Melo’s back

Carmelo Anthony returned to the NBA this week, after about a year of not playing. Melo, despite his talent has not had the success he wanted in the NBA.

He did not manage repeated, deep play-off runs with the New York Knicks. Something which, for many, was just another reason to be annoyed at the trade that brought Melo to the Knicks. A trade that Melo himself forced.

Looking back, it is easy to imagine that if the Knicks had managed to win a championship while Melo was there, that trade would be considered in a very different light. However, Melo was only one party in that trade, and only one player on a team. So it has always stuck me as harsh to lay all the blame, if blame is to be laid, at Melo’s feet.

Since leaving the Knicks, Melo has had one disappointing season at Oklahoma City Thunder (where the trio of Paul George, Russell Westbrook and Melo spectacularly failed to set the league alight) and then an odd couple of weeks with the Houston Rockets (where he was clearly not performing as expected). Since then he has not played professional basketball, until this week.

I never understood the move to Houston given his history with the Houston coach so I wasn’t surprised that the Houston/Melo experiment didn’t work. I was surprised that he then spent so long without a contract. I am not privy to all the ‘insider’ rumours of the NBA but I can only assume that there were some rumours about Melo being difficult/demanding which combined with the underwhelming stat lines (from OKC and Houston) to make him an unattractive prospect. Even the Team USA Basketball World Cup team didn’t want Melo (though given their performance at this year’s World Cup they may be regretting that).

So why have Portland taken the chance on him? Well it is a non-guaranteed contract so this can be a short term experiment if they want. Plus he is a NBA vet, with experience of international games, who can still ball. In his two games so far with Portland he has averaged 26 mins, 14 points and 5.5 rebounds. This is a small sample size, but it’s not far off his career rebound average (6.5) and while it is a way off his career average points (24) it’s not bad for someone who has had such a career break.

Will this stint in Portland help to redeem Melo? Will he finally get the ring he craves? Realistically I don’t think that Portland are going to win a ring this year but if Melo can stay with Portland until the end of the season, and they can have a deep play-off run Melo might be on the road to redemption.

 

The 19/20 season Knicks

Spoiler Warning. If you aren’t up to date with the Knicks this season, stop reading.

No seriously stop reading.

Still here? Okay.

The Knicks front office held a press conference following Sunday night’s game. I haven’t been able to see the whole thing but I’ve caught the highlights. They seem to have stopped themselves from suggesting that personnel changes need to be made but already the press are speculating that this could happen during the season.

I still don’t understand why they called the press conference. No-one who was paying attention should have been expecting an amazingly good start to the season for the Knicks. During the off season we didn’t pick up any of the big name free agents but we did bring in several new players. Players that need time to build chemistry and get used to playing together. Making more changes now (to players or coaches) will just introduce more new elements rather than allowing the current elements time to get it together.

Sunday’s game was not a good result. But not the worst result in the NBA this season (for example, the Hornets Celtics game earlier in the weekend had the same score). The Knicks don’t have a great win/loss this season. But they aren’t alone at the bottom of the table. The Golden State Warriors are right beside them with the same win/loss.

So again, why the press conference? Holding a press conference tells me that Steve Mills and Scott Perry are taking this seriously but did they seriously expect anything different? This feels like a way to respond to people who have unrealistic expectations. Perhaps they (Mills and Perry) also have unrealistic expectations.

Do I wish the Knicks were playing better? Yes.

Do I think constantly moaning about it and expecting greatness of them at all times is helpful? No.

Instead of holding these kind of press conferences the Knicks should look at how they deal with the unrealistic expectations and show faith in the team. They should look at building a team culture that results in players wanting to come to New York and help build something positive.

BBL on YouTube

For the 2019/20 season the British Basketball League (BBL) are broadcasting games live on YouTube. For the last few seasons they were using LiveBasketball so I was interested to see if the service improved with YouTube.

I decided that I would watch a London Lions game on YouTube as I am a Lions fan. Unfortunately my first attempt at this did not work as there were technical issues which prevented live streaming on the day I had planned to watch.

The first, and most obvious, difference is that the YouTube service is free whereas fans had to pay for the previous service. Now I happily pay for NBA League Pass every year so I am not against paying for a service to watch BBL games. However, the subscription BBL service never really felt worth it as you could only watch games live, there were frequent technical issues and often the commentators didn’t even know the players names.

With a free service I won’t find technical issues or low quality commentary as annoying.

Today was my first BBL YouTube game and I was pleasantly surprised. The stream was constant all game, the commentary was good and the on screen graphics were a big improvement on the previous service. Throughout the game I could see the score, after each basket they showed the name of the player who scored and their stats, I could monitor the foul count each quarter and at half time I was shown game stats.

