The NBA right now is basically everything the NFL is not.
It’s fun. It’s progressive. It’s filthy rich with TV money (OK, maybe that is a shared trait).
The leaders of the leagues set the tone. Adam Silver behaves like a leader and Roger Goodell … well, he does not.
The NBA tries new things, and one of the newest new things is a la carte availability for games on TV this season. You don’t have to pony up $199 for League Pass. You don’t even have to pay the new $120 option for single-team League Pass. For $6.99, you can just watch one game. Any game.
On the one hand, that kind of option is beautiful. Let’s say you’re a casual Wolves fan living in Utah with a night to kill. You can blow 7 bucks on a pay-per-view movie or you can watch KAT and the rest of the youngsters play Team X. There’s no commitment other than a reasonably small amount of money. It’s exactly the kind of a la carte pricing people have been demanding …
But on the other hand, it’s also the kind of spendy a la carte pricing that many of us have been warned/warning about. You want choice? It’s going to cost you. Don’t want to pay triple-digits for a cable/satellite bill every month? You don’t have to, but you’ll get nickeled and dimed along the way if you still want access.
The $6.99 price point seems a little high; I’m sure it was arrived at in some meaningful way, and maybe in the grand scheme of things a fan who is willing to pay, say, $4.99 is also willing to go the extra couple of bucks higher. If I lived out of market, I would be genuinely tempted by the $120 single team option since I would likely have cable anyway and could watch almost every other game I really wanted to watch (aside from Wolves games) on ESPN, TNT, etc.
What I would REALLY love is the option to buy a game in progress at a discount if it looked enticing. Kobe has 40 points through three quarters? Yeah, put me down for $3.99 to see the fourth.
But I suspect most people who really love the NBA will either still pony up full price for League Pass or get by with the local/national access they get with cable. And that a la carte pricing, which people claim they want, will remain a thing that not many people actually use when it comes to sports.
Anthony Barr was too raw to make an immediate impact as a rookie, they said (I said). Barr wouldn’t be ready by Week 1, they said (I said). Barr would need time to adjust from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense in the NFL, they said (I said).
Boy, were we (I) wrong.
The situation at linebacker is much better due to the presence of Barr, the ninth overall pick last year. He didn’t participate last year during OTAs, like defensive end Scott Crichton and offensive guard David Yankey due to an NFL underclassmen rule, and Barr still cracked the starting lineup in Week 1. Linebackers coach Adam Zimmer spent a lot of time on the side to make sure Barr was prepared before joining the team for minicamp and training camp last offseason, and he’s emerged as a cornerstone in head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense.
As for the other 10 linebackers on the roster, it’s a mixed bag. There’s a promising rookie, a 10-year veteran and everything in between. We continue our Vikings training camp preview by analyzing the linebackers.
SAFE BET STARTER: Anthony Barr, Chad Greenway
Whether you like it or not, Greenway will be serving a starting role in some capacity this year. He took a pay cut to return with the team during the offseason, and Zimmer has stated on numerous occasions that he feels Greenway can still play. Whether he’ll be used as a two-down or three-down outside linebacker remains to be seen, but it’s safe to assume that Barr and Greenway will be the outside linebackers in the base 4-3 defense.
Barr was limited during OTAs and minicamp with an undisclosed injury. He’s expected to be a full participant at the start of training camp on Saturday.
BACKUPS: Audie Cole, Gerald Hodges, Josh Kaddu, Eric Kendricks, Casey Matthews, Michael Mauti, Brian Peters, Brandon Watts, Edmond Robinson
CAMP BATTLE TO WATCH: There’s a starting job up for grabs at middle linebacker, and it appears it’ll come down to Kendricks, Hodges and Cole. The Vikings used Jasper Brinkley at the position last year, but he was a liability in coverage and signed with the Cowboys in the offseason. While Cole and Hodges have more experience, it’s hard to ignore Kendricks. The Vikings were in shorts and t-shirts during OTAs and minicamp, but Kendricks was very impressive. The second round pick has great instincts, as he did at UCLA, and Kendricks has great range in coverage as well. He looks like a rookie that’s capable of starting immediately for the Vikings, but he’ll have to earn it.
THE BURNING QUESTION: Who will be used in the nickel alongside Barr? Sid Hartman spoke to Zimmer in his column this week, and here’s what he had to say about Kendricks:
Asked if Kendricks, a second-round pick out of UCLA, will start, Zimmer said: “I don’t know if he’ll start but I know he’ll have a role for us defensively. He is a terrific pass-cover guy. If he’s not starting in the base there is a good chance he could start in the nickel.”
