Friday, May 28, 2010

Winning doesn't mean good basketball.

There are a few teams in the NBA who play such fundamentally different basketball that I can't stand to watch them. They have made an executive decision to do one thing, and stick to it. Take the Golden State Warriors, they have decided to go all-out offense to try and take other teams out of their rhythm and sure, sometimes it works. But winning a game or two doesn't make it good basketball. In the case of the GSW it is obvious. But there are other teams out there who I find frustrating to watch, and even moreso when they beat a fundamentally sound team. So here are my thoughts on a few of the most one-dimensional and irritating teams in basketball.

Take Cleveland. Yes, they have had the best regular season record for two straight years, but they are so LeBron-centric that even if he stays and gets superstar help their playing style won't grant them a championship. While James' numbers are ridiculous, and he had a season statistically similar to Jordan circa 1987, he needs to learn like Jordan did to take a step back. Unless he is officially playing the PG position, there is no way he should be running every offense, especially when that usually just entails LeBron winding down the clock and then gunning for the rim. The other Cleveland players often only score when the other team gets so frustrated with 'Bron they forget the other players are there and they sneak in for a layup or three pointer. A system where the job of 4/5 players is to be as inconspicuous as possible doesn't sound like a championship team. A possible solution would be for LeBron to act as a diversion on a few more plays and create for his teammates without actually touching the ball. He would have more energy for defense and he could take over during the fourth quarter. But playing like Kobe in the 4th for 40+ minutes for 82 games is no way to build a champion, even if it does get you a pretty good regular season record. Put simply, 'Bron needs to learn trust and just do less, not more. Now that Mike Brown has gone he might get a coach who makes that happen.

Now I'm looking at you Orlando. Considered by many (myself included) the best team in basketball towards the end of the regular season, they were a different team from last year. That difference was Vince Carter. Sure, he can shoot the three ball, but all of a sudden they have a player who can take it to the rim off the dribble and their attack becomes so much more balanced. With shooters like Jameer Nelson (who is playing out of his mind at the moment), JJ Redick and Rashard Lewis on the perimeter and Superman posting up and getting oops, they had a potent offense and a solid defense. In the first two rounds of the playoffs they swept two teams and looked ready to make another trip to the finals. But wait, they found a team who was better at the half court game, and was playing championship calibre defense. The Magic dropped 3 games to Boston and all of a sudden the pressure was off. People had written them off as a threat in the series and instead of being the favourite, they were back in the role that got them to the Finals - the underdog. As soon as they went down 3-0 a change came over them, and all of a sudden they were once again prepared to live and die by the three. With nobody expecting them to win the series, they took treys nearly every time they went down the floor, and Vinsanity found his services as a dribble penetration player were no longer required. Enter JJ Redick, the shooting backup who makes a living on free throws and three point shots. With that reckless commitment to 3 point shooting and with Dwight picking up his game offensively the Celtics were forced into double-teaming and all of a sudden the skies above opened, and 3s came pouring in. And all of a sudden, they were only down 3-2 in the series and were in a position to make history. It still isn't good basketball. I call them one-dimensional because Dwight had a big game earlier in the series and it didn't lead to a Magic victory; the three pointer is their go-to strategy. I think the reason the Celtics aren't defending the 3-ball so well is because it hasn't quite sunk in just how committed the Magic were to pulling the trigger on the long ball as many times as they could. In the first two games they had 22 and 18 3-point attempts. In the two the Magic won they had 25 and 28. If the Celtics D had given them more, they likely would have taken more without hesitation. But it is easy to make 3s when it seemingly doesn't matter, it will be altogether different when the pressure is back on the Magic. This is what I can't wait to see. Game 6 will be Boston's best chance to put away the series, but not because it is a home game, but because all of a sudden the Magic have the momentum and the expectations have come rushing back in. I don't think Orlando has the mental toughness to shoot the ball well when it counts. So let the Magic shoot their 3s, let them complain to the refs every time a call doesn't go their way but now they have something to lose, we'll see whether a one-dimensional attack beats good solid basketball.

I already mentioned Golden State, and quite frankly, they don't deserve any more space on this site given their team philosophy. I'd like to add that any team which tries to win solely through the transition game isn't winning any championships either.

So let's hope the Magic don't win a Finals series this way, because it could have an alarming ripple effect for the League. We don't want to see 3 pointers unless they are game winning buzzer beaters, or it is Ray Allen nailing one the moment he is given even the slightest amount of space. Boston needs to win so we have more slashing, dunking, post moves and contested rebounds that make the game we love so great.


1 comment:

  1. Totally called it; and Jeff Van Gundy backed me up. He was saying something along the lines of "this is a make or miss league; its good offense if it goes in, but if you aren't making your shots it is just bad offense". I think this especially applies to the Magic.