Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Game 81 - Street Ball

Perhaps this is what bothers me about the contemporary NBA. I have railed pretty much all season against the poor quality in-game coaching of one Lawrence Frank. He has made strategic blunder after tactical blunder, he's tone deaf to his team's struggles and mechanistic in his substitution patterns.

Nonetheless, I watched tonite's game in amazement. Nets up early, go to sleep, down nearly 20 at the half, come back to take a late lead, make bonehead decisions, wind up going into overtime, go up by 8 within a minute left, win by 4.

Through it all, NEITHER coach has any impact on the game. Granted, both teams are done for the year, what incentive do they have. So it becomes a schoolyard game.

I was reading about Golden State's latest loss, something like coming back from down 16 to take a 15 point lead, and then losing. And I am struck - I don't remember this happening in the 60s, or the Magic/Bird/Dr J era, or even the Jordan era. I remember close games involving, at least, playoff teams, 2 point, 4 point, 6 point leads going back and forth. I remember good passing, even on breaks, boxing out, and above all, defense.

Not always. The mid-70s were fairly run and gun, as the ABA players and style were digested into the league. I remember strategy. I remember intelligent play - Oscar, Bradley, Lucas, West, Kareem, Russell, McHale, the Chief, etc.

I remember Kidd, as well, when he came here in 2002. It was a pleasure to watch because he imposed on the team a disciplined style of smart play. Maybe it was Eddie Jordan's Princeton like offense, on steroids with the athleticism of KMart, Kittles and RJ. It featured a lot of running, sure. But it was heady. With defense.

You see this now from one team - San Antonio. Is it the coach? Is it Duncan? Is it luck?

It ain't luck.

It's a commitment to fundamental basketball within the framework of today's incredible athletic talent.

Today's talent is clearly superior to any other era. I don't think that's debatable. Unfortunately, the NBA has become, as I have noted earlier, the Nothing But Ability league. No defense. No strategy. No in-game tactical soundness. Ability.

Brilliant moves, flashy dunks, great looking alley oops, incredible shots.

But for every flashy dunk is a missed foul shot, for every great looking alley oop is a bad decision, for every incredible shot is an "ill-advised" shot. I put that in quotes since I hear it most from Walt Frazier.

Walt Frazier... I was not a Knicks fan then - I was a Lakers fan. I couldn't stand him, as an opponent. But you had to respect his play - his intelligent play.

Frazier probably wouldn't have the size or talent to play in today's NBA. This is an amazing thing. Because Clyde could make nearly every current team a contender. Through sheer intelligence.

I digress (boy, do I digress)...

The point is, who listens to coaches today, anyway? Again, I can think of only one team, and it's the same one.

Frank had nothing to do with this victory, and would have had nothing to do with a loss, either. This was a street ball game.

Where's the Professor?

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