Tag Archives: Kevin Durant

NBA.F17: Resting Has Warriors Besting LeBron’s Backs-to-the-Wall Gang

6 Jun

It was as plain as even the rather small nose on the forlorn face of Stephen Curry as he watched his Golden State Warriors in the closing seconds of last June’s NBA Finals, about to drop their third game, second in a row, to their fierce foes the Cleveland Cavaliers who were going to take game six (115-101) and even-up the Series at 3-3, the defending champs having squandered a 3-1 lead: The 2016 single-season record setters in victories (73) were, not surprisingly, dog tired.

It had been a whirlwind campaign of championship and achievements for the Bay boys, having bested LeBron’s bunch in Finals 2015 (4-2), his 2d Cleveland tenure, then almost running the table the following regular season to reach those 2016 Finals only to fall short (3-4) to what in the aftermath must’ve seemed a certain James’ destiny to bring a first NBA title to his native Ohio.

That Wars’ leader and star Curry had bagged two (2) consecutive MVP awards added just that much more glitter, and pressure, to their mostly joyous run.

So when coach Steve Kerr & Company failed to complete the technical dynasty (at least two (2) sequential championships), all asked, ‘What happened?’

LeBron James happened, of course, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

The following is an excerpt of an article I wrote last July in wake of Wars unexpected collapse and Cavs historical comeback win, postulating what was a major factor in the result and what the future (F17) held in store:

“The weary factor: It’s why Warriors failed to close the deal on what might’ve been the greatest season in NBA history. Ironically, those 73 RS wins that put them on precipice of immortality were also the reason why they fell short. Winning that many takes its toll, as previewed in the WC final vs OKC (4-3) where the champs had to pull their fat outta’ the fire just to move on. Of course, those 1995-96 Bulls piled a weary-worthy total themselves in their super season (72-10) and still managed to take the title vs Seattle (4-2). Just sayin.’

Rubbermaid® NBA Finals 2017

NBA’s powers-that-be salivate over thought of a Cavs – Wars 3-peat. Who’s gonna’ stop ‘em, besides the injury bug? That the Association’s quality of competition rating is at lowest ebb since the scaling was first calibrated by this writer some years back, matters not in the least to the Cufflinks, the same frat-boys who think tanking’s a joke, as long as the Big Celebrities make it to the Big Party, i.e., LeBron, Stevo, Durantula, Love & Irving.

Even if Durant does work a small drain of the splash-pool and Lue takes no action to teach Kyrie who’s #1 (James) and fundamentals of point play, i.e., ‘See the ball, set a play, pass the ball,’ these two teams should have little trouble making it into next season’s Finals, again barring any notable injury issues.

If they do meet, it’s Warriors who likely take the rubber-match.

Kyrie Irving’s not about to learn that kindergarten starter-skill called sharing and former All-Star Kevin Love is now so marginalized by team & press that LeBron’s gonna’ lose whatever hair he has left by season’s end.

For the Oaklanders, they’ve already got the 73, the substantive one (See; B.Bonds (‘01)), and Kerr will make damn sure his men are better rested this time in event they make the WC finals. Sixty-plus should get home-court…no tanking, mind you, but Stevo will give his starters…respites as needed to avoid weariness that turned splash into a prolonged belly-flop in G5-7 (https://stevenkeys.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/nba17-too-many-cooks-spoil-the-splash-but-cavs-wars-are-rubbermade-for-re-match/).”

So, did Kerr work to curb enthusiasm in a strategy to help ensure his men had enough Finals end-game this time around? The six (6) fewer regular season victories (67-15) suggests he might have. Of course, having 2014 MVP Kevin Durant rostered this season has certainly played a part to ease some burden, maintain energy levels, while at the same time easing his own workload for the first time since his rookie NBA campaign in 2007 (Seattle (OKC)).

Which brings this Series, this terrific NBA trilogy of titledom that may someday rival the fantastic Lakers v. Boston feud of the 80s (Jordan never had a great rivalry) to its critical point: Game 3. It’s winner will likely win these Finals, for a third W for the Wars will break Cleveland’s spirit while a Cavs victory will enspirt a team that seems to play best when their backs are to the wall.

We might even get one of those forever frozen in time moments, as when Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, at center for Jabbar, scored on that baby hook-shot late to steal G5 (?) in the Garden, going a long way in helping LA win the ‘87 Series and then the rightful claim to supremecy as the decade‘s best. We might.

