In this week’s Around the Dorm playoff semifinal, the “Ref,” Peter Fiorilla, challenges Sports Assistant Chris Molicki, Features Editor Brendan McGrath and Correspondent Bryan Bellanca to answer questions about the expectations for the Miami Heat and what another non-championship season would do to the Big Three, who the favorite is to take the MLS Cup this year and whether the NBA should vote in favor of placing ads on team jerseys.
1. The Miami Heat were quietly spectacular to start the season, but has been in the headlines lately for faltering after the All-Star Break and getting smacked around by Boston last week. What does the immediate future look like for the Heat, and if it doesn’t involve taking home the Larry O’Brien Trophy, what will the consequences be like in Miami?
CM: No one should be worried about the Heat right now. It was the same thing last year when they struggled down the stretch and looked lost at times, but they turned it on in the playoffs. That’s just something they have the ability to do. Yes, they didn’t win the Finals last season, but they were as close as you can get. As far as this year’s Heat go, there are a few things you must consider. First, they have been nearly flawless at home. They’ve only lost twice in Miami, and two of those games were the second of a back-to-back, something they won’t encounter in the playoffs. Second, they are the only team in the top-four in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They’re obviously loaded on offense, especially in the transition game, and defensively, LeBron James is one of the best in the game. And finally, both James and Dwyane Wade have learned to play well without each other this year. If one gets hurt or in foul trouble, the team won’t miss a beat. I understand some have had a problem with splitting their past 10 games, but every time they lost, it was to a good team. They also managed to beat the Thunder, Mavericks and 76ers in that stretch. However, if the Heat doesn’t win it all, there will be panic. They are by far the best team on paper so they have no excuses. Last year was the transition year, and this year was supposed to be their time. Teams like the Thunder, Knicks and Clippers are only going to get better, so Miami needs to win it this year, or else there will be problems.
BM: First off, despite recent struggles the Heat have the fourth best record in the NBA, and going into the playoffs it seems unlikely that anyone other than the Bulls really stand in their way of making it to the finals. The Heat will glide through the first — and probably second — round and land in the conference finals where they will face a real challenge. The question to me is whether or not they’ll be able to push through to the finals, and if they do, whether or not they’ll be respectable against the western conference champion. If they don’t give a good enough push for the championship once they reach the conference finals, or if they make it to the NBA finals and don’t show up, then I think that there will be a lot of talk about consequences. But in the end, I’d say two seasons of this dream team not bringing home a championship is not enough to cause a big stir. It’ll be another year before Spoelstra loses his job or anything else big happens.
BB: The Miami Heat won’t win the NBA championship this year or next year or ever, and when looking back on the summer of 2010 it will go down as one of the biggest fails in the NBA. The Heat can’t beat a good team on the road this year as their record has shown, since their only road win against a team with a legitimate shot at winning the championship came on opening day. LeBron still can’t hit the clutch shot, and even when he does they still lose just like they did to the Bulls this past week. The problem with the Heat is while they tried to buy a championship, there are teams like the Thunder who are drafting well and building a championship-caliber team. LeBron is learning that there are no short cuts in winning a championship. After not winning this year the Heat will face heavy criticism, but after not winning it next year there will be consequences and most likely the dismantlement of the Big Three.
PF: Chris gets 3 points for pointing out the Heat are highly ranked in efficiency on both sides of the ball. Brendan gets 2 points for noting that another deep playoff run for the Heat that ends without a championship will not necessarily lead to a shake-up. Bryan gets 1 point for saying the Heat have a poor road record, which will be a factor if they have to travel to Chicago in the playoffs.
2. Around the Dorm needs more soccer questions. Since I know you all have been glued to your TV sets watching MLS for the past month, give me your early favorites for the 2012 MLS Cup. (Maximum number of Google searches: five.)
CM: While there have only been about five games so far this season, it’s clear that the early favorite is Sporting Kansas City. Keep in mind that this can very easily change because it is a long season, but right now, they’re playing the best. First off, they’re the only team that has yet to lose, currently sitting at 5-0. Second, in all five of their games, they have outshot their opponents by at least a +10 margin. That shows that they are getting so many more shots than their opponents, which leads to more goals. Finally, the most impressive stat is that Sporting Kansas City has only given up one goal so far this season. The goaltending and defense has been lights out. When a team is playing this well in every aspect of the game, they are the clear favorites so far.
