red Claws play at the Portland Expo Centre in Portland, Maine. The venue is easy to locate in Portland and is well signposted/advertised outside.

There is a small amount of parking adjacent to the venue and plenty of car parks nearby. The team website suggests a specific nearby car park but we used the lot opposite that car park as it was cheaper.

Seats

The type of seat depends on which section you sit in. The most expensive sections have the best seats. We sat in the section that was $22 a seat and got small hard plastic bleacher type seating but with a small back. The cheaper seats were bleached style and the most expensive seats were the more common hard plastic seat variety.

Concessions

A good range of food and beverages was on offer.

Food – pizza, hot dogs, burgers, pretzels, popcorn, fries

Drinks – soft drinks, water, beer, spirits

It was reasonably priced and we got two cheeseburgers and a Diet Coke for $12.

They had a stall selling team merchandise and, a 50/50 raffle and a stall selling balls for the lobster toss (a competition played during the 4th where you through the balls at a lobster pot and if you get the ball in the pot you win a prize).

Entertainment

They have a dance squad and we had a special half time performance by Bronson Arroyo.

On the way in we were given a magnet featuring the schedule and a programme.

Overall I really liked this venue. The staff were friendly and helpful, it was well laid out and signposted and I was able to enjoy the game.