The NBA's forgotten demographic

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The NBA makes all kinds of concerted efforts to account for and appeal to their target demographics. There are ticket packages designed for families with young children, dance teams that draw in the ogling masses, and sponsorships that often speak to very particular audiences. The league is even willing to fiddle with its uniforms for a few nights as a celebration of Hispanic and Spanish-speaking fans all across the globe.

There are efforts to reach out, to celebrate, to embrace, to give back, to draw in, and to flat-out earn. But there’s a startlingly large population of fans that seems to exist between the NBA’s target audiences: female fans. So much of the professional sporting experience is tailor-made for the heterosexual male, because after all, sports are manly, and sporting events are where manly men like to go.

Only the NBA audience consists of a dwindling percentage of manly men, and a growing percentage of basketball-driven women. It’s not threatening, and it’s not an invasion. Hell, it’s not even all that new. Female fans have been enjoying the NBA game for years, and the only real flaw in the NBA’s massive and comprehensive master plan to lure in and entertain their audience is that they’ve failed to cater to a good chunk of their fan base.

Sarah Tolcser framed the female fan experience — or at the very least, her female fan experience — splendidly in a guest post for Hardwood Paroxysm (which, if I may disclaim, is a site I’m a contributor for). It’s not filled with bile or rage, but a legitimate query into why no one has bothered to account for 40% of the NBA’s fans:

The NBA has been way ahead of the other major sports leagues in
pioneering some things, such as social media. It’s time they show they
can get with the program when it comes to their female fans. As a
Hornets season ticketholder, I’ve taken surveys as a member of many
different demographic classes- including ticketholder, event attender,
arena food and drink buyer, merchandise purchaser, web content
consumer, and New Orleans resident. You know what I realize they’ve
never once asked me? What more they could be doing for me as a female
fan.

And you know, NBA, I would really like to be asked that question.
Because I have some things to say that might surprise you, things like,
“The answer is not more pink jerseys.” Things like, as a member of a
growing class of unmarried women ages 25-44,”family friendly”
promotions and cute distractions on court during the game entice me no
more than they entice male fans. Things like, some of the advertising
spots from your own sponsors have sexist overtones that make me
uncomfortable. Things like, when I go to your official website and see
scantily-clad girls on the front page, I can’t help feeling that the
NBA is not meant to be “for me.”

I don’t see this evolving into a movement or a protest, but if it were to do so, there could probably be no better slogan than “The answer is not more pink jerseys.” We’re to the point where adding sequins to things really isn’t getting the job done, and all of the tiny little flashy discs in the world shouldn’t deflect our attention from the fact that a real, relevant, and influential group of NBA fans are being completely ignored.

  

Bucks’ Jabari Parker “frustrated,” wants more playing time

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In the first two games against Boston, Jabari Parker is 1-of-7 shooting, has grabbed 15 percent of the available rebounds while on the court (low for a big expected to board), has more turnovers than assists, has been exploited on defense by Boston, and is -29. All in just 25 minutes.

Parker is also frustrated he isn’t getting more minutes and more of a chance to prove himself. From Stephen Watson of WISN News 12 in Milwaukee:

While there are questions about how Joe Prunty has handled the Bucks and their rotations in this series, more Jabari Parker is nobody’s answer. Except Parker’s. And Celtics’ fans. Parker can be as frustrated as he wants, he hasn’t played his way into more minutes.

Parker returned to the Bucks in January after rehab on his second ACL surgery and averaged 12.6 points per game. He showed some value, with an ability to score efficiently inside and shooting 38 percent from three, averaging 12.6 points per game. But he remains a below-the-rim player who struggles to defend, and in the playoffs that gets a guy a seat.

It’s going to be an interesting summer. Parker is a restricted free agent this summer and the Bucks do not see him as a core part of their future next to Giannis Antetokounmpo anymore, they are not going to come in with a big offer to keep him. However, his play (especially in the postseason) and injury history, combined with a tight free agent market, means he may not have many suitors at all. Is it possible a rebuilding team willing to take a chance — Phoenix, Atlanta, etc. — would come in with an offer higher than the Bucks would match? Yes, it’s possible. But it won’t be for a lot of years, just one or two as teams want to see if he can get right and become the player he once projected to be.