BM: Sporting Kansas City is essentially guaranteed the title as they have run away with the league already this year. With 15 points (an astounding six more than the next best team) Sporting is not that far away from mathematically clinching the regular season top spot and from there it’s just a few playoff games until the MLS Cup comes home to Kansas City. With current rate of about 1.5 goals per game, Sporting is set to blow out their competition for the rest of the year (as we all know 1.5 goals is about two more than most soccer teams score in an average game). But seriously, the team is undefeated, and that says a lot. This sport may not be as interesting as hockey, but it should be interesting to see how the season shakes out.
BB: While, yes, AtD needs more soccer questions, they need relevant soccer questions, and the MLS never has been nor ever will be relevant. With that said I think I’ll pick Toronto FC as my favorite to win the MLS Cup this year. Even though they are the worst team in the MLS with a 0-5 record, there’s nothing like picking the underdog in a league where Euro league old timers come to collect one last paycheck before their careers officially burn out. Maybe Toronto management will discover some money somewhere or, hey, who knows, if the dollar keeps going the way it has been then the Canadian dollar will be worth even more than the American dollar and they’ll be able to afford some old burn outs from some of the European leagues.
PF: Chris gets the 3 points for putting together a convincing argument for league-leading Kansas City. Brendan gets 2 points because he picks a good team, but gets the stats mixed up (Kansas City is only running away with the Eastern conference, not the regular season title). Bryan gets 1 point for the pointless MLS bashing.
3. Let’s go back to the NBA, which is considering adding ads to players’ jerseys (like in soccer). The NBA Board of Governors will be voting on it next month, and ads could cover NBA jerseys as early as next season, potentially starting a new trend in American sports. What do you think the Board should decide?
CM: Personally, I think the board should decide against this. For all my jersey lovers out there, how would you like to wear a Kobe Bryant jersey that has an add on the back for Wal-Mart? It’s just stupid and looks foolish. I think it looks dumb on soccer jerseys and dumb when NASCAR drivers have it all over their cars and suits. The biggest problem with this is that it ruins the traditional look of the jersey. The way it is now, with name, number, NBA logo, and maybe another patch, is the way it should stay because it’s the way it has always been. Unfortunately, because the NBA is a business and money trumps everything, I would not be surprised if the Board of Governors decides to start putting ads on the jerseys. However, they should be prepared for backlash, as that would hurt the image of players, teams and jersey sales.
BM: I would implore the Board to vote this down; it’s a gimmicky way for the teams to pocket more money right now, while undermining the league’s brand in the long run. From a purely financial perspective, I would say that this is a risky move. It will most likely bring in a nice stream of cash now, but it will also create an environment full of advertising that will eventually erode the total amount that teams could charge for ads. In the end, we might find that 10 years from now there would just be more clutter on the television screen, without any real overall gain. As a fan, I must say that I would be disgusted to see any sizeable ad take its place on a jersey in the NBA (or the NFL, NHL or MLB for that matter). The jerseys tie fans emotionally to their teams. They’re constant even when the players on your favorite team aren’t. To take this crucial part of fandom and slap a Home Depot logo on it would take a part of the integrity away from the history of the sport. I have no issue with soccer teams or NASCAR drivers using ads, but can you imagine a Celtics jersey or, if this spread to other sports, a Yankees jersey with some large corporation tattooed on it? That would take something away from these sports, and I don’t know that it would ever come back.
BB: I think it would be a terrible idea for the NBA to put ads on player’s jerseys. I mean, does the NBA really need the money that much, and if so then they’re in more trouble than the lockout made it seem. I mean, imagine watching the classic Lakers-Celtics match-up, one with the classic purple and gold, the other with the classic green and white, but instead of those you get two teams with advertisements all over their jerseys, and that classic experience is ruined. Soccer uses the advertisements as a source of revenue because soccer clubs are forced to spend upwards of 20, 40 and or even more than 70 million euros (which is one-and-a-half times stronger than the American dollar) just to acquire a player from a team, and that doesn’t even take into account what they have to pay the player. The NBA doesn’t have to worry about those absurd fees for players and therefore shouldn’t ruin their jerseys with ads.
PF: Brendan gets 3 points for noting that short-term financial gain is not worth destroying the value of other ad spots and the long-held tradition of the sport. Chris gets 2 point for noting that this move could weaken the brands of players, teams and the NBA as a whole. Bryan gets 1 point for noting that the “classic experience” could be ruined with ads on jerseys.
Chris wins Week 2 of the AtD Playoffs, 8-7-3