NBA Musings


While watching the Boston Celtics play the Detroit Pistons today I pondered the brilliance of Walter Brown and the men who set up the NBA in 1946.  The playoff system they devised was, well, brilliant.


It resulted in the season being irrelevant.  In the beginning, in the Ď40s and Ď50s, the entire season was played to eliminate something like four teams from the playoffs.  The season is still irrelevant even though a few more teams are eliminated, and the games meaningless, but millions of people pay big bucks to attend and the networks pay big bucks to televise these games, which are not much more than glorified exhibition games.  And itís not just actors with more money than brains like Jack Nicholson and Dyan Cannon who attend these shows.  Out of those tens of thousands that pack Staples and the other arenas around the league during the ďregular seasonĒ include at least a few people with I.Q.ís above double digits.


But the brilliance of the founders really shone brightly while watching the Pistons and Celtics go at it.  Here are two teams so terrible that they have about as much chance of winning the NBA title as I have of playing Chopinís Polonaise in A-flat minor at the Hollywood Bowl.  They donít even play basic basketball.  All the Celtics know how to do is rub defensive players off to create mismatches for Paul Pierce to go one on one. Anything more sophisticated must be beyond them because they never hit the open man, donít move without the ball, and have nothing that could be called a cohesive offense. Their offense resembles what we used to play when I played pickup games at Pauley Pavilion all those many years ago with guys Iíd never seen before and would probably never see again. In fact, even if you combined the two teams into one team it would be so devoid of talent and basketball knowledge that it wouldnít have a chance of winning an NBA title.  Yet there they were, on national TV, in front of a sold out Boston arena, playing yet another meaningless game but bringing more bucks into the NBA coffers as one of these horrible teams will advance to the next round.




Anyone who thinks that sportswriters, sportscasters, or fans, for that matter, know anything about basketball got yet another jolt of reality when Tim Duncan was named MVP.  If Duncan were MVP, heíd be able to take over the game and score at will when guarded by the likes of Robert Horry.  Donít get me wrong, Horryís a good defensive player.  But Horryís 6-9 and Duncanís 7-1.  Duncanís younger.  Duncanís quicker.  Duncan can jump higher.  Guarded by Horry, Duncan should be able to score at will.  In a game like todayís he should dominate and be capable of scoring 40-50 points if the need arose (and it arose today!).  But Duncan canít take charge.  He reacts instead of taking control. 


Todayís game epitomized why the choice was one of ignorance because of what Duncan did compared to Kobe Bryant.  Bryant is injured and isnít at the top of his game.  He struggled for three quarters.  But with the game on the line he sunk two pressure-packed three-pointers to lead the Lakers from a fourth quarter 10-point deficit into a tie.  Then Duncan, who had been unable to score in the entire fourth quarter except for a few free throws, got the ball on a fast break with less than a minute left and the score tied.  Hereís the MVP, the game on the line, the ball in his hand, numbers on his side.  Hereís where Michael Jordan rose to the occasion.  (For that matter, it was where a journeyman like Don Nelson also rose the occasion in 1969, but thatís another story). What did Duncan do?  He was so clumsy he committed an offensive foul and turned the ball over!  No shot, no nothing!


Bryant got the ball back.  Proving heís human, he dribbled the ball off his foot with 9 seconds left.  Derek Fisher retrieved it and threw up a jumpshot.  Bryant was behind the three point line when the shot went off, 30 feet from the basket.  Instead of moping about dribbling the ball off his foot, he charged around Fisher while the shot was still in the air.  When Fisherís shot missed, San Antonio players were all positioned for the rebound.  But Bryant soared up behind and over them, pulled down a left handed rebound, and then put it right back up and in, in between three opponents (one of whom was MVP Duncan).  With the game on the line, players like Bryant take charge.  Duncan doesnít and canít.  If Duncanís the MVP, look for me to win Wimbledon in July.

May 12, 2002