The BIG3 announced that Lamar Odom, Baron Davis, Bonzi Wells and Jermaine O’Neal have been “deactivated” for the balance of the 2019 season. Odom, Davis and Wells were shut down after failing to contribute (Odom played 1 of 3 games, Davis and Wells missed all 3), a potentially serious medical condition forced the end of O’Neal’s season. While the decision to “deactivate” the foursome was ultimately made by the league office, sources tell JohnWallStreet that the idea of replacing the underperforming co-captains “came from the players and coaches.” Their desire to win and the prize money at stake motivated those invested in the nascent league to push out the few mailing it in.
Howie Long-Short: From a league perspective, the decision to “deactivate” Odom, Davis and Wells was an easy one. League co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz has been clear that The BIG3 “is not the Drew League or the [NBA] Summer League. It’s not a novelty act. It’s a professional 3×3 league and the players have a responsibility to show up ready to play.”
When we spoke to Kwatinetz just a few weeks ago, he mentioned that the league had a deeper player pool this season than years’ past, so Wednesday’s announcement that three guys were being let go for performance related issues was a surprise. But it shouldn’t have been. While most of the league’s players went through a combine-like process, co-captains were exempt. As a result, the league never saw Odom, Davis or Wells in action until it was too late. It’s a safe bet to assume co-captains will be participating in the league’s 2020 combine.
In other The BIG3 news, the league has partnered with Adidas to reduce the cost of tickets for the balance of the season. Seat prices will be slashed by 50% along with all Ticketmaster and facility fees. Kwatinetz said that the decision was motivated by the desire to make the product more affordable for families and of course to draw more fans – attendance is down from 13,500/game in ’18 to 9,500/game this season. The lowest priced ticket to The BIG3 was $27, but with fees it came out to upwards of $50. By comparison, the NBA Summer League has seats available for $25. Ticket prices were simply too high. The former entertainment executive knows the league is unlikely to make up the lost revenue in new tickets sold, but firmly believes that giving more people the opportunity to experience the event supports its long-term growth ambitions.
Kwatinetz attributes the YoY attendance decline to the league’s television contract. With CBS scheduling games on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, as opposed to Friday evenings, The BIG3 is now playing in a window that people aren’t used to spending on. “People generally plan to go out on Friday and Saturday nights, so coming to The BIG3 last season wasn’t an additional expenditure; it was simply the fan’s choice to attend basketball games over dinner or a movie. On Sunday afternoon, we’re asking people to spend discretionary income that they may not have – and we were really expensive relative to the other choices they have.” Kwatinetz said that if the league were to be in the same weekend timeslot next season, he would expect ticket prices to remain where they finish this season.
Fan Marino: Former NBA stars like Joe Johnson and Amare Stoudemire receive most of the promotional attention, but it has been Royce White who has caught the eyes of scouts. White was the 14th overall selection in the 2012 NBA draft (Rockets), but a severe anxiety disorder tied to flying and his insistence on the development of a comprehensive league-wide mental health policy quickly landed the forward from Iowa State in exile. 7 years later, White finds himself as the best player on the floor in a league full of guys with NBA experience. He’s flying coast to coast for games and living in a society far more accepting of mental health diseases. For the first time, a return to the NBA seems like a real possibility (he’s 28). Kwatinetz said that he “would be shocked if Royce White isn’t starting for an NBA team by December.”
On a final note, Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis made headlines for tossing his jersey and shorts into the crowd following an ejection last weekend. Reports indicated that Davis would be suspended (since rescinded) and fined heavily for the incident, so I expected to be appalled with his behavior when I finally tracked down video of the incident. It turns out ‘Big Baby’ was simply playing to a crowd that ate up his antics. I asked Kwatinetz why the league would fine a player that was seemingly giving fans the good time they came for (and some great memorabilia). He said that while Davis’ post-ejection actions received a mixed reception in the league office, the real concern was a pattern of “abusive language towards players and coaches. He was also aggressive towards the officials and that can’t be tolerated.”
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