Saturday, June 22, 2013

Naismith Highway: The Long Run

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

7.5 months. It's over. What a long fucking run. The NBA season kicked off around Halloween and ended on Thursday night. I tried to wager nightly on the NBA season and I'm damn lucky that I barely got out of the season above even. I was consumed with point spreads and injury reports and line moves and wiseguy rumors and bookies getting pinched and trade rumors and more injury reports and referee assignments and more line moves and NBA conspiracy theories (e.g. Joey Crawford) and more line moves and wiseguy steam report and blech blah blah blah blah

Long run. 7.5 months.Under siege since Halloween. I can finally sleep at night without waking up in the middle of the night wondering if the lines moved at the Caribbean sports books and if there's a better number in the Bobkittens game.

I'm lucky my girlfriend didn't break up with me or kick me out of the apartment. On the plus side, she finally learned what a "pick and roll" meant. But I was pushing it. I'm sure after long day of work a hellacious commute that the last thing she wanted to come home to is not one but four NBA games on while I'm screaming at the TV. I'm convinced that our former upstairs neighbors moved out because they were sick of me shouting, "Hit your fucking free throws!"

It was a long-ass 7.5 months. I got in trouble from the get-go. I was in over my head. I knew what I was doing when it came to college basketball and I developed into an average NFL handicapper, but nothing prepared me for the onslaught of the NBA season. Holy shit. The swings. The swings. The swings.  I started out in the hole and battled back the rest of the year to make up for early mistakes I made in November and December. Whenever I got hot... I'd go on a losing streak and lose back everything I had built up. It was a frustrating few months. I finally stopped the bleeding and slowly chipped away at the losses. By the time the season ended, I was barely above water but I had finally got the hang of it.

What did I learn? I bet too many games (less is more). But more importantly, I don't have what it takes to be a winning professional NBA bettor because I do not want to put in the time and more importantly, I do not want to move back to Vegas. It's a hard way to make an easy living. Too much of an investment time-wise and emotionally. Drowning in of self-doubt (more than usual). Perpetually trying to stay calm while in the middle of a hurricane. I'd rather stick to focusing on short-term sporting events like the playoffs instead... which I had done in previous years. I know my strengths are college hoops, so I'll concentrate on that because it has much shorter season. I can really get away with three-intense months of grunt work --January through March -- and probably a month of prep work in December. Less time devoted to number crunching and more time devoted to writing.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun watching a ton of NBA games. I bought NBA Season Pass and I made at least enough money to pay for that. After covering expenses, I sort of worked for free for seven months. Ah, such is life. At least I didn't lose my bankroll. And, I don't have to worry about chasing down bookies to pay me (like a nightmare situation I encountered after the NFL season, but that's a story for a different time).

It was a fun NBA season. The Knicks played great and I loved watching OKC games. Living in LA provides me access to both Clippers and Lakers games. Nicky occasionally watched the Lakers (she's been a fan since birth), while I watched about 75% of the Clippers games. Through the almighty NBA Season Pass, I viewed four games at once and never missed a Knicks, OKC, or Golden State game. The Knicks were my hometown team and they played sensational season (up until they got their asses handed to them against Indiana in the playoffs). Melo was fun to watch... when he was on and didn't fuck stuff up.

I had an overall bet on OKC to win the entire championship, plus they had two of the best young players in the game, so it was a pleasure to watch those games. Sadly, I often got into trouble a lot with losing bets early in the night and I often turned to Golden State to bail me out of trouble. The GS games were always the last to tip off, and I was somewhat familiar with the team from watching GS games when I lived in San Francisco (I never watched Sacramento Kings games, but found myself watching GS along with every Niners game and the occasional SF Giants game).

The Miami Heat essentially went wire-to-wire to defend their championship. They were the team to beat from the tipoff of the preseason all the way until Game 7 of the NBA Finals. I picked Oklahoma City to go all the way and told everyone I knew to bet them. Sure, the Heat were the team to beat, but OKC gave you the most bang for the buck. They were ready to make another run and return to the NBA Finals... until.... tragedy struck. Russell Westbrook blew out his knee in the opening round of the playoffs and OKC failed to make it out of the West Semis.

Before the season began, if you asked most pundits and pro bettors, they'd tell you the title was going to come down to the team with the best Big 3. Miami? LeBron D-Wade, and Bosh. OKC? Durant, Westbrook and Harden. Lakers? Kobe, Dwight Howard, and Nash.

Well, OKC made the first move before the season began and traded away Harden. Wow. It was a money thing and their lost their spark plug off the bench. OKC still played well behind with their Dynamic Duo of Westbrook and Durant. Later in the season, Kevin Martin (the key competent in the Harden trade to Houston) finally developed into his own and when the playoffs rolled around, OKC had a formidable Big 2.5.

