PBT Roundtable: Is NBA returning to 2-2-1-1-1 Finals format a good idea?

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Welcome to PBT’s regular roundtable on issues around the NBA, where our writers weigh in on the topic of the day.

Today: Is the NBA’s likely return to a 2-2-1-1-1 format for the NBA Finals (instead of the 2-3-2 that has been in place since 1985) a good idea?

Kurt Helin: I like it, but I don’t think it’s that big a change on the court, ultimately. The rule was put in back in an era when virtually every newspaper in America was flying reporters back and forth between Boston and Los Angeles in the Finals every year and complaining. The players few commercial, everyone did, and it made some sense from a logistical standpoint to go 2-3-2. I don’t think it does anymore, they should go back to a format where the team with the better record gets Game 5 at home. That said, no team gets to say they lost because of the format. It’s not that big a deal. Not to go all coach Norman Dale, but the basket is still 10 feet from the ground and 15 feet from the free throw line. The better team wins in seven games.

D.J. Foster: Now this explains why Kurt was at Summer League just muttering “my team is on the floor” over and over again. I agree that the 2-2-1-1-1 format won’t change an awful lot from a competition standpoint, but I do think it’s more exciting and gives more of the back-and-forth vibe that basketball is all about. It might be easier for casual hometown fans to stay more involved the series as well, for whatever that’s worth. And sure, the extra travel is a little tougher on media, but it all evens out because we get free ice cream at games. So long as I can rake in the free treats and airline miles, I’ll make it.

Brett Pollakoff: While I agree that the 2-3-2 format has never been the cause of a team losing (except maybe the Lakers in the 2004 Finals to the Pistons, but that’s a longer conversation for another time), it does give the team with home court advantage an incredible leg up in a longer series. No team should have games 6 and 7 at home, because it’s too much for the visitors to overcome — the last two times the Finals went 7, the home team trailed 3-2 in the series before winning the last two games to secure the title.

Every champion wins on the road in the playoffs, so ultimately the advantage isn’t too great. But I do believe that in closeout games is where the home court advantage is truly a factor, so it’s good to see the format switched to make it more equitable for both teams.

Dan Feldman: In terms of which team wins the series, it doesn’t matter. Essentially, the NBA is changing the order the favorite and underdog get their third home game. I don’t see a reason that switch would affect the likelihood either team wins the game, and the numbers back me up.

2-3-2 Finals (1985-2013, 1953, 1949)

Underdog third home game: 15-12 (56 percent)

Favorite third home game: 13-6 (68 percent)

Other Finals (including 1956, when the teams switched cities after each game)

Underdog third home game: 15-9 (63 percent)

Favorite third home game: 21-11 (66 percent)

That’s practically the same and well within random variance. The road to determining the champion might wind a little differently, but the destination will be the same either way.

Rhett Anderson: Since statistically and historically the Finals’ format hasn’t really affected their outcomes, the main reason I see is to streamline them with the rest of the playoffs. 2-3-2 always seemed arbitrary to me anyways, similar to first-round 5-game series of the past: why not standardize it all?

With the change, all series are now 7 games and 2-2-1-1-1 and the playoffs as a whole are more cohesive. In the end it’s probably not going to affect much other than team travel schedules and player rest levels – and that’s a moot point since if you make the Finals you’ve been traveling the 2-2-1-1-1 schedule for three series already anyways.

Kevin Love says about a month until he’s back on court with new-look Cavaliers

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LOS ANGELES — Kevin Love had some of the best seats in the house for the new-look Cavaliers and their 2-0 push before the break, and he wants back on the court to be part of it.

“I’m probably about two weeks out from getting this movable cast off for good, and then from there about a few weeks after that before I get back,” Love told NBCSports.com about his recovery from a fractured left hand. “So I have a good amount of time, about a month.”

Love was in Los Angeles all last weekend, where he had been voted onto the All-Star team by the coaches for the fifth time, but for the second consecutive year had to sit out due to injury. Love seemed to be at all the events in his former home Los Angeles — working with Kevin Hart for the “Closer Than Courtside” with Mountain Dew Kickstart, at the Beats by Dre party in Hollywood, and courtside for the All-Star Game itself sitting next to Kyrie Irving and LeBron James — but not on the court where he wants to be.

When he does get back on the court, it will be a very different team in Cleveland he’s playing with — and he thinks that’s a good thing.

“Just clearing out… I shouldn’t say that, just getting new faces and getting new energy in the locker room has been big for us,” Love told NBC Sports Saturday. “Even in the last two games, you can just see the energy is different, you can see guys are really competing on both ends of the floor, and that bodes well for us the second half of the season.”

The changes were needed.

“It might not have been a bad thing to get some fresh faces in there and guys from situations where they really wanted to win,” Love said during media day. “I think first and foremost, seeing those (new) guys in Atlanta, they didn’t play, but they got there right after the trade and they just said they want to win.

“You can tell when somebody says it, you can tell when somebody means it. They really meant it and it felt good to have that there.”

In Los Angeles, Love was having fun working with the other guy who seemed to be everywhere all weekend, comedian Kevin Hart. Love was working with Hart on the Mountain Dew Kickstart “Closer Than Courtside” Contest – a nationwide search to find Hart new “CourtsideKick” where fans tell Hart on social media why they think they’re courtside ready for a chance to sit with him during the NBA Playoffs.

“I’ve been drinking Code Red Mountain Dew, and Baja Blast forever,” Love said of this partnership. “My friend and I were just talking about how long we’ve been drinking Code Red, which is kind of a throwback flavor now.”

