Six Pack: The NBA, Twitter, and Voter Transparency
HOOPSWORLD’s Senior NBA Analyst Tommy Beer takes you through his most recent musings on the National Basketball Association in this latest installment of the NBA Six Pack…
1. The Undeniable Need for Transparency in NBA Award Voting:
The Memphis Grizzlies played 66 games this season. Josh Selby appeared in a total of 28, while sitting out the other 38. In the games in which he played, Selby averaged less than nine minutes per contest. During his time on the floor, he was relatively inefficient; shooting just 34.7% from the field and 13.3% from three-point territory. He turned the ball over a total of 29 times, more than his total number of rebounds, steals, and blocks combined (22). Selby finished the 2011-2012 campaign with a mind-bogglingly low PER of 3.36, which ranked 462 out of all 478 NBA players.
81 rookies made at least one appearance in an NBA game this year. Of those 81 players, 49 of them scored more this season than Selby, who finished with a grand total of 63 points. Here are the names of just a few rookies who poured in more points than Selby during the regular season: Jerome Dyson, Terrell Harris, Cory Higgins, Lance Thomas, Jordan Hamilton, Walker Russell, and Donald Sloan…
And of those 81 rookies to play in at least one game, only one (Ryan Reid of OKC) averaged fewer rebounds per game than Selby (0.5 rpg).
The point of these first few paragraphs was not to maliciously assail Selby. Instead, the purpose was to clearly and explicitly prove that Josh Selby was NOT one of the three best rookies in the NBA this season. There is simply no justifiable, objective measure one could use to argue that Selby deserved a vote in this year’s Rookie of the Year race.
However, when the final 2011-2012 ROY results were released Tuesday afternoon, there it was. Josh Selby, Memphis – 3rd place vote. It meant that one of the individuals entrusted to vote for the year-end awards believed that Selby was the third-best rookie in the league during the regular season. The real problem, which this egregious error sheds light on, is that we’ll never know who cast that vote because all voting is anonymous.
The call for voter transparency has been gaining steam over the past few years, and those voicing their displeasure with the current system will only grow louder after this week’s shenanigans.
Granted, this certainly is not a “life or death” issue. However, why not correct the methodology; what’s the argument for keeping votes secret? Who benefits? What is the justification for the current system? Is the answer: “Well, that’s the ways it’s always been…” Are we content with keeping a senseless system in place simply because “it’s always been that way?”
The Selby situation is probably the most egregious mistake, but there are other plenty of examples of bizarre voting this year, as there are the end of every season. Within that ROY vote itself, Kyrie Irving was NOT a unanimous winner despite the fact that he led all rookies in scoring (18.5 ppg), field goal percentage (.469) and free throw percentage (.872), while placing second in assists (5.4 apg) and three-point field goal percentage (.399); and joined Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Allen Iverson, and LeBron James as the only #1 overall draft picks in NBA history to average over 18 points and five assists.. Three other rookies received first-place votes. On one ballot, Irving received a third-place vote! That means one voter thought two first-year players had a better all-around season that Kyrie. It’s hard to imagine any human being who watched more than a handful of NBA games this season could come to that conclusion.
In the NBA’s Executive of the Year voting Otis Smith received a third-place vote. After the nightmare that the Magic’s season devolved into, someone voted him the NBA’s third-best executive this season. Really? Based on what, exactly?
In the Defensive Player of the Year voting, someone had the audacity to give a first-place vote to Luol Deng. Seriously guys, I’m not making this stuff up. Some scribe who covers the NBA for a living, truly believed that Deng was a better defender than Tyson Chandler, Serge Ibaka, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, and LeBron James. C’mon son.
One major downside of voter anonymity is that it serves to protect inept/lazy voters who don’t take the time to do even a modicum amount of research. Or is it simply that voters from local markets looking to “show some love” to a hometown guy? Because the identity of voters isn’t revealed, we are left to wonder.
Furthermore, award voting may take on added importance due to revisions in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which could have significant monetary impact going forward.
In the new CBA, there is new contract language by which a player can earn more money on his next contract if certain criteria are met. HOOPSWORLD’s own Larry Coon details these scenarios in his updated cbafaq.com opus: “A first round draft pick who completed all four years of his rookie scale contract, or a second round draft pick or an undrafted player who has four years of service, is eligible to receive a higher maximum salary if he meets certain criteria:
* Named to the All-NBA First, Second or Third team at least twice
* Voted as a starter in the All-Star game at least twice
* Named the NBA Most Valuable Player at least once
One more example: “A player in his fifth season can qualify for higher than the 0-6 year (25%) maximum, and up to the 7-9 year (30%) maximum if he has met at least one of the following criteria (called the “5th Year 30% Max Criteria”) – one such qualification is winning the NBA MVP.”
At some point in the future, the inane and antiquated voting system currently in place will likely result in the league looking really bad in front of a lot of people, not just bloggers with too much time on their hands. Why would the NBA await a problem to arise and draw unwanted national attention, instead of nipping this issue in the bud immediately?
