Two weeks into the season and last year’s finalists have the NBA’s best marks. Here’s the second part of my RSN pro roundball ratings handicapping.
The Lakers got stapled by the Pistons last night for their first loss of the season. But the early returns suggest Kobe and crew, especially with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in place for all 82 contests, may be ready to take that one extra step this season. FS West figures to go along for the ride, improving on last season’s 4.5 ratings average — up from a 3.5 during the 2006-07 season– in the Los Angeles DMA.
The results on and off the court won’t be nearly as good for the other NBA team that calls Staples Center home. FS. Prime Ticket inched ahead 0.1 ratings points to 0.6 average with the Clippers last season. The RSN should surpass that average with Baron Davis and Marcus Camby in the Clippers house, but the pro hoops focus, perhaps more so than usual, is going to be on the Lakers.
FS Arizona dialed it up 0.4 points to a 5.4 average in the Phoenix DMA during the final season of Mike D’Antoni’s seven seconds of organized push. That fast-paced style has given way toward a more half court attack under Terry Porter, who wants the ball thrown inside to the Big Shaqtus. Amare Stoudemire’s a beast, but Father Time’s calling more often to Steve Nash and Grant Hill. Maybe the Suns record stands up. The excitement and viewing level won’t.
The Golden State Warriors knocked off the Dallas Mavericks, the team with the best record during the 2006-07, during the first round of the playoffs that season. Last year, they shot and ran their way to 48 wins that just kept them out of the postseason. Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, in turn, saw its ratings rise a full point to a 2.6. Will fans/viewers love the team as much as Nelly’s crew takes a step back in the standings this campaign? We’ll see.
The Sacramento Kings have benefited from being the only major sports team in town. So, too, Comcast SportsNet West, which tallied a 3.2 average in the DMA. Kevin Martin’s a star, albeit an injured one at press time. The rest of the roster is serviceable, but that doesn’t get it done in David Stern’s wild West. The thinking here is the RSN struggles to maintain last season’s Nielsen level.
Comcast SportsNet Northwest averaged a 3.4 last year, as Brandon Roy, Lamar Aldridge and the rest of the young Trail Blazers showed marked improvement en route to a 113% ratings surge. Greg Oden, who missed his rookie year, played a handful of minutes in the opener before spraining his foot. Oden didn’t show much offense upon his return Wednesday, but if he can stay on the court more than Sam Bowie, Portland should rise in the West. Filling a couple of significant distribution holes would also help the RSN on the Nielsen front.
Denver was an easy first-round out each of the past two seasons with the combo of The Answer and Mello. With Iverson shipped to Detroit for Chauncey Billups (Antonio McDyess has been let out of his contract) and Marcus Camby a Clipper, there’s plenty of questions surrounding George Karl’s team, even if Anthony vaults to or near the top of the league’s scoring race. Altitude’s 2007-08 results remained a Nielsen mystery at press time.
Imported from Seattle, the Oklahoma City Thunder is light on talent, the 2007-08 rookie of the year Kevin Durrant notwithstanding. He’ll score plenty of points and FS Oklahoma — carved out from FS Southwest to welcome the Thunder — should do alright as the only pro team in town. Remember, there was solid support for the Hornets when they relocated here after Katrina. Gotta think, the Thunder deliver way more than the 1.3 rating (down from a 1.6 the prior season) the Sonics generated during their swan song season for FS Northwest.
Al Jefferson, Corey Brewer, Randy Foye and Rashas McCants have potential. But potential’s not going to produce many wins in the Minnesota Timberwolves 20th anniversary season. Ratings fell to a 0.9 mark, down from a 1.4. Tough sledding ahead again for FS North.
Can the addition of James Posey vault CP3, David West and the New Orleans Hornets to the top of the West? Perhaps, but not likely. No Nielsen information on the Hornets’ 2007-08 performance on Cox Sports Television was available at press time.
Maybe it’s the beard. Or Pop let loyalty blind him in his GM capacity to the fact the San Antonio Spurs have gotten very old. Without the injured Manu Ginobli, the Spurs struggled to the extent they needed Tony Parker to drop a double nickel to beat the T’Wolves for their first win. Now, Mr. Eva Longoria will be out a month with a sprained ankle. The Spurs were at the top of the RSN NBA heap last season, edging up 0.1 point to a 7.1 mark in the DMA. That’s going to be tough to match this season.
The Grizzlies have some young talent in O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay. They’re off to an okay start, but they’re going to lose a lot of games in what has been the league’s toughest division. But they should score okay on the box during their rookie campaign on the newly christened FS Tennessee, which grabbed Memphis’ games from FS South.
After coughing up a 2-0 lead in the 2006 NBA Finals and then notching the league’s best record in 2007 only to fall in the first round of the playoffs, Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks regressed significantly last year. The mid-season addition of Jason Kidd didn’t do much for the team in 2008 and the Mavericks’ average on FS Southwest plummeted to a 2.1 from a 3.8. Dallas may not be appreciably better on the court, but things haven’t been going so well for the Cowboys or George Bush, either, so Texans may be looking for ways to entertain themselves this winter.
The Rockets, who scored a 20-game winning streak, second longest in league history, roped a 3.2 average for FSN Houston last season, up from a 2.6. The improvement came despite the season-ending injury to Yao Ming. If malcontent Ron Artest can keep his head on…If T-Mac and Yao don’t get hurt…If Rafer Alston improves his jumper…If all those factors coalesce, some see the Rockets soaring toward the Lakers and Hornets atop the West. That’s way too many ifs from this perch. But a fast start could usher in another nice Nielsen gain.