Thursday, January 31, 2008

Worth a Look!

I know it's been in vouge to blow off the NBA as unwatchable and lament the salad days of Magic, Larry and Michael, but last night I did least the 4th quarter of the Cleveland-Portland game. When I picked up the game, the Cavs were trailing and LeBron had 20 points going into the final stanza. 12 minutes of clock time later, the King had 37 points, knocked down 3 huge 3's in a 60 second span, and took one to the rack as time ran out to beat the Blazers by 1. With his left hand. On a reverse lay-up. From under the basket. With 3 guys on him and the entire Rose Garden knowing he was taking the shot.
The Celtics are tops in the East....the Lakers are near the top in the West and the best player on the planet is along the Great Lakes. Sound familiar? They've got me taking a PLEASE don't choke any coaches, shoot anybody or get in a fight with the fans!


Rocky said...

NBA POSTING? WOW Times that tough in the Dawghouse?

Crickets promos notwithstanding, I love it! Keep it up...Though the lakers arent winning mainly because of Kobe, dont get me wrong he is the best player but they will win a series or two in the playoffs due to tough d and smart play on o by Derek Fisher. The key to that squad for sure. Bynam injured hurts that team and they need as much height as possible in the playoffs or they just may be offed...

Anonymous said...

The NBA has been back for a few years now, it appears some parts of the country or some blogs have been slow to pick up on its resurgence. Welcome back to the party.

Here's my take:

If you like the pro game, then you like the pro game. If you don't like the pro game, then you don't like the pro game. People always hold college basketball up against pro basketball and say "i prefer the college game" for reasons like fan enthusiasm, competitive games, and the most common one: 'better team ball'.

Don't get me wrong. Nothing is better than March Madness. Nothing in sports. The single elimination playoff tournament is something that pro sports have gone away from, but it is the most dramatic format. The cinderella story and upsets are captivating. The youthful exuberance of the kids (the hustle, the tears, seniors graduating etc) is hard to match in any pro sport.

Also, the players and teams are amateurs and amateurs in any sport tend to feature a more erratic style of play. For the casual fan, this pace and unpredictability is easy on the eyes. Also, the 3 point line being so close adds to the frenetic pace and wildness of the outcomes. Seemibly anything could happen at any point and it does.

Therefore, pro ball will never be college ball. If you like the aforementioned qualities above all else, college ball is probably the outlet for you.

But, if you have an appreciation for skill and athleticism, take an unbiased ("hopefully nobody chokes a coach" doesn't count) look at today's pro game and I think you will find the game has done well these last few years. A couple of thoughts:

The 2008 NBA has more of what the 1988 NBA or the 1998 NBA had than at any other point this decade. The game is definitely back.

1. Major superstars who are likeable/marketable to a wide array of fans. (80s Magic/Bird - 90s Jordan/Ewing/Barkley - Lebron/Shaq/D.Wade)
2. Excellent, unselfish point guard play (Nash/Paul/J.Kidd).
3. Up tempo games and excellent perimeter shooting.
4. Great coaching and consistency out of the best teams.

The NBA is a glass half empty or full. The bad press the league has received has hurt their image for sure. After Jordan, the league was carried by Prep to Pro superstars who got paid exorbitant amounts of money before they were 25 yrs old and before they had won anything. Folks resented that. On the backs of the Jordan/Drexler/Barkley era, salaries and TV deals were huge. The "anti-generation" of young stars had a brashness about them that the league embraced in their search for it's new look. It backfired to some degree.

The face of the NBA had become the athletic/score first guards who were not known for their teamwork or their winning attitudes(Marbury, Iverson, Francis, V.Carter, T.McGrady). The title runs of the great Laker teams were diminished by the in-fighting and eventual break-up of the team, as well as the Kobe rape trial. The Artest melee damaged the sport for 15 years or more. The failures at the Olympics had people thinking "are these guys even the best in the world?" In essence, the perfect storm of bad press.

Iverson's "Practice?" interview was a sad commentary on the state of the NBA superstar. Even if you agreed with his take, that NBA practices aren't the same as amateur practices and that he always did leave it on the floor, the fact that he didn't understand the repercussions of such statements was frustrating. It’s unfortunate. AI is one of the most unique basketball players in the game's history and I feel he will never fully be appreciated because of a tainted image that he helped create.

The lingering 6,000 lb gorilla in the room, as is always the case with the NBA, is race. Whatever your feelings are on the tensions that may or may not exist between the average American fan and the wealthy, black athlete, there is no arguing with the fact that the white NBA player had become a thing of the past. For me, a player's race does not play a part in how I view an athlete or a judge a sport, but for many it does. It’s not just as simple as a player being black and therefore a white fan deciding they don't like that player or that sport. Even a white person who may not feel they are biased, could be biased.

