Wednesday, December 9, 2009

NBA League Pass 2009: Full of Fart

OK, after a fairly pleasant experience in my first year using NBA League Pass Broadband last year, this year has been anything but. Generally speaking, I've been able to see the games I've wanted to see, but if the first month is any indication of how the rest of the year is going to go, then NBA's engineers better get their ass in gear before I file a complaint with my bank to get my money back.

First off, a few weeks ago, the feed to an Orlando Magic game completely went blank. It showed the first couple minutes of the game, then just hung. I contacted support, and they said they were "aware of the problem with the feed" and were working on fixing it. I was then told to "keep checking", as if anyone would want to keep clicking play and watching the same swirling graphics for a minute before deciding that nothing is going to happen. That was the first time I had a problem with a feed, so I wrote it off as a product of human misgivings.

However, after a few days passed, I noticed that I wasn't seeing the live-game DVR feature that LPBB was touting so heavily. Again, I contacted support, and was told by a male responder to install the latest version of Flash (which I already had) and Octoshape (which I've never heard of). I did both, and noticed absolutely no change; still the same non-DVR controls from last year. I recontacted support, which began an extended, hilarious and frustrating exchange with a delightfully clueless creature by the name of Debbie. This unhelpful blonde (I can only assume) said things like "if" the live game DVR is available (putting my subscription in immediate threat of cancellation) and "make sure you put the mouse over the window". I don't know where this Debbie came from, and why she took over the contact position in my support ticket, but she seems better served working at the local 7-11. This obvious line of "assume consumer stupidity first" customer service has no place in any company.

Anyways, I eventually investigated the issue myself; I had been accessing LPBB on my laptop -- a 64-bit Vista system, and, by chance, one day decided to launch it on my 32-bit Windows XP desktop computer. Almost immediately, I noticed something I'd only seen in commercials: the much ballyhooed live-game DVR controls. Well well well. So apparently, it is a system issue, some combination of 32- versus 64-bit system, or XP versus Vista. Thank you Debbie and the rest of the crack support staff at NBA LPBB for completely overlooking any potential system incompatibility issues and going straight for the "you must not have done something" line. I forwarded this new discovery to the LPBB complaint ticket; I'm still awaiting a response, hopefully from someone, anyone a bit more knowledgeable.

All of the DVR issues pale in comparison to my struggles tonight however. All the feeds are crossed and screwed up. Upon noticing that the Cavaliers were taking a beating at the hands of the world-beater Houston Rockets (lest my tongue plant any further into my cheek), I immediately jumped to watch the game, only to be confused by the sight of the Minnesota Timberwolves logo splashed all over the game court. Instead of the Cavs/Rockets game, I was presented with the final stages of the Hornets/Wolves game, which actually turned out to be rather exciting, won by a CP3 layup with 1 second left. Afterwards, I attempted to access the Lakers/Jazz game, one that I had circled on my calendar since the week began. Again, to my chagrin, I was presented with a totally different game, the last minutes of a Spurs smack-down of the Kings. We just crossed over from human err to human carelessness.

At last count, I have yet to be able to access the Lakers/Jazz video (only the radio feeds, naturally) though I can now catch the replay of the Cavs game in archive.

How great; you add more features to your product, and let the basic functionality turn to crap. And it's only the second week into December. Hopefully, if anything, it gives them a chance to work out these kinks before we get into the later stages of the season where the games and matchups really begin to take on higher meaning. There's plenty of time for them to work these things out.

That is, assuming Debbie isn't the one doing the troubleshooting.

From A Busy Night of Game-Surfing

* Shaq, burned on a pick-and-roll for the game winner in Memphis. In other news, a bright yellow orb rose from the horizon and lit up the sky around 6am this morning.

* That whistling sound you hear is Phoenix falling back to the pack, having gotten the JV-league part of their schedule out of the way. Clippers, Warriors, Wolves (2), Heat, Wizards, Sixers, Hornets, Raptors (2), Rockets, Pistons, Grizz, and...Celtics. Those were the teams the Suns beat in the season's first month. Not exactly the class of the league (with one obvious exception). The three loses? 20 point bashings by the Magic and Lakers, and a close one to the Hornets. I hope the desert population weren't getting their hopes too high. The Magic, Nuggets, Spurs, Blazers, Cavs, Lakers, and Celtics comprise 7 of the next 11 games. Tim-ber.

* Gerald Wallace is rediscovering his double-double machine ways. Which got me to thinking: we've seen triple-doubles, and there's been a handful of quadruple doubles in NBA history. But are there any players in the league that could post a quintuple-double? Double-figures in point, boards, assists, blocks, and steals? Has there ever been one of these nights? I don't have Elias on the payroll right now so I'll have to investigate at a later time. Anyways, my short list of possible players are as follows: Gerald Wallace (one of only 3 players to average 2+ blocks and 2+ steals in a season, along with Wilt and Hakeem), Josh Smith (ATL) and LeShowboat James. I think that's it. As a matter of fact, I think the dancing, celebrating bunny would have a realistic chance of doing it if he played the 4 full-time (giving him more opportunities nearer to the bucket to rack up blocks). I know it's a little you-been-smoking-something weird, but it was just something that occured to me.