Sixers’ Joel Embiid upgraded to “probable,” will start in Game 3 Thursday

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Everything you saw in the first two games of this Miami/Philadelphia playoff series you can throw out in the trash.

Joel Embiid is back and is now “probable” for Game 3, the Sixers announced, upgrading his status from “doubtful” earlier in the day. Embiid had been out with a concussion and orbital bone fracture.

Embiid will go through warmups — trying out both a mask and goggles — then will make a formal decision. However, he is expected to go. He certainly wants to play. And he is expected to start. How many minutes he can go remains to be seen.

This changes the Sixers and the series. Yes, Philly has likely Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons and high quality role players such as J.J. Redick and Robert Covington, however, is Embiid that makes it all work. Put simply, when Embiid is on the court the Sixers are 15.2 points per 100 possessions better — their defense is elite and their offense is outstanding.

The Sixers will be better with their best player back in the fold, but don’t think this makes the series a cakewalk for Philly. It changes everything about matchups, but things are not all positives. When Embiid is on the court, the up-tempo, ball-movement style that the Sixers built around Simmons slows down and stops at points. The Sixers have played Hassan Whiteside and his rim protection off the court with floor spacing shooting bigs, now he has a place to be in the matchups. There are things the Heat can do now that may work for them.

It just may not matter — Philadelphia just got a lot better.

PBT Podcast: NBA first round playoff series breakdowns

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LeBron James‘ Cavaliers looks to be in a battle royal in the first round — and they could lose to Victor Oladipo‘s Pacers.

Miami’s defense and versatility is challenging the Sixers and shaking the faith of all those that just jumped on the bandwagon.

Utah stole a game in Oklahoma City showing great grit and resolve, not to mention a lot of Donovan Mitchell.

Anthony Davis has done everything but walk on water for the Pelicans.

The first round of the NBA playoffs has been filled with fascinating storylines — and we are just two games into each series. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break down all eight first-round series in this podcast, starting in the East and the tight races there, then move into the West. There’s even some “who wants to pay Jabari Parker this summer?” talk thrown in.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

James Dolan says Knicks must build around ‘great’ Kristaps Porzingis, offers fair rebuke of meddling charges

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Phil Jackson received a standing ovation in his first game at Madison Square Garden as Knicks president. Don’t forget how excited New York was for Jackson, who coached the Bulls and Lakers to 11 championships and played for the Knicks’ last title team. He was welcomed as a potential savior.

The common refrain: Jackson would have a chance to succeed if Knicks owner James Dolan didn’t meddle.

Immediately, Dolan said he would cede control to Jackson “willingly and gratefully.” Dolan later pledged to honor Jackson’s full five-year contract.

But fans turned on Jackson as he did an awful job and the Knicks struggled. Dolan opted into the final two years of Jackson’s contract, anyway, as he said he would all along. Fans got angrier. When Jackson publicly flaunted Kristaps Porzingis trade talks, outrage reached a fever pitch. Finally, Dolan stepped in to fire Jackson.

Dolan, via Larry Brooks of the New York Post:

“A great player in hockey is the difference, but a great player in basketball is the team.

“And I think we have a great player in Porzingis. We just have to build around him.”

“Everybody who wants to talk about the Knicks wants to ask me about Phil Jackson,” Dolan said, smiling and shaking his head. “The entire market wanted to me to hire him and when I did, the entire market said it was a great move. The only thing was, everyone said that I shouldn’t interfere with him.

“Three years later, everyone wanted to know when I was going to do something about Phil. The same people who told me not to interfere wanted me to interfere. But that’s OK. I just think that Phil underestimated the job.”

Dolan makes a salient point about how people perceive his involvement. The problem isn’t that Dolan meddles. It’s that he makes poor decisions.

Hiring Jackson – an out-of-touch former coach with no front-office experience – was a poor decision. I’m not enthused about Steve Mills as Jackson’s replacement, either, though we’ll see how that plays out.

Building around Porzingis is a better decision. He’s an extremely talented 22-year-old.

But it’s hardly a foolproof plan. Porzingis is recovering from a torn ACL. Dolan said Porzingis could return in December – or miss next season entirely.

Either way, the Knicks must surround Porzingis with better teammates. Dolan will and should be a part of that process. Whether he’ll positively affect it is another matter.