An Offseason of Uncertainty

 

For the first time in recent memory, Danny Ainge has cap space to work with and a flexible financial situation. With Brandon Bass’ recent decision to opt out of his Player Option for next season, the Celtics have roughly $31,272, 580 (via hoopsworld.com) committed to next season between the 5 salaries of Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Avery Bradley, E’twaun Moore, and Jajuan Johnson.  This puts them about 27 million dollars under the cap with a lot of options to examine. The main issue for Ainge, however, is the impending Free Agent class of 2012 is weak at best. After Deron Williams, who happens to play the same position as the C’s strongest long term asset, there is little in the form of superstars available via free agency. There are solid players available as always—Ersan Illysova and Carl Landry and Jamal Crawford jump out as appealing options to run with Rondo—but nobody who can realistically combine forces with Rondo and an aging Paul Pierce to help get the Celtics past the Heat and other contenders next season are available for max offers.

The most important chip to fall this season remains firmly in the hand of 36 year old Kevin Garnett. Coming off a postseason of dominant 2 way basketball, it is hard to get a solid read on KG. Some like Jackie McMullan believe he will return, while others believe this final push was a proud last stand from one of the 20 best players to ever lace them up. If KG comes back, Ainge must find an athletic big to pair with The Big Ticket in the frontcourt to lessen his minutes and responsibility. Bass is a nice player, and he would be welcomed back at a reasonable contract, but he is realistically just shy of 6’7 and should be coming off the bench. A big to bang on the boards with KG and run the court with Rondo is the number one priority.

 

The next thing for Ainge to look at is the 2 wing positions. The Miami series ended painfully for many, and the lasting image for me and many others is the simple inability to stay in front of anyone on defense.Allen, Pierce, and even Rondo repeatedly got beat off the dribble against Miami, and to a lesser extent in the Philly series. Avery Bradley’s pitbull-like on the ball defense was sorely missed as the Celtics advanced deeper into the playoffs. This lead KG to have to rotate off of his man which caused havoc for the C’s defense as they scrambled in rotation. Ray Allen lost his lateral quickness and likely is headed elsewhere in free agency. More pressing and concerning was the defense (and overall play/sluggishness) of Paul Pierce in the playoffs. He became the 3rd player to shoot 34% or below in a playoff series (min. 100 attempts) and struggled even worse on defense. To put it nicely, Paul cannot hang with LeBron right now for a 7 game series on either end of the court. Given that about 25% of our cap money is allocated to PP for the next two season, Danny has a couple options. First off is explore the trade market. At the deadline, PP34 was reportedly dangled for a 1st round pick and an expiring deal (NJ for Okur and a #1 has been discussed, but ultimately turned down by dictator Prokorov). The second option is very painful for Celtics fans to hear but remains a viable business decision that merits strong consideration. Ainge could use his one time amnesty clause to get Pierce off of the salary cap for the next few seasons. This will likely only be considered if KG hangs it up and the Celtics are suddenly in full rebuilding mode. While it seems cold blooded and ruthless, the NBA is a business and the best option for the long term health of the roster must be priority number one at all times.

 

It is a time of change for a team that has been a dominant force for the better part of the past 5 seasons. We must keep in mind that Ainge had the Celtics in position to trade for KG and Ray by assembling a bunch of young chips and being willing to pull the trigger on a couple risky deals ( Ray coming off double ankle surgery, KG was about 32 at the time). To lead us into the next stage of the franchise, Danny has a lot of decisions to consider and it will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

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Classless LA Dodgers Fans Ruin Debut of DC Phenom

Bryce Harper, 19 year old Washington Nationals outfielder and former #1 overall draft pick, is a hyped up recruit that appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16 (cover featured below). A former catcher with a petulant attitude that rivals his immense ability and raw power, Harper earned his GE after his Sophomore year of High School to become eligible for the June 2010 Amateur Baseball Draft. To begin his pro career as early as possible, he enrolled at a Junior College called College of Southern Nevada to play as a 17-year old. He enrolled there because the National Junior College Athletic Association uses wooden bats like the professionals and Harper wanted to get acclimated to the change from aluminum. After 31 HR, 98 RBI’s and a .443 batting average in just 66 games, Harper was selected first overall by the Nationals. Nationals fans anxiously awaited his arrival to the big leagues to provide a much needed boost to the perennial last place ball club. He was in Major League camp for a while this spring but eventually was  sent down to AAA for a little more seasoning (and to delay his pro-experience clock so the Nationals had control of his rights for an additional season).

