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PBL at the Halfway Pole

by Chris Munson
February 20, 2008 - Premier Basketball League (PBL)

Half the season down and one half remains. That's where the Premier Basketball League is standing as we hit the midpoint of its inaugural campaign. Although the league has faced some challenges, the PBL has proven it has some staying power.

Maryland Nighthawks owner Tom Doyle and Rochester RazorSharks owner Sev Hrywnak founded the PBL last season. Eight of the ten teams in the league are former members of the American Basketball Association. The league was formed after those teams became disenchanted with the way the ABA was being run. They did not like the fact games were not played, some players were not getting paid, and that teams were folding at an astounding rate. The PBL teams have found relative stability in their new league.

As of February 23rd, the PBL has played all its games, with the exception of two contests that were postponed due to weather and travel issues. In the case of two other games, both at Wilmington, the league avoided postponements by bringing in a league-sanctioned traveling squad that is ironically called the "Travelers." The Travelers are a team that is run by the league and is designed to fill in for teams that for one reason or another cannot make a game. Snow prevented the RazorSharks from making one date, while Dallas missed a flight. Having the travel team in place ensured there would not be a disruption to the schedule and that there would be no loss of income to the Wilmington Sea Dawgs. Because Wilmington draws healthy weekend crowds, this could have been a major financial loss for the team.

This is a stark comparison to the ABA which has games cancelled or postponed at an alarming rate. This season, the ABA has played just 38 percent of its original schedule, calling off games for a wide variety of reasons. The success of the PBL playing its games shows that the league is committed to playing the entirety of its schedule. Of course weather does play a factor, but even when Rochester couldn't make it out of a snowstorm, a team filled in to play that night's game in Wilmington.

When it comes to the ownership problems with the Dallas Defenders and Jacksonville Jam, the league has shown it has contingency plans in place. In the ABA, teams are simply allowed to fold. As a consequence, fans are left without a team, and players are left not only without a team to play for but in many cases without a paycheck. In the PBL, when problems have arisen, they have been dealt with. In Jacksonville and Dallas, the league was forced to step in.

Jacksonville Jam owner Felix Krupczynski alleged in a published report that the PBL had gone back on promises to assist in paying for their arena. These claims came after the league had agreed to pay players and coaches back pay. In Chay Rao's article in the online publication Doyle denied these allegations saying, "We will not tolerate owners that won't abide by the regulations that the league set forth. We won't allow a team like that to operate. He was not paying his players or his coaches. The league has funds to help teams, but we weren't going to fund his team from start to finish."

The league formed the Jacksonville Slam that will play out the remainder of the schedule.

Following a hastily recalled press release from the Defenders, it had been reported on a basketball website that the team would be suspending operations, but that was an erroneous report.

"Erin (Patton) is still the owner," Doyle said. "The league is working with Erin so they can finish the season."

To make the comparison to the ABA, at last count 17 teams have stopped playing this season. Teams have been allowed to come in and out of the league, which in turn creates an air of instability and makes scheduling nearly impossible.

The Chicago Throwbacks for one saw the contrast between the two leagues. Though they began the year playing in the ABA, they moved over to the PBL once it became apparent the ABA could not provide opponents for them.

The PBL recently unveiled the "Triple S Scouting Showcase" that will take place March 3-5 in Chicago. All ten teams in the PBL will play in the event over a period of three days. Not only are fans being invited, but invitations to scouts and agents from all over the world have been issued. Doyle cited the showcase as a way not only for fans to get to know the players and the league, but also for overseas and domestic teams to scout potential talent. All of the games will be televised through the league's website and on Fanz TV, giving additional exposure to the league and its players and providing the league a chance to show they will be something to contend with in the world of minor league basketball.

One area in which the league must improve is in the officiating. FIBA rules are not always enforced, and the lack of consistency is an issue for both players and coaches. One game featured 76 fouls in a contest that took over two and one-half hours to play. Some of the officials need to realize is that this is professional basketball and the minor hand check fouls sometimes need to be let go. One suggestion is to have an NBA referee train PBL officials to teach them the nuances of the professional game. Many of the PBL officials officiate high school and college ball and aren't used to the pace of the pro game. They may not be poor officials; they just need to have a better idea of what to call and not to call at a higher level of play.

It appears the PBL has learned from the mistakes of the ABA. The league has statistics on its website, boasts national sponsors, has an online TV deal and will not expand just for the sake of expanding. In addition to Buffalo, which had an ABA franchise last season, three other teams have been rumored to be entering the PBL next year. All teams must put up a performance bond, and an extensive background check is performed. An arena and funding must be secured in order for a team to be granted entrance into the league. The hope is that this will prevent teams who do not have a solid business plan in place from even applying for a franchise, providing the league more assurance that owners are in for the long haul and are not just a fly by night type of organization.

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