Four-Point Shots May Be Sexy, But Are They Sexy Enough to Get You to Watch Summer Ball?

Four-Point Shots May Be Sexy, But Are They Sexy Enough to Get You to Watch Summer Ball?

As you may or may not have noticed during this year's Olympic games, the FIBA basketball floor looks a lot more like the NBA court than it used to.

As time is moving on and basketball becoming more popular around the globe, it's not surprising to see an increasing uniformity of the rules.

Unless, of course, you're trying to launch a new alumni summer basketball league and then all bets are off and this is 'Nam, Walter, and there aren't rules.

Well, okay, there are some. What the hell are we talking about? Find out after the jump.

If you're feeling a little lost, The-BALL (Basketball Alumni Legends League) wrapped up it's two-day showcase unveiling Sunday night at Saint Joseph's.

The league, founded by former filmmaker Michael Wranovics, is meant to give former college standouts -- guys like Pat Carroll and Curtis Sumpter, who played their final games as professionals last night -- an extra opportunity to earn some cash by playing ball during the summer. It also aims to give fans the chance to see some old favorites they haven't in a while. You can read more on Wranovics' vision, scheduled to start in full force in summer 2013, by clicking here.

In an effort to differentiate itself, The-BALL, as upstart leagues are wont to do, has gone ahead and tweaked the rules and conventions of basketball just a bit. On the whole, the changes are actually kind of amusing and surprisingly palatable with one very notable exception. This isn't the full list of differences -- which you can read here -- but a list of the ones that immediately stood out.

-- A four-point line that extends the shooter 25 feet from the basket.

-- All and-one shooting fouls automatically result in three-point plays upon a made basket.

-- All non-shooting fouls result in one free throw attempt worth two points.

-- All quarters start with a tip-off and each team has to use a different player at each jump—no repeats.

-- The 30-second shot clock becomes a 20-second shot clock inside of five minutes to play.

-- Teams do not enter the bonus until the opposing squad registers 16 total personals.

-- Once a team is in the bonus, all fouls result in one free throw, again worth two points, and the shooting team retains the basketball.

-- There's a live band, whom I believe went by the name "Supreme and the New Experience" (but don't hold me to that), who played before and after the game and during all breaks. This isn't a rule change, but it was really phenomenal anyway.

Alright, we'll start with the good or plainly acceptable. Watching Dionte Christmas score eight points in two possessions removed any and all skepticism related to the four-pointer. As for the auto-and-ones, it really doesn't get in the way of the game at all and it's surprisingly easy to accept. Same with the one free throw worth two points -- there's suddenly a whole lot more drama surrounding a free throw; if he makes, well okay, and if he doesn't, "oh sh*t that was worth two points, this guy's confidence at the line is going to go down faster than normal!"

As for the bad, critics of the game of basketball often complain about how badly the game can break down inside of a minute to play. The trailing team starts fouling to buy time, constant trips to the foul line ensue, one minute takes twenty to play and you know the deal. But here's the thing, that's a wrinkle in basketball you really can't do away with. And giving the team the ball back when they're in the bonus completely negates this strategy.

Granted, the diminished shot clock and four-point line could certainly make things interesting, and if desperation starts sooner than normal teams might stand a chance to come back; but of all the rule changes, that one felt the least like real basketball. There was just something plainly and profoundly oft-putting about it.

On the one hand, you could say it's fair for an upstart league to want to garner as much interest as possible, and changing a few things could conceivably do that. On the other hand, this league is trying to appeal to people like me -- basketball addicts, because only basketball addicts are pining to watch Mark Tyndale play basketball again. We're pining for that because we're already addicts, and thus don't need to be further incentivized by gimmicks.

Then again, most diehard fans are the people who will complain about how things are going only to keep showing up. So if you're not losing what you presume to be your core base by making a few changes, it can't hurt to try to spark the interest of a few others along the way.

You just have to be make sure your diehards are really diehards, which the league in question obviously hasn't done yet. But once you've got the word out, you can go for broke.
Bear in mind the conclusion here is more theoretical than practical as specifically related to The-BALL, which only drew maybe 500 people last night. But I studied philosophy, so I'm a theory guy.

As always, your thoughts on whatever you'd like to address?

Seth Smith would be a logical, low-cost trade target for Phillies

Seth Smith would be a logical, low-cost trade target for Phillies

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Tuesday night he'd still like another veteran bat in addition to Howie Kendrick, though he understands the front office is conscious of not blocking young prospects.

The Phillies need offense and the clearest area to upgrade is an outfield corner. But don't expect to see the Phils go after Jose Bautista, Michael Saunders or anyone of that ilk, because those players will require multi-year guarantees and everyday playing time. If you sign one of them, you're basically telling two of Roman Quinn, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr that they won't be needed much the next three years. 

That would be unwise. The whole point of rebuilding is filling a roster with young, inexpensive talent and then eventually supplementing that core with established players who fit. Look at what the Cubs did. Look at what the Astros are doing now, adding older players like Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Nori Aoki and Josh Reddick to fill in the holes around Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman.

For that reason, a player like Seth Smith would be a worthwhile addition for the Phillies.

Smith, 34, makes $7 million in 2017, the final year of his contract with the Mariners. When Mackanin discusses "professional hitters," Smith is the type. He has one of the better batting eyes in baseball, chasing about eight percent fewer pitches outside the strike zone the last three years than the league average.

