GM Daryl Morey dropped a boat-load of gems and insight on the Houston Rockets and today’s NBA when he joined FS1’s “Undisputed” this past Tuesday. One thing in particular he discussed about the culture of today’s league really stood out.
When asked what he would change about today’s game, Morey didn’t mince words on team announcers “hate-watching” games (jump to 6:26).
“Right now, if you tune into a lot of NBA telecasts, the announcers are hate-watching their own game... You’ll tune in, and they’ll be like, ‘Well, what’s happening here? They’re shooting too many 3-pointers. Back in my day…’”
The Rockets, and in particular, James Harden, have been at the forefront of criticism from local team announcers — sometimes deemed unwatchable or “ruining the game.” Even though Morey doesn’t necessarily cite animosity towards the Rockets (this about the league, in general, but we’re a Rockets blog), or even name names on troublesome announcers, there are team broadcasters who have openly made it known they’re Harden-bashers.
This, by the way, is on a national broadcast on NBA TV where everyone can hear what he’s saying.
Host Nick Wright and Morey cite the success of former NFL player and current announcer Tony Romo. Romo was quickly revered in his broadcasting career as a young, intelligent, and fun color analyst who explains the game well and is heavily engaged — he loves the game. Instead of being bitter, given his last season with the Dallas Cowboys, Romo continued to love the game and makes it a pleasant viewing experience.
“Imagine the NFL if Romo was basically like, ‘Oh, this passing is not going to work. Where’s my cloud of dust? Where is it?’ That’s literally the whole game; that’s NBA games right now. ‘Where is my cloud? Like, why aren’t we smashing that ball in there?’ And you tune into any NBA game, and that’s what we get all night.”
Even though the Rockets fan base and even players have been vocal about a media bias — Wright’s co-host interrupts Morey in the beginning to say he’s media-bashing — this is a point that hasn’t necessarily been raised before. While it’s not necessarily important for announcers to root for opposing teams, to deem a player or team unwatchable comes at a detriment to the league, or, at the very least, will keep viewers from tuning in to certain matchups.
And, unfortunately, it doesn’t really stop there for broadcasters bashing players. Nationally, Charles Barkley has been very vocal in saying that he believes Harden isn’t fun to watch, making constant dribbling motions whenever his name is mentioned. Barkley even went as far as to simply call Harden “The Dribbler” to Giannis Antetokounmpo when the Bucks player was picking his All-Star lineup.
There was also the Rockets-Los Angeles Lakers game, Houston’s first without Clint Capela, where Barkley’s broadcast partner, Chris Webber, seemingly couldn’t stop talking about how their new small-ball experiment wasn’t going to work. Webber didn’t delve deeper into the matchup problems that not having Capela would make for the Rockets — he was simply saying that height itself would beat Houston. SPOILER ALERT: it didn’t.
Again, it would be easy to right this off as another Houston-media conspiracy theory, but this is something that can easily be recorded and quantified. You can hear it in the broadcast, and you would think the league would be more strict on what can and can’t be said by announcers.
Constant complaining about how unfair or unwatchable something is makes viewers tune out — simple as that. Not only does it make people angry, but who wants to sit there and listen to old men complain for two-and-a-half hours. Hell, I can hardly stand when Rockets announcers are coming off too biased. But there’s also the fact that individual players are highly profitable to the NBA, more than any other team sport in America. People all over the country, and the world, tune in to watch LeBron James and Stephen Curry play like they would Ronaldo or Messi — sorry if you only watch to see solid extra passes and defensive schemes. If you’re being told ahead of time that the best player on the court is ruining the game, why would you tune in to watch that?
As of right now, it’s disingenuous to say it’s an epidemic, but it is fair to say that it’s being unchecked. The emergence of a lightning rod for criticism in James Harden is seemingly creating too much comfort for local media to say what they want about whomever they so please. It would be wise for the NBA to interfere before it gets too far and there are complaints of censorship when they finally do intervene.