The NBA may be getting overshadowed in the midst of the first weekend of mind-blowing March Madness, but Charles Barkley managed to shake things up as usual in the world of pro hoops.
Barkley criticized the league during a broadcast for the NCAA tournament, saying that the play was worse than ever and, according to sportingnews.com, Barkley made the following statement at an event last Tuesday:
“Clearly, the NBA sucks right now. The NBA is the worst it’s ever been,” Barkley said. “I feel bad for the fans because they are not getting a quality product. All the players are making a lot of money, but these fans are not getting quality basketball.”
Ouch and double ouch if you’re new NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
But the new commish responded by telling the Gaston Gazette that he believes the league is doing just fine.
“The league is in great shape. The level of competition is terrific and I hear directly from fans as well,” Silver said in a Q&A; with the Gazette. “Night in and night out, we see a great product on the floor and have some of the best players on the floor that have ever played the game. … To me, the game can always get better, and we’re constantly looking to tinker the rules. But I’m very satisfied where the league is right now.”
At least someone is satisfied.
But I’d bet that fans of the 22 teams who have not won a championship in the past 30 years aren’t exactly “satisfied” with the level of competition in the NBA.
That’s right, eight NBA franchises have won the last 30 NBA championships. That number includes the Houston Rockets’ two championships (which they wouldn’t have won had Michael Jordan not gone AWOL) and the Dallas Mavericks’ one championship.
In other words, six teams have won 27 of the last 30 championships and even this fan, who roots for one of the successful six, is not “satisfied.”
Sure, the level of competition in the Western Conference is pretty good, but is anyone really delusional enough to believe that the conference champion won’t be the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder?
Right about now you might be thinking, ‘What about the Los Angeles Clippers or the Houston Rockets?’ What about them? Would you really bet on them to beat the Spurs or Thunder in a seven-game series? If you did, you’d be throwing your money away.
As for the level of competition in that other conference, well, let’s just say terrific isn’t exactly the word I would use to describe it.
In fact, the Eastern Conference is so bad that the third-place Toronto Raptors would not even make the playoffs in the West.
Yes, the third-place Toronto Raptors would play the sixth-place Washington Wizards if the playoffs ended today. Do I really need to go any further than that? Can the average NBA fan name two players from either team?
I will go further, though, as the East is just like the West in that no sane person really believes that there are more than two teams with a chance to win the conference: the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers — and mostly just the Heat, even though it pains me as a Chicago Bulls fan to say so.
So, only a fool would say that a league is in great shape when the conference races are totally lopsided and completely dominated by four teams, when six teams have dominated the league for 30 years, when teams are losing on purpose and when former players are lashing out at the quality of basketball being showcased.
Maybe Silver should be less worried about selling more jerseys and more concerned with how to get back to a league that is actually competitive.
Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @NPMendoza