Finally, Saturday night, he was up at the plate for his 3rd career at bat in his first game. He had been summoned from Triple-A Syracuse earlier in the weekend and had just flown across the country to make it in time for the game. He had been retired his first 2 times at the plate and was determined to record his first hit in “The Show”.

Fast Forward to the 2:12 mark for the full count pitch….

After a 6 pitch battle to run the count full, the seventh pitch of the At-Bat came from Dodgers Pitcher Chad Billingsly. On cue, several fans in the second row stood up simultaneously to feign “the wave” and moon the camera. Amazingly, they hadn’t been mooning the camera on any previous pitches for this at-bat or Harper’s previous ABs, but they had chosen the “right” pick to pull their juvenille (yet somewhat hilarious) stunt.

Footage from Harper’s first career hit has been essentially ruined, as he scorched a lined-shot over Center Fielder Matt Kemp’s head off the base of the wall for an easy double. Between first and sec0nd base, Harper intentionally flipped off his own helmet to reveal his flashy mohawk to all the world, showing that he possesses the same maturity level as the fans in the second row. Regardless, footage from his hit will be shown from the 3rd base line view primarily, as footage from the Center Field camera has been effectively tarnished.

Examining RateMyProfessors.com

  • “very hard , moves way to fast. picks favorites. extremely unreasonable tests”
  • “*$*# is by far the worst professor I have ever had. Her exams are impossible even if you study.”
  • ” If you really want to learn finance, there is no better professor at the school than *$*#”

Where can a student find conflicting reports about one professor like these but RateMyProfessors.com, a student driven website that grades the Easiness, Helpfulness, Clarity, and Overall Quality of nearly every professor at many Universities around the country. This is a website that students can post freely on after or during a semester, which is where some problems come into play.

“How would you like a job where everybody you work with is allowed to rate your performance from 1 to 5, add a pungent comment about your strengths or weaknesses, and post it all on a public bulletin board. I mean everybody, not just your boss and co-workers, but the people who report to you. Postings are not required. The people who take time to write them tend to be those with strong feelings about you. They identify you by name, but are themselves anonymous”. These are all strong posts made by Kenneth Westhues of TheRecord.com, an online news publication. Students are able to say whatever they want without reprecussions. There is also a “Hotness” function where students can even grade a teachers looks.

The results are often very offensive. But, if you can look past that, there is certainly helpful information for students when they are in the process of signing up for classes. Sometimes you can gain useful information about the class content, such as a post saying that the professor only read off of the slides, or he/she has an interactive and exciting class every day. This information can steer a student to sign up (or not sign up) for a specific instructor. While it is an imperfect science, and it is foolish to rely on it exclusively, RateMyProfessor.com has proved to be a useful tool in some situations throughout college. If the content were managed a little better, they would be able to advertise at universities to drive traffic even higher and compile a more comprehensive list of reviews of each and every professor.

Does Rajon Rondo Deserve a Suspension?

With the Atlanta Hawks leading the Boston Celtics 78 to 74 with 41 seconds left in game one of the opening round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, there was a loose ball and an ensuing scrum of bodies on the floor. Though some NBA columnist estimated that a ref would call a jump ball about 90 percent of the time in that sort of situation (late game, 3 seconds on the shot clock), Celtics PF Brandon Bass was whistled for a loose ball foul. Rondo immediately went after Marc Davis, clapping in his face while screaming some choice words in his face. Correctly, Rondo was immediately whistled for a Technical Foul.

Below is SI Basketball reporter Zach Lowe’s initial reaction to the play:

Next is where the real trouble came for the Celtics. Rondo took a step towards the official, as if he were not done and wanted to continue the conversation with Davis. Rondo stepped on a headband that had been dislodged from Atlanta PF Josh Smith’s head, and then his left foot collided with the referee’s left foot. In the process, his momentum (and some extra from him, personally) bumped into the official, earning a second technical and immediate ejection.

