Gaudy in-season tournament floor designs are so bad they’re good, Clippers continue curse with Harden trade
The In-Season Tournament floor designs have been polarising among NBA fans but whether you love or hate them, there’s no denying they’ve achieved their goal.
They’ve helped bring attention onto the inaugural tournament and contributed to increased TV ratings and intensity in early-season matches which otherwise would have been mostly forgettable outings as teams begin their 82-game march to the playoffs.
Some of the garish designs have been eye-wateringly bad – Chicago’s red with extra red gets my vote as the worst while the New Orleans purple and green edges the Lakers’ classic colours for the best of the all-painted alternate courts.
The NBA has announced that viewership for In-Season Tournament games is up 55% on the corresponding matches last year, lifting the overall regular-season ratings by 11%.
Whether it’s the flashy courts or corresponding uniforms, the players seem to be competing that little bit harder in IST matches on the schedule, another plus for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s scheduling experiment.
Keeping up with the standings is tough because some teams have played more than others and it’s almost impossible to remember who’s in whose group.
The NBA tried to make the IST as fair as possible by dividing the franchises into groups based on last year’s standings but it would have been better to use the three pre-existing five-team divisions in each conference so fans will have some kind of idea of the groupings.
Divisions are virtually meaningless as it is and this is a chance for the NBA to give them some sort of cache.
Curse of the Clippers continues with Harden trade
It’s going to be hard to beat this for tweet of the NBA season.
“Two happiest days of a NBA fan’s life are when their team trades for James Harden, and when their team trades away James Harden,” from TV writer @yc.
The LA Clippers are the latest team to fall for the siren song of Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers are already the beneficiaries of getting rid of the tempestuous guard even before they’ve spent the draft capital they acquired in the deal.
His arrival was supposed to give the Clippers a four-pronged attack with Harden complementing All-Star duo Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, with Russell Westbrook bringing extra energy despite his waning output in recent years.
But the team suffered five straight losses before finally getting a W with Harden in the line-up on Saturday with a 106-100 IST triumph over Houston.
After tallying just 15 points, 4.2 assists and 4.4 rebounds in his first five outings in an LA uniform, Harden finally made a decent contribution with 24 points on 8/11 shooting, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Importantly, the Clippers were a +21 during his 34 minutes after he had been a net negative in each of his previous performances, three times by double figures including a whopping -28 in a loss to the struggling Memphis Grizzlies.
The Clippers won’t panic just yet and are hoping Harden’s slow start is part of the process of integrating him into a line-up that already has three ball-dominant stars.
But it’s not going to work long term.
Harden was never a physical specimen but he’s slowed down appreciably in recent seasons and even when he can stay on the court, his playoff record of mediocrity isn’t going to suddenly turn around now that the former MVP is 34 and in his 15th season in the league.
On the flip side, Philadelphia are flying at 9-3, trailing only Boston (10-2) for the best record in the NBA even though they traded away last season’s league leader in assists and replaced him with bits and pieces.
Nicolas Batum and Robert Covington are in the rotation filling their roles while KJ Martin and Marcus Morris are getting limited game time but they’ve still got three first-round draft picks, a swap and a couple of seconds up their sleeve from the Harden deal to use on their next acquisition.
That could happen mid-season if the right deal comes up or they could wait until the off-season when they will have a huge amount of cap space to pursue a two-way star on the wing like George or Leonard from the Clippers to further rub salt into their trade wounds or a slightly cheaper option like OG Anunoby or bigger presence in Pascal Siakam from Toronto.
What they don’t need to do is rush into a move such has been young guard Tyrese Maxey’s explosion since Harden vacated the backcourt.
Maxey is on track not only for his first All-Star appearance but would be an All-NBA candidate this season based on his one-two combination with MVP Joel Embiid and his career-high returns of 27.6 points, 6.7 assists and 5.1 rebounds.
He’s hitting the three-ball at 43% to complement the drives to the hoop which have always been a strength.
Sixers fans were thrilled when they got Harden after the Ben Simmons saga finally came to an end nearly two years ago, they’re much happier now that he’s moved on.