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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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Houston stays hot at the plate

Astros overpower White Sox in series opener

Abraham Toro made a loud return to the Astros' lineup on Thursday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a two-game sweep of the struggling Rangers behind them, the Astros welcomed in a much fiercer opponent in the Chicago White Sox, owners of the best record in the AL, for an exciting four-game set. It was all Astros in this one, as their offense would once again propel them to a lopsided win.

Final Score: Astros 10, White Sox 2

Astros' Record: 40-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (5-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dylan Cease (5-3)

Houston builds a big lead

Houston wasted no time in the bottom of the first, getting two on base on a single and an error to set up a three-run home run for Michael Brantley, putting them ahead 3-0 before Chicago and Dylan Cease could record an out. They extended the lead in the bottom of the fourth, putting two on base on a walk and hit batter before an RBI ground-rule double by Carlos Correa brought in one. That left runners on second and third, and Abraham Toro took advantage by scoring both on a two-RBI single, then with one out, Jose Altuve hit a sac fly to make it a 7-0 lead.

Urquidy brings the good stuff

Meanwhile, Jose Urquidy was cruising through Chicago's lineup. He allowed just one hit through the first five scoreless innings but would let the White sox get on the board in the top of the sixth after a leadoff double and two-out RBI single. They added one more on another single, making it 7-2 before Urquidy could get out of the inning.

Jose Altuve got one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning, hitting his fourth home run in three games to make it a six-run game at 8-2. Urquidy returned to the mound in the top of the seventh, getting a quick 1-2-3 frame to end his successful night. His final line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 93 P.

Astros take the opener

In the bottom of the seventh, Houston pushed the lead to eight runs with a leadoff single, setting up a two-out two-run homer by Toro, bringing him to four RBI on the night. With Urquidy's night over, Brandon Bielak came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen, sitting down Chicago in order. Ralph Garza Jr. came in to get an inning of work to finish off the game with Houston's large lead. He made it a quick one, with Chicago going down in order one more time as the Astros took the opener and notched their fourth-straight win.

Up Next: Game two of this entertaining series will be another 7:10 PM Central Start on Friday. Carlos Rodon (6-2, 1.89 ERA) will try to help Chicago even the series, while Luis Garcia (5-4, 2.98 ERA) will try to put Houston up 2-0.

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