Steven Keys
Nothing But Net
Photo credit: basketball-net, wc.cca, 1995, static; S.Kerr-NBA.referee, wc, 2.24.25, K.Allison; S.Curry, wc, N.Salzman, 4.6.14; Love-Irving-James, 10.1.14, wc, E.Drost;
Posted: 6.6.17 @ 6:45p EST; Copyright © 2017

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NBA17: Too Many Cooks Spoil the Splash But Cavs & Wars Are Rubbermade for Re-Match

11 Jul

The McGinnis Moral

New Oakland area teammates Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry just might be the awesome version of the dynamic George McGinnis and Julius Erving duo that took Philadelphia and the NBA by storm forty years ago. A little less muscle but the finesse factor is fairly even, Steven.

To people of the 70s, those who followed the pro hardwood game, Dyan Cannon and Jack Nicholson for example, the names McGinnis and Erving side-by-side speak volumes about the risk in packing a roster too liberally ($) with star power.

........Durant.wc.K.Allison.2-14.thmOwner Irv Kosloff (‘63) already had his Philadelphia 76ers well stocked for the 1975-76 NBA season with the likes of All-Stars Doug Collins, Steve Mix, World B. Free, ‘67 champ Billy Cunningham and then big new addition from Indiana in former ABA superstar George McGinnis. But that team would exit early in R1 of those playoffs to Bob McAdoo’s Buffalo Braves (SD-LAC). So later that year new owner Fitz Eugene Dixon would “add another hue unto the rainbow (de Vere)” in corralling the other decorated ace from the closing-for-business American in the person of New York Nets’ Julius “Dr. J” Erving under the theory ‘you can’t have too much of a good thing.’

The consecutive annual signings of players the caliber of McGinnis & Erving appeared at the time to be a straddle of that fine line between bold and desperate. Only question for the more optimistic of Philly faithful was exactly how many NBA titles they’d win by the time their dynamic duo’s contracts expired. Sound familiar (See; Durant & Curry)? Some things never change.

Sadly for McGinnis and owner Dixon that much anticipated championship never materialized in their respective Sixers tenures.

.......McGinnis.smIn George’s three years in the City of Brotherly Love (‘75-78) the Sixers reached but one Final (‘77) and though they jumped out to a 2-0 lead would lose to the Jack Ramsay – Bill Walton – Maurice Lucas Portland Trailblazers, 4-2.

The grand experiment would be terminated with the former Hoosier’s shipment to Denver (‘78-79) in exchange for forward and defensive specialist Bobby Jones who’d help Philly and newer owner Harold Katz (‘81) achieve that elusive 3rd NBA championship in 1983. More importantly, it was the signing of another former ABA’er in the incomparable Moses Malone (HOU) to start that 1982 season that proved the master stroke.

Which all toggles the question, is it too many cooks (stars) that spoils the broth (team chemistry), or more particularly, having too many chefs in the kitchen with the same specialty (ball control) that can turn the porridge pudgy?

For today’s Golden State Warriors it may be the latter maxim that proves prophetic in 2016-17: Too many shooters looking to load-up n’ fire with limited ammo: Just one Spalding to go around.

......Durant.Tokyo.2010.C.Johnson.wc.thmWith Big Cheese Kevin Durant opting to leave the only team he’s known in his career (‘08-16 (OKC – SEA)) and join a well-stocked club in GSW with leadership baton well-in-hand of the MVP (x2), champion (‘15) and co-Face of the NBA in Steve Curry (See Also; LeBron), those who remember ABBA and brewmeister Billy Carter will appreciate that any talk of a coming dynasty is as premature as getting your boogie shoes out of storage in anticipation of a ♫ disco revival ♫.

When Moses led the Philly-steens to the Promised Land (’83) he filled a big man need that the Caldwell Jones – Darryl Dawkins tandem had not met. Possessing of a soft shooter’s touch, Malone was a feared force inside (24.5 / 15.3 reb) the likes of which the Assc’n had not seen since days of Bob Lanier, a game which complemented Dr. J’s drive & dunk (21.4). Big synergy, for one year, anyway.

Likewise, when James, Riley and Spoelstra turned the Heat into familiar Eastern Finals foes (‘11-14) their run of success turned on the big three in Bosh, James & Wade knowing and then maintaining distinct roles which rarely came in conflict.

