Archive for November, 2011

November 29, 2011

Put Up or Shut Up Time for Jerry Reinsdorf

How does the new CBA impact Reinsdorf and Da Bulls?

Did you hear?? The NBA lockout is over. Time for The Bulls to continue building the core around Derrick Rose. How does the new Collective Bargaining Agreement affect the Chicago Bulls?

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November 29, 2011

ACC – Big Ten Challenge 2011

Bill Carmody holds the keys to Big Ten's ability to win the challenge every year.

The mother of all non-conference tournaments is here. Two historical conferences face off to resolve the argument ever year: which conference is better top to bottom? Here is a quick runoff about the Big Ten – ACC Challenge …

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November 22, 2011

A Lookback at the 2011 Final Four

Kemba Walker deserved more media coverage.

Before we move on to the 2011-2012 College Hoops season, we are paying homage to one of the most unique Final Fours in recent history. We may never see this collection of teams again for the final weekend of college basketball.

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November 9, 2011

The Art of a Deal: A former Investment Banker’s view on the NBA Lockout

Ramblings by UB

NBA Lockout negotiations are about to get dicey. There is a deal on the table, there are deadlines and there is incredible uncertainty. For those keeping score, the regular season was already supposed to have started. So the main takeaway from all this is that, plenty of people dropped the ball. I spent 5 years in investment banking, and another couple of years floating around the mergers and acquisitions world. I have had the privilege to work with some self-professed studs of negotiating, barbarians at the gate, slick talking, rain making, and gods of the deal game.

Usually, I had other choice words to describe some of those people.

During my time in IB, I did learn a couple of things about the deal making process. I saw first-hand the blood, sweat and tears (lotta tears) that went into selling companies. I watched in awe (or yawn) as bankers threw out Sportscenter like catch phrases such as “competitive tension.”

I created tedious excel sheets that tracked every correspondence that we would have with potential buyers. Significant amounts of time and energy would be placed on making elaborate projections about where the business would go and selling the vision for the company’s future. I also had to make sure that when a potential buyer met company management, that all of the name cards were properly folded and placed in very feng shui manner. Laugh if you want, but I was an investment banking analyst and proud of it! In retrospect, I can’t possibly imagine why I didn’t have more dates lined up for my weekends when I would roll out of the office at midnight on a Saturday … strange.

Unfortunately, I did not work at J.T. Marlin, and wasn’t dripping swag like Ben Affleck in Boiler Room, “You Want details? Fine. I drive a Ferrari, 355 Cabriolet, What’s up? I have a ridiculous house in the South Fork. I have every toy you could possibly imagine. And best of all kids, I am liquid.” I double checked, and that’s a quote from the movie and not exactly how Mark Cuban and Michael Jordan started negotiations with the players.

Top 5 role of Ben Affleck's career.

So all that being said, I feel I am uniquely qualified to analyze how things have gone so incredibly wrong for the NBA, and why we will have a deal very shortly.

Competitive Tension

Whenever bankers have a company that, shall we say, has more issues than one of the umm…women..on Basketball Wives, we would immediately go towards the belief that extrapolating the best value would be to generate “competitive tension.” In other words, lets create the perception that there a lot of people interested in this turd sandwich…umm I mean company.

Unfortunately for the players, there is no competitive tension. Yeah, people can talk about playing in Europe or Japan or Crenshaw Blvd, but that is not scaring any of the owners. Everybody knows that nobody that’s been in the NBA wants to go and play anywhere else in the world. It would be like flying from Chicago to San Fran on Virgin America, and then getting stuck on some puddle jumper w/ 3 connections over 5 days to get back to where you started. (Note: we are not getting paid by Virgin America for that plug, but if you are flying to Cali, do yourself a favour and book Virgin America! Its awesome, I can’t go back!)

Think about it, instead of the United Center, you’re in some random gym in Europe, where there may or may not be enough security to prevent the crowds from throwing random garbage on you and worse. Also, how about sharing hotel rooms w/ teammates, instead of the usual veteran NBA groupies. On a side note, you haven’t lived until you’ve waited until after an NBA game ends and you see Hoodrat Central congregate by the entrance tunnels. I keep telling everybody, the NBA is faaaaaaan-tastic!

The owners know this, the fans know this, and most of the players know this. It is Billy Hunter’s job to broker the best deal possible under these circumstances. Not sure what the holdup is. Currently, we’re basically talking about a 50/50 split on the BRI, and all sides are a little irritated. That sounds like compromise to me.

We are one more bad press conference away from David Stern pulling a Gordon Gekko from the original Wall Street and screaming: “You’re walking around blind without a cane, pal. A fool and his money are lucky enough to get together in the first place.” Taking a puff of a cigarette, screaming “Let slip the dogs of war” and having an army of IRS agents descend upon the players and their agents. Shoutout to Jacob the Jeweler!!!
(feel free to google the reference at your own leisure).

Greed is good!

