Team LeBron forward LeBron James (6) dives during the first half of the NBA Basketball All-Star Game Sunday, February 19, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Kyle Terada/Pool Photo via AP) (Kyle Terada/Pool Photo via AP, AP)
A number of gasbags said they “didn’t watch a second” of the NBA All-Star Game and then spent at least 10 to 15 minutes talking about it.
That’s not surprising. Valley of the Stupid Bloviators are allergic to empowered players, especially those who dare not play defense during a glorious scrum.
And, unsurprisingly, Kevin Durant said the machinations surrounding his Brooklyn exit had “brought more attention to the league.” He added: “More people are excited. The tweets I’ve gotten from me are being acted upon, Kyrie [Irving] traded, it just brings more attention to the league and that’s what really makes money when you get more attention.”
Durant is far from delusional. It’s hard to argue with him. It raises a good question: What “attention” is good for the NBA and its TV ratings? When it comes to the NBA, controversy matters — on and off the court.
While the NBA All-Star Game and its surrounds (like the slam dunk contest) didn’t produce any sparks of competition and saw a whopping 27% drop in TV ratings from last season’s All-Star Game, it was worth it the NBA media’s need to consume and then deliver delicious negativity.
Like Michael Malone of Denver, who coached Team LeBron and called the game “the worst basketball game ever.” Or G-Leaguer Mac McClung embarrassing players like Knicks center Jericho Sims in the dunk contest.
And while average television viewership for the 2022 edition fell by 27%, ASG, with all its blemishes, still pulled in 4.5 million viewers, which is nothing to sneeze at in this competitive content environment, especially for “the worst basketball game ever played.” . NBA suits and their TV partners should poll viewers who have remained loyal to the game.
A health check might also be appropriate.
Heading into the playoffs, with the league eyeing a new collective bargaining agreement and TV deal (the current one expires after the 2024-25 season), NBA oddities and endings will continue throughout the season into and deliver ratings through the playoffs ?
During the All-Star break, the average viewership for NBA national television shows (TNT, ESPN, ABC) was 1.6 million viewers, up 1% from last season.
Locally, the Nets on YES averaged 68,000 viewers during the All-Star break, compared to 70,000 viewers before the All-Star break last season. In the three games that have aired on YES since Durant joined Phoenix, YES has averaged 92,000 viewers. If you believe Durant’s theory, a segment of the 92,000 desperately tuned in to get more information about his departure.
The Knicks on MSG averaged 115,000 viewers during the All-Star break. NBA sources said Knicks viewership had increased going into the break.
Now that NBA play has resumed, will the focus return to the game itself? That would be a one-off event. Or will the NBA media keep preaching about the NBA devaluing its own regular season? Let’s just say don’t wait for all the load management talk to suddenly go away.
In other words, business as usual for the NBA.
BELTRAN HOLDS BACK
After the bad deal he got from the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network, it was nice to see Carlos Beltran wind up with the Mets as GM Billy Eppler’s special assistant.
YES Brass knew what it was getting into when it appointed Beltran, who had no broadcast experience, as game analyst for a limited schedule of Yankees games in 2022. He got off to a rocky start.
And when the suits didn’t like his performances or the criticism Beltran got from outside YES headquarters, they took him off the games and hid him in the studio.
Chances are they wouldn’t have brought Beltran back to YES for the 2023 season. If YES really stood up for Beltran in 2022, it would have kept him in the dressing room and allowed him to grow. Again Beltran was a novice who needed time. Instead, YES Brass showed they had little patience and even less desire to do what it took to make Beltran a success.
DON’T LET THIS DEATH FADE
While they don’t need to be told what to do, the voices of college basketball — courtside and in the studio — won’t address the story of Alabama basketball star Brandon Miller, who law enforcement officials say provided the gun that shot the man and Jamea Jones Harris was killed on January 15.
As a result, the Hoops media had a layup, a sporting issue, to discuss: Should Miller have been allowed to play against South Carolina on Wednesday, February 22, the day after police testified about the gun shipment?
But as March Madness draws near, anyone investing in the Final Four (including rights holders TNT/CBS) wouldn’t mind if history fades. Or the top-ranked Alabama is eliminated early from the tournament. Do advertisers really want their products to be associated with an event with that kind of controversy – and sadness – hanging over it?
So there’s no way that all the “One Shining Moment” propaganda will be replaced by stories about why “student-athletes” are wielding guns on campus. Or gun control.
No problem. Even in dark times, those associated with the tournament will blanket it in sunshine, cling to the games and the happy conversation that surrounds them.
RODGERS IN THE HEADLIGHT
Never before have so many been kept in the dark by a man actually living in it.
While bunkered without opening his mouth or raising a hand, Aaron Rodgers fed the media seals a feast. His days in hiding led to so many hours of replay that Valley of the Stupid Gasbags (on FAN and ESPN 98.7) spent talking about where Rodgers will, won’t go, or should go.
When G-Bags got tired of hearing their own theories, they poked fun at Rodgers for retiring. Or providing unsubstantiated “stories” about how much money Daniel Jones is looking for. Or how the Jets should sign Derek Carr.
Still, it was all Rodgers the whole time. Would anyone be surprised to see another report that Rodgers is considering joining a team other than the Packers, Raiders or Jets? Or a TV appearance?
AROUND THE DIAL
Those who insist the Jets are a “quarterback” away from the Super Bowl are taking a huge leap of faith. … I can’t wait to see baseball smarts incorporate pitch clock into their television shows. … Better yet, how will John Sterling keep track of the pitch clock on the radio? Blow a warning whistle? Hey, he’s busy keeping track of balls and shots. … Sweeny Murti, who recently left WFAN, is joining MLB’s social media editorial team. … Justin Shackil is expected to replace Murti on Yankees Radio Network’s postgame shows. … Tom Brady will continue to be on SiriusXM weekly throughout the football season. SXM recently signed a multi-year contract extension to bring back its “Let’s Go” show starring Brady, Larry Fitzgerald and Jim Gray.
* * *
GUY OF THE WEEK: SEAN PAYTON
For his TV improvement. It took a while on Fox’s NFL studio show, but the new Broncos’ coach eventually emerged as smart and insightful. He was a refreshing change on Sunday’s studio circuit.
DWEEB OF THE WEEK: LeSEAN McCOY
For predicting that Eric Bieniemy will fail as offensive coordinator and assistant head coach for the Washington Commanders. In FS1’s “Speak for Yourself,” McCoy, who played for the Chiefs in 2019 and considers himself a bieniemyologist, wished the coach well before tearing him apart. It sounded like ax grinding.
What Aaron Hicks said, “My hands [on the bat] been really low for the past few years. All my success, my hands were higher.”
What Aaron Hicks meant “I’ll try everything to stop hitting with men on the base.”