Author Topic: § Oceania & Australia Basketball News, Stories & Events • Noticias & Eventos del Baloncesto en Oceanía y Australia  (Read 148259 times)

Ground Ball

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Oceania & Australia Basketball News, Stories & Events • Noticias, Historias & Eventos del Baloncesto en Oceanía y Australia

Growing the game
Paulo Kennedy’s View from Downunder
Ok, so before I get onto what I promised to talk about I have to quickly give a shout out to Glen Saville.

One of Australia’s greatest ever small forwards, the 37-year-old Sav was sadly forced to retire after suffering a serious knee injury last week against New Zealand.

I’ll give him the write up he deserves in coming weeks but until then,
congrats Sav on a fantastic career.
So back to the WNBL and what needs to be done to generate more revenue. From what I can tell it’s not an easy task.

While different criteria can be used, the WNBL’s average weekly reach of combined TV viewers and game attendances can be described as around 30,000-35,000 people. That’s not a lot of exposure when you're asking a company to invest in unpredictable economic times.

The WNBL’s commercial potential is quite similar to the VFL, a semi-professional Australian rules football league.

They both have similar television deals with the ABC and attract similar ratings and crowds. Fittingly, the WNBL’s major sponsorship deal with iiNet fetches a very similar amount of money as the VFL’s naming rights agreement with Peter Jackson.

I understand the WNBL’s target range for a naming rights sponsor is higher, around the $100,000 mark, but what would that deliver even if signed?

Kristi Harrower suggested it could be distributed to clubs to help cover their player cost burden.

That makes sense in the short term, but unless the money generated can help significantly increase the weekly reach of 30,000 it isn't going to make a dent, and the sponsor will have no reason to re-sign when the deal expires. The circle will continue.

At the end of the day, the WNBL product on its own is very unlikely to attract the commercial support needed to achieve the improvements its players are hoping for.

That might sound like doom and gloom, but it’s not. Let’s take a look at tennis for a few rays of sunshine.

Depending on what you read, the average prize money at separate men’s ATP tour events is around 30-50 per cent higher than women’s WTA events.

Like the NBL, which has a weekly reach three-four times greater than the WNBL, the ATP events attract more fans and sponsors.

The good news is that all four tennis Grand Slams, which are joint events, have equal prize money.

Part of the reason is these events are sold as one entire product, there is no separation of ticketing revenue, media rights or sponsorship. Once costs are covered the remaining money can be split up as organisers see fit.

Selling both genders opens up significantly more avenues to generate sponsorship than single-gender events because you have more ‘target markets’ covered.

So even though the men’s side generates more revenue, if you split the grand slams both sides would likely lose out financially.

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What does this have to do with basketball?

Australia's Kristi Harrower lays up a shot after getting past USA's Tina Charles and Sue Bird with her teammate Lauren Jackson coming to help during a women's semifinals basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. Photograph AP by Charles Krupa.

Well, if Basketball Australia can find a joint product to sell they can generate revenue well above what the NBL and WNBL do individually, which at this point is insufficient for growth.

And while some are quick to label BA “sexist”, if you want to pin them down for something it is 15-20 years of letting their valuable “joint product” hide, unnoticed, because they had little idea what it entailed or how to sell it.

Basketball Australia’s slogan is “everyone’s game”, yet they haven’t known how many people play the sport, what age they are, what gender they are, how often they play, where they live, how many families have multiple basketballers in them – the list could go on and on.

“A huge Achilles heel of our sport at the moment is we really don’t have any key commercial partners, yet we are one of the highest participation sports,” said Graeme Allan, BA’s new General Manager of Game Development.

“I can’t go to a key partner and say this is truly our market.”

Ever since the boom of the 90s that saw basketball reach the upper echelons of participation sports in Australia, it simply has not been able to generate revenue from that success, nor access what would seem a fair share of public funding.

But new CEO Kristina Keneally has set Allen the task of completing a registration database for all participants ASAP so BA knows EXACTLY what the sport’s footprint is.

“Kristina has made it very clear to me that she needs this to happen, basketball needs this to happen and I need this to happen,” Allen said.

While in the past there has appeared to be reluctance from local and state associations to “hand over” their data, Allen says now there is a clear plan and methodology he is meeting nothing but enthusiasm.

After all, the project will likely make basketball cheaper to play, government funding for facilities easier to attain, and commercial revenue easier to generate.