The Lakers? Well, the entire season was a shit show. Revered owner Jerry Buss died. His kids are running the franchise into the ground. Kobe shot daggers out of his eye when he butted heads with head coach Mike Brown, who failed miserably to install a Princeton-type of offense because Kobe is a ball hog and wanted to keep it all ISOs, all the time. Brown got fired. The Lakers re-hired Phil Jackson, but then they didn't and went with the clown D'Antoni that Melo ran out of NYC. D'Antoni is an offensive "genius" and many of today's winning teams employed that type of spread-stretch offensive and similar schemes to take advantage of teams weak perimeter defenses. But it took forever for the Lakers to figure out another new system. Steve Nash is old and perpetually reeks of Ben Gay. His age caught up to him and he spent most of the season rehabbing his numerous ailments. And Dwight Howard? He just came off back surgery and is nowhere close to 100%, but he's a gamer and wanted to play through the pain instead of pulling a D-Rose and waiting and waiting and waiting. I have a bad back and I feel Dwight's pain. How the fuck he can run up and down the court every night? And keep Tim Duncan and Kenneth Faried off the boards? The fact he's standing up is a simple wonderment. He's going to be a beast for the Lakers next year, which they'll need because who knows how effective Kobe will be after blowing out his Achilles.

Yeah, the Lakers' Big 3 was a morbid shitshow and they were luck to sneak into the backdoor into the playoffs. OKC's Big 2.5 lost Westbrook to a knee injury, so it was a one horse race to the finish for Miami's Big 3. Even with a wounded Wade, they still managed to win the title. Again.

Miami earned the championship this year. It took 21 games to beat Chicago, Indiana, and San Antonio. Three consecutive max-game series. Inferior teams put Miami on the brink of elimination three times in a row. Yes, the better team one all three times... but the fact that those series were so close makes me feel better about my original pick of OKC to win it all. If Westbrook was healthy, then OKC would have beat Miami in 5 games. Shit, Chicago was J. Noah and a bunch of no-names and Da Bulls still forced a Game 7. Either Tom Thibodeau is the greatest coach of all time since Naismith invented the game, or Miami was a lot more overrated that we think (my theory is LBJ was drained from playing in the Olympics last summer when he should have been resting and shooting bad mobile phone commercials).

My view every fucking night during NBA season

Watching the NBA for 7+ months I've come to the conclusion that the NBA needs to eliminate teams if they want to be able to put the best product on the court and compete in the future against other more accessible forms of sports entertainment. The NBA should expand to Europe or Asia or South America, but those should become farm leagues, like the equivalent of AA baseball. Every team could own a foreign club team, plus they'd have a "AAA-type" team in North America as a part of the NBA development league. 24 NBA teams. 24 D-League teams. 24 overseas clubs (8 each in Europe, Asia, and South America). More teams with "Big 3" opportunities. Better global rev share to help pay for all of the redonkuloulsy high salaries.

The NBA should ditch all the franchises in cities where they have shitty attendance or have owners that don't give a fuck (I'm looking at you MJ!). That means Charlotte, New Orleans, Charlotte, Sacramento and Phoenix are dunzo. Shit, Atlanta is such a fair-weather city, they should lose all their pro franchises except the Braves.

I think all the pro leagues should reduce their teams by 1/4 to 1/3 in order to put better products on the field (or court, or ice). That would strengthen a minor league system. Perhaps install relegation with a secondary league like Euro soccer. But there's too many teams. Too many pro sports. Fewer teams would mean better competition across the board.

I want the NHL season to be reduced to 60 games and 24 teams with two divisions of a dozen teams each: U.S. vs. Canada. That way, Canada gets a team to represent the new "Canadian Division" in Stanley Cup Finals. But more importantly Canada gets 12 pro franchises and we can ditch hockey in a lot of the Sunbelt states. Let only the best of the best American cities become one of the 12 teams to represent us in the "American Division." Then all of those other cities that lost NHL franchises can get a rough and tumble "Federal League" with lots of fighting. Non-stop fighting. It'll become a bastion for washed up pros and other thugs. It's the the MMA of ice hockey. It's the perfect forum to glorify violence (it's the American way). So have a bush league to give the rednecks what they want, while still maintaining the integrity of the NHL and preserving Canada's historical importance to the game of hockey.

The NFL is a war of attrition. Those guys take such a beating that the elimination of only 4 teams would add extra troops to the pool of much-needed skill players. How about trimming it by 6 or 8? And while you're at it, why not trim the season to 14 games with two byes in order to truly promote player safety. Jacksonville can't even get their stadium half-full. Tampa and St. Louis both struggle with lousy attendance. Arizona is so fucking embarrassing that they should dump them. You know how I feel about Atlanta fans. And put the goddamned Jets out of their misery. Eliminate the Jets outright. Cities like NYC have too many teams. Make them give up a couple of pro teams. Fewer NFL teams means better starting QBs across the board, better running backs, deeper rosters with healthier players and more competitive games.

And pro baseball? Don't get me started. Too many games. Too many teams. Not enough decent pitching. If you reduced the league by 33%, think about how stacked the teams would be? But the purists and geeks running baseball would never allow it.

Everyone knows that's what they should do... reduce schedules (I'm all for expanded playoffs and more postseason games that fucking count), reduce teams, trim the fat.

None of this will happen. It's like trying to tell mafia dons that they can't run a racket in their cities. But I'd love to see Canada vs. USA in the Cup Finals every year.

In the meantime, my short stint as a "pro" NBA bettor has come to an end. Next season, I'll stick to cherry picking playoff games. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a couple of months off from the grind and I can finally get some sleep and not have to worry about point spreads, and line moves, and injury updates, and zebra assignments, and other NBA conspiracy theories.

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