2. The NBA and Twitter are becoming more and more intertwined. Is this a good or bad thing for the Association?
The NBA made national, twitter-related news twice this week. On Monday morning, the NBA became the first major sports league in the world to top five million twitter followers. Per Yahoo! News, no other league is even close. “The next most popular sports organization, the NFL, clocks in around 3.3 million followers. Major League Baseball has just over 2 million, while the National Hockey League and World Wrestling Entertainment have about 1.1 million each. World soccer’s governing body, FIFA, has almost 800,000 followers.” The article goes onto to describe how the NBA has been ahead of social media curve for a while now.
“The NBA has long been at the forefront of using social media in the sports business world. Fans used Twitter to vote for this year’s Slam Dunk Contest winner, and in March the league began selling t-shirts featuring star players’ Twitter handles. Last month, it marked the beginning of playoff season by official launching Pinterest and Tumblr pages. More than 350 current and former NBA players are on Twitter. Counting official league, team and player profiles, the league claims more than 260 million combined Facebook likes and Twitter follows.”
In somewhat related news, Twitter announced Tuesday morning that they would be forming a partnership with ESPN, and that NBA programming would be heavily involved. Per AdAge.com, “The companies are announcing the first program, GameFace, at ESPN’s upfront Tuesday morning. GameFace will center on the NBA Finals and be promoted on Twitter with the #GameFace hashtag. The social-TV dimension calls for the hashtag and program to be promoted on-screen during ABC’s live broadcasts of the NBA Finals, as well as on ESPN’s “NBA Tonight” show. The goal of this initial campaign is to get fans to tweet photos of their best “game face” accompanied by the dedicated hashtag. At the end of each game of the finals, “NBA Tonight” studio analysts will display some of the top contest photographs on air. Some photos will also get exposure at ESPN.com/NBA.”
Not only is the league itself ahead of the social media curve, many NBA players (past and present) are also heavily involved in this emerging medium as well. (LeBron James is the NBA’s most popular active player, with nearly 4.5 million followers, while the retired Shaquille O’Neal counts more than 5.5 million.)
The question that then begs to be asked is whether or not all of this is all good for the NBA. There are certainly some pros and cons when discussing NBA’ers, or any athlete for that matter, on Twitter.
On the positive side of the ledger, Twitter allows fans to get an unfiltered view into the lives of professional athletes. Never before have everyday folks been able to peek behind the curtain and get a glimpse at what players see, eat, hear, and experience on a daily basis. Whether via photos of a player’s closet or a sleeping teammate on the team plane, twitter sends out images which give fans inside access that was unfathomable even a few years ago.
In addition, players are now given a forum to openly speak their mind on any number of topics, both on and off the floor.
All players in the NBA, or any professional sport for that matter, are trained and essentially programmed from a very early age to spit out trite clichés and give boring answers to any questions directed at them. When a player is approached in a locker room by a swarm of reporters with microphones extended, his defenses automatically go up. Sometimes a rookie will be honest and forthright, but teams often go to great lengths to instruct their players to never say anything that is the least bit controversial. An organization’s goal is to come off as boring as possible in any and all interactions with the press. Essentially nothing positive can come from interviews that are sincere and candid. Thousands of players have learned this axiom the hard way, from a very early age.
Twitter allows professional athletes to speak their minds in an unfiltered forum from the comfort of their own home. When riding to the mall, or sitting on the tarmac at an airport, or lounging in the VIP section of a club – all with a cell phone in hand – those self-defensive barriers are no longer an issue. Thus, there is a much greater chance that a player will tweet something, um, unconventional, let’s say.
While certainly more entertaining, this isn’t always a good thing. In reality, as Michael Beasley and many others can attest, it’s a double-edged sword.
Fans may feel much closer and have a more intimate relationship with their heroes, but it could be argued that it’s best for all concerned if that barrier between perception and reality is not quite as transparent. One such downside is insight into what some athletes consider most important in their respective lives. Many fans would likely be shocked if they saw how buoyant a losing locker room can be, even after the toughest of losses. Each team and individual is obviously different, but there are plenty are of pros who are seemingly unfazed by a defeat, as they prepare to head out on the town. For instance, a buddy of mine who is a diehard Knicks fan was devastated while riding the train home from MSG after NY’s Game 3 loss to Miami two weeks ago, when he scrolled through his Twitter feed and saw JR Smith was posting pictures that led my buddy to believe Swish wasn’t quite as “upset as he should be.” The fact that some athletes take losing less hard than die-hard fans has always been a dirty little secret in the sports world. It may not be a secret much longer.
Due to J.R. Smith’s playful public personality (as opposed to his much more subdued, and even somber, disposition when interviewed in person) and high-volume tweeting, his Twitter feed provides plenty of food for thought and an insight into this complicated medium.
J.R. was back on Twitter again after the HEAT eliminated his New York Knicks in Game 5 last week. Smith, as he often does, was re-tweeting both positive and negative mentions in the early morning hours after the season-ending defeat. Because the Knicks had just lost, and Smith had played horribly (he was a combined 6-of-30 from the field over the final two games in the series), J.R. had plenty of unhappy New Yorkers firing off angry tweets in his direction.