I really appreciated that as it’s exactly the kind of data I expect to see in the venue and the fact that it was provided on a free stream of the game made it even better.

Overall I think the move to YouTube was a good idea and I hope the BBL can keep this up.

FIBA World Cup 2019

The FIBA World Cup has just completed in China. It ran for 17 days and was held in 8 locations across China.

Basketball seems to be a growing market in China and presumably there was a belief that holding the World Cup in China would increase that market.

I went out to China and attended games in three locations – Wuhan, Shanghai and Beijing. I frequently spoke to local people who had no idea that the World Cup was on or that it was being held in China. I did see billboards, adverts at bus stops and adverts in airports and train stations. It was clear that a lot of money had been spent to promote the competition in China but it didn’t seem to generate a lot of interest in China. None of the games I attended were sold out.

I only attended games later in the competition so I don’t know if the earlier games (where the competing teams were known well in advance) were busier. When I booked my tickets I did not know which teams I would get to see but I knew that to get to the later stages the teams would have to have played well and so they would be good. I was going to the World Cup to see good basketball but I can understand that if you wanted to see only a particular country the later games would have seemed like a risk. it can be difficult to arrange travel and accommodation while in China due to the internet restrictions and with visas to take in to account there are many reasons that may have led to reduced foreign attendees.

It’s always disappointing when big competitions are not sold out as full venues lead to a better atmosphere. Atmosphere was lacking in most of the games I attended due to the limited number of country specific fans.

Posts on each of the venues and games will follow.

All Star Sunday 2019

Ah All Star Sunday, the centrepiece in the NBA All Star showcase. The best players in the NBA this season as voted by fans, players and coaches.

In an attempt to introduce more competitiveness the NBA have moved from the East v West format to an old school captains pick their teams format. For the NBA this is a great move. It generates more media attention, they can televise the draft night and they can sell jump shirts in two different colours (as the jump shirts go on sale before the teams are finalised). The teams compete for charity to incentivise them.

However, we still end up with comically large score, defence feels like a token gesture and the players like to show off no-look passes and trick shots. Yes it is entertaining but it’s not exactly a basketball game.

This year featured some Steph Curry dunks (and some Steph Curry 3s), an Alley Oop between D Wade and LBJ, and Dirk Nowitzki with a smile that showed how much he was loving being there. Watching Steph on a different team from his GSW teammates KD and Klay Thomson was not just entertaining but potentially a taster of what will come next season given their impending free agencies.

I’ve been attending All Star for 5 years now, and the new format hasn’t really changes much. If you want to see some top NBA players have fun and show off the NBA All Star is a great game. If you want to see a really competitive game of basketball this is not the game for you.

All Star Saturday 2019

I think the All Star Saturday format may be broken.

I like the three point contest. I like the dunk contest. I like the skills contest. I dislike the frequent ‘entertainment breaks’ to accommodate the TV ads.

I have also found that the dunks are getting a little stale. There is limited creativity shown these days. This year I have heard comments that the dunks in the All Star game were better than dunks in the contest. I think I heard that last year too. Last year some of the dunks in the Rising Stars game were definitely better.

Part of the problem is that players known to be great at 3-points or dunks don’t want to risk making a mess of the contest and feel embarrassed on national TV. I understand that but even when guys do have a poor performance Any mocking is short lived. Much like the other elements of the All Star weekend perhaps the incentives to enter and do well in the three Saturday night contests need to be better to attract the most entertaining players for each option.

You don’t necessarily want to see the same players at each event over the weekend but I think that there are enough good players in the league to make sure that would not happen.

Rising Stars 2019

The Rising Stars game is an opportunity to see the best first and second year NBA players (or third year if we all agree to ignore the year that Ben Simmons didn’t play).

A few years ago, in a nod to the number of non-American players in the league, the NBA moved from an East v West format to a USA v World format. The players are selected by the coaches; there is no fan involvement in selection and they don’t sell replica rising stars jerseys. In a lot of ways this game is the poor cousin of the Sunday night All Star game.

This year, it was a member of team World who was tipped to be MVP – Luka Doncic. However, this is still an All Star game where players want to show off and it seems that no-one values defence so Luka had a less than inspiring night while other players seemed determined to keep the ball to make the shots (though not attempt any threes).

This game was fairly entertaining but as always in the last few minutes the players started mucking about going for dunks. Sure dunks are entertaining but I wanted to see a game. If the players could be incentivised to treat this as a game that matters I think the quality of the performances would increase and the fans would get more into the game.