“We have a federated model at the moment where the associations pay the states and the states support BA. We need to get more to the AFL model where the income and commerciality is driven from the top to benefit the rest of the sport,” Allen said.

“I anticipate we’ll have that (participant database) mapped out by no later than the middle of this year and we’ll have it in place and operational by the end of the calendar year.”

And there lies the future for the NBL and WNBL. At the moment what they can generate alone is barely enough to keep their leagues alive let alone grow.

But when BA can make it perfectly clear to government and private enterprise exactly how popular and widespread basketball is, and what demographics can be reached by investing in “everyone’s game”, the whole sport from top to bottom benefits.

Crucially, through both the database and the goodwill this can generate with local associations, BA can finally link the massive grassroots with the under-supported elite competitions.

NBL databases are in the tens of thousands while there are believed to be close to one million basketballers in Australia!

BA has failed for a long time in these crucial areas, it is one of the main reasons the sport has gone from a position of commercial strength and opportunity 15-20 years ago to bare bones now.

Credit to the new regime for tackling this head on, if they can get this right the future is bright.

If it can’t, then elite clubs of both genders will constantly be scraping to get by and firing various salvos at BA for not doing enough.

Paulo Kennedy from FIBA

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ESB Mario Sebastia

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Oceania & Australia Basketball News, Stories & Events • Noticias, Historias & Eventos del Baloncesto en Oceanía y Australia

Really? Sexism again?

The complaint of sexism has again raised its ugly head in Australian basketball.

Remember ‘Business Class Gate’ before the London , when a member of the Australian Opals complained anonymously to a journalist that her team had to fly Economy while the Aussie men’s team was up the pointy end.

“Sexism” and “disrespect” were the cries. The women’s team is more successful so they should get the same treatment as the men from Basketball Australia, was the mantra.

It caught on with the mainstream media, who know there is a significant audience for “hard done by” stories.

Of course, as it turned out Basketball Australia had very little to do with which flights the respective teams travelled on. Each team’s management were given a budget, which was reportedly bigger for the Opals, and they had to choose how to spend it.

So as you can imagine I was pretty keen to actually examine the facts last week when Canberra Capitals guard Jessica Bibby accused Basketball Australia of … you guessed it … sexism.

What was the issue? Basketball Australia ordered the Capitals to cease a trial where they were live streaming their home games over the internet.


Bibby’s case is that Basketball Australia set up NBL.TV this past off-season for the men’s competition without establishing a WNBL equivalent, and them taking the next step of shutting down a club-based streaming initiative was confirmation of discrimination against the country’s female ballers.

Canberra Capitals guard Jessica Bibby is fouled by Kylie Reid on her way to the basket. Picture: Colleen Petch Source: Herald Sun

It’s been hard to really gage BA’s reasoning on this one because they have been pretty silent on it. That appears to be by far their biggest crime.

One WNBL game per week is being streamed live by the ABC, so maybe this contradicts that deal?

BA have said for a while they are working on a deal to secure WNBL.TV next season, maybe they feel the quality or lack thereof of the Capitals’ efforts might negatively impact on that?

A live streaming effort by a number of NBL clubs a few years ago was at times lacking in quality and reliability, perhaps BA are trying to learn from that lesson which created a reputation of dodgy steaming for the NBL?

Either of those would be valid reasons, but I just wish BA would speak up and let us know. My personal feeling is they should let the streaming continue unless it is a contravention of a rights deal.

As for “sexism”, once again it appears to be a case of the girl who cried wolf.

NBL.TV was able to be set up because demand from international betting agencies, and over half of the league’s games already being covered by TV, made it viable.

Go to one of those betting sites and you do not see a lot of streaming of women’s basketball games, and only one WNBL game per week is broadcast on the government-funded television stations, hence WNBL.TV is taking some more work.

Perhaps knowing her claim of sexism regarding live streaming lacked any real evidence, Bibby also pointed to the “discrimination” of NBL players having access to Virgin airlines’ lounge on road trips while WNBL players didn’t.

Of course, a quick trip to the respective websites tells you the NBL is sponsored by Virgin and the WNBL is not. I wonder if that has anything to do with it?

Not content, John Tuxworth, the journalist Bibby fed her accusations to, added at the bottom of his second article on the topic that:

“Basketball Australia's 2010-11 annual report reveals $3.447 million, or 31.4 per cent of total expenditure, was on the NBL. By comparison $787,000 or 7.2 per cent was on the WNBL.”

