The NBA’s 66-game sprint is almost, kinda, getting there, to the halfway point of its season. Given that this is unlike any season we’ve seen in a while, let’s take a look at what we’ve learned so far.
Remember the lockout? No? That’s OK, no one else does: The common consensus after the NBA and its players reached a deal on the new collective bargaining agreement was that basketball fans, annoyed after watching millionaires fight billionaires, would stay away for awhile. Ha! In fact, the NBA should consider a lockout every season. Maybe not. But instead of being turned off, hoops fans just got hungrier.
According to ESPN’s Henry Abbott:
- ABC has had just three games, so it’s hard to say anything conclusive, but the audience is up five percent compared to a year ago.
- ESPN viewership is up 23 percent.
- TNT viewership is up 50 percent.
- NBA TV viewership is up an insane 66 percent.
- NBA on regional cable sports networks are up 12 percent.
- Local over-the-airwaves broadcasts are up 36 percent.
Kyrie Irving is probably mad at Ricky Rubio: Look, over the last couple of months I’ve lost enough sleep and watched more Minnesota Timberwolves basketball than I ever thought I would. La Pistola has been a revelation. He’s fun to watch and you’d buy a ticket just to watch him throw bounce passes. That said, Rickymania has overshadowed a pretty great rookie season by Kyrie Irving. He’s scoring 18.1 points a game. His player efficiency rating (an advanced metric that basically compares the good things a player does on a court to the bad stuff) stands at 22.13 (fifth among NBA point guards) and his usage rate (the percentage of team plays used by player while he was on the floor) is 27.4, fourth among NBA point guards.
- Assuming Dwight Howard doesn’t get traded to the Lakers, the Western Conference is Oklahoma City’s to lose. The Clippers? Yeah, they could give them a run, but bear in mind their schedule gets cray cray in the next couple of months, including 20 games in March. Let’s see how they get through that stretch.
- About Dwight. I don’t think Otis Smith will trade him at the deadline, but if he does, I have a hunch it will be to the Nets. Just a hunch.
- The Eastern Conference is going to come down to the Bulls and Heat again. And I see things turning out the same way.
- At the start of the year, I picked the Heat to beat OKC in the finals. I think I’ll stick with it.