For anyone who has been paying attention, this has been quite a storied year for the sport of pro basketball. This year, NBA fans have seen referee scandals, blockbuster trades, new rankings leaders and a Western Conference so competitive that a 50 win team may not reach the playoffs. Arguably, this could be the most storied season for the NBA in recent memory…
Amidst all of this hoop hype, three guys from Toronto, Ontario get together every weekday morning to talk basketball. Skeets, Tas and JD are the founders and voices behind one of the top sports radio shows in North America: The Basketball Jones podcast. 292 smart, insightful and hopelessly funny episodes later, the boys with the jones for basketball have become a staple in the NBA.
With the 2008 NBA playoffs just over a week away, you’re going to want to tune into TheBasketballJones podcast. We sat down with Skeets and Tas for an interview on the inspiration of the show, their take on the state of the NBA and the ever popular “lightning round”… Keep reading, GearCravers, to learn why the leaders in sports new media should be your top destination for NBA playoff coverage.
About The BasketBall Jones
How did the concept for TBJ come together?
Tas: You know, the typical story. We were all saving whales in Fiji when we decided, “Hey, we’re wasting our lives, let’s create a podcast!” Well, the real story’s kinda close. The three of us finished school and didn’t have a tonne on the go, so we decided to do something creative together. We all have experience in the media world and we love ball, so it was a pretty natural fit.
How did the two of you meet?
Tas: At school. Skeets, JD and I all enrolled in the Radio & Television Program at Ryerson University in Toronto. Oh, you should hear some of the “quality” projects we had to complete. You thought our first 100 episodes were bad? Pffft.
What has been your most popular episode to date, and why?
Tas: Hmmm. Probably Episode 100. It’s an hour long highlight/lowlight reel of our first 99 episodes. Many instances of technology doing us wrong, unintentional humor and Kelly Dwyer.
Your production quality has grown to rival any other traditional sports radio show. How serious is the production of the TBJ podcast, and how would you relate it to the production of a professional radio show?
Tas: Why, thank you. The man behind the production, Jason Doyle (JD), takes great pride in the way every element sounds. The man is a professional producer. He comes from a audio/video editing background and has worked on many shows. In all facets, our show is a professional radio show. From our studio, to our stingers, to our voice overs, to our music. JD doesn’t settle for less. Any more questions about it, please refer to him. I have no idea what goes on behind the glass.
TBJ has been a bit of a launching pad into sports media for you both. Skeets, you’re now the main contributor for Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie Blog. Tas, you’ve been featured on Raptors TV. Did you expect any of this when you started on TBJ?
Skeets: Um, have you heard our show? No. A thousand times no.
Tas: I only got involved for the groupies. And, trust me, things are working out well.
Gotta ask– your hockey-hating, Mutombo-molesting, sultry-voiced announcer sounds quite lovely. First, how did she get involved, and how would you rate her on the lovely scale?
Skeets: I believe it was JD’s brilliant idea to incorporate a woman’s voice into the show. (“We’ve got too much dude … dudes.”) The three of us worked with Caroline on a television pilot we had produced in university, so we asked her to bring that sultry voice into the studio. She’s cool as hell, and yes, very lovely. We only surround ourselves with sexy people on the Jones. It’s one of our rare rules.
Tas: Caroline = Very Talented. Lovely Scale? Judge for yourself. CarolineLesley.com
(image courtesy: detroitbadboys.com)
About NBA Basketball
In recent history, there has been no year like this year for the NBA. It started with a referee scandal, had the most talented draft since 2003, was followed by the blockbuster big ticket Boston trade, then led to some of the most exciting mid-season trades in years. Do you feel like this is a peak year for the NBA, one we’ll look back on in years to come?
Skeets: If the Lakers (Gasol), Celtics (Garnett) or Suns (Shaq) end up winning this year’s championship, yes. Otherwise, it’ll just be remembered as that one year when 12 West teams won, like, 60 games or something stupid.
Tas: To me, there seems to be more talent in the league than any year I can remember. Yes, this year will be remembered for the champion if they were one of the big movers, but I think the overwhelming amount of the talent is the bigger story. That story might not make headlines, but it puts the NBA on an incline, where the peak is yet to come.
There have been arguments that NBA basketball is becoming a niche sport, one that most Americans (and Canadians!) have turned their backs on. Do you feel that this argument is misguided? If so, is NBA Commissioner David Stern and his star-focus policy partly responsible?