What he failed to mention, of course, is how much revenue each league generated for BA.

The NBL has attracted a naming rights sponsor, the WNBL has not. The NBL has attracted a commercial television deal, the WNBL has not. The NBL averages 5000 people per game, many WNBL clubs would be happy with 10 per cent of that figure.

As politicians say over and over again, “it’s the economy stupid”.

Between flights to the Olympics, live streaming that appears to be about rights and revenue, airline lounge access that is about sponsorship, and expenditure that is simply about revenue generated, there are a lot of things being blamed on sexism for little more than publicity’s sake.

Sadly, when something does happen that is actually based on gender, that claim may well have lost its credibility.

Paulo Kennedy from FIBA

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HBC Brian Denver

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Oceania & Australia Basketball News, Stories & Events • Noticias, Historias & Eventos del Baloncesto en Oceanía y Australia

They're partying in Cairns

It was a great night for Cairns tonight.

Cairns is a small city in the remote far north of Queensland, home to around 150,000 residents with a community-owned professional  team, the Taipans.

When the ‘Snakes’ went all the way to the 2011  Grand Final, despite only spending about 75% of the  cap, the city went crazy.

Last  things went to another level, with the 5300 Cairns Convention Centre almost always close to sold out. That’s around one in 30 residents in the building!

Sadly, injuries  in the  meant the Taipans missed the playoffs on head-to-head, but with some solid recruiting expectations in the tropics were as high as the humidity.

So what do you think happened when the team slipped to 4-10 last week and into the bomb shelter for the first time since 2004? Negative media? Fan boycotts? Finger pointing?

None of it. In fact, the fans gave the players a guard of honour at the airport as they flew out to Wollongong to meet Gordie McLeod’s fourth-placed Hawks.

Then on game day they stirred up a tidal wave of support on social media that filled any basketball follower’s twitter feed!

The result? The Taipans came from seven points down with a few minutes to play to force overtime and then claim a 13-point win, 94-81, in the extra period!

Import Jamar Wilson was his composed self again and veterans Alex Loughton and Aaron Grabau seemed to hit all the shots their diminutive leader created.

The players’ on-court celebrations said it all.

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It was the icing on the cake for Cairns in a week where the San Antonio Spurs bought out the contract of former Taipans Academy player Aron Baynes from Ljubljana in Slovenia.

The Australian Aron Baynes under the basket trying to stop Pau Gasol. Photograph: Jorge Guerrero - AFP.'

Amazingly, when Baynes steps onto the floor he will be the second player from Cairns to make it to the NBA, remembering that Australia has only produced 10 players who’ve made the big time in the USA.

The other ‘Cairns-ite’ is Nathan Jawai who now plies his trade for Barcelona and who also came through the Taipans Academy.

Current Taipans head coach Aaron Fearne has had a long involvement with the Academy and deserves an enormous amount of credit for the amount of work he put in with the big guys.

This past off-season they were both back in Cairns working out under Fearne’s watchful and oft-pedantic eye.

In fact, remarkably, Baynes was having trouble securing another import contract in Europe despite a very good year in the Greek league, and there was even an outside chance he may have played back with the Taipans.

Two average years prior to that in Lithuania and Germany and the diminishing reputation of the once great Hellas competition meant Baynes’ bargaining position was not strong.

But despite his early professional struggles Baynes never stopped working, and his chance to impress came at the London Olympics with Andrew Bogut out injured and Aleks Maric out of touch after becoming permanently affixed to the Panathinaikos bench.

I don’t think many people who saw Baynes embarrassingly out of his depth in the 2009 FIBA Oceania  would have seen his Olympic performance coming.

He used his athleticism, power and strength with a degree of restraint that had previously been absent, and his combination with Matthew Dellavedova was one of the highlights of the tournament, at least for those of us Downunder.

But even after a breakout Olympics I could not have seen the impact he would have at Ljubljana, leading the Euroleague efficiency  after the regular season.

Like his powerful body, Baynes is simply an irrepressible force at the moment, and there is no better way to hit the NBA hardcourts than full of confidence.

Who knows how he will go, but you can be sure he will receive unwavering support from the proud people of Cairns even if he has some early struggles.

I’m sure the Taipans players will tell you that’s about all you need !

Paulo Kennedy from FIBA

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Ozzie Fan

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Does the NBLPA have a ‘point’ ?