He’s just drinking it with his right hand. His left — his off, non-shooting hand — is still in that soft cast.

But having been down the injury road before, Love knows what it takes to get back.

“Just look at it from an optimistic point of view,” Love said of his mental process. “Even last year I missed the New Orleans All-Star Game because I just had my knee scoped, so just knowing that I’ve been there before, knowing that I’ve had success coming back, and just getting over that mental hurdle of coming back from an injury.

“Looking at it glass half full, it’s my left hand, so I can still do a ton of stuff out there on the floor and be ready to play in a month.”

A ton of stuff includes both cardio work and being able to do some strength and lifting with bands so that when the cast does come off his return to the court is faster. Once he gets there, Love expects that even with the new players he’ll be back in the same roles playing both the four and a lot at the five with these smaller, speedier lineups.

“I know we will supplement different guys in the lineup,” Love said. “I’ll hopefully be able to come back quite easily, I’ll have my legs under me — like I said, just because it’s my left hand — and I’ll be able to get back into rhythm here really fast.”

The Cavaliers hope so, too.

Little change in TV ratings for new-look NBA All-Star Game

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NEW YORK (AP) — A new format for the NBA All-Star Game had a negligible impact on television ratings.

Total viewership for the game was down slightly compared to last year, although it improved over 2014, the previous time the league’s midseason showcase faced competition from the Winter Olympics.

Turner Sports announced on Monday that the game drew an average of 7.7 million viewers Sunday night on TNT. Last year’s game attracted an average of 7.8 million viewers. In 2014 during the Sochi Olympics, an average of 7.5 million people watched the NBA’s best at the All-Star Game.

This year’s game abandoned the traditional East-vs.-West format in favor of teams selected by superstars LeBron James and Stephen Curry. James’ team won 148-145 in an uncommonly competitive matchup that featured better effort on defense.

Turner said the ratings improved among key demographics, including people between ages 18 and 34, and that video views on social media channels were up 37 percent compared to 2017.

Fergie says she “tried my best” after national anthem blowback

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fergie is apologizing after trying something different with the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game.

“I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA,” the Grammy-winning singer said in a statement Monday. “I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”

Fergie’s slow, bluesy rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sunday night wasn’t particularly well received at Staples Center or on social media before the 67th edition of the NBA’s annual showcase.

A low chuckle rumbled through the sold-out arena after she finished the first line of the song with a throaty growl on “the dawn’s early light.”

Fans throughout the star-studded crowd reacted with varying levels of bemusement and enthusiasm while her languid, 2 +-minute version of the song continued. Although Fergie was on pitch, her tempo, musical accompaniment and sexy delivery were not exactly typical for a sporting event or a patriotic song.

Golden State All-Star Draymond Green captured Sunday’s mood – and became an instant GIF – when he was shown open-mouthed on the scoreboard and the television broadcast in apparent confusion over the unique vocal stylings. Green then chuckled to himself after realizing he was on TV.

After a forceful finish, Fergie finally got big cheers when she shouted, “Let’s play some basketball!”

The Black Eyed Peas singer, born Stacy Ann Ferguson, is from nearby Hacienda Heights, California.

Famed basketball commentator Charles Barkley joked that he “needed a cigarette” after Fergie’s performance during the TNT halftime show.

Former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal leaped to Fergie’s defense, saying: “Fergie, I love you. It was different. It was sexy. I liked it. Leave her alone.”

Others on social media weren’t as kind, with criticism of the performance outpacing the positive reviews.

 

Did Lakers help keep LeBron James in Cleveland with trade?

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When the trade went down between the Lakers and Cavaliers before the deadline — sending Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland in exchange for Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye plus Cleveland’s 2018 first-round draft pick (top-five protected) — it caught the NBA by surprise.

The first reaction for a lot of people to the deal? This opens up as much as $70 million in cap space for the Lakers this summer (depending on other moves with players such as Julius Randle). Los Angeles could sign two max players — LeBron James and Paul George. Why would Cleveland help Los Angeles open up room to steal LeBron.

The Cavaliers didn’t see it that way — they knew they had to make a major shakeup or LeBron was gone. At that point, does it matter where? So in a series of moves, Cleveland GM Koby Altman radically remade the roster around LeBron. The goal was to energize them back into being the team to beat in the East, and from there make it hard for him to leave as a free agent. Since the trades, the Cavaliers are 2-0 and LeBron has clearly been reinvigorated, plus they will add Kevin Love back in a few weeks.

Altman’s plan seems to be working, one executive told Mark Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he stays in Cleveland now,” one high-ranking Eastern Conference team executive said. “The Cavaliers put a really good team around him. The Cavaliers have made it really tough for him to decide to leave Cleveland again. The Lakers might have helped them keep LeBron.”

I had heard from sources for a while LeBron to the Lakers was not likely (Paul George is another story, that door remains open). As Spears notes, the Lakers did not have an All-Star in Sunday’s game. Even if LeBron and PG13 went to Los Angeles, that team was third or fourth best in the West next season. LeBron is in full on legacy mode and wants to win rings. Los Angeles is not the place to do it.

Houston is interesting (and it’s still a team I hear some execs think has a real shot), but the gutting or role players on that roster to make it work would be a concern. Maybe a dark horse such as Philadelphia can emerge. However, if LeBron can lead this newly-energized Cavaliers team to the Finals again (his eighth consecutive trip there), they get a high draft pick with the Brooklyn pick, then LeBron gets a commitment from Altman and owner Dan Gilbert to keep spending and being aggressive, where is he going to be closer to a title than at home?