* Nice little win for the Nets, though I know it comes at the expense of the city of Chicago sinking deeper into the our-team-is-headed-nowhere discussion. I kinda expect the Nets to go on a (little) run now that they're getting healthy; it's not a coincidence that their first win coincided with Courtney Lee's first start, and Keyon Dooling and ....'s first game. I been saying all along that they aren't this bad. But that stinker 2nd half they threw up in game #20 verses the Knicks really had me reconsidering that notion. Anyways, 2-1 in the Kiki era.

* The Magic now stand at 9-1 in the Jameer Nelson recovery era. If Jeff Van Gundy wrote a column, I'd be emailing updates to him after every game. If I was really bored I'd write a script to send the updates for me.

* Speaking of bad predictions, there was the writer the other day that owned up to be "shocked" at Vince Carter's playing well, and the Magic's hot start. He quoted himself as predicting that Carter didn't "have much left in the tank" and that the Magic would nosedive and rue the day they let Hedo walk. I swear, anyone this clueless should put a bullet into his NBA-writing career and begin covering curling. Seriously. You just admitted to not having watched a single Net game in the past 2 years. There is simly no other explanation for thinking Carter was done. Last night, during the Magic/Clippers game, one of the Clipper broadcasters made it his point to reiterate how he knew right off that Carter over Turkoglu is an upgrade, given all the things Vince does on the court. The Clippers broadcasters are incidentally -- ironically, given the bad basketball they're forced to watched -- among the top three or four teams in the league. Unquestionably. These are guys that actually watch the games (at a minimum they would've seen Hedo and Carter twice per year each).

* Speaking of writers that don't watch, I remember getting a reply from Vince Thomas of SLAM Magazine, alerting me that Vince Carter had missed 6 games this year. Now, it may be nitpicking a bit to point out that it was only 4, but it does make you wonder how much else these eyes and ears around the NBA pull out of thin air, when they muck up such basic math as: 1+1+1+1 = 6.

In other sports:

* Forget No Fun League, we're witnessing the birth of the National Facist League. This whole no-props edict by the NFL is 10 times more embarrassing than any damage they think Ocho-Cinco might do to the league's rep.

* Forgive me if I'm disinterested in the possible Curtis Granderson chatter that's been dominating the Yankee hot stove for 2 days. We just spent the better part of the 9 years trying to win with hitting, with varying degrees of failure. Then, we go out, get three starters, shore up the bullpen, and immediately return to the Canyon of Heroes. Unless Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Albert Puljols are being traded for a single-A prospect and 2 players to be named later, I'm not interested. Wake me when the news is about an Edwin Jackson-type coming to the Bronx.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is That The New Commitment to Defense?

It's funny how irony works. posted an extended interview with Amare Stoudemire yesterday during the day, which included this exchange: Given a fresh start on your career this season, did you come into training camp determined to improve any specific part of your game?

AS: Defense is what I'm focusing on this year. Really, really focusing on that aspect. Weak side. Just trying to put ball pressure on. Create some havoc out there. I can honestly say I've improved this year so far. Does the same go for the Suns? You guys aren't thought of as lockdown defenders, you know.

AS: As a unit, I think we're playing solid defense out there. We might not be the best defensive team in the league, but I think we're good enough to create the havoc that we need.

Then, right on cue, the Suns put forth perhaps -- by far? -- their worst defensive effort of the season -- to the Knicks no less. Next on the schedule? Why, the Cleveland Cavaliers, that's who. Followed by trips to LA, Dallas and Denver, with hosting duties for Orlando and San Antonio sprinkled in. I admittedly have been waiting for the Suns to fall back to the pack, unconvinced of their top-o'-the-conference-records standing. I think the wait may soon be over.

But back to the Knicks game; I caught a fair number of plays as I watched in a club last night, and, boy, it sure looked like the same old (new) Suns defense to me. The post-Matrix, post-Raja defense that is (their defense in the Shawn Marion, Joe Johnson days was largely and wholly underrated, people concentrating more on points per game than defensive efficiency).

But back to the Knicks game (I seem to have a penchant for tangents today); I saw far too many New Yorkers waltzing into the lane for layups and dunks; every time, it seemed, that I watched for a few moments, I got to see another ole'! effort from a Sun defender. Including some no-effort weak-side opportunities from Mr. Stat. Hey, I don't doubt his off-season re-commitment to defense -- though I won't touch upon the fact that it's his strong-side defense that needs just as much work -- but we didn't really see much of it last night. You'd expect even one hard foul.

Maybe they were looking ahead to the Cavs game. I know my boy that's a big Phoenix-fan is going to be equally surly about the game and glad he skipped buying tickets, sparing himself the travesty in person.

* Damn you Eddy Curry. I mean, I'm sure you're pretty cool as a person and all; ok, so maybe I should say "damn you Eddy Curry's injuries". But with you sitting out the matchup versus Dwight Howard, and essentially doing the same versus Andrew Bynum, how am I supposed to twist the knife further into the poster who years ago told me Curry is better than both? I mean, having them both on this year's All-Star team (slowly becoming a foregone conclusion) is a consolation prize not nearly as enjoyable as a head-to-head thrashing. Damn you, or your injuries, or something. Now that I got that out the way, I'm obligated by my humanity to say "get well soon". So, do.

* The without-Jameer Magic record currently stands at 6-1. The Knicks, Warriors, and Clippers are on the near horizon. I'm just saying.