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As fans of the Golden State Warriors continue to celebrate their second championship in the last three years and the start of a dynasty, fans of competitive balance continue to decry the current state of the NBA.  Unfortunately, in a sport so easily dominated by transcended talent (the game’s best player, LeBron James, has gone to the finals seven straights seasons) there’s not much that can be done to prevent dynasties.  Or is there?

I have a radical proposal that could fix the NBA, making it harder for teams lead by star players to dominate.  A proposal that takes me back to my youth basketball days and the Police Athletic League.  Because kids paid to play in this league there were certain playing time restrictions in place.  Coaches couldn’t just play the best players all the time.  All the kids had to play.  At least some of the time.  The best players would still play more but the playing time was at least some what balanced.

The way that it would work was that kids were assigned entire quarters to play.  Let’s say that you had 8 kids on your roster. You’d play five in the first quarter.  The three who sat in the first quarter had to play in the second quarter along with two holdovers.  The kids who played the entire first half would then have to sit out the third quarter.  In theory, no kid could play three quarters before everyone else had played two.  No one could play all four before everyone else had played three.

Teams with the best players might still win but they wouldn’t be able to do so easily.  They’d have to go long stretches (entire quarters) with their best player on the bench allowing the other team a chance to get back into the game.  And they’d have to rely on their entire roster, even their worst player to help them win.  If you had a weak spot you couldn’t hide it on the bench or in limited minutes.  You had to find a way to win in spite of your weak spot or ideally you had to develop your talent to the point where you had no weak spots.

Applying these playing time rules to the NBA might go a long way towards establishing competitive balance.  The Eastern Conference’s most dominant team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, might not even make the finals if LeBron James or Kyrie Irving had to sit out entire quarters.  Perhaps a more well-balanced, star-less team such as the Boston Celtics would have moved on instead.  As for the Warriors just think about the level of intrigue that would swirl around their lineup decisions.  Do they play Kevin Durant and Steph Curry together?  Or do they split them up and built two separate units around them?  In this format the best teams or the teams with the best players wouldn’t necessarily win.  Instead the deepest teams or the teams that are the best strategizers might.

An added benefit of this format is that it would give star players built in rest throughout the season.  You wouldn’t have star players sitting out entire games during back-to-backs, which is currently one of the NBA’s other big issues as marquee prime-time televised matchups can often lack star power.

Obviously this is something that would never happen.  Players and teams are going to want to dictate who plays when.  At the highest level of competition there’s no such thing as fair play.  But that’s okay.  I’m a Warriors fan anyway.  Bring on the dynasty!

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Would playing time limits fix the NBA?

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The NBA Finals aren’t even over yet and already people are talking about where LeBron James will play in two years.  Will he join his banana boat friends (Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade) and form a super team with the Los Angeles Clippers.  Or will he join forces with Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Paul George, and others on the Los Angeles Lakers?

To some the idea of LeBron James leaving Cleveland for a second time is unfathomable.  To others, it’s inevitable.  Having already brought a title to his hometown team the prevailing thought is that James will be free to chase down championships later in his career without having to deal with the same kind of scrutiny he faced the first time he left when he took his talents to South Beach and formed a super team with Wade and Chris Bosh.

Of course the reason why there’s all this speculation now is because of the presence of another super team, the Golden State Warriors, who are so far superior to every other team, that there is literally zero intrigue in watching this year’s finals play out.  The question now isn’t whether or not Golden State will win.  It’s whether or not they’ll be able to do so in four games on their way to becoming the first team in league history to go 16-0 in a single playoffs.  And since the prevailing thought is that they’ll be unstoppable for years to come there’s little intrigue in the league at all for the foreseeable future.

Luckily for basketball fans who have grown weary of watching the same two teams compete for the championship every year there’s soon going to be another competition capable of tickling their fancy and sparking their creative juices.  That’s because the International Olympic Committee has just announced that 3 on 3 basketball is now an official Olympic sport starting with the 2020 Summer Olympics in China!!!

