Remedial basketball for millionaires.:
posted by togdon to basketball at 04:41 PM - 29 comments
So, if I've grasped his point, basketball would be better off with: fewer rich black players no assistant coaches all players forced to slave for the NCAA for 4 years an influx of foreign-born, white players who "play the game right" everyone sublimating their egos for the good of fans who only want to see the game played like Princeton v. Yale circa 1965
posted by yerfatma at 06:56 PM on February 13
yerfatma, with all due respect, where the fuck do you get those conclusions from? Are you trolling, or did you just not read the piece? He said nothing about taking money away, or even that the huge amount of cash floating around the NBA and their sponsors was at all a bad thing. All he said was that the incentive of that payday is luring kids out of high school a lot faster, and many of them are not fully grown, unprepared to play as grownups. I saw nothing about skin color in the piece. He singled out Kareem, Magic, Steve Nash and Tim Duncan for their fundamentals and commitment to team play, and further cited the successes of their teams-as-teams as his proof. So put your racism card away. Red Holzman had no assistant coaches, but that wasn't what made his version of the game any better than the current model. It was because the players he got had learned to do a lot more with the basketball by the time they got to the pros. I'll ignore the word "slave." The NCAA is in on the huge pool of sports money, and none of it goes to the college players except in scholarships, but that problem is largely outside the scope of this article, which (I'll pull it right out of his opening and closing paragraphs) was about how there's no incentive for pro players to learn the fundamentals. He brings up the example of foreign born players (You really calling Tim Duncan or Nazr Muhammad white? Fucking hell) because they don't have the phenom tag applied to them when they're eight years old like, for example, Starbury did. The upshot of this is not less money (Ginobili, Duncan & Nowitzki are doing fine, thank you very much), but a few extra years learning transitional play and spending extra time doing things like shooting free-throws and midrange jumpers in practice, which may sound like racism or pip-pip-collegian colonialism to you, but to me sounds like the kinds of things that separate a San Antonio or a Phoenix from a NY Knicks or some other also-ran collection of kids who've never needed to learn the finer points of team play. But I'm restating the article. Why don't you just read it again and tell me where exactly he proposes an all-white 1965 Ivy League style, okay? (By the way, in 1965, the slam dunk was a legal shot in college basketball.)
posted by chicobangs at 07:28 PM on February 13
Many of his points seem quite valid. Perhaps a little too "dooms-day-ish", but I don't see anything that most people won't find some agreement with. Yerfatma, did you even read this? And it's absolutely true - far too many players simply can't hit a jump shot or a free throw consistently enough.
posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 07:36 PM on February 13
I read that whole stinkin' article, and I walk away having no clue what his point was, other than "the league's too young" and "ban the dunk!". The former is self-correcting, the latter is preposterous. The latter question, first: the dunk is not a bad play, it is in fact the single best, highest percentage shot a player can take. When Chamberlain (who though Wilt is mentioned in the beginning of the article, while decrying low scoring games, was about the most self-centered player of his era who lost championships to Russell's Celtics while racking up scoring titles) was racking up 50+ ppg in a couple of seasons due to heavy use of the "dipper dunk". He was the Shaq of his day, but perhaps more so- back when 7' 2" was actually tall, when Russell was only 6'9", etc. Scoring is the easiest thing in the world; the art of basketball offense has always been not the ability to make the shot you want, but to get open for the shot you want! The dunk is the highest percentage play when you can take it, and naturally the toughest to be open for. Meanwhile the lowest percentage is in the 3-point shot, hence one player usually is able to sit at the arc unmolested by any defender. Those mid-range jumpers are not superior except in that it's generally easier to be open at mid-range than to be open at the low-post. A player is not really that much more accurate at 15-feet than at 23-feet, if he has more of a hand in his face the closer he gets to the basket. So yes, a balanced attack- a mix of low-post players, mid-range spot-up shooters, and 3-point threats is critical because it ensures you can take a good shot by moving the ball around and finding an open man who does well at the place he gets his shot. But to pretend the dunk is not the single most effective shot, and therefore not a hallmark of selfishness but of optimal scoring strategy- a virtually unmissable shot when you can get it- is stupidity. Now, as for the self-centered player, and the youth wave in the game today: Any player with aspirations to be in the NBA, or be rich, should skip college if they have the chance. 