Here is the conclusion to my column two weeks ago about the NBL Players Association’s (NBLPA) campaign to remove the Player Points Cap (PPC) from Oceania’s premier competition.

The key questions in this debate are does the PPC restrain NBL players’ trade? And is the league in a position where it can discard the PPC without it affecting key factors in its sustainability? Most notably parity and spending on player salaries.

NBLPA President Jacob Holmes was very generous with his time explaining the NBLPA’s point of view.

When I asked for specific examples of players’ trade being restricted by the PPC, he referred to former Brisbane Bullets swingman Mick Hill, a valuable reserve in their 2007 championship team.

Following the 2008  the Bullets handed back their NBL licence, while the Sydney Kings and Singapore Slingers also dropped out of the competition.

Holmes said Hill's points value was a key factor in his NBL  finishing then and there.

"Clubs just weren’t willing to commit eight points to a player of his level and that’s just a blatant restriction of his trade,” Holmes said.

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“It wasn’t due to salary, it wasn’t due to anything except his eight points."

Another example Holmes provided was Australian Boomer and Murcia (Spanish ACB) forward David Barlow, who was recently quoted as saying: "One of the main reasons I would want to come back to  is for  security, but the points system takes that security away, makes players with higher ratings at risk of losing their ."

David Barlow #10 of Australia celebrates with Patrick Mills #5, David Andersen #13 and Joe Ingles #7 after making the game winning three point shot against Russia in the final seconds of the Men's Basketball Preliminary Round match on Day 10 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Basketball Arena on August 6, 2012 in London, England

His theory was teams performing poorly might offload players with a high points value so they could overhaul their rosters.

In terms of Hill, the big question is whether it was it the contraction from 13 teams to 10, his approaching 30th birthday and average of 7.8 points at 34% that led to him missing out on a job, or was it his PPC rating?

It could be argued he was incorrectly rated given his poor statistics. That is a case for adjustment, not removal of the system.

With 25-30 less positions for locals from 2008 to 2009, and another two teams dropping out the following , a large number of players were going to miss out.

Yes, a hypothetical case could be made that without a points system it might have been someone else and not Hill, but are hypothetical 'mights' enough to make a significant overhaul of the way NBL rosters are governed?

In terms of Barlow’s comments, I have thought long and hard, but I cannot recall one local player being dropped because of his high points rating in the history of the system.

There’s no reason for them to, the points rating assigned is based on their statistics. If their numbers drop, so does their rating.

Players who have produced the numbers that earn nine or 10-point ratings are in high demand and get the best contract offers.

The NBLPA have recruited Brendan Schwab, General Secretary of the Australian Athletes Alliance, to help their cause, and earlier in the year he wrote: “a points system effectively involves management grading players and then deciding, based on those grades, who can play for whom and who can earn what.”

Again, this shows a complete lack of understanding of how the points system works, and calls into question the NBLPA’s case.

The PPC does not decide “who can earn what”. Clubs pay players what they deem them to be worth in accordance with market value.

There is correlation between PPC ratings and salary, but that is because they are both based on a players’ performance and their value to the team.

So after reading Schwab’s position, Barlow’s comments and listening to Jacob Holmes’ arguments I simply cannot find real examples where the PPC is a restraint of players’ trade.

However, that does not mean the NBL should not listen to what they have to say.

It should never be forgotten that the players are what makes the NBL a high quality and – by world standards – well-supported competition.

If players are genuinely unhappy, it is time to find middle ground. But where is it?

I am particularly impressed by the NBLPA members’ stated willingness to open up their personal finances to scrutiny to help strict enforcement of the salary cap.

This is a serious olive branch reinforcing their belief a well-enforced salary cap is both possible and a genuine alternative to a points system.

To test out this theory, and move towards getting rid of the PPC, the NBLPA should offer to a two-year trial of this with the points cap still in place.

Clear guidelines would be needed stating exactly what would make a successful trial. If they are met that would trigger a new collective bargaining agreement without a PPC.

If they trial is unsuccessful, and the NBL cannot reliably identify payments through this system – a vital requirement to maintain parity and give all teams a chance at sustainability – the onus is on the NBLPA to come up with another system that could work.

From my point of view the biggest issues for the NBL are increasing the number of clubs so there are more than a measly 65  for local players, and ensuring the sustainability of current clubs so there isn't a further reduction in the number of jobs.

Removing the PPC does not help achieve either of those goals, so for mine the onus is on the NBLPA to show how its removal can be achieved in a low-risk way.

