Weekly Countdown (cont.)
3 Swing teams in the draft
3. New York Knicks (picking No. 6). The Knicks are taking a hard look at Danilo Gallinari, who wants to play in New York. Coach Mike D'Antoni has a strong understanding of Gallinari's talent after playing with his father on the Italian and European champion Milan teams of the 1980s. But the Knicks have post-Stephon Marbury needs in the backcourt, which will lead to speculation about Russell Westbrook, Jerryd Bayless or Eric Gordon, depending on Donnie Walsh's assessment of their point-guard abilities. Or they may trade the pick while packaging one of their awful long-term contracts.
2. Seattle (soon-to-be Oklahoma City?) SuperSonics (picking No. 4). They appear to be focusing on a combo guard. "I don't know what to think of them,'' said a rival team executive in the lottery. "From what I've heard, they've told Gordon, Bayless and Westbrook that they're the guy.'' I'm sure the Sonics would disagree with that insinuation, but you get the picture.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves (picking No. 3). They need a center to pair up front with young star Al Jefferson, enabling him to move to power forward. Do they love Brook Lopez enough to take him with the No. 3 pick? Or do they go with O.J. Mayo instead as the best available player? Or does their ambivalence persuade them to trade back? Their dilemma is the leading example of why the upper lottery is going to be so difficult to predict.
2 Thoughts on NBA Finals Ratings
2. They're up this year. The Finals are averaging an 8.8 rating, a 42 percent increase from last year's 6.2 for the Spurs-Cavaliers series. The ratings are still down from the Michael Jordan era as a result of more alternatives for viewers with the explosion of cable channels, Web sites and video games. But commissioner David Stern insists that the NBA audience is larger than 10 years ago due to the global access to NBA.com and other sites.
"We think we have a bigger audience overall,'' Stern said. "The ratings for network television in the last four years are down 20 percent -- that's for all network TV -- and it would be unusual for sports in entirety if it were not down.
"We're up this year. But that doesn't meant we won't be down next year.''
1. The national audience for the Finals peaks at 11:30 p.m. ET, according to Stern. He was making this claim to answer complaints about the late 9 p.m. ET starts. That's when the Boston Globe's venerable Bob Ryan approached Stern. "That's why I've always said ratings are fraudulent,'' Ryan said. "That can't possibly be true.''
It turns out the ratings rise at that late hour in part because Easterners turning on their TV for the 11 p.m. news happen upon the Finals.
1 Truth to come out of the Tim Donaghy scandal
1. "I must say as honestly and as directly as I can, that if you have a criminal in your midst who's prepared to engage in criminal activity, whether it's the NBA, the CIA, the FBI, the armed forces, police departments or whatever, you've got a problem and you will probably be burned by it,'' Stern said Thursday before Game 4. "There are a series of recommendations that we've implemented that try to contain the situation as best we can, but there's no foolproof guarantee here that's available.''