2-3 years at the league minimum is enough (provided it is saved prudently, not always an easy goal for young, rich men) to set a person for life. Let me repeat that. If you're 18, and you skip the utterly corrupt NCAA system, you can make enough money by the time you're old enough to drink to never have to work another day for the rest of your life. Or, you could waste your time busting your ass for some psychotic egomaniac with a shoe contract to make you wear Nikes for six figures, while you'll get benched or kicked out of school if an alumni buys you a fucking value meal at McDonald's. Yeah, real tough choice! The athletes are 100% correct to make the choice they do when offered. The NCAA is a jacked-up penal colony for talented athletes to be used up and spit out by soulless coaches. And intil there is a true minor leagues for the NBA, the college system is all that passes for a "seasoning ground". Only a fool at this point would pass up NBA money for an NCAA prison term. So the question is, why the hell Adidas gave $15m to Sebastian Telfair? Why do NBA teams keep signing kids out of high school? Well, it's irrelevent: if indeed this is a bad choice (high school picks are still rare, and many have panned out, at least long enough to be considered a success- I'll pit the Garnett anecdote against his Marbury anecdote any day), this is happily self-correcting: if the team style is so superior (and I believe that when it comes to winning, of course it is, within reason) teams will choose for it more and more as they start losing to teams that are embracing a team-based offense of no superstar mentalities. As a result, 18-year-old bonus babies will be far less frequent. Lebron is an aberration, and apparently worth the hype. But in time, the GMs and hoop hypers will realize that Stephon Marbury et al needed coaching to be ready to play. They will get better at recognizing players who are preternaturally ready to make the leap- such as Lebron, or Garnett- vs. those that need more time like Marbury did or, I believe, Carmelo Anthony. Therefore, those young, or more accurately, unseasoned, players will be either not signed until they've shown they can play at the pro level (perhaps spending time in non-NBA pro leagues in or out of the US), or alternately will be signed by the NBA, then sent to play elsewhere first, much like a 1st round pick in the MLB draft will work through the farm system instead of wasting perfectly good at-bats before he is ready.
posted by hincandenza at 09:35 PM on February 13
There's a kid on my local high school team who's got the jump to dunk, but he won't do it -- even though it'd be a huge crowd-pleaser. When the sportswriter dudes ask him after each game why he didn't jam it, he just kind of looks embarrassed and says, "Two points is two points, right?" Now, three points, that's another matter. Which is why this kid spends more time working on his outside shot than on dunking. Smart kid. Fun to watch, too.
posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:37 PM on February 13
Speaking as a locked-out hockey fan who has made an effort to watch the "other" game in town this winter, having exceedingly little experience with the NBA: I agree with a lot of his points. I get kinda tired of watching big mutants bowl over smaller mutants as they drive to the basket for the big power dunk. I can watch that sort of personal machismo and ego pumping in professional wrestling. That said, I agree with Hal too. Trends generally follow winning examples, and I don't see the Knicks headed for the finals this year. We saw a no-name team-based champion in Detroit last year, and with Phoenix winning this year (trust me, I'm from the future, or so they say), you'd think that the shoe-endorsement-loving GMs would start to notice. So it kinda sucks right now, but things'll work themselves out in a few years, so there's no need for drastic action like banning the dunk, and the NHL and NHLPA can settle any time now, it's okay by me.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 09:57 PM on February 13
Want to make the NBA more interesting and more team-oriented? Lower the basket. Nine feet oughta do it. When EVERYONE can dunk (including the WNBA and fat old men like me), it won't be on every ESPN highlight reel, and players might actually start working on team play.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:54 PM on February 13
No crash- at 9 feet, EVERYONE will dunk. It'll be a pig pile in the low post. Guys who are 7 feet can dunk without getting on their toes, much less leaving the ground. They'd be 90% FG kind of guys at that point- how can you fake out or block someone who can drop the ball in the hoop like a quarter in a soda machine? Not to mention that it would radically change the game people learned to play; how long would it take shooters to adjust to shooting at a target that's now 9 feet? Those shooters spent years getting that good, we'd have no idea how long before they get the same accuracy and instincts for a basket of a different height. But if you wanted to be radical, then raise the basket to 12 feet, that might accomplish what you want- but still, it'd lead to low scoring games while the athletes present and future adjusted to the new height for their jump shot.