He's a career .261/.344/.447 hitter who averages 29 doubles, 16 homers, 56 walks and 102 strikeouts per 162 games.

The left-handed Smith can play both outfield corners, and he's always been very effective against right-handed pitching. He has a .272 career batting average with an .827 OPS against righties compared to .202 with a .594 OPS vs. lefties. 

Smith is a fit for the Phillies for several reasons. They need more offense from the corner outfield. Logically, that outfielder should be a left-handed hitter because the Phillies' projected middle of the order has four right-handed bats in Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph, Cameron Rupp and Kendrick.

Furthermore, Smith, unlike Saunders, for example, does not require everyday playing time. Smith shouldn't start against lefties. That would provide opportunities to Altherr and Quinn in 2017, while protecting against ineffectiveness from Altherr and another injury to Quinn.

And lastly, Smith is not going to cost anything meaningful via trade. He's a 34-year-old platoon player in the final year of his deal. The Phillies could likely land him for an insignificant prospect, perhaps a pitcher who had a high strikeout rate last season in the low levels of the minor leagues. 

For Seattle, it would be more of a salary dump. The Mariners' 2016 payroll is already $20 million more than it was last year, and per reports, they seem willing to spend to improve their starting rotation.

Smith is not a game-changer, that's not the argument here. He's not J.D. Martinez, a much bigger name and better player. Martinez would also fit the Phillies as a one-year option, and they'd likely be interested in keeping him around longer if they could acquire him. But any trade with the Tigers for Martinez wouldn't be nearly as painless for the Phils as acquiring Smith. 

So perhaps more than other available outfielders, Smith would be an offensive upgrade and a player who fits the Phillies' goal of improving without stunting a top prospect's growth.

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

Connor McDavid, Oilers' speed, skill present Flyers with 'real good challenge'

VOORHEES, N.J. — They are among the very best – and highest scoring — lines in the NHL this season.
 
And they’re gunning for the Flyers on Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
 
Connor McDavid’s unit with Milan Lucic and Leon Draisaitl have a combined 30 goals and 78 points worth of offense. 
 
Among them, the lightning quick McDavid leads the NHL with 36 points. All 11 of his goals are even strength. 
 
He doesn’t have a single power-play goal, but is tied for the league lead with several players, including Claude Giroux, with 10 power-play assists.
 
You can expect to see Pierre-Edouard Bellemare’s unit with Chris VandeVelde and Dale Weise against this line with defenseman Ivan Provorov drawing McDavid for the first time this season.
 
“Speed and skill that Edmonton has up front presents a real good challenge for our team,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We have to be better with the puck tomorrow. 
 
“We didn’t do enough when we had the puck. Gave it up a little too easily and because of that, you end up playing defense a lot of the night and that’s what happened last night to us.”
 
Bellemare, who had his share of forward battles with Jaromir Jagr in Tuesday, likes to analyze the matchups against McDavid.
 
“He’s one of the best players in the world,” Bellemare said of the 19-year-old McDavid. “It’s tough not to be excited when playing against a guy who plays like this. He competes every second he is on the ice. That line is an impressive line.”
 
The Flyers better have some bad, choppy ice to slow McDavid down. Edmonton has some of the fastest ice in the league and the Oilers use it to their full advantage. 
 
Asked of McDavid’s tendencies, Bellemare said, “Is that a tendency? To be super fast?”
 
Yes it is. 
 
“When you play against them, he is a kid who is freaky fast right from the start,” Bellemare said. “Against that line, you saw [against Buffalo] that everyone knows how fast he is and he still had two breakaways.”
 
Which means the Flyers need to watch their turnovers, especially in the neutral zone where McDavid can go 60 feet in a flash.
 
“Even blue line to the top of the circle, you can’t turn the puck over,” Bellemare said. “Or he’s gone. This is a tendency we have to be careful of. All of the ice, you can’t give him any time or space. The less time you give him, the bigger chance you have to frustrate a player like this.”
 
Bellemare did some talking with Jagr a couple times in Tuesday’s game. So did Provorov. Bellemare says it helps to add psychology to the mix.
 
“You try to be in his face,” Bellemare said. “If you can win that battle against that line and our first line can win the battle against their fourth line, then it’s a win-win situation. I was trying to be in [Jagr’s] face.”
 
Jagr actually got angrier at Provorov and it showed with his hooking calls. But when Bellemare and Jagr went into the corner, Jagr got testy with his stick there as well.
 
“He was trying to give it to me a little harder,” Bellemare said. “Exactly what I need. If he is less focused on the puck, then maybe I have a chance to win that puck.”
 
McDavid’s focus will be solely on the puck.
 
“McDavid has been playing some pretty good hockey,” Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. “They’re a high-tempo team. A smart team. We’ve got to be ready.”
 
Loose pucks
Boyd Gordon came off long term injured reserve onto the active roster to give the Flyers 13 forwards. In doing that, Matt Read (oblique pull) went on injured reserve. … Defenseman Michael Del Zotto will sit against the Oilers while Radko Gudas returns from an illness. Gudas will be paired with Mark Streit, as Ivan Provorov remains with Andrew MacDonald for now. … Steve Mason, who did not practice Wednesday, will start in goal.