If they are prepared to undergo a trial to demonstrate this then I congratulate them. If they will only accept the immediate removal of the PPC I think they are putting their own personal interest ahead of the health of the sport.

 Paulo Kennedy from FIBA

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Coach Charles 221

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Cedric the great

Remember the days when people would have only a handful of jobs their entire lives? And some would find a good  and stick with it until that golden handshake?

Things have changed a lot, people in their 20s today don’t last much longer than two years in the one job on average. That’s made the landscape of life vastly different, and basketball certainly hasn’t been spared.

In the “good old days” of  basketball, imports would arrive from the USA, fall in love with the country and stay for years, if not decades.

That coincided with the early years of the , when imports could dominate the local talent, and so a generation or two of truly legendary imports were created.

One of those was the great Darryl McDonald, a New York playground legend who arrived in 1994 at the ripe age of 30 to begin his  career.

He revolutionised a league that had traditionally relied on imports to score the points by leading the North Melbourne Giants to the championship by getting his teammates involved.

He averaged 10.0 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 4.5 steals per night in his stunning debut , and 7.2 dimes, 4.5 boards and 2.6 thefts over his career.

His amazing passing, incredible defensive anticipation and feel for the game were something  fans had never seen before.

Amazingly enough, given his late arrival, the ‘D-Mac’ finished his NBL career 14 years later with his third championship! As far as legends go, they don’t get much bigger than the D-Mac.

Of , things are different these days. Like the rest of the working world, if an import stays in one job for three or four years that is a long time.

So, for some who long for the stability of the past, comparing any of today’s imports to the legends of yesteryear can be a bit of a taboo. But thanks to a  called Cedric Jackson it is time to blow that thinking out of the water.

When Jackson first arrived at the  Breakers last season, Australian gun CJ Bruton – himself the son of a legendary 80s import who stayed – whispered that ‘Ced’ could be the second coming of the D-Mac.

Sure enough, Jackson helped the Breakers overcome the loss of Kirk Penney to the ACB and defend their NBL title, and he did it averaging just 12.8 points per game.

Excuse the deja-vu, but his 6.5 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 2.3 steals and his uncanny ability to see things unfolding before anyone else on the floor gave hoops fans a time-trip back to 1994!

D-Mac himself doesn’t like getting into comparisons, but he loves  Cedric the Entertainer play.

“I do. That guy is tough. The way he finds people, the way he plays D, he just comes up with the ball, his anticipation is great,” he said.

“I’ve seen him have games where he’s only had five points, but he’s had eight assists and seven rebounds and they win by 10.”

Jackson is clearly peeved he didn’t receive his fourth NBA contract in the off-season after getting only brief minutes in his first stints, and the 26-year-old has taken his game to a new level this season.

Last week he became the first player since Derek Rucker in 1998 to record double figure assists in consecutive games, dishing out 23 in consecutive nights on the road.

Bear in mind that for most of that period, NBL games were played over 48 minutes but are now in the regular FIBA 40-minute format. That didn’t bother Cedric.

So what did he do to celebrate that achievement? He racked up a hat-trick by handing out another 11 dimes tonight against Townsville in front of 7,500 adoring fans in Auckland.

The truth is, when you are talking about the best players of all time you can never accurately split the best, especially when they played in different eras.

But you can tell who belongs in the elite group, and on the evidence of his first 41 games Jackson deserves to mentioned up there with the best Americans ever to come Downunder.

Just like D-Mac, he can and regularly does control a game at both ends without having to score a lot of points.

Both FIBAtv and NBLtv screen NBL games, so do yourself a favour, log on and see what Jackson brings to the table.

He is a special player, and I’m sure Tall Blacks  Nenad Vucinic is praying he hangs around New Zealand for another year or two and picks up a passport!

The last word though, belongs to an Aussie.

Damian Martin has guarded the likes of Nate Robinson, Deron Williams, JJ Redick, Milos Teodosic, Goran Dragic, Patty Mills and CJ Bruton across his NBL, international and college career, but doesn’t hesitate when asked where Jackson ranks.

“He’d be in the top three hardest players I’ve faced, including NBA and European stars, and I mean that,” Martin said.

“When you consider both ends of the court, he’d have to be close to the best.”

In fact, he doesn’t expect to have to guard him for much longer.

“I have no idea how he’s not in the NBA,” he said.

 Paulo Kennedy from FIBA

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