I’ve always wondered why 3 on 3 basketball wasn’t a part of the Olympic schedule.  Other sports such as tennis, volleyball, and swimming allow for individual and team competitions of various configurations.  So why not basketball?  Especially when you consider the disparity in team talent for a country like the United States and a smaller European country like France.  The French can’t beat the U.S. for the gold in traditional five on five basketball.  But who knows.  Maybe a 3 on 3 team lead by Tony Parker and the Stiffle Tower Rudy Gorbet could beat a team of Americans.

As of now a few things aren’t entirely clear.  Will each country only get one team to represent them?  Or could multiple teams from the same country compete for medals?  Either way, whether in the qualifying rounds or the actual Olympics, we could be treated to some tremendous 3 on 3 games featuring current NBA stars.  Or will we?  Would those players be ineligible to compete if they’re already representing their country on the 5 on 5 team?  Regardless of how it’ll play out it’ll be a lot of fun before then to try and imagine what some of these 3 on 3 teams might look like.  (Technically each team will be comprised of four players.)

Will we see James, Paul, Anthony, and Wade form a team?  Would the unthinkable happen with Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kevin Durant reuniting?  Or how about a Warriors group of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Durant, and Draymond Green giving it a go to add another piece of hardware to their collection?  Better yet, maybe the entire Ball family could suit up.

Either way, the addition of this 3 on 3 tournament is a great boost to basketball fans who may have grown weary of watching the same teams and countries win year after year.  Unless of course those same players just wind up winning this tournament too.  Only time will tell.  Until then, let’s go Warriors!!!

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Could a team of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwayne Wade win gold in a 3 on 3 tournament?

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On Tuesday night the NBA held its annual lottery to determine the order for the upcoming draft in June.  Prior to the festivities kicking off I asked my cousin, a huge Phoenix Suns fan, for his prediction as to where the Suns would pick.  With the second worst record in the league they were guaranteed to pick somewhere in the top four.  My cousin’s prediction was second.  Mine was fourth.  After all the ping pong balls had fallen and all the dust had settled the Suns had the fourth pick.  Draft orders are easy to predict if you assume that the fix is in.

Of course when it comes to the NBA Draft Lottery lots of people assume that the fix is in.  A few weeks ago Lakes coach Luke Walton let slip that he had been assured by team President Magic Johnson that the Lakes were going to have a top three pick.  Last year a tweet was sent out by the legendary Dikembe Mutombo congratulating the Philadelphia 76ers on getting the first pick in the draft, hours before the results were announced.  This from a league that has been dealing with allegations of a rigged system, pretty much every year, for the entire history of the lottery, from the New York Knicks landing Patrick Ewing to the Cleveland Cavaliers getting hometown hero LeBron James.  At this point the intrigue isn’t around whether or not the lottery is fixed.  We all know it is.  But, rather, in what ways is it fixed.  Who has the most to gain or lose by the way the order plays out?  Which historic franchise is in need of the biggest boost?

The question now becomes: if the lottery is fixed, what can we do about it?  There have been a lot of proposals that aim to address this issue from doing away with the weighted system to instituting the Wheel, which would evenly distribute every spot in the order to every team every thirty years so that teams can plan ahead of time as to when it’ll be their turn to land the top pick.  Most of these plans are nonsensical while a few have some potential.  But now we have a proposal that I can actually get behind and it comes to us from an unlikely source.

During my lunch break the other day I was listening to a local Phoenix sports talk show as they were discussing a proposal to fix the NBA Draft Lottery.  The proposal oddly enough was put forth by a hockey player, the Phoenix Coyotes’ star player in fact, veteran Shane Doan.  It’s a proposal that I’ve heard mentioned before but it’s so good that I think it warrants mentioning again and in greater detail.

