Just My Thoughts: The World of Sports (Jan. 11-17)

The John Scott Effect: Fan Voting from a Business Perspective

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One year ago John Scott became a household name. Scott was voted into the NHL All-Star Game by fans as the Pacific division Captain. The move was controversial, as many saw Scott as not deserving, having been a tough guy his entire career. More, the league believe, that the move came as fans abusing the fan voting system. However, his supporters remained adamant that Scott was deserving, and that they would love to see the enforcer play. The saga got complicated when Scott was traded to the Montreal Canadiens, and told he may be ruled ineligible to play, later being sent down to Montreal’s AHL affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps. Scott was defiant, and claimed he would not step down and would play in the All-Star Game. On January 19th 2016, the NHL announced that, despite the trade, John Scott would remain captain of the Pacific division team.  This move brought the National Broadcasting Corporation Sports Network (NBCSN) their best ever ratings for an NHL All-Star Game. The 2016 All-Star Game saw a 34% increase in viewership, from the 2015 All-Star Game. While this came the same year the NHL switched to a 3 on 3 tournament format, it is evident how large of an effect Scott had the event.

With this in mind, the NBA’s fan voting system has come under fire recently. Golden State Warriors veteran center Zaza Pachulia had 823,376 votes in the last fan voting update, which slots him in second place in the Western Conference’s frontcourt voting. The top three frontcourt vote-getters, should secure their spot in the NBA All-Star Game as a starter. Despite the common belief, Pachulia is not a bench player. He is, in fact, a starter, starting on arguably the best team in the NBA. However, the big man is not a star, averaging only 5.5 points per game (PPG), 5.9 rebounds per game (RPG) and 2.1 assists per game (APG). Zaza is more of a role player, helping the Warriors with matchups, as they are a very small team other than Pachulia. Similarly to Scott’s case, Pachulia’s campaign has been criticized. However, the NBA did not want to take any risks with the process. So, they made a change to fan voting prior to this season.

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Last year, Pachulia finished 4th in All-Star voting for the Western frontcourt, only 14,000 votes behind San Antonio Spurs’ superstar Kawhi Leonard. The NBA breathed a sigh of relief, as they wanted no part in something similar to the Scott situation. The NBA changed their voting format to weight votes; 50% from the fans, 25% from the media and 25% from the players. It is very unlikely we will see the big man from Georgia (the former Soviet republic) in New Orleans. That is a crying shame. The NBA is the absolute best at growing their product internationally of the Big 4 Leagues in the North America (NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL). Consider how popular Yao Ming was in NBA fan-voting when he was in the league. Ming was selected to eight all-star games, despite only playing for eight seasons. Now Ming was truly deserving most seasons. But, his ability to reach a large, global audience made him one of the NBA’s biggest stars. In November 2007, Ming played against fellow Chinese player Yi Jianlian for the first time in the NBA. This matchup between the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks was one of the most watched games in NBA history, with over 200 million in China ALONE tuning in to the matinee.

Now Pachulia does not have the same kind of reach. Though, he was born in the Soviet Union. There is only one Russian-born NBA player right now, Los Angeles Lakers’ center Timofey Mozgov. Clearly Pachulia has a strong following in Europe, since he has been extremely high in All-Star voting for two years. So, why not market him to Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region? The CIS has not had a hero in basketball since Andrei Kirilenko was in the NBA. In April of 2016, the NBA partnered with Sports.ru, Russia’s leading sports website to produce Russian-hosted NBA content. Allowing Pachulia into the All-Star Game would be the perfect way of capitalizing on this newfound audience.