posted by hincandenza at 11:47 PM on February 13
yerfatma, with all due respect, where the fuck do you get those conclusions from? Are you trolling, or did you just not read the piece? I had read the piece, thanks. Upon reflection, I suppose his complaint is really with self-centered, urban youth. Unfortunately, the problem he decries, self-centered me-firstism, is endemic in our society. It's just safer to point at a bunch of kids playing a game than it is to point at your neighbors. You really calling Tim Duncan or Nazr Muhammad white? Fucking hell No, I'm not, but you'll note one of the two black players (Duncan) the author is at pains to mention is foreign born. And Nash is from Canada. So it seems anywhere but here is the place to find people who play the game the right way. The Individualism the US was once celebrated for is now results in kids who dunk too much. But complaining about the state of Basketball in the US circa 2005 is fiddling while Rome burns. At the most direct level, the people at fault for the state of baketball are the people who enjoy it as it is now. Someone is paying $80,000/seat for front row tickets to the Knicks every night. Someone is watching enough March Madness to make it worth billions of dollars to CBS. And that kind of money creates a system that insinuates itself into every town in America. I doubt you could find a city without some never-was player or also-ran coach repping a shoe company and funnelling any decent 13 year-old to the college whose alumni pay the best. Once all those kids get to the NBA, most of them turn out to be average because, well, that's how averages work. And it's easier to take avergae players and suffocate the other team with defense than it is to find the scorers who can rise above Pat Riley's Knicks. Not that different from other sports: remember the NHL's neutral zone trap, the NFL's Patriots and all the teams that walk Barry Bonds rather than deal with him.
posted by yerfatma at 06:32 AM on February 14
But if you wanted to be radical, then raise the basket to 12 feet Someone--maybe Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar--said go ahead and do this, as it would just enhance their natural advantage. The author said: "Unbelievable as it may seem, you can make millions in today's N.B.A. without having even one semireliable way to put the ball in the basket -- no jump shot, no hook shot, no little 12-foot bank shot." Hal, I like your analysis better--it gets to the heart of why basketball can be such a damned hard game. There's usually someone at least as big, fast, and strong as you trying to stop you. Play in a major--or even a minor--college gym, one populated by sub-all-state level players who don't get scholarships but still play, and you'll be surprised at how hard it can be to take a plain old jump shot, even if you're an experienced player on a team with guys who do things like set picks. Those are the not-even-also-rans flying up in your face. Way up over them are whole levels of the game where it's essentially a different sport.
posted by Uncle Toby at 10:00 AM on February 14
I know fuck all about basketball, but I like the way he writes, even if he's wrong.
posted by JJ at 10:16 AM on February 14
As probably the most diehard NBA fan on this site (to quote Bill Simmons, "one of 19 NBA fans left on the planet"), I feel I should address this. As far as I can tell, he wants to: 1. ban the dunk 2. ban the 3-pointer 3. ban high schoolers from entering the NBA The dunk is actually not as prevalent as you might think. Dunks account for roughly 5 percent of NBA shot attempts (according to 82games.com). That's not exactly an epidemic. As somebody pointed out, it is the most efficient type of shot attempt (not to mention exciting) so the dunk doesn't strike me as a real problem. The 3-pointer is another story. In the 1984-85 season, Darrell Griffith led the league in 3-point attempts with 257, which was 64 more than the second-place guy, World B. Free (gratuitous ridiculous name-drop). Larry Bird was 8th with 131 attempts. A little over halfway into this season, Quentin Richardson has taken 445 3-point attempts. You have to go down to 14th place (Kirk Hinrich) to find a player that has taken fewer 3-point shots than Griffith in 84-85 - and this is with 35 games still to play. So is the 3-pointer ruining the game? Depends on who you ask. Phoenix's lineup consists of one athletic big-man (Stouemire), one brilliant point guard (Nash) and three athletic wingmen who love to shoot the trey (they are 1st, 17th and 21st in the league in 3pt attempts) Currently, Phoenix is tied with San Antonio for the best record in the NBA. Apparently, they're doing something right. My stance on high schoolers entering the NBA has already been stated by whoever called out the NCAA as a "penal system". I would like to see a developmental league for players who are not ready for prime-time (calling Darko Milicic) but for the most part, high school players won't play if they're not better than the other players on the bench, so it's not like the NBA is infested with kids who can't play ball. Four of the eight high-schoolers drafted in the first round of the 2004 draft (Howard, Livingston, Jefferson and Josh Smith) are making significant contributions to their teams and proving that they belong in this league right now. I would suggest that a 50% success rate is about what you'll get with players drafted at any age. Yeah, the game's not what it used to be, but you can also say that about hockey and baseball. You either like how it is now or you don't. Maybe some hoops fans long for the days of short shorts and long two-pointers. Others don't. I miss Larry and Magic, but there are these new guys named LeBron, Wade and Bosh that are pretty fantastic, too. And all three of them have nice mid-range jumpers. The game isn't broken, it evolved. If it leaves stodgy "fans" like Michael Sokolove behind, so be it. I like the game just fine the way it is.