.....Curry.3.2.11.wc.K.Allison.thmbBut in Oakland, the 4-time scoring champ’s arrival presents a conundrum: How do the NBA’s two premier scorers and bona fide #1 guys concede point pile-ups and then those all important leadership reins?

Two master chefs in the same kitchen can whip up delightful concoctions but when they frequently grab for the same condiments, tempers can flare and the entrées will suffer in flavor-drain (faux-reality TV is a plague). For Durant & Curry the flavor of choice flows from the trendiest bottle on the shelf, the one labeled 3-point “zowie!”

In Kev’s nine NBA seasons he’s launched over 3000 tres (.380 (27.4)), Steve over 3500 (30.1 (‘15-16)) in just seven campaigns. While they diverge on the boards (KD: 7.0 (4.3)) and assists (SC: 6.9 (3.7)), it’s hard to imagine, however they fire ‘em off, that these two point machines can co-exist harmoniously.

From Fire to Frying Pan?

That Durant may’ve wanted a bigger market to showcase / compensate his top talent, optimize chance at winning a ring or even just a simple change of scenery, are all tenable reasons to sign with the Warriors.

......Westbrook.James.1.25.15.E.Drost.thm.wcAnd if escaping the Russ Westbrook Show, a performance like Kyrie Irving’s where the co-star never passes a chance to prove he’s a leading man, was an impetus for cleaning out his locker at Chesapeake Energy, KD would’ve been wiser to rectify that state rather than taking his talents to a theater (GSW) where #1 is set-in-stone (Curry) and he may simply re-create the same clash in talents ceded in OKC.

It was always Durant’s prerogative as Thunder’s franchise-man to have roles defined and enforced or send someone packing. That he and not Westbrook was the one who exited OKC, a city Kev was, as I suspect is RW, desirous of bringing a title, speaks to the uniqueness of Lego® LeBron who builds his own champion confections (MIA / CLE) instead of window shopping for already-made.

As for Russ, now you‘re a #1. Careful what ya’ wish for, big guy.

If It Works…

Who needs who? Does Golden State need Kev or does Kev need Golden State? Talented as is Mr. Durant, most would answer ‘no – yes’ to that query.

.....Kuhn.wc.MLB.1982.thmAnd if Bowie Kuhn were alive today and occupying the NBA Commissioner’s chair instead of Adam ‘Hi-Yo’ Silver, the Durant-to-Golden-State deal would’ve been nixed as contrary to “the best interest of (the Association).”

Just when it looked like NBA was gonna’ get interesting again with this 7-game 2016 Finals, the wealth of talent coalesces and we get a further shrinking of the field of competition in its aftermath, like life’s blood squeezing through an ever-narrowing artery. The succinct critique: Rich get richer, mediocre multiply.

Kevin, with all good intentions at team play, may actually make the Warriors a lesser team by working the same effect-in-awkwardness that did the teaming of Erving and McGinnis in 1976, talented men just as determined to championize.

What Warriors could use is another strong rebounder to complement Draymond Green, something the 6’9” Longhorn has never made a priority (7.0). Kerr might also look into finding Dray a stable-goat of sorts, someone with head screwed on straight and battle-tested who can calm the high-strung b-ball star and help keep him outta’ trouble (“Draymond…arrested” / Mlive / 7.11.16 / B.Quinn).

.....Kerr.wc.2.24.15.wc.thmb.K.AllisonBut alas, while James is NBA’s best player the Wars are, even with an excess in talent, the Association’s best team, runner-up trophy, notwithstanding. Kerr & Company run it all like a top.

The weary factor: It’s why Warriors failed to close the deal on what might’ve been the greatest season in NBA history. Ironically, those 73 RS wins that put them on precipice of immortality were also the reason why they fell short. Winning that many takes its toll, as previewed in the WC final versus OKC (4-3) where the champs had to pull their fat outta’ the fire just to move on. Of course, those 1995-96 Chicago Bulls piled a weary-worthy total themselves in their super season (72-10) and still managed to take the title versus Seattle (4-2). Just sayin.’

If It’s Broke…

As for the champs, even the car that sits in the Indy 500 winner’s circle can need a new gear-box. Cleveland’s clank? Absence of a floor leader who appreciates importance of running plays and the self-sacrifice necessary to get the ball into the right hands at the right time (assists). Cavaliers won in spite of deficiency.