In addition to putting his team in a bad situation at the end of game 1 (down 6 now, no PG), Rondo faces a possible suspension from Commissioner David Stern. The rule is stated clearly in the screenshot below:

Trying to be as objective as possible, it appears a 1 game suspension is imminent for the Celtics record setting point guard, who recorded his 25th consecutive game in double digit assists with 11 to go with 20 points. Contact with an official is one thing the league will not tolerate, and I would be surprised if a suspension wasn’t announced on Monday. That being said, it is (remotely) possible that the league determines that when their feet got tangled up, the ensuing momentum carried RR9 into Marc Davis and the resulting contact was unintentional and therefore not worthy of a suspension. More to come on Monday from the league office…

NFL Draft: A New Era

Thursday nights 1st round on ESPN marked the first draft in the last few decades with a rookie wage scale in place. Due to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) consumated after the NFL draft last year and during the summer, old rules were in place as General Managers were not sure how much potential draftees would be compensated.

 

In the past, 2010 1st Pick Sam Bradford had been guarenteed over 50 million dollars before he had even taken a snap, more guarenteed money that Timmy Brady or Peyton Manning had secured after a decade of demonstrating year in and year out All-Pro dominance. This is backwards, as the league should be geared to rewarding veterans who earned a higher salary rather than gifting an unproven 22 year old kid with such riches. In the past, General Managers were always eager to trade out of the top five. This made sense, given the high potential bust right for top picks and the amount of money they would have had to fork over just to get the rookie into training camp.

This year, it was a whole new ballgame with a rookie wage scale in place. The 1st pick in this draft will receive something along the lines of 4 years and 22 million dollars. Surely, a rich deal by the standards of anybody in a differnent industry, but a 6 million dollar cap hit is more than reasonable for top end talent in the league.

To demonstrate the new wage system, look no further than Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. Pats fans had spent the last 5 years of drafts clamoring for difference makers year after year. Pass Rusher. Corner. Wide Receiver. All the fans wanted the recognizeable names we all knew from college football. We wanted Bill to trade up and grab somebody notable (the patriots select in the late 20s every year). Yet, come draft day, all we saw was the Patriots trading down and collecting “value picks”, hearing that the 2nd round (and a 1 million/year salary) were the most valuable players in the draft. Nothing frustrates a fan more than waiting around 2 and a half hours for the pick to come, only to see that we had traded down for value, for additional picks, or for an obscure offensive lineman from Fresno State.

This year, Belichick was ruthless, moving up twice in the first round alone. Going into the draft with 2 1st rounders and 2 second rounders, Bill identified targets and went after them. He packaged a 3rd rounder along with #27 to move up to 21 and grab Upstate NY native Chandler Jones, Syracuse Defensive End and brother of UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Bones Jones. Then, after Alabama Linebacker Dont’A Hightower slipped past the Steelers at 24, The patriots once again packaged an extra pick (4th Rounder) with #31 to move up six spots to snag him. All of the sudden, the front seven help had arrived. Two 6’5 young defensive talents with long arms and the ability to get to the QuarterBack. Future results aside, the raw talent that Patriots Nation had been craving was now on the team.

This marked the first time that Belicheck had moved up in the draft since moving up a couple spots to nab Ty Warren in 2003. Since then, all we have seen and heard is trading down and value. This new (and sensible) wage scale all0wed veterans to receive the bulk of the money from the salary pools, and traditionally cautious teams to move up and be aggressive without crippling their future.

It will be very interesting to see how this trend unfolds into the future, as teams will get a feel for the new system and gain a concept of value on draft picks as it relates to the new system. The first year, a record 19 trades were made in the first round alone. Teams can now be agressive, peg a player, and go and get him…making the draft more unpredictable than everyone, specially those following Lord Belicheck

E-Mail Marketing: BuyWithMe.com

BuyWithMe.com is (was) a group buying website, not too dissimilar to Groupon, launched in Boston, BuyWithMe grew to over 20 cities in the 2 or 3 years it was alive as a company. In November, they eventually sold to guilt city.

That notwithstanding, I had a keen interest in BuyWithMe from the start. Several of my good friends (and colleagues) held major jobs at the firm, which was funded by an alumni of the camp we all worked at. The company wasn’t as successful away from Boston, but in their hometown they were both successful and popular. Each day, the costumer would receive an E-mail with the deal of the day, which would last for about 3-7 days on average. In this E-mail, there was a link to all other active deals they were running, along with the ability to purchase a smaller sub-deal from time to time.