All things considered, why not capitalize on an opportunity to do something different? Put Pachulia in the All-Star Game. It is a low-risk, high reward scenario. Even if Pachulia was not received well, this game would attract medium and light viewers, some of whom may just want to watch the game for Pachulia. Even those against Pachulia would watch the game, hoping he would fail or look lackluster. As the saying goes, “any publicity is good publicity”. Put Pachulia in the All-Star game and the NBA’s media presence would skyrocket. On a national, and, more importantly, on an International level, the impact would be far-reaching. Spanning all the way from the U.S. to Russia, and all through Europe. The CIS region has a population of nearly 300 million people. If the NBA could grab the attention of as little as five percent, that is 15 million watching the NBA All-Star game in an undeveloped market. Let us not forget that the guys who do not want to play in the All-Star Game, and instead want time off for a holiday, Bulls guard Jimmy Butler said being voted into the All-Star Game means “absolutely nothing”. If one of your stars, who has been there multiple times, is saying that, it should be a sign that giving a star some time off, and letting a journeyman go, would be a good idea.

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Finally, the NBA is changing right now. Look at some of the young guns in the league right now from Europe; Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kristaps Porzingis, Nikola Jokic, Jonas Valanciunas; the list goes on. Pachulia was one of the first centers to be able to move the ball effectively in the league, something players like Jokic polished in Europe and have now brought over to the NBA. With all this mind, give the journeyman a chance to shine and take part in a great weekend in New Orleans. At the end of the day Pachulia would not just represent himself. He would represent Georgia, the CIS region, even Europe. Most importantly, he would represent all those journeymen who never got to play in an All-Star Game. Make it happen NBA.

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The Weekly Rap

  • The Toronto Raptors win against the Boston Celtics last week kicked off a hot streak. The Raps have won their last four games, the last three coming in easier outings against the Brooklyn Nets twice and a blowout against the New York Knicks. Tuesday evening Kyle Lowry was rested and back-up point guard Cory Joseph stepped up dropping 33 points on 15 for 22 shooting. Even Raptors’ prospect Fred Van Vleet played a career-high 25 minutes, running the point like a veteran.
  • The Raptors fortunes are changing at the right time, as the Cleveland Cavaliers are not playing well. The Raptors are only 1.5 games back of the Cavaliers. If the Cavs continue to struggle, and the Raptors go on a lengthy run they could take over first in the Eastern Conference.

Top 5 NBA Power Rankings

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  1. Warriors (35-6)
  • Golden State absolutely thrashed the Cavaliers. LeBron James was left frustrated, and the Warriors looked like the better team by far. The Warriors still have some tough games ahead of them in January, facing the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers. However, one of the most emotional games of the season could come this evening. Tonight the Warriors welcome Oklahoma City taking on the Thunder. It could get ugly.
  1. Spurs (32-9)
  • San Antonio has gone 2-2 in their last four games, but Kawhi Leonard is heating up and has dropped 30 points in all four of those games. If Leonard can consistently produce close to 30 points a night and continue his Defensive Player of the Year candidacy, the former Finals’ MVP can help the Spurs compete with any team.
  1. Clippers (29-14)
  • After a poor stretch, the Los Angeles Clippers find themselves back in the thick of things. The Clippers have won their last seven, with all of those wins coming by a margin of eight or more points. DeAndre Jordan has averaged 15.3 PPG, 17.6 RPG, and 2.3 BPG in the month of January, and been a huge reason for the Clippers resurgence in the Western Conference standings.
  1. Rockets (32-12)
  • Houston has lost three of their last four. But, James Harden is still playing ridiculously well. However, if the Rockets want to have any shot at beating Golden State again this week, they will need to have everyone shooting well and playing good defense. Golden State looks like they have found another gear, and the Rockets will need to find that extra gear as well if they want to be victorious.
  1. Cavaliers (29-11)
  • Away from Quicken Loans Arena the Cavaliers have been mediocre of late. They are 11-8 on the road this season, and they have not looked good. They were embarrassed on Martin Luther King Day against the Warriors, and it cannot be forgotten they lost to an under-performing Portland Trail Blazers squad by 16 last week. Not to mention they only scored 86 points against the Trail Blazers, one of the worst defenses in the league. Cleveland needs to get on track. Fortunately for them, their early season success has protected them while they find their form.

