Monday, July 16, 2012

How to Make NBA Free Agency Must-See TV: A Modest (And Completely Impossible) Proposal

On July 9, MarShon Brooks was trending on twitter. And he had not even done something crazy, like smashing a bottle over Chris Brown's face. No, Brooks was trending because it was revealed that he was a key piece in a possible trade that would send Dwight Howard to the Nets. 

As the Mayans predicted would happen so many years ago, we now live in a world in which MarShon Brooks can be a topic of overwhelming interest on the internet. David Stern's league has developed a cult-following among those who track the transaction wire and trade rumors as closely as they do box scores. So why not turn free agency into an event, instead of a weeks-long process? 

If Lebron's convoluted Decision and the Real Housewives have taught us anything, it's that people cannot turn away from contrived made-for-TV drama. College football has been ahead of its time in its ability to tap into this phenomenon by having the top recruits publicly declare their collegiate allegiance on signing day. The NBA could make their off-season transactions must-see TV with a few simple steps. 

1) Turn the free agency period into a two day event. I'm thinking a Friday/Saturday would be good. Those two days will be the only two days that teams are allowed to sign free agents. 

2) Invite each team's executives as well as all free agents and their agents to a beachfront property in the Hamptons. Teams will be expected to do copious amounts of research beforehand. 

3) Provide an open bar and turn on the television cameras. On the first day teams will be allowed to compete with each other by making offers, in person, to the free agents they are interested in. Television cameras will roll as offers are made and negotiations occur. 

4) A decision podium will be provided at a central location. Each time a free agent commits to a team, they will climb up to the podium, announce their decision, and promptly sit down to an interview with Craig Sager. 

5) Did I mention that cameras will be rolling for the entire process? Imagine Rockets GM Daryl Morey sneaking off into a backroom with Omer Asik and Asik's agent so that they can hatch a devious plan to create a contract that Chicago will be unwilling to match. 

6) Each time a free agent announces a decision, the desperation will mount for teams seeking to improve their teams. The condensed and frantic nature of the event will no doubt cause some GMs to wilt under pressure and make horrible decisions. Preposterous things would occur, things like trading Dwight Howard for Brook Lopez and a random platter of mediocrity. This event would be like the Super Bowl for GMs. With the cameras rolling and the clock running down, can they seal the deal, or at the very least not destroy their franchise? 

7) After Day One, the process would repeat itself for the second day with the added urgency of a free agency clock that is rapidly running out. If announcements were not made at the decision podium by midnight on the second day, all remaining players would be banished to the NBDL, Europe, or the Bobcats. 

NBATV would provide round-the-clock coverage for the event. There would be salary cap experts explaining all just-consummated free agent signings. A DJ (DJ Khaleed?) would spin records to keep the ambiance hype. Trades would be allowed, provided they were announced at the decision podium. Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless would be on hand to have immediate shouting matches over the new signings. 

The internet might self-combust from it all, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. If MarShon Brooks can be a trending topic, perhaps we need to get rid of the whole machine anyway.