Here’s how it would work.  Just like in the NHL teams would accrue points for winning games.  But this would only occur after a team has already been eliminated from the playoffs.  Those points would then determine the draft order with the team having the most points getting to pick first.  The worse you are, the sooner you’ll be eliminated from the playoffs, so the longer you’ll have to accumulate points.  The better teams on the cusp of making the playoffs will have less opportunity to earn points but since they’re better teams they still might win some games down the stretch enabling them to move up a few spots in the draft order.

This system, as crazy as it is, would effectively eliminate tanking and incentivize every non-playoff team to play hard until the end of the regular season.  You wouldn’t have a scenario where teams shut down perfectly healthy players for a quarter of the season as the Phoenix Suns did to star point guard Eric Bledsoe this past year.  And you wouldn’t have a doomsday scenario where two lottery bound teams are playing each other, each trying their hardest to avoid winning the game.  Instead every regular season game would matter as teams jostle for lottery positioning.  Considering how meaningless the regular season is for determining playoff seeding (it doesn’t matter if LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers finish with the #1 seed as long as they just make the playoffs) we could get to a point where the battles down the stretch for lottery positioning are better games than playoff previews between contending teams.

Of course this system wouldn’t necessarily eliminate tanking all together.  In a weird twist of fate it could actually encourage teams to tank the first half of the season just to get eliminated from playoff contention as quickly as possible so that they can start to accrue points as quickly as possible.

But at the same time you’d have to think that the end result would be an improvement over the current state of the game.  With so few teams having a legitimate chance at winning the title thanks to the ability of transcendent stars like LeBron James to influence so much of the game play, a twenty team race to the top of the draft could generate real intrigue in every city from coast to coast.

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Is a points based system for determining the NBA draft order the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,019 – Big3 Basketball League

Once professional golfers reach a certain age and can no longer compete at a high level on the PGA tour they have another league that they can still play in, the senior PGA tour.  Professional basketball players, however, have no other domestic league to play in once their careers are over.  Sure they could head overseas and play in China like Stephon Marbury did, but that’s not a realistic or appealing option for most players.

Fortunately, there is now another alternative, a newly formed 3 on 3 league known as Big3 put together by Ice Cube, Allen Iverson, and a host of other recently retired players including the likes of Gary Payton, Jermaine O’Neal, Kenyon Martin, Rashard Lewis, Chauncey Billups, Mike Bibby, and George Gervin.

Clearly some of those guys are still in great shape and can still play at a relatively high level.  Not high enough to withstand the grind of a NBA season with its grueling travel schedule and sets of back to back games.  But high enough to play 3 on 3 once a week.  Or so they hope.

So, how will this new league of legends work?!?

According to ESPN:

“Games will be played in half-court settings and will feature 4-point shots, designated by three large circles several feet beyond the traditional 3-point line. Games will be played to 60 points and there will be a seven-minute halftime once a team reaches 30 points.

Ex-professional players over the age of 30 will be eligible to play. Teams will consist of a player/captain and four teammates and there will be a draft in March.

League play will start on June 24 and conclude on Aug. 12 with games being played every Saturday in different cities. All teams will play games on each Saturday.”

While the format does sound like it would be more suited for a celebrity Rock N’ Jock game on MTV than a serious league for former NBA stars, it does also carry a certain amount of appeal and intrigue.  Does Iverson still have his patented killer crossover?  Can the Glove still play D, if he even plays at all?  Will anyone even recognize Bonzie Wells?

Although it’s likely that back door cuts and jump shots will be more prevalent than alley-oops and slam dunks the league should still be plenty entertaining.  At the very least it’s probably going to be a better alternative for hardcore basketball fans over the summer than watching the WNBA.

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Is the Big3 basketball league the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#1,018 – Pacific Pro Football

Monday night’s instant classic national championship game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers may have saved the four team college football playoff format after two lackluster semi-final match-ups.  But it may not have been enough to save college football in general, which could now be facing it’s toughest challenge yet in the form of a new league that will soon be competing for the same talent pool.