posted by Scott Carefoot at 10:17 AM on February 14
Interesting point Uncle Toby, but there are still way too many missed free-throws in the NBA, which cannot be attributed to superb defense. Rather, it seems to indicate a basic skill deficiency. I don't have hard numbers regarding today's free-throw percentages compared to past years, but it is hard to believe how many millionaire NBA ballers struggle at the line, 15 ft. from the rim with no one defending.
posted by mayerkyl at 10:21 AM on February 14
Hal and Uncle Toby - are you guys trying to say that the reason the dunk is such an attractive shot is because the jump shot is too easily defended? You've got to be kidding me. A 15 foot jumper is one of the hardest shots to contest. Especially off the dribble. We have ultimately the best athletes and the three point line. So why again is scoring down? Is it because these millionaire 21 year-olds play kick-ass defense? Or is it because no one (or simply not enough) can do anything but dunk and hit a three? And if not then why are numerous players from other countries coming in and very quickly finding success? Why the USAs poor performance internationally? And besides - the author is primarily concerned with the game - he is not making a grand statement about society's "me-first-ism" and it's impact on basketball - but rather the impact of Michael Jordan and the media on how basketball players are produced. Jesus.
posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:29 AM on February 14
3 other points I'd like to address from the above comments: 1. Why is scoring down? Primarily because the pace of the game is much slower than it used to be. In the mid-80s, teams routinely shot 7,500 field goal attempts over the course of a season. Now, teams tend to average around 6,500 field goal attempts over the course of a season. That's 12 fewer shots per game. That lowers scoring quite a bit. You can blame coaches like Jeff Van Gundy and Rick Carlisle for that because they have achieved success with "walk-it-up" offence and smothering defence. 2. The idea that free throw shooting has gone in the toilet is yet another myth perpetuated by people who think Shaq is the norm instead of the exception. The league free-throw success rate for the 2003-04 season was 75.2 percent, compared to 76 percent in 1983-84. There have always been players who tossed up bricks from the free throw line. Wilt Chamberlain was a career 51 percent shooter from the line, compared to Shaq's 54 percent success rate going into this season. 3. Team USA did not fail because the United States no longer produces the best players. Team USA failed because the committee failed to put together the best "team". You can't throw together a collection of All-Stars and automatically assume they're going to mesh and complement each other's skills. That team needed a player or two like Michael Redd to stretch out the defence with outside shooting. With all due respect, some people should not pontificate on "what's wrong with the NBA" for the same reason I don't pontificate on "what's wrong with the NHL" - when it comes to hockey, I know that I don't know jack.
posted by Scott Carefoot at 11:00 AM on February 14
are you guys trying to say that the reason the dunk is such an attractive shot is because the jump shot is too easily defended? Not to speak for them, but I think the idea was it's a higher % shot: if I'm on the court by myself, I'm more likely to hit a dunk (well, I'm not, but you get the point) than a 15 footer. The odds of getting open for either may differ, but if both are available, why not take the (almost) sure thing?