Part of the issue is that you are not really supporting a team. You are supporting a player (maybe two depending on your NBA team) so you want to see that player do well, make the cool shots and generally increase the hype around him. That does not make for good team play.

With each year that goes by the price of the tickets increases making it increasingly difficult for people to afford which was apparent by the attendance on Friday night.

The Rising Stars game is a good idea but the format needs to force some real competitiveness to keep the fans interested.

Knicks @ Hawks

Thursday 14 February 

The Knicks decided to gift the fans a win for Valentine’s Day, but the draft lottery predictor now suggests we will get the 5th pick.

I had anticipated that this would be another Knicks loss. The Hawks have a better record this season and in their last game they had beater LBJ and the Lakers. 

The Knicks do have a habit of looking confident at the start of games only to fall asleep somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd so when they took an early lead I didn’t allow myself to get my hopes up. There was 7.33 remaining on the clock in Q101 before the Hawks scored. At home. The Knicks were up by 14. At that point I had some hope of seeing a Knicks win. 

At the end of the first the Knicks still has a 15 point lead. During the second quarter the Knicks did start to slow down as expected.  The sloppy mistakes were creeping in and they ended the period with only a three point cushion. 

The third quarter didn’t start well for the Hawks who got in to foul trouble early with four fouls in the first three minutes. They did manage to keep the score close for a good section of the quarter. However, the Knicks managed to finish the quarter ahead by 11. This was not because the Knicks were playing so well, it had more to do with the mistakes being made by the Hawks.

The Knicks managed to maintain a comfortable lead throughout the forth to bring home the v-day win. It would have been nice if they had managed to do this in fron of the crowd at MSG but the Knicks fans in attendance in Atlanta were definitely happy.

State Farm Arena – Atlanta Hawks

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Getting there 

Atlanta is a beautiful but small city. If you are staying in Atlanta you will be able to walk to the game. If you are a bit further out there is plenty of parking available right next to the venue and a little bit further away if you don’t mind a short walk. 

The Venue

This a is a nice big modern venue. It’s well signposted but they have plenty of staff around who can help if you need them. 

Seats

Looking around it seemed that you would get a good view from all seats. The have a massive jumbotron as well. 

We paid to sit fairly near the front not realising that this meant we would have access to the players club. If you are in Atlanta and you can afford it you should definitely check this out. The seats are padded and comfortable, although not necessarily wider than other seats. With your ticket you get access to an area with a large bar and two food stands. From there you can see the players make their way to the court and you can watch the post game press conference. You don’t need these elements to enjoy the game but as they were unexpected perks for me they really added to the game day experience. 

Concessions 

Typical of what you will find at most NBA venues in terms of bars, food and merchandise stands. The food options include more than just hotdogs and burgers – I saw crab cakes and shrimp on offer. The prices are reasonable too. We got two hotdogs and fries for $22. 

Final tips

If you can pay a bit more for your seat to get to Players Club or one of the other, similar experiences then you should at least once. 

Don’t forget to check out Atlanta itself – there is plenty to see and do including Coca-Cola world, the civil rights museum and CNN. 

Knicks v Sixers

Wednesday 13 February

Last night at MSG the New York Knicks took on the Philadelphia 76ers. This Knicks team has the franchise record for consecutive losses and they were playing a 76ers team with multiple All Stars. The result was never in doubt. 

As a Knicks fan it’s hard to see the team lose so often, the end result might be a high lottery pick (there is no guarantee of a number one pick) but that feels like a very long way away from now. 

I have a very real concern about player development. Last night’s game showed some moments of great play from Kevin Knox (rookie), Damyean Dotson (rookie) and Dennis Smith Jnr (2nd year). However, the constant losing can’t be good for morale and there is more than enough evidence of sloppy mistakes to make you question how much they are focusing on the fundamentals. 

At times it almost felt that the will to tank was so strong it was effecting the 76ers (many of whom have experience of tanking or ‘trusting the process’ as they euphemistically referred to it). At certain points in the game the most effective element of the Knicks defence was the 76ers offence. The 76ers have talent on the team but the second night of their back-to-back (which started with a loss to the Celtics) seemed to leave them tired and a little bit off their usual form.  

The MSG crowd, that only four nights before had been chanting for Zion, were getting energised by the moments of good offence and good blocks and was really willing the team to finally win a game. 

The Kevin Knox dunk over Ben Simmons is definitely my highlight play of the year and Mitchell Robinson’s double double was encouraging. However, DeAndre Jordan had a poor night (compared to his previous games as a Knick) and Kevin seemed to struggle against the 76ers defence.