NBA television ratings up, highlights haves/have nots

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The NBA is booming for TNT, with viewership up nine percent this season over last. They are not bad if you are ESPN, viewership is flat with last year, according to numbers in the Sports Business Journal (subscription required). You can say the ratings boom hitting other sports has come to the NBA.

But as you get into the local markets, it is a mixed bag. There are the haves and have nots. And that is starting to be reflected in the standings, something that should be a concern for the NBA as it heads into this round of Collective Bargaining.

Things are great if you are the Cavaliers. On Fox Sports Ohio they are drawing a league best 8.53 rating, which means 130,000 households a game. Things are great if you are the Lakers, whose ratings on Fox Sports West are 3.84 (fourth best in the league) and in the huge media market that is Los Angeles that means a league best 197,000 pairs of eyeballs a game.

And when the Lakers negotiate that lucrative local television deal, they share almost none of that revenue with other teams under the current system. (Only revenue generated from that contract outside of a 75-mile radius of a team’s home market has to be shared.)

Charlotte on the other hand has the smallest local television viewer ship, 10,000 per game, which means there are actually more people paying to be in the building than watching from home (if you believe the team attendance numbers). And that television viewership is nearly doubled from a year ago.

In the end, that means the Lakers and Cavaliers have a lot more money to spend on free agents, can go much farther over the cap, than Charlotte (unless the Bobcats owner wants to lose a lot of money).

The top five teams in terms of eyeballs per game: Lakers, Cavaliers, Bulls, Celtics and Knicks — four playoff teams (two title contenders) and one team trying to recover from epic mismanagement.

You can succeed in a smaller television market — Orlando gets just 21,000 viewers per game, Oklahoma City just 12,000. But how did those teams get good? Smart drafting, looking for deals (save Richard Lewis). How did Boston get good? Buying free agents. The Lakers? Trade for Kobe after the draft, trade for Pau Gasol’s expensive contract.

The NBA does not have the revenue disparity nor the payroll disparity of Major League Baseball, but it is headed that way more than it is trending toward the NFL model. This is one of the things the owners have to figure out — every team has to be able to compete on a fair court or the business model starts to break down.

By the way, nobody is watching the Nets — 39,000 people a game. On the YES network. They could get better numbers showing a repeat of a random mid-July Yankees/Twins game. So it’s not all about the market.

Klay Thompson masters scoring while barely having the ball

Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson follows through on a shot during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Warriors guard Klay Thompson possessed the ball for 1:28 last night.

Teammate Ian Clark had it for 2:05.

Obviously, Thompson made a little more of his opportunities.

Thompson scored an insane 60 points in 29 minutes in Golden State’s win over the Pacers.

Remarkably, he didn’t hijack the offense to produce those eye-popping numbers. Thompson shot a cool 21-of-33 from the field, and 20 of his baskets were assisted. In addition to Clark, Stephen Curry,Kevin Durant, Draymond Green andShaun Livingston all possessed the ball longer than Thompson.

In fact, nobody has come close to scoring so much while having the ball so little.

Here are the highest scoring games since the NBA began publishing possession time in 2013-14, marking points in time of possession:

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The the second-lowest time of possession on that leaderboard was also by Thompson. He scored 52 points in 2:40 of possession against the Kings in 2015.

But even that game required more than a minute of extra touch time.

Who has scored the most points in a game while possessing the ball for fewer than two minutes? Again, Thompson litters the list – with last night blowing the rest out of the water:

  • Klay Thompson (GSW-IND 12-5-16):60 in 1:28
  • Klay Thompson (GSW-DAL 1-27-16):45 in 1:40
  • Bojan Bogdanovic (BRK-PHI 3-15-16):44 points in 1:53
  • Klay Thompson (GSW-PHO 12-16-15):43 in 1:17
  • Anthony Davis (NOP-UTA 11-22-14):43 points in 1:36

Maybe Thompson knew what he was talking about when he said he wasn’t sacrificing for Durant. Even with his usage rate down slightly, Thompson has still found ways to flourish. He gets hot in a hurry.

It does take him a while to cool down, though.

Stephen Curry runs from bench into tunnel celebrating Klay Thompson 3-pointer (video)

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Ever been so excited you didn’t know to react?

That was Stephen Curry as Klay Thompson worked his way toward 60 points in 29 minutes, running from the bench toward midcourt then doubling back and heading right into the tunnel.

Eventually, Curry found his senses and tried to put out the fire.

Donatas Motiejunas’ agent, B.J. Armstrong: ‘We have our rights. We’re not going to show up’

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets and Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Brooklyn Nets fight for the loose ball at the Barclays Center on January 12, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.The Houston Rockets defeated the Brooklyn Nets 113-99. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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After the Rockets matched the Nets’ offer sheet, Donatas Motiejunas skipped his Houston physical today.

It doesn’t sound as if Motiejunas will become more cooperative anytime soon.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Unlike previous examples of Armstrong making foolish points to protect his clients, this could be a path that bites his client.

Motiejunas’ rights here were collectively bargained, and they’re pretty clear here.

He has a right not to undergo the physical within two days of Houston matching, but that means the Rockets can hold him in limbo through March 1. On March 2, his offer sheet would become void, and he’d be a restricted free agent – and unable to sign with Brooklyn for a year. Houston could also elect to formalize its offer match or make him a restricted free agent – still without the ability to sign with Brooklyn for a year – at any point between now and March 1.

Motiejunas probably wants the Rockets to “fail” him on his physical, which would send him to the Nets under the terms of the offer sheet. I doubt he’d even need to actually come in for a checkup if the failing is prearranged. But that’d require Houston general manager Daryl Morey squandering an asset out of the goodness of his heart.

Otherwise, Motiejunas is heading toward exercising his right to not get paid – while losing the ability for one year to sign with the one team outside Houston we know wants him.

Report: Donatas Motiejunas no-shows physical after Rockets match Nets’ offer

Donatas Motiejunas, Kenneth Faried
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Nets’ signed Rockets restricted free agent Donatas Motiejunas to an offer sheet. Houston elected to match.

Case closed?

Hardly.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Houston has a right to demand Motiejunas undergo a physical within two days of exercising its matching rights, which it did yesterday. Motiejunas is requires to answer questions truthfully and supply requested medical information.

If Motiejunas fails to meet those requirements, he hangs in limbo until the Rockets decide his fate.

At any time between now and March 1, they could elect to undo their offer-sheet match. That would invalidate Motiejunas’ offer sheet and make him a restricted free agent again, and the Nets couldn’t sign him for a year. On March 2, the same effect will become automatic.

I don’t see what Motiejunas gains by not reporting. If he fails his Houston physical, he’d go to Brooklyn on the terms of the offer sheet.

By not undergoing the physical, he goes nowhere.