Gary Edwards Column 2-02-19
I watched an NBA game on television the other night. I was with my Francis Marion men’s basketball team on the road, and I turned on the Houston Rockets game to kill some time in the hotel.
I really couldn’t believe what I was watching. Houston guard James Harden stood in the middle of the court dribbling the ball while his four teammates stood watching him.
When the 24-second shot clock wound down a bit, he would travel to gain spacing and then launch a 30-foot shot. Sometimes these scud missiles would find their mark, but many bounced harmlessly away.
I had not watched an NBA game in a long time, but I soon started talking to myself in my hotel room. This is the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player? This is how professional basketball is now played in America?
The answer to both questions is a pitiful yes. For a basketball aficionado, the current NBA is almost unwatchable.
Phil Jackson, who won multiple championships with the Bulls and Lakers, said, “...it’s really quite remarkable to see how far our game has fallen from a team game. Four guys stand around watching one guy dribble a basketball.”
After a pre-season tour of Spain, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook commented on how hard it was to guard the great professional basketball teams of Europe. He wasn’t used to guarding offensive players who actually move without the ball.
When I was growing up in Norfolk, Virginia, I would go over to the Jewish Community Center and watch the ABA Virginia Squires practice. I got a close up look at the talents of Julius Erving, George Gervin, and Charlie Scott.
As great as their individual talents were, they always played together, moving the ball with precision and skill. Basketball was meant to be a team game.
But former NBA commissioner David Stern made a conscious decision years ago to shift the emphasis of the league from team accomplishments to individual accomplishments. He wanted to market the so-called superstars of the NBA.
So now we have a handful of superstars and very few decent teams in the NBA. And the defensive rules (defensive three seconds and no hand checking) make today’s NBA player look better offensively than they really are.
I have played and coached basketball for over 50 years, but I didn’t recognize the game I watched on television the other night. I am not really sure what it is but I am not going to watch it any more.
I have a hard enough time watching my own team play.