The league, which is being started by Tom Brady’s agent Don Yee, will be known as Pacific Pro Football and will start playing in 2018.  At first there will only be four teams, all stationed in Southern California to limit the amount of travel.  The rosters will be limited to 50 players each to ensure adequate playing time and each player will receive a yearly salary of $50,000 while competing in a six game schedule.

The knock on big-time collegiate athletics for the longest time has been that the athletes themselves are getting exploited by the Universities that profit from ticket sales, merchandise, and most of all, TV rights deals, while the players don’t get paid a single cent.  It’s why you see colleges flush with cash offering head coaches contracts worth millions of dollars per year.  Of course the counter-argument has always been that the players are being compensated in the form of the free education that they are receiving.  But for some, that’s never been good enough.  The risk of career ending injury has never been worth the reward of a degree.

Now there’s an enticing alternative on the table for college age athletes.  Enticing financially sure, but there’s more to do it than just that.  For the league is going to be set up in such a way that will, in theory, better prepare players for professional football.  To minimize injury there won’t be any kickoffs or punts.  They may not even allow any blitzing to better allow linemen to practice their techniques in 1 on 1 scenarios.  Quarterbacks stand to benefit most of all as the offenses will mirror the NFL game instead of the read-option or spread offenses that the college game typically employs as coaches with limited rosters try to game plan their way to victories at the expense of player development.

Will that format be enough to entice players to join the league?  Well, that remains to be seen but there is surely going to be some interest especially in light of the new trend in which star players such as Christian McCaffrey of Stanford and Leonard Fournette of LSU skipped their meaningless bowl games to avoid getting injured in their final college games.  When guys of that caliber are choosing their own careers over school pride and the responsibility that they have to their own teammates it’s easy to imagine a scenario in which players not only embrace this format, but flock to it.

What’s even more interesting about this idea and even adds some credibility to it, is the high level support that it has from people with strong ties to the NFL.  According to the Washington Post, “Along with Yee, the league is co-founded by Ed McCaffrey, a former NFL wide receiver (and Christian’s father), and Jeff Husvar, a former Fox Sports executive. Its advisory board includes former NFL coach Mike Shanahan; Mike Pereira, the league’s former officiating czar; ESPN reporter Adam Schefter; Jim Steeg, a longtime NFL executive; and veteran political strategist Steve Schmidt.”

If you think it’s weird that people affiliated with the NFL would support another league consider the fact that the league isn’t going to be taking anything away from the NFL.  The talent pool is solely comprised of guys who aren’t allowed to play in the NFL yet anyway.

As CBS Sports put it:

“The catch with this league is that it won’t be competing with the NFL for players. It will be going after college players who aren’t yet eligible to play in the NFL. For a college player to move on to the NFL, they have to be at least three years removed from high school.

Due to that rule, a college player really has no other options if he wants to play football during what would be his freshman, sophomore or junior year. However, Yee’s new league will give these players an alternative to college football…”

Considering how badly the XFL floundered it will be interesting to see if this new league can survive.  Especially when you consider that it’s going to take at least $2.5 million per team, per season in order to operate and that’s just when factoring in player’s salaries.  To say nothing of coaches’ salaries, insurance costs, training facilities, game day staffing, advertising, etc.  Will private investors foot the entire bill?  Will the games be televised eventually?  Will anyone even care?

All that remains to be seen but until then it’s worth applauding Don Yee for thinking outside the box and coming up with an alternative to college football that could benefit the athletes in the long run by taking better care of them and better preparing them for the NFL style of play.

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Is Pacific Pro Football the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#995 – Axe Bat

In a year in which the baseballs themselves were allegedly “juiced”, it’s fitting, if not a little bit ironic, that some of the best players on baseball’s best offense were using a new cutting edge technology that not everyone else had access to.  And even more fittingly, the players in question, chief among them, rising star Mookie Betts, play for the Boston Red Sox.  If anyone would be sensitive to matters involving tampering with equipment you’d think it’d be the team that plays in New England.

