Chicago Bulls v Atlanta Hawks - Game Six

Courtesy of a technical difficulty: A brief, precious symphony of basketball


Every Tuesday, Turner Sports allows NBA fans worldwide to decide which game will be broadcast — in glorious high definition — nation-wide on their basketball-only network, NBA TV. “Fan Night” is the channel’s most overt catering to the game’s faithful, and a nice treat for basketball fans that, for whatever reason, opt not to invest in the full NBA League Pass package.

Only this past Tuesday, a technical difficulty gave NBA fans a nice — if brief — gift of a different kind. When Ernie Johnson, back in the NBA TV studio, attempted to throw the call of the Fan Night game to Neil Funk and Stacey King in Chicago, we were left only with the beautiful, organic sounds of the game itself:

The NBA’s play-by-play men and color commentators do a good job of keeping casual viewers informed as to what’s going on in the game and analyzing performances in progress, but for NBA TV’s Fan Night — which makes its target audience clear up front — I wonder if this isn’t something we should see (well, hear) for a full game every week. NBA fans generally don’t need to be told that Josh Smith is the player who just clanged a long jumper, or that Derrick Rose is that blurred speedster running down the lane. They know the names and faces of the game, but because of the format of the standard NBA broadcast, basketball’s organic rhythms are reserved solely for those lucky enough to sit in the lower bowl of the arena and limited to whatever sounds permeate the blaring arena music and P.A. prompts for “DE-FENSE.”

All of these presentational elements have their place and purpose, and I’m not suggesting that they be taken away from the regular game experience. Simply that on this one night a week, in which NBA TV surrenders its programming power to fans, that those same fans are allowed to experience the game on a more intimate, natural level.

Let’s hear the sneaker squeaks. Let’s hear that chatty Bulls defense communicating after every action. Let’s hear Carlos Boozer’s expletive after giving up an easy bucket to Josh Smith. Hell, let’s even hear the metronomic sound of a bouncing ball. This is what basketball sounds like, and it would do fans of the game — on their night, no less — good to hear that hardwood symphony a bit more regularly.

James Harden: “I am the best player in the league. I believe that.”

James Harden, Stephen Curry
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James Harden was the MVP last season — if you ask his fellow NBA players.

The traditional award (based on a media vote) went to Stephen Curry (in the closest vote in four years), and that was the right call (in my mind). But from the time it happened Harden did not buy it. And he still doesn’t buy it. In the least — and he’s using that as fuel for this season. That’s what he told Fran Blinebury over at

“I am the best player in the league. I believe that,” he said. “I thought I was last year, too.”

Well, it’s a more realistic claim than Paul George’s.

“But that award means most valuable to your team. We finished second in the West, which nobody thought we were going to do at the beginning of the year even when everybody was healthy. We were near the top in having the most injuries. We won our division in a division where every single team made the playoffs.

“There’s so many factors. I led the league in total points scored, minutes played. Like I said, I’m not taking anything away from Steph, but I felt I deserved the Most Valuable Player. That stays with me.”

That’s very Kobe Bryant of you to turn that into fuel. Defining the MVP Award is an annual discussion that nobody agrees on.

I could get into how Harden was the old-school, traditional stats MVP, how that ignores how Steve Kerr used Curry, and how that opened up the Warriors’ offense to championship levels. Curry put up numbers, but he was also the distraction, the bright star that Kerr used to open up looks for Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Curry’s strength was not just what he did with the ball in his hands, but his gravity to draw defenders even when he didn’t. Did the Warriors stay healthier than the Rockets? No doubt. Should Curry be penalized for that?

It’s simple for Harden — if he can put up those numbers again, if he can be the fulcrum of a top offense, he will be in the discussion for MVP again. And, if he can lead the Rockets beyond the conference finals, nobody will talk about that MVP snub anyway.