The deals themselves were tremendous, offering 35-60 percent off from a variety of hot spots around the city. To name a few, there was a “golden pass” for about 8 rounds at some of the more popular golf courses around the area for 200 bucks, normally about 350. There were 50 dollar gift cards selling for 25 dollars to a famous restaurant called G’vanni’s in the North End, and even a 20 dollar gift certificate selling for 9 dollars for an ice cream shop with several locations across the suburb. The catch was that for each deal to be valid and activated, a certain number of people needed to sign up. This was never a problem (especially in Boston) as the floor was nearly always reached and the deal ran. If you purchased the deal, they would follow up by e-mailing you a voucher or sending a gift card, but it would generally be via E-mail.

The target for BuyWithMe are people with relatively high amounts of disposable income around the Boston area. They were traditionally more focused on women than men as their target audience, mostly because they launched by running a slew if salon, restaurant and deals that were more tailored to women. As the company matured, they began to appeal more to men as well offering more concert ticket deals and athletic events. The deals were generally suited for those in the middle to upper class, as the deals were for things that were more discretionary then necessary to get by.

The strategy they employed was relatively successfully in the Boston area as well as Washington DC, but the company tried to expand too quickly and over extended themselves. Some things that worked well in their successful markets was that the E-mail was personalized- it was only sent to those who signed up for the daily e-mail. Additionally, it was interactive and offered BuyWithMe clear measureable results, as they had the exact statistics for who bought the deal and what previous deals these costumers had purchased. They can use that information as they were working on future deals and trying to identify the wants and needs of their target market. Another advantage is secure payment system. Your account has your card saved on it and all payments seem to have been trustworthy, relying heavily on PayPal. One major drawback was the number of E-mails that were sent. For me, being out of Boston, it was inconvenient to get the deal of the day each and every morning for things that I was a 6 hour drive away from. Eventually, it made sense to remove myself from the list and just check the website when I was interested in purchasing a deal. Another thing that could present issues for them could be spam and e-mail filters. If their daily E-mails were getting filtered out of peoples inbox’s, their main method for interacting with costumers would not be effective at all.

Ultimately, their strategy was not too effective on the whole as they had to sell the company and move on. However, they were in an industry with rapidly growing competitors (living social, Groupon to name a few) and simply were not able to keep up with them in the long run.

Mobile Marketing Case Study

 

  • One company that has dedicated significant resources to mobile media is Entercom Communication radio affiliate WEEI 93.7 FM in Boston and the surrounding New England Airwaves. WEEI was acquired by Entercom in 1998, where program director and current afternoon drive show host Glenn Ordway took over the on-air operations for the Boston sports talk radio station. Under his leadership, WEEI enjoyed over a decade of dominance in the Boston radio market. There were a couple of competing stations over the years such as 1510 The Zone, a fox affiliate, and 890 ESPN. These competitors tried and failed to take over the top spot in the ratings.

 

  • The station has relied on a steady stream of programming from 6 AM to 11 PM daily of live sports call-in radio. Additionally, they have a longstanding relationship with the Boston Red Sox as their flagship station, which brings additional ratings and numerous marketing opportunities each year.

 

  • Recently, however, the station has been floundering. CBS has launched 98.5 The Sports Hub, the first full time competitor that has the resources to compete. They pieced together a dominant schedule of shows themselves, while also serving as the radio partners of the Bruins and Patriots. Their hosts bring a welcome change for those that have grown tired of WEEI’s incessant status quo style, with nearly all of the hosts serving similar posts for the better part of the last 15 years.

  • The Sports Hub has taken over, dominating in the ratings for over a year now. As such, WEEI has needed to make an effort to reach out to the fans of Boston for additional income.  They have launched a system via SMS text message where a fan can sign up and get live updates from all 4 major sports teams as they are happening. They text you when the Bruins take the lead or the Patriots close out a victory. This service costs a fee which varies from provider to provider, I know a when I signed up for it briefly Verizon charged $9.99 per month. It can be a invaluable service for those who want to be tuned in, but it is certainly expensive.

 

  • This service was designed to raise additional revenue for a company that had been losing money from some of its sponsors as their ratings have plummeted.  It is designed for the main demographic, the 24-55 year old male, as well as a smaller percentage of teens and Women.

 

  • This strategy has been somewhat effective for WEEI. For some people that have converted to listening to The Sports Hub full time, this service gives them a reason to be affiliated with WEEI. They have maintained a reasonably strong hold on their old time listeners and this new service is their attempt to keep it that way.