Rubbermaid® NBA Finals 2017

NBA’s powers-that-be are salivating over the thought of a Cavs – Wars 3-peat. Who’s gonna’ stop ‘em anyway, besides the injury bug? That the Association’s overall quality of competition rating is at its lowest ebb since the scaling was first calibrated by this writer a few years back, matters not in the least to the Cufflinks, the same frat-boys who think tanking’s a joke, as long as the Big Celebrities make it to the Big Party, i.e., LeBron, Stevo, Durantula, Kyrie, etcetera.

.....rubber-ball.wc.6.30.7.Oroo.thm.colorEven if Durant does work a small drain of the splash-pool and Tyronn Lue takes no action to teach Kyrie who’s #1 (James) and fundamentals of point play, i.e., ‘See the ball, set a play, pass the ball,’ these two teams should have little trouble making it into next season’s Finals, again barring any notable injury issues.

And if they both do meet, it’s the Warriors who likely take the rubber-match.

Kyrie Irving’s not about to learn that kindergarten starter-skill called sharing and former All-Star Kevin Love is now so marginalized by team & press that LeBron’s likely to lose whatever hair he has left by season’s end.

For the Oaklanders, they’ve already got 73, the one with substance (See; Bonds (‘01))), and Kerr will make damn sure his guys are better rested this time in event they make the WC finals. Sixty-plus should get home-court East or West. No tanking, mind you, but SK will give his starters and select subs respites as needed to avoid the weariness that turned splash into a prolonged belly-flop in G5-7.

......straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo Credits: Too-Many-Cooks, Google; K.Durant, wc.cca, 2-14, K.Allison; G.McGinnis, Philly; Durant, OSU, wc, KT.King, 10.31.11; Durant, wc, C.Johnson, 2010; S.Curry, wc, 3.2.11, K.Allison; R.Westbrook-Cavs, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; B.Kuhn, MLB, 1982, wc; S.Kerr, K.Allison, 2.24.25, wc; rubberband-ball, wc, 6.30.7, Oroo; Straight-Shooter, produce-label.
Posted: 7.11.16 @ 5:32pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NBA16: Cavaliers’ Key? Ceding #2 Star Some Needed Love

20 Apr

♫ “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It’s the loneliest number since the number one (“One” / Nilsson (’67))”♫

Every team’s got one.

He’s the guy (or gal (WNBA)) who tops his team in talent and on most nights tops the scoreboard, too. He attracts throngs of celebrity seekers, most of the camera shots and in the professional basketball ranks will rake in the biggest bucks.

He gets coach’s gaze for most the game and bears the responsibility of being the team leader on and off the court. When down, he picks ‘em up, when they’re hitting on all cylinders he keeps ‘em steady. That’s the expectation, anyway, of co-workers and brass. And he’s typically the go-to guy (gal) in the clutch. Swish!

He’s the #1.

But you don’t need to be a b-ball aficionado to appreciate that in team sport, no #1 can carry a squad on their back for long, not Bill Russell nor Dirk Nowitski. To win a title there must be skill at all positions, filled by both a capable cast of reserves coming off the bench and a stalwart set of starters to boot, and re-boot.

Most important of those leading men? The #2, of course.

.......Love.10.1.14.E.Drost.wc.thmEvery great #1 had a top-flight second, in compliment as a double-barreled bang of shooting or rebounding prowess, other times to fill the void, step into the breach when the main man has taken a tumble, gets the debilitating double-team or is just having one of those rare ‘off’ games.

Like the superstar, the All-Star vice-admiral, as it were, has a great responsibility, maybe greater than the #1 because if he slips up more than once it’s a pretty good bet it’ll be ‘Sayonara, Sonny’ sometime soon. Scapegoat‘s must be had, especially on digestible contracts. Gulp.

A short list of some of the best NBA player tandems-in-terrific:

Bill Russell (#1) and Bob Cousy (#2), then John Havlicek;
Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, then Jerry and Wilt (#1);
Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson;
Willis Reed and Dave DeBusschere (Walt Frazier (2.25));
Magic Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar (James Worthy);
Larry Bird and Robert Parrish (Kevin McHale);
Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler;
Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer;
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen;
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant (or vice versa);
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker (Manu Ginobili);
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (Chris Bosh);
Steve Curry and Klay Thompson

On occasion the #2 will resist his better-suited but somewhat subservient role as a 2d-in-Command, attempting to usurp the #1 (See; Westbrook & Durant (#1) (OKC)), keeping a team in quandary-land.