Show Me the Money

Taking a page from Steven A. Smith, the owners cut the checks, they’re the billionaires and ergo they have the leverage plain and simple. You can dress up the situation as much as you want, but at the end of the day billionaires tend to have more financial means than millionaires. Especially when the millionaires are in their early twenties, and tend to spend money like it is going out of style. I’m not blaming them, when bonus season at the banks comes around let’s just say tailors, car dealers and strip clubs have a healthy influx of business and incredibly suburban, sickly, sleep deprived kids walking around the city saying things like “making it rain” and “stunting”. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be awesome at basketball, have an entourage and women at your beck and call. So, I am not mad at any of them for having some spending extravagances.

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November 8, 2011

NBA: Where contraction happens??

Ramblings by JL

Is contraction good for the NBA?

This is not a post about the negotiations that are currently going on for a new NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement. I’m not going to take sides. I don’t care who gets what. At the end of the day, everybody involved in this process is going to go from filthy rich to filthy rich. But please, as a die-hard NBA fan who just wants to see some basketball, allow me to rant for a minute before getting on to my main point. Just SHUT UP! The NBA, the players associations, the owners, the union lawyers … all of you!! SHUT UP! We’re now entering the 128th day of this lockout. I’ve heard the rhetoric “We feel sorry for the fans, the stadium workers, and the team employees.” countless times from both the owners and the players. Each time I hear it, I get more peeved. You don’t care about fans or the people whose livelihoods depend on NBA games being played! This is all about greed! If you really did care, you would’ve realized how lucky you already have it, put your egos aside, and settled on a deal that would’ve started season on time! Look, I understand both of your perspectives. The owners, you want to lock players out and get a better deal because you can. That’s fine! I agree that you have the leverage in these negotiations. So why not get the best deal you can? That’s business 101! The players, you think you’ve already made all the concessions in these negotiations. Your egos will not a lot you to cave any further. You can even paint the picture that you’re holding the line for future generations of players. Fine! That’s an understandable position! So just be honest and tell us that this all about maximizing your profit, your income, your earnings potential, or whatever words you want to use! Don’t insult the intelligence of the fans by telling us how sorry you feel for us! Stop trying to play the public relations game. It just makes you look even more disingenuous. By the way, another rhetoric I’ve heard almost as much, mainly from players, is “This is about standing up for what’s fair”. It seems the players are confused about the distinction between market value and fair value. Don even get me started on what’s “fair value” for people who play a game for a living that has no tangible contribution to society other than entertainment.

All right. Rant over. Now, onto my main point. While I’m not a fan of how both the owners and the players have handled this CBA negotiation process, I do agree that the changes need to be made to the current NBA system. There are definitely teams that are losing money. Smaller market teams do have a competitive disadvantage compared to large market teams. Things that are being discussed right now during the new CBA negotiations will improve the situation. The lowered Basketball Related Income (BRI) split will put more money into owners’ pockets and make the league as a whole more profitable. The more punitive luxury tax rules will further discourage large market teams from simply outspending the small market teams. However, none of those changes really address the real issue that’s causing this lockout: We have too many teams that are losing money. Even with the discussed CBA changes, we will still have too many teams that will lose money.

If the media reports are correct, there is a significant split in position amongst the owners over the CBA changes that are currently discussed. So, if the CBA is agreed to as currently constituted, it will have been with a very small majority on the owners’ side. What this says to me is that if and when the new CBA is agreed to, a large number of owners will not be happy with the deal. So, in 5-6 years, or whenever the new CBA expires, we’ll be in the same place, going through all the same things we just went through over the past couple months. This cycle will rinse and repeat as long as we have a large portion of the NBA ownership losing money. So here is a different way to look at it. Instead of coming up with a CBA agreement that will ensure profitability for every NBA team, why don’t we just keep the teams that can be profitable under the new CBA? Yes, I’m talking about contraction.

I’m not going to take credit for this idea. It has been suggested by many different outlets throughout the years. But the more I think about, the more it makes sense. The way I look at it, NBA teams can be divided up into 3 different categories.

1) Big market teams that will profit no matter what (Lakers, Bulls, Knicks, Mavs, Clippers, etc.)
2) Mid to small market teams that will profit if they produce quality products (Heat, Magic, Sixers, Spurs, Nets, etc.)
3) Teams in markets that just don’t support pro-basketball unless they luck into a superstar (Bobcats, Hawks,
Kings, T-Wolves, Cavaliers, etc.)

Minny drafted KG but they couldn't surround him with enough talent ...

Roughly over the past 20 years, the NBA has expanded into the following markets: Miami, Orlando, Minnesota, Vancouver/Memphis, Toronto, Charlotte. Not all bad decisions. However, the expansions are not without unintended consequences. The NBA talent pool became diluted. The quality of the average NBA game declined. This not only affects the expansion teams, but every team in the league. As the average NBA talent declined, team success became increasingly dependent on having a great player. Based on the points I just made, a team’s financial health became dependent on 1) being in a big market, and 2) lucking into a great player. Since we all know where the major US markets are and there are only so many great NBA players, a large number of NBA teams simply aren’t fortunately enough to achieve consistent success and, therefore, aren’t profitable.

