For a man who was quick to openly and adamantly oppose online sports betting, David Stern can’t be happy about the odds that four small market teams may advance to the second round of the Western Conference NBA Playoffs.
Salt Lake City hasn’t been good to the Denver Nuggets and Derron Williams and Carlos Boozer have been downright nasty to a sputtering Nuggets team. Chauncey Billups is nowhere to be found and Coach Dantley can’t seem to figure out how to get J.R Smith to play productive basketball. It’s already looking like an early exit for one of the Western Conference’s elite teams as they are one loss away from elimination down 3-1 to the Jazz. It shouldn’t be all that surprising though, considering that the Nuggets limped into the playoffs without George Karl.
The Nuggets might have some company on the golf course as the Dallas Mavericks and their tantrum throwing owner Mark Cuban have run into a San Antonio Spurs team playing in championship form. To his credit, the second softest superstar in the league to Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, has done all he can to keep his Mavericks in it, short of kicking Tim Duncan in the balls. But San Antonio keeps firing on all cylinders and the rest of the Mavs don’t seem to have an answer, the Spurs have a strangle hold in that series at 3-1. The Phoenix Suns are also getting a good run for their money since the return of Brandon Roy for the Portland Trail Blazers. I guess it’s all or nothing this year for the Blazers since their willing to risk Roy’s career to win this series. Nobody knows why that’s necessary, but the result may be that the smaller market teams will be the ones left standing in the second round. The Lakers look like shit, and it’s looking like a real possibility they could get upset by the Oklahoma Thunder after they got taken out behind the woodshed for a sound drubbing over the weekend, now that series is knotted up at 2 games a piece.
If all the upsets play out, it’s a precarious situation for NBA commissioner David Stern as far TV ratings and the overall money to be generated from the NBA Playoffs. Utah, Oklahoma, Portland and even San Antonio are smaller market teams, they don’t come along with as much fan fare or generate as much TV ratings as say, a Los Angeles Lakers team or even the Dallas Mavericks. If ever Stern had the ability to start fixing games he’s probably thinking it over intensely right about now. Stern always does what’s in the best interest of the league, which I believe is code for, what will make the owners and the league the most money. But his hands might be tied on this one.
In past years, there weren’t a lot of people truly excited about watching the San Antonio Spurs play. I was one of those people. But this year is a little different for me, as long as I keep getting to see Eva Longoria on the sidelines I can stomach it. The problem for Stern is the Superstars that will be knocked out of the playoffs if the small market teams pull off upsets. Big names like Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd that usually draw a large crowd could be fishing during the second round of the playoffs. What will David Stern do? Not sure he can do anything, but just in case, I know I’ll be scrutinizing the calls with a squinted eye.