NBA PM: EA, 2K Bidding for Jeremy Lin?
Video games have evolved into the perfect barometer for popularity in the world of sports. Where once, Larry Bird and Julius Erving stood together on the cover of a low-tech, one-on-one simulator without any controversy, now the media scrutinizes the practice like it’s the September issue of Vogue. Is he big enough to be on the cover? Will he appeal to young fans?
The removal of John Madden from the cover of his popular Electronic Arts NFL game set the “Madden” franchise apart and quickly put the debate in the hands of fans, media and seemingly everyone else. A year ago the franchise put it to a fan vote, which resulted in previously unheralded Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis landing the honor (he responded with a disappointing 10-game, 587-yard, three-touchdown season, which further supported the belief in the “Madden curse”).
Basketball has had its own cover drama as well. Without any guarantee of a 2011-2012 NBA Season, 2K Sports decided not to put a current NBA player on the cover of its latest edition of its licensed basketball game, instead opting to put a choice of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird or Michael Jordan on the front.
But now that the NBA lockout has ended, 2K Sports has to search for the next big name to put on their cover. Fans have already formed opinions about current NBA legends like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, so software companies try to avoid that could potentially generate negative feelings. Unless a company is choosing to sell different covers to different regions (James to Floridians, Bryant to Californians, etc.) the best bet is to catch a budding star on the upswing of his career—someone who fans can admire, or better yet, identify with.
Enter New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.
The breakout star is helping to erase the NBA’s tattered image following the lockout and he has tremendously broad appeal with most NBA fans. In addition to being young (at 23, he’s within 10 years of most gamers), Lin is a Christian icon who connects with America’s growing Asian population. He’s also playing in America’s largest media market (New York) and could save a software company from paying multiple big-name stars, which is what would happen if they sold covers regionally.
The good news for Lin—and fans of Lin—is that Electronic Arts is going back to the licensed NBA video games next season. The software giant has taken a hiatus from the NBA while allowing Take-Two Interactive (the maker of 2K Sports) to corner the market. Now, with Lin as the prize, the two companies could be going head to head once again.
“I would bet both Take-Two Interactive and Electronic Arts go after Lin,” Wedbush Morgan Securities videogame analyst Michael Pachter told Forbes’ John Gaudiosi. “Take-Two is in New York, so they are living through the hype. He’s a great story, and will boost sales of either game, so I expect that there will be a bidding war for him. As the de facto market leader, Take-Two has more to lose, and as the new entrant, EA has more to gain. It will be interesting.”
One would think that Lin’s presence on the cover of a video game would get the biggest reaction out of Asian markets, but Pacther wasn’t so sure.
“I don’t see huge a sales bump (presumably that was supposed to be ‘a huge sales bump’) in Asia, as the installed base of consoles in China is nil, and Lin is not Japanese, so a large installed base there won’t help much,” Pacther explained. “But sales in other regions will benefit, perhaps by a couple of hundred thousand units.”
And at over $50 per game, a swing over a hundred thousand units could mean a difference of $5 million.
Of course, for Lin to capitalize on the growing video game market, he’ll have to sustain his 35.5 MPG, 22.5 PPG, 8.5 APG month-of-February statistics. The Knicks are 8-2 since he’s taken over as a starter and now that J.R. Smith and Baron Davis are on board, the team finally has enough depth for a serious postseason run. Some big moments in April, May and maybe (gasp) June would ensure Lin gets several significant endorsement offers this offseason to go along with the new contract he’ll be getting as a free agent.
Is Beaubois Really on the Market?
“Sources say Dallas is ready to move on from the Roddy Beaubois experiment. The Mavericks have thought for years that the talented young Frenchman could be another Tony Parker, but he has not been able to master the move from shooting guard to point guard. Nor has he been able to fill the void left by J.J. Barea. If they don’t move him before this year’s deadline, he could be gone over the summer.”
Still only 23, Beaubois’ future with the Mavericks might not actually be in jeopardy. He can get into the lane where he punishes opponents for fouling him (85.7% from the line this year) and has always been a surprisingly good rebounder for his height (at 6-2, he’s rebounded 8.5% of missed shots while he’s on the floor this season). He’s also capable of defending point guards, which makes him a necessary compliment to someone like Jason Kidd, who has trouble keeping up with younger, faster players.
While he may be taking awhile to develop as a point guard, Beaubois still has the support of some high-level executives in Dallas’ personnel department. Yes, Beaubois was getting less that 20 MPG before leaving the team to mourn for the death of his father, but if the Mavericks don’t re-sign Jason Terry this offseason (which they can’t afford to do if they’re making a run at Deron Williams), then Beaubois suddenly fits into their plans nicely.
Nets swingman DeShawn Steveson has to ice down his knees before and after games. Now in his 12th NBA season, the 30-year-old defensive ace admittedly can’t move like he once did and because of that, he’s been defending more small forwards than shooting guards.
Of course, at 6-5 (supposedly), Stevenson is giving up a few inches in height and wingspan to whomever he defends at the small forward position.
The bottom line is, nothing comes easily for Stevenson, and ultimately, that’s what makes him an effective NBA player.
Stevenson gave a good example of what he still brings to the table on Monday night against the Knicks. Defending Carmelo Anthony in his return from a groin injury, Stevenson induced a stupid offensive foul from the All-Star simply by out-positioning him in the post.
“I know Carmelo likes to get into the post,” Stevenson told HOOPSWORLD. “It goes both ways. You can’t hold a person off. I had my hands up. The next play, he got me with a pump fake.”
Anthony did induce a foul on Stevenson, as he mentioned, on the ensuing possession. However, those things are an acceptable consequence of playing as physically as Stevenson, who’s defended some of the NBA’s best during his underrated career.
“That’s what I do,” he said. “I go out there and try to get people (distracted) and that’s why I’ve been in the league for 12 years.”
Now the Nets are routinely criticized for being a last-place team, but they’ve won two of their last three games and they’re getting last year’s leading scorer, Brook Lopez, back from foot surgery incrementally (Lopez returned Sunday, sat Monday and will play again on Wednesday against Orlando). If they can win around 20 of their final 32 games, the Nets will have an outside shot at the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
That sounds improbable, but for a team that’s finally returning to health, it’s something worth playing for.
“We just got to keep playing like this,” Stevenson said. “We did this against Chicago and then laid an egg against… the Bucks. If we stay focus and do the right things, I think we have a good team. If we have Lopez back that’s even better.”
As for Stevenson himself, he says his knees are starting to feel better, which is finally allowing him to contribute to this team.
“Starting to get into a rhythm now,” he said. “I was out with the knees and I got my knees worked on. It’s a struggle for each game but I feel better. I’m icing them. I’m getting more in rhythm more comfortable with the offense.”
Stevenson looked comfortable against the Knicks on Monday, making 3 of 7 3-point attempts and finishing with 11 points.
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