EVERYT-THING SPORTS

The NBA season starts next Tuesday and no one cares

Some suggestions for Adam Silver. NBA.com

This is the best time of the year in sports. That’s not a debatable point or opinion, it’s a fact. NFL season is under way. MLB playoffs are here. NCAA football teams are making their case. The NBA season opens this year on Oct. 17. But the NBA is almost like the stepchild of the sports world right now. Why is that?

One of the main reasons is football. With the NFL and NCAA football seasons starting about a month and a half before the NBA, they have a head start. Their respective seasons are in full swing when the NBA starts. NFL teams are now making the picture clearer and NCAA teams are jockeying for poll positioning. Football is also the most popular sport in this country. Basketball is so far back in the rearview mirror, it looks like a dot rather than another vehicle.

Another reason there’s little fanfare for the start of the NBA season is the MLB playoffs are getting intense. The American and National League Championship Series will both be under way by the time the NBA opens up. Last year when the Astros were making their run, Houston barely paid attention to the Rockets. This year looks as if it’ll be a repeat of last year as the Astros are already waiting on the Red Sox/Yankees winner in the ALCS. They’re getting ready to defend their World Series title. Not since the ’98-’00 Yankees has a team won back to back titles in MLB, and they won three in a row. I highly doubt anyone pays much attention to anything outside of the Astros if they make it back to the World Series.

The NBA made changes to its season structure to start about one to two weeks earlier than normal last season. They did so in part to lengthen the season to cut down on the amount of back to back games teams were playing. It’s really helped the players, but has been sort of annoying to fans. Your team may play on Tuesday and not have another game until Friday, or even Saturday in some cases. 

One other thing that’s hurting the NBA right now is competitive balance. Most fans, and some “experts,” tend to think along the lines of “until the Warriors break up, they’re the overwhelming favorite to win it all.” Not many people think anyone outside the Warriors has a shot. Sure, there will be some who try the “hot take” or make the ‘sexy/chic pick” and say the Celtics or Rockets or Sixers will win it all, but do they truly believe that? I highly doubt it.

So what can the NBA do to make their season opening matter more? I have a few ideas: 

1-Make the opening day a big deal by having compelling matchups similar to Christmas day games. Imagine opening day back when Shaq and Kobe were beefing? What about a Pistons/Bulls matchup opening day in late ‘80s/early ‘90s?

2-The games should all take place on ABC, the league’s national broadcast partner and should be streamed for free online somewhere. Making these games readily viewable to the masses creates more interest.

3-A better marketing strategy will help. I propose more commercials during NCAA football, MLB and NFL games. This way, they’re taking advantage of sports that more eyes are on at that time of year. 

The NBA has done a ton of things right over the years. It is the world’s second most popular sport. But in this country, it’s losing ground to MLB and continually falling further behind football. The NFL and MLB have done their opening days so well for so long, that they have equity. The NBA still hasn’t gotten this right. Hopefully, they will take some suggestions I’ve given and build upon them.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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