posted by yerfatma at 11:14 AM on February 14
I know fuck all about basketball, but I like the way he writes, even if he's wrong. I think that was my biggest problem with the whole article, JJ: it was, in my opinion, terribly written, and I'm quite surprised that it managed to get off an editor's desk. This is evidenced by the fact that this thread can't even agree as to what the article's thesis is all about. At first I thought it was about rage against the dunking machine, but as I read on I realized, like others, that it was just a general rant against change. Most vexing though, is that he leaves out numerous facts that do not support his rants. Either this is deliberate and manipulative, or innocent and ignorant, but full of holes nonetheless. A few examples:
posted by smithers at 11:43 AM on February 14
I prefer "Starbury".
posted by yerfatma at 11:48 AM on February 14
are you guys trying to say that the reason the dunk is such an attractive shot is because the jump shot is too easily defended? You've got to be kidding me. A 15 foot jumper is one of the hardest shots to contest. Especially off the dribble. yerfatma answered that one pretty well, but I'll chip in, too. Personally I don't think a 15-ft jumper is that hard to contest, since it's usually a hard shot to make, off the dribble or otherwise. I'd much rather defend my man 15 ft out than down on the blocks. There's a huge difference between making these in practice/warm-ups and making them at full speed while being dogged by a defender. Free throws are a prime example of this kind of difference. Lots and lots of guys can make tons of them in practice, but doing the same thing while winded and in front of an arena full of fans is something quite different. There's a psychological aspect to them that seems to take off a few percentage points, too. And for that matter, I think it's much easier to get one's range and get a rhythm going when you take scores of them in a row. In games, you take one or two in a row, and oddly enough, that seems to work against percentages. As for whether the author was making a "grand statement" about how basketball's problems are symptomatic of society's, I think he dropped enough hints along the way to suggest that that is at least part of his purpose. He doesn't have to come right out and say it like it's the thesis sentence in his term paper--readers are allowed to infer a writer's undeclared assumptions based on what they actually see in the text.
posted by Uncle Toby at 02:41 PM on February 14
The piece is terribly written, no doubt about it. There is a sense that the author has a longing for the "good old days". smithers is right, the article doesn't seem to have a coherent thesis. You get the feeling that the author knows that there is something "wrong" with the game but that he can't put his finger on it, so he just waves his arms around. There isn't anything wrong with the game. There are some problems along the periphery (scouting @ the junior high level, sponsors, handlers, agents, etc.). But the game at its purest can be distilled to: Take the highest percentage shot (which is usually the closest), and prevent your opponent from taking high percentage shots. Thats it. Everything else is a question of style. Don't like the dunk? Lay-ups are just as effective, so taking away the dunk does nothing to prevent traffic in the lane, nor does it keep GMs from drafting younger players (including high schoolers) with the ability to soar to the goal. Don't like the 3-pt shot? Its high risk, high reward. You might not like that so many people shoot it, but it is very much part of the evolution of the game. The problem isn't players taking the 3, its coaches who allow subpar shooters to do so. I think that there is a lack of movement in the game. Of the ball, and of the player. The game tends to look stagnant when so many of the players are stationary. Coaches have truly monopolized the pace of the game, for the sake of winning, but also at the sake of entertainment. It's tough to argue against when you look at the turnover rate for head coaching gigs.
posted by lilnemo at 04:17 PM on February 14
It wasn't so long ago that there was a spate of stories about how the NBA was losing fans, viewers, and money. If this is the case, then I'll accept the argument that basketball is indeed in decline. Anyone know what happened?
posted by snickernoodle at 04:45 PM on February 14
Well, I'm certainly not about to argue that the dunk should be outlawed - it smacks of regression and not adaptation (by the by, my feeling from the article was the author trying to take the extreme POV by saying eliminate the dunk and then defending it - in order to address the depth of the examination - hey if you can presume the ills of society in his piece then I can defend it using the same principle of inferrence). And I'm not quite ready to hang the coaches for the game's pace - you work with what you have. But clearly player development has changed greatly in the last 15 years, and it's focus has gone from fundamental skills to indivdual performance skills. While the numbers, as Scott has pointed out, haven't changed all that much - any fan worth his salt can tell you that the way the numbers are accumulated certainly has. The game is different, the NBA with it's recent allowance of zone defences has agreed that something needed to be done to prevent so many isolations and encourage more flow to the game. So I don't see a great divide between what the author is saying (in some of his more coherent moments) and what the NBA itself is saying.
posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 05:00 PM on February 14
Oh, I don't blame the coaches. Heck, I sympathize with them. It's tough. You have to get 12 "adults" to buy in to a system where each of there skills is used efficiently. You usually have no say in personnel matters and your GM will most likely give you 3-4 players with roughly the same skill-set. Any players with the highly valued skill-set you need (rebounding, passing, play calling, setting picks) generally will be off the market. You are often forced to either: A. Play some one out of position. B. Bench a good player for a player who makes more money (for himself and the team), but is more selfish (from orders on high). C. Use offensive/defensive schemes that manipulate pace so that your team isn't run out of the gym. Few if any coaches have the freedom to run or teach the system they prefer given the money involved in player contracts, the time allowed to practice under the CBA, the pressures of upper management, and the talent involved. In that sense, I think that the NBA as it stands is an entertaining well-played sport given the constraints we have discussed.
posted by lilnemo at 05:32 PM on February 14
I will freely confess to knowing four-fifths of fuck-all about basketball, but something in this article that strikes me as a glaring misconception is this; if, as the author suggests, the problem with basketball is the immaturity of the players, how is forcing them to go to college going to help? If anything, it will likely aggrivate it in many cases. Professional sportsmen are not required to be smart. Some are, some are mediocre intellects, but, as anyone who's listened to Wayne Rooney open his mouth can attest, you can posses an mind that would make Homer Simpson look like a sensitive, artistic genius, and still be a genius in your sport. Sending not terribly bright people to college leads to what? For an ordinary thick person, failure (one hopes); for an athletic superstar making the college millions, it more likely leads to pressure on academics to give F students C passes, and other special exceptions that teach they players that they are special young men who don't have to abide by the rules. Which seems to be one of the main complaints of the article.
posted by rodgerd at 05:41 PM on February 15
In my opinion the author was correct that Kareem's sky hook was the hardest shot to defend (even harder than the dunk). I think you have to assume in a discussion of 'hardest to defend' shots that all shots could be made, within reason. Obviously it's easy to defend a dunk by me because I can't dunk. Just step out of the way and I won't make the shot. Shot properly, the hook shot leaves the hand (and travels upward) with your body perpendicular to your defender. The entire width of your body separates the defender from the ball and thus they have to be considerably taller than you to block it (more than likely they would foul you trying to block you). If I could dunk, and you and I were the same height, you could get between me and the basket (again assuming both of us could jump that high). If I could shoot the hook (and we were the same height) you would be less able to get between me and the basket. Caveat - I'm 29, so don't call me an oldey. I also play Rip Hamilton style (shooting off picks and motion).
posted by BobbyC at 05:46 PM on February 15
Yeah, al I've got is a hook, but it still works well. The trick is that you need to hit the hook for it to be dangerous. That goes back to the "why don't they learn the fundamentals" argument, wherein any player that bothered to practice free throws and learn a hook would become a force, but I have a feeling the dearth of hooks is directly related to the fact you'll catch a couple of elbows in the face if you venture into the paint. That said, one of the main reasons I love Celtics' rookie Al Jefferson is the baby hook.
posted by yerfatma at 06:36 PM on February 15
some highschool players r good but theres too much in the last draft we need more college basketball players to contribute to the team. Its only fun to watch them make a dunk. it wasnt fair we had highschool players making #1 spot and college players were like 15 25 etc. kobe still needs to learn how to be team player and that is y we need more college ball players in the nba than these highschool kids that cares about money. plus kobe looked good b/c of shaq. i would say lebron and kevin garnett is the only one i except.
posted by dhdefrag3x at 07:34 PM on February 15
it wasnt fair we had highschool players making #1 spot and college players were like 15 25 etc. Why is that unfair?
posted by yerfatma at 08:07 PM on February 15
Don't bother, yerfatma.
posted by dusted at 08:54 PM on February 15
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