Here's why:
Most athletes are revered as icons/heroes bc many dream that we can be like them. For many, it became hard to relate to the NBA athlete. Whether it be a Harley riding redneck or a gun toting rap star, tattoos immediately trigger thoughts of miscreant behavior and the NBA's police blotters supported the image. The tattoos and cornrows (on black AND white athletes) turned away lots of fans. The "traditional" NBA player of the 90s ceased to exist. Certainly, the white superstar.

That is no longer the case. You will probably never see a better Larry Bird impression than Dirk Nowitski. Steve Nash is a the modern day Bob Cousy. Some argue that the foreign influx has been good for the NBA, bringing back a focus on perimeter shooting and eliminating specialized basketball. In Europe, everyone needs to be able to pass, dribble and shoot. For others, they are not satisfied with the new influx of white players. They are still left wondering where the AMERICAN born white superstar has gone. Again, the glass half empty or glass half full. For me personally, it is a non-issue.

If you like teamwork and solid defense, but claim not to like the NBA, then you obviously haven't watched the Spurs or Mavericks lately. They epitomize team play and are a complete throwback. Those who have been doubting the NBA the last several years and turning off their TVs because of reasons mentioned above, have missed the iconic, team-first big man in Tim Duncan.

Again, the NBA has whatever it is you like.

You prefer the more up-tempo/run and gun style that brings back memories of the ABA? The Warriors and Suns are your teams, consistently putting up 100+ games each night with great shooting, passing and finishing.

You like the pick and roll? Watch Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer continue Stockton & Malone's Utah Jazz tradition.

Lebron James by himself is a phenomenon that needs to be experienced by anyone who likes sports. To be that tall/strong/fast at such a young age is amazing. He is truly Darwin's master piece.

Here is what the league lacks and needs to improve in my mind:
1. Rivalries. The league had to eliminate fighting and any punk behavior from the game bc of the backlash of the Artest melee. They need to slowly let the intensity build again. The Knicks-Heat-Bulls games of the 90s and the Pistons-Celtics-Lakers games of the 80s were must see tv because they despised each other and tempers were allowed to flair to some degree. These are grown men. Let them battle. Think about some of the highest rated NBA games over the past few years and The Heat vs Lakers (Kobe vs Shaq) games bc of the tension and drama were among them.

2. The major market teams need to continue to improve. The legendary franchises have been in shambles. The bad press here in NY regarding the Knicks is tiresome. Finally the Celtics are getting better. Chicago improving as well.

3. The playoff format needs to be shortened. Can't have the games bleeding too far into the summer. Interest wanes and moves on to Juiceball or Golf. Or to the beach/pool/park and away from the TV set.

4. Changing the age limit and restricting HS seniors from entering the NBA draft has done more for the future of the NBA than anything else, not because the kids are forced to go to college and "grow up" like I've heard most often. The main reason is that the college game is the best farm system for the NBA game. The college coaches are great for player development and the player's college careers plant seeds for future NBA fans. For example: Say you are a diehard UNC fan. A guy like Rashad McCants (UNC alum) gets drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves and now you have a vested interest in following his career and watching the NBA. Call it the Carmelo Anthony-effect. Who would have thought that all of upstate NY would immediately become Denver Nuggets fans following Melo's NCAA title run? On the flip side, you've probably never heard of Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks, who is potentially the most athletic player the NBA has ever seen. Think about if Josh Smith went to Kentucky instead of coming straight out of high school; the blue army would be buying jerseys/tickets for Atlanta Hawks games. I think the NBA should consider going to a two year college minimum, and maybe include a 3 player exception for guys like Greg Oden who are men amongst boys in college and SHOULD be in the NBA. After their freshman year, a college player could enter the draft with no agent, and if they aren't one of the top 3 "underage" guys picked, they return to college.

I understand the unfair nature of the rule and how it restricts young men who are adults by law from pursuing their dream and making millions of dollars. I firmly believe, however, the rule actually fattens their wallets long-term rather than shortening their stacks. (for the reasons mentioned above) And it is best for the sport, which trumps all.

Thanks for opening the forum regarding the NBA and allowing me to express some of my views. Glad to have you back as a fan as well.

-Timmy Bones (NY, NY)

Rocky said...

FYI...posted yesterday
"Bynam injured hurts that team and they need as much height as possible in the playoffs or they just may be offed."

Today Lake-show acquired Pau Gasol from Memph-city for a bunch of nothing and some picks...

Nostrockdamus has spoken

Seahawks Steve said...

Yeah cuz we all know that guys in the NFL don't get arrested or have cornrows or tattoos.