CHICAGO – The problem with the end-of-game, scoreboard-related promotion at United Center isn’t that fans can turn their ticket stubs into Big Macs after any game in which the Bulls score 100 points.
The problem is that a giveaway more in line with the team’s character would be better suited. Say, fans qualify for said burger whenever coach Tom Thibodeau‘s hounds hold the opponent to 85 points or less.
But we live in a big-round-numbers world, so scoring 100 points it is. Which, in the aftermath of the Bulls’ 99-93 home victory over Orlando Tuesday, shouldn’t be any problem at all – or source of controversy — for Chicago or center Joakim Noah. Or, for that matter, any Magic personnel who have their shorts in a bunch.
So Noah launched a needless 3-pointer in the waning seconds of the victory (he explains what went wrong with it above), rather than letting the clock run out. So he was embarrassed, maybe, over missing a free throw 20 seconds earlier that could have clinched the fast-food menu item for the 21,216 sellout crowd – and the fact that teammate Kirk Hinrich missed two foul shots with 10 seconds left to further disappoint the fans.
So the Orlando Sentinel sought out Magic players like J.J. Redick, who felt Noah’s heave was “unnecessary.” And Ish Smith, who said the Orlando players “noticed.”
Noah apparently got an earful from Thibodeau, though the coach wouldn’t tell reporters after practice Wednesday what was said. After the game, Noah — who plays passionately and connects with fans in ways many of his peers do not — already was sounding more sheepish, as per an ESPNChicago.com report:
“I got caught up in the moment,” Noah admitted after the game.
Despite the fact the Bulls had won, many fans booed the team as the final buzzer sounded.
“I regret it a little bit,” Noah said. “It wasn’t a good shot.
“You have to respect the game because you never know what can happen in a game. I just got caught up in the moment and I was trying to get the people a Big Mac. They really wanted a Big Mac [judging by how loud the crowd was getting] and I felt like, not only did I take the shot and miss the shot, we didn’t even get the Big Mac. Next time, I won’t take that 3-pointer.”
That’s fine. That’s a personal call or might even qualify as a team rule — though some fans surely will boo and go home grumpy after that decision, too.
What isn’t needed is scolding or chiding of Noah or any other player who similarly “goes for it” at such a silly scoreboard threshold. Management cut that 100-points sponsorship deal for a reason. The revenues it brings in from McDonald’s all go in the big pile of money of that NBA owners, staff, coaches and players divvy up. This isn’t anything new, by the way; this correspondent attended a Suns-Jazz game in New Orleans in 1977 where the Superdome crowd began chanting “FRENCH fries! FRENCH fries!” when Pete Maravich & Co. got close to what back then surely was 120 points or so as the goal.
It gives fans who pay royally for tickets something extra for which to cheer — especially in games where injuries keep Derrick Rose or Jameer Nelson and other names out.
In this case, it all backfired, as noted in The Point Forward blog on SI.com:
The funniest part here: Noah goes home with everyone mad at him. The Magic think he’s a poor sport. His coach thinks he should know better and show more professionalism. And, perhaps most importantly, Bulls fans go home upset that he didn’t even hit the shot to deliver the goods. Brutal.
Enough, though, with these so-called “unwritten rules” designed only to save face for the losing team. They stop trying, so the winners are required to stop trying as well? Yeah, that’s great competitiveness.
If a team puts such a promotion in — and cashes the checks — it ought to honor and go for it. Keep the fans’ feeling a part of things, and throw ‘em a burger for their troubles. As for the Magic or any other losing side getting all sideways, they’d do well to heed the view of a longtime respected NBA coach.
Asked how he felt about the alleged insult of a late 3-pointer in a lopsided game – or any perceived attempt to run up a score that no longer matters – his response was: “Stop ‘em then. You ought to feel worse about the points that got them there.”
Orlando lost again 24 hours later in Minnesota. It got beat by 15. But at least the Timberwolves only got to 90.