Jerry West says he would be okay if the NBA no longer used his likeness for its logo, which, besides being an all-time humble brag, opens up all kinds of creative possibilities for a new logo.
Perhaps Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s sky hook could replace the silhouette of West dribbling the ball. Or maybe the league can rent Michael Jordan’s Jump Man from Nike. What about Kobe Bryant shooting a fade away with two defenders on him? LeBron James dunking would work. Better yet, LeBron James seated on the bench holding a coffee cup.
The latter was the awful image from a nationally televised game in March between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Clippers that had the league up in arms. A resting LeBron sipping coffee during a game is not the look the league is going for.
It’s the image that prompted NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to send a memo to his 30 owners asking/pleading/demanding that the teams fulfill their obligation to serve paying customers, not to mention their network partners who are paying millions to televise these games. And Kevin Durant is right — that memo only refers to a handful of players, starting with LeBron and including the likes of Stephen Curry and Durant.
In a superstar-driven league, the fans pay to see the stars, not just a bunch of role players. (With New York being the lone exception, of course, even though fans at Madison Square Garden think they have a star-studded lineup. That’s a story for another day).
The reality is there is no way for the league to police resting players. On Monday, the Cavs, who were playing their third game in four nights, held out LeBron as well as Kyrie Irving. The team claims that LeBron, who has been to six straight NBA Finals and quite frankly deserves a break every now and then, is carrying a calf injury while Irving has experienced knee soreness. The Cavs may, in fact, be telling the truth about both players.
It is the second time this season that both LeBron and Kyrie have skipped a game in Miami. On the one hand, that’s bad luck for the ticket buyers of South Florida and great news for Pat Riley’s team, which won in overtime, 124-121, to stay alive in its fight for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
There is no easy solution. Following last week’s board of governor’s meeting in New York, Silver didn’t entirely rule out reducing the 82-game regular season, but don’t expect that to happen any time soon. The issue is that for a team like Cleveland, the competition is so weak that finishing first, second or even third and fourth in the East is not going to prevent LeBron and the Cavs from winning as a lower-seeded team.
This is the team that won Games 5 and 7 of the NBA Finals last June on the road. So if LeBron needs to win a Game 5 in Boston, I think he’s got that covered.
One option that the league seems to be against is getting rid of divisions and conferences and just seed the playoff teams 1 through 16, regardless of geography. Besides getting the teams with the 16 best records into the postseason, a team like Cleveland couldn’t just cruise to the Finals in a weaker conference. In fact, the Cavs currently own the fourth-best record in the NBA, which under a revised format would have them on a collision course with Golden State in the semifinals.
And don’t get wrapped up in worry about travel. If the Clippers had to play the Celtics in a second-round series, so be it. If you haven’t noticed, NBA teams travel via luxurious charter planes. Golden State played Memphis in the playoffs two seasons ago. If they had to stay on the plane a little longer to get to, say, Atlanta, that’s not going to kill them.
The fact is, playoff seeding will matter. The games in March and in April will matter. And you won’t see as many coffee breaks.