Kendricks would be an upgrade over Greenway, 32, in the nickel despite the inexperience. Greenway regressed in pass coverage while dealing with rib, hand and knee injuries last year. He brings experience but will his body cooperate at this point in his career to serve as a three-down linebacker at a serviceable level? We’ll keep a close eye on this in Mankato.
Adrian Peterson’s restructured contract with the Vikings has not yet been entered into the NFLPA’s system (it should soon, so no worries there). But details of the new contract have been obtained by a couple of prominent national reporters, including our friend Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk.
We had the general details in yesterday’s story. The new three-year deal gives Peterson $20 million guaranteed and has a total value of $44 million.
Now let’s take a year-by-year look at the deal based on PFT’s numbers.
2015: Some numbers were moved around, but not much changed here. Peterson’s old deal gave him a base salary of $12.75 million with a $250,000 workout bonus. The new deal gives him a guaranteed base salary of $11 million with a roster bonus of $2 million to be paid next Tuesday. But in Peterson’s old deal, his base salary would have become guaranteed if he was on the team for the season opener, and he would have been. So either way, the running back will earn $13 million this season. But now he has the peace of mind he wanted, too.
2016: Peterson had no guarantees in his old deal beyond 2015. Now he has $7 million of his new $7.75 million base salary guaranteed. It is for injury only, though. So if Peterson somehow experiences a Ray Rice-like decline in production, the Vikings could still cut him next winter at no cost. But right now it seems likely that Peterson remains a member of the Vikings next season. And if the Vikings do keep him around, he will earn a $5 million roster bonus next March. His total value of $12.75 million is less than the $14.75 million he was to be owed on his old deal. But as Florio explained in this post, Peterson can earn more (or lose more) based on performance.
2017: Peterson is slated to earn a base salary of $11.75 million with a $6 million roster bonus due on the third day of this league year. None of it is guaranteed and the potential cap hit of $17.75 million could be astronomical for a 32-year-old running back, so chances are the Vikings and Peterson will renegotiate again before then — maybe even next offseason.
So to sum the new deal up, Peterson got his way, with the Vikings showing their commitment by giving him guarantees for 2015 and 2016. They did, however, hang on to their flexibility in case the relationship sours again or if Peterson becomes the latest NFL back to be tackled by Father Time.
This might be a weird question to ask after the Twins played one of their worst games of the season, a 7-0 loss to the Angels filled with fielding blunders and just two hits for Minnesota, but I’m going to ask it anyway because I’ve been thinking about it for a good 10 days (not nonstop … that would be weird … but still): If the Twins do manage to find their way into the playoffs as a Wild Card team, which figures to be their most likely path, who would you want on the mound for what is now a one-game, winner-take-all playoff between the two Wild Card teams?
Keep in mind, of course, that Ervin Santana — no matter how well he pitches down the stretch — is not an option because as part of the terms of his drug suspension this year he is ineligible for the postseason.
We can probably also rule out Mike Pelfrey, who has regressed after a great start … and Trevor May because he’s still developing … and Tommy Milone because for as well as he’s pitched at many times this year he’s a notch below the top of the rotation … and Ricky Nolasco, who even when healthy hasn’t shown that he belongs in the mix at the top.
That would leave us with Kyle Gibson and Phil Hughes. And that would be an interesting conversation if the Twins were able to line up their rotation in a way to make it a choice.
There are pluses and minuses with both. Hughes was easily the team’s best pitcher last season and, after a sluggish start this year, is 4-0 with a 2.85 ERA in his past six starts to boost his overall numbers into much better shape. His “bad” starts don’t tend to be blow up starts — more like 5 to 6 innings with 3 or 4 runs allowed, and he has worked at least six innings in all but three of his 19 starts this year. You pretty much know what you’re getting. It won’t always be dominant, but it’s usually at least decent.
Gibson, last night’s start notwithstanding (one in which he didn’t help himself at all with a poor fielding play in the blow-up sixth inning), has been the Twins’ best starter for most of the season. He has generally avoided the types of dreadful starts that plagued him a year ago while progressively bumping up his strikeouts as the year has gone on. Still, he would remain somewhat of an unknown in a big game while Hughes, with far more major league starts under his belt, offers a more known commodity.
I would probably tend to go with Hughes, but I’d be tempted to roll with Gibson. Your thoughts, please, in the comments.
Twins president Dave St. Peter, a committee member, acknowledged that the "North Dakota" option was favored by some who felt it was a way to show support for the school's abandoned Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.