Having read Rob Mahoney’s post in this space earlier, and having caught up on Howard Beck’s screed on the New York Times’ “Off the Dribble” blog, it is time to weigh in on the NBA’s dirty little secret, and why so many seemingly out-of-bounds ballots are cast in the polling for the league’s postseason awards.
Yes, the vote for each individual NBA postseason award other than Executive of the Year is a media poll.
And, yes, transparency should be a priority for any self-respecting media member.
Only in this case, it is not that simple.
And all is not as it appears.
In recent years, several media outlets have banned their employees from voting for such awards, due to concerns about conflicts of interests.
Beyond that, as the media industry contracts, there are fewer traveling beat reporters, with many teams being covered by a single newspaper beat writer on the road.
When the postseason ballots are distributed to media-relations staffs, the priority is distributing them to those who see the team on a fulltime basis, both home and away.
And that’s where it gets murky and why more than a few self-serving votes apparently are being cast.
Among the electorate are NBA employees, those directly drawing checks from the teams themselves.
Television broadcasters. Television analysts. Radio play-by-play men. Radio color commentators.
Take the Miami Heat, for example. Postseason voting privileges are granted to five team employees who work for the organization’s broadcast outlets.
While all have ample credentials and integrity, the fact remains that employees of teams are voting in award races that involve players on those teams.
The league’s rationalization is it is the only way to create to substantial electorate.
But these are employees of the very same teams that are creating award campaigns.
It is one thing to have votes cast from broadcasters from national media outlets. Their paychecks aren’t signed by the Knicks or Nets or Nuggets.
But as long as team employees are voting, the process will remain suspect even with total transparency.
Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.