The issue, at least in my mind, involves the deployment of a new type of bat, known as an Axe Bat.  Instead of a traditional bat with it’s rounded bottom, the handle of an Axe Bat is shaped more like, well, an Axe.  If you’ve ever been to a baseball game, or watched one on TV, you’ve undoubtedly seen a bat careen into the stands after slipping out of a players’ hands while swinging.  Obviously, if you’re trying to chop down a tree the equivalent grip of a baseball bat just won’t do.  If your axe slips out of your hands it could lead to serious injury or death.  An axe, therefore, is designed differently than a bat, leading to better control and ultimately allowing for the generation of more power thanks to that better grip.

Well, what would happen if you introduced an axe grip bat into baseball?  Presumably, you’d wind up with players who have better grips and in turn better grips lead to better bat control and better bat control leads to more contact and more powerful contact at that.

Not to take anything away from Mookie Betts who was always a highly regarded prospect, but in 2016 he became a legitimate MVP candidate when he posted a triple slash line of .318/.363/.534.  Which begs the question: what would his numbers have been with a regular bat?  And more importantly, how is this bat even legal in a sport that worships uniformity?

If it is legal, the better question then becomes: why isn’t everyone else using it?  The man who introduced the bat to the Red Sox is their hitting coach, former Yankee great, “red hot”Chili Davis.  As he told Popular Science, “I don’t see a downside. This bat has the possibility to become something special in the future. Hitters are very superstitious. If they’re doing well with a bat, they’ll keep using it until it breaks.”

Chili may have a point.  A bat with the ability to improve player’s performance while also making the game safer?  Very special indeed.

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Is the Axe Bat the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#976 – Skunk Lock

I always thought there was a chance my life would get flipped, turned upside down on Election Day if Donald Trump happened to win.  I never thought it would actually happen on the Monday before Election Day though.  And yet that’s exactly what happened when I decided to go for a bike ride and uncovered a harrowing truth: that my bike had been stolen!  I hadn’t ridden it for a while so I’m not quite sure exactly when the theft occurred just that it did happen sometime in the last two weeks.  And I think that I may have even unwittingly spotted the thief when I saw a strange drifter lurking near my apartment complex a few days ago.

The first question that I get asked when I tell people that my bike got stolen is always, where did this happen?  The second question is always the same too.  Did you have it locked up?  I did but the problem is that the lock I had was insufficient.  Instead of a chain what I need is a real deterrent.  Something that would make a would be bike thief think twice about stealing my bike.  Or better yet, a lock that would actually prevent someone from stealing it in the first place.  Perhaps even incapacitate them if they did try to take it.  Thankfully, there is now such a product.  Say hello to the Skunk Lock, the world’s first vomit inducing bike lock!

As The Guardian reports:

“With his co-inventor, Yves Perrenoud, [Daniel] Idzkowski created a U-shaped lock of carbon and steel with a hollow chamber to hold one of three pressurized gases of their own concoction, including one called ‘formula D_1’. When someone cuts about 30% of the way into the lock…the gas erupts in the direction of the gash.

‘It’s pretty much immediately vomit inducing, causes difficulty breathing,’ Idzkowski said. ‘A lot of similar symptoms to pepper spray.’

The inventors have not yet tested the device on an actual would-be thief, but have tested it on themselves and volunteers at distances of two feet (60cm), five feet, 10ft and 20ft. ‘At two feet it was pretty bad. It was absolutely vomit inducing in 99% of people. At five feet it’s very noticeable and the initial reaction is to move away from it. At 10ft it’s definitely detectable and very unpleasant.’”

My biggest fear with the Skunk Lock is that it would somehow accidentally deploy it’s noxious contents on me while I simply tried to unlock the bike.  That sounds unlikely though since you’d actually have to cut into the lock to release the contents.  So watch out bike thieves the Skunk Lock is now on the prowl!

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Is Skunk Lock the Greatest Idea Ever?

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