But typically, the issue concerns a clouding of the #2 spot by any number of other talented yet supporting cast members on the team.

......James.wc.1.25.15.E.Drost.thmbWithout that solidified #2 the team will never reach it’s true potential.

Such is the case in the Forest City.

We all know #1 on Cavs’ roster, though, LeBron James himself will forever be semi-shy about grasping firmly his role, believing too often ‘‘tis better to give (assists) than to receive.’

LeBron is a 6’8” 250 lbs. strong-as-an-ox power forward who nonetheless led the Cavaliers in total assists 2016 (514) and apg (6.8), though, pt-guard Kyle Irving (249 (4.7)) suited for just 53 of Cavs’ contests. The game-averages speak loudly.

A top gun who readily shares the ball is very sweet, sensible sometimes, but not exactly enhancer of that championship-run, either, if done out of consternation, misplaced sense of generosity or fear of failure.

Who then is Cavaliers’ #2? That’s an issue presently in flux and unless worked to wide satisfaction soon, potentially derailing of a championship run.

Thirteen-year NBA veteran J.R. Smith (12.4 / 1.7a / 2.8rb (2015-16)) would like to believe it is he who’s Cavs 2d-in-Command and James’ right hand man. This outlook may stem from his Knickerbockers stint (18.1 (2012-13 (NBA 6th-Man))). But like Stevie Wonder sang, ‘When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer.’ And sometimes Earl Joseph tends to “suffer” realization he’s not #2, or #1, for that matter.

More troubling for Cleveland would be Mr. Irving believing he is in fact #2.

.....Irving&Singler.10.17.13.wc.E.Drost.thmNot because Kyle is not All-Star caliber. He is (x3) and led the way for Cavs in opening playoff round match against Detroit, pouring in 31 w/6 assists and 5 boards in their too-close-for-comfort win vs Detroit, 106-101. Because Irving is a point guard needed to set-up the score (See; M. Cheeks) and if too tied to swishery will tap team synergy.

Cleveland’s true #2: Kevin Love, the 6’10, 250 lbs, power-forward / center who unfortunately has not been playing to that number often enough.

The 27-year old is counting on making this playoff run to it’s conclusion, his second attempt in Cavaliers uniform after suffering injury-exit in 1st-Rd of last season‘s post-regular play.

Kevin was top free-agent on the market two years back when his contract was set to end in Minnesota. Cleveland knew they wanted Kev and made early in-road and signed the 3-time All-Star to a deal which was extended last year.

On most any other team Love is the #1, the prototypical soft-shooter’s touch who’ll bang inside for the boards. Out of the same mold as Jerry Lucas, Bob Pettit, Elgin Baylor, Elvin Hayes, Jack Sikma, Charles Barkley and Dirk Nowitski. Big names all and big shoes to fill but Kev’s played big enough in his NBA career (2008 (UCLA)) to at least slip ‘em on and walk around a bit.

Get Kevin to cut down on the tres and he might lace ‘em up (439 / 5.7 (‘15-16)).

The Santa Monica (CA) native, Oregon-reared (Lake Oswego HS) and UCLA matriculee gave up a #1 status to join a Cleveland team needing a #2 to tandem with James and get that championship ring for himself and the city on the Great Lake Erie, a top priority for LeBron and owner Dan Gilbert.

.....Love.1.25.15.thm.wc.E.DrostThough James (#1) – Love (#2) pecking order was the likely plan but too often it has not been the reality in the 2015-16 Cavaliers’ campaign as other talented teammates seem all too eager to fill that key #2 slot. Nobody ever tried to move Scottie Pippen out his #2 spot and haven’t Kyle Thompson as yet.

Love’s certainly been playing with moxie enough. Making 93% of the RS slate in his two Cleveland tours (152 of 164) and is a Assc’n leader in rebounds (9.9 / 762 (‘15-16)). The ORB is down a bit from Minnesota days and season total has been considerably higher (1112 (‘10-11)). Fair to write that different roster make-up and delegated duties (coach think) play a role there.

