Fixing the NBA's Preseason

Chris Quinn

I love the NBA. I love the regular season, I definitely love the playoffs and I even love the summer league.

But I hate the preseason.

Why? First and foremost, the NBA makes it nearly impossible to watch a game. I'm a Pistons fan, and even though they were one of the last four teams standing last year, the four months from the end of the conference finals to the start of the preseason felt like an eternity. So when the Pistons took the court for their first preseason game last week, I was understandably geeked ... until I realized it wasn't even televised, at least not in the Detroit market.

Sadly, that's actually a common occurence for preseason games -- of the eight games on Detroit's slate, only three will be televised in metro Detroit. I'm baffled by the decision -- the best I can gather is that TV execs are worried about ratings what with the MLB playoffs, the NFL and college football, the NHL and cars with lots of advertisments driving in circles competing for the average sports fan's attention.

But still, there are a lot of fans who only have eyes for the NBA, and denying them a chance to watch not one, not two, but a full 60% of the preseason? It just doesn't make sense. Certainly there's at least one station willing to show the game, right? And if there's not, why not just put it online? In fact, that might actually be preferable since it'd kill two birds with one stone: appeasing local fans who'd otherwise be shutout as well as throwing a bone to international fans who weren't going to have a chance to tune in.

Not surprisingly, I'm not the only one frustrated with the current state of the NBA preseason. Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune wants to improve it, as well, and he's brainstormed several outstanding ideas to make it more relevant. A couple of my favorites:

Start with location: Spring training has the benefit of being in two places - - Arizona and Florida - - where fans want to vacation. I proposed having the NBA gather all its Western Conference teams in Las Vegas and Eastern Conference teams in Miami for a tournament.

I love it. It reminds me a lot of how NBA summer league games are played in Las Vegas -- the ball tips early in the afternoon, and as two teams finish, two more take the court; five or six games played on two courts under one roof -- all for the price of one ticket.

I'm sure the NBA would have to tweak things to make it work (not only logistically but also financially), but that's for the bean counters to figure out. Doing something like this would not only generate excitement but also create a new tradition -- if I'm willing to spend a week braving triple-digit temperatures in Vegas to take in rookies and scrubs, I'd definitely be up for an early autumn trip to a warm locale, especially if I get to watch actual NBA All-Stars and not D-League wannabes.

Siler proposed another no-brainer:

There also should be no ticket to any NBA preseason game that costs more than $25. I know that's a hit in Larry Miller's pocket, but I think it would send a message to fans. Upper deck tickets should be $5 and general admission seating.

I'd go so far as to make the majority of lower bowl seats general admission. From what I can tell, most preseason games are played in front of half capacity, if that. Why not fill up that lower bowl by rewarding fans willing to make the trek to get as close as possible? These games don't count (and the play on the court often reflects that), so why should fans pay full price? Give them a taste of the game experience now and they'll be that much more likely to pay a few extra bucks for the good seats later.

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