Smith, who has a player option this off-season, was clearly offended. In response, he made a thinly-veiled threat that a few twitter taunts from Knicks fans might help make his decision for him, by opting out and leaving the Knicks. He wrote: “Damn didn’t know this man people didn’t want me in #NY might just get what you asking for! #sorrykidz”
This wasn’t the first time Smith had caused waves in the twittersphere. When the “Stop Kony” movement (a campaign to oust and arrest Joseph Kony – the leader of the LRA army in Uganda) went viral in March, a few people had tweeted at Smith, asking him to help spread the word and get out the “#StopKony” message. Because he assumed he was being insulted, a confused J.R. tweeted the following late that night: “Idk what Kony is so when yall tell me stop Kony or whatever I’m not going to pay you no mind! I do what I do cause I’m me your you! #stopit — TheRealJRSmith (@TheRealJRSmith)”
Of course, Smith’s most infamous tweet involving the sizable derriere of a female companion. This landed Smith in hot water with the league and the NBA ended up fining Smith $25,000 for the inappropriate tweet.
While the benefits of Twitter outweigh the negative, there are certainly reasons to be cautious and tread lightly. Moreover, we have merely seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social media and its impact on sports and journalism. It is amazing to think how much of an impact Twitter has had on the way we watch, enjoy, and consume sports today, especially considering the technology has only been in existence for a few years? What’s next? Stay tuned…
Tweets of the Week:
- @IAMAGM Suggested Readings: The Knicks insane season via NY Post covers – By Andrew Sharp: http://t.co/pWUOdNlN
- @netw3rk: “Nick Young, trying to get on track.” – Mike Breen summing up Young’s career to date.
- @hoopshype: The best postseason pictures. http://t.co/yxkEmFHW
- @treykerby: (Actually Ghandi) RT @SHAQ: You must be the change you wish to see in the world. — Dr. Shaquille O’Neal
- @ESPN: How awesome do Oklahoma City Thunder home playoff games look? http://t.co/yJqRd4XB
Quote of the Week:
“I thought I played well, especially with the kind of season it was,” Carlos Boozer said, when asked to asses his second season in Chicago. “We had the best record again in basketball, won our division again, had the top seed again, that’s all that matters, yo.” (via ESPN Chicago)
Dunks of the Week:
Wade with the 50-foot alley-oop to King James (during happier times in Game 1)
Kevin Durant skies over Bynum and bangs it in with the left hand:
Elias Sports Bureau Stats of the Week:
* From Elias: Roy Hibbert had an outstanding all-around game in the Pacers’ convincing win over the Heat in Game Three of their playoff series; the Pacers center amassed 19 points, 18 rebounds and five blocked shots while making nine of 16 field-goal attempts (56.3 percent). Get a load of this: since the NBA began recording blocked shots in the 1973-74 season, only six other individuals have reached those four levels (points, rebounds, blocks, shooting percentage) in one playoff game: Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan each did it twice, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Artis Gilmore and Dwight Howard each did it once. The last to do it was Howard (25 points, 22 rebounds, five blocks, 61.5 shooting percentage) against the Raptors in the Magic’s playoff opener in 2008.
* Dwyane Wade, who averaged 22.1 points per game during the regular season, made only two of 13 field-goal attempts (15.4 percent) in Miami’s loss at Indianapolis. Over the last five years of playoffs, only one other NBA player who had averaged at least 22 points during that regular season had a playoff game in which he shot for such a low percentage (minimum: 10 field-goal attempts)… and that was none other than LeBron James! Playing for Cleveland in the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals Series at Boston, James, coming off a regular season in which he averaged 30 points per game, went 2-for-18 from the floor in a Game One loss.
* Tony Parker celebrated his 30th birthday in style, scoring a game-high 22 points as the Spurs rolled to victory in Game Two of their playoff series with the Clippers. Parker had appeared in 143 NBA playoff games prior to reaching the big Three-Oh; only Magic Johnson (158) and Kobe Bryant (152) had higher totals of playoff games before reaching 30. The only active NBA player who played in a playoff game on his 30th birthday? Parker’s buddy Tim Duncan, who did it on April 25, 2006, scoring 14 points and pulling down 13 rebounds in a victory over the Kings.
* Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant are facing off in only the fifth playoff series in NBA history matching the players who finished first and second in the league’s scoring race that season. The four previous instances, with the scoring champion listed first:
1951 West Semis George Mikan (Lakers) Alex Groza (Olympians)
1993 East 1st Round Michael Jordan (Bulls) Dominique Wilkins (Hawks)
1995 NBA Finals Shaquille O’Neal (Magic) Hakeem Olajuwon (Rockets)
1997 NBA Finals Michael Jordan (Bulls) Karl Malone (Jazz)
* The Thunder trailed the Lakers, 75-68, with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but rallied to beat the Lakers, 77-75. Prior to Oklahoma City, the last two NBA teams to win a playoff game by rallying from a deficit of seven or more points within the final 2:00 of the fourth quarter were the Heat in Game Five of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals versus the Bulls, and the Spurs in Game Two of the 1999 Western Conference Finals against the Trail Blazers.