 

NHL News

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The Penalty Box

  • The New York Islanders fired head coach Jack Capuano this past week. The firing was unexpected, as the team’s performance has improved of late. The Isles are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games, better than their usual performance this season. Doug Weight will assume coaching duties and attempt to right the ship, but a rebuild may be in store for the Islanders.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning have won two games in January. That is not going to get you to the playoffs, especially when you are already behind the pack. It does not get any easier as the Lighting still have four games left on their eight game road-trip and are 9-12-3 away from home. If the Lighting do not turn it around soon, things will get pretty dark with such high expectations down South.

Stars of the Week

NHL: APR 07 Penguins at Senators

  • How about Mark Stone? The Ottawa Senators have struggled to find scoring outside of Erik Karlsson and Kyle Turris this season, but Stone is on a tear as of late. Stone has 18 points in his last 17 games, and has continued his strong defensive play, stealing pucks from unsuspecting players night after night. Stone’s consistency will be imperative to the Senators’ push for the playoffs.
  • The Washington Capitals nine game win-streak came to the end in a game of the year candidate against the Pittsburgh Penguins, falling 8-7 in overtime. However, their recent success has seen them catch up to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and are now within striking distance to take first place in the Eastern Conference and Metropolitan Division. A lot of this success can be attributed to stellar goaltending from Braden Holtby and Phillip Grubauer, but also a red-hot Alexander Ovechkin who has 16 points in his last 14 games.

 

NFL First Down and Three & Out

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  • Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers took down the Dallas Cowboys in the most watched game in NFL Divisional round history. A late charge by the Cowboys was not enough, after Rodgers, on 3rd and 20, found Jared Cook on the sidelines for a sensational catch. Afterwards, as time winded down, Packers’ kicker Mason Crosby nailed a field goal from 51 yards out to send the Packers to the NFC Championship game. What made the Rodgers to Cook connection even more impressive was that Rodgers drew the play up himself in the huddle, telling receivers what routes to run. Cowboys’ head coach Jason Garrett said Rodgers will go down as “one of the top-three QBs of all-time”. A huge compliment for the MVP candidate.
  • The 72 million dollar man himself Brock Osweiler was brutal against the New England Patriots. The Houston Texans’ quarterback threw three interceptions and was held under 200 yards with only one touchdown. Osweiler did not step up when it mattered and unless things change he will likely continue to underwhelm for the next three years.

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What to watch this week?

  • Wednesday: Penguins vs Canadiens 7:30pm ET, Thunder vs Warriors 10:30pm ET, Sharks vs Kings 10:30pm ET
  • Thursday: Senators vs Blue Jackets 7:00pm ET, Capitals vs Blues 8:00pm ET
  • Friday: Raptors vs Hornets 7:00pm ET, Warriors vs Rockets 8:00pm ET, Bulls vs Hawks 8:00pm ET
  • Saturday: Senators vs Maple Leafs 7:00pm ET, Rockets vs Grizzlies 8:00pm ET, Spurs vs Cavaliers 8:30pm ET, Ducks vs Wild 9:00pm ET Oilers vs Flames 10:00pm ET
  • Sunday: Bruins vs Penguins 3:00pm ET, Packers vs Falcons 3:05pm ET, Steelers vs Patriots 6:40pm ET
  • Monday: Kings vs Rangers 7:00pm ET, Clippers vs Hawks 7:30pm ET, Thunder vs Jazz 9:00pm ET
  • Tuesday: Spurs vs Raptors 7:00pm ET, Capitals vs Senators 7:30pm ET

 

Special thanks to Geoff Marlowe for helping with the editing work and a big thank you to you the reader for taking your time to read my work! Appreciate it! Hope you continue to read along, if you have any suggestions/comments/questions, please feel free to inbox me or talk to me on Twitter @sassysaslove.

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