The third ever regular season game played in the UK took place last night. The Knicks beat the Pistons 102-87. The result itself was almost a forgone conclusion, with New York heavily favoured from the outset. But for basketball lovers in the UK, the impact of the game could prove far greater than what was on the scoreboard at the end of the night…
What we liked
There were a lot of positives to the game, and none more so than the increased exposure of the sport this side of the Atlantic. At the start of the season, no games were even being televised in the UK. As part of their agreement to show NBA London, Sky announced that they will be showing games on Sundays for the rest of the season. NBA is back. And this time, no subscription is required.
Aside from TV coverage, the game at the O2 was a sell-out. Despite the inflated ticket prices, almost 20,000 fans were in attendance to see Carmello and company amble their way to victory. Whatever their previous basketball experience, the crowd was energetic and it seemed like there was a genuinely good atmosphere. Not only does this mean more attention is being given to the sport, it also means that the league is likely to want to come back.
Also, we’re huge fans of Kevin Cadle in a makeshift studio (and watching basketball at a reasonable hour).
What we didn’t like
Sure, the game could have been more competitive. And sure, it would have been nice to have a more instantly recognisable team than the Pistons (who were, incidentally, meant to be at home – despite New York supporters outnumbering Piston supporters roughly 1295 to 1). The main problem however, unfortunately came with the amateur nature of the coverage.
Firstly, aside from the very talented and under appreciated Kevin Cadle (did we mention we like Kevin Cadle), the commentary team left a lot to be desired. Mike Shaft and Rob Paternostro unfortunately provided the bulk of it. While the latter (who is coach of the Leicester Riders British basketball team) actually performed pretty well, the former was just far too excitable to be taken seriously.
Shaft, who used to provide UK Basketball coverage, and has an extensive background in radio presenting. However, last night it sounded like he’d never watched a game before in his life. Alternating between ‘Wow’ and ‘Oh baby’ for every lay-up, his enthusiasm was only matched by his use of stock phrases (‘nothing but net’ being a particular favourite).
We’re sure he’s a very good commentator, and will grow back in to the role as the weeks go on, so we’re prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. But saying ‘we have a ten (or less) point ball game’ at every available opportunity is not particularly helping his cause. This is basketball Mike. It will be a 10 or less point game quite often. And that’s OK.
Add to this the unreliable virtual scoreboard, which either didn’t have a shot clock or simply disappeared, and roving reporter Julie Collier, who was very nice but had a hard time actually listening to her interviewee’s answers, and it’s clear that Sky don’t really know what to do with their live coverage yet.
With their NFL offering of a consistently high standard, there is definitely hope for the NBA. If they don’t manage to do the same, well hey. It’s just nice to have it back.
N.B. Hopefully they will also stop speaking about a potential European franchise at every opportunity. One step at a time…