It’s the notable downward trend in his scoring average (16.0 (26.1 (‘13-14))) that red-flags and offers insight into why Cleveland may not be getting all it hoped.

Because scoring is interwoven with team play, it suggests his ‘mates are playing more of a role than expected in shaping Love’s play into a form that’s probably not as planned and not to Kev’s nor Cavaliers best advantage.

Love’s not being paid king’s ransom in Cleveland to be 3rd in team scoring, a guy who’s averaged 26 per, twice in his 8-year pro career.

Okay, Kev’s the #2, arguably, and not meeting expectation of that rank, how do you get him there? It’s one thing to be tabbed #2, it’s another to hold onto it.

.....Lue&Blatt.1.25.15.wc.thm.E.DrostSetting that pecking-order is not often verbalized, and for good reason, so Love must assert himself, make clear he wants the job, can carry it off through thick n’ thin (latter which’ll test everyone’s championship mettle), won’t take kindly to usurpers and if succeeds gets good backing. Part of that process now means asking for the ball more often or, if necessary, demanding it.

The FG% is down to lowest in his career (.419) while FT% is one of his highest (.822). Anyone who’s played b-ball knows you’ve gotta’ shoot ‘em to make ‘em, not just to up the total but to find your rhythm, get in a groove (%). Feed the big man the ball more often and watch that average rise to a former rate.

And that’s where first-year head coach Tyronn Lue and LeBron play key roles.

Dishing out possessions (assists) is what James likes to do. I question the tack, believing that whenever this forceful figure gets the ball he aught keep it and take it strong to the hoop. Who’ll stop him? But “a rose is a rose,” as Gertrude Stein would’ve said. The die is cast. LeBron won’t change and can help Love, the team, by-way of his ‘assistance.’

Knowing your role is crucial when mining for the O’Brien metal.

.....straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight-Shooter
Photo credit: K.Love, wc.cca, 11.21.14, K.Allison; Love, wc, E.Drost, 10.1.14; L.James, wc, E.Drost, 1.25.15; K.Irving-Singler, wc, 10.17.13, E.Drost; Love, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; Blatt-Lue, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; Straight-Shooter, produce-label.
Posted: 4.20.16 @ 6:32pm, edit 8:29 EST; Copyright © 2016

Tim Duncan: Spurs ‘Peerless Leader’ In the Paint

31 Mar

Roundball Recovery Act

They were giants of the sporting world, names like George Mikan, Bob Pettit, Bill Russell, Wilt the Stilt, Truck, Moses, The Enforcer, Mr. Mean, the Big O, the Big E and the Big Redhead.

Basketball’s leviathans in the low post.

Fans thrilled at their combination of size, strength and agility. The battles they waged under the boards defined the National Basketball Association and made sport headlines for over 50 years.

But change is the constant in a consumer democracy.

The Chuck Taylor high-tops and short-shorts are long gone, replaced with hideous foot-wear and a plethora of prison-yard tattoos. Historic but cramped old arenas gave-way to bigger & brighter venues with better seats, paint-happy hardwood and $14.50 nachos.

And no change has been greater than disappearance of the inside game. In particular, the demise of the dominant center and power-forward.

....Duncan.CC-BY-2.0.wc.12.05.thmDifferent from women’s basketball where the tall pivot player still has a place, the menacing man in the middle has become an endangered species.

Since the days Kareem Abdul-Jabbar donned the Lakers’ royal regalia you could count on two hands the number of big men who’ve dominated down low: Robert Parish, Larry Bird, Kev McHale, Bill Laimbeer, Shaq, Magic, Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard nearly fill out a very short list.

The culprit: NBA’s adoption of the 3-point shot.

The National was sitting pretty in the late 70s. In a State-sponsored legal structure that today embraces monopoly, the Assc’n siphoned what liquidity was left in it’s only competitor, the 10-year old ABA (‘67-76)), negotiated lucrative TV / merchandise deals but then started to get cute in the marketing department.

In 1979 they reached into their former rival’s bag of tricks (the ABA employed the dunk and the tres in 1968 “as marketing tool(s) to compete with the NBA (Wikipedia)”) and pulled out the three-point shot to prime the pump.

And b-ball’s never been the same.

There had been a symmetry, a yin & yang that worked a balance in roundball.

