Friday, May 18, 2007

Being Up At Weird Hours Means I Pay Attention to the NBA

Dilettante, Peter King style...

1) As someone who wasted an early second round fantasy NBA pick on him, let me just give a big "Po'shyol 'na hui" to Andrei Kirilenko. Dude tanks the entire year. In the Conference semis, his PPG has been double the regular season ppg. RPG up 30%. Nearly a full assist and a full block per game more. Hope your debts to the Russian mafia have been paid off, Mr. Face-looks-like-an-Easter-Island-Statue.

2) I find it a little odd how the Golden State fans received so much praise by big media (sort of deserved, compared to the other fans in other arenas), but it was rare that they were compared to fans in college arenas. Golden State's fans were loud at the right time, fed off the energy on the court, basically did all the right things. But that's a pretty normal occurrence for a regular season conference matchup at about 40-50 gyms on college campuses. Exceptionally great NBA crowd = relatively decent college basketball program crowd.

3) NBA referees make SEC football refs look like honest professionals.

4) Race seems to come up in the NBA more than in other sports. It's come up a bunch in reference to the suspensions in the Suns-Spurs series. Simmons always phrases it in terms of the difficulty in marketing a "black" league to a "white" league - and things like the dress code or harsh suspensions for fighting play into that. Here's something else that I was wondering about that kind of fits into that paradigm: Utah. Utah is one of the whitest states in the country. Arguably, no fan base in the NBA is "whiter" than fans in SLC. So the question I have is whether it's intentional that Utah's best 5 players are a white Russian (Kirilenko), a white Turk (Okur), a white American (Harpring), and two very light skinned African Americans (Williams and Boozer). Utah's a good team, and I don't think it's the situation where the Jazz chose a "whiter" looking team when they could've put together a better, but "blacker" team. But if all things are equal between two possible players for the Jazz to sign/draft, and one might seem "white" and the other not-as-much, would it be in the Jazz's financial interest to choose the player with whom the fans might identify better?

Needless to say, I don't want anyone to think I think there's anything better about "white" players as opposed to "black" players. I think such stereotypes and the coded language are often completely wrong as a descriptive matter, but always wrong from a moral perspective. That said, it's foolish to act as if such stereotypes don't exist, and since they do, I believe that team owners, from a business perspective, would be foolish not to consider stereotypes. I think they do take these things into consideration, though normally under the auspices of "fan relations" or media-training or something like that. The question is whether overt race-based decisionmaking should be allowed, even if it isn't the racism of the particular team (and let me be clear, I don't think Utah does use race-based decisionmaking - but I wonder if it is even considered and set aside) but racism/race-based considerations of consumers or fans. I think this is an interesting issue, and it's been rattling around in my head a lot recently. There's a flip side to it too, that maybe I'll delve into later, regarding the Atlanta Falcons.

5) I think Cleveland will win the East. And they, along with atrocious officiating putting LeBron on the line 20 times a game, might give the Spurs trouble.