So what can we do to remedy the current landscape? Contract the teams in markets that just don’t support pro-basketball. As harsh as this sounds for fans in Charlotte, Atlanta, Sacramento, etc., it is just too difficult for an NBA team to turn consistent profits in those markets. You simply can’t have “hoping for the next Dominique Wilkins, Chris Webber, Kevin Garnett or LeBron James” as your business model. I believe 20-25 teams is the ideal position for the NBA to be in. Now, let’s look at how contraction will address the 2 major issues of the current CBA negotiations.

Profitability

Not only does contraction directly improve NBA’s overall profitability position, it also concentrates the player talent pool. Overtime, the average NBA team will be able to put a better product the floor. Teams in markets like Philly, New Jersey, Phoenix, Detroit will be able to improve their revenue with increased fan interest. In addition, there are less teams cutting up the revenue sharing pie. If we keep going down this road, the smaller market teams that are left will have better revenue sharing, better NBA product to attract local fan base and an improved profitability position. I think this one’s pretty straight forward. You get rid of your least profitable teams. It’s like a corporation closing down its least profitable subsidiaries to improve its financial position.

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November 4, 2011

#1 vs. #2: Five years since the last one (Mich vs. OSU, 2006)

Written Ramblings by JS & DJ

Will we see the game of the century on Saturday??

Cue up the Armageddon soundtrack – “Don’t wanna close my eyes, don’t wanna fall asleep cuz I miss you …” The mothership (ESPN) has referred to this weekend’s game between LSU and ‘Bama as Armageddon, that’s why I put up the words of Steven Tyler’s classic song from the 90s. Is the #1 LSU vs. #2 Alabama matchup on Saturday the game of the century?? There can’t just be one specific game of the century, it can be a collection games. This one might make it onto the list though. ESPN will break down all kinds of matchups between these two teams and let the viewers know everything about Les Miles’ obsession with eating grass during the games. This game is considered to be the de facto national semifinal. These are the two best teams right now and that won’t change after the SEC championship game. Don’t be surprised to see them in an all SEC BCS title game in January because that would be a pollster’s dream (can’t blame them).

What does a fan do before a matchup between #1 and #2 during the regular season? Do you prepare for the game differently? Does it just seem different than any other game? Mississippi State cancelled class a few weeks ago on a Thursday b/c they wanted the students to get ready for the visiting #1 LSU team. Alabama probably won’t cancel class but there probably has been a differeng buzz around the campus the whole week. How do the students handle it? How does a fan that is away from the campus handle it?

In order to understand how a fan feels before their teams plays in such a monumental matchup, we asked one of our writers JS (Michigan alum) to recollect the last time the top two teams faced off during the regular season. The game had BCS title implications (similar to this one), not to mention it is a big rivalry to begin with. The game was #1 Ohio State vs. #2 Michigan in 2006.

This is our way of getting ready for this weekend’s monster matchup … recollecting the last time this happened in college football. The following is JS’ recollection of the days leading up to the game and the game itself.

November 18th, 2006. That was the date of arguable the most hyped and biggest game in the storied Michigan / Ohio State rivalry. Ohio State was number one in the AP/Coaches/BCS and Michigan was number two in the AP/Coaches/BCS. This was a de facto national championship semi-final where the winner would go to the national championship game. Former Ohio State John Cooper stated: “How big is this game between Ohio State and Michigan? The loser of this game is going to the Rose Bowl.” Compounded with this game was the death of legendary (and that’s not hyperbole) head coach Bo Schembechler and this game took on monumental proportions in the lore of not only Michigan and Ohio State, but college football as well.

To understand the 2006 game, you have to look back at the 2005 season. Michigan underachieved like no other, finishing up a 7-5 season with a wild loss to Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl. Hopes were decently high for the 2006 squad – a squad loaded with NFL talent (7 offensive players, 8 defensive players, and 1 special teams player are all on NFL rosters right now) would hopefully break through and make a name for themselves. While having 8-4, 9-3 and 10-2 seasons are considered great for many teams; those are disappointing results for Michigan. A Big 10 and national championship are the goals for every Michigan team and while Michigan had recent Big 10 titles (2003 and 2004) they haven’t sniffed the national championship scene since the late 90s/early 2000s. It all changed in against Notre Dame.

Notre Dame was at the height of its hype machine with Heisman hopeful Brady Quinn and the schematic wizard Charlie Weis. Michigan had beat up two relative crème puffs in Vanderbilt and Central Michigan en route to a top ten rating (#10). Notre Dame was completely overrated as the number two team in the country. There were considerable discussions about whether or not Notre Dame could contend for the national championship and they all ended that day. Michigan started with a defensive touchdown as the ball bounced out of John Carlson’s name and right into Prescott Burgess’ hand for a pick six. They forced a punt and Michigan got the ball back only to promptly have Henne throw a pick right back to ND. They got down to the one yard line and scored two plays later. That was the closest ND would get to Michigan for the rest of the day.

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