....Cowens.wc.1976.TSN.thm.R.KingsburyFans were treated to two theaters of play: one inside where bruisers like Thurmond, Dantley, Unseld, Reed, Walton, Lanier, Cowens, Maurice Lucas, Gilmore and Issel waged war; the other, out on the key where long-rangers David Thompson, West, Bing, Frazier, “Pistol” Pete Maravich, George “Iceman” Gervin, Brian Winters, James Worthy and Vinnie “Microwave” Johnson could heat up in a hurry. And then marvelous middle-men like Bobby Dandridge, Marcus Johnson and Bobby Jones who could seemingly do it all. A veritable smorgasbord of spectacular.

As long as both theaters had direction there was a symbiosis and the houses were packed. No need to bait with famble (fantasy – gamble), no talk of tank and the game flourished for all ages.

By the mid-90s the physical, combative play which had made the sport so colorful simply vanished. Centers and power forwards devolved into mere supporting cast. Much of the action moved away from the paint and out to the key where guards and wannabes directed the flow and became the stars.

The spotlight swung away from bangers and over to finesse men like Erving and Jordan as the 3-pointer and un-contested dunk became signature plays.

As most NBA rookies are today on the 3-yr maturation plan they’ll not develop the wide range of skills that stylers like Dr. J and Michael would eventually learn.

“You don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle (Seinfeld).”

.....Durant.thm.OKC.K.Allison.2.1.14.wcThey don’t sell the game anymore, they sell celebrity, air-time (TV / Twitter), gambling (FanDuel / DraftKings) and merchandise (cantaloupe-sized driver heads and wicked metal bats in Little League (Outside the Lines (Disney); 3.1.11)). If it generates a revenue stream then history, integrity, quality and sometimes safety it would appear, get swept aside until uproar begins.

When big-shots like Kev Love (6’10) and Kev Durant (6’9) spend half their time on the perimeter, averaging around 400 three’s per season, you know the game’s gone soft. Both should live inside 15 feet. Instead, recent seasons have seen a steady up-tick in their 3PAs, surprising, given the fine shooting touch both possess when not launching long ones (FG%: .444 (.360) / .483 (.380)).

Prime example of a tamer NBA: In a 2012 post-season game between the Lakers and Thunder (G2), with 6 ticks left and down by just one, rather than design a drive to the hoop for two, maybe draw the foul for three and even on a 2-pt miss, possessing good rebound capability (Gasol / Bynum), coach Mike Brown opts for the low-% 3-pt’er that Steve Blake rims out. Both got lambasted post-game but what the Lakers did was SOP in today’s basketball.

There are men who keep alive dynamic play in the paint like Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Kev Love (imagine if he‘d forget the tres), DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond and forward Blake Griffin: A dying breed.

.....Chance.1913.Bain-News.LoC.thmClosing in on 40 (4.25.76), the former Demon Deacon (See Also; Chris Paul) and U.S. Virgin Islands native has seen his scoring average dip under double-digits (8.5) and minutes below the 25 mark (24.9 (55g)) for first time in his illustrious 19-year NBA career. But like the original “Peerless Leader” in Cubs’ champion Mgr/ 1B’er Frank “Husk” Chance (1898 – 1914), the savvy & strength Duncan imbues in his Spurs team down the stretch, a roster with no shortage of experience in fellow gray-beards in Tony Parker (14), Manu Ginobili (13), Andre Miller (16), Kev Martin (11), David West (12), Matt Bonner (11) and Boris Diaw (11), may make-up for the decline in mobility & capacity that father time always exacts from the athlete who loves the game and goes long.

For the 3-pointer, it’s time it was bounced outta’ the building. Send it, along with dunk contests and home run derby back to Cartoon Country, i.e., Saturday morning TV. That’s not likely to happen but seeing as how the youthenized NBA has no use for the balanced game, maybe a new adult pro league would. Then watch the roundball renaissance begin.

Don’t ever forget this pointer: It’s their business but it’s our game.

.....straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: T.Duncan, wc, M.Sandoval, 1.28.07; Duncan, 12.05, CC-BY-2.0, wc; D.Cowens, 1976, TSN, R.Kingsbury, wc; K.Durant, wc, OKC, K.Allison, 2.1.14; F.Chance, wc, Bain-News, 1913, LoC; Straight-Shooter-produce label.
Posted: 3.31.16 @ 5;16pmEST; Copyright © 2016