Tas: The NBA is far from a niche sport. Yes, it has less fans than the NFL or MLB, but, there is a reason ratings are up this year. Many of those fans that left over the last decade are finding a reason to watch NBA games. The argument that the league is relevant only 3 times a year (Draft Night, All-Star Weekend, and a Game 7) is becoming moot. Denver dropping 168, the major trades, Golden State-Dallas, Phoenix-LA Lakers, and Kobe dropping 81 are examples of events which will get the casual fan watching more often. Stern’s star-focus policy has back fired over the last ten years or so, but this year’s celebration of the game is working quite well. The “Where Amazing Happens” campaign is very memorable. That being said, Stern’s star-based direction has also been partially guilty of making the players out to be prima donnas – a big turnoff for the casual fan. The current direction, or a more team based approach, along with raising the age limit of draft eligible players will slowly extinguish that perception.
Save from your home town team, is there any stand-out team in the league that you really enjoy, even if their record suggests otherwise?
Skeets: I enjoy watching the Magic in the morning, the Jazz around lunch, the Suns at dusk and the Warriors late a night. Also, Julius Hodge is the future.
We’ve passed the crescendo of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Many NBA-purists (myself included) can’t even categorize the two as the same sport. What are three ways you feel the NBA is superior to the NCAA, despite some fans arguments to the contrary?
Tas: The NBA is superior to the NCAA? Wow, that’s great news for us, isn’t it? Joking aside, I totally agree with your statement. The NBA is just overflowing with talent; the NCAA is simply not. Check the NBA draft every year. Why don’t many of the drafted players from the NCAA stick in the league for an extended period of time? ‘Cause they’re not good enough! Watch any NBA team, save the Miami Heat, and you will see a far higher percentage of players who are capable of doing special things. Only college standouts are good enough for the L. College players give more effort? Come on. They play less than half the games of an NBA athlete and the NBA playoffs are just as intense as March Madness. I got more. There are less shots taken and less individual creativity in the amateur ranks because coaches lack trust in the kids. OK, I’m rambling.
Prediction time: Who comes out of the East, who comes out of the West, who takes the championship? Who’s your MVP?
Skeets: East: Celtics over Pistons in 6. West: Lakers over Spurs in 6, with an extremely controversial call in Game 4. (Sternspiracy!) Champs: Celtics in 7. MVP: Kobe.
Tas: Man, it’s impossible to bet against the Celtics coming out of the East. As for the West, I think Steve Kerr’s belly is full of luck. I’ll take the Suns over the Celtics in 7. MVP: Kobe.
Last, if Pat Riley and Isiah Thomas had to fight with knives to the death, who would win? Advantage: Pat Riley’s hair.
Skeets: This is a trick question. Riley would quit halfway through the fight to go get a cavity filled, while Zeke would accidentally stab himself to death trying to juggle the knife. So, both of them win. Sort of.
Tas: Pat Riley gets run over by the Smush-calade. Winner: Zeke.
About Skeets and Tas
At the moment, what is your favorite website/webservice?
Skeets: Facebook. I still get a kick out of telling my 153 “friends” that I’m “busy eating cereal.”
Tas: Stumbleupon.com. The lazy man’s cure for surfing.
What car/cycle do you wish you had in your garage right now?
Skeets: A GS160 Mark 1 Vespa.
Tas: I’ll go double. Mazda RX-8 and Toyota FJ Cruiser.
What’s the best book you’ve read and film you’ve seen in the last 6 months?
Skeets: Book: ‘What Is the What’ by Dave Eggers. Film: ‘No Country for Old Men’ and/or the 1986 BMX classic ‘Rad’.
Tas: Book: ‘Beyond the Horizon’ by Colin Angus. Film: Magnolia. Ya, I’m behind.
Which gadgets can you not live without?
Skeets: My laptop, alarm clock and PVR. (TIVO for you Americans.)
Tas: PVR & cell phone.
Mac, PC, Linux?
Skeets: 17-inch MacBook Pro. (And just so you know, it’s spelled “Linas Kleiza.”)
Tas: PC. I’m too stubborn to change.
What is your most recent, most indulgent purchase?
Skeets: Rockband, I guess.
Tas: The Dominican Republic.
Tell us a fact about Skeets and Tas we probably don’t already know.
Skeets: My real name is Justin.
Tas: I don’t know a Justin, or a Skeets.
Thanks Skeets and Tas for taking some time to chat with us. GearCravers, be sure to tune into TheBasketballJones podcast 5 days a week for fun, insightful coverage of NBA basketball. We’re excited for one hell of a playoff year for the NBA… may the best team win it all!